Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Little Goes A Long Way

There's a theme to this post that I'll share at the end...

I've got three recommendations, two books and a musical!

Byzantine Provocateur by Melissa Bradley

An ancient city sparks forbidden desire...
Thalia Burton arrives in Istanbul to relax and enjoy the company of her old friend. Hoping to forget the boring rut her life had become, she never imagines one encounter with Fadi's brother re-igniting the dim flame of passion inside her. Captivated by the heat in his golden eyes, Thalia finds herself tempted beyond reason...
Murat Bahar had only intended to meet Thalia as a courtesy to his family. One look at the lovely American incinerates his intentions. She is an exquisite morsel he longs to taste, a taboo treat enthralling him like a siren of myth. Perhaps just one night...
Once is not enough. Thalia and Murat embark on a fiery, secret affair that could burn them both, costing them friends and family.

Read an excerpt on Melissa's site.

I read this novel a while ago and loved it! I wrote a formal review for the One Hundred Romances site and looking back on it now, I've remembered how I first met Melissa - through Rach Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Crusade. It's amazing how many different blogging events there have been! But back to Melissa -- I haven't read her other books yet but I just got Maxie Briscoe: Werewolf on my Kindle app and can't wait to start it!

I've blabbed about Outlander often enough around here. With the new miniseries on Starz (season two starts on 4 April!) I'd encourage those of you who haven't read it to start now!

But there's also an Outlander musical!

The stage production hasn't been organized yet, but the soundtrack is available, and it's lovely. The voice of Jamie is performed by actor Allan Scott-Douglas and... month, Allan's going to be jumping out of a plane!

Yes, it's a charity skydive, to support St Columba's Hospice (cancer) in Edinburgh.

The second book I'd like to recommend is actually two books, Lunatic Heroes and Beloved Demons by Dr Anthony Martignetti. There are also new podcast stories on his website! I reviewed Lunatic Heroes a while ago, but hadn't included a blurb.

Lunatic Heroes

Dark, comic, raw, disturbing, and often redemptive, these fifteen tales will take you from the 1950s to the present, along with a repeating cast of heroes and lunatics. The characters span the breadth and the depths of human qualities and capacities. The same person, in one story, may materialize as a hero and a god, and in another, as a lunatic and a demon. While the author roughs up the people in his stories with the hand of terror, he simultaneously views them with the eyes of love. Martignetti spares no one, and to his credit, particularly not himself.
So many of the stories made me cry - and more than a few made me laugh at the same time!

Beloved Demons

In his follow-up to Lunatic Heroes, Martignetti sheds all defenses to reveal the viscera of a mind shaped by the dark and confusing forces of his childhood. This collection of memoirs and essays focuses mainly on Martignetti's adult years, and features the pivotal characters of his ever-entertaining personal narrative. From the cascade of memories and emotions triggered by an accidental butterfly killing in "Cocoon Talk," to the homicidal impulses prompted by a visit to his boyhood home in "Sign," from the heartbreaking to the hilarious musings inspired by beloved pets in "Mochajava" and "Dog," and throughout the uncensored sexcapades of "Mad," "The Wild," and "Feast of the Hungry Ghost," Martignetti's colloquial, humorous, and intimate style will keep you riveted, crack you open, enthrall and embrace you with an honesty normally reserved for not even the closest of friends.

Now we come to the reveal -- all three of these are recommended based on some difficult times, past and present. Allan's charity drive is in commemoration of a hospice that helped his family enormously while his uncle was undergoing cancer treatment. Melissa and Anthony are currently undergoing treatments. Sometimes when you're in the midst of things it's hard to ask for help. But every little bit counts!

If you know of others facing a difficult time,
who might need our support, please let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Coffee Break

If we were having coffee...

This is a blog idea from Conny at Study Read Write. I'm going to borrow it for today!

If we were having coffee together this week, we'd be in Geneva, which means we'll likely have a renverse. We might be seated at Cafe de Paris, which has been around since the 1930s!

There are a lot of people watching opportunities at this cafe, but if you'd prefer to be by the lake, there are many cafe-carts and sandwich booths along the water. It's been relatively mild here, compared to the weather much of the rest of the world has been experiencing -- we might even get a chance to sit outside! If you'd like something a bit upscale, there's always the Cottage Cafe...

We can take a break from work and responsibility and talk about cabbages and kings... Somewhere in there I'll probably bemoan the fact that I haven't been keeping up with my ROW80 goals! But we can talk about what our day requires, the books we're reading and any interesting movies or TV shows we might have seen.

I think we're all looking forward to...


If we linger for a while, I won't be coming alone!

(why sideways?)

We should have a dessert with our coffees. My treat!
What's your favourite dessert?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Book Reviews and Canadiana

Book reviews!

