Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome back to What’s Up Wednesday! If you aren’t familiar with WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writers keep in touch with one another. If you’d like to participate, please sign up on the linky below, and be sure to spread some writerly encouragement around to at least a few other people taking part.

What I’m Reading:

I just finished Descendant by Lesley Livingston, which is the second book in the Starling series. If you’re not familiar, it revolves around mythology, particularly Norse and feels sort of like a YA Percy Jackson.

Now, I have my nose stuck in Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. Seeing as I’ve heard awesome things about it, and since I gave Throne of Glass a five star rating, I’m pretty excited about this one. Especially the bits about Chaol. Do I really need to explain why?

I’m also continuing to read Ender’s Game to my son, and gradually working my way through The Odyssey by Homer.

What I’m Writing:

Sigh. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m trying to balance some last revisions on my ms with drafting the sequel. After getting beta feedback, there were some things I wanted to fix, change, trim, etc. before tossing my ms back out there for agents, but I’m also totally absorbed in drafting right now. As a result, both tasks are going a little slower than I’d like.  Of course, there’s not much point in writing a sequel if the first story doesn’t go anywhere, which is why I need to hurry up and get back into querying it. Somehow that hasn’t slowed the flow of creative juices though, and book two won’t leave me alone. But when it boils down to it, I’m writing it for me. I spent a good chunk of time this past week fleshing out a particular plot line that was feeling a little thin, and now that I’ve redone my outline for that section of the story, it feels like everything is falling into place (at least I'm crossing my fingers that it is).

What Inspires Me Right Now:

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the Oblivion soundtrack has been a constant source of inspiration lately. It’s composed by Joseph Trapanese (who worked with Daft Punk on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack) and M83 (a French electronic band) and is this incredible hybrid score that combines a traditional symphony with a more modern sound. I never used to be able to listen to music when I wrote, but gradually I’ve come to depend on it to get me in the “writing zone.” This soundtrack brings on the urge to write whenever I hear it, because the tone of it perfectly captures the bittersweet quality I often aim for in my stories.

Here’s a gorgeous piece from Oblivion entitled “I'm Sending You Away.” Enjoy!


What Else I’ve Been Up To:

This past Sunday, I attended The Word on the Street book and magazine festival, where I was fortunate enough to hear Robert J. Sawyer, an award-winning science fiction author, speak . He had some very insightful things to say that could easily be applied to other genres as well. If you’d like to read more about that, you can find my post here. I’ve included my favourite tips from Mr. Sawyer in that post.

So what’s up with you lately?

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Word on the Street Festival

Yesterday, Saskatoon hosted THE WORD ON THE STREET, a local version of the national book and magazine festival that’s become an annual event in several Canadian cities. I think it’s wonderful that my community goes the extra mile to promote literacy and celebrate reading, and in turn gives authors an opportunity to showcase their books.  Around our main branch library, the streets were blocked off to make room for poetry readings, puppet shows, book displays, author lectures and signings. What better way to enjoy a gorgeous fall afternoon?

Part of the festival was a workshop given by Robert J. Sawyer, which I was lucky enough to attend. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Sawyer, he’s a Hugo and Nebula award-winning Canadian science fiction author, who’s written twenty-two novels, including Flashforward and Mindscan. The topic for his talk was: A Thematic Approach to Science Fiction, but I think many of the things he said could be applied to other genres of writing as well, especially those that are issue oriented.

The focus of his lecture was choosing a theme for your novel that will make it stand out. Now, obviously most of what he said applies to commercial fiction, so keep that in mind if you’re reading this. These are a few of the nuggets of wisdom he passed on to those of us hoping to someday be published:

Choose a hot button issue as opposed to those that have been done before. People will rally around a controversial topic, because it creates discussion, and because they are generally more intrigued by such issues than characters and action. In short, that’s what will draw people in and make your book both relevant and memorable.

