March 28, 2013

Are You Ready to Rock?

Hello, friends! Guess what's just around the corner: Rock the Drop! Some of you might remember me posting something about this last April and some of you have probably even participated yourself. Since a little bit of forethought and planning is involved, I figured I'd give you all a heads up a few weeks in advance so you don't miss out. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here are the details:

The folks over at readergirlz ("a literacy and social media project for teens") organize an annual event wherein YA book lovers are encouraged to drop a favourite YA read (or two, three, more!) in a public place to celebrate Support Teen Lit Day. This year Support Teen Lit Day falls on Thursday, April 18th. Readergirlz creates a printable label like this (last year's):


And those rocking the drop can somehow attach it to or tuck it inside the books they're dropping so people know what it's all about. I also chose to write a personal little note inside the front cover just to further clarify that these books were meant to be taken and (hopefully) enjoyed, if not by them then by someone they know. You guys, it was kind of exhilarating. ☺

What I Dropped Last Year:

Clockwise from left: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor, dropped at a Second
Cup; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, dropped on a bus bench; Graceling
by Kristin Cashore, dropped on a piece of wall art at the college down the street. 

I felt all stealthy and whatnot, but I wasn't quite brave enough to skulk around waiting and watching to see if someone picked them up. I can only hope these awesome young adult reads went to people who loved them as much as I did (and still do).

So if you're interested in taking part in Rock the Drop 2013, don't forget to check the readergirlz blog every so often for updates and for the official 2013 printable label. It's a worthwhile event and a great way to spread the YA book love.

March 26, 2013

Boredom Breakthrough

Not all that long ago, I blogged about being bored with my day-to-day life. While that boredom still lingers, I have found something that is making me ridiculously happy with even the most mundane aspects of my day. It's kind of funny actually:

ROUTINE

Wait. What? Sounds kind of backwards, right? Not really when you consider that much of my boredom stems from lack of productivity. Up until recently, I found I was doing a lot of nothing and accomplishing very little of anything. I'd make countless rounds of the social media circuit*—the blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram (lately), sometimes Pinterest, repeat—think about writing (often that's as far as it went), read, read, read (which is great, but I can't do it all the time), spend too much time watching mediocre TV, and just generally frittering away my day. Life is too short to waste time like that.

Yeah. My days were about as exciting and fulfilling as this.
This past Christmas, I received a day timer.  I've always loved a good day timer, but I haven't been diligent about using one since university. Who knew that something so simple could be the answer to this problem of idleness? Okay, probably everyone, but that's not the point. For the past couple of weeks I've been scheduling my day as best I can, just for the sheer joy of crossing items off my list. Anybody who is an avid list-maker (like me) knows how satisfying this is. The issue before was not a lack of things to do, but one of allowing the silly and not so important things to crowd out the important. Embracing routine of all things has single-handedly pulled me from the funk** that I've found myself in for weeks, even months now.

With the help of my day-timer, I'm finding time for all of this fun stuff:
•  Writing → my 300 words a day for Jess and much more (I'm closing in on a finished first draft)
•  Reading → beta-reading for a friend (awesome story, BTW), a current release, and a classic (concurrently)
•  Querying → I'm using 'fun' loosely here.
•  Drumming → I've managed to learn and play from memory the mass band scores I need to know.
•  Social Media → in moderation (right now my favourites are Tumblr and Instagram)
•  other things as they crop up (appointments, social engagements, housework...)

It's amazing how much more I get out of my day now, which is good because suddenly I feel really busy. There's nothing quite like climbing into bed at night and feeling like you've accomplished something, like you're that much closer to being on top of things.We all have stuff we want out of life, but none of them can happen when we sit around letting life pass us by.

How about you? Do you find scheduling your life helps? How do you feel about routine?


* This has reached new heights of ridiculous. Fat must be trimmed.
** Sorry, Erin.

March 19, 2013

Currently...