Wait, ROW80 first -- I'm still falling behind on blog comments. I read 'em all, those who drop by here and all the fellow bloggers I visit, but having time to leave a comment is another matter... Haven't had a chance to format those Wallace letters and ask for a new batch either. I've been reading a lot, though, and did a bit of plotting for a story of my own. I have this crazy idea that I might do Camp NaNoWriMo in June!

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

I haven't finished this one yet. So far it's a bit rambling and not as tight, if that's the right word, as her Adrian Mole books or The Queen and I. I'd have preferred a focus on the main characters, whereas the constant parade of secondary characters dilutes the impact of the story.

Yes, the main character, Eva, really does take to her bed! But her point of view isn't very strongly told. There's a precursor to this in The Queen and I, when Prince Philip refuses to leave his bed; the contrast between his mood and his wife's strength was very well detailed. Eva is alternately calm and angry, yet the reader is never invited fully into her thoughts, and the points of view of the other characters are doled out in snippets. It's hard to hang one's reader empathy hat on one character, so the entire novel seems disjointed. We'll see how the final third plays out.

HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner -- The Pinch Hitter's Guide to Cooking Without Gluten or Dairy by Kait Nolan

I love chatty cookbooks; they're almost as good as a novel. Nolan's voice is strong and authoritative; you know she's tried and perfected every one of these recipes and that none is a space-filler (as some recipes seem in other cookbooks). A few recipes in, I'd almost forgotten I was reading an allergy-related cookbook -- the dishes sound so yummy!

This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak

As the daughter of a hoarder, Phoenix Fuller had a tough childhood. So when the handsome, popular Riley Stinson became her boyfriend in high school, she finally felt as though she had something to be proud of. Phoenix was desperate not to lose him -- especially once she found out she was pregnant. Yes, she might have acted a bit obsessive when he broke up with her. But she did not run down the girl he started dating next.
Unfortunately, there was no way to prove her innocence. Now, after serving her time in prison, Phoenix has been released. All she wants to do is return to Whiskey Creek and get to know her son. But Jacob's father isn’t exactly welcoming.
Riley doesn’t trust Phoenix, doesn't want her in Jacob's life. He is, however, ready to find someone to love. And he wants a good mother for his son. He has no idea that he's about to find both!

Hard to believe this is the eighth Whiskey Creek novel; have I really read that many? This one's a breezy read with less tension than some of the others. The stakes in the story aren't as high for the two main characters; it's almost as though they've suffered enough in their backstory, and now the reader is invited to hear of their redemption.

Phoenix is a very likeable character, strong and determined and kind, and it's lovely to see her win through and earn a bit of the good stuff she deserves. Some of the scenes are a bit heavy on the tell rather than the show, but overall the story flows at a good pace. Novak does a great job capturing the point of view of Phoenix and Riley's teenage son Jacob -- it's fun to guess whose story will be next in the series; Kyle or Baxter, or maybe even the next generation? I'd like to hear more from Jacob!

Meanwhile, I've been busy at work -- and music helps a lot! I've made a few new playlists on YouTube. This can be a frustrating exercise, as not every song you think of is on there, and after you've made a playlist, you have to keep curating is as songs come and go based on copyright enforcement or users' slack attitudes. Here's my newest, a sample of some Canadian bands in roughly alphabetical order:

What have you been reading or listening to?

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Another Year-end Review

Year-end review, this time of my knitting projects!

Now this is sad. Looking back, I see that without counting the A to Z Challenge, I posted only three times on my neglected knitting blog (Now I'm 26 posts away from 200 overall).

The first was a recap of my knitting in 2013, the second was a happy announcement, and the third featured gifts and an update.

Happily, however, this does not mean I neglected the hobby itself! I completed two baby blankets and started work on two Outlander-inspired projects, one of which I finished last week! I haven't uploaded my photo yet - mine's in black and pink - but this is sort of what it looks like, though much thicker:

I looked at two patterns, the gathering and the sassenach, before deciding that I knit too tightly for such patterns. I did a 2*2 rib on circular needles, which made for a very cosy cowl.

I've already started another, along with a sweater for myself!

It's been a while since I shared famous people who knit, or literary references to knitting. I still collect them! I came across this one a while ago on Twitter:

Knitting Tim Burgess of The Charlatans (who have a new album out!)

Speaking of projects, I haven't moved ahead on my A Round of Words in 80 Days goals. That's what happens when you bring home office work on the weekend... But I'll take this opportunity to list my main knitting and other hobby goals for the year:

1. Finish knitting three more cowls
2. Think about buying expensive wool to make, slowly, methodically, and properly, a gorgeous design by Kate Davies
3. Organise all our photos and print a few, especially for our grandparents
4. Bake more!

Which hobbies are you focusing on this year?

Please share your favourite baking recipes!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A Quick Jaunt Round the Blogosphere!

