August 31, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What's the best book you've read in August?

The best book I read--actually re-read--in August would have to be Ally Condie's Matched.  I read it back in November 2010 not long after it came out and really enjoyed it.  I loved it WAY more on the second read through.  There were things that I didn't catch in the first reading because I was hell-bent on gobbling the thing up, I was enjoying it that much (I do this all the time, and fail to notice things along the way). 

Matched--How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...with as little spoilerage as possible:
  1. Creative Elements: My favourite element would have to be Condie's inclusion of the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  First of all, it's a great poem, but secondly, Condie weaves it into the story so masterfully.  I LOVED it!  Also, the passing mention of a Robert Frost poem (included in the 100 Poems that remain in Cassia's world) which was not The Road Not Taken, subtly plays into the dystopia, where taking the less traveled path (i.e. resisting) is more than just frowned upon.  
  2. Worldbuilding: The world of Matched was such that I could actually buy into it.  Particularly with dystopian fiction, I find that this can be really difficult.  I've read certain dystopian novels where I really had to suspend my disbelief where the premise was concerned--to the point where it was completely distracting.  I need to believe that things in our world could get to a point where the dystopia's brand of oppression would actually be adopted by the masses.  Cassia's world felt as though it could conceivably come to pass (terrifying as that might be).  The scary thing is that some aspects of this world are actually appealing, and therein lies the believability of this dystopian world.
  3. Romance: The love triangle--I loved Ky, but still felt something for Xander (much like Cassia).  To make a love triangle truly intense/gripping/painful/bittersweet (I can't think of the word I'm looking for) both of the love interests have to have some kind of real connection with the MC. I felt like Condie did an excellent job making the reader fall in love with the one love interest, while still experiencing a certain amount of attachment and pain at setting the other one free.  I truly liked both of these fellas.
  4. Characters: Cassia as a main character was extremely likable and had just enough flaws to keep her from Mary Sue territory.  I was really able to connect with this character and actually gave a rip what happened to her and those she loved.  I felt her emotions vividly and could relate to both her tragedies and triumphs.  I could buy into both Ky and Xander as love interests, and really liked both of them.  The secondary characters were also well fleshed out (her grandpa and mom were favourites).
If you haven't read Matched yet and you like dystopian YA fiction, you definitely should.  Plus, the sequel Crossed comes out November 1st!

August 29, 2011

Smells Like Teen Angst (or Four Reasons Why I Prefer YA Over "Grownup" Books)

Picture this:  Thirty something female walks into big box bookstore, nearly giving herself whiplash checking whether anyone noticed her ducking into YA section.
Now picture this:  Same thirty something female in same bookstore wanders into Adult Fiction section, peruses selection, and yawns from boredom.  

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not all that much.  The truth is I would far rather read most YA fiction than what is available in the Adult market.  There are definitely authors in this latter group whose work I thoroughly enjoy (Lauren Willig, Deanna Raybourn, Susanna Kearsley...), along with all of the classics which I have no idea how to really categorize (Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens...).  More often than not, however, you'll find me curled up with a good YA book. 