Write the novel that’s hard to write. In the easy novel, your character will be comfortable with the thematic statement you make. In the hard novel, however, your character will be at odds with the main theme, which creates conflict. He used the example of The Chamber by John Grisham to explain this. Had John Grisham taken the easy route, his book would have been about an innocent convict on death row and the lawyer trying to prevent him from getting the death penalty. Only mildly interesting at best. Instead, Grisham wrote the hard novel, one about a convict that admits he committed a heinous murder, says given the chance he would do it again, and the lawyer who has to defend him despite his guilt. Clearly, that’s the more interesting story due to the moral dilemma it creates in relation to a theme that involves the death penalty.

Present a range of opinions that explore your theme and create a debate within your story. It’s tough to write a novel that people will embrace that only presents one point of view.

Write something fundamentally and profoundly different, or find a twist that provides a new way of exploring well-trodden territory.

What’s marketable is not being able to say something, but having something to say.

These were my favourite points that he made, and I think they sum up the gist of his lecture. It was exciting to see an author whose work I very much enjoy and a valuable experience to hear him share some of what he’s learned during his successful writing journey. I feel like in writing the ms I’m currently querying, I instinctively tried to do what he’s suggested, but listening to him articulate these thoughts gave me a new lens for viewing future story ideas. In all, a workshop well worth attending!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome to my What’s Up Wednesday post for this week! If you aren’t familiar with WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writers keep in touch with one another. If you’d like to participate, please sign up on the linky below, and be sure to spread some writerly encouragement around to at least a few other people taking part.

What I’ve Been Reading:

This weekend I finished my ARC of The Dream Thieves. In case you didn’t see my post on this, our local independent bookstore gave me an ARC just on time to read it before the actual release date. Not only did I absolutely LOVE it, but I’ve discovered that I’m not capable of reading a Maggie Stiefvater book quickly. I have to savour every single beautiful word. As with The Raven Boys, I was completely invested in the characters, and Adam continues to break my heart whenever he’s on the page. Without giving any spoilers, there were a couple of scenes involving Blue that were incredibly sweet, each for different reasons. I enjoyed getting a deeper look into Ronan’s mind as well. Heck, even Chainsaw had me mesmerized. I can't wait until book three comes out. This next year is going to be cruel and unusual punishment, especially seeing as I have a theory about one thing I think might happen and I want to know if I’m right.

Now, I’ve got three books on the go, which is ridiculous since I’m busy writing and don’t have much time for reading. I’m still partway through Descendant by Lesley Livingston. I’m reading Ender’s Game with my son before the movie comes out. Plus, I’m working my way through The Odyssey by Homer, which I love.

What I’ve Been Writing:

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned I was working on THE chapter that everything in my trilogy hinges on. Well, I finished it. I’m not exactly sure what I think of the first half of the scene—kind of waffling back and forth on what I should keep or cut—but I’m very happy with the second half. The especially important bit played out exactly as I pictured it. Whew! I’ve written a few more scenes since (one that I was waiting forever to write, and yes, it involved kissing) and while I’m right in the heart of the good stuff and things are going to very quickly speed up in terms of the plot, I’m sort of mulling over and tinkering around with some of the details. I’m a planner, but it’s impossible to foresee how every little piece of the plot will unfold until you’re actually writing it. I’m behind where I wanted to be in drafting at this point, but I’m enjoying the writing, so I’m not too disappointed about that.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Fumiko Ishioka, the teacher responsible for piecing together the story of Hana’s Suitcase. This woman went to incredible lengths to discover the history behind a suitcase she acquired from Auschwitz, and to teach students about the Holocaust. Fumiko followed the suitcase's trail until she was able to locate Hana's brother, George, who survived Auschwitz and eventually settled in Canada. She gave George the opportunity to share Hana's tragic story, as well as his own, with her students in Japan. Now, because of her efforts, children the world over can learn about Hana Brady’s life and the prejudice that ended it. If you haven’t read the book Hana’s Suitcase or watched the companion documentary, Inside Hana’s Suitcase, I highly recommend them. And if you’re a parent or teacher looking for good World War II resources, be sure to check these out.

And also, Terry Fox. See below...

