Writer At Work: On Location

Whenever I go on vacation, I’m always, in a way, scouting for story locations. I say “in a way” because it’s not like I go out there thinking, must find cool place to set a story. More like, I’m wandering around minding my own business and a location grabs me and insists this place needs story!

Some day I’m going to write a novel set in Edinburgh. And Venice. (Probably not the same novel, but you never know.) Both were very grabby places.

So when I got a story idea last year that I knew had to be set some place with a somewhat unfamiliar mythology and at least one high-tech city, I was hopeful that I could use one of the places I’d already been to. China? Italy? *research research research*

Almost but not quite, the muse said. Japan fits best. Which is nice, because I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, but not so nice, because it is very very far away and I really do not think I can do it justice without having been there.

So the muse and I are compromising. I am going to attempt to write the rough draft of the Japan story this summer, with imagination and various research tools as my guide. And if it works out, well, I know where my next vacation’s going to be!

What places have you been to in your travels, that you think need a story or two? Are there any places you’d love to go to, so you could write about them (or just for fun, if you’re not writing-inclined)?

Book Rec: WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

From the jacket: Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

Recced for: Vivid, stark, and totally believable voice, which makes the main character sympathetic and understandable even as you struggle to accept what she’s doing to herself. (It helps that she’s struggling to/not to accept it, too.) Sparse but beautiful writing. A story that will haunt you if you try to put it down before you’re finished, and then continue to haunt you after you have.

Note: Likely triggers for those with present or past eating disorders.

Flashback: Crushes Make You Crazy

April 3, 1994 (Megan is 13)

The Weird Things I Did When I Liked D

The weekend when I’d first found out I liked him I tried to send psychic messages to him and I rode my bike around at the park, hoping he’d come. Before that, when he first asked me if I liked him, it was like this:

Class is on their way to classroom. On stairs, D approaches me.
D: Megan, do you like me?
M: No!
D: I mean as a friend.
M: No.
D: Why not?
M: You’re mean.
D (smiling): What did I do that was mean?
M: You called X “Pimple face”.
D: X doesn’t care, she’s my friend. Right, X?
X: Yeah.
The class has reached the classroom.

Even after I started liking him I could hardly admit he was my friend. I have a very stubborn head. Of course, before I liked him, I was totally sure he liked me. After, I was never sure. Liking someone does something to your faith in your mind.

Another time, I forget why, most of the people were gone. That was when D told me he liked me. Well, not exactly. He sang a big of a song saying he liked “you”. Then he said, “Did you know that, Megan?” I pretended I hadn’t heard him. What can I say, I was scared half to death.

Another time I remember well was last winter. The ensemble was singing at the Sheridan Centre. D sat next to me on the streetcar. I was seriously “scared stiff”. I could hardly move. Our eyes met once and we said “Hi”. I remember thinking that he had awesome eyes. I’d never seen them that close before.

An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Playing with books (and movies, and TV shows)

If you’re looking for a little laughter today, I submit two links for your viewing pleasure:

Courtesy of several people on my LiveJournal Friends list, Buffy vs. Edward. If you thought Edward got away with a little too much creepy stalker behavior in TWILIGHT, this is for you! 😀

Courtesy of Pegg Kerr, a Harry Potter musical. A mishmash of the plots of all seven books, plus singing, tap-dancing, and Zac Efron posters. Okay, it’s pretty goofy, but I got lots of giggles… and the first song was catchy enough to get stuck in my head. And also, the Best Line Ever: “I want Hermoine Granger! And a rocket ship.”

Enjoy!

Free Fiction on Friday

Over the next few months I’ll be making my previously published short stories available online, for free. And what better day to start than today? 🙂

First up is “Seven Years”, a science fiction story that was my first and only venture into flash fiction (it’s under 500 words–so, a quick read!). It was originally published in ON SPEC, a Canadian science fiction and fantasy magazine, in 2004.

I invite you to read it here.

Hope you enjoy!

Flashback: Discovering My Writing Process

June 13, 1997 (Megan is 16)

Very little happened yesterday — I spent a good part of the day writing. I’ve found it goes somewhat faster now — it used to take me an hour per page, and now I’m getting at least a page and a half done, sometimes two. Maybe it’s because I’m writing so much, my mind is really geared into the story, plus I have it outlined so well, I don’t have to think much on where I’m going.

It’s kind of sad, though, don’t you think? I mean, I spent a good part… most of grade 11 working on STARS FALLING, but it just sort of… crumpled. Really, it’s because I hardly outlined it at all, and also the idea was too big. But now, it looks like I’ll finish this novel in less than a month. Of course, it helps that, being summer vacation, I have lots of time to write, but if I didn’t have each scene mapped out…


An Introduction to Flashbacks
The Flashback Cast
The Flashback Timeline

Wonder: Ghost Stories–Bloody Mary

When I was in grade six, one of the popular stories going around was about Bloody Mary. According to a close friend who claimed to have attempted this herself, what you had to do was go into a bathroom, close the door, and turn off the light, then say “Bloody Mary” three times while looking into the mirror. She’d tried it once on her own and once with friends and both times she’d seen some sort of blurry image that had freaked her out so much that she ran right out of the bathroom shrieking.

