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Tuesday, 6 December 2016

I DID IT!

Hello, Dear Readers! Remember last week's post about my hair?

Well, I did it!



Yep, this is me. I went out and got it done the day after I posted; I had reached the point where if I didn't get it cut professionally, I might have been tempted to have a go with the kitchen scissors (or snap and just rip it out with my bare hands). This is option two, basically, with some added layers in the front. A few pictures of me throughout the week - apologies for the terrible photo quality and lack of make-up in most of these:


Agent Carter-style 1940's retro curls

Blow-dried straight and pinned on one side

Modern, messy waves

I am looooving how washing and conditioning and combing out my hair takes about five minutes now. I used to actual-facts *dread* it because just making sure I had all the stuff out of my hair at the end used to take about fifteen minutes, and that was if I didn't accidentally dip it into any sudsy bits in the bath. Combing it through after washing? Another fifteen minutes, plus a detangling spray and leave-in conditioner. I don't think I really understood how much hassle it all was until I didn't have to do it anymore. At this length it takes about five minutes to rough-dry it with a blow-dryer, and perhaps three hours to completely air dry. At the previous length blow-drying (not anything fancy, just getting it dry-ish) took around 30mins. Air-drying was an all-night process - I'd sometimes wake up to find it was still damp.

I'm also having fun discovering all the new hair things which have been invented since the last time I dared to do anything interesting with mine. When your hair is really long you worship the fickle god of No Damage. You're terrified it'll all go horribly wrong if you so much as look at it funny. I blow-dried my hair less than once a month and probably used any kind of heated tool on it about three times a year. Having found a few products that worked on my hair half a decade ago, I stuck to them religiously and never wavered, just in case. My hairdryer was brought for me as a Christmas present about fifteen years ago and I kept on using it because it said 'Ionic' and 'Protect' on the box.

But apparently loads of fun stuff has been happening while I was playing Sleeping Hair Beauty (or would that be Rapunzel? Answers on a postcard). Like amazing products for your hair that don't make it feel sticky or crunchy yet hold your style in place! And cool appliances that you can use to make your hair do all these new things but somehow don't fry it! And looks that are less about being perfect and more about being a bit quirky and messy!

Quelle Surprise!

So anyway, it's been fun playing around with it. I might keep it at this length for a while, maybe experiment some more - just so long as I can keep the option of throwing it back into a ponytail, because that's a lifesaver some days.

Mainly what I wanted to say was: getting your very long hair cut doesn't have to be a big deal, so if you, too, are hesitating? I recommend you go for it. Your hair is not you. It's not even the best part of you. Take a risk. But make sure you have a great stylist! Good luck, cuties.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

HELP CHOOSE MY HAIR

Hi guys, I hope you're all having a good week so far. I'm feeling a little miserable - missing Finn a lot, to the point where I nearly burst into tears over a friendly dog in the street this weekend - so I'm going to make a change. Specifically, a hair change.

This is me now (apologies for resting angry face):




And this is basically how my hair has been for the last five years. I have been super lazy. For at least a couple of years I didn't even get it trimmed. At the beginning of 2016 my hair was long enough to sit on (and let me tell you, that's not as much fun as it sounds) so I cut a foot off to send to the Little Princess Trust, but that's the most dramatic change I've made in years. It's really been annoying me lately, though, and I'm hoping that a proper restyle might make my life a bit easier and cheer me up at the same time.

Here are some ideas as to what I could do with my hair.

OPTION ONE:


The least extreme option - keep it long but cut another foot off the bottom, and go for a few subtle layers. This is the sort of thing I'll end up with if I chicken out on the day, basically. Pros: I'll still be able to braid my hair, put it in a bun, and can probably continue to use all my existing hair tools and products, which are geared for use with long hair. Cons: it's not a big enough difference to really excite me, and will still get caught in car doors and under my bag strap, not to mention tangling up with every gust of wind.

OPTION TWO:


The Lob - or long bob. This is a blunt cut, one length version, which is the kind I like - I would hate to have one of the heavily graduated A-line ones because they prevent you from being able to so much as put your hair in a ponytail without those super-annoying snags of short hair falling down at the nape of your neck. Pros: Hopefully long enough for various updoes still, and long enough that I could still hide behind it, maybe play around with it a bit in terms of styling, and it probably wouldn't get caught in any doors. Cons: Would probably still be a bit tangly and would still catch under my bag strap. Without graduation, might end up looking like a weird square shape (my face is already square enough)?

