Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Love to the past, hello from the future

Oh, 2014, you've got that new year smell. I know because I peeked, took one of the corners off the cellophane, as I scheduled tweets for tomorrow at work. (Spoiler: I am paid to be a time-traveller who sends messages to the future from the past that you will see in the present.) 2014 is pristine white, undisturbed snow and the stillness of a morning with just the right pink to the sky and sharpness to the air. It is hope, and I love hope because it encourages me to be kind.

I have come to offer a caution: Do not invoke the be magnificent resolution lightly, dear ones. It is the resolution that asks you to become magnificent in ways you weren't before, to struggle and grow and change or get pushed into doing so. My not so public theme for this year was to be lightened, to have the burdens of things removed, and as a result from about April through to December, it felt like the rug was constantly being pulled out from under me. That the things I would not let go, would not walk away from, were removed by force.

Because that's what I asked, and we get what we go looking for.

But I think back on this year, and I realize it's not all bad. It's all perspective, as any year—any thing—is. I did not finish a manuscript and start another, because that's not what this year was really about. That phrase, that utterance, came from when I was 26 and someone asked me what my plan for life was. I was going to finish a book, and then I was going to write another one.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that alone isn't a plan. It won't pay the rent. It will leave me fulfilled and healthy and better able to deal with the day to days that get the rent paid. I said this year that I wanted to become serious about seeing Social Media as a career and not just something I did while waiting for publishing to happen. In July, I got thrown head first into it. There was over two months this summer, nearly ten weeks, when it was just me. Thankfully, it's not just me anymore. As I think about where I started at the beginning of this year and where I am now, I was—am—will continue to be—magnificent. Not without sacrifice and compromise, not without a ridiculous amount of stress, and not without the love and support of my family and friends.

But we did it. I realized while I was home for Christmas that this year was about staying. About creating the space and the foundation and not giving up, when it would've have been much easier to do so. Last year was the year to surrender; this year was the year to fight.

And this year was about learning where writing fits in my life, why I do it, and to believe again that being good at something does carry the responsibility to do good things with it. I have not finished a manuscript, but I have 72,000 words and they're serviceable. Some of them are good. A few are stupendous. I will have a finished manuscript next year, when I am ready to have one.

Remember this in the waning light of 2014: That this was the moment consciously imbued with the significance of decision. This was the recognition of the accomplishments of 2013. The wow that mists out into that new year, breaks its silence, and starts the clock ticking.

Hello, 2014. Let's be magnificent.

Monday, December 30, 2013

My Top 10 Books of 2013

According to my 50 Book Pledge, I read 58 books this year. I also read 3 manuscripts from friends. These are all books that I finished/didn't get bored and start skimming halfway through to see what happened at the end.

I was putting off doing this list as I had hoped to get a couple more books read while I was on vacation, but I spent that time combing old manuscripts I found for viable bits that could be salvaged for other things. (There are also about twelve books I wanted to read this year I've not gotten to, and I'm not going to finish The Luminaries before 2014 because it's 400 pages of description longer than it needs to be.)

Drumroll...

My Top 10 Books Published in 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This has been my favourite book of the year since February, and I didn't read anything that was nearly as perfect in its ability to reach through flesh and bone to hold onto my heart. It is the most perfect thing that Gaiman has written.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I love this book for what it accomplishes as its own story, and what it accomplishes as a second book in a series. I haven't stopped thinking about it.

The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton. I love this book for the same reasons I fell in love with The Raven Boys last year. At the core of The Lost Sun are three wonderful, flawed people whom I care deeply about. It has my new favourite BROTP (Soren and Baldur.) The world is thoughtful and seamless and it's the most inventive use of Norse mythology I've read in quite some time. This was my favourite new series, and I think it's highly underrated and more people need to read it. (Thanks, Kate.)

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. This book broke me in public and reduce me to tears on a train. I have no regrets. It is a monumentally important story. Brave, honest, and so full of hope.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. While I enjoyed Eleanor & Park, I had a stronger connection to Fangirl. I remember being Cath, and I cared about her—and everyone in this book—plus Rowell created her own fantasy world to fanfic for this book. That's dedication. This is a compassionate, honest look at the relationship between fandom and story.

Firecracker by David Iserson. This was a joyful discovery of a quirky, odd contemporary story that made me laugh out loud and then kicked me in the kidneys when I wasn't expecting it. It broke the standard YA formula, and I appreciated that.

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. I don't know if Paper Valentine is a perfect book, but it is so magnificently complex. There is so much going on in it, and it was the first book I read this year that reminded me what a well-written book can do. It's haunting.

Doll Bones by Holly Black. This is a lovely, creepy, thoughtful book about growing up and friendship and toys and stories. It reminded me a lot of Coraline in the sense that you can read it no matter what your age and get something out of the story.

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan. I enjoyed the second installment in the Lynburn Legacy, especially in the way it handled feminism and discussions about sexuality. I did not enjoy it's ending. You are a bad person, Sarah Rees Brennan. I had plans for those feelings.

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. As a kid who grew up fascinated with space, getting to read a memoir of someone who has been to space is fascinating. But what I took from Hadfield's story was a reminder that while pursuing the impossible, you need to enjoy each step of the journey and not get caught up in trying to progress to the end goal.


Two Books I wish I'd read sooner

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I have read all the David Mitchell books, and while this was the one I read the last... I think it's the one I like the most as a whole. Structurally it works the best for me, and it feels the most complete.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. There is a world in this book, and if you pay attention it will tell you how to create one of your own. Plus, it has horses that eat people in it. And George Holly is the Chrestomanci.


Five books for 2014 (That aren't the next in a series)

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston. (March) I read an ARC of this from Net Galley, and it is an accomplished, wonderful account of life in rural Canada. It is feminist; it has things to say, and it says them with clean, readable prose. Also, it has dragons. And jokes. It did the same thing that The Lost Sun did, in that about 100 pages in I realized I was going to be very upset if anything bad happened to any of the characters.

Half Bad by Sally Green. (April) I've read an ARC of this one, and I can't stop thinking about its world and wondering what will happen next. It's about a world where witches are real and they are either White or Black, but Nathan is the son of a white witch and a black witch. It's a gruesome, dark book and I like it.

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater. (July) STOP TAUNTING ME WITH YOUR PLAYLIST AND GIVE ME THIS BOOK ABOUT LOS ANGELES, MAGGIE, OR I WILL TELL EVERYONE IT'S ACTUALLY ABOUT TIME TRAVELING WEREWOLVES I am greatly anticipating this standalone companion to The Shiver Trilogy that features Los Angeles.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell. (July) Rainbow Rowell's next adult novel. I think it's about a time-travel telephone, but it really doesn't matter because I'll read everything she writes.

Mary: The Summoning by Hilary Monahan. (Fall 2014) I read this one in manuscript format, and I am always pleased by the clean, readable prose my friend Hillary writes. Her books appear straight-forward, but they are smart, smart stories. And she's creepy. I mean, her book is.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Five Albums from 2013 you should probably own

You can just skip to the bold bits if you want the music. Or you can read my charming preamble because I know you all secretly want me to blog more.

