February 28, 2012

Of Parties and Pondering

It's February 28th and that means...it's the official release day of Jessica Therrien's debut novel Oppression (Children of the Gods #1). So to celebrate with Jessica, I've joined in on the Virtual Release Party for her book (*throws imaginary confetti in the air*). 

Congrats, Jessica!

Lucky me, I was informed a few days back that both Kindle and Barnes & Noble were selling the e-book version of Oppression for only $0.99. I pre-ordered my paper copy, but won't have it in hand for about another week, so I was pretty psyched to have it pre-launch in whatever form. Here's the Goodreads description of Oppression:

Elyse knows what it means to keep a secret. She's been keeping secrets her whole life. Two, actually. First, that she ages five times slower than the average person, so that while she looks eighteen years old, she's closer to eighty. Second, that her blood has a mysterious power to heal. For Elyse, these things don't make her special. They make life dangerous. After the death of her parents, she's been careful to keep her secret as closely guarded as possible. Now, only one other person in the world knows about her age and ability. Or so she thinks. Elyse is not the only one keeping secrets. There are others like her all over the world, descendants of the very people the Greeks considered gods. She is one of them, and they have been waiting for her for a long time. Among so many of her kind, she should not be very remarkable--except for the prophecy. Some believe she will put an end to traditions, safeguarded by violence, which have oppressed her people for centuries. Others are determined to keep her from doing just that. But for Elyse, the game is just beginning--and she's not entirely willing to play by their rules.

In Oppression, Elyse discovers that her destiny is intertwined with the fate of the future. As part of this Virtual Launch Party I've been given the option of writing on the topic of destiny, fate, or whether or not I believe things really do happen for a reason. That's a really good question and one that I'm not sure I have the answer to, but I'll give it the old college try.

As I'm sure you can tell from the image to the left, I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason. I'm not saying that I'm always conscious of this or that I like the fact that even though things are sucky now it'll all work out in the end. In fact, I'd probably want to punch myself for even suggesting it when things are at their worst. But hindsight is 20/20. Sure I have plenty of regrets, but looking back I can see that things worked out a certain way to get me to where I am now, even if the road was rocky at times. If you start wishing away the crappy times, you wish away what led you to become the person you are now.

So if everything happens for a reason does this strip away our choice? Does this mean that we all have a predetermined path to walk, and that what we consider personal choices really aren't ours to make? I have only one answer to this: 42.* Actually, the truth is, I have absolutely no clue. I like to think that we at least have a range of options out of several possible fates or destinies, and that it's possible to have some semblance of control over the outcome. I do believe that one day it will all make sense--we'll see the twists and turns and understand why they happened the way they did. Or so I'm hoping anyway.

And that's quite enough of that (my brain hurts). Now back to the original purpose of this post: celebrating Jessica Therrien's debut novel. You can get your hands on a copy of Oppression from the following sources (and I'm sure many others as well): 

$0.99 E-Book
Amazon Kindle Edition (US)
Barnes & Noble NOOK Edition (US)
Amazon Kindle Edition (UKFranceGermany)

$12.99 Paperback
Amazon (US)
Barnes & Noble (US) - on sale for $7.79
Amazon (UKFranceGermanyJapan)

You can also visit Jessica Therrien's blog for a list of other bloggers taking part in this launch. There are prizes involved, including a signed copy of Oppression. Check it out!

*from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

February 27, 2012

The First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem...

I did it again. I changed the look of my blog. I sincerely hope these somewhat frequent switcheroos aren't driving you all nuts. The truth is, I haven't been crazy about the old look from the start (the green and red). It's not that I hated it, I just didn't feel like it was exactly how I wanted to present myself. It felt a little too cutesie for me. David Powers King recently posted about how your name is your brand when you're trying to get published (and even, fingers crossed, after). While this new look might not be 100% perfect, I definitely like it better. It feels a little less busy and I like that it has my full name at the top. So if it seems less cheery or turns you off, I'm sorry. Not my intent...

February 23, 2012

One Month Left...

Only one more month to go until the awesomeness that is The Hunger Games hits theatres!

To further the excitement and anticipation, here are a few Hunger Games inspired goodies:

I've mentioned this here before and if you haven't checked it out yet, seriously, you should. Composers Edward Underhill & Matt Bukaty collaborated on a project they were both crazy about and here's the result: The Hunger Games Music Project. They've made this music available for purchase, but you can listen to all of the songs in their entirety by following the link above. I bought it along time ago, but have been listening to it even longer directly from their site. My favourite tracks are:

#1 - May the Odds... (amazing violin and cello)
#6 - A Lullaby For Rue
#11 - Loss and Survival

This is what they had to say about the sound they were going for:

"...The books have a very human, earthy, and folky quality to them that seemed to point us toward American folk and simple folk-like melodies, as well as instruments that had a vaguely folky disposition… We didn't actually want to incorporate bluegrass fiddle or banjo doing banjo-y things. After all, The Hunger Games is set in the future, too. So we started writing with a few basic ideas in mind - the districts sounded folky and "natural," the Capitol had something twisted, off-kilter, and vaguely electric to it - and went from there. The ensemble of live musicians helped solidify the sound, too - violins and cellos can be folky or classical or creepy, the bass recorder has a wonderfully breathy sound to it that gives it a folky flare, but also sounds like something slightly new, and, of course, just about every culture has voice music! In this case, one singer has a very "untrained," folky, innocent voice, and the other has a clear, bell-like (but still folky) tone to provide a more final, mature sound at the end of the suite."

