Writing Corner: Q&A With Author Amanda Foody

Hi everyone! As you can probably tell from the picture at the top of this post, today is my stop on the blog tour for Amanda Foody’s new book, King of Fools. I’m super excited about this because I love Amanda’s books, and it was so much fun getting to ask questions about King of Fools, plus having another author on my blog is such a cool thing for me, so thank you so much to Amanda, and to her publicist Nina Douglas for setting this up. I hope you guys enjoy it and if you like content like this then please let me know and I will try to see what I can do to hopefully get more authors on here in the future. My questions are largely about King of Fools, with some more general ones about the Shadow Game series as well, but don’t worry if you haven’t read it yet, there are no spoilers here. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Shadow Game series, I’ll give you a quick basic rundown, it’s a trilogy, with King of Fools being the second book, set in a fantasy version of Atlantic City, where the streets are run by gangs. The main characters are Enne Salta, a finishing school dropout who travels to the City of Sin to find her missing mother and Levi Glaisyer, a gang lord who she ropes into help her. There’s a lot more that goes on than that, obviously, but hopefully that gives those of you who are not familiar with the series, a better idea of what Amanda is talking about in this post. Now onto the questions: 

  1. Q: King of Fools is the second book in your Shadow Game trilogy, did you find that the process of writing the second book differed at all from Ace of Shades? What were the major challenges in writing this book?

A: It was, by nature of circumstances, a very different process. I wrote Ace of Shades in high school, with far off aspirations of being published, and I rewrote it many times over the years as I improved as a writer. King of Fools had a publishing deal before it was written. It was drafted over two months on deadline, and I was both a different kind of writer and person than when I wrote the first book. The biggest challenge had to be the book’s length-it’s undoubtedly the longest book in the series, and the complexity of the story made every little change take me forever to implement.

2. Q: One of the things I love so much about the book is the wonderfully wide range of female characters, how important was it to you to show all these different kinds of women within your world?

A: Extremely! Even in a world of violence and crime, it was very important to me to have just as many women in the game as men.

3. Q: On that vein, which one of your female characters is your favourite to write? Who is the most difficult?

A: Vianca is my favourite, she’s so complicated, and so evil. The most difficult is Enne, who is also deeply complicated. Complicated is a lot harder when it’s through their POV, when their thoughts get jumbled among their many desires & contradictions. Enne lost everything in the first book, so she begins King with nothing–not a home, not security, not ambition. It was a lot easier to write characters like Levi and Jac–who did want a very definable thing–than to write the journey of a young woman finding herself.

4. Q: King of Fools introduces a lot of new characters to the world, how do you think these additions change the dynamics between the characters readers remember from Ace of Shades? Who do you think will be readers’ favourites?

A: It changes the dynamics a lot. In fact one of the hardest parts about talking about Ace of Shades was not being able to include so much of the new cast in King of Fools. We originally had this group of four–Enne, Levi, Jac and Lola. And now that’s expanded, and even more, it’s become this very complicated, multi-circled Venn Diagram. You have Enne, Lola, and Grace. Then you throw in Tock, Sophia, Narinder, Poppy. The questionable Bryce-Rebecca-Harvey trio. Not to mention all the new villains. I think Grace will inevitably be a fan favourite. Also Poppy. I’m personally very partial to Tock.

5. Q: There’s a lot of great exploration in King of Fools of women and power, particularly through Vianca and Enne, what interests you most about the relationship between women and power?

A: When women are powerful or successful, they have to prove they deserve it, over and over again. Because women don’t just “get” power. They have to be special in some way–maybe they’re uniquely cunning, uniquely ruthless or just uniquely lucky. Because the second they’re viewed as simply women, they’re dismissible. This is a pressure both Vianca and Enne have struggled with. Vianca was warped by it. She surrounded herself with men and went to constant efforts to prove herself to them through ruthlessness. Enne has surrounded herself with women and has proven herself through loyalty. I loved writing their relationship because these two women did identify with each other…to a point.

6. Q: Your books are wonderfully feminist, how would you say your feminism has influenced your writing in the Shadow Game series?

A: As a young girl, I had a wide variety of interests. I was focused in my academics, but I also loved arts, sport, fashion, books. I didn’t fit neatly into one category, and I quickly learned that the world loves to put women into categories. Hence the development of one of my least favourite phrases, “strong female character”. This label, originally only meant to denote a female character who was developed, not simply a prop, has twisted somehow to throw girls into two categories, strong and weak. Which has low-key deviated further into masculine and feminine. For most of my childhood, I identified with the main characters of books–usually bookish, quiet girls. I also identified with their bubbly best friends who liked clothes. Or the mean popular girl who cared too much about being liked. In fantasy, there were these warrior female characters, who used their strength not to lift other women up, but to diminish them.

I’ve thus made it my raison d’etre to write girls who do not fit into neat categories. Who surround themselves with women. Who cry and are vulnerable and sometimes want silly, useless things. These are the sort of female characters we should be lifting up–female characters who are not internalised models for the patriarchy.

In fact, I loved writing Vianca because I felt like in many ways, she was the epitome of the twisted version of “strong female character”. Ruthless. Oh so different from other women. More terrified of being called “weak” than being called “cruel”.

7. Q: King of Fools added Jac’s POV into the mix, how different was he to write from Levi and Enne?

A: At first I struggled with him. I had spent so many years with Levi, and Enne, of course Jac took some getting used to. But I very quickly fell in love with his voice and the perspective he added to this world and this story. Jac also gets what–in my opinion–is the most action-packed, highest stakes chapter in the book.

