Wednesday, 31 July 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Ready. Set. Write! #8

{click here for a full list of participants!}

What I'm Reading: 

This week I read A.S. King's ASK THE PASSENGERS and, oh...just beautiful. I absolutely adore magical realism and Astrid was a wonderful main character to be with. I highly, highly recommend. SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo is now working its way into my heart--I'm not super into fantasy (is it fantasy?) but I'm loving this one.

What I'm Writing: 

This week brought me another rejection and another request! Swings and roundabouts :)

I apologise for how boring my goals have been throughout this whole thing, but you know me, I'm a very methodical and boring writer. I just go start to finish, 500 words a day, until the thing is done.

However, this week I've been having to fight the urge to check my total wordcount. (Yes, that means what you think it does--I have no idea how many words I've actually written. It's wonderfully freeing.) I don't want to know, but I'm itching to check it just for curiosity's sake. So my goal for this week is:

Don't check the word count!

What Inspires Me Right Now:

I love dance, and I love how the internet lets me discover all these amazing choreographers creating incredible pieces. Kyle Hanagami is one of my favourites, and I'm really into his latest:

What Else I've Been Up To:

My friend Charlotte decided to introduce us to a game called Settlers of Catan. Anyone familiar with it? I was not, before yesterday. Now it is my third-favourite board game. (First fave: Cranium! Second fave: Scotland Yard!) We took it kind of ridiculously seriously once we got our heads around the rules. I came second, but I feel pretty good about the next time we play. Oh, aren't we such wild and crazy twentysomethings?!

So that's me! I'm looking forward to the next week, because it's our big annual family barbecue on Saturday, in which everyone decamps from London and heads out to our middle-of-nowhere town. (Because my parents hate me and moved from London before I was born so I had to grow up in sodding Swindon.) (Hahaha my petulant teenage self just reared her head!) Plus, I've got a week and a bit off work: I can't wait to laze around, watching Teen Wolf (which I haven't done for weeks now), playing Xbox (which I can't even remember the last time I touched) and maybe rereading some favourite books. I'll probably take a little break from writing, too--if I can do it without feeling too guilty!

See you next week for more updates!


Monday, 29 July 2013

YA Book Club: The Westing Game

{Created by the lovely Tracey Neithercott--click here for more!}

We're back with a summer reading edition of YA Book Club! This month's book was THE WESTING GAME, which I had never heard of before this.

But I'm so glad this was the winner for July, because I never would have read it otherwise and I would have missed out on an excellent story!

From Goodreads:

When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will...and what a will it is!

Well...that's informative. But THE WESTING GAME is one of those stories where the less is said, the better. Because it's tricksy and twisty and so, so fun.

But I will say this: the story revolves around sixteen residents of Sunset Towers who have been tasked with discovering who killed Sam Westing. That's what he tells them in his will--and also, that the murderer is among them.

Cue the unraveling of mysterious clues, teamwork and backstabbing, cheating and spying and lying and so much witty humour. Seriously, I laughed so many times during this book, mostly at Turtle.

Which brings me to the characters! First off, there are a lot of them, and it did leave me confused at the beginning. We have Turtle, and Turtle's sister Angela, and Angela's fiancé, and the restaurant owners, coffee shop owners, delivery boy, took a while for me to get them all straight in my head, and to be honest I probably couldn't tell you every single one now. My favourites were definitely Turtle, a whip-smart and sharp-tongued girl, and her older sister who had a lot of problems going on aside from having to figure out this murder thing. I also really liked Judge Ford: a black, female judge, as an important character and not just tokenism? In a book that came out in 1979? Seriously, if people could do it then, why can't we do it now?! Anyway, before I get on that soapbox, I'll just say again how much I loved that.

Mostly I just loved how clever the story was. It was one of those books where I had to keep reading because I honestly couldn't figure out how everything was going to come together in the end. But come together it did, in an awesome way. In parts it really reminded me of the Lemony Snicket series; it had the same type of twisty mystery aspect, but a touch lighter than those books. I wouldn't be surprised if they were inspired partly by TWG, actually.

Overall, I found this a really enjoyable and fast read. I don't think the humour will work for everyone, and some people who are better at mysteries than me might see how everything's going to unfold way earlier than me (not hard, since I genuinely never knew what was coming next). If you like clever plots populated by unique and memorable characters, then I'd definitely recommend this book to you. Yay for summer reading!