Well, I think they nailed it, and I'm going to have a hard time connecting with the actual score after becoming so accustomed to this one.  Underhill and Bukaty have already promised an unofficial score for Catching Fire. I can tell you one thing for certain: I'm already sold!

*     *     *
Etsy is chock full of great gift ideas for Hunger Games fans. Here are some of my favourite items.

There's plenty more where these came from, and not just jewelry items either--bags, clothing, notebooks, you name it (even a book sculpture of the mockingjay with an arrow in its beak).

*     *     *
And there are the folks who've brought the food in the Hunger Games to life by coming up with their own recipes for a few delicious items mentioned in the books:

Fictional Food has a whole Hunger Games recipe section complete with pics of their tasty treats:

It's truly amazing how creative people can be when they love something this much!

How excited are you for the Hunger Games movie? 
What paraphernalia (if any) will you don?

February 22, 2012

All Kinds of Strong

I grew up loving fairy tales (still do in fact), in particular The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen and The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm. I also loved Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and all of those fun princess fairy tales. I hope I have daughters so I actually have an excuse to have tea parties and watch Disney Princess movies on a regular basis (like, more than I already do).

I was reading a guest interview with Jessica Grey about her novel Awake: A Fairytale, and in it she referred to a post she had written on how some Disney Princesses get a bad rap for needing a prince to save them. Her point (one that I agree wholeheartedly with) is that these girls are strong in their own ways, and if anything it's the princes who have been "short-changed" (read her post, it covers this better than I do here).

While on Google images I stumbled across a picture of the princesses labelled with the respective bad messages their stories supposedly put forth (here), to which I say [insert raspberry sound]. I'm not here to debate feminist ideals or to dissect fairy tales. I am here to say that there are positive messages to teach your children in these tales just as in many other stories despite what some would say. Like I said before, I grew up on fairy tales and I have never felt like I needed a man to save or complete me. I am woman, hear me roar (not).

Maybe to counteract these years of 'bad messages' (*eye roll*) or even to avoid popularizing other helpless and hapless characters like Bella Swan (Sarah Belliston, however, raises some interesting points about this here) we've moved toward the:

Strong Female Protagonist
(aka the Anti-Bella*)

The strong female protag (SFP) is a great idea with loads of good messages to direct at girls. BUT it's equally important for girls to know that there are many different kinds of strong, and not just kickass strong à la Katniss and Tris (though both are characters that I love to bits). 

**Caution: Potential for Mild Spoilerage Ahead. You've Been Warned.** 

Strong does not necessarily mean leading a rebellion and I-can-whoop-yer-arse physical ability. While that might be nice, even handy sometimes, most of us find our strength in other far less dangerous areas. I love reading about these characters that do things I will never do (I can't even punch and have always referred to myself as a 'wiener arm'), but I also like to read about SFPs who demonstrate more relatable forms of fortitude (not that these ladies aren't relatable**). For the sake of argument, let's look at some other types of SFPs in YA:

The Hermiones (Harry Potter)
While Hermione does kick butt in a few instances, her strength lays in her wits, her intelligence, and her refusal to let others define her. Hermione frequently saves the day with her compendium of hard-earned knowledge. Harry is the hero, but Hermione saves this hero's butt more than once.

The Arias (Under the Never Sky)
Aria is neither a fighter nor an in-your-face kind of gal and that is something that I can relate to. Her brand of strength is in bravery, perseverance, and continually pushing onward despite the odds or the pain. I think one of my favourite paragraphs in this story is the following (not a spoiler): 
"She had no illusions of becoming a master knife fighter...But she also knew she'd given herself a better chance. And in life, at least in her new life, chances were the best she could hope for. They were like her rocks. Imperfect and surprising and maybe better in the long run than certainties. Chances, she thought, were life." (p. 294)
While Aria is forced to toughen up, she doesn't become ultra skilled at fighting all of a sudden. Her approach is practical and she knows that it's her best shot even if she'll never be the greatest at it.

The Cats (Shine)
Strength for Cat means never backing down from uncovering the identity of the person who assaulted her friend Patrick. Despite the many subtle and not-so-subtle warnings/threats to step back and stop prying, she pushes on seeking justice for Patrick because she knows no one else will. Cat's dealing with her own stuff that makes this especially difficult, but she forges on nonetheless.

The Cassias (Matched)
I haven't yet read Crossed (I know, I'm silly) but the Cassia I see in Matched shows her strength by refusing to accept the life that has been forced on her, by bucking the status quo. Her rebellion is quiet and non-physical (at least it is in Matched, not sure about Crossed) but means standing up to the powers that be to follow her heart and to choose the life she wants despite the consequences.

