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Showing posts from 2009

30 Things

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eeping up with the end-of-year lists, here's a long-term one inspired by an old post from Liz (who had 25 items on her list, since she was 25 at the time, but I've added five more, since I'm *gasp* 30):

30 Things I Want To Do
1. Find an agent for my novels!
2. Pick out and decorate a real Christmas tree
3. Visit all 50 states (15 down, 35 to go)
4. Drive from London to Istanbul (taking the Dover-Calais ferry, not the Chunnel, natch)
5. Actually finish reading all the books I own (see 180 list below)
6. Have a proper English library
7. Spend some time being a boat and fishing person
8. Snowshoe
9. Travel more in Europe. Actually use all the German and Welsh and Swedish and Russian and Spanish I’ve learned
10. Ride on a fast horse
11. Practice archery
12. Play more golf
13. Milk a cow, make yogurt, churn butter, that sort of thing
14. See The Divine Comedy and Gyllene Tider and Runrig in concert
15. Attend the Surrey International Writers' Conference
16. Stay at the Algon…

Books Read in 2009 Part IV

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our more:
La Philosophie dans le boudoir par le Marquis de Sade (skimmed)
Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man by the Marquis de Sade (skimmed)
The Beast With Five Fingers by W. F. Harvey (short story)
Phoenix Noir (short stories by Diana Gabaldon et al.)

The first book seems to be the only one I read this year in another language - for shame! I'm sure I read a few Turkish essays here and there, but where's the German? Other French books? Something in Welsh or Russian? If I was going to set a New Year's resolution, this might be it.

Vote for An Echo in the Bone

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est-of lists proliferate at this time of year. Vote for Diana's An Echo in the Bone as the best book of 2009 on Goodreads. Add me as a friend if you're a Goodreads member, but please note - I haven't been able to synchronise my LibraryThing libraries (all ten of them - nearly 2000 books!) with my Goodreads account yet, so it barely shows half the books in my library.
Happy Hogmanay!

Cookies!

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ingerbread and sugar...





Books Read in 2009 Part III

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ooking at the statistics (here's 2008):


Books read: 2009=131 books and short stories, plus a secret beta read, one essay, ThinAir Magazine, and random chapters from The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot (reread) (not counting magazines and forum writings and so on, as usual) (2008=101)

Average over 50 weeks: about 2 and a half books per week, or perhaps two books and two short stories (same as last year)

Authors read: 2009=57, plus a few compendiums (Folio Book of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Folio Book of Card Games, Masters from The Royal Collection (the catalogue, with history, of a touring art exhibition from over ten years ago), Folio's A Medieval Panorama) (2008=69)

Most by one author: Janet Evanovich with 18 - all the Stephanie Plums, plus Motor Mouth. Followed by rereads of Rowling (Harry Potter series and Beedle the Bard), Gabaldon (Outlander series and Lord John series, plus The Dragon Book), and Christie (lots of Poirot books)

Oldest book: Cymbeline, by Shakes…

Books Read in 2009 Part II

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nd now... drumroll please... here is the 2009 list, comments and all:



The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (c. 21st reread)
The Dragon Book anthology of short stories (including Diana Gabaldon)
The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
Folio Book of UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Cat Who Went Bananas by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Talked Turkey by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (the annotated version)
The Cat Who Lived High by Lilian Jackson Braun (this book is great fun! not what I expected at all!)
Flying Geese by Barbara Howarth-Attard
Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
Scott Westerfeld's Dialogue Spine Short Story (http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/?p=1822; and here's the explanation: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/?p=1863)
Jeeves and Wooster Saved My Life by Hugh Laurie (essay; http://www.hatsharpening.com/j&w/savedlife.php)
Mousekin's Christmas Eve by Edna Miller (both at my goddaughter's house!)
Goodnight Moon (reread)
Cinnamon by Neil…

Books Read in 2009 Part I

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kay, it's that time of year again! I'm going to try to follow the format I used for these posts last year, in order to keep the statistics consistent.

Here are the books I probably won't finish before the new year:
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Olive Route by Carol Drinkwater
Phoenix Noir (short stories by Diana Gabaldon et al.)
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Fewer than last year, but then, I only ever finished two of the 2008 books, whereas I'll probably read all of the above.

