The Seven Kingdoms: The Darkening Lands – My Review

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Books that have influenced me over the years.

I’ve many favourite books. Too many to list. But there is a sub-group of my favourite books – the ones that have had the bigegst impact on me and/or influenced me in some way. Here are five of those….

The Faraway Tree.
Enid Blyton was the most important author of my early childhood. From the Famous Five and Secret Seven Mysteries to her girls boarding school series, I adored everything she wrote. But a hardcore geek from a young age, it was her magical stories that captured my imagination the most. The Wishing Well and The Faraway Tree. I loved the concept of being able to travel to different lands, weird and wonderful otherworldly places, and having a tree sprite and the man in the moon as your best friends. While the writing may be very dated by today’s standards, the concept remains timeless and I can’t wait to share these stories with my god-daughter one day soon.

The Neverending Story.

This was my first ‘quest’ story. I was 8, and we had it read to us at school in our weekly book assemblies. It took the teacher over a year to get through the whole book like that, but I remember how excited we always were when that particular day of the week rolled around and we’d get to hear another chapter of Bastian and Atreyu’s adventure! the concept of escaping into the very book you are reading is particularly appealing to any bookworm who love’s fantasy. I remember once we finished the book, we were given the whole afternoon off classes so we could watch the movie in the assembly hall. So as well as the book having a huge impact on me, it was also my first ‘book to screen’ experience.

Jane Eyre.
I first read Jane Eyre in High School. And again in College. And multiple times since.  I loved how forward thinking the book was for the time it was written, and I related to Jane in a way I hadn’t related to other heroines in pre-twentieth century fiction. She has her flaws – as all protagonists should – but I just completely fell in love with her.  She’s a strong and independent female, making the book light years ahead of it’s time. And she’s a heroine who’s genuinely PLAIN. Which makes this book a damn sight more a. feminist and b. realistic than the great majority of 21st century fiction.  No makeovers, no hidden beauty beneath, she’s just plain Jane and I love that about her. And then there’s the way Charlotte Bronte writes – so beautifully descriptive. Such wonderful symbolism. And underneath it all those gothic undertones that make it appeal to me even more. I love this book on so many levels. I’ll stop gushing now…

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I was working as a nanny just after I finished university in 1999 when the woman I worked for handed me the book she’d just read with her ten year old son and told me I simply HAD to read it. This was just before the Harry Potter hype that spread the world had started, so I’d never heard of it – book three wasn’t even out yet. I took it home, read it in record time, went out and bought my own copy which I then pushed onto the rest of my family, and I proceeded to tell everyone I knew about this fantastic kids book I’d just experienced. I love all 7 books, all 8 films, and count myself as a pretty major fan. the series is flawed, sure, but there is just something about it that put’s it above other franchises of it’s kind. I’ll never forget the experience of reading the very first one, with no expectations at all and no idea even who this Harry Potter kid was. What a great trip – and the start of a 12 year journey with JKR and her characters.

The Hobbit

I didn’t read the Hobbit until 2002, as an adult. I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings either, but adored the first film when it came out at Christmas the previous year. Instead of going straight to that book, I chose to start at the beginning with the Hobbit, borrowing a friend’s beautiful hardback copy illustrated by Alan Lee. I was having problems with insomnia at the time, and when I would wake in the middle of the night I would get myself a drink and then sit down to read a chapter of this. (It certainly beat lying in bed counting sheep!) I loved everything about it but above all I just adored Bilbo Baggins. One of the best characters in fiction! Reading that particular edition just heightened my enjoyment, and I of course made sure I found my own copy once I gave my borrowed copy back to it’s owner.

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This Geeky Girl loves Doctor Who!

I’ve been writing for the blog “Geeky Girls Love Sci-Fi” for about a year now. Last November at the Milton Keynes Collectormania, I unexpectedly bumped into the 8th Doctor, Paul McGann, just days after his Doctor Who 50th anniversary webisode had aired. And he agreed to talk to me about it!


Here’s the interview:

The eighth Doctor gave us a geekgasm and a half last week when he popped up in Doctor Who minisode The Night of The Doctor, a prequel to the upcoming 50th anniversary episode The Day of The Doctor (see what they did there?).

