Saturday, April 30, 2011


Oh yes, that is without a doubt the most exciting title in the world.

It is pretty much how I feel today, too.  At the start of the month I gave you a list of everything I had to do. In short: finals, script frenzy (writing and MLing) and the A to Z challenge. I didn't say back then, but there was also Wicked & Tricksy to plan, prepare and love. Which I still do. I can feel the butterflies every time I think about it (May 9th, whoop!)

This is somewhat the topic of today's post (besides celebrating the fact that I survived for a month and intend to sleep through the entire month of May).

First I wanted to say to all the new followers that found me through the A to Z challenge. There's, hm, 40 of you? Something like that? So welcome welcome and I hope you enjoy the blog as much in the coming months as you did in the last month, and as I enjoy writing it.

What to expect next?

With Wicked & Tricksy becoming a solid platform to discuss all things writing, this blog shift its focus towards my personal interests -- which, of course, includes writing and books.

First, I am planning a new shiny regular feature, called Made In Quebec. There's always a lot of cool stuff created in the province which doesn't cross frontiers (even provincial ones) because of the language barrier. Understandable for litterature. Sad for other forms of art, for which language isn't such a big element. 

Oh, and "my interests" means science, too. No, no, don't be scared. I promise I'll try and make it fun. ;)

That's where we're heading next, folks! Writing, Frenchness and Science!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y - The One Letter that's also my Favourite Question


I believe that “Why?” is the most important question of worldbuilding. It is, in fact, probably the most important question of any kind of planning. Why.

Everything in your setting should be connected. There’s a reason (if not multiple reasons) behind every action we take, every trend we follow, every dream we have, every political current that emerges. These reasons are often unconscious, but when you build your setting it is important to delve deep into its psyche. You can’t leave it to luck.

“Why” isn’t just about knowing how your setting evolves, however. It’s also a way to research it.

Let’s say your story demands your character is deprived of her belongings upon arriving in a certain society. Why would they do that? Perhaps it’s a society that frowns upon the concept of property. Perhaps they are afraid of strangers and take no chances. Or maybe it’s because she’s a woman.

All of these raise more question, though! Why do they frown upon property? Was there a tyrant in their past who grabbed all the riches? Are they afraid of strangers because they’re isolated? Why are they isolated (do they live on an island? Deep in a network of caves? In floating cities? Do they flee when strangers arrive?)  And last... why do women bother them? Is it simple an ultra-patriarchal society? Do they associate women with an evil of sorts? Or do they on the contrary believe they possess a power that allows survival despite having belongings?

I could go on endlessly. It’s what I do when I worldbuild. Knowing the causes of something informs me about it.

So don’t be shy. Use Why. Connect with your four-year-old self again! Your understanding of your WIP can only grow from it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X Marks the Spot - Geocaching

Remember when we were kids and organised complex treasure hunting activities in our yard? I'd gather friends and give them a clue, which would lead to another clue, then another, and on until they reached the prize. So much fun!

Then we grow old, and more important things take precedence to the games. What kind of responsible adult goes treasure hunting nowadays?

The kind who geocaches.

Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunting which occurs as we speak, all over the world, by tourists, businessmen, locals, serious adults and kids. Anyone and everyone! The idea is simple.

One person hides a cache – a sealed plastic container with a notebook and a pen – in an accessible area, whether  in nature or in town, and puts the GPS coordinates on the official websites.  Other geocachers pick the coordinates and set out for the location with their GPS receptor.  When they find the cache, they put their names in the log and replace it.

Yes, you need a GPS.  Once you have one, however, geocaching is 100% free.  And 200% fun. It's the perfect way to spice up your travel and discover local spots no tourist guide talks about.

Wherever you are or go, it's likely there's a cache nearby. Try it out. Seek a cache with your address and watch a special google map tell you where the hidden treasure is.

And if you own a GPS, why not register and set out for a new, modern-day treasure hunting?

I promise you, it can only be fun.

Anyone else here geocaches? And if you don't, any good memories of a childhood treasure hunt?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W - Wicked! Tricksy!

W at last!

