Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Whole Lotta Books! Dahl, Tolkien, Rogan, Nolan, and Martignetti, plus My ROW80 Check In

Book chat!

It's the 50th anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the 60th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings!

Penguin's hosting a contest that involves a year's supply of chocolate, a trip to New York City, and tickets to see Matilda the Musical. Matilda was always my favourite Dahl story. Enter the contest or take part in the other celebrations on the official Roald Dahl site.

There's a 60th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings that's just been released -- I want it mostly for the updated reader's companion. One way you can celebrate this anniversary is by quoting some of your favourite lines on Twitter with the #FR60th hashtag. Here are a few of mine:

In other book news, the paperback of Barbara Rogan's A Dangerous Fiction is out now!

I reviewed A Dangerous Fiction back when I read the hardcover and was full of praise - for the tenseness of the mystery, the vivid characters, and for being set in New York City! I love it when a story's location is as real as the story's people. Read a sample on Barbara's website, and I guarantee you'll be hooked!

And yet another release -- Anthony Martignetti, author of Lunatic Heroes (which I reviewed a couple of years ago) and Beloved Demons, has some new short stories out!

For those of you busy writing (I'm doing okay on my own ROW80 goals -- had a minor setback last weekend when the batch of Wallace letters I'd typed didn't save at all, argh! but I'm back on track now), author Margaret Buffie has a great post on why your novel's first line should grip the reader. She quotes some wonderful first lines from some of my favourite books.

And author Kait Nolan has been on fire recently with two brilliant posts, one on entitlement in writer culture (vs helping each other), and another on whether superhero powers are a finite commodity - do male heroes have to lose power in order for female heroes to rise?

Plus she has a new Meet Cute short romance out!

Once Upon a Coffee

Which new releases or anniversary publications would you recommend?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Revisiting the AtoZ with Photos and Trivia on Switzerland, Zombie Attack!, and ROW80

Guess what?

I learned something new and relearned something old this past weekend.

The something old is a fact that I'd forgotten: Freddie Mercury lived in Montreux, Switzerland in the last years of his life and even owned a recording studio there. Apparently he used to say "If you want peace of mind, come to Montreux." There's been a statue of him by the lakefront since 1996 and there's a Freddie Mercury Memorial Day held there every September. We'll have to visit!

The new-to-me fact is that the Deep Purple classic Smoke on the Water is all about Lake Geneva!

Usually I'm really good with hearing and memorising lyrics, but you know how sometimes you think you know a song so well that you actually don't pay much attention to it? Yea, that. I mean, the opening lines to the song are "We all came out to Montreux, on the Lake Geneva shoreline, to make records with a mobile, we didn't have much time."

I'd never paid attention before! Here's the Wikipedia story:

"...on 4 December 1971 Deep Purple had set up camp in Montreux, Switzerland, to record an album using a mobile recording studio (rented from the Rolling Stones and known as the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio -- referred to as the 'Rolling truck Stones thing' and 'a mobile' in the song lyrics) at the entertainment complex that was part of the Montreux Casino (referred to as 'the gambling house' in the song lyric).

On the eve of the recording session a Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention concert was held in the casino's theatre. In the middle of Don Preston's synthesizer solo on 'King Kong', the place suddenly caught fire when somebody in the audience fired a flare gun into the rattan covered ceiling, as mentioned in the 'some stupid with a flare gun' line. ...

The 'smoke on the water' that became the title of the song ... referred to the smoke from the fire spreading over Lake Geneva from the burning casino as the members of Deep Purple watched the fire from their hotel. The 'Funky Claude' running in and out is referring to Claude Nobs, the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival who helped some of the audience escape the fire."

All this Geneva talk reminds me of the A to Z Challenge, so I thought I'd share a few more photos with you all.

Zombie attack!

