WIPpet Wednesday: The Journal

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Happy Hump Day everyone!

How’s the week going for you? Frankly, I am exhausted (when am I not exhausted?) Remember a while back, when I tired myself out because I had a gazillion things to do, stayed up late to get my word count in, caught the flu, and promised to never ever do it again?

Well…

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I did it again.

It just sucks that there are only 24 hours in a day. There really should be more. Or if we could have one of those time-travelling thingimajigies that Hermione had that allows you do to two (or three or four) different things at once.

Anyway! Rant over!

Today’s feature presentation is a snippet from my current WIP titled Together We Will Live Forever (extremely tentative – I am super indecisive about my titles). Olivia is a neuroscience grad student and an aspiring artist. Matt works at the art gallery and lives with his daughter, Zelda.

The thing is, Matt is a private person who doesn’t talk much about himself. And Olivia is curious about him but doesn’t know how to ask. One day, Olivia finds Matt’s journal in his closet. This is one of Matt’s journal entries from several years back:

Anyway, it started on Friday. It probably actually started a bit further back. Amelie’s been having these headaches for a while. I just thought that it’s stress. I get headaches all the time and it gets worse when I’m stressed. So I gave her some of my Tylenol and Advil. She was taking them by the handful. And then she started talking funny, she started using words that are out of place. Like, she’d walk into the bathroom and ask where the oysters are. I figured out that by oysters, she meant her shoes. Then I told her they were probably on the shoe rack. They weren’t, not the yellow heels she wanted to wear that day. So we looked all over the apartment for the pair of yellow shoes, and we had a fight about it because I didn’t see why she couldn’t just wear another pair of shoes. Eventually we found the shoes in the fruit bin in the fridge, and we had no idea how it got there. Except I had an inkling of suspicion that she probably put them there and forgot about them. She did that kind of thing these days. Then I kind of understood why she wanted so bad to look for those shoes. It wasn’t that she wanted to wear them. It was that she was frustrated that she couldn’t find them.

By the way, WIPpet Wednesdays is a blog hop where writers can share a snippet from their WIP (Work in Progress). The only stipulation is that the excerpt is somehow related to the date. For example, today I have one paragraph, which is 17 (from the year) minus 16 (the date). It really is a precise science 😉

Be sure to check out some of the other lovely WIPpet snippets here. Thank you Emily Wrayburn for hosting.

Now I want to hear from you! How do you balance life with writing? Do you struggle with finding THE perfect title for your novel?

Let’s Chat: A Different Kind of Instalove

Guys. You might know by now that I hate Instalove. Like, with a passion. I hate how Girl gazes into Boy’s eyes, which are a lovely hazel, how his hair flutters in the breeze, and how she knows, beyond a shred of doubt, that she is in love, and that just by virtue of looking at him, her soul floats in midair… and so on and so forth. It’s just not realistic, and it’s downright cheesy, and it’s not even fun to read about.

Seriously. Reading such things makes me want to do this:

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Except I don’t. Because I paid money for that book. And even if I didn’t, as a bookworm, it goes against my personal value and belief system to destroy books. So I swallow the urge to shred the pages. And I live with the existence of that book on my bookshelf.

Then I thought, hey, since I bash Instalove in my reviews/thoughts/real life conversations all the time, why don’t I make a blog post about it? GREAT IDEA!!

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Except, A) I would rant forever and go WAY my self-imposed word limit producing something that no one would read to its completion, and B) It will just be… too easy. And I’m that kinda person who wouldn’t feel satisfied unless I do something that is hard. I know, I’m weird.

So, today I will defend Instalove a bit: I want to convince you that there is an ounce of truth in Instalove, but that it needs to be portrayed differently in YA fiction.

By the way, you may have known/guessed that Instalove = Instant Love, where two people fall in love at first sight (think Romeo and Juliet).

