July 31, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - Almost August 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.

WHAT I'M READING
Still working on North and South and A Fine Balance. Still enjoying both of them. I just finished reading a cute book by Kerry Reichs* called Leaving Unknown. I guess this would fall under the bracket of New Adult (MC who is 24), though I doubt it was marketed that way. It's one of those books with a great, quirky cast of characters in a little town in Arizona that you kinda sorta want to pick up and move to (like a desert version of Stars Hollow or Bluebell**). Anyway, it's nice to branch out and read something a bit different from time to time. Last night before bed, I started reading Kasie West's The Distance Between Us  and had to force myself to put it down close to 1 am. It's exactly what I was hoping for.

WHAT I'M WRITING
This week was surprisingly productive and a bit weird on the writing front. Remember last week when Prince George was making his way into the world? Well I had parked myself at the dining room table to work while I was watching the coverage. Yeah, I never left (and by 'never left', I mean as far as writing goes). Normally, I work upstairs in my office at my desktop computer, but for whatever reason, I've been feeling productive at the table and so I've sort of set up shop there. Hey, whatever works, right? Only problem is, I've been getting wicked headaches from having my head bent down over my laptop for hours on end. Not good.

Here's what I accomplished this past week:
I ended up writing about 4000 new words on my WIP that I'm calling In the End. And in a bizarre turn of events, I actually revised a third story that I had backburnered temporarily to work on my R&R for another story. Hey, I couldn't resist the siren song of a beachy YA based-on-my-fave-Austen love story, but it made me feel like I was stepping out on my other WIPs. I need to get back to my R&R, but right now I'm in this totally un-fun "I have no idea what the heck to do with this flaming bag of turd" phase. Though, yesterday I FINALLY had a bit of a breakthrough with something that has been driving me around the bend for ages.

Here's what I hope to accomplish this week:

          Wednesday, July 31st
          •  spend one hour on writing (drafting or revising) - DONE (Spent today's writing session planning.)

          Thursday, August 1st (!)
          •  500 + new words on WIP and/or work on R&R - DONE (1200 new words written)

          Friday, August 2nd
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or work on R&R

          Saturday, August 3rd & Sunday, August 4th
          •  DAYS OFF

          Monday, August 5th
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or work on R&R

          Tuesday, August 6th
          •  250+ new words on WIP and/or work on R&R

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I read an article on the CNN Belief Blog today, and without going into specifics (I don't ever talk faith or politics on social media), I'll just say that I was stunned by how much I agreed with the author. It is always inspiring to me when I discover others out there who feel so similarly about a particular issue or something that is close to my heart. On the flip side of things, it's also inspiring to know that there are others who hold differing opinions because (ideally) this is how thoughtful and respectful conversations start.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Well, in a move that I will probably soon regret, I decided to cut bangs. (Pic on top left below.) Not exactly breaking news, but when you consider that every single picture of me taken in the first twenty years of my life had a side order of massive bangs, that I painstakingly grew out said Vulcan/Romulan bangs (Looking for a laugh? See the pic on the bottom right.), then you might understand why this feels like such a BIG DEAL to me. I'm still not sure if I like them, but they are growing on me. (Pun intended.)


THE WALL OF BANGS
Seriously, get a load of that crazy Vulcan 'do on the right. Yikes!
(And no, I cannot believe I'm sharing these photos with you.)

I've been listening to a fair amount of Ed Sheeran songs lately, some of which were put out by other artists featuring Ed Sheeran:

  • "Everything Has Changed" - Taylor Swift featuring Ed Sheeran (Also featuring a super cute video.)
  • "Lego House" - Ed Sheeran featuring Ron Weasley aka Rupert Grint (This is a pretty funny video toward the end.)
  • "All Along the Watchtower" - a cover of a Jimi Hendrix song by Devlin featuring Ed Sheeran (I think I'd love this song more if I could delete Devlin aka wannabe British Eminem from the equation. Not big on the rap, but love Ed's voice.)
  • "The Parting Glass" - Ed Sheeran featuring...Ed Sheeran (This Scots-Irish traditional drinking song is a personal fave.)

Aside from that, not much else has been going on around here. Well, except this: It's been 3.5 weeks since I last saw my husband (he's away for work), which sucks royally, but such is life. He'll be home this weekend FINALLY and I'm really looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to eating like less of a bachelor/broke college student and actually enjoying decent meals for a change. It's too easy to eat garbage when no one's around to call you on it and when you're the only one you have to cook for.***



SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU THIS WEEK?


