Wednesday, 2 October 2013

IWSG - A 'lil respect

Another month. Boy that went past pretty quickly!

I try as hard as possible to be original about these posts, but I guess most of us have a lot of the same insecurities. 

However, I have discovered an insecurity that is a little more niche in the last few weeks. I started on my teacher training course a few weeks ago and one of the major concerns I have about teaching is getting the young people to respect me. I am blessed/cursed with a young face. At 21 I could pass for 16. Yet I am intending to go and try to impart knowledge onto people that I don't look any older than.

This raises a similar concerns around my writing. If I was ever lucky enough to get a work published would this change my students perspective of me? Would I lose whatever authority I held over them because of what I'd written (perhaps swearing, YA level romance etc)? Would my writing style become changed by my being conscious that young people I work with every day might read it?

A solution would be, I guess, to post under a pseudonym but I don't know if I'd feel comfortable about that. 

This is probably a long way off from being something I seriously need to consider, but it's another niggling thing in the back of my mind.

Do you ever worry about loss of respect when writing? It may not be from a teacher point of view but maybe you worry what friends, family or colleges might think.

Sarah x

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

IWSG - Everything happens for a reason

(Written on ipad so i'll link up to IWSG when i get back on my laptop!)

I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I've recently had some experience of this myself.

You'll only have to scroll down a post to read that I had gotten myself a new job looking after my cousin. This was after I had been rejected from my teacher training degree. 

I told a little bit of a lie there. I hadn't been 100% rejected, but rather I'd been put on the waiting list in case someone decided they didn't want their place. But me, being my melodramatic, self figured that this was as good as rejection seeing as I'd never get in on the waiting list. The course is so difficult to get into that no-one was going to turn it down, right?

Apparently not. This day last week I got a phone call, offering me the place someone had given up only that morning. I burst into tears on the phone I was so happy. The poor secretary! My aunt and uncle have recruited family members to look after the kid while they get someone permanent. 

So yay! I actually have a viable career pathway! 

But what has this got to do about feeling insecure? Well, just like the title says, everything happens for a reason, and I'm terrified that the obstacles that keep getting thrown in the way of my writing is God (or fate if you prefer) trying to tell me that this isn't what I'm meant to do! Perhaps it's not right now, or perhaps it's never. I can't tell. Will inspiration strike me on my train journeys while I'm commuting to class? Will my summer holidays turn into my writing window? Or maybe my over active imagination is going to be put to use on teaching instead of fiction? Perhaps my future teaching jobs (with teenagers!) will help me to be a better YA writer because I'll be spending most off my days around the age group with my target audience! I'll have to wit and see!

But for now I'm just so glad I got onto the course. I've got a very busy year ahead of me. 

Wish me luck!

Sarah x

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Day 2 of Nanny life and I SO UNDERESTIMATED THIS. (Plus WIP update)

So I'm a nanny now, for my 2 year old cousin. I only started on Tuesday and Tuesday was hell.

Understandably so though. She'd had a rough few weeks what with losing her old nanny (who she hated) and the disruption of being shunted back and forth between her Grandmother and Aunt (on the other side of the family) while her parents were on honeymoon. Then only to have them run back to work the day after they get home and being left with what I assume she thinks as the Wicked Witch of the West (me).

She naps two hours before lunch, and the parents are home at 6pm giving me the evenings off. But there literally is not enough hours in the day. I thought I was going to be able to write, do my self study course AND still have time to keep up to date on all my TV shows. EH. WRONG.

Plus I thought I'd feel comfortable writing while she watched TV or played outside. I just feel like I'm neglecting her. Maybe once we've settled in with each other I'll be able to jot little things down without feeling like I'm the worst responsible adult in the world.

All you writers who are stay at home moms. I SALUTE YOU. I have no idea how you do it.

But after having food thrown at me, people at the shop look at me disapprovingly (they must think she's mine and I look about 16 even though I'm 21) and seemingly endless supply of poop filled nappies, this face can just about make up for all of the metaphorical and literal shit.

Maybe I just need to plan better. Make lists and stick to them. No more dilly dallying. Easier said than done but hey-ho. C'est la vie.

And WHEN did this blog turn into an endless complaint list on how much I want to write but don't?

How about a WIP update?

I'm slowly making my way through character backgrounds and plot outlines. Everywhere I turn I'm told that the reason that I'm running out of steam so early into my WIP is that I don't have enough planning done. So I'm PLANNING. Had a sit down with an architecturally savvy friend and his fantasy world obsessed brother and set about planning a map for my city. I don't know how important the map will be but immersing myself in this world eventually my head will saturate and some will have to leak out onto a page.

Welcome to Kathros. Hopefully you'll get to meet the city in person one day.

Any tips for managing your free time effectively? Or if you're in the planning stages of a WIP, how's it going?

Sarah x

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

IWSG - Just keep reading...what do we do? We read.

They say that to be  a good writer, first you have to read, read, read. Read the genre your prefer, read genres you don't. Read children's, young adult, and adult. Read short stories, read long stories. Read poems and prose. Read bestsellers, and read self published. 

This isn't a chore for me. I love reading and have a growing library of my own whilst making frequent use of the public library available to me. 

This is all well and good, but the endless streams of reading tends to stack up against my own insecurities. I cant help thinking while I'm reading that there is no way that my writing will ever be to the same standard as those books.  

I will catch myself thinking, "Wow! That was such a wonderful plot, no wonder everyone loves this story" and "gosh, I love the imagery this author uses", whilst knowing that my stories would probably bore anyone but me, and that I'll never be able to write something profound enough that people will stick the quote on hipster posts on Tumblr. 

But I'd be a fool if I thought this was just my insecurity. I'm sure every best selling author has been where I am right now. And probably even after they've made it think: "Why the heck is my book up there next to book X and Y when they're so much better than mine!"

If this is one of your insecurities, how do you cope with it? Or is it just something you have to learn to ignore?

Sarah x

Monday, 5 August 2013

Curve Ball

You never know what life's going to throw at you. That's basically the opening few chapters for most books written, in the history of ever. Establish the current lifestyle followed by a curve ball and then how they adjust to their new life.

If you follow my blog you'll know that I have ambitions of being a High School Science teacher, but the one University where I can do teaching here in Northern Ireland turned me down for this year. So I was stuck. A newly graduated student with little to no job prospects because I'd put my effort into teaching rather than lab/industry based experience. It's fair to say that I wasn't in a very good place. I was sure that teaching was what I was supposed to do. All the signs seemed to be pointing in that direction and then, curve ball, I didn't get it. Since June, I've been frantically applying for jobs but with no success anywhere.

But in the last few days I've been hit with another plot twist! My Uncle and his Fiance (Wife in T minus 2 days) commute long distances to their work, leaving early in the morning and returning late. No childminding service is open early or late enough for them to leave their 2 year old daughter with so they have an Au Pair living with them. Recently their Au Pair of a year went back to her home country and they got in a new one. But there has been a myriad of problems with the new Au Pair and they're being sent home in a few days time. What with the Wedding days away and the honeymoon after, they've no time to arrange for another Au Pair.

So whose getting the job? Me.

I'm no stranger to looking after kids for a living. Between the ages of 14 and 17 I had a job of looking after two children, friends of the family, three times a week. Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday for most of the day. Believe it or not, this was probably when I was at my most prolific in terms writing. Fanfictions mostly, but I had several notebooks that I would fill while they were watching TV, sleeping, or while I was sitting on the grass watching them play around the garden.

So I'm going to live with my Aunt and Uncle for a the foreseeable future looking after their adorable two year old.

I'm looking forward to it. I'll be out of my normal environment with patches of free time during the day for reading and writing as well as evenings and weekends to myself. Hopefully the change of circumstances will shake me out of the funk that I've been in since University ended.

I've also signed up for a distance learning course in Education Psychology to do in my own time to better my teaching application for next year!

Just like any good novel, my life has gotten a little more interesting.