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Some food for thought: Why is there so much Instalove in the books that we read? I mean, I’m assuming that authors and publishers who write/publish Instalove are intelligent human beings, and that they write/publish books that they expect to be popular. Therefore, Instalove must exist because it sells.

Why then, does Instalove sell? Instalove is a fantasy. We like to imagine that we fall in love with the beautiful Prince/Princess Charming, and he/she finds us beautiful and falls in love with us as well. Isn’t that so romantic? Isn’t that so much more romantic, than, say, an average-looking person meeting another average-looking person, both people learning to accept each other’s flaws and work through kinks in their relationship, and either become a successful couple or break up? Maybe we like this fantasy of falling in love at first sight, just like how we like the fantasy of happy endings, or the fantasy of a world with dragons and magic powers.

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The more I think about it, the more I wonder: Could it be true? Is it possible to fall in love at first sight?

Yes and no. I don’t believe that we fall in love with a person’s appearance. I also don’t believe that love can be instant. We can be attracted to someone who is beautiful or handsome, and maybe we feel awkward and tongue-twisted in their presence. (Unless you are one of those savvy creatures who are super smooth, in which case I am SO jelly.) But attraction isn’t love.

Love takes time. It means that we know the person’s strengths and their weaknesses, and that we love them for both. It means that we’ve had fights, we know each other’s trigger points, and we know how to deal with future disagreements. How can this be achieved with just one glance? Appearance can attract us to a person, and this may develop into love in the long term, but it can hardly be called love at first sight.

I believe that we don’t fall in love with a person’s appearance, we fall in love with their personality, with how they speak, with how they think.

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However, I do believe that there is such a thing as instant connection. You know when we first talk to a stranger, on the subway, or in the elevator, or a friend of a friend, or a new classmate, and it just clicks? Maybe it’s because we have similar hobbies or ideas, maybe we see the world in a similar way. Or maybe we are both just interested in learning about each others’ worlds. For some reason, it is so easy to talk to them. Often this feeling is platonic, and we make a new friend. Sometimes, it may grow into something more.

And you know what? It has nothing to do with appearance.

So I don’t believe in instant love, but I do believe that we connect with some people better than others.

We need to start thinking differently about Instalove. Young Adult fiction needs to focus less on love at first “sight”, and more on the idea of developing a connection through conversation. Love takes time, and it’s really what is on the inside that counts.

Let’s Chat!

How do you feel about Instalove?

 

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi (Audiobook)

28458598“Seriously? That’s what you think I should be relegating my brain space to? Looking nice? Like, if I don’t make the effort to look beautiful, my entire existence is nullified? Nothing else matters-not my intellect, not my personality or my accomplishments; my hopes and dreams mean nothing if I’m not wearing eyeliner?” – Dimple

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” She is excited that her family finally lets her sign up for a summer program in app design.

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Young Adult / Contemporary / Romance / 380 pages

We all know When Dimple Met Rishi. It’s been circulating in the blogosphere for quite a while. I was very excited to read this book because of all the positive reviews, though I’ve been warned about the cheesiness. In the end, I liked this book. It gives me a warm and happy feeling. But booooy is it cheesy.

I absolutely love that this novel features diverse main characters. Dimple and Rishi are both from Indian families who hold traditional values, yet Dimple and Rishi themselves are very different. Dimple is a strong-headed and independent girl, she is ambitious and she wants more than anything to aim for the career of her dreams. She could care less about having the Ideal Indian Husband, and she cringes at the notion of the obedient housewife who caters to her husband’s every single whim, with no room to pursue dreams of her own. Meanwhile, Rishi is proud of his heritage. As the older son, he feels the obligation to abide by tradition and be the perfect son and role model. He is a hopeless romantic who admires the loving relationship between his mom and dad, and he has faith in the institution of arranged marriage that it will take him there too. Through Dimple and Rishi, and their heartwarming, hilarious, families, I learned more about the Indian culture, which fascinates me.