* Kerry Reichs is the daughter of Kathy Reichs, the woman behind the popular Bones books and television show.
** Unknown, Stars Hollow, and Bluebell are all awesome resources for planning the town in my WIP, In the End.
*** In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that my husband cooks most of our meals when he's home.


July 29, 2013

YA Book Club: The Westing Game



It feels like ages since I last participated in Tracey Neithercott's YA Book Club, but it's great to be back on board now. July's pick was a little different than in past months. This time Tracey asked us to cast our votes on traditional summer reading list books, and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin came out the winner. Now I should probably mention that never in all my years of schooling have I ever had a summer reading list, nor have I ever encountered this particular book. So this was a first read-through for me, and I have to say it was...different. And I can't decide if it's good different or not-sure-what-I-think different. Mostly I found it kind of odd.



The cast of characters was on the quirky side, and at first it was a bit difficult to keep everyone straight. My favourite character had to be Turtle, which will probably come as no surprise to anyone who has read this book. I got a "kick" out of the way she felt the need to boot anyone and everyone in the shins. And then there's the fact that the kid was a whiz with the stock market at thirteen years of age. The way she takes over the trial-like proceedings toward the end was pretty impressive. In many ways, it felt like the story evolved into Turtle Wexler's story.

While this book felt disjointed and confusing at times, I did enjoy reading all of the ways the characters tried to solve the clues they were given. The solution to the mystery was pretty clever and I couldn't help but be impressed at the fact that all of the clues were there the whole time for the heirs as well as the reader to figure out if they were so inclined. (Honestly, I didn't have enough brain capacity to try and crack the code, but it was kind of cool.) Without creeping into spoiler territory, I especially liked how Turtle figured out the situation with Samuel W. Westing et all at the story's conclusion. The last handful of chapters were by far my favourites.

All in all, it was a quick and easy read, which is probably why it's assigned to the younger set. As this was my first encounter with The Westing Game, I had no fond childhood memories attached to it, which is probably why I'm not head over heels in love with it. That said, my favourite part of this reading experience had to be the smell of old library book that kept wafting off the pages. Without a word of a lie, I kept wedging my nose in the middle of the book just to inhale the scent of it. (And I had the audacity to call this book odd. Now who's the weirdo?) That 1978 vintage is pretty much perfect. (It's just an awesome year all around.**)

So, have you read this book in recent years or even as a kid? If so, what did you think of it? For links to other YA Book Club participants' reviews of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, visit Tracey Neithercott's blog.



** I was born in August 1978.

July 24, 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, you will find the link widget at the bottom of this post. We really hope you will take part!

WHAT I'M READING
I've made significant progress on both North and South and A Fine Balance, and I'm thoroughly enjoying both (though the latter is not without its awful parts). I've promised myself that I'll watch the BBC North & South miniseries (for the millionth time) once I'm done the book. I'm also finishing up Lauren Miller's Parallel, which I would describe as a fun contemporary with a bit of a sci-fi twist.


WHAT I'M WRITING
I'm closing in on the 25K mark on my WIP. This is both exhilarating and a bit scary because once again wordiness has taken over, and there's an awful lot that still needs to happen. Revisions are going to be a blast, I tell ya. I was mostly successful at meeting my goals this week, with only one real hiccup. Here's my plan for this week. (Also: How on earth is it already the end of July?!):

          Wednesday, July 24th
          •  spend one hour on writing - DONE (Spent 2 hours writing and wrote 1028 words)

          Thursday, July 25th
          •  500 + new words on WIP and/or work on R+R - DONE (Sort of... I cheated on these WIPs by revising a third WIP. O_o)

          Friday, July 26th
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or work on R+R - 1/2 DONE (Will write more on Sunday.)

          Saturday, July 27th & Sunday, July 28th
            DAYS OFF - Other 1/2 DONE (Between Friday and Sunday, I wrote 1200 words.)

          Monday, July 29th
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or work on R+R - DONE (1350 words)

          Tuesday, July 30th
          •  250+ new words on WIP and/or work on R+R - Revised and had a breakthrough. FINALLY!

***As always, I'll be tracking my progress each day right here on this checklist. But unlike always, this week I'll be allowing myself to substitute legitimate planning days for any of the daily goals listed above. I feel like it's high time some planning takes place.***

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
The birth of a new prince (see below) and the consequent excitement and celebration; good books that keep me reading for hours; long talks with my sister that involve hilarity and lots of brainstorming for our WIPs; and the friendliness of neighbours I've never actually met following the storm that resulted in a tree landing on Hubby's work truck.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Baby Boy Cambridge, the Little Prince. ©
Drinking Fortnum & Mason Royal Blend tea, awaiting then celebrating the birth and presentation of Baby Cambridge. (Yes, I'm thrilled about this because Canada is part of the Commonwealth and this baby is our future king too.) I have to say I was disappointed by all of the tweets slamming on the #RoyalBaby watch. To those people I would say: There's nothing wrong with being excited about a historical moment like the birth of a new prince, the future sovereign of more than 50 countries? Not to mention there's so much awfulness in the world, isn't it just nice to celebrate some good news once in a while? Why not take some time to geek out over the things you love and be happy that others can geek out over the things they  love too. [End rant.]

