March 26, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

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

For those of you who are new to WUW, here are the headings we are using:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING
WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

Welcome, and thank you for joining us!



*     *     *     *

WHAT I'M READING
I read Rosamund Hodge's CRUEL BEAUTY this week. As a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling, I wouldn't say it was my favourite.* There was a good deal of Greek mythology woven into the story, perhaps due to the "Cupid and Psyche" myth from which many of these stories supposedly spring. I could also spot hints of "Bluebeard" and "Rumpelstiltskin" tossed in there as well. I loved the romance and the gorgeous prose, but I was sometimes confused by the world building and certain plot points, particularly the ending. If you're looking for a dark twist on the "Beauty and the Beast" tale that is heavy on the Greek mythology, then you should really check it out! 

Next up:  THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, which I'm sort of embarrassed to admit I haven't yet read.

WHAT I'M WRITING
This was another reasonably productive week for me on the writing front. I can feel myself starting to fall back into a routine, which is fantastic. Erin and I did our Skype/Google Hangouts writing session twice this week, and during that time I managed to revise three chapters. One of these chapters was a total pain in the neck (tons of changes needed to be made), so I'm happy to have that all fixed. We're trying to make these writing sessions a regular thing, and I'm over the moon about it. The accountability works wonders for me.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I stumbled across some great articles by authors this week, but my favourite was a guest post by Sarah Ockler on Stacked: Challenging the Expectation of YA Characters as "Role Models" For Girls. I felt like she did a great job of providing a balanced opinion on this topic, and it left me thinking about the subject long after I finished reading it. Definitely food for thought if you're trying to write authentic YA female characters, but also for those times when you sit down to write reviews of the YA books you read. You should check it out!

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Erin and I did our Roswell Challenge** again this week. I think I'm to the point now where I don't despise the notion of hopping on the treadmill for that brief chunk of time. (Well, once the hubs properly calibrated the thing so it would stop speeding up to near-lethal levels for no good reason.) I think this challenge should be more aptly named Operation See Ya Saddlebags or Buh Bye Bubble Butt. 

I decided I wanted a pair (or twenty) of boot cuffs. (Yes, we still have snow here. In fact, it's snowing like crazy as I'm typing this.) So I found some crochet patterns online and whipped up a pair yesterday. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. Someone at band pointed out that they're essentially 'boot dickeys' and now I feel like Howard Wolowitz with his dickey collection. Whatever. I like them.



The hubs and I did a theatre double feature on Saturday. First up was DIVERGENT, which we both enjoyed. (I didn't love INSURGENT and ALLEGIANT, so I wasn't sure I wanted to see this one in the theatre, despite loving the book on which it was based.) I thought they did a great job adapting it for the big screen, and I'm hoping maybe I'll actually like the sequels in movie form. Next up was 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, which I really kinda wish I'd skipped. All but one female character in the movie was featured in scenes of sexual assault, which I find highly disturbing. Badly done, Frank Miller. Between that and the excessive gore...well, that's a discussion for another day.

Not to make light of things, but the one real takeaway from this movie was further proof that Laura Linney screwed up royally in LOVE ACTUALLY when she chose not to jump Rodrigo Santoro (aka King Xerxes) when presented with the opportunity. I mean, look at him!


Looking good, Karl. Looking good.
(This movie had more six packs than a liquor store.)

SO, ON THAT AB-TASTIC NOTE, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU, FRIENDS?


* I much preferred OF BEAST AND BEAUTY by Stacey Jay and EAST by Edith Patou (which is actually based on "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", but if you know your Aarne-Thompson classification system, they all fall under Type 425A.)

** Treadmill + Roswell = Almost Fun. Almost.

March 24, 2014

How Do You Spell It?

Honest to goodness, I have no idea what language I speak anymore. <<< See that word right there? Blogger gave it the old red underline treatment for reasons I still can't figure out. I was always taught that anymore  was one word, so imagine my surprise to see it treated as a spelling error. Is it a regional difference (as in UK vs. US), personal preference (much like the Oxford comma debate), or just something that was once considered wrong but has become acceptable based on common usage? Who the heck even knows?

Maybe I'll just bang my
head against a wall...
See, here's the thing. As a Canadian writer, I encounter puzzling word situations like this ALL THE TIME. When I began to write with the hope of being published, I decided I would write my stories in American English.* This might come as a surprise to some of you, but when it comes to written English, there is a metric crap ton (tonne?) of issues for a Canadian writer. We're in a funny position here in Canada: we're stuck somewhere linguistically between the US and the UK with a dash of le fran├žais  thrown in for good measure. (Did you know Canada's two official languages are English and French?) What this means is that all of the words I knew how to spell, suddenly I maybe don't.

