Posts Tagged With: literature

Fight! Critique group vs. critique group

This past Friday, my Nova Scotia cousin kindly invited me to her long-standing critique group, since she knew I was new to the province and desperately need to get myself up-to-speed with the local writing scene. As we gathered around the living room with glasses of wine and freshly baked bread, it occurred to me that the experience was vastly different from my critique group in London. I can see pros and cons to both sides, which has led me to …

Fight! Critique group vs. critique group MORTAL KOMBAT TO THE DEATH!

Round 1 Challenger: London, Ontario Critique Group

Pros

  • Monday meet-ups from 7-10 — This allowed me the whole weekend to finish up our pieces, as well as gave me something to look forward to on a dreary Monday
  • 2-3 pieces read aloud, then critiqued — This A) meant I didn’t have to spend time reading the pieces before the group, and B) gave us lots of time to explore the piece in depth, providing a more thorough critique

Cons

  • If any one piece was dull, it meant a full hour of dullness
  • If the reader read their piece aloud too quickly, it was hard to follow and I got confused
  • I couldn’t help but make minor grammatical and spelling corrections along the way, making it harder to focus on the big picture elements

Round 2 Challenger: Halifax, Nova Scotia Critique Group

Pros

  • Friday meet-ups from 8-11 — This means I don’t have to worry about having energy the next day, as it’s a Friday! On the other hand, I get tired easily, so 11 is pushing it a little late
  • Send pieces by email beforehand, then discuss at group — This means A) upwards of 5 people can get their work critiqued over the course of the evening, and B) we don’t have to print off 40+ pages if we want a piece critiqued

Cons

  • Without the piece in front of me, I sometimes forgot why I had written down a specific piece of criticism — meaning my critique was less in-depth as a result
  • Some of the submitted pieces were novels, meaning we just read what we can each week — This means, however, that different people are at different points in the story, meaning I can’t follow half the critiques because I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about
  • Sometimes I really need that extra few hours before the meet-up to put the finishing touches on my piece — but then I would submit it so late, no one would have a chance to read!

Time! Winner … undecided?

 

Thoughts on my pros/cons list, and which style of group is better? What’s the best critique group you’ve been in, and how did it run? Inquiring minds want to know!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments

Book Review: Cannibal Hearts (by Misha Burnett)

Important note: The book being reviewed below is the sequel to Catskinner’s Book

 

The Bookcannibal hearts

Cannibal Hearts

The Genre

Sci-fi / Mystery

The Author

Misha Burnett has been writing poetry and fiction for around forty years. During this time he has supported himself and his family with a variety of jobs, including locksmith, cab driver, and building maintenance.

The Plot

A year ago James Ozryck was a loner, forced to keep the world at bay by the alien entity he calls Catskinner who shares his body. Now he has found a community of others whose lives have been changed by the Outsiders.

Along with Godiva, his half-human lover, James runs a property management company that serves as a front company for Outsider activities.

When the pair’s mysterious boss, Agony Delapour suddenly shows up in town with a new project, however, things gets dangerous fast as events unfold that threaten the life that they have made.

The Review

Despite its admittedly dark and gritty nature, I had a lot of fun reading this book. It’s a great sequel to Burnett’s first novel, Catskinner’s Book, and I especially liked that all the characters I enjoyed in the first book made their way into the second book. One of my personal favorites is the red vixen, Miss Agony Delapour, who played a minor and terrifying role in the first book, but happily gets much more screen time in the sequel.

One theme I really like that runs through the series is that we’re never quite sure what’s going on with everything. We’ve got our protagonist and his associates, who are actually more bad than good, some of whom try to actively do good things and fail, while others are clearly bad but just happen to be working with good people for their own nefarious purposes. And we’ve got our antagonist, who’s the dictionary definition of “mysterious” – we don’t know who he is or what he’s planning, beside the fact that he’s apparently trying to kill off the protagonist. And the fate of the antagonist is just brilliant. You’ll have to read to find out what it is!

All in all, a thrilling read! I recommend you check this out if you’re a fan of sci-fi, thrillers, or mysteries.

The Rating

Five out of five blood-encrusted stars.

