Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Where I've Been

...participating in the first chapters exercise over on ye olde forum. I hope that, by the end of the week, my own first chapter will finally (!) be ready to post. I’ve added thousands of new words and a brand-new scene. Austin’s having a whole heap of new adventures...
Meanwhile, check out Fuzzy Logic Knits - the latest link I’ve added to the “other sites” list – my friend Lee Ann has a new column in Vogue Knitting magazine! If you have any news, tidbits, info, fun stuff about knitting in Canada, feel free to pass them along...

Monday, 17 March 2008

The Face of A Lion Anniversary

I've been writing this novel for nearly a year. The germ of the idea spawned last winter, around this time, and since July or so I've been working on it nearly every day; writing, editing, researching, rewriting... Overall goals are:
Type up all edits made to date
Finish rewriting by summer 2008
Begin working on query letters

I might post the entire first chapter on here soon, possibly after the first chapter dicussions on the forum have wrapped up.

Friday, 14 March 2008

It's Easy? Who's Easy?

Writing a Young Adult (YA) novel is easier than writing a so-called "regular" novel? Who honestly swallows that tripe? Jen Hendren's got a great post on the mysterious tendency of some people to believe that writing for a younger audience means that somehow the process of writing is much simpler. Ha!
The only difference between a novel and a young adult novel is that the main character is generally a young person and that ten-year-olds can be expected to read the book with the same ease as, for example, fifty-year olds. But the latter is plain old marketing - it has nothing to do with how the books are written. Nothing at all.
I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 10. Not a single young character in there anywhere (Pippin, the youngest, is 29 years old (I think)). I read 1984 and Animal Farm at 13, at which age I also read The Fountainhead, Gone With the Wind and White Nights (Dostoyevsky) for the first time. I also reread some of my beloved so-called YA books, The Root Cellar (Janet Lunn), The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, From Anna (Jean Little), etc. All this to point out that good books have no age and that youth is the best time for devouring all good books.
So why would any good book be easy to write, and why should the fact that it's marketed as YA have anything to do with the matter? Not to mention that all writing is easy! It's the editing that takes time and deication :-)

Monday, 10 March 2008

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

I finished this book three days ago and I'm still thinking about it and considering how best to explain why I think it's so great. I can't seem to come up with the proper vocabulary to express how right it is...
George Orwell mentions in one of his essays that the first time he read Lawrence he was struck by how the author sympathised with every character in the book, and left the reader at a loss as to whose side to be on (obviously he phrased this idea much more succinctly!). His concern was the decline of absolute right and wrong in Western society, and he seems to imply that Lawrence falls into this category of refusing to paint any character as morally bad. Having read other short stories and poems by Lawrence and having been bored/grossed out (c.f. St Mawr and The Rocking Horse Winner, respectively), I was pleasantly surprised by the writing and the characters when I first started Lady Chatterley's Lover. I wouldn't want to comment on his other writing, but there are only a few main characters in this novel and it's true that the author sympathises with each of them - in this case, however, I don't think this is a bad thing. I agree that absolute morality has been on the decline - since about 1890 - and that this is A Bad Thing, but in the world of Lady Chatterley's Lover, morality isn't what's at stake. Or rather, the decline of absolutes is precisely one of the circumstances that is deplored by the characters, each in his/her own way. If Lawrence had painted either Connie or Clifford as A Bad Person, the theme of the novel would have been entirely different and some of its beauty would have been lost. A much more vivid picture of the state of England in the 1920s is drawn by showing Clifford's thoughts as they are and both Connie's own thoughts and her reactions to his ideas. If, instead, Lawrence had used the third person point-of-view for Connie throughout, the depth of the book would have been diluted; the reader would have been shown Clifford and Oliver’s ideas only through the prism of Connie’s reactions and this would have implied a preference on Lawrence’s part for a specific opinion, resulting in a different type of novel entirely.
Far better the novel as it stands; I wish I had it in front of me so I could quote some of the more salient phrases, but that will have to wait.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Hearing Characters

There's a great thread just started over on the CompuServe forum about how writers hear their characters speak (the thread is called Open Question). Here's my little contribution:
Sometimes I hear or read something – a word, a phrase, a lyric – and it starts the ball rolling, whether action, dialogue or monologue, and I have to write it *now* or I’ll lose it. These are the ideas that come fully-formed, often at the beginning of a new story, and are generally the roughest stuff – need a lot of hacking through in the editing process.
Then there are the linking scenes, every place in the manuscript that says [need link here] – these are the short, bridging scenes that I have to write to make the story flow, but where I know I definitely don’t want to say “they all went to bed and woke up the next morning” :-) These take some craft to pull through.
Then there are other times when I have to force the characters to talk – in a scene where I know what happens in the beginning, the middle and the end, but just can’t seem to write. These are usually the times when my inner critic is speaking much louder than my inner muse. For me, this usually centres around dialogue. That voice starts up: “this is crap dialogue, five year olds sound more sophisticated than this, what are you doing, give it up.”
But the story must be told. I love this little book, I have to make it the best I can so I can put it out into the world. And I force myself to sit and write. This is where Diana Gabaldon’s idea of kernels and digging where the ground is soft come in – that’s exactly what I do with fiction and what I do even with non-fiction – find a place to start. I might look through my research books, or listen to music or even clean the house or be sitting at the office or something – but all the while the scene is rumbling in the back of my head and I’m trying to get a feel for what’s going on... And usually a line or an action bubbles up, giving me a place to begin exploring.
There’s never a "perfect" time to begin; it’s the act of actually setting pen to paper (or, for others, fingers to keyboard) that leads to words. Words may be silly, blunt, unemotive or wrong – but they can always be edited. You can’t edit what’s not there in the first place...
Edited to link to Snail's Tales - hearing snails!