So this got me thinking:  What is it about YA fiction that I like better than Adult fiction?  Here's what I came up with (this list is in no way exhaustive):
*Warning:  the follow list contains sweeping generalizations and personal opinions.  You've been warned!*
  1. Romance:  I prefer the less gratuitous, but still completely charged romances of many YA stories.  Yes, there are some YA stories that have more "adult" content as far as the romance goes, but generally speaking you aren't going to find bed-shaking, boot-knocking throwdowns on their pages.  There is something to be said for leaving the raunch to the Adult fiction.  (I am not a prude by any stretch--I've read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and there are love scenes in it that would definitely make some people blush).   
  2. Accessibility:  Have you ever read a book that just made you feel dumb?  You know the kind of writing where basically the author is trying to wax eloquent, blathering on about something super deep, that you honestly don't care about?  I have.  Probably in University, but not really any time since.  The way I see it, life is too short to be made to feel like a tool by your reading material.  YA fiction is accessible because it is also relatable to many readers.  I can relate to so many teen themes because once upon a time I was a teen too.  And the crazy thing is, many of the issues that crop up--acceptance, identity, relationships, and so on--are all things that I still struggle with in my thirties.  I think a big reason why so many adults read YA is that we've all been there.  We might not know what it's like to be a vampire, or a siren, or what-have-you, but we do know what it's like to be a teen and everything that comes with that. 
  3. Storytelling:  I just honestly find YA stories more interesting than a lot of Adult fiction.  Whether it's a romance of the paranormal variety, a dystopian or post-apocalyptic scenario, or even an issues-driven story, YA seems to bring a fresh perspective that a lot of Adult fiction sorely lacks.  These same types of books in the Adult market would look more like bodice-ripping raunch, miserable wasteland where all hope is lost and never really found again, and a literary browbeating telling you how you should feel about a particular issue, respectively.  I would rather not come away from reading feeling like I need a shower, that there's nothing worth living for, or that I've been thoroughly preached at.  Call me crazy...
  4. Covers:  The covers are so much prettier/appealing!  This last one isn't really that serious, but I think it's kind of true.  As much as it pains me to say it, I think we have the cover of Twilight to thank for this surge in eye-catching covers on YA fiction.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like ever since that cover showed up in bookstores, covers on most YA books just became so much more appealing.  Just look at these pretty/interesting covers:   

These are just some observations I've made while reading books from both the YA and the Adult market.  Feel free to disagree :)

August 27, 2011

Success, Failure, & Finding the Nerve

Just a little bit of inspiration for you today (I know, I know, I have a tendancy to blather...).
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." -Sir Winston Churchill-
I cannot tell you how much this sixteen word phrase means to me, particularly the middle bit about failure.  The past few years of my life seem to be rife with failure upon failure:
  • Temporary teaching contracts that never went anywhere (both incumbents returned) and a teaching degree that with each passing day feels more and more like a colossal waste of time and money (Fail)
  • The subsequent two-year long hunt across three provinces for another teaching position when teachers are getting laid off by the dozens (applied for over one hundred jobs without a single bite--Epic Fail)
  • The Special Constable position with the local police that was supposed to be 'my new career until retirement' that just didn't pan out (Turns out my tolerance for working with snotty, catty women in a small room for 12 hours at a time, is especially low--Fail)
  • Reaching my thirties, married but still without children, unemployed, and still renting--sounds like a bad Country tune (Fail, Fail, and more Fail)
It would be easy to get hung up on all of this, to allow myself to wallow in self-pity and misery, and believe me sometimes I do give in to it.  But the truth is, I have it FAR better than so many other people in this world.  I can still pay my bills, I have a husband and family who love me, food on my table and a roof over my head.  This is where 'the courage to continue' comes in.  There is no time like the present to take chances.  I can choose to see all of the things I don't have as failures, OR I can choose to view them as opportunities in disguise.  With this in mind, I decided to embark on this wonderful journey called Writing.  I never made time for writing before because too many other things were in my way, but also because of one main thing: I simply lacked the courage.  I had no idea what I was missing... 

Here's to learning from our failures, rejoicing in our successes whether big or small, and to finding the courage to continue.

P. S. This song ("Good Life" by OneRepublic) never fails to brighten my day, to help me see the glass as half full rather than half empty.  I really don't have much to complain about...


August 26, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the beginning of my story, stressing and sweating over whether or not to lop off that dreaded prologue (Apparently, people hate prologues? Maybe this is true, but I haven't been put off by a prologue yet).  Is my opening sentence enticing and evocative enough?  Are the opening pages too much of a backstory dump?  And on and on it goes, where it stops, nobody knows... This topic comes up a lot on the various websites I frequently visit.  All of this emphasis on strong story beginnings got me thinking about the opposite--story endings.  Is it not just as important to end well as to begin well?

My husband and I recently watched Return of the King (again) after years of not seeing it.  I had completely forgotten about the ending, followed by an ending, followed by another three hundred endings.  I exaggerate, but in all seriousness every time the screen faded to black I kept asking myself, "Is that finally it?"  Don't get me wrong, I love those movies to death, but it really does prove the point that good stories are often difficult to end.  I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must have been for J. K. Rowling to part with Harry and his friends at the end of The Deathly Hallows.  How challenging must it have been to wrap up this seven book gem of a series to her own satisfaction and to that of the rabid fandom?  How gut-wrenching must it have been to kill off much-loved characters like Fred, Lupin, and Tonks?  Don't even get me going on Hedwig...

