Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Previously...


Welcome to April's edition of Previously... You're all invited to join in this blog hop and I'd love to hear how you're all doing :)

And yay, spring is here!


Previously in Writing

Hmmm... well, I am writing... It's still too early to tell if it'll be an entire new book or if it's just something fun for now. However, editing became hugely important this month, even if it was Conspiracy of Echoes and not Book 2 as I expected... Wherever the muse goes, I follow...

Previously in Reading

I read a few books, but the one I want to talk about is So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. It's about how people can use Twitter to provide social commentary and justice, and the dark side of that. Like, it's one thing to take on a massive social issues like police brutality, but a totally different situation when someone posts what they consider to be a joke but Twitter at large decides is proof that person is the scum of the universe. Spoiler alert - a single tweet doesn't reveal the depths and complexities of an individual human being.

These people are then shamed not only off the internet, but frequently out of jobs. When you put the tweet in context, you can't help but feel sorry for them. Or at least I did. Depends upon your perspective, I suppose.

Chances are you'll have heard of some of the people involved. And if you haven't, you'll be able to think of an online shaming incident. The book really forces you to think "wow, did this person deserve to have their life shattered because of one tweet?" It's so easy to hop on the shaming bandwagon when Twitter explodes in a frenzy. It feels so righteous to point and judge when someone's done something silly for the entire world to see. It's easy to forget there's a human being with an entire life behind that Twitter account. And like I said, it's one thing when people use Twitter to get justice from some faceless organisation, but when people heap shame and derision upon people they have never and will never meet, you have to take a step back.

Twitter has a lot of strengths and it can change lives for the better. For me and a lot of people it's a way to join wonderful online communities. Unfortunately for others, it also has the ability to ruin lives over silly mistakes. I highly recommend So You've Been Publicly Shamed to all Twitter users.

(Oh, and yes, I have read The Raven King. My opinion is all over the place for reasons I absolutely won't put here. Generally speaking, I think I just prefer more to the point story telling. As beautifully written as this series is, the first book is the only one that has any sense of plot or pacing. The others kinda just exist in a cloud of very pretty words when STUFF sometimes happens. This series works so well as a character-driven piece for the main four characters, but at the cost of everything else. Except in the first book. That struck a perfect balance.)

Next Time In Goals

Writing Goal:
I definitely want to keep working on my new idea and see where it goes... At the moment, it feels very much like a just-for-me project, but who knows! I'm off on a big adventure in May, so maybe inspiration for something totally new will strike...

Music Goal: May will be a month of music theory, I think. Right up until my brain dribbles out of my ear :P

A Word of Advice

Determination is your best friend. If you want something to happen in life, you need to make it happen. Never give up!


Leave your link below!

Monday, 25 April 2016

Querying - You're Not Missing Your "Chance" By Waiting

Querying is a huge deal for any writer. Simply making it to this stage is a massive success worthy of celebration.


But sometimes you can be so excited, you start querying too soon because you see a tweet or a blog post from an agent on their Manuscript Wishlist page asking for something along the lines of what you've written and you think They have to have my book RIGHT NOW otherwise I'll miss my chance! TO MY E-MAIL ACCOUNT!!!!!! GOOOOOO!!!

I am very guilty of getting overexcited and impatient and submitting too soon. HOWEVER!!!!!!!!! I would like to say there is an upside to this because I've been fortunate enough to get some amazing agent feedback on my work that I've been able to apply. I never would've picked up on what they suggested myself, so I definitely don't regret getting a little ahead of myself.

It's important to remember querying is a process and your book can and perhaps should evolve. Just make sure you feel certain you're sending off your best work, rather than rushing into it and hoping for the best.

I think that feeling of "If I don't do it now it'll be too late!" can be really magnified if a lot of the other writers you know are already querying or taking part in contests but you're not at the stage. Agents don't have a set quota ("that's a new client this year and I shall take NO MORE!") and people going ahead of you won't fill it.

Maybe there is a window for a certain type of book, and yes, agents are thinking in business terms when they read work submitted to them, but every agent I've ever listened to or read an interview from has also said it's about the writing. An amazingly well written book will get noticed. But it's up to you to make sure that book is brilliant to begin with, and maybe giving yourself a little more time before diving into querying is exactly what your book needs.

