Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's Up Wednesday

I have no idea if the official What's Up Wednesday is still a thing, but I figure it's time for an update and I like the formatting. (The original What's Up Wednesday was created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch!)

What I'm Reading



If you didn't already know, The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner is one of my favourite series of all time, and the fifth book in the series came out this week after seven years! So I'm currently halfway through rereading the series before reading the new book, Thick as Thieves. That is probably going to consume me for the next few weeks, and then I really need to get started on reading stuff for Women in Translation month in August!

What I'm Writing

I have been working on rewriting the book I finished in December, and I am currently at about 34,000 words. I have been making good progress on this thing. I even made a semi decent outline before rewriting, which is not something I usually do. Because of that, I think if I just sat down and powered through, I could probably finish it in maybe a month. Except I keep giving myself a million other things to occupy my time when I'm not at work... heheh. I was thinking of doing Camp NaNo, although now it looks like there's only sessions in April and July. Another year I did it June and that would've worked better for me... we'll see. Maybe I'll do my own Camp NaNo in June. Anyone want to join me? ;)

What Inspires Me Right Now

Weirdly enough, the beautiful storytelling of the TV shows The Get Down and Skam have really inspired me lately. They are the kinds of art that are so good that they make you want to sit down and create art. And also Megan Whalen Turner's genius, of course.

What Else Is New

Well in April I finished my second to last year of university! Next year I will be graduating with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences with a concentration in Intercultural Studies. I also started my full time summer job a day after I was done everything for school. This summer I'm working at a volunteer department, helping coordinate volunteers. I really enjoy it - it's always busy and there's always something different to do. In just my first month, I've had to fold clothes, organize a uniform swap, call someone to tell them a visitor dropped their phone in with the snakes, go to and help set up volunteer trainings, send a million email reminders, and have lots of lengthy conversations with talkative volunteers who ask a million questions. And that's not all!

So work has been keeping me pretty busy since it's full time, and then I get home and I'm too tired to do much of anything. But I'm still trying to work on my own projects, like my book, this blog, and my garden! I am going to attempt to grow things this summer, although I'm such a newbie gardener, we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I think this summer is going to be hectic, but fun!



What are your plans for summer, writing or vacation related?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

This is one of those books that was so good that I don't really want to do a review of it because I want to keep it all to myself. But, at the same time I also want to talk about how great it is and make everyone read it??

I won Sputnik's Children from ECW Press through 49thshelf. (49thshelf always has awesome giveaways and book lists, so if you aren't following that site yet you should.)

Sputnik's Children is about Debbie, who is a comics writer who takes inspiration from her own wacky life as she hops back and forth in time between the present (2011 in the book) and around the 60s. But it also has two parallel universes of the 60s - one that happened as it did in our world, and the other which Favro calls "Atomic Mean Time" where all the rights movements never happened and everything was a lot closer to nuclear war. And it's up to Debbie to save the entire world from nuclear destruction.

It's SO FUN. I don't think I've ever read an adult fiction book that is as fun as Sputnik's Children. I just whizzed through it. Debbie is great, the time travel is great, the sci fi elements and parallel universes are great.

Before I got the book, I read a blurb somewhere that said it is "genre-bending" and I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. But after reading the book I get it - it's kind of sci-fi with all the time travel and parallel universe stuff, but there are also longer sections in between the time travel that are just about Debbie living her life in whatever time period she happens to be in. So there's a lot of stuff about growing up and family and friend dynamics too. I LOVE it, because Terri Favro writes all genres amazingly well and the transition between them is so smooth, and helps to keep the story going forward at a really entertaining pace. Like I already said, this was one book that I did not want to stop reading! It's great if you like contemp, but it's also great if you really need a swift moving plot to keep you engaged.

Even the ending was great, which is hard to pull of with books like this that tackle big things like saving the entire world from nuclear destruction.

I think that pretty much anyone would like this book, so go pick it up now!!

Find it on:
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com
Goodreads
ECW Press

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Beauty & The Beast Book Tag

Thank you Lara for tagging me to do this! I haven't yet seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie, but I can still talk about books. :)

BE OUR GUEST: 5 characters you'd invite to your dream dinner party




I keep trying to think of what my dream dinner party would even look like, but then I keep just thinking of what would be the most entertaining dinner party. So the characters that would make the most interesting dinner party... I feel like Ronan Lynch from The Raven Cycle would liven up any dinner party. Then add Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs (from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta), and Tara and Tom from The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta and... oh man. Hilarity. (Someone please write me the fic.)

BELLE: A character whose dreams of adventure inspire you


I'm not sure if she really dreams of adventure, but Aminata from The Book of Negroes has always inspired me with her determination and resilience throughout her journey.

