Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Hello! If you'd like to keep up with my blogging shenanigans, please find me on Tumblr!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Shang-TOO-HIGH Tower

I have a fear of heights. Not in the sense that climbing 10 feet makes me dizzy already, but if I had to pick between a tarantula on my arm and standing on the roof of a skyscraper, I'd (reluctantly) pick the spider. As long as it's been trained and is on a leash of course. Because otherwise it might run up my arm and under my sleeve and--

Okay, maybe not such a great alternative.

Possibly the SCARIEST video I've seen on Youtube is one where some guy and his friend climb the Shanghai Tower.

It's the second tallest building in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

Yes, put a big spikey thing at the top to make your building taller.

And when I say "climb", I don't mean they take the elevator. They climb narrow stairways and walk along concrete ledges and as the video continues, they begin a VERTICAL ascent up the metal skeleton of the towering, under-construction structure, with the clouds (or fog? I was too busy hyperventilating to tell) obscuring the world below. And when they reach the very top, they high-five each other, like they're not scared the force of that awesome and well-earned high-five might not throw them right off.

Here's the video: you decide for yourself if it's more terrifying or amazing. And be sure to bring along a barf bag.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I must have walked through a portal and ended up five months in the future because there's no way it's been since January since I posted something. It was yesterday. It has to be. I guess that's what happens when...well, life happens. You get so caught up in one or two things that everything else stops existing, even though you made a promise to yourself years ago that you'd find BALANCE.

So even though you want

What you end up with is

It's definitely the rockiest year I've had since I started writing seriously. I've had moments of solid confidence, when I've felt so sure of the path I was taking and what I needed to do to get there, and moments when it felt like it was all falling apart.

Those moments when you look around you and ask, "What am I doing?"

I think that's okay. I think in everything we do in life that's really important to us and that doesn't come easily, we have times when the voices of self-doubt drown everything else out.

And overcoming those voices is no small feat, which is why it's really important to be surrounded by people who support us, whether it's close family and friends, or strangers we meet over the internet who share our interests and aspirations. They're the ones who keep us on track and help us remember how much we love whatever it is we're doing.

I'm at an in-between point right now. Not cynical, but not naively optimistic either. I started this gig about three years ago, and in a lot of ways, I'm still exactly where I was. In some ways, I've regressed. But in so many other ways, I'm light years ahead of the old me. I just have to keep looking forward.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


It's amazing to think that 2013 is over and we're in a completely new year now. I'd think it was still 2012 and we were all waiting for the countdown to the end of the world, but here we are, beginning 2014 and wondering what new adventures and troubles it'll begin.

For me, each year is another milestone in my fledgeling writing career. I've got three manuscripts under my belt now and working on finishing up my current one. I feel both certain and shaky on my progress these past few years.

I see all of the ways my experience has added to my growth, but sometimes experience, especially the negative, has its drawbacks. It holds you back and makes you hesitant to dive headfirst into new ventures. It can also limit your vision if that fear isn't overcome.

And that's my goal this year. To learn from my past while still retaining all of the things that kept the fire in my heart lit and made me the aspiring author I am today. Expect an update on that somewhere around January 2015 (which feels like a century away, but I'm sure we'll get there in what will seem like a month and a half).

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: Steelheart

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

After reading this description for Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart, I just had to get my hands on it. And it was worth it. 

What's exceptional about Steelheart is that, although this world is rife with powerful beings, there are no superheroes. No Superman or the Fantastic Four to swoop in and save the helpless little humans. The Epics are horrible, vicious killers who rule over the people by striking fear into their hearts. It's the regular Joes like David who get to save the day.

David is a very likeable protagonist. Things don't happen to him; he makes them happen. He's remarkably goal-oriented, which keeps the plot moving and there's never a dull moment. He's also just quirky enough to be easy to get along with.

The supporting characters are well-written and each one brings something different to the story. There is one character in particular who provides comic relief of some sort (when he's not making people scratch their heads), which balanced the somber tone of the book.

I especially enjoyed the logistics of taking down these Epics. Each Epic has an Achilles' heel, and the way David and his gang deal with them is fun and exciting. No two encounters are the same, and nothing is ever predictable. There are plenty of surprises in store for both the characters and readers.

In all, a great and fast-paced read that fans of post-apocalyptic YA would enjoy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cover Reveal: DEPENDENT by Brenda Corey Dunne

I have the privilege of hosting Brenda's amazing cover for her book, DEPENDENT, which will be coming out in July of 2014. Mark your calenders, folks!

