October 31, 2012

RTW: Creeptastic Books and Movies

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:
Happy Halloween! What's your favo(u)rite scary book or movie?

I've never been much for scary when it comes to entertainment. I really can't stand that awful feeling of anticipation in movies when the camera angle shifts just so and you know that someone is going to jump up behind the person you're watching. Gah! Hate it. And as for books, I don't particularly relish reading about guts and gore (despite the fact that I'm currently reading Anna Dressed In Blood). 

BUT, when I was a kid, I loved  a book called In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Do you know that one? My favourite story in the book was "The Green Ribbon" and it was about a girl whose head is held on her body by a green ribbon. Of course, her husband doesn't know this...until he unties it one night while she's sleeping and her head falls off (dun dun dunnnnnn). Apparently this book is meant for kids as young as six years old in a classic case of WTFudge?! Smile and say 'nightmares'.

Now that I'm a big kid, I tend to stick to things that are a whole lot less creeptastic. Reading Anna Dressed In Blood is actually so far outside the norm for me that it's practically on another planet. So far it's not so bad scary-wise, though I'm really wondering how I'm going to learn to like Anna when she does such terrible things.

As for movies? You won't catch me sitting down and enjoying such disturbing offerings as Paranormal Activity, The Ring, or the fifty million Saw movies. In recent months, I was suckered into watching the latest Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe flick, "The Woman in Black". (Confession: I was actually curious about this one, so the arm-twisting was fairly minimal.) 

Oh hello there, Harry. Is that a creepy-as-fudge porcelain doll beside you?
Why yes it is. Step into the room. There are more nightmarish toys waiting.
Seriously, folks. Every horrifying thing you can imagine was in this film: mechanical monkeys; scary, scary children; angel statue/gravestones that make you want to "Duck now."; boggy ground with a body in it; ghosts... Needless to say, I went home to an empty house (hubby was away) a heck of a lot more jumpy than I was pre-Woman in Black. It was a good movie, with everything I'd expect of an old-timey horror/thriller, but still. Nightmares ensued. I am such a wuss.

How about you? What book(s) or movie(s) have creeped you out lately (or not so lately)?

{Blogger was acting really weird while I was writing this post. Like, weirder than normal. I think it may be haunted. O.O}

October 30, 2012

A Wonderful Weekend

Snow Patrol
A little too 'Snow'-y for Mr. Lightbody  (see what I did there?)
If you follow me on Twitter then you know that I was blathering on about a certain concert that I was excited to attend. When my sister told me that Snow Patrol was coming to Edmonton (about an hour from here), I really wanted to go. And, as luck would have it, we were able to get tickets last minute. Let me tell you, it was worth every single cent! Not only was the music fantastic, Gary Lightbody was funny and entertaining. His words to the crowd were: "It should not be this cold and you should not be this sexy."*

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

So glad he didn't sing "Wonderwhine"
One of the opening acts for the concert was Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, and while I was never much of an Oasis fan, the sound of Noel's sometimes nasally voice was like a blast from the past. Took me right back to my final years of high school. Of course, closing out their set with "Don't Look Back In Anger" (an Oasis tune) got the crowd going as there were clearly many Oasis fans on hand. Jake Bugg, an eighteen-year-old English musician, opened up the show, and can that boy sing and play the guitar! One of the highlights of the night: A 70-something man rockin' out and dancing to Noel Gallagher. Fantastic!
Me and my sister Erin. Pardon my wacky owl dress. :P

The misadventures of two bloggy and wacky sisters
My sister Erin, my brother-in-law, and my nephew were there too, and it was fun spending the evening with them. Lucky for us, we managed to get tickets right across the aisle from them and a room in the same hotel (all last minute). We had a great time hanging out and enjoying one of our favourite bands. Erin mentioned this in her post today too—we both have songs from Snow Patrol on our WIP playlists. I was waiting for the song "New York" in particular, and Gary did not disappoint. Love that song!

IKEA's Billy bookcase line = Best. Shelves. Ever.

Books-and-Scandinavian-Furniture-aholics Anonymous
Of course, no trip to Edmonton would be complete without a visit to IKEA and coming out with at least one Scandinavian furniture purchase. (I'm not even kidding.) I've posted photos of my bookshelves before, and I'm not sure if you noticed, but I'm running out of space. So I purchased shelf extenders. Seriously folks, I have a problem. I am thinking of calling up the local high schools to see if they want some of the books I won't be reading again. But for now, shelf extenders it is. My shelves now sit about three inches from the ceiling and I'll need a chair to reach the top.

