Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Today I thought I'd briefly ponder something I just read on Twitter, tweeted by author extraordinaire Neil Gaiman:

Great meeting with Moffat & co. Spent 10 mins on how to rewrite the script for next series, 30 on fantasy casting. Ace new title sequence.
Perhaps I'm dense and uninformed for not knowing this already, or not being sure, but does this perhaps refer to Steven Moffat of Doctor Who writing fame? Is Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite writers, writing Doctor Who episodes for the new/next series? From some general Twitter stalk-age, I gather (but please don't take this as fact) that he is writing episodes and that it might well be for the series starting this weekend, with the new Doctor. 

This is kind of exciting if it's true. Between Steven Moffat, who wrote the amazing 'Blink' Doctor Who episode among others, and the other writers, and Neil Gaiman, I think the new series could be fantastically written.

I love David Tennant's Doctor. I'm going to miss him grievously. However, I'm willing to give Matt Smith a chance. I loved him in the BBC Sally Lockhart adaptations.

Now what are the odds that we can get Neil to write episodes for a new, compulsively faithful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Seira Struggles

In the interest of a tongue-in-cheek reference to a writer stereotype involving coffee addictions, I thought I'd include this picture with my post. Photographed by Suat Eman, it quite effectively captures my mood and condition right now.

Imagine the blank pages of the notebook and laptop, and the pen hovering in my head/my fingers hovering over the keys. What to write, what to write? Substitute the coffee with chamomile tea or Oasis citrus, and you have my desk at the moment. I sit, and I drink my drink, and I struggle. Yes, I struggle. I feel like Sisyphus, pushing the rock endlessly up the hill. Or Prometheus, with my liver being torn out repeatedly, such is this agony.

My struggle centres around my protagonist and narrator and key-est of characters in HALF. Her name is Seira Cross, as she is still named and hopefully will continue to be unless I take a sudden and violent dislike to the name. I've hit a roadblock in the writing of HALF, after a grand total of three pages, simply because of her. Don't get me wrong. I love this character. At least, I will once she's more real to me. But she's taking her time fleshing out in my head, and until she fleshes, I can't work well with mere bones.

I just can't quite get a handle on who she is. I don't know if it's because my mind's distracted with so many other things, or if reading a few lovely books recently has made me feel like my heroine must be like those wonderful heroines, or if it's simply just that Seira hasn't yet decided what she wants to be and who she is, and I'm waiting for her. What's she like? Is she rebellious, or quiet? Does she have a mischievous streak, or is she very naive? Is she proud and confident, or does she struggle with insecurities and fears? Does she like opera or rock? What does she dream of? Who does she love most in the world? Actually, I already know the answer to that one, at least for the beginning. So many questions and so many quandaries. I can't just choose for her. She needs to take shape in my head.

On a brighter note, there are many things I could try that will, hopefully, compel her to shape up faster.

I write this partly out of frustration and despair. I'm in that state where all I want to do is throw a boot at the door, or pour hot tea over my laptop and electrocute my characters. Much as I love them, electrocution is tempting. The only reason I am avoiding such drastic measures is because I can't afford another laptop, and I fear my beloved and slightly tattered boots will not survive a flinging at the door.

I needed to write this out and 'talk' it through. But I'm also posting this because I think it's a useful and hopefully interesting (compelling? Charming? Scintillating? Or just plain tripe?) insight into the kinds of struggles a writer must fight through during the course of writing a novel, especially in these early stages. Struggles with Seira is only one kind: characterization. There will be others: plot problems, pace struggles, editing operas... I always find it fascinating to glimpse authors' writing processes and see them overcome their challenges, so I thought I'd share pieces of mine.