THE BEAST/PRINCE: A character who went through an unexpected transformation



Hmm maybe Bianca and her friends at the end of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. It was unexpected because I expected them to go the typical way of dumping-mean-girl-friends at the end but it unexpectedly did not happen that way, very much for the better. :) 

THE ENCHANTED ROSE: A book with a terrible curse at the heart of the story



I think it's called Impossible by Nancy Werlin, a book based on all the verses of Scarborough Fair (and the later verses are... weird to say the least). It's so, so weird but when I first read it, it was absolutely fascinating and the execution was great. It's actually the start of a series, but I still think the first book is the best.

TALE AS OLD AS TIME: A classic romance story that you love



Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is definitely a classic by now. Actually just any Stephanie Perkins. Also, I love Jenny Han's Lara Jean series so much, and the new book is out this week!! So excited!! 

THE DANCE: Your favourite romantic scene from any book



Melina Marchetta writes some pretty romantic scenes. But I think my favourite is probably That Scene in King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. If you've read King of Attolia and haven't reread That Scene a bajillion times, you're lying. I melt every time. (Also, poor Costis ;) ).

THE LAST PETAL: A book character who managed to break a terrible curse


I honestly can't remember the details, but maybe Seraphina in Shadowscale by Rachel Hartman? At least, she comes to an acceptance of her "curse", which amounts to breaking it, right? Wow I need to reread those books. Such good fantasy.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Your bookish OTP

One of the couples in the Queen's Thief I think (can't say who because if you haven't read them it's kind of a spoiler?) Their relationship seems really weird at first glance, but is actually really unique and amazingly supportive and very romantic.

Oh, now the part of the tag that I'm terrible at - tagging other people. Let's say Lisa, Madison, Morgan, Ashtyn, Stephen and anyone else who wants to do the tag of course!

What characters do you think would make the most hilarious dinner party if you put them all together? ;)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Local Book Nook #1: Manitoba, Canada


So the first person to be featured on my new Local Book Nook blog series is... me!


If you don't know, Local Book Nook is a blog series I just started today. It is a blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors. If you would like to learn more or if you would like to be one of these featured readers, go here or comment below with your contact info and I will contact you!

Where are you from?

I am from Canada, in particular the beautiful and often underrated prairie province Manitoba. There is a book called If You're Not From the Prairie that basically sums up my experience as a Manitoban. As a prairie girl, what other people call flat is often nowhere close to what I consider flat. I have been witness to many beautiful prairie sunsets, and I have felt the fierceness of the prairie winds in all seasons.



Manitoba has a great literary scene which I have really only dipped my toe into at this point. There are a lot of great prairie writers, lots of prairie literary magazines (one of my favourites is Prairie Fire), publishers, a literary festival, and great local bookstores that promote and feature a wide variety of books, including a great section featuring local prairie authors.


What are some of your favourite local books or authors?

While searching for local books I have read, I discovered that there are a ton of local authors whose work I've never read. I need to fix that! Anyway, here are a few of my favourite local authors whose work I have read:

1. Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas (Of Two Minds, More Minds)


I think I was probably nine or ten when I first read their MG fantasy, Of Two Minds. It was about two characters from two different kingdoms - Princess Lenora, who was from a kingdom where the subjects could make their dreams a reality, and Prince Coren, from a kingdom where the subjects could read minds. They get pushed together, and Lenora's fierce personality and Coren's much more subdued one make a perfect pairing. Everything about this book and its sequel (now I think it has two sequels?) I loved - the premise, the characters, the world building. It was so fascinating that I remembered the plot perfectly, even years later. I found it at a used book sale, reread it, and it was still as good as ever. I also realized that Lenora and Coren's relationship had subconsciously influenced my own writing, as I had created two characters in a fantasy series that were based on them. Anyway, when I came back to it years later, I found out that Perry Nodelman and Carol Matas are actually from Winnipeg, Manitoba, which made me unbelievably excited.



2. Katherena Vermette (North End Love Songs, The Break)

Katherena Vermette is becoming more and more well known on the Canadian literary scene, especially with her newest novel The Break, which was actually featured on CBC's Canada Reads this year. I have yet to read The Break (I am planning to soon!) but I have read her first poetry book, North End Love Songs, which just perfectly depicts what it is like growing up in one of the rougher neighbourhoods of Winnipeg. Her writing was absolutely exquisite and so effective at drawing out emotion. It struck me while reading her short book of poetry that she would make an excellent novelist, so I am excited to read her book.






3. Miriam Toews (A Complicated Kindness, Swing Low: A Life, All My Puny Sorrows)
 
I feel like if you are going to learn anything about Manitoba and some of the people that make up its population, you should read anything and everything by Miriam Toews. The first book of hers that I read was A Complicated Kindness, which was the book that launched her into Canada-wide fame. Then I took a Mennonite literature class (fascinating stuff), and reread A Complicated Kindness, enjoying it even more the second time. I've also read her books Swing: Low A Life and All My Puny Sorrows. All her books deal with the suffocation and sorrow of growing up in the stifling environment of conservative Mennonite communities in southern Manitoba, and the consequences of that. But she is also able to write these deeply sorrowful stories with a unique sense of humor that perfectly captures the inconsistencies of the people she portrays. A Complicated Kindness in particular I found laugh out loud funny. I would definitely encourage you to pick up one of her books.


