Cover Reveal: FIRE IN THE BLOOD and THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN

I was going to wait and be patient to reveal these two covers, but despite the fact that TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY is still two days away from release, I needed to upload the cover for FIRE IN THE BLOOD to make preorder available on Amazon; and I really wanted to add the cover of THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN to my NaNoWriMo page ‘cos it’s so pretty.

So, since they’re out there already, I thought I’d better hurry up and do a semi-formal cover reveal. FIRE IN THE BLOOD is the 2nd novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN is the 3rd. Let me know what you think of them!

2nd Shards_FireInTheBlood3rd Shards_TheFirstChillOfAutumn

NaNOOOOOOOOO! Why did I do it?!?

I must be crazy. I did it. I actually signed up. I was gonna DO it, of course; just from the comfort of my own computer and no tallies and accountability and stuff. I wasn’t going to bother with making it official. Then I got excited and sort of accidentally signed up.

I’m talking about NaNoWriMo, of course. I went and signed up to the official site (come and see me and be my writing buddy–WRGingell is my Buddy Name); title and everything. Soon there’ll even be a cover for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, my NaNoWriMo novella.

NaNoWriMoFace

MY FACE WHEN I REALISED WHAT I’D LET MYSELF IN FOR…

I did all this before it occurred to me that I would be at the stage of editing FIRE IN THE BLOOD at the same time as writing my NaNoWriMo novella…
It helps that they’re in the same trilogy (2nd and 3rd, respectively), but I’m still trying to tell myself, like Jones from Dad’s Army, “DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC!”

I’ll most likely end up in a frothing, quivering heap by the end of the month, but what’s that between friends? It’s all good fun, and let’s face it, I only have to write 1667 words per day. I’ve been routinely doing more than that each day for the last month or two. There’s absolutely no need to panic.

But what would a writer be without a side-serving of worry, eh?

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things #2: THE LOST CONSPIRACY by Frances Hardinge

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Who’s up for round 2 of These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things?

What? You’re gonna have to speak up. I can’t hear you over the sound of all that deafening silence.

I honestly don’t read a huge amount of middle grade fiction. Even as a kid I was more inclined to read teen and adult fiction–or classics–than I was to read middle grade. There were exceptions, but by and large I didn’t read a huge amount of it (Nicholas Fisk, Diana Wynne Jones, and Joan Aiken being three HUGE exceptions, because they’re amazing).

Frances Hardinge is a new, huge exception. THE LOST CONSPIRACY (also known as GULLSTRUCK ISLAND, depending upon which country you live in) was the first book of Frances Hardinge’s that I ever read (I think. Maybe it was TWILIGHT ROBBERY, which I also love).

lost conspiracyHathin belongs to a tribe called The Lace, whose perennially smiling faces and Sweeny-Todd-like legacy of human sacrifice behind those smiling faces have left them to be widely regarded in suspicion and horrified fear by the peoples around them. Hathin’s chief difficulty and chief responsibility are one and the same: her older sister, Arilou. They are described thusly:

“Her name was Hathin. While Arilou’s name was meant to sound like the call of an owl, the fluting of a bird of prophecy, Hathin’s name imitated the whisper of settling dust. Dust-like she was indeed, unremarkable, quiet, all but invisible.”

Arilou is The Lady Lost, considered special; a lady of prophecy, possessed of great gullstruckand awesome powers. Her powers are the reason that Hathin’s village has enough food for the winter and a place to live, not to mention a small income from selling relics and suchlike. Unfortunately, those powers are entirely faked. Hathin and the Lace have been keeping Arilou’s lacking mental capacities a secret, ‘translating’ her drooling and moaning to seem as though they’re prophecies. But now an inspector is arriving to test Arilou’s ‘powers’, and it may not be long before they’re all exposed.

Things happen very quickly after the opening is set up. The inspector is murdered. Then almost the entirety of Hathin’s village is also murdered, leaving her on the run and dragging the mentally lacking Arilou along behind her.

What I love about Frances Hardinge is the fact that she’s not afraid to have ugly characters. I don’t mean physically ugly, though she’s not afraid of that as well. I mean the whole setup of a young girl from a people with human sacrifice in their (not too distant) past. There are a lot of stories about the Nazis, and fighting the Nazis, but what would it be like to grow up in the next generation, knowing your people were responsible for such atrocities? There are a lot of countries in real life that have done similar things: my own country of Australia, and the hunting and murder of Aboriginals; the ‘settlement’ of America, where Native Indians were murdered and pushed out of their own land; the Nazis, as previously mentioned; and so on. THE LOST CONSPIRACY was the first time I’d seen anything like this in fiction.

Added to the interest of the subject matter (and the fact that Frances Hardinge is one of the few authors who can still surprise me with the direction a book takes), is the fact that the writing is so absolutely beautiful. For style as well as substance, Frances Hardinge’s books are some of the best out there.