Hopefully, this challenge will be overcome soon. I am nothing if not pigheaded, and I am also too impatient in nature to wait for Seira to make up her mind. I'll peel her back, layer by layer, if I have to.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Cut, Polish: Editing a Novel (Part One)

A return to the writing world for a short post. Someone asked me a while ago about editing a novel, and asked me how I do it. I'm going to save my long explanation for another post, and, for now, offer advice from two authors who have not only been published, but who are very successful and no doubt actually know what they're talking about. So if anyone is interested in fine-tuning or editing a novel but has no idea how, I highly recommend the many pages offered by Kate Mosse (author of the bestselling Labyrinth, amongst others, and owner of a truly beautiful website too) and Holly Lisle (prolific, successful, and full of wonderful advice about writing: the art, the business, etc).

One of the most useful things for me, as a writer trying to get published, has been getting good advice from successful authors and agents. Visiting author blogs and agent blogs is a great way to meet people and talk to people who have made it. I hope to be able to post many useful links and resources on this blog over time.

Coming soon: a post on the way I personally edit/work. I've taken heed of the advice of many professionals, including author Jo Baker, my creative writing tutor this year. Ultimately, though, the way you work is completely your own and that's what I'll be talking about in 'Editing a Novel (Part Two)'.

An excellent way to get fat

Quite a random post today. I thought I'd take a break from talking about writing, life, etc and instead share a recipe/treat that I discovered five or six years ago. In the world of the Mandanna family and friends, it's called rum and biscuit pudding, but I daresay there are other 'rum and biscuit puddings' that aren't much like this and I also suspect the original recipe might have been called something different. Such is the astonishing, mouthwatering, jaw-dropping amazingness of this rum and biscuit pudding, however, that I felt I should mention it. Everyone should indulge in this treat at least once. Oh, how I swoon. How I crave it this very instant.

My mother made this dessert for me when I was about sixteen, and I fell in love at once. Ever since, whenever she asks me what I'd like on my birthday (at least, the birthdays I used to be home for) and what I'd like to eat when I arrive back in Bangalore after nine months away at university in England, I say 'rum and biscuit pudding, please'. Sometimes I even forget the 'please', lost as I am in my lust for the pudding.

As far as I know, my mother got this recipe off a friend, and I don't know where they got the recipe from or if they made it up. So, bear in mind this may already exist and be marked out as someone's recipe. This is just our version, as I learned to make it.

Time: Preparation will take between fifteen minutes and half an hour, depending on how deft you are. After that, you'll need two hours for the dessert to refrigerate at normal fridge temperature. Do NOT freeze. 

What you'll need: 
[bear in mind this will be dessert for about four people, with leftovers]

  • If you're in India or thereabouts, two packets of Marie Biscuits. If you don't know what these are, then ordinary digestive biscuits will do.
  • A tin of condensed milk
  • Half a pint of regular cow's milk (even a third of a pint will do)
  • A quarter-bottle of dark rum. This is probably about 250ml. You won't even need this much, but it depends on how strong you like your pudding.
  • Fresh cream. Preferably double rather than single. Between 250-500ml
  • Tinned peaches. If you can't find peaches, tinned mangoes will do. Two or three tins, depending on the size.
  • Two regular bowls, spoons, and one large flat dish suitable for refrigeration. Casserole dishes work well. 
Begin by mixing the tin of condensed milk with the rum. This bit is the trickiest part, because the key to the wonderful taste is in exactly how much rum you use (accounting, of course, for how much of a raging, compulsively addicted alcoholic or binge-drinker you are). Too much rum, and the taste is too strong. Too little, and you miss out on the slight, delicious kick. When I make this, I always try to add just enough dark rum that, when you mix it in with the condensed milk, the mixture turns a light caramel-brown colour. Think of light toffee. Any darker than toffee might be too much rum, but this is one of those situations where you need to taste it yourself and see if you like the balance of rum/sweet. 

Once you have the rum and condensed milk mixed in a bowl, set it aside. Pour the cow's milk into the other regular bowl and start soaking the biscuits in the milk. About five seconds will do. You don't want the biscuits getting so soggy they crumble as soon as you pull them out of the milk, but you want them just soft enough not to be crunchy.

In the flat dish/casserole dish, layer the biscuits with the tinned fruit. So, a layer of biscuits to cover the base of the dish, then a layer of fruit, then biscuits again, then fruit. You should have two layers of each, with no spaces between the biscuits (so layer them on top of each other even within the layer to make sure there are no gaps), with the fruit on the top.

