Wednesday, 17 September 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 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. Also, please remember to link back to our host blogs and/or use one of the WUW buttons. Thanks!

If you missed last week’s post, please note that one of our WUW headings has changed. You can find further details on that here.

What I’m Reading:

I finished Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo and thought it was a satisfying end to a solid series. I’ve noticed some outraged and heartbroken reviews about this third book, but I have to say that I completely agree with the way the author chose to end her trilogy.

Now, I’m reading Phobic by Cortney Pearson and really enjoying it. Considering it’s more or less fall now, and I get Halloweenish this time of year, Phobic, in all its creepiness, is exactly what I’m in the mood for. A cup of Stormy Night tea from David’s and a book about a “haunted” house (yeah, it’s kind of alive and temperamental) makes for a perfectly spooky autumn evening!

What I’m Writing:

This past week, I wrote around 5000 words. I also drafted a scene that’s crucial to the overall plot of my series. It was tough to write because it was on the technical side, but it also needed to be suspenseful and emotional too. You know those scenes that need a bit of EVERYTHING in them? The kind where you feel like you’re juggling way too many elements at once? Yeah, this scene was like that. It was frustrating and draining to write, and I’m not entirely sure what I think of how it unfolded, but for now I got through it. Whew. 

What Works for Me:

Every once in a while I like to have a cleanup day. Creative clutter can eventually stop being creative and start to become a distraction. My work areas, writing tote box, and notebooks build up with stuff that snowballs and gets overwhelming: Cue writer’s block and frustration.

Sometimes it’s necessary to tackle all those Post-Its stuck everywhere, the notes that have piled up and need to be transferred to Scrivener, the fringe of tabs along the top of my notebooks that flag plot holes to deal with, the jumble of writing tools, the annoying crumbs on my keyboard, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It’s funny how dealing with the clutter can uncork my brain, get the creative juices flowing again, and make me ready to move ahead in a story.

Usually, I end up decluttering when I’m not feeling motivated to put words on the page or I’m stuck on a plot issue and still want to do something productive and story related. Then the next time I actually write, it’s a fresh start.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

It’s been busy lately, so I haven’t been up to anything out of the ordinary. My husband was away for work last week, and being the thoughtful guy that he is, he brought back a bunch of lovely notebooks for me to scribble story ideas in. They’re so pretty I almost don’t want to write in them (almost). My son and I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet the other night seeing as we’re reading the play for school. Even after eighteen years it’s still a cool interpretation, and my son loved it. Major bonus in the homeschool department. There was also much pumpkin-y messing around in our kitchen. The hubby brewed his annual batch of pumpkin beer, which will hopefully be ready for Halloween, and I whipped up some pumpkin cookies to kick off fall. Oh yes, and we started watching The Mindy Project. Loving it so far.

So what’s up with you these days? 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What's Up Wednesday Makeover!

In case you’re new to 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. Also, please remember to link back to our host blogs and/or use one of the WUW buttons. Thanks!

Last week I mentioned that Jaime and I had a little makeover in store for WUW. You’ve probably already noticed the pretty new autumn buttons Jaime designed. Feel free to snag those if you like! We’ve also decided to change one of the headings just to freshen things up a bit. We’re scrapping What Inspires Me Right Now, and we’ll be including the new heading What Works for Me instead. This new section is for sharing different aspects of our writing habits and processes with one another, whether they’re ways to stay organized, inspired, or make your writing time fun. Something that works for you might work for someone else too, and you never know what tips might come in handy!

Here’s a list of ideas for what to post about under this heading:

details about your writing process: how you stay organized, what writing program you use and why, how you go about revising, etc.
 your writing habits: when or where you write, specifics of your routine, what you do to get in the mood for writing, what your writing space looks like, etc.
how you reward yourself
writing tips, helpful quotes, or links to articles
music on your playlist
how you balance writing with family, work, and other activities
what motivates or inspires you lately (see how that old heading still fits in?)
how you keep yourself disciplined and focused
how you brainstorm or organize new story ideas
how you deal with writer’s block, plot issues, etc.
tips for writing a query, synopsis, pitch line, or self-publishing
writing snacks or other fun essentials

You get the idea. There are tons of fun and useful things we can share in this new section! Basically What Works for Me is broader while putting the focus more on writing. Don’t feel like you have to stick to this list either—these are just some suggestions to get everyone started—but please remember to keep what you share writing-centred. Hopefully we’ll pick up some helpful tips from one another!