8. Q: You first came up for the idea for Ace of Shades when you were 16, did you know that it was going to end up being part of a trilogy? And if you did, how different was your initial conception of King of Fools to what the book ended up being?

A: I did! I usually know when I get my ideas whether they’ll end up as standalones, duologies, trilogies, or otherwise–even if I don’t necessarily know what comes next. Honestly, King of Fools was quite similar to how I always pictured it. Though I didn’t have everything figured out–I’m still figuring out what happens in the third book as I write it–there are some really big reveals that occur down the line that I knew King of Fools needed to build the framework for. So there were really two categories of characters in this book–characters that I knew because they are major players in the overall story, and characters who introduced themselves to me as I wrote and demanded a spot at the table.

9. Q: Are there any characters from the Shadow Game series that you’d love the opportunity to explore more once the series is done?

A: Apart from perhaps the occasional short story, the only story I’d be willing to write any sort of spinoff for is the tragic romance of Enne’s parents during the Great Street War. It’s not off the table, but it depends on so many factors–the success of the series, the willingness of my publisher, the desire from readers. We’ll see!

10. Q: What are you most proud of about King of Fools?

A: I’m most proud of Enne and Vianca! I loved writing their relationship. I’m also pretty proud of the RIDE that is my last four chapters. I held nothing back.

Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she lives in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

www.amandafoody.com

Amanda Foody’s third novel, King of Fools, the sequel to 2018’s Ace of Shades is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon, or wherever it is you get your books from and check it out.

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with Amanda Foody, and if you are a writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me (you don’t have to be published, I welcome all writers, published/unpublished, agented/unagented, if you write then I want to hear from you!), or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December, and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about! 

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post will be up later, so make sure to check that out, and I’ve got a few things planned for the next week or so, a review of We Are Blood and Thunder and a Jo Talks post, so you can expect those soon! I’m also going to have another post for this feature before the end of the month, as I told you guys last month, I’ll have a video from my friend Hannah (not my YALC friend Hannah, my other friend Hannah who is an author!), talking about finding a publisher and a publishing route that works for you. I’m going to be on her channel talking about writing as well, so I’ll let you know when that’s up and you can check that out too.

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Writing Corner: Q&A With Author C.G. Drews

Hi everyone! I’m back for my Writing Corner post for April and I have a really exciting (well I hope you guys will find it exciting) post for you today! A few weeks ago I contacted C.G. Drews, who you guys will probably know better as PaperFury, one of the YA community’s most beloved and hilarious bloggers & now a brilliant YA author to see if she wanted to do an interview for this feature and very happily for me (and hopefully for you guys as well), she agreed! So I sent her over some questions about her new book The Boy Who Steals Houses (which came out in the UK on Thursday) and her general experience in writing and publishing, and I have her answers here for you guys today, so I hope you enjoy them:

  1. Q: Could you for anyone reading this, who may never have heard of The Boy Who Steals Houses, give a short summary of what the book is about?

A: It’s about a homeless teen named Sam, who breaks into houses when the owners are away on holidays–not to steal, but just to live. He and his autistic brother Avery are actual disasters who make terrible decisions, but they love each other fiercely and Sam protects his brother like nothing else. Then Sam messes up and steals a house that isn’t truly empty and ends up entangled in the lives of a big messy family. He craves this life, but if they find out why he’s homeless and what’s he’s running from, he’ll lose it all.

2. Q: Both of your books have retelling aspects to them, what attracted you to this method of storytelling? Do you have any particular favourite retellings?

A: I love retellings because you already get the bare bones of a structure….then you get to renovate and rebuild and let your imagination go wild! I definitely am fond of Goldilocks, which The Boy Who Steals Houses is based around, but I’d also love to do a Sleeping Beauty retelling one day too. Or the Seven Swans!

3. Q: You are based in Australia, and obviously your agent and publisher are based in the UK, are there any difficulties to having a transcontinental relationship with your publishing team?

A: It’s been great actually! The only downsides are waiting for things to come in the mail (contracts, proof copies, finished copies etc.) and how I end up staying up way too late waiting for emails since my sleeping time is when my agent/editor are working! It’d be nice to go over someday and meet my publishers though.

4. Q: You’ve been on both sides of the author/blogger relationship now, what have you had to change about your blogging, if anything, now that you are an author?

A: It’s definitely been an adjustment moving away from the wild and sparkly blogging life…over to the author life. I made the decision to stop doing negative reviews, because as an author, I felt it was a bit off to be critiquing my peers. I also have less time to blog because of writing and edits. But my blogging family is just the bessst and shout out to the whole blogging community for being masters at reviews and discussions and boosting new authors. I owe so much to their love!

5. Q: Like your characters in TBWSH, you also have autism and anxiety, do you have any recommendations for other books you’ve read with characters who have these conditions that you feel are good representation (from your own experiences)? 

A: I absolutely loved being able to weave things I’ve experienced into this novel! I wanted to write my experiences and feelings, but not put myself on the page, so that was an interesting balance to find. Sam, my narrator, has an anxiety disorder while his brother, Avery, has autism. There are endless ways these neurodiversities can present, but I’m particularly keen to find other books that represent them in non-problematic ways! I definitely recommend the autobiographies of Autism In Heels by Jennifer O’Toole and Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim. And for YA fiction, Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik, Queens of Geek, by Jen Wilde, When My Heart Joins The Thousand by A.J. Steiger and Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare—all have great autism representation!

6. Q: I’ve done a whole post about my writing inspirations, but who were yours? Do you think you can see their influence in their own work?

A: I really look up to authors like Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor and Tahereh Mafi for their gorgeous prose and lush styles. I adore Cassandra Clare’s banter, and Adam Silvera’s wringing of hearts. And I must shout out to the fairy tales of the world for being so fun to rework too haha.

