Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

In case you’re new to WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writer’s 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 got a nice chunk of reading done this week, seeing as I’ve been on break from writing. First, I finished Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I liked it even better than Cinder, which probably had something to do with Wolf. Or, you know, everything to do with Wolf ;)

I also read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Normally I don’t criticize books on my blog, but there were historical inaccuracies and plot issues in this one that I couldn’t overlook. In a children’s book about the Holocaust, I find this troubling. Especially when writing for a young audience and about such an important topic, authors need to get their facts straight, and sacrificing realism in favour of storytelling gimmicks is not okay. A visit to Goodreads let me know there were many other readers who reacted similarly, and I agreed with their reviews. I’ll leave it at that.

Next, I read Origin by Jessica Khoury, which I really enjoyed. The rainforest setting was beautifully described, and there was enough mystery to keep me hooked throughout the book.

Now, I’m reading Rush by Eve Silver.

What I’m Writing:

Nothing yet. My break after Pitch Wars hasn’t been overly relaxing, so I might extend it a bit. I’ll probably ease back into my writing routine by rereading my WIP first. I also need to do some brainstorming to spice up my plans for the ending.

As for Pitch Wars, I did get one “ninja request,” meaning a request from someone not on the list of agents participating in the contest. Without getting into the details, it’s not something I plan on pursuing, but I do find it encouraging that there was some interest in my pitch.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

I know I just linked to a post on Pub Crawl last week, but this one, entitled The Safe Zone, was too good not to share. In it Marie Lu discusses falling into lazy, uninspired writing as opposed to writing That Book—the one with heart. Yes. Yes. Yes. I so needed to read this. Now if only I could stop being tired and string some words together in a pretty and meaningful way.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

Mostly the usual everyday stuff with a lot more reading sprinkled in. Yesterday we took our son on a fieldtrip to see an exhibit about Queen Elizabeth II at a local museum, and an educational time was had by all. Also, these fun additions to my ever-growing nerd shirt collection arrived in the mail: a mashup of the minions from Despicable Me 2 and Star Wars, and a very cool Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows design. (Can you spot the Deathly Hallows symbol there?) Love 'em both.


Other than that, it was a fairly quiet and cold week. I’m in hibernation mode. Bring on the tea and books!

So how was your week?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

In case you’re new to WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writer’s 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.

Please note: Lately, there have been some questions about the time frame for WUW, so we wanted to remind everyone that the linky is only open until midnight. If you happen to miss it this week, don’t worry! You can catch us next Wednesday. This is a weekly blog hop and doesn’t require a one-time sign up.



What I’m Reading:

Last night, I picked up The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, and I couldn’t put it down. I was amazed at how Ms. Yolen managed to cram so much emotion into this little book (it’s only 170 pages) and how invested I felt in the characters in such a short time. It’s a story about the Holocaust, so naturally the gravity of the subject was bound to wring a lot of emotion out of me, but the author still did her job exceptionally well. There were several parts that hit me hard, but one in particular had me bawling because it was just so awful yet beautiful at the same time. I was also impressed with the way Ms. Yolen gave such a gut-wrenching and realistic view of the Holocaust while keeping the story age appropriate for middle graders. 

Now I'm reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the new additions to her cast of characters.

What I’m Writing:

Last week, I combed through my manuscript one more time to look for any mistakes or inconsistencies after trimming and rewriting. I’m planning on taking it easy this week. No real writing for me, just recharging after my Pitch Wars revisions, toying with my WIP before jumping back into drafting, and mulling over who to query next.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

This article by Jodi Meadows. In it she talks about stressing less and daydreaming more. While she’s coming from the perspective of a published author who gets sidetracked by book tours and such, I think what she says applies to those of us who are going through the whole querying process and trying to break into the industry as well. I found this to be a timely post, because my sister and I were just discussing how to get back that love of writing we had in the very beginning.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

