September 25, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Granny Edition

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop with other folks on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you want to join us, we encourage you to visit a few other WUW blogs each week, get to know some other writers, and spread some writerly love around! Don't forget to leave the link to your post in the widget at the end of this post.

WHAT I'M READING
Well, I finally finished A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, and apart from being HORRIBLY depressing, it just confirmed why I mostly stick to YA. Not much else to say besides that. I'm still plugging away at War and Peace  and am about to start Book 4, roughly 1/5 of the way through this behemoth. Over the weekend, I started in on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, my favourite in the series. (This one doesn't seem like it's a popular one to love for some reason.) To me, it's a good blend of fun (the Quidditch World Cup, the Triwizard Tournament) and dark/scary/serious/sad (the Dark Mark sighting, Voldemort + the Death Eaters, Cedric).


And this showed up yesterday morning, so I couldn't resist diving right in. (I mean, please.) ®

WHAT I'M WRITING
*crickets chirping*

BUT, I think this writing hiatus might be coming to an end soon. We'll see, but I'm starting to get the itch to write something again. It might have something to do with the cooler weather.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
Sitting down and writing a personal blog post about not writing and having so many people swing by and not only encourage me, but also remind me that I'm so not alone in this up and down experience of writing (or in my case, not writing for a bit now). THIS, folks, is why I blog. Why I started  blogging in the first place over two years ago. To make connections with all of you. So, thanks a lot for that, friends!

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
We've been watching a lot of hockey around here. (Go Oilers!) They are only pre-season games, but it's still hockey, so WOO! I've taken to knitting while we watch the games and am making good progress on a sweater. My hand muscles and joints aren't used to knitting anymore, so I can only do so much before I have to set it aside, but it's fun to get back into it again. I've also gone to a couple of quilting classes and now I'm about to start my own quilt. Basically, I've turned into a granny since the last time we spoke.

Oh, and reading. Lots and lots of reading. And consuming pumpkin-y treats by the truckload because YUM! (Fall's finally here!)

My new tea cup: A cup of tea may not actually  solve
everything, but it sure tastes good with ginger cookies!
I've been getting lots of cuddles from these little monkeys as well. (Pete is on the left, Puck is on the right.)

Well, that about wraps up the granniest post I think I've ever written. (Cats! Knitting! Quilting! Teacups! Aching joints!) Apologies.


SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?


September 20, 2013

Perspective: I Miss Writing...But Also Kinda Don't

Thank you, Professor Dumbledore, for the reminder.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been planted in front of the Mirror of Erised, unable to tear myself away, much like Harry when Dumbledore found him and said those now-famous words to the left. I can see the life I want and the fact that I don’t have it yet (might not ever have it) is a constant source of frustration and stress. I hear about everyone else’s successes, and while I’m happy for them, it’s way too easy to take a look at myself and see all of my failures in Technicolor. I promise you, I'm not trying to be a whiner about it, but frankly, I’m a bit exhausted from having my head in the clouds, consumed with what-ifs and it’ll-be-better-whens. I want to feel complete with what I have now. That’s not to say that dreams are bad (I still have plenty of them), but a healthy dose of perspective is ALWAYS a good thing. I want the dreams, but I don’t want to dwell on them to the point of distraction or even depression.

Rewind to Summer 2011: 
I started writing and couldn’t get enough of it. I would plunk myself in a chair, guzzle far more coffee than was healthy, and write from early morning until around suppertime with very few breaks in between. I was on fire, consumed by a need to get this story out. All dreamy and hung up on getting published.


Fast forward to Summer 2013: 
I now have a completed story, 90% of another story drafted, and 50% of still another first draft done…and a complete lack of motivation and inspiration to press onward to show for it. My life has somehow gotten cluttered up with all of this STUFF that, while sometimes pretty awesome, is also sometimes pretty draining. (I’m looking at you, Social Media. In all of your many dazzling forms.) I haven’t been blogging much, I’m very seldom on Twitter, never on Tumblr anymore, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t missed it much at all. A large portion of my life feels virtual right now, and that’s virtually crazy-making, to say the least.