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

On Sunday, my family participated in the annual Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. I walked 5k with my in-laws, while my boys ran the 10k. If you’re not familiar with Terry Fox, he’s a Canadian hero. Terry lost his leg, and ultimately his life, to cancer. In 1980, despite being an amputee, he attempted to run across Canada in an effort to create awareness about the disease and raise funds for research. His goal was to raise one dollar for every Canadian. He made it halfway (5373 km/3339 miles) before his Marathon of Hope was cut short when his cancer returned and made it impossible to continue. He died just months later at the age of 22. Terry’s story is one of courage, determination, and sacrifice. To honour his memory and continue his legacy, it’s become a family tradition to participate in this event every year. If you’re interested in reading more about Terry, you can do so: here.

I also watched some interesting things this week. Firstly, my son and I watched the documentary, Inside Hana’s Suitcase, as mentioned above. In the realm of fun, we watched Star Trek Into Darkness again (awesome from start to finish), as well as the Lumineers and Jake Bugg itunes festival concerts on TV (both were great). We also tuned in to the pilot for Sleepy Hollow, which was fun and the perfect amount of creepy leading up to Halloween. Also, Ichabod Crane is a vast improvement over the old Disney version. If you don’t believe me, look him up.

Other than that, there was far too much buffalo chicken pizza, some raspberry porter to compliment The Dream Thieves, guzzling of the new chocolate chai latte at Starbucks and, as always, book shopping.

So what’s up with you these days?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

#PitMad Twitter Party

Just a quick note to say that I'll be taking part in #PitMad on Twitter today. I've got a few different 140 character pitches put together, so we'll see if I can drum up any interest in my ms.

#PitMad is from 8am-8pm EST today, so if you have a completed ms and a pitch, I'd encourage you to take the plunge too. You never know what could happen!

Good luck to anyone else participating in #PitMad! I hope you have some great results!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Relaunch

In lieu of a regular post today, Jaime and I have decided to reintroduce What's Up Wednesday now that Ready. Set. WRITE! is finished. This seemed appropriate with the season change and considering the number of people who are now taking part. Plus, there are newbies jumping on board that might want some details.

Jaime put together this little blurb, and seeing as she went to the trouble and I’m having a busy week, I thought it would be easiest if I just quote her. If you’re planning on taking part in WUW, please read this. Take it away, Jaime…

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 re-launch 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 is kind of uncool. It’s that whole walk in someone else’s shoes thing, you know? Please be thoughtful and respectful.

To mark the re-launch 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 so others can find your post. And similarly, don’t forget to link back here so others who want to participate will know where to sign up.

We’re looking forward to hearing what’s up with you!

In case you're new to WUW, the four headings for each post are as follows:

What I'm Reading
What I'm Writing
What Inspires Me Right Now
What Else I've Been Up To

If you're unsure, just take a look at this previous post as an example.

Here’s a peek at the sweet new buttons Jaime whipped up. If you’d like to snag one or all of them for your WUW posts, you can find individual versions in the WUW tab at the top of my blog. If you prefer the old button, feel free to keep using it. You can sign up for WUW on Jaime’s site. I'll be including the linky here soon, but for some reason I can't get it working right now.

So that’s it for this week! We hope you’ll continue to join us on Wednesdays! And if you're new to WUW we'd like to extend a big welcome!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Ravin' About Ravens

This weekend, with the release of The Dream Thieves quickly approaching (September 17th), I decided I’d better pre-order my copy. Our local independent bookstore, McNally Robinson (the one with the tree staircase, for those of you who remember the picture I posted of it), is one of about a dozen lucky stores in Canada that will be giving away collector postcards with pre-ordered books. The postcards feature artwork by Maggie Stiefvater, which, in my opinion, is incredibly cool. You can check that out at Maggie’s site: here.

So we trekked off to the bookstore and placed our order. Weirdly, the girl working behind the counter in the children’s/YA section hadn’t heard anything about the souvenir postcards. I tried to impress upon her just how lucky we are that one of the best YA authors in existence included our store in her giveaway. I know, it’s just a postcard, but it’s got Blue kissing “someone” on it, and it’s a reward from Maggie (well, probably Scholastic) for shopping at independent bookstores. And hello, the fact that Saskatoon was included just thrills me.