Gorgeous pictures and a really fun story about books.
The Fantastic Illustrations of Mr. William Joyce
Before leaving Edmonton we stopped in at Indigo and I picked up a copy of this picture book. I want to do a whole post on it sometime because it is just the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. The illustrator is über-talented William Joyce (George Shrinks, Rolie Polie Olie, Meet the Robinsons...) which in and of itself is enough to make me pick it up and love it. And it's a book about books—awesome piled on top of awesome. So creative and visually appealing. Not surprisingly, it was made into a film** and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Here's a link to the site for the film and book: Mr. Morris Lessmore.

My weekend was capped off nicely with an email from Harlequin books saying that I've been automatically approved to read and review all of their books on NetGalley (I stick to the Teen category). And we were treated to a delicious turkey dinner at my in-laws' place, which was especially nice considering we didn't get to do Thanksgiving a couple weeks back.

How about you? How was your weekend? If you're on the East coast (or elsewhere), I hope you're safe!

* It was about -15C/5F (ish) with the wind chill, and Mr. Lightbody had a few fun expletives for that. That's nothing. He should come back when it hits -40C/-40F. Now that's nippy! And the 'sexy' comment was likely in reference to the fact that there were plenty of people in Halloween costumes (Saturday before Halloween) that were scanty at best and this despite the chilly weather.
** The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore short film is available on iTunes in HD for only $2.99 (CAD)!

October 29, 2012

YA Book Club: The Raven Boys

{The YA Book Club is brought to you by Tracey Neithercott over at Words On Paper. The Raven Boys was our choice for October's read. If you're interested in taking part now or in the future, here's the information you'll need: YA Book Club.}

Where we lay our scene... (with the help of Goodreads, of course)
“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore. 

O brave new world that has such people in't!
What can I say about these characters other than that I loved them? Blue was great, but the Raven Boys themselves were my favourite part of the book. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about them days after I finished reading. The dynamic between Gansey/Adam/Ronan (and sometimes Noah) was fantastic, and I found myself invested in each of them. Volatile yet surprising and hilarious Ronan; proud yet loyal and kind Adam; single-minded and privileged yet gracious Gansey... They were all fascinating in their own way and fleshed out so, so well. Did we expect anything less from Maggie Stiefvater? I'm big on unique detail that goes a long way where it relates to characters. Here's a great example with Adam's dad:
"Robert Parrish was a big thing, colorless as August, grown from the dust that surrounded the trailers. His eyes were dark and small and Gansey could see nothing of Adam in them." (p. 136)
And then there's her description of Helen, Gansey's sister:
"The pink[-nailed finger] was the only fanciful thing about her. Helen was beautiful in the way a supercomputer was beautiful: sleek with elegant but utilitarian styling, full of top-notch technological know-how, far too expensive for most people to possess." (p. 200)
This is so much better than reading: He was big, mean, and backward. Or she was a classy chick who was out of most people's league. These details take on a life of their own and create a whole story about that person using minimal words.

I could a tale unfold...
Each of these characters had interesting stories, all of which were woven together and told through their search for Glendower, a nobleman of Welsh legend. From the serious/sad (a case of family violence) to the creepy (I can't specify what without spoilers), this story unfolds not quickly but naturally. We were given time to get to know Blue and the Raven Boys and to understand their personal reasons for wanting to find Glendower. And, of course, Maggie Stiefvater is the master at providing an atmosphere-rich backdrop for all of this to take place--Gansey's warehouse apartment, Blue's house full of wacky women, the dreamlike quality of the woods (the tree!!). But while this story dealt with the supernatural, with legend, and even with issues of class disparity, it was not without its funny parts. Observe, if you will:
"If you keep saying things like 'man-child,' we're done...Hey, man. Don't let it get you down. Once your balls drop, that beard'll come in great. Like a [bleeping] rug. You eat soup, it'll filter out the potatoes. Terrier style. Do you have hair on your legs? I've never noticed." (p. 160) Thank you, Ronan.
'"This," Gansey replied, "is precisely why I didn't want to have a baby with you."' (p. 219) Re: Ronan's new pet.
"That reminds me. You need to get that belt looked at on the Ford. I see a breakdown in your future. Next to that sketchy furniture store. A very ugly man with a cell phone will stop and be overly helpful." (p. 137) 
'"There is a 1973 Camaro in front of the house! It matches my nails!" The last time Blue had seen Orla's nails, they'd been a complicated paisley pattern. She wasn't exactly sure what a 1973 Camaro looked like, but she was sure that if it was paisley, it must be impressive." (p. 138)
"Listen to you, sounding all badass. I bet you're just listening to a CD called 'The Sounds of Crime' while you cruise for chicks outside the Old Navy in your Camaro." (p. 129) 
I'm fairly certain I laughed out loud or snorted during each of these scenes. And there were more, I assure you. But then there was the Things-That-Make-You-Go-Quoi? moment when Gansey sounded like a turn of the century old British dude using phrases like "top shelf" and "brilliant" (p. 256). The latter only really works well if you answer to Ron Weasley.

