Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Birth of a Novel - sort of, anyway

Today, I'm a Winner.

Yes, you read correctly. I finished my NaNo-Experience of the year at 50,800 words. Good thing, too, since I won't be able to do any writing tomorrow! 

Just over 50 000 words of utter nonesense, now that I'm re-reading it, but it's there, so YAY! I went ahead and ordered myself a Winner T-Shirt. Spend when you're winning, I say. The story, as it stands, will probaby live at the bottom of my endless story drawer (endless coz the stories will never end - get it, huh, huh?), never again to see the light of day until I'm brave enough to do a re-write. 

Instead of touching that particular story now, I'm off to work on last year's NaNo, instead. I'm even considering the whole write one, sub one thing for next year - that's like NaNo all year long, pressure wise. 

No idea if I'll dare, but maybe...who knows...

Thank you to everyone who popped in on my sporadic blogposts - I love you guys!!! 


And special hello and thanks to my fellow Birth-of-a-Novel-ers - sorry I've been so uncommunicative, but not updating my wordcount regularly and being offline a lot helped me get to the end this year. I'm gonna go say hi to you now....

Angela H. Anna M. Brooke Busse Charity Bradford Elizabeth Davis Elizabeth Poole Fida Islaih Huntress Jen McConnel Lena Hoppe Mia Hayson Miranda Hardy Nyxie Moon Tessa C Zoe Photobucket

Monday, 21 November 2011

Monday Music - Jessica Bell

Given yesterday's Jessica Bell/String Bridge Fest (please do go check out the interview and the review), here's some of her music:


Sunday, 20 November 2011

String Bridge by Jessica Bell - A Review

Yesterday I interviewed Jessica Bell, author of Spring Bridge. Today, I'm going to talk about her book...

String Bridge by Jessica Bell
(spoiler-free review, so no worries!)

Published:  Lucky Press, LLC on Nov 1st 2011

Source: ARC from the author

Blurb (as per String Bridge Website)

Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage—and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits, and she realizes she's been seeking fulfilment in the wrong place.


Music is the shadow of thought. 
page 7

What I thought: 

String bridge is an unusual book, and certainly not for the faint of heart. The story pulls you in - no, Melody does - and you fall right into Melody's world. The language is poetic and lyrical, so much so that music seems a character in it's own right, a player in the game of Melody's life as much as she herself is. Everything around her seems to be conspirint to stifle Melody's dreams and hopes, people around her are fairly drowning in their own problems, and Melody is left more or less to her own devices. Every day problems combine with more serious ones to form obstacles in Melody's path. 

Life is not what she would have planned for herself, and reading her story, you can feel her trying to find herself again, see her discovering bits and pieces of who she was and who she is now. This book is a story of a path taken that leads off the plotted course and into Melody's very self. 

Melody isn't perfect, and her life even less so compared to what she thought it would be, but she's a sympathetic character nonetheless. It's well worth taking the journey with her -  if you dare. 

I'm not going to go into details, plot wise - I don't want to spoil anything for you! 

What you should consider: 

Like I said, this book is not for the faint of heart. This is no airy romance or guess-along mystery. This is a powerful, emotional and very poetic book about one woman's journey to find herself, and perhaps even find her dreams. Be prepared for a serious and engrossing read (as well as seriously engrossing ; P). 

Jessica Bell has also published a soundtrack to the book (of her own devising - she's a musician as well as an author and poet), which you should definately consider buying along with the book! 

My rating: 

(8 out of 10 cupcakes)


String Bridge on...

Soundtrack on...

Find Jessica here:


Say Hi to Jessica Bell, author of String Bridge

First of all, I suck. I was supposed to post this yesterday, but - guess what - epic #Tessafail once again. (I've stopped trying to schedule things because it ALWAYS goes wrong somehow)

Jessica, I'm SOOO SOORRY!!

Welcome to Interview Saturday @ Tessa's Blurb! (*edit: OKAY so technically it's Sunday now, just imagine it were still Saturday!)

And doesn't that sound nice? Maybe I should make it a feature... ; P

I have a special treat for you today - Jessica Bell, writer and blogger extraordinaire, author of the recently released String Bridge, has been so kind as to let me interview her today. She's been busy busy busy this past month, zipping back and forth on her String Bridge tour, so I've decided to forgo the usual interview questions and ask her something DIFFERENT! HA!

But first, here's a little something about Jessica:

Jessica Bell is a literary women's fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter who grew up in Melbourne, Australia, to two gothic rock musicians who had successful independent careers during the '80s and early '90s.

