A love letter

My dearest,hearts_01

It was not love at first sight. You looked perfect in every way, but I’m not one to be deceived by appearances. Were you really the one for me? I had already been disappointed by many.

Following that first meeting, you appeared before me regularly, showing your best attributes. After a while, I seemed to constantly go back to you until finally, I agreed we could give it a try.

You were hard to handle at first, but I am not one to give up so easily once I’ve started something. I went to wiser people for advice. Before I knew it, I was falling in love with you.

I didn’t flinch when you asked for a more permanent commitment. You made me whole. You supported me in my writing endeavours, and I trust you will for years to come.

I hope we can grow old together. Should it not be possible, know that I will always remember you, my precious Scrivener.

Yours truly,
Idaheart_beat

Sorry for that, haha. And no, this post isn’t sponsored by Scrivener: I do believe everything written there. Microsoft Word is good and all, but after I’d reached 20k words on a novel, I’d have a hard time finding individual scenes to switch them around (and I do that a lot).

I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

snail-reverseAs a little life update: 2017 isn’t starting too well for me. On January 29, there was a shooting in Quebec City, near a grocery store I’d sometimes go to. Six men died, others were injured. I don’t watch the news because tragedies pain me too much, but there was no escaping that one. Then, my husband got into an accident last week and our car, which we both loved and had named Eli, might be a total loss. For his part, he has some neck pain, but thankfully nothing worse.

Also, I’m still unemployed. I went for a translation test yesterday, but I was sick with a cold (as I always am in the winter) and I don’t think it went too well… Here’s hoping spring will bring more job openings!

In the meantime, I cope with the increased anxiety through writing and knitting, which I learned watching YouTube videos three weeks ago. It’s both relaxing and useful, I love it! So far, I’ve made a doll scarf and a dishcloth. I am now working on a scarf for myself.flower_02 I love listening to podcasts while I knit, so if you have any recommendation, feel free to share! I especially like fiction podcasts.

Anyway, I hope you are all well, and if you aren’t… spring is coming in… 36 days! Hang on!

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Book review: Spanking Shakespeare

spanking-shakespeareLast November, my NaNoWriMo project included the point of view of a 17-year-old boy. Now, this might come as a surprise, but I’ve never been a 17-year-old boy. I’ve hung out with a lot of them, but I never was in their minds. So for research’s sake, I googled books that would show the “uncensored” thoughts of that particular species.

Spanking Shakespear by Jake Wizner is the one that caught my attention… and I am so glad it did. My only disappointment is: Why is there no French translation of that book? This should be translated! It is a debut novel by a man whose main source of income isn’t writing, and yet it is the kind of writing that makes me despair I’ll never write so well (right until it becomes a challenge, haha). I guess Random House know how to choose their manuscripts.

The voice is the best. Although some anecdotes are funny in themselves, some are only funny because of the way they’re told. Know someone who can fascinate a crowd talking about their trip to the convenience store? That’s the kind of skill I’m talking about. As a writer, I can only admire that.

Shakespear Shapiro’s inner dialogue and the jokes, and the ideas not always well-thought-out… It rings so true to my experience hanging out with boys (and even men). I guess some of the content could hurt “female delicacy”, but I never had that.

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The story isn’t one that will change your life, but it is still rather deep under the humour. Serious subjects are broached. The main theme, though subtle, is strong.

The characters are all endearing (and sometimes annoying) in their own way. They reminded me of people I used to know. I didn’t really identify with any of them, feeling instead like I was there with them.

The only thing that bothered me a little would be the structure. The entire book alternates between the present, where you’re in Shakespeare’s mind, and the past, written down by Shakespeare for his class. While those written pieces are funny and beautifully written, some of them are not absolutely vital to the story and I tend to dislike scenes that just “stall” the story.

Who would I recommend this to? The obvious answer would be teenage boys, especially those who like literature because there are a lot of references to famous writers in there. However, I do believe anyone over 13 could enjoy this book as long as they’re not too easily offended and can tolerate teenage boys’ humour.

Rating: 8.5/10

Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-awardOne of my favourite things about blogging is the sense of community I get from it. So I was thrilled when Pamela, the author of afternoon caffeine nominated me for this Blogger Recognition Award. Thank you, Pam!

I started my blog on October 2nd, 2016 after having thought about it for about a month. Considering how much time I spend thinking about stuff before doing them, it means it all started on a whim, haha.