If Anyone's Been Wondering About This Blog's Name...

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ulled from the OED:

"girdle, n.1

[OE. gyrdel (f. gyrdan to GIRD: see -LE) = MDu. gurdel, gordel (Du. gordel), OHG. gurtil masc., gurtila fem. (MHG. and mod.G. gürtel), ON. gyrill (OSw. giordel, Sw. gördel); the OE. gyrdels (=OS. gurdisl), f. the same grade of the root with a different suffix (see -ELS), is found earlier than gyrdel, but did not survive into ME.]

[snip]

3. transf. uses of 1. a. That which surrounds, as a girdle does the body; a zone. the girdle of the world; the ecliptic, the equator. Also of immaterial surroundings.

c1000 Sax. Leechd. III. 260 We hata on leden quinque zonas, æt synd fif gyrdlas. 1559 W. CUNINGHAM Cosmogr. Glasse 63 Five..zones..we may aptly call them equidistant places, or Girdles. 1599 SHAKES. Hen. V, Prol. 19 Suppose within the Girdle of these Walls Are now confined two mightie Monarchies. 1626 BACON Sylva §398 The Great Brizes, which the Motion of the Aire in great Circles, (such as are vnder the Girdle of the World) produceth. 1665 MANL…

If Your Desk Could Talk

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uite coincidentally, on the heels of my self-assessment, over at Write On!, Marsha asks:

What would your desk say?

Since I don't have a desk as such, let's go with "what would your notebook say?"

Right off the bat, my notebook would like to mention that he's not my only notebook, and the he himself is jammed full of sticky notes, computer printouts, neatly torn pages from other notepads, and even brochures and photocopies from other documents. It's all very tidy, but takes a lot of wading through. Especially prominent are the printouts from internet research or photocopies from books - pages so chockfull of info that taking notes from them would not have been enough. Not to mention the reams of printed advice from Diana Gabaldon, Joanna Bourne, et al.

Then there are the different coloured inks used - pink, brown, black, red, but all in the same thickness, courtesy of my gorgeous Pilot pens. The handwriting starts off small and neat at the top of each page, but…

Writing Self-Assessment

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couple of days ago, India wrote a great post on how writing is supposed to work versus what actually, usually happens. Yet since discipline is still important an unavoidable, I'm going to take a leaf out of Jen's book and do a little self-assessment:

1. Writing location.
I don't have one. This either results in no words written or, on days when my willpower is actually raring to go, very early mornings at the coffee shop. Obviously, that sort of schedule doesn't stay in place long. I've got to think of a new writing location; a stable, no-distractions time and place. This'll be my new year's resolution.

2. I promise to get writing done at work and never do it. I've decided to stop beating myself over the head with this. Spanish classes, lunch with my mom, errands and knitting are more than enough for lunch breaks. Better to find a location (see #1) that's only about the writing.

3. I must remember that even a little writing is better than none. So …

A Five Word Book Meme

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ot this from About Books:

Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack?
Yup; tea/coffee/cocoa; chocolate; buttered toast.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
Nope! Mostly pencil; many Post-Its!

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Leaving the book flat open?
Memorise page number (also Post-Its).

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
90% fiction, 10% autobiographies, collected letters, etc.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy, always. With pen(cil).

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
Usually read cover to cover.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
OED access at work only.

What are you currently reading?
The Dragon Book and LOTR.

What is the last book you bought?
The Dragon Book and Cat Who...

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than…

Here There be Dragons

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ragons! Fire-breathing, treasure-stealing, bewinged creatures of glorious colour and history! Monday morning I started reading The Dragon Book anthology (featuring Diana Gabaldon and Samuel Sykes, among many others) and have recently reread (Tolkien alert!) The Hobbit, so dragons are back in the forefront of my imagination. I wonder how Kedi would fare against an old Norse dragon?

In other dragon news, Dragon Island has a new post, and How To Write Badly Well’s last example features a dragon!

Also, Monday was Saint Andrew’s Day (a holiday if you live in Scotland, which I do in spirit), approximately six months on the other side of Saint George’s Day (he of the dragon), and yesterday marked the release of (Tolkien alert!) Born of Hope, a story that takes place in the Third Age of Middle-earth, at a time when dragons were still to be feared.