7. Q: We’ve talked writing inspirations, but where also do you look to when you’re needing to refill the creative well?

A: I read! So, so much. If I’m feeling uninspired–it’s time to devour a book, or ten (or one hundred and ten?!). I also love listening to music, anything from epic movie soundtracks to Imagine Dragons or Clean Bandit. And I mean who isn’t inspired by cake? I am. It is a gift.

8. Q: What do you know now about the publishing process that you wish you’d known going into it? 

A: That you need a lot of patience! And it’s not always the magical, glittery journey that you think other authors experience all the time. There’s plenty of downs as well as ups and it pays to have a support network in your life who can distract you with cookies.

9. Q: I know you don’t know what’s coming next for you publishing wise, but what are you working on right now?

A: I’m playing around with a bit of a passion project that involves dark woods and pretty monsters….and I’m always working on another dark contemporary or two!

10. Q: What advice would you give to young writers looking to get into publishing?

A: Definitely: KEEP WRITING. If you don’t feel “good enough” or your project gets rejected—keep writing. You get better the more you write and you have endless chances to get published. My first book that went on submission to editors was rejected, but my second novel was A Thousand Perfect Notes and it landed me a two book deal which changed my world. So always keep going, I believe in you.

Thanks so much for answering all my questions Cait, I’ve loved reading your blog for about two/three years now and it’s so wonderful, I can’t wait to keep following your publishing journey!

C.G. Drews

C.G. Drews lives in Australia with her piano and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

She blogs at paperfury.com.

C.G. Drews’ second novel The Boy Who Steals Houses is out now, so head to your local bookshop, Amazon or wherever it is you get you books from and check it out!

I hope you all enjoyed this Q&A with C.G. Drews, and if you are writer and would love to do a Q&A about your books or your writing with me, or do a guest post about your writing, then please get in touch with me via email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX. I have spots available from August-December and the sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIP, your writing process, agents/querying, whatever it is you want to talk about.

I’m going to have my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, so stay tuned for that and I’m finally done with my Uni work, so expect a lot more posts from me in the coming weeks! As for this feature, I’m going to be sharing a video from my friend, author H.T. King next month, she’s going to be talking about finding a publisher, and a publishing route that works for you so that should be a really good one. I’m also appearing on her YouTube channel talking about my writing, so I’ll let you know when that’s up & you can go watch that (please support it guys, you have no idea how terrifying filming myself was, I’m very self-conscious about how my voice sounds on video, hence why I’ve never been a BookTuber!).

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Corner: Guest Post-Madeline Dyer on Writing With Chronic Illness

Hi guys! I’m so excited about today’s post, because I actually didn’t write it (except this introduction)! As you can see from the title at the top, this is my first ever guest post for BookLoversBlog, a super exciting step for me and one that I hope can continue because I love getting to connect with other bloggers and writers and have them share their experiences, there is such a wide world of writers out there with different experiences to mine and I want to make sure that is reflected in this feature. 

Which brings me quite nicely onto today’s topic. Madeline Dyer is a YA writer, who has several chronic illnesses, so when she suggested writing a guest post about her experiences of writing with chronic illness, I thought it was a great idea. I hope that any of my followers who are also writers with chronic illness find her advice helpful! So here we go, I hope you enjoy Madeline’s post: 

Being a Writer When You’re Chronically Ill

Ask any writer, and he or she will tell you there are many articles and videos out there, advising us on what we need to do to be a writer. There are checklists you can tick off, schedules you can use to divide up your writing and editing time, and many top tips that other writers swear by. The most popular pieces of advice, in my experience, seem to be ‘write every day’ and ‘treat writing as a job’, as well as ‘don’t give up your day-job’—but when you’re also dealing with a chronic illness, a lot of these tips either don’t apply to your situation or they make you feel like you’re failing because you physically can’t meet the expectations that these articles put on you.

Reading all these articles and lists made me feel as if I could never be considered a proper writer because there were many things on them that I simply couldn’t do as I am chronically ill. The fact of the matter is much of the advice out there assumes that you’re able-bodied and in good health, and when you’re not, it can feel a little bit lonely and discouraging. And, so, I was inspired to write this post, for all the writers out there who are also managing a chronic illness.

Here are my top pieces of advice regarding how to be a writer when you’re chronically ill:

Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t write every day.

 This is the big one, in my opinion. It’s so easy to think that you should be writing at every available opportunity and thus feel like a failure if you haven’t written that day (or week, or month, etc.). But if you’re having a bad time with your illness and you need to rest, then that’s what you need to do: rest. Don’t push yourself and use up that all-important energy. Your health has to come first, and there’s nothing for you to feel bad about for taking a rest-day instead of working on that manuscript. After all, if you push and push yourself, it’ll take longer to recover and you’ll end up writing less overall.

It’s okay not to write.

Similarly, if you’re not well enough to write at all for a period of time, that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a writer. You are still a writer.

Set Manageable Goals.

On the days when you are well enough to write, set realistic goals that you know you can meet without making your health worse. Before I became chronically ill, I could easily write 5,000 words a day, and often it was closer to 7,000. That was the pace at which I wrote, and I’d feel like I hadn’t done enough if I’d only written 3,000 words.

When I developed chronic illnesses and was diagnosed with ‘invisible’ disabilities and auto-immune disorders, I simply could not keep up that pace without making my health suffer a lot. It was soul-crushing at first, as I could remember how easily I used to write so many words before. I felt like a failure in the one thing (writing) that I thought I could still do (I’d already had to give up many hobbies and activities). But the problem was that I was using my previous goals as a measure of my current success, even though before I was healthy and now I am not. Those word count goals were set before—before the fatigue and the fainting, the brain fog and chronic pain, the headaches and joint dislocations.

