Autumn in Canada… times (and titles) are a-changin’

Hello blog world!

Sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Times have been a changin’ — so autumn seems like the perfect to start blogging again. One of the biggest changes has been the fact that I am now officially a Canadian resident again. After eight years in the UK, it feels good to be here. The temperatures are surely dropping though… maybe in mid-February I will regret this decision!

But with colours like this, how could I be sad?

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Long walks in the forest near our cottage are revitalizing… photo by Evan George

The second news is that Madly has made its title jump to The Potion Diaries in the US and Canada – so now it’s the same all over the world! Royal Tour is also out everywhere now. My plea (as always) is if you read it and loved it, please leave me a review somewhere online ūüôā

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The last big change is that while¬†I’m writing away feverishly on book 3 (Going Viral!), I’m taking some time for self-care. Autumn is the perfect season for that, isn’t it? Summer is great and high-energy and all (and I’ve had eight months of summer – I know that will get no sympathy but trust me, I’m tired of it!) but I’m ready for the Cosy Season. This isn’t the time for the pressure of new beginnings, but¬†a chance to reflect on the year that’s gone by. And it’s been a tough one, hasn’t it? 2016 has been difficult (to put it mildly) for so many of the people closest to me.¬†I want to wrap us all in a warm duvet, hand out mugs of¬†hot chocolate,¬†and tell us to be kind to ourselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness, and what it looks like for me. I think I’ve figured out what has helped me. First of all, I think most important of all has been…

Establishing a routine

I’m the first one to put my hand up and say I want a different sort of life. A life filled with travel and adventures and experiences that looks nothing like what I’ve been told is ‘normal’. Yet, establishing a routine is part of being kind to myself. I’m balking internally at this realization of mine, but I can’t escape the fact that it’s true. I hadn’t understood¬†how stressful those micro decisions are: what to eat for meals? where to go? how will we get there? Having a routine means taking some of those questions away, giving me more space to breathe and therefore…

Allowing myself the space to be creative

Without a routine, I let my work take the back seat.¬†I also vastly underestimated the stress of an international move.¬†But that’s finished now. It’s time to let writing drive me again, and to remember the joy that creativity brings to my life. And that means that I’m happier when I’m…

Spending time with family

In addition to being closer to my wonderful parents, I’ve been so lucky to have my sister over (she lives in Australia), and getting to see her always restores my soul. Gathering around the people that offer me support – and accepting that support – is all part of being kind to myself. And it also means that I’ve had the courage to start…

Exercising again

I’ve added a 30 minute workout¬†into my routines, whether that’s a run, a Sweat with Kayla workout, an Insanity DVD or a PT session. I’d forgotten how much I valued those 30 minutes of hard work¬†time. Even though it’s a great clich√©, exercise does do as much for my mind as it does for my body. It was good to remind myself of that.

So that’s what I’ve been focused on. How about you? What do you do to be kind to yourself?

Leave me¬†a note in the comments below if you want to share ūüôā

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Potosi and Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – bold, beautiful and strange

Leaving Argentina and Chile was bitter sweet – waving goodbye to great steak, great wine and huge, sweeping vistas. Almost immediately Bolivia felt different – and it wasn’t just the cholitas carrying bundles of baby llamas over the border. Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador have a totally different feel to their Southern neighbours, and they require¬†a different style of travel. But you know what? This is the kind of travel I absolutely love… and they did not disappoint.

We only had a short week in Bolivia but – wow – what a place. It was more than long enough to make me fall absolutely in love with the country, and definitely wanting to go back for more.

This is going to be a picture-heavy post, because even my best words can’t quite convey the weird and wonderful scenery that we encountered here. It often felt like visiting another planet – perfect, of course, for this sci-fi lover.

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Spot the truck! Bushcamping on a river bed in southern Bolivia

Our first stop in Bolivia was the mining town of Potosi, once the biggest and richest city in all the Americas. The reason? Cero Ricco or ‘rich mountain’ – a mountain that basically funded the Spanish empire with the wealth of silver buried within its rocky depths. A really informative mint museum in the centre of Potosi put¬†it into context – the Potosi symbol (a jumbled PTSI) stamped on silver pieces of eight became the dollar sign we all know today $.¬†Unfortunately, the mountain has been so over-mined there’s almost no silver left and the mountain is collapsing from the top down. Even so, miners continue to work there every day, in treacherous conditions. As tourists, we were able to go and visit the mines and witness their way of life. It was an experience that made me deeply uncomfortable – both claustrophobic (which is rare for me, but I really felt the weight of the mountain) and to see the hardship that the men and women there endure. We were able to bring in soda and coca leaves for the workers, but I still left feeling shaken.

