Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Riding the KingCoaster

In Reading on March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

I’m a big, yellow-bellied, lily-livered, boneless chicken. (I blame my cousin for making me watch black-and-white horror movies when I was little, while the adults visited and he had to keep me from getting bored. For the record: I was never bored. Ever.) So this is a big deal:

Tonight, for the first time ever, I stepped in line to ride the KingCoaster*, one of – if not THE – world’s most frightening rides. And I’m about to pee my pants in anticipation.

You know the sitch: That heart-pumping, sweaty-palm suspense of what’s to come; hearing the terrified, electrifying screams of those who’ve gone before you; bearing witness to the blanched yet exhilarated countenances of individuals exiting the ride. You wanna do it. You don’t wanna do it. You love the fear of the unknown. You hate the fear of the unknown. You’re intrigued by what others have said about it. You’re horrified by what others have said about it. The longer the wait, the more intense the anxiety. The closer you get to the front of the line, the more you want to slip under the metal bars into the sparsely populated fast-track lane and hoof it the other way. But you don’t. You stay in line. You wipe your palms on your cut-offs. You take deliberate, meditative (but completely ineffectual) breaths. You repeat to yourself that it won’t be as petrifying as you think it will be. And you hold your pee.

Step forward: I remember the contented ride of the Toews-Go-Round.

Step forward: And the giddy buzz of racing down Riordan River Rapids.

Step forward: The Gardner-A-Whirl was fully enjoyable from line up to landing and, although somewhat intense,

Step forward: The Tower of Collins was a thrilling plunge.

Step forward: Even experiencing  The Tunnel of Gaiman wasn’t half as distressing as what I’m feeling now.

Step forward: I’m convinced I’ve made a mistake.

But this understanding comes a second too late, at the sound of the harness being locked into place: I’ve just been downloaded into the seat. And the furtive thumbs up have been given.

There’s no turning back. The ascent has begun.

I’m now fully committed.

To be continued …

*AKA: THE SHINING.

What’s one of your favorite books?

In Reading on February 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

 

I’m seeking content for a blog post that will be a compilation of favorite books. I have shelf space dedicated to my favorites and often wonder what books other people dub as worthy to be set apart from the rest. Almost on a weekly basis, I post a facebook status that says, “What are you reading this weekend?” I do this mostly because I’m sincerely curious. But I also do it for the chance I might find my next best read out of the list. The only problem is that I’m asking people as they’re reading, not when they’re finished. And I’ve come to realize that I’d like to know what they think of the books once they’ve closed the back cover. So consider this request for feedback as my follow-up:

What’s been a favorite book of yours?

I could scour the internet in search of this kind of information, sure. But I’m not looking for the professional points of view of bloggers/reviewers/critics/publicists/etc … I’m looking for input from the people who authors have in mind when they write their books: those who read with nothing on their agenda other than their love of books and fabulous stories – READERS!

Can you help me out?

Please post a comment below naming one of your favorite books (I know it’s nearly impossible to have only ONE favorite book) and just a sentence or two about why it is. Once I have enough input I’ll categorize and blog it. I’ll help get you going:

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak – Told in the voice of a unique narrator who has a deeply vested interest in the story, this was the first book that reduced me to a puddle of tears by book’s end, not by way of a romantic heartbreak, but because I’d grown to love and care so deeply for the characters I couldn’t bear to have them leave me when they did – and in the ways they did.

Hope you participate! And please feel free to share this request. The more comments the better! 🙂

This is why we need to keep our libraries accessible to the public …

In Reading on July 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

Click for source

Our mayor and his sidekick-city-councillor-brother want to privatize and shut down libraries in the city of Toronto. Read this to see what can happen to people if libraries aren’t as accessible as Tim Hortons… to see what they’ve been saying.

If you live in the GTA, please sign this petition to stop the privatization of our libraries. Thank you.

Maureen McGowan Monday

In author interview, Reading, torkidlit on April 4, 2011 at 9:00 am

It’s not every day you’re lucky enough to spend time with a person who is just so down-to-earth and real that you feel like you’ve known them your entire life, even though your friendship may only be about a year and a half old. Maureen McGowan is that kind of a person to me. And it doesn’t matter how many days have passed since I last saw her, when we sit down over drinks and food (ah, yes, always drinks and food) to have a visit, it’s as if we hang out on a daily basis and are just picking up where we left off the day before.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to interview this wonderful friend and fellow torkidlit author. You may have noticed I’ve mentioned Maureen in previous posts, and that’s because she’s not only an amazing human being, but also a voice to be heard in this venture called the writer’s life. Maureen’s super supportive, tons of fun to be around,  and she’s also wise and insightful and very open to sharing her experiences and lessons learned.

