Sunday, November 28, 2010

Swimming in the Harry Potter pool

     You might be tired of listening to me rave and gush about Harry Potter. The thing is, when I read the books and watch the movies I get so wrapped up in the world it's like being fully immersed in a pool that's so warm and comfortable and magical that I don't ever want to get out.
     I saw the movie last thursday night and absolutely loved it. It's unusual for sequels to be better- usually 2nd and 3rd movies are worse than the first one. But the HP movies have just gotten better and better and number 7 was the best one yet. This may be the result of being unable (and unwilling) to extract myself from the HP world, but I thought it was one of the best movies I've seen lately. I haven't gotten to re-reading book 7 yet so I couldn't really remember the things the movie left out- also why I loved the movie so much: I couldn't be annoyed with what was missing.
     Re-reading the books has made me wonder what it is about them that I love so much. Or, as an aspiring author myself, I can't help but dissect what could have possibly made them so hugely popular.
     Unfortunately I have no answers to that question. I mean yeah, they're full of humor, action, romance (later on), and suspense. But a lot of books can claim that. I think JK Rowling's voice really stands out- I find myself thinking and saying words like "bloody", "blimey", "mental", and "brilliant" when I'm reading the books. But the voice could be so strong for me just because it's slightly foreign.
     There is one thing that probably attracts me to the books more than any other. The fact that I have always secretly wanted to be able to do magic. Not Criss Angel-like weirdness or annoying card tricks. Real magic. And JK Rowling made a world where normal people in the world we know have the ability to learn magic and go to a school that teaches it. That in itself, sold me on the books from the start.
     But could that be the only reason they did so well? Doubtful. But as to why they are so hugely popular- I could wrack my brains for hours on end to figure out the formula that she used to make a massively successful book series but I would never come up with the answer. And even if I did, I'm sure luck and timing play a huge part aside from the obvious: great writing.
     All I do know is that I love the world of Harry Potter. I love being able to escape into a world where people can become invisible, turn cups into gerbils, turn themselves into animals or change their appearance, and ride flying broomsticks. There really is nothing else like it anywhere. Which is why I re-read. And re-read, and re-read. Even though I haven't yet finished the series this time around, I'm already looking forward to July when I can dunk myself into the Harry Potter pool all over again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

     I met with Gail Bowen yesterday- the author who looked at the first 25 pages of my manuscript. It was a really good meeting. She was friendly and helpful and very positive about my book. She gave back the 25 pages with her edits as well as things she liked. It was nice to be able to talk face to face with someone who is in the business already and hear her advice.
     Interestingly enough, she didn't give me quite as much negative as I'd hoped. She did give a few suggestions- some of which I will definitely follow through on, one big one I have to seriously think about. But in all, most of what she had to say was positive.
     Which brought me to wonder... is it possible that my book isn't absolute rubbish after all? After receiving 20+ rejections, it's natural to think that something is wrong with it. That I have some major issues somewhere that need to be fixed. But... could it actually be... dare I say it, good? Or even better than that- really good? (I tremble at the very thought.)
     After thinking the above as I drove home from the appointment, I quickly tossed that possibility aside and considered something more plausible, and probably more realistic.
     Maybe she is someone who doesn't want to give negative feedback because she doesn't think that will be helpful. Maybe, deep down, she thinks my book is horribly bad but doesn't want to say that out loud because, let's face it- that's mean.
     So here's the golden question: If you have this dream that you happen to suck at really bad (but you don't know it), is it better to keep trying at it and trying at it for most of your life even though you won't ever get anywhere (because you suck)? OR is it better to have someone just tell you the truth- that you will never accomplish that dream so just give up now instead of wasting your time/life pursuing it?
     I can't help but think of Simon Cowell. So rude, so mean, sometimes reduces people to tears. But anytime I watch him crush someone's dream of becoming a singer, I can't help but think that he's doing them a favor. He's being honest. People who can't carry a tune should never EVER try to sing solos in public- it's just not fair to the rest of the world. And why bother trying over and over to become a singer when no matter how many singing lessons you take, or auditions you go to, you will never be a good singer.
     Isn't it the same with everything- writers included? Sure, I can write and write and write some more, maybe finishing ten or twenty books in the next twenty years. And maybe I would get a little better as the time goes by. But if I just don't have it to begin with, wouldn't it be fairer for someone to just tell me now, so I can move on?
     Would I really like that though? Do I really want someone to crush my dreams so brutally, so finally? I think it's good for others, but what would I do if someone actually told me that I suck? Would I quit? Or would it spur me on to try harder (even if it meant twenty or more years of pointless writing)?
     I read once that someone told JK Rowling that she would never get published as a children's author so she should just stop trying. Can you imagine if she had listened to him/her? There would be no Harry Potter (I cringe at the thought). She wouldn't have made ka-billions. The world would be a much sadder place because of all the kids who wouldn't have entered the wonderful world of books all because of a boy wizard.
     I don't have the answers to any of my questions. What I do know is that I appreciate every bit of encouragement I get- from Gail Bowen, from my husband and sister who have read my book twice, from my two sisters-in-law who both read a very early and frightening draft, to every person out there who has heard I've written a book and tell me- good for you! Keep at it! I'm not going to quit. At least not yet. Maybe my book is rubbish. Maybe it belongs in a trash bin. Maybe I have no place whatsoever writing novels.
     But maybe, just maybe, my book is actually good. Maybe one day I'll see it sitting on the bookshelf at Chapters. Maybe one day, next year or ten years from now, my dreams might just come true.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yay! Harry Potter!