Guys, gals, you can't know how long I've been waiting for W to come about -- and not just because I'm done with school! I have big news. Fun news. An important announcement!

Wicked & Tricksy

What's Wicked & Tricksy? It's a blog! It's a group blog, even.

Wicked & Tricksy is an initiative by four aspiring writers of speculative fiction to provide a place for the community to gather and share. There'll be plenty of craft talk, asking of hard questions and offering of insight, and we hope that you will be as much a part of it than us.

Four aspiring writers? Yep and we all write a different type of speculative fiction. I'm high fantasy.

My three fellow masters in crime are none other than... *drumrolls*
  1. Margo, from Urban Psychopomp! Margo is our local epic and urban fantasy expert. She'll rock your socks. Or perhaps roar them off.
  2. SB, from Writing the Other. SB is in charge of historical fantasy. Her pool of knowledge about celtic myths is endless, I tell you, and never boring. 
  3. Sommer, from Tell Great Stories. Sommer is our superwoman -- or so her current WIP would suggest. She's also funny, sweet and knows more about everything from science fiction to steampunk, without forgetting atompunk or raygun gothic than anyone else I know.
And! And... There will also be most-awesome guest bloggers on Fridays! Fun, thoughtful people with great things to say. I said it, this is a platform for everyone and we would love to see you step on the Friday Stage and join the fun.

I am excited. This line exists to allow me to take a deep breath before I choke you to death with my excitement.

Because Wicked & Tricksy is meant to be a gathering place for the community, that is our first week's theme. There are also rumours (very, very strong rumours) of a cool giveaway during our first two weeks.

Don't miss the fun. Visit us at on May 9th. Pretty, pretty please?

And if you're afraid you'll miss the launch, you can follow us on Twitter, where fun will be had in the meantime.

Happy W Day, all!

EDIT: I forgot something important! If any of you wanted to help spread the word, we have a whole press kit built to help. Feel free to e-mail me ( claudieawriter AT ) and I'll pass it along. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V - Vocabulary

(Fun fact: V day is also my Virology exam day. Wish me luck!)

Every writer knows the importance of choosing the right word. We're required to express ourselves clearly and concisely. Talking loudly is yelling. Hitting furiously is smashing. The right word will lighten your text and ease any reader’s experience. It will give your sentences punch and create vivid images. The right word is a writer's best friend.

What if you don't know enough words? How does a writer pick the right word if he doesn't know it exists?

This is one of my biggest problems. In day-to-day writing such as this blog, I get along just fine. I'm almost undistinguishable from a native English speaker (of course if I did vlogs it'd be another story. You guys could poke fun at my accent).

Novels require more, however, and to me this seems even truer with fantasy and science-fiction. Sound too much like a modern-day speaker and you'll lose the feeling of a different world. This little step above the norm may not seem like much, but it becomes a real challenge for me.

I know the meaning to a lot of words. No problems when I read. When I write, however, those words aren't the ones that come to my mind. I'll use the same adjectives, verbs and clothes names over and over in a first draft (the truth is that my clothing and food vocabulary is horrible. No kidding, it’s hilarious how often I have to look up basic clothing names!).

Learning new vocabulary means using it over and over, until it becomes natural. Not an easy task.

I must love challenges, because I never paused to think about this. I noticed it as I began reading again, and noticed the difference. It’s a good thing I have revisions and thesaurus. The second one is a great friend, if you know enough to avoid the wrong-synonym pitfall.

And I’m sure, deep down, that this problem isn’t limited to me. Perhaps it’s more frequent. I’d bet there are a lot of writers out there who get annoyed or stumped because this famous right word is escaping them, slipping through their fingers.

So, I say, no good reasons not to improve my vocabulary.  After all, who wouldn't want to learn new words? Words are fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

U - Unecessary Quotation Marks and Other Things

I could have titled this post "Uuuuuuuuugh."

I tried to find a good topic. I bet there are dozens of them out there. I could've blogged about your uniqueness (all of you). I could've redirected you to Margo Lerwill's fabulous blog, Urban Psychopomp (see what I did there?). I could've told you to make sure everything you write is useful to your plot. Or not to be afraid to use every free minute of your day to write.