 

Check out Cannibal Hearts here!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

This is a really cool game my brother showed me the other day. It’s really off the wall and bizarre, so check it out if you have a few spare moments and want a nice escape from reality!

http://www.trevorvanmeter.com/flyguy/

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Cool marketing concept: Book blind dates

Human creativity never ceases to amaze me — as opposed to dolphin creativity, which is frankly old hat and I don’t know why they even bother anymore.

Hehehe. All kidding aside, my friend Audra (or am I supposed to keep your identity secret? TOO LATE!!!) linked me to a very cool article about a new book marketing concept they’re trying in Australia (and possibly elsewhere). The idea is that … well, I’ll borrow the image from the article to give you an idea:

Basically, they wrap up books in brown paper, write vague details of what the book is about, and add a price tag. It’s a book blind date! Instead of being swayed by author name or book cover or whatever, you judge the book entirely based on the five keywords.

Now, obviously this could allow for you to pick up a lot of duds, especially if you’re a picky reader. But I think it sounds kind of fantastic. I can only imagine how many really amazing books I’ve missed out on because I didn’t like the covers (and I’m very much a judge-the-book-by-it’s-cover kind of person).

I’m not sure this concept can really be applied to self-published ebook authors, but … still a neat concept, don’t you think? And if anyone does come up with a way to exploit this idea in the ebook scene, feel free to let me in on the secret!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Chapters Book Signing Tomorrow!

With our three-week guest post experiment now over (I think it went pretty well, don’t you?), it’s time to get back on topic — namely, ME!

Ha! Kidding. Except not actually. I think I vaguely mentioned this a month or so ago, but I have in fact scored a book signing at my local Chapters (big Canadian bookstore). In case you’re wondering how such a thing is possible, I shall give you a brief history of how it happened:

A brief history of how it happened …

So the iUniverse package I bought puts 8 copies of my book in a local Chapters store for 8 weeks (I think the 8 weeks will be ending at the start of June). I went into the store on April 1st (first day the books were supposed to be on the shelves), only to discover they weren’t on the shelves. After a half-hour-long search involving several wonderful Chapters employees, we located my book on the shelving manager’s desk — apparently she didn’t know what genre to file the book under, as the back of the book says Young Adult (as it’s supposed to), but it’s listed in their system as Children’s Lit (thank you, iUniverse!). Anyway, it all got figured out, and the book was placed in the teen section. But during this search, I came into contact with one of the floor managers, who was just amazing — when he found out I’d written the book, he asked, without even being prompted, “Well, have you set up a book signing here yet?” And of course I was like, “… um, no. Is that even possible?” And he was all, “Sure! Let me give you the store manager’s email!”

And the rest is history.

So the moral of the story, I guess is either:

  • Ask and you shall receive, or
  • My local Chapters is unbelievably awesome

Anyway …

So the book signing is happening tomorrow, from 12-4 in the afternoon. My best friend and accomplished photographer Rhiannon Barlow will be on-site to manhandle people over to my table, and also to take pictures and video record the event so that all you lovely people can experience the (hopefully) joys of my book signing. Here’s a picture of the aforementioned BFF/photographer:

rhia_2So sassy! That’s my new favourite word. I apply it to many things — awesome people, tangy foods, snazzy convertibles, etc. Anyway, she’ll be prepping all sorts of excellent media for me to conglomerate together and share with you next week. Woo!

Back to the signing …

Chapters ordered in an extra 30 copies for the signing, so fingers crossed I manage to convince people to buy at least half of those. One of the big problems is that iUniverse fails at pricing books cheaply, so the book retails in Chapters at $24. For a softcover. Stupid, right? I asked them to lower their prices to a level that actual humans might pay, but no dice. I’m hoping people will be able to overlook that price in favour of supporting a local author, but … only time will tell, I guess.

I expected to be really nervous about the signing, but for some reason I’m cool as a cucumber. Could be because it hasn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps tomorrow morning I will have a mental breakdown. I should schedule that in, just in case. Does 10:13 AM work for everyone?

Anyway, you’ll be hearing all about how the signing went next week, so there’s no point in me blathering on about it now.  Have a fantabulous weekend, stay cool, and wish me luck!

