Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing + Studenting

For me, it's the first week of classes, the week where you actually start to live your schedule and realize just how much you have on your plate. ("I have HOW MUCH homework?" "I'll be in rehearsals HOW MANY hours?!?")

I also haven't done a lot of writing this week; I've been getting back into the swing of school and, of course, spending time with my college friends. But now that the week is winding down and schedules are starting to be finalized, I'm finding myself faced with the looming question: but when's the writing time?

There are various different ways that you can go about balancing writing and student-ing.

1. Set aside a specific writing time.

Maybe it's once a day, maybe it's twice a week, but give yourself a designated time to sit down and write. I'm really bad at this, but I'm going to try and do this for this semester.

2. Use the weekends.

Weekends are your friends for lots of reasons. Fridays count too. (Obviously your homework does need to get done.)

3. Squeeze in short writing sessions between things.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I get up almost two hours before my first class, and sometimes that time is good for writing. Mostly I try and blog then (although clearly that did not happen this morning... apologies.)

4. Stay up ridiculously late.

This is probably not the healthiest suggestion, but hey... it's college. It's going to happen anyway. Caffeine has already been embraced as your best friend. And occasionally, 2 am is a really good time for writing, right?

What do you guys do to balance school or work with writing?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Brothers

So when I woke yesterday, it was -11. -21 with the windchill, apparently.

That's right, I'm back at school! Classes started yesterday, and I think my history class is going to be especially fantastic.

But enough about that. In today's teaser, the wolves are a bit miffed because they think Rose has tried to run away (which they find a bit insulting, since they've been nice to her). She wasn't running away, she was just doing a bit of sleuthing on her own for once.

Also, Avar's brother Vartan is a real jerk. Also really creepy.

I think that covers it... enjoy!


Thursday, January 20, 2011


Anyone who knows me well will think "Caitlin... Anna and the French Kiss? That doesn't really sound like a book you would enjoy..." Well, maybe it doesn't, but I have discovered recently that there are books out there that aren't "my type" that are still really excellent and therefore fun to read anyway.

Besides, the Internet was raving about this book. John Green was raving about this book. I had to get it and read it after praise like that.

And you know what? Anna and the French Kiss totally deserves all that praise. Anna is a witty and likable character who pulls you into the story from the very first page. I mean literally from the first page - the moment I started reading, I was so completely hooked that I stayed up until 3 am to finish the book. I loved her internal dialogue, her comments about how little she knew about France and her comments about getting to know it, the fact that she was a film afficionado and thus there was a Roman Holiday reference in the book. There were maybe one or two brief moments nearer the end where I wanted to roll my eyes and say "Gosh, Anna, it isn't all about you," but those moments passed quickly and I just kept flying through the pages.

Also, Etienne St. Clair, the designated love interest? Wow. He is just so great. And a history nerd! As a fellow history nerd, I loved all the moments when he would go off on a random history tangent. Although, perhaps one of the only things in the book that truly irked me was this: he is an American kid with a French name and a British accent (As Anna says when she meets him: "Anna confused."). Okay, fine - no better way to make your hero attractive than to give him a British accent. Fine by me! But occasionally (and, I thought, not really consistently) he would say "me" instead of "my." "I love me mum," and such. But nothing else about his speech patterns suggested a Cockney accent to me - and also, when you think "sexy British accent," Cockney does not tend to be at the top of the list, does it? It wasn't a big thing at all, but I found it slightly jarring.

I think my favorite part was the chapter composed of emails between Anna and Etienne; both their voices came out really clearly in those emails and it was JUST SO SWEET. To quote John Green, this book really is made of "sweetness and funny and awesome." If you were thinking of reading it, definitely do so. And if you were not thinking of reading it, well, you should start thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Mindgames

Hi guys! I don't really think this one needs any explanation. It's just an insight to the inner workings of Rose.




Thursday, January 13, 2011


Today is my one-year blogversary, guys! Wow. I'm impressed with myself, are you? And so for my blogversary, I present to you a book review!

For Christmas, I asked for a copy of Anna Godbersen's BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. My mom was surprised, since she thought it was an unusual request for me. I suppose it was, but I really wanted some YA historical fiction, which is actually quite difficult to find.

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS is set during the summer of 1929, and that, I think, is what this book's strongest point is. The setting, especially at the beginning, is almost as much of a character as the people who populate it. Some of the descriptions of life in Manhattan and West Cove are really quite nice - nothing on GATSBY, of course, but then, few things are.

