[BOOKTOUR] Alyssa Sheinmel on writing

I’m so excited to host this guest blog from author Alyssa Sheinmel! After you’ve read her advice on writing, make sure you check out her new novel, FACELESS, and my review!


Writers are often asked what writing advice they would give to aspiring authors, to younger versions of themselves, or to just about anyone who has a story to tell. 

I always give the same answer, and I have to admit, it’s pretty simple. (Plus, it’s something most people who write love to do anyway.) It’s just one word and only a single syllable. It’s also one of my favorite words in the whole world.

Read.

Okay, I know that’s not the most insightful suggestion. It’s not particularly original.   I mean, you’ve probably heard that piece of advice a dozen times before, right?

I could at least be more specific. Like by suggesting a particular author or genre or style or author. Here goes – not just one but three more specific reading suggestions:

1. When I was in college, one of my favorite teachers told me to read writers who wrote the type of writing that I hoped to do myself someday. And I learned a lot from that type of reading, and continue to do it every chance I get.

2. Or, when I’m feeling a bit blocked, there are a few authors whose writing never fails to inspire me – writers whose work I look up to, whose stories are usually very different from the stories I’m trying to tell, but who tell the stories so well that just reading them feels like a lesson. (Just a small sample of these writers: Joan Didion, Mary Gordon, Alice Hoffman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway.)

3. I also get very motivated to write by researching the project I’m working on. In the case of Faceless, that meant reading a lot of articles about face transplants and immunosuppressive drug regimens. I’m a research-happy writer, and reading information about the story I’m telling always gets me that much more excited to tell it.

But … at the end of the day, I keep coming back to that one syllable. Read. Because I really do believe that every single thing I’ve ever read has taught me something about how to tell a story – books that I’ve loved and books that weren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Novels and non-fiction. Essays and articles. Even – and I really mean this – textbooks. (There’s one psychology textbook I read over a decade ago that I still think about all the time.) Everything has something to teach you – or at least, I feel like it has something to teach me. Ideas can come from the most unexpected of places. A textbook taught me to insert humour into a dry topic. Magazine articles have prompted (sometimes completely unrelated) story ideas. Novel after novel has shown me beautiful and unexpected sentences. Essays have improved my vocabulary. For me, the essential thing isn’t always what I’m reading; sometimes it’s just enough that I’m reading. It’s still (and I suspect always will be) the piece of advice I most often give to myself about writing: just sit down and pick up a book.

-Alyssa Sheinmel

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[GIVEAWAY] Throne of Glass Goodies

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I picked up the first book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas a long while ago but lots of ARCs have kept me from getting started. I’m so excited to finally have the time to delve into these books and I wanted to share a little giveaway with you all!

These adorable Throne of Glass badges are made by the brilliant Hooked on Books, and I have one set to give away to a lucky winner!

To enter just follow my Twitter account @fireflyreads and RT the below tweet, easy!  The competition is open internationally and will close on 30th November 2015 at 11pm GMT.

Please make sure you check out my Giveaway Policy before you enter.

Good luck!

Charlotte x

[GIVEAWAY] Geek Girl All Wrapped Up – Holly Smale

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I hope you’re excited for the brand new Geek Girl novel from Holly Smale, ALL WRAPPED UP!

To celebrate the launch of this festive little treat, I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy for one lucky winner! All you have to do is follow my Twitter account @fireflyreads and retweet my competition tweet – easy peasy!

The competition is open internationally and will close on 8th November 2015 at 11pm GMT.

Good luck!

Charlotte x

[BOUT OF BOOKS 14] Challenge 5: Character Soulmates

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

So today’s challenge is one that I’ve struggled with massively. We have to ship characters that belong in separate series and justify why we think they would be perfect together… sigh.