Hop on over to Tracey's blog to check out everyone else's reviews :)

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Little Adventure

So I'm taking up the YA Buccaneers flash fiction challenge today! (Or tonight, since it's eleven and I should probably be going to bed since I have work in the morning...but this is way more fun :) This month's theme is adventure--if you want to give it a shot, all you have to do is write a story around the theme in 200 words or less. Of course, there are some extra challenges if you're a flash fic pro, so definitely click over to find out more! And now, here's my attempt:

*   *   *   *   *

Walking on a Dream

            I set sail on a cloud of cool air. I haven’t been so weightless in forever, even five years ago and ten pounds lighter. Tonight, though, I soar.
            The trapeze is my favourite. The silks are fun, sure: twisting, spiraling towards the ground, the gasps when I flip into a split and flash my shiny teeth like it’s nothing to me, that’s chill-inducing.
            But swinging through the air, the moment of terror when I release and am suspended for long seconds, the exhilaration of the catch, oh—there’s nothing like it.
            The crowd’s loud tonight. I swing up onto the bar, my ice-queen leotard gleaming, and they cheer when I stick my chest out. I’m not sure where we are: Latvia? Estonia? All I know is I haven’t been in California since I was fifteen. I’m not even sure my parents still live there. They probably stayed, waiting for me, thinking I’d come back one day.
            Newsflash: girls who run away run for a reason. We don’t come back.
            Another cheer from the crowd, and I flick so I’m upside down, waving at them.
            They’re what keeps me so beautifully high.
            I just wish I never had to come down.

I haven't written any flash fiction in a long time--I always forget how much I love it. Hope you enjoyed!


Wednesday, 24 July 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Ready. Set. Write! #7

{Click here for a full list of participants!}
What I'm Reading:

A trip to Waterstones plus an Amazon order meant a few lovely new books for me last week. I got THE WESTING GAME, which is this month's YA Book Club pick (click here if you want to know more about that) and which I absolutely...well, you'll have to wait for my Book Club post to find out! I also read Sarah Dessen's latest, THE MOON AND MORE, this week. I am a huge Sarah Dessen fan; DREAMLAND is one of my favourites, and I always pick up her new ones. However, as much as I love her, I didn't completely love this book. The writing was great as usual, but something was missing for me--I think her older books feel much heavier and darker, and while I love fluffy and lighthearted too, I just miss those stories she created. Maybe I just relate to Remy and Caitlin more than Auden and Emaline, I don't know. Moving on...ASK THE PASSENGERS by A.S. King is my next read, and I feel like it's going to be excellent.

What I'm Writing:

An update on my adventures in querying: I got a full request! Yay! So now I've had my first rejection(s) and my first request and I can dial down the obsessing just a bit. Fingers crossed that this agent likes my MS!

I'm still hitting my 500-words-a-day target, and I'm right about to start an exciting scene. I don't know about anyone else, but when I get an idea I always start with the characters and a couple of specific things I want to happen. Those things aren't always important in a plot-specific way; more often they're just cute/funny/important-to-me moments that I look forward to writing. So this week's writing is going to be very, very good, no matter how many words I get out :)

What Inspires Me Right Now:

{By Natasha Kline}

I hope I can write a book like that for someone someday.

What Else I've Been Up To:

After five years, my Macbook and I have parted ways. Yes, we've had a beautiful time together, but it was just time for her to go to the great Apple store in the sky. I am now the proud owner of a Macbook Air, which has the most beautifully bright screen and like a million hours of battery life and which also (!) cost about twice as much as my car. But look, so pretty!


I hope everyone's enjoying the sun and thunderstorms and whatever crazy weather's happening in your part of the world. And I wish everybody a good writing/querying/life week!


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Ready. Set. Write! #6

This week's What's Up Wednesday is brought to you by a slowly melting girl. My tan lines are out of control. And not in a good way.

{Click here for a full list of participants!}

What I'm Reading:

I finished Kirsten Hubbard's LIKE MANDARIN, which I really enjoyed. Totally different to WANDERLOVE in setting and characters, but with a similar theme of a girl trying to find herself. I recommend :) Over the weekend I read ALL WE KNOW OF LOVE by Nora Raleigh Baskin. I picked this up at the library/work because I liked the blurb, and it was an okay read, but nothing world-rocking. Now I'm reading THE OUTSIDERS, because I figured it's a classic and I probably should!

