ROW80 Week 11 and Final Check-In

This is it — the end of this Round of Words in 80 Days! Well, technically there are a few more days left, but I’m only doing weekly check-ins, so this will be my last. It’s longer than usual because I’m also including a recap, so bear with me….

Writing Updates

This week Real Life kicked my butt. Don’t worry, nothing horrible happened…I’ve just been really busy and haven’t had a lot of brain left over for writing.

That said, I’ve still logged over an hour and written 900 words of a new scene on the next chapter of the novel edit, which is more than can be said of some weeks when Real Life happens, so yay.

Renovation Updates

The IKEA snafu has finally been sorted, the missing piece has been delivered, and assembly will be happening this week. Kitchen appliances are also being delivered this week, which means the kitchen will in theory be usable. Next steps: move out everything that’s currently being stored in the kitchen and the cupboards, put it all somewhere else, clean the room from top to bottom, and start setting it up for actual use!

My significant other and I spent much of the weekend buying curtains and sheers for the entire house (why yes, we’ve been living here with only jury-rigged window coverings for the past two years, why do you ask?). I think we’ve bought everything we need now…just need to check them out in the rooms where they’re going, to make sure the colours work the way I thought they would in the store.

(I had blinds growing up and we had blinds in the apartment where we lived before this, so neither of us has any experience with curtains. But we like the look of curtains better, especially in an old house like ours, so that’s what we’re going for. Gotta learn sometime, right?)

I’ve also spent quite a bit of time thinking about landscaping and browsing magazines for ideas, so that’s been taking up a lot of brain cycles. But I have to say it’s nice to be dreaming about spring despite the snow still on the ground!

ROW80 Final Recap

Back in my original ROW80 post, I declared 2014 to be the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space. I wrote:

I’m taking a step back, refocusing and recommitting to what it is I really want to do with myself. Which is write.

Specifically, I want to make more space for my writing. I hear myself constantly complaining about how busy I am. My house is cluttered so there’s no room to think. The Internet is an ever-present demon. And the writing I am getting done feels like it has stagnated because I’m not sinking into it as deeply as I could be.

I think that has kind of backfired. I’m still super busy…though at least now the focus has shifted from nebulous computer-related things (like before) to making my real-life space better. My house is still cluttered, but I’m moving towards having more usable space, which has got to help eventually.

I’m also making headway on decor, which is also a worthy goal — I deserve a beautiful space! (To be clear I’m not talking about a perfectly clean and Pinterest-worthy space, but one that makes my heart happy.)

My original ROW80 writing goal was to spend 5 hours a week writing and/or editing.

I fell short of that — my average was more like 3 to 3.5 hours, and I only hit 5 hours once (last week!). But it started at around 2 to 2.5 hours, so the amount of writing gradually crept up from week to week. That’s worth something too.

What’s Next

I’m seriously thinking of signing up for ROW80 again. I found it helpful for keeping myself moving, if not always on track.

The next round (April 7 to June 26) will encompass a time when I expect to be seriously busy with Real Life stuff — mainly getting the kitchen and yard/garden up and running — so there may will not be a lot of writing. But I’d like to encourage myself to keep moving on the writing, even just a little bit.

It’s also helpful to look back on my own updates about Real Life and remind myself that hey, I really was busy and no, I’m not slacking off (take that, nasty little voice in my head).

Your turn! If you’re doing ROW80, how did this round go? If not, how about those New Year’s resolutions? Do the critical voices in your head help or hinder you?

Top 5 Movies About Ireland

Poster for OnceHappy That-Day-When-Everyone-Is-Irish!

(I’m not Irish or otherwise Celtic by blood, as far as I know, but in spirit? Oh yes.)

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a roundup of some of my favourite movies with Irish connections…

5. Far and Away

Okay, this one just starts in Ireland. But hey, cute love story? Young Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (before they were even married, let alone divorced)? Victorian-era drama? I’m in!

4. The Devil’s Own

To be fair, this involves Northern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland. (Quick geography recap: the actual island of Ireland is divided into two states, the independent country called the Republic of Ireland and the part of the United Kingdom called Northern Ireland. Confused yet? Northern Ireland is where the violence used to happen — thankfully not so much anymore.)

Anyway…The Devil’s Own stars a young Brad Pitt and a young(er) Harrison Ford on opposite sides of a missile-stealing plot. It’s not fabulous — and neither is Pitt’s Irish accent — but it’s fun.

3. Once

I’m a sucker for a sweet love story between two questioning souls and free spirits. Think Before Sunrise and Benny and Joon. Better yet, they’re both singer-songwriters, and so are the actors. Add in some nice acoustic guitar, a haunting melody, some really thick Irish accents, and a pretty cityscape (Dublin) as a backdrop…lovely.

2. The Secret of Roan Inish

Selkies! Need I say more? I guess you’d call it a kids’ movie, but if you’re a lover of selkies, you don’t exactly have a lot of movies to choose from, and you could certainly do worse than this one. Beautifully shot on the west coast of Ireland, and featuring an island much like this one:

A country lane on Inishmore. Copyright Siri Paulson 2004.