I struggle with maintaining an upright posture now, due to dysautonomia, and my fatigue and joint-pain from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome make writing really difficult. Because of these factors, I’ve had to make my goals more manageable. On my good days, I now aim for around 500-1,000 words, and I know that realistically I’ll only manage this a couple of days a week—and that’s if the week is a good week. Many weeks, I’m unable to write at all, and even on my good days, I can’t go on writing for hours on end, like I used to.

The important thing here is acknowledging that your goals have to change to reflect your health. If you don’t change them, not only will you risk harming yourself by pushing yourself too far, but you’ll also feel terrible when you fail to meet your unreasonably-high expectations.

Physically, I’m not expected to do all the things I used to do—for example, doctors have said that horse-riding and athletics are too dangerous for me now—so it’s important to realise that we can’t be expected to write at the same speed as before too. Chronic illness isn’t something that only affects one part of your life; it affects everything, and adjustments have to be made everywhere.

Let others know what you’re dealing with, where possible. Especially those you work with, such as critique partners and editors.

If you’ve been given a tight deadline that you know is going to be difficult to make, then talk to the other people involved. Let them know you have a chronic illness. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I’m a firm believer that it’s best to be upfront right from the start about having an illness or condition that could affect your work, so that others don’t place unreasonable expectations on you and so adjustments can be made if needed.

Don’t compare yourself to other writers

This applies to healthy writers too. It’s never wise to compare yourself or the state of your career to that of another. It’s just not a good idea. And it’s especially not a good idea to compare your career to that of an author who’s just completed four book tours, had two books launch this year, and is appearing at all the big cons, if you’re unable to do these things—either at all or at that pace—due to factors which are out of your control.

Whatever you’re managing to do for your writing career, whether it’s writing a paragraph or reading through an edit letter is a huge achievement when you’re managing chronic illness, and I feel like we need to celebrate these things more. So be proud of what you can do despite being chronically ill, and know that your worth isn’t dependent on your productivity.

Know that you’re not alone.

There are many other writers out there who are dealing with chronic illness too, and often just finding them and talking with them can help immensely. It’s certainly helped me feel less lonely, and I’ve been able to swap illness-specific tips with many writers who are also facing similar challenges.

 

Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

 Discover Madeline’s books at http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/

Madeline’s books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Book-1-Madeline-Dyer-ebook/dp/B01MS5264O/

I hope you all enjoyed Madeline’s post, and if you are a writer, I am looking for more guest posts for this feature, so please get in touch with me via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com or Twitter, @iloveheartlandX, if you have an idea that you would like to write about, I want to hear it! The sky’s the limit, you can talk about your books/WIPs, your writing process, things that affect your writing life, basically anything you want. 

I’m going to have a new review up for you tomorrow, it’s finally time to share my review of Firestarter, the last book in the Timekeeper trilogy, as its release date is on Tuesday, so I’m super excited for that. I will also have a new Top Ten Tuesday up on Tuesday, so lots to look forward to in the coming week. As for this feature, I’m hoping to have a post up about how writing for different platforms helps improve my writing before the end of the month, so stay tuned for all of that!

Jo Talks Books: 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals

Hi all! Happy 2019, I hope you all enjoyed bringing in the New Year, whether you did that curled up in bed at home, or out partying with your friends. I am super excited for a new year on the blog, this is a milestone year for my little blog, as I will have been blogging for 5 years in February, I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. As always at the beginning of a new year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my blog over the past year, and the previous ones, and I hope you all continue to enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it!

Anyway, onto the topic of today’s post: since it is a new year, and Top Ten Tuesday doesn’t seem to be doing a goal related topic this year, I thought I would share my 2019 Reading/Writing/Blogging Goals as it’s always something I like to do at the start of a new year, it’s a nice way to set up the year and it gives me something to work towards throughout the year. I’ve done much better on these, since I started framing them as goals rather than resolutions, as I like having things to work towards throughout the year. As with last year, I have a nice mix of blogging, writing and reading goals, hopefully these will keep me busy through 2019:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

I’ll start off with one of my continuous annual goals, to complete my Goodreads Challenge. I’ve started at 24 books, the same as I did last year, and I ended up at 35 last year, so obviously I’m hoping that I will beat it, but since this year is my dissertation year, I wanted to try and be kind to myself, so if I’m reading more than expected I can put it up, but equally, if I find I have less time than I’d like I can put it down.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

Another annual one, I’ve once again set my #RockMyTBR Challenge at 12 books, and I’d quite like to actually complete all 12 this year, since I’ve finished at 11 for the past two years! Twitter put together another really great list for me this year, so I’m super excited to read all of them.

3. Become a 5 star writer for The National Student

I’ve been writing for The National Student for over a year now, and I’ve written over 70 articles and had nearly 68,000 views, which is amazing, but I’d like to hit that final, elusive milestone of becoming a 5 star writer before I graduate in June.

4. Continue working on revisions for This Is Not A Love Story in order to prepare it for querying

I had a pretty good year working on This Is Not A Love Story, I completed my first round of revisions on it, which was an achievement in itself since it was my first time editing a novel EVER, but this year I want to really try and make headway on my most recent round of revisions, send them back to my Critique Partner and maybe have more revisions underway by the end of the year. I’m determined to try and get this novel ready for querying in the next few years.

5. Read more non-fiction

This year, I’ve acquired quite a lot of non-fiction, specifically feminist non-fiction, and I’d quite like to try and read more of that this year, since obviously I read mostly fiction but I’m really excited for a lot of the non-fiction I got in 2018 and I’d like to try and read at least some of it this year.