When 45-year-old Ellen Michaels loses her husband to a tragic military accident, she is left in a world of gray. For 25 years her life has been dictated by the ubiquitous They—the military establishment that has included her like chattel with John’s worldly goods—his Dependents, Furniture, and Effects. They—who have stolen her hopes, her dreams and her innocence, and now in mere months will take away the roof over her head. Ellen is left with nothing to hold on to but memories and guilt and an awful secret that has held her in its grip since she was 19. John’s untimely death takes away her anchor, and now, without the military, there is no one to tell her where to go, what to do— no one to dictate who she is. Dependent deals with issues ever-present in today’s service families—early marriage, frequent long absences, the culture of rank, and posttraumatic stress, as well as harassment and abuse of power by higher-ranking officials. It presents a raw and realistic view of life for the lives of the invisible support behind the uniform. 

Brenda Corey Dunne grew up in rural New Brunswick, Canada. She originally trained as a physiotherapist and worked several years as a Physiotherapy Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force before meeting the love of her life and taking her release.

She completed her first full length manuscript in 2008 as a bucket-list item and since then she has self-published a work of YA historical fiction (TREASURE IN THE FLAME), and has several other manuscripts in various stages of completion. DEPENDENT, an adult contemporary fiction, will be published by Jolly Fish Press in summer 2014. Brenda is represented by Jennifer Mishler and Frances Black of Literary Counsel.

When not working as a physiotherapist or writing, Brenda can be found juggling taxi-mom duties, working in the garden or strolling through the horse paddock with a coffee in hand. She currently resides on a small hobby farm in Eastern Ontario (Canada) with her husband and their three children, two horses, a dog, a cat, several chickens and the occasional sheep.



Twitter handle: @overdunne :

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Process

It's been a few months since I completed my second story and started on my new project, Within These Walls. I remember going into it with the mindset that I'd do things differently this time around: plot out the story first chapter by chapter, to see if that would be better than winging most of it (besides basic yet concrete ideas about the plot, characters and setting).

I'm now halfway through this new project and while I still don't know if it would be better, it's definitely harder than I thought it would be, for one main reason.

My plotting process just doesn't work that way. I've found it impossible to sit in front of a blank page and come up with things on the spot. In fact, I get most of my ideas in the most unlikely and often inopportune times and places.

Friend: "...and I'm on the verge of losing my job and my neighbor ran over my cat...hey, are you even listening?"
And I think that's okay. Everyone has their own way of going about the process, because we all have different things that drive and hinder us. Some people prefer to work in the quiet, others need to be around crowds to get their brain going. Some people like to read a lot, others try to block it all out and focus on their work alone. Some people rely on articles containing writing tips, others find that it hurts them more than helps them.

The most important thing is to know what works for you and what you feel most comfortable with. If you think you write best sitting on a bench at a noisy street corner, wearing your lucky pinwheel hat while humming the theme song to MASH, then you go right ahead and churn out that bestseller.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I've been writing seriously for a few years now and I never thought I'd ever be able to measure the quality of my own work. It's kind of like seeing the gradual changes in your own physical features. You look into the mirror pretty much every day (some longer than others). You might be able to spot a wrinkle that wasn't there weeks ago, but you can't objectively point out every little change as it happens.

Then you wake up one day and it's like you're seeing all these things you couldn't before. Or you wake up one day and realize all the ways you can improve your features. Kind of like you're your own plastic surgeon.

That's what writers are. Plastic surgeons. And unlike real plastic surgeons, you just use backspace if you mess up someone's nose.

More than ever, I'm better able to gauge where I stand as a writer. What my strong points are, but also my weaknesses. What I have that other people might not, and what I wish I could learn to utilize in my work.

And right now sitting here, it's hard to think that five years from now, I might be on a completely different tier in terms of my ability to self-assess. Maybe I'll see things I'm completely blinded to at the moment. Maybe I'll learn something that makes my work really shine, or maybe I'll notice a flaw that runs through all of my stories and holds them back from their fullest potential.

That's the reason I love being a writer. You're always evolving, but more than that, the evolution is fun. It's like that light bulb above your head and you get all excited because the process suddenly feels new and different. And even when things get tough and you begin to doubt yourself, you always know that the capacity for personal growth is huge and you have so much to strive toward and to achieve.

Friday, July 12, 2013

It's A Bird, It's A Plane...

I've been a fan of the Superman franchise since forever. I watched the Christopher Reeve ones, the Adventures of Lois and Clark, Smallville, most Superman cartoons and read quite a few comics. I don't know what it is about Superman that makes him an incredible figure. Whether it's all of the good he embodies, or the duality of the Clark Kent and Superman personas, or whether a flying character is just really cool to watch. But Superman has always been my favorite superhero, and Man of Steel certainly delivered.

