Monday, 31 August 2015

Bonus Post: Book Week

The past week has been book week at school. It is, as you could probably guess, a week about celebrating books. The theme this year was "Light up your world" so the library's lights were all shut off and the librarians hung fairy lights and lanterns all over the place. It was, in other words, beautiful. 


On Friday, we were able to dress up as our favourite book character. It was great, because not only were we able to get out of our uniforms for the day but we were allowed to be creative and celebrate one of the things that allows us to be human; stories. 

I saw Mary Poppins, Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog), Deadpool, Batman, The Three Blind Mice, various characters from Pretty Little Liars, the Power Puff Girls, Jack Sparrow, Clary, Hazel Grace, Superman, Harry Potter characters, Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden), Peter Pan, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Effie Trinket (her costume was beyond fabulous and ended up winning), Things 1 and 2 (and 3 and 4), Alice in Wonderland, Rainbow Fairies (their costumes were great but it looked like a rainbow threw up on them), Eeyore, Katniss, Tris, Caesar Flickerman the list goes on and on and on. I spent my day in my Gryffindor scarf and Hermione wand, while my sister had her Slytherin scarf on. (There was a little shoulder-bumping in the hallways. (And may I suggest to not wear a scarf in Queensland during summer?))

Seriously, she looked fabulous. Source

The vice principle wandered around with her Sorting Hat and Potter cloak, taking pictures and sorting us into houses. (I was sorted into Hufflepuff. (I KNEW IT!!!)) The tech guy trailed along behind her with his wand and full Harry Potter costume. The principle donned a green dress, wig and Fiona mask while the English teacher was, and I quote, "a representation of evil stepmothers". 

At first break, we had a students vs students Quidditch game but the bell rung before anyone made any goals. At second break, it was senior leaders vs teachers and it was the best thing in the world. The house captains (yes, houses like in Harry Potter) each grabbed a pool noodle/broom with their house colour while everyone else grabbed random colours, and the game began. Alice in Wonderland was the ref, and she blew her whistle whenever someone wasn't riding their "broom" properly. As my friend liked to put it, "pretend you're flying high above the ground and if you don't stay on your broom you'll fall off and die", which I thought was nicely put. The tall science teacher took the role of the Keeper, the gym teachers were Chasers and the tech guy (with his fitting H.P. costume) started throwing bludgers. The boarding captain/snitch ran around trying not to get caught while the senior leaders did their best to slam the teachers with bludgers and not fall off their brooms. In the end, the teachers caught the snitch but it didn't count because of improper broom riding, and the students won by one goal. 


I spent Friday wandering through the school in a daze. All of my favourite characters had, admittedly, not come to life, but it seemed as if they did. Granted, they didn't look exactly the same, and they were my friends and fellow students, but there was something about it that made the characters all seem alive. I think it was the fact that we all loved them. We were the ones who cried with them, who cheered them on, who spend long hours in the library seeing the world through their eyes. The characters came to life through us, the people who loved them the most. 

And I think that's what matters most in stories. The people. No one walked around with short descriptions of their favourite plot. There were no signs reading "save the world from an oppressive government" or "evil villain wants to take over the world". 

Instead, we donned the faces of the people who struggled through those hard times. We fangirled, we laughed, we screamed and we devoured the pages. It is through us, the readers, that characters come to life. 

And that's a kind of magic that you don't need a wand for. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

The words

I've been trying to find the words for about two weeks now, and I think I've finally found them. Some of you will know what I'm talking about and some won't, and that's ok.

We are as infinite as the stars
But last as long as a wave on the beach

Edit: ok, so apparently I was being too cryptic and the people who were supposed to be getting it weren't. This post is about Colleen. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

How I edit

While my planning stage is all over the shop, my editing method is more refined. So, without further ado, here's how I edit in 10 (not-so) easy steps. 

1) Read the completed manuscript and cry. Yes, this is a step. I usually do this so that I accept how terrible the novel is. There's really no use fighting it. 

This is me after reading my manuscript. Source

2) Take notes on what sucks. I usually have a pretty good list before I start step one because I make notes as I go along instead of going back and fixing it. Now, however, I have a really long list (but don't bother with making notes about line editing yet. We'll get there). It usually looks something like this - 

-MC has magic flip flips (she keeps losing and gaining them randomly)
-Theme sucks
-This story takes place in a random universe somewhere where there is no thing 
 as description of anything whatsoever. FIX!
-What's the point of Character B? 
-Why on earth do I have robot horses? 
-Fix sucky ending!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *bangs head against wall* 
-Consider adding more explosions and Artemis Fowl cameo (it can't get much 
 worse, right?)