     In honor of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 coming out today, I'm posting the trailer, which I'm sure every person alive has already seen- but I don't care.
     Sadly, due to a busy weekend, I won't be able to see it until next thursday. I've already bought my tickets and I'm counting down the days- 6 more to go! (Uh-oh, my nerdiness is showing, isn't it?)
     I can't wait to see it. I'm glad they decided to split it into two parts because hopefully that means they'll stay true (or true-er anyway) to the story and not cut too much out. That's my biggest pet peeve with the movies- they chop so much great stuff out that I want to see. Of course I get it- no one wants to watch a five-hour long movie, but still. It's sad when favorite parts of the books are cut out.
     Anyway, can't wait- the movie looks awesome. And to anyone who is seeing it before me- I don't want to hear about it. Especially if you hate it or something. I don't want anyone or anything killing my Harry Potter buzz.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


     I'm sooooooo excited for tomorrow! I'm meeting Gail Bowen (Canadian mystery author) who is going to critique my first twenty five pages. I received an email from her today telling me she's already read it and thinks it's good. She gave me a critique on my synopsis (which I already figured was BAAAAD) but had only positive things to say about my manuscript. It just made me excited for tomorrow.
     I love to hear the positives but I'm also looking forward to hearing what I can fix or work on. I've pretty much shelved my first book- hardly thinking about it (if hardly thinking about it means five or six times a day as opposed to five hundred times a day... seriously), and not sending it out to anyone. I'm planning to re-edit after I've spoken to her (and after I've read through Harry Potter again since I don't want HP influencing my book in any way), and then I'm going to start sending it out again in late January.
     I can't wait. I know it's good to leave your work for a bit so when you return to it you're coming with a fresh perspective- but I can't help but feel like I'm wasting time. Especially since I haven't been writing either, I'm stuck on research right now. I've been pretty much stagnant in the writing department, and that's never good. So I can't wait for tomorrow. Ok, how many times have a I said that now?
    Just once more- I can't wait!