"I refuse to pose in red underwear."

After many versions of the same characters, I was really looking forward to Man of Steel's take. While some of it has been redone, such as some aspects of Clark Kent's life as a child, the differences were pretty huge. There are more sci-fi/futuristic themes, especially on Krypton. Superman's story is also different, and I noticed the focus is more on Kal-El, the Kryptonian, and less on Clark Kent, the "human". There's always been the question of which was Superman's real identity: the red-and-blue-uniformed superhero, or the glasses-wearing reporter? And this movie certainly seems to indicate the former.

The best part for me is the bad guy, General Zod.

Or his Royal Beardliness.

I've always loved the complexity of this individual. In his own mind, Zod is a superhero. He's not motivated by greed or corruption. He's simply doing what he was born to do - defend Krypton and its people at all cost. It would have been noble if it didn't also make him into a ruthless killer. There's this one part near the end where Zod gives a little speech that sums up the futility of his circumstances. Very telling and moving, and it made him even more memorable.

There's also his right-hand woman, Faora, who is very terrifying.

Terrifyingly awesomesauce.

One thing a lot of people dislike about this movie is the amount of destruction. Skyscrapers exploding, people dying left and right - some as a result of Superman's actions. But I found it realistic. These are super beings with the power to destroy entire cities. Their fights aren't going to be contained; they'll be messy and awful and even tragic.

In all, a great movie, one I look forward to seeing about 10 more times when it's out on DVD.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Girl Who Loved to Read

I have a confession to make. A sad, awful, disheartening confession. The kind that crushes the book-loving soul of any reader.

But first, a little bit of background.

I grew in a book-deprived world. It was a developing country, and we all know there are bigger issues than books in such places. Like food and clean water. But I lucked out for the most part, because my family lived in a decent part of town, and my parents provided well for us. So with the necessities out of the way, I yearned for other types of nourishment.

My mother would buy me a novel once a month - sometimes two on my birthday. But it wasn't enough to feed my wild imagination or to quench my thirst for words. We didn't have libraries back then. And though my friends would get their hands on a new book once in a while, reading wasn't as big a deal for them as it was for me. So I didn't have anyone to trade with. I had to be satisfied with one or two books a month, when all I really wanted was to read one a day.

In a lot of ways it was frustrating. Of course it was frustrating. But in retrospect, I think that's part of what made the reading experience all the more delightful. Having to wait for ages until I could get my hands on a book I really wanted. That euphoria when I located it on a shelf at the bookstore and handed it to my mom so she'd buy it for me. And then reading it over and over to keep the memory alive.

It could be the nostalgia talking. Or maybe I've changed a lot over the years. But lately I've been losing it. That hunger and thirst. I find myself starting new and exciting books, only to have my attention wander to other things.

I had a policy once of never leaving any book unread. Now most of the ones I start aren't finished.

So what changed? Am I reading the wrong books lately? Going through a temporary phase? Too distracted by my own writing to remember what it's like to be a reader? Or am I, dare I say it, outgrowing being a book lover?

That last one scares me. The writer I am today is a result of my love for books. It's the fire that lit my dreams as a young girl, and the inspiration that led me to decide one fateful day, "I should try my hand at this writing thing."

I don't want to outgrow books, because I don't think I can - not fully. I have this emptiness in me now, in that part of me that was fulfilled by reading. I miss being an avid reader. Very much so.

So I have a new resolution. I'm going to search for a book that sparks that old excitement in me. Then I'll find a quiet spot, block out this world, and try to lose myself in a new one. Maybe then I'll rediscover the girl who loved to read. Because she deserves all the books she yearned for all those years ago.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Day The Pantser Planned Ahead

I love the feeling that comes from finishing a manuscript. It doesn't matter how crappy it is, and how much you wish you never have to set eyes on the thing again. All that matters is that, tens of thousands of words later, it exists. It's here, living and breathing on paper or in your computer/tablet/magical pen that writes itself, and you no longer have to contain it in your head.

It's such a relief, too, as if literally 106k words (I'll need to take a weed-wacker to this thing to trim it down) have been lifted from my shoulders. It makes me feel all light and gooey inside. Being a writer gives a sense of accomplishment like no other, because it's such a long investment and the biggest reward you'll get immediately is your own satisfaction at completing what you started months or years ago. So kudos to all writers out there!

Now I'm going to put this ms away for a couple of weeks and move onto the next project. But I'd like to try something a little different this time.

I want to create a detailed outline first.

