Friday, 22 February 2008

Published Book Review

I forgot to post this earlier:
My review of Lord John and The Brotherhood of the Blade is out now on - just click on the tab on the left-hand edge of the screen, and when the list of columns opens up, click on my name under "English".
Very exciting!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I finished Love in the Time of Cholera last weekend. My only other experience of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the lovely short story A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. Perhaps I should have read one of his pre-Nobel novels instead, because, right now, I’m having a very hard time liking this book.
Mind, this is a very subjective opinion. I may be confusing dislike of the characters with dislike of the book, since when I step back and try to be objective, I find I don’t have any complaints about Marquez’s writing style, even in translation. It’s fluid, it has lots of rich detail and original metaphors, it pulls the reader along. I just don’t like the world it’s pulling me into – a place where everyone, both men and women, seem so caught up in social trappings that from birth to death they never experience one moment of pure unadulterated freedom of choice. Conversely, they’re free to act in all sorts of despicable, morally deprived ways (adultery, hate mail, thieving, etc.), yet they don’t even enjoy their own debauchery. They’re all going trough the motions and never rising above their limitations – until they’re too old to care.
And, of course, on an even more subjective level, I find it hard to admire Florentino Ariza’s supposed love for Fermina Daza. To me, love is not love if you can wait for a person for “fifty-one years, nine months and four days” yet sleep with 622 other women (a new girl each month, roughly) during that period. And not just sleep with them. I don’t understand the impulse to scrawl “this pussy is mine” in second-hand red paint on the belly of a married woman. If love is this capricious and arbitrary, based on nothing more than a glimpse of a girl (in both Ariza and Urbino’s cases), and yet can be reduced to frenzied five-minute sex within a matter of days, then why should I care for these people?
Subjectivity aside, I have three other criticisms:
The first sentence. “It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.” Nowhere is this phrase ever explained – how can Urbino know of Ariza’s vigils under the almond trees or the fact that Fermina smells of almonds to Ariza? Why would that smell remind Urbino of unrequited love, who’s never had an unrequited love in his life?

I resent being deprived of the main character’s personality traits until well into the middle of the book – both Fermina’s sense of smell and her initial hatred of eggplants are kept hidden until sprung upon the reader at a later, crucial junction.

The beginning and the ending don’t match up – in the first chapter we’re told that Ariza was present at the funeral and afterwards at the house and that’s when he declared his love. Yet in the second to last chapter, he arrives at Fermina’s house mere hours after Urbino’s death and declares his love then. Perhaps I’m missing something?

I will try reading One Hundred Years of Solitude next and see where that takes me...

Things to look up: blennorrhagia, L’Ile des pingouins

Books I'm Reading VI

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Eagle Strike (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz (reasearch! ha ha ha)
Claudius the God (halfway through)
The Heart of A Peacock by Emily Carr (halfway through)
The Jerusalem Bible (finished the Old Testament except for the historical books; rereading the New Testament)
The Clicking of Cuthbert by P. G. Wodehouse (short stories; halfway trhough)
Stoics and Sceptics by Edwyn Bevan (possible relative??)
Tales Before Tolkien short stories (almost finished)
Der Ruf der Trommel (Drums of Autumn) by Diana Gabaldon (reading at intervals)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (ditto)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (ditto)
The Divine Comedy: Hell by Dante (ditto)
Australian Short Stories (ditto)

Finished Books
Christian Behaviour by C S Lewis
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (3rd reread)
The Temple of Diana at Ephesus by Falkener from 1865
I, Claudius
Heretics by G. K. Chesterton
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (see review in next post)
Ms Zephyr's Notebook by kc dyer
Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Cook with Jamie Oliver
The Spymaster's Lady by Jo Bourne
The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion by Hammond and Scull
Growing Pains, the autobiography of Emily Carr
The Return of the King (reread)
Jesus of Nazareth
Short Stories of Ian Rankin (read the first story only)
Wet Magic by E Nesbit
Panorama of the Classical World (skimmed)
Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization
The Romans, their Daily Life and Customs (skimmed)
Medina, Maiden of Ephesus
Brothers Far From Home: The World War I Diary of Eliza Bates by Jean Little
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy Sayers
Five Red Herrings by Dorothy Sayers
The House of All Sorts by Emily Carr
Dear Canada: A Season for Miracles short stories

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Naming Characters

I love coming up with character names. Sometimes they just appear, from something you've read or heard or feel, based on how the story first comes to you. Sometimes they’re based on analogies to people in real life who you’ve drawn inspiration from but want to protect.
Last names/surnames are usually harder – sometimes for those, as well as for secondary characters, I may go searching. For instance, I needed a last name for Charles and Oliver in my short story He Ain’t Heavy. I wanted an English, Welsh or Scottish last name, and one that seemed rather rare and not too obvious. It’s hard to Google that sort of request, so instead I kept my eyes open among the books and so on that I was reading at the time. A little while later, I found just the name I was looking for (McKerrow) in the newsletter of the Osler Library.
Another, more recent example: I needed Roman names for a lot of the secondary characters in The Face of A Lion, so I Googled and Gutenberged authentic Roman texts (such as by Seneca or Caesar or Pliny) and chose names from them. Ditto for my main Celtic character.
Sometimes this kind of search results in very very serendipitous circumstances:
I chose the name Aulus for Theseus' father because I liked it, and the reference I first saw seemed innocuous enough (i.e. no bad history or personality to interfere with my character – which is why I wouldn't use the names Nero or Tiberius, for instance) – a general of the army under Claudius. Then I found out that he was the main commander of the forces that lead the invasion of Britain – which is exactly the role I had given him anyway!
Same thing with the Celt, Nectan. I liked the name, at random; it referred to some old king or chief of a tribe, and sounded kind of like nectar. Then, last night in fact, I was reading an A to Z book of Celtic references and came across this Celtic story, about Bran's year-long voyage to an enchanted island, and how when he returned, he found that hundreds of years had passed – a story perfectly analogous to that of the seven sleepers! And who was one of his companions on the voyage? Nectan!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Books I'm Reading V

