Valentine’s Day lovelies

Too many links and pictures to share this Monday! But first, a recap of the weekend.*

*Which is probably just a nicer way of saying, “Here’s some photo-dumping and inane rambling.” But there you go.

Saturday was spent writing.

 

And writing.

 

And more writing.

 

By Sunday, I was ready to break out of the house. After our usual brunch, my dad and I went strolling around town and booked a trip to Taiwan in late March. Yay, travel!

I really believe that it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do that matters, but the company you keep. My dad and I don’t go to special places often, or eat or live extravagantly, but I always have a good time with him, even when we’re just rambling around town, taking photos.

Because the tour agency was in Chinatown, we ended up walking around the area. (Yes, again. It’s funny, but from architecture to shops to people, there seems to be endless things to discover no matter how many times we visit that place.)

 

 

 

 

 

And because I am irrationally obsessed with flowers, I went a little shutter-crazy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s that for the weekend. And now, link salad!

1. Being a writer is a lot more like sitting alone with your computer, ploughing through the suck of your own doing, sending out query letters and hoping and wishing and praying for someone to love your story. Sometimes, reality falls short of our expectations. But thank goodness for critique partners, awesome writers who write beautiful books, and green tea!

2. This infographic shows the million and one things you’re doing wrong with your script, which can also be applied to any story you’re writing.

3. By the way, I never realised how snarky Disney characters were until this post! For instance,

 

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Check out the article for more!

 

3. And since it’s Valentine’s Day week, here’s a slew of Valentine’s Day-related stuff that made me laugh out loud.

 

Something for the LOTR fans:

 

And something for singles who have plans to avoid Valentine’s Day (and the obnoxiously lovey couple or ten that are bound to appear on every other street):

 

Some grumpiness to counter those overheard love confessions and sightings of couples in matching outfits?

 

Just so we’re clear, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. It’s just funny how so many snarky memes have sprung up because of some holiday that now means overpriced flowers and Valentine’s Day lingerie (because, of course, Valentine’s Day is important enough to have special lingerie dedicated to it) and couple’s dining promotions more than anything else.

Speaking of love, what do you love? I’m going to list 5 things I love, and I’d love to hear your list of 5 things you love! It’s too cliched – and not to mention maudlin – to write a post on the 5 people I love, so let’s keep it light, shall we? (Of course, if you want to mention the people you love, by all means confess away.)

Go like this:

I love:

1. Lovely prose

From Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

 

From Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen

 

From Wonder Show, by Hannah Barnaby



2. Happy babies

 

3. Pretty faces

 


4. Whimsical art

 

by Kathy Hare

 

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



5. Beautiful nooks and crannies in the world

Mykonos, Greece

 

Pretty lilac!

 

Atlantis Bookstore, Santorini, Greece

 

Tellaro, Italy

 

Do share your loves (and toss me a link to your list)! Pass it on, too, so more people can know about love-ly (geddit?) mood-lifters!

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be about people or, more specifically, your other half. It can also be about the FEELING of being in love with someone or something, being passionate about someone or something. The feeling, not the thing. Share the things you love, and EVERYONE can be in love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Wow. This has been too much sappiness for one post. Think I’ll stop now, before I start vomiting rainbows and unicorns.

Unicorn Vomiting a Rainbow by TheIckyMan on Deviant Art

 

Have a lovely week! (Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the love puns now.)

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Monday moodlifters!

(I’ve decided to name all my posts on Monday “Monday moodlifters” because I’m a lazy ass who doesn’t want to come up with new post titles every week. So if you have issue with the cheesy name, suck it. Kidding!)

So I came across this article on weird things that affect our dreams today. I don’t know if it’s all just a load of horse shit, but they do sound plausible. At least, we all know the stuff we’re exposed to during the day gets processed by our pre-conscious mind and they manifest in completely bizarre ways when we’re asleep.

Speaking of dreams, I had the weirdest dream last Saturday (I’m starting to see a pattern here – is Saturday the day when my circadian rhythm jumps out of whack?), and the emotions I experienced in it were so intense I woke up crying. No shit.

(It’s funny. You may be sobbing your heart out in your dream, so hard that you feel like your chest and face might explode from all that emotion, but you wake up and find that you’re only just tearing up. Like how you’re screaming and shrieking in your dream, and you’re actually just whimpering in waking.)

My dream might have to do with the book I just finished reading:

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

 

It’s about a girl named Portia who was abandoned by her family at a home for girls during the Great Depression era. I generally avoid books set in depressing times because they’re such downers (sorry!), but this one has a circus, a budding romance and is a coming-of-age story about a girl searching for her father.