However, even though I am the biggest history geek on the East Coast, pretty descriptions of 1920s Manhattan can only get you so far, and unfortunately, this was one of those books where I lost interest partway through. The three main characters were essentially stereotypes, which was fine at the beginning, but when they remained stereotypes halfway through, it got a bit boring. Well, okay - Letty, the innocent one, remained extremely naive throughout the entire book. Cordelia, the clever one, made some wildly stupid decisions partway through. Astrid, the flirt, was really the only character with any depth, I thought, because it is clear from the get-go that her laid back, teasing persona is just a front. I liked Astrid; I wish there had been more of her.

The other thing that irked me was that this third-person novel began with a first-person flashback style prologue - which, fine, that can work, I've seen it before. But this prologue, however, is wholly unnecessary. It is not from the pov of any of the three main characters. It clearly refers to three girls in 1929, so for the first several chapters, I was trying to figure out where the fourth girl would come in, the one observing everything. Well, there isn't one.

Also, the end of the prologue says that by the end of the summer, one of the girls would be a star, one would be married, and one would be dead. I spent the whole book trying to figure that out - the one twist came when it looked like Cordelia would be the one to die, not Astrid - only to discover that there is a sequel (the only hint of which is in the author's jacket flap bio) and that I wasn't going to find out after all. I was really quite annoyed at having gone through 380-odd pages just to find out who dies, and in the end not finding out at all.

I have a feeling that this is a book that could be well enjoyed by others looking for a light read - I, however, thought it did not live up to the expectations set by the beginning. It's a shame, really - partly because YA historical fiction *is* really hard to come by, and partly because the beginning was really quite interesting.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Tunnel

Hello, all! Happy Tuesday!

Underneath Paris, there are miles and miles of old mining tunnels, about 2km of which are currently open to the public. It's been very tricky to research these, so if you happen to know more about the catacombs than I do, please correct me. But when you're trying to hide a couple of werewolves in the middle of the city, underground is the best place (also the scariest place) to do it.

Rose doesn't think it's such a good idea, though.


“Are you afraid of the dark, Rose Estienne?” he scoffed.

Rose did not answer; instead, she tried her best to scowl at him. But she knew that her freckled face had turned white at the sight of the small, black space. It loomed up at her, tantalizingly terrifying, calling for her to set foot in the darkness and lose herself there, never to be found again.

She tore her eyes away and looked back at Avar, who chuckled. This time, she found she could scowl at him.

“If you are so frightened, I will go first. Here, hold the grate open – and make sure to close it behind us.”

“Why should I trust you?”

“What choice do you have?”

Without another word, he thrust the grate into her hands and stepped onto the staircase, descending carefully. Rose thought the darkness was slowly swallowing him as he descended, like some enormous beast with its mouth open, waiting to devour them both. She stood frozen, watching, clutching the iron grate with both hands to keep them from trembling. When his head finally vanished from view, she had to remind herself to breathe.

She was alone now. She could choose to follow him into the blackness, or fend for herself on the streets of Paris, out in the open. The dirty streets would be no more accommodating than the tunnels, but it was more likely that the guards would find her, or that someone would recognize her and turn her in. The darkness below beckoned her silently, temptingly. Had she not always longed for an adventure? To escape the lot in life she and her family had been dealt? Now she had the perfect opportunity – she merely had to conquer her deepest fear –

“Rose?” a voice from the darkness called. Avar’s voice.

And she put a foot onto the staircase. Then the other. She followed him into the devouring dark, into the mouth of the monster. And with a soft clang, she closed the grate behind her, sealing off the light.

She froze when she stepped below the level of the sunlight, one foot halfway off the step, her eyes wide and searching to no avail. It was like being suddenly blinded. She kept staring into the infinite blackness, searching for something, anything, that her eyes could latch onto. But there was nothing – no hint of a change in direction ahead, no outline of Avar waiting for her, just blackness. Reaching out to the side, she groped for the wall, desperate for some direction, and for what seemed a worrying amount of time her fingers touched only air. When her fingertips scraped stone, she gave a sigh of relief, realizing that she had been holding her breath.

Tentatively, she took a step downwards, then another. The wall curved slightly, and Rose realized she was on a spiral staircase, looping around endlessly into nothing. The only sounds she could hear – and she was straining her ears nearly as hard as her eyes, hoping that there would be some clue as to what exactly she was getting herself into – was her own pulse thudding in her head with each panicked gulp of the stale air, and a faint sound that was almost like a whistle, but not quite. It sounded like wind, or someone breathing – panting, perhaps.

A thought seized Rose’s throat and made her stop again. What if Avar had transformed? What if he was waiting as a wolf, fangs bared, at the bottom of the step to kill her? Should she run back up? Would he follow her?

“Rose, what are you doing to take so long?”