The characters are well thought out, from Dimple and Rishi to the supporting cast. At first glance, Dimple is that sharp-tongued and sharp-witted girl who is driven by ambition. But we learn that she has a soft side and she is a romantic at heart. Rishi is determined to uphold his traditional Indian values, and he wants to be the Ideal Indian Husband. He is set to start MIT in the fall, because he is determined to graduate with a respectable degree and get a well-paying job to support his future family. However, he tries to deny his true passion, which is art. The supporting characters have lives and personalities of their own: from Rishi’s brother to Dimple’s roommate. It is amazing to watch their stories unravel before our eyes, and to see their relationships strength and change throughout the novel.

The writing is witty and made me laugh at just the right moments. The first few chapters drew me in completely, because both Dimple and Rishi are just so adorable and hilarious. I loved that they each have a distinct voice and it is fascinating to see the world from each of their points of views.

However, as the story progresses, I felt that both Dimple and Rishi lose their uniqueness and they become your typical lovestruck teenagers. And it just gets cheesy. The heart pounding and the butterflies in the stomach and so on and so forth. It gave me goosebumps and chills down the spine. That’s how cheesy it was.

I am conflicted about the POV switching in this novel. In general, I am not against POV switching. I’ve enjoyed many novels that are written this way. But is there a point when the POV switching happens too often? In When Dimple Met Rishi, there are often moments when a scene is broken into many parts, alternating between Dimple and Rishi’s points of views. To be honest, I am not quite sure what I make of it.

I loved the performance in the audiobook.

The Bottom Line:

Despite the cheesiness and predictability, When Dimple Met Rishi is a light read that warmed up my heart and made me smile. If you are interested in learning about the Indian culture, and in a mood for a good romance, you may want to give this a try.

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Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? How do you feel about dual POV books in general?

Beautiful People (August Edition)

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Happy Friday!

How are you guys doing? My body is exhausted and sleep-deprived, and I kinda want to be like this right now:

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BUT my spirit is feeling inspired. I’d rather this than the other way around 🙂

Beautiful People is a character interview meme hosted by Sky @ Further Up and Further In and Cait from @ Paper Fury, which begins on the 5th of every month. Each month, a list of questions is posted for the characters in your story to answer. Feel free to join in on the fun! You can join in on any day of the month!

I will be writing about Matt from my contemporary novel titled Together We Will Live Forever (tentative.) Matt is a single father who lives with his daughter, Zelda. He works as an assistant in the Art Gallery of Ontario (one of those peeps who gives tours and tell you about the paintings.) His life changes when he meets Olivia, a neuroscientist who aspires to be an artist.

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?

Smoking. It might give him lung disease one day, but hey, he doesn’t need to live to a hundred.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.

Matt is sincere, sensitive and a great cook. He is also easily offended, hates studying, and doesn’t trust anyone.

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?

His wedding band.

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?

On an average day, 5. When Olivia comes to babysit, 10.

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?

When you think everything ought to stop and freeze in a stand-still, life keeps on going on.

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?

Night out: Jeans and a T-shirt. Night in: Sweatpants and a T-shirt.

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?

Two pairs: Faux-leather oxfords for work, running shoes for everything else.

Do they have any pets? What pet do they wish they had?

No pets. If not for his allergies, Matt would very much want a cat.

Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?

His wife, for dying. Himself, for feeling that way.

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?

The exact amount of groceries to make food for a week. Budget no-name brands are his go-to.

What are you working on? Tell me about your characters! Are you doing Beautiful People this month?

WIPpet Wednesday: Photograph

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After a brief post-Camp Nano slump, I am finding new inspiration to write. The words are coming, slowly but surely. This time the focus is on quality over quantity. I have to remind myself that a few good words worth keeping is better than a thousand words that will need to be trashed.

In today’s snippet, Matt reflects about the day that he spent with Olivia. She was painting Felker’s Falls, her first real outdoor painting, when he snapped a picture of her.

