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?


52 comments:

  1. Yum! This picture of the toffee bars looks delicious! :-) I'm glad you and Jaime had a productive Skype session, it's true that being able to talk through plot issues and everything that surrounds writing is a real help! I should try to follow Jodi's advice on stressing less. Thanks for sharing the week, Erin! (and crossing my fingers for you for PitchWars!!!!)

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    1. I admit I've been eating way too many of them. That probably won't stop me from making more though. :P

      Jaime and I have pretty much given up on using the phone because we prefer Skype. It's more like visiting, and that helps a lot when it comes to story discussions. Wishing you a stress free week, Elodie!

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  2. Mmm, the toffee bars look like they'll go very nicely with a cuppa ;)

    Good luck with Pitch Wars! Wheeee, so exciting!!! :D

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    1. Yes, they do actually! Thanks for wishing me luck :)

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  3. I need to read Scarlett as I really liked Cinder. I might have to check out The Devil's Arithmetic too, sounds great. As does the movie :)
    I hope you have a nice relaxing week and get recharged from all those revisions.

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    1. I've had SCARLET sitting around for ages now, so it's high time I read it. I really enjoyed CINDER too, and so far this one is a great follow up. My son is just starting to read THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC now that I'm done, so as soon as he's finished we'll check out the movie. And thanks, I could use the relaxation!

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  4. Scarlet is awesome, I can't wait for the third book in the series!

    I've seen House of Flying Daggers, but not for a while - I remember it being really good.

    Best of luck with Pitch Wars/querying! :)

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    1. I've had SCARLET on my shelf for far too long now, but I'm almost glad I waited to read it because now it'll be fresh in my mind when book three comes out. :)

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  5. With the release of CRESS just around the corner, now's a good time to be reading SCARLET, Erin. This series is one of my all-time favorites (so far). There are few books I've had on pre-order since it went on Amazon. CRESS is one.

    And that's an excellent point about describing setting by interacting with it. If description is not your forte (and I don't think it is for me), there is a danger when setting a scene that it can end up sounding like a decorating magazine, or an advertising brochure. Having the characters touch, smell, and feel, not just see, is a great idea.

    Have a wonderful week! :D

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    1. I've had SCARLET for quite some time now, but I'm almost glad I didn't get around to reading it until shortly before CRESS. For retellings, they certainly are unique. My son said recently that he wants to read them soon, which I'm very pleased about.

      I like writing description, but I need to rein it in sometimes, especially since much of it gets trimmed out. Somehow it always seems lumped together too. It's tricky to work in setting details in natural ways, but I guess that's something that might become easier with practice. I just revamped a scene, and that was one of the things I tried to work on. It sounded much better after!

      Hope you have a wonderful week too!

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  6. Mmmm...love toffee!

    I haven't seen House of Flying Daggers in years, but I definitely remember how beautiful it was.

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    1. I think I saw it when it first came out, which was in 2004. That's ten years ago and I still remembered certain scenes vividly (like the bamboo forest). Now that's a good movie!

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  7. Oh, I love Art Fu movies! House of Flying Daggers is one of my favorites. The scenery and the colors are just gorgeous. I love that scene where she is bathing in the clear pool. And you're right, Takeshi Kaneshiro doesn't hurt matters in the eye candy department either. ;)

    And hooray for getting back to the love of writing! What a great article. It is so easy to get bogged down in the process and in endless revisions that you forget that initial spark that made you want to write the story in the first place.

    p.s. Those Toffee Coffee Bars might be the most drool-worthy picture I've seen all day.

    Have an amazing week!

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    1. Now I really want to rewatch Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well. I loved the bathing scene too, especially since she knew darn well Takeshi Kaneshiro's character was gawking at her and called him out on it. Everything about that film was so beautifully done.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the article. It was a reminder I needed a lot. I think I'm always happiest in the planning phase when my ideas are fresh and new and full of possibility. Now, if I could just hang on to that feeling through the whole process!

      Hope you have an amazing week too!

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  8. Um, I think I'm going to be making toffee bars and watching The House of Flying Daggers instead of cleaning today hehe. I forgot how much I loved that movie when I saw it a few years back. Happy recharging :)

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    1. Do it! I've been poking away at the laundry today and sitting back with a movie and dessert would be way more fun! I like how"taking a break" for me means less writing and more housework :P

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  9. Toffee bars! Not all that long ago, I stumbled across this recipe in some random cookie cookbook and I almost lost it I was so excited. I had totally forgotten about them! (For some odd reason, I don't have your recipe from back in the day.) Anyway, I've made them a time or fifty. I'll have to give your coffee twist a try.

    So that Skype session was almost single-handedly responsible for taking a jack hammer to the wall that has been up between me and writing. I'm not sure if it was writers block or what, but I *finally* feel excited about my WiP again, so THANK YOU! We will have to do another sometime soon! Oh, and good for you for taking a bit of a break this week. It's much deserved. I swung by Liz Briggs blog today to check out yours and the other mentees entries. Looking good!