So our very own Geeky Girl Helen was beside herself with delight when she managed to get a couple of minutes to chat to the man himself, Mr Paul McGann, at Collectormania last week.

Here’s what Paul had to say about filming the episode, his disappointment at its early release due to leaks, and his joy at the fan reaction.

GGSF: We at Geeky Girls loved The Night of the Doctor – in fact it made us giddy geeky girls – and it was fantastic to get that closure on the eighth Doctor at last. Did it feel that way for you?
Oh yes – and closure it was, wasn’t it – it was a reconciliation for him.

GGSF: It was particularly exciting when you gave a shout-out to all the eighth Doctor’s companions from the audio adventures, making those canon.
I’ve just learned that word today, ‘Canon’. It was an endorsement of all those adventures.

GGSF: How long have you known that you would be returning in this way?
Well we shot it in May and they gave me a few days notice – “we need to do this now so if you want to do it lets do it” – so we had to keep it a secret for quite a long time.

GGSF: That must have been difficult!
Well I can keep a secret! But not everybody can and we were seeing stuff getting leaked on the internet, so Stephen Moffatt made the decision last Thursday to put it out before somebody else did which is kind of sad. It’s really hard to keep a secret now and we so nearly got there. It should have gone out for the first time on the 23rd, on the red button, which will still happen so that’s good.

GGSF: The reception to it has been so positive though.
The reaction has been fantastic – millions of hits on YouTube, it’s great. And it was my birthday the day we shot it.

GGSF: What a great present, to come back and give the eighth Doctor his swan song
Yeah – Happy Birthday, welcome back!

GGSF: And what a welcome back – we can’t stop watching it! Thanks for talking to us about it.
Seeya Geeky Girls! (said in thick northern accent!)

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Pantomime: From Script to Stage!

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This Blog IS still live, honest guv!

One might be forgiven for thinking I’d retired it, seeing as how I haven’t blogged in two months – a pretty poor show for someone who calls herself a writer!

Of course, November to January is the busiest period of the year for me, what with Christmas, the end of one academic year and start of the next at work, and of course – the pantomime. As well as having co-written it, I’m in the cast, I’m costuming the show, and as I’m on the committee for the group, I’m doing various other jobs as well. Add to all that the fact that I had a nasty bug for most of November and the start of December and still can’t shake this horrible chesty cough, and you’ve got one exhausted writer who needs to take a nice long vacation and then start over!

Nano Wrimo was consequently a bit of a bust. I did get quite a lot done, but no where near 50K words. I was really committed to doing it so I was a bit disappointed, but I’m not dwelling and I’m certainly not waiting till next November to pick up “Fusion” again. the new goal is to finish the first draft by October 2013, so that I can then dedicate next years Nano Wrimo to a new project. “Fusion” was born in my head almost fifteen years ago, and though it’s evolved considerably since then, I can’t keep hanging on to it forever. I need to give it one more shot and then, if I still can’t reach an ending, I need to cut it lose, set it free.

It’s 13 days till the pantomime opens, so that’s going to be dominating my life for the next three weeks. It’s been a while since my sister and I saw a script we wrote make it to the stage, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one performed. And after it’s over, and once my new students settle into the spring term, I shall be booking some time off and getting me some well-earned sleep!

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Nano Wrimo – here we go!

I’m off to a bit of a late start due to my greater occipital nerve blocker last week and other things, so for me Nano Wrimo began in earnest yesterday (the 5th) – so I’ve lost 4 days, but that’s not bad. If i can write two thosand words a day I’ll make the target of 50K words by the end of the month.

I decided to write the ‘second half’ of the novel I wrote 53K words of in 2010…and haven’t touched since. That was about half a novel, so I’m hoping a further 50K words this month will give me a completed first draft.

For those of you on the Nano website here’s a link to my page:

For those not, here’s my “Book jacket synopsis”:

Twelve-year-old Leighanne Goldman feels like the luckiest girl in the world. She is daughter to the manager of a new boyband who are on the road to fame and fortune, and she get’s to join them on their journey. However growing up in the whirlwind of concerts and studios isn’t all glamour, and Leighanne comes to realise that her father is not the man she thought he was.