I decided what content I’d share even before writing my first post, in which I declared my intentions to post something every Sunday and a book review every first Sunday of the month. So: I had a plan, I had a realistic goal and I had made a public commitment… sounds like a recipe for success! Success meaning, not publishing 5 posts and then forget about the blog entirely for the next 2 years. Not that I ever did that. Ahem. Okay, maybe I did.carouselleriecreative_pinkishblooms_elements_foliage-12Now I’m supposed to give advice. Me, the baby blogger. Let me share tools I use instead:

1) I use Grammarly, to double check my English. It’s a free app, easy to install and there is really no reason for you not to use it. I find it better than the WordPress built-in spell check.

butterfly2) A few people have shown interest in my images, so I thought I’d share my “dealer” with you. It’s Creative Market: they share free goods every Monday. Make haste! You still have some time to catch this week’s goods before they change them tomorrow (the butterfly on the left is part of those). I typically download all six of them every Monday and classify everything so I can find whatever I’m looking for easily. You never know what will be useful.

I nominate the following bloggers:

Those are blogs I enjoy, whether they have thousands of followers or only a dozen.(To the nominees: don’t feel “forced” to do this if you don’t want to… whether you do or not, I’m glad to have an opportunity to share your blog with others.)

The award rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Happy blogging!

My creative process: writing the first draft

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Bakuman illustration by Takeshi Obata

Learning about people’s creative process or “watching them create” is one of my favourite things. I’ve spent hours watching  YouTube videos of Takeshi Obata just drawing (he’s the mangaka who drew Hikaru no Go, Death Note and Bakuman, among other things). So I thought today I’d talk about my own creative process, because it’s fun to share and because maybe next year or in two or three years I’ll look back to this post and be amazed at how much my process has changed. Or not.

The idea

It all starts with an idea. It can come from vastly different things: a passer-by can sprout a character, a feeling can become a theme, etc. You have ideas, you know what I mean.

The daydream

There is a kind of natural selections in my ideas. I almost don’t consciously “choose” which one I’ll pursue, I just go with the one that obsesses me the most. After all, I write for fun. So, that natural selection occurs during my daydreams. Because I’m busy, I don’t just lie down to daydream like I used to when I was a teenager – I daydreaming while doing other things. rainbow-1445337690d8qMy personal favourite moment is while waiting for sleep, since I can just lie down and be happy in my own world for 15 minutes to 2 hours. It has the added benefit to keep me from worrying about… you know… real life.

The first words

When I have daydreamed a lot and I’m scared I might forget those dreams, I start writing. No plan, no plot, no nothing, just my ideas and my daydreams. And maybe notes taken in earlier steps. Normally, a “good” idea will get me to write over 10k words (sometimes even up to 20k words) virtually effortlessly. Those words would be written very quickly, like 10k over the weekend or 20k in two weeks.

The plot

Then, I stare at the mess reread the thing, and see where that could lead me or what I’d like to do with it. I write down key words for my different scenes on small pieces of paper and paste them on my wall. The mad artist look at that point is desirable. Then I try to come up with any missing element or plot point.

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My wall; there are 7 books there. And a drawing of Haruma Miura because… uh… whatever. Who needs a reason to put up drawings of beautiful people on their wall?

The research

During my initial 10-20k words, I will most likely have broached subjects I know little about, so while plotting, I’ll do some research and see what fun ideas emerge. Then I go back to plotting and alternate both until I have a pretty strong sequence of events.

The plan

Yes, because I don’t consider “plotting” as planning. For me, planning deals with questions like: How long’s it gonna be? What kind of narrator will I use? What artistic direction do I want to use? Stuff like that. I’ll also create an actual outline of the plot with target word counts in Scrivener.

patrick_jane_s_cup_of_tea_by_carlaoliveira-d7bv5fdThe first draft

Then I go ahead and write the first draft. I used to write by bursts until I found that writing between 500 and 1,000 words a day worked better for me. I work on my story every day unless there is a special occasion (Christmas, a wedding, etc.) or I’m sick. At first, it needs some getting used to, then it gets addictive, and finally it becomes a routine that you simply won’t question.