Jet d'Eau close up - those ducks don't seem to mind the shower

View of the other side of the lake

The Jet d'Eau looks a lot smaller from a distance

On  a really clear day you can see the snowy white tip of Mont Blanc

War memorial

Lovely lakefront restaurant in Bellevue, about twenty minutes up the shore from Geneva

You can still see the Jet d'Eau from here!

Sunflowers in Meyrin, close to the border with France

As for ROW80, I'm halfway through one of my goals - typing up the latest batch of Alfred Russel Wallace letters.

This set includes letters from his son, who left England to work in the United States in 1897. It's fascinating reading about his day-to-day jobs as a telegraph line and pole repairman out along the Colorado railway tracks. I had no idea that British people at the tail end of the Victorian era called their parents Pa and Ma, and referred to adults as grown-ups -- but apparently the latter comes from Austen and Dickens!

What fun facts have you learned this week?

Hope everyone's easily meeting their writing goals!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Book Reviews, Andy Capp, Blogs I Miss, and ROW80

Good thing I added reading to my ROW80 goals!

I finished The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling the other day, and would highly recommend it, especially for fans of detective stories. I love the authors characterisation.

Then I read My Dancing Bear by Helene de Klerk, a brief biography of Andy Capp's creator Reg Smythe written by his niece. The book is interspersed with quotes from conversations with Smythe, and has a really 'close' feel, as if you're reading about one of your own distant family members.

The best part for me were the two aspects that could also relate to writing. The first was the glimpse of Smythe's complete dedication to his work. Even with a full time job, he would come home every evening and spend hours on his strips, sometimes working with a timer - one strip every half an hour. If he finished earlier, he carried over that time to the next strip. Day after day, without fail, even after he'd achieved a certain level of success.

Then there's the 'fresh fish sold here' test for clear and concise writing. In Smythe's words "...the fishmonger takes out 'sold' because customers know he's not giving it away, then he takes out 'fresh' because it implies his fish aren't, then he omits 'here' because if anyone is reading the sign it means they have found him... That leaves 'Fish'. Simple and to the point."

An intriguing titbit was learning where Andy Capp's name came from: after fiddling with a few name combinations, Smythe decided on Fred Capp, but then thought more about what sort of man he'd be, a "right pain and a definite handicap to anyone" - and that's how he became Andy Capp.

Just for fun, here're a couple of screenshots of some classic Andy Capp:

Thanks to everyone for coming by during the Songs of Summer blogfest! Can't wait to discover all your songs, too.

Haven't had a chance to visit many blogs this past week or so, and there are quite a few I miss! Here are a handful of blogs and bloggers I'd love to catch up with:

So many blogs, so little time!

Any other blogs that you would recommend?
I'm always looking for book recommendations, too!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Songs of Summer Blogfest, Books I'm Reading, and Round Three of ROW80

Time for another round of A Round of Words in 80 Days!

I'm going to carry over my main goal from the last round, which was to take part in the June exercise over on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community.

Speaking of which, one long-standing forumite and one forumite who hasn't been around in a few years got together on Twitter the other day:

For my other goals, I'm going to include items that have to be done, in the hopes that they will get done:

1. Transcribe the latest batch of Alfred Russel Wallace letters
2. Finish knitting a baby blanket and start a new project, a gift for a friend
3. Read!

I'm in the middle of four books at the moment:

1. My Dancing Bear by Helene de Klerk, a biography of Reg Smythe, the creator of Andy Capp
2. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary by J. R. R. Tolkien
3. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
4. Parade's End by Ford Maddox Ford

Has anyone read Parade's End (or each of the four novels that it's comprised of)? I'd really like to discuss and learn about some of the nuances of the British class system that I think are going over my head.

I have to finish these because I just added another four books to my wishlist today:

1. How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran
2. Rosie's Rescue by Raisa Stone
3. two short stories, "Zoo" and "Door Jamb" by Anthony Martignetti
4. American Interior: The quixotic journey of John Evans, his search for a lost tribe and how, fuelled by fantasy and (possibly) booze, he accidentally annexed a third of North America by Gruff Rhys (of the Super Furry Animals)

Not to mention all the books I keep adding to my Kindle app...