Once this is done, pour the rum and condensed milk over the layers. The mixture will and should trickle through all the layers and pool into any tiny gaps, soaking into the biscuits and swimming about gently. You should have enough that nothing feels dry, but not so much that the layers are swamped in condensed milk/rum.

Finally, add the fresh cream over the top, spreading it and layering it so that it slides through the gaps and finally covers the fruit completely.

Put the dish in the fridge for about two hours, take out when it's time for dessert, and prepare to swoon.

I hope I haven't forgotten anything. This is my first time writing up a recipe from scratch (it's always been in my head, narrated by my mother as she explained/showed it to me), so I don't know if I'm clear/detailed enough. I hope anyone who tries this enjoys it as much as I do.

Good luck! I'd love to hear how it went.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Guest Post from Steve: Let me lower the standard of writing

Hello, everyone! My name is Stephen, and I am the Steve that Sangu refers to now and again. Sangu, in a weaker moment, gave me access to guest posting on the site. Big mistake. I'll occasionally contribute inane, badly spelled and grammatically incorrect posts that make little or no sense. Hopefully you'll like them! My first thought is on one of my favourite phenomena: 

One-Eyed Drunken Text.

This may be a mystery to some, but to everyone else it's probably a dark memory buried as far away as possible. To paint a picture, one has drank a few drinks of an alcoholic variety. Then you leave your fortress of solitude, and venture out into the big bad world. Have a few more drinks. Enter some sort of 'discotheque' establishment. Few more drinks, whip out your phone to send a text message to a friend and


You can't see a thing. This is bad. You bring the phone closer to you, until you hit yourself in the eye. Slight panic - where has my sight gone? And then salvation, your addled brain tells you to shut one eye and focus on your phone again... 


My sight has returned! Now, my best scientific explanation for this is that your brain has too much alcohol in it to be able to cope with assimilating two slightly different images from each eye, and create one clear image as it does all day, every day. So you get a blurred concoction, until you shut an eye and allow your brain an easy ride. 

But this isn't really an attempt to explain it, simply to nod my head, and say "Thank You" to the human brain for this wonderful, if odd, ability we have. 

Be back soon, 


I really am sorry. One excessively long post, and another post? I know, it's a bit much. Still, I thought I'd draw people's attention to Soulless, a steampunk novel by Gail Carriger. I'm really enjoying it at the moment, though I'm only about a quarter of the way through. I sadly haven't yet had the time to sit down and read it through in a few hours, as I usually do books that I'm really into. This novel is light, funny, and will appeal to anyone who loves paranormal creatures and Georgette Heyer's Regency romances. It will appeal especially to people who love both, like me. 

And that's it. That's all I'm going to say. End post here.

It really never rains, it...

A veritable heap of writing-related and like updates today. First, a note on this blog and blogging in general. I'm amazed by how much I enjoy doing it! It's really grown on me, and posting once a day (or more often) has been easy so far. Of course, there will be exceptionally busy days and days when I'm away, but it's been fantastic, and a big thank you to the small handful of people who have been reading my posts so far!

I've been meaning to write this post for the last two hours, but was repeatedly delayed by a number of extraordinary and bewildering factors: checking various accounts, reading other blogs, explaining to my mother how to comment on a blog (she worked it out eventually, as evidenced in my previous post), three different conversations on Facebook, a Twitter update, writing an article on a website... and, at last. I managed to work my way back here. My head reels. I kid you not, it spins and boggles and does peculiar things to my eyes. I glimpse worrying signs of crow's feet and forehead wrinkles, borne of the hours I spend frowning at the screen as a multitude of tasks continue to boggle my brain.

But let's steer away from my encroaching age and move on to the meat of the post, which I am rather excited about...

It's amazing how I can have dry spells for weeks, where I won't be able to write anything except what I have to (read: essays, dissertation chapters, portfolio self-reflections and other painful necessities), and then, out of the blue, I'll find myself with not one, or two, but three things to write. 