Today, meanwhile is the 205th anniversary of Napoleon's coronation of himself as Emperor of the French... What if he hadn't? Or, what if he…

What's the Date Today?

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es, that’s right, it’s the 27th of November. There are three days left in the month. And what happens at the end of the month?

Drum roll in the distance...

NaNoWriMo comes to an end! Now, guess who completely forgot about NaNo in the last few days?

That’s right! Me!

Having pushed myself through Jen’s marathon (with perhaps not the highest number of words I could have obtained, but at least I was writing everyday and getting entire scenes on paper) I then accepted an editing task at work, for overtime pay, and devoted the next few nights to that, with a resulting sleep deprived headache occasioning an early night last night. Which brings me to today, three days before the end of NaNo, with only c. 30000 words; it’s hardly worth bothering to have anyone verify my handwritten word count (see Luddite clause in the post below).

My loftiest goal was to have the SFD completed by the end of the year. This may or may not happen, but what I really need to do now is head for the library. With 30…

Greeting Card Giveaway!

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discovered this giveaway in roundabout fashion. Here are the steps to follow:





1. Go to the giveaways blog to find out which bloggers are hosting contests and giveaways.

2. Follow the link to Audrey's Giveaway Blog, where she's featuring a draw to win greeting cards courtesy of Stacey, whose a crafter on Etsy.

3. Check out Stacey's own blog and her Etsy site as part of the giveaway.

Here's a cute snail magnet for Snail's Tales!

Marathon Wrap-up and Award!

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riting marathons, where would I be without them? Jen's marathon on the forum wrapped up today; without it I wouldn't have had a word written all week, between our trip to New York City to see Blue Rodeo (as the border guard asked, "what's a blue rodeo?") - where we met Jim Cuddy! - friends visiting from out of town, and family and friends hosting parties for my birthday.

But when Jen cracks that whip, you'd better get writing, and I did!

Is there a provision in NaNo for a notebook full of handwritten scenes? Perhaps I can scan them and add them to my total word count... Only one week left and I've got lots of overtime coming up at work in the next few days. Not to mention more bread to bake.
Hey look - I just found out, there's a Luddite clause!

"Invoke the Luddite Clause!
What you do is write your 50,000 words, then have someone you trust verify that it is, indeed, 50,000 words. Then using something like the Lorem Ipsum generator, submit a file o…

Born of Hope

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ery excited!



Born of Hope, the story of Aragorn's parents, is coming on the first of December!


My List of Research, So Far

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ere're some of the items for which I need to hie me to the library:

The Inquisition - hierarchy, major dates, etc.

The Ottoman Empire and its welcome of Jews during the Inquisition

Travel in 1492 - overland? ships on the Meditteranean? passports, papers, etc. between countries?

Foods readily available when travelling on foot across Spain - loquats? oranges? berries? fish?

Flora and fauna in Spain in 1492

Columbus' journey - ports and dates

Judaism in 1492

(other) Major events in 1492 - art, books, etc.

Cistercians vs Benedictines (I've got a monk, and don't know what order he belongs to yet)

Daily schedule in a monastery

Holy days in Judaism and Catholicism throughout the year

If I have the energy, I might even look up moon phases. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, after I had written it as taking place on a Tuesday, I found out that Columbus really did sail on a Tuesday!

Contest

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ictoria's hosting her first contest.

eaturing a vlog about her bookshelves.

in a free book!

hanks to kcdyer for the drop caps!

Ready... Set... Write!

Jen's hosting a writing marathon on the forum, starting today and running past my birthday, into Sunday. As if NaNo wasn't enough of a push - I'll take all the nudges I can get. Rose's story is moving along but I'm still missing the crux of the tale, the point of the major scenes; I know her reasons for doing the things she does, but the eucatastrophe and the denouement are still lost in the haze. Writing every chance I get, every day, will, I hope, reveal more about Rose's future.

"It Was Twenty Years Ago Today..."