Here's to curve balls and plot twists, in real life, and in fiction.

Sarah x

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

I've got letters... after my name!

On Wednesday 3rd of July, I walked across a stage, shook the hand of the Vice-Chancellor of my University, and received a piece of paper that confirmed that I had, indeed, graduated from University.


No mortar board? What do you expect me to throw, my shoe?

If I don't sound that enthusiastic it's because I'm not. Does that make me selfish, or foolish, or perhaps both? I ticked the boxes that people my age are supposed to and now I've got a degree that I don't really want. Sure, it'll help me to get into teaching should I get accepted next year, or the year after that. But in the mean time, I'm just floating in limbo.

Jobs aren't exactly common right now. Especially part time ones that would facilitate me volunteering at schools to get teaching experience so that I don't have to go through another year of limbo after this one.

I had thought if I got rejected from teaching (which I did) that I could take a year out, find a part time job, and pursue writing in my spare time. The job finding bit, proving difficult. The writing bit? Also difficult. There's no point in having a plan B when it doesn't want to be a plan at all. If you could be fired from writing, I would have been years ago.

I'm feeling a bit disillusioned about, well, life in general. They tell you that you're young and the world is at your feet. Why then does everything seem out of my reach, even when I jump? Perhaps my luck will change tomorrow, or the day after. Things always look darkest before the dawn, right?

On the other hand, I could be just too grown up for my own good. Most 21 year olds don't really care much about jobs and future. They're happy living in the now. I on the other hand, I spend today twiddling my thumbs waiting for things to look better tomorrow.

I'm just lucky I supposed that I have supportive parents who are allowing me to live rent free until I get my feet on the ground.

Have you come out the other side of something like this? Was your graduation something that you celebrated or something that you shrugged you shoulders at?

Sarah x

Thursday, 13 June 2013

What I learned by conquering the Iron Throne

Okay, I didn't really conquer the Iron Throne. But it was fun to pretend for a few moments.

The Game Of Thrones costumes and props exhibition is in Belfast at the moment on the last stop of the tour. The studios where they film in Belfast are a matter of minutes down the road, and I can only imagine that some of the props will be heading down there for Season 4!

My Dad and I got some tickets to go down and see it. Below is a picture spam. Please forgive me if your internet connections are slow!

Note: I'm trying to look empowered here. I just look uncomfortable.
This is why I'm not an actor.

But I learned something very important from the exhibition. The name of the game is detail. It was mind boggling to wrap my head around the detailing on some of these costumes. On Sansa's Winterfell dress (2nd from the left on the top picture) there are stitched gold leaves on her collar. Why? I mean, why when it already takes so long to make costumes would you put in so much detail into something that won't even show up on camera?

Because it needs to feel real. If the Game of Thrones world was real, that character would actually have put little gold leaves onto her collar.

The same goes for writing. Why would you put in extra details that have nothing to do with the story? Because it gives your characters depth and colour beyond the story. They feel alive, and that's because the details breathe life into them.

But at the same time, you can't go overboard with detail or your plot and characters will get lost, suffocated under all that detail. Lets keep the costume metaphor going. If there had been gold leaves all over the dress then it would have looked ridiculous, and fake.

An example of little useless details that I've put into writing: In my current WIP my protagonist is getting her feat measured for boots by her friend who is a leather tanner. She knew him as a child when he was a kind of Grandfather figure to her and he taps a mole on her foot and makes a 'boop' noise the way you would to make a kid giggle.
This isn't important information at all. But it colours that scene a bit more than it would have been and I really like it.

What useless little details have you put into your writing, or anything else that you do just because you could?

Sarah x

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Settling down... or not

I've recently started back into my WIP because summer's here and I finally have the time to do it now that Uni is over. Of course, when you have the time to do something you've really wanted to do, the inspiration suddenly skips off down the street and flips you off from a safe distance.

I'd already 15,000 words written but I was in desperate need of a refresh, so I decided that I would print out what I had already written and go through and edit bits and pieces as sort of a refresher. So I went and printed it all out and dug myself out a cute little binder to put it all in and sat down with my different colour pens.

Then, all hell broke loose. Now I know why every writers whose blog I've seen talking about editing SCREAMS: Don't edit before you've finished your first draft.

I just want to do this to my desk. (Which wouldn't work as my desk is against the wall but that's neither here nor there)

I thought the edit would settle me back into writing again, when I think what it's actually done is to put me off. 

I just feel so uninspired and uncreative.

Also, the weather's been really sunny and I've been lying outside soaking up the rays (and the burn). Ouch - contrary to popular belief, you can get sunburnt in Ireland.

Have you any tips or tricks to settling yourself into writing after a long break? Except NOT editing, I guess I've figured out that one all by myself. 

Sarah x

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

IWSG - Rejection

If you've read my last post, you know that I've recently had my first real taste of rejection. And boy did it hurt! I've either been very fortunate, or never really tried to grasp anything beyond my reach, but I'm pretty sure that (with the exception of trying to put the moves on some men that caught my fancy) this is my first real taste of rejection.

So, what is the particular flavour of rejection? Well it's seven hells of pain that's for sure. Then there is a distinct bitter after taste that lingers. Followed by a dessert course of self-pity and sadness.

As a writer, or rather 'wannabe' writer, I know that I'm going to have to face my fair share of rejection. But after the last few days of turmoil that I've been through, why would I ever subject myself to the hell of querying when you face a constant stream of rejection after rejection?

Well, because being rejected from a course on teaching is really not the same kettle of fish. For a start I know for certain that if/when I submit a manuscript for publication, I'll be rejected. It's a fact of the writing world, and I will be expecting it. No-one has built me up on a false pedestal about my writing the way they did about teaching. No-one has told me that "I'm bound to get it" and that it's a "foregone certainty".

At the end of the day, it's easier to deal with a punch you're expecting than one that comes out from nowhere. I'll be able to get back on my feet and pat down my clothes, rather than lying in the dust wondering where the hell that came from.

Do you have a particular way of dealing with rejection? Maybe from a job you really wanted, or maybe even you've been through the hell of querying your manuscript? How did you deal with it and keep yourself sane?

Sarah x

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Closing doors

No, this isn't a post about my pet peeve of not closing the door behind you in winter.

It's about life's doors closing.

Quick recap: about this time last year I was really confused about what I wanted to do with my life after my approaching final year of my degree. I didn't really like my course well enough to pursue the careers open to me.

Then, slowly, I began to come around to the idea of teaching Biology to High schoolers. It was something that I'd never really considered, but as soon as I did everything seemed to fall into place. I'm involved in various youth groups and teach Sunday school so it was almost like a natural progression. Everything went according to plan, I put in my application (to the one institution in my country that does teacher training for Biology at High School level), I had my interview in March and then began the long wait. About a week ago we were informed that the acceptance letters had been sent.

So I waited... and waited... as most of the other applicants I knew received their letters. It is now way past the time that conceivably could be 'late post' and there is no offer for me. I could be on a reserve list, but that in itself is a long shot.

So what now?

Well I have to wait out the summer to see if I get in on reserve. Then the arduous task of finding work begins while I re-apply for teaching for 2014.

So this is rejection. This is what I'll have to face if I ever pursue publishing.

It really hurts.

Sarah x

P.s. if another person tells me that when one door closes another opens, I'm going to punch them. I will eventually come round to that idea on my own. But for now I just want to wallow in the pool of self pity under the blanket fort that I have created.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Don't break the Chain!

After the A-Z challenge I almost forgot about the IWSG. 

So I didn't have anything prepared, so forgive me if this is a little light on content! 

There's something called 'Don't break the chain'. Basically, the theory behind it is that if you do something that you find difficult (exercise is one that people commonly attempt!) and if you do it for a certain length of time without taking a day off, then it becomes much easier. 

I've shown that I can do the 30 day A-Z challenge, so I'm going to challenge myself once my University exams are over at the end of May to write for 30 days. It doesn't matter what, or how much, but to write something, every day, for a month. 