The truth is, all these topics left me uninspired. I'm depleted. Spent the weekend catching up on my Script Frenzy (not even there yet) and studying.

So instead, I'll redirect you all elsewhere. Yes, again. This one is funny, though, I promise! These two sites are perfect procrastination tools, though they may induce frequent facepalms. You've been warned.

The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks
The Blog of Apostrophe Abuse

Have fun!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T - Tenses

I write almost exclusively in third person, past tense. It is something that comes naturally to me, and my preferred tense when I read. Not that I'd avoid a book written in first person. Of course not.

What I noticed reading (and finishing, despite all the exams and other important things to do) Guy Gavriel Kay's Lord of Emperors this morning (and afternoon) was that while he did write in past tense, he sometimes switched to present.

He did this in A Song for Arbonne, too. It happened when events took place in Gorhaut, the northern kingdom that threatened a destructive war. I heard Kay state in an interview he had used present tense to convey a sense of urgency.  An immediate threat.

It worked.

Obviously, the writer in me had to analyse why he was using past tense in this case. It wasn't impeding danger. The characters whose scenes were in present tense weren't villains. They were, however, the Emperor and Empress, and their thoughts and decisions shaped the world around them.

I have a feeling that's why -- present tense as a way to convey the importance of all they did.

I don't know if this is true. I haven't heard Kay say anything about this in an interview. Whether that was the intended effect or not, I think it's a neat trick.

I'm not sure I would've picked it up on it before I started.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S - Story Structure

At some point in my semi-random wanderings around the internet, I clicked on a link to Storyfix. I believe it was on Margo's blog (which you should absolutely be following, for the record)

Storyfix is Larry Brooks' blog, and one of the absolute Must of writing blogs out there. This is where, on the internet, I have the learned the most about the craft. In fact, I think that'd be where I've learned the most, period.*

 I could preach his word and repeat how important story structure is. I could re-explain his concepts. Or I could, you know, redirect you all to the Story Structure Series, ten posts that might well change the way you perceive writing a novel completely. It sure did for me.

The Post #1 is here. At the bottom of each (past the comments) is a link to the next. Yes, they are long. You will need time to read them. Take it, if you never have.

I hope it proves as enlightening as it was to me.

*That, and Donald Maass' The Breakout Novelist. Don't make me choose. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R - Reaching Out

If you've been around for a while, you know English isn't my first language. French is. I love French. It is beautiful, lyrical, impassionate. I become quite rant-y when it comes to defending it (which is, for the record, a big issue in Quebec).

Why, then, do I write in English? 

Perhaps the hardest question I've ever been asked. It comes from strangers. It comes from friends. It comes from my mom, and that is perhaps the hardest to deal with.

After years of fumbling about, trying to come to terms with it, I think I have an answer. It is a simple one. All I needed was to look at why I write.

I write to reach out. I hope these novels, these characters, will one day touch someone's heart. That there'll be a reader emerging from my story with the feeling they're a little more human now, a little different.

If I hope to reach out one day, to as many as I can, I need English. I'm good with it. It's a wonderful and powerful tool to have. I'm not going to ditch it.

French is what I am. It defines me in more ways than I dare count. English is what I use. It might be a fine line, but to me it is an important one.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Q - Querying: The Faraway Milestone

The Query. The one page that can make or break your career. The one page authors dread to write.

It seems to be that on the blogosphere, the query is the despised, necessary step toward traditional publishing. The querying process is described as an emotional rollercoaster during which you will need all the cheerleaders and supportive friends you can go.


But honestly? I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to write my first query, to have it critiqued, revised, critiqued again and revised once more, before I send it to the wild, dangerous world of literary agents. My guts clench at the idea. My head says I must be crazy to want this. But my heart? It’s clamouring for this milestone.

A querying writer has a finished MS. She has gone through half a dozen drafts, through months (or years) of polishing. A querying writer stuck to her story through the whole process. Writing, editing, rewriting, replanning, letting it cool, editing again, polishing. Endless hours of hard work.

Only when they are done can the query be perfected. Sending a query means moving on. Taking the next step. Asking someone to seriously consider publishing you.

