Friday, December 30, 2011

Book 1: Mockingjay

And we're off!

I chose Mockingjay to kick off the 100 Books in 2012 challenge. It's been sitting on shelf for a few months, waiting for me to bust through this "non-reading" phase.

After the brilliance of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I figured the third in the series required my full attention - and it's taken until this new challenge for me to give it.

I wasn't disappointed.

As with the previous two books, Mockingjay is filled with the same shocking twists, emotional turns, and masterful storytelling I've come to expect from this author. The kind of writing that makes me ache with envy.

And get me off my butt. Collins' skill is inspirational.

I'd be lying if I said Mockingjay lived up to Hunger Games, but how could it? Quite often, the first in a series is the best - and in so many ways, Hunger Games is flawless. Collins knows just when to tug on the heart strings, and the craft of character development. This remains true throughout the series, but I didn't quite feel quite the same urgency as with Hunger Games.

Still, if you're as far behind as I am and have yet to read Mockingjay, I'd slide it up to the top of your TBR pile. Regardless if it's my favourite in the series, it's still one hell of a great book.

Special thanks to my niece Bailey for "coveting" this copy for me - I'll take you to the movie to make up for it...xo

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Michelle Hodkin

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My muse reads - and this year, I do, too

Karen and I are doing it again. The great 100 Book Reading Challenge.

We attempted it in 2010, aiming to devour 100 *new* books between the end of December and the start of 2011. Neither of us made it, though 70-ish books is nothing to sneeze at.

But I can almost count on two hands the number of books I actually finished reading in 2011. There were a number - far too many - starts and stops. Maybe I burnt myself out the year before, but one thing I know for sure, without the dedicated reading time, my creativity suffered.

I have many projects on the go this year. And with the help of my good friend, Judith, I'm working on a spreadsheet to organize them all. I'm positive none of these works in progress will be accomplished if I don't make reading a priority.

It's not like I don't have enough books lying around my house. I went on a book binge months ago, and most of the titles are on my shelf, collecting dust. Even the novels sent FROM GREECE by Jessica.

So, the challenge begins now. Actually, it began yesterday - and I started with Mockingjay, the third and final book in Suzanne Collins' brilliant Hunger Games trilogy. I'm 100 pages in and loving it.

The rules are simple:

  • 100 books *read in full* by January 1, 2013
  • Each book must be reviewed/talked about on our blogs
  • Books we've read before don't count
  • Picture books don't count
  • Manuscripts for friends/writers DO count

Missed anything? Up for negotiation.

If you're up for the challenge, I dare you to join us. Or, you're welcome to hang out at our blogs and add to our TBR list and maybe get a few recommendations for yourself. 

Oh - and special thanks to Johnny Depp for his double duty muse avatar role this week - reading AND writing. When you're that sexy, you deserve the jobs, no?

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bet on this muse

Paul Bettany had me at hello.

I first fell in love with him as Chaucer in A Knight's Tale. The role was such a sweet mix of comedy and unassuming sex appeal - kinda like Paul.

My adoration for him continues to grow every time I see him on screen. I loved him in Priest and the DaVinvi Code and positively swooned over him in A Beautiful Mind. He's brilliant.

Which is why I've mentally cast him in a lead role for my thriller - which is currently going through extensive edits.

I need the mental push. I've been staring at this manuscript for what seems like an eternity, constantly tweaking every paragraph, every sentence, every word to painstaking perfection.

Frankly, I'm more than ready to send it off into the world.

But alas, it needs one more pass. Which is how I'll be spending my evenings this week while I wait for Santa to arrive.

I'll supply the computer and the crantinis. Mr. Muse Avatar, I'm leaving it up to you to provide the inspiration.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Heartsick, Chelsea Cain

P.S. Find yourself on the Naughty list this year? You might want to acquaint yourself with this beastie before Sunday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My muse is not "this" Jack

At least not this time.

It's true Kiefer Sutherland (aka: Jack Bauer) has been my muse avatar more times than I can count. And it's not that he doesn't completely fulfill the role (he does!) - and my crush on him is legendary in my household. I own all eight seasons of 24, and many Kiefer Sutherland movies. It's doubtful I'll get over him any time soon... (sorry handsome, hubby...)