1. This blog, of course, which readers will have known about already. While the elite may not count this as writing, I think it's very useful. It keeps me practicing, and it forces me to (try to) be interesting, scintillating, honest, witty, and more, all of which are key to writing novels. It also inspires me with ideas.

2. A website called, where people write up articles about just about any subject they can think of or find interesting. It's a little bit like blogging, only it involves being a lot more detailed, clear-cut and academic, in a sense. There's less freedom, obviously, than blogging, but it's a place where people go to find information about certain things and that's useful. I've just written my first article, which was, of course, about Sherlock Holmes and I hope anyone who likes the subject will go have a look. 

I realize I haven't mentioned Sherlock Holmes on this blog yet, which is a travesty considering my love of it. I am obsessed, addicted and thoroughly enamoured of the stories, the characters and the Holmes/Watson dynamic. Occasionally, I'll re-watch episodes of House just because the House/Wilson dynamic is so deliberately intended to echo Holmes and Watson. My ultimate quest is to one day write a detailed guide to the stories and the world created by Arthur Conan Doyle. What fun. One day. When I'm not a student, when I don't have a dissertation scowling at me, when I have that imaginary thing known as Lots of Free Time.

Anyway, I've started up on HubPages, and will hopefully enjoy writing articles and reading them as and when I feel like it. Sometimes, I think I deliberately add things to my plate just to distract me from the fact that Steve isn't here much.

3. And the third and, to me, the most exciting thing I'm writing: a new project! I began writing it on Friday and although I've only written about a page and a half so far, I'm very excited about it. It's not technically a new project, because it's sort of been in the works and stewing in my head for months now. But with ECHOES pretty much done, dusted and its sequels temporarily shelved during my quest for its publication, this is the first time I've really started a new project with the intent of plunging into it full-tilt.

It's tentatively called HALF at the moment, the title inspired by the enormously significant fact that the two protagonists are half siblings. I'd classify the novel as fantasy or science fiction, but it really only deserves these tags because it takes place in a dystopian future where Britain is ruled by the Lifeblood, a Nazi-like government that believes all people of colour and disability have no place in Britain. The novel is narrated by Seira, a half-Indian girl who struggles to survive in this world, builds fragile relationships and, ultimately, fights back. Key characters will also include Kenneth, Seira's half-brother; Isabella, niece of the Lifeblood's Prime Minister; and Remy, a poet and secret revolutionary.

Of course, all of this is subject to change, because I'm still in the early, first draft stage, but it's exciting to jump in and see where this goes.

Finally, a few other small writing-related updates. First, most people will remember my post where I talked about putting some of ECHOES online on WEBook. A few hours after that post, I put a page of the novel up for WEBook's PageToFame contest, where readers rate the first page of a story and vote whether or not to send it through to the next round. Although I had to pay a few quid, I thought it was a useful way to find out whether or not ECHOES (first page or more) is popular with anonymous readers. My first ratings on that first page were posted for me today. 


...It turns out that, so far, 60% of readers want my submission elevated to the next round! Of course, in the interest of being scrupulously honest, I ought to add that 20% think my first page was 'not great'. Still, first pages can be polished and reworked, and I think the first statistic is pretty exciting! Will let people know how this goes. 

On a different note, an update re. queries to agents. Of the ten I have now written to, only two have replied as yet. One was, as I mentioned before, a request for a partial followed by a rejection. The other response, received this week, was a rejection of the query. It stings, but the great thing about writing and being excited about HALF is that it keeps me optimistic and stops me from letting every rejection depress me for days.

