August 28, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Final RSW Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Should you wish to join us, make sure to leave a link to your What's Up Wednesday post in the widget at the bottom of this page.

I got about halfway through my reread of City of Bones before seeing the movie. As I was finishing it, I was surprised at just how many pieces of dialogue in the book made it into the movie, which was cool. I've just started Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, this month's YA Book Club selection. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it September 3rd with the rest of the crew. Still plugging away at A Fine Balance, which I really can't wait to be done because ugh, and War and Peace, which I'm actually quite enjoying. What a pleasant surprise to find it not only easier than I anticipated, but that it also holds my attention pretty well. I love when that kind of thing happens!

I'm going to just come clean: I feel like a massive hypocrite, co-hosting Ready. Set. WRITE! and I haven't written a single word in about two weeks. I could make all kinds of excuses for failing to follow through, but I'm just going to offer up one: I've been busy and unmotivated. (Okay, two reasons.) What can I say? After this weekend things slow down A LOT for me, so I imagine I'll get back at it then. September is going to be different for me in a whole variety of ways--writing, exercise, diet, among other things.

Travel Alberta has created these awesome videos/commercials to encourage people to visit our province, and I have to say, they're making me want to do more exploring myself. Seriously, if you've never visited Alberta, you really should. It's so beautiful!

Exploring my province! Well, some of the areas not too far from where I live, anyway. This past Sunday, we climbed aboard a steam train for the Highland Special with my pipe and drum band as the entertainment. It took us from Stettler to Big Valley and back again through gorgeous prairies and farmland. It was such a fun and relaxing way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.

While you're reading this, I am sitting at my sister's place a province over from my own! My husband knew he had some days off, so we decided to pick up and take a drive to Erin's. It's been almost a year since we last saw each other, so this is AWESOME!

Oh, and I got myself a pair of red plaid rain boots! (There's a very good chance I'm a plaidaholic.) Check these babies out, folks:

And now, because you've been awesome, hard-working, and encouraging, we're offering up a little "thank you" of sorts. We will be giving away "fresh perspectives" (aka critiques) to FIVE lucky participants' first ten pages. Each of the hosts will take one set of ten pages and offer up a fresh set of eyes, thoughts and suggestions on your work. The same rules apply as our last giveaway: Open internationally to RSW participants only. It runs until Tuesday, September 3rd and the winners will be announced during What's Up Wednesday the following day. Thank you again for taking part in Ready. Set. WRITE! this summer. ☺

a Rafflecopter giveaway


August 21, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Should you wish to join us, make sure to leave a link to your What's Up Wednesday post in the widget at the bottom of this page.

I devoured Clockwork Princess mostly in one sitting, and I have to say the ending was so different than what I was anticipating. Good, but unexpected. For some time now, I've been wanting to reread the first few books in the Mortal Instruments series and then continue on with the ones I haven't read. Plus, with the City of Bones movie coming out this week (!), I wanted a refresher. I'm enjoying it all over again, so that's good. For my Chapter A Day Classics challenge, I plowed through Fahrenheit 451 and was mostly 'meh' about it, and now I'm attempting to tackle War and Peace. So far it's a lot easier than I thought it would be, the only real challenges being the microscopic font, the multitude of footnotes, and just as many princes and princesses to keep straight. Honestly, I think I can do this.*

I only managed to write about 1400 words all told this week, but that's all right with me. I feel like I need to mull over this story a little bit and make sure that I'm addressing everything I want to. I have to keep reminding myself that it's a poopy first draft and to embrace it, but as someone who revises as she writes, that's SO hard to do. What this story needs is more of a detailed outline.

Instead of using my usual format—setting daily word count goals and failing—I've decided I'm going to keep it simple this week: I'm going to try and write for at least an hour a day on the weekdays. I'm still taking the weekend off like I normally do because Todd and I are (hopefully) going away for the weekend, but an hour a day should definitely be doable.

Before I forget: To thank you for your participation in Ready. Set. WRITE! this summer, we will be giving away "fresh perspectives" (aka critiques) to FIVE lucky participants' first ten pages. Each of the hosts will take one set of ten pages and offer up a fresh set of eyes, thoughts and suggestions on your work. Sound good? Stay tuned for more details and a Rafflecopter widget during next week's What's Up Wednesday. ☺

Monday was my birthday (August 19th), and turning another year older always makes me introspective. On the same day last year (which happens to be World Humanitarian Day), Beyoncé performed the song "I Was Here" at the United Nations, something that has really got me thinking about this whole notion of making a difference, making a mark on this world in my lifetime. Life is short, but I can think of few things greater than to "leave my mark so everyone will know I was here" in whatever form that takes.

