Liebster Award 2018

This week is special since the charming A.J. Reeves nominated me for the Libster Award! You’ll get to know some odd facts about me as well as discover some blogs I enjoy, yay!liebster-award1a

1. What book had the most impact on you?
There would be three: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien triggered my first attempt to write a novel; Feeling Good by Dr David D. Burns helped me accept my own depression as an illness and not a fault of character, as well as helped me heal from it; and How To Make A Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn empowered me to reach for my dreams.

2. What movie would be greatly improved if it was made into a musical?
I’m not a fan of musicals so… none.

3. If given the choice, which literary man or woman would you like to have a relationship with? And what relationship? (friend/co-conspirator/love interest/enemy/etc.)
I’d want to co-write a book with James Patterson! Doesn’t everybody?

4. What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever worn?
I don’t get embarrassed that easily. But the weirdest thing I’ve worn was… Zebra stripes. Like… actual, indelible sharpie zebra stripes on my skin. It was for a team challenge with my swimming team in high school. We won. I had to go to school with stripes still showing for a few days, haha.

5. What part of a kid’s movie completely scarred you?
Nothing really “scarred” me, but I was freaked out by the entire world of Wonderland… especially the Cheshire cat.

6. If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?
Hm… Assault and battery? Legitimate defence? The dude would have totally deserved it though.

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One of my BJDs (Ball-Jointed Dolls)

7. What is your weirdest hobby?
I guess it depends on your definition of “weird”. Collecting BJD, maybe? Or playing with Lego bricks? Though I neglect those these days because I prioritize writing.

8. What secret conspiracy would you like to start?
I don’t have time to start conspiracies, I have books to write!

9. What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed?
Fire-breathing dragons? Just kidding. I suppose that would be angels. ♥

10. What’s the most imaginative insult you can come up with?
You have as much culture as a sanitized plastic ball.

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The rules of this award are as follows (cause all nice things have to have rules):

  • Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you, linking to their blog. Include the award graphic.
  • Answer the questions provided.
  • Make a new set of 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate 5-10 recently followed bloggers and share your post with them so they see it.

My questions for you are:

  1. If you had to name one song summing up your life over the last few years, what song would that be?
  2. If you had to describe yourself in a single word, what would it be?
  3. If you could magically acquire one talent or personality trait, what would it be?
  4. If you had no obligations (family, money, etc.), what would you spend your life doing?
  5. If you had to use a piece of fiction (book, movie, video game, etc.) to describe your goals, what would it be?
  6. If you could have anybody, real or fictional, help you reach your goals who would you choose and why?
  7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
  8. If you could live anywhere, real or fictional, where would it be?
  9. If you could change one piece of fiction’s ending, what would it be and how would you change it?
  10. If you could have a device to do any one thing in your place, what would it do?

My nominees for the Liebster Award are (in no particular order):

My Stories With Music
Floatinggold
Matthew Taggart
Brenda
Charlotte Annelise
Lauren
The Ink Owl
Unsaid Words
Keith MacArthur
Crowded Mind

Argh! So many great bloggers, it was hard to choose! Eliminating those who had much over 1k followers and those I’d already nominated last year for the Blogger Recognition Award helped a little but… uuuurgh! If you don’t feel like participating, it’s alright. Just sharing your blogs make me happy.

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Love yourself!

BearYou are kind,

full of respect

and compassion

for mankind.

Against aggression, you take action!

You won’t let your friends be treated unfairly!

So why do you bully

yourself?

I am intimately acquainted with self-hatred. When I was at my very worst,  I believed myself even too incompetent to live. One shrink got mildly angry at me and said I wasn’t even trying to help myself. I told her that I was beyond hope and that I was sorry I was wasting her time.

Of course, that was the depression talking.

Eventually, I got better and regained some self-love. I created that persona of mine, bought pretty clothes, took care of myself. I started doing more of what I loved the most. I tried hard to love myself despite my faults, but I would still have episodes of acute self-hatred.

Last week, this interview made me realize I was still doing something wrong: the thing is not to love myself despite my faults. It’s to love myself with them.

If a person was a painting, then their personality traits would be the different colours.  When looking at the picture, you don’t think “this colour is good, this one is bad”. You look at how the colours interact and see what they portray.

