Authors, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Personal Review: Always With Love

I read Giovanna Fletcher’s fantastic book Always With Love in just two days. If the book charts are anything to go by, you should read it too. Because it’s sweet, fun and flat out adorable.

This is a personal blog, so I’m going to write a personal review. There’s really no denying Giovanna is a brilliant writer, with her books storming the charts always landing at No. 1 and huge queues for book signings that lead straight out the doors. She’s a lovely lady and it shows in her blog posts, Youtube videos and social media. I kind of love her and everything she does.

But, for me, this book was too much. Far too much.

Reading it from my point of view, about a young couple buckling under the weight of a long distance relationship, was hard. Really hard. Because I’ve experienced it and we failed.

As much as I was taken in by the characters and the dreamy chiclit settings, I found myself comparing – and, I admit, painfully recognising – the scenarios that happened to the characters in each chapter and I didn’t see it going well.

From the sweet long distance phone calls between Billy and Sophie right down to the disappointment they felt when they finally saw each other again, only to find it’s not the same as it used to be. Things changed. I recognised it all.

Reading over those same situations, the same scenarios and even the same damn conversations between Sophie and Billy, was heartbreaking. Because they all mimicked my own.

So, okay, my first love wasn’t a huge movie star but he might as well have been. He shone whenever he walked into a room and he never failed to catch people’s attention. Like Sophie, I always felt plain, shy and boring in comparison standing next to him. He shined so bright. I found comfort in my hometown, my family and the places where I grew up, which I never wanted to leave. He had far more ambition and gradually taught me to have some too.

I want to be honest, because I feel like I haven’t been in a really long time and I miss it.

While Giovanna’s book ended as you’d expect in a romance – all happy and giddy with the promise of a future together, and in love – I was left disappointed. Because I recognised all those signs of impending doom throughout the book and neither of the characters acknowledged them.

I felt like, even if they realised deep down that they weren’t meant to be together, they wouldn’t admit it straight away because they were holding onto each other until the next hurdle came along. And it will.

Because they were different people, world’s apart and wanting different things. I guess pretty much everyone can relate to that.

I guess I was expecting them to split up, but this is fiction and, at that, it’s romantic fiction. I imagine Gi would’ve left many fans disappointed if the story ended there, unhappy and broken apart.

Me, on the other hand, I’m still here, trying to recover after a dazzling and heartbreaking read.

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Authors, Writing

Telling Myself: A Break is Okay

I promised myself I would do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and, although I’ve almost reached my personal word count goal, it hasn’t really felt like enough. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t been pouring coffee down my throat in order to JUST WRITE. I haven’t been locking myself in my room and writing for hours on end.

In short, it feels like I haven’t been focused enough.

But I have been thinking about my characters all the time. And this, I’m telling myself, is okay.

Even though I may not have been writing, it’s all still been there, just bubbling under the surface, working itself into something more tangible and detailed so when I come back to it I’m ready.

So I’ve been doing other things.

In my spare time, I’ve been going to literary festivals, doing fun writing workshops with other people I’ve never met before, meeting amazing authors like Liz Kessler, Anna McKerrow, Lu Hersey and Lisa Glass and even picking their brains about their own writing process when they write their novels.

Meeting Lu Hersey, Anna McKerrow and Lisa Glass

I’ve been taking long walks and sitting in the sunshine reading books and laughing with friends. I’ve also driven up and down the countryside in a couple of days so I could have an interview for a masters degree in writing.

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So I haven’t been writing my own novel per se, but I’ve been doing other things that count towards it. I know this might sound lazy, like I’m even making excuses, but in my eyes it’s not.

Because I’m realising it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to step away from your project for a little while, if only so you can see it a little clearer when you do get back to it again. It’s okay not to achieve ridiculous word count goals you might set yourself for the month, as long as you’ve written something.

Breaks are important. Just make sure you get back to your project.

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Because you might find something truly amazing by procrastinating.

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Figuring it Out

So I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo and it’s all going fairly well. But as I kept going and going, writing and writing, I  realised I didn’t feel comfortable writing about characters who I didn’t actually know that much about.

Normally, I tend to start writing and my characters develop more and more as I write them. I love doing that, mostly because it means minimal work, also because I can just get right into the story without having to do loads of background research.