Okay, that’s a terrible summary. I think this blurb from Teen Librarian Toolbox does it more justice:

Portia has always grown up hearing the stories of her family, but when her family disappears there is no one left to care for her except for The Mister. The Mister runs the McGreavey Home for Wayward Girls and it is a place that you would do anything to escape if you could, perhaps even death.  When one of the girls in the home, her friend Caroline, does indeed take her life, the thought that she may be a murderer haunts her.  For a while Portia languishes at the home, biding her time and praying that her father will magically appear and rescue her, but when the circus caravan drives by and a card with all their routes on it falls out a window and glides slowly to the ground, she has a new plan.


Portia jumps on a bright red bicycle and pedals to a new type of freedom, she hopes.  Her she stumbles upon The Wonder Show, a side show of circus freaks who caravan across the country and make a meager living based solely on their various oddities.  Tall men, short men, fat ladies and a woman with no arms who throws knives with deadly precision – they are now the only hope that Portia has of out running The Mister and trying to find the father she knows once loved the circus.  Portia knows it is only a matter of time before The Mister finds her, he is not the type of man to let someone get away. And Portia, more than anyone ever has, has upset The Mister.

 

Abandonment, optimism, flagging hope, It’s right in line with the themes and emotions of Neverland. Plus, the pacing is tight and keeps you turning the pages, the characters are people you want to root for, there is an underlying sense of urgency and danger threaded throughout the story, and you find yourself hoping along with Portia for her father to find her.

Some beautiful quotes from the book:

Sometimes promises are even harder to keep than secrets. Promises are easily made- we toss them like coins bound for a fountain and leave them there, under the water, waiting to be retrieved.

And:

The ones who left (tapped at the edge of her memory), and the ones who were left behind, everyone in motion like startled birds, trying to find a place to land.

And:

There was always someone going and someone left behind. Portia had been both. She had enjoyed neither. But she knew that leaving a place was sometimes necessary, when you wouldn’t breathe there anymore, when you weren’t yourself because of it.

And finally:

Lives only begin once.  Stories are much more complicated.

 

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I love it so much I NEED to own it.

Anyway, yes, the dream.

It involved a girl (let’s call her Iris) being found by Mother, a no-nonsense but kind lady who founded the Academy for Wayward Teenage Girls. There, she got into trouble with the other girls, got framed, got kissed, got blamed for a murder, got expelled, and finally she realised that she had nowhere left to go. That the Academy, for all its failings and imperfections and hateful rules and hierarchy, was the only place she had come to count on. That part where Mother had to let her go was the part where Iris (or, okay, me, since I was Iris in the dream) struggled to hold in her tears and eventually broke down. I woke up to find my pillow soaked, although I wasn’t choking on my tears the way Iris – or I – had been in the dream.

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What, you don’t get weird-ass dreams like that?

On the plus side, that dream made for some really good writing material. I might write something about it when I have the time, maybe a short story, if not a proper novel. I’ve been saving my dreams for ages, recording them in my notebook as detailed as I possibly can, hoping to one day discover them properly and fill up the missing pieces (you know how dreams can be a little hole-y).

Hmm. How shall I develop Iris’s story? I already have a few ideas brewing, but am not sure how to work out the technicalities…

NO, JOYCE, NO. NOT NOW. NOW IS THE TIME FOR NEVERLAND!! DO NOT GET SIDETRACKED.

Okay, that’s enough rambling for the day. Shall leave with a few lovely quotes and pictures, as usual.

John Green offers some very inspiring advice to aspiring writers:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

It’s easy to lose sight of the reason you write. We want to be published so badly, want everything that comes along with being published. Book tours, book signings, brushing shoulders with YA superstars – *ahem* Laini Taylor *ahem* Sarah Dessen… Writing is such a lonely journey we want to see results sooner, if not at least have people to share the process with. To find someone(s) who’s as excited and invested in the story as we are.

Which is why writing a novel requires SO MUCH patience and perseverance. You need stamina to see this shit through. To put yourself through this mental agony day after day until you hit The End.

But I guess I will try to see this journey – or, in fact, every journey, assuming I still have stories I want to write – for what it is. If not a gift, then at least a much-needed lesson in perseverance.

Laini Taylor on writing meaningful dialogue:

I think the trick to enjoying dialogue (which I think is the lifeblood of a book) is: to have characters who want things and are doing things. Then there’s plenty to talk about, and their unique identities emerge more (for me) in the writing of dialogue than anywhere else.

WANTING and DOING. What do my characters WANT and DO?

 

Rose garden love!
F.R.I.E.N.D.S. love!
Reading love!