A country lane on Inishmore. Copyright Siri Paulson 2004.

1. Waking Ned (Devine)

My all-time favourite Irish movie is a comedy known as Waking Ned Devine in North America and simply Waking Ned on the other side of the pond. An old man in a tiny Irish town wins the lottery and promptly dies of the shock. The rest of the villagers decide that Ned would want them to have the money regardless. Hijinks ensue.

Honourable Mentions

And a couple of movies I very much enjoyed that were filmed, but not set, in Ireland:

Reign of Fire is a post-apocalyptic movie in which the apocalypse is…dragons. How is this film not more popular? Starring Christian Bale and a very muscular Matthew McConaughey.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride both include scenes shot at the Cliffs of Moher on Ireland’s west coast. And why wouldn’t you, when they look like this?

Cliffs of Moher

The mighty Cliffs of Moher. Copyright Siri Paulson, 2004.

Your turn! What’s your favourite movie set in, filmed in, or otherwise involving Ireland?

If you liked this post, check out YA books for St. Patrick’s Day.

Home Stretch on the ROW80 Week 10 Check-In

This is the second-last update I’ll be making for this Round of Words in 80 Days. Can’t believe how fast it’s gone. Regular reporting has helped keep me accountable, so I’m going to sign up for the next round as well (starts April 7). If you’re thinking of joining, let me know so I can be sure to cheer you on.

On to the updates…

Writing Updates

My original ROW80 goal was 5 hours a week of writing or editing (fiction only — not counting blogging). Due to Life, I had to revise that goal down to 3.5 (a handy goal because the math is so easy). Most weeks I managed between 3 and 4 hours. Well…this week I finally hit 5!

Even better, I finally conquered a chapter that’s had me stymied for waaaaay too long. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s good enough for now (this is the second draft, not the last draft) and I am MOVING ON. Oh, and today I got to write a really nasty cliffhanger. That was fun. Whoever said writers were nice people?

Another goal was to start putting a little more effort into this blog. I wrote two non-ROW80 posts this past week — My Writing Process and Winter Elegy — which hasn’t happened since last month, so go me!

Renovation Updates

The IKEA snafu still isn’t sorted — they were supposed to call us last week and didn’t, so we need to follow up this week.

However, we braved the cold weather to go to Home Depot (in a blizzard!) and order some appliances for the upstairs kitchen (we’re in a shared housing arrangement). Those are getting delivered in two weeks, so soon we’ll have no excuse to keep avoiding the cleaning that needs to happen in that kitchen to make it usable. I’m looking forward to having our own kitchen again and getting back to more independence.

We’re also making headway on drapes — a kind friend has offered to hem them for us (we are, sadly, about as far from DIYers as one can get), and we now know more or less what we want, so in the next couple of weeks we need to go buy all the curtains. Yay?

And finally, we’re looking into getting help with beating our front and back yards into shape come spring. More about that soon!

Winter Elegy

My father passed away eleven years ago this week, at the tail end of an unusually frigid winter much like the one we’ve just had.

I don’t know which season was his favourite, but he relished each of them. He didn’t fear or curse the cold — he took us cross-country skiing and walking in the snow whenever he could, until that last winter that he spent sick, in and out of hospital. We drove on icy roads and trudged in winter gear from the parking lot to visit him.

I wasn’t thinking about it then, but I suspect that’s when I began to hate winter.

For a long time he didn’t know it would be his last, only that he was very sick…and he was never sick. But he knew the possibility was there. He was not afraid.

When I was young, I used to love playing in the snow. Building forts, sledding, pretending I was an Arctic explorer or a princess in an ice castle (the budding writer at work). Later I tried skating and snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing was always my favourite, the clean sound of the skis in the snow, the glorious sensation of flying, the sleeping trees and pure white all around. I’ve done some of those things since he died, but nowadays I mostly just trudge.

On the day of the funeral, the winter finally broke, with a sky of clear Alberta blue, meltwater running in the cemetery. I like to think it broke for him, but then he didn’t mind the snow. Maybe it broke for us.

Even now, at this time of year I get melancholy. I still like a clean snowfall, crunchy snow and a clear winter sky, but as the season wears on, it wears at me too. I wait out the last cold days, just enduring the late-winter storms. Waiting for March to pass and spring to arrive, and life to come again.

 

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

It’s blog hop time! I’ve been tagged by the lovely Aussie writer Ellen Gregory, who adores both fantasy and travel (sound familiar?). The idea with this one is to answer four questions, then tag three other awesome writers to answer the same questions on their own blogs in a week or so. If you’re the sort who loves to read about the writing process, then do be careful or you could be lost down the rabbit hole forever….

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

Please enjoy a picture of one of my notebooks, with bonus hand-knit socks.

1. What am I working on?

I’m currently editing a YA historical fantasy novel, with plans to query agents once it’s done. I’ve also just finished a serial story set in a fantasy version of Thailand (the fifth and final part of the serial will be posted next month). My next project will be to revamp the serial into a single (longish) short story.