6. Catch up on 2018 releases I missed

Another rolling one-it seems I spend every year trying to catch up with books from the previous year! I did manage to read quite a few of my most anticipated 2018 releases which was great, but there’s still quite a lot for me to catch up on, not least trying to finally finish Kingdom of Ash.

7. Unhaul some of my books in preparation for graduation

I’m graduating this year, so of course that means that I will be moving back home, and whilst I do have somewhere to store my books, I’m trying to take this as an opportunity to get rid of some of the books that I may have lost interest in since the time I bought them, and streamline my collection of unread books down to the ones I’m really excited for. This may be a totally ill fated goal since I’m terrible at getting rid of books, but at least the intention is there!

8. Start my Book/Movie comparison feature

Last year, I had an idea for a new feature for the blog, comparing books to their movie adaptations and the response on Twitter for it was pretty great, so I’m going to attempt to start that this year. I might not start it until after I graduate, but I definitely want to try and get it up and running before the year is out.

9. Focus on backlist books 3 years old or more

I’m very aware that I have a lot of books on my shelf from 2015/2016 that I still haven’t read yet and I really want to make a concerted effort to read some of those this year because I don’t want to leave them languishing on my shelves much longer whilst I read all of the shiny new books in existence!

10. Get my Netgalley ratio up to 80%

I ended 2018 with my Netgalley ratio at 71%, which is really great, but this year, I want to finally get my Netgalley ratio up to that all elusive 80%. It might not stay there very long, but I’d love to at least reach it!

11. Try more audiobooks

I used to love reading audiobooks when I was a kid, but for some reason I kind of went off them and I haven’t read any in years, but seeing so much excitement for audiobooks on Twitter has really made me want to get back into them. I am however going to need your help in finding good ones as I haven’t a clue, so if you have any recommendations for great audiobooks, then please leave them in the comments!

12. Have more guest posts on the blog

I really enjoyed doing a few guest posts and interviews for other people’s blogs this year, and I’d really like to get some guest posts on here, especially for my Writing Corner. So if you’re interested in doing a guest post for me, especially if you’re a writer, then please drop me a message on here, Twitter (@iloveheartlandX) or via email, jo.ell.x@hotmail.com and I’ll sort something out with you!

I think that’s plenty of goals to be getting on with for now! Do you set reading, writing, blogging or life goals for the year? If not, then why not? What are your goals for 2019? Do we share any? Let me know in the comments!

I haven’t planned my Jo Talks schedule for 2019 yet, so I don’t know what or when my next discussion post will be up but it will probably be at some point towards the end of the month. I will be doing at least one discussion post a month through the year, I’d love to do two a month if I have time, but I’m not going to promise that this year, since I’m going to be knee deep in dissertation work until April. If there are any specific topics you’d like to see me talk about this year, then please just let me know and I will do my best to accommodate them! Otherwise, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what I discuss next. In the meantime, I’m going to have a review of my last read of 2018 up in the next few days and my 2018 #RockMyTBR Challenge wrap up, so stay tuned for those!

End of Year Check In (2018)

We made it everyone! The last day of 2018, honestly I wasn’t entirely sure we’d get here after all the trash-fire things that have been happening in the world this year, but we did, so congrats to all of us. As it’s the last day of 2018, I will be looking back at the goals I made in January (remember January, that month that happened a million years ago, and none of us are quite sure was actually part of 2018?) and see how well I did on them this year. So here we go, this is how my 2018 goals have worked out:

  1. Complete my Goodreads 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes I did in fact complete my Goodreads challenge this year! I started off with my usual challenge of 24, but I put it up back in July, and ended up on my final challenge of 35 books, which I just met two days ago. I would have liked to one up my 2017 challenge and read 37, but I’m still really proud of 35, especially given how stressful my most recent Uni semester has been.

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR 2018 Challenge-SUCCESS

Yes, I completed my #RockMyTBR challenge, though like last year, I ended on 11 books rather than 12 because there was one book on my list that I just couldn’t finish-I’m not going to count it as a failure for the sake of one book, that would just be petty! Hopefully next year I will be able to finish all 12 though 🙂

3. Expand my Writing Corner Feature-Success, but could have done better

I don’t want to count this as an outright failure, because I did write a few more posts about my writing this year, though due to time constraints, I didn’t post as frequently through the end of the year as I would have liked and I didn’t do any collaborations on it. Having said that, I have written 6 posts for the feature this year, and I only had one last year, so in that respect it has been successful and I’m hoping that I will be able to grow it even more next year.

4. Look into querying agents/the first steps of the publishing process-SUCCESS

I’m actually feeling really good about this one. I’ve been bookmarking agents since January, so every time I have seen one on Twitter, I’ve added their agency’s page to the list. I also had to write a query for the #YA4YA competition, I’m pretty sure it was terrible, but hey it was a start! I have a list of tips about querying from a querying talk I went to with agents at YALC. I pitched my book to an agent at YALC as well as part of pitching practice and she said it sounded marketable, so that was also awesome! I’ve also been doing the most important part of getting ready for querying-revising my book. So yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about the preparations I’ve made for the next step in my publishing journey this year.

5. Finish Underground Magicians-FAIL

Yeah, this one was a pretty clear failure. I’ve only written one more chapter of this than I had last year. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, because having writer’s block is not something I can really help and I have made a lot of progress on TINALS this year, so I’m trying to focus more on where I’ve succeeded in my writing than where I haven’t.