Lola is all about not letting others define her. Her wacky fashion sense might draw stares, but it's part of who she is and she embraces it. Despite self-confidence issues brought on by a personal setback, ultimately Lola refuses to let this crush her. She also doesn't fall into the arms of the first guy to come along, who's ready and willing to put the pieces back together, much as she wants to. Lola doesn't need him to save her, she needs to save herself, and to find strength and worth within.

I don't know about you, but I'm glad that there are many different types of strength in YA fiction, despite all of the attention cast on the Katnisses and Trises** in stories. With this push towards strong female protagonists, I hope that everyone remembers this. I'd like to see more kick butt girls, but more than that I'd like to see more examples of girls kicking butt with other forms of strength. Whether it's relying on her wits, showing bravery in adversity, or refusing to let people define her, I'd love to see more of that girl in YA. Why? She's all kinds of strong.

*As far as I know, this isn't an actual thing. More like a subconscious aim that many writers have.
**All of the books I've mentioned are ones that I love, so no slight is intended in any way to them.

February 21, 2012

The Aliens Are Coming! The Aliens Are Coming!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish is a toughie, let me tell ya. It's pretty much like asking a parent to choose which kid is their favourite.

Top Ten Books I'd Save If My House Was Abducted By Aliens (or any other disaster struck)

Really? Not sure why aliens would want my house, but whatever. We'll just generalize here and go with 'disaster':

I should preface all of this by saying, this is just a terrible, terrible thought. Like, curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-covering-your-ears-and-going-La La La terrible. The thought of losing all of this:

There are at least four books here that I'd part with without a fight. Just saying...

...gives me a panicky feeling inside (and this is only a portion of my books). Again, TERRIBLE.
But the fact of the matter is that most of these books are replaceable. It would be expensive, but doable. Except I've also collected really old copies of many classic novels that aren't as easily replaceable. Those would be the first on my list, the first books I'd grab while trying to escape.

They are (in the order shown but, in no particular order of worth or value to me):

1)  Waverly Novels Volume IV (Rob Roy, A Legend of Montrose, The Bride of Lammermoor, and The Monastery) by Sir Walter Scott--This copy is from the later 1800's or early 1900's (Can't say for sure because a lot of the British publishers back then didn't list a publishing date. Grrr...) 

2)  Waverly Novels Volume VIII (The Talisman, The Two Drovers, My Aunt Margaret's Mirror, Death of the Laird's Jock[???], Woodstock, and Count Robert of Paris) by Sir Walter Scott--same date range as the previous one, same reason for not having specifics.

3)  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (with engravings by Fritz Eichenberg)--this edition is from 1943, but I've always admired the wood engraving pictures in it (samples here, here, and here).

4)  Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe--this edition turns 100 this year!

5)  Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë--I know, I know. I haven't read this book, but I know enough about it to know that I would loathe it. So why save it? One reason only: It's from 1894! I'm afraid of even touching, it's so old and frail. I should also mention that the book contains Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë and a preface and memoir by Charlotte (the best Brontë, IMO).

6)  The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow--there is no stinking date in this edition, but it's plain that it's extremely old like the others. This book contains inspiration for my one WiP.

7)  Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace--this is from 1880 (when the story was originally published), or very shortly thereafter.

8)  Villette by Charlotte Brontë--this edition is from the early 1900s. Villette is another really great Charlotte Brontë book, but one that you hear about a lot less than Jane Eyre. Too bad, really.

9)  Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore--from the early 1900s, from what I can find, but it has no date (big surprise). 

10)  The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott--this tiny book turns 100 this year as well and it's still in excellent condition!

Okay, I'm going to cheat here and throw another two books on the pile (they're tiny, I promise):

11)  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens--from the late 1800s and reeks like mildew. 

12)  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens--only from 1951, but this little book has the original John Leech illustrations on the book jacket and throughout the book. I love it and was devastated when it got completely water-damaged when I shipped all of my stuff home from Germany (the geniuses left my shipping boxes on the tarmac in the rain!).

Before I go scrub the dust mites from my hands and blow my nose so I finally stop sneezing:
What books would you save in the event of a disaster?

Oh, and don't forget to enter my 100th Follower Giveaway for the chance to choose a book from The Book Depository (value up to $15). As long as they ship to your location, you're eligible!

February 17, 2012

100th Follower Giveaway

I've reached 100 followers and to celebrate I'm doing a giveaway! I owe all of you a gargantuan 'thank you' for taking the time to follow this blog and for leaving little bits of encouragement here in the form of comments.

So what exactly am I giving away?

A book of your choice (up to $15) from 
The Book Depository (anywhere TBD ships).
The giveaway runs from February 17th until March 1st (at midnight), at which time a winner will be chosen at random. It's open internationally and all you have to do is follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below.

February 16, 2012

TAG! I'm It!