Last Friday, our office featured an employee craft sale. As I stood in the room looking at what had been created by people that had nothing to do with their dayjobs, I resolved that I should also get a hobby. But a hobby that I wasn't going to turn into a job. My superpower is turning hobbies into jobs. (Well, it's really more like a curse.)

A couple months ago, some of my friends started listening to me about music and I was like well, maybe music is my hobby. This is probably incorrect, because I got most of my music this year from Maggie Stiefvater. (Unless I was at a concert or the band followed me on Twitter.) You can also go to Maggie's tumblr and impress your friends with your musics. I won't tell them you, if you don't.

Listening to music isn't exactly the kind of thing you can set up a table at a craft show to share. But I want to show some intent here; something a little more accessible than the playlists I put together for manuscripts on soundcloud.

I thought I could show off my new hobby by making a list of the Top 10 albums of 2013. Only I couldn't come up with 10 albums that I had in heavy rotation that came out in 2013. (Apparently, hobbies are more challenging than I thought.) For example, I bought Of Monsters And Men's My Head is An Animal this year, but it came out much earlier. Same with the Foxes tracks that aren't Youth and Shaking Heads. Also, I'm just getting to know of Verona's The White Apple (Deluxe Edition).

But I've got five albums that came out in 2013 you should own. That's a valiant effort, right? Right. I'll do better next year.


1. Bad Blood by Bastille

The might be the first album I've played in heavy-rotation that eight months later I can hit play and smile like I'm listening to it for the first time. (It's basically the soundtrack to my year.) Bad Blood is an expertly arranged set list from a band with a big, complex sound touching on the familiar but immediately identifiable as... well, Bastille. No one else could've made this album composed of lyrics that appear on the surface to be simple, but contain allusions and metaphors. All of songs do more than tell stories; they invite the listener to tell her own stories with them.

I could be soulmates with this album. We might need to get married and have awkwardly dancing children.



2. Tunnel Vision by Little Daylight
Speaking of Perfection: Little Daylight. This opening act on the Bastille tour immediately caught the attention of everyone listening at the Toronto show. Little Daylight played five songs and it felt like a full set. Do you want to experience music-love at first listen? Tunnel Vision is an EP of five glorious tracks that will bring about world peace. Just put it on repeat. Their forthcoming debut album and the Foxes debut album are the reasons I'd like to skip ahead to 2014.




3. Pure Heroine by Lorde
Lorde doesn't need my help. In fact, everyone already knew who she was long before I did because I spent months convinced Royals was sung by Natasha Bedingfield. (I enjoy the occasional Natasha Bedingfield song, but I rarely enjoy her albums.) Then I found out that no, Lorde was someone else. Pure Heroine is a mix of hip-hop and synth-pop, with songs about being a young woman today who was very exposed to the class divide and now exists on the opposite side of it. (And maybe isn't always comfortable there, but I could be reading more into it than is actually on the page.) I appreciate the stories in her songs, and the stories I can tell with her songs.




4. Hemiplegia by Haerts
Bastille, if they were fronted by Stevie Nicks. (Yes, I know who she is and not because of that Glee episode.) Haerts will get into your blood; you'll find your foot tapping as if you were listening to Little Daylight. It's an orchestral, grand kind of sound and the four songs tease out that an album would be a treat for the ears. Listening to this EP is like hunting lost dreams through the streets of Los Angeles during a summer evening.




5. Volume 3 by She & Him
True story: I wrote an entire manuscript almost exclusively listening to Vol 2 from She & Him. I like their old California Beach AM radio sound, but this album is fuller somehow. More stereo and less mono maybe. There's definitely that sound of when rock and country weren't that different, but not in the same way as Taylor Swift where country became rock again. The tracks are a mix of original songs and a few covers, like usual, and again the same upbeat tempo with melancholic lyrics.



Friday, December 13, 2013

Travel in Time

In August of 2010, I was offered a place as the Teen category blogger in a pilot program Indigo wanted to roll out. The Indigo Teen Blog, and associated Twitter account, was one of the first "insider" blogs in the YA market. Before Epic Reads, Random Buzzers, HCC Frenzy, and even before the infamous Scholastic This Is Teen campaign. It began as a learn as I went, personal opinion, mixed-bag kind of thing with two posts a week.

The first interview that appeared on it was a nine author interview conducted at the Pasadena stop of the first Smart Chicks Kick It tour. The next year, Indigo Teen Blog went to the RT conference in Los Angeles for the inaugural  RT Teen Day. In 2011, I spoke on a panel at World Fantasy 2011 about Dystopian YA Fiction. I've livetweeted and blog-covered events, interviewed wonderful authors, and created a trusted place for book recommendations.

Three years of messy, glorious love is soon being laid to rest. (The whole blog program has been in transition since early October over to a new platform.) A couple months ago when I put The Dream Thieves completed interview into our blogging tool and wrote the introduction, I thought this is the last thing I'll do for the Indigo Teen Blog.

I was right. And I was happy that it was an interview about a book I loved with someone who holds the title for the Most Interviewed Author. The blog hasn't always been easy or enjoyable, but I'm grateful for every opportunity presented and every one I created.

That's the lesson that remains the most important: Something may take you to a door, but it's you who walks through it and is responsible for what happens on the other side. When you've done all that you can do, you ask what next and get ready.

They offered to let me choose 5 to 10 posts that are my favourites to transfer to the new blog. I wonder how do I transfer the feeling of the receiving the very first ARC I'd requested to review, an author quoting from one of my reviews on their website, or building the trust and connection between authors, readers, and publishers that develops over three years?

Ultimately, how do I transfer growing—very publicly—into an aware reader and a better writer?

I can't.

Those are all intangible; the Indigo Teen Blog acted as a trail through a forest of books and experiences—digital breadcrumbs of where I had been and how far I'd gone. As I review the posts tonight, picking favourites, I travel in time. Memory-walk. Reach out to touch past lives while hearing echoes of what was happening behind the scenes and between those posts.

I know things you don't about the blog. Things best put to rest with a stake in their hearts and garlic in their mouths. Things determined to suck the love right out of something that I spent years hand-in-hand with, public-facing, integrity-bound to do as well as I could.

So it's a careful journey on paths that get lost and crumble. But it's mine. This is where I cut my marketing teeth. This is what led to the role I have now, all these provinces and worlds away from where I started.

I should make a Doctor Who joke here; @IndigoTeenBlog loves Doctor Who jokes. But I've only got sentimentality left. I thought I was ready; I knew it was coming. But I had a moment today, right after I was asked about my favourite posts, where my only thought was "I don't want to go."

All things end. Let this passing be marked by three paragraphs written on a post in late December 2010 that won't be transferred over.

"Anyway, 2010 has been a year of changes and challenges and adventures and adversities. The kind of year where you’re always halfway out of the dark, and it leaves a girl needing a resolution or five. A battle plan for the next twelve months, if you will, or at least the foundations of a peace treaty.

I’m resolved to approach 2011 with patience and understanding for others and for myself. To put kindness into the world. To laugh at my mistakes then learn from them. To write more and talk about writing less.