OPTION THREE:


The classic bob, sometimes now referred to as a clavicut because it's long enough to graze the collarbone. I like this version because you can see that it has subtle layering which would make it easier to manage, while still giving the impression of lots of hair. Pros: I think it would be a real, proper change for me and would hopefully be versitile and give me an excuse to play around with new straight and wavy looks. Would be unlikely to catch in or under anything, but ought to be long enough for that vital ponytail, if I made sure it was a low one. Cons: Updoes would be out. I'd definitely be unable to use any of my current styling tools - even my hair ties and bobby pins (all heavy duty ones designed for super long hair) would be useless.

OPTION FOUR:


The most extreme of them all - the chin-length bob! I've rocked this look before and I liked it, but at this length my hair can become super unruly and start to take on bizarre, physics defying cowlicks during the night. I had to use my GHDs literally every day (sometimes twice a day) just in order to get it to hang downwards instead of sticking out horizontally from the sides of my head. On the other hand, bendy, messy hair is in right now, so maybe I could make it work for me? Pros: Would take, like, five minutes to wash, condition and dry, would never get tangly and would not get in my way.... except... Cons: too short to tie back into even the most stubby of ponytails in order to put on/take off make-up and wash face/brush teeth, and would therefore be in my face pretty much all the time, even with a hairband. Would need to reinvest in all the specialist bits and pieces that girls with short hair must have, and would take at least two years to grow back to anything approaching long. Would probably, no matter how much I'd like to pretend otherwise, require some form of styling everyday if I was to avoid looking like a deeply eccentric person.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Any foolproof ideas for girls with unruly hair and square faces? Any stunning pictures of amazing hairstyles that I've failed to consider? Let me know! I will look at any suggestions and report back with pics when the deed is finally done.

Read you later, cupcakes.

Friday, 11 November 2016

GOODBYE, PRECIOUS BOY

Very quickly nipping in today because it feels right to let everyone who's sent good wishes and kind thoughts know: Finn died yesterday. He was at home, with me, and it was as peaceful as I could possibly have hoped. Now I have to somehow get used to life without my precious boy, which is already harder than I could possibly have imagined. I miss him so, so much. I can't imagine writing, or doing much or anything at all, for the next little while.

I'm pretty firmly agnostic, but for right now I'm trying to believe that he's out there somewhere, and that he and my dad are together.

Hug your dogs, Dear Readers, or whatever animals you might hold dear. Give them a kiss on the nose for me, and take a moment remember how lucky you are to have them.

Goodbye, darling.



Thursday, 3 November 2016

THE NANO-CURSE STRIKES AGAIN!

Hello, Dear Readers - happy Thursday. I hope everyone's having a good week so far?

Today's big news is that as of right now the new SHADOWS ON THE MOON with extra content is officially on sale - so if you've always wanted to know what happens after the end of the story... get in there because this is your chance. And BAREFOOT ON THE WIND has not only been recommended on this amazing list of Spooky Reads For Autumn and Winter Nights from BookTrust, but shortlisted for the Highgate Wood School Book Award (in two different categories, no less) which is sweet and humbling at the same time.

Now, before I do anything else, I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who left comments, emailed, facebooked or tweeted me with mesages of support after my news about Finn. Each message meant something to me, and it did - and does - help.

With that in mind, I decided to let you all know that I eventually had to veto the idea of chemo for Finn. I was really desperate to try it - it's carefully calibrated to cause minimal side effects and might have offered Finn between another six months to a year of life. But then the vet brought up an issue which isn't negotiable - the treatment itself takes six months, during which time it's a rule that owners must 'avoid direct contact' with their pet, due to the toxic nature of the drugs involved. Which means: no stroking or cuddles, no letting them up on the furniture with you or to sleep on the bed, no kisses on the snout, no absentmindedly patting their ears when they lie with their head on your knee while you read. No bathing them or grooming them, even, unless you can do it with gloves on. 

Finn has literally never in his entire life been treated that way. Not when he somehow managed to roll in fox droppings three times in one day. Not even when he stayed with my mum for the first time and chewed the ears off her limited edition Steiff Teddy Bear. He sulks when strangers on the street don't stop to give him fuss. If I suddenly cut off 90% of physical contact with him, he can't be expected to understand why it's happening, and I honestly believe it would break his heart. It would definitely break mine. I can't bear the thought of turning away and refusing to give him the love and physical affection he'd desperately need during a period when he would feel very ill and anxious. I do want him with me as long as possible - but only if he's happy and feels safe and loved.

