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When in London …

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I have had a posting gap since I’ve been busy this week–with only days to go till I move, I made a to-do list of all the things I wanted to do while I was still in London. Things have been ticked off, crossed off, added, compromised and shuffled around, and I also read a blog post about how to write a successful blog, the main point being needing to do something for your readers.

So I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list, similar to my own list, of things to do in London, in the hope someone will find it useful.

9271a1. See a West End show

This one is a no-brainer, really. Riding an Underground escalator often gives you an idea of the variety available. The official discount ticket booth is situated in Leicester Square and usually sells for a range of popular shows.

Tip: Do your research before you visit London, and see a show that’s not being performed anywhere else.

2. The Royal Museums, Greenwichmz3

My museum of choice would be the observatory, which has interesting and stunning exhibitions and shows all year round. Though as an amateur astronomy I may be slightly prejudiced on this! The Astronomy Photographer of the Year is always worth checking out, some really beautiful images, and the shows put on are clearly communicated to be intelligible to those of us who aren’t experts (yet). I’m looking forward to seeing the Visions of the Universe exhibition starting soon.

CL1to5-13. The Sherlock Holmes Museum

I’m not actually sure I will get to this one; at the moment it’s being held in reserve if something gets cancelled. Since I haven’t been before I’m afraid I can’t comment on it. I can however point you towards the website. If I get to go, I promise I will add a constructive comment.

4. The Chocolate Room, HarrowPicture1

I would have been going here for two years if it had been around that long. The Choc Room is an Australian company who’ve just in the last few months opened their first UK branch in Harrow. They have something like 23 different flavours of hot chocolate, plus coffee, smoothies, milkshakes, waffles, individual chocolates, cakes, etc. I was a bit wary of the 23 flavours initially, expecting the syrups that get put in coffee, but the flavours are much subtler and more delicate. The prices are not low, but worth a try.

Tip: ordering the hot chocolate trio gets you three different flavours in shot glasses, so you can see which ones you like before ordering a ‘cuddle cup’ or ‘warming mug’.

5. The British Museumdownload

I went for the third time yesterday, revisiting my favourite rooms: the ancient civilisations, Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the development of clocks and watches. There are many other rooms but it’s tricky to get to everything; it’s a good idea to prioritise your visit. Also, it’s worth peeking in the bookshop/gift shops first: when I first visited, I discovered a book “Around the British Museum with the Bible”, but only on my way out. I don’t think it’s the only example either. On a related note, there’s a small (free) exhibition currently running till October called Coins and the Bible, which is easy to miss as it’s one small room–worth checking out. It’s on Level 3.

Tip: The Egyptian rooms are very popular and can get pretty crowded–try and plan your route round so you’re there during quieter hours of the day, i.e. when it’s not packed with school trips.

jellyfish-sfSpan-v26. Try a new flavour

London is packed with restaurants from all different cultures, if you’re just visiting, take the opportunity to try something new. Since moving to London I’ve tasted for the first time Japanese (my new favourite!), Lebanese and Persian cuisine, as well as rarer dishes such as jellyfish and wild boar. (Though I still refuse to try sashimi–raw fish.)

To the left is my Pin of the week!

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Short, Sweet and Starry

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Pin of the week:

I’m still chewing over some names, for my Conturbus and Not Alone series. I’ve named a place in Crossfire, The Locked Market, but still trying to come up with something original to refer to the magical characters. Like the opposite of a Muggle. Still no inspiration for the Milky Way–going to have to look at some more photos to help with that. Not that I need an excuse to look at space photographs.

Jellyfish For Breakfast

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Thought for the day: I really wish chefs, when adding an unexpected strong flavour to a dish, would say so on the menu, so I don’t have to spend half an hour picking parsley and chilli out of my Chinese takeaway. It’s even more frustrating when said menu uses a ‘hot’ symbol–on other dishes! It’s discriminatory against sensitive tongues. Even more annoying when it’s specifically requested to be left out.

Rant over.

What is the correct way to spell chilli anyway, is it chilli or chili? Is one version American, or a case of Standard English vs colloquial, or what?