What I'm Writing:

So, I didn't get into Christmas in July, but it was fun just to enter my first ever competition :) And confetti is in order for our fearless YA Book Club leader Tracey Neithercott and fabulous RSW co-host Alison Miller, because they both are on the winner's list! CONFETTI EXPLOSION! I can't wait to cheer you ladies on :) And let's throw some more confetti for WUW co-creator Erin Funk who got an honourable mention--WOOHOO!

I also sent out a few queries the other day (and I've already received one rejection, which I'm actually thankful for--fast agents are my favourite agents! Anything that minimises the waiting and the anxiety is good in my book!) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. But I've done this before so I know how it all goes. (i.e. how much waaaaaiiiiiting goes on!) So while I'm waiting I shall be:
  • Polishing up my synopsis (so that I can...)
  • Query some more agents
  • And rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. I'm really enjoying this story right now, even though I've had a couple of difficult writing days recently--you know, when every word is a fight and you start bribing yourself just to get each sentence out. I feel like all the revisions I've been through with the MS I'm querying has taught me so much, and this version of this particular story is about a hundred times better and more focused than the first version. Which is excellent!
What Inspires Me Right Now:

This tumblr and this video which I've been watching since last year:

I'm thinking of you, Trayvon.

What Else I've Been Up To:

On Saturday it was my friend Heather's 21st birthday, so we went out for cocktails and dancing. PSA: don't go out when the country is in the middle of a heatwave, because you will feel like you're sweating to death, and you will end up going home super early to eat ice lollies and pizza at someone's house. Which is not actually that bad, really. So whatever, do what you want!

And that's it! Hope everyone has a great week, writing or otherwise :)


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Ready. Set. Write! #5

Aloha, lovelies! Time for some updates...

Click here for a full list of participants!

What I'm Reading:

I had an excellent reading week! I finished CHARM & STRANGE, which I loved and you should read immediately. Then I read my first Jennifer Echols book, GOING TOO FAR, which I didn't love at all. It's okay, because that was remedied by Erica Lorraine Scheidt's USES FOR BOYS, which was not what I expected it to be at all and which I fell completely in love with. Seriously, this is now on my favourites list. And THEN I read ELEANOR AND PARK, which was also not what I expected it to be, so much so that at the beginning I didn't think I was going to like it, but I did! Now I'm reading LIKE MANDARIN by Kirsten Hubbard. Woo!

What I'm Writing:

I finally wrote a synopsis! Big thank you to Kat Owens for introducing me to Susan Dennard's synopsis post--anyone who needs some help should check it out! It's a massive help. Thanks, Kat!

I'm doing pretty well meeting my daily goals--in fact, this week I even wrote on Saturday and Sunday! I think having a small daily goal (500-ish words) is actually helping me write more, because it's taken the pressure off a bit. And I'm doing a lot more aiming for the end of a scene or a specific section, rather than a specific number, which is new for me and working well.

Finally, I've done something completely new to me this week...I entered the Christmas in July contest! I hadn't even thought about it until Sara mentioned it to me, and then I thought, why not? What's the worst that can happen? I mean, sure, three of my top agents are going to be looking at the entries, but does that scare me? Oh, wait--yes, it does. It really, really does. But I'm getting ahead of myself, since I don't even know if I'll make it through to the next round. Either way, it's already been exciting and at least I've taken the first step into the real world with FATE!

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Beautiful stories. Summer songs. Dancing. Pretty sunsets. Making music. Anything and everything.

What Else I've Been Up To:

It is hella hot in England (I know, what's happening?) so I splashed out (AWFUL PUN ALERT) and purchased a small child's paddling pool.

Laugh if you want, but you should know I'm living the dream. Lying in that, listening to music, and reading books...I've cracked the secret to joy. I have also adjusted my career goals from become a mildly successful published author to SELL ENOUGH BOOKS TO HAVE A POOL, because I need one. Seriously.

*     *     *

So that's what up with me! How about you--has anyone else entered Christmas in July? Does anyone have any tips on how not to go crazy thinking about contests?! Querying I've done before, so I'm pretty good with the waiting on that, but this is a whole different level of nerves/excitement :) Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Ready. Set. Write! #4

It's that time of the week...
Click here for a full list of participants!

