The Dog Days of Summer Have Arrived

According to the news broadcast I watch, or at least their weekend meteorologist, today (June 20) at 10:24 p.m. summer officially starts. Hello solstice!

As much as I love waking in sunlight and having light in the evening, I find these long days exhausting because they throw me right out of whack. I stay up too late because my system is not in let’s-get-ready-for-bed mode when I should get moving and then it’s awful trying to haul my sorry butt out of bed. The good weather also means more socializing because I can travel about without worrying that a flash blizzard will happen. Having a life further disrupts my routine.

There’s a reason the school systems give us the summer off.

Still, it’s not all bad. I love reading outside when it’s quiet enough, I enjoy grilling on the BBQ, and I’m a sucker for flowers and food in the garden. I also adore butterflies and bees. My spider friend is hanging outside my bedroom window again. There are lots of upsides, despite my laziness.

With the peak of daylight behind me, I’m hoping to get more things done. Early in the year I deliberated giving myself the warmer part of summer off to see if that would help long term, but that was before my quick decision to enroll in courses. Now I don’t think my stories can handle the time off. Either way, I really need to get in a productive frame of mind here.

I used to find the summer so inspiring. I need to get back into that head space and get some words on the page! I think I need a change of scenery and a long weekend. Canada Day is coming up and I’m hoping to catch up on some sleep. Perhaps I’ll use the time to find a new writing spot for the next couple of months.

What do you do to stay writing fit in the summer? Do you get more done or take a break and attack things in the fall?

Interesting Finds

I have been all over the internet this month, so there’s a lot to share. Enjoy!

Have you ever wondered what those schoolyard bullies turn into? I’ve had to deal with a Regina type. Funny when she left how everyone at my job started getting along a lot better.  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bullies-youll-meet-business-sarah-w-browne

It’s hokey but true: a picture is worth a thousand words. What words come to your mind when you see all these male authored books flipped backwards? https://heatst.com/culture-wars/ohio-bookstore-flips-male-authored-books-displaying-them-backwards/

If you’re a language nerd, like me, check out these 10 things about the Englihs language. http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2015/08/ten-things-you-might-not-have-known-about-the-english-language/?utm_source=March21-17&utm_campaign=od-newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=10thingsaboutenglish-list-toppanel

I am a naturally negative person. I simply have trouble seeing the bright side of things. But I’m willing to try a few of these 10 things to make my life better. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/10-habits-that-will-dramatically-improve-your-life_us_58cae67ae4b0e0d348b3416b

This infuriates me. Good thing Angela Merkel has a better hold on her temper than me.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/21/trump-did-to-merkel-what-men-do-to-women-all-the-time

If you don’t know the horrifying events happening in Chechnya right now, this is an important read. It makes me sick to my stomach. http://feminist.org/blog/index.php/2017/04/12/persecution-of-gay-men-in-chechnya-escalates/

And if that got a fire burning under you, here are 8 calls to action so you can help.

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/35576/1/help-stop-the-torture-of-gay-men-in-chechnya?utm_source=change_org&utm_medium=petition

I’m finding this world a difficult place to exist in right now. It’s hard to believe what humans do to each other. All any of us can do is stay positive, stay informed, and help in any way we can.

Point of View: N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season Will Change Your Reading Life

There are so many things in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season that will change your life as a reader and a writer and a human that I can’t touch on them all. I just don’t have the time and space. So I’ve decided to touch on the story’s point of view.

I’ve shared my opinions on point of view extensively on both blogs. I have strong opinions, mainly that different points of view should not be mixed in the same story. It’s a major pet peeve of mine both as a reader and a writer. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to your book, novella, or short story you stick with the narrative style, tense, and point of view you started with. There are no takebacks.

Writers who mix things up always make me feel like they’re simply trying to get unstuck, which doesn’t make for compelling or convincing reading.

I’ve read books where one character is in first person and then another character is thrown in and their view point is written in third person. Usually this is done because the story needed extra information that the main character couldn’t provide with her limited point of view and the writer couldn’t think of a different solution.

I’ve read books in series where all of sudden in the third and/or final book, the author realizes they’re stuck, the story arc can’t go further the way they started, so they have to throw in a new narrator. Yeah, Allegiant, I’m talking to you. No, Veronica Roth is not the only guilty author out there, but I was particularly upset with Allegiant, so it has to feel my wrath.

The Fifth Season swung out unexpectedly and toppled me off my Perch of Judgement.