She spent much of her childhood travelling to and from Australia to Europe, experiencing two entirely different worlds, yet feeling equally at home in both environments. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and works as a freelance writer/editor for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as HarperCollins, Pearson Education and Macmillan Education.

In addition to String Bridge, Jessica has published a book of poetry called Twisted Velvet Chains. A full list of poems and short stories published in various anthologies and literary magazines can be found under Published Works & Awards, on her website.

From September 2012 Jessica will be hosting the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.

And now, the questions.... 

Tessa: Hello Jessica! Thank you for taking the time to pop in on my blog and answer my questions. Let's get right to the meat of it, shall we? You write about music with such poetry that it seems to me this must be something very, very close to your heart - both music and poetry, that is. So here's my first question - if you had to choose one single instrument - voice and pen included - what would you want to be? (I write fantasy stories, remember ; ) )

JessicaHa! I hate these sorts of questions. I guess it would be my voice, because then I could sing and tell someone else what to write for me 

Tessa: Sneaky! And what if you could do only one thing, music or writing? Or are they so intertwined for you that they're one and the same? 

Jessica: Definitely intertwined. What are you trying to do to me, Tessa? You’re as cheeky as Tessa is in my novel

Tessa: Good to know I live up to the name! You live in Athens - do you find your surroundings inspiring? Or maybe something Greek just 'sneaks' into your writing, on occasion? Or do you think your writing would be the same if you lived somewhere else?

JessicaI think being here is definitely inspiring. Sometimes I’m actually afraid I might forget how English speakers interact, because Greeks use their hands a lot.

Tessa: As a writer, I find myself reading a lot. More than a lot, in fact... ; P Is it like that for you? Do you have a favourite read, ever? Poetry, lyrics, novels - is there something you read, over and over again, something you can't leave on the shelf? 

Jessica: Everyone has asked me this! Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. Read it cover to cover numerous times and each time I’ve gotten something new out of it.

Tessa: Oh no! And here I wanted to be original. Ah well. Housekeeping? I don't think I've heard of that one before. I'll have to look it up! Ok, so at the risk of not being original... Do you have a favourite place and time to write? I'm partial to the local coffe shop, myself - whenever I can spare an hour or so. Or maybe you stay at your desk, approach it like a job and write for a set amount of time? 

Jessica: I love writing in my purple and blue office, but I never approach it like a job. I write when I feel like it. But I can’t just sit and write for an hour. If I sit down to write I want to be able to dedicate an entire day to it.

Tessa: The whole day, really? That's dedication! I can only write for a couple of hours at a time before my muse runs screaming. Okay, one last question and I'll leave you to go write... What, exactly, is a "biriki"*?

Jessica: It’s a little pot that you make Greek coffee in!

Tessa: Ah! That explains a lot. I should know that, really, considering my addiction to coffee! Thank you, Jessica, for answering my questions, good luck this book and with all your future writing! 

Tune in again tomorrow (*edit: later today) for a review of Jessica's debut novel, String Bridge. 

* it's mentioned in the book

You should also visit Jessica's wonderful BLOG and her WEBSITE. There's a Book Website, too.

Other interesting interviews with Jessica:

Madeline Sharples (interview/review)
Emily White (interview)
Pam Torres  (review/interview)

If you want to buy the book, you can do so here:





Friday, 18 November 2011

Friday Fiction - Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Many of you out there in the blogging world may already know Ms Mafi and her wonderful blog or her Twitter escapades (@taherehmafi). You can also find her on her website.

Well, her first book has just come out and I'm thrilled to announce that I

  1. pre-ordered it
  2. received it on Wednesday
  3. read it on Wednesday, in the bath, oblivious to the fact that the water had gone cold around me
  4. LOVED IT and yet....
  5. and am now reviewing it
You should probably know that I always read books all the way through before giving the review any depth of thought at all. I read it, liked it, then thought about the details and this is what I came up with...

(carefull spoilers ahead!)

Published:  15th November 2011, Harper Collins 

Source:  pre-ordered off Amazon

Blurb/book description (as per Amazon):

"You can't touch me," I whisper.
I'm lying, is what I don't tell him.
He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him.
But things happen when people touch me.
Strange things.
Bad things.
No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans of her own.


"You can't touch me" 
Juliette, at various points in the book

What I thought: 

First of all: I absolutely had to finish it. That's aways a good thing - but then again, it was rather easy to read through it in one go. I did like it. But...