In other news... 

Thanks to Netflix, I've been marathoning New Girl, which is pretty much like crack. Only really, really funny. (Crack isn't funny.) I thought I'd despise Schmidt, but he's easily the funniest character on the show. Plus, I'm a total Jess + Nick shipper. (Who in their right mind isn't?!) Who's that girl? It's Jess. And she's awesomely quirky. 



And now for a big (albeit non-royal) announcement: the winner of our Ready. Set. WRITE! Writer's Care Package Giveaway!


CONGRATULATIONS, RAVEN MOORE! YOU'RE OUR LUCKY WINNER!


Thank you so much to everyone who entered our giveaway, for all of your awesome participation and support. You're the best!


SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU THIS WEEK?



July 22, 2013

Review: The Story Of Us

It's summer so apparently that means I'm drawn to sunny seaside YA contemporary like a nerd to a library, like a geek to binary. It would seem it also means that I'm drawn to books featuring protagonists struggling with change and the BIG question: What am I supposed to do with my life? (See my review of Jessi Kirby's Golden for similar themes.) This time, the MC asking the question is Cricket in Deb Caletti's The Story of Us. Here's the flap description:



Cricket has a very long week ahead of her -- her entire family has come together for her mom's wedding, and it's supposed to be a time for celebration. But for Cricket, the timing couldn't be worse.

For years Cricket's been half of the perfect couple, destined to be together forever. Now, because of what she's done -- something she would give anything to take back -- Janssen has walked away. Maybe for good.

Cricket has always panicked in the face of change. Now she is forced to face her fears and decide once and for al what she wants, and how she's going to get it.  Over the course of the week, secrets will be revealed, bonds will be tested, and Cricket's confusion --and her desires -- may very well send her spiraling down a path she never thought she'd take...with no idea where it will lead her.


Here's what I loved about this book:

1)  Setting
Quite frankly, beachy/seaside summer reads are my favourite thing when summer rolls around. Something to do with wishing I was there, living vicariously through the characters, and so on and so forth. The Story of Us, is just such a story. Cricket and her family spend the week leading up to her mother's wedding at a beach guest house. So much about this setting appealed to me.

2)  Characters
There was a fairly extensive cast of characters, some sort of irksome (reluctant stepsisters and immature guy friends), others I wish I knew in real life. Among my favourites were Cricket's older brother, Ben, and Cricket's mother, and I particularly loved the dynamic between the three of them. Perhaps two of the most surprising favourites were Jupiter, the aging family beagle, and Janssen, Cricket's erstwhile boyfriend who shows up almost exclusively in flashback sequences. It's weird, but this was enough for me to grow attached to him, despite other eligible male characters in Cricket's life in real time.

3)  Themes
Like so many other upper YA reads, The Story of Us deals with themes of growth and change. In Cricket's case this plays out as growing up, growing apart, moving on, and loss. As the title suggests, there's this notion of stories and memories binding us together no matter where life takes us. The "story of us"  can refer to Cricket and Janssen's story, Cricket's family's story, and even the story of Jupiter the beagle and the family that loves her. (That might sound weird, but there's actually a good deal of interesting relationship metaphors linked to dogs, specifically Jupiter, in Cricket's emails to Janssen. Surprisingly, it worked.) Aside from the question of what to do with her life, Cricket also needs to figure out who to keep holding onto and who to set free.

4)  Format
This book is partly epistolary in nature, something I'm not usually a big fan of, but since this is where Cricket and Janssen's story was told, I rather enjoyed it. Cricket and Janssen have recently parted ways, but they still communicate via email while Cricket's away for her mother's wedding. We're only privvy to Cricket's emails, but it's through these messages that she reminds Janssen of what their relationship has meant to her, where she reveals to the reader their love story. It's bittersweet, heartwarming, and at times suspenseful while we wait to find out what Cricket did to screw things up between them. (Spoiler: Nothing too horrible.)

The Story of Us was a fun, mostly light book (except for that one part that made me cry) even while it dealt with heavier themes so often found in contemporary YA. It was the perfect summer read and as such, has earned a spot on my Favourites shelf.