I've been blog-tagged, which is sort of a first for me. Think of it as a get-to-know-you activity between blogs. Now that I'm 'it', I'm tasked with answering the 11 questions that have been given to me, to come up with my own 11 questions, and to tag 11 other bloggers with the questions. Savvy? This is who's to blame who tagged me: 

(be sure to visit his blog)

So these are the 11 questions that Colin chose for his 'victims subjects' (← his words, not mine):

1)  Which fictional character would you love to invite over for dinner?
Where to start? There are far too many, so I'm just going to go with one who kind of fascinates me: Saba from Blood Red Road by Moira Young. I love accents and I could sit for hours and just listen to Saba speak. One of the criticisms of this book was that it was written in a Southern sort of dialect, but I thought that made it so much better. I could actually hear Saba's voice in my head, which was awesome (and no, I don't normally hear voices in my head). Plus, she's kind of kickass.

2)  Think of one person you aren’t able to see for whatever reason (distance, availability, etc.) you would love to meet up with. Who is this person? This can be a famous person, a relative, a literary agent–anyone, as long as they are alive. 
I'd love to have an honest-to-goodness heart-to-heart with Queen Elizabeth II with no hovering security or covert purse signals to said security to get me the heck out of her presence. It would be fascinating to hear about her life from her own lips and to really understand what it's been like to be a monarch for so many years. She's a really neat lady. And she loves corgis which are so cute.

3)  Which “classic” novel do you think least deserves that title?
I'm going to have to go with Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Not only do I despise this book, I think this commentary on human nature and civilization falls short for one main reason: it's a bunch of dudes dumped on an island. For me to buy into the themes of this novel, Golding would have had to mix things up and throw in some females for good measure. Oh, and while we're at it, let's have a mixture of adults and not just teens (tweens?) and littluns. To make the point valid, I think he needs a better representation of humans removed from society. Bleh! Enough about that.

4)  If you could be any historical figure, who would that be and why?
Again, there are too many to choose from. If I had to choose, I'd want to be someone who made some kind of important impact on history: William Wilberforce. Not only was this inspiring man a philanthropist, he was was also one of the driving forces behind the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. He dedicated his life to this pursuit and actually saw it come to pass only days before his death. If you've never seen the movie Amazing Grace, you definitely should. Like now.

5)  Where in the world would you most like to visit, and why?
County Armagh and County Monaghan in Northern Ireland and Ireland, respectively. Many of my ancestors hale from these locales and I'd love to track down info about them at the source.

6)  If you were a crayon, what colo(u)r would you be, and why?
This ended up being a tougher question than I thought it would be (for a fun time, check out this list of Crayola crayon colours). I was tempted to go with Mountain Meadow because I had this dream once... Kidding. If I had to choose just one (thereby eliminating Alien Armpit and Sasquatch Socks) I'd go with Thistle. Why? Thistles are a beautiful shade of purple, they have lovely flowers, and they are the national symbol of Scotland (read the legend here). They're prickly but pretty.

7)  Let’s pretend you have J. K. Rowling’s bank account. What’s for dinner tonight?
Because I'm a total cheeseball romantic, this is how it would all go down: I'd fly the hubby and I first class to Paris where we'd have a candlelit several course French cuisine dinner overlooking the Eiffel Tower. For dessert? Some kind of spin on the traditional but tasty crème brûlée (obviously). 

8)  Coke or Pepsi?
Definitely Coke. As in, regular Coke. None of that crap that replaces sugar with chemicals that could grow an ear on the back of a lab rat. Why trade something bad with something worse?

9)  Tea or Coffee?
Both. I drink coffee first thing in the morning and if I'm meeting people for coffee. I drink tea in the afternoon and often while reading a good book. My mom, sister, and I also like to do high tea (more aptly called 'afternoon tea' because it includes dainties and scones) when we get the chance.

10)  Think of your favo(u)rite band or song from the 1960s or 1970s. What/who is it?
I think I'm going to say Creedance Clearwater Revival (aka CCR). Who doesn't love their songs?

11)  When/if you get “the call” from an agent, who will be the first person you will tell?
My husband would be the first person I'd tell the very second I got off the phone/email. After that I'd call up my sister because she's been there for the entire journey thus far and knows my stories almost as well as I do. My parents would definitely come next (I do feel bad ranking them third).

So sorry for the length of my answers. One day I'll be able to write a post that isn't 42 miles long.

And now for my 11 questions (I borrowed some of Colin's and from the list he was given):
1)  What is your current WiP about (in one sentence)?
2)  What is the best book you've read since the beginning of 2012?
3)  If you could trade places with any book character who would it be and why?
4)  Where would you go on vacation if money was no obstacle?
5)  What is your favourite quote (it can be from a book or from someone living or dead)?
6)  What is your favourite book couple and why?
7)  If you were stranded on an island, which three items would you want to have with you?
8)  What two characters would you like to see duke it out (NB: this doesn't have to be physical)?
9)  Do you have any special talents or hobbies?
10)  Would you rather live under the ocean or in outer space? Why?
11)  What song from days gone by do you absolutely love (let's go with before the year 2000)?

... And here's where I kind of let the ball drop. I feel like I've been forcing awards on people who, while they appreciate the recognition, are really too busy to have to deal with everything it entails. I'd love to know more about all of you, and as such I'm inviting any one of you to answer these questions and then leave a link (in the comments below) to your blog. It's definitely a good time trying to come up with answers, but can be time-consuming so it's not for the faint of heart.