I’m not giving up on writing——no way, no how——but this time away from it has shifted my perspective. And necessarily so. While I’ve been avoiding writing, I’ve been doing other things: traveling, reading a lot, drumming, visiting with family and friends, hanging out with my husband, and just living life. And while I’ve missed writing, sure, I’m not shriveling up and dying inside because I’m not doing it. *gasp* Instead, it has reminded me just how important all of that LIFE STUFF actually is. Writing is a very important part of my life, but so is remembering to simply live, to enjoy now. And here’s the takeaway: This doesn’t make me any less of a writer.

I spent over a year, holed up inside, connecting with people via social media, but not making a whole lot of connections in my real world. It first hit me when our pipe and drum band was selling raffle tickets that I had nobody to sell tickets to. Nobody. Um…that’s humiliating and disturbing all at once. Sure, writing is a solitary business, but unwittingly turning myself into a hermit hasn’t done me (m)any favours. (I don't pick up flu bugs, so there's that.) And while I love all of my online friends (yes, you’re friends even if I haven’t met most of you IRL), I need to be making more face-to-face connections with people, to be leaving the confines of my home office. Hermit lifestyle is NOT a healthy lifestyle. Nor is it inspiring. There’s very little to write about, in my opinion and experience, when you aren’t actually out in the world absorbing all of the things that make for great writing material.

There is more to life than writing.

There. I said it.


September 18, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Fall. Maybe?

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop with other folks on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you want to join us, we encourage you to visit a few other WUW blogs each week, get to know some other writers, and spread some writerly love around! Don't forget to leave the link to your post in the widget at the end of this post.

WHAT I'M READING
My copy of Sarah J. Maas' Crown of Midnight arrived and I'm devouring it. It's really good, guys. But then that comes as no surprise. Chaol is even better than I remember him, which is saying a lot. I'm also plugging away at War and Peace still and liking it more than I expected. The war parts are kind of tedious to get through, but c'est la vie.

WHAT I'M WRITING
Nothing. Diddly squat. Nada. Zilch. Rien. Not a jot. Zippo... You get the idea. The well of inspiration/creativity/motivation has temporarily run dry and desperately needs filling.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
Terry Fox. Seriously, he ran over 5000 km (a marathon a day) for 143 straight days in 1980 with a prosthetic leg before his cancer forced him to stop. He did it all to raise awareness and funding for cancer research. If that's not inspiring, I'm not sure what is. When I become a Debbie Downer, his story really puts things in perspective for me. Talk about perseverance to the extreme. (If you'd like to know more about this amazing Canadian, I posted about him last Sunday. Or you can watch the short clip below.)



WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
I've been on a Harry Potter kick for the past couple of weeks. I'm working my way through the series again in between other books that I'm reading. Next up is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which is my favourite of the bunch. Hubby is listening to them via audiobook, so the two of us are watching the movies of the ones we've read thus far. And I've been drinking lots and lots of Pumpkin Chai tea from Davids Tea out of my pumpkin mug, because somehow that feels perfectly appropriate. I keep hoping all of this will bring on the fall weather I've been waiting impatiently for. We have yellow leaves, but I want to wear scarves!


We bought a bodhrán the other day, which is an Irish frame drum. [Pronounced: "bow" (like what you do from the waist) + "ron" (like the youngest Weasley son)] Now that I'm learning the snare, I'm kind of on a roll. (See what I did there?) I've actually wanted to learn the bodhrán for quite some time now. It probably has a lot to do with my Irish heritage, but mostly I just think it's cool. We bought an inexpensive one just to see if I can actually play it.



And finally, hubby and I participated this past Sunday in the 33rd annual Terry Fox Run. The run is put on in Terry's memory with the intention of raising awareness and funds for cancer research. It's 10km in length, and since neither hubby nor I are in any condition to run that distance, we speedwalked the whole thing. It was a beautiful day, a great way to get exercise (a little too much, actually O_o) and a great cause. It also kickstarted my personal initiative to take better care of my health. Yesterday I added Power 90 to the mix (ouch), and I'm making attempts to eat healthier as well. Let's hope I stick with it this time.


                                                          
                                                       SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?