So instead, he's on strong steroids, which will help to manage his symptoms for now, and some painkillers. He's perked up considerably, is enjoying short walks again, and is generally waggy and bright-eyed, which is what I want his last weeks or months to be like. It's his favourite season, and when I was able to watch him snuffling cheerfully through the fallen leaves, and then rolling around on the kitchen floor while I was drying him with a warm towel (another of his favourite things), I knew I'd made the right choice. The vet says that there's no way, with this course of treatment, to know how long it will work. So I just have to keep a close eye on him and make sure his comfort is my top priority.


OK, now that's out of the way - another update, this one on NaNoWriMo. As many of you know from the blog and twitter, I was gearing up for a massive NaNo effort this year and basically wanted to use it to both get my mind off worrying about Finn AND finish my current project if possible.

But the NaNo-Curse (which in previous years took the form of the NaNo-Virus and the NaNo-Slipped-Disc) struck again on Tuesday when I woke up in the middle of the night with a blinding migraine. The migraine didn't begin to ease up until late on Tuesday, and I still had a horrible headache, funny vision, dizziness and the ever-delightful nausea when I woke up yesterday morning (and everytime I started thinking about the words I SHOULD have been writing, my blood pressure went up and my eyeball responded with the kind of warning throb that made me strongly suspect it might just explode if I pushed the issue).

I'm feeling a lot better now, but still fragile and light sensitive, which means that squinting at either a backlit screen or even my own crabbed handwriting in a notebook for hours at a time isn't going to be a good idea for another day or two. And that's pretty much put the kibosh on all my good intentions.

Realistically, I know that I could still catch up if I went Hell for leather and really pushed myself over the next week. But I also know that my migraines tend to increase in frequency and severity when I'm stressed out - and I'm pretty stressed out even before bringing NaNo into things. I don't really want to turn National Novel Writing Month into Zolah Tortures Herself And Has No Fun Month.

HOWEVER. I was already being a NaNo Rebel, what with working on a WIP rather than a completely fresh manuscript. So even if I can't get to the official finish-line of 50,000 in November, I figure I can still be a part of NaNo and just try to write as much as possible this month.

I'm going to begin afresh this weekend - and my new plan is to try something a bit different for me, and write non-linearly. I'll pick any scenes from my synopsis that strongly appeal to me (without regard to where they come in the plot) start wherever I want to and finish when I run out of things to write. If I end up with a whole bunch of random scenes that need arranging into order and stitching into a whole, fine. If I end up getting carried away and writing from the middle to the end, fine. If I end up with a bit of a middle, part of an end, and some other random chapters that I need to sort out, also fine. Just as long as I end up with a nice fat chunk of words by December 1st.

I know some of you guys were tempted into NaNo this year - how are things going for you so far? Let me know in the comments. I'll update you again next week and we can celebrate or commiserate as appropriate. Take care, and read you later folks.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

CHECKING IN

Hi guys - I hope you're having a good week so far (or if not, that it looks up from this point).

The Massive Reviewer Reward Giveaway is over and everyone except one person has their prizes, but if you didn't win there's no need for despair. I'm currently running another giveaway for three signed copies of BAREFOOT ON THE WIND on Goodreads, so anyone who couldn't enter the first giveaway for whatever reason stands a chance of winning there. Check it out.

More good news: this lovely review from Amanda Craig in the new SCOOP Magazine, in which she calls the book 'Beautifully written and imagined' and all sorts of other nice things.

Now for... not so good news. This week some results came back from the vet and gave me a diagnosis that I never, ever wanted to see. Finn has cancer. It's lymphoma, which is treatable (thankfully I kept on stubbornly paying his insurance premiums, year on year, even though they've gotten to the level of ludicrous and lately I've had to make some hard choices about paying the insurance vs. my grocery bill) but not curable. What that means is that he'll have veterinary chemotherapy, designed to ease any symptoms and make the patient comfortable without too many side effects, but not to actually extend his life if it will make him suffer. I might get a few extra months with him... but at the end of that time the cancer will come back and that will be the end of the road.

I'm taking him to hopefully start that treatment today, and I'm praying that he will respond well to it and he'll get as much time as possible with the best quality of life possible before I have to let him go. My dad used to joke that Finn was his favourite grandchild, and he spent so much time playing with and training him that I felt as if he really belonged to both of us. They shared the same personality - mischievous, silly, inquisitive, clever, gentle and affectionate. Even Finn's occasional bouts of selective deafness and pigheaded stubbornness remind me of dad. Facing the prospect of losing him is... pretty bad.

