Saturday, 14 December 2013

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

Is there a particular movie you just have to watch at Christmas?  Perhaps it's a perennial classic like The Wizard of Oz or White Christmas or A Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol.  Or maybe you prefer more recent fare like Home Alone, Love Actually, The Polar Express or Elf.

My go-to movie to get me in the Christmas spirit is, aptly, a ghost story: The Amazing Mr Blunden.  I first saw this when I was at junior school - it was such a treat to gather in the assembly hall and watch a film instead of doing schoolwork!

A Salvation Army band plays God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman whilst a white-haired man in a top hat and cape walks through a street market as snow falls around him.  He visits a widow and her children to tell them about a job as caretakers of a derelict, partly fire damaged country mansion.  Whilst the mother is out of the room, the man asks Jamie and Lucy if they'd be afraid if they saw a ghost...

Two children were killed in a fire at the mansion one hundred years ago and Mr Blunden wants Jamie and Lucy's help in making amends for that fateful night.

I love, love, love this film.  The cast are perfect, the setting is so atmospheric and the incidental music totally adds to the mood of each scene.

Incidentally, the film is based on a book (see, it's not just recent books like Harry Potter or Twilight that have made it to the big screen).  The Ghosts is by Antonia Barber, and I managed to track down my very own copy of couple of years ago.

What's your favourite movie to watch at Christmas?

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Quest to write a novel in a month

Is it possible to write a novel in a month?  According to Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, as it's affectionately known), it is.  Back in 1999, twenty-one people signed up for the quest and the event has snowballed since then.  NaNoWriMo takes place in November and people all around the world will be squeezing every second out of every day just to achieve their daily wordcount goals - their objective is to write 50,000 words of a new novel this month.

I was toying with the idea of entering, but laptop problems over the last few weeks (big 'grrr!') have made me a little wary (I'm hoping the crashes have been resolved now I've had a new motherboard fitted though).  Anyway, to those who've risen to the challenge, I wish you the very best of luck!  Maybe I'll be joining you next year.

In the meantime, I'll be dipping into the 'No Plot?  No Problem!' book by Chris Baty that I picked up at my local charity shop a little while ago.  (And I'll be wondering if the person who gave the book to the charity shop ever wrote their own 50,000-word novel...)

Have you entered NaNoWriMo this year?  How's your wordcount shaping up so far?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal auction

Remember the Gromit Unleashed trail that took place over the summer in Bristol?  Last night the 80 Gromits went to auction and a staggering £2.3 million was raised for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal.  The top pooch was Gromit Lightyear, designed by Pixar, who sold for £65k, and Bristol Royal Hospital for Children will benefit from the generosity of those bidding.

"Cracking good job, Gromit!"

Gromit Roger
Another Gromit I met on my travels over the summer was Gromit Roger, who was designed by the animation director of Disney's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Richard Williams.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Quest to read 100 YA books (Part 3)

Judging by the number of library books I've borrowed this year, I've already read over 50 books so far in 2013.  I think this is a new record!  Here are my next block of 25 books in my quest to read 100 YA books (Part 1 found here and Part 2 found here).

51) Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
52) Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
53) Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr
54) Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
55) Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr
56) Bumped by Megan McCafferty
57) Thumped by Megan McCafferty
58) The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
59) The Haunting of Tabitha Grey by Vanessa Curtis
60) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
61) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
62) Tempest by Julie Cross
63) Rebel Heart by Moira Young
64) Looking for Alaska by John Green
65) Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
66) Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
67) Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder
68) Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
69) Sea Glass by Maria V. Snyder
70) Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
71) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
72) Where She Went by Gayle Forman
73) Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen
74) Flip by Martyn Bedford
75) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Quest: To Be Continued...

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Write On Con and a sketch of Callie

Write On Con is a fantastic online conference for kidlit writers that takes place over a couple of days each August.  This is the third year I've 'attended' and it keeps getting better and better.  I've particularly been impressed with the live Google Hangouts they've hosted this year (my Twitter pitch was read out and then commented on by an agent, which was pretty cool).  Queries/First 250 words/First 5 pages are workshopped in the forums (in the hope that a Ninja Agent may swoop on by and offer a comment - or request!), and the generosity of the kidlit writing community is amazing.

In particular, I'd like to draw your attention to a fabulous lady called Larua Tisdel who has been working her artistic fingers to the bone these last few days, sketching pics from short descriptions writers posted for their main character.  I threw my hat into the ring, and Larua has sketched Callie, the heroine of my story 'A Shadow Over Nerennor.'

I love seeing my character through someone else's eyes!  Isn't the sketch fantastic?  (I'm so jealous of anyone who can draw like that!)