You’ve got only one picture. It’s not finished; it’s a neverending work-in-progress. You can keep adding to it. But it is much easier to do if you don’t try to change it completely and then beat yourself up when you don’t succeed.

Learn to love and respect your picture the way it is. Identify what still needs works, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. These things take time, so be patient. Take breaks. When you screw up, wipe and start again.

I find that the more I love myself, the more confidence I have, the more I feel in control of my life and the happier I feel. These are all interconnected.

Do something you love today. Take care of yourself. Don’t beat yourself up: that never helped anyone. Here’s a nice post by Jason Connell on how to love yourself.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the chocolates.

Fox

*By the way, I’m aware that my poem is amateur-ish, but I love it anyway.

Review: How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More

How to Make a Living with your Writing coverContext
I have first heard of Joanna Penn through Twitter, then found her podcast on a list of podcasts for writers. From there, it wasn’t long before her non-fiction books caught my attention. Two weeks ago, ready to take my writing career more seriously, I finally bought How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More.

Joanna Penn is an independent author claiming to make a multi-six-figure income, and considering she makes almost 20k a year just on Patreon, I have no doubt she’s telling the truth.

Review
The book is written in a tight, conversational language, which I always like in non-fiction books. In the introduction,  Joanna Penn briefly explains how she became a full-time author. I identified with her a little, despite our different personalities, and was motivated by her success story. A few years ago, getting a book published seemed next to impossible to me, let alone making any money with it; now, even making a living with it seems possible.

In part 1, she discusses traditional publishing, self-publishing and independent publishing. That changed my point of view on both traditional and independent publishing: I have stopped idealizing traditional publishing and now see indie publishing as an equally good option, depending on the book and my goals for it. There is also valuable information on what to look for when reviewing a traditional book deal.

How to Make a Living with your Writing companion coverIn part 2, she talks more about her other streams of income, for you see: only 50% of her income comes from actual books sales. The rest comes from affiliate commissions, course sales, professional speaking, consulting and podcast sponsorship. There is also some information on marketing.

The last part of the book gives pointers to plan your writing career and make your first few bucks with your writing. That was my favourite part because it made me feel able to create a solid career plan – I’m getting on it as soon as this post is published. There is a separate paper-only companion workbook. I’ll tell you all about it later: I should get my own copy in about two weeks.

I wish the book had been longer and more detailed. However, all through the book, there are links to additional information (mostly free), which I’m sure will be useful. There are also multiple book recommendations.

Another thing I loooved is how this book teaches by example: it provides great value for the reader while also promoting all of the writer’s other products! It sounds like a good marketing strategy to me!

Author20Blueprint_coverIf you’d like to know what you can expect before you purchase anything, I recommend downloading a free sample through your favourite ebook retailer or signing up to her mailing list to get her free book Author 2.0 Blueprint. I am currently reading it myself and I find it very interesting. The author also has a free thriller for sale through her fiction website.

Rating: 8/10

Who would I recommend this to? Every writer who wants to make it pro, especially if they’re considering the indie path. It’s short and fairly inexpensive and offers great value.

12 Short Stories Challenge

xmas-65-x-smallWinter isn’t a very good season for me. I used to love it, but in recent years it’s meant exhaustion and sickness (I blame my working from home for the weakness of my immune system). I sat down yesterday to write a post while wishing I was napping with the rest of the family. I ended up writing a discouraging post about hope. Or was is a hopeful post about discouragement? It’s good for my mental health whine once in a while, so long as it allows me to move on. I’ll never post it, but it did help me regain some fortitude.

I was ready to write something better.

xmas-64-x-smallHowever, I didn’t feel like taking on the rewriting of my novel. I’m too tired and too busy for such a long project. I wanted to write short stories, but not one per week; it wouldn’t have been realistic in my current situation. That’s when somebody from my writing community brought 12 Short Stories to my attention. The goal is to write one short story per month, based on the given prompt and word count. Then you post it on the deadline and read and comment on 4 other stories.

It sounds doable.

I like that it’s not completely open: you get to share stories with a restricted audience composed of other writers and receive feedback. You get to never publish it publicly if you don’t want to, or to revise your piece using the feedback received before you do.

So I’ll try that. The January story is due on the 24th though – in two days – so I’ll start next month. Who’s with me?