Was not this love indeed?
The swoon factor here was not overly high, but that's okay. In many ways, this was more like a bromance (can I say that?) and surprisingly, I loved that about it. I'm like a moth to a flame with books that have a good romance, but in this case I was okay with the brief and mild swoony bits. BUT that's mainly because there is the promise of more of the swoonage to come. And I have to say, I'm seriously looking forward to more Gansey. You saw it here first: Team Gansey. Just sayin'...

Verdict: Such stuff as dreams are made on.
Such a great read and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in THE RAVEN CYCLE series. And more Ronan and Gansey.

How about you? Have you read The Raven Boys? What did you think of it? Who's your favourite Raven Boy?

October 24, 2012

RTW: Book to 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:
In your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

This question seems like it should be easy, but it really isn't Let's see if I can morph all of the ideas I have floating around willy nilly in my head into actual words. There are plenty of things in books that lend themselves well to a visual medium like film: heart-pumping action, vivid description of characters and setting, rich dialogue that could carry a whole movie in and of itself. But not every book translates well to the screen. Sometimes a book is best left on the pages, though I can't think of examples of this right now.

This is probably deviating from the original question, but I think it can also be said that sometimes the film industry isn't able to do a book justice. Take J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example. If Hollywood had attempted to bring Tolkien's world to life on the big screen any sooner than they did it would have been a miserable fail and LOTR fans would have had the director's head on a pike. Film had to be ready to take on something so monumental. And look at the result? Awesome. Luckily for books like the Harry Potter series, the film industry was already able to handle the job to a large degree. I think we can all agree that Hollywood will never be able to fully capture the magic that is that series, no matter how hard they try. There's something that only J. K. Rowling could do with words that film simply can't replicate.

I'm not sure that I've actually answered this question, but I don't think it's an easy one to put into words. And besides, I think there are probably books that I think would make terrible movies, but the film industry might turn around and come up with something pure genius in bringing it to the big screen. All it takes is a little vision and a whole lot of money.

October 20, 2012

Review: What I Didn't Say - Keary Taylor

(from Goodreads)
(NB: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my feedback on it.)

Where we lay our scene...
High school senior Jake Hayes has liked Samantha Shay since freshman year, but has never been brave enough to tell her. Then, during homecoming Jake ends up in a drunken car crash which results in a hospital stay and the loss of his vocal cords and thereby his ability to tell Sam that he loves her. While trying to come to terms with all of this, Jake gets closer to Sam and realizes that there are worse things than not being able to speak. And now he just might get the chance to tell her how he feels even if he can't actually say the words.

Only "Cover!" is the word.
My initial thoughts on this cover were: a) they guy and the girl are cute albeit a touch too old for the book's characters, and b) this kind of looks self-published (turns out it was published through CreateSpace which is a self-publishing outlet through Amazon). And yet partway into the book I found myself liking the cover because it's very fittingthe notebook pictured is how Jake communicates with others, but in particular how he connects with Sam.

O brave new world that has such people in't!
What I loved character-wise: Jake's big and boisterous family (though the legion of 'J' names was a little too Duggar-esque for me), Jake himself...most of the time, Sam...only sometimes. What I wasn't crazy about: Jake's voice didn't read like a teen guy throughout, which was a bit disappointing. At times I felt that Sam was unfair to Jake about his difficulty dealing with the loss of his voice. Also, Carterthe guy driving on the night of the accidentnever seemed to show any remorse for getting behind the wheel drunk and the outcome of this bad decision. I think that needed to come up at least once.

