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Etsy does Bookish: Literary Gifts for your Fantastic Gang

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

The creativity of bookish folk is magical. 

The imagination used to fall down rabbit holes, explore fantasy kingdoms, and pledge ourselves to our fae overlords boyfriends must switch on something sparkly in the brain. 

How else do people find enough wi-fi in those witchy attics, roof-top mirror worlds and spooky forests to set up Goblin Market Etsy shops? 

Does imagination come first, or does reading fiction turn us into dreamers, makers, conjurors? 

I pulled on my selkie-armour and finest spell-helmet to go foraging for the shiniest and brightest baubles, and this is what I found:

red london candle, ve schwab a darker shade of magic gift

1. A Darker Shade of Magic Candle

‘I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.’

Let Lila do the swashbuckling while you live lying down, reading, burning this Red London candle to conjure Kell’s city instead.
The Polished Parlour is a treasure-trove of bookish goodies, with this one smelling of lilac, firewood and mulled wine. They stock White and Grey London candles too, but why take the risk?
As travars!
The Red London Candle: Inspired by V.E. Schwab’s a Darker Shade of Magic Series

raven boys maggie stiefvater dream thieves blue lily blue raven king aglionby ronan lynch adam parrish blue gansey gift present book read book read present gift etsy bookworm

2. Raven Boys Aglionby Pin

Drop in on the Raven Boys on your way back from London. It may seem far but there’s a lay-line for that, right?

Pin on this beauty to show your love for Noah/Adam/Ronan/Gansey, just be careful what you say around those trees. They can hear you…

Aglionby Pin from ArtofIVDP (a shop crammed with fandom delights)

little women tee tshirt meg & jo & Beth & Amy

3. Little Women Tee

I’m mournful now. Being #TeamNoah has that effect. Time to indulge myself with some Little Women merchandise. I’m straying from the fantasy stable here, but Jo is definitely made of magic.

I want seven of these so I can wear one every day of the week. One wouldn’t be enough to soak up my tears. There’s a reason Joey put this book in the freezer

Little Women tshirt from Mighty Circus. (They also do a Care Bears tee I’m dying for!)

sarai funko from strange the dreamer laini taylor

4. Sarai Funko (Strange The Dreamer)

Back to true fantasy with this beauty from Fandomly Selected. I love her, the hair is the exact cinnamon red I imagined while reading.

Does not come with a handle at the back which you turn to eject one hundred moths, but you can’t have everything*.

Sarai Funko from Fandomly Selected

everything everything literary print picture nicola yoon framed

5. Everything Everything Print

*You can, however, have this pretty-pretty Everything Everything print as a gift. How cool would this look in a bookish boudoir, or next to your bedroom window?

It’s made from antique paper, which is a tender touch that matches the spirit of the book. This is another one which makes me cry, so I’d have to frame it fast to catch my tears on the glass.

Everything Everything Print from Book Cover Art.

handmaid's tale tee tishirt praise be margaret atwood

6. Handmaid’s Tale Tee

Time to stop crying & take action. March on the menfolk – no, away from the menfolk!- in this zinger of a red tee. Not the best colour to blend into the snow, granted, but you’re clever enough to overcome that.

Praise Be tee from Ninety5 prints

howl's moving castle calcifer pin

7. Howl Pin

There’s an age where you’re supposed to stop believing in magic. Or, so some people think.

I remember being a kid, as my friends gave up on spells and broomsticks, thinking, ‘But what if I stop believing and  right then something magical happens and I miss it?’

The risk was never worth it. I’m now officially Grown Up and can report no ill-affects from continuing to believe that fairies could be lurking under hedges and that, given the right pair of wings, I might fly.

This Calcifer pin from Howl’s Moving Castle is the perfect small accessory to signal to others that you know about magic and other worlds, while blending in with the muggles. NayukiDraws has the cutest gang of Ghibli characters around, alongside other anime, video game artwork and keyrings.

james and the giant peach cushion pillow roald dahl

8. James and the Giant Peach Pillow

Cushions for book-lovers make the best gifts, because after a long afternoon’s reading they’ll need a good nap. This Roald Dahl pillow is my favourite because it’s so cheery, but it’s a hard choice with so many in the Storiarts shop to choose from. The same seller stocks literary scarves, gloves and bags, ranging from Shakespeare to Strange The Dreamer, so I’m sure I’ll be back next time I need a gift for a book loving pal.