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson (finished)
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (3rd reread; finished, now onto Dragonfly in Amber!)
The Temple of Diana at Ephesus by Falkener from 1865 (finished)
I, Cladius (finished)
Claudius the God (halfway through)
The Heart of A Peacock by Emily Carr (I can't wait - if I go to Ottawa I'll get to see some Emily Carr paintings at our National Gallery)
The Jerusalem Bible (at Micah)
Heretics by G. K. Chesterton (halfway through)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (halfway through; it's growing on me)
Tales Before Tolkien short stories (almost finished)
Der Ruf der Trommel (Drums of Autumn) by Diana Gabaldon (reading at intervals)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (ditto)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (ditto)
The Divine Comedy: Hell by Dante (ditto)
Australian Short Stories (ditto)

Where I've Been

Yes I know I haven't been updating regularly. I have actually been rereading and editing The Face of A Lion for the past week, just not quite as diligently as I had hoped. I'll be signing up for Round Three of the 70 Days of Sweat to really force myself to buckle down. And I've been participating in the first lines/paragraphs/pages thread over on the CompuServe forum and gotten some great feedback (thanks guys!).
...aaaand I've also received feedback on the first page from a real-live
reader (Hi Mack!). The verdict? Needs more action *g* Don't worry, there's definitely lots of action in the book, but this is a great clue - I'll have to work on tightening the pace.

Something else I've been busy with: planning trips! I might be gonig to Ottawa next weekend and there may be a road trip to the States in June... Details to follow!
Now onto the Books I've Read update...

Meme from Jenny

I'm not sure how any of these questions relate to each other...
1) Are you currently in a serious relationship?
I'll echo Jenny: "If you consider lifelong commitment serious. *g*"
2) What was your dream growing up?
I wanted to be a cat vet too! And a writer (which I am now *g*). And a
copy editor - which I do regardless of whether I get paid/recognised.
3) What talent do you wish you had?
Hey Jenny, maybe I should just repost your answers verbatim. I wish I
could sing too - enough so that I can sing a lullaby without hurting a
child's ears.
4) If I bought you a drink what would it be?
Whisky. Or something yummy and fruity.
5) Favorite vegetable?
Well broccoli's not my *favourite* :-) Hmm... carrots, I suppose. Or
6) What was the last book you read?
Finished? Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.
7) What zodiac sign are you?
Scorpio. With an Aries ascendant (as I found out back when I actually
obsessed over this stuff).
8) Any Tattoos and/or Piercings? Explain where.
Pierced ears, and one tattoo on my ankle.
9) Worst Habit?
Criticising people in my head.
10) If you saw me walking down the street would you offer me a ride?
Well I can't drive *g* So we can walk together.
11) What is your favorite sport?
To watch? Hockey and soccer.
12) Do you have a Negative or Optimistic attitude?
13) What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator with me?
Wait I don't understand - who is this question about? If I was stuck
with Jenny we'd talk. Maybe about writing. Or maybe about...ahem...
14) Worst thing to ever happen to you?
Er, well, let's not dwell on such things. Others have it worse.
15) Tell me one weird fact about you.
I can bend my little finger all the way onto the back of my hand.
16) Do you have any pets?
Two cats.
17) What if I showed up at your house unexpectedly?
Who? Jenny? Or Mr./Ms. Question Asker? Heck, I like having people
over... As long as you're not allergic to fur...
18) What was your first impression of me? (hmmm...careful!)
Well I got this from Jenny. And I'll be honest. I liked you!
19) Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
Cute? They're just clowns!
20) If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
Round face in photos.
21) Would you be my crime partner or my conscience?
Why, what're you up to, Jenny? *g*
22) What color eyes do you have?
23) Ever been arrested?
24) Bottle or can soda?
25) If you won $10,000 today, what would you do with it?
Sock it away in savings. Maybe take just one or two thousand and go to
Italy. Or Scotland.
What happened to 26?
A wormhole. Someone somewhere is going "how come this questionnaire only
has one question and it's number 26?"
27) What's your favorite place to hang at?
Home. Pub.
28) Do you believe in ghosts?
Erm, well, maybe.
29) Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
Read. Write. Knit. Scrapbook. Read the dictionary.
30) Do you swear a lot?
Bloody questionnaire asking me these sodding questions about all my
bollocking bad habits.
31) Biggest pet peeve?
Bad grammar.
32) In one word, how would you describe yourself?
Inordinately cheerful. Oh, wait, that's two words.
33) Do you believe/appreciate romance?
Appreciate? Anyway, I'm living it *g*
35) Do you believe in God?

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The Face of A Lion - update

Here's where the book stands:
First draft 99% complete. About five scenes needing to be finalised, plus the very end.
First two chapters entirely rewritten and now c. 1000 words less.
I need to check for continuity of dates, references, etc.
Confirm all the historical references.
Ask for adivce on things I did not know I needed advice on - e.g. what snakes feel like.
Reread/edit for language, theme, story arc, etc.
Perhaps by the summer...

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Ha! I Don't Use a Single One!

I followed a link over to this agent's blog, which lists 25 cliches used by writers of Young Adult fiction, and I'm proud to say I don't do a single one of them. Some even sound downright silly to me - who has that many characters with eyebrow scars? And Austin sure can sing! Even though his creator couldn't carry a tune to save her life...

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • 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