    I might have to watch House of Flying Daggers again sometime. I mean, the eye candy (ALL kinds) is reason enough. ;-)

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    1. I was just glad Trev had a bunch of instant coffee packages kicking around his coffee cupboard (it's a mess in there). It's a great recipe for making a quick treat, seeing as the ingredients are basic and it takes no time to whip up. Definitely try it with the coffee. Besides the coffee Chipits, I just added about a teaspoon of instant coffee to around a half tablespoon of boiling water and added it to the margarine and brown sugar mixture. Easy peasy, and you could really taste the coffee.

      I'm glad our Skype session was so helpful! Sometimes I think it's just a matter of the right conversation at the right time to get the ideas clicking into place again. So far my break has involved housework, which isn't much of a break. My brain feels like sludge. I've been reading more in the evenings though, so that's good. And as far as Pitch Wars goes, I really can't thank Liz enough for how much she helped me.

      Yes, you should definitely watch House of Flying Daggers again, if for no other reason than to ogle Takeshi Kaneshiro. :)

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  10. I don't remember how old I was when I read The Devil's Arithmetic; probably no older than 13. It's a really different angle in the Shoah sub-genre of historical.

    I watched House of Flying Daggers with my parents awhile ago. While I prefer my foreign films to be European, I've also usually loved the Asian films I've seen.

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    1. Yes, the way the mc gets to experience the events of the Holocaust is very unique. The book had a big impact on me and I'm an adult, so I can only imagine how it would affect a middle grade reader.

      My husband and I watched a German movie called Transfer recently. It was subtitled too, but like House of Flying Daggers I barely noticed after a few minutes. It's amazing how a good story can draw you in like that.

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  11. I've never heard of The Devil’s Arithmetic, but based on your comments, I'm very intrigued. It sounds heartbreaking, but I love books that hit me hard emotionally. It's definitely one I'll look for. Thank you for the recommendation! As far as those Coffee Toffee Bars... Yum! Perhaps you should share the recipe (*hint hint*). Have an awesome week, Erin!

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    1. It was published in 1988, so it isn't a new book, but well worth reading if you're interested in the events of WWII. I haven't read much middle grade recently, so I was particularly impressed with this one. My son is reading it now, and I'm eager to discuss it with him. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it too--as much as you can enjoy such difficult subject matter.

      I'll try to remember to post my Toffee Bar recipe sometime (with the coffee twist). A few people have expressed interest in fattening themselves up with it lol. Have an awesome week yourself!

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  12. I'm so envious of the writing synergy you have with your sister. Having someone to talk to who knows the details of your plot must be so nice. Bouncing ideas off of each other has got to be so valuable and helpful. It makes sense to me that talking about her plot helps you with your own. What a great thing you guys have going!

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    1. It's very nice, and an added bonus that she understands how I think and vice versa. I honestly wouldn't have made it this far if my sister wasn't a writer too. We're so lucky!

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  13. where is this recipe you speak of, I must have it! I can't believe I haven't read Scarlet yet, Cinder was one of my favorite books of 2012! THere are just too many fabulous choices out there! i'm going to check out that post by Jodi Meadow now :)

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    1. I was just telling Katy that I'll try to remember to post my recipe sometime. It's super easy and takes very little time to bake, so it's a handy recipe if you need a quick treat. I really enjoyed CINDER too, but I'm kind of glad it's taken me so long to get around to reading SCARLET. Now I won't have long to wait until CRESS comes out. There really are too many good books to choose from. Hope you find Jodi Meadows' post as helpful as I did!

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  14. I agree wholeheartedly that brainstorming for someone else's story can often be exactly what you need to clear up issues in your own WiP. It can be hard to maintain your energy in revision and querying, but I have no doubts it will pay off in due time!

    Toffee is my absolute favorite, but since I am not a baker, I will just have to enjoy your picture!

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    1. So much of writing is training yourself to think in different ways, so whether you're writing yourself out of a corner or helping someone else fit the pieces of their plot together, it's all great practice. My energy has definitely been dwindling lately. Hopefully after recharging for a bit I'll have the clarity I need to finish the draft on my WIP. I also hope it pays off someday, and thanks for saying you think it will. :)

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  15. I read The Devil's Arithmatic for school, in junior high. That was almost 20 years ago, and I still remember it very clearly. Such a good book! I should probably reread it.

    I hope you have a great week!

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    1. It's very memorable. My son just started reading it, and I'm eager to hear his thoughts on it. I can see why Jane Yolen is considered such a great author. I hope you have a great week too!

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  16. Oh, those toffee bars look so yummy! You and Katy make me super hungry!

    I talk about plot a lot with my hubs, but I wish I had someone else how I could sit down and talk about my WIPs, and their WIPs, for hours like you and your sister. That's so great!