July 18, 2013

Thoughts On GOLDEN



Hey there! As some of you know, I'm a contributor to the recently launched YA Buccaneers blog. Well, today I posted some thoughts on life and Jessi Kirby's wonderful novel, Golden. You should sail by and check it out! Here's the link: Thoughts On Life and GOLDEN.

{You should just swing by sometime anyway. There are lots of great things going on including (but not limited to) organized Word Sprints and the Reading Mutiny challenge that includes a giveaway for reading and posting reviews of YA books based on this month's theme: ADVENTURE. Check it out! ☺}

July 17, 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, you will find the link widget at the bottom of this post. We really hope you will take part!

WHAT I'M READING
Still working my way a chapter a day through North and South and A Fine Balance. I finished up The Story Of Us by Deb Caletti, which I thought was fantastic, and I've moved on to Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. It's really cute so far! I especially like all of the nods to familiar fairy tales. That said, I can't help wondering if I'm missing some of the less familiar references. Such a fun book, though!


WHAT I'M WRITING
Well, as it turns out, I didn't touch my revision of Watch of Night at all this week. Whoops! I guess I was more inspired to work on the new WIP while thinking off and on about what needs to be done in those revisions. I only missed a daily goal once, but I more than made up for it on the following day, so I'm okay with that. I'm having a lot of fun with this story, and that's pretty much all I can ask for right now. Here are my goals for this week:

          Wednesday, July 17th
          •  250+ new words on WIP and/or long overdue planning/outlining - DONE! (825 words)

          Thursday, July 18th
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (tons of planning!)

          Friday, July 19th
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - FAIL. :-(

          Saturday, July 20th & Sunday, July 21st
          •  DAYS OFF

          Monday, July 22nd
          •  500+ new words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (1350 words)

          Tuesday, July 23rd
          •  250+ new words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night


***As always, I'll be tracking my progress each day right here on this checklist. But unlike always, this week I'll be allowing myself to substitute legitimate planning days for any of the daily goals listed above. I feel like it's high time some planning takes place.***


WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I don't know what it is, but every now and then I go through periods of intense nostalgia, which can be very useful when you're a writer. There's nothing quite like mining your own experiences to enhance the stories you're working on, whether it's digging deep to recall how you felt in a particular moment, or actually using that experience with a few minor alterations to the details. This past week, I borrowed from my (awesome) memories of regular family trips throughout Northern Michigan to add flavour to my WIP which is set in that state. I guess this is a case of writing what you know. Personal experience can be all kinds of inspiring!


Tea + Chocolate + A Good Book:
The perfect combo for a rainy day!
WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

One day this past week, I stepped away from everything (namely, my computer aka the ole ball and chain) and spent the day at the lake with a good friend. It was wonderful to set things aside temporarily and just relax on the beach in the sunshine. Aside from that, I've mostly been hunkering down while Hubby's away, writing, reading, and catching up on TV series I've fallen behind on (Haven, Covert Affairs, FNL...). I lead a very exciting life. Right. Oh! And I've been enjoying yummy German chocolate from my lovely CP, Elodie. (Thanks!)


Quick reminder: Don't forget to enter our super rad Writer's Care Package Giveaway for all Ready. Set. WRITE! participants. You can find the Rafflecopter form HERE. Best of luck!




SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU THIS WEEK?


July 10, 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, you will find the link widget at the bottom of this post. We really hope you will take part!

WHAT I'M READING
A couple of friends highly recommended the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness, which I've been meaning to read for some time now, so I started The Knife of Never Letting Go. It's different than I expected but I'm finally starting to get into it. I love the dialect it's written in. It's kind of reminiscent of Blood Red Road . In addition to this, I'm still reading North and South and A Fine Balance.


WHAT I'M WRITING
This was a very good week for meeting my goals. I managed to write almost 5000 new words on my WIP and I even revisited the story I've been revising (but had backburnered for a couple of weeks out of frustration). I like the first third of the story, so it's somewhere in the latter two-thirds that the problems crop up. I hope to figure that all out soon and finally finish this thing.

My goals for this week:

          Wednesday, July 10th
          • write 250+ new words on WIP and/or do revisions on Watch of Night - Didn't write, but I'll make up for it tomorrow.

