A visit to Highgate Cemetery

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Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Thursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

A couple of weeks ago I visited Highgate Cemetery in London.

“The cemetery opened in 1839, as part of a plan to provide seven large, modern cemeteries, known as the “Magnificent Seven”, around the outside of central London. The inner-city cemeteries, mostly the graveyards attached to individual churches, had long been unable to cope with the number of burials and were seen as a hazard to health and an undignified way to treat the dead. The initial design was by architect and entrepreneur Stephen Geary. In 1839, fifteen acres were consecrated for the use of the Church of England, and two acres set aside for Dissenters.

Highgate, like the others of the Magnificent Seven, soon became a fashionable place for burials and was much admired and visited. The Victorian attitude to death and its presentation led to the creation of a wealth of Gothic tombs and buildings. It occupies a spectacular south-facing hillside site slightly downhill from the top of the hill of Highgate itself.

The cemetery’s grounds are full of trees, shrubbery and wild flowers, all of which have been planted and grown without human influence. The grounds are a haven for birds and small animals such as foxes. The Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon (topped by a huge Cedar of Lebanon) feature tombs, vaults and winding paths dug into hillsides. The oldest section, which holds an impressive collection of Victorian mausoleums and gravestones, plus elaborately carved tombs, allows admission only in tour groups. The newer eastern section, which contains a mix of Victorian and modern statuary, can be toured unescorted.”

Source

Here are a few of the pictures I took during the tour (if you use them elsewhere please mention my name, thanks!):

EM Castellan Highgate 1

EM Castellan - Highgate 2

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EM Castellan - Highgate 5

EM Castellan - Highgate 7

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What have you been up to this summer? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children here.

Thursday’s Children/Like A Virgin Blog Hop

Hello gentle reader,

this week I’m taking part in a Thursday’s Children and Like A Virgin Writing Contest Mash-Up. Thursday’s Children is “a weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations”. The Like A Virgin Contest is a contest for unagented writers in the YA/NA categories. Both are organised by the awesome Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

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This week’s theme is writing “firsts,” and we have to answer a series of questions.

  1. How do you remember your first kiss? I don’t remember it, actually.
  2. What was your first favourite love song? Probably a Celine Dion song. How embarrassing.
  3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day? I check Twitter to find out if other people are writing or doing a writing sprint. I listen to music. Then I open my Word document and write.
  4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer? I’ve been writing for so long, I’m not sure who inspired me first. I do know who inspired me to seek publication, though. It’s Susan Dennard.
  5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with? I’m not going to talk about my first book here (I wrote it 16 years ago and I couldn’t tell you much about it). But the manuscript I’m currently querying, Lily In The Shadows, has had its opening from the first draft. This first scene was actually the idea that started the whole story.
  6. For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting? Characters. Always. I tell stories about people. Then I have stuff happen to them in a certain place. But it’s always about the characters.
  7. What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing? This is hard. Intriguing, maybe?

This is a blog hop! Feel free to join in and to answer those questions as well! Or leave me a comment below and let me know how about your experience in writing your first book!

The Writer, the Writing Community and Dean Winchester

Hello gentle reader,

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this week again I’m taking part in the Thursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

Today’s post is a bit personal. I very seldom indulge in sharing my personal feelings on this blog, but my hope is that other writers will recognize themselves in what I describe below, and maybe find their motivation renewed by the knowledge they’re not alone in this.

So I haven’t had the best week. Lots of rejections and disappointments.

–          One of my short stories I was hoping to publish in an anthology was rejected

–          A query for my YA Epic Fantasy (which I have stopped querying since December) was rejected this week by an agent

–          I’ve started to get feedback on my WIP Lily In The Shadows and some beta readers are, well, less enthusiastic than others.

–          And no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to be able to write a catchy query for Lily In The Shadows

So yeah.