I’m so not the person for this challenge! I’m really indifferent to the vast majority of romance subplots in scifi, fantasy and dystopia and for me, most books would be better off just cutting it out completely. I’m definitely not the fangirl type. If romance isn’t done well then it just reads as cliché, makes me cringe and ultimately serves no purpose – if you want a great example of romance done well, check out SKIN by Ilka Tampke and ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven! There have been so many books I’ve loved until I hit the love triangle.

I will gladly be beaten by this challenge and just give you guys an update!

I’ve finally finished Skin – I put off the last few chapters because I just didn’t want it to end. It’s utterly magical, uplifting and powerful – go read it now!

I’ve also started ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vanderman. It’s giving me a real creeping unease and it’s one of those books I’m simultaneously dreading and looking forward to picking up again. I’m really liking his style, it’s very factual and that definitely adds to the weird feeling.

Let me know how you’re getting on with Bout of Books 14!

Charlotte x

[BOUT OF BOOKS 14] Challenge 4: Four Seasons

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

The fourth challenge this week was to find a book cover to represent each of the four seasons. I really enjoyed looking through all the beautiful cover art on my shelves and think I eventually found the perfect combination!

I love this edition of CITY OF ASHES so much and I’ve been forever disappointed that I just can’t find the rest of the series to match. I have beautiful copies of CITY OF BONES and CITY OF ASHES and I’m really not a fan of the covers that replaced them. I’ve got mad love for the new cover art by Míla Fürstová though, check it out here!

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Let me know which covers you chose!

Charlotte x

[BOUT OF BOOKS 14] Challenge 3: MASH

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

I LOVE THIS CHALLENGE! A total throwback, Day 3 brings a classic game of MASH.

I themed my game on the typical dystopian story, using options from various scifi, fantasy and YA novels. I took a few liberties with the meanings of MASH too, forgive me. My categories were:

DYSTOPIAN CITY – The place I will spend my youth, until my awakening as the only one with the power to change the world

MAGIC – Which lovingly crafted magical system I’ll discover and use to break free from the chains of oppression

LOVE INTEREST – Which handsome rebel is going to steal my heart and distract me from liberating my people

PET – The loyal companion that will accompany me on my quest and probably die at the end trying to save me (still not over Hedwig, Jo)

I drew a swirl with six gaps and off I went to find my destiny!

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So, in my very own dystopian story it looks like I’m taking down the patriarchy with Darrow, a bumblebee and some sweet sweet allomancy from the comfort of a magical forest. Yes. Actually does someone want to write that up for me? It sounds like something I’d very much like to read!

Charlotte x

[BOUT OF BOOKS 14] Challenge 2: Scavenger Hunt

“The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team”

Todays challenge is a good old scavenger hunt! I’ve searched through my shelves to find a book that fits each of the below categories. Let me know which ones you chose!
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1. A book that begins with “B”  (for Bout of Books!)
Okay so we’re not counting the ‘The’, right?
2. A book you’re planning to read/currently reading for Bout of Books
I’ve been TERRIBLE today and barely managed to squeeze any reading in at all. I’m currently in the final few chapters of the stunning SKIN by Ilka Tampke and I’m really looking forward to taking on this vibrant copy of ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vanderman next.
3. A book with a blue cover
Turns out ALL of my books for yesterdays challenge had blue covers! How weird is that?! I have an absolute tonne of books with beautiful blue cover art, but had to go for the gorgeous 20th anniversary edition of NORTHERN LIGHTS.
4. A book from my favourite genre
At the moment I’m moving out of my dystopia phase and I’m feeling some classic high fantasy. It was tough to choose just one book to represent this genre but I feel that a well-thumbed copy of Robert Jordan’s THE EYE OF THE WORLD sums it all up!
5. A book on my TBR shelf
I thought why not just take a picture of my whole TBR pile for you guys! There’s a good mixture of books I bought and books that I received for review. There are some started already and some that just keep getting bumped down the list the more I buy! This isn’t even the half of it… my mental TBR is never-ending!
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Charlotte x