March Goals Update

For the first time ever I'm actually caught up with my goals! Ah well, so much for taking a day off...

Books I'm Reading VII

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (for the CompuServe book group)
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (3rd reread)
The Jerusalem Bible (rereading Matthew)
Stoics and Sceptics by Edwyn Bevan (halfway through)
Tales Before Tolkien short stories (almost finished)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (ditto)
Der Ruf der Trommel (Drums of Autumn) by Diana Gabaldon (reading at intervals)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (ditto)
The Divine Comedy: Hell by Dante (ditto)
Australian Short Stories (ditto)

Finished Books
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Decline of the English Murder and Other Essays by George Orwell
The Naked Chef Takes Off by Jamie Oliver
The Clicking of Cuthbert by P. G. Wodehouse
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Eagle Strike (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) by Anthony Horowitz
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
The Heart of A Peacock by Emily Carr
Claudius the God
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

Monday, 3 March 2008

March Goals

1. Finish all critiques on the Books Forum.
2. Revise first page of The Face of A Lion.
3. Revise first five pages of The Face of A Lion.
4. Participate as diligently in the First Five Pages thread on CompuServe as I did in the First Lines, First Paragraphs and First Pages threads.
5. Choose a chapter, edit it, and enter the "Win a critique by Diana Gabaldon!" contest on Books Forum.

I think I'll take next Monday afternoon off and if I haven't gotten down to business (It's Business Time by Flight of the Conchords!!) by then, at least I'll have a solid day to take care of things...

Bits 'n' Bobs II

Of course, as soon as I set writing goals for myself, other events conspire against me...
As if I didn't know that having a myriad of hobbies isn't my own fault.

Anyway, the lovely MontrealKnits group on Yahoo, which hosts bimonthly (semimonthly?) knitting meetings in and around town, is holding its first ever Pub Knit at Ye Olde Orchard on Wednesday. I've got two projects on the go - a vest for myself and a hat for a friend. It may be plus one degree Celsius today but it's always cold for the St. Patrick's Day parade!
I hope to be in the parade this year, as I was last year...

I've been emailed a few times as part of the Recipe Exchange, and while I sent one recipe out, I probably won't be able to make it to anyone else. Here, then, is my favourite new-found recipe, the first time I ever found and enjoyed a Kraft recipe that didn't call for either Jello or Cool Whip (blechh!): Strawberry Jam Bars. Meanwhile, since I'm spending tonight finishing my critiques on the Books Forum, I tossed a can of diced tomatoes in a pot, added cubed spring potatoes, diced celery, two chicken breasts, two diced broccoli stems, two diced onions, three finely chopped cloves of garlic, thyme and black pepper ground in a mortar and pestle, a few good glugs of expensive olive oil and half a diced-tomato can of water and voila! It's simmering as we speak.

Requiescat in pace Jeff Healey.

Seventy Days of Sweat

Round Three of the Seventy Days of Sweat has begun! My ONE goal is: finish editing The Face of A Lion!

Bits 'n' Bobs

The winner of Where in the World is The Spymaster's Lady has been announced! Skip over to Claire's blog to find out who took first place and who took second. Not me :-(

Last night we were at the Springsteen concert in Montreal! If I had some ready cash and some vacation time coming up, I think I'd head on down to the States and try to catch at least three or four more gigs. Story idea bubbling up in relation to this... Stay tuned!

I'll be updating the books read list in a few days, but for now I wanted to talk about Anthony Horowitz' Alex Rider series. I've only read two of them to date, but already they're beginning to seem rather formulaic. Now, there's nothing essentially wrong with formula (see my gushes over The Spymaster's Lady elsewhere), provided that each book within a series or formula genre finds new ways and words to present the characters and events.
Essentially, the Alex Rider books read like this: Alex becomes sucked in to a mystery; Alex goes undercover where the Evil Villain is operating; Alex becomes involved in various scrapes as he works out Evil Villain's plan; Alex escapes and foils the plan at the last moment.
In general, this formula works rather well. Alex's adventures are original and exciting, and Alex is an interesting - to say the least - fourteen year old.
Now, it may be beccause I'm an old-fashioned *girl* but my single main criticism of these books is against their lack of denouement. It seems as though once the adventures are over, there's no room left for explanations or conversations. Alex never seems to have problems at school, with his teachers or his friends, as a result of his unexplained absences. Once he's broken open Evil Villain's plot, he never seems to dwell on any of the consequences (good or bad). He never seems to talk to his guardian, Jack, except to gain ideas on how to get the better of Evil Villain.
As I said, I've only read two of the books, and maybe there'll be more thoughts/explanations in the others.
But given that I'm editing my own The Face of A Lion, it looks like I ought to be a lot more stringent in terms of editing for more action and less introspection. Possibly. As far as I can, I'll stick to writing the kind of book I liked to read at the age of fourteen.
Another aspect of the Alex Rider books, however, is that they're full of technical vocabulary that no fourteen year old - whether Alex himself or his readers - could be expected to know. Good. I can leave some of my own so-called difficult words in The Face of A Lion, then.

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 http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2016/12/annual-books-read-statistics-2016.html
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2015/12/annual-books-read-statistics.html
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2014/12/books-read-in-2014-review.html
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2014/01/toast-to-professor-books-read-in-2013.html
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-hobbit-review-and-year-end-books.html
  • see the 2011 statistics on http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011-statistics-fourth.html
  • see the 2011 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011.html
  • see the 2010 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2010/12/books-read-in-2010-listed-here.html
  • see the 2009 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-ii.html
  • also in 2009 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-iv.html
  • see the 2008 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-ii.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-vi.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-iv.html