One of my biggest insecurities is that I'm never actually going to finish anything, despite all the 'wonderful' ideas that I have buzzing around in my brain. Hopefully this little exercise (in June, my exams finish 28th May) will help the writer juice start flowing again that University has all but sucked me dry of. 

Sarah x

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Z is for Zombie


Is it just me or has Zombie fiction become a 'thing' recently? With the Walking Dead in it's various incarnations (TV show, comic, game) being hot topic, it seems that I'm seeing zombies absolutely everywhere.

But I've also been seeing them cropping up in books too. We had the rather bizarre Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that retold the classic romantic epic as if the world was being terrorised by the undead. I've also been seeing the Newsflesh Trilogy popping up in a lot of book bloggers. World War Z was also a novel.

And then of course we have Warm Bodies. A very jarring account of a Zombies regression back into human form because of the love he experiences towards the female protagonist. Overall, it's a good, short book. But there is a resounding feeling of unease throughout it as you never feel quite okay with the fact that, you know, he's dead. Or at least, was dead.

Surely, Zombies belong on the screen (big and small) not in books? The terror from the animated corpses and the fast paced action of trying to survive life in a post-apocalyptic zombie world is a dish that's better served up in a visual respect?

The only book about Zombies that I've read is Warm Bodies, and I imagine that it's unique as it's written from the POV of the Zombie.

Do you think Zombies books work as novels? Or are the better left up to the screen?

Sarah x

p.s. I can't believe I made the month! *dies* Oh no wait, I don't have time for dying. Final Uni exams in 3 weeks. EEP. * resurrects* Wait... does that mean I'm a zombie now?

Y is for YA

Argh, can't believe I missed the penultimate day!

But yes, Young Adult fiction. I'd say that even though I recently turned 21, 80% of my bookshelf is still teenage fiction. Why I hear you cry?

Because it's gooooood.

Its an assumption (proved wrong, obviously, by the sheer amount of young adult and middle grade books that are published every year and the amount of those books that are turned into movies) that younger people are much more difficult to coax into reading. For this reason, I think YA books work harder at keeping your attention. The drama is bigger, the characters are more colourful. And, because teenagers are hotheaded and famed for poor decision making, it usually leads to very interesting problems and conflicts. The romances are often also quick and intense because of all those raging hormones.

My dad used to be an avid reader, but due to ongoing health problems he has little enthusiasm for anything except the television. I insisted that he read the Hunger Games before the movie came out last Autumn and he had the entire series read in under a month, which for him was amazing. Mum also had it read in no-time at all.

Since then, Dad and Mum have both been picking out titles from my bookshelf.

Why do you think YA is such a stomping success, for all age groups, in the last decade or so?

Sarah x

Saturday, 27 April 2013

X is for Xenophobia

I've already seen this once before in my dashboard, so it's obviously a popular topic to tackle with X in the A-Z.

Out of all the books you've read, how many had white girls in pretty dresses, or a white family looking distraught, or a white guy brooding on the front cover? Quite a few. Someone did a graph of all the nationalities of people on the cover of YA books a while back. I can't remember the exact figure, but the landslide was in favour of white people.

When the Hunger Games trailer was released, and people saw that Rue was being played by a girl of colour (even though this fact is stated in the book) there was an uproar on twitter, started by one girl who had stated something along the lines that she didn't feel any sympathy for Rue's character because "she wasn't white".

The problem comes from many angles, with both readers and writers tending to suffer (even subconsciously!) from a touch of xenophobia.

But what's the solution? Is it to put characters of different nationalities into your book, stating the colour of their skin in big bold type so that the readers know for sure that you're not being xenophobic?

Short answer: I don't know. Long answer: I still don't know.

Is there even a solution to be had? Some writers write about what they know, about places like the one that they live in. I live in a rural area of Ireland. Even at my University in the capital of Belfast, I would say that fewer than 5% of the students are NOT caucasian. The most ethnically diverse place for me is my television screen. Does this mean that I have a duty to make sure I deliberately put people of different ethnicities into my stories?

I still don't know. It's a sensitive issue, and I would love to hear your opinions.

Sarah x

W is for Western

To start off, I'm not very well read in terms of Westerns. I've seen a few. The usual John Wayne ones that show on a Sunday afternoons on those satellite channels that no one knows they actually subscribed to. Firefly, is a sort of Sci-Fi Western. But not much in terms of books.

I read Redeeming Love which is a retelling of a story from the book of Hosea in the Bible. However, its set in the California Gold Rush and has that very rustic Western feel.

There is also Rumours, the second book in the Luxe Series briefly has two of the characters out West.

But other than that I'm fairly limited. Although I enjoy the premise, it doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's very much a rinse and repeat. Look for a new start out west, have a long hard journey to get there, maybe battle a few Native American Indians along the way, bobs your Uncle, you have yourself a Western.

But I suppose that's the same with every genre after a while. I mean, European historical tends to get a bit samey after a while too. I guess it's just how you make your story different that will set you apart from the soup of your competitors.

If I was to ever tackle the Western genre (never say never) I think I might mash it up with something else. But not sci-fi. That's Firefly territory, and Firefly fans are quite... protective of their fandom. I should know, I am one.

Have you read many Western books?

Sarah x

Friday, 26 April 2013

V is for Vampires

Alternative title: What happens when the market gets so saturated that you really don't give a crap anymore.

This is going to be brief to avoid me going into full scale rant mode.

I used to really enjoy vampire fiction. There was something dark, sexy, alluring about the immortality and the blood and... perhaps this is just my teenage goth self coming back out of the closet, but I really did enjoy it. I loved the movies too. (Also, your parents look at you real weird when you're 14 and obsessed with 30 something actors playing centuries old vampires. I think at one point they were expecting me to come with a hairy biker in his late 20's as a boyfriend. Imagine their surprise when I came home with a minister's son 6 months younger than me. But that's another story.)

Then a certain franchise came along and both the YA and adult book market were so full of vampires that it was a miracle there were any humans left for them to feed on.

But maybe it's a case of when you eat too much of something, and you can't look at that food again for several months, until you suddenly get a craving again? Perhaps one day I'll go back to vampire fiction and enjoy it for what it was, a good old fashioned dirty secret.

Did you get a vampire OD when the whole Twilight thing blew up, or can you still read about them without wanting to throw the book out the window Silver Linings Playbook style?

Sarah x

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for Undercover

Spy fiction! Detective fiction! Mystery fiction! Conveniently all under one roof.

When I was in High school (Friendly non-US reminder that UK 'high school' runs from age 11 to 18!) I used to love the Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz, though I only read the first few, when I moved into other YA books, I kind of forgot all about him after a while. In my never ending list of books I have to read, I must try and remember where I'd gotten to, and what books I still have left to read because I think the series is finished now (according to the ever reliable Wikipedia!)

As I've mentioned before, I'm a great lover of radio drama and the BBC have dramatised most of Agatha Christie books, such as Miss Marple stories and Hercule Poirot stories. I adore them and despite having heard most of them numerous times, I can never get the culprit. I really admire detective and mystery writers and their ability to hide the truth from their authors until the 'final reveal', while leaving hints throughout the story.
Before they divorced, my uncle and his wife used to write Murder Mystery evenings (where you go around and ask the different characters questions, trying to piece the mystery together for yourself) and much to my annoyance I could never guess the murderer correctly!

Kathy Reichs (the author of the Temperance Brennan series that the TV show BONES is based off) has started writing a YA series called Virals based on Temperance's niece. It's a detective/mystery with a hint of paranormal series with Tory and her friends solving various mysteries around their town/city. It's very good, although it's clear that it's been sometime since Kathy was a teenager. However, the third in the series 'Code' appears to be co-authored by her son Brendan Reichs so maybe he's been drafted in to help with the young part!