My first query might be years away. It’s a faraway milestone still, a distant dream I hope to achieve. It promises pain, fear, false hopes and many horrible things.

But my glass is always half-full, and beyond all these things, the query is a step to success.

So, I say, long live the query! May mine one day find the crammed inbox of dozens of agents, and perhaps touches one of their hearts.

P - Project Aether

I have a thing for hot air balloons. It's not a coincidence they are a major part of my current WiP. I think balloons are awesome, cute and romantic.

So when my boyfriend linked me to Project Aether and their youtube video, I had a bit of a geekgasm.

These people basically launch a high-altitude balloon equipped with a HD camera. And by 'high altitude', I mean SPACE. The images they filmed are incredible. Beautiful. Powerful.

Yes, the video is 11 minutes. It shows the balloon flying up. Waaay up. Let it load in the background and skip parts if you must, but watch it. Oh, and use Full Screen Mode for full effect. It's worth it.

Enjoy the ride!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

O - Old Cities

I love my hometown. It has its problems, as any city does, but I love it.

Why? Well, when you think about it... I live in a 400-year-old fortress perched on a cliff. What's not to love?

Quebec City from the sky

Granted, I don't live within the fortifications proper, but I am a big walker, and the hour it takes from my home to the Old City doesn't bother me. Especially when I have a friend to talk to, which is most of the time. I walk there and run my fingers along the ancient walls, marvelling as the brittle stone sometimes falls under them.*

The Old Quebec is full of snaking streets, old fortifications, stairs, canons and plaques with names of noteworthy folks that inhabited the houses. You can almost feel history tapping on your shoulder and smiling.

This post is an hommage of sorts, crammed with pictures. I hope you enjoy them!

Entering the Old Quebec -- La porte Saint-Louis
This is one of the two main entrances into the Old Quebec. You can walk atop the wall, too. The view is great.

The old canons in winter
 There's nothing I love more than a fresh snow (except, say, the last one we got. On Saturday evening. I mean, really, past mid-April?). It makes everything look prettier. For example...

Le Petit Champlain, downtown Old Quebec
Last but not least... anyone remember that scene from Catch Me If You Can, where DiCaprio gets caught, at the end, in a quaint French village? It was filmed at a well-known plaza, here in Quebec. I was so surprised when I saw the movie!

That's the scene. Filmed at Place Royale, not far from the last picture
 So that was it! I could post a lot more, of course, but at some point I have to exercise some control! I love places with a rich history. My hometown is one, and I'm glad about that.

What about you, guys? Any quirks about your hometown you particularly love? 

*Writing this gave rise to yet another underlaying plot idea. My imagination is now running wild with the possibilities. Head? Meet Desk.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N - New Bloggers!

We’re halfway through the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and I’ve got to say, this is a blast! It’s tiring at times, because there’s a lot of action, but wow, I’ve met a lot of cool folks.

So today’s post is for them. Here are some A to Z Challenger you should check out!

I found the geek twins through one of Sommer’s link, and oh my gosh, I love them. This is for those of you with a penchant for comic books, video games, science-fiction and fantasy, and all other things geeky. Go read!

Okay, this is cheating a bit, because I found L.G. Smith slightly before the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I discovered I somehow missed her when linking to other cool bloggers as I made the Stylish Blogger award post, so I’m rectifying that mistake now. Besides, she is participating in the challenge and she is awesome. So she qualifies. There!

(She also has the most beautiful post about maps and writing, on M. Go back a day!)

One of the A to Z co-hosts. His posts are constantly constructive, poetic and funny at the same time. I can’t quite put my finger on what works so well in them, but they work and I’ve enjoyed his A to Z entries since H.

Let’s be honest, I was sold at the title. Then there was the gorgeous header. Turns out the posts are as great as the blog promises at first glance. I found Anastasia on L day, which has a great post on developing your language, and ended up scrolling down to read the previous posts. Plus she writes high fantasy. Don’t you love to find writers from your genre with a cool blog? I do.

There you go! There are a lot of other cool A to Z Bloggers out there, but these were my newest and best discovery. What are yours? Don’t be afraid to leave links to them in the comments. Spread the love!