Monday, November 15, 2010


     My mom was here last week so I didn't do a lot of writing or blogging. What I did do was a lot of shopping. Thankfully my list of christmas gifts to buy is dwindling slowly. Just a few more to go...
     As I was on the treadmill this morning, I was struck with how inconsistent I am. I set goals for myself and I'll do really good for awhile and then boom- I've fallen off the wagon. Or sometimes I'll think, ok I've got this one in the bag- it's easy for me now to do this thing every day- so I'll start with a new goal. But with the new goal, the one I thought I had down before starts to slide. Why is that? Why can't we get used to doing something and then gradually add new goals until our days become the full and productive things we aim for?
     For example- exercise. I'll go for a week, a month, a few months, exercising at least three times a week. And then something happens and suddenly, I'm no longer doing it. Or my writing, I'll write for a few hours every day and then all of a sudden- I'm not writing anymore. And then there's my eating habits. They used to be good. Last year I lost a little over 20 pounds and kept if off for awhile. And then gradually my healthy eating habits disappeared and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out how I got here and how I can get back to where I was.
     I feel like I had everything right last year- or even just a few months ago. So what happened?
     I wonder if maybe I struggled just as much before but I just don't remember. Maybe I only remember the results. Maybe I worked through my struggles to get the good results. Maybe I'm just not working hard enough.
     With a new year just around the corner, a part of me just wants to forget it all for the next month and a half and start afresh in January. But I know that it will be a lot easier in the new year if I already have good habits in place. (And I don't even want to imagine what my weight would be if I let it all go for that long. Yikes.)
     Somehow, I have to remember, or figure out all over again, or find a new way of doing things the right way. I have to get back to that place where I feel like I'm accomplishing my goals. It's hard to think sometimes that it will always be a struggle. But I guess that's why people say 'life is hard'. It's never just an uphill journey. You might get to the top and then a little bit later you find yourself sliding down without knowing what the heck happened to knock you off that peak.
     But that's what makes it life, right? The ups, the downs, the struggles, the rewards. Slogging through the tough times and enjoying the great moments. It's not always easy, but it's definitely worth it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Random Thoughts

     Random gripe: Why does shopping with four kids (aged 6 and under) have to be so hard? Why does it tire me out so? I walk out of the store ready to just lie down and die from exhaustion and from the restraint I exercise from not yelling in the store. I had someone say to me recently how they miss shopping with younger kids because it's so much more exciting when they're grabbing things and asking for this and that. Let me tell you, that's one kind of excitement that I'll be glad to say buh-bye to.
     Random kid advice: Don't buy a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stuffy- your kids will all fight over it.

     Random stupidness: After finding those actors to play my main characters, I realized that Lord Alric, Lady Fiona and Lord Purvis should all have English accents. James Maslow and Annasophia Robb are American, and David Kross is German. Oops. I guess I'll have to re-cast. Ha! (James Maslow- you better start learning an English accent so you're prepared for when my book becomes a movie!)

     Random fact: My Christmas list so far is mostly books. Shocker.
     Random request: I need information on British soldiers during the American Revolution. Why is all the info out there only about the Americans? I need to know about uniforms, rank, how and why men became soldiers, etc. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

     Random excitement: After I'm done reading current book, I'm going to re-read all Harry Potters in preparation for movie 7 (coming out in two weeks!).

     Random bit of patient amusement: I love the show Vampire Diaries- really I do. But could they have one episode where there isn't some sort of event/party/carnival/dance/founder's day thing going on? Just one?

     Random quote: Keep on lovin' what is true and the world will come to you/ You can find it in yourself.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beasts and Zombies

     Since Monday I've read two YA books, one I loved, and one... not so much.
     I don't really like to mention books that I didn't like that much. Somehow it seems a little unfair to the author. But since I didn't totally hate the book, I thought it would be okay.
     So the first book I read was The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan. What reading it made me realize is that post-apocalyptic, or dystopian, is not really my thing. (See my Hunger Games post).
     Basically this was a book about zombies, although not portrayed that way or I probably wouldn't have read it. Mary, the main character, lives in a village surrounded by a fence which keeps out the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the Unconsecrated (zombies). It's a world where if you're bitten by one of the Unconsecrated, you die and then become one. Think I Am Legend, except that they're not that fast but they can go out in daylight. With I Am Legend, I saw the movie, I was glad I saw the movie, but I don't want to see the movie again. Reading the book was like that. Definitely not one I would reread.
     But there were some good things about it. The love story was both thrilling and heart-wrenching, the characters were strong, and I found myself teary-eyed at parts. The ending left something to be desired for me, but I think that's because I like glorious happy endings (ex: the zombies get bombed off the planet and everything can go back to normal). This was more of just... an ending. Also, Mary was trying to figure out these secrets of the Sisterhood but then the author never gives the answers. Like a tease. So for me, not my favorite book, but I know a lot of people really like it so if you're not put off by zombies- give it a try.
     The book I loved was Beastly, by Alex Flinn. It's Beauty and the Beast remade into modern-day times. That fact alone gave it brownie points in my mind since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney cartoon. I loved how similar it was to the story I know, and yet how the author twisted it enough so that it totally worked for modern times.
     It made me excited for this (see below)... a preview I swear I saw a year ago. I don't know what's taking so long for the movie to come out but I can't wait for the day! I'm glad too that they decided to spin his ugliness a different way, instead of making him actually look like a beast (like they do in the book).
     (I'm posting it separately because that's the only way I know how, but enjoy the trailer!)