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    1. Ha ha! Katy puts me to shame in the kitchen. Her posts always remind me that I need to get off my duff and bake something good already. The toffee bars really are delicious--and easy to whip up which makes them even better!

      I discuss plot with my husband too, especially the technological aspects of my books seeing as I write sci-fi and am not overly tech savvy myself. I'm very lucky to have a writer for a sister too. We've helped each other fill many a plot hole and through many slumps in the writing process. :)

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  17. I loved Scarlet--can't wait to hear what you think! Good luck with your querying :)

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    1. So far I'm really enjoying it, although that's not a surprise since I loved CINDER. Thanks for wishing me luck! :)

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  18. House of Flying Daggers is wonderful. I love those movies. Do you watch any anime? Some anime is just goregous--the art, the movement. Even the "cuter" animes with spastic talking pets often have a flair of artistry to them.

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    1. I haven't watched a ton of anime, although some: Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Pokemon, Astro Boy, and a few others like that. I've always wanted to get into it more, but you know how it goes. Too many interesting things and too little time. My brother is an artist for a video game company, and he was (probably still is) really into anime. I agree, some of it is really beautiful. And come on, who could resist Pikachu? ;)

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  19. Yum, just looking at them makes me hungry.

    Brainstorming with someone else works really well. I normally brainstorm with my friend Riley Darkes. Sometimes my husband. I would love to do it with my sister but other than occasionally reading my stuff she isn't really interested.

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    1. I'm very lucky to have a sister who's also a writer. I talk plot with my husband too since he's a huge bookworm and gives his input for the more techie aspects of my stories.

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  20. House of Flying Daggers is a great movie. With most movies like that, I forget quickly that it's subtitled. (Dubbed is the worst.)
    You're doing Pitch Wars? Good luck!

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    1. After watching it recently, I couldn't believe it too me so long to see it a second time. Oh yeah, dubbed is terrible--way more distracting than subtitles. Thanks for wishing me luck!

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  21. I remember watching a film adaptation of The Devil's Arithmetic in middle school - I really need to read the book, too!

    And those toffee bars look delicious :)

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    1. My son is reading it now that I'm done, so once he's finished we're going to watch the movie. I definitely recommend the book if you like middle grade and are interested in WWII. And the toffee bars were very tasty. Had one with some tea earlier, in fact. :)

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  22. Thank you for pointing out that article. I love PublishingCrawl but I must have missed that one. It is inspiring. I mean, I don't have to worry about sales records or anything like that (yet -- hopefully someday I will) but the jealously thing does strike a cord. I wish it didn't, but you know how it goes. When someone you know gets a literary agent and you don't. When someone your age (or younger) gets a book deal and you don't. But I like the idea of spending all your time (or at least way more) focusing on writing and plotting more will definitely be a better use of time.

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    1. I'm glad you found it as helpful as I did. Pub Crawl is a really useful site. It's great that the authors over there dedicate so much time to helping others along in the process. Yeah, it's hard not to feel jealous when things seem to be working out better for other writers. I think impatience goes hand in hand with that too. It can be so long and grueling sometimes and, of course, there's no promise of any reward in the end. That's where it's hard to maintain that love of writing. Jodi's reminder to spend more time daydreaming instead of stressing was timely, since it's the beginning of a new year, and I know I went into 2014 already feeling drained. Hope you have a super week!

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  23. Those bars are making me drool right now! I could also use the caffeine-sugar infusion right about now!

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    1. So could I! Good thing I have more sitting on the counter. :)

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  24. I've been meaning to watch House of Flying Daggers and now I want to even more. I love all of those screen shots and the lush, vivid colors. The scenery of Hero was one of my favorite parts about that awesome movie as well.
    Mmm ... those bars look scrumptious. I need something sweet now too. :)

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    1. Oh yes, if you've seen Hero then you should definitely watch House of Flying Daggers! Loved them both! We polished off the coffee toffee bars way too quickly. Might have to whip up some more. :)

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  25. Those toffee bars look delicious, and I'm totally going to have to read that Jodi Meadows article. Looking to get some inspiration and also to stop stressing. There's been a lot of random stress in my life these past few weeks!

    House of Flying Daggers was beautiful. I love their emphasis on visual and color-coded story-telling. Have you seen Hero (with Jet Li)? It's a little older than HoFD, but I believe it's by the same people. It takes the color-coded story-telling to another level, and I just adore the visuals and that narrative device.

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    1. At the start of a new year I always insist I'm going to be less stressed. Yeah, that never happens. I hope the random stress stops for you!

      I saw Hero years ago, and it's high time I watched it again, because I loved it too. I'm thinking I need to add on to our bluray collection. :)

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  26. I was just about to mention Hero, but Krispy beat me to it!
    That has some striking use of color as well.

    Good luck recovering from Pitch Wars :)

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    1. I loved Hero as well. I haven't seen it in a long time though, and seeing as three of you just mentioned it, I think I'm going to have to watch it again very soon. :)

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