Maureen’s debut YA books (yes, I said books) were released this past Friday, April 1st. CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR and SLEEPING BEAUTY: VAMPIRE SLAYER are both clever choose-your-own-adventure stories featuring feisty kick-a** heroines, rather than traditional sit-on-your-a**-and-let-fate-determine-your-destiny princesses. (Written in the light of a wealth of experience, I’m sure. Being feisty and choosing your own adventure are two things Maureen does very well ;))

And to make this interview even sweeter than it already is, comment below for a chance to win a copy of either CINDERELLA or SLEEPING BEAUTY – winner’s choice! (Winner to be chosen by super secret random method. A.K.A: I’ll have my kid choose a number from 1 to however many comments there are. Maybe not so secret anymore, but pretty super and random, all the same.) Hint: Subscribe to comments so you will be notified when the winner is announced.

And now it’s my pleasure to introduce you to this feisty kick-a** YA author: Maureen McGowan.

Please introduce yourself to us.

I’m a recovering accountant and shoe addict who writes novels for teens and adults.

Tell us about your books.

My first two novels, Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, both just hit the shelves! They are the first two books in the Twisted Tales series published by Baker & Taylor Publishing Group as their first twelve-and-over books under their Silver Dolphin imprint.

Click to Buy

The stories are adventurous retellings/re-imaginings of classic fairy tales that are suitable for readers of just about any age. The publisher put twelve on the cover, but strong readers as young as nine or ten would enjoy these books. There’s lots of danger, but nothing too terrifying, and not too much “kissing stuff”.

Click to Buy

In my versions of these classic tales, the heroines don’t sit around waiting for someone to save them—they fight for their happy endings.

The stories are told with a choose-your-own-adventure element. At three points during each story, the reader makes an important decision for the heroine, and the story unfolds differently depending on those choices. It’s possible to read the book eight different ways!

Why did you choose to write children’s books?

Children’s books kind of chose me. But I am so glad they did! I love writing for the young adult market and it’s my main focus now.

When the genre found me, I had been writing adult books for a number of years, but had only managed to sell one short story, albeit into a pretty popular anthology. My last adult manuscript was a sexy urban fantasy novel, set in a world entirely of my own making, but sadly, my former agent failed to find the right editor for it.

But, one of my critique partners who’d read it was hired on a freelance basis to be the editor for the Twisted Tales series. She knew I was between projects, frustrated and, although everything I’d written up to that point had been decidedly adult, she thought I might be perfect for this project and asked me to try my hand at writing a proposal for the target publisher. About six weeks after writing a chapter and an outline for Cinderella: Ninja Warrior, and listing a few titles for follow-up books, including Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, I had a two-book contract.

So, an overnight success after seven or eight years of banging my head against the wall. 😉

Is there anything specific you want to achieve through CINDERELLA and SLEEPING BEAUTY? Were they written with a specific purpose in mind?

My main purpose with these two books was to entertain readers. I hope the books are fun and exciting and fast to read. But underneath all that, I wanted to write fairy tales I would enjoy. Fairy tales where the heroines aren’t just victims waiting for a Prince to spot her in a pretty dress and shoes, or sleeping for a hundred years waiting for someone else to break her curse.

In addition to the traditional fairy tale themes of true love conquers all, and good triumphs over evil, each of these stories has other underlying themes. Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is also about believing in yourself, and seeing through the superficial to what really matters—the person inside. Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is also about the dangers of prejudice, and about being a child of divorce—realizing that it’s not your fault when your parents fight (even if you’re cursed).

Is the writing community important to you? If yes, how so?

Unbelievably important. As much as everyone you talk to thinks they know about writing and publishing—only other writers, who’ve gone through the highs and the lows, can truly understand both how fabulous yet difficult it is. How sometimes the things that sound like failures are actually triumphs—how fabulous you got that chance to fail!—and the things that sound like huge successes don’t always measure up to our dreams.

I rely daily on my close writer friends, as well as the wider network of the writing community, to get through both the good and the bad times with some semblance of sanity and self-esteem. 😉

Do you believe in the concept of a muse? Explain.

Yes and no. I don’t believe in the concept of waiting for your muse. I think if you want to be a professional writer, you need to sit down and work. Writing is hard most days—really hard—and if you only write when the “muse strikes” then it’s possible you’re treating writing as a hobby, not a profession.

That said, sometimes it does pay to clear your head when you’re stuck. And there is no better, more magical, feeling than having an idea pour out of your fingers onto the page from somewhere unexplainable. Or realizing near the end of the first draft that you’ve been setting up some amazing twist entirely by accident or via your self-conscious. I suppose those days when the magic comes could be attributed to a muse. Those are the days that keep me going through all the bad days where nothing I write seems good enough. If it’s a muse? I’m down with that. Keep her/him coming. 🙂

Was there a specific event that encouraged you to develop your artistic, writerly self?

Oh, I love this question. I think I always wanted to be a writer of some kind—or at least to do something artistic and creative. But I was also very practical, wanted to earn a living, and was “cursed” with being a good student. Not that it was a curse—at all—but my aptitude for school did mean it was easier to paddle in the direction my parents/teachers expected me too, rather than to fight the tide and follow my dreams.