See you all Wednesday for this month's Previously!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Monthly Soundtrack Reviews - Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony CD

Soundtrack: Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary
Album Art Source
Year: 2011
Composer: Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Kenta Nagata, Hajime Wakai, Asuka Ota, Shiho Fujii,
Mahito Yokota, Takeshi Hama and Manaka Tominaga.
Stand Out Track: Gerudo Valley (Or, you know, the whole album)
Works Well With: Fantasy, heroic quests 

Given that I loved Symphony of the Goddesses at the start of this month, I knew I had to review this album today. Alas, getting your hands on it might prove tricky. I got mine with my copy of Skyward Sword in 2011. If you can get it, you should. If not, well, you should attend the concert because hearing this music live is amazing. Listening to this brings back all sorts of new memories now!

The album opens with an epic mash up of themes. I love the rendition of the music from Spirit Tracks. Listen to those opening notes and you'll really get a sense of momentum. And it goes so well with Dragon Roost Island from Wind Waker. The two tracks both have upbeat but urgent feels to them. You're really feel like you're on a journey. They're held together with the main Zelda theme and the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past. They all come together in a thrilling piece of music.

There are two main symphonic arrangements on the album - Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. Both capture their games in the span of ten minutes. Wind Waker starts out with a fairly medieval sounding piece of music, reminding us of the lore the entire world is built on. From there, we move into the game's cheekier, lighter nature. There's a distinct nautical feel to those long, sweeping notes. You'll feel like you're traversing the ocean, and that ocean will take you to battles with the world's most terrible monsters. You have to work for that triumphant ending, but it's worth it.

While the Wind Waker theme is definitely lighter, the Twilight Princess symphony stays with the game's far darker tone. The choir in this piece still gives me chills. Just listen to the crescendo at the 0:54 mark. Wow. And from there it moves into this slower, mysterious piece with a distinctly ominous tone. And yet there are little flickers of light throughout. Yes, this is a more tragic story than other Zelda games (except Majora's Mask), but it's not without its moments of joy. The Hyrule theme bursts out determinedly. There's a moment of happiness, right until the choir pulls you back into the battle until, the the very end, you emerge into the light.

...I need to play Twilight Princess again right now.

Kakariko Village, Great Fairy Fountain Theme, Gerudo Valley, The Legend of Zelda Main Theme and Ballad of the Goddess are the album's shorter pieces. Kakariko feels like a bustling country town. The harps of the Fairy theme are soothing and restful. Gerudo Valley is spectacular. The Zelda Main Theme is bold. The Ballad starts so gently before it gains its adventurous spirit. All of these shorter pieces are every bit as marvellous as the longer symphonic arrangements. I love them all.

The whole album acts as a tour of the Zelda universe. Whether you've played the games or not, you will love the power of this music. If you're struggling to find inspiration, there is something here for you. Want a lighter mood? Go with Windwaker, Kakariko and Ballad of the Goddess. Looking to take on a terrible evil? You need to hear Twilight Princess.

This year is the Zelda franchise's 30th anniversary, and I am hopeful that we'll get a new game and a new album to celebrate. Pretty please, Nintendo? :D

Friday, 22 April 2016

Editing. Editing Never Ends...


Apologies for not posting this on time. I've been a one woman editing machine this week. 

Distance from a manuscript can be a wonderful thing. It takes your mind, imagination and emotions out of the story and allows you to return to it in a more objective manner. I don't know about you guys, but this is something I can struggle with. I just get SO DAMNED EXCITED OMG YAY that I can't always get the distance I need...

Until now. Probably because I gave it ten months.

Based on agent feedback, I decided to go back and rewrite sections of Ghost!Story (better know now as Conspiracy of Echoes). In doing so, I proved beyond a doubt you could edit a book forever and never be done with it. But given that I haven't looked at it in that kind of depth in a while, I was able to spot things I'd missed before, things agents had noticed. I added two new opening chapters, sprinkled extra foreshadowing, and cleaned up teeny weeny little errors I'd missed (hello, random stray commas). I'm well aware I could go back in another ten months and do the same thing, but for now I think I've created an even stronger version of this story.

When I was at YALC last year, one thing that both agents and authors running workshops kept saying was you are never done editing. The agents talked about how their authors might think they're done, but they're not. This is something I really appreciate now. If an agent represents Conspiracy of Echoes (pretty please? :D), I know I'll have even more work ahead of me. But for now, it's time to send out the next batch of queries.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Miss Cole's Tea Time - Queen's 90th Birthday Tea


To celebrate Her Majesty's 90th birthday, Twinings have released a special edition tea. I picked this up at Heathrow on my way to the US last month. What can I say, my response to flight cancellations is to buy so much tea, the USA's TSA felt the need to search my suitcase :P I'm sorry, American security people. I just really like tea! I am that English stereotype.

