Sunday, 24 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #37

Inspired by Celine from Nyx Book Reviews, I've decided to combine several weekly wrap-up memes into one post. Showcase Sunday is hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Stacking the Shelves is hosted at Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post is hosted at Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Letterbox Love is a special British book-haul meme hosted by Lindsey at Narratively Speaking.

Last Two Weeks:

Wow, November has been a busy month! I've been to World Fantasy Con, been working away at NaNo (at which I'm very much behind in word count but have made A LOT of excellent progress in terms of sorting out problems and questions I had with my novel, and I'm pleased with my progress so far), and have had a lot of freelance work too. Not to mention my quest to try EVERY Christmas drink at the coffee shops around Nottingham... yum! :-)

I've also been to see Gravity and Catching Fire at the cinema, which were both brilliant, and I'll hopefully be writing some reviews of those soon.

AND, I've been shopping for my secret santa, which I'm doing with The Broke and the Bookish this year, which is really fun. Want to see a sneak preview of the present? Well, go on then. Extreme close up... what could it be?

Yes indeed, mysterious Secret Santa present. What is it?

New Goodies:

There have been some great kindle deals recently!


The Soldier Son Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord

Goodreads Win:

Gretel and the Dark, by Eliza Granville
(the lollipop is cookies and cream flavour)
What a fantastic package to receive! Thanks so much Penguin UK! :-D


Monday, 11 November 2013

Why Researching Your Historical Novel Totally Involves Going to the Pub, and other NaNoWriMo Updates

NaNoWriMo Week One!

We’re in week two of NaNo now and should be hitting around the 18k mark, I think. I have... considerably less words than that.

I’m remaining positive, however!

For me, the first few days of NaNo were taken up with World Fantasy Con, which was fantastic but very busy, and the day after with work that needed catching up on after the con. I know some people managed to write a little during the con, and they have my full admiration! I’ve still doing the catch up word sprinting. ;-)

I have discovered that I am terrible at remembering to update my word count, so it will suddenly shoot forwards on certain days. There’s something weirdly exciting about this, like discovering you’ve forgotten to open the last few days on your advent calendar and then gorging on the sudden feast of little chocolate Santa Clauses.

Using Historical Research 

I’ve also been making use of some of my research, and I’m glad I gathered certain things together beforehand so that I’m not too interrupted by having to look things up.

One of the early scenes is set at Nottingham castle, which I’d visited and taken pictures of, including the paths around it from every angle, so now I can just click, grab the picture, and know straight away which direction the character turns, whether there are steps or slopes, and so on. That probably sounds like too much worrying over picky details, but I live in Nottingham, so it seems like laziness to get that wrong.

Because my novel is mainly set in the 30s, with some flashbacks to the city in other periods of history, I need to know other details like what streets actually existed then, and so on. I’ve made a lot of use of photos and maps, and found some other gems in the library too.

This research has helped in other ways. It’s not just about facts, which arguably can be researched and added in later (though it certainly helps me to know them beforehand). It’s also about finding little things that can be worked into the novel, or that can influence certain plot points or characters. I’ve discovered the history of certain buildings that fit beautifully into my story, and images that inspire whole scenes.

I even discovered a wonderful book called Voices of Nottingham which is packed full of primary sources about life in Nottingham, some from the affluent members of society, but many from normal members of the public. Getting an insight into everyday lives is extremely useful, and the history student as well as the author in me is so excited to find this.

Finding Historical Images - Pubs and Libraries

Images are one of the most useful things I’ve found, both for getting facts right and for inspiring a sense of what the place was like at that time. It’s one thing to read about what Market Square looked like in late Victorian times, and another to actually see it. I have photos of old shops, of tram lines being laid, of historical posters and flyers, and many, many pictures of people... people milling about, people shopping, people playing, determined people going about their day, and people enjoying the city.

Victoria Station (now Victoria shopping centre)
And this is where pubs come in. Yes, honestly. Next time you go to a local pub, look for photos on the wall. You’re almost guaranteed to see at least a few. Look for older pubs, and particularly ones that are in interesting locations such as city centres. They will often hang black and white images of the pub itself and the streets around it. Pubs are places that tend to be proud of their heritage, so they’re good places to start. Don’t be afraid to ask either. Pubs often run in families and one establishment might have been passed down for generations.