Now on to my post... 

What I’m Reading:

I’m about halfway through Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. Anyone else notice how many good trilogies are ending this year?

I’m also reading Romeo and Juliet with my son, which is how we’re kicking off language arts for homeschooling this year. We’re using the Oxford Next Shakespeare Project, an awesome (and very inexpensive) online resource from Oxford University Press. Seriously, if you’re a teacher, a parent with a kid reading Shakespeare for school, or you want to dig into The Bard’s works yourself, I highly recommend it. Also check out for hilarious, teen friendly, thorough breakdowns of all aspects of Shakespeare’s plays.

What I’m Writing:

After a busy summer of writing non-stop and finishing Act 1 of Enlighten, I took a bit of a break. Instead of churning out words, I reread what I’ve written so far and boosted my inspiration by creating mood boards for my trilogy, which I’ve wanted to get around to for ages. I also did some research to prep for diving into my next big scene. I have now written part of said scene, and a particular snippet of dialogue from it might be one of my favourite bits ever.

What Works for Me:

Colour coding! Since I’m writing a trilogy, ideas for three books have been popping into my head for the last two years, and I always jot those down in a notebook right away (actually it’s a whole series of notebooks now). To keep that mishmash of ideas organized, I mark each with a different coloured dot in the margin: green for Envision, red for Engrave, and purple for Enlighten. Then, when I transfer a whole schwack of notes to Scrivener or go looking for something I scribbled down, it’s easy to sort out which notes are for which book. After that, I put an X through the coloured dot to indicate that idea has been transferred. If I hadn’t started this colour coding system back when I first began writing this trilogy I would’ve been overwhelmed and a lot of ideas would’ve been lost in the shuffle. I also tend to colour code when I draw plot arc diagrams and for any number of other tasks. It works really well if you’re visual like I am.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

The hubby and I have been watching Outlander, which is pretty much spoiling me for all
other TV shows. I wasn’t so sure about the casting at first, but I’m now convinced. And addicted.

I finally tackled sorting through our library to get rid of books that won’t get read again (or will never even get cracked open). I hate doing it, but it’s high time to whittle down our shelves. We donate our used books to our local symphony for their yearly book sale, so they go toward a good cause at least. 

And, as usual, I’ve been working my butt off on curriculum. I like to be organized about our school year (Okay, I admit it. We’re keeners) so that’s been a ton of work lately. It’s well worth it though, and I’m excited about the topics and resources we’ll be covering.

So what’s up with you?

Wednesday, 3 September 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 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. Also, please remember to link back to our host blogs and/or use one of the WUW buttons. Thanks!

Seeing as things are crazy busy for me lately, I’m not posting today.  We just kicked off our homeschooling year, so I’m neck deep in lessons and trying to settle in to our new fall schedule. Oh, and just a heads up: WUW might be getting a little makeover soon, so stay tuned for more info on that! I hope you’re all having a fantastic week!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ready. Set. WRITE! Beta/CP Match-Up Post

Welcome to the RSW beta/CP match-up! If you missed the details on Monday, you can find them in the second half of my my post here. I hope all of you who participate find readers that fit well with your WIPs and that some great writing partnerships can be made today!

Now a bit about my WIP…

Book two of my trilogy, Engrave, is complete and in the hands of my lovely CP/sister Jaime. I need betas for Engrave, but that means anyone who volunteers would need to read book one, Envision, first. It’s been critiqued and beta read and polished to a shine, so if you’re up for that, you can check it out below. I’ll stick to sharing info about book one, seeing as I don’t want to give away any spoilers about book two.

Age category: Upper YA
Genre: light sci-fi with elements of cyberpunk
Warnings: swearing, some sexual content, drug use later in series, though not explicit and not promoted (Nothing super edgy, but I like to warn potential readers in case they're uncomfortable with these things.)
When I’ll be ready for betas: now for Envision, hopefully later this fall or winter for Engrave (once it’s been critiqued and polished)