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Unrelated media of the day:

Today’s unrelated media features a blast from the past.

Categories: iUniverse, Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

IPPY Awards results announced! I …

… did not win. Sad face.

Despite my hopes for an imminent victory, I did see this coming. Literary contests are generally intended for literary fiction, and Imminent Danger is a bit too fun and light-hearted to be considered “serious literature”. And by a “bit”, I mean it is mind-bogglingly at the opposite end of the literary fiction spectrum. I might have had a better chance if I’d entered it into the Sci-fi or Humour category or something, but … ah well.

The winning books in the Young Adult category were extremely literary (see how I’m desperately trying to rationalize my loss?). Gold winner: Girl whose family dies and has to struggle to survive without them. Silver/Bronze: Gay teens struggling with their sexuality. A lot of struggling going on there. I like to think the judges secretly wanted to pick my book, but were worried it would reflect badly on their literary taste and they wouldn’t be asked back next year. Keep dreaming, right?

So … no shiny gold medal for Imminent Danger. Alas! If anyone feels like sharing their literary failures in the comments below to make me feel better, please do!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Book Review: The Friendship of Mortals by Audrey Driscoll

Next up in the awesome self-published authors series, I present to you my review of Audrey Driscoll’s The Friendship of Mortals. By the way, this book is currently FREE on Smashwords, so if it sounds intriguing, give ‘er the old download!

The Bookfriendshipofmortals

The Friendship of Mortals

The Genre

Literary Fiction / Sci-fi / Fantasy

The Author

Audrey Driscoll – a librarian and cataloguer, gardener and writer. She discovered the writings of H.P. Lovecraft many years ago, and after reading his story “Herbert West, Reanimator”, she began to wonder about Herbert – what motivated him to reanimate corpses? And thus the Herbert West trilogy began!

The Plot

Herbert West can revivify the dead – after a fashion. He persuades Miskatonic University librarian and aspiring alchemist Charles Milburn to help him, but risks their friendship for the sake of his experiments. When West prepares to cross the ultimate border, only Charles can save his life – if his conscience lets him.

The Review

The cover of this book does not do the story justice. This was one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking stories I have ever read. It’s told from the perspective of mild-mannered archivist Charles Millburn, but the real story revolves around the incredibly fascinating, mysterious Herbert West and his necromantic attempts. I absolutely loved this setup – Herbert West’s story became so much more intriguing when viewed through the eyes of another. This is definitely what the author intended when she wrote this gorgeous piece of literature, and I feel she pulled it off beautifully.

Herbert West alarmed, enchanted, and terrified me all at once. He is ruthless in his ambitions, confident that he will not be discovered, and willing to do whatever it takes to get his way. He should have been the villain of the piece but, perhaps because the story is told through his loyal follower Charles Millburn, I was instead sympathetic for him, and wanted him to succeed despite the fact that what he was doing was morally questionable at best.

The only complaint I can really make is that I felt the story dragged in places. The first half of the story was absolutely gripping, but once the characters separate and go their own ways for a bit, I wasn’t quite as enthralled – although once they get back together, the story picks up pace again.

Overall, a gripping and fascinating insight into a brilliant and disturbed mind (Herbert West, not the author!). I would definitely recommend this to any fan of H.P. Lovecraft, fans of sci-fi/fantasy, and anyone who just enjoys excellently written literature.

The Rating

5 out of 5 stars

Click here to visit Audrey Driscoll’s blog.

Click here to check out the book (currently free to download!)

Unrelated video of the day:

Thor 2: The Dark World trailer came out today! Words cannot convey my excitement for this movie.

Categories: Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

My messy writing space (and why it is slowly sucking out my soul)

I am a messy person. This has been evident since … well, since as long as I can remember. I have gotten into multiple arguments (read: screaming matches) over the years over my inability to do the dishes, vacuum the carpet, refill the water jug, etc. I have accepted this about myself, although my living companions still live in hope that I will one day reform and become a cleaning goddess. This will never happen, but I try to encourage them by occasionally cleaning the bathroom so they don’t give up on me entirely. I haven’t been thrown out of a house/apartment yet, so I’d say my plan has been largely successful thus far.