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View of Potosi from Cerro Rico

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Entering the mines

From Potosi, we travelled to Uyuni, the launching point of tours to the Salar de Uyuni¬†or Uyuni salt flats¬†– probably Bolivia’s most famous tourist destination. This was always destined to be a highlight of our trip but it REALLY lived up to our expectations! In this case, it was all because of our awesome guide, Luis. He was an absolute pro at helping us take epic perspective photos and gave us some real insight into the history of the salt flats.

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Contorting into strange positions to take the photos

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Of course I had to take a picture with The Potion Diaries!

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Probably the coolest thing for me was Cactus Island, an awesome ‘oasis’ in the middle of the salt flats that clearly demonstrate its once underwater origins. We were essentially clambering over an ancient coral reef – with evidence of the coral all around. Of course, the thousands of cacti everywhere made for a totally unique landscape and great photos!

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Our last stop was a train graveyard as the sun was setting. So cool!

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15 memories from 2015

2015 has been a strange year. In a lot of ways, it feels ‘quieter’ than previous years – there was no engagement, no book deal, no wedding… and yet, in reality it’s probably been the¬†biggest year yet. It’s been my life-long dream to be a full-time writer and now I’ve finally achieved it, but officially leaving my amazing publishing role (which I loved) ended up being one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made. The shock of leaving permanent work has definitely been eased by the prospect of long-term travel in South America – and I’ve always known that if I wanted to continue to grow as a writer, I’d have to continue to live. All my books feature adventure, so I better have a few of my own!

Writing this post has been helpful in remembering that there doesn’t necessarily have to be a big ‘landmark’ event in order to have a big year. So without further ado… 15 memories from an actually spectacular 2015!

1.The nationwide air-raid alarm going off as Lofty and I¬†strolled around Amsterdam.¬†We loved our spring visit to this vibrant city but we didn’t expect the air-raid warning (or civil defence siren, as it’s actually known)! Apparently it’s tested on the first Monday of every month, good to know ūüôā Apart from being momentarily terrified, we ate pancakes of all shapes and sizes, wandered the streets and visited the Rijiksmuseum

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2.Making Aga scones on a writing retreat to Skye. Hiding away in beautiful Skye, Scotland in March with two of my best writerly friends, Kim Curran and Laura Lam, visiting castles and fairy pools and writing the second Potion Diaries book: Royal Tour was definitely a highlight of this year. We probably made more Aga scones than we did any actual writing, and we made a great (and unexpected) friend in the beautiful photographer Knibbs, but it was just what I needed.

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3.Upgrading to a bright red Jeep and driving around Volcano National Park on Big Island, Hawaii with Lofty, my sister and her boyfriend, Evan.¬†My family is spread across the globe – UK, Canada and Australia – so where better to meet up than the remote islands of Hawaii? For Evan’s 30th birthday we bought him a trip to Volcano National Park, and we had a whirlwind adventure around the lava. We also played golf, ate our bodyweight in tuna poke and learned how to surf. It truly was paradise and I can’t wait to get to go back!

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4.The fantastic Forest of Reading event in Toronto, where The Oathbreaker’s Shadow was up for the White Pine Award!¬†How often do authors get to walk on stage and be cheered on like rockstars? The atmosphere here was so fantastic, and I got to meet a ton of readers who loved my books.

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5.Filming The Potion Diaries trailer. Watching an awesome team of filmmakers put together a trailer for your book is always going to be a highlight! We took to the New Forest to find a beautiful old shop (The Old Apothecary) and perfect forest scenery to shoot in.

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6.Completing the London Colour Run with Kim.¬†So my fitness goals haven’t exactly been at the top of my priority list this year (there have been no marathons!) but I did do a color run and it was brilliant. I’ve also been trying out my local OrangeTheory gym – highly recommended.

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7.Launching The Potion Diaries at Waterstones Piccadilly!¬†I can’t even begin to explain how magical the process of publishing The Potion Diaries has been… but it started with the awesome launch party that Simon & Schuster UK helped me put together! My agent, Juliet Mushens, gave me the most beautiful Potion Diaries themed necklace and I felt thoroughly spoiled. Since then, I’ve been on so many school visits and bookshop tours and met tons of fans of the book – it’s been a real experience and one I hope to repeat every year!

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8.Finally getting to explore¬†the treasures of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK. It was hard to pick a single memory as we’ve done lots of day trips around the UK and exploring the wonders that are a bit closer to home. We also went back to North Wales and also visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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9.Dragon-spotting inside the Brighton Pavilion with Zoe.¬†I spent a lot of time in Brighton this year working with my¬†lovely author Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella), and so getting to¬†know her better has been amazing. She is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, and what she’s accomplished so far is more than a little bit mind-boggling. But my best memory with her this year was on one of our non-working days, when we wandered the Lanes and visited the Brighton Pavilion, which was weird and wonderful and full of dragons — so of course, I loved it.¬†IMG_6107

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10.Dressing up for YALC and London Comiccon. Easily the best UK literary event of the year, YALC was all sorts of awesome! I had fun dressing up as a Capitol citizen for the Hunger Games night and was on a panel the next day hosted by my great friend (and also awesome author) James Smythe. Seeing the passion for YA in the UK is just so motivating, and I am so proud to be a part of this community.