Do you like sleuthing your way through detective novels too? Have you ever gotten the murder right, for the right reasons?

Sarah x

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

T is for Thriller

*Michael Jackson plays in the background*

Thriller. All things that go bump in the night, and tension that's pulled so tight it might actually split you in two.

I think Stephen King can safely be regarded as the King (ha!) of the thriller genre. I've been wanting to read Carrie now for ages, but the two libraries that I use (the one nearest my home, and the one nearest my university house) never seem to have it! Next time I have a book haul, I can almost guarantee that it will get bought. It definitely has to be read before the movie re-boot with Chloe Grace Moretz comes out later this year!

I can remember from my early reading days that I had a lot of the Goosebumps books. Middle Grade horror, I'm sure those a bit older than me will remember them too! I really liked them, though I can't remember ever being scared by them.

Having said that, I do remember a few nights ago that I had a dream there was a 'Ring' esque girl sitting in the corner of my room, and when I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I couldn't look at that corner of my room. So maybe I do get scared some of the time.

My thriller reads could definitely do with some beefing up. Can you recommend any good thrillers?

Sarah x

Monday, 22 April 2013

S is for Science Fiction

LOVE science fiction. I have grown up with it being a part of my daily life. My mum, you see, is a 'trekkie' i.e. she is a big fan of Star Trek in all its various forms. She also watched a lot of the other Sci-Fi programs of the 90's and 00's such as Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis etc, etc, etc.

I'm also an avid listener of BBC radio 4/4extra which is where all the BBC drama radio shows are broadcast and there are a lot shows on there (okay, mostly repeats from the 80's and 90's but that stuff is still gold) My absolute favourite was Earthsearch by James Follett. It had a sequel and a spin off called Mindwarp and I have them all on CD for my continued listening pleasure.

For being such a lover of sci-fi, I haven't really dabbled much in the 'classics' of the scifi genre, like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, 2001: A space odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke and The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. It's one of my biggest regret, one that I hope to remedy, but I'm loving the Sci-Fi that's coming out at the moment, especially Beth Revis' Across the Universe series!

As for writing. I would love to attempt a Sci-Fi story, but I think I need to hone my world building skills on something closer to home before I can attempt that!, a website devoted to all things worth talking about in entertainment have a book section, and an accompanying podcast 'Book Hype' said that Sci-Fi was one of the big trends to watch for in YA for 2013-2014 and I can't wait to see what gems it throws up!

Does Sci-Fi entrance you, or would you rather read about something a bit less fantastical?

Sarah x

Sunday, 21 April 2013

R is for Religious

I've read a few Religious fiction books in my time, and like all genres, you have the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I like to read Christian fiction occasionally as I find them very thought provoking. It also find that it can sometimes be very spiritually fulfilling.

Probably the most interesting that I have read was The Shack by William P. Young. It was a self-published book in 2007 that was picked up by mainstream publishers and became a hit. Well, as much as any religious themed book can become a hit in the mainstream!

It's a very different book, where the main character meets three different manifestations of God as three different people and spends a week with them in a shack learning how to deal with traumatic events from his past.

I've also enjoyed some of the books by Francine Rivers, who writes Historical Christian fiction.

Then you have the bad. I'm not going to name any names, but I've read some that are very preachy and that I personally feel are written to guilt trip you in some way.

To use a very crude expression; you catch more flies with honey than with honey than vinegar. Just saying that makes me cringe a little, but I think it makes my point. Bashing people over the head with something is about the safest way to ensure they'll put up a wall against it.

Religion is a choice (albeit one that I've chosen to make) and telling people how to live their life, even though the medium of fiction, just doesn't sit easy with me.

For me to enjoy this genre, it has to be very carefully done.

So, my feelings over Religious fiction is a very mixed bag. Do you have any opinions, or do you tend to stay away from sensitive areas like this?

Sarah x

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Q is for Questions Left Unanswered


Questions left unanswered. It's a bit of a long stretch but what I really mean is cliffhangers. I have a very love/hate relationship with cliffhangers.

I LOVE writing them and watching as chaos erupts around me.

However, I hate being on the reading end when a bomb drops and you know theres no way you're sleeping tonight because you just have to finish the whole book after that.

They're the real spice of the book, they keep you going from one chapter to the next.

But at the same time, I don't like having everything wrapped up in a neat little bow either. Take Mockingjay for example. [Spoilers ahead if you don't know the ending of the 3rd book]
Mockingjay had possibly the worst ending I could have ever imagined. We got about 3 pages of what life was like after the events of The Hunger Games. Characters were mentioned once and forgotten about it felt very rushed and I think this is one occassion where it might have been best not to have answered every question. Or if you were, to have it a bit less rushed!

What's your opinion on cliffhangers or authors leaving questions unanswered?

Sarah x

p.s. I'm going to leave you with a picture of my favourite Q

I just want to pinch his adorable sassy cheeks!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

P is for Paranormal

It's difficult - for me at least - to be able to draw a solid line separating Fantasy and Paranormal. But regardless, I love them both. But I'm 99% sure Paranormal has to do with fantasy creatures but in a contemporary setting? Let's go with that.

I was in my mid-late teens when the paranormal craze swept through YA like a hurricane. And yes, I did read all the Twilight books. I know this is going to sound painfully hipster of me, but I totally read Twilight before it was cool. And in true hipster fashion, the more popular it got, the less I liked it. It was a pleasant, unchallenging read. It was the first series that I ever re-read, only to be matched so far by my re-reading of the Hunger Games trilogy. (This summer I plan to re-read Harry Potter, and the Artimis Fowl books but that's another topic!)

But I do genuinely like the paranormal. I think it stems from a love of all things a bit not quite right. By that I mean I was obsessed with ghosts. I used to watch all those bad late night ghost hunting TV shows and go to old houses and take photographs to look for 'unexplained' shadows.

I also loved some of the vampire movies that were out when I was younger. Interview with a vampire and Queen of the damned, two adaptations of Anne Rice - though I've never read her original books.

Stuart Townsend as Lestat in Queen of the Damned. I mean, just LOOK at him.
This movie is partially to blame for my goth phase... 
Holding my hands up, I also watch a lot of the TV series that were the result of the 00's Paranormal boom such as The Vampire Diaries, The Secret Circle (sob) and Teen Wolf.

There's an inescapable whiff of cheese that follows around paranormal and I know some people just can't hack it at all. But I like it for all it's cheesy goodness. But, like cheese, you can't have too much or it'll give you indigestion.

Paranormal, a good romp, or a sad fad?

Sarah x

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

O is for Old Books

I mean classical. The classics. Yes this is another cheat but this is the 3rd week and blogging every day is beginning to take a strain on me!

To be quite honest, I really struggle with classical literature. The first ever classical book that I managed to actually get through was Wuthering Heights, and that was only because it was the first thing I read on my Kindle and I was still hopped up on "OH SHINY!" (On a side note that book is possibly the most messed up and depressing thing I've ever read!)

People always seem to romanticize classic books like they were some sort of divine gift sent down to us and no-one can ever criticize them because that would be literary blasphemy. But I'm just going to come out and say it. I don't really like classic books.

There I said it. By all means, go fetch your pitchforks and torches and lead me to the gallows but that's just how I feel.

Maybe its because I'm too lazy to struggle through all the flowery text and gothic descriptions but all the interaction seems to be very drawn out to the point where nothing much actually happens.

Maybe its an age thing but someone losing their social status because their aunt twice removed didn't say the right thing to the 24th in line to the British throne doesn't really fill me with a sense of peril.

For some strange reason though, I love the TV and movie adaptations of the classics. I just wish that the costumes and the tension and emotions that are conveyed through the adaptations could match up the original source material. Perhaps it's because I'm of a different generation, and I eat up screenwriters cliches more than Hansel and Gretel eat sweets in the witch's house.

