Monday, 29 April 2013

From Show To Book

Don't worry! This post doesn't contain any spoilers. :)

The other day, I accidentally opened my Mother’s Day gift early. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. We tend to purchase a lot online (especially books and movies), which means that every once in a while parcels get confused, or we forget what’s in them when they arrive. Regardless, I was quite surprised and excited when the blueray of Downton Abbey season three fell out of the envelope. The funny thing is, my husband gave me seasons one and two for Christmas and I accidentally opened them early too. Oops.

As any of you other Downton Abbey fans will probably agree, there are too few episodes of this show. Had the seasons been twice as long, I still would have been left wanting more. In fact, I really wish there was a book series that would further flesh out the story, maybe treat us to some missing moments or further drama. I noticed on Amazon you can buy books containing the scripts for the show, and this includes some deleted scenes, but I’m talking entirely new material.

I’ve read some book spinoffs of shows I’ve watched. Eureka (one of my all-time favourite shows), Warehouse 13, and Stargate Atlantis all have books based on their shows, some of which I’ve read and enjoyed. I even have a copy of a Roswell book kicking around my rec room somewhere. I’ve also read graphic novels that add onto the storylines of Firefly and Tron. And there are probably others I can’t think of off the top of my head.

When you love a show and it gets cancelled (R.I.P. Firefly. Sniffle.), or you would just enjoy the chance to savour its characters and world even more, it’s very satisfying to see that story continued in print. A couple weeks ago, I posted about books that I would love to see turned into movies. Thinking about Downton Abbey prompted me to flip that question around: What television shows or movies would you love to see turned into books?

Have you ever read books that are spinoffs of television shows or movies? What shows would you love to see in book form?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

What's Up Wednesday

Recently, my sister and I were discussing how hard it can be to come up with fresh ideas for blog posts. Jaime suggested a new meme might be just thing to solve that problem, so after some brainstorming we decided the middle of the week shall henceforth be known as “What’s Up Wednesday.” The format for this meme is fairly open. Basically, it’s a fun way to share about writing and reading, with a few other details sprinkled in. Feel free to take part if you’d like, and help yourself to the adorable blog button Jaime created. Next Wednesday, she plans on posting some sort of link widget for anyone who’s interested in participating. If you want to visit Jaime’s lovely blog, you can find it here. 

What I’m Reading:

I’m reading Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson. It’s a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale and features a character with an obsession for women with red hair. Eek. Being a redhead, I find that especially weird and creepy. This is another book on my Debut Author Challenge list.

 What I’m Writing:

I just finished revamping the first chapter of my manuscript after deciding I wasn’t satisfied with it. A tiny bit more tweaking and I think I’ll finally be happy with the result.  I recently had some ideas on how to strengthen my main character’s voice throughout the story, so I’m implementing those as well. Initially, I had planned to be querying by now, but I don't want to send my story out into the world before I'm confidant it's ready. 

What Inspires Me Right Now:

If you haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet, don’t read the following bit.

Something I found inspiring this past week was the part in The Fault in Our Stars where Augustus admits that he wants to make a mark on the world, and then says: “The marks humans leave are too often scars.” I love how John Green put this. I think it’s up to each of us to decide what kind of mark we want to make, whether we’re ultimately going to have a positive or negative impact on the world.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

-Lately my sister and I have been discussing writing (and everything else) over Skype. We used to just talk on the phone for hours, but Skype allows us to get more work done at the same time. These sessions are always a big motivational boost and the means by which many a plot hole has been filled.

-I’ve been finding books in my mailbox: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers, Dragonfly and The Glass Swallow by Julia Golding, and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve read the last three, but didn’t have my own copies until now. There are few things that brighten my day more than books in the mail.

-My husband and I have been watching season six of The Murdoch Mysteries. Unless you’re Canadian or British, you’re likely not familiar. This is a Canadian detective show about forensics in the Victorian era. It’s kind of like Anne of Green Gables meets CSI, with a male protagonist. Our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, actually played a policeman on one episode. How cool is that? When there sometimes seems to be a shortage of good story premises, this show feels truly unique to me.

-Yesterday evening, my family made ice cream in Ziploc bags. We actually have a very nice ice
cream maker, but this was my son's science experiment on endothermic reactions. I won’t bore you with an explanation, but I will tell you what flavours we made: peppermint, coconut, and maple. Science never tasted so good.

And on that delicious note, care to share what’s up in your corner of the world lately? Feel free to share in the comments or take part in the meme on your own blog.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Fault in Our Star Ratings

This past week, I had the pleasure of handing out two five star ratings on Goodreads. That doesn’t happen very often. I try to reserve my five star ratings for books that are the whole package deal: great plot, setting, and character development, engaging prose, plus that extra something that just blows me away. For me, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green both met those criteria. I know, I know. I’m pretty much running behind the bandwagon on that second one, but I held off on reading it because I knew it would hit a little too close to home. Despite the amount of Kleenex I used, I ended up loving it. I can practically hear all the John Green fans snorting “I told you so” from here.