The story is written from three different points of view: Essun’s, Syenite’s, and Damaya’s. There’s a purpose to each choice because they show different aspects of the complex world Jemisin has created. Essun, in her 40s, shows us the dangers and consequences of hiding what you are in a world that hates your kind. Syenite, in her early 20s, shows us what it means to follow the rules and dictates of an order that will control everything about you and destroy you if it can’t. Then Damaya, only 8, shows us what it means to be discovered as the other and the painful lessons the world will use to break your spirit.

That doesn’t sound too different from your average coming of age story despite the separate narrators, right? Well, Essun’s story is written in second person. Syenite’s is in close third person. Damaya’s is also in close third person, though I feel there is greater distance with her narration. Perhaps because I’m closer to Syenite’s age.

At first I was a bit shaken as a reader. I haven’t read much, if anything, written in second person. And I’ve never been exposed to second person point of view for such a long piece. Mixed with the third person parts, I should have been outraged as a reader.

I waited to be. And I waited. And then I was hooked.

Jemisin’s skill as a writer so pulled me in to each character’s story that I couldn’t help but be enthralled. I was too excited to pick up different threads and try to figure out where all of them lead. I was floored and I was schooled. I have never encountered a writer with enough skill to leave me satisfied with mixed points of view.

One of the keys was her consistency. Each point of view was given nearly equal time to the end. And the second person narration didn’t change into anything else. Plus, the story starts out in second person, in the prologue, and I think that was a genius choice. That the narrative jarring didn’t happen after a third person narrator started things off was important because I don’t know that a lot of readers have been exposed to second person point of view. So moving to the strange from the familiar would have been a bad choice.

Besides, Jemisin can write. She just can. Her words are magic.

If you haven’t read or heard of The Fifth Season, you should remedy that. Before the third book in the trilogy comes out this summer.

I still have strong opinions about point of view and I don’t think it should be messed with lightly. But if you know what your aim is, and it reflects not only the structure of your story but your characters and world perfectly too, do it. I will be much more willing to fiddle with my points of view in the future now that I’ve seen it done effectively. And I will give stories more of a chance when point of view is altered –but the author needs to sell it, and not do it simply because they’ve backed themselves into a corner.

Forethought. Forethought and purpose are everything.

 

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and decide to purchase an item I’ve mentioned I will receive a small commission from the seller at no extra cost to you. All funds are put back into E.V. Writes. Thank you in advance for your support.

Feed Your Need to Recharge

The Toltec's are the eagles, the Mayans the jaguars.

The Toltec’s are the eagles, the Mayans the jaguars.

Last month, and probably the month before that, I talked about my vacation plans for the end of January. I also admitted that my January trip was the first relaxing vacation I had taken in nearly a decade. Honestly, that is far too long.

I’m a person who goes until they run themselves into the ground. I did it in high school. I did it in university. And now I’m doing it mixing the day job with the writing and blogging. I suppose it’s all well and good, until you take a break and find that getting back on the horse after a minor rest is a lot harder than you ever imagined it could be.

I have a lot of goals this year. And while I intend to conquer them all, I also intend to let myself have breaks before I hit the dirt. Acknowledging your need to recharge is the first step. The next is to feed your need to recharge. Which I did, and I am really excited to share some details!

If you look closely, you can see the pikes the Toltec's put these skulls on. Inside the formation archaeologists found the real thing the stones depict.

If you look closely, you can see the pikes the Toltec’s put these skulls on. Inside the formation archaeologists found the real thing the stones depict.

 

On January 22 my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. (after staying up too late and not sleeping properly at all) so that I could be up and ready to be picked up at 4:45. Four of us had planned this trip, and only two of us are accustomed to such early wakeups, for the record. Our plane took off around 8, just as the sun was

starting to peak over the horizon, to take us directly to Cancún.

I’ve never felt humidity like I did standing in line for Mexican customs. But I was revved. I could smell the ocean. Once through the gates we went and found our shuttle and prepared for our hour long drive south to our destination. I have never been so grateful for air conditioning and bottled water.

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This trip served as my very first to the tropics and my first experience with an all-inclusive resort. My seven night stay was amazing. I took a lot of entertainment with me –books, my blogging notebook, my sketchbook, an empty notebook, and magazines– because I honestly expected to be bored. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that the only thing I opened was two of the four paperbacks I packed.

I hadn’t realized until we staked out our spots in the sand overlooking the Caribbean just how badly my brain needed to disengage. When I sat in the sun, I either dozed or people watched. I did a lot of people watching, which is in itself a writing necessity, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty. Not once was I bored.