{I'm borrowing this "Currently..." idea from Katy Upperman, who got it from Kate Hart, who got it from somewhere else.}

I've become a slacker blogger of the worst variety over the past couple of months, mainly due to a lack of inspiration. I'm struggling with that whole "What can I say that hasn't been said a hundred times already?" thing. So I figure now is as good a time as any to do a Currently... post just to check in and say hello. (Hello! ☺)

Loving


Instagram!* I'm taking part in the #FMSPhotoADay March Challenge, and it's been totally fun. The corny St. Patrick's Day socks and green Chucks combo was for the topic 'green' on March 17th. These socks were the one bit of faux-Irish paraphernalia that this Irish Canadian wore for the Pipe & Drum band pub crawl I went on. (Also loving: Becoming a part of this fun bunch of people in the Royal Canadian Legion Pipe & Drum band.)

Reading

Requiem by Lauren Oliver
I have a handful of series that I still need to finish reading. The final books in all of these series are currently sitting on my shelves, so it's high time I got to them. Requiem is one such book, and I'm curious to see how Oliver wraps everything up.

Watching

For some time now, I've been listening to people rave about this show. Heck, even one of the baristas at Starbucks was fangirling over it. So I decided to check it out. I have to say, it's really interesting and I'm 100% engaged every episode. 

Thinking About Stressing Over

Hmm. Where to start?
  1. Querying - There's nothing quite like sending your little idea off into the world and hoping someone bites. 
  2. Current WIP - I know what I want from this story, but moving it from my head to the page is challenging.
  3. Drumming - I'm trying to keep up with a super talented teen in my drum lessons, which is keeping me on my toes. But for some reason, I can't seem to get my hands to master an accented seven stroke roll. It's driving me slowly bonkers.


Anticipating

Game of Thrones Season 3 is coming March 31st. Can't wait!

&

Hey, did you know Awkward Season 3 starts April 16th? You're welcome.

&

Erin Bowman's Taken hits shelves April 16th.
(Follow the link to Goodreads for a synopsis.)

Listening To

Fellow Canuck Serena Ryder's "What I Wouldn't Do"

Wishing...

Mother Nature would give us a freaking break already. We have had snow on the 
ground since mid-October. I think it's time Spring made an arrival. Like, yesterday.

Making Me Happy

An arrangement that my writer friend and CP Jess Silverstein proposed. Authors Bruce Coville and Paula Danziger used to swap 300 (new) words a day just to keep each other accountable with the whole Butt-In-Chair-Hands-On-Keyboard thing. So Jess and I have started doing something similar. This writing is rough and off the cuff (though, her "rough" words are so good), so there isn't any critiquing going on yet. It's just a "Hey, I wrote this today and I'm proving it to you" kind of deal. We're allowed one day off a week and one sick day a month. It's challenging, but it's exactly what I needed to get my butt in the chair. So far so good, and I can finally see the end of this first draft approaching. Productivity makes me very, very happy.

So what have you been up to lately?

* My Instagram page.

March 12, 2013

Glimpses of NYC (Part 1)

Before we headed to NYC for the SCBWI conference, I promised that I would take lots of pictures and make sure to share them. Well, I took some photos but then promptly forgot to share them. Here are some glimpses of our NYC adventure:

(From top left)
1. Burnett Fountain in Central Park - This is a tribute to Frances Hodgson Burnett, beloved author of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. I really wanted to visit this fountain in particular because it makes an appearance in my current WIP.

2. Belvedere Castle in Central Park - My husband Todd at the 'castle' in Central Park with a view of Manhattan's Upper East Side in the background. As you can tell from the mitts and toque* combo, it was surprisingly cold during our stay in New York. The temperature wasn't all that low, but between the wind and the dampness--yikes!

3. Mulligan's Pub - My friend Jess Silverstein recommended Mulligan's to us, so we planted ourselves there spontaneously on SuperBowl Sunday. We had tons of fun, especially watching all of the commercials that Canadians don't get to see when we pick up the game on our networks. As a person of Irish descent, it was pretty neat to experience a New York Irish pub.

4. Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building - The conference hotel where we stayed was right next to Grand Central Station. We spent a lot of time in this station, eating breakfast, wandering, and getting around Manhattan all week.

5. Statue of Liberty - We went on a (freezing cold) boat tour on the river and got to see Lady Liberty (who looks like a dude) up close and personal. It was pretty great to see something so familiar to everyone the world over, even if it wasn't quite as grandiose as I was expecting.

6. New York Public Library - What a beautiful library! In the one room, hubby whispered to me, "Is this the room that they pillaged for books to burn in The Day After Tomorrow?" Yes. Yes it is. And so much more. The ceilings were just gorgeous.

