Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Harry Potter Blogfest - Who Would Be Your Mates?

Choose which two characters would be YOUR best mates at Hogwarts. Then, all you have to do is write a fun little piece on why and what kind of trio you would be. 300 - 350 words.

I'm a bookworm, just like Hermione. That's how we met, actually -- in the library. She had fallen asleep amidst a pile of books, her head resting upon the open pages of New Theory of Numerology. I noticed that her copy of The Monster Book of Monsters had bitten its way through the belt that bound its cover and was nibbling her hair. I grabbed Hogwarts, a History and whacked that Monster Book into submission. Hermione woke up, of course, and was so grateful I'd saved the rest of her hair that she generously offered to help me with my homework. We ended up bonding over our mutual love of ancient runes and have been good friends ever since.

Incidentally, I also met Luna in the library. It bothered me that she was reading a book upside down so I attempted to show her the right way to hold it. She informed me that she was, in fact, deciphering a hidden code! Due to my love of numbers I've always been interested in codes and ciphers, so I sat down beside her and together we deciphered the message hidden (upside down) within the pages of Flesh Eating Trees of the World. Turns out there was a major conspiracy going on where Dark Wizards sent these pot plants to members of the Ministry of Magic and the pot plants just snapped the unlucky people up in a few mouthfuls! Hermione actually helped us fix that one (we needed some super brain power to get inside the Dark Wizards' headquarters and take them down), but that is another story!

~ ~ ~

Thanks so much, Michael of In Time, for hosting this blogfest :-)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Differences (2): School Dances

I'd really like it if someone could properly explain the terms homecoming and prom to me!
  Like, I don't know what the difference is,
  I don't know who is allowed to go to them (anyone from any year? Or only kids from a specific year? Only kids from that school? Or can you bring someone from another school?),
  I don't know when they are (are they always at the same time every year?),
  I don't know where they are (at the school, or does the school hire a separate venue, or is it different at different schools),
  and what's up with the king and queen business?

Here's how school dances work in South Africa:
(for all the schools I know of)

At the end of primary school (Grade 7) there was some kind of "social" thing. I can't even remember if it had a special name. I think it was like a pre-teen "disco" effort. Now that I think about it, it doesn't even count in this discussion!

Okay, moving onto high school (Grade 8 to Grade 12 a.k.a. Matric).
  • At the end of Grade 11 some schools have a Grade 11 Dance (in my year, we didn't get one because on our Bonding Tour (that's a whole other story!) some people trashed part of a hotel with shaving cream and eggs...). It's for the Grade 11 students but if you want to bring a date from another grade or another school that's okay (unless your school has a rule that it's only for their Grade 11s)
  • In Grade 12 (Matric) there is the Matric Dance. This is like the dance of one's high school career. People make way too much a major fuss over it: Girls have their nails and hair and makeup done and (if you have the money!) you get your dress designed for you. (Guys pretty much just hire a suit and show up on the day!). The dance is for the Matric students (duh!) but if you want to invite a date from a younger grade or another school that is usually fine. It happens at different times of the year at different schools and (as far as I know) we don't do the king and queen thing. Some schools decorate their school hall for the dance and others (like mine) waste a huge amount of money fundraise so that they can hire a fancy venue.

My Personal Matric Dance Experience

So there was this guy I liked :-) (isn't there always?!) I finally worked up the courage to ask him to go with me -- and he said YES! I can't tell you how ecstatic I was! Then a few days later he came over and said...

Ex-date: So [girl-who-used-to-go-to-our-school] really wants to come to our Matric dance because, you know, she knows everyone here, so [boy-who-still-goes-to-our-school] said he'd take her. But now he's taking [some-other-girl-I-don't-remember] and... well... I totally forgot about this but a while ago I kinda said to [girl-who-used-to-go-to-our-school] that if no one else was taking her I'd take her.

Me: *shock*

Ex-date: So... how about this? If, two weeks before the dance, neither of us is going with someone else, then we can go together..?

Me: *Thinks* Sure, I'll just wait until the last second, just in case you still happen to be available, and while you're at it, why don't you just dump a bucket of ice-cold water over my head and punch me in the stomach, asshole?!!
*Says* Um, sure, okay... no problem.

Anyway, I didn't end up waiting till the last minute. A family friend set me up with this really nice guy from another school. We chatted via text and e-mail and met up a few times before the dance. The dance itself was kinda awkward (because one of my friends also didn't have a date so I got really-nice-guy to bring his friend along for her, and I don't think they got along too well...) and in the end I decided that far too much fuss is made over school dances! Really-nice-guy and I ended up going to the same university and staying in brother and sister residences (so we had all our meals together) and while I did like him for a while, we ended up just being friends :-)

So how do school dances work where you live?
And if you'd like to share your school dance experience please feel free to :-)


I just wanted to record on the immortal internet machine that on

27/03/2011 at 12:45pm

I finished the first draft of my first novel ever!
And that only took me like... um, 15 months!
(6 months longer than planned!)