Rose jumped, only just holding back a scream; it came out as a strangled sort of squeak. In the darkness, his voice sounded very strange – loud, as though it was right in her ear, but she had no way of knowing just how close or far he was.

“C-coming,” she stammered, barely a whisper.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

[Insert Title Here]

"I am struggling with titling this novel. I suck at titles."

While I do not have a Twitter account and fully intend to keep myself as far away from Twitter as possible for as long as possible (seriously, Facebook eats up enough of my time), I do fully admit to stalking John and Hank Green on their Twitter pages... 'cause they post interesting stuff.

Like that quote there? That's John trying to come up with a title for his new project, I believe. Proving that, even though I've loved all his titles thus far (I mean, come on: Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns? How much more epic can you get?) he is struggling from the same problem I have right now.

I hate titles. The titles of my essays for school are the most uncreative things ever. I am monumentally bad at shrinking something the size of a novel to a couple of well-chosen words (one reason, perhaps, that my one-sentence summaries in the side bar look more like one-paragraph summaries...).

I'm fond of two of the titles over there - Preposterous Things was taken from a quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it makes perfect sense. Letters to Oliver is about exactly that - letters written to Oliver, even though they aren't sent. (I did get an awful lot of rather nasty comments about the title when I put my query in Query Letter Hell for critique; some people thought it sounded like the title of a cheap romance novel, but I like it.)

I am having an awful lot of trouble retitling A Bridge to War, and it is most irritating. That title comes from the very first draft of this story, said by a minor character who no longer exists and referring to a plot that has completely changed. The only replacement I've managed to think of sounds like a bad CIA thriller - and no, I'm not going to tell you what it is, you'll laugh at me.

I've been perusing my bookshelf trying to get inspiration from other titles, but so far it's been like watching professional ballerinas - I know enough to know just how hard the steps and leaps they're doing are, but they just make it look so EASY.

My favorite title ever has to be The Once and Future King (which is a shame because I actually couldn't finish the book; I found it sort of annoying). It just has a great ring to it.

Some other titles I like (other than John Green's great ones) are all very direct: The Thief Lord is about a character who calls himself the Thief Lord. Her Fearful Symmetry is a very creepy story about identical twins. Sorcery and Cecelia involves both sorcery and Cecelia. So all I have to do is come up with a word or a phrase that sums up this story in its entirety, right? Right. Well... I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with something sufficiently werewolf-y and sufficiently French-Revolution-y at the same time.

Hopefully something will come to me.

How do you come up with titles? Do you agonize over them, or do they come to you as lightning bolts of inspiration? What are some of your favorite book titles and why?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Questions and Answers

Well, it's technically Tuesday, isn't it?

Those of you who read my teases from my last attempt at this story may recognize some of this. The line I've reused is quite possibly my favorite line I've ever written. I just really like the image it gives me.

Avar has just explained what he and his brother and two cousins are doing in Paris; werewolves are being attacked because monsters half out of legend are not exactly in line with the new regime and its ways (ah, the Cult of Reason...). And Rose finds out they have a bit more in common than she might have thought.

A note: if this ever sounds rather less than historical, PLEASE tell me! For some reason I have no problem slipping into the speech patterns of someone from Victorian England, but have rather more trouble replicating an appropriate tone for Revolutionary France.



Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - Two Heads are Better than One

Happy New Year, everyone! Another year, another blog layout. I've been blogging for almost a year now, can you believe it?

My New Year's was fairly uneventful, although on Friday, Ella (see link in the sidebar) came over and what a plotting session we had!

Plotting with Ella is great. I've done it on a smaller scale before - if I'm really stuck on something, I'll call her and moan about it until I've worked it out. She has this amazing talent to take my jumble of thoughts, which I can't really see clearly all the time, and making sense of them. (This is, I believe, because during the past ten years we have secretly learned to read each other's minds.)

But I've never done this with a whole plot before. Up until Friday, our collaborative graphic novel, Preposterous Things, had a couple of characters and a vague premise, but never anything more. And then on Friday, we sat down, I showed her the Three Act Structure and the idea of Goal, Motivation, Conflict and zoom! We were off. A couple hours later (hours that, of course, involved looking up random Doctor Who references), we had a fully fledged plot, the summary of which can now be found in my blog sidebar under "The Novels."

Plotting with another person is a wonderful thing. I cannot tell you how much time I've spent trying to plot out the werewolf novel (which still needs a new title), but it's a lot longer than a couple of hours. Friday was really a fabulous example of how great it is to be able to bounce ideas off of someone else. Next time you guys are stuck, I recommend talking to a crit partner or a friend. Maybe they'll be able to point out something that you're missing.