But, unfortunately, that just wasn’t going to cut it this time and, as my word count got further and further towards reaching my ultimate goal, I became less and less confident with this project and these characters.

Now, I love my premise and I love my idea. But I needed more than that. I turned to the Writing Resources on the Camp NaNoWriMo wesite and – tah-dah! – I found everything I needed. It has all sorts of tips and advice on how to implement your characters and get to know them better before you start writing.

You can see it here.

Now, usually, I hate this kind of stuff but, right now, I am actually loving it. As lame as this sounds, I’ve conducted interviews with my characters, written and planned out their entire back story and where they will all go in life even after the novel has finished (yes, some of them die). I’ve discovered things about them I didn’t even realise and, more than anything, I feel like I know their place in this novel a lot better than I did before.

What surprised me most is that I’ve developed new plot points.

I still need to keep going with this. I am in no way done. I’m writing the actual project alongside the planning stuff, so it is all still a bit wobbly.

But, hey, at least I’m getting things done – which is more than I was before. Reading all the inspiring blog posts about what people are doing this month – and how they’re managing it – is really prompting me to kick my ass into gear.

It’s a Monday, it’s 8am, and I’ve already written almost 1,000 words today. I definitely think this is progress. I know I just have to keep going, which is the hard part.

Laters.

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Word Count Goals

Howdy, everyone.

Last night marked the first night of Camp NaNoWriMo this April and I stayed up well past 4am. This wasn’t even because I was stressing about the word count – I’ve successfully made it to just over 4,000 words (don’t fret, I didn’t do this all in one night!). It was because the excitement was too much.

I didn’t want to go to sleep. Not when there were writers all over social media spurring us all on – Twitter, Facebook, cabins – we were practically everywhere! And of course not forgetting that last night’s Virtual Write In was awesome, I think we’re off to a great start. I cannot wait to see how this April goes.

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Turns out that when you shut your brain OFF during editing mode and just concentrate on writing (amen to word sprints!) then writing comes to you a lot easier. A LOT easier. Even if half of what I’ve written so far is fairly awful and I eventually end up scrapping it, at least I have the foundations of something to grab onto, something to build on. I’m telling myself this is okay.

I pan to *hopefully* double my word count from last night today. Because how amazing would that be?

Unfortunately, my cabin is a little quiet and not as active as some folks’ in the last 24 hours, but I’m hoping that will pick up as we get going!

Right now, I’m going to have a shower, brew a cup of tea and eat some writing fuel for the day (most likely porridge). Then I’ll sit down and crack on with a bit more writing in between other bits like working from home and feeding my cats.

So if you’re doing Camp NaNo too, then good luck and please do let me know what you’re working on! I’d love to hear what everyone’s writing, whether it’s short stories, novel, poetry or scriptwriting, etc. Or if you’ve just stumbled across this blog post and have absolutely zero knowledge of what I’m talking about then, also, let me know. I’ll try and explain.

Happy writing!

Writing

Camp NaNoWriMo: Virtual Write In!

Howdy, y’all.

I’ve spent the day being out and about and busy. So I never got the chance to write!

I totally wasn’t reading Atonement and falling asleep in the back of my car somewhere near the sea at all.

But there’s a virtual write in coming up in approximately 20 minutes and I’m so excited. It feels like years since I took part in my last one, which was only in November and I’m really looking forward to it.

For those of you who don’t know already, a virtual write in is where us campers get together and see how much we can write within an hour, using word prompts and story scenarios to get started – I find this especially helpful if I’ve got a nasty case of writer’s block! They’re also hosted by the lovely NaNoWriMo team and you can catch it here –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53TUk1JRMWs

The countdown has already started!

If you’re new to Camp NaNoWriMo, or you just want to pop in and say hello, then feel free to come and join us. We’re a friendly bunch, honest.

Let me know if you’ll be joining!

Hobbies

Country Music, Writing Goals, and Camp NaNoWriMo

Today I spent some time shopping. Surprisingly, no – I didn’t buy any books! Instead, I bought some clothes and – wait for it – a Blake Shelton CD. Because no shopping trip is complete without a little country music.

I legitimately can’t seem to go into a HMV store without buying country music nowadays. I think I have a problem, but the ACM’s are only a week away so I consider it preparation, not that I really need it. Country music is always on my brain. I love it so much it’s a part of my dissertation and I’ve lost count how many books I’ve got stacked up against my desk on the subject.