The tea is a blend of leaves from three Commonwealth countries. It has such a sweet scent. This translates into a light taste that's perfect for the afternoon. The Kenyan and Sri Lankan teas add a gentle touch to the Assam. I like to think someone reaching their 90th birthday will find this tea to be a very relaxing way to celebrate with a good slice of cake. For those of us who are a few years short, I think it makes an excellent accompaniment to editing.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Surviving Flight Delays for Writers


I recently had a rather bad spell of luck where planes and flying are concerned. Sometimes, your flights will be delayed and you'll have to sit around the airport for a while. Other times, your flights will be cancelled and... you'll have to sit around airports for a while waiting for alternate flights. Sometimes, you'll have unexpected visits to other airports not originally part of your journey and... yeah... okay, by that point I was MEGA sleep deprived so I wasn't exactly in prime writing condition but...

Wait... Let's not get off topic.

I for one will be quite happy not to sit at an airport again for the foreseeable future, but for any of you lovely people who may, like myself, be forced to encounter unexpected delays to your journeys, I have a few tips.
  • Be prepared for delays and cancellations before you go and carry some editing or your current WiP on a laptop.
  • Carry a notebook to write in - maybe scenes from a WiP or new ideas.
  • People watch. Airports are full of fascinating people you can be inspired by.
  • Write a story that involves a flight delay... (Mine will be a horror :P)
  • Alternatively, buy a new book. When you're hours into a flight delays, sometimes your brain may straight up refuse to concentrate on writing. Thank goodness for airport bookshops!
Do you have any flight trouble survival tips?

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Concert Review - Symphony of the Goddesses


Last night, my friend Laura and I went to Symphony of the Goddesses, a Legend of Zelda concert with symphonic arrangements of music from the series. It was amazing just how much they crammed in! Plus we were given three encores. Wow! What a brilliant night.

This was my first concert outside of the UK, and I got to go with my best friend. Fun story; the reason I had to go to this performance with Laura, rather than the far more local one in London later this month, is because her dad tweeted me this last year:

I made up my mind there and then that LAURA AND I HAD TO GO TOGETHER!

So we did ;) And it was well worth travelling for! Attending a concert with your best friend means you've got someone to be super excited with before and someone to squee with afterwards. We're both fans, and Twilight Princess is especially nostalgic because we played it back when we were at college together at UNC.

The concert was perfect.

The audience in the US were every bit as enthusiastic as the audiences I've been a part of back home in the UK. We videogame music fans have a shared passion no matter where we come from. It was so lovely to see families attending, too. A series like Zelda really can cross the generations. There were a lot of adorable Links and Zeldas in the crowd.

We were treated to symphonic arrangements from Ocarina of Time, Triforce Heroes, Wind Waker, A Link Between Worlds, A Link to the Past, Twilight Princess, Majora's Mask and Skyward Sword. We were also given an amazing battle theme medley, Prelude - Creation of Hyrule, a heart-pounding rendition of Gerudo Valley, and the Song of Time. I cannot lie - there were tears. The moment the title theme from Ocarina of Time sang out, I was in pieces. It was just so beautiful, and a definite highlight for me. As Laura said, I didn't know I had so many feelings about that game until I heard that music again.


When the orchestra powered through Gerudo Valley, they fired up every single person in that arena. You could feel the thrill in the air. If you are a Zelda fan, you need to hear that performed live. And hearing the Prelude was incredibly powerful. It brought the creation myth of Hyrule to life in a way I've never experienced before.

Every piece took me through the games again. I felt everything. I think part of the reason videogame music is so emotive is because you are in control of the journey. It's not just the character's story, it's yours, too. It's why the music can pull you in and evoke so many feelings.

Like the Distant World concerts, Symphony of the Goddesses uses in-game footage while the orchestra plays. However, the screen not only showed scenes from the games, it also allowed us to hear messages from Koji Kondo, the composer, Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Legend of Zelda, and Eiji Aonuma, the producer. It was great to hear what the music means to them, and how happy they are to be able to share it with us in this way. The screen also gave us up close images of the orchestra and choir, which I really enjoyed. We could really see and appreciate the talented musicians. And I was thrilled to hear a choir again.  They added an extra layer of drama and urgency. Their powerful voices rose above the orchestra, especially during the Twilight Princess symphonic arrangement. It gave me chills.


I highly recommend this concert. Be sure to check the link I posted at the top of the review to see when it's coming near you. My fellow UK fans can go to the concert in London on the 23rd of this month. Go, go, go! You will have the time of your life.