Now, I always try to stay positive. I know this publishing thing doesn’t happen overnight. I’m aware the key here is to keep reading, keep writing, keep submitting, and never give up. I don’t rant on Twitter or Facebook at the first disappointment.

But still. What a week. So I wrote an email to my CP Jessy Montgomery, who is amazing and who always knows what to say.

I was like this:

She was like this:

Supernatural - CastielAnd then like this:

Supernatural - Hug

Then I got on Twitter and this happened:

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And then I realised something. I’ve had a lot of rejections and disappointments this week. But I’ve also helped Jessy with her query. I’ve helped Allie with her WIP. I’ve helped Rachel with her street team building. I’ve helped Kate with her Twitter issues. I’ve had awesome online conversations with Lauren, Juliana, Laura, Joanna, Em, Lena, Rebekah, Emmie and Serena.

I’m part of the writing community. And I believe in paying it forward.

This week wasn’t about me and my writing. It was about everybody else’s writing and success.

Next time it might be my turn. Next time it might be yours.

But for now I have all of you and I’m so incredibly grateful for that.

Thank you.

Have a great writing week!

New Project Reveal – Part 6: Why did I write this book?

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Thursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

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In these posts, I share a little bit more about what I’ve been working on, a YA Historical Fantasy entitled LILY IN THE SHADOWS.

LILY is currently in the hands of its first beta readers, and this week I’ve asked myself “why did I write this book?” “What was the writing motivation behind it?”

Then I came across the answer in an anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy short stories I have been reading…

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells

“The enthusiasm for Steampunk has produced some marvellous, incisive writing, and some gorgeous pieces of art. But it has also glamorized the Victorian era and too often ignored the exploitation and immiseration of the working class of England as well as the inhabitants of the lands England sought to rule. The fiery, corseted heroines, the eccentric but brilliant inventors, the rakish and charming younger sons — the wealth and comfort of these few depended on the suffering of many, many people. Even the wealthy of the 19th Century suffered, of course, in an era prior to antibiotics and most of the vaccinations we take for granted today. (…) It’s easy to forget how the people who indulged in afternoon tea rituals, admired clockwork-powered inventions, and wore shapely and beautiful corsets and bustles profited from the death and suffering of others every time they lit a candle. (…) And it’s easy to wonder how those people, who considered themselves so civilized, could have accepted the price others paid for their comfort and wealth.”

Veronica Schanoes, “Phosphorus” in Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

This is EXACTLY why I wrote Lily In The Shadows. I wanted to write the story of an obscure flower girl, with no special power or talent, who tries to save the city of London from chaos and destruction. Lily lives in East London, she is partly deaf and she has no hope of ever marrying a king and becoming a princess in a fairy tale. But to me, it doesn’t mean her story shouldn’t be told. Every girl has a story to tell, even in the shadows.

So what made you want to write your Work In Progress? What inspired you this week? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.

A Visit to Kew Gardens…

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Thursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

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Because this week has been full of sad news, I thought I’d share pictures of a place that is wonderfully peaceful and inspiring: Kew Gardens. All the photos are mine, so please mention my name if you reuse them…

EM Castellan - Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London. Created in 1759, the gardens celebrated their 250th anniversary in 2009.

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The Palm House (built in 1844–1848)

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Inside the Palm House…

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The Cherry Walk, leading to…

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The Temperate House (this greenhouse is the world’s largest surviving Victorian glass structure)

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Kew Palace (the smallest of the British royal palaces, built around 1631. The home of George III and his family)

EM Castellan - Kew Gardens - Daffodils

EM Castellan - Kew Gardens - Peacock

Do you have a favourite place near where you live? One that feels peaceful and inspiring when the world seems like a dark place? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.

Writers In Movies – Angel by François Ozon

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Tursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

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This week I’d like to share with you a movie I really like: Angel by French director François Ozon (2007).

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In a previous post, I mentioned how I’m always annoyed by the way writers are portrayed in movies. In a word: unrealistic. Except maybe in Angel. This movie is about the life of a young romance writer at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was inspired by the life of Marie Corelli, who was one of the first authors to write bestsellers and become a star in the UK.