Okay, maybe I do have a problem.

But today was a good day. I actually felt fresh for a change. You know that feeling when you don’t get out of the house for days and you just need to get out? I felt like stale pizza – isn’t that a nice image. I just needed OUT, so today helped with that. Some quality time with your sister, new clothes and good music is just the solution.

And because I feel fresh, now I can concentrate on writing for the evening. I promised myself I would write 1,000 words of my novel in prep for Camp NaNoWriMo tonight and – BOOM – in the car earlier I got some inspiration for the next few scenes. I was listening to Luke Bryan, so I’m guessing I’ve got him to thank for that. Word count, here I come!

Thanks, Luke.

I’ve got Cornish Story Magazine stuff to work on later – (like I said in my last post, we are always looking for new submissions on interesting topics, so get in touch if you think you could offer us something!)

It’s looking like a good evening.

Hobbies, Writing

Pent Up Energies

Tomorrow I want to do things. Actual things. Tonight I’ve just scrolled endlessly through my Twitter feed and changed my Facebook profile picture and cover photo. All this has, coincidentally, amounted to very little.

I want to change this.

So I’ve made a list and I want to stick to it! If only to stop me checking my Twitter newsfeed every five minutes.

1. Go for a walk

I want to go for a walk through the woods, across farmland, or simply just walk somewhere near the sea. My creative energies are all pent up right now and I feel like a walk – alone – will help me get what I need. Ironically, perhaps getting lost in the woods will help me find what I need right now, creatively.

2. Write a fresh post

I am guilty of not posting here as regularly as I could. Whether I write about my day, post a picture I took out on my walk, or tell you all about my new writing project I’m taking on for Camp NaNoWriMo, I want to do more. I don’t want to just let this blog die.

3. Write 1,000 words

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Here’s the tricky part. I’ve signed up to Camp NaNoWriMo again this year (which I am insanely thrilled about) and want a head start in the game. So I’ve promised myself to write 1,000 words of my novel, even if it’s a load of dribble. At least it’s something, right?

4. Do some work for Cornish Story

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I work for an online publication called Cornish Story magazine. We celebrate all things to do with Cornish culture. Although we have an academic background, we are always looking for fresh material on any subject from anyone who’s passionate about Cornwall. So if you’re looking to submit to us, just drop me an email! My email is emily@cornishstory.com. We’re really friendly, I promise.

And voila!

Of course, if I could get some more research done for my dissertation (which is on cowboys and country music, y’all!) then that would be marvelous. But, you know, I don’t want to take on too much.

Until this is done, I don’t feel like I’m going to be a very happy writer person. So I guess I’d better get started.

Authors, Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Red Witch

I wrote a book review for Cornish Story recently. You can view the website here (psst.. we are always looking for new submissions!) so I thought I would share here.

Mostly because I am so looking forward to meeting Anna McKerrow again (the author) at the Porthleven Lit Fest next month, but also because I forgot to post this when I actually wrote it.

Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

Last year, Anna McKerrow released her debut novel Crow Moon which tells the story of the wayward sixteen year old Danny Prentice, a witch, who cares more about chasing girls than being loyal to his magical covenstead. The exciting debut saw Danny thwarting his own demons and gradually learning to accept responsibility to protect his homeland known throughout the series as Greenworld.

Now, with the release of McKerrow’s second book, Red Witch, readers get to hear the story of Demelza Hawthorne, who flees Cornwall at the end of the last book in search of refuge and tranquility after discovering that the boy she loves has died on the fields of battle.

The Young Adult author came to Cornwall last year on the release of Crow Moon and chatted to visitors in Waterstones, where she held a book signing with other writers. Though she lives in London, the author has a deep love for Cornwall and its unrelenting mysticism. These factors alone give the author an abundance of stories focusing on paganism, magic and witch stories which she focuses on throughout her books.

Although the first book is initially set in Cornwall, the narrative of the second book takes place in Glastonbury, somewhere which has close links to pagan rituals and magic,  an echo of the Cornish landscape. For protagonist Demelza, a life on the run constitutes leaving Cornwall, escaping Greenworld and crossing over into the Redworld, a landscape similar to ours which McKerrow describes as ‘a crime and corruption-riddled Britain’.