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We planned two excursions, a full day at Chichén-Itzá and a half day tour through Río Secreto. Other than that we were lazy on the beach, explored our massive resort, ate at a few à la cartes, and popped into the little shops set up on the grounds.

The breakfast tamale was bright pink with pineapple and raisin chunks. The other was a yummy chicken tamale. The texture was odd, but overall they were tasty and filling.

The breakfast tamale was bright pink with pineapple and raisin chunks. The other was a yummy chicken tamale. The texture was odd, but overall they were tasty and filling.

The history nerd in me loved Chichén-Itzá, even though we had to get up at the butt crack of dawn for our two hour bus ride. Our tour guides were fantastic, I’ve never been so impressed. We were given traditional tamales half-way to our destination while the leader gave us a long rundown of Mayan history. We were then taken to a little shop to check out goods made by the local Mayans. After that it was on to our destination.

I had no idea that the Mayans had deserted the city long before the Spaniards came. And I got a refresher on the fact that the Toltec’s invaded Mayan cities before the Europeans had a chance. I was entranced learning about the local history from people of native descent who had much different information to share than the European-based textbooks I’ve been reading all my life. There was a whole world rising and falling in the Yucatán prior to the arrival of the Spanish fleets. As someone raised in a commonwealth nation, I sometimes forget that the world didn’t start and stop with the actions of Europe.

Once we were done touring the ruins, we returned to the hotel that owns the entryway into the site, Mayaland, and were served a rather traditional lunch. I didn’t think I’d enjoy lime soup or suckling pig tacos, but I was mistaken. I had promised myself to at least try the local cuisine while I was south and was happily surprised by most of it.

Once our lunch, and much needed time in the shade, was over, we hopped back on the bus and drove to a cenote. My waterproof camera failed me that day because it decided to be temperamental, so most of my pictures are blurry. I’ve never swum in a pit, nor in anything so deep, as that cenote. I had scoffed at the fact that we were required to wear lifejackets before I descended into the depths. After I leapt into the pool I was grateful.

The best image I have of the cenote from the relative top.

The best image I have of the cenote from the relative top.

Our time in the mineral water was too short, but our guides wanted to take us to one last stop: Valladolid. Our bus parked for 25 minutes next to the city’s main square and we were let out to explore. The square was beautiful, as was the San Servacio church across the street. What struck me most was the look at real Mexico. Being on the resort was nice, but there was no culture. I might as well have been at a hotel at home. The brief glimpse of the life in Valladolid was important to me.

The centre of the square. The fence enclosing the whole thing was designed to keep Mayans out, only the Spanish were permitted to enter.

The centre of the square. The fence enclosing the whole thing was designed to keep Mayans out, only the Spanish were permitted to enter.

My friends and I finished our ice cream and waited until the last moment before getting back on the bus and heading back.

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The church, which I did not enter because my one friend did not feel properly dressed for it and I concurred.

That was a wonderful day, one that will be permanently etched in my mind. The history I learned, the ruins I finally got to see firsthand, and the landmarks I was taken to are certainly going to inform my writing. History is always told by the victors, but you have to remember that there are other voices to find.

Our second adventure was short and no less interesting. Río Secreto is a relatively new site in Mexico, the underwater pathways were accidentally discovered in 2008. National Geographic has the rights, or whatever you want to call them, to the area so I was not allowed to take pictures inside and I was not paying the exorbitant fee for pictures that they were charging.

We did a roughly two-hour tour in wetsuits, lifejackets, and water shoes underground in part of the river system. We saw stalagmites rising from the ground, some meeting the incredible stalactites that are still forming, creating massive columns of minerals. The ancient coral from the Yucatan’s time under the ocean millions of years ago was still sharp –I crashed into a low hanging part that I didn’t see thanks to my helmet and sliced my hand on some, so I know it’s sharp.

A shot of Rio Secreto from perceptivetravel.com.

A shot of Rio Secreto from perceptivetravel.com.

During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, at a specific time that I've forgotten, the shadows hit this snake just right and his tail is visible up the staircase.

During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, at a specific time that I’ve forgotten, the shadows hit this snake just right and his tail is visible up the staircase.

We saw bats, a spider that has evolved to live in the pitch-black, we saw the tiniest red ants I have ever laid eyes on, and cat fish. At one point, in the centre, our guide had us all turn off our headlamps so that we could see for ourselves that no light enters that place. I’m glad we were in a group because there is some kind of primal fear that fills me in such darkness in strange places.