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11.Celebrating our wedding anniversary in stunning¬†Dubrovnik, Croatia.¬†In August we sailed for two weeks on the SailCroatia ship Aurora and it was absolutely fantastic. Croatia was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever visited – the food was amazing, the weather perfect and the beaches stunning. It was also the ideal¬†place to reflect on our first year of being a married couple – and¬†my conclusion has to be that I am the luckiest girl in the world to have a partner who relishes life’s adventures as much as I do. Life is never a dull moment when we’re together – and who ever wants dull?

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12.Appearing on my first morning television show in Toronto. After worrying a little about how¬†Madly¬†would be received in North America, I was truly stunned by the reception! I was featured on CBC and Global News and had a brilliant launch party hosted by Perfect Books in Ottawa. My parents have been such huge supporters of me and my writing, so it was great to have them involved —¬†CBC filmed their segment inside their carpet store, Canadian Rug Traders. The morning TV show was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was also a lot of fun… and gave me a bit of inspiration for book two, which you will read about very soon!

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13.Welcoming Remy into the world. One of my best friends welcomed her second baby into the world, the gorgeous Remy, and at just three weeks old she made the journey to Ottawa to come and visit me for my book launch. It was a bit of a hair-raising visit but the memory reminds me just how lucky I am to have such amazing friends who are prepared to do just about anything for one another. I’m really looking forward to being closer to this little girl and her kick-ass big brother (and maybe their parents too) in 2016.

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14.Speaking of which… welcoming Cody into the world. Another bestie brought her first born into the world just a few weeks ago, and I am so honoured to be godmother! Cody is just the most delicious little baby and I can’t wait to watch him grow up to be the handsomest little man. I’m going to miss him tons – but one of my new years resolutions is to send more postcards, and this man is going to be top of the receiving list!

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15.Pork extravaganza in Krakow, Poland.¬†Another whirlwind European adventure was our trip to Wroclaw and Krakow, Poland! We weren’t exactly sure what to expect from the food in Poland, but we ended up having the most incredible meal of the year. A full pork knuckle with sauerkraut mash and flavoured vodka… drool.

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Bonus memory! Christmas in Chippenham…¬†We’ve ended 2015 with a most perfect Christmas in the UK – a great sendoff for our next adventures. 2016 looks set to be one of the best years yet, so bring it on, I say!

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Happy New Year to all the blog readers! And be sure to check back in 2016!!

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YALC 2015 and The Potion Diaries!

I must interrupt the Hawaii posts for a super important THE POTION DIARIES-related announcement! I am thrilled to be appearing at YALC 2015 at Olympia in London from 17th-19th July 2015. *HAPPY DANCES*

YALC is the hugely successful Young Adult Literature Convention, held at the London Film and Comic Con, which was launched by the awesome Malorie Blackman last year. Like last year, it’s going to offer a mixture of panels, talks, interviews, book signings and workshops – something for everyone – but they’re aiming to make the experience EVEN better by focusing on shorter queues, separate tickets for YALC-goers, more quiet areas and bigger space. Sounds like they’re ticking all the boxes (and last year will be pretty darn hard to beat). I don’t know exactly which dates yet I’ll be appearing, or on what panels, but I promise to update you as soon as I know.

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Make sure to book your tickets for YALC early Рit was one of the best events I attended last year and it sells out rapidly: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/film-and-comic-con-london-tickets-15664017498

Other awesome authors like Cassandra Clare, Derek Landy, Carrie Hope Fletcher, and many more, will be there. For more information on YALC, click here: http://www.londonfilmandcomiccon.com/index.php/yalc

Proofs have arrived with my agent, Juliet Mushens!

Proofs sitting pretty on my agent’s desk!

Also incredibly exciting is that the proofs for THE POTION DIARIES are out in the wild! If you would like to receive one, make sure to drop me a link through my contact page or tweet to me and I’ll see what I can do (no promises!) This is mostly relevant if you are a non-North American¬†blogger, as I’m hoping that the US/Canada will do their own proofs/ARCs for MADLY. ¬†I just can’t wait to see them in person.

Here’s last year’s blog about YALC, if you want to see what all the fuss is about!

And if you’d like to pre-order THE POTION DIARIES… you can from amazon.co.uk or waterstones.com!

 

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