I've always been the type to go into a story with basics. Who's who, where they are, what's happening. I sometimes write the first chapter with no idea about what happens in the next, other than, "Okay, this and that character will do blah blah later, and we'll figure out what blah blah is when we get to it. NOW WRITE THIS THING BEFORE YOU SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST, because that's what happens to silly writers who wait too long."

Is it wrong to write without plotting everything out? Some would say yes, others would say not necessarily. Everyone writes differently. And being a pantser seems to have worked for me so far. My mind has never let me down when it comes to figuring out what happens next. But "works for me" might not necessarily be what brings out my maximum potential.

And while the thought of making a detailed outline makes the pantser in me break out in hives, I'll be giving it a shot for my next project.

It'll be tough. My imagination pretty much runs itself. It dictates when it'll give me ideas and when it'll make me chase my tail in circles as I try to figure out an impossible plot point.

And to sit down and make all these bullet points, carefully planning out what goes on each? To resist the call of the story until it's ripe and ready for plucking? And then stick to this outline?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Random Stuff (And Other Stuff)

It feels like the year was just starting last week, but here we are, ending the fourth month and one step closer to summer--which is the only upside to life zooming past us so out of control. That and, for me, being closer to finishing the semester.

One of my classes required completing about 30 short papers by the end of the semester and, well, I have this nasty little habit called procrastination. Not to mention that I was already feverishly hard at work on my current manuscript, so my prioritization skills suffered quite a bit.

I was in a mad dash this past couple weeks getting the assignments finished on time, and in the end it worked out quite well like a 90's family sitcom. 

Almost anyway. Just need to take a handful of exams without ripping my hair out in the process. No biggie!

On the writing front, I'm close to finishing my third manuscript. And it looks like utter garbage from where I'm sitting, which is a stage I go through with all of my stuff, but for the first time, I'm seriously considering rewriting the story completely. The plot itself isn't too bad. But it's the world and the characters that I'm thinking of changing around. From a fictional fantasy world to an urban setting. High school and small town instead of some faraway island in a faraway kingdom.

Crazy, right? Not even sure it can be done.

Pros: Now that I have a more vivid idea of the story, I can go into it a second round with more confidence. I know what to add or omit, what to emphasis or lessen. Which characters need more screen time and which could be tossed aside. And I think this story would really shine in an urban setting.

Cons: Some things might get lost in the transition. It's hard to change the setting and not encounter problems on how to fit the story and the characters into a new world. I've been thinking things over, trying to find a balance that would keep the core of the story the same while changing the details, and it's a challenge.

But I love challenges. As impossible as this seems at times, I love trying to solve it. Working out the logistics in my head, finding answers by trying out different combinations of things. And ultimately, whatever I decide, I know the manuscript will be better for it.

On a completely random note, I was talking to someone the other day about the train/trolley ethical dilemma, which goes something like this:

Five people are stuck on train tracks and will be hit by an oncoming train, unless you pull a switch that diverts the train onto another track. But there is one person stuck on that second tracks. Would you pull the switch that kills this person, knowing you'd save five others? Now say that you have another situation: five people stuck on the tracks and a train heading their way again, but this time, the only way to save them is to shove a 300 pound man into the path of the oncoming train, which will derail it. Would you physically push this person into harm's way to save five other lives?

So while I'm discussing this, my eight-year-old nephew is listening attentively and he approaches me when the discussion ends. This is the conversation that ensues:

Him: I have one.
Me: Okay, go for it.
Him: Let's say you're driving your car and you see five squirrels in the middle of the road. Would you hit them or would you swerve out of the way and crash your car into a tree to save them?
Me: And those are my only options?
Him: Yes, they're your only options.
Me: Eh, I guess I'd run them over.
Him: *jaw drops* Let's try that again. This time, there are FIFTY SQUIRRELS on the road and you have three choices. You can hit them, or you can go on the sidewalk and run over pedestrians, or you can hit the tree. Choose wisely!
Me: *shame-faced but honest* I'd...still run over the squirrels.
Him: I never knew you were so heartless. Human life isn't more important than squirrel life!
Me: It's not?
Him: Of course not!
Me: Okay, okay, I guess I'll just crash into the tree in that case.

Life lessons from an eight-year-old. In all honesty though, if I saw fifty squirrels hanging around in the middle of the road, I'm probably better off running them over to end the squirrel invasion.

(And no, I've never run over an animal in my life, so I just might swerve and crash my car if a real life situation pops up).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What I've Learned From My Favorite Shows

Some of the greatest lessons I've learned as a storyteller come from observing and interacting with the world. And many of them are simply from watching TV. Compiled below, in no particular order, are the gems of wisdom I've gained from five of my favorite shows.


Say "Smoke Monster"!

1) Keep the audience guessing. Always. 

