Monday, December 26, 2011

Unexpected Christmas Joys

It's Boxing Day here in Canada, which means a chance to recover from the copious amounts of food consumed yesterday, and to enjoy all of one's new presents. 

In a surprising twist, one of my most engaging presents this year came from an uncle & aunt who normally send generic gift cards. On the other hand, perhaps it's that I am easily engrossed in open ended puzzle type activities, and therefore enjoy the rare earth magnet 'buckyballs' they sent as presents.

But the most meaningful present I received this year was a Staples gift card from my mom. Yes, you heard that right : my mother got me a gift card to an office supply store, and I am ecstatic about it. 

As you probably know If you've read much of this blog, I am an aspiring author. As such, I keep a notebook and pen on me near constantly, and use them a lot during class. And while notebooks and purple ink pens (the most creative kind!) don't exactly break the bank, the costs do add up, and I fund it all myself. 

Compare this to my sisters hobby - shopping - where my dad and stepmom regularly take her on sprees for no particular reason. For reasons I won't go into here, me asking for a similar handout from them isn't a feasible option, and I've expressed my sadness over this state of affairs to my mother in the past. To know that she listened, understood, and is trying to make it right means the world to me.

While I received some neat gifts at my dad's house, none of them came close to matching that feeling. Still, being back here after nearly four months of semi-estrangent hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, and I'm really enjoying spending the time with my grandfather, even if he doesn't remember it from one hour to the next. Despite his memory issues, he has no trouble kicking my butt at ping-pong.

This Christmas, I am thankful for my mother's kindness, my grandfather's sense of humour and the snow that finally arrived. Over the rest of break, I am looking forward to spending time with friends, going cross-country skiing, and catching up on sleep. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good life :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

My New Obsession: The Book of Mormon

No, not the actual religious text, but the Broadway musical by the creators of South Park. I turned on the car stereo Friday night and “All-American Prophet” came on at full blast. I was flabbergasted - a total WTF moment - but then I was intrigued. Trust me, if you ever turn on a car stereo that is always set CBC and hear instead an epic song that starts talking about digging in your backyard, golden plates & angels, you will also be supremely confused.
But I was also in love. I got home and immediately starting listening to the songs on YouTube. I discovered a lot of crude language and crass humour, but there was so much more to the show than that. The show is a huge parody of both religion and Broadway musicals, but the former is sweet - Matt Stone called the show “an atheist's love letter to religion” - and the latter is more of an homage.
Basically, The Book of Mormon’s point is that religion is at it’s best when it is local, community-oriented, and not taken too seriously. In terms of former Broadway musicals, for me the two most obvious take-offs are “Hasa Diga Ebowai” and “You And Me (But Mostly Me)”. Have a listen and see if you can guess what songs they were inspired by.

In other news, I heard “the Kijiji snowblower ad guy” on the radio early in the week, with the exciting news that because of his Kijiji ad, he’s gotten freelance work and more recently a legit job offer. He’s some sort of accountant type in his day job, and hearing about his random success reminded me that giving up on your writing dreams is foolish, no matter how foolish you think the dreams themselves are.
“You are the only one in the world who can kill your dream.” — Jim Butcher. That’s my desktop background right now, because for writers at least, it’s absolutely true.
Harkening back all the way to last week…. remember all those critiques I was so excited about? Well, some of them have come back, and it kinda sucked reading them. I knew my story had issues, but having them all laid bare like that was not fun. It’s good for me, and good for my story, since now I have a direction for revision, but it was certainly unpleasant.
On the bright side of writing this week, I did pseudo-finish another story of mine. I had a sparse plot outline, but instead of writing through from A-Z and ending up with all sorts of extraneous crap, I decided to approach the writing in a totally new way. I wrote whatever scene I felt like writing, in whatever order was most convenient, and skipped the boring bits. I now have all the important scenes written, and can fill in the blanks without being held back by useless filler.
Before I go back to my useless French homework, in case you didn’t already realize, I’ll reveal that “Hasa Diga Ebowai” is a parody of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King and that “You And Me (But Mostly Me)” draws heavily from lots of Wicked’s song in terms of musical and melodic motifs.
Off to listen to it some more… goodnight all.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why you should read my book!

Reason #1: Lots of other people want to!
Okay, I know that’s not really a good reason, and I’m the last person to ever do something because ‘lots of other people do’ but I couldn’t resist.
A week ago I posted a request for a critique on the NaNoWriMo website. Such requests go in a specific forum, and depending on genre, in a specific thread. There’s lots of people posting and so lots of competition for readers/critiquers. In fact, the mod specifically says not to expect “immediate, enthusiastic response.” And yet that’s exactly what I got.
In one week I received five - count ‘em, five! - requests to read We Who Are About To Die, my NaNo novel from last year. I’m flabbergasted, and so excited to get so much - and such a variety of - feedback.
But it has led me to wonder… Does this mean I write a decent hook, that I could write a decent query? Or is the NaNo site just busy, busy, busy? But people have lives, and if they are asking me to take up their time, it’s because they want to know how the story ends. I can only hope my prose lives up to their expectations.
In any case, other than that super exciting news, I have a few quotes from my life to share with you today. Nothing earth-shakingly hilarious, but I think my sister and my math teacher are hilarious. 