It’s secret places like that that I need to remember to include in my stories. We have so much magic in our world half the time you don’t even need to make it up.

As I think back, during my vacation I felt like I was in another world. It was too easy to forget that it was January while I dunked my head in the warm ocean and searched for shells in the sand. My life back home seemed unreal.

I thoroughly enjoyed being out of time and space for a while, but I’m glad I’m back. I have so much writing I want to do and goals to tackle now that I have a new mental calm. I really do feel recharged.

What do you do to fill up your creative batteries? What’s the last relaxing trip you took?

Evolving Reader

In October I read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn for the book club I’m a part of with two good friends. I wrote a post in relation to it for Anxiety Ink and referenced Mary Higgins Clark, who I read quite heavily in my early teens. I haven’t read a book by Clark in years, even though I remember all of the stories I did read with fondness. That fact coupled with my mid-reading feelings about Dark Places (mainly that I just don’t read books like this anymore) got me thinking about how I’ve evolved as a reader.

I’ve always been an enjoyer of stories, but I didn’t get into reading like a maniac until I was around 12. A lot of disruptive things had happened in my life and I was in the midst of a few transitions. This lead to the realization that there is a solace and safety to be found in books. I started reading voraciously and haven’t stopped since.

From around that time there are titles that stand out for me, stories that I know quite intimately because I so connected with them when I read them. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Bay Saga and In the Garden Trilogy, as well as slew of her Eve Dallas titles. I also read every Clark book I could get my hands on.

I immersed myself in Revolutionary France with Sandra Gulland’s Josephine B. Trilogy. I read Anita Shreve’s All He Ever Wanted and was so angry I had to step away from such books for a while. I was horrified by When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase. I read a lot of John Grisham. Then somehow delved into the world of fantasy with The Witches of Eileanan by Kate Forsyth, The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, and The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart (which I discussed in detail here).

I can’t remember books I’ve read more recently with the kind of detail I can recall about those mentioned above.

I suppose I’d refer to all of these books as my foundation books. I have a fondness for all of them, and return to their authors every now and then, but in some cases I’ve changed as a reader. My tastes have altered and I expect different things from the titles I pick up now. Obviously 25 year old me does not want the same things as 13 year old me.

I’m going to create a few diagrams below to show the kind of reader I was and the various paths I was lead down, much to my reading pleasure. Perhaps if you’re looking to change up your reading and aren’t sure where to start these will help you out. I’m only going to do a few genres and a few titles because otherwise this will turn into the post that never ends.

Romance
I am an enormous romance buff. I can spend hours in the romance section of any bookstore. I’ve read nearly every subcategory and I’ve figured out what I do and don’t like. While Mary Higgins Clark is always found in the mystery section, a number of her books contain a romance element. I suppose I’d have to list her as my first exposure, as well as some truly entertaining Harlequin titles I got my hands on early in my reading life.

Romantic Suspense
This subgenre ties with Paranormal Romance for my favourite subgenre. I’ve read widely within it and have pretty high standards. For the record, I will read anything by Linda Howard.

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Paranormal Romance
I’ve read so many paranormal titles that I would consider myself an expert. I have become increasingly picky when it comes to pararom because I feel like I’ve seen it all and some authors are simply better at writing it than others. I don’t care for soft romantic suspense either. I like dark stories where the door stays open, if you catch my drift.

         

Horror
I would not consider myself a King fan, though Cell is one of the best horror stories I’ve read. One of my best friends is a huge fan so I’d have to count him, through her influence, as my horror foundation.

   

Urban Fantasy
I adore urban fantasy and there are so many fabulous women writing in the genre!

     

Fantasy
My fantasy tastes are all over the place. I’ve listed high fantasy with what I suppose you could call regular fantasy and medieval here. I’ve removed all the urban titles at least.

           

Fiction
This genre is far too wide to tackle in full, so I’ve charted with titles I mentioned earlier.

     

YA
I dislike that YA lit is hodgepodged all together. I sometimes wish it was organized into different genres like adult lit, but I think that time will come soon. When I was a young adult there weren’t nearly as many titles available to me as there are to kids now. I love it. But as you can see, my younger years weren’t well organized.

           

I have glossed over a lot of titles and genres. I have to revisit this idea with a little more research behind me.

I’d love to hear about your gateway titles and the paths they’ve lead you down! While I have more to-read titles than I will ever admit, I love to hear a good recommendation.