One of the reasons I find myself continually coming back to YA fiction from 'grownup books' is the endings.  For me, reading is all about escapism, getting lost in a good book.  In order for me to really escape, I need to feel as though the story is building toward a satisfying close.  It doesn't have to be tied up perfectly all neat and tidy with a shiny bow, but I would still like it to end well.  Somebody (I can't remember who) pointed out that one of the essential differences between adult and YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic fiction is the element of hope.  This person suggested that the latter provides this, while the former often does not.  From my own reading experience I tend to agree.  Like I said, an ending doesn't have to be perfect for it to be good.  I want to be left thinking about the book at its conclusion, reluctant to resurface from its pages.  Give me the bittersweet wrap up of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay any day over the toothache-inducing too-perfect ending of Stephenie Meyers' Breaking Dawn

It seems to me that as a writer you need to strike the right balance between the too tidy ending (of the "And they lived happily ever after" variety) and its opposite which lacks the right amount of closure (if you've ever read the short story "The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton, you'll know what I mean).  My favourite stories usually wrap up similarly:  Main character(s) triumph and come through mostly unscathed, but is/are fundamentally and forever altered by their experience.  This is why Mockingjay is so thought-provoking and memorable.  I have to admit, I wasn't originally in love with the ending, but after much thought I have come to accept and understand it.  It feels like the only ending this series could have had.  There is simply no way that the main characters could have come through their experiences without some kind of lasting effect (Notice how I did my best not to include any spoilers? Eh? Eh?).  Everyone dies!!! Just kidding...

I've rambled on WAY too long here.  Here's to good (but not perfect), real (but not too real), and memorable (but not for the wrong reasons--I'm talking to you, Smeyers!) endings.  Famous last words, if you will. 

And on that note, I thought I would leave you with some entertaining (slightly morbid?) pictures of 'famous last words'--funny tombstone epitaphs!  Nice to see that even in death some people have a sense of humour.

August 24, 2011

Kicking the Crap Outta Writer's Block

So, like I do every morning (part of the ole routine), I checked out what the people over at YA Highway had to say.  It's Road Trip Wednesday over there, so the question they have posed to everyone is:  "How do you beat writer's block?"  Oooo, good one.  Let's see...

Well, since I'm pretty new to this whole writing fiction thing, I only know what is working for me right now:
  1. Most important thing of all--BUTT IN CHAIR.  Heard that one probably a million times, but it couldn't be more true.  The simple act of plopping myself in front of my computer is a giant boot in the junk to writer's block.  Take that!
  2. I force myself to write, no matter what, even if what ends up on the page is total crud.  I have a daily word goal of 1000 words...most days.  Sometimes that's a struggle, and sometimes I actually allow myself to take the day off (*gasp*). 
  3. I don't allow myself to get hung up on something that isn't quite the way I want it (a word, a phrase, description, you name it).  If I allow myself to sit and stew over something I am dissatisfied with, I'll end up abandoning it in frustration.  I've come to realize that if it's not exactly right it doesn't matter because I'll come back to it later probably several times in fact.  To make this a little easier, I change the font colour to red for those words, phrases, or even whole paragraphs that need tweaking.  Sometimes I'll simply put in parentheses that I need more on a particular topic, like so:  [something more about MC's feelings about this].  Since I read and reread everything that I write multiple times, usually when I come back to these sections at a later date, I know exactly how I want to word them.  And once again writer's block crumples to the mat protecting his sweets.  Bam!
  4. I am a pretty organized person, not a pantser by a long shot.  As part of my organizing, I have a list of scenes and ideas that I want to work into my story.  When I get up in the morning, I simply pick a scene that I feel like writing and run with it (Well, not literally, because then my butt wouldn't be in my chair, right?).  At some point I know I'll have to tackle the less desirable parts, but for now it's working really well.  Thanks to Veronica Roth for that awesome bit of writing advice!  Writer's block should really consider investing in a cup.  Just sayin'...
  5. I immerse myself in things that make me feel the right way for my story.  Since what I am writing is dystopian/sci fi, I have been reading books in the same genre.  They say that one of the best things you can do as a writer is to be a reader.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I also watch TV shows and movies that help put me in the right mood for my story.  It's summer and all of my favourite shows are on the SyFy network right now (Eureka, Warehouse them!) so this has been pretty easy.  Listening to music helps me connect with certain aspects of my story, as does finding pictures on Google (of everything from Cold War propaganda to pictures of outer space).  
  6. Finally, I research, plan, organize, research some more, make a chart, draw diagrams, remind myself in point form where my story is going, and research some more.  Somewhere in this process, I usually find myself getting excited about some aspect of my story and start writing like a crazy person...or like somebody who has just put writer's block in the hospital.   
That was a little long-winded, but...  Never mind.  I don't have a good excuse.  Anyway, most days writer's block doesn't get the upperhand, so this all seems to be working pretty well.  Only time will tell...