Roughly speaking, at any rate.
Yes, twenty years or so ago, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for the first time, and the direction of a lot of things in my life changed. As far as I remember, I'd already read The Chronicles of Narnia as well, and with that introduction to the Inklings, I never looked back.
Since then, I've read all of Tolkien's works, most of C S Lewis', as well as some of the writings of Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, and many others revered or reviled by, or otherwise connected with, the denizens of The Eagle and Child (aka Bird and Baby) pub.
Many of my other interests - the history of the British Isles, love of Welsh, the time In Between Wars, etc. - were solidified by or heightened after my discovery of Tolkien's writings. I had started writing my own stories long before that, but I wonder if I would have kept it up, without such masterful examples to follow?
Embarking today on what I guess to be …

Because There's Really Only Today

I'm meme-ing myself from Cindy's Because There's Really Only Today post:

Today I will write a new scene for the WiP

Today I will eat a healthy supper to help fight my cold

Today I will not forget to add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk to my Amish Friendship Bread starter

Today I will not stay on the computer past 8 pm

Today I will try my darndest to catch up on the Forum snippet thread and Part B of the October X

Yet... Today I will not stay on the computer past 8 pm

Today I will sort out all my knitting projects

Today I will search very diligently to find the ring that I lost yesterday

National Bookstore Day

The official Publishers Weekly National Bookstore Day was yesterday, but the Facebook group Buy a Book, Save the World!'s 2nd Annual International Holiday Bookstore Bookpush is on until the end of the year!

Pledge to visit your local bookstore and purchase a book to give as a gift. That's the easy part! But they do ask that you try to give preference to independent stores if you can.

Happy shopping!

Writing Tips

Scott Westerfeld's first NaNo-related post for this year's NaNo offers a great suggestion:

"Many writers use the so-called “dialog spine” as a way of mapping out a scene. As a sort of “zero draft,” they write just dialog, with no setting, action, or even attribution. It’s a quick once-over of conflict and resolution in a scene, without any tricky bits to slow you down. This, of course, assumes that you find dialog easy. For some people, writing the action/description/whatever first might make more sense. In any case, you don’t have to make your dialog (or whatever) perfect. It’s just a way of mapping out the main beats in a scene. But there’s another trick that I use the dialog spine for: blowing out the cobwebs. And by cobwebs, I mean “writer’s block,” “general ennui,” or “an idea that just needs to be written down, but I don’t have time.”"

NaNo tip number 7 lists some craft-related ideas from Raymond Chandler (who used the word Google way back when, albeit as a name…

Author Round Up

Jen and I were recently discussing why we write YA, and now Susan's weighed in as well.

Click here for Marsha's links to my 24 Hours in Istanbul and Montreal posts, and take a look at the other contributions for 24 Hours in Tuzla, Horsham, etc.

Not that it applies to me yet, as I'm not published, but this post on the Google Partners Program was an eye-opener; here's the relevant bit:

"Some publishers, however, are doing the Partners Program with Google, with the ad links turned on, and are receiving income from Google but none of this income is reported on statements and therefore not being shared with the authors."
This is why authors need agents!

Istanbul!

A sampling from Istanbul!

Please note that directions are not provided for these items, as they are either really obvious (the Grand Bazaar) or really obscure, and would involve a paragraph to describe (how to find the Crazy Lady’s Place inside the Grand Bazaar).

8 am – Find a bakery, any bakery, and enjoy a poğaça (pastry filled with white cheese) and tea for breakfast.

9 am – Stroll seaside in the Ortaköy district and check out the booths and stalls selling local handmade items.

10 am – Visit Deli Kızın Yeri (the Crazy Lady’s Place) in the Grand Bazaar, run by expat American Linda, and featuring gifts, housewares, and more from across Turkey.

11 am – Browse the well-stocked Pandora bookstore in Taksim for titles in English, French, German, Turkish... If they don’t have what you’re looking for in-store, it’s bound to be on their website!

12 pm – Take a ferry up the Bosphorus to the Sakıp Sabancı Museum.

1 pm – Take in Ottoman culture at the Pera Museum.

2 pm – Spend a day on car-free …

24 Hours - London, Montreal, Istanbul - and Marsha's Book Launch

24 Hours London by Marsha Moore is out on Wednesday!

A fellow Canadian, writing a brand new guide book about one of my favourite cities, with a twist: this guide covers London 'round the clock!

Marsha's hosting a contest prior to launch day, and a 24 hour Twitter marathon (look, I mentioned Twitter twice in two posts in a row and I'm not even on it!) on the day itself.