Here's the link to Larua's DeviantArt gallery, in case you want to check out more of her work (you really should!).

Thursday, 18 July 2013

On the Gromit trail

A Gromit has been Unleashed at Fishponds Library

Yes, that lovable dog from the Aardman Animation films has been unleashed on Bristol in spectacular fashion. EIGHTY giant sculptures of Gromit - decorated by invited artists - can be found on the streets of our fair city and surrounding areas so, if you're visiting Bristol this summer, make sure you participate in the Gromit Unleashed trail and try to spot as many of them as you can.

This particular culprit can be found in Fishponds Library and was decorated by the children of Chester Park Infant School. I think they've done a fantastic job! (And how apt that a Gromit who was decorated with pictures from books winds up in a library.)

The trail runs from July 1st to September 8th, so check it out whilst you're enjoying our unheard-of heatwave this summer!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Quest to find the new Doctor Who

Jealous?  Yes, I have my own TARDIS!
I don't envy the producers of Doctor Who this particular quest. Since the announcement was made earlier this month that Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor) would be leaving the series during the Christmas special this year, the search has been on to find the Twelfth Doctor.

Last time round, Steven Moffat had planned to cast an older actor, but was so taken with Matt Smith's audition that the young actor was chosen instead.  So, will Steven go with that earlier instinct and choose an older actor this time?  We've already seen John Hurt teasingly featured as The Doctor and he's also due to make an appearance in the 50th Anniversary episode on Saturday 23rd November.  Or will Steven defy convention and cast a woman in the role?

I've been a fan of Doctor Who since my childhood - my first Doctor was Four (Tom Baker).  The scarf!  The jelly babies!  K9!  I particularly remember the giant rats in the sewers of London in 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' and an episode where ivy (??) was completely covering an isolated mansion house (no idea what episode that was though).

My 'Ace' badge
So I've avidly kept watching through quite a few Doctors - Peter Davison (Five), Colin Baker (Six), Sylvester McCoy (Seven), Paul McGann (Eight) - of the old series, and was beyond thrilled when Doctor Who was brought back in 2005 with Christopher Ecclestone (Nine).  My favourite of the new series has to be the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.

And, to add to my geekiness, I once dressed up as Ace (one of the Seventh Doctor's companions) to a fancy-dress party.  I don't have any pics of me in my costume (as far as I recall!), but I do still have the badge I made out of Fimo for the occasion.

Are there any particular actors you'd like to see cast as the Twelfth Doctor? Or would you rather a complete unknown was given the role?

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Quest to be selected as a team member for the Writer's Voice 2013 blogfest

Scent of a summer meadow...
Yikes!  Bit of a wordy post title, huh?

I've been fortunate enough to make it through the lottery stage of the Writer's Voice blogfest - yay me!  I now have to post my query and the first 250 words of my YA fantasy novel, A SHADOW OVER NERENNOR, in the hope of getting chosen by one of the judges for the next round.  So, on with the quest!

Here's my query:

A traitor's daughter is one thing Callie isn't.  So when her foster parents are unjustly accused by their overlord and detained, she strikes out across Nerennor to save their necks from the gallows.  Her only recourse is the King.  Trouble is, at sixteen, she's never ventured far across the realm before.  She's barely dented her map before her horse and money are stolen.

With no other option, Callie presses onwards and sings in exchange for overnight shelter at an inn.  There, her bawdy song attracts the attention of cocky woodcarver Rafe; lyrics insulting his tribe will tend to do that.  Oops.  Still, he's amused by her backbone and provides safe passage to the castle--for a price.  But her relief is short-lived when guards bar her way.  If she wins Nerennor's annual tournament, however, she can petition for the King's help at the victory banquet.

Riddles, archery and an ominous hunt through woodlands bring Callie's competitive nature to the fore.  Falling for Rafe, though, is one event she didn't anticipate.  She can't afford his distracting smile now she's pitted against him--and she'll be the traitor if she succumbs to her heart.

Then Callie learns the overlord is using her foster parents as pawns in his own twisted game of high treason.  Unless she reaches the King in time, her loved ones won't be the only ones swinging from the gallows.

A SHADOW OVER NERENNOR is a 96,000-word YA fantasy novel.  Thank you for your consideration.

And here are my first 250 words (rounded up to the end of a paragraph):

The cottage door slammed open, and a wintry draught gusted inside.  Callie jolted awake, nearly falling off the window seat where she’d been keeping watch.  Before she could catch them, her charcoal stick and leather-bound book tumbled from her lap.  Neth’s teeth, how late was it?  She jumped to her feet in a panic.  She’d only meant to rest her eyes for a moment.  Moonlight shone through the window into the sparse room, and the fragrance of grass and wildflowers mingled with the smell of smoke from the dying fire in the hearth.