In fact, I generally resolve to do more things that make me happy and less things that don’t, because the world’s a better place when it’s filled with what you love. I hope to find more new authors who make me want to read everything they’ll ever write and some established ones who I didn’t realize I’d love. Of course, I plan to tell you all about them."

A love letter from the past to the future; a reminder of what was, what is, what can still be.



Thursday, November 07, 2013

I'm just chasing time with a thousand dreams

Once upon a time, back in the early days of not-yet-realizing I knew nothing about publishing, I had coffee with a friend who told me to enjoy the time I had when I wasn't on a publishing contract. I had no idea what she meant, because I was so focused on getting published. How easy for someone with a publishing contract to say to someone without one enjoy your freedom, right?

Stay with me. This blog post has been a year in the writing, because that's about how long ago I left my literary agency. I haven't blogged about it, because I suspected doing so invited comments of publishing takes time and you just need to keep going and giving up is why people don't get published.

So if you'd like to leave those comments, I'd recommend one of two following options:
(1) Don't.
(2) No, really. Just don't. (It happened a year ago.)

Many of my friends could tell you it was one of the hardest decisions of my life. A few of them could tell you that I'd spent almost a year making it.

I was with this agent for five years; she never stopped believing in my abilities as a writer. She was a pillar of support and a constant in my life when a lot of things were in flux. During those years, I had multiple manuscripts on submission at the same time. I was always working on new things. Always writing a manuscript. But... nothing sold, and I stopped believing that something would.

I stopped pitching new ideas. I stopped finishing things. Instead, I took about a year and a half to write a very personal book about what it felt like to have an aspiration impair one's ability to live her life. It was the first story that had my bleeding, broken heart in the telling of it.

And it almost sold. (Almost. It's a bladed kiss of a word. It dangles possibilities, but makes no promises.) The almost-sale more than almost-devastated me. I realized not only did I not believe anything would ever sell, I was no longer ready for anything to sell. Because I hated publishing. Absolutely. Fucking. Hated. It. The loathing festered inside me and rotted out my ability to write. I was walking misery that looked like a person.

Officially, I left my agency to take time off from publishing because I recognized I was no longer doing my part to encourage my own success. Unofficially, I was doing what I had to do to get healthy. I spent months where I oscillated between a delirious sense of having escaped certain doom and a petrifying identity crisis of what it meant to not be an agented author anymore.

I spent a lot of time this year not being A Writer. A read. I thought about what I was reading. I occasionally put words in a draft. But it wasn't my defining, driving instinct. It wasn't a survival urge like it had always been. About a month ago, I looked around at how awful things felt and the way that I wasn't dealing with the stress from my work life. I'd cited exhaustion as a reasonable excuse for why I wasn't making the time to write.

But when I chose not to visit my family at Thanksgiving because we're short-staffed, I had this thought like someone speaking in my head: you gave up the wrong thing. It's entirely possible sleep deprivation was causing auditory delusions, but the sentiment was undeniably true. By not making the time to write, I had given up the thing that was the entire reason I took a break from publishing.

So I started writing again and discovered I'd lost my desire to be a person who tells clever stories. In fact, I started to see that clever is often a distance put between a reader and a writer. Probably everything I wrote previous to the manuscript that almost-sold suffered from clever getting in the way of telling the story well. I don't think I would've realized that if I'd stubbornly kept going.

When you have to learn how to finish writing a book again you have to cut narrative teeth and regrow limbs you didn't realize you'd lost; you do it with purpose because you have a different measure of the pain. It's hard to accept that I threw out 20,000 words and returned to writing the middle of a draft that I was in the middle of back in April. It feels like I've spent all year in the middle of this draft. Because I know I used to complete a manuscript in 8 months.

And I know I don't have any idea how long it will take for me to finish this draft; I don't know when this manuscript will be ready for anyone else to look at it.

I was thinking about NaNoWriMo last week, and I realized my distrust of that kind of process isn't about whether or not a fast-draft technique works for me. (It doesn't.) I don't understand NaNoWriMo because I can't comprehend putting that stress on my writing for the reward of having done it. I had a publishing contract when I did a first draft in a month, and I did those revisions in two weeks. I got paid to exert that energy. So if I don't have to write a book in a month... why would I want to?

The truth is I no longer belong to the class of writers who have a wealth of abundant fucking around warm-up time. I steal mine writing moments from the weeknights and weekends around an office job that will never be contained to office hours. I built my original writing process on a foundation of regular, uninterrupted blocks. Now I have to rebuild it to incorporate frequent breaks.

That's why I haven't blogged since August. It's why I'm not quite 50,000 words into something I started drafting a year ago. It'll take as long as it takes, because I don't have a publishing contract with committed deadlines. No one is waiting on me to turn in a draft.

Sounds like freedom to me.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


The captivating thing about Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle—or the two books of it that I've read—is the joy of discovery. The Raven Boys remains the best book I read in 2012, and one of the few books that I have read more than once. It's an adventure with your best friends, but it's also a beautiful puzzle box that unlocks if you take the time to examine it.

It is with no small sense of anticipation that I awaited the next installment, The Dream Thieves. Second books are tough, as authors some times go too big—they focus too much on expanding the world and it stretches the characters too thin. Some times authors serve up more of the same, and leave you wondering why characters who went through life-changing circumstances don't appear to have changed at all.

Some times authors give you everything you want—a balance of what remains the same because it was built in the first book, and a challenge to that status quo to create the conflict for the second book. What you found inside the first puzzle box is really a key that opens a chest full of secrets. Only The Dream Thieves isn't a chest; it's a treasure trove.

The story is told largely from the perspective of Ronan Lynch. Admittedly, as much as I appreciated his character and the role he had in the group dynamic of the first book, Ronan wasn’t my favourite Raven Boy. I didn’t identify with him as easily as I did with some of the other characters. (Gansey, Blue, and Adam.) So I was a little concerned about moving away from the much-loved perspectives of the first book and into what appeared to be uncharted darkness.

While multiple viewpoints are in The Dream Thieves—and used to give us new insights into characters we thought we knew—this book is very much about Ronan. And in being about Ronan, The Dream Thieves serves as a welcome excursion into the intangible dreamheart of Stiefvater’s world. Learning more about Ronan is getting lost in the woods to realize they’ve been planted to surround a homestead instead of create a boundary.

Love—painful, messy, angry love—for Ronan seeps every scene from his perspective. He is so obviously one of Stiefvater's favourites. Reading this book transforms Ronan by showing the reader why he is integral to Gansey’s life and the health and balance of the family by choice they have built. In walking with Ronan, seeing through his eyes and sharing his skin, his nature and behaviour becomes understandable. Relatable. Human.

The dark mirror of Ronan is the newly introduced Kavinsky. There’s a human being somewhere in all his gleeful awfulness—maybe. Possibly. He’s the only literary character in the past year that I have willfully hoped died in a fire yet found thoroughly entertaining because he’s so dedicated to being an antagonist. It’s impressive. In the worst possible way. (Oh, like Ronan in The Raven Boys, you say. No, Kavinsky is worse.)

