Monthly Archives: November 2013

Blog Hop!

Dear Blog,

It’s time for another blog hop! This one is just four questions, and importantly, taught me how to include photos in my blog. (Yes, I am a luddite, but I’m trying). (And OK, the blog hop didn’t teach me, Eric Sipple told me how to do it on twitter – thanks Eric!)

I was tagged by Joyce Audy Zarins. I met her in a workshop led by the spectacular Nova Ren Suma in May. (Read Imaginary Girls. Love. LOVE.) Joyce shared a really stunning excerpt of her WIP “The Crescent Scar,” which she mentions in her own blog hop post – you can view her post here. A bit more on this intrepid author / sculptor:

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I write and do art for PB, MG, and YA books from contemporary to historical and have had twenty books published, which you can see here The heaviest steel sculpture I’ve built is 700 pounds. Not so big, though I’m only 4’11” tall. My husband and I’ve kayaked with whales twenty miles out, hiked the Italian Dolomites, and cramponned atop the glacier at Finse, Norway. My daughter and I went to Burning Man, I’ve experienced the Ring Road around Iceland with one son, and the other’s wedding in a castle. Life is intriguing. Nature is my muse.

blog: http://constructions.joyceaudyzarins
twitter: @jazarins

*Boggles at the idea of 700 pound steel sculpture*  Anyway, here are the blog hop questions (and my answers):

What are you working on right now?

I’m revising a new YA fantasy novel set in a fantastical version of early 20th century Paris. My heroine Julia is a jaded spy-for-hire posing as a housemaid in a wealthy and eccentric household, who finds herself on the wrong side of a power-struggle between ancient forces. As much as I’m loving working on this project, I’m actually putting it aside for a bit so I can work on revisions of the third Tian Di book, slated (I think!) to come out next fall (2014).

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

I think that the Tian Di trilogy concludes in a way that sets it apart from many fantasy series, but I don’t want to give away the ending! You’ll have to read it. As for my WIP, I’m most engaged by writing a character who is not particularly noble, and does something truly horrible when she’s in a bind, and then has to figure out how to atone, and who she wants to be.

Why do you write what you do?

At the moment, I am mostly busy with the rearing-of-small-children thing, which means that writing time is scarce and often brief. To make any headway, I have to write something that’s pure fun and doesn’t feel like a lot of work. For me, that’s YA fantasy. It’s what I like to read when I’m feeling tired or low energy, and it’s the only thing I seem able to write when there are a great many other demands on my time and energy.

What is the hardest part about writing?

At the moment – just finding time to do it. I also find it hard to know when it’s time to throw in the towel and concede that a new project isn’t working. I don’t want to quit too easy, but I hate to waste my time… and mostly, I just hate to write when it isn’t fun, so I throw in the towel pretty fast if it isn’t coming easy. I’m a wimp that way.

I am tagging three lovely authors to continue the hop.

Kip Rechea Wilson!

Kip Wilson’s work has been published in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies, as well as several magazines for children. She’s on the hunt for that elusive agent who’ll fall in love with the YA novel she’s currently querying. In the meantime, find her on her blog ( and twitter (

Karen Bass! (So much buzz, by the way, about her latest book, Graffiti Knight. I’m looking forward to it – I read and loved her previous YA, Drummer Girl.)

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Karen Bass has always been an avid reader and for many years reading satisfied her love of story. That changed when she was hired to manage the local library and the desire to write took root. Since then her stories and articles have been published in local newspapers, magazines and anthologies, but if you ask, she will tell you that she is, primarily, a novelist.
A fourth-generation Albertan, Karen grew up on a farm in the Peace Country, attended the University of Alberta, and received a psychology degree from the University of Victoria. She currently lives in northwestern Alberta where she recently retired from managing the local library in order to write full time.
Karen’s fourth YA novel, Graffiti Knight, is an historical story set in the Soviet Zone of post-WWII Germany, and is, in its way, a dystopian adventure. You can find info about all of her writing at .

Maureen Ulrich! I don’t have a photo, but her website is here:

I grew up in Edmonton and Calgary. I started writing horse stories when I was 11 and historical fiction during my high school years. In 1976 I returned to Saskatoon to attend university and graduated in 1980 with an education degree. My first teaching assignment was in Lampman, and I have pretty much been there ever since. I didn’t have much time for writing during the 80’s because I was too busy getting married, finishing a BA, teaching middle years at Estevan Junior High, and raising two wonderful daughters. However, in 1996 I was asked to write a student production, and the floodgates opened. Thirty plays later, I am still writing for students and for my adult community theatre troupe in Lampman. In 1999, I started a YA manuscript about girls’ hockey – which Coteau Books published as Power Plays in 2007. Face Off (2010) and Breakaway (2012) followed. Baker’s Plays has published two plays – Sam Spud, Private Eye (2007) and The Banes of Darkwood (2010). After 25 years in the classroom, I called it quits and started working for my husband in the oil industry. In my free time, I love to read and write, hang out at rinks and ball diamonds, golf, ski, ride my motorcycle – and of course – talk about writing!

Hop on, blog hop, hop on.

Yours, hippity-hoppitingly,



Books I’ve Failed to Write: Excerpt 4

From the unfinished novel / novella Awake. Oddly, the only time I’ve ever gotten a character stoned, as far as I remember.  The first section of the book, called “Before,” describes the final five days of normal life for MC Lily before the sleeping sickness strikes – Saturday through Wednesday. This snippet is “Monday,” after she loses her virginity at a weekend party. Apologies to Monsieur Gopaul, my grade ten science teacher, for using his name here:

Lily sits in the back of the room, mouth dry, eyes aching, ears ringing. She saw Astrid this morning but neither of them mentioned her little crying jag the previous night. She passed Morgan in the hallway and he said, “Hey Hands,” in a shifty way that told her right off that he knew she’d had sex with his brother. So instead of going to English class (one class she could be sure of passing) she smoked up in the parking lot with Rupinder and then they trailed into Biology together, late.