September 15, 2013

Working Together to Outrun Cancer

Today is the 33rd annual Terry Fox Run to fight cancer. This is an important cause as all of us either have been or will be personally touched by cancer in our lifetime. My father is a cancer survivor, so I know just how crucial this kind of funding is. This is a post I wrote last year about my favourite Canadian, but since today is the Terry Fox Run again, I thought I'd re-post it in his memory:

THIS is what perseverance looks like.
Terry Fox
(July 28, 1958—June 28, 1981)

Terrance Stanley Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but raised mostly in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. An avid athlete, Terry played as many sports as he could including basketball, even though he was not overly tall. At the age of 19, Terry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma—a cancer that often begins in the knee region—and his leg had to be amputated. He was given a 50% chance of survival, which was far greater than it had been only a couple of years earlier (15%). Through it all—the chemo, the amputation, learning to walk on a prosthetic leg only three weeks later—Terry maintained a positive attitude. He'd watched many of his fellow cancer patients succumb to their diseases, and wanted to do something to change this. With this in mind, Terry began marathon training with the intention of running across Canada to increase awareness about cancer research and to raise much-needed funding.

And the Marathon of Hope was born.

On April 12, 1980, Terry  "dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John's, Newfoundland, and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia." * His run started out rough—horrible weather, arguments with his friend/travel companion, drivers trying to force him off the road—but by the time he reached Ontario things were looking up. His Marathon of Hope was receiving exposure, and funding was starting to come in.

Sadly, the exertion of his run and his refusal to take a single day off was taking a toll on his body. Increasing exhaustion and pain in his stump and chest forced him to seek medical attention. Terry's cancer had returned and had spread to his lungs. 143 days and 5, 373km (3, 339 miles) in Terry's run had come to an end. Terry had raised $1.7 million for cancer research, and the funds continued to pour in. By the following April, over $23 million had been raised in his name. Terry underwent further chemotherapy, but the cancer continued to spread, and on June 28, 1981 he lost his battle with cancer.

Terry's legacy continues today, and every fall people in more than 60 countries around the world take part in the Terry Fox Run to raise awareness and funding for cancer research. The Terry Fox run is the largest one-day campaign for cancer research in the world. To date, over $500 million has been raised in his name.*

Taking part in the Terry Fox Run every September has become a tradition in our family. (Photo taken in Saskatoon, 2010)

"The people in cancer clinics all over the world need people who believe in miracles. I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. I believe in miracles. I have to." (letter to the Canadian Cancer Society)


Information for this post borrowed from here.

September 13, 2013

Buccaneers and Boarding Schools



Hey, folks! I'm over at the YA Buccaneers blog today, talking about Kara Taylor's Prep School Confidential. Elite boarding school, snarky heroine, and a heaping helping of mystery -- Prep School Confidential  delivers the goods and then some. You should sail by and check out my REVIEW!

We Have a Winner!




The winner of ONE hardcover copy of Cristin Terrill's awesome book All Our Yesterdays  is:


LIZ PARKER

Congrats, Liz! Just send me a quick email with your mailing info and I'll have it sent off to you right away. Thank you to everyone who took part in this giveaway. And thank you for following this blog. Seriously, folks, I really appreciate it. ☺



September 11, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Relaunch Edition

(You can still find the WUW link widget at the bottom of this page, but PLEASE read the following post first! Thanks a bunch! ☺)

I’ve had a few people ask me recently whether What’s Up Wednesday will be continuing now that Ready. Set. WRITE! is done. We—Erin and I—just wanted to let everyone know that yes, What’s Up Wednesday will still be happening right here every Wednesday. (We actually started WUW back in April and tacked the RSW writing intensive on solely for the summer months.)

So we figured a bit of a relaunch was in order! For those of you thinking of joining us and for those of you who are old pros at this, here’s a rehash of what it’s all about:

My sister, Erin, and I wanted a brief way to touch base with our writing friends every week, even when things got really busy and we felt otherwise unmotivated to blog. So What’s Up Wednesday was born, intended to be a weekly blog hop with other folks on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, we would encourage you to visit a few other WUW blogs each week, get to know some other writers, and spread some writerly encouragement around.

Just a little reminder: I know this goes without saying since we’re all book-lovers here, but disparaging comments about authors, books, and even genres or categories are kind of uncool. It’s that whole taking a walk in someone else’s shoes thing, you know? Please be thoughtful and respectful.

For anybody joining us for the first time, here are the headings:

  1. WHAT I'M READING
  2. WHAT I'M WRITING
  3. WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
  4. WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

To mark the relaunch of What’s Up Wednesday, I’ve created some new buttons! Feel free to choose one you like. (They can be found individually under my WUW tab above.) 