Anyway, we left the store with an armful of books, went for coffee at Starbucks (the new chocolate chai latte is delicious BTW), picked up a few pizzas for supper, and headed home. While we were out, someone left a voicemail for us. It was McNally Robinson letting us know they had an ARC of The Dream Thieves and it was ours if we wanted it. IF we wanted it?!! Uh, YEAH!

After horking down some pizza, we headed back across town to the bookstore to pick up the ARC. It’s only just over a week until the actual book comes out, but it’s still exciting to have an early copy of it in my hands, especially after voicing my extreme jealously to those of you who’ve already read it. We kept our actual copy on order, because I obviously want a nice hardcover to match The Raven Boys, and of course, I want the postcard (not to mention then Maggie still makes some moola off of us, as will the store that so kindly gave us the ARC).

I’m about a third of the way through The Dream Thieves, and not surprisingly, I’m hanging on every word. And I think I’m enjoying it even more for the fact that it was so unexpected to get to read it early.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday/RSW Giveaway Winners Announcement

Let’s start off this What’s Up Wednesday post with the results of our Ready. Set. WRITE! end of summer giveaway. The following people are the winners of a critique for the first ten pages of their WIP, given by the co-hosts of RSW:

Carrie-Anne Brownian
Prerna Pickett
Robin Moran
Liz Parker
Dawn Allen

If you’re one of our winners, please email your first ten pages as an attachment to katy.upperman[at] by October 31st. This should give you some time to take care of any necessary revisions.  We also ask that your pages be double-spaced. To be clear, each winner will receive one critique from one host of RSW. Finally, please bear in mind that none of us are pros at this. We’re just fellow writers trying to make a go of it like you, so what we’re offering is essentially a fresh set of eyes, an honest opinion on your story intro, and perhaps a squee or two. (kidding on that last one…maybe.) Congratulations to our five winners! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

And now, onto other things…

What I’m Reading:

This week I finished Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. Despite my slow progress through the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it earned every bit of praise people have given it. And after hearing so much talk about Sturmhond, my verdict is that he’s definitely a new favourite.

Now I’m less than a chapter into Descendant by Lesley Livingston. It’s the sequel to Starling, and I’ve been waiting for it to come out for ages.

What I’m Writing:

This week I wrote around 4000 words. I’m now smack in the middle of THE chapter. It’s the midpoint in my trilogy and basically the crux of the whole story. I’ve been eager to write this particular set of scenes for over a year now, so naturally I’m nervous about how it will all turn out. So far so good, but I keep having to stop and mull things over. Let’s just say this part is very different in the context of the entire story, and I’m bracing myself for the fact that I’ll probably tear it apart and rewrite it at least a few times.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

The new Jane Eyre t-shirt my sister gave me. I absolutely LOVE the quote on it: I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. That quote actually fits my current WIP perfectly, not to mention it’s just a super cute t-shirt and makes me feel all literary when I wear it. Plus, I adore Jane Eyre.

I’m also inspired and incredibly encouraged by more awesome beta feedback. To the lovely ladies who beta read for me, I feel totally validated by your comments and not like I’m just puttering around at this for kicks anymore, so thanks again!

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

Visiting my sister and her husband, which involved: supper at one of our favourite restaurants (The Broadway Café), book and tea shopping (yes, at more than one bookstore), eating way too much ice cream, discussing our stories, and generally just hanging out. It went by much too quickly. :(

Switching into autumn mode. Technically, it isn’t fall yet and the weather has still been hot here during the day, but as soon as September 1st hits, I have pumpkins and changing leaves and woolly sweaters on the brain. At this moment, I’m drinking Pumpkin Chai tea from David’s and it’s delicious. FYI, it’s the only “pumpkin” tea I’ve come across that actually lists squash in the ingredients. Usually it’s just rooibos with pumpkin pie spices (blah), and in my opinion that’s just a rip off. I’ll have to stock up before the season ends.

Other than that, it’s been business as usual around here: housework, schoolwork, and writing every spare minute I can get.

So what’s up with you lately? If you’d like to share, just sign up on the linky at Jaime Morrow’s site.