And wouldn't you know it? I had at least one other update to post, but it has been swept clean out of my head. I really and truly can't remember! Such is my absent-minded brain. Ah well. I'll post again when or if I remember. Until then, I'll sign off with an apology for how long this post has been and with the hope that everyone has had a lovely weekend!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday with Steve

Steve drove up yesterday, just for the weekend before heading back to work, and we've had a busy day today. After a hugely optimistic trip to KFC to try and grab the new Krush'ems (known as Krushers in India, where we first discovered them over the summer), we discovered they weren't on sale yet and proceeded despondently to the cinema to see The Blind Side. We've both seen it before, but loved it, so we were quite looking forward to it. And yes, it's amazing. Whatever Steve says, Sandra Bullock completely deserved her Oscar win, and the supporting cast were fabulous too. It was one of those movies you get a little bit teary in, and laugh a lot in, and think aww and wow a lot. Now, I don't normally like American football films, with the exception of Remember the Titans. But this one won me over. The trailer. Oh, boy. Had me bawling first time I saw it. 

It was, actually, the trailer that got me to watch this. Steve, a football player, a Manchester United geek and an avid NFL/Indianapolis Colts fan for reasons I can't fathom, wanted to watch it a few weeks ago, and I refused. The words 'it's about an American football player...' did me in. But that trailer swayed me.

What surprises me, though, is that Sandra Bullock actually seized the win for this. In the last few years, the trend has inclined towards winners representing a deep, ethical, morally complex, historically hard-hitting, etc, etc kind of film. Think Kate Winslet winning for The Reader, which is outstanding, by the way. Or Charlize Theron some time ago, winning for Monster. As great as The Blind Side is, I don't think anyone could call it morally ambiguous, deeply philosophical, or historically painful. It was a great feel-good story, and how rare are Oscar winners in that category? Think about the Best Picture winner that trumped The Blind Side: The Hurt Locker, the very definition of the hard-hitting qualities listed above. I don't know, but in my opinion, it seems that you've got to be political, foreign, doubtful, morally shaky, extravagantly eccentric or sufficiently surprising to be an Oscar winner or nominee these days. It probably also helps if your plot's got something to do with a war or the Nazis.

Moving on...

After going to see the movie, Steve drove us to Asda, where we bought everything we needed to make a proper, tantalizingly wonderful roast dinner involving chicken, tarragon and lemon. If anyone's interested, we used the magnificent Delia Smith's recipe. Boy, was that an undertaking. It must have taken us about two and a half hours to put together the entire meal: roast chicken with its garlic/tarragon/lemon/chicken-juice/butter sauce, baby potatoes, and broccoli. And it was delicious. The very first roast dinner I've ever really made, and it was perfect. Plenty of leftovers too.

A Saturday to be proud of.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Addicted, depressed, glamorous

This post's title sounds like a song by Lady Gaga, no? Beautiful, dirty, rich and all that.

So, I thought I might blog today about common stereotypes and misconceptions I've heard attached to the figure of the writer. Now I daresay there may be a difference between writers and authors re. these stereotypes (maybe if you're published and wildly successful, you do spend your time sipping champagne at Oscar ceremonies), but for the most part, we can't be all that different, can we? So here are some funny, oft-heard and occasionally outrageous stereotypes, peppered with my two bits about whether or not I fall into said particular stereotype.

1. Writers spend a lot of their time going to fashionable parties in Hollywood and drinking champagne at the Oscars. False. At least for me, and, I expect, for ninety percent of writers. Such public glamour probably doesn't have a place in your life unless you're JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman (the latter of whom does go to the Oscars). 

2. Writers have a strange and erratic routine that involves drinking enormous amounts of coffee, working late into the night, and existing with perpetual dark circles and bleary eyes. Meh. This depends. Some writers do have strange and erratic routines and work late into the night (me). I don't particularly like drinking coffee much, though (call it a result of growing up the daughter of a coffee planter. You out-coffee yourself pretty quick), and I'd like to think dark circles and bleary eyes only ail me occasionally. Many successful and popular authors, however, insist on a steady routine: Philip Pullman wakes up at half past seven to work, and Holly Lisle believes in outlining and a disciplined approach.

3. Writers are hopeless alcoholics. Apparently, Truman Capote was an alcoholic (if Wikipedia, the love of my life, is to believed) and died of liver disease and drugs. Needless to say, the legendary addiction to drinking attached to several iconic writers does not imply the rest of us take to our whiskey the moment things get tough (or good). Yes, I'll admit I do like my vodka and Bailey's before a night out (not necessarily together). But I don't think I've ever sat alone in my room, hunched over the laptop, with a glass of neat vodka beside me. That would be a worrying sign.