**Remember to leave your link in the widget below so others can find your post. And similarly, don’t forget to link back here in your post so others who want to participate will know where to sign up.**

WE'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING WHAT'S UP WITH YOU!

September 6, 2013

Review: ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

(Disclaimer: I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Cristin Terrill's All Our Yesterdays through NetGalley, but this has in no way influenced just how much I enjoyed this fantastic book.)

It's difficult to talk about this story without giving away any of the big reveals, but I promise you that this review will be spoiler-free. But first, here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Before I forget, YA Confidential is celebrating Cristin's book all week with a variety of related posts. You should definitely swing by and check it out (Today's post has a prequel webisode!) And as always, I'm going to regale you with what I loved about the book:

TIME TRAVEL/SCIENCE
The thing about time travel in books and movies is that it often breaks down with a few simple explanations. Even those not overly science minded can point out the sometimes glaring, sometimes subtle flaws. The science behind time travel in All Our Yesterdays  felt fairly convincing to me, which was actually a first for me. The explanation of how this came to be was both easy to wrap my mind around and felt plausible, even while I'm pretty certain it isn't. (Thank God for that. No really.) There is not so much time spent on the hows of it all that the reader gets lost or that the science begins to crumble to pieces, which is a definite plus.

MULTIPLE TIMELINES
With the time travel aspect and multiple timelines, this book had the potential of being very confusing. I'm happy to report that this is not the case here. Without going into borderline spoiler-y details, Terrill has come up with a way to keep these differing timelines straight that works rather well, in my opinion. And speaking of timelines, the world-building in both time periods--a dystopian leaning future and our world as we know it today--felt both convincing and easy to differentiate. Whether the world could change so much in a period of four years is perhaps questionable, but with the presence of a time machine and the absolute power that this inevitably brings, I suppose anything is really possible, you know? A seriously terrifying thought indeed.

CAST OF CHARACTERS
I'll admit, when we're first introduced to Marina she is not the most likeable of characters. In fact, there were echoes of Mean Girls here when we first glimpse Marina interacting with her friends. But this is perhaps one of the best aspects of the book: Marina's development from self-centred individual to one who is both empathetic and sympathetic in a way that doesn't feel forced. Of all the characters, and particularly as a love interest, I really liked Finn. James bothered me in a way that I can't quite put my finger on, but that I think was intentional. He's supposed  to get under your skin, even while there are times you just want to hug him.

STORY AS A WHOLE
From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were enough questions answered to satisfy and yet enough left open to make me want to read the next book. It was fast-paced at times, but there were plenty of moments to catch your breath, to allow for development of both sets of characters, and to help us understand Em's and Finn's reasons for returning to the present.

In short, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this book. To celebrate the recent launch of All Our Yesterdays into the world, and to make it easier for one lucky individual to get his/her hands on it, I'm giving away a copy of this awesome book!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

September 4, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with our 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.

WHAT I'M READING
While my husband and I were away this weekend, we spent a fair amount of time in the car (longer than anticipated, actually). Todd had some audiobooks on his iPod, so we listened to Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (this particular novella is fantastic narrated) and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone(narrated by Stephen Fry--awesome!). I'm not usually a fan of audiobooks, but since there was much to look at out the windows on our road trip, it was nice not to have my nose wedged in a book. I'm just about to start Eleanor & Park, which I'm really looking forward to. And, as I'm sure you will not find surprising, I'm still plugging away at War and Peace  and A Fine Balance.

WHAT I'M WRITING
In a word: Nothing. I was away for a week straight and had zero time to write. I'll get back to it soon, but at this point I'm not in a rush. Mostly I feel like I want to recuperate after all of the roadtripping we've been doing lately. It will happen when it happens.

To acknowledge your hard work during Ready. Set. WRITE!, we've selected FIVE winners for our 10-page "fresh eyes" giveaway:


1.  Carrie-Anne
2.  Prerna Pickett
3.  Robin Moran
4.  Liz Parker
5.  Dawn Allen

    Winners, please email Katy (katy.upperman [at] live.com) with your double-spaced ten pages as an attachment by October 31st. Congratulations to our winners and THANK YOU to everyone who participated in Ready. Set. WRITE! with us this summer. ☼

    WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
    The beauty in nature. I know this probably sounds like a repeat of last week's post, but check out this gorgeous spot in Alberta:

    Beautiful Lake Louise, Alberta (one of my favourite places in this province)

    WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
    After we got back from my sister's place in Saskatchewan (which was lots of fun, by the way), we headed out the very next day to Canmore, Alberta. If you're familiar at all with Banff National Park, it's very close to there. Every Labour Day weekend, they host Highland Games. I've been before, but this year was the most fun I've had yet mainly because my husband came too, as well as members of my pipe and drum band. There was not a cloud in the blue, blue sky and temperatures soared. On Labour Day, Todd and I decided to head to Lake Louise (which, despite being born and raised in Alberta, Todd informed me he'd never been to).