Anyway, if things are rather quiet around here for the next little while, you'll know why. I'm still hoping to take part in NaNo - writing has always been a solace and source of comfort to me during the worst times, and I will definitely need something else to think about. I'll try to check in again at least a couple of times as November progresses and let you know how it worked at the end of the month. Anyone else who is doing NaNo this year is super welcome to add me as a buddy over on the website.

Any good thoughts and good wishes you might have spare, Dear Readers, will be much appreciated. I think Finn and I will both need them.



Tuesday, 11 October 2016

NEW ARRIVALS!

Hello, my little macaroons! Happy Wednesday to everyone, and thank you for joing me today. I'm delighted to say that I have pretty pretty pictures to share - because in the last week not one but TWO delightful parcels have arrived for me bearing gifts.

What was in package number one, you ask? Why ask no further, because it was THIS:

 
 

The final volume of the Candlewick Press hardback editions of The Name of the Blade Trilogy! A rather lucious jade green this time, with a scale effect and copper typography - and matching green binding with copper foil and endpapers.

And yes, that's a jellyfish in the silhouette. If you've read the book you know why, and if not then you'll just have to buy this and find out won't you?

But even better than that!



Together at last. My fourteen year old self, if she could see this, would be actual-facts-ugly-crying. I nearly did myself. The trilogy is now officially completed and it's so beautiful!

But wait - there's more. ALSO in the post last week was THIS:




Yes, that's a glimpse of the long-awaited sequel/short story/epilogue of Shadows on the Moon, which I hope will satisfy fans of the book at last. But this book, too, is part of a set, so it seemed only right to do this:




Look what they did with the back covers there - isn't that clever? It's almost like the tangle of thorns transforms into a swirl of hair in the same gust of wind the sweeps the cherry blossoms across from one book to another. Gorgeous!

Frail Human Heart will be out in the US at the beginning of November. This new and improved version of Shadows on the Moon will be out here in the UK at the same time.

Once they're both on the shelves... I'm sure not what'll be next for me. I'm out of contract now - I have no new books due out for the first time in a decade. I'm still working on the book I got my Arts Council grant for, and I'm hoping to make a giant leap in progress during NaNoWriMo this year (yes, I'm going to give it another bash, no, I never learn, and yes, I will keep you all abreast of my progress - in fact, why not join up too and friend me here?) but I don't know when or if that will be published. I have some other news about my future which I'm hoping to share soon, but I need to get official confirmation first. Apart from that it's all wide open, which is both scary and exciting. 2017 is going to be an eventful year, I think!

Read you later, cupcakes!

NaNoWriMo

Thursday, 6 October 2016

MASSIVE REVIEWER REWARD WINNER!

Hello, my lovelies! Happy Thursday to you all. Today I bring you the reveal of the winner for the MASSIVE REVIEWER REWARD GIVEAWAY. First up through - if you've reviewed on Amazon and you haven't sent me your address yet? Email me through my website contact form here and let me know it. I'm hoping to get all the Reviewer Rewards out over the next week or so, but obviously that depends on me knowing where to send them!

OK, so at about two minutes past midnight last night I assigned everyone who reviewed on Amazon or Amazon.com a numerical value. Then I fed the numbers into a random number generator and it picked one out. Who is it?

Drumroll please!




*



*



*



*



*



*


RACHEL BALCOMBE!


*Sparklers explode* *Champagne corks pop* *Trumpets blare*

Hurray, hurray! Congratulations Rachel - I very much hope you will enjoy your prize. You've already sent me your address for the Reviewer Reward, so I'll try and get your (expansive) package out to you in the post in the next week. Part of the prize includes delicious chocolate treats, so if you have any allergies, intolerances or strong likes/dislikes, please let me know (in the comments here is fine)!

In other news, BookTrust have picked BAREFOOT ON THE WIND as one of their October Books We Like and have given it a lovely review, which you can check out there. Obviously I'm delighted (and hope it might cause a few more copies to fly off the shelves).

And another reminder that YAShot is approaching with all the speed of a feral runaway warthog - although the event will of course be much more enjoyable (and more fragrant!) than that. I believe there are still tickets left, but not many, so if you want to get in do it NOW.

Read you later, cookies!
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