(My husband is a major Calvin & Hobbes fan, so this one is for him.)

P.S.  Writer's block has mercifully decided not to press charges.

August 22, 2011

In Pursuit of an Impossibly Perfect Word

Long before I ever considered sitting down and trying to write a book, I was always interested in words.  Whether as a student pounding out yet another essay, or as a new teacher trying to create assignments and tests, I fiddled, fiddled again, and then fiddled some more with wording.  Sometimes this messing around with words would take hours longer than it needed to, and believe me, as a new teacher that is time that you just don't have to waste.  In certain areas, I confess, I am a bit of a perfectionist, driving even myself crazy at times.  I used to be a lot worse than I am now, but when it comes to words... Let's just put it this way:  my thesaurus is all kinds of special to me.  Yes, I know that thesaurus abuse is a very real problem (Remember the episode of Friends where Joey AKA "a baby kangaroo" writes the adoption reference letter for Monica and Chandler?  If you don't, Google it, it'll make your day!).

I will spend so much time mulling over, and staring blankly at a not-quite-right word choice that it keeps me from getting real work done.  Like actually writing my story, for instance.  We've all felt it, that word dancing on the periphery of our consciousness, right on the tip of our brains (as if brains actually have tips?).  No amount of thesaurus searching (probing, exploring, hunting, spelunking???) or banging our heads on our keyboards yields the exact word we are thinking of.  Rather than allowing it to be a wall for me, I have started typing a word as a placeholder of sorts, then highlighting it in red to remind myself to come back later and mull over it some more, hopefully with more success.  This has worked really well for me, and often the word that was eluding me pops into my head on a later read through.  The point is, I am not settling on a less than perfect word.  If it isn't what I mean, I refuse to permanently leave some mediocre string of words just to fill space.  I refuse to cop out.

Speaking of copping out... I would like to define for you the root of a word which causes me great frustration, annoyance, irritation--you get the idea--in a lot of writing that I have been reading lately.  

impossible adj. 1 not possible; that cannot occur, exist, or be done (such a thing is impossible; it is impossible to alter them).  2 (loosely) not easy; not convenient; not easily believable. 3 colloq. (of a person or thing) outrageous, intolerable.  (Courtesy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Ninth Edition)
What am I getting at?  I detest the use of the adverb "impossibly" in place of an actually well-thought out alternative.  Sure, you could argue that the use of impossibly in the phrase "the gorgeous hunk's abs were impossibly chiseled", could fit into part 3 of the above definition.  You could even argue just how outrageous or unbelievable said abs are, meriting the use of the word impossibly (because gosh darn those abs couldn't possibly be so chiseled!).  I would argue that it is a complete cop out, lazy writing if you will.  Why think up a better description or a better word when impossibly is so much easier?

When I'm reading and this word rears its ugly head, it's as though it has been highlighted and bolded with arrows pointing at it in the middle of the page.  It positively leaps off the page and I find it horribly distracting.  The first time I recall being so offended by this turd of a word was when an Author-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named* used this vile adverb no less than once per page in her ridiculously long novel.  I kid you not.  It was so overused that I was forced to notice its hideous presence, and then I just couldn't get away from it.  I stopped short of actually tallying up the frequency of its usage in this book, but believe me I was tempted.  Since then, I have been spotting it more and more often in YA fiction and I find this disconcerting.  Has it become the next "like" or "you know" [insert other equally grating teen-ism] in young adult fiction? Yes, when writing for teens we want our character's dialogue and so on to be familiar to our target audience, but this shouldn't mean that our writing should be dumbed down or lazy.  The reason the word impossibly bothers me so much is because if something is "impossible", then it means it is not possible.  Therefore, it is not possible  for a character to have impossibly chiseled abs, or an impossibly gorgeous smile, or even impossibly wavy blonde locks. 