...except it's about three times longer. Yeah. It's depressing. 

3) Go edit! I usually start with either the really easy fixes, like the magic flip flops, or the really hard edits, like the sucky theme. It depends on the edit and what kind of mood I'm in. I delete the list as I finish it, which gives you such a great sense of achievement, kind of like the feeling you get after defeating the Goblin (if you're Spider-Man).

4) Repeat steps two and three. Yep, this is the not-awesome bit where you keep editing and hope that something's working. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat... until the story is structurally awesome with amazing characters. *sigh* It's harder than it sounds. 

5) Line editing. This is my least favourite part of editing. When you have no idea what else you could do to make your story better, you then have to go through the entire thing - which you're probably sick of by now - and make sure every single word works. Cut! Delete! Fix! Destroy all passive tense and adverbs! What fun! Sarcasm! 

6) Send it off to critique partners and start praying. When your novel is as good as you can make it, then you need to send it off to more than one critique partner (my two fabulous critique partners are Heather at Sometimes I'm a Story and RM Lutz at The Book Hound, and you should check out their amazing blogs immediately). Then you wait. And wait some more. Then, the email arrives. Saying the quote "I've got a bad feeling about this" is usually appropriate at this point. You open your email, and, if your critique partner is any good, your manuscript is bleeding red. That's right. You're back to step three! (Note that you don't have to take their advice... just think about it, at least.) 

7) Do step three. Again. 

What the inside of my brain usually
looks like during the editing process.

8) Step five. Again. (I'm sorry for your pain.) If you weren't sick of your novel by now, you will be now. 

9) Fight the doubt that it sucks and that no one will ever like it. It's harder than it sounds. 

10) Celebrate! Your novel is now as awesome as it will probably ever be (unless you're like Iron Man, in which case you will have a Mark 42 whipped up in no time). That is a serious accomplishment. Congratulations. I usually like to go eat some chocolate and cry at around this time.

I wish you the best of luck in all your editing endeavors, and sincerely wish you do not give up somewhere at Step 5, because finishing a novel is one of the greatest feelings in the world. 

Go forth and edit, my jabberwockies!    

What's your editing game plan? Do you love or hate the process? 

The jabberwocky in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

P. S. As a side note, I do feel like I owe you a small explanation. I was going to call my readers (that's you, by the way) minions, but minions aren't nearly as awesome as jabberwockies (unless it's a minion from Despicable Me, but I didn't feel like I was worthy enough to have those minions). And besides, jabberwockies are incredibly awesome, so why not? 

P. P. S. As another side note, Liz is celebrating her her blogoversary! (Or however you spell it.) You should check out her blog because it's awesome. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

4 preservation instincts that have been engraved onto my brain

Living in Canada and Australia has taught me a few things about staying alive. Granted, I've never met someone with a gun or had to use my non-existent knowledge of karate to get out of a tight spot, but still. I've learned something (and I am passing my knowledge onto you, because I am awesome (obviously)). 

1) When going into a bathroom, check the corners of the ceiling and the floor. This is to avoid having a surprise visitor when you least expect it, such as a massive huntsman spider (which is another story). If you know what's in there before going in, you're less likely to get into a sticky situation that even Spider-Man would have a hard time getting you out of. Why a bathroom especially? Bathrooms are small. They have drains and air vents. There's little room for you to get out, and lots of ways for stuff to get in. Other rooms, you typically have a lot more room to throw yourself out the door/window/wall. A quick scan will save your life, people, that's all I'm saying. 


2) When running on any surface, brace yourself to slide around and possibly slip on the ice. I was running into the house the other day - this was in Australia, by the way - and I raced up to the front door. We have tile in our front entrance, and unconsciously I slowed down and braced myself to slip on the non-existent ice. Seriously. My body went "Ah, the tile may be black but the ice is clear! Don't slip!" and my brain went "You idiot, how long have you lived in Australia for?" but I slowed down anyways. In Canada, not slipping on ice is Survival 101. I didn't realize how much this one was engraved on my mind until this happened. 

3) Do not diss sports teams of any kind. Don't. Just, don't.