Do you know what a toque  is? Up here it's what some of you would call a beanie, a knitted hat, or a stocking cap. In Canada it's just toque  thanks to the Francophone influence in our country, but I would probably never write a story using this word. And then there are all of the extra 'U's that we use thanks to all of the British influence. Around these parts it's favoUrite, coloUr, humoUr, flavoUr, honoUr, neighboUr, among others. And then there's the ER vs. RE situation: centRE, mediocRE, theatRE, and so on. And SE vs. CE: adviCE or adviSE, offenCE or offenSE...GUE vs. G in monoloGUE, dialoGUE, cataloGUE...and on and on it goes. Sometimes I simply don't know which spelling to use.

You have no idea how many times I've typed the words "is it _________ or ________?" into my search engine. It's approaching ridiculous.

But it doesn't end with just differences in spelling. Sometimes the issue arises whether to hyphenate or compound words or simply leave them separate. I think as Canadians we have a tendency to compound words that would be hyphenated or left as two separate words in the United States. This is something I never had to ponder in school, but as a writer am now constantly questioning. Thanks to this bizarro CanAmeriBritFrench stew of a language I've acquired in my thirty some odd years on the earth, writing certainly never gets dull. It's possible I'm the only person completely baffled and befuddled by all of this, though I'd like to think I'm not the only one going slowly crazy trying to choose between likeable  and likable. I mean, we speak the same language, for crying out loud...but at the same time kind of don't. Interesting, sure, but also a little exhausting. Suddenly, it's no longer just zed  vs. zee  anymore (any more?).

HOW ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU RUN INTO ANY SURPRISING SPELLING AND/OR GRAMMAR SITUATIONS IN YOUR WRITING?


* Mainly in the attempt to get an American agent and hopefully get picked up by an American publisher.


March 19, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop to help connect writers with others on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you would like to join us, we encourage you to visit a few other WUW blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love around! Remember to leave a link to your post in the widget at the end of this post.

For those of you who are new to WUW, here are the headings we are using:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING
WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

Welcome, and thank you for joining us!


WHAT I'M READING
Well, I had every intention of picking up Legend by Marie Lu (a reread so I can continue with the rest of the trilogy), but then Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty arrived in the mail, so I decided I was going to read it next. And then I remembered I still had to finish my reread of Half-Blood Prince, so that's what I've actually been reading. (So many books, so little time...) This has never been one of my favourite Harry Potter books, but I'm much more into it this time around.

WHAT I'M WRITING
My sister and I spent this past Saturday doing our own little writing retreat over Google Hangouts. Armed with tea, treats, and a plan, we went for about 12 hours. We took breaks every so often to chat, discuss what we worked on, and to set new goals for the next leg of our writing session. It was a very productive day for both of us and we're planning to do it again this week. This was EXACTLY what I needed!

I worked out a detailed plot diagram with all of the changes I want to implement, then I went to work on the beginning chapters of my WiP. 

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I feel like this was a great week for progress in a few different areas of my life. I've felt stagnant for so long now, and it's so awesome to see some forward movement finally. All of these positive changes inspire me to bring about even more positive change in my daily life.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Clockwise from top left
1) The pipe band I'm a part of did our annual St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. I spent the evening fundraising until the final set when I was more or less forced to perform publicly for the first time ever. It was terrifying, exhilarating, and practically impossible not to be distracted by the shenanigans going on around us (like people trying to flip up kilts and worse). I didn't play all that well, but I'm glad I took that first big step.

2) While pub crawling, I actually drank a pint of Guinness for the first time ever...and enjoyed it! As someone of Irish descent, I feel like it's somewhat pathetic that I'm only getting into Guinness now. That said, we'll see if I indulge in another pint before next St. Patrick's Day. ;-)

3) My sister and I decided to get off our butts and get exercising. I can't speak for Erin, but I really kind of detest exercise. I've tried various treadmill challenges, but nothing seems to stick. This time around, Erin and I are watching Roswell (for the millionth time) while we speed walk (maybe eventually jog?) into a less sedentary lifestyle. I have to say, the accountability is what's keeping me going. Well, that and the appeal of teen aliens, of course. (I watch Star Crossed, but I suspect I will always prefer the late 90s/early 2000s Roswell aliens.)

4) Before our writing retreat, Erin sent me a care package in the mail! Ever since I was in college, my sister has sent me the best care packages, so this was a pretty great treat. I mean, come on. She stuck Thor and Captain America to the box! There was tea, a pretty mug, writing supplies, and comfy socks, all of which came in handy during our writing retreat. What can I say? I'm a pretty lucky girl. ☺


SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU, FOLKS?


