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.

university, Writing

Writing About The South

 

Right now I’m writing at university because it’s warmer than being in my house. This is a legitimate reason. I am not kidding. But writing on campus can be fun because:

  1. There are no distractions
  2. It’s a working environment (so I actually feel like I should be doing something instead of tweeting.)
  3. It’s really quiet here right now because it’s evening!

So I’ve set myself a deadline. By the end of tonight, as in midnight, I will have written 1000 words to the opening of my new novel-in-progress which is – ta dah! – all about the Deep South … as in Texas.

Because I love it.

This new novel is a project of mine which I have been striving towards since the very first year of my degree. I’ve been holding off until now to write about it and now it’s here it’s kind of terrifying. The novel project is a part of my dissertation, which is all about the Deep South and the ideology of the cowboy as a romance figure in literature.

So my novel is a cowboy romance set in Texas. *unbelievably happy about this*

I’m writing different beginnings to the novel so far and I’m going to keep writing until I hit the one which I know is right. So far, I have four different openings. I think I know which one I love best, but I know it’s not quite there yet. More work needs to be done!

But, like Hemingway famously said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”

I think I always come back to that piece of advice when I’m writing a first draft and finding it hard. Because if you can’t have faith in Hemingway as a writer, then who else are you going to believe in?

For research, I’ve been reading snippets of DEEP SOUTH by the wonderful travel writer Paul Theroux which came out late last year. (I don’t know how many times I stroked it in bookshops before actually buying it. Sorry Waterstones.)

I read this book in the sunshine today and it was bliss. I’ll probably write a raving reveiw of this book once I’ve finished it but I’ll tell you right now that this book is amazing. It really gets you into the mindset of the South and opens up a world perhaps not so explored in travel writing. It’s a world of vivid colour and backroads and thrift stores located on old highways, where “the past is never dead” and where “poverty is well dressed in churches, and everyone is approachable”.

It’s a world I can’t wait to get into and one which I find hugely inspiring (hence the idea for the novel). I’ve always loved the South ever since I was first pulled into country music.

So today I pored over its pages, ready with a bright pink marker pen to highlight certain passages, and fell a little bit in love with it all. So tonight, I aim to write about it. Or at least develop some ideas about it which I can one day turn into fiction.

I’ll try and keep you updated on how it goes along as I try and figure it out.

In the meantime, it’s back to writing!

Authors, education, Writing

Writing Monday!

Today I got to do something amazing. I got to sit in writing workshops with bestselling (and famous) novelist Emily Barr.

Quickly upon meeting her, I found out she was lovely. Like a ‘I’m really interested in who you are and what you do’ kind of lovely and this made her workshop so engaging and effortless the entire way through. (It was three hours long).

First we did some writing exercises, like trying to write a short story with every consecutive word of the alphabet – in order. I won’t lie, it was tough. And mine was a load of nonsense compared to everybody else’s.

Currently, there are twelve of us who are participating in the writing workshops which are running for a few weeks! Do I even need to tell you I’m excited?? Being in a room with so many sophisticated and talented writers is really humbling and kind of like magic once you’re in the room with them. They make you want to be better. They want to make you try harder. I’m really lucky to not only be with Emily Barr – an actual novelist – but also everyone else too, because they’re all talented.

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I’m so incredibly looking forward to seeing how these few weeks pan out. It’s the last year of my degree, the last chance for me to do something like this. I’m going to count every second because I don’t want it to be over. Next week we’re looking at setting and how it matters in fiction/writing!

Excited!!

In other news, my friend got me a new vintage night gown today (she knows I love them and already have like three already). It has ruffles and IT’S PINK! I’ll even leave you a picture of it.

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Anyway, until next time! I have to pop out to get some washing up liquid …

X

Cats

Cat Recipe: Tuna Fish a la Biscuits

I got a writing brief this week.

It was to come up with a cook book idea that’s original and one which you could potentially market to the publishing industry.

I seriously love cats, so I thought what better way to write about something when I can write about food for cats?

Warning: crazy cat lady mode about to be unleashed. If you don’t like cats, I suggest you check out another blog.

(Below, you’ll see the intro and the actual recipe I created. Hopefully it’ll be good enough to make you go try it. Recipe and ideas thought up entirely by me.)

Intro:

Welcome! This is a cook book for just you and your fuzzy feline friend. In this book you will find a variety of meals that will keep your cat happy, purring and deliciously fed. We know that keeping you and your cat content is the most important thing and, inside, these recipes offer just that.