Monday was a great day all around. Todd got home the night before my birthday, so that was a definite plus. We decided that since it was such a gorgeous day, we'd do some exploring around our province. So we headed about an hour and a half southeast of here to a place called Dry Island Buffalo Jump and spent the next couple of hours marvelling at the beautiful badlands (and the fact that apparently cacti grow in Alberta). It was such a nice day, and driving through all of the back roads with crops growing on either side of the highway was very peaceful and relaxing. We went out for a delicious dinner at the One Eleven Grill where I had one of my favourites—lobster mac and cheese—some Granville Island Lions Winter Ale (with vanilla notes), and a delicious dessert of sticky toffee pudding. All in all it was a WONDERFUL day, and I feel extremely fortunate for everything I've been given.

The Alberta Badlands: Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park.

And then there was the AWESOME care package my lovely CP, Elodie, sent me. Somehow it magically appeared right on my birthday all the way from Germany! Perfectly timed and such a thoughtful thing to do! But that's Elodie—thoughtful to the core.♥

Yummies, tea, a beautiful journal, inspiration dice, and
a holographic post card of Mars that is just awesome!**


* Though, with 366 chapters in total in War and Peace, I've decided to read five chapters a day so I'll hopefully finish it before Christmas as opposed to a year and a day from now.
** My first WIP (that Elodie read and helped a ton with) is about a colonization mission to Mars, so the post card is especially cool and inspirational.

August 16, 2013

Five Reasons to Read (And Love) NORTH AND SOUTH

As part of my Chapter A Day Classics Challenge, I opted to read Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. (Not to be confused with this cheesefest.) I'd seen the BBC miniseries countless times and LOVED it, so I figured it was about time I actually read the novel on which it was based. As I've mentioned before, I read Mary Barton by Gaskell in university for a Victorian Lit & Culture course and thoroughly enjoyed it. Between that fact and how much I love both the North & South and Cranford (another Gaskell) miniseries, it was a safe bet that I'd love this one as well. And I was not mistaken. Here's what I love about the novel North and South :

That sounds weird, I know. But the thing is, Gaskell actually lets us inside of love interest John Thornton's head from time to time. I read a lot of YA (and write it, too), and as you know, there are oodles of books told from first person POV. While I love this, it's sometimes nice to get a peek into other characters' thoughts. Lucky us, we get to see Margaret through John's eyes and let me tell you, it's kind of swoonworthy, folks. Also sort of surprising when you consider when it was written.

Again, given the period in which North and South was written, it was interesting to read about a female character who was free to turn down marriage proposals, was never pressured by her parents to "settle down" with someone with "X pounds a year", who wandered the streets of Milton freely without an escort, who came into her own wealth and decided herself how she would invest it. One of the best parts? Spoiler in white: She uses it to save John Thornton and not the other way around. I loved this part of the story so much.

3.  P&P vs. N&S
There's a similar sort of dynamic in North and South as there is in Pride and Prejudice if you consider the whole girl meets guy, misunderstandings, prejudices, and dislike ensues thing. Oh, and then there's the spurned initial marriage proposal. But what elevates the former over the latter, in my opinion, (please don't come after me with pitchforks, rabid P&P fandom) is how much more real and gritty it feels, not to mention the absence of over-the-top bordering on obnoxious secondary characters. Don't get me wrong, I really like P&P, but I'm not a particular fan of the younger misses Bennet (ugh...Lydia), Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, among others. One final thought on the two stories: John Thornton > Fitzwilliam Darcy. There, I said it.

As with other Gaskell novels, there is much to learn about the customs and culture of the time and place in which they are set. In this case, the fictional city of Milton was based on Gaskell's own city of Manchester and we as readers get to see firsthand what life in Industrial England would have been like. Spoiler alert: It's far from pretty and totally gritty. This novel is a bit like a crash course on the topic without bogging the reader down. (Or so I thought, anyway.)

Perhaps my favourite part about reading North and South  was seeing the BBC adaptation first, thus being able to picture this fine fellow as Thorin Oakenshield Mr. Thornton while I was reading:

Careful, Margaret. He's smouldering in your general direction.
(Oh, and you really should have looked back, you fool.)
Note the lack of a jacket, tie, and the unbuttoned collar. So risqué. Also: hot.

Still not convinced? Get a load of this (the final scenes set to the gorgeous track "Northbound Train" from the soundtrack*):

Bonus points for a non-spitty kiss.

North and South  is a fantastic read and I highly recommend it. And once you're done, you can treat yourself to the miniseries!

P. S. I just stumbled across this Richard Armitage with Cats Tumblr page and it's kind of hysterical.

* By Martin Phipps, and for some odd (read: infuriating) reason, not available for purchase ANYWHERE that I've been able to find.