That’s the magic of a talented author; she can make us understand and appreciate people who are night and day to us. Show it’s more like dusk and twilight. By the end of The Dream Thieves, I had an incredible respect for Ronan. I just wanted to give him a hug, and he's someone I previously wouldn't have touched without wearing a hazmat suit. (Maybe we would just fistbump. Like bros.) Honestly, by the end of the book I trusted Ronan more than Adam.

I don’t know how else to express what an incredibly successful second book in a series this is. It has kissing and racing and murder and the most interesting and relatable assassin in all of young adult literature. (I am fascinated by Mr. Grey. I'd read an entire series just about him, and I hope he plays a larger role in the next two books.) It is both creepy and laugh out loud delightful.

The Dream Thieves is about dreams and wants and desires and brothers and brotrayal and longings and fast cars and pain and acceptance. It’s about what happens to people who can have everything except the thing that really matters to them, and it shows all of the different ways that we deal or don’t deal with those feelings. It’s about wanting to be special and also just wanting to belong. It’s about family, and why we need it. Why we have to actively create family, because sometimes the one we're born with isn't enough.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Make Good

Neil Gaiman was in town on Tuesday, and there are many accounts of his visit floating around the interwebs. I loved Adam Carter's about why he didn't stay for the signing. He has Spider-Man with a camera as his Twitter cover image and is therefore COOL. I also love Christie from Bibliophiliacs post about being Neil's penwoman for the event. Because table-side perspective allows her to give everyone the reason for why this signing tour had to be the last.

It's always a joy to see someone whose work has had such an impact on me, listen to him read stories as only he can, and share a moment—be it an introduction over The Graveyard Book, giving him a book for All Hallows Read at WFC in San Diego, or saying hello on behalf of a mutual acquaintance. Please note my guilty sense of privilege here, as our paths have crossed a number of times. I wouldn't expect him to remember. He doesn't need to, so long as I remember them.

That's part of why I almost didn't go on Tuesday. The larger reason being that I had had a defeating, exhausting day. Really, I wanted to go home and curl up in a ball and not talk or have anyone asking me for things. Because I have nothing left to give. Just dust and fumes.

My boss left work to pursue an amazing opportunity at the beginning of July. I am incredibly happy for her, but it hasn't been easy for me. We'd worked together for three years. There's a silence to my work-life that my voice alone can't fill. My coworkers are doing whatever they can to help, but there are things that only I can do, and if I don't do them then they don't get done.

When you are thigh-deep in impossible, it becomes so easy to lose sight of everything else. You fixate on tiny things, on what's right in front of you, because it's what seems manageable. If you think of the scope of it all too much, you freeze. You shut down. And you can't, because you are the only one who can do those things that need doing. (Maybe you aren't, but it feels like you are.)

I had bought my friend Jenn a ticket to the Neil At Indigo event for her birthday. I'd also promised Amanda Sun to get a book signed for her. (She was at BEA, but had a signing at the Harlequin booth the same time as Neil's talk. For his Toronto event, she had to be in Calgary to do one of her own.) At coffee with Amy McCulloch, who listened when I really needed someone to, she said to tell Neil hello from her. And I promised I would.

And that's three reasons why I did go to the event. Another being Chelsey, who invited me to write the Indigo Blog review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane with her. She made sure I left work on time, ate before the event, and remembered to be excited. Unfortunately, we didn't get to sit together because it was reserved seating and we'd bought tickets at different times. But we texted a few times to keep track of each other.

It was a great event. Neil read, and he answered questions, and he was generally wonderful. I livetweeted so that people who weren't there could share in the experience a little bit. And I forgot how awful my day had been and how difficult my month had been.

So when I got up to Neil, I told him hello from Amy. (I hope you have a chance to meet her one day, if you haven't, because she is a wonderful person.) Then I thanked him for retweeting our Indigo review. Because I couldn't say "thank you for being one of the people who taught me how to do my job well and writing things that inspire me to keep doing it even when it feels impossible." You can't put that weight on a stranger, not when you've already taken more than your thirty seconds of his time and there are 1000 other people waiting for theirs.

While the crowd was waiting for rows to be called up to join the signing line, a Twitter follower of @IndigoTeenBlog came over to say hello and thank me for a book she'd won via a giveaway. (Her account of the signing is here. It was her first author event.) This is the thing about Neil's events that we don't talk about—yes, he has had tremendous impact on creative people. We Make Good Art because he reminds us to, but we don't talk about the less visible kindness entanglement he creates. When he indulges someone for a moment, gives that bit of kindness, that person goes out and spreads it to others.

And if we're really, really lucky we get to give it back to him. Maybe as reassurance that a book he wrote is good enough to be read twice before it's been released. More often we get to give those moments to others. We practice the art of kindness. We make good.

Monday, July 01, 2013

In Media Res

I celebrated Canada Day by moving from where I'd been staying with friends for a month while in between places to where I'll call home for at least the next year.

A lot has happened. It started in April when I was offered a permanent position at work and went home to realize that I would be looking for a new place to live. (My roommate was hoping to reclaim all of her space, and it was time—past time probably—for me to try and find a space of my own.) As the weeks went by and the places I applied to rent went to those who had applied earlier, my friends stepped in to offer places to stay while I looked.

While it felt like being returned to start, it was really an opportunity to realize how much has been built in the year and a half that I'd been in the city. Friends, for example, with whom I could stay. More things than could be moved in two large suitcases and a carry-on bag. I couldn't have made it without help. One day, I hope that I'll be in a position to return the favor—to pass on the place to sleep that so many others have offered to me.

No one tells you that sometimes being an adult looks like living in other people's guestrooms. It means deciding how much space you really need and making the best of it. It means asking for help and understanding that accepting it isn't a compromise or an admittance of not being able to do it yourself.

Maybe the difference between wanting to be an adult and being one is knowing that you don't have to do it all on your own.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Space Bros 2

On Friday we had a half-day at work and a friend declared she was going to see Star Trek Into Darkness and I was like "I like every actor in that movie" and off we went to see it.

I don't know if it was Star Trek, but it was definitely an action movie and you know what? I enjoyed it. Possibly for the same reasons I enjoyed watching Thor. Star Trek Into Darkness is so shiny and everyone in it acts the hell out of what they've been given to work with, but it doesn't really make any sense. It's like watching any episode of the recent season of Doctor Who.

If you don't want to know what happens in Star Trek Into Darkness, you should stop reading.
No, really, stop reading.

I'm going to tell you what happens.

I did warn you.

Ok, fine, but don't complain to me in the comments that I "ruined" it or "spoiled" things for you because I have given you adequate warnings.




SPACE BROS 2


Kirk: Bro, I've effed up big time.

Spock: Bro, you effed up big time.

Kirk: BROTRAYAL, SPACE ELF. BROTRAYAL.

Spock: You're being illogical. Also, that's not a real word.

Kirk: Brotrayal.

*

Mickey Smith: (may not have had any actual lines of dialogue but got a lot of sentimental music to express the FEELS of a dire situation.)

Sherlock: Hello, I see you would be an excellent candidate for blackmail.