February 15, 2012

Word To Your Mother

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 words do you absolutely hate? Which do you adore?

When I read this topic I couldn't help laughing because on Monday I already started jotting down notes for a post on this very thing. How timely, weird, and bizarro is that? My post was more focused on words that are kind of ruined for me because they'll be forever linked to something else, but close enough. So I've decided to morph the two topics being that they're so close.

Words that make me cringe
  • Anything with the root 'rect' in it. I'm pretty sure I don't even need to explain why.
  • Most of the proper scientific names for male and female reproductive 'bits' (*shudder*).
  • All of the extremely vulgar slang words for the above mentioned naughty bits and bobs.
  • Words that can have an alternate, slightly dirtier meaning (Example: That grody word that starts with 'e' and means to 'blurt out suddenly'...and something else). Here's a hint, if it comes up in the Urban Dictionary as something else, maybe just avoid it.
  • Words that are either pronounced wrong or just wrong altogether. Example: 'realtor' pronounced real-i-ter, 'irregardless' (not a word), 'misunderestimated', 'library' said like lib-ary, and so on. Also, expressions that are way off like "Blessing in the skies" O_o
  • The word 'impossibly', overused to the max in YA fiction. "His eyes were impossibly blue." OR "You're impossibly fast. And strong. Your skin is pale white..." Enough of that. Each and every time I see this cop-out word scattered like shrapnel through YA books in particular (though adult fiction is certainly not innocent), I die a little inside.
  • Any and all words intended to wound or that are thrown about carelessly--racial slurs, labels, religious cuss words, profanity without any regard to audience or context.
Words that will forever be linked to something else (in my head)
I like to think I'm the perfect human example of classical conditioning à la Pavlov's slobbering dog. All of the following words when heard will almost certainly evoke a reaction or a song out of me.
A while: Think Twilight movie and the whole "How long have you been seventeen?" and Sparkle Dude's reply, "A while". Any and all conversations with my sister are put on pause mid-sentence when this word crops up until one of us says "a while" all breathy-like. It's kind of an inside joke....

Modern: This one requires reaching far back into the ole memory bank, back when Kidman and Cruise were still an item. The movie Far & Away was a personal fave, but one scene in particular stands out in my mind--where Shannon (Kidman) is bouncing up and down drunk, plunking away on the piano, and claiming that she's "modern" (for playing band music instead of classical). You say 'modern' and I instantly have Camptown Races playing all frenetic and old-timey in my head.

Umbrella: ♫ Ella ella, ay ay ay ♫  No futher explanation required (thanks for that, Rihanna).

Vertigo: Hello? Hello?  Two little characters can be blamed for this--U and 2. Enough said.

Trifle: Remember this? "It’s a trifle. It’s got all of these layers. First there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch, then raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sautéed with peas and onions, then a little more custard, and then bananas, and then I just put some whipped cream on top!" I can't hear or read 'trifle' or look at a trifle dish without this popping into my head and then I get the giggles. Guys, there is a Friends episode for everything.

There are definitely others, but I'll stop there so as not to completely bore the heck out of you.

Kudos to Hans Zimmer for calling the
 first track of the score "Discombobulate'
(Here's Discombobulate on YouTube)
Words that I kinda like
  • fortuitous
  • malarkey
  • relish
  • plebiscite
  • ephemeral
  • idiosyncrasy
  • perpendicular
  • discombobulated
  • luminescence
  • factotum
  • oscillate
  • ambrosia
  • archipelago 
  • erudite (now that I know how to pronounce it correctly)*
  • any and all French words 'borrowed' in the English language and pronounced correctly (ie. the word 'foyer' is pronounced foy-ay and not phonetically)
  • denouement (see bullet just above)
  • doppelgänger (though The Vampire Diaries kind of needs to be cut off for overusage)

There are just far too many cool words to list here. Don't you love expanding your vocabulary? I do. I guess that makes me a bit of a logophile even if I don't always work them into conversation or into my writing. I suppose there are far worse 'philes' out there. Like *gasp* Bibliophiles *gasp*.

Are there any words that make you squirrelly? What about words that make you smile?

P. S. For a really tasty-sounding low-fat banana trifle recipe that isn't made with sautéed beef, peas, and onions, check out Katy Upperman's post today.
*Fact: I read Divergent by Veronica Roth in its entirety mispronouncing this word in my head. When I listened to the actual pronunciation online, I was shamazed at how different it was.

February 14, 2012

You Had Me At Hello

Today on YA Highway there's a Lve Circus going on (that sounded far more suggestive than I intended, I promise) kind of like Road Trip Wednesday, but specifically geared toward Valentine's Day. The topic: Sharing the Heart Day love with whatever--a spouse, friends, inanimate objects, you name it. So here's to V-Day in all of it's pink-and-red-clash-every-other-day-of-the-year tacky glory. Here's to love of all kinds, and here's to showing it all year and not on this one day alone.