But he wanted her to see that picture and see how wonderful she is. Of course he doesn’t say stuff like that, it’s too cheesy, and the thought of it gives him goosebumps. That’s why he takes photos.

This is a snippet from my contemporary novel titled Together We Will Live Forever (tentative.) Olivia is a neuroscience grad student and an aspiring artist. Matt works at the art gallery and lives with his daughter, Zelda.

WIPpet Wednesdays is a blog hop where writers can share a snippet from their WIP (Work in Progress). The only stipulation is that the excerpt is somehow related to the date. Today’s WIPpet Math: Today is August 9th (8/9). There are 198 characters (98 for the date, reversed, and 1 for the difference between.) As you can see, part of the fun is figuring out the math and making it sound intelligent 🙂

Be sure to check out some of the other lovely WIPpet snippets here. Thank you Emily Wrayburn for hosting.

How is your project going? Are you a fast writer or do you believe in the slow and steady approach?

Real Talk: The Upside of Being Alone

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Hello everyone,

Today I want to talk about something different – something that is deeply personal to me. Maybe it relates to you as well.

I used to hate being alone. I used to spread my introverted self thin, and fill my evenings and weekends with activities, because I thought I needed to be with people. It seriously drained me.

Now, my fiancé is on the other side of the country (and when we are talking about Canada, this is a long distance.) And I am living in a smaller city called London, away from my family and 71.4% of my closest friends. Being an introvert, who is now happy about being an introvert, I spend a lot of time alone.

There is a stigma to being alone. On social media, we see pictures of people having fun with friends, and we feel that there is something wrong with being alone, that it’s not fun, that you can’t possibly be happy. When we see a group of people chatting and laughing on the street, we assume that they are having fun and that they are happy. When we see someone eating alone at a restaurant, we wonder if they are bored or lonely.

I want to challenge that. I want to challenge the idea that being with people makes us happy, and that being alone is lonely. I want to sell you the idea that being alone is absolutely fine.

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Better alone than with bad company. You know those friends who you love to bits and pieces, who make you laugh and inspire you, who leave you feeling happy and fulfilled? These are the people who are worth our time. And then you know those other people, maybe even people we call “friends”, who we don’t connect with or relate to, who leave us feeling drained, who, even worse, hurts us? These people we are better without.

Coming out of college and moving to London to start a new job, I feared living on my own. At the same time, I didn’t have any close friends in London. So, I moved in with a girl who I thought was my “friend”, who I knew from the outset that we had little in common with. We did not get along, our personalities clashed, and, needless to say, the year was disastrous.

Now, I am living on my own for the first time, and I love every, single, minute of it.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. We can be alone and happy. We can be surrounded by people while feeling desperately alone.

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Being alone inspires creativity. Are you a creative person? Creativity doesn’t have to relate to art. Maybe you like writing, or dance, or music, or drama. Maybe you like to brainstorm solutions for real-world problems. Maybe you just like to imagine how the world can be a better place.

I think that being alone gives us the headspace to think of new ideas, without the influence of other people and the outside world. As a blogger and writer, I find that my best ideas pop out when I’m least expecting it, usually when I am walking, or driving, or just on the verge of sleep.

Or maybe you are different from me. Do your best ideas come when you are alone? Or when you are with people?

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Being alone gives you the freedom to try something new. One thing I’ve learned in my twenty-six years of living is that we don’t have to ask permission. Sure, there are consequences to our actions. If we break a law, likely we will end up behind bars. If we jump from a cliff without a harness, likely we will end up on the operating table. And we will likely hear from our friends and families about it. But, my point is, if it is safe and legal and something that we are interested in, why not? We don’t need permission from anybody.

I had a lot of fun spending time with my friends. At the same time, I missed opportunities to do things I wanted to do, because I always ended up doing what my friends wanted to do. Now, I still ask my friends to join me in my adventures, because it’s nice to have company. But whether or not people come with me, I am going to do it anyway.