Review: The Mysteries of Udolpho

udolpho-coverContext
I happened to catch the end of the movie adaptation of Northanger Abbey a year or two ago, in which The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe was mentioned. I am a big fan of Jane Austen’s, so Northanger Abbey had already been on my to-read list for a while, but if it was going to poke fun at Radcliffe’s book, I wanted to be in on the joke. Of course, reading a 672 pages novel only to better enjoy a 254 pages novel might seem a bit excessive to some but, I guess it testifies to how much I love Jane Austen’s wit.

Review
This novel was one of the first book written by a woman for women–it had a huge success in its time and was accordingly disdained by men who thought it was too sentimental. I would have loved to contradict them, but sadly… it really is excessively sentimental.

People keep shedding tears at the sight of gorgeous landscapes, of which there were too many descriptions. I do love a good landscape description, I loved Tolkien’s, but here they were too numerous, too much alike and too little important to the story to hold my interest.

The characters were not very believable. They made me think more of Molière’s caricatured characters than actual human beings, without being as funny or satirical. There were excessive backstories for characters who weren’t even very important, which contributed to the excessive sentimentality. Also… the main character is arguably a Mary Sue.

The writing style of the writer was a bit wordy and contained with too many useless commas. I do love commas, but one every five words or so is too much. Seriously, I’d love to know the actual comma per sentence ratio, it must be extraordinarily above average. Behold the following extract:

With some difficulty, Annette led her to the bed, which Emily examined with an eager, frenzied eye, before she lay down, and then, pointing, turned with shuddering emotion, to Annette, who, now more terrified, went towards the door, that she might bring one of the female servants to pass the night with them; but Emily, observing her going, called her by name, and then in the naturally soft and plaintive tone of her voice, begged, that she, too, would not forsake her.

This sentence is 82 words long and contains 19 commas and one semicolon. It could have been elegant, but as it is, I find it exhausting.

udolpho-illustrationHowever, the book is not all bad: the plot is quite interesting. It is a hybrid between a mystery novel and a romance novel, all very gothic and angsty. The main character is depressed, scared, horrified or crying most of the time. But when not interrupted by landscape descriptions, it still kept me wanting to turn the page and see what happens next. There are also a few good themes and associated morals, including a strong warning against superstitions, which I thought was somewhat avant-garde for the late 18th century.

In conclusion, while I do think there are some excellent elements in this book, I can also understand why it’s only ever mentioned nowadays as context for Northanger Abbey. I’m glad I read it because it does make Northanger Abbey funnier than it would have been otherwise, but I’m also glad to be done with it.

Rating: 5/10

Who would I recommend this to? Crazy fans of Jane Austen’s like myself, writers (alongside Northanger Abbey) and maybe history lovers.

Overview of 2017 and resolutions for 2018

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Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you were able to relax a little during the holidays. I have, and now I’m ready to start the new year head on.

However, before I make any resolutions I’d like to reflect on the past year: where 2016 was a year of breakthrough and dreams, 2017 was one of “reality check”. The first quarter of the year was marked by anxiety and frustration due to my lack of income. I also a hard time trying to edit my first novel, which led to the dispersion of my efforts.

Early April, I started working again with a revenge, some 50 and 60 hours a week, which I sustained surprisingly long before I burnt out in September. However, that didn’t prevent me from getting a sense of direction and starting the rewriting process on my first novel. In fall, I also took a creative writing course, which I think helped me improve my skills considerably, and got the amazing opportunity to beta-read Marnie Shaw and the Mystery of Yapton Farm by Deborah Wallace.

In November, I participated to NaNoWriMo, though I also took care not to exhaust myself again. In December, I slept a lot, did a lot of house cleaning and spent a lot of time with my family in order to start the new year in the best conditions.

I checked 5 of my 13 resolutions (#4, 7, 11, 12 and 13) which isn’t so bad considering everything that happened. Also: more important than those goals was “finding a source of income”, which I did.
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For 2018, my theme will be: the warrior’s training. Being a writer, I see my own life as a story (or a series of stories). If I gave up writing early 2016 and then went back at it with a revenge by mid-year, but was slapped in the face in 2017 by reality… I must be at that point in the story where the hero, after having been defeated, needs to train much harder than ever before to vanquish his enemy. That could also be the moment where the hero gets a mentor using unconventional methods.

karate-kid

In other words, I intend to get out of my comfort zone this year. I’d love to try variants of the exercises I did during my creative writing course (poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction). I have no plan yet, but something like one short piece every 2 weeks a sounds acceptable, though most likely, I’ll only start in April. And if I can gather enough courage, I might even publish some of them online.