It’s a book of luxury for you both once you delve into these pages and find such sweet treats that are so heavenly you might find that even you might want to try them! As a book of purrfect variety and splendour, sit back and let this book teach you the best culinary tricks and you will soon be on your way to finding complete harmony and happiness with your cat.

Tuna fish a la biscuits

This dish is perfect for when your cat needs a quick and balanced meal that’s easy to prepare, yet still makes a bold statement. As a very popular dish, it’s been known to raise a few paws. Simply serve it in a bowl with a saucer of fresh milk and voila – it’s ready to eat!

What you will need:

Tuna fish, either fresh or tinned

Cat biscuits, such as Dreamies or Felix Crispies

Milk (optional)

Recipe:

Make a pyramid of tuna in a bowl, making sure to keep it fairly wide. Once this is done and you’re happy with it, gently shake a pouch of cat biscuits over the top. (If your cat isn’t already gazing up at you lovingly then, trust us, they will be now once you shake the biscuits) For extra effect, place a single biscuit on top of the pyramid. Set aside a saucer and fill it with milk.

Serve it to your cat and enjoy!

Writing

Writing a Novel: Almost There!

Okay. Some of you may know that this summer I decided to embark on the huge task of writing a novel. I’ve always wanted to do it but never thought I would actually make it. Not unless I kicked my silly ass into gear anyway.

So this summer I did just that. I super kicked my ass into gear and I got through it.

I wrote almost an entire fricken novel.

I’m still writing it so I’m not even finished yet but to say that I’ve written 51,200 words over the space of this year is stupid crazy. Like I don’t even wanna mention how crazy. I seriously never thought I’d get this far.

Before, I only ever did things like this:

  1. Start a new novel idea
  2. Completely fall in love with it
  3. Never finish it
  4. Or worse, throw it away.

Talk about killing your darlings.

But I’m on the way to the end now and – Oh my God – I am loving it.

In July, I wrote over 20,000 words through signing up with Camp NaNoWriMo. I don’t think I would’ve made it without fellow campers cheering me on – virtually – until I got to the finish line. They were so helpful!

Now, it’s officially NaNoWriMo 2015 and although I haven’t been writing everyday like most talented people, I’m getting back to it after a bunch of uni deadlines and the flow is finally kicking back in. Get the kettle boiling and the teacups ready because this girl is on it!

As a writer and a reader, my heart lies in teen fiction so this is mainly what I write about. The characters I’ve created have stayed with me this long that I feel like I’m totally discrediting them if I don’t finish this story. Their voices need to be heard. So by Christmas I will have finished it.

This is both a promise to myself and to them. I think I definitely owe them that (not to mention myself!)

(On a side note, God knows how many cups of tea I’ve had while doing this project. My guess is in the hundreds.)

So, basically, my message to you is this. If you want to write a novel – even if the tiniest part of you thinks that you might – then go for it. Because your dreams are tangible.

You can create something out of nothing and, more importantly, only you can tell this story that’s in your head. I guess that’s what makes it so fun. Plus the feeling you get afterwards is amazing.

I’m so excited to finish this writing project.

So go write.

Writing

This summer I’ve almost written an entire novel

Ever had so many ideas for stories in your head that you feel like you might just explode?

I have but it was mostly when I was teen. Lately, I’ve been picking up the pace a bit more and it feels amazing for my creative head space.

So far, I’ve had three novel ideas. That is, for young adult fiction – the market I desperately want be in. I’ve had a couple of ideas for a sci-fi novel or two as well. But these require a lot of research and I’m not sure my brain’s cut out for all that right now. I’m thinking perhaps in my late twenties is when I’ll hit my sci-fi writing stride. A lot of my ideas involve space travel, time travel and if I’m really indulgent then a little bit of dinosaurs too. But I’ll save that for another time.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

So, like any writer does, I scribble these ideas down. I have an abundance of notebooks. And these tiny put-away-like-they’re-nothing ideas that might someday turn into something I keep hold of. You never know. One day these put away thoughts might well hold the key to my success.

I’m writing a novel right now – a Y/A one which I actually and genuinely love. I think, for a little while, I forgot what it could be like to let yourself get lost in fiction and how it feels for a project or a story to completely engulf your own world, for it to be all you think about.

I’m ashamed to admit it but as I got older I lost that creative bubble I used to never peep out of. I thought this was normal. I slowly became focused on the editorial side of writing that my fiction world consequently never even got past page 20 because I would slam it so hard it couldn’t fight hard enough to breathe. I was, to use a cliche, my own very worst critic.

I was beyond brutal with my own writing.