About two years ago, on the insistence of our step-sister, my sister and I both read Evermore, which is basically Twilight without the originality that made Twilight a fun read. (Please don’t hate me for saying that… I know they’re no good. But I had fun reading them.) In the midst of ranting about how much Evermore sucked, my sister summed up one of the supposedly “climactic” moments of the books as follows:
And then she just randomly burst out of the class and everything consumed her so she drank some more vodka.
Yes, that’s the kind of book it was. Don’t read it.

My sister also likes to make comments about a friend of mine who is basically a genius. He also owns a water-resistant green jacket.
(A few nights ago)
Me: [name] would know what I mean
Her: [name] is a robot… or possibly an alien.
(awkward pause)
Her: Well it’s true…
(I start writing all this down)
Her: It is…
(I keep writing)
Her: Oh you’re such a jerk!
(she shuts up to make me stop writing. A few minutes later…)
Her: Well what other explanation do you have for his inhuman smartness… and scaly green jacket!
Tonight, she had a good laugh at my expense:
Her: I had fun decorating the christmas tree last night. Did you?

(a long pause as I continue doing my homework… finally I clue in and remember what she said)

Me: I enjoyed decorating the christmas * tree too.

*Her: That’s nice. (yes, she started talking right in the middle of my sentence)

(I look at her funny, unsure if she was being sarcastic)

Her: I decided to answer early to make up for you answering late.

As for my math teacher, he is a happy, friendly man who grew up in Lebanon during the war. (I don’t know which one, just that they were being bombed all the time.) He started school two years early, and was in university at 15 and a half. Due to a shortage of teachers, anyone in university could teach, and so at 16 he started teaching - classes of 18 year olds!
I really admire this teacher, because he puts as much effort in as he expects us to. And he has an amazing accent and ESL (english as a second language) turn of phrase. I don’t write as many of his words down as I should, since I’m busy learning math, but I do have one:
Why cannot we do that?
I’m going to miss him next semester, but I think I’ll come back if I need help with calculus. He's really a great person and a great teacher and I hope he knows how much I appreciate that.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Easy Part of Writing

When I try and badger my friends (and, I’ll admit, even acquaintances) into doing NaNoWriMo with me, the most common refusal I get goes something like this: “I’m not creative… I don’t know what to write about… I don’t have any good ideas.”
I never really sympathize with them, because for me, ideas are the easy part. They come from everywhere - I couldn’t stop having story ideas if I tried, not even if my life depended on it.
Take last night, for example. I was in bed for the night, knitting while I waited for my brain to slow down, and just letting my mind float. I had read Rampant (by Diana Peterfreund) over the past few days, and my thoughts drifted back to the scene where a man discovers that one if his daughters isn’t. There’s a magical test, that determines if girls are virgins of the right bloodline, and since this young girl is a virgin… the conclusion is obvious.
I felt sorry for the girl, minor character though she was. I hoped her father would tell her she was still the daughter of his heart. I wondered what kind of father wouldn’t - an overly proud one, perhaps? Then a scene came to my mind, unbidden: a man telling someone he raised and loved as his daughter that although she was the daughter of his heart, she was not the daughter of his blood, and that’s what mattered.
I asked myself why would it matter… What if she was supposed to be the man’s heir, and had failed just the bloodline part of her trial? What if she then had to be exiled? I abandoned my knitting and sat up quickly scribble down some notes.
Daughter of my heart, but not of my blood. And in this case it is the blood that matters. Katy has trained her whole life to rule Rivendale after her father (book smarts, etiquette and fighting skills). But to be officially heir, she must pass trials on 20th birthday. The announcement is that she aced everything skills but failed the bloodline test - her mother slept with someone else. Her younger brother will thus be heir if he passes in a few years (looks like dad so no blood doubts).
She offers to marry a cousin with her “dad’s” blood but the code/law is that failures must be exiled from their home estate for 2-5 yrs. She can live there again after, and her dad says she will always be welcome, but they must follow the code for now. He gives her her horse, plenty of food, supplies and money, and she leaves at sunrise the next day. Her father says he will miss her but she might find good use for her time away and find her blood father (since her mother died when she was little so they can’t ask her). Armed with a magical direction finding token (blood calls to blood), Katy sets off to find her true father and find out why her mother slept with him.
I might not end up writing this story, but the idea called to me so strongly that I had to write it down. My ideas come easily, but I have trouble sticking with an idea, and getting the words on paper (NaNoWriMo excepted). I want the words to sound like the story feels in my head, and that’s impossible - at least right away.
I’ve mentioned my story Fire before, and my plans to expand it to novel length. NaNoWriMo delayed me, but I’m going to post chapter 2 in the next couple days. With Fire, my goal now is to stop worrying so much about matching my vision with the reality. If I focus more on simply telling the story, I’ll get stories written, and the flowing prose will come.
Click here to read Fire's second chapter. I hope you like it.