Saturday, 29 March 2014

Quick Update, End of ROW80, and Magical Cookies

Quick update, especially since I missed posting on Wednesday.

Lots of Real Life going on, which I hope will all be revealed during the AtoZ Challenge!

This has meant that I missed doing anything constructive for the last week of ROW80. Hope all you other participants got lots of words in!

I did take time to continue rereading the seventh book in the History of Middle Earth for...

Tolkien Reading Day!

I also learned a new phrase.

Whether you're a pantster or a plotter, there are always scenes in the novel that get you really excited to write them. The ones that fill your head and make you want to start scribbling/typing Right This Second.

You know those? I never had a good term for them before, but now Kait Nolan's given us a great one:

Magical Cookies!

She links to a post by Susan Dennard, who "argues that every scene should be a magical cookie, and there's a lot of sense in this. If you're super excited to write every scene, they'll go smother, be richer, and your enthusiasm will come through to your reader. This is, in fact, one of the three legs of Rachel Aaron's work triangle as laid out in From 2k to 10k. And yo, IT WORKS." Head over to Kait's for the links!

Got a new Whisky Trench Riders song to share with you all!

Do you write stories around magical cookie scenes?

What's your favourite song at the moment?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Self-Lovin' Bloghop, ROW80, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Gimme some lovin'!

Self-lovin', that is!

Tara's hosting the Self-Lovin' Bloghop, which asks participants to give themselves a pat on the back for something they're good at:
"I wanted to know what you're good at. I started it from a writing standpoint, but it doesn't have to be inclusive to only writers. I have some (amazingly talented) photographers who follow, some (fabulous) artists, assorted various others, and some great friends.

It's too easy to be hard on yourself, and sadly difficult to pat your own back. That's what today is about. Or the whole week. ... It can be as long or short as you like. And if you haven't signed up but are interested, please do. I'd love to come to your place and read about your greatest talent."

This might not come as a surprise to some of you, but my strength lies in copy-editing. I can spot a missing apostrophe or a misplaced comma from a mile away. I've been known to deface train signs, even. How could I not? The sign read "emergency break" instead of brake - what if there was an emergency and people broke the brake instead of pulling it? [giggle]

Another time, when I was working for a magazine, some furniture company sent in an ad about their latest line, which was named after Hemingway - only they spelled the author's name wrong! I called them right away to tell them and the person on the phone wasn't interested at all, asking me if I was sure, and so on, because of course it would take more money and work to fix it. I insisted, and finally they pulled it and sent in a revised version.

Sadly, a typo or glitch can also pull me right out of a story I'm enjoying.

Speaking of copy editing, and editing in general, which I'm lucky enough to do at my day job as well, I have some news about my A to Z Challenge theme. I'm going to be posting about...

Nope. I'll wait. I can't reveal it all yet, until some Real Life tasks have been finalised. Sorry for the tease!

Those Real Life things have also made me slow on ROW80. Two check ins left to go in this round, and I haven't accomplished much in the way of writing. Unless dreams count. In the past few weeks I've had three wonderful story ideas from dreams, one in Westlake style, one a dystopian, and one romance. Can't wait to explore them!

2014 is the 50th Anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

In honour of this occasion, I have made you all a splendiferous postcard, using the tools on the official Roald Dahl website:

Hope you'll spread the self-lovin'!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Camels, What Are You Reading?, and ROW80

You know how sometimes you think it's one day but it's really another? The best, of course, if you work regular hours, is thinking it's Thursday and then finding out it's Friday.

Yesterday I knew it was Wednesday, but I was so busy thinking of all the catching up I have to do on blog comments that I forgot to put up a new post!

So let's pretend it's Wednesday on the blog for a few minutes...

In honour of that, I'm taking a tip from author Linda Grimes, who also forgot to post yesterday, but got hers up before midnight. If you haven't visited her blog before (and why not?!), you should know that she shares a camel with us every hump day, and sometimes more often.

Yesterday she also shared a photo of crocuses, but we won't get into that here, mostly because Montreal is in the midst of another snowstorm and I've basically forgotten what the word spring even means.

I found a public domain image of a camel in Turkey! (I do have a photo somewhere of myself sitting on a camel in Turkey, but it's on a different computer.)

Look at his jaunty cap!

Also this week, Nathan Bransford asks, what are you reading?

I'm in the middle of two books:

Notwithstanding, by Louis de Bernières

I'm enjoying the stories and I agree with de Bernières that a lot of the charm has vanished from English villages, but the book overall doesn't have the striking impact of Birds Without Wings. In a way, James Herriott's books are even more emotionally satisfying, but maybe that's not a fair comparison, since he was writing from within a certain time, as it were, while de Bernières is evoking characters and tales based on childhood memories.