Mickey Smith: (looks hopeful)

Sherlock: Yes, an excellent candidate. Indeed.

*

Things explode. A lot. Sherlock stares. A lot.

Wait, no, I got that out of order. Sherlock stares a lot and then eventually things explode. Not because he stares at them, unless his stare was what compelled Mickey Smith to make things explode—which is entirely possibly because it's a powerful stare that fully conveys how Mickey Smith owes Sherlock.

That's how blackmail works, I guess. By staring.

*

Kirk: Wow, Sherlock got so mean without Watson there to tell him not to be an asshole. Watson should've never gone off with those dwarfs.

Spock: Yet Sherlock's cruelty makes him no less handsome. It's all very illogical.

Kirk: Maybe I'm your Watson?

Spock: Is this part of your Earthling humor?

Kirk: I'm still angry about that brotrayal.

Spock: I still do not recognize that as a word.

*

More things explode! Some people die! Sherlock stares at everyone while wearing a really great coat!

*

Kirk: Space Elf bro, I've forgiven your brotrayal.

Spock: I'm happy we're moving the plot along, Captain.

Kirk: How can you be happy? YOU HAVE NO FEELS.

Spock: Maybe I subtly just informed you that I do.

Kirk: What?

Spock: Maybe my FEELS are all in the subtext, locked away because I'm ashamed of them.

Kirk: We have to go get Sherlock. He's such an asshole! He doesn't even hit on the ladies all the time like I do.

Spock: But he's off in deep space with our enemies.

Kirk: We must risk the Daleks.

Spock: Klingons.

Kirk: Look, bro, bros don't correct their bros. It hurts the bro FEELS.

Spock: FEELS are hard.


*


Kirk: Ok, everyone, we're loading some suspicious weapons on board because the admiral says we can go to an enemy planet and do a secret special mission. It's not suspicious at all that he'd let me do this when it's known that he thinks I'm an idiot.

Carol: Hi! I'm a science officer joining your party.

Spock: Perhaps you are a scientist but you're also suspicious.

Carol: Hush exposition with half drawn-on eyebrows, I'm talking to Kirk.

Kirk: A lady is talking to me.

Spock: Is this low-level certainty that everyone around me is stupid what Sherlock feels all the time?

Bones: Probably. You've got so much in common.

Spock: How so?

Bones: You're both emotionless. Creepy yet somehow alluring.

Spock: I hadn't considered this, Doctor. Perhaps Sherlock and I are representations of the danger of having no emotions?

Bones: Damned if I know about themes, Spock, I'm just a doctor.

*

Simon Pegg: You can't bring these weird weapons on my ship.

Kirk: Why do you sound like Craig Ferguson? You're Simon Pegg.

Simon Pegg: I quit because you aren't listening to my logic.

Kirk: Fine. I hate logic anyway because Spock likes it and I'm passive-agressively fighting with him.

Simon Pegg: BROTRAYAL.

Kirk: It's going around, Peggy.


*

So they go to find Sherlock despite that Spock wants everyone to question their life decisions, because logic loses to plot.

Something goes wrong with the warp core, because that's the whole point of the ship having a warp engine. Seriously. That damn thing is always breaking. Chekov is pretty uncertain he can fix it and I'm at this point starting to wonder if when they find Sherlock they will also find the plot. It's gotta be the only reason they're doing any of this.

So off they go to the planet full of murderous aliens and Sherlock.

*

Spock: This is a Klingon planet.

Uhura: Fortunately, I speak Daleklingon.

Kirk: Subtextually, I resent you a bit for kicking more ass than I do.

Spock: Why are you all so illogical?

Uhura: YOU HAVE NO FEELS. Kirk agrees.

Spock: No, I have feels. I have so many feels. And I also took some feels from someone as he died so I could better understand your human feels.

Uhura: That's incredibly creepy. Like almost as creepy as Sherlock but less homicidal.

Kirk: Why would you do that, bro?

Spock: Logic told me the plot would need me to, bro, so I could talk about my feels.

Kirk: Logic is hard.

Spock: Not as hard as feels.

*

Uhura: Hey Daleklingons. I speak your language. Nifty, amiright?

Daleklingons: EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! AHH SOME GUY IN A REALLY COOL HOOD JUST KILLED US ALL.

Kirk: UNFAIR! I'm supposed to be the cool one!

Sherlock: This is my Angel Islington Voice, and that was my Arrow impression. Did you enjoy it? Was it sufficient in its ridiculous awesomeness? Was my gun big enough?

Kirk: I want to punch your beautiful face, bro! For reasons.

Sherlock: Punch away. My cheekbones and amazing coat give me defensive strength.

Uhura: His voice....it's so creepy.

Spock: Yet alluring at the same time.

Sherlock: I am enunciating every word very clearly to express my utter disdain. I assure you I'm not a Vulcan because my hair is imperfect after being ridiculously awesome

Kirk: So creepy.

Spock: Yet alluring at the same time.

Sherlock: I surrender. Take me to your TARDIS—I mean whatever spaceship your people have.

Kirk: It's a really nice ship.

Sherlock: I'm sure it is, Captain.

Kirk: Everything sounds undermining when you say it. I hate that you're so cool.

Sherlock: Indeed.


*


Kirk: We totally put you in jail! But I also had them comb your hair back. I wanted you to feel like you were being treated well so you'd see how reasonable we good guys are.

Sherlock: Indeed. Now you will attempt to kill me?

Kirk: We're gonna take you to Earth and make you stand trial.

Sherlock: I see. Did you make this decision based on how I killed nearly the entire party of Daleklingons single-handedly?

Kirk: Um... No. I made it for... reasons. Smart reasons. Yeah. For logic!

Sherlock: I appeal to your conscience. Your morality. I'm told people have these things. I find them bothersome.

Kirk: Ok, you got me. My bro Spock told me to do this. He's logical. I'm not.

Sherlock: Ahhh, Captain, it's all right to admit you're impressed by me. My logic is superior to Spock's logic in every way.

Kirk: Look, Spock and I are cool right now, ok? We had a talk about FEELS. I want to respect that he has them.

Sherlock: Listen to my Angel Islington Voice. It's not brotrayal. You and I can also be... "bros."

Kirk: No. Spock is my first bro. Even more of my bro than Bones or Peggy! FIRST BRO.

Sherlock: You're a captain, I'm this movie's equivalent of a Time Lord, which is like you but superior in all ways. Also, your admiral is going to brotray you.

Kirk: NO WAY.

Sherlock: He committed the brotrayal against me. You and I have so much in common. Consider my offer of broship. I'll tell you who my tailor is.

Kirk: Must. Resist. Must. FLEEEEEE!

*

Admiral: Hey guys. I came to brotray you. So gimme John Smith. Jack Harkness. Whatever the hell we're calling Benedict Cumberbatch in this movie.

Kirk: He says his name is Sherlock, and he wants to be my bro.

Admiral: Yes, and he'll brotray you. I'm totally brotraying you, too. But he'll brotray you worse. Because he's Sherlock. High functioning sociopath and all that. I'm just an angry man who wants to start an intergalactic war.

Kirk: EVERYTHING IS BROTRAYAL!