So those are just a few Manitoba authors that I love, although I could talk about more if you want me to! ;)

And don't forget if YOU want to do a post sharing about your favourite local authors, either leave a comment with your contact info, email me at asherlockwrites(at)gmail(dot)com, or Tweet/DM me on Twitter!

Local Book Nook Blog Series Launch (& I Need You!)

One of the things that is important to me in my blogging, reading and especially in my reviewing is to talk about lesser known books, and talk about books set in or written by authors from places around the world. I also love to talk about Canadian literature, because Canada is the place I call home. I know how magical it is to read a book set in a place that I recognize.

It was actually something that the really intelligent teen blogger/reader Jolien tweeted the other day that sparked the idea for this blog series in my brain. She was just asking for some recommendations of local authors she could read and I thought, I love when readers support and talk about local authors, and I love talking about local authors. Why don't I start a blog series that features readers talking about their favourite local books and authors from wherever they are from? It would be a great way to hopefully learn about great reads from places all around the world, which is basically my favourite thing ever. (Is this whole blog series just an excuse to make more book maps and get book recs? YES IT IS.)

So, introducing my new blog series:



What it is:

A blog series featuring readers from all over the world talking about their favourite local books and authors.

Posts will include a brief description of wherever the reader is from, which can be interpreted however, so it could be as vague as the country, or as specific as a town or city. Then the rest of the post will include the reader talking about at least one or more of their favourite local books or authors, and sharing a bit of their corner of the world! 

Who can be involved:

YOU. Seriously, if you read, I want you to be a part of this. I don't care where you're from, as long as you like reading and have at least one local book or author you'd like to talk about. I'd love to have a wide variety of readers from places all around the world. I think it would even be cool if you had local books to share that were in your own local language, even if it is a language other than English.

I hope that you are excited as I am to learn more about the great books that are being written in places all over the world, and I hope you will want to get involved!

If you would like to write a post about your favourite local books and authors, leave your email in the comments or Tweet/DM me on Twitter and I will contact you with some more details. I would also appreciate if you shared this around so more people can have the opportunity to get involved.

You can check out the very first Local Book Nook post right here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Down With Goodreads Challenges (Re: Do We Read Too Quickly?)

A few weeks ago (actually, about a month now... oops) Emily wrote a post asking, Do We Read Too Quickly? In her post, she talks about how she often becomes caught up in finishing books so that she can add more books to her Goodreads challenge or whatever that it becomes more about finishing books than actually the reading them. One of the questions she asks is, "Are we so goal-oriented and productivity-obsessed with READING a book [that it] becomes more about FINISHING a book?" I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing through books to the end even if they're not enjoyable because that can be a unique experience, but I think there is something weird about how productivity and numbers-obsessed we often are when it comes to reading.



One of the things I've noticed in the online book community is that if you don't read a LOT of books, you often feel like you're falling behind. There are people constantly talking about books, and often the most popular people are the ones who are talking about the most books (how do they read so many books!??) Then there's the Goodreads challenge - you set a number of books you want to read each year, and that becomes THE reading goal for the year - the number of books you read. I'm sure it's been like this for a long time, but why did we decide that the number of books we read each year is the most important thing?

I have definitely been guilty of falling into the trap of wanting higher numbers. Even in years when I read lots of really fascinating, mind-stretching books, at the end of the year when I go to do my year-end wrap up post I feel disappointed in myself when I read significantly less books than the year before (even if it's still well over 50). And then I'm like, I read so many great books this year! Why do I care so much that I read 15 less books than last year?



I'd like to propose that we focus less on productivity in the number of books read, and be more intentional in the books we do read. Focusing on numbers often leads to wanting to read the fastest and most easily digestible books so you can get your numbers up, at least in my experience. But what about those 800 page books that take months to get through but are often absolutely fascinating and change your view of the world? (Some of mine have been Five Days at Memorial, Riel: A Life of Revolution and Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood.) Or what about those books that maybe aren't 800 pages, but take just as long to get through because they take so much emotional and mental energy, but in the end have a lasting impact on how you live your life or perceive others different from you? Or what about people who just can't read fast or read five books in one weekend?

I'd love to see the online book community focused less on numbers, and more on basically everything else. What do you think of goals for reading a certain number of books in a year? How else do you think society's focus on productivity and numbers as indicators of success impacts our reading habits?

