July 25, 2012

Life: Take 2

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:
If you could be reincarnated as any fictional character, which would it be?

Oh bother. My head hurts just thinking about this question. As others have mentioned, being a major fan of dystopian fiction doesn't give you much to work with here. Who the heck would want to be a Katniss or a Tris, Peeta and Four aside? Thanks, I think I'll pass on the severe PTSD and life-threatening situations. And then I thought about Katsa and Fire, but the degrees of Kevin Bacon to that creepster Leck kind of ruined that notion. Where there's Hermione, there's Voldy, Umbridge, and Bellatrix. Cinder—cyborg parts and a plague. (I kind of want to keep my parts. I'm weird that way.)

And then I had it:

I'd be Karou from Daughter of Smoke & Bone.

Prague, blue hair, really unique family/friends, and then there's Akiva. I'm pretty sure that 'smokin' hot angel boyfriend' is a list-topper. Karou's not without (more than) her fair share of struggles and sadness, but I think other aspects of her strange and fantastical life trump that for me. She's a talented artist, she's kickass, she's snarcastic and feisty—a multitude of things that I am not but wish I was. And seriously, doesn't this choice seem awfully appropriate given this particular topic of reincarnation? I'd love to be Karou.

I could get used to views like this:
All pictures are from Creative Commons: 1) Place Straromestske Namesti (vue sur Notre Dame du Tyn) - photo by Nicolas Esposito,
2) Charles Bridge over the Vltava - photo by Fred Hsu, and 3) Notre Dame de Tyn - photo by Dario Garavini

Then again, maybe not. I'm fairly certain it would never stop taking my breath away.

July 24, 2012

TTT: Vivid Worlds

The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday topic deals with worlds/settings in books.

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

Some of the following worlds sprang to mind readily, while others took much more thought (and staring at my shelves). Sometimes descriptions of setting and world-building can bog a book down for me, but in these cases it only added to the experience.

1.  Harry Potter series - J. K. Rowling (The Wizarding World)
There's a really good reason (besides raking in cash) why they've built a Harry Potter theme park. Who wouldn't want to visit Hogsmeade and Hogswarts? Every little detail in these books made this world come alive, from the Ministry of Magic to The Burrow to Hagrid's Hut. Everything was just completely magical (pun intended).

2.  Song of the LionessTrickster's series - Tamora Pierce (Tortall)
When you've created a well-fleshed out world for a series, why not write more stories set in that world? That's exactly what Tamora Pierce did, and it's a treat to revisit different areas/aspects of this world. I'm looking at you, Ms. Rowling.

3.  Graceling & Fire - Kristin Cashore (Seven Kingdoms and The Dells)
Similar to Pierce's Tortall, Cashore's Seven Kingdoms and The Dells are such a great example of good world-building. I loved both of these books and the setting felt real to me. Bitterblue's kingdom is one that I never want to revisit, despite being set in this same world. I suppose it's a great example of a vivid world, only not in the way that I usually prefer. Thanks, I think I'll pass on the massively depressing setting and the worse than nightmarish activities of its residents.

4.  The Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis (Narnia)
My favourite glimpses of Narnia are found in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (I hate that there's no Oxford comma in that title)—the lamppost, Mr. Tumnus's house, the stone altar (for its significance), the White Witch's Castle. All of it added to a truly magical and memorable reading experience that I enjoyed as a child and still do as an adult.

5.  The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien (Middle Earth)
Thanks to Tolkien's excessive amounts of description, I feel like I have a really good idea of what Middle Earth looks (also, thanks to Peter Jackson and crew for making this come alive on the screen). There's a reason all of the concept art is so spot on—Tolkien spelled it out for them in great detail. Lothlorien, Rivendell, the Shire, Rohan, Mordor...all so vivid!