The jellyfish was otherwise good–my mouth did start burning but I managed to get through most of it before that. The flavour’s not too strong, and I like the squishy texture, though I can understand some people wouldn’t. Funny thing was I thought I was trying jellyfish for the first time, but once I saw it I was sure I’ve had it before and just forgotten. What am I like …

I’m not just writing about food today. Although I like discussing food, and can’t believe I haven’t written more about it before now. I’m also writing about art, another new topic for today’s post. I’ve been itching for a couple of weeks to paint again, which I haven’t been able to do–for various reasons–since my A-levels, and though I was never sure I was much good, I really enjoyed it.

When I move I have plans to buy a proper artist’s stand and start painting on canvas when the mood takes me, but I’m not sure I can wait that long! I haven’t done any art or crafts, save literally a couple of cards, since beginning uni. I’m a visual as well as lexical artist and I miss it, I really do.

I was struck with an idea the other day when I added in some description to my Not Alone story draft:

A few weeks ago, the alignment would have been a backdrop to a sparkling skyline—literally sparkling, the materials that formed the city’s architecture were crystallised, throwing rainbows over every surface come sundown. Once upon a time, their mother had said, tourists came from all over the galaxy to see it. Now, it was a pile of wreckage; the once-centrepiece, a thousand-floor luxury hotel skyscraper topped with a twelve-foot diamond, the instrument which had crushed their home when it fell, among hundreds of others.

All right, it’s exposition too. But that’s not the point–the point is it struck me that I wanted to paint the scene (before, though possibly after as well). I’m not certain I could do justice to it, there is a reason I’m pursuing a career in writing rather than illustration, but I want to try. I was also thinking about trying to paint other landscapes for the ‘verse.

I’ve also had some thoughts on illustrating The Caterpillar That Stood On Its Head. I might post a sample image when I’m happy with one–but since it would be most practical to try and get that one published traditionally, that’s all you’ll get.

Alien Names?

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I’ve finished a short story (for my Children’s Writing module) set in my–for lack of a better term–Not Alone-verse, which is a science fiction ‘universe’. Up until now I’ve been using temporary character names (never a good idea) and have finally got around to replacing them with the final ones.

Of my two main characters in the story, I have named one, and have come up with two possibilities for the other. They are brother and sister, he is ten and she is fourteen, from a planet that today I named Kcum. (Don’t ask me why.)

I do like my character names to mean something; this can be a problem when plausibly naming aliens, though. So for the girl, Selida, I combined two Earth names (I quote from Louise Nicholson’s The Best Baby Names Book):

Salena
From the Latin, sal, ‘salt, salt water’. Used metaphorically, it means intellectual acuteness, cunning, wit and good sense. To say someone is ‘the salt of the earth’ is to praise qualities of selflessness and common sense.

Nagrida
From the Hebrew, ‘noble, aristocratic woman’

For the boy I’m torn. I picked two names:

Pias
English gypsy name, meaning ‘fun’

Poco
From the Italian, poco, ‘little’

I’ve replaced the P with J, since I wanted to keep the same first letter as his temporary name. I like both variants, and can’t decide between them. Hence, if I’ve understood correctly, underneath should be my first poll!

While on the subject of names, I should probably name the fictional universe this is set in. I’m thinking another way to describe the Milky Way. Any thoughts on that, do comment.

Fan Fiction Newbie?

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I wrote this in an email from a reader asking for advice on starting a fan fiction, and thought I may as well share it with a wider audience.

I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned about writing fanfic is not to start posting prematurely. You may at first be filled with inspiration for a story, write the first chapter and want to expose it to the world right away.

Don’t.

You need to have a good few chapters written already, with plenty of ideas WRITTEN down for the rest of the story (so many times I’ve been sure I won’t forget the next plot twist, but it got lost in the ether), and safe in the knowledge that your inspiration for the story has lasted longer than a few weeks, before even contemplating beginning to post. This is where I went wrong in previous fandoms–in my profile you’ll find many one-chapter wonders that didn’t make it further because I began posting them far, far too soon.

You should usually have an idea how/when to end the story, or at the least a few ideas knocking around that you can choose from as you go. Or, if you’re doing a drabble series, have a few written already with a number of ideas for going further.