The exception to this is Pride and Prejudice. I mentioned earlier in the 'Love' post that Darcy and Lizzie are one of my favourite fictional couples. However, it took multiple attempts to read it throughout my adolescence, several TV and movie adaptations and a Youtube series before I actually completed the book without wanting to throw it across the room. And if that's the sort of effort I have to put in to enjoying every classical work of fiction then sorry but;

Have I just committed a heinous crime against fiction? Or does anyone else get bored with the 'classics'?

Sarah x

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

N is for New Adult

Speaking of trends in literature... wait, we weren't? Well there are only so many ways to start a blog post!

I'm in a bit of a strange mood today so forgive me if I ramble or don't make much.

This is going to sound very strange but, although I haven't actually read any books that have 'officially' been dubbed 'New Adult' I am in full support of it. I don't think it's a gimmick at all.

The reason why I like YA so much is it seems to be written at a faster pace than books geared at adults. Perhaps this is because the 'typical' teenager has to be coaxed into reading, and needs placated with lots of things happening. Before my dad went into

I think I was a fan of the idea of New Adult even before it was a thing. I had always thought, "Wouldn't it be great if there was YA but with a bit more... oomph?" It also affected my writing a bit. Characters weren't 16 or 17 but 18 or 19 and going through different things in their lives, irrespective of whether it was fantasy or contemporary.

Lo and behold, NA is now a thing. Granted it's still kind of underground, and I think most NA books are self published but I can definitely see it catching on. I just need to start reading some of these books. WHERE'S MY KINDLE?

What do you think about the New Adult category? Have you read (or written!) a NA book?

Sarah x

Monday, 15 April 2013

M is for Magical Realism

This is something that I personally have not had a lot of contact with in my reading. Oddly enough, the one and only time I read a story with magical realism in it was not for English, but Spanish: Like Water For Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate)

I read it for Spanish class, as we had to study a novel of Spanish origin. We got both the book in both Spanish and English.

For those of you who may not know magical realism is where strange and 'magical' things happen without explanation or reaction. They are things that are perceived as completely normal, without even magic being mentioned once. I'll give you an example:

Tita, the main character of the book is the youngest of three sisters. Her lover Pedro, marries her sister Rosaura because he wanted to be close to Tita, but couldn't marry Tita because the youngest sister in a Mexican family at that time cannot marry but instead must look after her parents and family. Rosaura and Pedro have a child, Roberto, but Rosaura cannot breastfeed him. Seeing her nephew in such distress, Tita discovers that she can breastfeed him even though she has never been pregnant. This is all perceived as completely normal.

Magical realism takes a while to get used to. When you read it for the first time, it assaults the logic portion of your brain and you just have to put your head down and trudge on through. It makes for a very interesting, unusual, and refreshing read.

It's something that I must look more into. A change of scenery in my reading habits as it were.

Have you ever read or watched anything with magical realism in it?

Sarah x

Saturday, 13 April 2013

L is for Love

Romance. *sighs dramatically*

I'm so predictable when it comes to choosing the books that I read, and what I enjoy writing. It's almost a guarantee that there will be some kind of romantic relationship involved. And it's not difficult to see why. Love/Romance is a theme that transcends through fiction of all genres and of all ages categories to the point where it's actually difficult to find something without some resemblance of romance or love, even if its only minor characters.

I decided to list a few of my favourite literary romantic pairings from over the years.

1. Jack and Aliena from Ken Folletts Pillars of the Earth.

When you read the books, this pairing kind of comes out of left field because of the age gap. But it's such a real, human love that they share and I just love reading - actually, it's the audiobook I have so it's technically listening - about their story over and over.

2. Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice

It may have taken three attempts and a youtube adaption to actually read and enjoy Pride and Prejudice. The first time I tried to read it, I couldn't finish it at all, but I was quite young. The second time I finished it but didn't enjoy it. The third time I adored it. For some reason, the subtle back and forth between them was lost on me for the first two readings. Just goes to show that some things in life require perseverance!

3. Peeta and Katniss from the Hunger Games trilogy

These two characters were put through hell in the Hunger Games trilogy so its by no means an ideal love that they share but I think that they can give each other the best type of love that is possible and I think in any and all situations, that is the best anyone can ever hope for. Although the ending of Mockingjay was more of a damp squib than a firework, their connection resonates with me in a way that I can't quite put my finger on.

Do you have a favourite fictional couple? Have you ever read or written anything that had absolutely no love or romance between any of the characters?

Sarah x

Friday, 12 April 2013

K is for Kid's Fiction

I'm going to talk to you about Children's fiction for a bit! Not a lot, because I've not read anything younger than YA since I graduated from Middle Grade at about 14.

My favourite books to read as a kid, to be read to me by my mother, or by myself was Animal Ark. The Animal Ark series, of which there were many books, was about the daughter of a vet and her adventures in helping and rescuing sick/injured/in trouble animals. I wanted to be a vet until I was about 11 and these books probably had something to do with that.

From what I can remember, I adored these books. I also had the audiobooks of them on cassette tape and would listen to them at night as I drifted off to sleep. 

I think it takes a special art to write childrens books. You need to know at what level to write at to keep them amused as well as expand their minds. It's something that I don't think I could do and I admire those who can! 

What were your favourite books as a child? 

Sarah x

Thursday, 11 April 2013

J is for Jokes

I really mean humorous fiction but I already had a H and didn't have a J. We all have to make special allowances during the A-Z.

Yes, humour. For me I don't seek out the funny books. They're mostly just happy accidents. Or small funny snippets inside other more drama focused stories.

I usually spend my time in the romance, paranormal and fantasy sections of bookstores. Contemporary is something that I don't usually read, though I have made a few exceptions. John Green's books are one example. Those can't be called humourous books, but I've definitely come across some laugh out loud moments. Also, I do remember laughing at a few times at Anna and the French Kiss.

I've been told (by my mother, so its no big deal) that the humour I try to weave into my books works quite well. Here's a little fanfiction exert that she liked.
Tamina screeched with rage and kicked a mound of sand at him. She turned on her heels and stormed off into the darkness.
"Where are you going?" he called after her as he brushed sand off himself with an irritated flick of his hand.
"To find a stick," she yelled back.
"What for? We've plenty of firewood to do the night!"
"So I can beat you with it!
You be the judge. It's not as funny as I remember it, but maybe thats because it was a long time ago.

I seem to find characters being 'sassy' very humourous. I just love Tyrions lines in the Game Of Thrones series. Peter Dinklage just delivers them perfectly. Also, after watching the Beautiful Creatures movie I really liked the back and forth between Lena and Ethan, but as I began to read the book I found that it was missing/wasn't as strong and was disappointed.

Do you seek out the humour, or is it a happy accident when you come across a story that weaves it in amongst other stuff?

Sarah x

I is for Informative

(After doing this for nearly 2 weeks, you would think that forgetting to blog would be something that I wouldn't do. It's the 10th of April somewhere in the world still...)

Okay, so this isn't really a genre, but you have to make little adjustments in the A-Z challenge every now and again.

I'm talking about Information books, or non-fiction books. (I already had something else for N!)

My mum is addicted to Audible, and I enjoy listening to books before bed and I have recently acquired Bill Bryson's A Short History Of Nearly Everything. I'm quite looking forward to it as I haven't been reading a lot of non-fiction recently and my mum highly recommends it.

I used to read a lot of non-fiction as a child. I was obsessed with Animals, The Solar System and Ancient Egypt. Granted they were all pretty basic books but I devoured them none the less. I was never very popular child (I was a pretentious brat, even I wouldn't have been friends with me pre-age 11.) but if ever there was a general knowledge quiz for fun at anything I was a hot commodity knowing things like the Bat is the only flying mammal.

But as school became more intense at sort of High School level, I must have subconsciously thought that I didn't need any more factual information to cram into my head. But you can never have too much knowledge in your head, so perhaps it's time to make a change and make myself a promise to read a handful of non-fiction books every year!

What are your non-fiction reading habits like?