There’s so much more I could say about this book, but the most important thing I have to say is: BUY IT. READ IT. This is one of my favourite books. It’s also eminently re-readable, which is one of the biggest tests of the worth of a book.

Musings: Why Won’t This Thing Die??

There’s this thing I see a lot in fiction. It happens in movie/tv series as much as in books, and it’s even more annoying there (for my long-suffering hubby as well, because then I remonstrate with the tv. At the top of my lungs.).

It’s the thing where the detective/cop/insurance investigator is too close to the investigation due to a personal connection (ie, investigating the death of his/her own wife/husband/brother/whatever), and throws convention and the orders of their superior officers to the wind to investigate and generally make a nuisance of themselves. The plucky detective then goes on to prove that he/she can handle the pressure and bring the murderer to justice.

It’s a reasonably irritating trope, but I can live with it cos I can sympathise with the desire to make sure justice is done by doing it oneself.

The thing I want to die? The episode further down the road where an officer from another precinct or a grieving father of a murdered/missing girl is determined to push themselves into an investigation. Same setup, same idea. But this time, the officer or father is painted at best as an interfering annoyance and at worst as a trouble-stirring ambulance chaser.

No. Just no. If something is laudable because your MC does it, it can’t become dreggy and wrong because a side-character does it. That’s flamin’ bad writing and needs to be fixed. Give your side-characters and walk-on characters a better form of conflict. Flip your point of view. Just because your MCs are bothered, it doesn’t mean the thing that bothers them has to be a bad thing. Maybe they need to learn a lesson. There’s nothing more annoying than a set of characters who encourage you to see only from one point of view, and automatically assign opposing ones the status of being wrong by virtue of disagreeing with them.

Repeat it with me: “It’s flamin’ BAD WRITING”.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things #1: Black Butler

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I promise I won’t sing about it, though…

This is the first in a new series of blog posts on a few of my favourite things, suggested by Kate Stradling. (Actually, she suggested a W.R.’s Reading Recommendations list but I decided to get clever with it). Also, I decided to recommend a movie first ‘cos I’m annoying like that and I’ve been wanting to watch this particular movie again for the last week.

I’m not blog-savvy enough to give it its own page with a scrolling feed of posts, so if you’re looking for the series from this point on, simply search for or click on the category These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things. Maybe one day I’ll have a proper website… 

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Kuroshitsuji or Black Butler (Live Action Movie)

I’m pretty sure I’ve already raved a bit about Black Butler on this blog, and those of you who’ve watched movies with me are in no doubt about my attitude toward this movie. Which is actually a bit ironic, because when I watched it for the first time, even wasn’t certain of my attitude toward it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, in the best possible way, so it took me a while to sort out my feelings for it.

Black Butler is a live action movie (real actors) that is based upon an anime series of the same title. In the series is a demonic butler, Sebastian, who has made a bargain with his master: namely, that in recompense for assisting his master to exact revenge upon his enemies, Sebastian will at that time consume his master’s blackened soul. The movie has the same premise and the same butler, but there (as far as I know, having only researched and never watched the series) the similarities end. A few of the same characters recur–but only a few–and the series’ young male protagonist, Ceil Phantomhive, is replaced by young girl-pretending-to-be-boy, Shiori Genpo. The storyline, moreover, while having the same basic premise as the series, has it’s own distinct plot.

Black butler

The first thing I’ll say in regards to this movie is that I don’t like anime. I’ve tried to, because there are some cool storylines and intriguing setups in anime, not to mention fantastic characters. I tried SO HARD. But I really, really don’t like anime (excepting only Appleseed, which is 20 kinds of brilliant). I hate the tiny outfits and the tinier voices. I hate having to squint at the screen until I figure out whether this particular androgynous character is male or female. I SO MUCH HATE the protracted gurgles and delayed gasps. I hate the fact that the female characters almost always have girlish faces and womanly, buxom bodies. Having said all that, I’m really not sure why I decided to download Black Butler from iTunes.

I think it’s because despite all the things anime does wrong, it does some things really well. Black Butler took all the things anime does well and did them far better. Then it took the irritating things that anime does and did them very well. The over-exaggerated characters and closeup shots that irritate me in anime and manga worked so very well in Black Butler. The absurd, dramatic situations were served up with eclat and verve, and managed to totally work. When I watched Black Butler, it seemed like all the expectations I’d ever had of anime and manga had been thoroughly satisfied–and then some. I found myself thinking: ‘This. This is what anime was meant to be.’ It was like seeing the beautiful big sister of the awkward little kid next door.

Added to all this is the fact that Black Butler has ALL THE FEELSBuy it. Buy it now. Watch it again and again, the way I do.

