Thursday, June 30, 2011

Discussion: Who is Your Favourite Author?

I'm really curious about this question.

You see, I always feel conflicted when someone asks me who my favourite author is. Do I pick a perennial favourite, someone whose novels have been and are going to be major influences in my life for many, many years, like J.K. Rowling? Does the title of "Favourite Author" have to be reserved to some big, important writer? Is George Orwell more worthy of the title than someone more modern, like Maureen Johnson? I love, love, love Jane Austen (more than words can express), but I'm just as wild about Stephanie Perkins. Does one merit the title more than the other? Should I crown my favourite based on what makes me sound fancier, or based on which book is igniting my imagination right at this moment?

How about you: who's your favourite author and why? Do you have different favourites for different occasions? Do you fret about the question or just spit off the first name that comes to mind?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Have You Heard?!

This just in: John Green's new book's title has been released! It is...


When I heard him say it on his live YouTube show, explain where it comes from and what it means, and when I remembered what it's about, my eyes watered. Yes, I'm crying already after just learning the title. I think this is going to be emotional.

Anyway, John has announced that he is signing 100% of all preorders of the new book! That's right: if you head over to, or any other book retailer, as long as you're ordering the American edition, you can own a book signed by John Green. This amazing thing was brought to us by an author who is more passionate about his readers than any other I can think of.

To make it nice and easy for you, and because I know you want to soooo bad, here's the link to preorder THE FAULT IN OUR STARS! Do it! I did!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Dangers of Hype and YA Blasphemy

If you're a YA enthusiast, chances are you've gotten wrapped up in hype at some point. You start hearing about a book all over various blogs. The buzz gets a little louder and Goodreads reviews start showing up, and they're all good. The cover is just sooooo gorgeous and the premise makes you want to torch all your WIPs because you know you'll never be able to think up something that awesome.

Then release day comes, or, if it's an older book, you finally get your hands on it and have time to read it. So you do. And...'s just not that good.

You feel bad. You want to cry. You expected so much, but the delivery just wasn't all you'd hoped for. The clouds didn't open up, a beam of sunshine didn't envelop you as you read, you didn't have any life-changing epiphanies while reading.

This is happening to me right now. I'm no stranger to the feeling of being let-down by hype, but right now it's on a much bigger scale. I'm delving into some of the older books of an author I like, an author that's considered YA royalty, and I'm just not enjoying them the way I'd hoped I would. From what some bloggers and reviewers say, it doesn't feel like I'm reading the same books they did. It makes me really, really sad.

It also makes me feel blasphemous.

If I tell anybody I don't like these books, the books everyone else seems to adore, will I not be allowed to join the cool kids' clubs? A lot of bloggers nowadays are scared to voice negative opinions on books because of that whole YA Mafia thing last year... if I write a less-than-glowing review of these books, will everyone hate me? Do I have to lie, pretend I liked it, fake a smile when I talk about it?

I don't think I should have to. I have legitimate reasons to dislike the books and I have a right to express myself, right?

At least, I think I do.

Have you ever felt like this? Either blinded by hype or scared to write a negative review? When I'm done reading all the books by this author, I want to review them all together in a vlog -- what do you think about that? Should I?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

State of Sadness

So last night the Vancouver Canucks lost game 7 to the Boston Bruins, thereby losing the Stanley Cup.

I'm obviously upset. They're my team, they're my boys. It physically hurt me to see their eyes well up with tears after the last buzzer, and I had to swallow a giant lump in my throat during the presentation of the Stanley Cup to a team that has disrespected us throughout this series and treated us like dirt.

It hurts. To tie it into something relevant to this blog, it feels like rejection. It feels like jumping through hoops for so long, making it past the query stage, then past the partial stage, then to the full stage, and then... not being good enough. The Canucks were number one league-wide almost all season, highest in points, Western Conference champions, Northwest Division champions, President's Trophy winners. We have a Vezina Trophy nominee, a Hart Trophy winner and nominee, a handful of new Hall of Fame inductees, and our head coach and general manager are all nominated for awards.

We won everything but the Stanley Cup. Every honor but the highest.

For a writer, this is like having a great manuscript that you love. You're ready to conquer the world. Someone, an agent or publisher, loves your query. Reads your manuscript. But... "It's just not there yet."

You spend forever thinking about your failure, dissecting every word in the rejection. Thinking about every move and how, maybe if you'd tied your left shoe first instead of your right that day, the outcome might've been different. You're thinking you're just not good enough.

Well, maybe you're not good enough -- yet.