My first entry for the 24 hours in your neck of the woods contest (win a copy of the book and a t-shirt!) covers a few hours in Montreal. Enjoy!

7 am – breakfast at l’Avenue – show up early as the lines grow quickly! (922, Mont-Royal East, Plateau, Phone: 514-523-8780, Metro Mont Royal)

8 am – stock up at Jean Talon Market, in the geographic centre of the city. (7075 Casgrain Avenue, Little Italy, Phone: 514-277-1379, Metro De Castelnau/Jean-Talon)

9 am – stroll along Monkland Avenue, visiting chocolate shops, bakeries and pubs. (Monkland Avenue, Notre Dame de Grace, Metro Villa Maria)

10 am – pick up an ice…

Book Contest!

In celebration of Susan's 500+ Twitter followers, she's giving away one of the following:

LOOKING FOR ALASKA, John Green
EVERMORE, Alyson Noel
BLUE MOON, Alyson Noel
CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY, Ally Carter
THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS, E. Lockhart
REBEL ANGELS, Libba Bray
THE HUNGER GAMES, Suzanne Collins
SOMEONE LIKE YOU, Sarah Dessen
Wanna win? Enter here.

Not sure which one I'd take, but I've already "got" a copy of Looking For Alaska! Thanks girls!

NaNoWriMo Starts Today!

As part of NaNoWriMo and in solidarity with Cindy's nail-on-the-head post about building better writing habits (and Jen too), I managed to steal ten minutes out of a family filled day and wrote about 300 words. Yay, me!
NaNo, of course, calls for 1,667 per day, but for me, the month is more about developing consistent habits; we'll see if I manage even 1,200 (my usual one-sitting highest amount) per day. More importantly, I finally started typing up all my longhand scenes last week; another task I need to keep up.
Kait's wrapped up the Novel Push Initiative! Here's how I did:
"Deniz Bevan: A pal of mine from Mission:Accountability, Deniz was shooting for 250 words a day. She had a little difficulty with the daily writing thing, but she still turned in a total of 6979 words! That works out to a daily total of 225 words a day. Goal not quite met, but she still wrote, so go Deniz!"

Using A Thesaurus

For nearly two years in my writing life, I thought that using a thesaurus meant your writing sounded better and more adult. This is exactly the sort of scene I came up with:
"She manipulated the garment in a cogitative mode.
‘Hmm,’ she vocalised. ‘This attire is verifiably marvellous. What is it constituted from?’
‘From the most meritorious velveteen,’ defined her interlocutor, simpering coincidentally.
‘Is it?’ iterated the party of the first part. ‘That’s felicitous.’
‘Additionally, this specified object has the property of being subdivided in terms of its defining mercantile characteristic, and can be taken possession of for the diminutive quantity of merely a half-dozen currency units,’ the retail employee informed.
‘Exoneration?’ supplicated the protagonist appropriately. The commercial tertiary sector worker eyeballed her perspicaciously.
‘I said it’s five ninety-nine. Do you want it or not?’"

Mine might even have been worse, as I used this technique mainly on poetry. I would …

Norma Fox Mazer

Norma Fox Mazerpassed away 17 October at the age of 78, at her home in Montpelier, Vermont.
I first read her - and her husband's books - through my sister, who had a copy of Silver; it wasn't the sort of book I'd pick up on my own, and at first reading (probably at the age of 13 or so), I was slightly disturbed. By then I'd already read 1984, Flowers in the Attic (and all the other books in the series, as well as the Dawn series and My Sweet Audrina) and Cynthia Voigt's novels, so I'm not sure why Silver should have bothered me at all. Perhaps it was the realism of the book - VC Andrews, especially, was so much of a soap opera that it could hardly count as real, and 1984 felt very adult and political (though the final scene has haunted me to this day). By contrast, Silver was about people my own age, having true-to-life conversations, and the characters felt much more immediate.
Then I read Bright Days, Stupid Nights and I was hooked. Mrs. Fish, Ape, and Me the D…

Guggenheim's Fiftieth Anniversary

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21 October was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum of art, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

While visiting Wright's Fallingwater in August, I discovered that there are Lego versions of both Fallingwater and the Guggenheim!