6.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor (Prague, Marrakesh, etc.)
I've been to Prague, and Laini Taylor did an amazing job describing it, making it leap right off the page. Rather than try to express this in my words, here's a quote or two that demonstrates just how her writing breathed life into the setting of this book:
"The falling snow and the early hour conspired to paint Prague ghostly, like a tintype photograph, all silver and haze. On the riverfront thoroughfare, trams and buses roared past, grounding the day in the twenty-first century, but on the quieter lanes, the wintry peace might have hailed from another time. Snow and stone and ghostlight, Karou's own footsteps and the feather of steam from her coffee mug..."
“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century—or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theater with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.” 
Need I say more? I didn't think so.

7.  The Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins (Panem)
District 12, the Capitol, the arena(s)—all so vivid to me. I could picture the broken down poverty of District 12 which stood in stark contrast to the sheer opulence of the Capitol. Both arenas (sorry if that spoiled anything) were very visual, particularly the one in Catching Fire. Given the nature of that arena, it was very easy to picture. There was this pervasive sense of impending doom throughout the series that I think Collins did a fantastic job of bringing to life.

8.  Cinder - Marissa Meyer (New Beijing)
Cyborgs, and androids, and lunars—oh my! I loved that Marissa Meyer set this story in Asia, but gave it a whole new flare. I think this is what takes it from a simple fairy tale retelling and kicks it up a notch. It definitely had a Sailor Moon-ish vibe while still maintaining that fairy tale feel. It just seemed so unique to me that it's actually difficult to put into words.

9.  The Stand - Stephen King (Post-apocalyptic USA)
First, let me say that Mr. King is the king of description. The Stand was set in a post-apocalyptic United States in the aftermath of a devastating virus. The landscape is littered with decomposing bodies. Entirely detailed smelly and oozy descriptions ensue. There were times that I was surprised I couldn't actually smell what the characters were smelling, it was that vivid. But, this only added to the devastation and hopelessness of the situation. Mr. King is the master. The End.

10.  The Zion Covenant series - Bodie & Brock Thoene (WWII Europe)
I started reading this series as a teen, before I knew much about World War II. Much of my early knowledge of this war came from this series, and it was pretty well-researched and written. I came away from these books with an overwhelming sense of fear and dread much like what the characters must have been feeling on the pages. I understood this sensation of always being watched, always being at risk of capture or death, surrounded by madness and loss. A truly gripping series.

How about you? Are there any worlds/settings that really jump out at you in the books you've read?

July 20, 2012

Fair Use Fracas

This image brought to you by Wikipedia Commons.
Totally legal to use, and totally flipping creepy.
Henceforth, expect similar creepiness and irrelevance.
I just finished reading an article on author Roni Loren's blog that I think is important for all bloggers, Tumblr-ers, Pinteresters, and so forth to check out. Basically, it has me questioning a number of my own practices as a blogger and a pinner, so much so that I'm seriously contemplating discontinuing my use of Pinterest and changing the way I do things on my blog.You can follow the link above for the full article, but I'll summarize some of what it says here. This may not be news to some of you, but it sure was to me. Some of the information I'm providing is from Roni Loren's article, and I'm adding my own comments to this. (See? Now I'm paranoid.)

It doesn't matter if you go out of your way to list the source from which you borrowed a photo, you can still be sued for breaking copyright laws. Half the time when I use a photo on my blog, even if I'm citing a source, I don't know for certain that the source I'm citing is the owner of that photo.* It's like a telephone game of image borrowing, and who the heck knows where it originated? It doesn't matter if I cite my source. If I used it, I can be sued.

Non-Commercial Use
Again, it doesn't matter if my blog is not-for-profit. If I use somebody else's image without their say-so, I can be sued despite not making any money off of it. For many artists, it's the principal of the matter, not the loss of potential profits.

Providing a Disclaimer
Just because you went ahead and added a disclaimer to your blog doesn't mean you're in the clear. Stating that you are not claiming ownership or rights to the image doesn't absolve you from copyright infringement or from any repercussions.