***


Speaking of reading challenges (kind of), remember my 2017 reading goals? One of my goals was "Do a reading challenge on the blog! Which one? Who knows, not me!" Well, I found the challenge I want to do this year! It is called Women in Translation Month - started by blogger Meytal Radzinski to help promote books written by women in other languages that have been translated into English. WIT Month takes place in August, so I'll try to read some women in translation before then so I can have a bunch of reviews up that month. I am SO EXCITED about this challenge - Meytal shares a lot of my passions, for more international literature in the Western world, and for Western readers to get outside of our own anglophone-centered media bubbles. Reading books in translation is a great way to do that (and one of my other goals was to read 3 books in translation, so two birds with one stone! Yay!) Meytal also has a great list already on her blog and Goodreads. Let me know in the comments if you're planning to join me!!

(also I am working on a ~cool secret project~ which I will launch when I'm done exams, so stay tuned! ;) )

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

5 Graphic Novel Recommendations

I love graphic novels (although after reading this article, not quite sure what to call them... comics novels? [also, there's a lot in that article that could just as easily be directed to those writing YA criticism. Fav line: "The most 'rampant bibliophiles' I know don’t dismiss a potentially great book just because of its format or genre."]) There's something about graphic novels that is really enjoyable, but at the same time they can delve into certain issues in a way that novels without illustrations can't.



Stitches by David Small

This was the book that started my fascination with graphic novels, and in particular memoirs. It's a memoir, about David Small's life and all the weird and terrible things that happen to him, including getting cancer and his messed up family. It's done so well, and perfectly depicts the intense emotions of the story. Since it's been a few years since I've read it, I don't really remember it well but I do remember how I felt reading it: completely caught up in a sort of disturbed fascination, and identifying completely with the utter bleakness the protagonist was feeling, conveyed largely through the art.



Nimona by Noelle Stevenson 

My book log review for this book has lots of exclamation points in it, so apparently I liked it!!! It was great - the characters were extremely well developed, it turned various tropes on their head multiple times, was humorous and tragic, and was also just a super fun fantasy story. All of my favourite things!



Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown

I don't know why but for some reason it is way more appealing to me to read biographies or memoirs in graphic novel form. Maybe it's because it's easier to read? Or maybe the pictures can get across events or emotions in a more direct way than through words? Anyway, this was a great introduction to the strange character and personality that was Louis Riel. It also did really well at portraying the ambiguity and messiness of history, rather than presenting it as a straightforward narrative. This book also led me to Maggie Siggins' wonderful book Riel: A Life of Revolution, which is absolutely fascinating.







Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 

Another memoir! This is about the author growing up in Iran in the late 1970s and 80s. It was interesting because it was told through the perspective of a young girl trying to figure what was right when everyone around her had so many different views. It was interesting to see how her opinions changed throughout the book as she was exposed to different views through her parents’ friends and family, as well as her school. It was absolutely fascinating, and I definitely need to read the rest of the series (also I think there is a movie of it as well?) 



Lumberjanes by  Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters and Brooke A Allen

I think Lumberjanes would technically be categorized as comics, but I don't care what matters is that they are GREAT. I'm so jealous of all the little girls and teens that get to grow up with the Lumberjanes in their lives. The series is about a group of friends who spend a summer at camp (the Lumberjanes), and do normal camp things like collecting badges, but also run into a whole bunch of strange creatures like yetis, three-eyed wolves, and other insane creatures. The characters all great, and there is such a wide range of different kinds of girls in this series, and their friendship is at the centre of the series which of course I love. And the adventures they get into every volume are so entertaining. Everyone need these comics in their life.

What are your favourite graphic novels? What are your favourite comic memoirs or biographies? Recommend me some in the comments!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

TBR Tuesday

Since I talk about books that I'm reading and/or have read already most of the time, I thought today I'd talk about some books that I would like to read. So here are some books that are currently on my TBR that I have not gotten around to reading quite yet:

1. Queen of the Clueless and Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra. These are the sequels to the first book, Interim Goddess of Love, which was recommended by Chachic. I kind of thought I'd read books like this before with humans-turned-goddesses, but it didn't go in the direction I expected and was super cute. The MC is also fairly sure of herself and has a super fun voice. But it was way too short! I need to read the sequels yesterday.






2. mitewacimowina: Indigenous Science Fiction and Speculative Storytelling by Neal Mcleod is an anthology of short science fiction written by Indigenous authors. It sounds fascinating, and I have yet to read any Indigenous sci-fi so I'm curious to see what it's like. It's also not a very popular genre as far as I can tell at the moment.








3. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. I've had this on my TBR list for awhile, but this review of Eden Robinson's work by a blogger I like further convinced me that I should read some of her work.








4. The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollman, which I found on one of 49thshelf's amazing lists. I love graphic novels, but what I love even MORE is graphic novel memoirs or biographies, which is what this is. It sounds so cool.









5. Unbuttoned by Christoper Dummitt, which is a history of a former prime minister of Canada, Mackenzie King, and his "secret life." He sounds like an interesting guy, so I would be interested to read more about him. (This book I also found via 49thshelf.)








6. Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont. I loved Nobody Cries at Bingo, so I'm definitely going to put her next book, out in April, on my TBR.










7. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand. I put this on my TBR after reading about it on Laura's blog, and now I keep hearing more and more good things about this author. Also it's MG, which I haven't read much of for awhile now, and I miss it!







8. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I think I saw someone recommend this on Tumblr, and they said it was unexpectedly amazing and had great characters, so since I love good characters, I was of course hooked.







 9. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This has been on my TBR since it was called something else, because I am a sucker for alternating POV romances. It comes out in May!








10. The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis. I loved The First Third, so I definitely want to read Will Kostakis' next book. I wasn't able to get my hands on this for awhile because I couldn't find a way to get it in Canada, but since it's being published in the U.S. I think I can find a way now!








So, these are just 10 of the books on my TBR. I have at least four and a half more pages of books I'd like to read, but I won't bore you by talking about all of them.

Which book should I read first? What books are on your TBR? 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Dhow House by Jean McNeil

Jean McNeil is one of those authors that can bring clarity to the human experience in a single, illuminating sentence.

She is also exceptionally good at place in her books, which I first experienced when I read Ice Diaries last year, about her experience in the Antarctic. It was a slower book to get through, but the writing was so elegant and her absolutely beautiful twists of phrase brought life into the setting. If you're going to send a writer to Antarctica, you definitely want to send one who is good at writing place, and Jean McNeil definitely is.



Because I enjoyed Ice Diaries, I looked forward to digging into her newest novel, The Dhow House (which I acquired through ECW Press's Shelf Monkey program), which as you can tell already from the title, also centres around a place.

If you like action-packed stories full of plot twists and turns, then this is definitely not the book for you. The plot is very straightforward, takes a long time to get to anywhere that interesting, and even when it does the conflict quickly dissipates and the plot slows once again.

However, the plot really isn't the point of this book. It's really the writing, the experience of the place, and the reflections of the characters in that place. Her writing creates a certain atmosphere, which I'm sure she does very intentionally. Throughout the first half of the book, through the slowness and the deep, rich description I felt wary and slightly creeped out, and couldn't really put my finger on how exactly she was creating this effect. There is definitely a lot more going on in this book than at the surface, and you really have to pay attention for those moments where she drops a particularly striking sentence that makes you stop and go, Whoa.

I have a deep appreciation for writers like Jean McNeil who so obviously love the work of stringing together words to evoke deep meanings, which not all writers have talent for. While the plot plodded along sleepily, the place and characters were very much alive.

The Dhow House comes out in Canada April 11. There is also a Goodreads giveaway that ends on March 31 if you'd like to enter to get an ARC!

Find it on:
Goodreads
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
ECW Press

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

7 Lies I Believed About Writing

There are a lot of misconceptions and myths that float around about writing, and as a result I wrongly believed a lot of things about writing when I was younger. I was one of those kids who was always writing things and showing off scraps of everything to all my family and friends. When I was a kid, writing was easy and everyone told me I was fantastic so it was easier to believe ALL THE LIES. I have since learned the truth.

me actually writing feat. cat

Lie #1: You only write if you're inspired

I'd never heard the term Muse when I was a kid (and once I did I didn't understand it), but I knew: the way writing works is you are INSPIRED by whatever, usually nature because that's artsy (rain if you want to be even more artsy) and then you would write based on that inspiration.


The Truth: If you wait for the passionate winds of inspiration to sweep you up, you will hardly ever write, and you'll constantly be wondering why Inspiration or the Muse or the Universe or whatever hates you so much.

Lie #2: Only write if you feel like it

When I was younger, I basically only wrote when I felt like it, which happened to be a lot since writing was a fun thing to do with no pressure and I didn't have anything better to do because I was a kid. Since I was able to feel like writing all the time, I thought that was how it worked - you wrote because you felt like it, and if you didn't feel like it that was a sign that you shouldn't write.


The Truth: When I got older and had things like school, work, and more school taking over my life, brain and energy, it turned out that I never felt like writing. As it turns out, you do have to write even when you don't feel like it, because that's the only way you'll get words on a page. (Shoot. I just realized I don't feel like writing right now. I should probably go do some writing...)


Lie #3: Writing is fun

When I was a kid, writing was basically always fun. Writing was a way to be silly, creative, and make use of all the weird things my imagination came up with.


The Truth: Writing is sometimes fun, but more often it's work. It takes sitting your butt in a chair, putting fingers to keyboard, and making some word vomit. And sometimes it's grueling and awful and it sucks, but then it's been an hour and you've got 500 words!

Lie #4: If writing feels like work, you need to stop

Related to believing that writing is always fun, I thought that if writing ever started to feel more like work and less like fun, then I shouldn't be doing it anymore. If I was planning to do this as a career, I needed to love it with an all consuming passion! And something feeling like work means I don't love it!