    Our plan was to return home via a very picturesque highway, but we took a wrong turn and accidentally ended up in Golden, British Columbia, an hour into the next province over. Whoops! Good thing it was such a nice day and the scenery so darn pretty!


    Pictured above: Canmore, AB; the Canmore Highland Games; Lake Louise, AB; and Bow Lake, AB.
    (It's difficult to fully capture the turquoise/teal of the water in all the lakes around the mountains.)

    This was a very  busy week all around what with all of the roadtripping we did, so I'm looking forward to a slower week ahead. 


    WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?


    * We didn't quite finish it, so I'm reading the rest in book format. (Yay!☺)


    September 3, 2013

    YA Book Club: SECOND CHANCE SUMMER

    Tracey Neithercott's awesome idea!

    August's YA Book Club pick was one I've been wanting to read for ages, but still hadn't gotten to: Second Chance Summer by the incredibly talented Morgan Matson. If you've read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour then you know why I was so eager to read this book.


    (In the interest of saving space, here's a LINK to the synopsis.)




    I've said this before and I'll say it again: Stories featuring characters with cancer are not usually ones I tend to pick up very often. As someone who has experienced this in my own family, it's not something I like to revisit if I can help it. But after reading Matson's other novel, I felt confident in her ability to handle the topic carefully and with grace. While it was every bit as tough to read as I was anticipating, I wasn't disappointed. Here's what I loved about Second Chance Summer :

    THE RELATIONSHIPS
    Broken friendships from five years prior, the strained interactions with her siblings and her mother, or best of all, the closeness between Taylor and her father. Given the circumstances in the story (coming together for a final summer with a dying parent), it would have been so easy to bring everyone back together again quickly and unrealistically, but the mending of these strained and/or broken relationships takes its time. It unfolds in a way that feels both natural and true and the story is so much better for it. I especially loved the one-on-one moments with Taylor and her father, though that did make the inevitable tearjerker conclusion that much harder to power through. Despite that, it was worth it.

    THE LOW-KEY SWOON
    I like my books with romance, but to swoon up this particular book too much would have felt wrong somehow. Taylor's rekindled romance with Henry was sweet, the right dose of swoon, and exactly what this book needed to counter the heaviness of watching a much loved parent slowly slip away. I really, really liked these two together. Henry was the perfect love interest for this story.

    THE POCONOS SETTING
    I've never been to the Poconos, but Matson made the fictional Phoenix Lake setting leap off the page. I felt like I could picture it perfectly and loved all of the small-town details from the shops with quirky names to the beach to the heavily wooded areas.

    TRUTHFUL HANDLING OF DISEASE
    I think saying I "loved" this aspect of the book would be all wrong. Rather, I appreciated how cancer was handled. I was the same age as Gelsey, Taylor's younger sister, when my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, so this really hit home. While my dad survived, I could personally relate to how it felt watching a parent waste away from cancer. This moment stood out:
    "But these changes didn't hit home until I saw the proof, like in a picture, or saw the way that other people looked at him. My father was attracting attention now, in a way that made me feel simultaneously embarrassed, angry, and protective." (p. 368)
    I was struck by how much this mirrored how I felt in the same type of situation. And this was only one of several similarities.

    I think Matson's use of the Dickens quote from A Tale of Two Cities perfectly sums up Taylor's story in Second Chance Summer :

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

    All in all, despite the seriously sad but inevitable ending, Second Chance Summer was every bit as wonderful a novel as I was expecting it to be. The story is beautifully told, laced with tidbits and unique details that make it feel as though we're stealing a glimpse of a real family. This is one of those reads that sticks with you long after you've turned the final page. Highly recommend!

    HAVE YOU READ SECOND CHANCE SUMMER YET? 
    FEEL FREE TO JOIN OUR BOOK CHAT ON TRACEY'S BLOG!