Set in 2046, the Redworld is a land where fossil fuels are running out and political unrest is at large with the working class and the poor. For Demelza, her journey is a cathartic one and one that leads her towards Bran, a handsome and intriguing individual whose attraction is undeniable.

The pair embark upon a dangerous romance, meandering through the different avenues and pathways that the Redworld has to offer to a young witch escaping heartbreak. However, as the story unfolds, she begins to question whether she can really trust this handsome Bran, and has to face the possibility that she might not belong there after all.

At the end of the novel, the inclusion of the traditional Cornish folk song,The White Rose, shows a certain sensitivity and gratifying nod towards Cornish culture while simultaneously keeping it well within the theme of the Celtic, witches, spirituality and the dazzling realm of Greenworld.

The book is an exhilarating sequel to the first, a book which is full of passion, adventure and, above all, forces of magic! Read this book and you will fall in love with the story, the characters and the dire struggle for a Greener way of living as opposed to the harsh, chemical Redworld. It is a book not only for teenagers but, as stated on the back of the book by Irish author Louise O’Neill, ‘a terrifying cautionary tale for our times’.

Alongside working on arts projects for the famous reading charity Book Trust, Anna McKerrow is currently writing the final book of the Crow Moon trilogy, which will be published in March 2017.

Red Witch was released on the 10th March 2016.

You can find Anna McKerrow on Twitter and view her website here.

Originally published on Cornish Story Magazine.

Authors, Publishing, Writing

Emily Barr: Final Writing Workshop

Today marked the last day of the incredible writing workshops I’ve been a part of with many talented writers at Falmouth University. The writing workshops were taught by the fabulous Emily Barr, who is a bestselling (and very skilled) thriller novelist.

Even more exciting, she has a new YA book coming out early next year which is published by none other than Penguin, so watch this space!

These workshops have been amazing and a real gift to be a part of. I’ve learnt so much, from writing about sense of place through to writing about characters with amnesia and how to deal with that. Emily was also kind enough to bring her husband – also a writer! – to these workshops and having him there too was a huge insight into the children’s publishing world, as he’s also a children’s writer.

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The workshops were held over a period of five or six weeks and, inbetween this, I was lucky enough to have two focused individual sessions with Emily, where we talked about novel writing, what it’s like to be signed by a top publisher like Penguin and copy edits. What was even cooler was how she persuaded me to bite the bullet and follow my own writing dream, which is to travel out to Texas and do some research on the novel I’m writing – a YA novel set against the backdrops of the rural South.

I’m planning to go during Easter break but if that doesn’t happen then there’s always the summer. I’ve already saved up some money for the trip (I have been saving since the first year of my undergraduate degree: that’s three years). I just need to take someone with me, if only to make sure I come home and don’t run off with a cowboy, which is an actual true danger.

These writing workshops have made my writing stronger, they’ve made me listen to other people’s writing with more precision and clarity, and to be more confident about reading my work aloud. I always struggled with this before, so it’s great to have a balance between reading your work on the page and reading it out loud to other people.

To be a part of such a great writing community every single week has been really special and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sad that it’s over but feel so lucky to have been a part of it all. But it’s not over yet! We have one more last personal session with her on Wednesday and I’m excited about this. Afterwards, we’re all meeting for drinks, so now I guess I can say I’ve shared a few drinks with Emily Barr! Yay!

But, seriously, it’s been so wonderful. Even better, I feel like I’ve made some new friends as a result of this great workshop and gotten some awesome new skills!

Until next time.

Publishing, Uncategorized

Interview on Working for Penguin Books!

Howdy everyone.

I promised I’d tell you all about how my time went doing work experience at Penguin Books and that time has come! I was recently interviewed by the lovely blog An Abundance of Books where I talk about it all.

This blog is really for anyone who loves books, reading and publishing, plus it’s just really pretty so it’s worth looking at for that reason too.

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(The books I got from Penguin on my placement)

Working for Penguin was amazing and it turns out I’m going back there over Easter break for another placement! This time I’ll be with the marketing team at Penguin Press and I cannot wait. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more that my heart lies in books.

If you want to read about how I got on at Penguin then you can read it here: http://anabundanceofbooks.com/2016/02/24/emily-ould-at-penguin

Please give the blog a follow if you like what you see!