Love list for Envision:

narrow escapes ■ slow burn romance ■ a motorcycle ■ an inappropriately funny tech guy ■ rainbow hair ■ digitally enhanced minds ■ broken stained glass ■ chases ■ energy pulse weapons ■ a drastic makeover ■ piggybacks ■ Keats ■ a cryptic wooden box ■ mean right hooks ■ keys ■ urban green spaces ■ books with real pages ■ books with no pages at all ■ secrets ■ glow-in-the-dark spray paint ■ egg rolls ■ unique cameras ■ fun with jiu-jitsu and krav maga ■ sink sprayers ■ imploding things ■ tunnels ■ connections ■ an asymmetrical chandelier ■ memories ■ rain ■ Jell-o breaks ■ biker jackets ■ long stretches of highway ■ the limbo between dreaming and waking ■ sparrows ■ autumn leaves ■ ideals this world has long since forgotten ■ torn up letters ■ Romanticism ■ introverts ■ first kisses ■ finders keepers ■ glow bracelets ■ taiko drums ■ photos ■ holograms ■ acrobats ■ a near future setting

My query description:

When eighteen-year-old Naia witnesses her dad's murder, she believes his death is revenge for inventing the Ports, implants that turn human minds into computers. She flees his killers, intending to seek help from EnvisiTech, the powerful company responsible for marketing Port technology.

Her escape is thwarted when she’s kidnapped by Evan, leader of the anti-Port extremist group known as the Retros. He insists it’s for her protection, but she doesn’t know whether to believe his claims that EnvisiTech is behind her dad’s murder or that the Ports cause devastating physical symptoms and are being used by the company to manipulate minds.

While struggling to come to terms with her dad's death and the possibility that he was involved in a twisted plot to control humanity, Naia must determine whom to trust. But it isn't as simple as choosing a side, especially when someone is targeting Port users with a deadly digital virus. She must find her place in the fight and face her growing feelings for Evan, whose real identity could be one of the greatest obstacles of all.

An excerpt:

Not being a Retro, there isn’t much for me to do around here, and I’m getting stir crazy. Mostly I sit around using my Port to pass the time, but mentally flipping through old magazines and watching reruns of TV shows on the backs of my eyelids gets boring pretty fast. At home I could inload new entertainment whenever I wanted. Here, that’s not an option. Brodie would never let me use his computers to access that sort of thing, and Evan, His High and Mightiness, would have a conniption. He’s already annoyed by the amount of time I spend using my Port.
This morning, I’m listening to music in what’s become my usual spot on the sofa when he slams a stack of books down on the coffee table so hard it makes me jump.
“Help yourself,” he says with a mocking smile. “I assume you know how to read.”
“Are you always such a condescending jerk?” I try not to scan the titles on the cracked spines even though I’m bored enough that the offer is tempting, and I’m curious what kind of literature the dark tempered leader of the Retros is into. “For your information, I have over two hundred books stored in my head.”
Unimpressed, he taps the pile and settles into a chair, crossing one booted foot over the other on the coffee table. He spends the next hour frowning into a battered volume of Longfellow’s poems, turning the pages with curt exaggeration as if to emphasize the superiority of his reading method over mine. As much as I’m itching to borrow one of the books, I refuse to award him the pleasure of seeing me give in.
He hasn’t made any attempts to continue our conversation from the night of the mission. I guess he realizes I need time and space to make sense of everything that’s happened. Either that or he’s given up trying to convince me I should be on their side. Not that he’s been around much. Lately he takes off for a couple days at a time. I have no idea where he goes, but before he leaves, he always takes two flash drives from the mysterious box behind the computer station, sits at the island with his back to everyone and inloads from them. I wish I knew what secrets are hidden on those drives, what secrets he carries in his head. Maybe then I’d know what to do about my situation.

Some additional thoughts on Envision:

Even though technology is central to Envision, it isn’t hard sci-fi. Imagine if that iPad or smart phone you tote around with you was in your head. That’s what this is about. I’m actually not a very techie person and the characters really are the heart of the story. It’s more about connections between people than computers.

I’m big on plot twists, characters with layers, slow burn romance and fast-paced plots, dark atmosphere, high stakes, a mix of tragedy and humour, suspense, urban sprawl versus nature, and contrasting Romanticism with science and technology.

One last thing: If you beta read for me, then I’m willing to beta read for you.

So…any takers?

Wednesday, 27 August 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 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. Also, please remember to link back to our host blogs and/or use one of the WUW buttons. Thanks!

What I’m Reading:

I finished The Peculiars, but about halfway through it lost steam for me. Yes, that was a steampunk joke. Lame, I know.

