Thursday, 1 October 2015

Zeroes Blog Tour: Our Writing Spaces

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £7.99

Margo's writing space:

In the picture you can see my new standing desk arrangement, made using an Ikea step stool. Just to be meta, on the laptop screen is a picture of my rented Writing Room, which I'm in the process of moving out of in favour of the new Writing Shed that's nearly built in my back yard. Right now I split my writing location between my kitchen table and the spare room with the standing desk.

My writing habits, when I'm drafting, are to write as early as possible. Fall out of bed and start, before doing anything else and especially before eating breakfast.

Then eat breakfast. Then get back on it. For Zeroes, write (on the laptop) a chapter (max 2000 words) in a day, maybe two on a good day; for solo work, write (longhand) ten pages (roughly 3300) in a day. Finish with a note about what to tackle tomorrow.

Then drop the writing and get some oxygen into the brain, with a walk or a swim. Speaking to another human is an excellent idea too, at this stage.

And read someone else's words before I go to sleep at night, to inspire me either with admiration or with irritation for the next day's work.

Deb's writing space:

This desk is time-shared with my partner (hence the certificate for fly angling on the wall!), so it looks kind of bare because it has to be multi-purposed.

There's not a lot of natural light in my house—it's a historic 1870s terrace built in the British style—so consequently I buy a lot of bright things, like bright red ergonomic chairs. We just bought those awesome lights on swivel arms. Today, you can see daylight through the staircase on the left, which is a bonus. Reflected in the monitor, you may be able to make out the wall behind the desk, with its shiny gold wallpaper and framed print.

I'm not a morning person, so my typical day is customised to suit. I start off usually by feeding cats and then completing whatever business needs don't require my full attention. Like, answering email and checking social media. Lately I've also moved my gym sessions into the morning.

After whatever morning duties I have, I'll start in on the most pressing writing tasks. I try to track what I'm working on daily, but I haven't perfected the whole scheduling of work and rest yet.

Around lunchtime I do some exercise—usually I go to the gym for some weight training and cardio. Then the afternoon is back to writing. If I need the mental break, I might also try some meditation (I say 'try' because I'm terrible at meditation, but I've heard it's good for you, so . . . )
I've noticed that my mental acuity picks up around 2pm. In fact, I can usually tell when it's 2pm because there's a sensation like my brain is powering up. It's quite distinctive. I work until my boyfriend comes home, around 7pm. I usually try to stop work in the evenings & pick up something relaxing, like knitting—because that's how I roll! Evenings are also my fiction-consumption time: reading and watching.

Most of my life, I've had to squeeze writing around whatever else I've been doing. I worked full-time for twenty years, but in the past couple of years I've managed to live on a part-time salary, which has helped my productivity. The real problem, though, isn't how much time I have for writing, but how much energy. Now that I get to be a full-time writer for a while, I'm trying to develop different (and even more productive) habits. I'm a bit of a work in progress that way.

Scott's writing space:

I have many different writing spaces. Have laptop will travel and ergonomics be damned, that’s me. I’ve written at desks, sitting in chairs, on the floor, on the bed, inside, outside, in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Mexico, Thailand and the United States. I’ve written on boats, on land and in the air.

However, my favorite writing space is my chair in Sydney. It's upholstered with vintage coats from the 1940s and 50s, which gives it a tweedy look and feel. It's kind of like someone stitched a bunch of college professors together into one piece of furniture. And really, that's what we all need in a writing chair, right?


I write between caffeine and alcohol. That is, I get up early and have coffee and take a long walk, sometimes almost two hours. Then I work pretty much until dinner time. Then I start cooking, which cools down the brain. As does wine.

I'm pretty sure that the most important thing in any writing schedule is the ritual itself. When your body and brain get used to a certain pattern, they don't fight the work as much. Your butt hits the writing chair, and it's time to write. So whatever your schedule is, the important thing is to be consistent.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September review

This month has sucked for me for several reasons. I won't go into most of them because quite frankly they bore me so they'll definitely bore you but it has resulted in me reading bugger all.

Books read in September
Asking for it by Louise O'Neill
Pugs of the Frozen North by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntire
Counting Stars by Keris Stainton

Book of the Month

It was all kinds of awesome. I will review properly at some point.

Events attended
None. Life has taken over leaving no time for book events.