And finally,

Pretty boy love!

 

Have a great week, everyone! ❤

 

too many books, too little time

With so many fantasy and urban fantasy series in the market these days, sometimes you just DESPERATELY crave for some good old contemporary fiction. With real characters you want to root for and real problems you can relate to and real insights you can apply to your own life and real lessons to live by.

So I scoured Goodreads (despite the flak on author-bullying the site has gotten recently, I still love it for its user-friendly layout, enthusiastic reader community and comprehensive info on the books) for some contemporary young adult fiction.

And those literary agents, book editors and publishers weren’t kidding when they said contemporary fiction is on the rise again. I found SO many enticing contemporary YA books I’m seriously wondering if I can ever finish them.

Here’s a list of the top 10 books I’m dying to read.

Contemporary YA books to read (click on the links to read the blurbs):

1. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve read only great things about this breakout author (she’s the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best YA Fiction!) and after browsing her books in Kinokuniya last weekend I was SO tempted to buy all her books. The mood of the story and narrator voice kind of remind me of 500 Days of Summer – whimsical and light-hearted with a dash of poignancy.

Plus, FANGIRL. Hello, what better character to relate to?

Ahem.

Anyway, I have high hopes for this book.

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2. Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Gotta love a good coming-of-age story about a girl coming into herself despite the adverse conditions she was brought up in.

3. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

I’m starting to get into epistolary fiction. Letters are a great plot device for moving the story along and revealing insights about a character. In fact, my novel Until Morning wouldn’t be the same – or complete – without the letters Lexi writes to Night, or Sam writes to Lexi. There is just so much about a character you can reveal from the intimate letters he writes to someone special.

4. What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I read her debut novel, My Life Next Door, and really appreciated her effortless writing style, genuine character voice, and the circumstances in the story that didn’t seem contrived or melodramatic. Some people say it’s too fluffy, and gets draggy towards the end, but I think it’s a sweet and refreshing voice. So, next book – on my To Read list!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Okay, this is cutting it close, since it’s a spin-off novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which is pretty much high fantasy as far as I know. Still, Zuzana and Mik’s love story should be monster-free, since they, unlike Karou, are completely human and don’t have a secret past (no spoilers here! This is a spoiler-free zone).

6. The Last Forever, by Deb Caletti

I mean, come on. It’s Deb Caletti. I’ve read pretty much every book she has ever written (aside from her latest, He’s Gone, which is adult fiction), and she has never disappointed. Sure, I have my favourites, and some that I love more than others. But Caletti’s prose is unpretentious, and her characters are so painfully real, their relationships at times so delicate and at times so explosive, they make the stories incredibly compelling. Wild Roses will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m definitely looking forward to this upcoming one.

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7. Wild Awake, by Hilary T. Smith

I think this excerpt is reason enough to read the book:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”

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I’M IN LOOOOOVE!

Also, mental illness, tonnes of imagery, coming-of-age story about a girl coping with her sister’s disappearance? I NEED THIS BOOK NOW!

So many books, so little time. Where to begin? Still, if you have any good books to recommend I ain’t saying no to them, because

Also, I’ve moved on to Act 2 for No Room in Neverland! Wheeee! The plot thickens and I can’t seem to stop cackling while doing the happy writer dance.

Okay, I’ll explain. Unlike what I’ve done for my previous novels, where I just plunged into the novel after drawing up a plan for the entire novel and plotted chapters all the way to the middle of the story, this time I decided to write the first draft in script form before rewriting it in prose form. For one, it saves time, since crafting prose takes me more time and effort than writing a script  – I can’t stop obsessing over each single word. For another, writing the first draft in script form allows me to visualise the entire story before I get down to it proper – it’s sort of like a testing ground for me to get to know my characters and the world they live in before writing their story.

I’m trying this method because of my experience with Until Morning. As you know, it started out as a script for my play-writing class. I wrote the first few scenes and then decided to turn it into a novel, and those chapters for which I had the pre-written scenes flowed much easily – I pounded out 10 pages (about 2500 words) in 3 hours.

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So hopefully writing Neverland will be a less angsty process than writing the others. At least I can tackle the mid-story goblin without worrying about prose. And goodness knows that sneaky little bastard is creeping up on me now.

Good times back in Act 1 Scene 11:

Still, I keep telling myself to dig deep. Gouge out everything inside your characters and serve them on a plate, innards and all, and then play with it. (Why yes, I’m PG-13 that way. Why do you ask?)

On a more family-friendly note:

If I had to sum up my main character, Gemma, in one quote, this would be it.