Saturday, 28 April 2012

Quest to read 100 YA books (Part 1)

My Andrew Lang 'Fairy' book collection
Read.  Read.  Read.

I've always loved reading.  When I was at junior school, my dad brought home some Famous Five books that a work colleague's children no longer wanted, and I devoured them (new books were a rarity in our household unless it was for a birthday or Christmas present).  I also went to the library regularly, and I remember being enthralled with Andrew Lang's 'Fairy' books (so much so that, many years later, I tracked 'em down and added these books to my collection).

When I started getting serious about writing for young adults, I thought I'd better familiarise myself with the YA scene (and, y'know, YA fiction is fun!).  Besides, reading totally counts as research, doesn't it?

So, in no particular order, here are the YA (or not so YA) books I've read in the last year or so.  I'm trying to hit 100 (but I don't think I'm quite there yet).  Here are the first 25:-

1) Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James
2) Entangled by Cat Clarke
3) Torn by Cat Clarke
4) Angel by L A Weatherly
5) Angel Fire by L A Weatherly
6) He's After Me by Chris Higgins
7) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
8) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
9) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
10) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
11) The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
12) The Host by Stephenie Meyer
13) The Ghosts by Antonia Barber
14) Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
15) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
16) Mistwood by Leah Cypess
17) A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly
18) Girl in the Attic by Valerie Mendes
19) Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher
20) The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen
21) Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie
22) Sister, Missing by Sophie McKenzie
23) The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
24) Bad Alice by Jean Ure
25) Shadow of the Wolf by Andrew Matthews

Quest: To Be Continued...

What books are you reading?  Have you read any of the books mentioned in the list?  Which was your favourite?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

It's a sign, I tell you

My PVR can be temperamental at times.  I don't know whether it's the particular model or the transmission signals, but I experience glitches on certain channels. BBC channels seem to be fine, but others have little blips where fractions of seconds (or longer) get skipped.  It also depends how full the HDD is at the time, as well.

Anyway, I was watching The Reader the other day.  I'd watched it before, but the glitches and blips from my previous recording meant I wasn't able to follow the story as completely as I would have liked (I know, I know - I should just invest in a new PVR, lol), so I figured I'd give it another try.  I'm glad I did as there was one particular scene I missed before.

Ralph Fiennes has just stepped out onto his balcony after being told Kate Winslet (in her Oscar-winning performance) would be released from prison.  Here's a pic for you:-

Ralph Fiennes in The Reader

Now, I expect you're wondering what the significance is, aren't you?  Would it make things clearer if I explained I named my main male character in my manuscript after Ralph (he pronounces it 'Rafe', which is how I spell my character's name)?  And would it make it clearer if I told you that my Rafe is part of a nomadic group of people that go by the name of 'Roamers'?

It's a sign, I tell you - a (literal) sign!

Have there been any moments when you've been given a sign?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Quest for the Meaning of Life

Life is one big quest, isn't it? If we've been around long enough, we start searching for meaning in our existence. Why am I here? Do I matter? What's the purpose of my life? Do I fit into some big, master plan?

Like most people, I struggle with these questions. But, as a Christian, I know my life has a purpose in God's plans. The hard part is figuring out what that purpose is.

What has He got planned for me? Well, I love writing and I'd like to think God gave me that passion for a purpose. It has long been a dream of mine to be a published author one day. I wrote a couple of novels when I was a teen (one was a rip-off of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon (I loved that show), and the
Best.  Cartoon Series.  Ever.
other was a YA fantasy that, when I read through it now, makes me glad nobody else had to endure it - some things are better off never seeing the light of day!). Then I joined a drama group, and writing plays became my new focus (several of which have now been performed by the group). As I've always loved watching films, a natural progression was to attempt a screenplay or two. One particular one was a fantasy entitled 'Quest Seekers Unleashed'*, and I entered it in several screenplay competitions, but didn't get anywhere.

Over the years, the story (and the characters) refused to go away though, and my thoughts turned to developing it into a YA novel instead (thus returning to my first writing love). After a few false starts, I eventually had a first draft on my hands. Many, many long months have been spent polishing the manuscript (with the help of several fabulous readers who pointed out ways to improve the story), and I'm now trying to find an agent for my literary baby.

There's a quote which goes, 'Sacrifice is the ecstasy of giving the best we have to the One we love the most'. I'm not sure who the quote is by, but it resonates with me. I've written my book to the best of my ability and given it to God. If He wants to take it further, it's His call.

A few weeks ago, something I read in 'The Purpose Driven Life' by Rick Warren really spoke to me. It's at the end of Chapter/Day 30, 'Shaped for Serving God':-

We have all heard people say, "I took a job I hate in order to make a lot of money, so someday I can quit and do what I love to do."  That's a big mistake.  Don't waste your life in a job that doesn't express your heart.  Remember, the greatest things in life are not things.  Meaning is far more important than money.  The richest man in the world once said, "A simple life in the fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches."**

Don't settle for just achieving "the good life", because the good life is not good enough.  Ultimately it doesn't satisfy.  You can have a lot to live on and still have nothing to live for.  Aim instead for "the better life" - serving God in a way that expresses your heart.  Figure out what you love to do - what God gave you a heart to do - and then do it for his glory.***

I don't know what my future holds, but I've seen the way God has worked in my past, so I'm trusting Him for my future.  I am right where God wants me to be, and what more could I ask than that?

*Yup, that's where the Unleashed bit ties in to my previous blog entry.

** Proverbs 15 v 16 (Msg)

**Taken from 'The Purpose Driven Life' by Rick Warren.  Copyright (c) 2002 by Rick Warren.  Use by permission of Zondervan under the Fair Use policy.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Quest Seekers now Unleashed*

I hate drawing attention to myself.  In a group, I'm the one sitting alongside you, listening and nodding along.  I'll only chip in if I've got something to say.

Big Time Introvert.

So it's kinda funny to be starting a blog.  But, hey, this is just between me and my computer (right?), and if there's one thing I'm good at, it's writing.

But back to drawing attention to myself - or not, as the case may be.  In public, I'm much better not being myself.  Give me a script and I shine.  For over half my life, I've been acting with - and writing for - an amateur drama group.  Favourite roles include Elvira in Blythe Spirit, Julia Darrow in Dead Guilty, and Wren in Cinderella II: the Ugly Sisters Strike Back!  (Yeah, that last one was one of mine.)

Elvira in Blythe Spirit (the make-up was murder to wash off afterwards!)

So watch out for the quiet ones in your classroom or work place or church or wherever.  They might surprise you one day.

*Yup, there's a reason there's a capital 'U'.  I'll get to that in another blog.  :o)