Mr. Gopaul pauses for a millisecond as they come in and then carries on, as if they are ghosts, mere tremors in the air. From her seat at the back Lily stares at the formulas on the board. It is absurd that they are expected to mean something to her. They mean nothing to her. There is also a large diagram of a cell on the overhead, and she looks at that instead.

“The golgi body looks a bit like a stack of pancakes,” says Mr. Gopaul, looking right at her. A split-second later Lily can’t be sure if he actually said this or not, but it makes her hungry. There is a pause, and she feels she is expected to say something in reply. She stays wisely quiet, raising her eyebrows in a questioning way, and Mr. Gopaul continues, his eyes roving elsewhere. A bubble in her chest deflates, and she studies the diagram again. Some of this she remembers. She remembers that the mitochondria work to make energy or something. And then she can almost feel it, her entire body seething with cells, tiny stacks of pancakes, jelly and enzymes and proteins and bits and bobs, all of it her. She looks at the back of Rupinder’s head. Rupinder’s shoulders are shaking with silent laughter. It is unbearable; she will not stand for it. She stands up.

“Lily?” says Mr. Gopaul in his smooth-as-butter voice. Mr. Gopaul has a very sexy voice. Mr. Gopaul is in fact, all in all, quite a sexy man. But Lily has a craving for macaroni and cheese now and it will wait for no man’s cell diagram.

“Sorry,” she says, in a voice not her own. “I need to use the restroom.”

Rupinder slides further down in her desk, weeping with laughter behind her book as Lily passes, head held high like a queen. She sails out of the room and down the liquid hallways lined with battered lockers.

She slips a note into Astrid’s locker: Gone home for mac and cheese. See you later.

When she turns, she is face to face with Joe Glass.

Or perhaps he was just walking down the hallway and she has stepped into his path. The look on his face lends credence to this second possibility.

“Hi,” he says nervously.

“Hello,” she says, beautiful beautiful Joe and your lovely long fingers and your delectable neck, your earlobes. Shit.

“You were at Morgan’s on Saturday, right?” he says, and steps slightly to the side. He puts his hands in his pockets. He knows, of course, everybody knows. Lily’s cells are alive, revving and wandering, bumping up against each other violently. If she doesn’t have macaroni and cheese immediately she will go up in flame, if she doesn’t touch Joe Glass.

“In a sense,” she says mysteriously. Joe Glass looks confused. He mutters goodbye and steps around her and she is alone in the hallway, bereft, starved. This is the longest conversation they have ever had. She runs to her bike outside, she flies home along the quiet streets. Her mother and father are at work and Lester is ecstatic to see her. He dances around the kitchen, nearly knocking her over several times, and is rewarded with a chunk of cheese. After she eats she watches TV until Stefan comes home and Astrid calls and the day melts into ordinary. She feels like lead, entirely solid, without cells. No little pumping stacks of pancakes, no hunger that cannot wait its turn, only the awful reality that she is failing school and Lester’s hot breath on her face as she drifts off to sleep. If the universe asks her a question that night, bending close with a terrible secret, she hears nothing.

Books I’ve Failed To Write, Part 4: Awake

Dear Blog,

In my twenties, I wrote a short story called Awake, about a girl who wakes up from a “sleeping sickness” that has put most of the world to sleep for decades, Rip Van Winkle style. I adapted the same idea in my first attempt at a twitterstory, a murder mystery called Olivia Is Awake. My first (failed) novel, Another Dance for Amaterasu, also had sleep, dreaming and sleep-deprivation as themes at its core. It’s funny, because when I wrote most of this stuff, I had not yet experienced true sleep deprivation myself. I had no idea, cheerfully writing about insomnia and sleep disorders, that lack of sleep would one day hollow me out and render me a shuffling, hazy, desperately unhappy version of my former self. (Um, I’m doing OK now, thanks).

Sadly, my memories of the first year and a bit of my second son’s life are mostly a blur of just… coping, if I can call it that. The days were not so bad. Or, they were never as bad as I feared they would be when morning rolled around. I felt slow and inarticulate and sort of … muted, with flashes of temper, often directed, totally inappropriately, at my good-natured two-year-old, but while they were sympathetic, I don’t know that my friends (or, for that matter, my husband) were really concerned about me. I was sort of OK. I had a nice routine with my toddler, and the baby, by day, was very peaceful, happy to be toted about in a wrap. But in the wee hours, as the night slipped away and the chance for real sleep became more remote, as dawn crept up and I realized, this is it, the night is over, I am going to have to get through the whole endless day on four broken hours of sleep, I was overcome with such rage I barely recognized myself, and my frantic mantra became “don’t shake the baby.” I’d like to say I have some thoughts, now, about sleep and sleep deprivation, but I think they are perhaps less “thoughts” than anguished, primal inner screams.

So, you get the gist. It sucked. Anyway, sometime during that year, I wrote about half a book. I don’t really remember writing it. I mean, I vaguely remember that I thought I could turn my short story, Awake, into a novel or a novella, but when I hit a plot-hole, I had no energy to think my way out of the tangle I’d created and I abandoned it without much further thought.

It’s still there on my computer, unfinished. I looked at it a while ago and was surprised to realize I really like it, while also thinking it is probably unmarketable. At some point I’ll go back to it, or, as with The Peregrina, use my favorite bits in something else. What surprises me is just that it came out of a period of my life when I could barely think straight, and I remember almost nothing about the process of writing it. But it’s really not bad. I’ll show you a bit next week.

Yours, cherishing-every-hour-of-sweet-sanity-giving-sleep,