March 12, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop to help connect writers with others on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you would like to join us, we encourage you to visit a few other WUW blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, 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.

For those of you who are new to WUW, here are the headings we are using:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING
WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

Welcome, and thank you for joining us!

WHAT I'M READING
I finished Splintered and really liked the fantastical feel to it. I wrote a review if you're interested in hearing my thoughts about it in more detail. After I finished that, I finally picked up Kimberly P. Chase's The Apollo Academy, a self-pubbed NA sci-fi that I've been meaning to read for a while. I'm not very far in, but I'm already enjoying it. And check out that awesome cover in my sidebar!

WHAT I'M WRITING
Thanks to another productive Skype session with my sister, I feel like I actually know what to do with my WiP. Finally. For as long as I've been working on this story (3 years) and revising/querying/rewriting/revising the thing (2 years), the stakes have never felt high enough, which is obviously a big problem. After my chat with Erin, I think this has become more clear and I'm eager to start fixing it. Again. *sigh*

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
I find it inspiring and uplifting that when it comes to my WiP, there always seems to be an answer to nearly every plot-related issue that crops up. Don't get me wrong, it usually takes AGES to wade through all of the "this is impossible" and "this is a turd" and "I should just scrap it" before I get to that moment of clarity, but it's nice to know I can still reach that point. It really kind of wipes out all of my excuses.

Seeing things come together for my friend and CP, Elodie, in her self-publishing journey. It's inspiring to see her make her dreams happen.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO
Well, it's been feeling super springish here this past week (yay!), so I kind of wanted a new WUW button to reflect this melty, warm, non-snowy weather (the flowery tree) and a couple that were just totally different. The last two are a little wacky, but then we never claimed to be anything but. Feel free to use them if you'd like. You can find full-sized versions to resize however you want under my WUW tab above.

The things I do when I should be writing...

Aside from fidoodling with WUW buttons, I haven't been up to much worth noting. I went on an afternoon date with my husband the other day only to be served by one of my former students. In a lounge. It took me the length of our meal to actually figure out where I knew this young woman from. I taught her when she was fourteen and now she's serving me beer.* Awesome. I now have a raging case of the olds.


SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU, FRIENDS?


* The legal drinking age in Alberta is eighteen, so it hasn't been that long, but still. O_o

March 11, 2014

Review: SPLINTERED

Before I even get into any kind of review of A. G. Howard's Splintered, I would be remiss if I didn't gush just a little about this spectacular cover. Isn't it positively breathtaking? The vivid colours perfectly reflect the equally vivid setting of this fantastical YA novel. Kudos to the very obviously talented cover design team for getting it so, so right.

Here's what Splintered is all about (from the book jacket):
ALYSSA GARDNER hears the thoughts of plants and animals. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family ever since her great-great-great-grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

But perhaps she's not mad. And perhaps Carroll's stories aren't as whimsical as they first seem.

To break the curse of insanity, Alyssa must go down the rabbit hole and right the wrongs of Wonderland, a place full of strange beings with dark agendas. Alyssa brings her real-world crush—the protective Jeb—with her, but once her journey begins, she's torn between his solidity and the enchanting, dangerous magic of Morpheus, her guide to Wonderland.

But no one in Wonderland is who they seem to be—not even Alyssa herself...

SETTING + WORLD BUILDING
I'm starting here because Splintered 's setting was the number one thing that really leaped off the page. What can I say besides WOW? Picture that gorgeous cover above, then toss in a heaping helping of creep factor and you've got A. G. Howard's spin on Lewis Carroll's Wonderland. Description is definitely one of the author's strong suits, as is gorgeous prose. As someone who isn't always the most visual of people, I did at times find it difficult to picture some of the things being described, but this is not in any way the fault of the author; I take full blame for that! Lush, colourful imagery completely transports you to Wonderland with Alyssa and Jeb and sets the stage for a wild ride.

CAST OF CHARACTERS
Here's where Splintered deviates in a really, really unique way from Lewis Carroll's original tale. Without ruining the experience for you (because, trust me, it's a total trip), let's just say that Carroll's Alice recounts a very non-creepy, non-threatening version of the characters she meets in Wonderland in a way that her child's mind is able to process. (At least that's what this spin on the story suggests, anyway.) A. G. Howard presents this cast of characters in a way that is much the opposite of Alice's version and it's both fantastically sinister and sometimes terrifying. Think Pan's Labyrinth meets (and laughs in the face of) Disney's Alice In Wonderland. It's seriously awesome, folks.

