History of a SF fan: Star Wars

With Earth & Sky coming out in less than two months now (eeee!), I thought it’d be fun to talk a little about the origins of my interest in science fiction and the works that most captured my imagination over the years.

It seems inevitable that I would have become a SF fan — both of my parents are avid SF enthusiasts themselves, and so they put on SF movies and TV shows and handed off their collections of SF novels to me as I was growing up. As with many SF fans, the very first world I remember getting wrapped up in was the Star Wars universe. Though… not in quite the usually talked about way.

I was only two years old when the final film in the first Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, came out in theaters. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the first of the films I watched after it was out on video. But the first I remember watching (over and over and over again) were the made-for-TV Ewok movies.

My parents taped The Ewok Adventure and The Battle for Endor off the TV when they aired, and I can’t say how many times I watched them (my parents would probably say, too many!). No doubt those movies appealed to me particularly because they were aimed at kids, with a little girl as the main protagonist. Hard to define them as strictly SF, given that they included a fair bit of sorcery and the supernatural (enchanted lakes! ladies who change into birds!), but I loved the idea of this quirky, fuzzy alien species and the bits of unfamiliar technology I did get to see.

I did, of course, watch the entire trilogy somewhere in there — although I think kid-me preferred Jedi because of those Ewoks. And also because I found the end of this battle in The Empire Strikes Back

…so upsetting that I avoided rewatching that movie when I was little, and it was only when I finally rewatched all of them together in my early twenties that I discovered the movie doesn’t end with the traumatic moment I recalled so vividly, but actually with that injury of Luke’s satisfactorily dealt with. Apparently I was so upset by it when I first saw that sequence that I blocked out the somewhat more upbeat resolution. :P

Anyone else have Ewok nostalgia?

A book shout-out: A Corner of White

Today’s shout-out goes to Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Corner of White:

I’d enjoyed the previous books by Moriarty that I’d read, and had picked up the ebook for A Corner of White when it first came out after hearing good things, but (due to massive ebook backlog) only just got around to reading it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long!

Why should you read it? For the well-balanced blend of quirky realism and quirky fantasy, for the emotional depth that rings through the quirkiness, and for the seemingly unconnected plot details that come together cleverly in an expertly crafted conclusion.

Bookmarks have arrived!

My Earth & Sky bookmarks have arrived! Behold the loveliness:

(The back, if you’re curious, has a brief excerpt from the book.)

I will be giving these out to readers at all events and signings I attend. I’m also happen to send some to any librarians, booksellers, bloggers, or other bookish folk who would like to hand them out to their patrons/customers/readers/etc. If you’d like to get your hands on some, please drop me a line!

On childhood, opportunities, and finding your way

At a family get-together the other day, I was talking with my brother about dancing (he teaches ballroom for a living) and asked him if he was doing competitions at all.

“No,” he said. “I’d be out of my league — most of those people have been dancing since they were, like, three.”*

(Brother started when he was, if I remember correctly, in his late teens.)

The conversation got me thinking about the sorts of pursuits where starting young is a huge advantage, sometimes even essential to being successful past a certain level. Most athletic activities seem to require that you train your muscles early on for you to be able to perform at the top of your game as an adult. From what I’ve seen this is true to an extent for some creative pursuits as well — music, especially, maybe because of the amount of physical coordination involved in playing most instruments? And I’d imagine with most careers and hobbies, getting an early start on building your knowledge and skill set helps at least a little.

Now that I have a little guy in my life, this is a topic that feels much closer to home. I want the kiddo to have every possible opportunity to follow his dreams. But what if he doesn’t figure out what those dreams are until it’s too late for him to have a good chance of reaching them? How can I help him find his way? On the other hand, how can I make sure I get in his way by pushing too much?

Finding my way and being pushed were never really issues for me growing up. I’ve loved making up stories as far back as I can remember, and my parents just let me at it. Storytelling is, conveniently, an activity that requires no special instruction and no materials at all to practice–the books I read were my teachers, and even with pen and paper, and later a computer, available to me, I spent many hours simply daydreaming plots and characters–so I didn’t really need any assistance from my parents, although it certainly didn’t hurt that they were avid readers themselves and so read to me often, took me on regular library trips, and that sort of thing.

But what if you have a kid who doesn’t quickly gravitate toward specific interests? How many three-year-olds, for example, really know they love dancing and are eager to go to classes and take instruction their whole early childhood? I’ve heard a lot of stories from people who recall getting bored with learning an instrument or practicing a sport or whathaveyou when they were little, but appreciate that their parents insisted they continue through that boredom and not give up, because they did come to love it again and would hate to have lost that skill. I’ve also heard plenty of stories of people resenting their parents pushing them in a particular direction, who felt stressed and un-listened to, or for whom the pressure to not just have fun with an activity but to excel at it drained all the enjoyment they once had.

How do you tell when it’s in your kids’ best interests to push, and when it’s better to pull back?

I’m curious to hear people’s thoughts–either your memories of what worked for you (or didn’t) when you were a kid, or your experiences as a parent yourself, or both!

*Dialogue an approximation; I did not write this down in the moment to get an exact quote. ;)

A couple of updates

There are a couple of new developments around here I’d like to direct your attention to.

First, my book blogger/reviewer info page has been updated to reflect the latest information re: Earth & Sky. If you’re wanting to get involved with the book’s release one way or another, that’s the best starting place before you contact me.