Keep an eye on my bookish etsy treasure-trove list as I update it through the year – and let me know if you find new shops for me to add! Why not check out my list of crafty geek presents next?

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Crafty Cool


5 geek craft projects to make your own

The best way to justify a day in front of Netflix is to be knitting/sewing/making while you do it. Instant ‘I’m being productive’ vibes, while you binge so many shows that the plots get confused. Were the clones in Orange Is the New Black, or Orphan Black? Was I just crying at Riverdale or the Vampire Diaries?

Bonus: make people stuff & they think you’re clever and creative. It’s quicker & cheaper to knit up a zombie hat than it is to attend university.

So, today I bring you the very best in knit & crochet fandom. You’re welcome ;-).

1. Knit your own Death Star

The one time you want holes in your knitting, or else how will the rebels get in?
This pattern from Nicole Kostelec is free on Ravelry, aka the best knitting site around.

2. Hook up with the Firefly crew

Behold the cuteness of Lucy Collin’s Firefly amigurumi! Why not buy the patterns from Etsy here, make all of them and send them to me. Please. I can crochet but I’m too lazy. I also love her Adventure Time cuties.

3. Fake a Futurama face

In the future, we won’t need Zoidberg costumes because the sea-levels will have risen and it’ll be ‘Evolve or Die’. Finally us humans will have our own tentacley crustacea thing going on. Til then, why not knit this Zoidberg balaclava and mittens? They’ll call you futuristic. They’ll be right.

4. Bring Your Own Brains

Pessimists among you may dispute my ‘in the future we’ll all have gills’ theory. Perhaps you think it more likely that a zombie plague will wipe us out before we get to evolve to Zoidberg heights. Knit yourself a zombie brraaiins hat and go to war against the zoidberg-balaclava people. Fight! Fight! Fight!

5. Dream with Doctor Who

Me, I’m a pacifist, more about the theorising than the fisticuffs, so I won’t get involved in the dispute. I’ll be at home, snuggled under my Doctor Who quilt. Night night. Sweet dreams.

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NANOWRIMO jealousy

revision supplies, bright stationery and writer toys

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I have a Twitter friend who is also revising her novel & we’ve been watching wistfully, noses pressed against the window, while others get to do The Fun Part, aka NANOWRIMO, aka just writing with abandon & making new things every day & getting to hit tangible word count goals, fingers flying & beams beaming and sentences running on, long and lovely like this one, because they don’t have to be well behaved & polished yet, la la just do it la.

Revision & editing, on the other hand, are slow and laborious chores, & neither of us have faith that what we’re working on is going to be worth it.

We’ve swapped some DMs to be mutually supportive, & today I’m taking my reply public, in case any others in Edit Land find it useful. And so I can get my daily dose of procrastination before I open Scrivener…

Yes, Twitter Friend, there is an argument for giving a misbehaving novel a cut-off point, by which time it must behave or be abandoned. But I have a Maggie Stiefvater quote pinned above my desk which says that the ones who make it are the ones who keep going:

…even if they know that this novel is not the one that will be good enough to get published, because they know that practice is the only way to get to the one that will be good enough to be published

I’ve kept going on this damn novel because I think the experience of finishing it, with all its knots & tangles, will teach me something valuable, even if no one ever reads it but me.

But, hey, I don’t know what you’re working on & it’s also true that Laini Taylor only wrote Daughter of Smoke and Bone when she gave up on the Sci Fi project she was supposed to be finishing instead. I don’t want stoicism to stop us writing our own DOSABs!

Yes, Twitter Friend, I do have editing/revising resources I use. They are Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel, the questionnaire in Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel Workbook, & the section on edits in Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k.

Holly’s course is massive & takes months, It’s also marvellous, but I suspect you don’t want to dwell that long on your project so check out the others if you haven’t yet – Rachel’s is fastest, Maass’s is medium.

A mix of these methods has left me with a Revision To Do list in Excel, full of promises that if I ‘just’ do those things (make X younger, foreshadow Y, make the flea market a cafe), this novel will be better.

I’ve spent too long trying to figure out which thing on the list to do next. Which one will be the cleverest, the most sensible, the one I with the smallest rubiks cube effect, where one scene is now perfect but it’s made a knock-on mess of all the other ones. Which action will make me happiest, fastest?