On the Blog
Review of The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Review of The Next Together by Lauren James
Review of Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Review of Monster by CJ Skuse
Review of Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

October's TBR pile
Tonight the Streets are ours by Leila Sales
The Boy who drew the future by Rhian Ivory
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Prom Princess by Meg Cabot
Royally Obsessed by Meg Cabot
Beetle Boy by MG Leonard
Monsters by Emeral Fennell
The Boy who sailed the Ocean in an armchair by Lara Williamson
Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
The Honours by Tim Clare
When I was me by Hilary Freeman

Sunday, 27 September 2015

UKMG Extravganza Blog Tour - Guest Post by Linda Chapman

Write About Something You Know…

It’s one of the tips most often given to budding authors. After all, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you love horses, write a book involving horses, if football’s your passion, write a book with football in it. But when I think back to the first books I got published, not one of them involved a subject I knew much about. They were all animal books and although I know a fair bit about dogs and horses, I actually found myself writing books about cats, chinchillas, rats and goats. This theme of writing about subjects I know very little about has continued over the years. I’ve written a series about ice-skating, a series about ballet, a series about travelling the world and rescuing endangered animals and, most recently, a series about baking. None of which were things that I knew very much about when I started writing them. 

You see, if an editor says to me ‘I’d like a book about…’ (fill in the gap with whatever activity/animal you want) I will undoubtedly find myself saying ‘no problem, I can do that!’ and then usually adding for good measure: ‘oh yes, I used to do it all the time when I was a child.’ The thing is, in my head I can bake and ice skate and ballet dance. I can certainly imagine what it’s like to love those things and to feel passionately about them and I do lots of research to fill in the gaps and details. Research is brilliant fun – often far more fun than writing –the Internet is a wonderful tool. You want to know what it’s like to go to study polar bears in a remote settlement in Svalbard, Norway then you can bet that someone, somewhere will have blogged about it and provided photos. You want to know what the airport in Delhi looks like, well you can watch many YouTube videos of people walking through Delhi airport. You want to know the traditional way to make pumpernickel, then you can find photos and recipes galore. I thank heavens for those people who take photos and videos wherever they go and of whatever they are doing because I really do rely on them. I also rely on talking to people who are experts in their field. Reading, watching, talking to people who can actually do the things I am writing about and getting my own hands on experience if at all possible helps me no end - sadly not possible when it came to the polar bears in Svalbard but I did end up baking a lot of cakes and pastries when I was writing my Best Friends Bakery series. The more I baked, the more I came to understand why so many people love to bake so much - even if my own attempts still in no way measure up to the fantasy cakes I am able to bake in my head!

So, if you or someone you know would like to write, yes, writing about something you know a lot about is clearly good, sound advice but you might also have an incredible time if you write about something outside of your comfort zone, something completely new – you need to do the research but it will open your mind, broaden your horizons and most of all, be a huge amount of fun!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Chicken House YA Romance Blog Tour

I am delighted to be able to offer you all today extracts from Helen Maslin's Darkmere and Lucy Inglis Crow Mountain as part of the Chicken House YA Romance Blog Tour

Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis are out now and published by Chicken House. For more information visit 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Can't wait to read

These are the books I am dying to be published so I can get my grubby little hands on them.

All Wrapped up by Holly Smale

I really love this series and looking forward to this little installment already.

Front Line by Michael Grant

Perfect for fans of The Book Thief and Code Name Verity, New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant unleashes an epic, genre-bending, and transformative new series that reimagines World War II with girl soldiers fighting on the front lines.

World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.

These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

Alternate History is always a bit odd for me but when it is done well I love it. I'm very much hoping this is fab.

PS I Like You by Kasie West

What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she's flustered -- and kind of feels like she's falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer -- but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?

I always like Kasie's books. I really wish she had a UK publisher.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

I am already very excited about the idea of this book. It sounds awesome 

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

This sounds super cute. I've never heard of the author but I am hoping it is so good. 

In real life by Jessica Love

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, regularly shower each other with presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There's just one problem: Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she's supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker, she decides to break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-friend feelings for him.

Hannah's romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and meets Nick's girlfriend, whom he failed to mention. And it turns out his relationship status isn't the only thing he's been lying to her about. Hannah knows the real Nick can't be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

Another one I don't know much about but am very much looking forward to.