The hubby and I watched House of Flying Daggers the other night. We saw it a number of years ago, and the beautiful scenery stuck with me (and by that I don’t just mean Takeshi Kaneshiro--see him below). This is one of those movies that you totally forget is subtitled after about ten minutes. Not only is it a love story, which I’m a sucker for, but the gorgeous colours and atmosphere are a huge reminder to try and make my story settings vivid and memorable. The scene in the bamboo forest was also a lesson in using setting in as many ways as possible: the bamboo created a lush and secluded backdrop, characters climbed the bamboo and propelled themselves through the air with it, they used the bamboo for weapons, and they built a cage out of it to trap two fugitives. I recently read an article about introducing setting by showing your characters interacting with it rather than describing it like a home decorating magazine. This scene emphasized that to me in a brilliant way.


I had a very long, very productive Skype chat with my sister. Amongst many other things, we discussed the plot of her WIP. I find that talking through someone else’s story is very helpful to my own process as well. It gets the creative juices flowing, and it’s always a great reminder that two heads are often better than one when it comes to hammering out plot issues. Jaime has helped me untangle many a knot in my plot as well.

My recipe for toffee bars has been a staple since high school, but this week I decided to play around with it a bit. I used Hershey’s Coffee Chipits instead of regular chocolate chips and added some Starbucks Via instant coffee to the dough. The resulting Coffee Toffee Bars were very tasty, and I’ll definitely be adding this twist to my regular recipe collection.

So how was your week?


Monday, 20 January 2014

A Clever Gift, Thoughts on Novellas, and the Latest Stack of Books

I've been meaning to post about this since Christmas, but seeing as things have been busy lately (when aren't they busy?) I've only just gotten around to it.

My favourite part of Christmas morning has always been opening my stocking, and this year I was pretty excited over what I found in there. My husband is a clever guy, not to mention he's just as big of a bookworm as I am, which is why he thought to include these with all the usual candy and fuzzy socks:


Novellas! A whole dozen of 'em! He knew there were a bunch I've been wanting to read, so he put them on a flash drive, printed off the covers, and stashed them in my stocking--so much more fun than buying them and just sticking them on my e-reader right away. I was very surprised and impressed with how he went about this.

As I've mentioned before, my reading tends to lag quite a bit when I'm in the writing vortex, and novellas seem to be the perfect solution for that, seeing as they're shorter and require less of a time commitment. I can't wait to delve into these.

You know, at first I wasn't so sure how I felt about this whole novella trend, but now I can honestly say I understand it--both as a reader and a (very wordy) writer. Novellas are a great way to give readers just a bit more of the worlds and characters they love, and they give writers a chance to expand on aspects of their stories they might not otherwise have time to develop as much as they'd like.

I spent a good chunk of December and early January hacking and weeding words out of my manuscript, and I had to part with at least one scene (albeit a short one) that I really loved. While drafting lately, I've wished so badly that I could write more about certain characters or explore other facets of the world I've created. Being bound by word constraints, that just isn't possible though. Novellas, while obviously being stories in their own right, are a wonderful solution to this. I've been thinking lately that some time I might have to try my hand at one, for no other reason than to indulge my love of the story world I'm in right now.

There were books under the tree too, which isn't surprising in our house. I've shared two of those titles with you already, but I've included a couple more in the picture below, as well as some others I've ordered recently. I've already read Wanderlove but had to have my own copy, seeing as the one I read was from the library. January and February are insane as far as the number of books I'm waiting for, so this haul is only going to grow over the next while (insert giddy laughter and clapping here).



What are your thoughts on novellas? Have you ever tried writing one? Any particular titles you're eagerly anticipating in the next while?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday


What? You’re back already? Seriously, where did this past week go?

In case you’re new to WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writer’s 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:

Last night (er…yesterday morning?) I stayed up till an obscene hour so I could finish Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay. If you like fairy tale retellings, I highly recommend this unique take on Beauty and the Beast.