I actually went to University for accounting and have a Masters Degree in that field. After a successful and (sometimes interesting) career in finance I found myself in complete burnout mode. The last few years of my previous career were pretty horrific and I didn’t even recognize myself.

If I were to advise Teen Me now, I think I’d tell her that it’s fine to want a good job that pays well, but it’s also important to work at something that interests you. Just because you’re good at something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Ambition and accomplishments can only get you through so many years of a job your heart’s not in before it starts to change you.

How did you come to find your own voice? Did you emulate anyone in the beginning?

This is an interesting question. I think I found my voice by writing—a lot—and revising—a lot. I don’t think I emulated anyone in the beginning, but I do think that I was, at once, too loose with my prose and too tight with my grammar. That is, I was obsessed with writing grammatically correct sentences, but my work was riddled with unnecessary words and embellishments. (Not to mention unnecessary and/or overwritten scenes.)

When critiquers of my early work pointed this out, I got angry. But that’s my voice!! If I take out all those words or scenes, or sections of snappy dialogue, it will be flat and not sound like me!! It took time and experience to learn that it’s possible to edit voice into prose (rather than my early assumption that too much editing would take all the voice out.) I also came to understand that voice is as much about the stories we choose to tell, and the characters we choose to create, as it is about style.

Are there any helpful books on writing that you’d like to recommend?

I have a huge collection of writing books… But some “old faithfuls” are:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Brown and Dave King, On Writing, by Stephen King, and Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon.

The first is one of the best out there for helping writers hone their prose. It really helped me understand how to strengthen my writing through multiple drafts and using words and scenes in an effective way. On Writing I loved because I read it at a time when I was really struggling with whether I wanted to be a “literary” writer. Stephen King helped me see that if my goal was to have people read my books, story trumped all else. Nothing wrong with aspiring to have fabulous prose, but I didn’t want that to get in the way of the storytelling. I decided reading his thoughts that unless you’re writing poetry the words serve the story, not the other way around.

Not sure if he actually says that in the book, but that’s one thing I took away. And speaking of the importance of story, that’s why I included Debra Dixon’s book. There are better known books on story structure, but I love the way she boils it down to always understanding your characters’ goals, why they want what they want, and what’s keeping them from attaining what they want. Know each of your characters’ GMC on every page and presto you’ve got a tension filled story. 🙂

Can you leave us with a favorite quote?

Oh, I’m terrible with quotes. I never remember them. When I was answering your muse question, I wanted to mention a great quote I once saw on the topic. It was a famous writer who said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I only write when the muse strikes. It just so happens that my muse strikes every morning at five am when I sit down at my desk.”

But that’s not the exact quote and I can’t for the life of me remember who said it. (And my google attempts came up short.)

***

Thanks so much, Maureen! I like the way you think. (Even though you can’t remember quotes!) 🙂

Readers, remember to comment below for a chance to win one of these fabulous books – the choice will be yours, should you win!

If you want to contact Maureen, or would like more info on her, here are some links for you to check out:

Website 

Twitter

Facebook page

Writer blog

Reader blog

POV

In Reading, ruminating, writing on February 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

I saw a unique and very telling review of a book the other day. It wasn’t a review of my book, but it was of a children’s book. The reviewer was evidently the parent of a young child and she said something along these lines:

She thought the book she’d read was clever and she really enjoyed it. But her six-year-old didn’t. And considering it was a picture book and her child was the intended audience, she rated the book accordingly; by giving it a one-star rating.

Think about it. She really enjoyed the book. She thought it was clever. She may even have given it a four or five-star rating, like so many adults before her had already done. But she didn’t. Instead, she chose to read and rate the book via the POV of the intended audience. 

And all I want to say to that is this: Thank you, mom of the one-star rating. You’ve given the opinion of the intended audience precedence. You’ve muted your own inclinations by turning up the volume on the voice that should be heard. And by doing so, you’ve shown that accurately determining the merit of  children’s books requires a lot more insight, wisdom, observation, and astuteness than some people may think. It requires us adults – especially writers of children’s lit – to reach beyond our familiar, if not pretentious, ways of thinking; to dig deeper than our own understanding; to step out of ourselves and view the world around us through the eyes of a younger generation, a generation that doesn’t see the same way we see. It has nothing to do with dumbing-down (*cough* Martin Amis *cough*) but has everything to do with creativity, exercising our intellect, increasing our worldview, making the most of and appreciating fully these wonderful things called words, and mastering the craft. All for the pleasure of an audience other than ourselves. There’s nothing easy or simple about that.

No one loves a one-star rating. But that one really shines.

FACING FIRE – a new book by K.C. Dyer

In contests, Reading on October 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I don’t know about you, but I love winning stuff. Especially books!

Here’s a chance for you to win a copy of K.C. Dyer’s new book, FACING FIRE.

Click to enter

Just click the book cover, read the post, and comment. Easy peasy!

Good luck!