And the cool thing is: We meet a lot of cool people along the way. There is something about being alone which opens us up to meeting new people. Maybe, when we are outside of our social bubble, we are more willing to start a conversation with a stranger. Or strangers are more willing to start a conversation with someone who is not already preoccupied.

I went to my pole dancing class terribly shy and nervous, and now I met a bunch of cool gals who inspire me to try my best everyday. I also started blogging with one sad follower (myself), and now I have lots more (you guys are truly amazing).

If I had spent all that time with friends, maybe it would be fun. But would I have learned to pole dance, met awesome blogging pals, read books that speak to my heart, traveled around the world, and have so many interesting stories to tell? I don’t think so.

How do you feel about being alone? Have you tried something new on your own? Have you traveled alone? Do you have favourite “alone” activities?

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (Audiobook)

18460392Theodore Finch is a troublemaker. He is unpredictable and does things that no one understands, like hurl a chair against the chalkboard, then disappear for days on end. Violet Markey is the popular girl who everyone likes. She is a model student and is on track to apply for the top universities. Except, after Violet’s sister’s tragic death, Violet realizes that no one understands her. She finds herself on the bell tower at school, where she meets Finch.

Together, Violet and Finch work on a geography project where they travel the wonders of the Indiana State. As they get to know each other, Violet learns to deal with her sister’s death and finds joy in doing what she loves. However, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s world begins to shrink.

Young Adult / 378 pages

Note: I listened to the audiobook version of this book, and I have never read the print edition. This may have influenced my opinion of the book. For example, I was not fond of Violet’s voice, it grated my ears for the entire 11 hours. I would not recommend the audiobook to anyone. Despite this, I will try my best to evaluate the content of the book separately.

I love that this book speaks honestly and boldly about the topic of mental illness and suicide. It touches on the idea of labels and stigma, which prevent teens and adults who have mental illness from seeking treatment. I believe that stories like this help spread awareness about mental illness, and that with more awareness, there will be fewer barriers for people to seek help. Also, perhaps people who do have such conditions will read this book and feel less alone. I am glad to see that this book is translated into many languages, won awards, and will be adapted into a movie.

Theodore Finch is a intriguing and complex character. He is quirky and has a sense of humour. He loves music and is gifted at playing the guitar and composing his own songs. However, he hides a secret from his friends and his family, and that is his mental illness. He can’t quite control his outbursts and periods of time when he is just “asleep.” Instead, he tries to make it appear to everyone that he chooses to be that way, and everyone accepts him as he is. Finch is a character that makes us want to keep reading.

On the other hand, I was not in love with the other characters, including Violet. Violet strikes me as whiney, and it took me a while to warm up to her personality. I am glad to see her grow as the book unravels. I am less impressed with the supporting characters, who don’t quite develop beyond their stereotypes. This includes Violet and Finch’s classmates and the adults. I feel that there is potential in some of the characters, such as Amanda (Violet’s ex-best friend) and Violet’s mother and father, but there just aren’t enough pages dedicated to developing their characters.

This is a slow-paced book. In general, I have no qualms about slow pacing itself, because sometimes it is needed to fully develop a relationship, or to portray the growth in a character over time. However, in All the Bright Places, I get the sense that there were scenes that served no purpose. I feel that the story dragged until about the last 10%.

Despite this, All the Bright Places leaves a haunting message. Coming to the last few minutes of the book, I find myself thinking: what about the troublemakers and drop-outs that I had known from school? Perhaps they have a story of their own. And I believe that this is what makes a good story – the ability to leave you thinking.

The bottom-line:

All the Bright Places speaks boldly about the topic of teenage mental health and suicide without holding back. We see a glimpse of the world through the Finch’s points of view, which is quirky and one-of-a-kind. Despite the slow pace, and the other, less-interesting, characters, this book may be a worthwhile read if you enjoy reading about mental health.

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