It’s become an excuse that freezes me. So I’m just going to pick one. Here it is:

Block out the moves & drama & consequences of the very last scene. What precise ways does the threat manifest, and how exactly is it defeated? Then I can foreshadow that in the previous scenes.

The other thing I’m going to do is *actually write* version 2 of the scene. I’ve been leaving a lot of notes for Future Me about what to do to improve things. But I haven’t been doing those things, just imagining how good/bad (depending on my self esteem weather-vane) the eventual scene will be when I do. Time to do more writing than planning, Rhian.

Has writing this post been procrastination? Kinda. Is it wonderful to get to start & finish & share something, even just an imperfect 500 word blog post? YUP!

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How to write a book: resources for the first time novelist

best writing craft books

When I tell people I write fiction, sometimes they say ‘Hey, I’d like to write, too!’

Then I geek out on recommending craft books, resources to change ‘I’d like to write!’ to ‘I write!’, and their eyes glaze over because hours have passed & my enthusiasm has turned scary.

This page is a restrained list of the resources I most often recommend.

It’s a list for first-time novelists. I love reading about craft & have a teetering sub-list of other, nerdier writing books I adore, but I’ve kept this batch broad, & applicable to any genre.

Note: this is what I needed when I was starting out. At that point I’d been practicing & going to writing classes enough to know I could write a few thousand decent words, but had no clue how to turn those into a novel.
You might be at a different stage. Or you might prefer a different book on the same subject (though I’m willing to bet it will be the same advice, just in a voice or style that’s more you).
If none of these appeal, ignore me. Just start writing, and keep reading other people’s fiction until you can figure out what they are doing to bewitch you.

Important: Don’t stop writing while you’re reading: keep your hand in with some kind of practice along the way. It’s easy to trick yourself into feeling productive because you’ve read about doing something, instead of actually doing it. Most of these books have exercises to follow: use them. It’s the best way to learn.

My top three desert-island, heavyweight champs of writing craft books:

The Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass. Skip the accompanying book & go straight to this workbook.  It’s full of exercises to make what happens in your novel matter.
Save The Cat, by Blake Snyder. For when you don’t know what’s supposed to happen next. This is classic on how to structure a story (though you could easily substitute Weiland, Bell or Hawker’s books on structure for it (see below), this is the one I read first, & I wish I’d found it sooner).
Spellbinding Sentences, by Barbara Baig, advanced reading & practical exercises on how to make clever, beautiful sentences.

Other strong contenders

Structure & outlining

Outlining your novel by KM Weiland. KM’s books are always friendly & sensible. Good for beginners on where to take your baby idea next.
Take Off Your Pants  by Libbie Hawker. This is the outlining book I refer to the most. before and during writing (despite always getting Blink 182 songs stuck in my head).
Super Structure by James Scott Bell.  Another simple explanation of story structure that gets you up & started, quickly.
(Psst, if you’re writing romance, supplement these with Gwen Hayes’ Romancing The Beat)

What the hell is a scene, anyway?

How to Write Page Turning Scenes, by Holly Lisle

Revision

How to Revise Your Novel by Holly Lisle. I have no other resources for revision because this mammoth online course covered everything. EVERYTHING. And taught me a huge amount about novel writing in general, not just revising.

Editing

Before You Hit Send Another online course, this one for gussying up that revised novel. Run a few times a year by a thorough & well-respected editor who answers questions personally in the forums. Take notes, as you only have access to course content while you’re enrolled.
The Emotional Thesaurus and The Fiction Thesaurus will help you to show not tell, & the actual thesaurus, Rogets, will give you a hand when you’re absolutely sure there’s no other word to describe your character than ‘nice’ or ‘good’.


For remembering writing is fun, & staying in touch with your creativity:

(‘step away from the beat sheet, ma am’)
Use A Writer’s Book of Days  and How to Be a Writer: Building Your Creative Skills Through Practice and Play for prompts & exercises that will get you playing around with words, & remembering why you thought writing a novel would be a good idea in the first place.

The Artist’s Way is what you need if your brain is playing up & talking crap about you & your creativity.

Last but not least, you’ll need:

All of your favourite books, and some you dislike.
Tear yourself away from the plot & characters & examine how they transport you, or turn you off: How much of the page is dialogue? How much is description? How is sensory detail used? How does the setting reveal detail about the characters? What is irritating about the books you don’t like? Why don’t they suck you in, or how do they let you down?


There. C’est tout. For now. Happy writing!

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