6. Start giving a Bechdel Test rating for the books I read-SUCCESS

This went really well, in fact I’m going to continue it next year! The final results turned out to be 24 books passed and 11 books failed, so I was quite pleased with that and I’m hoping that next year, the pass/fail margin will be even narrower.

7. Read more of my YALC books from 2015/2016/2017-SUCCESS

So I did read some of my YALC books this year, I read The Exact Opposite of Okay, Rose Under Fire, The Fandom, Daughter of The Burning City & Days of Blood and Starlight this year, so that’s 6 more YALC books than I had last year. I could have done more, probably, but I have offloaded some of the YALC books that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to read and my YALC book shelf is down to only 29 books now, so hopefully I should be able to knock off more next year (whilst of course acquiring more!).

8. Read more of my #otspsecretsister books-Success, but could have done better

I only read 3 #otspsecretsister books this year, so I still have 10 that I need to read, but since I didn’t set a number for this challenge, I’m still counting it as a success! Hopefully next year, I will be able to finish all of the books that I have received through the #otspsecretsister project.

9. Reread some of my old favourites-FAIL

Ha ha this one was just too optimistic to start off with! I don’t know why I thought I would have the time to do this, much as I used to love rereading, I do not read fast enough to justify it!

10. Make time to read a little every day-SUCCESS

I actually feel really good about this one! There were I think one or two days in November where I didn’t read, but much like my #RockMyTBR challenge, I’m not going to punish myself for a day or so when I was just too tired or stressed to read. I’m really pleased with how this goal went, because it kept me accountable for making sure reading was always a part of my day.

11. Carry on colloborating with other bloggers-SUCCESS

I did 3 collab posts this year, one with other people on my blog in January, which was super fun, I did my first guest post on This Northern Gal (which you can read here: http://thisnortherngal.co.uk/guest-posts/guest-post-maximising-your-reading-time-at-university/) which was amazing fun to do and something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. I also featured on Rae Coleman’s blog, as part of her Summer Spotlight blogger series, so I did an interview with her, which was also amazing to do and you can read that here: https://bookmarkchronicles.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/summer-spotlight-series-jo/). I also did an interview for Literary Lovers Magazine, but I’m not quite sure when that’s going to be available. I’d love to do some more collaborations next year, so if you’d like to contribute something to my blog (especially if you’re a writer!) or you would like me to contribute to yours, then you can get in touch with me via Twitter @iloveheartlandX or email: jo.ell.x@hotmail.com.

12. Catch up with 2017 releases-Success, but could have done better

I had 12 books on this list and I’ve read 6 of them. So half. I could have done better sure, but I think this was a case of me being overenthusiastic rather than anything else, because thinking I would be able to read 12 missed releases this year was probably a bit optimistic!

So there we go, that’s how I did on my 2018 goals-10 out of 12 completed, I have to admit, I’m pretty satisfied with that, even if I could have done better on two of them, it’s the best I’ve ever done on my yearly resolutions! 2018 may have been a horrible year for the world, but it was a great year for my blog and I’m hoping that 2019 will be ever better. How about you guys? Did you make any goals for 2018? How did you do on them? Do you have any plans for goals for next year? Let me know in the comments!

You won’t have to wait too long to find out my 2019 goals, I think I’ll probably have them up on Wednesday. In the meantime, I will have my Best Books of 2018 up tomorrow as part of the first TTT topic of 2019, so stay tuned for that!

Writing Corner: On Struggling With Writer’s Block

Hi everyone! I know I’m cutting it a little fine with this month’s Writing Corner, but hey, it’s still August until tomorrow (also is it just me or has August been going on forever?). I was originally going to talk a little bit about TINALS sequel in this post, but I’ve not really had time to work on it over the last month and I’m going to be more focused on editing TINALS than I am on writing the sequel when I do get back to writing because I felt like I was on a roll with that before I started my summer job and I’d really like to continue and try and get my next round of revisions completed relatively soon. But anyway, enough about TINALS, since that is not the writing project that I’m going to be talking about today. No, today I’m talking about my other writing project, Underground Magicians, which I’ve kind of been taking an extended break from, because of the reason in the title: I have writer’s block.

I know a lot of authors that I admire have said that they don’t believe in writer’s block and that it’s just a case of finding your way through and I would love to believe that this is true, but honestly I genuinely feel like I have hit a brick wall with this project and I just don’t seem to be able to work my way out. I thought that taking a break from it might help and that I might feel inspired by something and go back to it, but that hasn’t really happened.

It’s definitely not that I don’t feel passionate about the project, I love my weird little underground tunnels book and the fact that I love this story and these characters so much is making it all the more infuriating that I can’t seem to find my way through this block.

For a little background, I started writing Underground Magicians last year, and it was my NaNoWriMo project. I wrote the first five chapters, then I found myself getting a little stuck. Thankfully I had an idea of where I wanted the story to end, so I left the start of the story where it was, and then jumped to the end and wrote the last 3-4 chapters & the epilogue. This was unusual for me, because I usually write chronologically, I did that with TINALS, with all of my fanfics and with everything I wrote when I was younger but since I knew how I wanted the story to end, I figured I would write the end and work my way back from there.

However, things haven’t quite worked out the way I wanted them to! I didn’t really suffer from any of the problems of not having a detailed outline when I wrote TINALS, because for the most part, the story flowed quite naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone back and made quite a lot of edits since them, some of them quite major, but the base structure of the story was easy enough to get down. With Underground Magicians, for some reason or another though, whilst I know how the story starts and I know how it ends, I have no idea how many characters get from point A to point B.

Since NaNoWriMo last year, I’ve written three more chapters of the story, meaning I have eight chapters for the start and then 3-4 + the epilogue for the end, but now I’ve kind of stalled. I know basic plot points that need to happen in order to get Sophie and Mo where I need them to be at the end, but I don’t know how to string those plot points together!