Typically, I’ll do some research all along the way (I try to limit this to 30 minutes a day, otherwise it tends to take up all my writing time). After a chunk of 10-20k words, I’ll also go back to what I have written, rearrange things as necessary (this usually takes 2-3 days, no more than a week), and then go back to drafting. That last step is crucial. I have been caught in a loop of editing the first 20k of a manuscript forever and ending up never finishing the thing. The saddest part is: I now plan on finishing that story at last, and I might just end up scrapping that whole beautifully written intro and starting from scratch.

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That’s it for this week. The editing process will require a post of its own when I’m done with my current novel, which probably means much later this year.

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.
– Shannon Hale

What’s the worst that could happen?

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Anxiety by Fukari

When you get sick, people will offer you plenty of free, well-meant and mostly unwanted pieces of advice. Some of them are good, though they often imply that you’re too dumb to use Google, they’re just… not enough. Like, if you have ever had serious insomnia coupled with anxiety, it is very likely that you’ve tried a Spartan regimen of steady sleep hours, phototherapy, heavy exercising, complete avoidance of all caffeine and chocolate and neurotic avoidance of refined sugar, and still… it wasn’t enough. It’s ok, I’ve learnt to roll with that.

My problem is when the advice is plain bad. Like when a nurse, of all people, told me that whenever I was anxious about anything, I should ask myself: “What’s the worst that could happen?”. Darling, I’m a writer. An excessive amount of traffic in the morning could end up with me getting stabbed in an alley.

That bad advice works on the premise that your mind is healthy enough to calculate the probabilities of that particular scenario to actually happen. But a) unless you’re a superhuman math genius, I don’t think anyone could realistically estimate that kind of probabilities, b) anxiety disorder is a sign that the mind is not healthy and c) an imaginative person will come up with at least a hundred scenarios or variants that all suck, which increases the probabilities of one of them or an unforeseen variant actually happening.

xmas-65-x-smallNot to mention that anxiety often comes with depression (which was severe at the time I got that advice), and asking yourself what’s the worst that could happen only makes you focus on the negative when really, the problem is exactly that everything you can think about is negative.

Another fundamental problem with that piece of advice is that when you’re anxious, it usually is not because there is any danger right now. It is precisely because you’re afraid of what will come next. So instead of focusing on the future, you should focus on the present.

For example, right now… it’s alright. We can still eat without rationing ourselves and very literally tighten our belts because that made us lose weight we didn’t have to lose. We’re not in debt, either (aside from the mortgage, but that’s not traditionally considered a debt despite its creepy name: mortgage *shudders*).xmas-64-x-small

What also helps me is keeping in mind that the situation is only temporary. I’m sick right now, but it doesn’t have to be always the case. Also, I’m doing everything in my power to get a job and I know I’ll get one eventually. I know that.

But then, anxiety isn’t restricted to the conscious mind. In fact, mine barely even bothers going there; it knows it’s not welcome. Instead, it lives and thrives in my unconscious, expressing itself through fatigue, irritability, muscle pain and poor concentration. Good luck controlling that.

an-act-of-true-love-will-thaw-a-frozen-heart-elsa-and-anna-36903902-245-150So what’s left for me to do? Accept and love. Accept that my mental health has its ups and downs, that right now I’m in a down and that it affects my life negatively; and love myself, fragile mental health and all. Because really, my illness makes me suffer enough in itself, no need to make it worse with self-loathing. Besides, loving myself is a pretty good motivation for me to take care of my health.

People think Frozen was awesome because of the feminism in it (not sure what they thought Mulan was about). I think it was awesome because it dealt with anxiety. Elsa spends most of the movie struggling with anxiety. And does that make her any less awesome? I don’t think so.

Unfortunately, love and acceptance do nothing for my physical pain, but that’s what meds are for.

Happiness can only exist in acceptance.
– George Orwell

 

Review: The School That Ate Children

the-school-that-ate-children-web-mediumI declared, in previous posts, my intent to read more self-publications and indie books. Well, this is it: my first indie book review.

Sara General is one of the hashtag leaders of the Twitter Monthly Challenge, and that is how I first saw her book The School That Ate Children. The pretty cover caught my attention and then the title intrigued me. It’s a short book, only 132 pages, and only 10 CAD so I – almost – didn’t think twice about it and ordered on Amazon (in fact, I didn’t even read the blurb).

First of all, I need to say it: it didn’t “feel self-published”. It felt professionally published in every aspect. There are plenty of traditionally published books of equal (or lesser) quality. So +1 to my confidence in indie books. However, it does feel like a debut novel (which it is, if I’m not mistaken), in that it could be more refined. Still, I think the author did a pretty good job.