Sarah x

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

H is for Historical

Whoops, this is a bit late but I got an iPhone today and most of the day has been taken up with:

Anyway! Yes, I love Historical fiction. I am a big fan of Phillipa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick. I'm also partial to Ken Follet's historical works (Pillars of the Earth, World without End, Winter of the world) though only in audiobook format because man those books are huge! I have had some fiction set in Ancient Egypt languishing on my shelves for a few years by Wilbur Smith. Maybe this summer is the summer I'll get around to reading them finally!

From a writing point of view though, my opinion on historical fiction is a bit less positive. As you can probably tell by this 10pm post, I'm quite lazy. Fact checking has never and will probably never be a strength of mine. I'll stick to Fantasy and paranormal where I can make up my own rules and no-one can tell me otherwise!

Do you like historical fiction, or do you prefer to live in the present? 

Sarah x

Monday, 8 April 2013

G is for Graphic Novels

I literally didn't have a G until a few seconds ago. I was looking through the genres section on Goodreads and saw it and thought HA! YES!

I've had very little experience of graphic novels. I read a few when I was in school because our library had just started to stock manga and graphic novels and they were very easy to read over a lunch break if none of my friends were sharing the same lunch hour. Honestly, I can't remember most of them but some of the artwork blows my mind.

I do however, follow one online graphic novel called The Dreamer.

Here is the synopsis from the website:
Beatrice "Bea" Whaley seems to have it all; the seventeen year old high school senior is beautiful, wealthy and the star performer of the drama club. And with her uncle’s connections to Broadway theater, the future looks bright ahead of her. Little does she know that her future might actually be brighter behind her...
Bea begins having vivid dreams about a brave and handsome soldier named Alan Warren--a member of an elite group known as Knowlton’s Rangers that served during the Revolutionary War. Prone to keeping her head in the clouds, Bea welcomes her nightly adventures in 1776; filled with danger and romance they give her much to muse about the next day. But it is not long before Beatrice questions whether her dreams are simply dreams or something more. Each night they pick up exactly where the last one ended. And the senses--the smell of musket shots and cannons, the screams of soldiers in agony, and that kiss--are all far more real than any dream she can remember.
I just adore this series and once a week update is never enough. To practice my Spanish when I was still in school, I attempted to translate the comic but never got farther than a few pages.

I've been tempted to start reading The Walking Dead graphic novels because I've really enjoyed the TV show and I've also played the game.

Have you read many Graphic Novels? What do you think of them? Have you any that you could recommend?

Sarah x

Saturday, 6 April 2013

F is for Fantasy

I love fantasy. If you're looking for a post with a bit more substance, this is not the post you're looking for.

There's not much I can say about it, which works out well because I have an amazingly busy day ahead of me and I don't have much time to blog (it's my own fault for not preparing this earlier! This morning I helped my friend make her wedding invitations and now I'm away to help my mum set up for my birthday party later tonight. Phew!)

You can make up your own rules in Fantasy. You have to be careful about world building, because it's very easy to leave gaping holes. However, no-one can reprimand you for doing anything 'against the rules' because you're making up your own rule book!

That's why I don't think I could ever write a historical fiction. Even contemporary can be troublesome for me sometimes as I feel like I'm always on google checking to see if this is right, or if this is a thing. I recently did a fanfiction and you wouldn't believe how long it took to check how long it would take to get from London to Switzerland via train because one character had a fear of flying!

My favourite fantasy series at the moment has to be Game of Thrones. However, I've heard the phrase 'sweeping epic' applied to this fantasy series and, boy, they're not lying. I enjoy the TV show because 1) it's amazing 2) it's mostly filmed in my country!

I also enjoy the books, but I can only ever read one every 6 months. There are so many characters and theres so much going on that my brain can only handle so many Ser's and so many locations in one sitting. Otherwise I'd be caught up by now!

Fantasy is also that genre that can be crossed into from almost any other genre. Like, Sci-fi fantasy such as Star Wars. And then there are contemporary fantasies  though it's tempting to call those paranormal fiction.

Like me, do you find wading through the endless amount of characters in some fantasy stories hard? What do you think about fantasy in general? Yay, or nay?

Sarah x

Friday, 5 April 2013

E is for Erotica (But a PG-13 post!)

I don't think I have many young readers. But I kept this post PG-13 anyway...

Last summer I went on holiday with the girls that I lived with. I brought three books with me and had them all read a few days into the holiday. So we decided to swap around the books that we'd brought. However, the one that I ended up with, as you can probably guess, was Fifty Shades of Grey.

Last summer this book just exploded onto the market. Everyone was reading it. On the plane, on the bus, by the pool. It was crazy. I knew what was in the book because when my friend was reading it, she would read us passages aloud when it got to a particularly "interesting" bit.

Now I'm quite partial to a good innuendo, I have my mother to thank for that. I'm in no way 'prude' but this book just had me curling my toes... and not in a good way.

Here are some gifs summing up my facial expressions.

As I got further through the book, I just ended up skipping over those bits because they just became boring and gratuitous. I never finished it, despite a few people who have read the whole series telling me that the writing/story gets better in the second two books, it had lost it's appeal and I was in no way interested in reading a single page more.

Now there seems to be a whole lot of erotic novels that have been springing up (pun absolutely intended) in book stores but Fifty Shades has completely turned me off venturing any further into the Erotica genre.

Have you read the series, and if so, what did you think? Was 50 Shades just a bad part of Erotica pool to dip my toes in?

Sarah x

Thursday, 4 April 2013

D is for Dystopian

It's such a buzz word right now.

After the success of The Hunger Games, everyone and their dog seemed to suddenly be writing about a future world that had a totalitarian government in place.

I've read a few, and will defend the Hunger Games against it's harshest critics but... surely we've all had enough of Dystopian at this point? Right?

It just seems that, when reading some of the fallout from this dystopian boom that we've been having one thing is clear to me. The 'evil' 'corrupt' government systems are usually one dimensional. Maybe that is because most of the boom of Dystopian novels seem to be series that are still incomplete and they may be saving more of the political background to the later books. However, there are some where I feel that the author gets a bit lazy and the government is totalitarian, because it can be. It's a bit reminiscent of an old silent film baddie tying the girl to the train tracks, or one of the classic James Bond villains  Mostly they seemed to be that way "because of reasons."  If I was to have conversation with these books, it would go something like this.

"Government is Evil!"
"Yeah, but why?"
"... because this is a dystopian novel. EVIL AND CRUEL."
"Surely there must be-"

Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me being picky? What's the best Dystopian that you've read out of the recent boom?

Sarah x

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

C is for Coming of Age (And IWSG)

Isn't it funny the way things work out. I had planned a while ago that I would tackle the topic of stories about coming of age in the A-Z challenge, forgetting that C would fall on the 3rd of April.

Which is today. Which is my 21st Birthday.

Reading Young Adult books, as I do, the topic of crossing over that line between being young and becoming an adult is something that I come across a lot. I would argue, however, that it's a bit hit and miss. It's thrown around wildly in the blurbs on the back of books, sometimes unnecessarily. Someone who I think covers that 'stuck in the middle of teenager/adult line' is John Green. However, it's in the trilogy/series books that I find sometimes the growth is lacking. Authors get caught up in 'How many books can I squeeze out of this story' rather than focusing on the characters that everyone fell in love with in the 1st book. This happened for me in the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray. I enjoyed the first two, but the final one was so indecisive and full of pointless story that I almost couldn't finish it. And some of the characters seemed to regress back into petty children rather than progress into the young women they seemed to be becoming in the earlier books.

What's the best coming of age story that you've read?

Now, onto my insecure writers support group post! Very appropriate post this week:

My age is something that, when it comes to writing, is something that I'm both secure and insecure about. If that makes sense. 

I'm 21. Most people on the YA scene are late 20's to 40's so on one hand I have plenty of time. I also probably need to live a bit more. Experience life. Experience crappy underpaid jobs and ungrateful bosses. That's my logical, optimistic answer.