But this summer I’ve conquered that bad habit. I’ve been writing. (Ergo, sorry for the lack of posts). I’ve been getting lost in my own fiction world and I’ve almost successfully written an entire novel over the course of this long, hot and notoriously beautiful summer. (I live in Cornwall, so almost every day is beautiful here, yay!)

(A view from just over the road where I live)

I even signed up as a camper at Camp NaNoWriMo and even though I always seem to do this and it never usually gets me very far, this time I stuck at it and I completed my goal of writing over 10,000 words in a month. I can’t tell you the joy I got over achieving that goal.

For me, it was pretty phenomenal. So I’m carrying on with it.

You ever read a book and think, ‘I could’ve done better than that’? Well, it turns out that I’m doing it, even if only just to say that I’ve written a complete novel.

I don’t want to be someone who waits until their retirement to get everything out onto the page. I want it now.

I know that when I’ve finished, that’s when the hard part really begins which is the editing process. Apparently, this is where a lot of the real writing gets done, to quote the theory books and all the other famous writers out there.

But I’m moving forward. I’m at just over 46,000 words so far and I’m probably not going to stop until I hit 80,000 which is the average length of a complete novel. As well as that, I’ve also found the time to submit to other writing competitions. I’ve hit a productive writing/creative streak and it’s not stopping.

My thoughts in general are that this summer has been a blessing. But in the end, I know, it all comes down to yourself.
Your motivation.
And whether you believe in yourself to do it.
And maybe if you can’t, then find someone else who does. Ride their motivational current to get yourself where you need to be.

You never know, it might be worth it in the end.

So, be right back. I’m novel writing.

Authors, Writing

Book Signings!

Last night I met Sarah Winman, author of bestselling novel When God Was a Rabbit and the recently published A Year of Marvellous Ways. The first time I read When God Was a Rabbit I was mesmerised and immeasurably hooked. I loved it so much I even cracked the spine a little bit (something I rarely ever do with books).

So I’m certain that A Year of Marvellous Ways will hold just as much magic for me as Rabbitdid, if not more.

To meet an author – published, famous, and successful – always washes a tidal wave of excitement over me. And, of course, last night was no different on the crowded shop floor of Waterstones, Truro, the tiny capital city of sunnyside Cornwall. There was an informal interview between Sarah and a lovely employee of the iconic bookstore which weaved the stories of Sarah’s childhood memories, the people she’s known in her life and, ultimately, how the book and its characters came about.

I was captivated.

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The evening went on and, as she was talking, I became hugely gratified to discover that, when she writes a novel, she usually writes roughly 1000 words a day. This, for me, was monumental, in that while I am currently writing my own novel I also tend to write 1000 words a day.

(In no way am I comparing myself to this bonafide successful writer, but hearing those words gave me hope: it said, ‘I can do this!’)

It was truly a comfort in itself; knowing that an author like this also simply writes 1000 words a day and still gets the novel finished on time.

Because, you know, when you aspire to be a full time writer yourself, you always imagine bestselling authors to be hammering out 5000 words a day or more, scribbling page after page after page.

She read clearly and calmly, with just the right emphasis on the right characters when speaking their own dialogue. Her words written on the page and then spoken from her own mouth were entrancing and not even for one second did I actually find myself bored.

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To my joy, she signed my copy of her book which is now sitting on my shelf. And, not only this, but I asked her if she would sign my own journal; a notepad I use to scribble all my thoughts and story ideas in whenever I’m on the move. She complied and asked if I was a writer too. I told her yes, I was, and she listened as I spoke about my own fiction writing and the novel I’m continuing to write over the summer.

She listened.

Of course, I was in a queue so had to hurry along, but she gave me the utmost hope for my writing (not to mention a truck load of inspiration) and told me good luck with my writing adventures and said that, if I stuck to it, I could publish a book too one day (with a lot of hard work and torturous rewrites. I know.)

Everything takes a little bit of time and a whole load of patience, and most importantly, a great deal of work. As a current participant of CampNaNoWriMo, I’m mostly keeping to my word count goal of 500 words a day, if not 1000. Watching my stats go up is like watching a plant grow; it can be really, painstakingly slow, but the progress is still there and visible!

By way of word count, my goal is to have 36,000 words of my novel by the end of the month in total. But, the way I’m going, I’m hoping I can totally beat that!!

So, ultimately, here’s to Sarah Winman – on a brilliant and captivating debut novel and what I already know to be a truly wonderful second novel in A Year of Marvellous Ways, even though I haven’t read it yet.