The Truth: Whether or not you plan to pursue writing as a career, you're never going to love writing all the time. Sometimes, writing is going to suck, and you're going to hate it, but that doesn't mean that you should never write again.


Lie #5: If you don't feel good about a draft, you should probably give up on it

Little Alyssa had no concept of rewrites or constructive criticism. I just write stuff, she thought, and then everyone lavishes praise on me! So it must be good! If I don't like something I wrote, I should just rip it up or hide it deep in a drawer where it can't embarrass me anymore.

The Truth: First drafts suck. That's what they are made for: to suck. But then you actually have something to work with, to shape into something that hopefully resembles whatever amazing piece of art you were imagining in your head, with help from some friends along the way.

Lie #6: You have to wait for inspiration to come to you

The main conflict of your story? How to get from point A to point B? Your characters' motivations for their actions? That will all magically just come to you via the winds of inspiration, because you are a magical writing goddess who summons ideas and solutions to writing problems wherever you go. You'll just be out on a walk, or driving your car, and then it will just hit you and everything will fall into place, like in an episode of Jane the Virgin.


The Truth: Inspiration will sometimes come to you, but more often, you've got to just sit your butt down, and think. Yeah, I know, you've actually got to work on thinking through character motivations, scene transitions, and all that stuff, by asking yourself a million questions and coming up with a whole bunch of bad ideas in between soliciting advice from Twitter followers before landing on a good idea.

Lie #7:  You don't need to write every day

I thought, until recently, that you write when inspiration strikes, or when you feel like it, or when you find yourself on a writers' retreat in the middle of nowhere with no interruptions. Besides, you're strong. You don't need a SCHEDULE to keep yourself in line, you're so much BETTER than that.

The Truth: AGHHH I am still trying to pound this lie out of my head. I have made excuses for way too long for not committing to a regular writing routine, and it's landed me in a lot of trouble (like being in a writing slump for, say, two years). A regular writing routine/schedule is GOOD and NECESSARY and helps you GET THINGS DONE. Also, writing every day (or even just TRYING to write every day) helps a lot with flow, because I don't have to struggle to remember what the heck I was thinking when I was writing a scene three months ago.

What misconceptions have you had about writing? 

Monday, March 13, 2017

J.K. Rowling, Megan Whalen Turner and Authorial Intent

Recently, a very popular YA author wrote a lengthy post responding to some criticism that had come up regarding her most recent release. It's not the first time a YA author has defended their work, and it won't be the last, but it IRKS ME SO MUCH.

I understand the instinct to want to defend your work and your decisions, I really do. It's almost a basic human instinct to get defensive. But in my opinion, defending your choices against criticism doesn't make you look any better. When authors defend their work, as a reader that tells me that they don't really care about their readers  and what they think; all they care about is making sure that they cover their own behind.

It is the nature of publishing that once a book is out in the world, it isn't solely the author's anymore. Authors need to let go of their books, because by publishing their work they have already given it over to their readers. The author can't and shouldn't try to control response to it. By the time a book is out in the world, it doesn't matter what the author thinks or intended anymore. It matters what the readers think. To me, authors insisting on their interpretation as the only good and true interpretation demonstrates blatant disrespect for the readers, who are the reason they have a career in the first place.

It is amazing the difference in fan-author interaction and fan communities when the author doesn't insist on their own interpretation, either through defense of their choices or otherwise.

Hermione Granger by fridouw on DeviantArt
For example, J.K. Rowling has now become known for touting out very specific interpretations and facts about the extended universe of Harry Potter, often via Twitter. She maintains significant control over her work and the interpretation of it, often disregarding the explosion of fan interpretation through fanction, fanart, headcanons, and so on, that often reject or ignore her intention.

The feminist (Canadian!) Harry Potter podcast Witch, Please often discusses the tendency of J.K. Rowling to assert her control over the text, and comments on how her interpretations are often not even that great. In one episode, they commented that "when Rowling as a reader revisits her own texts and offers interpretations of them... she's a much shittier reader than many of her fans are." (Their discussion is around 1:19). The Witch, Please ladies then go on to say that fan interpretations of Harry Potter are often much more varied and diverse than JKR's, and often make room for difference and representation that are not present in that text.

I think that's a really cool thing about fan involvement and interaction with a text; fans can take a book that might have shoddy representation, make it theirs, and find that representation in the text through their own interpretation. It's super powerful. I think it's sad when authors like J.K. Rowling can't acknowledge that and can't let go of their own work and give it completely over to their readers.

I couldn't find the quote, but in the episode of Witch, Please that I listened to they made a comment on something J.K. Rowling had tweeted about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, something along lines of "fun fact: did you know that..." and then some behind-the-scenes "fact" about the world of Fantastic Beasts. The ladies on the podcast just cracked up, making fun of how it's not a fact, it's made up. Of course people didn't know it, because it's just inside J.K. Rowling's head. It just solidified for me how ridiculous it is for authors to insist on their own interpretation of their work. It's like the author sees herself as a queen, dictating the rules and order of her world to her lowly subjects. But that's just not how books work.