Second, now that all three of the books in the Fallen World trilogy are out in the world, the Fallen World Street Team is no longer active. But I am continuing a Fallen World trilogy news mailing list, for those who want to be keep in the loop directly about any new developments… and I can tell you that there is one new development I will be announcing in the hopefully not too distant future. :) You can sign up for that mailing list using the form below.

A book shout-out: Cuckoo Song

It always makes me sad when I read a book that is really lovely, and notice that not many people seem to be talking about it. So I’m going to try and be both a better blogger and a better book-supporter, and give a shout-out whenever one of those books comes along.

Today I want to encourage you to check out Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge:

I’d been meaning to read something by Hardinge for quite a while–I have her Fly By Night in my massive ebook backlog. When a trusted friend highly recced Cuckoo Song, the description caught my interest immediately, and I dove right in.

So glad I did!

Why should you read it? For the beautiful writing, the unique world-building that’s so well-integrated into the real world setting, and for the complexity and depth to all the characters and their changing relationships in the midst of this suspenseful adventure.

Any books you’d like to give a shout-out to this week? :)

Earth & Sky cover reveal + giveaway + new website!

Hurray! It is now time to share with you the beautiful cover for Earth & Sky (first book in my new trilogy, coming October 28, 2014):

I am so pleased with this cover, and so thankful to Skyscape for letting me be involved in the process as it evolved. :)

Want to enter to win a copy of the book? Head on over to the official cover reveal on YA Books Central.

You can also now read the first chapter of the book, listen to the unofficial soundtrack, and take in some behind the scenes photos, at the new Earth & Sky trilogy section of my website.

And if you’d like to ensure you hear about any Earth & Sky trilogy news, join the Earth & Sky mailing list!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the cover, excerpt, soundtrack, whatever. Can’t wait to share the whole book with you all!

Cover coming soon!

Oh patient readers, I am very excited to tell you that the cover for Earth & Sky, my new novel that’s arriving in just three more months, will be revealed over at YA Books Central this Thursday! And there will be an awesome giveaway to go along with it. So you (and I) have just two more days to wait before I can share it’s loveliness. :)

I’ll make a new post when the reveal and giveaway are live, but if you keep an eye on their blog, you’ll probably spot it first!

I’ll also be revealing the Earth & Sky trilogy section of my website that afternoon, with more info about the book, an excerpt, the unofficial soundtrack, and more. Can’t wait to share this new story with you all.

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tapped by Vikki VanSickle, a most excellent fellow Torontonian YA author, to participate in the writing process blog tour that’s been making the rounds. I will attempt to make this the start of a more active blog, now that the little guy is not quite so little. ;)

1. What am I working on?

Right now I’m just finishing up the first draft of the third book in my new SF YA trilogy (time travel! space ships! aliens!) and putting together a website for the trilogy so you all can learn more about it.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I’m not arrogant enough to suggest my books are doing something no one else in the world does! Heh. But how I think my work differs from a lot of of YA speculative fiction out thereā€¦ The romances in my books are usually secondary to the main plot, which is something separate from the romance. Not that I don’t enjoy reading or writing romance, I do, I just prefer it as a side dish. :) Related to that, I try to highlight friendships and other non-romantic relationships alongside the romances. It makes me sad to see a strong teen girl protagonist who seems to have no female friends and no significant interaction with anyone who isn’t a potential love interest or an enemy.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write YA because I think the teen years are a fascinating time in a character’s life to explore, with so many firsts and all that goes into discovering what sort of person you want to be. And also because teens are awesome readers to write for, with their enthusiasm and openness to thinking outside the box.

I write speculative fiction because I find exploring “what if”s related to magic, the supernatural, the future, and so on more engaging than sticking the the boundaries of reality as we know it. And because sometimes it’s easier to examine what’s happening in our reality through metaphor and parallels than looking at it literally.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’ve found my writing process continues to evolve even now that I have several sold books under my belt. The things that have stayed the same since I first started writing novels in my teens: I always outline, scene by scene, from beginning to end, before I start the actual drafting. (The detail of the outlines varies from book to book.) I draft quickly, usually writing 10-20 pages a day. After I finish a draft, I let it sit for at least a month before going back to it. After the first or second draft (depending), I get critique partners to read over the book and let me know what’s working and what’s not. And when I revise, I retype the entire book from beginning to end, even the parts I’m not changing (because even if I don’t think a part needs changing, when I have to write it out again anyway, I often find ways to strengthen it. And also because this helps me stay in the flow of the book).

I have not been able to tag anyone else, but if you’d like to join in the blog tour and haven’t been invited yet, consider this an open invitation to carry it on!

Toronto Launch Party!

For those of you local, yes, I am having an in person launch party for The Worlds We Make. I’d love to see you there!

When: Saturday March 8th at 3pm (until we decide to wrap up–I’d imagine no earlier than 5pm)

Where: Bakka-Phoenix Books, 84 Harbord St (just west of Spadina), Toronto, ON

What: Books sold and signed, refreshments and swag offered. I’ll be answering any questions you have about the trilogy and am happy to chat about just about anything. :) And there’ll be a special guest appearance by my other recent “project”, The Baby!

If you think you’ll be able to attend, you can RSVP here on Facebook.