Here’s to inspiration.

Hobbies, Writing

Hey, look, I’m writing!

This is my seventh cup of tea today while writing and planning and eating croissants. I’m having a productive day and I wanted to share that feeling with you all.

So far, I’m happy.

I’ve written 12,624 words of my novel and reached my goal of 500 words today. This is something of a struggle for me lately because I’ve been juggling my degree with friends, family, working for the magazine company I help run, and doing daily basic human-like things such as eating, washing and sleeping.

Oh, plus I read a lot so that too.

So I haven’t been able to write chunks of my novel so regularly as I would’ve liked. I know it’s a pathetic excuse, but where is the time? I’m trying to fix this and I love the feeling I get when I actually write it and revisit the characters I’ve gotten to know.

I write YA fiction which I love on many levels I just can’t explain. So I love my two characters who are hell bent on not falling in love, but do. Well, one of them, at least. I love their relationship and the dynamic it takes. They’re two of my favourite ever constructed characters I’ve created – and I didn’t even plan this novel.

Listening alongside to country and folk music gives me a release I simply just love. Silence can do this too. But today it is country and folk and I’m happy.

Who cares if I haven’t eaten properly today, or showered, or brushed my hair? Writing really does need to take priority sometimes.

Writing

Knickers

Eleanor had gotten her knickers in a twist. Her mother was always warning her about it, that one day if she wasn’t careful it would happen. Now Eleanor looked down shamefully at her knickers, tried turning them this way and that to untangle them. It was absolutely no use. She tried stepping into them and pulling them up past her thighs but it just wouldn’t do. To deal with that, lumbering around all day, would be far too uncomforable. She sought out another pair, then another, and another. But she was utterly dismayed to find that every single pair of knickers was in a twist, all joined together and conjoined in a long line of sad complex knicker twists.
Music, Personal, Writing

We keep this love in a photograph

I’m not a crazy manic ‘buy-all-the-albums’ fan of Ed Sheeran. I appreciate his music and some of it really does strike a chord with me when I want it to. When his new album ‘X’ came out I wasn’t too fussed and just let the music come to me naturally and accidentally rather than actually seek it out like so many other fans do.

I’m not one of those fans.

But, recently, it’s started to dawn on me that by the end of the summer my long-term boyfriend will have upped and gone away – that is, to university. Like me, he wants to write for a living.

I’m – actually – really proud that he’s going, so he can do what he wants to do instead of staying here for me and resenting me for it years later. I’m no fortune teller but there’s a strong chance that would’ve happened if he’d stayed.

I’ve seen flashes of it appear sometimes and I don’t want to be that person who holds him back while I do all the things we both want to do, like write.

Now, Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Photograph’ really causes all kinds of emotions to flutter precariously around my chest, to hover over my heart and, in turn, make my eyes glaze over whenever I listen to this song. Ed Sheeran’s ability to make you just stop and think – and really listen to the words he’s singing is, to me, incredible. Not many artists can do that lately for me.

I really miss the feeling of being so in-the-moment with a song that it’s special when it happens to me now.

The song ‘Photograph’ is so much about being in love. I find that the musical arrangement along with the lyrical quality is something extremely difficult to define because it’s so good. But, for me, right now, being in love is all I know and all I want to be in, so I feel confident in defining it as perfect.

I think music has the ability to make you become part of another world and, for me, that largely gives me the ability to write and just to feel something when I write. Writing teen fiction deals with a lot of feelings and, almost always, with love. Heartbreak, lust, loss, and all that kind of emotional stuff that nobody wants to deal with after they’re a teenager – because it just hurts too much.

So I’m grateful that ‘Photograph’ can enable me to feel something like that; the way it can help define the idea of love for me. It enables me to really see what’s important and that, whenever I listen to it, I will stop and think and those thoughts will lead me to my long-term boyfriend, because he’s really just so special to me.

 

And if you hurt me
That’s okay baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go
Wait for me to come home

You can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen
Next to your heartbeat where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

As well as that, I love that by writing teen fiction I get to second-handedly experience these emotions that my characters will go through and I’ll get to grow with them, passing on to them my own experiences and they’ll let me be a part of theirs too.

I think this line in the song really defines teen fiction for me, both as a reader and a writer and I love that I’ve been able to find it:

‘Only words bleed inside these pages’

This song is really special because it enables me to see life in so many different ways, from potentially varying perspectives. I love it and for it to be so rich in meaning and emotions I know I’ll hold it dear to me for a very, very long time.

‘Photograph’ by Ed Sheeran. Go and listen to it.