4) Do not go racing through the woods unless you want to die a scary and/or painful death. This one is sort of true in Canada, but more so in Australia. In Canada, all you have to worry about are bears, cougars and wolves, and, come on, how many of those are out there? I've seen two bears in my entire life, and one of them had a permanent place on our garage wall for years. Still, caution is recommended. But in Australia? EVERYTHING CAN KILL YOU. Kangaroos, wasps, grass (it hides snakes), bugs the size of your fist (more or less), trees (full of biting green ants and who knows what else), nooks and crannies (spiders, snakes), koalas (you thought they were cute, did you?), the wide open space between the house and the fence (spiders are very good at making huge webs), [insert whatever you could possibly think of]. I am amazed that the population of Australia hasn't died out by now. Oh yeah, and that's not including the ocean (sharks, jellyfish, drowning, riptides, getting smashed against the rocks) or the outback (dehydration, starvation, heat stroke, snakes, getting trampled by cattle) or the city (murder, kidnapping, etc. (although the cities here actually aren't that bad from what I've seen)) or the weather (cyclones, floods, droughts). 

I'm sure there are about 50 million things
that can kill you in this picture.

If, however, you are planning on coming to Canada or Australia, I would recommend not freaking out. A lot of this post was (slightly) exaggerated, and as long as you don't do anything stupid you (probably) won't die a horrible death.

What are some survival instincts you've picked up? 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Avoiding a Mary-Jane Watson

Spider-Man is my favourite superhero, but I hated the trilogy mostly because of one person. Mary. Jane. Watson. Watch her in any of the three movies. Watch carefully. Notice how -

1) She gets randomly kidnapped by the villain several times
2) She screams the whole freaking time
3) She does nothing to escape whatsoever


Yeah. I hated it. 

Female characters/love interests can be cool. They can be witty and powerful and smart and have, you know, personalities. (*cough* Gwen Stacy *cough*) They don't have to be kidnapped all the time the hero has something to do. They don't have to be cardboard cutouts, or be bullied all the time, or generally need the hero's help 100% of the time. 

Gwen Stacy is just amazing. 

I'm not sure why we're still having this discussion. Weak female characters have definitely been weeded out in YA, and while there's still a problem it's less of one. (Thank you, Katniss.) I am, however, noticing that it's still a major problem in movies, particularity action movies. (Examples of which I will discuss later. (And I'm mainly talking about movies made the past ten or so years.))

It has bothered me so much that I've come up with a rule that I think (because I'm awesome and so is my rule, but that might be biased) all writers/screenwriters/directors/whatever should take into consideration. If you can switch your love interest with a houseplant, then something's wrong.

For example, the other day I was watching The Mummy. Pretty good movie. People died horrible deaths, an ancient evil was unleashed on the world, treasure, Egypt, guns, explosions, etc. I was, however, saying this the whole time - 

"Oh no, the Hero is flirting with the Pretty Girl."
"Look! The Pretty Girl is in danger!"
"Oh, look. The Hero has rescued the Pretty Girl."
"Oh, she's in danger again."
"Rescued! Again! By the Hero! Who saw that coming?"
"Aaaand now the Pretty Girl has been kidnapped by the bad guy."
"Oh, look! The Hero has rescued the Pretty Girl!"
"Wow, who saw it coming that the Pretty Girl and the Hero would get together in the end?"

To be honest, I think that everyone who was watching it with me wanted to kill me by the end of it, but you get the idea. (I was also saying things along the lines of "Why is everyone in this movie so stupid?" and "Bring the cat with you, you morons!" but that's besides the point.)

You get the idea, though. If the love interest was replaced by a houseplant with legs that the hero really, really loved, not much would change. Granted, in The Mummy the houseplant would have to learn how to read Egyptian, but beyond that? She didn't do a whole lot for the story beyond making the protagonists have to go kill the villain. 

This kind of thing is in movies everywhere. In Seventh Son, the love interest shows up because she's working for the bad guys and spying on the good guys. They instantly fall in love, and for most of the movie she just shows up to be pretty and to make the hero rethink his choices. Granted, she does two important things for the plot and beats up a few bad guys, but if we're being honest here if you took out the sub-plot that she altered (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers) not much would change. The Three Musketeers (2011) seriously could have traded in the love interest with a houseplant (she didn't even need legs, I think the bad guys carried her around everywhere) and Mission Impossible 3? Well, he really, really loved his houseplant. 

And don't even get me started on Jupiter Ascending

I'm sick of seeing women fit into one of two roles in stories; the ninja warrior queen with no emotions or the love interest. Heaven forbid these characters to have a personality. I'm tired of female characters existing for the sake of getting kidnapped and making the climax happen (I'm looking at you, Pepper Potts (and Speed, Taken, Jack Reacher, Ant-ManSpider-Man, Batman, etc. etc.)

Female characters need to be written just as that. Characters. Not plot devices. 