Spock: Captain, logic says it's time to tell you Carol is the admiral's daughter.

Carol: Chill, bros, I'll appeal to my Dad's FEELS.

Admiral: And I'll steal you with my transporter. I don't want you to die. I'm not a total monster.

Kirk: Everything is brotrayal and chaos! I better go talk to Sherlock. Enemy of my enemy is my new bro.

Spock: Logic tells me this will go badly.

Kirk: I'm doing it.

Spock: Logic wants me to question your life decisions.

Kirk: Again?

Spock: Always.

Kirk: Listen, bro, this isn't about logic because my actions don't make any sense. In fact, I actually say in the movie that my actions don't make any sense. But my FEELS tell me I gotta do this.

Spock: It's almost like I'm a slave to logic and you're a slave to emotion. It's almost like only relying on one is a bad life decision.

Kirk: Whoa, there, bro. Don't get philosophical. We've got a ship to save.

*

Kirk: Hey, Sherlock.

Sherlock: Oh, hello, Captain. Brotrayal from the admiral came just as I predicted, I see.

Kirk: How do you know all of this?

Sherlock: Some events are fixed points in time.

Kirk: Good thing I shun logic or I'd question you more. Anyway, how'd you like to wear a space suit that kind of makes you look like an EVA pilot and do a space luge from our crippled ship to the admiral's? It's going to be a great part of the video game.

Sherlock: How delightful. Try to keep up, as I'm ever so much better at being awesome than you are.

Kirk: Well, I did this in the first movie so I'm probably better at it than you.

Sherlock: Doubtful, but why don't I let you feel secure in a false sense of superiority so I can use you to get what I want?

Kirk: So we're fake bros?

Sherlock: Fake bros. Indeed.

*

Things go terribly wrong. Sherlock kills a bunch of people and it's BROTRAYAL and Kirk is surprised even though he shouldn't be.

*

Spock: Hello, New Vulcan.

William Bell: Spock, please tell JJ Abrams to stop messing with the space time continuum.

Spock: Tell me about the movie that this movie was before someone remade it.

William Bell: No. The time reset negates that previous movie. Didn't you watch Fringe?

Spock: Very few people watched Fringe.

William Bell: If I tell you then it becomes a fixed path.

Spock: That seems as illogical as the reasoning for why the 11th Doctor couldn't save Amy and Rory.

William Bell: Point taken. I will tell you this: during a future scene you're going to yell SHERLOCK with the feels that other people yell BROTRAYAL.

*


Anyway more stuff happens. Most of it happens like an explosion. There's a lot of exploding. Most of it in space, and then there's a spaceship crashing towards Earth but it doesn't because Kirk does something stupid and noble for the greater good.

*

Kirk: Bro, I made a life decision like you would've.

Spock: I see now how logic leads to death.

Kirk: Feels also lead to death.

Spock: All leads to death.

Kirk: I'm so glad we're bros and we saved our ship, bro.

Spock: SHERRRRRRRRRRLOCK!

*

Sherlock lost his really cool coat earlier so he like jets off to earth and steals another coat that's not as cool but it's nice enough. He and Spock have a fight over who is the more appealing emotionless character. Uhura helps Spock defeat Sherlock. Anyway, Sherlock's not dead—he's just sleeping. We all know that Sherlock never really dies. Neither does Kirk.

Then there's a speech and the movie is like SURPRISE SUCKERS WE'RE TOTALLY BACK ON THE TIMELINE OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES. Let us end with the speech that opens the TV show episodes!

And we all learned a lesson about FEELS and being bros and not trusting any character played by Benedict Cumberbatch or Peter Weller.

The End.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

She didn’t say it to be an accusation, and he didn’t flinch at it. He kept his hands on his knees, where she could see them, and his eyes open. He had a trustworthy face, although she wouldn’t have said that upon meeting him. Maybe it was the angles, the edge of his cheekbones, that kept lies from getting close. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hello, Spring

This has been, as a friend said yesterday, a week with too many feels. It has been a week with a lifetime tucked inside it. 

I took a couple days off work and went out to the country to stay with a friend. It's a reciprocal state of her having company and me being in a removed environment from my day to day distractions that results in big chunks of words going in my draft. It was magnificent, even if I did do half my words when I got home, because I met my somewhat ambitious word goal.

Very late Thursday—actually, it was very early Friday—I had a moment when the world shifted from one reality to another. It was a dear, little thing that caused it—really, kindness exchanged for kindness—but the reality I woke up to was not the reality I said good night to. I love simple moments charged with meaning, and how they reorientate the world.

Then something else happened on Friday that left me searching for a word that means both disappointed and relieved. The word that conveys those emotions are happening at the same time—that they're twisted and twined together. Is it closure?

Spent this weekend with friends while we wandered different neighbourhoods. I love this city in the spring and the whole world of possibilities coming out of hibernation. I've been thinking about the plans we make, and how we pretend we know what the future looks like. More than that, we pretend we know what our ideal future will look like. We make goals without understanding anything about them; they sound like the right direction, a good destination, so we decide we want something without considering how we'll grow from the person we are to the person we'll become. We think "I want to do this, so my life will look like this, and it will happen in this way."

A year ago disappointment was a sharp-edged word; I kept cutting my hands on it while I reached for things. And reached. And reached. And reached. This week someone dulled those edges and I can hold it, examine it, and then release it.

There is a difference between giving up and letting go. Especially if you're relinquishing something that might feel galaxy-sized, but you realize it will free up space for what is the whole of the universe to you.

Is this about work? Yes, it is. Is this about writing? Oh, absolutely. This is about life. It's finally spring, so let's go live it.

My friend took this picture because it's AWESOME and the world could always use more of that.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

        "I’ve told you that there is no Lord Barrington in this forest,” he said. “Only me.”
       "You would be Lord Barrington if you left this place.”
       The lantern caught his jaw, the faint shadow of stubble growing on it. It was a jaw strong as any hunter’s, and it was held firm against her words. 
       “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said. “You can’t come here and exhume all my buried possibilities."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


Last night I finished reading Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I had missed this book when it first released, and then just never gotten around to it. (And yes, several people have given me hell since finding out that I hadn't read it yet.) Most everyone would mention it and then ask me if I liked horses, to which I would conclude it was a book about horses and that didn't sound like something I wanted to read. Then someone clarified it was a book about horses that eat people, and I was like "whoa, I am all over that" because I love a monster story.

The Scorpio Races does have monsters in it, but it's not specifically a monster book. It's a story of people's wants, and the different ways that we grow up and move on. (It is also a book where horses eat people, and most certainly a book for people who love horses.) It's a book about myth and magic and tradition and how we live with them.  

More importantly, The Scorpio Races is beautifully atmospheric, it's a world built inside a book. Reading it reminded me of how to build a world—it's the details. The way characters think and feel and the food they eat and the words they use. World isn't just a town name or a map frontispiece, it permeates every scene. It is the way the air smells and how the birds sound and the color of the mud clinging to a character's shoes.

Sometimes I read a book, and the author has a talent for place... but they do nothing with the place. They create it and it's there, but it's all background. It never moves from atmosphere to solid ground beneath a reader's feet.

