How Reading Affects My Writing – Past, Present, and Future

Book magic

When it comes to books and words and the creation and consumption of both, although I write nearly every day, I’ve always considered myself a reader first while only second am I a writer.

Of course, there is factual truth to this statement: I literally learned and continued to read stories before I started writing them (although the timing for both is close; I clearly recall writing my first “novel” in grade two).

Even now as an adult, my almost-daily reading occurs earlier in the day (dinner time) than does my almost-daily writing (after dinner, the last thing before  I go to sleep).

Continue reading

Everything Already Troubling About Fifty Shades of Grey, and Then Some

Fifty Shades of Grey coverI really did try.

After years of hearing and reading complaints about E.L. James’s BDSM-erotica bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey – after having previously convinced myself I’d never read it – that the kinky subject matter didn’t interest me; that I didn’t want to join the global sales bandwagon; that I was too good for so-called “mommy porn” – I came to have a change of heart.

Continue reading

Why I Don’t Read Five-Star Book Reviews

Amazon star ratingsEver since my very first Amazon book purchase on October 25, 2002, I’ve never stopped debating myself on the value of customer book reviews.

(If you ever want to enjoy a nostalgia-filled blast through the past, go through your Amazon purchase history order by order, year by year, back to the very beginning.)

On the one hand, professional reviewers aren’t always giving in-depth reviews of the books I read or want to read.  As well, there are way more customer reviewers out there; the law of averages alone suggests I’m more likely to share tastes with an amateur than a pro, many of whom fall into more similar social demographics to each other than to me.

Continue reading

Should Writers Abbreviate Their Names?

J.K. Rowling

This post is more accurately titled “Should Female Writers Abbreviate Their Names?”, since they are, it seems, the writers who most commonly do so.

The short and simply answer to the question is, of course, “They should do whatever they want.”  For I’m not here to dictate otherwise, especially given the numerous different reasons a female writer would choose to use her initials instead of her full name:

  • She had a given name that’s difficult to pronounce or spell
  • To create a new identify for writing in a different genre
  • To maintain a measure of distance from her non-writing life
  • Because another author has her exact same name
  • Because she dislikes for her given name
  • To emulate classical male writers who used abbreviations, such as C.S. Forrester, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.D. Salinger

Just to name a few.

Continue reading

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things (of 2014)

I am perpetually behind the curve when it comes to pop culture.

Late to the partyI enjoy books, movies and music as much as the next person, but somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit of taking part in pop culture trends as they happen.

(Case in point, I’m only just now watching the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica).

Continue reading

Not the Girls We Think They Are: On unattractive female characters in fiction

Jane Eyre (2011)

Jane Eyre (2011)

“She isn’t ugly enough.”

This was my friend’s comment on the actress playing Tris Prior in the movie Divergent as we stood in line to buy tickets.

“She wouldn’t be my type if I were into girls,” I replied, thinking I’d missed the punch line of a joke and trying to compensate with humour of my own.

“No,” my friend insisted.  “People are complaining about the actress being too pretty because in the book Tris is supposed to be ugly.  Remember?”

We’d both read the book.  My friend enjoyed it more than I did, and as a result seemed to remember certain details better than me as well.

But now that she mentioned it, I did recall something about Tris considering herself unattractive, or in the very least, plain, and that she was sure her male crush would dislike her because of it.

Continue reading

“For Diversity’s Sake”: On Representation in Fiction, One’s True Art & the Vicious Circle of Mainstream Media

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, the first black Jedi.

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, the first black Jedi.

There’s been a lot of talk lately within the corners of the blogosphere I frequent about diversity of characters in genre fiction.

First fantasy author Chuck Wendig blogged in favour of book and movie characters being more representative of the world around us.

Then, indie fantasy author Ksenia Anske wrote about writers – diverse writers included –writing their true art – whatever shape or colour that may be – rather than being obliged to meet quotas of diversity – a compelling piece I neither fully agree nor disagree with.

This topic is hardly new within the writing world, with numerous other arguments out there both for and against the inclusion of more people of colour, of different sexual and gender orientations, and different physical and mental ability levels in genre fiction.

The “against” argument I despise the most is the concept of something I repeatedly saw in the comments trail of Chuck Wendig’s post.

The notion of “diversity for diversity’s sake”.

Continue reading

Inspired By Ireland: The post I should’ve written on St. Patrick’s Day

I admit to having been a total kill-joy last Monday, writing about Lent on St. Patrick’s Day.

Son of the Shadows cover

This week’s post will make up for that.

Even though St. Paddy’s Day isn’t a significant event in my life (likely because usually I’m in the throes of Lent at the time), the mystique of Ireland was a powerful inspiration for me in the early days of my novel-in-progress.

Not because the story itself has anything to do with Ireland (it’s set in medieval England), but instead due to some of the books I was reading and music I was listening to at the time: two fabulous works whose recommendation is a far more pleasant St. Patrick’s Day greeting (however overdue) than my blathering on about giving up indulgences and society falling apart.

 

Continue reading

Why I (Literally) Went Medieval on My Writing

There’s a restaurant in Toronto called Medieval Times.

When I was a kid, I would see commercials for it on TV. The gimmick of this restaurant is that it’s set up like a large medieval hall in which patrons are entertained by knights sword fighting and jousting on real horses, all while eating medieval-esque fare without cutlery and drinking out of giant goblets.

To my child self, it looked like the most awesome thing ever. Whenever the commercial (which was more like a movie trailer) came on, I’d stop whatever I was doing and imagine myself going to the restaurant.

Unfortunately, because I was living in Nova Scotia, I never got to go.  I still haven’t been to this day.

Now, I’m writing a novel set in medieval England.

Continue reading

How to Read 12 Books in a Year (with minimal change to your regular reading habits)

Cat readingThere are people out there who read like fifty books a year.

This post is not for them.

(Indeed, I wish one of them would write their own post to teach me to read more.)

Reading is my oldest pastime, yet the older I get, the less time I seem to have for it.

I don’t ever want to stop reading books.  But life is busy and full of countless distractions, not the least of which include writing, socializing, finally watching Homeland on Netflix (seriously, have you seen that show?!), and of course working – by far the biggest occupier of my time.

Last year for New Year’s, I resolved to read 12 books for the year. A book a month-ish, as I took to calling it given the overlap of some calendar months that occurred.

Continue reading