It's just that there's a new Jack in my life now - one infinitely cuter than Jack Bauer (no, seriously) and this new Jack has completely stolen my heart.

My new nephew, Jack Lawrence.

He was born at 9:30 a.m. yesterday, and though I have only one picture of his sweet and perfect face, I know no other Jack will ever take his place in my heart. I now understand the phrase, love at first sight.

My sister lives a billion miles away from me - okay, just across the country, but yesterday, it felt like we were world's apart. I'm dying to hug her, and tell her how proud I am of her - and I am going crazy not being able to give my new nephew a hug.

This isn't my first nephew - my sister's husband has two awesome boys who stole my heart the first time I met them. My sister-in-law also has a beautiful son and a beautiful daughter. I love them all, completely. But there's something so special about this moment, that instant when I heard her trembling voice on the other end of the line telling me about her son.

Her son.

I've been an emotional basketcase since that early morning call, caught between smiling hysterically and crying uncontrollably. His picture is now my screen saver, my phone wallpaper, and imprinted in my mind. Every perfect detail.

I actually can't stop thinking about him.

And so this week - and likely for some time to come, my nephew, baby Jack Lawrence, is my muse. But Jack Bauer can still do the avatar part.

Have an amazing week. I know I will <3

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Heartsick, Chelsea Cain

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift the gift of theatre this year

I haven't been an employee of Theatre Alberta for long, but I've been passionate about theatre for as long as I can remember. How could I not be?

As a writer, I perhaps have a more vested interest in the arts - whether that be musical, theatrical, graphic, literary or otherwise. We live in a society where often the "artist" is underappreciated, misunderstood, and certainly underpaid. 
But Alberta is fortunate to have champions of the arts - from government bodies that support like-minded organizations through financial support to specialized societies that provide artists with the tools to help them learn and grow - and ultimately survive.
It's a tough economic climate out there, folks, and those of us who struggle to make a living as artists know that we do what we do not because of the money, but because we must. 
Theatre Alberta is a provincial arts service organization dedicated to the growth and development of the Alberta theatre community and all its constituencies. It is committed to achieving its mandate by providing the highest quality services – support, programming, information, and advocacy – to the Alberta theatre community.
And it needs your help.
This month marks the start of Theatre Alberta's 100x100 Campaign, a targeted effort to raise $10,000 by asking 100 people who are passionate about theatre to donate $100. By pooling resources with other like-minded supporters, your individual donation can turn into a whole lot of love in support of theatre education in Alberta. 
Believe me, I understand the financial difficulty the holidays can bring, but I'm also fortunate to see everyday how theatre has changed lives. 
Not convinced? Consider this:
From birth, children instinctively use pretend play as a means of making sense of the world. They observe and respond to their environment, imitate words and actions, create situations to play and assume roles, and direct one another. Children arrive at school with rudimentary skills as playwrights, actors, designers, directors and audience members.

Although frequently thought of as only entertainment, the imagined and enacted world of theatre is also one of the primary we learn about life: about actions and consequences, about customs and beliefs, and about others and ourselves.

More importantly, it is a forum that showcases and nurtures notions of acceptance, vulnerability, leadership, public speaking and creativity.

I'm a huge advocate of creativity - because like many of you, writing - and reading - saved me.

If you do donate over the holidays, I hope you'll consider a contribution to Theatre Alberta. Check out the many ways you can help here.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: Heartsick, Chelsea Cain

Monday, December 5, 2011

Double duty muse

I've never given Ryan Reynolds much thought. In fact, I couldn't even have named a single of his movies until I looked him up on IMDB.

But a co-worker sent me a specific request to appoint him muse avatar, and I know after this weekend, she could really use a pick-me-up, so I'm happy to oblige.

Especially after going through his pictures on Google.

Very nice.

Lots on the go this week (shocking) and Mr. Reynolds seems the accomplished sort. Perhaps he can help me accomplish some of my writerly to-do items - and make my friend Stephanie smile at the same time.