The basic idea behind Underground Magicians is that Sophie (my main character) gets sucked into this world of Underground tunnels after she discovers that she has magic and then alongside her new friend/later love interest Mo (female character, this story has a f/f romance) she has to figure out why the tunnels keep moving and their friends keep disappearing, so the structure itself is very simple. I think the problem that I’m having, is that because the plot is relatively straightforward, I’m struggling to think of ways to make it exciting and I feel like a lot of what probably needs to happen between now and the ending is filler and maybe that’s why I can’t really think of what to write? Filler has never been my forte, I like the action packed stuff! I also get random ideas of things that I want to happen later on in the story and they will fit, but then I will have the same problem that I’ve been having so far, how to get to those things!

Also because I’ve never really suffered from writer’s block before, I don’t really know how to work my way through it! I thought that taking a step back from my project might help me, but honestly it just feels like I’ve been ignoring the problem. I thought about sitting down and writing out the plot that I have of my story so far and trying to work my way backwards to the point where I’ve got stuck but I’m worried that I’ll just get down what I’ve got so far and not be able to string together the rest of it.

I really don’t want to give up on this story, because I’ve really enjoyed writing what I have written so far and I want to see it completed, but at the moment, I’m not really quite sure how to proceed. I don’t want to force it, because I don’t think that will be helpful, but just waiting for ideas to come hasn’t really been that helpful for me either.

It’s just so frustrating because I was on such a roll with this book and was feeling so good about it and now I just feel like I’ve completely stalled out. I reckon this book could be really great if I ever manage to finish it, it’s just trying to get there that I’m struggling with. I have been doing great on editing TINALS, so it’s not like everything in my writing life is a total loss, but it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a failure when you can’t seem to make your other book work!

So I guess basically what I’m saying is that I need advice! Writers out there, how have you got over writer’s block? Have you ever got stuck with the middle of your book? What have you found to be the best way to work your way through it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m aiming to have another one of these up again next month-the idea is that I will hopefully do one of these a month for the rest of the year, so I should have four more of them before the year is out, though I don’t know what they will be about! If you are a writer and you would like to be featured in this series, then contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I don’t know what I will have for you soon, I am hoping to finish Tower of Dawn in the next few days, though that might be a little overoptimistic of me, but I will definitely have a review of that up sometime in the near future and of course a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday.

 

Jo Talks Books: Updated Tips For YALC Newbies (2018)

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Hannah and I at YALC 2017

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry I didn’t get another discussion post for you done in June, with my Writing Corner posts and reviews and everything, I just didn’t have the time to write another one. Since YALC is just around the corner (FRIDAY PEOPLE, I AM SO EXCITED), I decided that my discussion post this month would be less of a discussion and more of a list of tips for people attending the convention this year. I did a tips post back in 2016, but I wanted to update it for you guys, since a couple of things have changed since 2016 and it’s always useful to have a fresh list of tips! Here we go, my top tips for attending YALC for the first time:

  1. Don’t worry about arriving before 10-you can actually avoid the queues if you arrive later

Okay so this one is kind of contrary to my top tip from 2016, but you actually don’t need to be there from ridiculous o’clock queuing to get in. I mean you can arrive at 9 and wait in the queue for an hour if you’re desperate to be the first in, but don’t sweat it if you’re a little late, there will still be people on the doors, there are all day and you might just avoid having to stand there sweating in a long queue-you’ll be doing enough of that inside the con! Also if you need to duck out during the day, you can, they stamp your hand so you can get back in if you leave the building.

2. Wear light and comfy clothes and shoes

It gets SUPER HOT in the convention centre, so please, please wear light and comfy clothes. I know it might seem fun to wear an extravagant and heavy cosplay costume, but you will boil and regret it later, so consider the heat when planning your cosplay. Also, I know this seems obvious, but consider bathroom manoeuvrability when planning your costume-you don’t want to have to be fiddling for hours just to go to the bathroom! Make sure the shoes you wear are comfortable also, there is a lot of walking and standing and not much seating (though I’m hopeful they might have changed that this year) so you don’t want your shoes to be rubbing all day!

3. Bring your own food and plenty of water (stowed separately from your books to avoid accidents though)

Food in the convention centre is super expensive, so you would be wise to bring your own, there is a Tesco Express just across the street from Olympia, so you can get food and water before going in, which I would very much advise! It’s going to be over thirty degrees on Friday and I think just as hot on Saturday and Sunday, so make sure you have plenty of water, you will want it!

4. Get cash out before you go in

Only the Waterstones stall and I think the odd other one take card, most stands are cash only. There is a cash machine just across the street from the building, so you can get cash just before you go in, though if you want to avoid potentially large queues for cash machines on the day, then I suggest getting money out beforehand.

5. Make use of the cloakroom

A lot of people bring suitcases and whilst that’s great, they can be kind of unwieldy, so I suggest bringing a separate bag to use for the books you want to get signed and stowing your suitcase, or any extra bags you have, in the cloakroom for the day. It’s at the far corner of the convention centre, near the agents arena (or at least it was last year, they might have changed where things are this year) and only costs £1 to use.

6. Bring a phone/IPod/Camera to take pictures with AND make sure it is fully charged before you go

You’ll probably want to take pictures with your favourite authors whilst there, so make sure you bring something to take pictures with. Also make sure that whatever device you are using is fully charged, because unless you have a portable charger, there is only one or two plugs in the convention centre, so if you run out, there’s a good chance you may not be able to use it for the rest of the day.

7. Only pick up the proofs you really want, otherwise you’ll end up with a whole load of books you’ll never read and deny other people who really wanted said proof of the opportunity to read it

So in the last couple of years, publishers at YALC have started giving away a load of free proofs-yay for us, free books that we get to read early! But only get the ones that you are really interested in reading, it will save space in your bag for books you want to buy, will make sure that everyone who actually wants the proofs can get them and will save you time because you don’t have to read something you don’t think you’ll like. It can be so easy to get overexcited because FREE BOOKS, but be picky and only get the proofs you are super excited for, not just random ones that you only pick up because they’re free. This kind of goes for books you buy as well, you don’t need to buy every single book you see, tempting as it might be-I have a lot of books from YALC that I’ll probably get rid of without reading because I just picked them up because they’re cheap!

8. Make sure you follow all the publishers and YALC on Twitter and have your notifications turned on

Publishers announce proof drops on Twitter-though I think they’re changing how they do things this year, but they’re still bound to have updates on Twitter, so you want to make sure you are following all the publishers so you can be updated. JennieLy has made a list of publishers on her Twitter account, so follow her and find out the publishers and you’re golden! Also make sure you follow the official YALC twitter account, they have lots of useful tips and bits of information on there that you will want to know.

9. Plan out who you want to see in advance-and take note of any clashes

YALC is a busy few days and it’s much easier to enjoy yourself if you’ve planned out who you want to see, what panels you want to see, what books you want to get signed and everything, in advance. That way, you won’t be rushing around like a headless chicken trying to do everything! If you know what times everyone’s signings and talks are, it is a lot easier to plan your time accordingly and make sure you get to see everyone you want to see.

10. Make sure you bring extra bags

You will be picking up a lot of stuff throughout the day, so it’s important to make sure that you have enough bags, so make sure you have enough places to store them and take advantage of any free tote bags that you get given during the day!

11. Bring a friend, and also make sure you interact with other people

Bookworms are really friendly, but it can be daunting going to these kinds of events alone, so I would definitely recommend going with a friend or a group of people. I’ve been going with my friend Hannah for the last three years and we’re bringing along another friend (also named Hannah) this year, and it’s so much more fun having someone to share your time with. But even if you do take friends, make sure to try and interact with people there, bookworms are so friendly, and you have to do something to pass the time in those long signing queues.

12. Have your money in an easily accessible place

I’ve had problems the last few years having to root around in my bag to find my money, so learn from my mistakes! This year, I’m taking a bumbag instead of my handbag and I think it’s a really great option, because it frees space in your main bag for more books and it means your money is easily accessible throughout the day and so I would definitely recommend!

13. Do take breaks throughout the day

It can be tempting to just rush around from panel to panel, signing to signing and buy all the books and I have definitely done that before, but when you’re getting tired, take some time to have a breather before rushing off to your next thing. Authors sign for several hours and the busy ones are ticketed, so you have time to take a breather, don’t refuse it!

14. Make sure you know if an author’s signing is going to be ticketed and get your ticket!

For really busy authors that are expected to have long queues, YALC has a ticketing system in place. They’ve refined this since the first time I had to use it and it’s a lot better now. If an author’s signing is ticketed, there will be a person standing around giving out tickets. Find them, get your ticket and then relax until your number is held up on the whiteboard (you may have to go back several times). Don’t miss out on the tickets, because if it’s a ticketed signing and you don’t have a ticket? Yeah, you’re not meeting that author. Last year both Alwyn Hamilton and Samantha Shannon had ticketed lines, so I suspect they might again, Tomi Adeyemi I would guess is likely to be ticketed and it’s already been announced that Tom and Giovanna Fletcher will be ticketed. Also take note of any limitations on number of books that can be signed; they usually don’t put a limit in, but check, you don’t want to look like an idiot by having more books than you’re allowed to have signed. Most signings won’t have a limit though!

15. Check the underground route before you go

If you’ve been to YALC before, or live somewhere with a direct link to Olympia, then this won’t be a problem, but if you’re new, getting to YALC via the underground can be a little confusing. You need to get to Earl’s Court underground station on the District Line and then change from there onto the special train for London Olympia (it only goes to Olympia, there are no other stops). If all else fails, follow anyone in cosplay because they are likely going to LFCC and YALC too.

16. Have fun!

YALC is an awesome weekend that only comes around once a year, so have a great time! Make the most of getting to see all these great authors and picking up free proofs and getting all these great books and just have the best time you can-I know I certainly will, there’s a reason Hannah and I go back every year!

So that’s it, that’s all I have; a slightly more comprehensive list of tips than my last one, though I know there are a few repeat tips in there! If anyone who has been to YALC thinks I’ve missed anything and wants to chime in with advice of their own, by all means do. Who else is going to YALC? Who are you all most excited to see? What days are you going? Basically chat to me about all things YALC in the comments-and if any newbies have anymore questions, feel free to ask, I have a fountain of YALC knowledge that’s only useful once a year, so use it!

If you are going to YALC, then by all means, say hi, I don’t bite (at least not often). I don’t know what I’ll be wearing yet, but I bought one of JennieLy’s beautiful lanyards, so if you see someone with a Hufflepuff lanyard, with my name (Jo Elliott), my blog’s name (BookLoversBlog) and my twitter handle (@iloveheartlandX) on it, then congrats, you found me!

I won’t have another discussion post for you this month, as I honestly just won’t have time, but I will be back with another one in August, about an as yet undecided topic! Also, I did an interview with Rachel Coleman over at Bookmark Chronicles which should be on her blog sometime in the next few weeks, so please follow her and give that a read when it comes out. Before then, I will have a new Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.