PS. Don't talk to me about the long slog of editing and revisions that now lies ahead of me. I'm still in my happy place!
PPS. And I won't tell you the current word count 'cause you'll FREAK!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone -- one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship -- tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship, and the love she could never have seen coming.
(summary from Goodreads)

Recently it's been taking me about two weeks to read a book.
Shocker, I know. Two weeks is a long time. But I've been really busy, okay! Anyway, my point is that I received ACROSS THE UNIVERSE on Saturday morning, started reading Saturday evening, and finished reading Monday afternoon. Because it was too good to put down!

This was a book where things just kept happening! Seriously, I kept on saying to myself, "Just one more chapter... Just one more chapter..." and before I knew it I'd read like ten more chapters! And then just when I thought the story was winding down and coming to a close, there was another shocker!! Wham!

The POV alternated with each chapter between Amy and Elder. Every now and then I got confused for a few sentences about whose mind I was in, but for the most part it was really interesting to see this new world through two different sets of eyes. And it helped with the pacing I think.

The world-building is fantastic. Beth has thought about all the details - like the fact that after generations of being away from earth, the people aboard Godspeed have developed a different accent, and they have their own colloquialisms and swear words, and they're all monoethnic because of having a small "breeding pool".

So yeah. Bottom line: wow!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Differences (1): School Systems

Welcome to my Differences series!

First up is school systems... and I want to know how it's all organised (and "labeled") in your country.

When I watch American television I hear words like junior and sophomore... and it took me a long time to figure it all out (and I might actually be wrong!). Here's how it is where I live:

Pre-Primary School - 3 years
Grade 000 (3 year olds)
Grade 00 (4 year olds)
Grade 0/Grade R (5/6 year olds)
the R stands for Readiness

Primary School - 7 years
Grade 1 (6 year olds) to Grade 7 (12/13 year olds)

High Scool - 5 years
Grade 8 (13 years olds) to Grade 12 (17/18 year olds)
Grade 12 is also called Matric

Private vs Public and School Uniforms
Where you come from is there any kind of stigma attached to going to a public school? In South Africa it's generally accepted that most private schools are "better", but there are still a lot of good public (or state) schools.

As for uniforms... I could be wrong, but I don't think there are any schools in South Africa where the kids don't have a school uniform. Some schools (like the one I went to) may have a more relaxed uniform, but it's a uniform nonetheless.
Is there any kind of pattern with uniforms and private/public schools? Like do most private schools have a school uniform and most public schools not have a school uniform? Or is that not the case at all?

School Holidays
(added based on a comment below)

We have four terms (we don't use the words quarters or semesters). The first term starts in mid-January and the fourth term ends at the beginning of December. So we have four holiday periods: two weeks in March/April, three weeks in June/July, one week in September, and six weeks in December/January.
Also, we call them holidays and not vacation :-)

I'm curious! Tell me how it is where you live.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Differences: A New Series Coming Soon!

I've been thinking about the different words/terms that people from different countries use.


Well, I've been thinking about target audiences and settings of stories and stuff like that...
If I write a story set in South Africa, then it makes sense to use the "South African" terminology I've grown up with. But what if I write a story set somewhere else? The US, the UK, Australia... Or what if it's a made up location that could actually be anywhere you want to imagine it to be, but the biggest market for that type of story is NOT in the country you've grown up in?

It makes sense to use words and terms that your audience understands, doesn't it?
(Plus I'm just curious!)

So I'm going to be doing a few posts based on various YA-type topics (because those are the stories I write!) where I tell you how it is in my country, and then you tell me (pretty please!) how it is in your country :-)

Watch this space!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just for Laughs (10): Add Your Own Caption

Blogger's telling me again that I don't currently follow any blogs. (What's that you say, Blogger? Zero? Interesting... I thought it was more like 367...).

Anyway, enjoy the pics!
Feel free to make up your own captions and post them in the comments :-)

1. Nyum, nyum, nyum...

2. But I found it first... Can't I keep it?

3. Heil, Hilter! (Ok, don't shoot me for that one please!)

4. I like to maintain a certain level of decency, okay!

5. Just snoozin' in ma roti...

6. Take me home, pleeeeeeease!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Self-Pub or Not to Self-Pub?

I'm marking calculus papers right now, so unfortunately I don't have time to write a super-inspired writing tip post!

I shall leave you instead with a question I have been pondering for a little while now...

If your novel(s) got rejected enough times and you felt that traditional publishing just wasn't working out for you, would you self-publish/e-publish?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

AAAARGH! Make time STOP!

I have come to realise that 24 hours is really not that much time. It just goes! Seriously, it's like you can actually watch it running past you, laughing at the helpless expression on your face and the desperation with which you gasp, "Come back..."

I am a third of the way through proofreading a document I wanted to have finished by this evening (as in, NOW), I've barely started marking the tests that were written on Monday, I haven't yet prepared a new lesson for tomorrow, I haven't finished making supper, and I'm currently wearing my LAST clean pair of underwear! (like you really wanted to know that...)