4. Writers get depressed when things don't work out. They throw things, break things and generally make life hell for their wives/husbands. This one makes me laugh. It's the typical scenario, isn't it? Hollywood loves that image of the lonely writer writing his masterpiece by the sea, and growing steadily more dependent on drink and anti-depressants as things go down the toilet. It's only partly true. I think it's very easy to get discouraged and dejected if, after putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into a book you've loved writing, you discover no one really wants to read it. But I don't throw or break things and I try to be nice to the people I love. I have to confess, if I threw violent tantrums and made life hell for everybody (all the time), no one would be remotely indulgent of it. My exceedingly sensible mother, my friends with little patience, and my tolerant and clever boyfriend would have me shipped off to the nearest psychiatric facility pronto. Or prison, if they weren't feeling particularly kind.

5. Writers are addicted to something to keep them going. This is true for me. I'm addicted, as appallingly cliched as this sounds, to how much I actually love writing. In fact, I told Steve just yesterday that I can see myself being very happy even if I don't ever get published, and that whatever happened, I would write anyway. I love doing it, even on days when it's difficult and irritating and I want to reach into the laptop and tear every last unattractive word to pieces. On a more prosaic level, I'm also addicted to encouragement. I wouldn't have been able to finish ECHOES if Steve hadn't read it while I was writing it, helping, encouraging me, and generally making me feel like it was something worthy.

6. Writers are lonely, shy, solitary, antisocial and generally every other similar word you can think of. Gosh, this would really depend, wouldn't it? For me, it's a mixture. I'm quite shy and quiet with strangers, but you can't shut me up once I get to know people. I've inherited a certain talent both of my parents have: the ability to be by myself and not get antsy, miserable or desperately lonely. However, I do love spending time with other people. The truth is, if you were antisocial and solitary, you wouldn't get much writing done. As hugely important as the imagination is, it's very difficult to imagine things without inspiration from the real world.

Any other popular stereotypes or misconceptions you can think of?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Snapshot of a university day

As I write this, I'm sitting in the Learning Zone, a new building designed so that students at Lancaster University can study, work, talk, eat and hang about, all twenty four hours a day. One end of it is covered with long, large windows, looking out into Alex Square, the centre and hub of the university. In the interest of putting off doing my work (I've written about 700 words of yet another dissertation chapter and think I can take a break), I thought I'd describe what I see and offer a snapshot of university life.

Across from me sits Lindsey, friend, flatmate, fellow student, slightly insane and not a little bit dopey either. She's more engrossed in her phone than in her work and occasionally looks up to offer me yet another update re. her job, her manager and the rota. I listen with one ear. Around us are various other erstwhile students, some diligently working, others sprawled out on the sofas with their iPods plugged firmly into their ears. Today, the windows are closed, so it's quite warm in here. So warm, in fact, that I've taken my hoody off. Gasp. In England, too.

Outside, in the Square, which is actually more of a very long rectangle surrounded by shops, banks, passageways and trees, it's still light, though the sun has vanished. Very English. Two girls sit on the steps, smoking. Two boys appear to be enjoying a couple of milkshakes. I'm tempted to ask them where they got theirs, because I tried getting a Diggles milkshake not fifteen minutes ago and was told they were closed. A girl dressed, apparently, for the Antarctic is passing by, her hood so dense it could probably shelter Lindsey, me and the rest of the Learning Zone, were we to feel the chill. Someone's getting money out at the cash machine. A group of first-years are laughing over sandwiches. I can tell they're first-years because only first-years wear skimpy clothes in the cold and laugh that loudly. Trust me. The rest of us have too much work to indulge ourselves. (Okay, I confess to mild sarcasm.)