What I’m Writing:

This week was a tinkering week. I fiddled with my synopsis, my query, and my pitch line for Pitch Wars. I also rewrote a scene for my current WIP after figuring out some of the more technical details, which oddly enough involved researching hypnosis. I’ve also spent endless hours trying to find fitting names for new people, places, etc. in my story. I still have to write the ending of my WIP, but it’s been good to step back and shift my focus for a while, and in the next couple weeks I’ll be trying to pick up all my plot/character threads again and tie them off properly.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

An overflowing folder full of story ideas. I can only ever work on one project at a time—well, lately I’ve been working on two manuscripts, but they’re from the same trilogy, so that’s technically one story—but my mind has been wandering and imagining and building lately. While I’m absorbed in my current story world, it’s encouraging to know that others are taking shape somewhere in the back of my mind.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

Other than writing tasks, not much. Laundry. Catching up on TV shows. Skyping with my sister. Reading. The hubby brought me some Wild Cherry tea the other day, which was super sweet of him. He knows the way to my heart is through beverages. We also tried a new craft brew this weekend with the funniest name out of any we’ve had so far: Pike Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. Ha! I laughed quite a bit at that label. And, of course, I’ve been buying books…again.

Well, it’s been rather uneventful around here. How are things with you lovely people?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Hi, everyone! It’s been a while, but I’m ready to jump back into blogging now that it’s a new year. I hope all of you enjoyed the holidays!

In case you’re new to WUW, it’s a blog hop created by my sister Jaime and me, intended to help writer’s 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’m almost done These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. In fact, I think I only have about thirty pages left, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.  So far, the story is just as impressive as the gorgeous cover. I love the prose, the plot, the characters—everything about it. I’m so glad this one was under the tree for me this Christmas.


What I’m Writing:

I’ve been hard at work on my revisions for Pitch Wars, but those are winding down. I’ve managed to trim my ms to 100k, which is nothing short of a miracle, let me tell you. I also rewrote my opening chapters (mostly the first one). That involved a lot of rearranging, adding on a new scene, fleshing out a scene, chopping a few bits, inserting a few minor characters, and introducing one main character sooner. That last one was a challenge but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also made a major name change to a particular group in my story, which felt weird at first, but now I love it and feel that it’s much more fitting than what they were called before. It sounds like a lot of work—and it has been—but the overall effect is an improved version of what was there before. At least I hope it is!

What Inspires Me Right Now:

The fact that it’s a brand new year with lots of potential. I’m also inspired by the number of sci-fi movies and TV shows that are coming out in 2014. I feel giddy just thinking about it. As a writer and reader of sci-fi, I hope that spills over into books.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

It was a relaxing holiday for us this year, mostly filled with movies, reading, writing, and hockey. My mouth healed up nicely after my dental surgery, which was a huge relief, although I still had to eat squishy foods. Fortunately once my stitches were out, I was able to indulge in the Gingerbread Ale and Eggnog Stout my hubby brewed specially for the season. Definitely worth waiting for. I also got around to doing some Christmas baking: gingerbread, cranberry maple cornbread cake, sticky toffee pudding, and I taught my son to make white chocolate cranberry cookies.

On New Year’s Day, we kicked off 2014 at a Saskatoon Blades hockey game with my in-laws. Our team won, so hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come this year. We also tried to stay warm, seeing as the temperatures dipped down to -34 degrees Celsius (-29F) but felt like -47 with the wind chill factor. Brr! No, I’m not joking about that. Wish I was! Such is life on the Canadian prairies.

This past weekend, we finally went to see Ender’s Game and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought they did a great job adapting it to the big screen. Asa Butterfield was wonderful as Ender, and the soundtrack was gorgeous (Yay! Writing music!) Just for kicks, here are some of the movies we watched over the holidays:  The Wolverine (loved the Japanese setting), Iron Man 3 (Tony Stark is such a weirdo. Hilarious.), Pacific Rim (had low expectations and ended up loving it), Paranoia (nothing spectacular but entertaining none the less), Despicable Me 2 (So funny. I want a minion.), Monsters University (Cute, but liked the first one way better), After Earth (Heard it was a stinker, but was pleasantly surprised, which probably has something to do with the fact that it was a good family movie.)

So what’s up with you at the beginning of this shiny new year?