Not possible, so stop using the word already!

*This is not a reference to J. K. Rowling, who I think is an absolutely brilliant author.  It refers to another popular, but far less talented (in my opinion) author.

August 14, 2011

March of the Sues & Stus

I can't tell you how many times I have been reading a book cursing and gagging because a character has been just too damn perfect (*cough* Edward Cullen *cough*). I've lost track of the girls who are plain-but-not-really-plain-because-all-the-guys-apparently-have-a-thing-for-her and the 'gorgeous' guys with chiseled abs and shimmering violet/emerald/[insert any other equally ridiculous and rare iris colour] eyes that 'stare right into your soul'. 

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. 

This bothers me so much, that when I'm scanning a book's description deciding whether or not to read it, if I so much as see words like 'gorgeous' or 'hot' in reference to a guy the MC is 'crushing on', the book gets dropped like it's been in direct contact with a SARS patient. Sure I've probably prejudged some perfectly well-written and enjoyable books, but I prefer to think that I have a pretty decent Sue/Stu-dar. I like an attractive love interest as much as the next person.  I also prefer to read a book with a protagonist who isn't described as butt ugly. That may sound superficial, but sometimes these characters are just as unbelievable as Mary Sues and Gary Stus (unless of course this character happens to meet and fall in love with another ogre like in Shrek). 

Speaking of Shrek...In university I enrolled in a Fairy and Folk Tales course, which I have to say was one of the the most interesting and informative courses I took in 8.5 years of post-secondary schooling. While studying the classic fairy tales (and some not-so-familiar tales as well), we discussed the Aarne-Thompson classification system of elements in these tales. Some of these elements can be found in the fairy tale heroine who is the fairest and purest young maiden, inspiring jealousy and even revenge from her not as fair a) older sisters, b) stepmother, or c) some other equally envious person (Cinderella, Snow White, and so on). This heroine is so perfect and 'fair of face' that the worst thing we can say about her is that she's a little too curious (Sleeping Beauty), a little too trusting (Snow White), a little too in love (The Little Mermaid). She is the epitome of Mary Sue-ness, but from an early age we all lap it up. We all want to be her. I won't belabour the point by starting in on the parade of Gary Stu princes in these tales...

We all like a good Mary Sue and Gary FAIRY TALES.

Unless your express purpose is to write or rewrite a fairy tale, I really think there is no place for Sue or Stu. The best, most accessible stories on the market are those that, even though they might have some element (or many) of the supernatural or fantastical, are tempered with a good dose of the believable. I think it's safe to say that most people prefer a character that they can relate to at least in part, be they dwarf, vampire, or werechicken. Since none of us is perfect, it is difficult to relate to a character who is. Your setting or world can be so far removed from our own that it is virtually or even entirely unrecognizable, but your characters' qualities shouldn't be.

Easier said than done.

I know I've been all Judgy McJudgerton up until this point, but the truth is writing good believable characters with very real flaws is difficult.  We want our characters to be likeable despite their faults, which is challenging to say the least.  The best comparison I can think of is preparing for an interview question like "Tell me about one of your greatest weaknesses".  The key is to come up with a strength disguised as a weakness, but for it not to be obvious that this is what you are doing (Ha! Good luck with that one!).  Our characters need to have flaws, but these flaws have to be minor enough, or overcome-able enough, or a strength-in-disguise for the character to be redeemable or even likeable.  Not. Easy. To. Do.  I have stood in judgment of so many authors for not doing a good enough job of this, and now I eat my words.  Until I started trying to write my own slightly flawed characters, I had no idea just how hard this was.  So even though it pains me to say it, a character like Edward Cullen, whose worst flaw is arguably being cursed with vampirism, is to some degree understandable (I won't get into his stalkerish tendancies, the idea of necrophilia, or the unhealthy attachment issues).