It's not enough to speak, but to speak true.
As mentioned, Jake didn't feel like a teen boy most of the time. Because we spend the entire story in his head, I would have liked some great teen voice, but I feel like this was a bit lacking. I liked Jake, but he could have been a bit more real.

Was not this love indeed?
First off, I loved that Jake knew exactly how he felt about Sam despite her hesitance. All too often we hear about guys who won't commit or who play the field. Not so with Jake, and I respected that about him. That being said, it bothered me that Sam always seemed to have the upper hand in their relationship. As I alluded to earlier, Sam jumping all over Jake for his attitude about losing his voice seemed unfair to me. Sure he was having a pity party, but I think the fact that the guy will never be able to speak again kind of warrants that at least for a little while. Sure Sam had her own problems (serious ones), but I don't think that trumps Jake's struggle. There was a scene between these two that was meant to be cute and sweet but came off kind of like a throwback to the 50s with all of its gender role issues. Let's just say it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Overall, despite some of my concerns, I thought these two were (mostly) good together and kind of cute.

I could a tale unfold...
Fantastic premise, great setting (an island in the Pacific Northwest), believable and appealing family dynamics, and a sweet romance. However, it felt a little heavy-handed at times while still missing opportunities for certain characters to show more remorse for their actions. (Like how about at least touching on the fact that these drunken kids could have actually killed someone.) Given that this was a galley, I'm not 100% sure how much editing had been done. The formatting was off, there was some awkwardness relating to tense, and the word 'chuckle' was used so often it jumped off the page with each and every occurrence. I would have liked this book to feel more like Jake's story and less about Sam and her struggles. 

Verdict:  The course of true love never did run smooth.

October 17, 2012

RTW: NaNu NaNu

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.
"Mork calling Orson.
Come in, Orson."
Please don't make me explain.

This week's topic:
Are you doing NaNoWriMo, or have you ever? Does having a deadline inspire you?

Why yes. Yes I am. Well, I guess you could say I'm sort of doing NaNo this year, but I won't be plunging into a completely original work. The official NaNoWriMo rules state: 
Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft.

I took part in NaNo last year and started a YA contemporary romance/classic retelling from scratch (a couple of days into November, actually). But I only managed to pound out around 19,000 words during that month. Since then I've worked on this WIP off and on and am now somewhere around the 33,000 word mark (I totally just typed 'mork' and had to correct it, BTW). So I figure why not finish what I started last year? 50,000 more words should be more than enough to complete a first draft of this story. I'm trying really hard to ignore the temptation to work on another of my shiny new ideasa YA Historical/Time Travel that takes place in Scotland. The absolute last thing I need right now is to have three vastly different projects on the go.

NaNo actually couldn't come at a better time. I'm just finishing up revisions on my YA sci-fi WIP (Watch of Night) based off of my CP's and beta readers' suggestions, and after that I'm pretty well set to start querying it. I guess that makes November both NaNoWriMo and QueRySenDo month. I'm probably a little off my rocker planning to do both next month, but then again I never claimed to be sane. (Exhibit A: Pictures of Mork from Ork in this blog post. Nanu nanu.)

To answer the second part of the question: Does having a deadline inspire you? Yes, I think it does. When I was in university, I was always the type of person to leave writing an essay until the last minute. I'd get all of the research done (the fun part) and then sit on it until the eleventh hour. I don't do well with wide open timelines. I need deadlines and to set realizable goals within that span of time. I suppose having deadlines is good practice for if I ever get published, right?

How about you? Are you planning on taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? How are you with deadlines?

October 12, 2012

Bullying's Latest Victim

I'm sure that most of you know that October is National Bullying Prevention month. Here in Alberta we have National Bullying Awareness Week in November. Bullying is something that is really starting to get some attention, and it's high time. Barely any time goes by before we hear about yet another severe case of bullying. And now with so many places that this bullying can happen not even in personFacebook, Twitter, email, etc.it's only becoming more vindictive and cruel.