Well. Compared to other dystopian YA novels out there, Ms Mafi's book stands out in style, but not necessarily in plot. I was thinking X-Men through a lot of it (there's a girl that can't touch anyone in there, right?). The idea is a great one, and the book starts off great, too, but I did find it somewhat lacking in depth. 

I'm of two minds as to the style used - strike-throughs and numbers and sentences that are pretty much stream-of-thought for Juliette, or perhaps diary entries (first person present, in case you were wondering). On the one hand, it eminently fits Juliette and lets you see her as she is, but on the other, it is a bit odd. I kinda liked it, but it took some reading to get to the point where I didn't consciously notice the oddities anymore, just the story and the mood created. To be fair, this kind of "gimmick"(as one Amazon.com reviewer called it) seems to be quite fashionable right now. About as fashionable as distopian YA novels, I guess. I'm not - in general - a fan of those (I didn't like The Hunger Games, either), but I know many people are (more about that in What I thought of the Setting).  

What I thought of the characters: 

Juliette's mind is a little shattered, much like the title, and it's reflected in the way she tells the story (that's the style thing I'm of two minds about). I'm not entirely sure I like her, though. While she's well drawn, I had the impression she sort of floated through the story, emotionally speaking. She does pull herself together a bit by the end, which is good - she's much more convincing at the end than at the beginning. 

So she got abandoned by her parents - that wasn't really explained to my satisfaction, and I'd have liked to be clearer on the timeline of what happened. She was bullied in school, then there was that incident with the kid that put her in government hands and outed her lethal touch? Or the other way around, but then why was she suddenly given away by her parents? When, exactly, did people find out about her 'talent'? Maybe the (inevitable, given the end) sequel will clear that up. 

And the actual touch thing? She's so afraid of it - everyone's so afraid of it they lock her away for 264 days without touch - that it overpowers pretty much everything else she may feel/think. I know that's probably the point but after a while it bothered me that she didn't seem capable of focusing on anything other than that and how nice Adam is/isn't. 

And Adam is nice. He's the love interest, and he can touch her, too (YAY for love). And he appears to be on her side.... then not...then yes...well, let's say it's a major plot point. 

Then there's the bad guy, Warner. He's actually the best-drawn and most convincing of the characters, and I kind of liked him, in a twisted sort of way. He's both the major villain of the piece (Reestablishment aside) and, at the same time, the major rival for Adam. At least in theory - the idea is there but the setup on Juliette's side is lacking. Who knows, maybe there'll be some redeemable features to him in the sequel that will give this kind of plotline more credibility. 

For comic relief (of a sort) there's Kenji, who makes a brief (insulting) appearance early on and then comes back later. He makes (sometimes tasteless) jokes, comes on to Juliette, and turns out to have a bit of information they really, really need. Uhm yea.

What I thought of the setting: 

This book is dystopian, yes, but only in a very schematic way. General dystopian features are there (they're hungry, government wants control, book burning, etc) but it's not really convincing and at times a little too preacher-y for my tastes. But then I'm not a fan of dystopian fiction anyhow, so maybe I'm not the best judge. 

The start-up setting - the cell - was well thought out, though it appeared a little large to be truly intimidating (they fit two beds in there, didn't they?). Then there's the going-to-the-shower scene that seemed kind of pointless if to me. So what happened if she wasn't fast enough? Why make her go there in darkness? I guess it was supposed to build up the intimidation of the "prison" but it lacked something for that in my opinion. 

The last bit, the bit 'opposition' to the Reestablishment, seemed somewhat contrived. What, they've always been there? Why not act earlier? Or did I misunderstand and this really is some resistance movement rather than a kind of we-are-the-last-of-mankind place where all the "gifted" and their hangers-on end up, protected from the Reestablishment? Again, I have hopes for the sequel...

What I think you should consider: 

If you're a huge dystopian YA fantasy fan, go ahead and buy this. It's easy to read (once you get past the stylistic stuff) and certainly light entertainment. It's mainly romance, though, not so much dystopian society going on. Maybe this will be revealed in a sequel - which, judging by the end of the book, will have to come eventually. If you really, really don't like not having things explained, maybe wait for the sequel and then read them together. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, you may like this book, but don't expect quite so complex a society here. The dystopian setting is just that, a setting, and not a pseudo-character like it is in The Hunger Games or similar books. The setting could just as easily be the 'ordinary world'.

All in all, though, I liked Tahereh Mafi's debut novel, and if you like YA romantic fantasy, do go ahead and have a read.  

Quite apart from all that, do go visit her blog, it's fantastic. 


6 out of 10 cupcakes...