Then, I read Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, which was well worth the wait. While I think Lola is still my favourite out of the three, Isla hit me in a way the other two didn’t, probably because I found myself relating more to Isla. In an interview I recently read, Stephanie Perkins said she’d crush on St. Claire, date Cricket, and marry Josh. I wasn’t so sure about that, but after reading, I think I might have to agree. I also remember Sperkins saying part of the reason Isla was delayed was because she wanted the book to have heart. Well, it has tons of heart—sometimes a broken heart, but it oozes heart nonetheless. Finally, I have to admit that I got all sniffly when I read Stephanie’s thank you to her husband in the acknowledgements. It was the epitome of sweet. So sad to be done this series.

What I’m Writing:

This week I passed the 45k mark on Enlighten, and right now I’m working on a string of small scenes meant to set up a whole lot of big things. Changes are just around the corner for my mc, and I’m both excited and nervous because those changes are going to be challenging to write. I hope I can pull it off the way I see it playing out in my imagination.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

After envying everyone that mentioned having fall weather last week, temperatures finally dipped and we’ve had a little taste of autumn here too. Crisp air, rain, and pumpkin chai tea are gearing me up for when my favourite season officially arrives, and that’s making me want to get all sorts of things accomplished. Bring on the pumpkins, wooly scarves, and colourful leaves! I’m ready!

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

We went to see The Giver the other day and left the theatre feeling very inspired. I thought they did a stellar job adapting it to the big screen, even though certain things were different than the book. There was something very powerful about watching Jonas, the main character, go through an awakening of sorts and seeing the memories the Giver passed on to him. It was one of those movies that reminds you what it means to be human, a theme that’s especially on my mind lately while I write. My son and I have both read the book, and now my husband plans to as well. (He cheated and watched the movie first, which is kind of against the rules in our house, but we forgive him.)

I also watched Dead Poets Society with my son yesterday. It was emotional watching it, especially considering Robin William’s passing, but exciting to share something so profound with my son. I’d been waiting a very long time for that, and I hope it has the same lasting impact on him that it did on me. In any case, he thoroughly enjoyed it.

Other than that, I haven’t been up to anything spectacularly out of the ordinary, although I’ve been busy. We jump back into homeschooling on Tuesday, so I’m getting everything in order for that, which is always a hefty task. I’m looking forward to it though. My son and I often sit across the table from one another and work together. I love that.

So what’s up with you this fine Wednesday?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ready. Set. WRITE! Wrapping Up

The day is finally here folks! It’s the end of RSW and hopefully a full and productive summer for everyone who participated. My co-hosts, Alison Miller, Katy Upperman, Jaime Morrow, and I would like to thank all of you for joining us in setting goals and encouraging one another to push ahead in our writing endeavors. And (Jaime this is for you*) even though it’s time to “pack it up, pack it in,” remember to JUMP AROUND and see how what kind of progress your fellow participants made this summer. Also, don’t forget to check out the second half of this post for details on our beta/CP match-up on Thursday! Please read that carefully so you know how to post if you choose to participate.

How I did on last week’s goals:

My final goal was to write 3000 words and I topped that with 5200.

Summer Recap

Over the course of the summer, I finished my revisions for Engrave (until after it’s CPed at least), organized mountains of notes and my outline for Enlighten, and wrote about 45k on Enlighten as well. In all, it was a productive writing summer and I’m well on my way to finishing this trilogy.

A favorite line from my story:

I hold out the champagne flute and his hand purposely closes around mine, lingers as long as he dares before anyone notices. My skin is charged with electricity, tingling and effervescent like the bubbles in the champagne. I relinquish the glass, reluctant to feel his fingers pull away with it.

The biggest challenge I faced this week:

This is the second time this summer that I’ve strained the muscles in my neck and shoulders, likely from spending too much time on my laptop. Earlier this week, I woke up and could barely turn my head. Ouch. I couldn’t write for a few days because of it, which was discouraging because I wanted to write. And it's still kind of bugging me.

Something I love about my WIP:

That my three main characters are all reflections of me in very different ways.

And now the details for our beta/CP match-up…

We’ve all worked hard this summer on our WIPs and many of us are at the point where we need an extra set of eyes on them and perhaps some constructive criticism. That’s why we’ve decided to close off RSW with a beta/CP match-up on Thursday August 28th. If you’re looking for critique partners or beta readers, or if you’re interested in beta reading for others who participated in RSW, then we’d encourage you to take part!

Below is a list of suggestions for what to include in your post if you’d like to let potential betas/CPs know a bit more about your story. This will also give people an idea of what your writing style is like and whether you might be a good fit for forming a partnership. You can “shop around” to see what people’s WIPs are about, and if you’re interested in reading for someone or possibly becoming critique partners, leave a comment on their blog to let them know. I’d suggest even looking back at some of the posts they shared about their WIP over the summer.