She tried to convince me that we should give it a shot, but being somewhat more timid than her, I figured that I’d rather let this Bloody Mary person rest in peace.

Apparently this tradition of calling Blood Mary (or Mary by other names) in the mirror had been going on for quite a while: see articles at Wikipedia and Snopes.

How about you all–have any of you ever called Bloody Mary? Did you see anything?

What other ghost “games” have you played or heard of?

Writer at Work: The Writer vs. Technology

Two things about me: I can be independent to a fault, and tech and I do not generally get along.

I know a lot of people who would be surprised by the second fact. I’ve been putting together my own websites for years; I am the go-to person for all things computer-y among the 2K9ers; I have excellent Google-fu. But all of that mostly has to do with the first fact.

My dad’s really into computers, so I grew up with them. And when you grow up with something, it’s hard not to pick up the basics. But all the other stuff has mostly been a matter of me wanting to do something, and not wanting to have to ask anyone for help. I wanted a website? I’d darn well figure out how to make one myself. I wanted to look something up? I’d keep plugging in key words until I found the ones that worked best. So all the things I want to do a lot, I’ve gotten reasonably competent at. Practice–it does wonders!

Nevertheless, my mind is still not fond of abstracts, and math beyond the basic plus/minus/times/divide gives me hives, and most tech seems to be filled with abstractions and numbers. Which is why, when I go to figure out how something works for myself and then don’t practice, there may as well be a big hole in my brain that all that info drains out of.

Case in point: A couple months ago I was working on a book trailer for GIVE UP THE GHOST. (Why not get someone else to do it? I did mention that independence thing, didn’t I?) So I sat down with Flash and fiddled and got Chris (who programs in Flash) to show me a few things, and once I got going I set it up with few hitches along the way.

And then I got caught up in other things, and left it sitting for a couple months before I finally came back for some tweaking. And stared at the file on my screen. And realized I had so little clue I couldn’t even hope to google the answer, so I called Chris over for a conversation that went like this:

Me: What’s the command to get one of those dot thingies to come up? I’m sure there was some button I pressed or something…
Chris: Dot thingies?
Me: You know. Those! *points at screen*
Chris: Oh, a keyframe, you just right-click and select “Insert Keyframe”.
Me: Right, of course, keyframes, ha ha ha ha… *headdesk*

(Keyframes being only the most basic part in the whole thing. Kind of like forgetting what that “dot thingie” called a period is.)

Lesson learned: If I’m going on insist on learning new tech, best to get all the work done in one shot, or I’m going to end up having to teach myself all over again.

For the book bloggers: ARCs, interviews, etc.

I’ve gotten e-mails from many awesome book bloggers, so I figured it might be helpful to make a post just for you.

If you are excited about my books, well, I am super excited about you being excited, so it works out well for both of us! Here are some ways you can potentially get involved:

1. Reviews. Now that Give Up the Ghost and all three books in the Fallen World trilogy are out in stores, review copies are no longer available. Sorry! If you pick up a copy on your own, I’m still grateful if you take the time to share your thoughts.

Earth & Sky e-galleys will be available from NetGalley starting in September. Canadian book reviewers can grab a print ARC of the book during my appearance at Toronto’s 2014 Word on the Street, or by requesting on from Razorbill Canada (subject to availability and publisher approval). I will also have some author copies on offer in late September or early October, if you want to make a request (though I can’t promise anything, as they’ll be limited).

2. Interviews and guest blogs. Want me to come by your blog to answer a few questions or talk about a particular topic? I’ve love to! All you’ve got to do is e-mail me and ask.

3. Contests. I’ve heard from a few people interested in hosting contests related to my books. Wonderful! I’m always happy to donate swag like bookmarks, magnets, and stickers. If you’ve got a really great idea for one, let me know and I may be able to throw in a signed copy of the book as well.

4. Bookmarks. I am currently offering Earth & Sky, Fallen World trilogy, and Ghost bookmarks to librarians, bookstore staff, reviewers, bloggers, and other bookish folks, anywhere in the world. I order them in big batches, so there’s always lots to go around! Email me if interested, letting me know how many you’d like and what you’d use them for.

5. Foreign editions and publishers. I am so excited that Ghost, the Fallen World trilogy, and the Earth & Sky trilogy are starting to be picked up by publishers in other countries. Unfortunately, I have very little control over where they will appear. But publishers do listen to readers! If you’d love to see my books in your country, write to your favorite publishers and let them know.

And if you’re wondering about anything I haven’t mentioned here, just get in touch. I don’t bite, promise! You love books–I already like you. 😀