Anyway, today’s topic is on writing spaces. I was inspired to write this post because I’ve been feeling very aimless recently when I sit down to work at my desk. And then the reason behind my aimlessness occurred to me — it’s because my desk is a disaster. If this were Jurassic Park, my desk would be the bloody remains of that goat the T-Rex chomped up. Disturbing mental images aside, check out the horror that is my sacred writing space:

20130201_141929Because that isn’t the greatest image in the world, not to mention the cherry blossoms somewhat detract from the point I’m trying to make, I will now provide a listing of everything currently scattered across my desk. Ready?

  • 4 printouts of my book cover, in various states of wrinkley-ness
  • a pricing sheet that lists the various author discounts at which I can purchase my book
  • 4 notebooks
  • a diagram of a high pressure boiler feedwater pump
  • 3 to-do lists
  • assorted papers
  • “Be Still” bookmark
  • 3 pens
  • 1 mechanical pencil
  • 2 silver sharpies
  • old book manuscript (spiral bound)
  • fancy leather binder my dad gave me for Christmas
  • Flipcam
  • glass of water
  • note with directions to London Writer’s Society meeting
  • “Im in ur cassel, advizin ur king” mousepad
  • mouse, keyboard, monitor

In case this hasn’t become apparent, the moral of the story here is that clutter stifles your creativity. This mass of junk is a reminder of all the things I have to do, or that I haven’t yet accomplished, and it’s exhausting. So if there’s one thing you should take away from this post, it’s that some mess = fine, but stupid amounts of clutter = bad.

So if you’re swimming in a sea of random papers, old journals, and a truly unnecessary number of writing utensils, just do as I do — write a post about how horrible clutter is, and then do absolutely nothing to fix it.

Success!

In other news …

I’ve been intending to do a blog tour to celebrate the release of Imminent Danger, but I keep putting it off. I had intended to continue putting it off, until the lovely and talented J.R. Wolfe informed me that she had A) read and enjoyed my book, and B) was going to post an author interview with me on her blog on Saturday, whether I liked it or not. Just kidding! Mostly …

Anyway, a few hours later the equally lovely and talented Celeste DeWolfe also requested an author interview, and before I knew it, I had somehow become involved in a mini blog tour. I will definitely be holding a longer blog tour (probably in March), so don’t despair — you, too, will have a chance to be a part of my blog tour, aka the greatest blogging event known to mankind.

I’ll post links on Saturday and Sunday to the respective lovely ladies’ blogs, where you’ll find insightful (ha!) interviews in which I reveal assorted facts about my life and writing. So stay tuned for Michelle’s Mini Magical Weekend Blog Tour! (I think MMMWBT rolls off the tongue, don’t you?)

Feel free to stop by and ask questions if you feel so inclined. Here are some example questions you might consider asking:

  • Has your giant teddy bear come to life and eaten anyone yet?
  • Why is your hair tied up in all your pictures? Do you have some sort of weird phobia about having hair on your neck?
  • Why haven’t you reviewed my book yet? ARGHHHHHH!
  • Why do you feel that bacon is the greatest and most magical foodstuff in all of creation?
  • What are your thoughts on unicycles?

Unrelated image of the day:

Categories: Random, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 60 Comments

Random Website Idea

I randomly came up with this idea whilst contemplating how hit-and-miss self-published books can be in terms of quality. The story can be fantastic, but if the editing is terrible, I won’t be able to get past the first couple of pages.

Which leads me to wonder … is there such a thing as a website that lists eBooks not in terms of reviews, but in terms of whether or not it’s actually been edited?

Here’s my idea (assuming it doesn’t exist already):

  • This website has nothing to do with reviews — it strictly deals with whether or not a book is edited to traditional publishing standards (“E” for edited, “NE” for needs editing)
  • You can type a book name into the search bar, and the result is an image of the book cover with either a big, green “E” stamped across it, or a big red “NE” stamped across it
  • It could be called something like SPEVNE (self-publishing edited vs. needs editing)
  • That’s a terrible name
  • We can come up with a better one later

The point of the site is that it would be the last stop for a reader before they decided to buy the book. We assume they’ve already read reviews for the book … but there are people out there who will overlook glaringly painful sentence structure issues and grammatical errors when writing a review. Hence the point of SPEVNE (goodness, but that is a bad name) — discerning readers can just type in the book name and get that final quality assurance check. SPEVNE doesn’t tell you if the book is good or bad — SPEVNE just tell you if it’s readable.