Unless you receive permission directly from the owner of the copyrighted image, you are breaking copyright law and could end up paying the price. Roni Loren herself ended up finding this out the hard way. The only 100% safe images are those gleaned from sources providing approved images for public use, or those you take yourself (which could be a lot of fun).

As for Pinterest...
Take a moment to read their Terms & Privacy section. It's enlightening, I assure you. In short, it places the burden of responsibility and any ramifications of copyright infringement on you the pinner. I don't know for certain, but I'm betting the same rules apply when pinning copyrighted images on Pinterest as using them on your blog. Do so at your own risk.

I guess I'm just seriously asking myself: Is it worth the risk? As a writer hoping to get published, I of all people should be wary of borrowing content without permission. How would I feel if the borrowed content was from one of my stories? As much of a pain in the arse it might be, I'm going to try and only use my own photos or images in the public domain or creative commons from now on. I might not find exactly what I'm looking for, but at least I won't be breaking any laws.

If you blog, tumbl, or pin you should really take a look at Roni Loren's article for a more comprehensive look at this topic.

* Okay, probably far more than half the time.

July 18, 2012

WANTED: Inspiration

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:
When you need creative inspiration, where do you go?

I go to the most inconvenient place possible where I have no access to pen or paper when the ideas start flowing. Haha. ☺

Kidding. Here's my real answer:

1.  Nose In a Book
There are few things like reading in the same genre to find inspiration for your own writing. It sets the tone for  what you're working on, and can even eliminate distraction. I think this is important when you have multiple projects on the go. My main WiP is YA sci-fi, but I've also been sporadically working on a YA contemporary romance. When I'm focusing on the sci-fi, I sometimes find it difficult to read contemporaries because then I start feeling the pull of that other WiP. 

2.  iTune Out
Music is an important part of my creative process. The right tune and/or lyrics can really inspire me. Sometimes I set out looking for fitting music, but more often than not I stumble across songs that really work with what I'm writing. Other times it's almost eerily timed. Just the other day I was working on revising a scene in my WiP and Pearl Jam's Just Breathe popped up on my iTunes playlist. It actually gave me chills when I realized just how perfectly it fit with the scene.

3.  I Google Pinterventions
I love looking for images that reflect some aspect of my story. Most often I head over to Google Images and plunk in some WiP-related search term and see what pops up. Pinterest can be very useful this way too, but we all know that it's a bit of a timesuck vortex too. I usually only head over there when I have time to kill. I like to put some of what I find up on my wall above my desk too.

4.  Hop On the Infobahn
Research, especially in the planning stages, is like my own personal brand of heroin (bahaha!). The internet makes this really easy and also really time-consuming. I'll sometimes waste hours just researching one particular thing for my story. But, this information and inspiration is irreplaceable and my story will be a whole lot better for it. It's amazing how this can lead to things I hadn't planned on, but that add so much more depth to my original idea.

5.  Silver Screen Stimulus
Working on a sci-fi story means that lately I can't get enough of sci-fi movies. It's great to see how they've approached these future worlds—advanced technology, altered forms of government, batshiz forms of fashion—and it gets me thinking in terms of these things as well. Sometimes what I see comes a little too close for comfort (Crap! That's like ___________ in my WiP!), but generally it's more of a positive experience.

6.  Out of the Blue
When I least expect it, when I'm not even thinking about writing, really great ideas will just pop into my head.  And before I know it, these little kernels are popping all over the place. The other day I was looking at something on Goodreads, and a single word jumped out that inspired an entire story for me. Bam! Just like that. I jotted down some notes and filed it away for later, but I'm kind of excited about where that might lead.

How about you? Where do you find inspiration?

July 16, 2012

Revision Revelations

I'm currently in revision mode on my YA sci-fi WiP Watch of Night, and with the help of my critique partner, Elodie, I'm making giant strides. I'm finding that I actually kind of like this part of the process, which is more than a little surprising. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a barrel of laughs, but it certainly isn't the torturous experience I was expecting. 