Dear screenwriters, for the sake of the world and for the sake of the story (or even my blood pressure), cut out the Mary-Janes. Please. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A little homesick

I woke up this morning to go to school and found dew on the grass outside. Its white sheen reminded me of the frost that used to cover our grass back home, beginning in September. 

For me, September was a time of warm sweatshirts and dragging your jeans out from the rubbermaid bins hiding in the back of your closet. It was a time of running shoes and back to school sales, digging up frozen carrots (we left them in the ground until it froze because it made them sweeter), binders, pencil shavings, your breath turning into fog, first day of school pictures. It was a time of the nostalgic lump in your chest as you said goodbye to summer, picking the last of the crab apples from the trees in our backyard, meeting up with old friends, preparing for winter, waving to the Canadian geese as they honked during their migration south for the winter in their V shaped flight pattern. 

It was the time of the frosted grass crunching underneath your new shoes as you walked to school in the morning. 

And it made me feel homesick. 

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dear the English Language, a letter

Dear The English Language, 

You are driving me insane. I've often heard that people find you difficult to learn, and I understand why. It's only after roughly twelve years of schooling and too many years of daily practicing that I'm finally getting the hang of you. You have too many complexities and rules, too many irregular verbs and hidden catches for me to learn in a reasonable amount of time. 

When spoken, you sound rough and harsh, an angry chef at the chopping board. You don't flow, your words don't string together like a beaded bracelet. You can be manipulated with the tone of voice, a statement made into a question with a tone inflection, a grammar cheat.

Plus, you can't make up your mind how to be spelled. Is it "mom" or "mum"? "Tire" or "tyre", "colour" or "color", "gray" or "grey", "neighbor" or "neighbour"? Please, please decide. I've just about given up on you. My writing is a smattering of mistakes to different people, rights that are wrongs and wrongs that are rights. I'm tipping towards making up my own version of you, just to keep sane. Mom, tire, colour, gray, neighbour. 

You have too many faces. You have an endless array of accents and slang words, all mixing together. Each accent will give away someone's history. It makes it impossible to blend in. 

But... there's something about you. Perhaps its the endless manipulation, how people make you their own. Maybe it's the mixing of ancient languages, the swirling culture in each sentence. Maybe it's your endless rules in search of perfection. Maybe it's because you are the language I know best, the language that I can use to shape my stories. I don't know what exactly it is, but I think I could possibly, maybe, impossibly, be in love with you. 


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Bonus Post: In which I get distracted while writing

First off, I'd like to point out that I've slightly updated my design. It was mostly because I didn't have an "About" page, which maybe wasn't awesome. You can check out the page about me here and the page about my WIPs here. (Or you could always click on the buttons up top.)

And now onto the bonus-ness! (Which is now a word, by the way.)

I'll sit down to write, and this is usually how my thought process goes -

Great, I have half an hour to write. I'm going to get so much done! Ok, write, write, write. Woohoo! Two paragraphs done. Man, I'm hungry. No, I need to keep writing. You know, I really like this character. Plus, he had no idea what's coming. But wait, am I writing him right? I can't really write him perfectly if I'm not a guy, so what do I do? What if he actually sucks? I know. Google! *googles for half an hour* Ok, I've successfully wasted half an hour and have learned nothing on how guys think. Great. Ok, I need to sit down and write. *writes another paragraph* Something smells. It's like I've left a wet t-shirt in here. I'll have to check that out. Focus! It's getting late. *writes another paragraph* I'm getting tired now. Nope, keep going. I only have half this stupid book to re-write. Urgh! This was a stupid idea. Oh, I know! It's my towel that smells! I must get that out of here. Snap, I have to fill in my English form. And I have my French homework to do! Well, there's only one course of action. I must write a blog post. And I can't forget to set my alarm so I can call my friend in the morning. Hmmm, I should probably get back to my WIP.

Does anyone else get distracted while writing? Share your experiences of procrastination with me in the comments!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Oh, the Places You'll Go: Hamilton Island

During my semester break, I've been at Hamilton Island up at the Whitsunday Islands, enjoying the view of the ocean, kayaking, paddle boarding, reading and driving around on golf carts. It's been pretty awesome. 

I also took lots of pictures, so in the interest of keeping the loading time of this page less than a millions years, you can find the rest of my story after the jump. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Movie review: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

My heart stopped about twice in this movie. 

The plot? Ethan Hunt needs to save the world from some terrorist organization that's bent
on chaos and destruction. Who's seen that one before? *raises hand* (And I may or may not have written a book like that... hmmm. Oops.) 