11 July is the Songs of Summer Blogfest!

Hosted by Armchair Squid, Suze, and Cygnus.

Post your top five favorite summer songs – and explain why they're you're favourites.

Here are mine (three songs and two albums):

The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count, by The Divine Comedy

It's about summer!
What more could you ask for?
"I'm in love with the summertime..."

Margarita, by Whisky Trench Riders

Romance by the sea...

You Held the World In Your Arms, by Idlewild

You know how sometimes you hear a song and you have no idea what it is or who sings it but you must find out? This happened to me over a decade ago with this band, with this song.
And it was summertime!

The first song on this album was a huge hit in Turkey many summers ago, and Sezen Aksu herself is one of the grande dames of Turkish pop music. My sister and I had this album on tape and listened to it endlessly.


This is the playlist I created for the Help! album to benefit War Child.
It's a good sample of some of the bands I loved during the 90s and reminds me of all the times I spent listening to their albums during summer vacations (well, all year round, really), as well as all the friends I made thanks to these bands and their music.

I hope you share your favourite summer songs!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Photos of Another Day Trip! Also, IWSG Day and WRiTE Club

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day!

According to Ninja Captain Alex, its purpose is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

Well, I'm feeling insecure about how little writing I've been doing. That feeling only comes from comparing my lack of progress to others' leaps and bounds, though.

And there's no call for that sort of thinking! Hopefully all the various real life happenings will be good story fodder someday when I do get back into the writing groove.

If you haven't been writing as often as you'd like, you can still support other writers!

For instance, Jessica Bell has a new book - White Lady - coming soon and she's giving away a copy for free to everyone who signs up to the "Two Lies and a Truth" blog tour (to take place from 1 to 31 October).

Details and sign-up form here.

And you can visit the WRiTE Club site and vote for a new story twice per week! There are lots of fun story snips this time around.

We took another day trip!

This time to Sion, the capital of the Valais region of the Alps. It's situated in a valley between many higher peaks, and has been inhabited for thousands and thousands of years. We visited the Valère basilica/castle, which began to be built in the 12th century.

Brunch spot

View of the mountains.
It was an overcast day, which was lucky as we did lots of walking and climbing, and it might have been too hot otherwise.

City hall

Valere basilica

Mountains on the other side of the castle

The 15th century organ, one of the oldest functioning organs in the world.
There are stairs behind the wall (I was wondering how to get up there, myself)

A depiction of Saint Sebastian, painted in 1437.
1437! That's even older than the period of two of my stories!

It was maybe 17 degrees Celsius the day we visited. Funny to see snow - above the clouds - on the heights!

Feeling on top of the world

Hmm, I fixed this photo, I swear.
Anyway, it's a tower down in the town called the Sorcerer's Tower,
in reference to the witch trials that used to take place inside.

Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July and weekend to everyone!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lots of Photos! and ROW80 Final

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last couple of posts! I'm coming 'round to visit you all soon.

Real life has been rather hectic which is why... even though it's the end of another Round of Words in 80 Days, I haven't met my goal yet. Still have a few days left in June in which to do so -- I want to take part in the June exercise on the writers' forum.

I can't pretend it's all been real life, though. I spent four days reading, after this happened:

You don't have to have read the first seven (!) Outlander books to enjoy Written in My Own Heart's Blood, and I highly recommend this latest one. It's a brilliant example of seamless storytelling, filled with emotional highs and lows, pathos and humour, and wonderfully involved family relationships. Plus adventure, battles, romance, intrigue and time travel -- and more.

I've got lots of photos today!

Peacock supervises deer at the Geneva botanical gardens
First time I've ever seen European deer!