Throughout this whole experience I've learned a few things:

1.  A critique partner (CP) is invaluable.
Awhile back I was of the mind that a CP was a nice idea, but not really that crucial, despite what everyone had to say about this. In retrospect, I think this was just me not dealing with the fear of putting my work out there for someone else to read. And there's always a bit of apprehension sending it off to somebody you only know online. As it turns out, my CP has made this process both painless and very productive. My WiP is way better for it, and I can only hope I'm returning the favour. I have a penchant for repetition—Elodie points this out. I seem to have a tendency to break up the narrative with unnecessary details—Elodie points that out too. I'm so close to this bad boy that I don't even notice this stuff any more.

2.  You can always cut a few more words.
When Elodie approached me about becoming CPs, my WiP clocked in at roughly 120,000 words. Talk about a bad case of the blathers. Oh, and I still wasn't done! So, so terrible. I thought there was no way that I'd be able to shave off at least 20,000 words (I was aiming for 100,000. Divergent by Veronica Roth runs about 105,000 words, so I figured this was reasonable-ish.) without having to cut out some pretty important stuff. Wrong! Once I got going, between Elodie's suggestions and my own realization that I was being redundant and ridiculous, the word count started to drop rapidly. Why use two when one will do kind of became my mantra as I pounded that delete button over and over again. Last count (we're still not done) my WiP was at 102,000 words, which is nothing short of fantastic. I Freaking  My Backspace Key.

3.  I can learn to love my WiP even more.
I'll admit, sometimes I get reading this sucker and I think: Ugh. I don't care. I'm sick of you. (*makes raspberry noise*) Lately, I'm finding things that I really love about my WiP. Part of this comes from my CPs excitement/enjoyment of reading my story for the first time. I'm too close to it. I struggle to have these same reactions to it any more. But while I've been revising, I've revisited whole chapters that I haven't looked at in a while. I've found myself cracking up at things I intended to be funny, swooning over scenes that were meant to be steamy/romantic, and actually liking the way I've worded certain phrases. I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, I'm just saying my WiP isn't the colossal turd I was starting to fear it might be. (Sidenote: Reading books by Laini Taylor, Stephanie Perkins, and Veronica Roth can have that effect.) Coming back to your WiP with semi-fresh eyes is a great experience—like being the reader instead of the writer for a change. The thing is, if this beast gets published I'll have to go over it multiple times, so I darn well better like it.

I've learned way more than just these three things, but they're probably the biggest. How about you? What kinds of things have you discovered during the revision process?

July 14, 2012

Spoiled Villains

I've mentioned before that I sometimes get hung up on name meanings when I'm naming my characters in my WIPs. My current WIP is riddled with significant names, which has provided all kinds of fun for my CP, Elodie. Other projects I've started planning have strayed from this somewhat, but that's not really the point of this post. So moving on to the point...

Um...No, you don't have anything in your teeth.
If you're a writer and you like your characters to have significant names, make sure that it doesn't turn into a big fat spoilerfest. That is to say, don't use foreign language names to 'disguise' the fact that your villain is the supremo bad guy. Because what happens if your readers actually know that language? Surprise! You've ruined the big reveal from the get-go. Lord Voldemort from Harry Potter (translated literally from French: Vol-de-mort = Flight of Death) is okay because we know very early on that he's the bad guy. Similarly, Dr. Totenkopf in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (translated literally from German: Toten-kopf = Dead Head or even something akin to 'skull') also works because there's no real question that he's the villain. But if the villain isn't revealed until the conclusion, don't give it away with a spoiler-y name! So, so frustrating. Gah!

I'm not going to point fingers at the latest offender, but I found myself ready to fling the book across the room when the 'big reveal' (not) actually happened. Throughout the whole book I kept thinking that maybe the name was a red herring or something...wrong. The author just thought a French conglomeration of words was sneaky and/or clever.