When one mystery is solved, another should take its place. Make the characters and the audience work for answers by putting them through one trial after the other.

2) Backstory is an incredible tool when crafting powerful characters.

One of the biggest aspects of Lost is the flashbacks throughout almost every episode. They spend time showing pivotal moments in the characters' lives, giving us glimpses of what they've been through, what drives them as people or what they're trying to put behind them. It's the characters' stories that make the audience invested in their fate. And a lot of these stories are complicated and convoluted, often depicting characters in ways that contradict the people they are on the island. And that's exactly what makes the characters so real and believable.


"We're awesome at posing. Take that, Lost!"

1) Superpowers can be really cool. But not everyone wants to be a superhero.

Characters don't always choose the duties thrust upon them, even if these duties come with the power to travel through time or to recover within mere seconds from a bullet to the heart. Most of these characters are just ordinary people getting by, who suddenly find themselves in a battle to save the world (and specifically one cheerleader). Not everyone adapts easily to the role of hero, but they all struggle to make sense of who and what they are, and why they've been given this huge responsibility. And they make a lot of mistakes and bad choices along the way.

2) Bring characters together for a common cause or purpose.

Heroes has a huge and diverse cast of people, from all over the world. But they all cross paths in one way or another, their lives merging at different points. Imagine the moment when two characters who are fully developed and whom the audience knows quite well, first meet. They know nothing about each other. They might even distrust each other, even though they're both good guys. Because the audience is invested in each one beforehand, this meeting is all the more pivotal. So while it's nice to have a vast cast of characters from all parts of the world and all walks of life, it's critical to connect them in some way, usually by a common quest.


Dexter is more at home in a pool of blood than posing with the rest of the crew.

1) Good guys aren't necessarily goody-two-shoes.

Dexter is a serial killer. He knows he is, he knows that what he does is wrong, but for some reason, we don't hate him for it. He has just the right balance of good and evil in him that the scale could tip either way (as it often does throughout the seasons), and this creates a complex individual. He is a blueprint for the perfect villain, because there is nothing stereotypical about him. He also makes for an intriguing good guy, even though he isn't one in the conventional sense.

2) Secrets and hidden motives add a lot of tension and anguish.

The whole series is based around Dexter's secret life as a serial killer and his attempts to keep it hidden from his co-workers, his love interests, and even his family. He's constantly covering his tracks, lying about his behavior, and coming up with alibis when people get a little too close to the truth. And it's a huge strain on his relationship with those he cares about. It also ups the show's tension and makes the audience even more on edge, because we never know who will find out about his dirty secret and how it will affect him.


Say - Walker! No, seriously, behind you!

1) When the going gets good...throw your characters off of a cliff. 

Not literally, but the point is that The Walking Dead thrives on the unpredictable. The uncertainty of the characters' fate (the odds are especially grim if you happen to be a black character.). They rarely catch a break. And when they do, it never lasts because it's only the calm before the storm. Crap eventually hits the fan. No one's life or happiness is guaranteed. And this certainly takes the boredom out of things.

2) People do uncharacteristic things when thrust into uncharacteristic situations. 

How many of us would shoot a zombie, knowing they were once flesh and blood human beings? Now how many would shoot a living man, or worse, our own mothers? This show brings out the worst in people and it does so in a way that is entirely believable. This is a world where nice guys finish last (and last place isn't a good place to be when running from zombies). Survival in extreme situations means that your characters have to face some really tough choices, and they have to make decisions that might be unsavory, but at the very least, understandable.


I sense a little too much tension in this room.

1) It's important for characters to have one big objective that they're striving toward.

Battlestar Galactica is all about one big quest for salvation and survival of the human race. The crew of the Galactica race from one galaxy to the other, trying to find a new home after Cylons destroyed theirs. The journey is perilous and often disheartening, and the crew encounters one obstacle after the other. But it's their hope, their desire to accomplish their goal, that drives them, and it's also what makes the audience root for them.

2) People who all want the same thing don't always get along.

There is a lot of in-fighting in this show, to the point where people are constantly getting into fistfights or even trying to kill each other. The lines between good and bad are often blurred as a result, because it's not always easy to tell who is the transgressor and who is in the right. Battlestar Galactica is an excellent demonstration of how distrust and disunity between a cast of characters can work well to increase the hardship and trials that they face as a group, which isn't good for them, but it certainly works toward keeping the audience on an emotional rollercoaster.

So in conclusion, writers find lessons in everything, and movies and books and shows are a great source for inspiration. So the next time you sit down to watch your favorite TV show, make sure to note all of the things you really like about it, and try to find a way to utilize them in your own storytelling.