Strange.  It was still winter--and there were no plants in the cottage--so why did the scent of a summer meadow linger in the air?

The back of her left hand tingled.  She rubbed it, suddenly uneasy; the sensation of icy cold fingers trailing over her skin had been no dream.  And she was certain a girl had spoken.  Whispered words.  “ home soon.  Promise you.”

The door banged again, and her heart thudded.  The door shouldn’t have been swinging in the wind--she’d latched it.

Hope warred against anxiety.

“Is someone there?”  Her mouth was dry, but she forced out her question.  Callie edged towards the threshold, each step she took ripe with promise--or disappointment.  After eight years of this ritual, she didn’t know which she preferred.  She paused in the entranceway and peered into the garden.  An owl hooted.  Her gaze swept the path to the lane beyond.

Silence in the shadows.

No creak of a gate.  No excited cries of greeting.  No crunch of footsteps on the icy path.  The wind caught its breath; nothing stirred.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Quest to read 100 YA books (Part 2)

I've been a bit slack on this lately, haven't I?  (Part 1 found here.)  In no particular order (again), here are my next block of 25:

26) Matched by Ally Condie
27) Crossed by Ally Condie
28) Reached by Ally Condie
29) 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
30) The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
31) Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
32) Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
33) Specials by Scott Westerfeld
34) Extras by Scott Westerfeld

35) Lock & Key by Sarah Dessen
36) Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
37) How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
38) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
39) Numb3rs by Rachel Ward
40) Numb3rs 2: The Chaos by Rachel Ward
41) Numb3rs 3: Infinity by Rachel Ward
42) I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
43) The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

44) Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
45) Starters by Lissa Price
46) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
47) One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke
48) Blood Red Road by Moira Young
49) It Didn’t Happen by Sandra Glover
50) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Quest: To Be Continued...

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bat Hunting Quest

Armed with my trusty torch, I joined the Avon Bat Group for a bat search in Lincombe Barn Wood.  First, we were given a talk about different types of bats, the sounds they make, and facts about them (for example, did you know they're not really blind and they don't get caught up in your hair?).

As twilight fell, bat detectors were handed out - one for each of the 25 folks who'd gathered for the walk.

The bat detector - looks pretty nifty, huh?

We set our bat detectors to the 'bat frequency' (yeah, I always thought that was from the Batman films) and off we went.  Our trail led us along the river and it wasn't long before the first ultrasounds of a pipistrelle (the most common type of British bat) were heard (the bat detectors turn the ultrasound into sound we can hear).  We turned off our torches (bats are nocturnal (duh) and don't like the light) and listened for more bats.

We heard some noctules (the UK's biggest type of bat), as well as more pipistrelles (which we spotted flying low over the river).  We tried to find some horseshoes (cute, furry bats), but they didn't make an appearance.

Sadly, I didn't manage to take a photo of any of the bats we saw (it was too dark), but here's a shot of the twilight sky for you!

Quest: successful!  Thanks, Avon Bat Group.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow day!

The whole country is blanketed in white today.  Trudged all the way into work (took an hour and five minutes to cover approx. 4 miles) only to find they'd shut the place (& had since updated the out-of-office message from when I'd checked earlier, letting people know).

Still, I took some lovely pics on the walk, and I'd always wondered how long it would take me to walk to work anyway, so now I know!

I took a more leisurely walk back home (stopping off at the shops to stock up, so I don't need to go shopping tomorrow now), and flaked out when I got home.  Methinks my legs will be protesting tomorrow!

Quite a few people had their sledges out on the hills, and there were few cars on the road (several were having difficulties as I was walking to work, so I was glad I hadn't driven).

I saw a postman out on his deliveries, wearing knee-length shorts (mad fool!), and council workers were out gritting some of the pavements.  I thought most schools would be closed, but there was an infant school I passed which had children out playing in the schoolyard.
Roll on more snow days next week!

Did you have a snow day today, or did you have to make the trek to work/school/wherever?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Have you made any New Year's resolutions?  According to this article, the top one for Brits this year is to read more books (hopefully not the old ones in the pic though!).  This is one resolution I don't need to make.

Last year I read 65 Young Adult books from my library (as well as several I bought, plus a few beta reads), so I think 2012 was quite a productive year!

And, yes, at some point I will add an update to my 'Quest to read 100 YA books' entry.