Have you read Jay Asher's TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY ? What about Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult? Both deal with issues of gossip, bullying, reputation decimation, depression, as well as very different, yet equally devastating responses to what becomes just too much to bear. They are heartbreaking stories that end up in loss of lives. Both are worth reading.

But it's not just the fact that this month is dedicated to Bullying Awareness and Prevention that I bring this up. It's more than that. Last night after watching the Vice Presidential debate, this was brought to my attention on the local news:

**A word of warning: There is a brief clip of an arm
that has been 'cut' toward the very end of the video.

The video is long, so I understand if you aren't able to see it through. Here's what Amanda shared: 

As a grade seven student, this young lady was convinced to expose her breasts via webcam to an unknown male. About a year later, he managed to find her on Facebook, though she doesn't know how he knew her name or where to find her. He began threatening to send the photos to her school, friends, and family. And then he did. As a result, Amanda began battling depression and anxiety, turning to drugs and alcohol. This horrible person who did this to her? He turned the picture of her breasts into his profile pic on Facebook. She switched schools, but then because of a 'hookup' with a guy who ended up having a girlfriend, she was beaten by this girl and left in a ditch. At this point, she was so depressed that she began cutting and even drank bleach to try to end her life. She moved to live with her mom, but the bullying followed because the internet is everywhere. Old schoolmates started posting pics of Chlorox and other bleach bottles, and tagging her in the photo, leaving messages like "I hope Amanda sees this picture and tries again" or "I hope Amanda's dead". This is how cruel people can be. On October 10, 2012, only a matter of weeks after this video was posted to YouTube, fifteen-year-old Amanda took her own life.
RIP Amanda Todd
Nov. 27, 1996 - Oct. 10, 2012

The final piece of paper on this YouTube video reads: I have nobody. I need someone.

What kind of people bully a girl to the point where she feels death is her only escape? This is why Bullying Prevention and Awareness is so, so important. Parents, teachers, coaches, kidseveryone needs to get behind this and let these people know that they won't stand for it. Everyone needs to stop treating bullying like it will go away if they aren't looking, or even suggesting that it's simply a rite of passage. It won't and it's not. 

Bullying needs to be stopped so that kids like Amanda get to live a long, happy life unburdened by this kind of nightmare. Because, as humans, we need to be better than this.

October 10, 2012

RTW: Dream A Little Dream

August Müller (1836-1885)
via Wikimedia Commons
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 do you hope to be writing in one year? Three? Five?

Let's be honest here and acknowledge the giant elephant in the corner. A good many of us are hoping that we'll be agented within the next year and everything that that entails. Am I right? I can think of nothing better than having to plough through my story to make it even better at the behest of an agent or even a publisher. (Well, except maybe winning the lottery.) Combing through my WIP over and over and over again to buff it up? 

Bring it.

Because my WIP is the first of a series (I know, I know. I've heard that agents are series weary.) I hope that I'll be fully immersed in getting the next part of the story out onto the page. I have so many ideas for it already that I'm actually eager to get started. That being said, I also have a good many other ideas that I'm eager to plunge into: a YA historical/time travel story, a Steampunk retelling of a familiar legend, another sci-fi idea or two... Too many shiny ideas and too little time.

Mostly, I just want to still be as excited about writing in three or even five years as I currently am. I want to still be putting my ideas into words with the dream that somebody someday will think they're worth publishing. I would love for all of you to be able to read what I've written and to maybe even enjoy it. That would be far, far beyond my wildest dreams.

How about you? Where do you  hope to be with your writing in the short term and long term?

October 9, 2012

Review: The Night Circus (ie. A Gushfest)

I finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and all I can say is that I'm in awe--of her writing, of the story, of the way it drew me in and made me want to run away and join the circus*. Brace yourself for a whole lot of gushing ahead.

Only "Cover!" is the word.
The initial cover didn't really draw me in like it should. Perhaps it was the fact that it shared the same colour scheme as the Twilight series or maybe it was something else. I do, however, like the slightly altered paperback cover. The addition of silver to the black, red, and white adds a magical quality and really reflects the colour palette in the novel. Also, I love that Marco's and Celia's silhouettes were added to the front. They basically built on the original cover and made it better.