Rhys Patrick is the frontman of Fuse, the band he formed with his brother Dean, sister Lucy, and best friend Stuart. Discovered by music mogul Adam Goldman, they are thrust into a world of doing what they love and being adored for it. But the music industry is cut-throat, and Rhys learns the hard way that the fans are fickle, the press ruthless, and there a very few people he can trust.

When it all falls down around their ears Leighanne fears she’ll never see Rhys again. But a chance encounter in LA twelve years later reunites them, bringing up long-repressed issues from both their pasts. Will the memory of Leighanne’s father bring them together or push them apart?

It’s chick-lit, which may surprise those of you who know I’m a YA fantasy fan above all other genre’s. But this is a story that’s been dying to break out of me since the late 1990’s, so it’s about time I got it written! Talk about labour of love…

As for the YA fantasy, that is a genre I have never tackled, even though it’s what I read the most. I’ve been trying to come up with an idea that hasn’t been done yet, and I think I may have found one. It’s in development at the moment and I’ll try to keep it burning in the background while I’m writing my nano novel…watch this space!

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Brilliant, amazing humanity

It’s just 2 days now till Nano Wrimo starts. I’ve decided to go with finishing my previously started novel. I’m woefully unprepared with my mind being on lots of other things the last couple of weeks, not least of which was the greater occipital nerve block which I had today (Big needle in my head. I nearly fainted. But it’s all good!)

But I’m not here to talk about my head, or indeed writing. I know this is a blog about writing but, well, it’s my blog and I can take liberties with it every now and again. Plus, every time I blog, I’m writing, right?

Today the Pride of Britain awards aired on TV. Awards are given to Brits who have shown great bravery or courage, or done amazing work for charity and so on. This really is a showcase of the best of humanity…There’s the little girl who was diagnosed with hodgkinsons lymphoma at age 12 who, through her blog, has caused hundreds of people to sign up to the bone marrow transplant register (It was one of the items on her bucket list!)…the girl who’s mother was murdered who became a live kidney donator to a stranger to honour her mum’s memory…the 7 year old boy who’s raised hundreds of thousands of pounds by selling drawings for charity (in a very entrepernuerial way –, a 7 year old girl who pushed her 3 year old sister from the path of an out of control car, taking the full brunt herself…some of Team GB’s olympians and paralympians, a soldier who risked his life to save children in afghanistan…and Katie Piper, who was raped and then had acid thrown in her face 4 years ago. She nearly died, many times, she wanted to die – her face and eosophagus were almost completely melted…but she endured years of rehab and operations to rebuild her face. Now she runs a charity that helps other burn victims. ( She’s so inspirational, I have all 3 of her books and I admire her so much, and turn to her words often. And those are just a few of the heroes who were honored.

All these amazing people who have shown such selflessness, bravery, and in many cases managed to turn something terrible like a life-threatening disease or tragic attack into something so positive…these are the people that should be blazing the cover of magazines, not some vapid celebrities who achieved fame by appearing in a reality show or having the last name Kardashian. These are the people we should hold up as the best of British – the best of humanity.

I feel like I’ve learnt such a lot about the human spirit lately. From the paralympics – which left me in awe – to these awards, I’ve learnt that no matter what happens to you, anything can be overcome. If you believe in yourself you can achieve anything. In the paralympics, people with no arms won medals for archery and swimming. Wheelchair users stunned us with their games of basketball and rugby. And just after the paralympics finished, I watched a busker on the tube with only one hand playing guitar like he was Richie Sambora. Never again will I look at someone with a disability or illness and feel sorry for them because they can’t do something. They can do just as much as someone able-bodied…and they are so much more impressive for it. And I’ve learnt that any negative – ANY negative – can be turned into a positive. There is ALWAYS a silver lining. If a child with cancer can use their illness to raise awareness and money, then there is nothing that’s happened to me or can happen to me that I can’t turn around into something good in some way. My perceptions have totally changed. Human beings really are quite incredible.

It’s quite amazing what learning these things about OTHER people can make you realise about yourself.

Youtube the paralympics. Read the stories of the Pride of Britain winners. Change your perceptions.

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Some little known facts about ME!

Since I’m writing this blog and haven’t done this yet, I thought I should post a few things for the benefit of those who don’t know me. So here are 20 little known facts about me!