I'll try my best not to make this sound like some awards show ceremony acceptance speech--all drippy, sappy, sobby, and loooooooooonnnng. Here goes....

All of my Valentine's l♥ve goes to the following:

1)  My husband:
You are amazingly selfless and wonderful and I am beyond lucky to have you (XoOxXoO).

2)  My family:
Supportive and entertaining/endearing in all different ways. We're not perfect, but I wouldn't trade you for anything (well, maybe a really good chocolate bar...). To rip off Stephanie Perkins: "You're delightfully screwy, and I wouldn't have you any other way." (from Lola and the Boy Next Door)*

3)  Friends:
In all shapes and sizes, real or not real--those I've met in real life, blog pals, twitter chums, and those of the imaginary variety--you make me smile almost daily.

4)  Books:
Because real life is so much more dull than what's tucked in your pages. And you smell good too.

5)  Writing:
Ours is a new romance, but it was InstaLve. I think I'm in it for the long haul. How 'bout you? 

In parting, I have one final thing to say to all of you:

Happy Valentine's Day! And now I'm going to go eat a jumbo piece of coffee cake for breakfast brunch. Why? Because I'm an adult, fully capable of making really bad decisions. That's why.
*In all seriousness, thanks, Erin, for all of the help and support (especially of late). Our 'writing conferences' have been super helpful if not always productive :-)

February 13, 2012

Waiting (Impatiently) For May In February

I started reading The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler yesterday, and let me tell you, it's a total trip down 90s Memory Lane. Between the smile-inducing reminders of the music I once loved (thanks to Jessica Grey for doing this as well), the sound of dial-up internet in my head every time Josh & Emma log on (and consequently tie up the phone line), and mention of outdated technology (VCRs, Discmen, and cellphones that you just know are ginormous), I'm having a blast.

We've come a long way, baby, and it's the teensiest bit scary. The sheer amount of technological development we've seen since my high school years simultaneously makes my head spin and makes me feel very old.

So where was I in the year 1996? I was:

  • in my final semester of high school at a new school, hangin' with my younger brother's friends because I didn't really know anybody else (he'd been there since freshman year).
  • apparently in a parallel universe because suddenly Value Village and thrift shopping was all the rage (thanks grunge movement for the sudden grunginess of my peers)*.
  • looking forward to graduating and to the Fall when I'd be starting college and also coincidentally making one of the worst decisions academically speaking (long story).
  • jamming to Christian rock in my Discman because I thought it was the coolest thing ever (shout out to DC Talk, Jars of Clay, The Newsboys, and Third Day). Hahaha...**
  • packing up a single giant blue bag and heading to Scotland for the entire summer.

It's funny how things come full circle, because #TheFutureOfUs (<--'Us' as in me & the hubby) is a trip to Scotland in May (hence the post title). It's been almost 16 years (I was barely older than that when I went the first time) and this time I get to bring my hubby along! I'm pretty excited about the whole thing but mostly about two things in particular: 1) This is my husband's first ever overseas trip, and 2) This time I'll really get to see Scotland (unlike the first 'trip' where I was on a very short leash***). This is what's up on the Scotland--and a bit of England--itinerary (in pics):

Our plan is: Glasgow-->Inverness-->Dunblane/Stirling-->Edinburgh-->London (all by rail)

I would have loved to take the Diana Gabaldon tour up near Inverness (yes, these tours do exist) which takes you through all of the historical landmarks mentioned in the Outlander series, but the price was tantamount to highway robbery. We'll just have to settle on our own self-guided tours sans echoes of Jamie and Claire Fraser. I think we'll manage just fine and I'm beyond excited!

So with this in mind, I've set myself a deadline of sorts with my WiP(s). I'd like to have one of my current projects complete and ready to query by the time we leave for Scotland. That's not a whole lot of time--78 days to be precise--so I have a lot of work to get done. Which means I need to get my butt off of Blogger and Twitter and get down to business. On that note, have a lovely Monday!

P.S. Where were you in 1996???
*I have nothing against thrift shopping -- I have done it myself -- but this coupled with a marked decrease in showering and overall hygiene by choice is alarming. Especially since a few years earlier you couldn't pry people out of their super cool Club Monaco sweatshirts with a crowbar.
**My musical tastes have, shall we say, wandered from Christian rock in the last decade and a half.
***I was on a mission trip with Royal Servants International (based out of the United States).

February 10, 2012

Which WiP to Work On?

As this post's title suggests, I've been struggling lately with a really big, really irritating question:

Which WiP will I give my time and attention to?*

I hate this question. And worse, I hate the fact that it's even a dilemma. See here's the thing: I have been doing a lot of reading post-Christmas and I've been enjoying different kinds of books. I alternate between dystopian, sci fi, romance, and paranormal, which has been wonderful but also a little confusing where my WiP is concerned. Usually I try to read books that feel similar to what I'm working on in my writing. Usually this works really well in the inspiration department. Except lately I'm having major WiP confusion. Kinda like this whole, 'Which door do I choose?' issue.