Shelved beside: The Fall, Alice (2009 miniseries), City Of Lost Children, and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-sec.

(You thought this was going to be a real, detailed review, didn’t you? Sorry. Nope.)

Confessions: I’m A Hoarder

I’m a hoarder.

But before you go thinking Hoarders and Hoarders: Buried Alive (or even chocolates and other sweet things–okay, okay, maybe I do hoard those) I’m not talking the type of hoarding that piles magazines, newspapers, dvds and other miscellany on any hoarders2surface available. I mean, it is possible that I could be said to hoard books. And probably DVDs, too. And I’m starting to lose where I was going with this ‘cos it looks like I am that kind of hoarder after all.

That’s normal, right?

Right.

No, I’m the kind of hoarder who clutches delightful feels and gorgeous imaginary friends to myself with a compulsion bordering upon obsession. This means that when I get toward the end of a favourite tv show or book series, I slow waaaaaaay down. I take my time reading/watching them, savouring each episode or book. And quite often I tend to stop reading/watching altogether.

There are still five or six episodes of one of my favourite tv shows, Leverage, that I haven’t yet seen. This, despite the fact that the final season aired a year or two ago. I’ve just gotten to that stage with The A-Team too (it’s all Murdock’s fault, he’s just so wonderfully, hilariously, delightfully mad) and I’ve had the second book in the Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series for about three weeks now before reading it. It’s taken me this long to start reading it, not because I didn’t like the first, but because I really enjoyed it.

I’m also hoarding about six of Steven Brust’s books that I’ve owned for a couple years but haven’t read; and there are about four Terry Pratchett books that I still haven’t read. I love these guys. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read these books yet because I can only read them once. It helps immensely that all of these shows and books that I’ve just mentioned can be read/watched again and again without diminishing enjoyment. It’s just that the first read-through/watch is different, yanno?

I’m a hopeless case. I know it. But when that perfect rainy day comes ’round, when I’ve got the perfect meal and the perfect drink set up, I’ll be ready to go. I’ve got saved up episodes of Leverage, The A-Team, and Psych; and I’ve got hoarded books by my favourite authors to read. The only problem will be knowing which one to pick first.

What do you guys hoard? Anything cool? (And if anyone hoards lizards, can you send me a moniter lizard? I’ve always wanted one of those).

Oh No! It’s NaNoWriMo!

Well, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is coming up fast (National Novel Writing Month, for those not in the know) and everyone is talking about prepping for their November novel. This will be the first year I’ve participated, and while I don’t think I’ll go so far as to actually sign up to anything, I’ll certainly give it a shot. In my case it’s a little easier: I’m prepping for the second novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and at 40,000 words it’s hardly a full length novel. So I’ve got a head start already! (And if I finish that novella this month, as I fully anticipate doing; well, there’s always the third one to write during November!)

Prepping steps:

  1. Cover. Already done! I know, I know, it’s not writing, but I like to go gloat over it every now and then. It bolsters me. And it’s so flamin’ pretty!
  2. Outlining. I do not outline. Never. Ever. Except with this novella trilogy. I tried it out as an experiment for TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, and it worked out so well that I’m going to do the same with the second and third novellas in the trilogy. I didn’t stick to it exactly (I used a few different methods of murder than I’d planned, along with other small differences) but it made things so easy that I’ve had to do very little in the way of structural edits. It helps that the novellas are only a third of the length of what I usually write.
  3. Stickers. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. My stickers are utterly, totally necessary. I get one sticker on the calendar for every 500 words I write. In fact, I’ve had to order MORE stickers because I went through so many, so quickly with the first novella. I love looking at the day’s box and finding it absolutely stuffed with glittering gold stars. They’re even more effective than chocolates for bribing myself.
  4. Beaut Beta Readers. I seriously have the best beta readers. I also have the best alpha reader. Okay, so my alpha reader is my sister. But she doesn’t let me get away with mistakes, and she points out REALLY useful stuff. Not to mention finding all my spelling mistakes and missed punctuation. Lately, she’s also been able to point out when sentences are too long/convoluted/confusing. It’s wonderful! And she has to do it cos I’m her sis. Win/win! My beta readers are the other members of my exclusive cough*small*cough writing group. They help out with stuff like weird comma placement, bad word choices, and character development. (Plus so much weird conversation when none of us feel like writing). I may not always agree with them or take all their suggestions, but they’re an integral part of my process. It would be a huge mistake to run any kind of project, NaNoWriMo or otherwise, without planning on edits, feedback, and revisions.

Well, that’s my planning. What have I missed? What do you guys do? And who else is planning on taking advantage of NaNoWriMo?

1P.S: TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first novella, is currently available at the Amazon store on a Preorder Sale for 99c! It’ll be out October 30th, and will go up to $1.99 thereafter, so get it while it’s cheap!