Friday, 11 November 2011

Birth of a Novel or How Tessa is Rubbish at Keeping Up

Major Tessa Fail, here.

I meant to do this post on Tuesday. It's Friday today. What is wrong with me! And it's only Week 2 of NaNoWriMo, so no excuses there.

Although, come to think of it, Monday is about where my NaNo's at, wordcount wise. I'm at least 8000 words behind, and no hope of catching up any time soon. Maybe ever. NaNo keeps telling me that at this rate I will finish after Christmas (if I'm lucky), which is just SOOO cheery.

I don't know what's going wrong this year. Last year I practically breezed through NaNo (ok maybe it was more of a bumble but still), this year I can't seem to string two words together in a line, never mind a sentence. It's not even funny.

My story is completely stuck, what plot I had has come undone, and no replacement looming on the horizon, either. My Muse is apparently on holiday, and inspiration is slow going, if that. I'm piecing things together one very painful word at a time and it isn't getting me anywhere.

I blame the fog.

You see, for the last couple of days (weeks) we've had little but foggy weather around here. Ideal writing weather, no?

No. Because apparently, when there's a fog, everything at work decides to go wrong and/or need my personal attention, which leaves me with a) little time to write b) no brain cells left to think with at the end of the day, never mind type up some words. I'm seriously considering an investment into a dictaphone, though - who knows, maybe I can find the energy to talk, at least. Though goodness knows when I'll have the time to transcribe that (probably at 23:55 on November 30th, knowing me).

OK enough whining for now. How are you guys and gals doing with your NaNo? Everything on track, or are you perhaps one of those depressingly cheerful over-achievers who will end up with a gazillion words at the end of November, all of it neatly edited and wrapped up with a pink bow? Or maybe you're in the middle of a train-of-thought-wreck like me, and in dire need of some novelist first aid?

I use chocolate for that. It has just the right consistency to patch up brains and mend hearts, you know?

Ahem. So here's the other Birth of a Novel NaNoWriMo-ists, do go give them the shout-outs I couldn't give them this week...

Brooke Busse  http://brookerbusse.blogspot.com

Charity Bradford   http://charitywrites.blogspot.com

Elizabeth Poole  http://writerelizabethpoole.blogspot.com/

Fida Islaih http://fida-islaih.blogspot.com

Huntress  http://spiritcalled.blogspot.com/

Lena Hoppe  http://lenalothanas.blogspot.com/

Mia Hayson  http://literaryjamandtoast.blogspot.com/

Miranda Hardy   http://www.mirandahardy.blogspot.com/

Nyxie Moon  http://creativedawdle.blogspot.com

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sunday NaNo Review

It's Sunday today and NaNoWriMo is well under way. More or less.

I'm almost on track with my story, although I am still sorely tempted to change it to something else entirely...but no, I won't, because I'd have no chance of catching up.

ah well.

So....how are you doing this fine November? How's your NaNo? How's your non-NaNo stuff going?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Ten Things about my NaNo 2011

Yep, I'm doing it again, starting today.

  1. I'll be writing 1,667 words each day this November, or at least that's the plan. 
  2. This year, I'm also part of the Birth of a Novel Blogchain hosted by Charity. The aim of the game is to post updates on our NaNo progress every Tuesday, pop in on the others and generally revel in the madness. 
  3. I'm actually writing this post late on the 31st of October, and as of yet, I have NO CLUE what I'll be writing tomorrow. This will be the ultimate pantsing experience for me. 
  4. Actually, I'm always a pantser. Whenever I try to plan (too much or even at all) my characters go on strike and my Muse wrinkles his cute little nose at me in disdain before flouncing off to make someone else happy. Bitch. 
  5. I'm in a really busy place, job wise, so doing NANo is probably not the most intelligent thing. But hey, it's all about the rush, no?
  6. I really wish I wasn't such a pantser. I'd love to be able to outline properly, just once, without it killing the mojo. 
  7. I love - LOVE - drawing maps. Yep, maps. What! I write fantasy. I'm allowed. Only problem? I have yet to figure out how to fit 1677 words onto a map. 
  8. Maybe I'll start off my NaNo with a map anyway. 
  9. I hope I'll be waking up tomorrow with my Muse at my side. The imaginary one, that is. The most I can hope for physically speaking is one of my two dogs. *sigh* 
  10. Please do pop in again next Tuesday and say hi! It'll make my NaNo week, really it will. And maybe, if you have time, say hi to the others, too? Here's the list of The Birth of a Novel-ers: 


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