I thought I'd blogged about Birds Without Wings before, but I don't think I have. Searching for it led me to this post I'd written for the Turkish Muse blog, on My Favourite Thing About Turkey.

The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona

I was originally interested in reading this book because it's set close to the time period of my own story, Out of the Water. Now I'm invested in the story for its own sake, following the adventures of this young girl in 15th Century Spain and Portugal, "who makes the decision to live openly in the faith and experiences both the brutalities and joys of Jewish life over the course of her long life."

Ah, my own stories, you ask? I know there are only a couple of weeks left in this round of ROW80, but I haven't gotten much done on my goals this week. Been keeping up with the monthly writers' exercise on the Forum, though! And hope to comment on all of your blogs before the weekend is out!

What are you reading this week?

Have you ever ridden a camel?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Faery Swap, and Excerpts!

Fairies! Susan Kaye Quinn is here today, talking about Faery Swap:
Win paperbacks, magick wands, and a $25 Gift Card! (see below)

Warrior Faeries and Math Magick
by Susan Kaye Quinn
My new middle grade fantasy, Faery Swap, is about a fourteen-year-old boy who is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut.

2 minute book trailer

In my prior life, I worked for NASA and got a lot of degrees in engineering. (Yes, I really am a rocket scientist and have the Ph.D. to prove it!) I used the logical-left-side of my brain to design aircraft engines and study global warming. Now that I write fiction, I love using the creative-right-side of my brain to create compelling characters and dramatic adventures as well as the logical-left-side to weave math, science, and technology into my stories. Math and science have always seemed wondrous to me, so it made sense to me that the warrior faeries in Faery Swap would steal mathematical knowledge from humans in order to enhance their magickal faery powers. 

In my story, knowledge is literally power.

I'm passionate about this message - that knowledge is power and math is magick - and the ethical use of that knowledge is a key theme throughout the story. I wanted to share this message, so I created a Virtual Author Visit, Common-Core-based Teacher's Guide, and a card-based game, so any teacher, anywhere on the planet, could share this message with their students.

9 minute Virtual Author Visit

In this video, I share my background in science and engineering and talk about the book, then show how humans use math in the real world to do amazing things... even without magick to help them. The Teacher's Guide, activities, card game, and videos are meant flexible - teachers and librarians can spend as little as 2 minutes sharing the trailer or they can use the materials to create a whole unit around the book and the Knowledge is Power When Math is Magick theme. My hope is that some of my love for math and science will rub off on young readers, and that kids will see they each have an inner warrior faery capable of seeking knowledge and performing great deeds with it!

(Click here to find out more about the Virtual Author Visit).

March 3rd - March 21st

A little about Faery Swap...  KindleNookPrint

Warrior faery princes can be very stubborn. Especially when they possess your body. Fourteen-year-old Finn just wants to keep his little sister out of Child Protective Services--an epic challenge with their parentally-missing-in-action dad moving them to England, near the famous Stonehenge rocks. Warrior faery Prince Zaneyr just wants to escape his father's reckless plan to repair the Rift--a catastrophe that ripped the faery realm from Earth 4,000 years ago and set it adrift in an alternate, timeless dimension. When Zaneyr tricks Finn into swapping places, Finn becomes a bodiless soul stuck in the Otherworld, and Zaneyr uses Finn's body to fight off his father's seekers on Earth. Between them, they have two souls and only one body... and both worlds to save before the dimensional window between them slams shut.
NOTE TO TEACHERS: Check out the Virtual Author visit video and Common-Core-Aligned Teacher's Guide for Faery Swap here.
[Author's Note: Faery Swap is told in alternating points of view, between Finn, the human boy, and Zaneyr, the faery prince who tricks him into swapping places.]

Finn's Excerpt:
He looked up at the blanket of haze hiding the sun. The sky had been blue when he had dropped off Erin. How long had he been out? He wrestled his arm around to look at his watch
The second hand was dead still, frozen between the five and the six. Whatever McFreaky did to knock him out broke his watch, too. The watch his mom gave him. She had strapped it on his wrist that day he was late for the bus and told him that being on time was important. Part of growing up. She drove him to school. The wreck happened on the way home.
It was the last thing she ever gave him. And McFreaky broke it. Finn clenched his fist and slammed it into the grass.
Then the grass punched him back.
The hit to his shoulder was so hard, it flipped him onto his back. A tinkling of glass sounded all around him.
“What the…?” Finn scrambled to sit up. The grass couldn’t have punched him. That didn’t make any sense. Something under the grass then. He jumped up to his feet and stared at the ground, frozen, waiting for it to move again.
Nothing happened.
Finn stomped his foot on the grass where he’d been lying a moment before, just to be sure. The grass kicked back, knocking him off his feet and landing him with a thump on his backside. The tinkling glass sound rushed up, like a thousand tiny voices laughing.
“Ahhh!” Finn jerked up off the ground. A narrow dirt path was just a dozen feet away, so he ran toward it. Tiny insects rose up wherever he stepped, making the tinkling sound, then falling back down. He teetered on the safety of the path, which seemed clear of the insects. The path was just wide enough for a sheep to pass. A very small sheep.
What was this crazy place?