The pessimistic side of my brain likes to remind me that there are lots of people my age and younger who have written full length novels, some of whom have been published and I get really jealous. I feel like, if they can do it, why can't I? And for those who are successful younger than me, I wonder if I've wasted the time I've had so far? You never have as much free time as you do when you're young. Have I wasted my opportunity on games and bad TV?

I'm graduating in the summer with no word yet on whether or not I've gotten onto the teaching course for September. If not I'll have to go and start the arduous process of finding a job while I re-apply to teaching courses for 2014. I've already had to move back home for financial reasons. I'm not sure what I want. Is teaching just something that I'm trying to get into because I know that I'll have a lot more holidays than your average person for writing? And if I really wanted to be a writer wouldn't I have a bit more to show for it by now than a handful of started novels and a few badly written fan fictions? 

I feel like I'm in limbo. And I guess that's exactly how every coming of age story starts. 

I guess I may be of age. But my coming of age story just hasn't started yet.

Sarah x

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

B is for Biography

Still haven't found my list, but I remembered what B was!

Biographies, or (Auto)Biographies. I'm cheating a little here but we'll just gloss over that.

My experience of Biographies, auto or otherwise is fairly limited. I do have a biography of Johnny Depp that was bought for me that I've never read, only flicked through for the pictures. I have, however, read the (Auto)Biography of english comedian Michael MacIntyre. It was a christmas present one year and I found it extremely interesting. He's a face that anyone who enjoys comedy here in the UK will recognise. However, it took him nearly 4 years and £40,000 of debt before he made his break. This guy is HILARIOUS, so it's very hard to imagine that there was ever a point where he wasn't getting recognised for his work. If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's don't give up on what you love.

But that's the only book about someone's backstory that I've ever read. With Wikipedia and the internet in general, if you want to find out something about someone, it's just a matter of a few clicks away. I don't make a point of reading biographies, but maybe it's something that I should look into. I spend far too much time in story worlds that are completely made up, maybe I should remind myself occasionally that real life can be just as interesting too.

Have you read any auto/biographies recently? Can you recommend me any that I have to read?

Sarah x

Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for Adventure.

Yes, I'm doing the A-Z blog thing. Yes, I'm an idiot for signing up. Yes, I did lose the list of all the topics that I had planned to talk about. BRILLIANT START SARAH!

I've gotten off to a bit of a false start. I know I should have been prepared for this but April 1st kind of crept up on me and caught me unawares. 

The idea that I had for the A-Z was to give my (brief) opinion on various themes and genres of books. Today is A, so I'm starting with ADVENTURE!

Yes Bilbo, like that. 

For my first post I'm going to get all philosophical and start by saying that I think ALL stories are technically adventures.  Some are the more obvious sort taken by our little Hobbit friend. But even the stories that don't scream ADVENTURE at you, are still likely to be. They may not be dragon slaying, mountain reclaiming sort of adventures, but are adventures nonetheless. Even if the protagonist isn't physically going anywhere, they're more than likely having a personal/spiritual journey of some sort. Rarely are people the same at the end of a book or series as they are at the beginning. 

I really admire those who tackle stories where the 'adventure' is internal and therefore done through much more subtle means. 

Do you agree? Are ALL stories technically adventures? 

Now I'm off to try and remember what I had planned for B-Z. Wish me luck!

Sarah x

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


My thoughts at the moment are largely dominated by the interview I have tomorrow morning for my teacher course, so forgive me if this is short. Whether or not I get into teaching next year depends on what these people think of me and how I'm able to put myself across

Yes, Sarah, interview blah blah, what has this got to do with being an insecure writer?

Well obnoxious version of me, it's simple. Because your writing is judged in kind of a similar way.

I love writing. I just don't think I'm very good at it. Pure and simple.

I'd love to teach. I just don't think I'd be very good at it. Hang on...

See the similarities there? I don't know whether or not I'd be a good teacher, and I am unqualified to therefore say whether or not I will be a good teacher. That's why I'm going to this interview. Experts in the field who are able to make an assessment from a 5 minute presentation and some questions whether or not I show promise and can be moulded by a year of study and training into a teacher.

The same, in theory, should go for my writing. I don't think I'm very good. Some people have told me that I am, but their either 1) friends/family members 2) fanfiction readers who are likely to say anything nice as long as your spelling and grammar is decent and your characters have at least a speck of personality. But here's the thing. I'm also unqualified to make that judgement call. That's why we have agents and publisher people. Experts in the field who can tell you whether or not your book can be moulded into the best version of itself. I'm not very knowledgeable about the MS to book arc, but from what I hear, there's a LOT of tweaking, twisting, moulding and polishing goes on before a story ever sees the light of day.

And I can say all these things until I'm blue in the face. It does not make them any easier to do. I'm terrified by my interview tomorrow, in case they say no. I'm absolutely terrified of ever sending any of my writing off to someone in the writing profession, in case they say no.

But you can never know if you don't try.

Sarah x

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Any time, anywhere?

I was writing earlier today. No big deal, just scribbling away in my notebook. The thing was... I was in a lecture, and should have been listening and learning about Viral infections.

It gave me a good idea for a blog post. As writers, we always like to write, no matter the time or place.

Here are some of my examples:

1. In lectures - Like today. Generally I'm a pretty poor student in lectures. After almost 3 years of University I find it quite hard to concentrate on my lectures. By now, I've worked out who you need to listen to, and who puts everything that you need in the notes that they give you. So, if we get someone who has good notes, out comes either the notebook or the iPod touch and some Temple Run.

2. At work - I've only ever had two proper 'jobs'. From I was 14-17 I worked as a babysitter for a family friend. I sat two boys, two nights a week, and on Saturday during the day. When they were watching TV, or napping, out came the notebook and I was writing. The second job I had I worked in a store that sells a bit of everything from when I was 17-18. Because of the ever present managers and customers it was much harder to write. Though when the store was quiet I still managed to jot down ideas that came to me on the receipt paper!

3. At school - At school they used to give us study periods around exam time. Mostly I had finished all my major exams but still had study periods because other students with other subjects still had exams to do. I wrote then too. Sometimes even when I didn't have exams finished, I usually rewarded a hard day's revision with a bit of writing.

So where have you written before in a place that might be a little out of the ordinary? Or maybe, like me, you've been so consumed with the urge that you've done it at a time when you probably shouldn't have been doing it?

Sarah x

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Green Brothers and insecurities.

This blog post comes to you in two parts. The first is about the TFIOS tour last week, the second is a response to the post I made through the Insecure Writers Support Group.

 Last Wednesday after I went to see The Fault In Our Stars tour, with John Green and his brother Hank. I really admire these two for what they've done on the internet, and for Johns writing. It was a great privilege to be able to go and see them and to hear what John had to say about writing and TFIOS was an absolute pleasure. I even got to meet them briefly. John had some wonderful things to say about people who want to be writers as well and I hope that I can take on board a lot of what he said and put it into practice. I look up to him so much, and also to Hank for all the science/learning videos that he puts on youtube. As a (hopefully) future Biology teacher, I got to say a very quick thanks to him for all the Crash Course videos (a series of biology based videos) that I will hopefully be able to implement or at least use for inspiration in my lessons some day!

I did a video blog of the whole thing to document it and my journey. I've always wanted to try the whole youtube thing, but never had enough of a reason to start. But what better way than my first video to be about seeing the great Vlogbrothers.

Secondly, I got some wonderful comments from the Insecurities post. It does make it a little better to know that I'm not alone in my feelings. I've just got to come to terms with why I feel like that, and perhaps learn how to turn off some of those doubts! I think putting myself on youtube, though it has nothing to do with my writing, is going to help. I've never been that comfortable about how I look on camera, so to publicly put myself out there and start doing some video blogs can only help get my confidence up!

Sarah x

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Here goes...