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

PS - Are you following the other me? This month, I'm counting down the days until Christmas with crafts, recipes, general holiday cheer, and an epic book contest.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My NaNo hang over, a contest, and other holiday goodies

I'm suffering a bad NaNoWriMo hangover, my friends. Yes, even though it's been two days since the deadline.

And uh, no, I didn't complete the challenge. I did not write 50,000 words of a single project. Not even close. I didn't even write 30,000 words of a bunch of projects.

I'm trying not to beat myself up over that, and remain thrilled for (and only slightly jealous of) the thousands of writers from around the world who are now using their NaNo Winner badge as their Facebook profile pic. In truth, I am happy - and in awe - of all of you. Congratulations!

My hangover comes more from processing all of the new ideas that filtered through my mind and somehow became Works in Progress (WIPs) during November while I was staring at the blank page that should have been my NaNo submission.

So what the heck was I doing in November? Good question. Here's the list:

(Oh, and I'll call myself out before a number of my blogging pals - you know who you are - do it for me. 80% of this list happened in the last week or so of the month. The first half is kind of a blur...)

I followed and cheered on the amazingly talented Jessica Bell, whose astounding blog tour for her debut novel String Bridge must have set records for sheer blogger support. Read about her success here.

I continued marketing for my children's book Fields of Home, journaling at Chase Duffy's blog, and updating the Facebook (Chase Superman Duffy) and Twitter (SupermanDuffy) feeds. Not following him? I'd appreciate the support. The second book in the series, Gotta Jet, is slated for January, 2012.

I wrote posts for Bridge Social Media, the company I co-own with the brilliant Judith Graves. Never heard of us? Our clients include Leap Books (for the Spirited anthology release), Jessica Bell and the recently-completed (and successful) Crossroads Tour. Need some social media marketing help? Consider Bridge in the New Year. (And watch for Judith's second book in her SKINNED series, Second Skin, to be released in February!)

I critiqued for the awesome Donna Milward, who just completed her second book, Aphrodite's War last week. If you thought her debut novel Thoeba was great, wait until you get your hands on this one. Brilliant. (And last week, I even exchanged pages with her...which means, I did write something in November.)

I read - and provided feedback - for the awesome Hart Johnson whose cozy mystery is in final stages of edits and coming to a bookstore near you very soon.

I began a bucketload of edits for my novel, Blood of the Fallen and am sitting, uncomfortably, on some big news with respect to that project. I promise to share soon! (Well, as soon as it gets with this industry...)

I wrote random chapters for my YA, Heartless, Jack of Hearts, and two secret projects. (Really, I'm only keeping them secret from my husband so he doesn't get on my case for having too much on the go...)

I brainstormed several new collaborative projects with Judith Graves, which I'm sure will keep us both busy in the New Year. (She tried to go "dark" to finish her Second Skin edits but we have this crazy energy about us that just breeds new ideas.)

I mapped out two new projects with my friend Kyle Kerr, one of the greatest undiscovered talents in the literary world. Seriously, when he gets writing, he will blow your mind. Lucky me, we've got a script treatment completed (thanks to him) and a book in the works. Or maybe it's multiple scripts and multiple books? Oy. Good thing his whip is less deadly than Judith's!

I launched my Christmas countdown on my other blog. Not following me there? Please do...I'm sharing holiday crafts, recipes, and general holiday cheer. Not to mention a book prize of epic proportions! Come join me for an eggnog latte.

And oh, I launched an online literary journal with Jessica Bell. Because, you know, we don't have enough on our plates. Vine Leaves combines my love of editing, my passion for writing, and my deep desire to work on something cool with one of the most talented writers I know. How could I resist? Our first issue submission deadline is December 15, 2011. If you haven't checked us out, please do. I bet you've got a vignette you could submit.

Of course, November was also filled with the business that comes with my amazing day job at Theatre Alberta, and spending time with my awesome family.

I'm still bummed about not completing NaNo, but looking at this list gives me a bit of confidence - I wasn't just sitting on my ass all month. Maybe I should for December --

* ducks *

Just kidding!

But I AM going to take some time to read this December, and spend some quality holiday hours with my family. (And I'm going to be an aunty...eep! So excited!)

Happy December!

- Dawn

The Book In My Bag Today: The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern