Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Forward: Worlds of Ink and Shadow, by Lena Coakley, AND A GIVEAWAY!!

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a budding novelist (that's me) sat in a critique group at a writers' conference in Niagara Falls and listened to a passage that left her feeling awed, slightly inadequate, and a weeny bit jealous.

That the passage was one which was put forward for critique, and therefore considered by its author to be somehow lacking or Not Quite Right, left the budding novelist feeling even more inadequate and jealous. But mostly, awed.

The author of said passage was Lena Coakley, and the passage - which did not quite make it into the final draft - was a magical beginning, that grew into an even more magical book: Worlds of Ink and Shadow.

Look at all the Pretties...

I have been waiting so long for this book to be born. I am so excited to have finally gotten it into my hot little hands.


Worlds of Ink and Shadow is an historical fantasy that, as anyone familiar with Coakley's previous novel Witchlanders would expect, accomplishes many things at once. At its surface, serves as an origin story of the Bronte family, and a most magical and mysterious one at that. Coakley makes every one of the four siblings - Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne - live and breathe and shine in this novel that takes each of their points of view in turn. The way she seamlessly slips from one point of view to the next, always showing exactly what the reader needs to see, is masterful. Additionally, the blending of fantasy with reality - the way in which a tale about siblings who can cross over into their invented worlds is interwoven with the tale of four siblings who achieved literary greatness in our world - is a literary accomplishment worthy of the Brontes themselves.

But this novel is so much more than that. As Coakley weaves the story of the literary beginnings of this famous family, she also spins the story of every author, capturing the simultaneous joy and anguish of creating entire worlds, the fervent wish that those worlds could be real coupled with the great burden of being a God in those worlds, of being responsible for the lives and deaths of so many. All authors know the grief that accompanies the death of a beloved character, the weight that every decision about a character carries, the worry that if one does not get it absolutely right, then the author is doing her characters - and her story - a great disservice. Coakley allows Charlotte and Emily and Branwell to carry this burden, and thus shares with the reader something of what it is to create story. For writers like me, it is a work of great empathy. For everyone else, it is the final fleshing out that makes this story of the Brontes truly complete.

This is a masterwork. It was so worth the wait, and I cannot wait to read it again.

And because I am lucky enough to know Lena, and to have been to her launch party (which featured tea and scones and bonnets and a reading of the funniest scene in an historical fantasy ever), I have a treat for you.

I got an extra copy. An extra signed copy.


You want this. Trust me.

To enter, simply comment with your name and email address, and tell me which Bronte sibling is your favorite. (Your email address is important, since it's the only way I will have of contacting you if you win.)

One extra entry per share on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr - link to your share in the comment, so I can see it, or if you tweet about it, put my handle @IshtaWrites in the tweet.

I will close the giveaway and draw a random entry at MIDNIGHT on the night of FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5TH, 2016. MIDNIGHT on the night of FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12TH, 2016.*

Open in the USA and Canada only. (Sorry, but shipping to Europe and beyond is EXPENSIVE, and the life of a writer is a hungry one. Just ask the Brontes.)

Good Luck!

*This week, I was taken hostage by alien invaders, and was unable to promote this giveaway the way it deserved to be promoted. So now that the invaders have released me, I've extended the deadline.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Holy Acknowledgement Surprise, Batman!

This week has been a tough one for me - getting up at 6am is taking its toll, and I slept through my alarm more often than not. I've loved my productive mornings, but making myself into a morning person when the sun doesn't rise for another two-to-three hours and it's cold (and dark and cold and AAGH and did I mention cold?) is hard work for me. I'm still enthusiastic about my projects, but I'm struggling to find the enthusiasm at 6 o'clock in the morning. Plus, there's Life Stuff, which I'm not going to get into.

And then I sat down to read a friend's book*, and got curious about who her editor is (because the book is awesome), and when I turned to the acknowledgements I saw this:

Holy patooties, fruities!

And then I jumped around like a maniac, because my name is in the acknowledgement section of someone's book, OH YEAH!!!!

Here's the thing about writing books.

It's hard. You're all alone, and you know it probably sucks, and you're struggling to fix it, and you don't know if you're making it better or worse. You finally get it to where you think it's shining like a shiny thing, and 99% of the industry people you send it to tell you that thanks, but they'll pass. It's HARD. And that's the way it has to be, because quality matters, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. (It makes you more able to be a grown-up about it, though, which is important. Be a grown-up.)

And then you see your name in the acknowledgement section of a friend's book, and you remember that night months and months ago when you answered an email with exactly the right questions, and you remember what it was like to read those early pages, those treasured secret words, filled with hope and possibility.

You remember that you have allies. You remember that you are an ally to other people.

And you feel so freaking lucky to be able to participate in the magic of creating stories for young people.

I am so grateful that I get to do this. I work with some of the most awesome people in the world. We make magic together.

What made you feel lucky this week?

*The book is A POCKET FULL OF MURDER, by R.J. Anderson, and it is delightful. Perfect for the magic-and-mystery-loving 8-12 year-old in your life.

Accountability Count: Don't even ask when I got up; Worked on WIPs every day, YAY ME I GET COOKIES; language and music are suffering, but have been Filling the Well like crazy, so I feel okay about that. Also, NEW WEBSITE COMING SOON-ISH, watch this space.

Reading: Worlds of Ink and Shadow, by Lena Coakley, which I critiqued an early chapter of years ago and which is AMAZING and #1 on the Globe and Mail Juvenile Bestseller lists, YESYESYESYESYES! More on that next week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday Writing: Writing Prompt

The other day, Maggie Stiefvater shared this video on her tumblr.

I don't know why she shared it. I don't know what she thinks about it. She shared it completely without context. But I listened to it, and here's what I thought as I listened to it:

I like the tune. Catchy.

Lyrics seem good.

Wait a minute…

Actually, I completely disagree with these lyrics. This guy is lost, a little bit. But I remember feeling this way when I was a teenager and new to relationships and love and All That, and I bet there are kids who feel this way now, and I think one or two or even a bunch of the characters I'm writing about right now feel this way.

There's a story here.

Which I suspect is why she shared the song, actually.

ANYWAY. Writing prompt. Listen to the song. Write a short story about this kid. Post it wherever you post that sort of thing, and link back in the comments if you want. Or just keep it private. :-)

Happy Writing.

Accountability Count: Slept half an hour longer than I intended today, but have written or revised for an hour or more every single day. Feeling pretty proud of that.

Reading: Chinese Myths and Fantasies, edited by Cyril Birch; The Enchanted Files: Diary of a Mad Brownie, by Bruce Coville
Watching: The Avengers: Age of Ultron, about which I have much to say.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Goodbye, Starman

Today has been one of those days. The American Library Association made history by announcing that a picture book, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, had both won the Newbery and garnered a Caldecott Honor, and it was announced that David Bowie had passed away.

Stars were born, and a star died.

It happens every day, but I'm feeling it keenly on this cold January afternoon.

Taken at the "David Bowie Is…" exhibit at the AGO.
I can't remember the first time I heard a David Bowie track. I can't remember which track it was. It feels like he's always been there.

But I do remember a girl I used to look after. She lived in a house in Kentish Town, and she was eleven, and she was the biggest David Bowie freak I had ever met. She would dress up like him after school and belt out Life on Mars as if she had written it herself, and it was wonderful. Through his music and his artistry and weirdness and his sheer force of personality, he gave her a bit of his stardust. He gave a bit of it to all of us.

Goodbye, Starman.

Accountability Count: Up at 6 every day, except when I slept through my alarm this morning; one hour of writing or revision done every day; music done every other day; language not done at all, ACK; blogging done and edited, but password forgotten so can't post, DOUBLE ACK; social media time seems to be under control THANK HEAVEN FOR SMALL MIRACLES.

Reading: THE NEST, by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Watching: LABYRINTH. Of course.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New Rules

Morning motivation from my office.

I like that quote. It says so much about life: that if you want something, I mean really, REALLY want something, you've got to do the work to get it. And getting the thing and doing the work are basically the same thing.


I decided I needed to set myself some rules for getting this thing that I want - publication with a major house, on a consistent basis, from now until forever.

New year, new rules.

The rules apply every day, even on Christmas. They are called Rules for a reason, folks.

Here are The Rules:

- up at 6am; NO EXCEPTIONS (I'm not gonna lie: this one sucks for me. I am SO not a morning person. But, hours! In a day! Limited! So, new wake-up time. I'll get used to it.)
- minimum one hour writing time; NO EXCEPTIONS (Also, blogging does not count as "writing time.")
- blogging once per week (I'm doing it now! YAY!)
- vlogging once per week (Vlogs will be mirrored here on the blog, to keep the blog ticking over more often than once weekly.)
- half an hour per day on a language (This is nothing to do with writing and everything to do with me wanting to be more Me and less Mom/Spouse/Homeschooler/Vegetable Grower/etc. Also, Spy. I want to be more Spy.)
- half an hour per day on an instrument (Same deal as the language thing.)
- one hour per day consuming media (Reading, critical TV or film watching, etc. You've gotta fill the well, folks.)
- social media for half an hour before 9am, and during The Kidlets' piano practice (Blogging counts!)
- accountability on the blog

That last one is important. I can't tell you how many times I've made a promise to myself, only to break it within a few weeks. It might not be this way for everybody, but for me, accountability is vital. It's what makes me ACTUALLY do what I say I'm going to do. So every time I post here, I'm going to tell you how I'm doing at the end of the post.

I guess you could call these resolutions, except that none of them are Great, Grand Plans or anything. They're just little changes I'm making to my day, every day. We'll see if it makes a difference.

How about you?

Accountability Count: Up today at 6am; Twitter, FB, and blogging done, cut off at 1/2 an hour; blog for the week done. And its only 8am! WOO-HOO!
Currently reading: THE MARVELS, by Brian Selznick. Halfway through, I give it an A+.
Currently watching: Wonderfalls.