The Canucks are going to take the summer off to chill, refocus, shoot pucks on their home rinks. It's not going to be easy for them, working their whole lives to get to that Stanley Cup game and losing it in front of their home crowd, but they will bounce back. They'll be even better next season.

And so you, writer, will be even better in your next manuscript.

With practice, we get better, whether we're talking hockey or writing. If you keep working, keep up that passion, being so close to achieving that goal -- whether it's a 'yes' from an agent or a Stanley Cup -- will happen again.

And next time? You're going to win it big.

P.S. - Me and mine are all safe after the riots in downtown Vancouver after the game. I'm trying to think of the words to describe my dismay and embarrassment after what happened. It's just ridiculous, and I just want to say that no true Canucks fan behaves like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Semi-Colon: Misused and Misunderstood

I do a lot of critiquing and beta reading, and something I keep coming across is the incorrect use of semi-colons.

You know, this thing:


The semi-colon is among the least-common of punctuation marks, so it's not really a surprise that it's so often misused. And when something is a little bit rare, sometimes that leads to people wanting to use it more to look fancy.

Semi-colons are used to join related, but independent sentences. That is, you can't use it like this:

The house on the corner was enormous; with white shutters.

Or like this:

My hair stood up on end; as if I'd been electrocuted.

The sentences on either side of the semi-colon have to be complete sentences, with nouns, verbs, everything. If the sentences aren't complete, they could be joined by a comma, like so:

The house on the corner was enormous, with white shutters.

Or sometimes there doesn't have to be any punctuation:

My hair stood up on end as if I'd been electrocuted.

You can use a semi-colon to join two related, complete sentences, like this:

He looked at me with sad eyes; I wished I hadn't hurt him with what I'd said before.

But, even if you're using semi-colons correctly, I recommend using them very sparingly. They have a stiffer, more formal feel than other punctuation marks, and overusing them doesn't make you look smart: it just makes you look like you're a little kid who's discovered a new word and uses it all the time. Consider the voice and tone of what you're writing and whether or not a semi-colon fits in. For instance, a third-person narrator is more likely to use a semi-colon than a first-person narrator. I don't know about you, but I sure don't think in semi-colons!

I recommend scrutinizing your every use of a semi-colon, and making sure that it's 1) correctly used, 2) absolutely necessary, and 3) not surrounded by other semi-colons.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Funny How Things Change...

I never used to be a sports person. I always hated gym class in elementary school (I mean, once you get to the age where you have to start changing into gym strip, things reach a whole new level of awkward), and in high school I was lucky enough to have a sadistic Nazi gym teacher who basically shattered my self-esteem. This woman was pure evil: she would be perfect nice if you saw her outside of school, but in the gym she would be doing things like dividing girls into teams based on weight (the "Twigs" and the "Trunks"), calling people fat to their faces, and setting up her grading system so that, if you didn't do a lap fast enough, you got zero -- no points for effort. It got to the point where I wouldn't even bother to run laps of the field anymore, since I could never do it fast enough so I would always fail anyway.

Needless to say, gym, sports, and most physical activity was ruined for me for a very long time. I'm still not a sporty person -- I prefer to lounge around and read than get physical -- but in the past year and a half, I've found my sentiments changing a bit.

At the beginning of the 2009 season, I really got into watching hockey. Every Vancouver Canucks game, there I was, watching the broadcast eagerly. I've only missed a handful of games the past two seasons, and only because I absolutely had
to. At first I was pretty confused and had to ask my dad lots of questions, but now I can rattle off statistics like a pro. I have the heights and weights and stats of most players memorized. I put my male friends to shame.

I never used to be like this. I used to scoff at every sport and bury my nose in a book. I still do that, of course, but I kind of learned something: the Vancouver Canucks are not all that different from YA fiction.

There are personalities. There are relationship dynamics
between players. There's chemistry and flair and straight-up style. Sure, maybe I originally came to hockey for the boys (I mean, want some Kesler? Or some Mason Raymond? Good God, how gorgeous can you get?)... but I stayed for the stories.

The way the Sedin twins play off each other, practically reading each others' minds? There's a story there. Alex Burrows's overtime goal that eliminated our rival, the Chicago Blackhawks? There's a story there. Manny Malhotra getting hit in the eye with a puck, everyone says his career is over, and tonight he could step back out on the
ice in a miracle recovery only three months later? There's a story there.

So, as we're plowing through the Stanley Cup Final, Game 2 tonight, and I'm gearing up to start a new WIP (about an NHL team), I have only one thing left to say...

Go Canucks Go!