Star ratings and reviews are tricky for me. As an aspiring author, I feel the need to be careful how I respond to what others have written. Agents warn against giving negative reviews if you hope to be published one day, and to me that makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t want to spoil my chances of representation or publication because of something I said in a review. I know some other writers feel differently on this issue, and that’s okay with me. I also think there are plenty of people out there giving honest and fair reviews. Lately, I’ve found myself on a number of blogs dedicated to book reviews, and I’ve enjoyed hearing what others have to say about books I’ve read or would like to read. Based on some of these reviews, my TBR list has had another huge growth spurt. Reviewing is one of those to-each-his-own issues for me, as long as people are being respectful.

On my blog, you’ll only ever see reviews for books I enjoyed. That’s partly due to the reason stated above and partly because of the time factor. As far as star ratings on Goodreads, if I don’t like a book, I just don’t rate it. And I’m not gonna lie. I’ve read a few duds this year. There are also other reasons I might not rate a book. If a novel has certain things in common with my manuscript, I steer clear. Obviously, I’m biased toward my own book and feel it’s best not to venture into that territory. While I occasionally read middle grade, I try to bear in mind that as an adult, I’m not the intended audience, so unless it’s particularly noteworthy, I usually don’t rate it.

Then there are books that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t boil down to a handful of stars. It’s like attempting to fit the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Maybe the character development was amazing, but the plot was lacking. Or perhaps the prose was awkward, even though the story was entertaining enough. Maybe it was technically well-written, but not my cup of tea and so I can’t justify giving it a crummy rating. Many times I’ve wished you could give out half stars on Goodreads, or that books were measured on a scale of one to ten instead. There are many factors that make a book good, or bad, or even mediocre, and often times five stars doesn’t seem precise enough to take everything into account. 

Something my sister and I have discussed is that book ratings almost need to be more like figure skating. Not that I watch a lot of figure skating, but aside from the gaudy spandex, I think the comparison works. In skating, judges pass out marks based on technical merit, required elements, and presentation. With books, it could be a two-pronged approach that considers both creativity and the technical aspects of the writing. We could call it, the Chazz Michael Michaels Approach. Just Kidding. Couldn’t resist some Blades of Glory humour.

So tell me, do you have any policies for reviewing or rating books? What’s your process for determining a rating? Are you stingy with your stars? I’d love to hear what you think!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Feature & Follow Friday: If I Could Hang Out With...

Q: If you could hang out with any author (living) who would it be and what would you want to do?

Oh man, who to choose? What I’d really like is to have a big ol’ author party with Laini Taylor, Stephanie Perkins, Erin Morgenstern, Teherah Mafi, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, Robin LaFevers, Veronica Roth, J.K. Rowling, Moira Young, Veronica Rossi, and…well, you get the picture. There would be lots and lots of book discussion, hair dyeing tips from Laini and Stephanie, and cupcakes in every flavour imaginable.

Limiting myself to one author, however, I think I’d have to say Maggie Stiefvater. Not only is she an amazing writer, but she just might be the coolest person on the entire planet. If I could hang out with Maggie, these are things we would do:

1. Torque around in her race car. Did you know she has a race car decaled to look like the cover of The Raven Boys? And it’s not just for decoration either. She actually races in it. Tell me that isn’t awesome.

2. Play the bagpipes. Well, she would play, and I would listen. Possibly while munching haggis. I have no idea if Maggie likes haggis, but I do, and she seems daring enough to try anything. Even gnarly Scottish food.

3. Since she’s also quite the artist, I would ask her to draw lovely Celtic designs in Sharpie marker on my son’s guitar.  Yep, she apparently does that too.

4. We would feed her goats. According to Maggie’s blog, she recently adopted two Miniature Silky Fainting Goats. They are indeed as bizarre as their name implies. Check them out on Youtube for a laugh.

5. And finally, I would beg her to spill the beans on what happens in The DreamThieves, the next book in The Raven Cycle, because waiting until September is torture.

Now, there's almost zero possibility this would ever happen, but it sounds like fun, doesn’t it? So which author would you choose to hang out with?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Thanks to the Blog Blitz Team!

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who blitzed my blog yesterday. I was blown away by your support and kind comments. I'm not sure how many of you will see this or if any of you noticed the comment I left yesterday (it was a bit buried!)  but I wanted to reiterate my appreciation. Blogger was giving me grief, so while I really did want to respond to each and every comment, I had to give up partway through. I think it was overloaded or something because my responses started disappearing. Is it any wonder with the number of comments you left? You guys are awesome, and I look forward to returning the favour!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

RTW: Book to Big Screen

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a writing-or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s question is:

The Veronica Mars Kickstarter success makes us wonder, what YA book would you raise $2 million to see a movie version of?