Beastly Movie Trailer

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Jessica Jacobs (played by Samantha Munro)
      It's a new month which means new music. I thought about posting christmas music but to avoid annoying people, I'll wait until December. Some people just don't like christmas songs. Shocking, I know.     
     Now if you can't already tell, music is a huge part of my life. I have it on almost all day. I listen while I'm eating, cleaning, cooking, writing, you name it. I even wish I had a speaker in my bathroom so that I could listen while I'm in the shower!

 Lord Alric (played by James Maslow)

     Anyway, I've thought a lot about my book becoming a movie. That might sound silly to some people but the fact is, it started out as a movie in my head. The writing came after I had played the scenes out in my head already. Certain songs that I listened to while writing, or that I've heard since, have struck me as being perfect for different points in the book/movie. (Of course sometimes the whole song doesn't actually work, but they don't play whole songs in movies anyway so who cares!) I know if my book were ever to be made into a movie, I wouldn't have any say in the soundtrack. Although I would try hard for the last song (Two is Better than One) since I actually mention it in the book.      
     So here's my Daze and Knights movie soundtrack.
                                                   DAZE AND KNIGHTS

     According To You, by Orianthi: I thought this song was appropriate because Lord Purvis calls Jessica weak, useless and pathetic.
     Just What I Needed, by Faber Drive: Jessica comments about how she's wasting Lord Alric's time. This would come after that comment when they start training.
     Beside You, by Marianas Trench: I often listened to this song when writing the tree scences between Jessica and Alric. I thought it would be a great song for their first kiss moment.
     Beethoven's 7th Symphony, 2nd Movement (only the first 2 min and 50 sec): This is the song Jessica plays in her head when she dances ballet for Alric.
     Face Down, by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus: when  Lord Purvis beats up Jessica
     Take My Hand, by Simple Plan: a great song for the battle at the end. I listened to this one a lot too when I was writing those battle scenes.
     You and I Tonight, by Faber Drive: when Jessica and Alric are together in his room and she tells him the truth about where she's really from.
     Two is Better Than One, by Boys Like Girls and Taylor Swift: When Jessica wakes up back home. 

 Lady Fiona (played by Annasophia Robb) and Lord Purvis (played by David Kross)
     To go with it, because I always like pictures to look at, I'm posting two actors and two actresses who I could see playing my four main roles. Now keep in mind, my characters were made up in my head- not based on these people. And also, I've barely seen these kids act (except for James Maslow's cheesiness on Big Time Rush, and Annasophia Robb on Bridge to Terabithia when she was younger) so I don't know if they'd actually be good at the parts. These are just the people who came the closest to what the characters look like in my head.
     Anyway, this was fun for me to do, even if it's boring for the rest of you. And something I'll want to remember if that day ever comes where my book actually makes it onto the big screen!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Writing Tips

     Last night I went to a writing class at the Central library called "Ten Habits for Successful Writers". It was given by Canadian Mystery author Gail Bowen.

     It was a good class although I can honestly say that there wasn't anything new said that I hadn't heard before. She didn't give us ten actual habits of successful writers, rather she gave lots and lots of tips and help for writers. Later she answered questions from the audience. Although I didn't really learn anything new, it was nice to be there amongst other writers and to get a feeling of rejuvenation. It's like going to church every week and feeling spiritually renewed. This was more like writing-renewed. Here are some of the tips I thought were especially useful or good to remember.