It was an enjoyable read. It wasn’t quite what I expected from the title, most of the story doesn’t happen in the school, but it was fun nonetheless. I thought it resembled a bit The Wizard of Oz.

It took some time before I really got into the story, but when I did, it only got better and better as it unfolded. I often feel like middles are weak, but in this case, I think the middle is the strongest part of the story. Bravo, nice mastery of plot!

The characters were not as three-dimensional as I would have liked. It took me several chapters time to start rooting for Maple, and even at the end she did not quite “jump from the page”. Not that she behaved in any way that wasn’t “human”. I just… failed to feel her soul. Part of it might be due to the third person narrator; part of it might be due to the fact that the intended audience is probably middle-grade. I’m totally in love with Oakley though!

gold-acornI loved the world beyond the veil and the creatures in it, most likely inspired by the author’s aboriginal culture. I found it original and inspiring. It made me want to work on my MG high fantasy again. And making me yearn to write is a definite quality in a story. Oh, and now I so want an acorn necklace!

Last but not least: theme. The themes of grief and self-acceptance are what the story really is about. They are very strong – too strong in my opinion. Some parts of the book sounded like self-help rather than fiction, with the subtlety of medicine forced down your throat. I think it would have worked better if it had been toned down; mix that medicine in my food I don’t realise I’m ingesting it, but still feel its effects.

Who would I recommend this to? Fans of stories like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, or even The Chronicles of Narnia. Possibly amateurs of First Nations legends though honestly, I wouldn’t know; I’ve read only a few such stories. And really, anyone who feels intrigued by the premise; do give it a try, it’s worth it.

I’ll be looking forward to more books by Sara General as she refines her style.

Rating: 6.5/10

Resolution for 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!lettering42-1-14

January’s book review will be pushed to next week since special occasions outrank scheduled posts.

Today is the very first day of the new year and I want to take some time to think about a theme for the year to come. What I mean by theme is actually a very vague resolution like “become more self-confident” or “take better care of my health”. In 2016, my theme was to maintain my mental health. I have actually improved it a little.dream-on

For 2017, I want to continue what I’ve started in the second half of 2016 and which actually helped my mental health: following my dream, which is writing, if that wasn’t clear enough yet.

I have one decent first draft that I am currently editing/rewriting and one “very first draft” (or a 50,175 words outline if you prefer) that I have no intention of touching again this year. The year has 365 days. Knowing that, let’s make goals.

2017 theme: plot your own life (I’ve borrowed that idea from a friend)

Plotting my own life means to stop just going through every day passively as I would do in a former life and start working actively toward what I want. That means being mindful, every day, that what I do or do not do will determine my probabilities of getting where I want to go.

So this year, I want to plan my next moves because really, that’s the smart thing to do and most importantly, that’s my M.O. in everything else, so why I failed to make a bigger plan for myself (and stick to it) so far is beyond me.

Here are the goals I’ve set for myself in 2017 (in no particular order):

  1. Finish rewriting book 1.

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    Tower of Books by Platapiotr on DeviantArt
  2. Have book 1 beta read;
  3. Edit book 1 again;
  4. Participate to camp NaNo in April with my NaNo community;
  5. Finish another first draft;
  6. Read at least one book every two weeks on average, for a total of 26 books this year. As a writer, I should read at least this much. See my list on Goodreads (subject to changes);
  7. Continue to post weekly on this blog;
  8. Write or edit anything daily;
  9. Take a walk at least 5 days a week to avoid becoming too sedentary (with some luck, I’ll find a job within walking distance from my home – that is, less than 60 minutes and this point will be a no-brainer);
  10. Research editing, pitching, querying, publishing, (or any other relevant subject surrounding the publishing process);
  11. Research blogging;
  12. Work on my anxiety;
  13. Take at least one Creative Writing course.

Thirteen goals; it happened like that, but I’m glad it did, 13 is my lucky number.

As you can see, “publishing on Wattpad” is not there; that is because, since I wrote a book, I might as well use it to experiment with traditional publishing. I have no real hope of actually finding an agent or getting that particular book published (I’d rather it not be my official debut novel), but I believe that “practice makes perfect”, and that it’s also the case with pitching and querying. I’ll probably end up publishing that book on Wattpad eventually… just not in February 2017.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
― Eleanor Roosevelt.