          Thursday, July 11th
          • write 500+ new words on WIP and/or do revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (1650 words)

          Friday, July 12th
          • write 500+ new words on WIP and/or do revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (500 words)

          Saturday, July 13th & Sunday, July 14th
          • DAYS OFF

          Monday, July 15th
          • write 500+ new words on WIP and/or do revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (775 words)

          Tuesday, July 16th
          • write 250+ new words on WIP and/or do revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (1185 words)


WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I've been catching up on Friday Night Lights the past couple of days. (Yes, I am seriously late to this party.) I'm sort of ashamed to admit that I actually lost all of Sunday to Season 4. As all of you FNL fans know, there was a pretty major shift at the start of this season that involved new characters, new storylines, and so on. I'm amazed that the writers have actually made me care about these new people even if they aren't Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen.  This inspires me to write characters that readers feel seriously invested in, and storylines that stay with them after they're done with my story.




WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Besides marathoning Friday Night Lights, not a whole lot actually. I've been meaning to get more reading done, but somehow this hasn't happened. Honestly, I kind of don't know where all my time is going these days. One thing I have been doing is taking part in a different photo a day challenge this month that is primarily book focused. It's tons of fun and it's always easy to come up with photo ideas for each topic.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. ALSO: TOTALLY RAD.
We're approaching the midpoint of Ready. Set. WRITE! which means it's time for an awesome giveaway! **The Writer's Care Package Giveaway is open to Ready. Set. WRITE! participants only, but it's open internationally!!!** It starts today and will be open through 11:59pm EST on July 23rd when one winner will be selected to win a surprise package of writing-related goodies from all five of us. ☺ The winner will be announced on our blogs in our What's Up Wednesday posts on July 24th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU THIS WEEK? 



July 3, 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, you will find the link widget at the bottom of this post. We really hope you will take part!

WHAT I'M READING
I finished Jessi Kirby's Golden, which I LOVED, and now I've moved on to Sarah Dessen's The Moon and More, which I'm really enjoying as well. My book club is taking a summer hiatus, but we'll be reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a rather large book that has been sitting on my shelf unread for about four years now. I'm happy to have an excuse to read it. And, of course, I'm still plugging away at North and South, a thoroughly enjoyable read so far.

WHAT I'M WRITING
I haven't worked on any revisions of Watch of Night for a couple weeks now, which is making me kind of anxious. I have, however, spent more time with my new WIP as I've felt far more motivated to work on it. For right now, I figure it's best to go where inspiration leads me. Though, I do have to say that finding time to write was a real challenge this week. Again. I don't know what it is, but lately I've been WAY busier than usual. There are so many things I haven't been getting done--writing, practising my drum, exercising--and that's really making me anxious too. I didn't reach all of my goals this week, but I came pretty darn close. I actually went back and amended them a bit to compensate for my crazy busy week, so that certainly helped. 

Here are my Ready. Set. WRITE! goals for this week:

          Wednesday, July 3rd
          • write 250+ words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (1300 words)

          Thursday, July 4th
          • write 250+ words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (900 words)

          Friday, July 5th
          • write 250+ words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (1700 words)

          Saturday, July 6th & Sunday, July 7th
          • DAYS OFF

          Monday, July 8th
          • write 500+ words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (850 words on WIP and 11 chapters read/tweaked of
             Watch of Night)

          Tuesday, July 9th
          • write 500+ words on WIP and/or revisions on Watch of Night - DONE! (11 chapters read/revised)



WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
This snippet from the poem "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver. It was a theme woven throughout Jessi Kirby's Golden, and a question that really makes me want to have an answer. The truth is, I'm midway through my thirties and I still don't have a clue. Though, I feel like I'm getting there.



Look! It's a Canadian bobblehead! █♥█




WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Spending time with family, taking part in Canada Day festivities (parade, flag-raising, Show & Shine, and a BBQ), getting sunburnt again, doing lots and lots of reading, enjoying the sunshine, watching the NHL draft with my husband, cuddling my kitties, watching our plants bloom and grow, launching a new YA blog (the YA Buccaneers) with some totally awesome ladies, and plenty more that's keeping me super busy.


SO, WHAT'S UP WITH YOU THIS WEEK?





July 1, 2013

A New Adventure

So I've been keeping a bit of a secret for the past while, that I can finally share with you now. No, it isn't agent- or publishing-related, but it's pretty darn cool in its own right. I am a contributing member of a new YA group blog that is launching TODAY!

It's here, the big day is finally here!!!

We are SO excited to announce the launch of our amazing group blog:


A combined effort by ten amazing ladies, we've put together some pretty awesome content that we hope you'll come on by to check out!

Today's the official day of launch — over the next two weeks we'll be introducing you to each member of the crew, not to mention, hosting a pretty incredible giveaway for all those that would like to join us on our journey!


Adventure awaits and we can't wait to set sail with you!