What I’ve mentioned so far happens to be fantasy, but I also write other types of speculative fiction — steampunk, science fiction, Gothic — and sometimes even non-genre fiction.

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

One answer is that I often write at the border between YA and adult. (New Adult, I guess you’d say, except that NA is usually contemporary and mine usually isn’t.) Another is that I think my writing has an essential optimism that shines through…the sense that yes, your place in the world is out there and you will find it, even if you have to cross the world or fight your way through larger events or live through years of your adult life to get there.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because speculative fiction makes my heart sing.

Because when I say “I wish I could write like that” or “As a reader, I loved that book to pieces”, it’s usually speculative fiction I’m talking about.

Because it makes my inner 12-year-old happy, and she’s important to me.

Because making up worlds, genre-bending, and mashing elements together to see what sticks…is fun.

Because I want to see more like what I write. Much as I love medieval Europe, there are whole other civilizations out there, and I want to see them in fantasy too.

Because I love the moment when I stumble on a genre mash-up, or a crazy worldbuilding thing, and think, “You can DO that?!” (Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere blew my mind back in high school. So did discovering steampunk, sometime later. So do most of my favourite writers, even now.)

Because I love the tropes of the genre.

Because the sky’s the limit.

4. How does my writing process work?

I like to say I’m a reformed pantser (seat-of-the-pants writer) or headlight writer (you can only see as far as your headlights). My short stories are often still written that way. And I’m gradually moving from longhand to typing, even in the brainstorming and outlining stages…which were the last to go.

For longer works, I usually start with a lot of brainstorming, research, backstory, and character development — not via questionnaires or “outtake” scenes or dialogues, just jotting down lots of notes. Then I develop a very broad outline with the opening/setup and major turning points (act breaks). There’ll be some one-liner descriptions for scenes in there too, mostly in the first quarter of the story, getting nebulous very quickly. Or, in other words, more or less what Ellen said.

When it comes time to start writing, I prefer to draft quickly so I don’t lose the feel of the story or the overarching plot. NaNo works great for this, even if it means that what I end up with is rough.

And what happens after that? I do have some trusted critiquers, but I’m still working on finding a process for editing that works for me. If you have any advice, please share!

Tagged

And the tagged writers are…

  • Erin Zarro — writer of science fantasy, and of poetry
  • KD Sarge — writer of science fiction romance, with shenanigans
  • Kit Campbell — writer of paranormal romance, with banter

Making Headway on the ROW80 Week 9 Check-In

We’re heading into the final stretch of ROW80! How are all of you fine folks doing?

Writing Updates

Last week, I said I wanted to start putting a little more effort into this blog. In case you missed it, I wrote a travel post about visiting Rajasthan, India — with photos taken by yours truly.

I’m also finally making headway on the novel edit, I think. I had Friday off work and put in a good 2 hours, for a total of 3 hours this week. Not as much as I wanted, but (a) I also had to deal with a furnace issue on Friday and a very full Saturday, and (b) I’m focusing on staying positive and celebrating what I do get done rather than beating myself up for what I don’t do. So…three hours, yay!

Renovation Updates

We’re still sorting out the IKEA snafu, and busy researching ranges and drapes. So nothing visible is happening, but plenty behind the scenes. Which has been true of the novel as well, come to think of it!

At least we’re making good use of the newly finished attic / exercise room…which is really the point of renovating anyway, right?

 

The Best of Rajasthan, India

One of the most popular tourist destinations in India is the state of Rajasthan. Fortified palaces, arid landscapes, rich curries…all conveniently close to the capital of New Delhi, where most international travellers first arrive. I spent six weeks in India last year, with a good chunk of that in Rajasthan — and I still just scratched the surface of what this state has to offer.

Arch in Udaipur

Arch in Udaipur

Here, then, are the do-not-miss experiences:

1. Trains

Riding the train in India is quite the experience — it is by turns exciting, confusing, stressful, and fun. (For more, see Guide to Train Travel in India.) But if you’re going to do it, Rajasthan is the place to do it in. Most of the major cities are a reasonable six-hour ride apart, with signage and announcements in English as well as Hindi.

If you’re really pressed for time, try riding the Golden Triangle — New Delhi to Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) to Jaipur (which will give you a quick glimpse of Rajasthan) and back to Delhi. These are all fairly short rides, with no worries about security on overnight trains, and you’ll get a little taste of the vast Indian train system.

2. Forts

The forts of Rajasthan deserve their own post. For now, I’ll just say that if you love old architecture or are a history buff, these are not to be missed. (For a quick primer on Indian forts, see Visiting the Red Fort in New Delhi.)

There are many fine forts (really fortified palaces) to visit, each with unique charm and character. If I had to pick two to recommend, it would be Amber Fort near Jaipur, with its gorgeous surroundings, many courtyards, and beautiful decor…

Amer Fort near Jaipur

…and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, with its towering walls, intricate detailing, and museum showcasing items from the time of the rajahs (most of the other forts are simply empty):

Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Did I mention this was my favourite part of Rajasthan?

More pictures after the jump…

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