     1) Live a life as varied as possible. This will give you LOTS to write about. (Something for me to keep in mind!)
     2) Keep a notebook with you everywhere you go- then you won't forget things that come to you randomly.
     3) Read constantly. Analyze what you read. What makes a book good? What makes a book not work?
     4) Write every day. (Duh)
     5) Always leave your writing at a good place. That way you'll want to go back to it the next day instead of putting it off for laundry or something.
     6) If you're stuck- step away. Take a break. Go on a walk, eat something, fold some laundry. Then go back to it. Just don't talk on the phone, or go out with someone or anything like that because that won't help.
     7) Write everywhere!
     8) Figure out your elevator pitch (something I'm working on!) which is one sentence, maybe two, of what your book is about and why you're the one to write it.
     9) Revise, revise, revise. And give it some time in between.
     10) Read your book aloud- that will help you to find what's wrong and what doesn't work.
     11) Cut until you can cut no more.
     12) Trust your reader- not everything has to be explained.

      She said that as writers we need to make the reader understand the world we are living in inside our head. We need to find the words and the way to describe it so that they will see what we see. That might seem like, duh to some people, but that's one thing that really hit me. Because I live so much in my own head that I need to make sure my story is coming across on the page as good as it is in my head.
     Anyway, just some thoughts and tips from Gail Bowen. I'm looking forward to meeting with her in a couple of weeks to discuss my first 25 pages. Hopefully she'll be able to give me specific advice for my book. And one last thought...
     A writer's goal is to help readers enjoy life, or endure it.

Avalon High - Trailer - New Disney Channel Original Movie

Avalon High was the first book by Meg Cabot that I ever read. I'm psyched that they made it into a movie- even one that's "made for tv". The movie looks kinda cheesy but I still can't wait to see it! Next friday on the Family Channel here in Canada. Can't wait!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Hunger Games

    First off, sorry that my last posts were sort of cop-outs. Videos. Not that I don't love those videos. It seems like I didn't have a whole lot of thoughts last week. Scratch that. My thoughts were more outward, less internalized- if that makes sense. Basically I was living less in my own head than usual.
     Anyway, after reading Rick Riordan's "The Red Pyramid" last week- which I totally enjoyed (I love Rick Riordan- he's so funny and captures the pre-teen voice perfectly)- I read the final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy- Mockingjay.
     Don't worry, there won't be spoilers. Although by now I'm probably one of the last to read it. At least among those who were waiting for it to come out. That's what happens when you're put on a library waiting list.
     So I really liked it. The ending and everything. It didn't turn out quite like I thought it would but I was happy with the way Suzanne Collins did end it. There's something funny about those books though. Or rather, how I feel about those books. I can't quite explain it. I enjoy the books. I got teary-eyed during a few moments. And I am (and have always been, no matter what happened) on Team Peeta (unlike most).
     But are these books on the top of my favorites list? No. Why? I'm not sure. Since I've been pretty much immersed in the Hunger Games world this past weekend, I thought a lot about the books even when I wasn't reading. What I discovered is I don't feel that Katniss is a very relatable character. I just don't connect to her the way I do with other characters- say Bella, or Mia, or even Harry. There's something about her that just doesn't appeal to me.
     And then there's the whole world that Collins created. A world so icky and unfair and brutal that I would never want to go there. I've often dreamed of attending Hogwarts or the Gallagher Academy, visiting a vampire-infested Forks, or living in the modern world and being friends with characters created by Sophie Kinsella, Clive Cussler, or Meg Cabot. Not one teeny part of me would like to be a crazily-painted tattoed member of the Capitol, or one of the starved rabble from District 12.
     I think that's where I'm put off just a bit. I prefer fluff over tough.
     Which isn't entirely true. I like girls who can kick-butt, stories with battles and wars, and circumstances so extreme that it seems impossible to escape.
     But there's somthing kind of disturbing about all three books that put them lower on my 're-read' list. Maybe it's the scary thought that the books could be reality someday. But mostly, I think I like my worlds- imagined and real- to have some redeeming qualities. To have beauty. Even if fighting is going on, the grass is still green and the sun shines. Even if a girl is killing her enemies, she still feels love in her heart.
     Maybe people who read this will think I'm missing something from the books. Yes, the sun shone during the Hunger Games. Yes Katniss felt love. Sure, there were redeeming qualities to her and to some of the other characters. But I can tell you that although I really liked all three- there's something about them that leaves me feeling cold.
     That doesn't change the fact that I can't wait for the movie version to come out!