And just as in Sarah's case, neither door is being overly helpful. See, they're both begging for my attention these days. It would be so much easier if only one WiP was tempting me, but no, I've got both screaming for my attention. My brain feels like it's being pulled in two completely different directions. How in the name of all that is sane does one work on the following:

WiP #1: YA Science Fiction at the same time as
WiP #2: YA Contemporary Romance (a modern retelling of a Jane Austen novel)???**

Normally, I feel pulled toward one or the other depending on my mood, but never before has it been both. Until now. And sometimes these opposing tugs will come in the same afternoon. My sister and I have been discussing our respective WiPs a lot this week (8-10 hours on the phone since Monday) and between the two of us we've hammered out a lot of details in our stories. Seriously, these 'chats' have been invaluable. Talking over the finer points of my sister's story is making me want to work on WiP #2. A lot. Yet I'm still feeling drawn toward WiP #1. Here's the reasoning behind the dilemma:

WiP #1
  • requires a whole lot of world-building and believability in it = exhausting
  • writing a complex stew of sci fi/dystopian/romance/mystery = exhausting
  • keeping in mind that I'm dealing with a futuristic society and therefore my language, technology, ways of doing things/thinking about things has to reflect that = exhausting
  • not embarrassing the heck out of myself with the above combinations = exhausting
  • the fact that I am so close to finishing this thing and moving on to revisions and sharing it with someone(s) who can tell me whether it blows chunks or not = appealing
  • this story is really interesting me and I feel like with each passing day it gets more and more compelling, especially with all of the new twists I've come up with = appealing
  • I've heard that agents are gaining more interest in queries for YA sci fi = appealing

And then I saw this earlier today (in reference to what they're looking for):

"Space – while dystopia is running out of steam, there’s still some potential in outer space. The trick here is to use that backdrop simply as a frame for a great human story, either MG or YA. If you go too sci-fi you lose readers who aren’t die-hard fans of the genre." (from agent Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary [Source post])

My heart beat a little faster because this pretty much describes to a 'T' what I've been aiming for with my WiP. Call it Sci Fi Lite (in a similar vein to Beth Revis' Across the Universe books).

WiP #2
  • this story is not nearly so far along as the YA sci fi story
  • in many ways I feel like I'm cheating on WiP #1 while working on this story
  • am I avoiding the really hard work that is before me with WiP #1 by working on this story (ie. filling in the gaps, finishing it, revising, sharing, and querying the thing)?
  • it feels so much more organic -- it just flows from me without all the stress of WiP #1
  • it's a retelling, so the skeleton is already in place and I'm just putting my own spin on it
  • it will be so much quicker to complete, revise, share, and then query than WiP #1
  • Contemporary YA Romance always seems to be popular with readers = easier sell

Total dilemma. So I decided to talk to my husband about it. I told him that often I'm feeling both stories at the same time and that sometimes I just want to work on the easier one even though I'm closer to completing the tougher one. I think I wanted someone to give me permission (even though I don't need it) to bounce around between the two based on my mood. I think I felt that because I'd already dedicated so much time and energy to WiP #1 that I needed to just you-know-what or get off the pot already. I just wanted to be okay with doing what feels right, and that's working on whatever story I'm currently in the mood to work on.

Henceforth it won't me a matter of 'either or', but 'both and'. And I feel a MILLION times better giving myself permission to just go ahead and do that. So what's my goal now? Finish at least one of these WiPs before our trip to Scotland in May (yes, Scotland -- more on that another time). 

All I can say is, I've definitely got my work cut out for me....
*I know this is grammatically incorrect, but since I'm getting a little wild and bat shiznat crazy with my WiPs, I might as well go the same route with my grammar, don't you think? Word.
**Eureka!! YA Sci Fi + YA Jane Austen retelling = Jane Austen In Space! I've got dibs! It'll be like Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Kind of. Only a whole lot weirder. 

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a...spaceship?"

February 8, 2012

RTW: Smudgy New Idea

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 SNI* were you psyched to work on, but discovered it was too close to something already done? 

So far (fingers crossed) this hasn't been too big of an issue, but there have been some close calls. Too close for comfort moments where I had to evaluate whether I wanted to proceed with this slightly smudgy new idea. This has been the case a time or two with both of my WiPs, but it hasn't stopped me from proceeding with my ideas. Why? Because any similarities are remote enough that I, as the writer, will probably be the only one to catch them, or because the similarity is intentional (ie. a retelling of a well-known classic).

WiP #1: YA Science Fiction
Even though the idea wasn't completely unique, it felt like it really hadn't been done in YA yet. And then Terra Nova aired on TV and I was seeing some minor similarities to my WiP that were a touch disconcerting. Now that a little time has passed, and I've continued to watch the show, I realize that these similarities are negligible and that I am likely the only one who will notice. The premise and setting for my story is entirely different anyway and was inspired by a newspaper article I read while killing time in an airport.