Very quick post today as I'm going to be on my rounds, trying to catch up with all of your blogs!

I'm doing well on my main A Round of Words in 80 Days goal, which is to complete the Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions: I've typed up the current batch and simply need to format them. I also finished knitting an Outlander-inspired cowl! But that's for a later post...

I thought I'd share links to some of the fellow bloggers I'll be visiting, including - still! - some lovely bloggers who came by when I was blog blitzed!:

Trisha at Word and Stuff

Joan of Dark - who has a new book of Geek Knits patterns coming soon!

The Word Wenches, a gaggle of romance authors

Al Diaz or Father Dragon - haven't visited in ages!

Joy Campbell - another blogger I miss visiting!

Fellow Forumite Jo Murphey

Jamie at Mithril Wisdom

Nick at Scattergun Scribblings

...and so many more! Including author Jo Bourne, who always has awesomesauce helpful posts on technical topics. Also Forgotten Bookmarks, featuring images of the many varied items readers leave behind in books, and Pop Sensation, a hilarious send-up of vintage paperback novels.

I think I've also come up with an idea for a theme for this year's A to Z Challenge (sorry, Gary, I can't resist the A to Z!). Having a theme always helps, because if I get organized I can plan posts in advance and maybe - just maybe! - keep up with comments. It'll be another book-related challenge for me, I think.

Are you joining the A to Z Challenge?

Which other bloggers should I visit?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Year-End Writing Recap and Full Set of Characters' Faces Images

And the winner of my 900-posts contest is...Theresa!

I've previously employed my cats to choose winners, because it's easy to toss rolled up bits of paper in the air and have them choose one to bat around. This time, though, I used a new method. I asked this little girl to choose from a range of items on the windowsill:

A foolproof method! Except when she launched her chosen item on the floor...

For today's post and ROW80 check in I'd planned to do a year-end review of my writing in 2014. Yet I'm afraid to look, as I don't think I've accomplished very much. Let's see:

January 2014 – I was wise last January. I recapped my knitting as well as my writing, and I only entered one vague goal: edit Druid's Moon. Unfortunately, I'm still stuck on that project. It's a great little novella. It just needs a bit of tension-adding tweaking...
February – Not much writing, again. But I updated my characters' faces file! This is very exciting. For handy reference, and fun, I'm going to repost that portion at the end of this post.
March – I made it over to the Forum for an exercise on flashbacks.
April – The A to Z Challenge!
May – I participated in another Forum exercise, kept up with Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions, and met Irvine Welsh!
June – Well, I read the latest Outlander book...
July – Let's call it filling the well; I was certainly reading a lot.
August – Book reviews count as writing! I wrote more of them in August, and also completed the Forum exercise.
September – Another Forum exercise, on similes and metaphors, plus I started typing up the longhand draft of Larksong.
October – More book reviews, more typing, and I started thinking about my NaNo story.
November – NaNoWriMo! Plus book reviews.
December – Filling the well again. Recap of books read in 2014. I typed a few more hundred words of Larksong; I've got half a notebook to go! Also submitted a short story to a contest.
January 2015 – Almost completed a new batch of Wallace letters. Also, I've found out about a few new agents I'd love to submit Out of the Water to. Here, then, are my goals for 2015:

Keep up with blogging and the Wallace transcriptions, and maybe the Forum (no pressure on the latter).
Get going on the Druid's Moon revamp. I can start by printing it again and reading it on the way to and from work.
Submit Out of the Water to new agents.
Find homes for the vignette and short story I haven't submitted anywhere yet.
Finish typing Larksong in plain text on the iPad and enter it in Scrivener.

What I really need to do is revise my schedule and draw up a plan that carves out writing time in my day-to-day (which I used to have either in the evenings or at 5 a.m.). I'd like to get that done this week.

Characters' Faces!

The Face of A Lion

(I have been trying to track the source of this photo, discovered in Real Simple magazine, for years.)


Out of the Water

(this photo was taken by Ara Güler.
The surroundings are completely anachronistic (picture Baha carrying an easel, not a mattress!)
but the pose and expression are just right.)

(this is actually Edwin Long's The Marriage Market, 19th Century.
I discovered the image on The Orientalist Gallery.)

Brother Arcturus
(this is actually Anthony Van Dyck's Portrait of the Sculptor Duquesnoy, 1627-29)

Rosa's father is in there too, but he also has a story of his own:

Captive of the Sea

(ahem. Some of you might recognise him as Mike Wolfe from American Pickers.
What can I say? It's that expression on his face, it's pure Santiago.)

(this is from the Elegance series by Rob Hefferan)

Rome, Rhymes, and Risk

(um, yes, that is Canadiens defenceman Tomas Plekanec. Why?)
(actually, Devran also looks a bit like actor Tom Ellis.)