Alyssa, as the protagonist of the story, was the perfect blend of vulnerable and tough, making it very easy to root for her. The 'descendent of Alice Liddell' thing was also very cool. Both of the love interests (yes, both) were suitably compelling in very different ways. Morpheus scores extra points for his face markings, wicked fashion sense, and unpredictability; Jeb for his labret, sheer likeability, and fierce loyalty.

THAT THING CALLED LOVE
So, here's the thing... This book has a love triangle. I'm not put off by such things, but I know there are those who are, so fair warning. Both potential pairings were swoonworthy in their own right, and after finishing the book I'm actually torn between the two. That said, I think I could have done with less touchy feely while one particular relationship was blossoming. It felt at times like there was too much tucking of faces into chests, cupping of those same faces, and just general touching for no good reason. Don't get me wrong, I love romance in the books I read, but I'm also a fan of not sprinkling this too liberally into the story. It makes what should be heart-stopping swoony moments feel less...swoony. Like it doesn't feel like enough of a payoff after the build up. Does that make sense? Leave us hanging a wee bit longer.

DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
I'm kind of ashamed to admit I'm not entirely certain I've read the source material for this story. I've seen Disney's version of it as well as that recent Tim Burton train wreck, so I'm definitely familiar with Alice, but I will concede that I might not be 100% up to snuff on Carroll's tale. I don't think this in any way detracts from the enjoyment of reading Splintered. If anything, I feel more inclined to pick up Alice's Adventures In Wonderland now. A. G. Howard's Splintered is non-stop adventure from the very moment we fall down the rabbit hole with Alyssa and Jeb. As someone who reads for escapism, I highly recommend this book to those who wish to visit worlds that are "curiouser and curiouser" than the one in which we live. I also highly recommend the perfect pairing of a giant pot of tea while you read it. Obviously.

And just because you really need to see it and join in the gushing, here's the AH-mazing cover for the sequel Unhinged. You're welcome.:

Well, hello there, Morpheus.

March 5, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop to connect with other folks on this writing journey. With that aim in mind, if you would like 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! Don't forget to leave the link to your post in the widget at the end of this post.

For those of you who are new to WUW, here are the headings we use:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING
WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW
WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO


Welcome, and thank you for joining us!




WHAT I'M READING
I finally got around to picking up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, something I've been meaning to do for a year now. I read it over the weekend, which surprised me. This was not my first Gillian Flynn novel*, so I was prepared for a certain level of grittiness and vulgarity** that you just don't find in YA books. I have to say, I found it tough to put down! That said, the ending made me crazy. (Though, not the level of bat shiz crazy of the book's central characters, thankfully.) To scrub my brain a bit, I picked up A. G. Howard's Splintered, a book that's almost certain to be fantastical and a bit less gritty. I'm partway in and really enjoying it!

WHAT I'M WRITING
Well, I spent a bit of time revising my WiP yesterday and was a bit disheartened at everything that will have to go. Because of the major changes I'm making to my WiP, I'm discovering that entire scenes no longer fit with my overall plan. It's not that I loved these scenes and find it hard to part with them, it's more the realization that I'm going to have to write new scenes to take their place. Basically, I'm at that point where it all seems a bit overwhelming. What I need is a better plan and an actual plot diagram.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Hmm... {*crickets chirping*}

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

I hosted Book Club for the first time this past Friday, and it was a lot of fun. We had a good turnout, and I think this was the longest we've ever actually talked about the book we read. It usually just ends up being a big hangout session with lots of yummy food. I'm not used to having many people over or hosting things like this, so I was happy and relieved that it was such a success.

I finally put up some pictures in my living room after staring at a big blank wall for months now. I love the look of picture ledges crammed with photos in different frames, and the way this allows you to swap out pictures easier than if they're hanging on the wall, so I got to work on it. I decided to use photos from a couple of the trips we've been on--Scotland/England and NYC--unifying them by making them B+W. I'm satisfied with how it all turned out, but I would like to add more to fill it in a bit better.



Clockwise from top: Photo ledges; Hubby in a restaurant on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh; St.
Paul's Cathedral peeking through an alley in London; and me at the New York Public Library.


Well, that's my mostly uneventful week for ya. I'm still trying to get into some kind of routine with writing and exercise, but so far I'm really struggling to make this actually happen. I sincerely hope I find more success on that front in the coming week. 



SO, WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU, FRIENDS?


* I didn't love Sharp Objects. The writing was fantastic, but on the whole it was not really my type of book. C'est la vie, right?

** I can be, let's just say, a bit salty at times, but there were some serious "Do you kiss your grandma with that mouth?" words. Like super ultra cringeworthy. Eek.