As early as it is, I can give you a snapshot of the Square tonight, or on an average university night. Girls in short, pretty dresses and coats totter on high heels, already drunk, to get the bus or a taxi. Boys make sure they look steady and reliable, to prove they are men and can hold their drink. Occasionally, someone will try to climb a tree and break an arm. The buses will take them into town, where they'll dance for hours at Cuba or the Sugarhouse or one of the other clubs, and they'll drink till they're silly. I do this frequently, so I know.

Yes, that's university life. Work, drink, dance, play. Work some more. Work whilst nursing a hangover, whilst suffering stomach cramps, whilst being sick, whilst contemplating tomorrow's night out. Then go out. Then work some more. That's the final-year student's life, anyway.

Steve is driving up to see me tomorrow. Am very, very excited about that.

Bruv, Bruv

First off, Stop Crying Your Heart Out. Oh, I do love this song. My character Sean is a big fan of Oasis, so I try to listen to them when I can. Research, you know? (Or so I claim. In reality, one might call it procrastination.)

On a different note, I thought I'd share a story I remembered today. My friend Amina claimed about a year ago that, whilst walking through the streets of Lancaster one afternoon, she overheard the following conversation. I remember laughing so hard and can actually recall almost every word she said.

[The scene. Two trackpant-wearing young men hover beside a pigeon, that happens to be pecking at a discarded piece of KFC chicken.]

Boy1: Bruv, check it out. 
Boy2: That's wicked, bruv.
Boy1: It's eating it, bruv.
Boy2: That's like bruv eating bruv, bruv.
Boy 1: Bruuuv...

Now if you're anything like me, you'll probably laugh and then doubt very much that this actually happened. Happily, I'm quite convinced Amina was telling me the truth. Not only because I've overheard many such bruv-filled conversations myself, but because, in Lancaster, the home of pigeons-flocking-the-cobbled-streets, this seems more than likely. It's wonderfully, delightfully true.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Stolen; and inching out of the shadows

A recent read I've absolutely loved: Lucy Christopher's Stolen. I don't know if I'd call this a thriller, or a young adult novel, or a romance; it's somehow a mixture of all three, but not quite any of them either. Nevertheless, it's fantastic. It's the story of a teenage girl who is 'stolen' from an airport by a boy who has obsessed over her for years. He spirits her away to a desolate yet beautiful part of the Australian Outback, and tries to persuade her to stay with him and love him in turn. The strangest part of it is that by the end, such is the quality of the author's writing, you kind of want her to stay with him and love him too. That's about all I'm saying about the plot and ending, however, because I don't want to give anything away.

I've been trying to thrust it at Steve for ages, and you know a book is fabulous when you want other people to read it too. The writing not only perfectly echoes a teenage girl's thoughts and voice, it's also beautiful. The characters are superbly rendered, though I have to admit I was far more interested in Ty and Gemma than in the many secondary characters mentioned over the course of the story. The descriptions of the outback are chilling and magnificent, and I don't exaggerate when I say the language is so well chosen, you can feel every moment of the heat and the cold that Gemma does. 

An amazing book.

On a different subject, inspired by this post on the Dystel and Goderich blog, I've just discovered WEbook, a website where writers can post work or create new projects, and receive feedback on their work. To add to this, there is also an active list of agents available, including their interests and recent sales, and you can submit directly to them through the site. 

Okay, so this isn't completely different from sending out a regular query. But it is slightly outside of the conventional box, and it comes with the bonus of having your work out there and available for people to critique if they want to. I think a lot of writers have a kind of stubborn pride, and think they know best about their work (I know I do, though I try very hard to curb that feeling). But getting feedback from my creative writing workshops at university and from Steve, who has read the entire manuscript, has been so useful for me. So I think it's worth putting some of my work out there!

So I've created my profile, and have uploaded three chapters of ECHOES. Am fairly excited to see what happens there!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

So... Echoes?

It just occurred to me that in spite of posting my introductory post only a couple hours ago, I forgot completely to elaborate on the reasoning behind this. Writers should have blogs, as put forward by Eric of Pimp My Novel. So, that begs the question, doesn't it? Am I writer? Why is my blog called 'Echoes of a Wayward Mind'?