If people leave comments expressing an interest in reading your WIP or working together as CPs, you can decide who might be a good match and contact them through your/their blog or privately through Twitter or email. I think this goes without saying, but please be mindful of how you accept or reject offers. And please remember not to be discouraged if you don’t get any offers. There are many factors involved in choosing betas/CPs: timing, genre, the number of betas a person needs, if your WIPs sound too similar, etc. Chances are it has nothing to do with your writing abilities and everything to do with projects or schedules just not lining up at this time. Likewise, if people offer to beta/CP for you, don’t feel pressured to say yes. Forming a writing relationship with someone is a big deal, and you want to put your story in the best hands possible, meaning someone who’s the right fit for you.

Here are some ideas for what to include in your post on Thursday:

■ a love list, elevator pitch, or query description
■ an excerpt
■ genre/age category
■ whether your WIP is a standalone or part of a series
■ where you’re at in your timeline (ie ready for betas/CPs now or maybe later in the fall)
■ whether you’re looking for beta readers or CPs (or both)
■ any warnings that might be applicable (ie only offer to beta if you don’t mind swearing, sex, drug use, etc.)

And in case you’ve never been a beta reader or CP before, here’s a list of links you can check out. These articles will give you some tips on how to approach these writing arrangements and what to expect.

In case you’ve never done a love list before, here’s a link to the post Stephanie Perkins did on this. Love lists are tons of fun, a good way to renew your passion for your WIP, and a perfect way to share the flavour of your WIP with potential readers in a creative way.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below! Otherwise, we’ll see those of you looking for betas/CPs on Thursday! And thanks again for participating in RSW this summer! 

*In case you’re wondering, Jaime and I often listen to Jump Around during our Skype writing sessions. It’s the Irish in us bursting out.

Wednesday, 20 August 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 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. Also, please remember to link back to our host blogs and/or use one of the WUW buttons. Thanks!

What I’m Reading:

I finished Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and was sorry to get to the end of it. The protagonist, Andi, was so real in all her prickliness and her struggles to cope with tragedy. I loved how the author twined together the story lines from the past and present and made the events of the French Revolution relevant to Andi’s character. I also thought the author gave a thoughtful and realistic look at depression. A sprinkling of genetics, Andi’s passion for music, and her relationship with Virgil—a refreshing love interest—were also big highlights of this story. I highly recommend this one.

Now, I’m reading The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry. It has elements of steampunk and the main character might be part goblin. So far I’m enjoying it.

What I’m Writing:

I’ve been working away on drafting Enlighten and I’ve now passed the 40k mark. Fitting everything into this book is going to be a huge challenge. There are so many plot threads to tie off and characters who deserve page time. Right now I’m not worrying about how long this sucker is going to be, but I may regret that come time for revisions. I’m just going to tell the story the way I want to tell it and enjoy writing it.

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Remembering how much Robin Williams impacted me when I was a teenager through his portrayal of Mr. Keating on Dead Poets Society. My obsession with that movie led to a major high school project on William Wordsworth that in turn led to a deeper passion for writing and all things Romantic. It profoundly shaped my world view, and I think there will always be a seed of influence from that movie in everything I write, including my current WIP.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

My husband was on holidays from work for the last week and we had lots of fun together as a family. For his birthday, we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy (which we loved: I am Groot!) then went to the observatory at the university here. It’s a pretty small observatory, but it was still very cool to see a teeny tiny view of Saturn through the telescope.

We also had an awesome date night, during which we went to two different pubs: The Woods and (our favourite) Winston’s, where we sat on the rooftop and enjoyed a cooler night for a change. At The Woods I had a grilled Halloumi cheese and pesto sandwich for supper and I swear it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. So, so delicious. There was much amazing craft beer, and we also went to see X-Men: Days of Future Past in between. Loved that one too.

Continuing our sci-fi extravaganza, we saw Earth to Echo as well. It was a cute movie aimed at preteens/young teens and we enjoyed it (other than the bouncy hand-held camera effects). We also spent a fair amount of time reading at Starbucks, buying books, having coffee and dinner with friends and family, putting together a new desk for my son (which I want to steal) and just generally hanging out together. My boys also went to a football game out of town, which left me with all day Saturday to write (heaven). It was nice to take a break from the usual routine.

So what's up with you lately?