So, don’t be premature. Write all you can while the idea’s fresh, but don’t put anything online too soon. If the story’s only a few chapters long, consider writing it in full–and having beta-read, an invaluable investment–before you post. Then when it’s done, don’t post it all at once, wait until the first chapter has disappeared off the ‘recent’ list before posting the next one–you get more readers that way.

Familiarise yourself as much as possible both with canon and fanfic. Research in both areas is important. Re-watch the episodes closest to your story idea, check your facts on wiki, and try searching fanfic archives for fics that may have used the same idea. If you can’t find anything in the latter, be excited, you may be onto something! If there’s plenty of authors who’ve got there first, don’t panic, familiarise yourself with what’s gone first and make sure you do something different.

Getting the summary right is key, especially if the idea has been used before, so if it’s not your thing, ask a beta or an author who’s got good summaries on their fics to help. I think my record is twenty rewrites before I settled on one which worked, so don’t be discouraged if the first attempt isn’t great. Think of them like the blurb on the back of a book–they’ve got to have selling power. The length is a challenge, but can result in very concise and engaging summaries when embraced. FFnet allows quotes from the fic as summaries (not all archives do, I believe) so if you have a line or two in your story which expertly sums it up, by all means use it.

-From a fanficcer who wishes she’d received the same advice seven years ago!

Blog Hop!

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Thank you to MissTiffany for tagging me in the blog hop. I think I’ve figured out what I do now!

What is the (working) title of your book?

Conturbus Chronicles (1): Crossfire

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Good question. It was conceived about a week into NaNoWrimo 2011. I had almost given up participating that year, but then two plot twists came at me suddenly, which gave me a starting point and an end. The rest was pretty much improvised; I took a couple of days to brainstorm some characters, and the rest is history.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA urban fantasy adventure

Which actors and/or actresses would you choose to play your characters in the movie rendition?

I don’t know … I picture Justin as a bit like how Alex Pettyfer was in Stormbreaker, but he’s a bit older now! As for the others, I can’t think of anyone specific. I know I’d want to do as JK Rowling did, and insist on British actors, except the characters who are supposed to have an accent. I could live with Tam being played by an American since she has roots there, though I’d prefer a Brit.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Justin’s quest to find the Conturbus key before the evil Marotte takes him through a world of cape-wearing villains, dragons and vampires*, and magic that’s fully compatible with the latest smartphone.

*Not the sparkly kind!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Too early to say. I read ebooks but I would want my book in print as well, and I can’t see that being financed myself.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

If by first draft that includes the occasional scene in note form and great stretches lacking punctuation or speech tags … about three weeks. However re-reading it, about 60% needs cutting. At present I have a chapter plan, notes for future books in the series, a synopsis and the first chapter in full–so don’t hold your breath.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmm, tricky one. I did tackle this task as part of my writing course–my first chapter and synopsis formed part of my Fiction module–and found it difficult to find something quite in the same vein. The plot’s perhaps closest to the Percy Jackson series, but for older readers and without all the Greek gods.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I have to hand it to JK Rowling, if it weren’t for her I would not be a writer–or to be more precise, I would not be attempting it as a profession. And that’s nothing to do with fame and fortune, I mean her books inspired me, more than I can describe in a few sentences! I’ve been inspired by too many things (more than books) to name–television shows, photographs …

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Psychic scorpions, dragons who don’t look like dragons, a wizard hermit called Hobble, magic carpets and a smartphone app to help you find one … that enough to whet your appetite? And of course it wouldn’t be a London-based fantasy without something wacky happening on the Underground …

Now I pass this Blog Hop along to:

Thank you for reading! I’m sorry to say my novel will be some time in coming, but I’ve heard it said you can’t start talking about it too early …

Closet Superhero

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I promised, so here it is: my Aquila book cover.

Aquila_Cover_withtitleMuch more clearly a mock-up than the previous post, but you get the idea. The leotard probably took me the longest; there were no images on the internet that fit the description I’d already written in the story, so I had to improvise by overlaying a feather clipart image over a plain gold one and cutting out all the white.

Other points of interest: The ‘keep out’ sticker, made from scratch in Photoshop, and my favourite (of course), the star stickers on her wardrobe door, arranged in the constellation that gave Aquila her name.

With regard to my superhero, I’m not certain what I’m going to do with her. Her short story could be expanded into any number of longer works. Watch this space.