Yes, I'm a writer. Not an author, because that means you have to be published, and, apart from the time I had a short story published in a newspaper when I was fifteen, I am not. So, I'm a writer. This means I've written a (many, several, but only one that's worth much) novel and am concentrating pigheadedly on trying to get it somewhere. The novel's called ECHOES, and it's told from the point of view of a teenage echo** who is struggling to survive and live on her own terms in a world that really and truly and generally despises echoes. It's an urban fantasy, technically young adult, with a mixture of adventure, romance, tragedy and hopefully some humour. It's also quite lyrical, because I love words, though I do try not to use them superfluously. (Yes, I've always wanted to use the word 'superfluously'. I'm sorry. I'll try to be better.)

So, that's why the blog is called what it is. Echoes (pun intended) of a wayward mind. I wasn't trying to be witty or clever. Honest. I also think you'll find, if you stick around long enough, that my mind is very much of the wayward type. I really can't help it. Don't you ever find that you start to talk about something, then wander off on a hopefully scintillating tangent, then eventually come back to your original point an hour later? No? Oh, dear. You'll probably hate me. Sorry again.

More about the novel, story, characters, etc. in due course. For now, a few writing statistics, as I'm aiming to chart the long, painful road to (possible, maybe, unlikely, maybe) publication:

ECHOES word count: approximately 125,000.
Words written today: 0
Words written today on work that's not ECHOES: 2,034. Dissertation chapter. The joys of being a third-year English literature university student.
Number of queries sent out to agents in the last four weeks: 8
Number of replies (so far): 1
Partials requested and sent: 1 
Rejections on partials: 1
Rejections on queries: 0

It doesn't look very good, does it? On the other hand, I think it's encouraging that the one reply I have thus far received to a query asked to see a partial. That must mean something's working. Of course, he then rejected me based on the partial, which means something else isn't working. I've tried working on that since, so fingers crossed. Still waiting to hear from the others. And yes, if you're wondering: rejection is ouch-I've-got-a-paper-cut, ooo-you-cut-my-heart-out-with-a-spoon painful. I sound optimistic and cheery now, but as my boyfriend Steve will testify, in the days following the rejection, I was ready to quit. I haven't.

So that's that, and now it's time for bed...

**echo (n.). Safety net for a loved one. Person stitched from mysterious materials by a Weaver. Designed to look exactly like a real person, their other. Must learn other's life and behave like them in every way. If other dies, the echo must replace them.

Ooo, Stage Fright

Anyone who ever said this would be easy (and while I can't really think of anyone who did, but there must have been somebody) ought to be shot, nailed to a pole, and smacked upside on the head. Maybe I'm just deficient in one of those fundamental social ways, or intellectually, or dramatically. I shouldn't be any of them; I'm a writer, and want to be a published author, which involves a fair bit of society, intellect and drama. So grow up, Sangu. Write.

I've tried blogs before. I always either failed miserably or lost interest. I'm steadfastly, pigheadedly determined to avoid both this time around. I've managed to stick to Twitter for weeks, so why can't I stick to this? Why come back to it, you might wonder? What prompted me to decide, once again, to take a stab at this?

This did. I like Eric of Pimp My Novel. I like reading the things he says. In fact, I'm so deeply lost in the mire of the unpublished-writer-who-is-determined-to-get-her-book-published, I'm willing to listen to an awful lot Eric-of-Pimp-My-Novel says. And the first thing Erik-of-Pimp-My-Novel says in that post is that if I'm an author and not yet published, I should have a blog and start it now. Maybe he meant 'start once you have an agent', which is a step I have not yet attained. Oh, well. Start, I have. To be honest, I considered it weeks ago, when I first started editing The Novel.

So here we are. The blog. The blog of a writer-who-wants-to-be-an-author, and yes, there is the difference between the two words. More soon. Must do washing up before Lindsey (a.k.a Dopey, Linds, BaggyWaggy and Yer Mum) shoots me in the head.

Book recommendation: Kushiel's Dart, by Jacqueline Carey, and the subsequent books in the trilogy.