August 14, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Should you wish to join us, make sure to leave a link to your What's Up Wednesday post in the widget at the bottom of this page.

Well, I finished North and South and All Our Yesterdays. Both were awesome for different reasons. (Review of the latter to come.) I read Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty this week, and while I enjoyed it (great voice!), I really didn't love the love interest. Smoking and drug use is kind of a deal-breaker for me, not gonna lie. And you know what? I much prefer good guys over bad boys. Call me crazy, but sweet boys kinda make me swoon*. Last night, I finally started Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. It's been on my shelf for ages despite the fact that I waited impatiently for its release. So it's about time I got to it. For my Classics Challenge, I moved on to Fahrenheit 451 (which actually doesn't even have chapters, oddly enough). True confession: This is my first time reading it.

Ha! Not a single word. I set ultra low goals for myself this past week, but with Hubby home, I got zilch done. And I'm all right with that. He headed out again for work yesterday, so I plan on getting back into writing this week. Here's what I hope to accomplish:

          Wednesday, August 14th
          • Spend one hour on writing or revisions. - DONE (I didn't write much, but I wrote some.)

          Thursday, August 15th
          • 500+ words and/or work on revisions. - DONE (1000 words)

          Friday, August 16th
          • 500+ words and/or work on revisions.

          Saturday, August 17th & Sunday, August 18th
          • DAYS OFF

          Monday, August 19th
          • DAY OFF (It's my birthday! Woo! Not.)

          Tuesday, August 20th
          • 500+ words and/or work on revisions.

Someone shared this Dr. Seuss quote on Instagram. It's one I've seen before, but it hits me between the eyes every time I see it:

If Dr. Seuss 'ran the zoo', the world would be a much better place.

And in the same vein...

"Let your words be anything but empty..."

Hanging out with Todd (my hubby), going on dinner + movie dates (The Wolverine:  Hugh Jackman was in it, so enough said; Pacific Rim: cheesy as frak dialogue, but a mostly okay movie; and Elysium: disappointing despite leading man Matt "I Will See Anything Starring Him" Damon), watching Freaks and Geeks (it's like playing spot the now-famous person), reading great books but not writing my own, working on my pipe & drum band's website, and just generally living and breathing. It was a good week all around.


* There are only a few 'bad boys' (if you can even call them that) that I like in my YA reads: Four, Sturmhond, Jace Wayland, Will Herondale, Percy and Roar (are they even bad boys?), and maybe a couple of others. But there really aren't all that many.

August 7, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Epic Fail Edition

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up. Feel free to join us! But don't forget to link to your What's Up Wednesday post in the widget at the bottom of this page.

I'm so close to finishing North and South  and only about halfway through A Fine Balance  (this book is a beast). I'm currently reading and really enjoying an ARC of Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays , which comes out September 3rd. (If you live in the UK and/or have access to the Book Depository, it's available right now.) "Time travel done right" according to Kirkus in its Starred Review. (I agree!)

Short answer: Not a whole lot. Long answer (complete with excuses): I started the week off all right with a solid planning day and 1200 new words on In the End, but everything kind of unraveled from there. My husband was due home on Saturday, so I spent much of my time preparing for that (read: cleaning). But then he ended up stuck in Denver when his flight was cancelled due to inclement weather, so I waited some more. Long story short, my top priority is spending time with Todd right now before he's gone for work again, this time hopefully not for an entire month. So writing is kind of getting back-burnered (with good reason).

My (sorta kinda tentative) writing goals for this week:
          Wednesday, August 7th
          • Spend one hour on writing or revisions.

          Thursday, August 8th
          • Write 250+ words and/or work on revisions.

          Friday, August 9th
          • Write 250+ words and/or work on revisions.

          Saturday, August 10th & Sunday, August 11th
          • DAYS OFF

          Monday, August 12th
          • Write 250+ words and/or work on revisions.

          Tuesday, August 13th
          • Write 250+ words and/or work on revisions.

The abundance of awesome books I have stacked up all around me just waiting to be read. So many stories and I only wish I had all the time in the world to sit down and enjoy them. It's so inspiring to me that the written word is alive, well, and thriving in 2013.

Not a whole lot, I have to say. I was invited to go to the circus this past week which ended up being seriously underwhelming. But then, what circus wouldn't be after reading The Night Circus, am I right? The lack of elephants, overpriced crappy food, and shabby looking setup was pretty bad, but the surprisingly non-creepy clown mostly made up for it. (I can't even believe I just typed that.)
You're welcome.
What does it say about my life that the most exciting thing I've done all week is go to a broken down circus? Nothing good! :P