I stumbled upon The Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test online today and gave up about thirty questions in.  I did bookmark it though, to be returned to at a later date.  I confess, it was a touch discouraging seeing all the check marks that indicated my MC tends toward Mary Sue-ness.  But this is a good place to start.  Now I can revisit my character(s) and strive for authenticity, for believability, and for accessibility. 

No Mary Sues or Gary Stus allowed.

August 13, 2011

The End of My Comfort Zone

As part of my daily ritual (read: procrastination), I head on over to the YA Highway blog to see what's new.  Today's post is by Kristin Briana Otts  ( and encourages writers to "write what scares you".  I couldn't agree more with this, and it got me thinking about what types of things scare me.  There are many, let me tell you--drowning, heights, arachnids, car accidents, disease--you name it.  But more recently I've discovered another fear that I can add to this list: writing.  I don't mean writing in general, but more specifically, creative writing.  I have had plenty of experience writing essays, and feel pretty comfortable with the process of researching, quoting, and citing (not surprising when you consider that I did it for 12.5 years of my life, but that's another story).  Creative writing scares the hell out of me.  Why, you might ask?  In a word: humiliation. The creative process involves putting a part of yourself out there, opening yourself up for potential ridicule.  It's an intensely personal part of yourself, dangling out there completely vulnerable.

When I was thirteen, I took up the piano.  I followed this interest in music with violin lessons in high school. (Side note: There are few things funnier than your Strings teacher, who happens to be a nun, telling everyone to "pluck your G-strings".)  The thing about playing instruments, like many endeavors, is that the only way to get better at it is to PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.  This was a bit of a problem for me because I really didn't like anybody hearing me play.  I was so hung up on whether or not my violin-playing sounded like a cat in heat, that I really didn't allow myself to improve.  Making mistakes equals humiliation and humiliation is unbearable (I was made fun of a lot as a kid and learned this lesson pretty early on).  Creative writing is really no different for me.  The act of pouring myself into my story, and then having it get rejected, felt like something I really didn't want to risk.  If my words are rejected, isn't that the same as rejecting me?  You get the idea.

The YA Highway post has a quote that really resonates with me:
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone." - Neale Donald Walsch

Well, I have reached the end of my comfort zone and have kept on going.  As much as it terrifies me, I have started writing fiction.  It may be scary but it also feels like the best thing that I have ever undertaken.  My writing might be absolute crud, but at least I'm putting myself out there for a change.  Now, instead of dreading what others might think of my words, I actually look forward to writing.  In fact, I crave it.  Writing has become such a part of my life now that I honestly cannot believe that I didn't start sooner.  I'm embracing this fear rather than running from it.  Who knows?  Maybe next I'll take up sky-diving or parasailing and adopt a pet tarantula. 

Not a chance in hell.  There are limits, folks.  There are limits.

August 12, 2011

Life Imitating Art

I recently decided that I would like to try my hand at writing fiction.  I have written plenty of essays for college and university, but was always afraid to dabble in creative writing.  I read A LOT, and with every book I've read, I've been tempted a little bit more to try writing myself.  It wasn't until finishing Veronica Roth's awesome (!) debut novel, Divergent, that I was really inspired to give it a go (have I mentioned how filled with sheer awesomeness this book is?)  I can't seem to get enough of books like this and Suzanne Collins' equally awesome Hunger Games trilogy.  I've been told to write what you know, but also to write what you like and want to read.  What do I like?  I love dystopian and post-apocalyptic YA fiction.  Love it!  Lately, we are starting to see more and more of this in the book market, but I can't seem to get enough.  As such, I've set out to attempt to create something in this genre.  I don't expect much to come from it, but I'm definitely enjoying the process. 

Submerging myself in all things sci fi and dystopian, I have actually been alarmed at how closely real life begins to parallel fictional dystopian scenarios...or at the very least, the precursors of these scenarios.  Between the absolutely abysmal state of the world economy (particularly in the USA), the famine and cholera in Somalia, and the out of control rioting in London, it truly feels like life imitating art.  It's staggering to me when the news feels familiar, like it is something I just finished reading in a book.  One need go no further than the front page of the paper for inspiration.  Is it possible that someday soon there will be no market for dystopian fiction because we'll actually be living it?