So while I wasn't overly thrilled with the overall plot, it was the execution that made this movie so totally awesome. The characters were more witty and interesting than most action movies, the stunts were utterly amazing and THE BETRAYALS! Oh, it was too good. You never really knew who was on who's side or what they were fighting for, and they all seemed to switch sides once or twice (and I lost count in one character's case). 

My favourite part of the movie (besides the stunts, which did I mention were amazing?) was the conflict between Ethan and the bad guy. They kept outsmarting each other to the point where as soon as I thought I had everything figured out it all changed again. Just when you think it's all over, when people are strapped to a bomb or when someone else is about to be shot point-blank, the movie yells "HA!" and rips the rug out from underneath you. 

Like all movies, there were a few downsides. First of all, Ethan is dead. He pretty much dies three times in the space of half an hour and he gets up and walks away. He. Is. Dead. I also didn't think it was as funny as the last movie, which I was really sad about. There were also one or two slow parts (and Hawkeye didn't get an action scene! That is a crime, people!!) but it didn't negatively impact the movie too much. 

Overall, this movie rocked. Why are you still here? Go see the movie, my jabberwockies! 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Crash course in Australia ants

Australian animals are pretty cool, so with the new Ant-Man movie in theatres I thought I'd spend a little time researching the castle builders underneath our feet. 

Green Ants

These ants are green (because Australians are good at naming things (Canadians are too, by the way)). I find these hilarious, because they'll often bite you (and it hurts), but you can actually eat them. (Note that I've certainly never done it, and I've never seen anyone eat one, but apparently you can. Don't try it, that's all I'm saying.) What kind of totally awesome food chain is that? 

Now for the information-y bit, which I got from here. They make nests by sticking the leaves at the end of a branch together to make a ball of leaves, which sounds weird but it's totally true. There's a couple at my school in the gardens. 

A (slightly blurry (it was windy, ok?)) green ants' nest. 

According to the website, "a mature colony of green tree ants can hold as many as 100,000 to 500,000 workers and may span as many as 12 trees and contain as many as 150 nests". So be friends with the ants. Like I said, they bite. 

Bulldog ants

Bulldog ants are only found in Australia. If I'm going to be honest, I didn't know these existed until I started looking up information for this post. These things are seriously scary. According to the info I got from here and here, they're an inch long and eat bees, nectar, plant juices and other ants, and have venom-laced stingers. They have great vision and have orange or red markings on their heads or abdomens. Apparently, if you attack one then the rest will come pouring out of their nest to go attack you. The coolest thing about these is that they don't have the typical ant colony;  the queen ant will attack another colony, kill their queen and take over. 

Carpenter ant

To assure you that not everything in Australia is out to kill you, I've included the carpenter, or sugar ant in my list. From what I've read here, these are also a big problem in Canada, so while they're not native to Australia, they do live here. They chew up wood and make it into compost, so they're actually pretty helpful, but they're considered a pest because they get into buildings and eat the wood, so, yeah. When their colony gets too big, they create satellite colonies and move back and forth from between the original one and the satellite one.

* * * 

I was going to put more pictures of the ants up, but I was looking through the pictures and got freaked out, so I didn't. Ants are weird looking creatures. 

Ants are a big problem in Australia, and you'll often see a line of ants going to your fruit bowl, especially if you go further up North. We've been lucky and we haven't had an ant problem where we live, thankfully. They can be pretty cool, though, so next time you step outside, look down. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Bonus Post: Where I stand on Batman vs Superman

My favourite superhero is Spider-Man and I'm not a huge DC fan, so I don't have a whole lot staked on this argument. My sister's favourite superhero is Batman, though, so DC's newest movie is simultaneously destroying her and building her from the ashes of Christian Bale quitting. 

Look at Wonder Woman and how awesome she is!!!
(But she will never beat Black Widow. Ever.) 

She loves Batman so much that she wears her Batman t-shirt and pajama pants as often as humanly possible, and her contact on our address book is "Batman". She got Siri to call her "Batman" and as a result was thrilled for hours on end, draws the best bats I have ever seen and has a gigantic bat on her school binder. 

Needless to say, I would be on Superman's side just to annoy her, but that would end in my swift execution. 

So I'm team Batman. 

(Although if you ask me when my sister can't hear, I would probably say Batman anyways (because the trilogy was truly awesome), although I suspect I'll end up being team Wonder Woman/Lex Luthor in the end.) 

What about you guys? Are you team Batman, Superman, Spider-Man (who are we kidding, we're all team Spidey) or do you think the whole thing is stupid and they should just get on with beating up bad guys? (I was the last one until I saw the new trailer, which was epic.)