Here are a few reasons why I like this movie:

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– It shows a writer writing.

In the morning, in the afternoon, at night, Angel writes. She forgets to eat, reads her stories aloud, sighs at people who disturb her… and she writes books. A lot of them. And the movie shows how much work and commitment it takes to do that.

Angel: “I am NOT leaving this room until I wrote ‘The End’!”

– It shows how crazy writers can appear to non-writers

Angel’s mother: “What if Angel is very gifted and we just don’t understand it?”

Angel’s husband: “You write too much!”

I love these quotes, because to her relatives, Angel is an alien. She spends her days in her bedroom writing stories. Who does that?! I also love the reaction of Angel’s mother when Angel tells her she’s getting published:

Angel: “A publisher wants to meet me!”

Mother (puzzled): “Whatever for?!”

Angel (laughs hysterically): “To publish my book!”

– It shows a writer who writes the stories she wants, and which then touch readers. I like how Angel writes what she loves and that’s how she becomes successful. But towards the end, when she writes to earn money and to give the readers what she thinks they want, her books don’t sell anymore.

Angel: “Don’t you know what this book means? It means money!”

– It shows how fleeting literary success is, but how a writer is a writer for life. After ten years of writing bestselling books, Angel stops being a successful writer when readers turn to other authors. But even when her books stop selling, she keeps writing, keeps coming up with new stories. Because you can’t stop imagination.

Angel - Ozon - Garai

Have you ever watched this movie? Do you recognise yourself in this character? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.

SCBWI Europolitan Conference Recap (Paris, March 2013)

Hello gentle reader,

this week again I’m taking part in the Tursday’s Children meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez. It is “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.”

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Today I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned at the SCBWI Europolitan Conference I attended last week in Paris. In case you don’t know, SCBWI is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. As its name implies, it is an awesome way to network with other writers.

The Paris conference had an amazing faculty, with YA authors Amy Plum, Sara Grant and Lenore Appelhans, agents Jennifer Laughran and Jenny Savill, and editors Heather Alexander (US Penguin) and Elizabeth Law (ex-Egmont USA), among others.

EM Castellan - SCBWI Euro Con

Spending two days with these awesome people, you can understand I came home with a notebook FULL of writerly advice. Here are a few things I thought I could share in a few bullet points…

  • Betsy Bird, the NYPL’s Youth Materials Specialist and blogger for School Library Journal, once said “Most publishers look for books that have either windows or mirrors.” It means a novel needs to open onto new worlds or to reflect the reader’s life.
  • If you’re writing YA fiction, personal marketing is essential. Social networking with your readers is what will sell your books to teenagers, not a marketing plan devised by your publisher. (Amy Plum)
  • Networking with other writers before publication is a great way to have support and to avoid stress. (Amy Plum)
  • Forget about trends. Write a book as original as possible within its genre. The book will be published in 18 months at the earliest, who knows what the trend will be by then?
  • Voice is what matters. (Jenny Savill)
  • Do things in your own time. Don’t rush. Write a great book. Learn, Write, Revise. (It took Sara Grant 17 years to get published. Now she is a best-selling author).
  • When revising, start with macro-revising (revising the story, the plot, the characters) then micro-editing (word doctoring). (Sara Grant)
  • Before you query or self-publish your book, make sure you know: the book’s most appealing quality, who will read it and why, what the gist of the story is, what makes it stand out from similar books on the market. (Heather Alexander)
  • A query or a blurb should answer the questions: Who, What, Where, Why do I care? (Jennifer Laughran)

I could go on, but we’d be here all day… 😉 Needless to say I returned from the conference really inspired and ready to write ALL THE THINGS.

Have you ever attended a writers’ conference? Did you find it helpful and inspiring? Feel free to leave me a comment below, and to visit the other Thursday’s Children posts here.