Examples of the big letter stamps:

speneImminent Danger, obviously, would get a nice big E. Also, notice how I worked in my book cover into this post in a subtle yet powerful bit of subliminal marketing? Granted, I probably just negated the subliminality (totally a word) by pointing that out, so … obliviate!

And thus, my idea presentation ends. SPEVNE (anyone got a better name?) should be a thing. MAKE IT SO, INTERNET!

Unrelated image of the day:

Unrelated video of the day:

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

A Reflection on the Pointless Murder of Beloved Fictional Characters

This post was inspired by Zen Scribbles’s recent post Jack Did Not Have To Die!

Today we will be discussing something near and dear to my heart: when authors kill off beloved characters for no good reason.

Now, obviously authors can do whatever they want. If they want to kill off half their characters, that’s their choice. But what I implore authors to do before they start knocking off characters left and right is to consider the audience they’re writing for, and consider what impact these deaths will have on their readers.

Example #1: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Deaths include, amongst others, Hedwig the Owl, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks.

Why was it a bad idea to kill these characters? Because the entire series thus far had been about good overcoming evil — the idea that, if you’re true to your principles and willingly help others and try to do the right thing, you will succeed. This was a wonderful message to send to children … at least, until they read book 7 and found half their favourite characters dead.

Sirius Black’s death served a purpose — it was to teach Harry caution, to make him think things through before blindly jumping in. Dumbledore’s death forced Harry to man up and get s**t done. But Fred Weasley’s death served no purpose. Lupin and Tonks didn’t even get a death scene. And what purpose could there possibly be in killing off a fluffy owl?

I know that JKR was trying to impress upon us the horrors of war, but I feel that could have been done in a different way. Perhaps maim them, like she did to George and Bill Weasley. George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) can kill off all the characters he wants because that’s the world his story is set in, that’s the genre he’s writing for. But Harry Potter isn’t a gritty political intrigue — it’s about a boy hero facing down true evil and winning. And I believe that senseless deaths have no place in a series like that.

Example #2: Mockingjay (Book 3 of the Hunger Games)

Deaths include, amongst others (SPOILER ALERT), Finnick Odair and Primrose Everdeen.

Now, Finnick’s death I sort of understand, much as I’d rather not — he was deep within a warzone, after all, so death was a very real possibility. But Primrose’s death? Ridiculous. There was no good reason for her to be in Capitol when those bombs went off. She’s a child, for God’s sake. She should have been safely back in District 13 — by all logic, she would have been. And yet, there she was when President Coin’s ridiculous plan to explode everyone happened.

The point of her death, I assume, was to … um … screw up Katniss even more than she was already? I think Peeta’s alarming mental instability and constant attempts to kill Katniss had already screwed her up sufficiently — killing off her sister was just unnecessary.

Now, Suzanne Collins has more of a leg to stand on than JKR, because she had already established that her series involved killing mass amounts of people. But prior to Mockingjay, people had been killed in a context that actually made sense. Primrose being in Capitol during the final wave of attack made no sense. Not to mention that the assorted people back in District 13 who were Katniss’s friends and confidantes would have been looking out for her sister while she was away doing totally pointless things in the Capitol.

Pro Character-Killing Tip: 

You can judge whether or not a character’s death is appropriate by viewing your readers’ reactions.

If they read the death scene in utter shock and scream, “Noooooooooo! [Insert Name of Character Here]! Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!!!!!”, then you did well. Congratulations. The death scene you wrote was touching and believable within the context of the story.

If they read the scene with an expression of increasing disbelief, followed by them snapping the book shut and saying, “That was just stupid. Why the hell would the author do that? That made no sense!”, then you might want to consider a rewrite.

Thus endeth the rant. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments.

Unrelated images of the day:

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 66 Comments

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