What I'm Reading:

I finished DARE ME and I loveloveloved it. So dark and twisty, with beautiful writing and vivid characters. If you're into stories that make you feel a bit creepy, or you liked GONE GIRL, I think you'd love it! Now I'm reading Steph Kuehn's CHARM AND STRANGE, which seems like it's going to be similarly dark and twisty. Excellent :)

What I'm Writing:

The rewrite/draft is going well (by which I mean I haven't had an I-hate-this-story-I-don't-know-what-happens-next-why-did-I-think-I-could-do-this moment yet). My goals for this week are the same: 500-ish words a day, plus some query/synopsis work. [Confession? I totally didn't even start a synopsis. Oops!]

The first draft of this story was told completely in one POV, which I've never done before and now realise I don't actually like doing. So I'm rewriting the story with dual POV, and here's a (completely unedited) snippet of something from my new other-MC Rose:

     Jen slammed down her spoon, interrupting Rose’s thoughts. “I think someone has an admirer.”
     Rose’s heart skipped, then settled back into normal rhythm. “What?”
     “I agree,” Maria said. “Cooper was totally checking you out.”
     “And flirting!” Jen pointed out.
     Oh. They were talking about Olivia. And Cooper. Right. Rose took a long drink from her water bottle before she spoke. “Cooper flirts with everyone.” True. “And he’s kind of an asshole.” Not entirely true, but Rose didn’t like the way he’d looked at Olivia, like she was a piece of meat being offered to him on a silver platter.
     Olivia dipped her spoon into her bright-orange soup, shaking her head. “It’s fine. Anyway, he’s not really my type.”
     “Too jock?” Maria asked.
     Olivia shook her head again, the crosses that dangled from her ears swaying. “Too male.”
     Oh. Oh.      Rose pretended to be fiercely interested in her lunch, her stomach swaying. So, Olivia liked girls. Rose liked boys, mostly, but girls sometimes. Not that she had too much experience in that area—the only girl she’d ever had a ‘relationship’ with had gotten freaked out after the first time they’d slept together and run back to her ex-boyfriend. (She’d also insisted that Rose meet her in places far outside town and never talk to her at school, so it really wasn’t that great a loss.)
     In crushes, though, Rose was experienced, and what she’d been feeling since yesterday was definitely one of them. Usually, crushes were safe, innocent, fun. Rose had a knack for picking the straightest straight girls to lust after, with no danger that anything would ever evolve into something real.
     Now, however, she was feeling ever-so-slightly unsafe.
     “Gotcha,” Jen said. “Well, there are going to be plenty of cute girls at the party, too. What are you into—blondes, brunettes, redheads?”
     “Hmm.” Olivia flicked her eyes at Rose before giving Jen a careful smile. “Brunettes.”
     Uh-oh. Rose fought the urge to touch a hand to her very-definitely-brown hair and took a bite of her PB+J instead. Was this flirting? Was she being flirted with? By the cute new girl with the ripped jeans?
     She risked a glance across the table, only to find Olivia staring at her with one eyebrow arched. She held Rose’s gaze for a long second, dipping her chin in the slightest of nods, and smiled.
     Holy crap. Rose swallowed the lump of food in her mouth, and her lips curved into a smile as her stomach turned again. But it didn’t feel sickening this time. It felt exciting.

Kind of long, and pretty rough. Forgive me?

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Good things happening to good friends (writing-wise and life-wise). You might already have heard about one of these things by now, but I'll just say I'm super pumped for this person! About time :)

I'm also doing a fun bookish photo-a-day challenge on Instagram, along with some others. It's pretty fun...come join in if you have IG! (You can find me at rebeccakbarrow, and the challenge is #rgrphotoaday.)

What Else I've Been Up To:

I took myself to see This Is The End, which I found pretty funny but probably won't amuse you if you're not into the Superbad/Pineapple Express/Knocked Up kind of humour. Some people don't like going to the cinema alone, but I dig it: no-one tries to talk to you during the film (oh, how I detest such people), you can sit wherever you want (row 3, middle seat), and there's something about a fountain drink that just tastes soooo good.

Happy Wednesday!