Queen's Thief art by artist rushstarfire.tumblr.com
Now, in contrast with J.K. Rowling who jumps in all the time with random and often offensive tidbits is one of my favourite authors, Megan Whalen Turner, the author of the Queen's Thief series. Megan Whalen Turner is known among all Queen's Thief fans for her "not telling" policy; any time any fan asks her any question about her work or what she intended by something, all she says is "not telling". Yes, this often drives Queen's Thief fans crazy and sometimes they would give their right arm just to hear a snippet of what she might have been thinking when she wrote a certain scene. BUT I appreciate so much the different atmosphere it creates in the fan community.

It's the difference in how it makes me feel as a reader. J.K. Rowling's approach makes me feel that my own interpretation and identity is not worth anything to her, because she obviously feels that what she thinks is the most important. Megan Whalen Turner's approach makes me feel that my opinions on her work are valued and meaningful, which in turn makes me feel like she values me as a reader of her work.  In Megan Whalen Turner's "not telling" she is in essence saying that my interpretation as a reader is a lot more valuable than hers, which is actually pretty amazing when you think about it.

I don't know about you, but I much prefer when an author values me and my opinions as a reader, rather than telling me I'm wrong all the time.

Please comment with your thoughts! I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, so I'd love to get some discussion going in the comments or on my Twitter @asherlockwrites!

How do you feel about authorial intent? Do you care about what the author intended, or does it not matter? What is the effect of authors asserting control over their work? What do you think about authors defending themselves against critique? 

Oh and if it's your thing and you want to keep up with my weekly (!) posts (I'm admitting it out loud so now I am committed), you can now follow my blog on Bloglovin'!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is definitely one of those stories - it's a nonfiction work about Henrietta Lacks, who in the 1950s had cervical cancer and had some cells taken from her body (without her permission), which then turned into the immortal cell line called HeLa which has been use in a lot of medical research since. The story of the development of HeLa is interwoven with the story of Henrietta's family and how unjustly they were treated and affected by their mother's cells.




I read this book because it was one of the few books I had on my e-reader that I hadn't read when I was in Vancouver (I usually only use my e-reader while traveling or when reading Australian books I can't buy physical copies of here). Awhile ago my parents and my brother read it, I think as part of The Book Faeries rotation, and the comments they'd made on it intrigued me. Although I think the only comment my brother gave was, "Did you know they ship cells in the mail?"

I'm not a scientist at all, but the medical and science stuff that was in this book was easy to understand and absolutely fascinating. It was interesting how many questions the book brought up about ethics in medical research and what the author calls in the afterword the "tissue issue", as well as the commercialization of research and science. All of this stuff was new to me, and just made me realize how incredibly strange (and awful) the world is. One of my favourite things about reading nonfiction is how it blows my mind open and exposes me to new worlds, and this book definitely did that.

I have to say, though, the most compelling part of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for me was the story of the Lacks family. Henrietta died not too long after her cells were taken from her, and her children didn't even find out their mother's cells had been taken until twenty years later. The book chronicles the story of Henrietta's childhood, her cancer diagnosis, her death, and the lives of her children and just how awfully they were treated and misled by all of these medical researchers who used and abused them. The book even included the journey of the author and the family (in particular Henrietta's daughter Deborah) discovering how Henrietta's cells were used in science, since even up to the point of the author's research the family still hadn't been told much. The inclusion of the story of the family is done incredibly thoughtfully and carefully, and makes Henrietta and her descendants the protagonists, not her cells, which I think is important.

One of the common themes of the book is how the children wanted Henrietta's contribution to science to be properly recognized, and while I'm sure this book has done a lot in that direction, I was surprised how many people hadn't heard of this story when I told them what I was reading. The book makes her sound so famous, I figured everyone had heard of Henrietta Lacks by now. Anyway, I would definitely encourage you to pick up this absolutely incredibly complex and fascinating story.

Check it out on:
Goodreads
Amazon.ca
Amazon.com 

Also fun fact: the book has been made into a made-for-TV movie on HBO which premieres on April 22.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

30 Travel Tips From My Trip to Vancouver!

Is this post just an excuse to brag about my trip to Vancouver and show you a whole bunch of snazzy pictures? Why yes, it is. Here are some things I learned on this fun trip, which hopefully you can apply to YOUR next fun trip so you don't make some of the same mistakes I did. And check out the previous travel post I did about why traveling is GREAT for introverts like me! Don't worry, I will be back to regular bookish programming next week.

~*~*30 THINGS I LEARNED ON MY TRIP TO VANCOUVER*~*~

1. Fill up your water bottle at the water fountain once you're past airport security - you brought an empty water bottle for a reason, you know.