Zaneyr's Excerpt:
Zaneyr peered at the young sister of Finn. He vowed to respect that kin bond, as a brother would. It was the least he could do, having banished her brother to the eternal changelessness of the Otherworld. And perhaps the House of Finn would serve as good a hiding place as any.
She awaited his answer with an impatience too large for such a small thing.
“No, lass, you cannot stay home with me.” He gestured to the loud guardian of the stone structure. “You need to stay here. But I will be back at the appointed time for you.”
Erin’s shoulders sagged with defeat.
“But I think I will return home now.” Zaneyr looked around at the many dwellings that crowded the path. “Which one would that be?”
Erin fixed that glare upon him again. “I memorized our address, already! When are you going to stop quizzing me?”
“It is the sickness,” Zaneyr said with a smile. “It is stealing my memory like a thief.”
“Dude, you are sick.” She suddenly shot her hand toward his face. Reflexively, Zaneyr leaned away, but she managed to land a tiny, warm hand on his cheek. He froze. What sort of magick was she working by touch? Then he remembered she was only a child, and a human one at that. It had been so long since he had felt the warmth of any touch.
The tension flew away.
“You’re not running a fever.” Her face was a picture of seriousness. “But I should go home with you.”
“Erin!” the woman called again, closer now. “You all right, love? I’m closing the gates.”
“You are summoned. You must go.” Zaneyr glanced again at the dwellings, stacked like cubes on top of one another. He pointed to one. “Is that our home? I don’t believe you truly recall.”
Erin’s shoulders drooped again. “It’s 842 on Earls Court.” She speared his chest with a small finger. 
Don’t forget to come back and get me.”
“I could hardly refuse an order so imperiously given.”

Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card
Signed Paperback of Faery Swap
Two Faery Wands

Susan Kaye Quinnis the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy, which is young adult science fiction. Faery Swap is her foray into middle grade, which is her first writing love. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" and she always has more speculative fiction fun in the works. You can subscribe to her newsletter (hint: new subscribers get a free short story!) or stop by her blog to see what she's up to.
Faery Swap
Kindle | Nook | Print
Fourteen-year-old Finn is tricked into swapping places with a warrior faery prince and has to find his way back home before the dimensional window between their worlds slams shut. 

Thanks for visiting, Susan! I loved Faery Swap, and hope we get more stories about the Faery realm soon!

Meanwhile, there are only three weeks left in A Round of Words in 80 Days - and last week I veered away from my vignette submission and went back to my 2012 NaNo story, Captive of the Sea, which I typed up last autumn.

I'd typed it up on PlainText on the iPad - love being able to lounge on the sofa while getting things done - so I had to move it from PlainText into Scrivener, where I had fun sorting the scenes into chapters. 60 scenes, 20 chapters, and 61500 words. Lots of room to add words, which is good, because as usual I'm missing an ending and many scenes need fleshing out. I might read this one on the plane if we plan a spring trip.
I've also participated in another monthly exercise over on the Forum - this one's all about flashbacks. And I've got an addendum goal: stop falling behind in blog comments! I promise I'm visiting all of you, I just don't necessarily comment every time...

While we're sharing excerpts, I thought I'd share my prologue to Captive of the Sea:

I was born on King Arthur's grave.
My earliest memory is of Father telling me stories of the court of the king, who reigned over 500 years ago. Each tale started with daring knight who, peradventure, fell afoul of a lovely maiden, and fought his way through perils back into grace and favour. The stories were scarfed by the mists of time, and my father ended them all with the words, "you are a daughter of Snowdonia, of the mountain whence Arthur will rise again."
Then the battles of the kings of our time began anew, and my father packed up our household and brought us to the teeming, reeking city of London. He disappeared every day into the milling crowds, seeking his fortune, and I hardly ever saw him except for an hour or so at sunset.
The fogs and smoke choked me, and I stayed as much as I could indoors. I'd look out my window early in the morning, seeking green sloping hills and purple-headed mountain ranges. Yet I could not look long; the fog and surrounding walls shut off all farsight, and my mother's strident tones soon summoned me to my duties.
My father returned home later and later of nights, and he did not tell me stories anymore.

If you've got an excerpt or two, please share!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at