* I began writing stories when I was 5. I still have some of my middle school stories, which include a murder mystery, a diary of a young girl (Not Anne Frank!) during WW2, and a story about an alien invasion.
* I also used to write a comic book as a child, about various living kitchen utensils!
* I have unusually large feet for my height. I suspect perhaps there is hobbit blood in my lineage.
* I have loved Doctor Who and the Wizard of Oz since I was 3 years old.
* I flew a glider before I’d ever set foot on a plane.
* I have a very unusual and slightly OCD method of eating oranges.
* I have owned 9 cars in the last 10 years.
* I was on my High School athletics team. I ran the 800 and 1500 metres.
* At the age of 7 I had a poem about a mermaid published in a local poetry anthology.
* I work in the animation department at the National Film & TV School, which is the birthplace of Wallace and Gromit.
* My workplace is in Beaconsfield, where Enid Blyton lived. Blyton was my first ever favourite author, from the age of 4 or 5. Her Magic Faraway Tree stories were my favourites.
* In addition to my day job, I also work as a house/pet-sitter for people going on holiday.
* I was mauled by a dog when I was 14 and ended up in hospital with part of my ear missing. However I still love dogs 🙂
* I used to be phobic of flying, spiders and lightening. 6 months of anxiety training later and I’m no longer phobic of any of those things (although I still dislike the really big house spiders that sneak into your favourite mug and set up home there…)
* My ‘most read’ book is probably Jane Eyre.
* My wardrobe includes a red starfleet uniform, a green elven dress and an Amy Pond pirate costume.
* Although I am a self-confessed geek, I do not own any sort of gaming system.
* According to the website Pottermore, I am a Slytherin.
* I can link myself to Kevin Bacon in less than 6 degrees.
* Judging from this blog post, I’m something of a narcissist!

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What makes a writer?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good writer. Talent, obviously…imagination, also obviously…drive and determination. You have to be prepared to put in the work.

Now, I don’t exactly have shed-loads of talent. I have some, but not loads. But I do have imagination – bags and bags of it. Always have had.

A talented writer who has no imagination won’t go very far.

But a less talented writer who has imagination, passion, determination, self belief, and is willing to put in the hard graft – that writer WILL go far. And that’s the camp I hope I fall into!

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Health and writing

Some of you know me well, and will know that I’m not the healthiest kid on the block. Others know me less well, so this update is more for you.

I suffer with chronic migraine – I have done since I was 8. That’s 29 years of mind-splitting, vomit-inducing migraine’s. I go through phases of having them less often, and phases of having them frequently – I’m in one of those phases at the moment, and have been for about three years. On top of that I also suffer from Endometriosis, and depression/anxiety disorder – all of which are migraine triggers as well as pain’s in my posterior in their own right. And having a migraine isn’t wildly conducive to sitting down and writing!

After countless attempted treatments by my GP, and later, a too-drug-happy neurologist who I clashed with on more than one occassion, I discharged myself from his care and entered the care of the National Migraine Clinic (A charity organisation based in London with trained doctors focusing solely on migraines. they’re brilliant!). That was 9 months ago. It’s been a tough 9 months of trying different things and detoxing from painkillers, and we’re now at the point where they are recommending either botox or an occipital nerve blocker. I’ve been dying to get to this point for the last couple of months. Between the pain and the heavy duty meds, I’ve felt extremely drained and every aspect of my life has been suffering. My job, my hobbies…my writing. It’s not easy to spend time writing when more often than not I get in from work, eat dinner, and then crash till next morning. And I can’t write before work when I wake each morning feeling like I have a hangover and haven’t just slept for 10 hours.

But now I have a positive plan going forward. I’m opting for the nerve blocker (same success rate, less side effects han botox) and thankfully, I can get this done at my own GP’s surgery on the NHS. Hopefully by early November, I should notice the difference. Fingers crossed!
I feel a lot happier with this plan in place. In fact I feel like a weight has lifted. The day after my appointment at the clinic to discuss all this, I got a migraine. Laying in a darkened room for an hour got rid of it – something that’s pretty rare for me. I can only think that me feeling better about things and less down and depressed means it’s easier to deal with the migraines I get.

So hopefully this will mean I can get back into my writing full throttle. I need this, something I do FOR ME, and it’s a terrible shame when I’m too in pain or exhausted to do it.

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