O brave new world that has such people in't!
This book is peopled with extremely interesting and unique characters, especially evident once the circus is up and running. Marco and Celia were my favourites (of course) mainly because I'm a sucker for a good romance, but everyone from Chandresh to the contortionist to Poppet and Widget were fantastic. They all made the circus and the story come alive in very different ways. Also worth mentioning--Bailey. I can't help wondering if his name was intentional, as in Barnum & Bailey. Kind of like a tip of the bowler hat, you know?

It's not enough to speak, but to speak true.
The way this story is told is unlike any other that I've read. At first the use of different types of grammatical person (first, second, and third) took me by surprise and I wasn't sure I would love it. Wrong. This is yet another part of what made The Night Circus unique and compelling. Perhaps the most distinctive are the snippets written in second person, but they appear so seldom that it isn't jarring or tiresome. They read as though someone is trying to set the mood for you like so, "Picture this: The circus arrives in town..." An example from The Night Circus' opening pages:
"...as dusk approaches there is a substantial crowd of spectators gathering outside the gates. You are amongst them, of course. Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is wont to do. You stand in the fading light, the scarf around your neck pulled up against the chilly evening breeze, waiting to see for yourself exactly what kind of circus only opens once the sun sets."
The bulk of the story is told in third person, but the occasional addition of second person accounts really adds something.

Was not this love indeed?
I feel like the word of the day is 'unique', but I'm just going to have to use it again. This love story is unique from beginning to end. Erin Morgenstern manages to convey so much chemistry and swoon in something so chaste as fingers touching a face or a gentleman helping a lady to her feet. Seriously? Did it just get really hot in here? Um, yes. Yes it did. The romance itself and the way it played out was like nothing I've read before and I found myself rereading segments just to savour it. It was, in a word, beautiful.

I could a tale unfold...
This story, oh this story! It is beautiful, magical, atmospheric, romantic, and escapism at its finest. The reading experience, from the page embellishments throughout to the vivid descriptions of the circus, is unforgettable. My only qualm (and it's small enough as to be almost insignificant) is the way the timeline skips back and forth. There was one particular instance where this left me confused, though this was remedied very quickly. A piece of advice: Pay close attention to the dates at the start of each chapter to save yourself from confusion. All in all, this story was so much more than I was expecting, and I will  be revisiting The Night Circus again and again.

Verdict: Such stuff as dreams are made on.

P. S. My sister, Erin--a fellow book-lover and writer--has started her own blog! Check it out: ERIN L. FUNK.

* Okay, maybe not. But I was a clown once, so I might have something to offer.

October 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by Yahong Chi in her post The Next Big Thing (and by Katy Upperman in the comments section of her own post on the topic). So it's my turn to share the dirty detes about my WiP. If I said this doesn't make me feel like hiding under my bed, I'd be a big Liar McLiarton. But even though this terrifies me to no end, I'll do my best. Here goes...

What is the working title of your book?
Watch of Night
This title comes from a line in a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem entitled "The Light of Stars" and it's all about the planet Mars (which is significant to my story). This isn't a one-shot, so the other titles come from the poem as well even though I know that publishers will likely change them if I'm lucky enough to actually get published. Still, I really love them.

Where did the idea come from? Who or what inspired you to write this book?
While en route back from a trip in the spring of 2011, I found an article in a newspaper in the Calgary airport. The title was: Would you go to Mars, knowing you'd (probably) never come back? The question was both fascinating and slightly terrifying, as was the article. So I set out to tell the story of a teen girl who has to deal with this very situation, and who really doesn't even get to make this decision for herself. How much would that suck? A lot, I'd wager.

What genre does your book fall under?
My story is YA and it is both science fiction and romance. (I feel like this last bit is important to mention because if you're expecting light sabres, droids, and aliens, you'll be sorely disappointed. Call it sci-fi lite, if you will.)

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A few actors spring quite readily to mind for certain characters. Oddly, I'm having a hard time picturing anybody in the role of my MC, Carina. Every actress of a certain age and hair/eye colour combination is just so plastic and too-perfect for how I imagine her. She's pretty, sure, but not in a "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful" kinda way. Well, and let's be honest. Do any of you really care what anybody besides the love interest looks like??? :P Didn't think so.