While I love Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly, the main character of The Scorpio Races is Thisby, with its awful weather and hungry capaill uisce. It was so real, transcending mood and tone to become the only place where this book could have happened.

There was something beautifully Diana Wynne Jones-like about the story, from the subtle and perfect weaving of magic throughout to George Holly, who is basically the Chrestomanci. Seriously. He shows up and he's all "hello, I am a friendly and oddly well-dressed foreigner, so let me subtly comment on how you should fix your life then go make nice with this lady off camera." Ok, maybe he's the Doctor of the book. Either way, George Holly was an unending source of amusement. I don't know if I could've finished the book without him, because there were dark times in those pages and this was not the best week to be reading something with such a weight to it.

I could talk myself into relatively certainty that Sean and Puck would be alive by the end of the story, but I was always on the edge of horror that something awful might happen to Finn. (Maybe I've read too many Cassandra Clare books.) This is information I would share with people when I told them I was reading the book. "I'm very concerned for Finn." I supposed being an older sister, I could relate to Finn and Puck's relationship more than Gabe and Puck's.

But I'm glad I gave this book a chance and that I finished it, so I could feel that same sense I get after I read David Mitchell—the knowing that I've just put something of literary merit, something that I can learn from, into my head. Because now I want to take what I've learned and applied it to how I tell my own stories.

Now if I could just convince someone to make me November Cakes....

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Never Wanted Your Love

If I were to search this blog, I could likely find several posts of how I loathe writing The Middle of a draft. I'm not going to search the blog, but I'm fairly certain they're there. The Middle is the part where I am convinced that nothing I've written makes any sense, but it's not the point where I throw it out and start all over again. (Which have done twice, and it was around 53,000-56,000 words in.)

Beginnings are easy, because I don't start writing a book until I know how it starts. Endings are easy because I know when I've gotten to the end. It's instinct. But The Middle? The Middle is a flashlight beam in the woods that only reveals a portion of the path at the time. Made worse by suspicious sounds coming from an ambiguously located but obviously nearby location.

I know when I'm in The Middle, because I started grumbling about how awful this was. I looked at my wordcount and judged it against what books by me usually total and went "oh, it's not the story. It's just The Middle." Then I remembered that there's a light novel sitting on my shelf and several finished manuscripts that each did their tour of duty in The Middle, and each came out the other side and found the end. This one will, too, and how ever awful it may be now... I'll just need to finish it. I can do something with a finished thing.

Surviving The Middle is learning to love the story, despite that it's not what I thought it was. It's when the story becomes the beginning of what—after significant revision—it's going to be.




Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flaws

I meant to blog this about a week ago, but I've been on vacation doing a whole lot of reading and relaxing and it's like all the noise turned down enough to hear the signal. In other words, I have an ending for the worst first draft ever. (It's not the worst first draft ever, but it's headed into that gross bit known as The Middle when everything seems like the worst idea and probably will never actually get finished. When it's just easier not to bother, so it's that much more important to keep digging.) Anyway, the important bit is: I. Know. How. It. Ends.


This is Bastille's Flaws, which I found after listening to their new single Pompeii that Maggie Stiefvater shared on Twitter a while back. They have an album out. (At least in the UK.) I may have imported it despite not having bought a physical CD in probably three years. It's a deep mad love for this song, really. As you can see on the pinspiration board for this story, it's one of the theme songs. That's the truth of music and writing for me; until I find the soundtrack for the book, the songs that connect to who the characters are, I have a hard time getting anywhere with the draft. Many writers don't outline, but I have to know the ending so that I know it will end. An ending is what makes it a story instead of a collection of ideas bound together by thousands and thousands of words.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reading the backlist

Midnight the evening of my last blog posting I remembered what I had originally intended to post about, because that's how my memory functions or doesn't function as of late. A thought gets dropped somewhere, I spend time looking for it, and then once I've decided to leave it lost... I trip over it. Or it comes back and whispers its idea to me as I'm trying to fall asleep.

I read books for many reasons, but ultimately because I enjoy reading. (Sometimes, given part of what I do as my job, I read books that I don't enjoy but need to be aware of.) When I find a book that I love, I want to read everything the author has written. I've always been this way, but trial and error and years of being this way have taught me that there's a difference between a favourite book and a favourite author. There are books I adore, but I don't have any interest in reading the complete works of its author. There are authors whom I don't unequivocally love everything they write, but I would read it regardless because I enjoy the way they write and construct stories.

Usually, there's one author each year who I go and read through her/his backlist. Previously, I had done so in an unwise way and read exclusively through that backlist in a short period of time. It's a great way to burn out on an author—read nothing but their work and see only the things they do again and again.

Last year, I tried something different. I was introduced to David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas by a friend. I was so impressed by it. Enthralled by its structure and the very language that was used to write it. I then read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet—less impressed by the story, but still very much enthralled by its words. I've also read number9dream and recently finished Ghostwritten. Just have Black Swan Green to go.

There's this section in number9dream called "The Language of the Mountains is Rain," and it's possibly my most favourite thing he's written. It's beautiful and mythic and dream-drenched. Out of the context of the book it's in, is still beautiful, but it's likely the reason that number9dream—an imperfect second book has impressed me more than his more recent The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. (Also, I'm less of a historical fiction fan.)

But I would recommend reading David Mitchell in publishing order. He does things with characters walking in and out of books, and I didn't see it as clearly because I read them by interest instead of by chronology.

As I'm almost finished the David Mitchell backlist, it's time to pick a new author. This year it's going to be John Green. I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, so much that I forgave it being somewhat manipulative. I've had Will Grayson, Will Grayson (co-written with David Leviathan) for a year now, and Brunch Book Club is doing An Abundance of Katherines for March. Someone else asked if I'd Paper Towns with them. And I always meant to read Looking For Alaska, and Let It Snow will keep until this winter season. So the stars align, and it also accomplishes my goal to read more contemporary titles this year.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

This is post is not about sharks


So I was going to write a blog post. It was a really poignant post about….something. Not sharks. Definitely something other than sharks. And I logged into blogger to write this post, because the idea grabbed my hand and was like “please write a post about me! I am so important” and I was like “ok, idea, will do.”

Only, I got distracted wondering if someone had read my teaser Tuesday snippet and left a comment—but I got distracted again by noticing that someone had found this blog looking for "papal daleks." I didn't think this was an unusual thing to search for. Somewhere on this blog is an image of daleks with pope hats photoshopped on them. I distinctly remember this is a thing that exists and that I created it.

But I have no idea why I created it or what on Doctor Who inspired me to do such a thing. There must have been a reason, because I know the image is old enough that I wouldn't meaninglessly photoshop it. Do I meaninglessly photoshop things now? No, but tumblr exists now so someone else has probably created a GIF for 80% of the jokes I'd make. This was back in 2011, when we had to make our memes.

Eager to solve this mystery, I searched "papal daleks" on a search engine and I did not see my blog come up in the results. Nor did I see any images of multiple daleks in pope hats, which is another keyword search that brought someone here.