Flamingoes at the botanical gardens

One of the botanical gardens greenhouses

And inside... cacti!

Geneva music festival

A street in the old town

Place de Neuve during the music festival

Day trip to Lausanne, headquarters of the International Olympic Committee

View of Lausanne rooftops. Lausanne is a very very hilly town.

Intriguing sculpture
We didn't cross the street to read about him, because we'd just climbed our fifth steep city street under a hot sun
34 degrees Celsius!

The best thing to do was stop for lunch -- and we happened to find a Canadian restaurant!

Tour de l'Ale, remnant of the medieval fortifications of Lausanne

English church in Lausanne

Isn't that a lovely door?

Port d'Ouchy in Lausanne
I Googled Ouchy just now, to see where the name comes from, but couldn't find an answer
Instead, I learned that Ouchy was where the First Treaty of Lausanne was signed, concluding the year-long war between Italy and the Ottoman Empire, in 1912!

Back in Geneva... where there are free public pianos set up all over the city

Here's one near the Broken Chair outside the United Nations

Gift from Portugal to Geneva

Hope you've taken some interesting day trips lately, too!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Brief Lives, Sandman 8 by Neil Gaiman
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • secret beta read!
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Lessons for a Sunday Father by Claire Calman
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham
  • The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona (I give up on finishing this; skimmed to the end)
  • Childe Harold by Lord Byron (listened to the parts of it set in Switzerland read aloud)
  • Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • My Dancing Bear by Helene de Klerk
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
  • Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery
  • Tu Vas Naitre by Sylvia Kitzinger
  • Goodbye To All That by Robert Graves
  • secret beta read 2!
  • Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
  • The Caliph's Vacation by Goscinny (Iznogoud series; Canadian translation) (reread)
  • Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
  • Le Tresor de Rackham le Rouge by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
  • Le Secret de la Licorne by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
  • L'Affaire Tournesol by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
  • The Bum by Somerset Maugham (short story)
  • The Colour of Magic, Discworld 1 by Terry Pratchett
  • Fables and Reflections Sandman 6 by Neil Gaiman
  • Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party by Graham Greene
  • Once Upon an Heirloom by Kait Nolan (novella)
  • The No-Kids Club by Talli Roland
  • Snip, Snip Revenge by Medeia Sharif
  • Journey to an 800 Number by E. L. Konigsburg
  • various Neil Gaiman short stories on the An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer album (reread (well, this time in audio))
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (reread; actually this was an older edition, published under the original title of Ten Little N******)
  • Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay
  • How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern
  • biographical note on Lord Peter Wimsey in reissue of Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers (on Gutenberg)
  • One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
  • Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres
  • The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
  • Temptation by Sandy Loyd
  • The Incorrigible Mr. Lumley by Aileen Fish
  • Effie's Outlaw by Karen Lopp
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • The Christmas Crossing by Bev Petterson (short story)
  • secret beta read!
  • An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
  • Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie
  • Arranged by Catherine McKenzie
  • Emil In the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren
  • Whales by Jacques Cousteau (excerpt essay from his book)
  • Tutankhamen's Tomb by Howard Carter (excerpt essay from his book)
  • Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
  • Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
  • Go the F*^$ To Sleep (board book)
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss (reread) (brought to you by Neil Gaiman:
  • The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi
  • mini Twitter stories by Talli Roland (available here:
  • The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
  • Beloved Demons by Anthony Martignetti
  • Hands-on Therapy by T L Watson
  • Let Me Make Myself Plain by Catherine Cookson
  • The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham
  • Mystery of the Fat Cat by Frank Bonham
  • Spin by Catherine Mckenzie
  • Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (reread)
  • The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
  • The Ghost in the Window by Betty Ren Wright
  • The Progress of Love by Alice Munro
  • The Treason of Isengard - Book 7 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling (reread)
  • Behind the Lines (poems) by A. A. Milne
  • the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (reread)
  • Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul
  • 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