(another image from The Orientalist Gallery)

They also look like this when they're together:
(Solomon and Gaenor is one of my favourite films.)

Druid's Moon

(this guy is French Formula 1 racer Romain Grosjean.
I saw his photo in the paper and thought, "Frederick! Since when do you race cars?")

(this is a screenshot from some survey that I took.
I was halfway through when this image appeared on my screen. I was very excited!)


This is completely the wrong face, but the outfit and stance feel right. I still haven't quite located a photo of George's face. I came close yesterday though, when I noticed some of the faces in a link someone posted to a Karl Lagerfeld shoot on dandies for Numero Homme magazine.

I don't have a picture of Alice! Well, I do. I have a gorgeous shot of a couple on the beach that looks exactly like Alice and George once they've openly admitted to their love for each other, but unfortunately it was a photo that an author shared of her parents (from close to Alice and George's time period) and I haven't yet asked permission to share it here. Sorry, Alice!

And finally, there's this image, which makes me feel like I'm inside a story every time I look at it.
It's Daniel Ridgway Knight's Rural Courtship, but when I saved it on my desktop, I called it "nothing changes, huh?"

I hope you all had a great writing and reading year in 2014!
Which images have inspired you to write?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Contest to Celebrate My 900th Post!

This is my 900th post!

The last milestone was my 800th post, which featured the first sentence of a story, milking a cow, and lots more.

Prior to that, I celebrated my 500th post with a week-long contest and a recap of all the posts that had gone before, including a very handy list of all the books I'd reviewed, plus blog awards and writing snips and author interviews and writers' houseparties and Charles II and so on. I'd really like to do that for today's post. Unfortunately, I don't have time to go through 400 posts one by one. Maybe when I hit 1,000 I can make the effort, especially since going through the list of posts has gotten me intrigued about all the authors I've reviewed or interviewed.

Instead, I'm going to share a few random ones from the last 400 posts that leap out at me based on their titles:

30-day Song Challenge


Reading a Book is Like the Star Trek Revolving Door

Speaking of Star Trek -- Wil Wheaton!

30 Things I Want To Do

How do you read?

I'd forgotten I'd appeared in Real Simple magazine!

For the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I listed my favourite books.

For the 2013 A to Z Challenge, I had no theme! I started with A is for Astronaut.

The 2014 A to Z Challenge was based on our move to Geneva, Switzerland. There were lots of photos!

I hosted a virtual writers' conference, for everyone missing out on the Surrey Conference that year.

Research weirdness!

My favourite coffee mug

If I was doing a proper summary of all the posts, I would have an entire group called ...And Then There Was Neil. It all started with An Unexpected Post About Neil Gaiman. Things have been very exciting since then!

I missed the Insecure Writer's Support Group day last week and didn't have a chance to introduce myself. For the benefit of an ROW80 update then, here's what I'm working on:

Larksong, a romance set in the summer of 1914 in Canada. First draft being typed up into second draft.

Druid's Moon, a paranormal romance set in Cornwall. Final draft, needs editing based on agent and beta feedback.

Three historical romances with interconnected characters, set in 1470-1493 London and Barcelona and Constantinople: Captive of the Sea, Out of the Water, and Rome, Rhymes, and Risk. The second novel was written first and is out on queries. The other two are in various stages of editing.

There are others, including my recent NaNo draft and short stories, but those are the main projects. Currently I'm focusing on completing the typed draft of Larksong -- and getting back into the Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions. The goal for this week is to print the latest batch and start typing them.

And now, let's break up all that text with some fireworks!

(from the Living in Geneva blog)

900 posts! Contest! Woo!

Very simple really --
anyone commenting on this post over the next week is eligible to win a 20$ gift card for books.
Your choice!
Amazon, Indigo, BookDepository, AbeBooks, whoever does online gift cards.

Thank you all for reading and for being such a great blogging community.
Here's to another seven years and 900 posts!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

One Winter's Day and Escalade Photos

Winter's day...

Mulled wine cart



Not sure what this was. Preserved plants in jars...but I missed the young lady's explanation.

Songs of the Escalade. All of these photos are of the commemoration festivities of the Escalade, an event that took place in 1602 -- enemies of the city were beaten off the walls and their invasion foiled. Boiling soup was poured on their heads!

Marching band


Men preparing to head for battle

City walls

The Alps in winter

Every day, in every light, they look different. Save for the fact that they always look like something out of an ancient story. I'm always taking photographs!

The current run of ROW80 has ended and a new round has begun, to run until 26 March. Eighty days of writing and other goals. For now I'm going to stay vague. I'd like to get some editing done, and maybe send a few more submissions to agents. I'd also like to finish the current crop of Alfred Russel Wallace correspondence transcriptions!

What are your newest goals?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at