I kind of feel like I'm at a virtual alcoholics anonymous meeting. But surely that's the first clue to the reason why I should be here. I shouldn't feel like I'm stepping up to the gallows by admitting these things. So, here goes.

My name is Sarah... and I'm an insecure writer.

On the advice of Michelle who commented on my Re-introduction post, I've decided to join the insecure writers support group, and this is my first post.

My brain is both my best friend and my worst enemy. First of all, it gives me ideas, and then it taunts me with the ever present fear of those ideas not being good enough, or my own ability isn't good enough to make them brilliant.
Here are some of the thoughts that regularly fill my brain when I'm writing:

1. "You're the only one going to find this interesting, and because you already know what's going to happen, why bother to write it down?"

As I have stated many times before, I've never completed a manuscript of my own original ideas. The most I've ever written in anything is about 20,000 words. Then the doubts creep in and I find myself unable to move forward. The main reason, because I don't think anyone else will find my ideas and my characters interesting. 

2. "You dropped English for Science when you were 16. You've never studied literature or writing, what gives you the right to think that you're just as able to write as people who spend years studying it?"

This is one of my biggest regrets in life. I've always loved literature and writing. But, it's subjective. And I felt that if I put all my eggs in the writing basket, and it turned out that statement (1) was in fact, right, then I was going to have a useless degree and no job to help me clear the debt. Though now I realise that teaching was something I wanted to do... I could have studied literature and taught it. Ergo, regret.

3. "You're such a softie. Even if you get something finished and query worthy, the rejections will break you and you'll never write again."

This is true. I know that even the best writers have gotten rejected in their time so I'm under no illusions that if I ever get around to querying, that I'll be met with a lot of rejections. And it will knock me so hard I don't think I'll be able to get up again.

4. "You're just doing this for the attention. You just want someone to tell you that you're good."

This is a constant concern of mine. I'm worried that if, above all else I like the idea of being a writer, than the actual application. Do I just want to sit in a book store with a queue forming for people who want your autograph and to tell me how much they enjoyed my book? If I could make money from writing while remaining completely anonymous, would I still be happy, or am I after this because I want a legion of adoring fans? This I can't answer.
So there's an insight into my brain. A lovely place isn't it? Well this was never going to be a cheery post. But hopefully I'll be able to conquer these and other fears with time and the support of fellow bloggers! 
As for now, I'm off to see John Green in Dublin for his TFIOS tour. Lots of buses and trains but it will be so worth it.

Sarah x

Monday, 4 February 2013

January in Books

In an attempt to be a more prolific blogger, I'm going to write about about what I've read in each respective month.

I'm not a book blog, and I'm not trying to be a book blog. However, reading is just as important as writing because, well... how else are we going to learn? (I'm paraphrasing John Green at this point) I'm not much of a reviewer, so prepare for vague and un-spoilery reviews that will probably only tell you if I liked or did not like the book

Taadaa. This is what I read in January:

1. Hate List

There is no other way to describe this except that this book touched me. It explores guilt in a wonderful and (rightly so) troubling way. I found myself constantly questioning the reactions of the characters in the books and whether or not I would respond in the same way myself, with the conclusion that I don't know. It made me think and above all made me feel. 

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I wanted to read this before I saw the movie. For a start, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would because of all the hype that I've seen about it. The voice that it's narrated in is odd and it took me a few chapters to really get comfortable with reading it. When you get to the end, I suppose the 'big reveal' shows you why Charlie is the way he is... but I'm just not entirely sure how I felt about this book.

3. Insurgent

I had seen very mixed reviews of the sequel to the huge hit that was Divergent, so I was apprehensive of how I was going to find Insurgent. I wasn't disappointed, but it didn't excite me as much as the first one does. 2nd books rarely live up to their predecessor so from that viewpoint I was satisfied. One thing that did bug me was that it very much feels that it should be read immediately after Divergent. I read Divergent last April and so I had forgotten quite a few minor details and characters and felt that for the sake of a few sentences of re-introduction, I was left confused for quite a portion of the book.

4. Poison Study

A thoroughly enjoyable story. I liked the world building and the characters. I would love to continue the series if it wasn't for the horrible reviews I've seen about the other two books... if I can get them as library books I might consider it.

5. An Abundance of Katherines

My new 2nd favourite John Green book. I enjoyed this one much better than I did LFA or PT, but not as much as TFIOS. Perhaps because the main female character isn't as 'messed up' as Alaska or Margo. On the flip side of that, perhaps it doesn't have the same sort of 'statement' to make but heck not all books have to make you sit back and re-analyse the world!
I've seen a few comments floating around that John Green books are 'all the same' because all the teens are smart and quirky. But heck, if you have a formula that has worked in the past, why the heck not keep it like that? And with a guy that's appeared as much on best seller lists as John Green, he's obviously got it right.

Here's to what February throws at me!

Sarah x

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Does anyone actually write any more?


So today I decided to handwrite my blog, because...well... handwriting stuff is becoming a bit of a dying art.

I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes because IRL there is no spell checker (unless you count a dictionary but I'm lazy and that involves getting up, plus I don't notice usually when I spell things wrongly.)

How often do you handwrite things? Do you handwrite the outline of blog posts, or the outline of a story?

For me, I tend to write down ideas but I have so many notebooks lying around that there are snippets and ideas scattered incoherently throughout many different notebooks.

Sometimes I also work on my stories (including fanfiction) in long hand. Usually it happens when I'm on the train going to and from University or when I find my fingers ineffectively hovering over the keyboard, unable to think of what to write, that's when I turn back to pen and paper. Usually, I find a few sit down sessions with a pen and not a keyboard will kick my brain back into gear.

How often do you, if at all, actually write your stories? I find my best productiveness in a mix of the two, but I do know that some of you swear by either the pen or the keyboard exclusively.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made a comment on my last post. I had such a great response and lots of suggestions and ideas to get me back into writing and blogging. I've got some wonderful new followers and as a result found some more blogs to follow myself. So thank-you to everyone who read and commented on my last post.

(I will type this out also, in case you can't read my writing!)

Sarah x

p.s. I've realised some grammatical errors in the post because I was just writing candidly and not reading back and correcting sentences. I think I got my general point across though!

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Re-introduction

So today (I almost forgot, oops!) is the blogfest "Please allow me to re-introduce yourself".

When I saw this floating around the blog-o-sphere a while ago, I couldn't not sign up! It just seemed the perfect door back into blogging after such a long absence!

So, what's changed since we last spoke?

Well, today I handed in my Thesis for my degree in Biomedical Science. It has been a hellish 4 months, and probably one of the main reason for my absence.

Also, I've applied to do my post graduate degree in teaching next year. Sometime over the summer I had one of those 'revelation' moments. I'd been beating myself up over careers and job prospects and nothing that my Biomedical degree allowed me to do was interesting me any more (backed up by how much I did not enjoy my research project and thesis). People have always told me that I'd be a really good teacher, that I have a knack for explaining things, but it was mostly my family and in my youthful folly, I decided that I didn't want to do what my family suggested. Now it seems that they knew my own mind better than I did! I spent a few days at the beginning of September, before I started back to University in my old High School, watching my Biology teacher, well, teach. He was my favourite teacher, and he has such a way of having fun with his students without losing their respect that he almost never has to get angry. Unfortunately  I haven't heard anything back about my application. They are currently doing interviews, so I'm hoping that I'll get word of an interview soon. I was stupid and only applied to one place, so I don't have a plan B!

In writing news, I've slipped back into old habits and found myself dipping my toes into the murky waters of fanfiction again. The immediate feedback that I get and the fact that I have a readership from the very first chapter I post makes it so much easier for me to write to know that people want to read what I'm writing. When I'm writing original stories, I don't have that feedback and I find it so easy to just give up. Does anyone else struggle like this? Perhaps I need a writing partner...

So, that's you caught up to date with my life so far! Riveting isn't it?

Sarah x