Then I had a phone call. So I haven't managed to find out why I photoshopped pope hats on a trio of daleks. I know there was three in the photo. It was like a holy trinity of papal daleks. (I'm also not surprised I just wrote that. I'm really tired right now.)

Ok. I searched this blog for daleks in pope hats. I found this. It doesn't explain why I made papal daleks. It was apparently funnier than a joke about the new daleks looking like iPods.

So basically:

1) I don't remember what I was going to blog about.

2) I once photoshopped pope hats on Daleks and it had something to do with Doctor Who episode The Victory of The Daleks.

3) I still hold the opinion the not-so-new daleks look like not-so-new-anymore iPods.

Anyway, if you happen to know what I was going to blog about tonight or why I photoshopped pope hats on daleks, feel free to enlighten me.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Teaser Tuesday

"A hunting party formed of possibly the only ones in Wishing Falls foolish enough to risk the forest home of those who had been living around and preying on the town since its inception. While sounding like an ancient ominous balance, it wasn’t one. Not really. Wishing Falls was a young town, one still at risk of vanishing in the night."

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

According to goodreads, which has a better memory than I do about these things, I finished this over a month ago on February 7th. A month ago? Do I even remember what happens? Yes, I do. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is not a story made for forgetting, although it is a story that features forgetting. It's a tale about a lot of things, deceptively full given the slimness of its ARC.

Arguably, this is the tightest book that Neil Gaiman has written; it has the emotional honesty of The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury and is terrifying for the reasons that adults find Coraline terrifying. When you're a child and something frightens you, you locate it on another frequency once you're an adult. It's not necessarily more or less unsettling, it's just different. That subtle perspective shift in looking back versus living through is what makes this book so heartbreaking to read.

This is dark, but all of Gaiman's books are dark. What makes The Ocean at the End of the Lane so unsettling is that it's just one-step away from reality. It creeps over and breathes on your neck and you feel it still behind you even when you try to duck it. A lengthwise kind of fear with long arms adept at slipping around corners and walking in shadows until it finds you.

Of course, there can't be shadows without light. I don't want to minimize the whimsy and the moments of beauty that have been woven through the story, as that balance creates a book that is more than just horror or an account of horrible things happening. This is a book that reads like it has a point, which it deftly makes, then bids you good-night.

I go to Neil Gaiman's books when I need something—be it a reminder of the basic life lessons of The Graveyard Book, or the beautiful descriptions of Stardust, or the complicated tangle of tales and lives and gods in the ambitious long-con of American Gods. That's what makes someone your favourite author, isn't it? That we connect with their stories, and willfully surrender bits of our brainspace to keep those tales alive. To keep them with us, because there is something in them that speaks to us—even if it's just something we're pulling out through the personal mirror that is reading fiction.

I do the impossible on a daily basis, and I'd forgotten the confidence of knowing that when I read this book. That's what The Ocean at the End of the Lane gently reminded me—after kicking me in emotional equivalent of my kidneys first. (This is a book out to metaphorically break your bones, because they didn't set properly when you thought they'd healed.) We do the impossible, each of us do, and sometimes we forget that others are also doing their own version of impossible, and you can't judge how well you're accomplishing yours by measuring it against theirs. (Honestly, I have no idea if that was in the book. But it's what I got out of it, because it was what I needed at the time.)

I think see glimpses in The Ocean at the End of the Lane of most of his other novels. My mind might be taking smoke and making it into shapes, but I like the shapes it makes—doors and borderlands and a farm with a great old tree. They're familiar places, well-visited, and therefore comforting even if they aren't things that offer comfort. They're from some of the books that taught me how to write.

I won't say that The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the best Neil Gaiman's ever written, because "best" is a subjective term. It's easily one of the best books I've read. If you know me, you know those words are not said lightly—they carry the weight of an ocean.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Feed starving artists

I was at an amazing author event today. So much fun! And as the author was doing a Q & A, she was asked the always asked question of advice for young writers. Sometimes this is phrased as advice for aspiring authors or new writers, but I like young writers. Not as a reference to age—as the person who posed the question meant it—but young as in unseasoned and wide-eyed and hopeful. It's a mindset that has nothing to do with age.

Paraphrasing: The author mentioned how certain aspects of the author lifestyle gets idolized in ways that may not be healthy. I don't know what the author meant, so what I'm about to comment on may not have anything to do with what the author intended. (Thus why I'm not naming her.) I infer that the author advised this young writer to enjoy writing and to enjoy living.

I don't believe the author was talking about writing being fun versus being thematic. It was a comment on the self-destructive elements of being a writer that too often get romanticized. She lost me when she sounded like she meant alcoholism and depression, because it's an oversimplification to imply these are lifestyle choices connected to professions.

What I don't like people romanticizing is the archetype of the starving artiste.

The starving artist archetype undermines the value of creative work. Most creative professional are over-extended and lower on the wage scale, because there is a lack of value attributed to creative work. (Translation: On average, we work harder and longer to make less money.) When society romanticizes the starving artist, we're internalizing that the arts shouldn't be profitable. That it is ok for members of our society not to be able to meet their needs because they supposedly enjoy what they do for a living more than the rest of us.

We should not have to decide between health benefits and doing the thing that makes us feel alive. But many of us do. Hopefully, we're choose with an awareness of the potential impact. But I don't think many of us are considering the practicalities of regular dental check-ups when we're dreaming of fulltime creative careers.

We're told to treat creative work delicately because it's special and magic. Joy is special and magic. Believing what you do to be meaningful and fulfilling is special and magic. These are not things that exist only for people doing creative work, and they are not trade-offs for choosing to have an unconventional career.

It's like saying to a small business owner that it's ok to be on the verge of bankruptcy because at least they're their own boss.

I've struggled and I've had to watch so many of my friends and colleagues in various creative fields struggle. When you're young and the Vow of Bohemian Poverty is this romantic dream you've been fed and so many people tell you to just keep eating it... There's gotta be a balance. I'm not suggesting we kill the dreams of the hopeful young artist, but could we stop the disservice of treating them like they won't understand the realities of art as your job?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Is this thing on?

A friend sent me this link today, and it contains probably the simplest but truest writing advice ever. "I will write again. It feels great!"

I wish there was a profound or at least exciting reason for my blogging absence, but I don't really have anything. I don't like the winter much, and February was hard, and I sort of decided that I didn't want to blog unless I could be inspiring. Because what's here is here always. (I know I've blogged about this before, the digital sense of evernow and how whatever you read when you read it forms your opinion of my current feelings.) So I journaled a bit instead because it was private and honest and you can fill a pretty notebook with ugly thoughts just to get them out of your head.

Also, I've got to stop reading Adult Fiction. It's rotting my brain. Said in jest, but only half-so. I have been reading a ridiculous amount of books. It's disgusting. I should stop. Not completely, mind, because that's impractical given my job—but I've got to cut back on this decision to read instead of write. I've read almost a third of the total of books I read last year, and we're not even two-and-a-half months in.

It sounds weird to profess that reading is a bad thing, but reading as avoidance of writing is a bad thing. Because writing feels good. I'm going to make an effort to do more of it.