Next stop: the library. Well, this one is obvious isn’t it? Look for large city libraries for ordnance survey maps, census records, and general interest books about the city and surrounding area. Look in smaller libraries for information on local areas.

And once you’ve read a little and found some interesting names of buildings, streets, shops, companies and people... the internet is your friend. It can sometimes be hard to find information without that initial clue to go on, which is why it’s often better to find a book to begin with, but once you have the name, the internet will provide you with pictures, personal anecdotes, and yet more titles of books to go find.

Market Square
Oh, and one last tip. Try not to get too distracted with historical research. It’s fun, and so it can easily take over. Remember what your end goal is. By all means go off on a tangent if you think the information could lead to something useful or wonderful, but remember to actually get writing too!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Showcase Sunday #36 - The World Fantasy Con Edition

Inspired by Celine from Nyx Book Reviews, I've decided to combine several weekly wrap-up memes into one post. Showcase Sunday is hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea. Stacking the Shelves is hosted at Tynga's Reviews, and Sunday Post is hosted at Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Letterbox Love is a special British book-haul meme hosted by Lindsey at Narratively Speaking.


Last weekend I went to World Fantasy Con in Brighton. It was a lot of fun, and great to meet new people as well as see old friends again, including meeting Ellie from Curiosity Killed the Bookworm! :-) I went to panels and readings, chatted in the bar, braved the wind tunnel that was Brighton sea-front, went to a few publisher parties and book launches, and picked up far far too many books.

Me as a pirate (right) and steampunk 20s Ruth (left) on Halloween at WFC
Highlights of World Fantasy Con - Some brilliant advice panels, Scott Lynch, Mary Robinette Kowal's reading (and puppet show!), Tales of Eve launch, Terry Pratchett! (another Tiffany Aching book in the works... so excited!), Titan's fun fair party, and all the wonderful people I met and chatted to).

Mary Robinette Kowal putting on a puppet show for us
Panel - Trudi Canavan, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Tad Williams, Adrian Stone, Stan Nicholls

 At the end of the event we had to travel home late on Sunday, and of course the first train was delayed and we missed the connecting train. We trudged onto a later train, sat down next to a guy who looked like a magician, who turned out to actually be a magician, who then gave us a free magic show for an hour on the train home! Bizarre but amazing end to a fantastic weekend! :-)

Read a longer post about my experience of World Fantasy Con here.

New Goodies:

So... the books. Yes, there are a lot, but in my defence a lot of these were free. You just don't say no to free books, do you? Besides, I'm hoping that Ellie's Sunday post will vastly eclipse mine, and therefore make me look restrained in comparison. :-)

Close ups of covers below

Two fantasy art books - Keith Parkinson and Didier Graffet
WFC book (contains info about special guests, some stories, and interesting bits and bobs)
Giant Thief, by David Tallerman
Passages: A Sampler of French Fantasy from Bragelonne
The Garden of Stones, by Mark T. Barnes
The Forbidden Library, by Django Wexler
Farlander, by Col Buchanan
The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
The Emperor's Blades, by Brian Staveley
God's War, by Kameron Hurley
Sixty One Nails, by Mike Shevdon
The Gospel of Loki, by Joanne M. Harris
The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan
Banished, by Liz de Jager (Squee! Can't wait to read this one!)
Tales of Eve, edited by Mhairi Simpson
The Black Heart, by Patrick O'Leary
The Apology Chapbook, by China Mieville (this was to apologise
for not being able to come to WFC, as he was supposed to be the
Master of Ceremonies at the event. The chapbook contains some of
his unpublished short stories)
An Xmen mug (won at the Titan fun fair party!)
A TOR shot glass (from the TOR party)
Titan rock.
A Gollancz Geeks pen.

The Testimony, by James Smythe (ebook)

Shadowplay, by Laura Lam (for review) (more squees!)

 Phew, that's all of them... I think. I've probably forgotten some. xD  Hope you've had a great week too!