Again: wrong, faux, falsch, falso.*

Spoilers suck pants. Avoid them in you're writing. That's my free piece of writing advice for today, for what it's worth.

* I'm not even sure if these are right, but whatever.

July 11, 2012

RTW: You Should See the Movie

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 movie have you seen that actually (gasp) IMPROVED on the book? 

This one took a lot of thought, because it is truly difficult to improve upon a book by adapting it to film. I came up with a couple of examples, both of which will likely make me a target for die-hard fans of the books. I'm not going to say they necessarily improved on the book, but I will say that they made my experience with that story just that much better. So I guess they took something that was already fantastic and took it up to a whole other level of awesomeness. Make sense?

1.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy - J.R.R. Tolkien
This one I'm sure will make me Public Enemy #1 on every Tolkien nerd's hit list, to which I say: Valiroimë * I'm not going to lie, Tolkien's love of the written language sometimes turned his books into a bit of a slogfest at times for me. Dear Tolkien fans: Please don't sick a Balrog or an Uruk-hai army on me for saying this. Sincerely, A Really Big Fan Too (I promise). Watching these same paragraph-long descriptions was SO much better. There is much that is visual about LOTR, and I felt the movies took something special and turned it into something beautiful. I love absolutely everything Peter Jackson and crew did with LOTR, and they will always be personal favourites. 

2.  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
Let me preface this by saying that Jane Eyre is my favourite book of all-time, and there is NOTHING at all EVER that can improve upon it. But, I really enjoyed the most recent book-to-movie adaptation of this much-loved story. Truthfully, the first time around I felt it was lacking much of the gothic feel surrounding Thornfield and its bat shiz secret, and there were a couple of other things that gave me pause. It's been on Netflix for a while, so I thought I'd give it another watch and see if my opinion changed. I have to say, it really did. I loved (with a capital 'L') the way they started the movie with Jane on the moors and used flashbacks from that point on. What a fantastic way of imparting that information. I think Jane's situation lent itself well to this. She was pretty much on death's door when she landed at the Rivers', and not in her right mind given the events leading up to her departure from Thornfield. It felt logical that she'd experience one of those 'life flashing before your eyes' moments, and I feel this added something to a story that was pretty near perfect to begin with.

Let's just all agree that casting Fassbender in almost every role from now on is a great way to 'improve' upon a story.

* "Happy Hunting" in elvish—Yes, I looked this up on an elvish phrase site. Yes, I'm a dork. (Source)

July 4, 2012

RTW: Mostly Likely To...

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 yearbook "most" category (aka superlatives) would your character win?

Haha! This one is easy and a little weird (in my case). I haven't spoken much about my current WiP, but I will say it involves all of the following: outer space, darkness, stars, kissing (), a ship, a destination planet, and other sci fi goodness.

So my main character would nab this superlative in her high school yearbook (if she was actually still enrolled in school):

Most Likely to Drop Off the Face of the Earth
(...um, literally. And much to my MC's chagrin.)

I don't want to say much more just yet, but let's just say leaving Earth can't be a whole lot worse than where she's currently living. It's still on Earth, but it might as well be light years away for all its seclusion, barrenness, and darkness.

(My MC's name is Carina, and there just so happens to be a
nebula with the same name. Isn't it absolutely breath-taking?)

I almost forgot to mention: Happy 4th of July (!!) to my American friends! Have a fun and safe day, y'all !*

* I couldn't resist, eh?

July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

So it's not officially Canada Day yet here in the West, but we do officially have an O Canada Day Giveaway winner:

Congrats, Erin F.! 

Just send me a quick email letting me know which super awesome book from the list of Canadian authors you'd like. ☺

You should come visit sometime—we're not a polar ice cap, I promise. ☺ Happy Canada Day!