Reading-wise, this year I’ll allow myself to indulge: I’ll read whatever I want whenever I want. Last year, I tried to read more modern novels, but though most of them were good and some even excellent, I often found myself wishing I was reading something else. That might explain why even just reading 13 books took some effort. I’m starting the year with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. ♥

Besides my theme, I’ve also set a few goals for the year:

1 – Rewrite my first novel

2 – Continue blogging weekly (or almost weekly) and being active in the blogging community

3 – Read at least 13 books

4 – Take another creative writing course

5 – Experiment with poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction… maybe even comics!

6 – Take care of my physical and mental health

7 – Furnish my house (at least one room)

Quite a bit fewer resolutions than in 2018, but I’m aiming for 100% success this year (or at least 85%)! I’ll print this list them and paste it on my wall to keep it in sight all year.

Do you make New Year’s resolution? Do they help you reach your goals?

Creative non-fiction: Happy Endings

Foreword: As part of my creative writing course, I had to write creative non-fiction with narrative elements: characters, setting, plot, etc. It was extremely challenging, even scary. I made a list of events I thought could be of some interest and started several drafts. In the end, I chose a fairly cheesy event, but I think it was worth writing. It could be extended, made more tangible, but I’m fairly satisfied with the current version. This happened 5 years ago, around this time of the year. It’s also an ode to happy endings in literature. They’re the best.

~*~

Happy Endings

            I graduated in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. All through my bachelor’s degree, teachers kept repeating that there was a huge need for translators and we’d never lack work. It turns out language professionals aren’t always up-to-date on the matters of economics.

I spent two years doing odd jobs before I finally got one in my field… in Ottawa – 5 hours from everyone and everything I know.  I went. I’d stay a year, get some experience, then find a new job back in Québec City.

By the end of my ninth month of exile, I was restless. I had gone to several job interviews in my hometown, but none of them had paid off. I was almost 25 and nowhere near “having my life together” as I thought I should. An existential crisis ensued.

I used several tricks to feel better. I started writing a middle-grade novel for NaNoWriMo to get my mind off things. My fiancé tried to help me, to find a way to bring me back home that wouldn’t put us in a financially unsustainable situation… But without him by my side to make me laugh every day, my mood only got worse.

Then, on my birthday, my roommate, who was also my landlady, told me I had to leave within two months because she was going to sell the house to move with her new boyfriend.

I broke.

I hate moving, and I hated the idea of having to move somewhere else in Ottawa. In my mind, the next time I’d move would be to go back to Québec City.

A few days later, I sent my fiancé an email that was more or less a break-up letter. I woke up the next morning more depressed than ever, dragged my feet downstairs and… saw my white Elantra through the window. The car I’d bought with him. The car he’d kept when I moved to the national capital. What was it doing there at 6 freaking a.m.?

No doubt he saw the light turn on, because he got out of the car and came to the door. I didn’t understand. How was he there? He lived 5 hours away from me, how was he there a Thursday morning at 6 a.m.? I opened the door for him.

“What’re doing here?” I asked. I am a fairly intelligent person, but, confronted with an improbable event two minutes after waking up, my mind was trapped in a loop of confusion.

“I’m taking you home,” he said.

“We went over this.”

“We’ll be alright, kay? It’s not healthy for you to stay here anymore.”

It was the climax of my own fairy tale. Prince charming had come to get me. This prince wasn’t rich, and a sedan is less romantic than a horse, and I was still in my pyjamas, but that moment seemed perfect nonetheless.

I quit my job the following Monday, became pregnant two weeks later. We had our struggles, but we made it. Besides, my Ottawa employer called me a year later to hire me as a long-distance employee.

There might be no real “happy ever after” in life, but there can be happy endings on paper. Of course, I skipped over the part between then and now where I wanted my life to end. But “happy” and “ending” are all a matter of perspective.

~*~

I hope you’ve enjoyed this and happy holidays!