Galen (main squeeze) - Julian Morris (from Pretty Little Liars and Once Upon a Time as Prince Phillip; Freya (bestie) - Amy
Davidson (from the short-lived Eight Simple Rules...); Marek (crap disturber & friend) - Freddie Stroma (Cormac McLaggen in
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince); and Callum (brother) - Andrew Garfield (Spidey himself in the latest Spiderman reboot)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Oh poo. I still don't know if I can boil down my whole story into one sentence. I know I should be able to by now, but I've only just figured out my query somewhat (the jury's still out on that, though). Here's the gist of the story in point form:

- Seventeen-year-old Carina's family is chosen by lottery to join a government-mandated mission to Mars
- She's just getting used to things in the Mars Prep Colony when her regimented life takes some unexpected turns
- While hiding a forbidden relationship she discovers that mission leaders also have big secrets that affect the mission
- Knowing what she does, will she stay and toe the line or escape before it's too late and the launch takes place?

There's more to it than just these points, but these are some of the main things I've mined from my current query.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Well, first off I'd have to be God to answer that question definitively. And last time I checked I'm not. (Phewf!) Ideally, I'd love to get published traditionally, but I'm not opposed to self-publishing. I'm going to give querying agents and trying to go the traditional route a whirl before considering self-publishing more seriously. We'll see how that all goes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started writing in July 2011 and finished the first draft around April or May of this year. I did stop during November and December to work on a NaNo novel, and was away from home for most of March and got very little done on it. So it took me roughly 7 - 8 months to complete it. But, I should probably mention that I revise as I write, so there's no such thing as a true first draft for me. Revising what I wrote yesterday or last month helps me get into the groove today in my writing.

May we see an intro?
I originally had a chunk of my first page up here, but then chickened out. Here's what I'm willing to share:

The beginning of the end of my life arrives on the wings of an important announcement.

What other books would you compare this story to?
I'm not sure I can answer this question, because I don't think my story reminds me of anything in particular. For this reason (among others) I won't be including comp titles in my query. I guess there could be similarities drawn between it and Across the Universe by Beth Revis (space mission, MC not thrilled about it), and some aspects (hiding a forbidden relationship) might be similar to Matched by Ally Condie or Delirium by Lauren Oliver. But none of those really feel the same as my story in any real way. My critique partner and beta readers might say something altogether different, though.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It takes place in a pre-launch Colony in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica during the several months of darkness they experience annually. Scientists have been using Antarctica to conduct studies of Mars for decades now because it is the most similar landscape to that of Mars on Earth. Also, the love interest is something akin to a medical intern (traditional + naturopathic medicine). And there's kissing. For more things that might pique your interest see my story's 'Love List'.

Well, that's about it. It's hard to do my story justice in just these little snippets, but I think it's interesting. I guess I'll find out soon enough when I start querying this sucker. I'm supposed to tag some of you guys, but I think I'm one of the last ones to this particular party. That being said, if you haven't yet done The Next Big Thing, consider yourself tagged!

October 3, 2012

RTW: To Every Thing There Is a Season

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.
Autumn from Four Seasons by
Alfons Mucha [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Today's topic is:
How does your writing (place, time, inspiration) change with the seasons?

Where I live in Canada we get four very distinct seasons, from decently hot summers to really chilly winters (but not always). Take the past couple of days, for instance. Monday: high summer temperatures; Tuesday: sweater and scarf weather and flurry warnings. Say what? Such is life in Western Canada. Winter mornings start out VERY dark and the sun sets before you head home from work. For me, that makes it challenging to feel motivated to do anything besides curl up with a blanket, a pot of tea, and a good book. Writing? Eh.

I first started working on my WiP in July of last year and with all of the extra daylight hours, I managed to get a lot done. I was up early with butt in chair and ready to write. This is especially weird given the fact that my story is set in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica primarily during the months and months of darkness. Art definitely not imitating life.

When we were in Scotland this past May it was grey and COLD. Between the squishy weather and the gorgeous surroundings I found myself plotting a whole new story idea. But when we came home to sunshine and warm temperatures, this story idea got filed away for another day. Now that it has started to get chilly and grey again, I find myself wanting to pull out that story and dive in. 

I'd be lying if I said that the seasons don't influence my writing. I'm revising that first WiP and have been working on another at the same time that takes place by the ocean in summer. I can already feel myself becoming less inspired by the day as the weather here turns crummy. And that's when other forms of inspiration become important—music and pictures I've somehow attached to that particular story.

How about you? Do you find that your writing inspiration and/or routines are affected by the seasons?