7. FAO Schwarz - Every kid's (and big kid's) dream come true. So many awesome toys, and quite possibly the friendliest and smiliest doorman ever. ☺ I may or may not have purchased a C3P0 bobblehead here, but I'll never tell.

8. Serendipity 3 - Ever since I first saw the movie Serendipity, I've wanted to visit the little shop/eatery featured in the movie. I had to give their frozen hot chocolate a try, despite the fact that it was really cold outside. It was good, albeit reminiscent of slightly melty chocolate ice cream. The table right next to ours was supposedly Marilyn Monroe's favourite place to sit when she frequented the place.

9. 9/11 Memorial Fountain - It was a truly moving experience to pay our respects at the 9/11 Memorial. I may not be from New York, but I still remember the horror of watching that day's events unfold from afar. To stand in the very spot where so many lives were lost was so much more emotional than I can express.

I realized once we got home, that I neglected to take any photos during our tour of the Village and thereabouts with Jess. Stupid Jaime. She took us around to: David's Tea, Italian (?) delis, Books of Wonder, Jacques Torres Chocolate, Shakespeare & Co., Murray's Bagels (The smoked whitefish salad bagel I ate here was easily one of the yummiest things ever!), and a nifty Scandanavian candy store among other places. It was such a fun day and a great glimpse of that corner of NYC. Thanks, Jess!

* This is what we call a knitted winter hat in Canada. You will never (ever) hear the word 'beanie' uttered from these lips.

March 5, 2013

Two Roads Diverge

Back in January I signed up for the Debut Author Challenge. So far I've been a bit slack about getting reviews up for those books. I thought I'd fix that with a review of Kasie West's debut novel Pivot Point. Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

The story was pitched as a Sliding Doors concept what with the reader seeing two possible outcomes based on a single act/decision. Since I love this movie, I was all for a book that explored a similar idea and (for the most part) Pivot Point didn't disappoint. Here's what I loved about it:

Swoon Times Two
This book has one of the most creative uses of a love triangle that I've ever read. Before you start groaning, I should probably qualify that by saying that it's not a true love triangle because each relationship occurs in a separate possible outcome. Life with the Paras in the Compound yields one romance, while life with the Norms yields another, so it's largely angst-free. Personally, I felt the Norms won this round by a landslide.

Superpowers FTW!
While I would have liked to see a little more of the Paras 'powers', I'm confident that the author will deliver more of this in the next book. (Yes, it's a trilogy.) What we do get is fascinating, because it doesn't portray having powers as being all cakes and pies (ie. spectacular)—sometimes there are major drawbacks that we might not have initially realized. (Example: One character is addicted to drugs because he's trying to escape having to hear everyone's thoughts all the time.) Aside from Addie's ability to search outcomes, there are people who can alter moods, shift mass, erase memories, detect lies, and even persuade you to do the things you'd rather not. At times, I got a Sky High or X Men kind of vibe, which is just AWESOME.

Element of Mystery
While Addie is searching life with the Paras versus life with the Norms, there is a bit of mystery thrown into the mix that affects both outcomes to varying degrees. This takes the story from being simply about choosing where she's going to live and who she's going to date to making tough choices about what she's willing to lose. I think I would have enjoyed this book even without the mystery, but it was definitely the icing on the cake.

Mixed Bag of Awesome
  • Because this story explores two separate outcomes, the chapters alternate between life in the Paranormal Compound and life outside the Compound with the Normals. Each chapter starts with a definition that either includes the root PARA or NORM. I thought this was totally fun and helps remind the reader that they're about to switch to the other outcome. (For example: PAR•A•digm: n. something that serves as a pattern or model.)
  • I've already mentioned this, but it can't be said enough: SUPERPOWERS.
  • Both Duke and Trevor are (were) quarterbacks for Texas high schools, so that lent the story a bit of a Friday Night Lights feel at times. For those of you not into football, this isn't a football story, so never fear.
  • While this book is probably classified as sci-fi, it was interesting that the Norm world seemed like it was set in the present while the Paras were far more technologically advanced. This made for some funny moments when Addie was trying to adjust to life with the Norms.

I really enjoyed Pivot Point, and if you like swoonworthy boys, superpowers, and a dash of mystery then you will too.


One teensy beef: Some weird past tense usage (past perfect) at times. Still not sure why this was used.