I've read a couple YA books that had things in them that made me squirm a little in how close they came to what I've been working on. Beth Revis' Across the Universe and A Million Suns made me a bit uneasy, but I'm over it now. Stories set in space, with a slight dystopian bent, geared to a YA market are going to have some similarities. Not to mention we have a lot of the same influences (shout out to Ender's Game, Firefly, and Battlestar!). Not to mention, some of the things I've included in my story can be chalked up to personal experience. A polygraph-type scenario may have been done to some extent already, but since I'm writing this from personal experience (4 hours in the polygraph chair for employment with the police) I always have that to fall back on. So, I'm choosing not to worry about it.

WiP #2: Contemporary YA Romance (Is that what you'd call it? Not even sure.)
A modern-day YA spin on a less popular Jane Austen novel (ie. not Pride and Prejudice because that's definitely been done). Surprisingly, this story really hasn't been retold for a YA audience yet. I've seen it in the adult fiction market, but so far I'm in the clear. When I first saw that others had tackled this (even though they were adult) I had moments of self-doubt. I thought this new idea was just so shiny that there's no way anybody else had done it, and if they had I certainly didn't know about it (Duh! Like there's a single Jane Austen story that hasn't been retold). The thing about retellings is that they're all going to be purposely similar to the source text, but will likely differ from one another in their final product. It does still make me nervous so I just need to get that sucker out there before someone else does.

Story ideas, themes, and motifs have been more or less recycled, revamped, and respun (I made that word up) for ages now***. Look what J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy spawned and its marked influence on the fantasy genre. There are really no new ideas. There are new spins on those ideas, but as the picture/quote above suggests, "there is nothing new under the sun"**. And to quote the Barenaked Ladies (as annoying as the song is): "It's all been done before." It's the personal touch that each and every one of us puts on those ideas that make them unique. 

What do you do when you encounter too-close-for-comfort similarities to your ideas?
*SNI = Shiny New Idea
** "That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NASB)
***Fairy and folk tales are a prime example of this. So much so, that they even have a motif classification system by Aarne-Thompson that breaks these tales down into their similar elements. We learned all about this in university and it left a pretty strong impression on me.

February 7, 2012

I Hate Myself For Loving You

So we've already talked about InstaL♥ve and whether or not love at first sight can actually happen (My verdict: 'no' in most instances). We've also mostly agreed that there is something to this notion of love at first interaction. But what about the complete opposite? It's just as frequently employed in fictional romances as love at first sight. In fact, I'd even go so far as to suggest that it's used more often. I'm talking about:
I Can't Stand Your Guts
I Love the Heck Out of Your Guts

Let's call it InstaLoathe, shall we? When I first started thinking about this InstaLoathe thing, I set out to compile a list of literary and/or film examples of love/hate relationships. Faster than you can say 'insufferable' I had a legion of couples that started out strongly disliking one another before falling head over heels in love. Here are only a few: (Caution: Blatantly Obvious Spoilers Ahead)

(Clockwise from top left)  
1) Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
2) Belle & the Beast (Beauty and the Beast)
3) Fitzwilliam Darcy & Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice)
4) Han Solo & Princess Leia (Star Wars)
5) Katharina & Petruchio (The Taming of the Shrew) or Kat & Patrick from (10 Things I Hate About You)<--- a much cuter example than Zeffirelli's version with Liz Taylor & Richard Burton

And then of course, there's one of my favourite love-hate relationships of all time:

6) Anne Shirley & Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables)

And I'm sure we could come up with a whole bunch more. So what is it about these types of relationships that holds appeal? The sparks. Definitely the sparks. Not only do we get sparks between two characters in love, but we get all of the sparks from two characters who can't stand one another. It's twice the sparks for the price of one. It's tension, an obstacle in the path to our couple finding love. Sure there may be chemistry, but we get to take the journey with these characters to realizing that it's actually there, and has probably been there all along.

I don't know about you, but from the very first sparks of animosity between two characters, I call a love match. There is probably no bigger giveaway that two characters will end up together than the two of them clashing right from the get go. Ron and Hermione? Did you honestly think for a moment that it would turn out any other way? Harry and Hermione shippers were delusional at best (no offence intended, of course). From the very first time Ron referred to Hermione as a 'nightmare' in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, you had to know they were ending up together. 

There are a few common ways that this rivalry turns to romance:
  • some sort of misunderstanding is cleared up and suddenly there's nothing in the way
  • similar to the first, a character realizes that the rival in question is not who s/he originally thought they were -- kinder/better/more heroic and so on than first perceived
  • they are thrown into a situation where they're forced to work together, they grudgingly start to become companions, and then it progressively moves toward romance
  • one of the two falls for the other first and becomes so persistent in his/her pursuit of the other that defences begin to crumble and are eventually broken down entirely
  • the two are somehow separated (or there is the threat of separation) and one or both realize that all the things they despised in the other are the things that they will miss

In the case of InstaL♥ve v. InstaLoathe I have to say that I prefer InstaLoathe. When that pendulum swings from dislike to like -- perfection! It makes the love feel so much more hard won, you know what I mean? Plus, it's just a whole lot of fun watching these two people battle it out before they succumb to the chemistry. This type of relationship is usually more believable than its opposite, less sappy, and more engaging to the reader (in my humble opinion).

What do you think? Does InstaLoathe appeal to you more than InstaL♥ve in fiction?