This is such a tough question, because there are so many YA books I’d love to see on the big screen. I think television and movies have had a huge impact on writing in terms of style and pacing, so more and more books seem suited to make that jump from the pages to the theatre.  That being said, I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to just one. I cheated and chose three:

1. Grave Mercy: This is one of my all-time favourite YA novels, so it probably tops my list of hoped for movie adaptations. I love a good historical film, and medieval Brittany would be a perfect setting. Castles! Its political intrigue would be exciting to see played out on the screen, as would scenes with Ismae the assassin in action. And I fully admit that I’d enjoy the chance to ogle movie Duval (who is an adult, I might add). Not even gonna try to skirt around that one. I imagine this movie with a gorgeous, sweeping soundtrack that might include touches of traditional Breton music. (I actually own a CD of traditional Breton music by the Chieftains, so I know what it sounds like.)

2. Under the Never Sky:  I would love to watch a good CG depiction of an Aether storm on the screen. Plus the contrast of the primitive and technologically advanced societies in this book would be interesting to see. And can you imagine the speculation on who would play Perry? That could get a little crazy, folks. Of course, I’d want them to transform the entire trilogy into movies, because Through the Ever Night was an even better book than the first one.

3. Blood Red Road: This story has cage fights, an epic journey, bizarre characters, and one tough heroine. I think the gritty world Moira Young created would make a great movie setting. I know many readers were split on this, but I loved the flow of the language in Blood Red Road and would really enjoy hearing the dialogue acted out. They’d have to cast one heck of an actress in the role of Saba, someone who could give Jennifer Lawrence a run for her money.

Honourable mention goes to Cinder and Shadow and Bone. Honestly, there are probably a tonne of others I could have added to this list. Any time I see another YA book is scheduled to be turned into a movie, it makes me excited.  Assuming the movies are made well, it’s great exposure for all YA stories.

What YA book would you most like to see on the big screen?

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Second, Third, or Fourth Time

This post contains mild spoilers for Little Women, Return of the King, Dead Poets Society, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and Battlestar Galactica. That’s a pretty weird tossed salad of stories, but bear with me. If you’re worried about being spoiled on the first five, seriously person, you’ve been living under a rock for the last century. ;)

Recently, my husband and I started watching Battlestar Galactica again after buying the entire series on blu-ray as a Valentine’s Day gift for ourselves. (Yes, that’s how nerds celebrate romance.)

Partway through season one, while watching a particularly tense episode, I realized that I was sitting on the edge of my seat (aka schlumpy rec room couch cushion). Now, there’s nothing particularly unusual about being in suspense during an action-packed TV show, but what struck me is that I knew exactly what was going to happen, because we’ve watched every episode of Battlestar before. I knew whether Starbuck would asphyxiate from the toxic atmosphere on the planet where she was stranded. I knew if the Galactica would have to jump to other coordinates and leave Starbuck behind. I knew whether Apollo would realize it was Starbuck flying the Cylon raider and not the enemy before shooting her into oblivion. And YET, I was still practically biting my nails while the plot unfolded.

Why? Because it’s storytelling at its best. It doesn’t matter if it’s a TV show, a movie, or a book, great storytelling will still be great the second, third, or fourth time. The story has been told in such a way that no matter how many times you watch or read it, you find yourself drawn in, connected, absorbed, and kicked in the emotional gut. It has that extra spark that keeps you coming back again and again.

It’s why I cry when Beth dies in Little Women or when Sam carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom. It’s the reason I cheer every time Todd Anderson stands on his desk and says “O captain, my captain” at the end of Dead Poet’s Society. It’s why I cringe with laughter when Gilbert calls Anne “Carrots” and she smashes that slate over his head. It’s why I swoon when Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bedroom (In her nightgown. Shocking!) Time and time again, we return to our favourites and enjoy them just as much or maybe more than when we were first introduced to them.

These are the stories I want to write. Stories that people will pick up and read over and over. That’s a pretty lofty goal, and I’m not sure if it’s one I’ll ever accomplish, but it’s something to aim for.

Do you have a favourite story you never get tired of reading or watching? What are your goals for the stories you write?

Friday, 5 April 2013

Feature & Follow Friday: Surprising Books

Q: Have you ever read a book you thought you would hate? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?

I remember hearing about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and thinking I wouldn't be into the whole angels and demons thing. It's not so much that I thought I'd hate it, but more that I wasn't all that interested. Then my sister read it and loved it, so my curiosity was piqued. Our taste tends to be fairly similar. Still unsure, I signed a copy out of the library, figuring I'd give it a try. When I flipped open the cover, it took all of ten seconds to realize I was doomed to fall in love with this story. From that very first paragraph, Laini Taylor sucked me in with her beautiful prose. The mythology she created was so unique and different from what I'd been expecting.

Needless to say, I ended up buying my own copy of the book. Twice actually. Initially, I bought it
in softcover because I was feeling thrifty. Then, Days of Blood and Starlight hit the stores in hardcover, and I wondered at my own stupidity. Books must match on the shelf! And so I purchased a second copy to match the sequel.

I'm usually willing to give a book a try, even if it might be different than my usual taste. I have, however, gotten pickier in terms of finishing books that drag instead of pulling me into the story. There are far too  many books out there to waste time dozing off in the middle of a boring plot.

So have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a book you thought wouldn't be your cup of tea?