2. Bring gum on the plane to chew when you're ascending and descending to help your ears pop (I have to credit my sister for this tip - it's her #1 travel tip for flying on a plane, which she has done once.  I know, I should've listened to her.)

3. If you're going to Vancouver in February, bring warm gloves/mitts.

4. Also bring warm socks, especially if your shoes are runners with a million holes in them (because they're mesh, and also old).

5. Also bring a scarf for the cooler days.


6. Also maybe a hat, or at least one of those headband things to cover your ears. (At least it is not windy in Vancouver, though.)

7. Whenever you travel (or even in your own city), make friends with people from all over the world so you can stay at their house when you visit their hometown.

8. Connect with locals because they know way more than you and can show you/direct you to cool stuff. Listen to their recommendations! Or write them down for next time.


9. If you can, host people yourself so they will be more willing to let you stay with them in the future to repay the favour.

10. Don't eat out for every meal if you're not used to it.

11. Don't drink tea right before you go to bed.



12. When you first arrive, it is never going to go like you expected, but don't worry, it'll get better.

13. Be flexible. (Very important!!)

14. Don't put pressure on yourself to have the most fun all the time; enjoy the highs AND lows. It's all a learning experience.

15. Get lost! (But be safe.)

16. Walk places, you see more and get to know places better.

17. Take transit. You see the city better, learn how to get around your own, and don't have to figure out parking.

18. Don't be too set on your plan. Actually, don't be set on plans at all because they WILL change.

19. Take lots of pictures.


20. Don't forget to take pictures of yourself, too, and the people you're with.

21. Google Maps is great for finding random attractions and restaurants.

22.  Get a good sleep over doing more things so you can actually enjoy and have energy for the things you do.

23. If it's cold outside and you have a couple of hours to kill and need somewhere quiet and free (with Wi-Fi) to hang out, find a local library.



24. Pack your backpack as light as possible, or get one of those backpacks with a chest strap so your shoulders aren't aching (as much) by the end of the day.

25. If you are deathly afraid of heights, don't walk over a giant bridge with sketchy side railings.


26. Rent bikes and bike around Stanley Park if you're in Vancouver! Yes Cycle has cheap rates, only $5/hour and they only charge you after you get back. This was probably my favourite thing that I did.

27. Instead of eating out all the time, buy some groceries and make your own meals. Cheaper and better for you! And then you can eat as soon as you're hungry instead of walking around trying to find somewhere when you're starving. (But also treat yourself and try local food, too.)

28. Take breaks. You don't have to be going all the time.

29. Bring thank you gifts for people who host you.

30. It's your vacation! Do what is most fun for you, which might be ziplining, or it might just be hiking through a magical forest.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

3 Reasons This Introvert Loves to Travel

In a few hours I will be on a plane to Vancouver, where I will be staying with a friend for Reading Week and doing all the fun things! So I thought for my post this week I would talk about why I love to travel, as well as why being an introvert and traveling actually go together way better than you'd think.

I'm an introvert, which means I get drained going out to big parties, making small talk and meeting new people, but I get energy out of being by myself (sometimes), and  being around my close friends. That's just a basic overview, there's a lot more complications and different circumstances, and also all introverts are different, but that's how I feel most of the time.

So, traveling - something that involves dealing with new situations, people, and the unknown pretty much all the time, so why do I as an introvert love it so much?

Well here are some reasons traveling is actually GREAT for introverts like me! :)


1. It forces you out of your comfort zone

There's not really going back once you've bought a $500 plane ticket, and once you do that you have to deal with all the new things, complications and people that traveling involves. Even if you're traveling with friends, you're going to have to deal with things that you wouldn't have to in your everyday life. When I went to the Philippines, I had to do so many things I'd never done before, and discovered how capable I was at doing things I'd never imagined I would do.


The wind made my hair like that, fyi

2. People traveling also want to meet new people!

One of the things I find difficult as an introvert is meeting and connecting with new people. It's especially hard in day to day life when people already have people they know and circles they travel in, and aren't necessarily looking to get to know new people. But I still want to meet people! Often when you travel, other people who are traveling also want to new people, so you already have somewhere to start. When I went on Explore, talking with people was easy because basically everyone came on their own so nobody had previously established friendship groups to break in on - we were all making them up as we went!



3. You get to know people REAL WELL REAL FAST

This is one of my favourite parts of traveling. When you're stuck in a car with someone for 8 hours, or you're spending a week with someone, you have ample time to get to know them and chat about everything and anything. When traveling, you're often in cramped quarters - a tent, a hotel room, a car - and that means you find out a LOT about the people you're traveling with. As an introvert, I get so much energy from getting to know people really well. (I LOVE deep, soul-searching conversations. Give me all of them.) I went to NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis with a friend of mine, and during the two eight hour drives we had to do we had some really nice chats. :) 

Going through all my travel photos made me really want to travel again... good thing I'm leaving in like two hours!!! 

Why do you like to travel (or why do you NOT like traveling?)

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