You may be asking what exactly I HAVE done today (I know I'm asking that...). Well, I started teaching my first lesson at 6:45 am (crazy? maybe), did some proofreading, taught three more classes, filmed some girls singing a song about trigonometry, picked up the licence plates for my new baby, went to the shop, went to gym, wrapped a present, started supper, had a shower and... now I'm here. About to go out to cell group. Did I do any writing? Uh... no.

How do you handle this TIME PROBLEM?!

Monday, March 14, 2011

My New Baby!

Since it's Monday I should be posting something for you to laugh/smile at. However... I just had to share this with you instead ;-)
(and you can feel free to smile at it - I certainly have been ever since I picked it up!)


My very own, brand new VW Polo Vivo :-)

My new baby is still unnamed. Any suggestions? Come on, I'm open here, go wild!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writing Tip (10): Voice


Seeing as how I'm battling some flu-ey type bug, and I'm trying to set Math papers for the end-of-first-quarter exams, I'm going to send you over to Natalie Fischer's blog to read this VERY helpful post from yesterday about the difference between writing an adult voice and writing a YA voice.

This elusive voice concept has bugged me for some time, making me worry that my work may not even have one -- eek! The voiceless WiP! (since I basically just write from intuition, without thinking too much about all the technical bits and pieces...) But Natalie explained it pretty well. So I think there's hope for me and my "voice" :-) (or voices...)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (13): The Body Finder

Title: The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting

Thick, pale, and bloated skin surrounded milky-white eyes that stared out at Violet.
Violet screamed at the same time that Jay reached her and saw what she was looking at. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and dragged her away in search of help.

I am LOVING this book! If it weren't for the fact that I'm already sick from lack of sleep I would have stayed up till the early hours of the morning to finish this in one go!
(And the cover is so pretty! I love it!)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!
  • Share the title and author too so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Writing Tip (9): Setting


In THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, Noah Lukeman speaks about how often setting is neglected. Neglecting setting = BAD! If you use setting to your advantage it can add a whole new dimension, almost like the setting itself has become another character.

He gives the following example:

"Take a father and son, for example, having a casual conversation in their living room. Change that setting to a prison, the father and son having the same casual conversation on either side of a plastic divider. It's the same conversation, but it's not. There is suddenly a layer of subtext, of immediacy, of tragedy -- and all without telling us a word. A writer's chief objective is always subtelty, to convey information without actually saying anything, and setting is one powerful way to do that."

~ pg 163, The First Five Pages, 2010 Edition

He offers a few solutions to help bring your settings to life:

  1. Tiny details. A stain on the carpet, a broken window pane
  2. Draw on all five senses. A room can reek of dead fish or rubbish or a corpse. We can feel the characters feet sinking into the mud as they trudge through the mire.
  3. Climate. A torrential downpour, a steam room, a blizzard. Or get even more drastic with earthquakes and tornadoes!
  4. Interaction with the setting. A mother involved with kitchen chores as she chats to someone, a man struggling for his life in a boat in the midst of a storm.
  5. Use details to make an impression. A setting can be well described by saying, "It was a small dark room, poorly lit and airless", but better described by adding, "It was oppressive, like a tomb."

~ page 165 - 167 (paraphrased), The First Five Pages, 2010 Edition

This book has a lot of great advice, including examples of good and bad writing, possible solutions, and exercises at the end of each chapter. You should check it out if you haven't already got it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Signature (You know you plan to sign some books one day!)

Image found here

I had a random thought the other day (well, I have many random thoughts, but I thought I'd share this one with you...). Let's say I actually publish a real life, hold-in-your-hands book one day -- and someone actually wants me to sign it.

I've never signed  Rachel Morgan  before!

These two names are my first and middle names. I've only ever signed R and my surname! Now I have to figure out a super duper awesome and elegant way to scribble R Morgan!

So tell me: 
if you're using a pen name, have you already figured out how to sign it? 
(You know, for all those book tours you'll go on one day!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Piracy: How Do You Feel About It?

My first thought is that I would be seriously ticked off knowing that the novel I spent years writing, revising, editing, polishing, crying, bleeding, aching through was being handed around the web for free. I mean come on! After all my hard work you can't even pay a few bucks to help me make a living?!

And then I watched this very interesting interview with bestselling author Neil Gaiman...

What do you think about the points he makes? Do you think this whole piracy thing could work in your favour too?

Here's a great post that discusses this issue from the other side.
An Incident We'd Rather Not Discuss - "Free" Books Aren't Free
(Thanks, Sarri, for sharing this link!)

Teaser Tuesday (12): Red Glove

This teaser is for all those who have also read Cassie Clare's Mortal Instruments series and who know that Cassie and Holly are critique parterns and therefore borrowing one another's characters for a few sentences is ok!

Title: Red Glove
Author: Holly Black

"That stoner dude, Jace, says he hooked up with someone over the summer," Kevin whispers. "But I hear all the pictures he's showing around are really pictures of his half sister. Fifty bucks says there's no girlfriend."
"Find someone to be that he did hook up or does have a girlfriend and I'll give you the odds," I say. "The house doesn't bet."


I had a little chuckle when I read those lines :-)
If you haven't read the Mortal Instruments you won't get why (so go read them! They're awesome!).

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!
  • Share the title and author too so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!