Meanwhile, on the writing front, there's a week left on the Novel Push Initiative, and Rosa's tale is coming along nicely. I've been plotting quite a lot over the past few days, as I try to feel my way deeper into the story. It's all very well for Rosa to be separated from her family, wandering around Spain with a monk and some distant Jewish relatives that she's rescued from the Inquisitors - but where are they all going? And where does Kedi come in? That is the question!

Don't forget to visit All the World's Our Page, where Jen's giving away some brilliant books!

First Paragraphs

Nathan's concluded his third annual first paragraph contest, and as part of his roundup, he lists the "common tropes that I picked up on:

- There were quite a lot openings with setting/rising suns and characters bathed in red colors, as well as moons and characters bathed in twilight.
- Girls looking in mirrors/brushing their hair/looking in mirrors while brushing their hair
- Holy cow, or should I say Holy Dead Bloody Cow were there a lot of corpses and blood in the first paragraphs. "Blood" was used 181 times, and that doesn't count the euphemisms. Not necessarily a bad thing (and one of the bloody ones made the finals), but wow.
- You wrote a lot of paragraphs in the second person.
- One common trope involves a person who is dying but feels all detached from the experience. Sort of like: "I am dying, but I feel nothing but a bemused disinterest about it. Isn't it curious that I'm dying? I suppose I should be scared right now. This is peculiar indeed.&…

Have You Read These YAs?

I tagged myself off Jen's post.

I stole this from a blog I ran across tonight...Teen Book Review.
The following list of books teens love, books teens should read, and books adults who serve teens should know about was compiled IN ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC MANNER and should be taken with a very large grain of salt.
Instructions:
Put an “X” next to the books you’ve read
Put a “+” next to the books you LOVE
Put a “#” next to the books you plan on reading
Tally your “X”s at the bottom
Share with your friends!


1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams X
2. Kit’s Wilderness / David Almond
3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie
4. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Feed / M.T. Anderson
6. Flowers in the Attic / V.C. Andrews X
7. 13 Reasons Why / Jay Asher
8. Am I Blue? / Marion Dane Bauer (editor)
9. Audrey Wait! / Robin Benway
10. Weetzie Bat / Francesca Lia Block
11. Tangerine / Edward Bloor
12. Forever / Judy Blume – well, I’ve read other Blume books X+
13. What I Saw …

Why I Write Longhand

I tried composing on the computer tonight. It worked, I got 404 words out of it and the beginning to one of the most important scenes in Rosa's story.
And yet.
I spend way too much time changing words and erasing and retyping to fix typing-related spelling errors. I can't touch type, though I type very fast, so that might have something to do with my preference as well. I find I pause much more often when keying in words than I do when gliding along with a pen (which has to be a - shameless plug coming up - Pilot G-TEC-C4). My thoughts seem to flow from head to hand much more smoothly when using a pen.
There's also the ever present internet danger when using the computer - I stopped writing at least three times to research something on the spot. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as it saves work later, but it also leads to quick-research, not a detailed exploration. The story definitely shouldn't be entirely based on Wikipedia, that goes without saying.
Oddly enough,…

A New Nathan Contest!

Nathan Bransford The Agent is hosting the The 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge. Enter before 4pm Pacific time and then see if any of the close to 2,000 (!) entries grabs your eye...
As if you didn't need more incentive, but here are Nathan's statistics regarding the last two contests:
"The person who thought of the last contest we had (Be an Agent for a Day), is now a client of mine: hello Jim Duncan! Also, the person who won the contest before that (The 2nd Semi-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge), is also now a client: hello Natalie Whipple!
We've also had three finalists, Stuart Neville, Terry DeHart, and Victoria Schwab go on to be published/soon-to-be-published authors respectively."

A New Writing Blog!

Don't delay! Check out my friends' new writing blog today!

All The World's Our Page

Enter to win a free book!

Am I A Writer?

Tagged myself, off Michelle!

Which words do you use too much in your writing?
Too many little words – "and then", "he realised" "at that moment", that sort of thing. My characters also have a tendency to grin a lot, unless I rein them in. I once made an Excel chart by using the search option in Word and tabulating the results of my overused words – lots of "so" and "the next day" came up.

Which words do you consider overused in stuff you read?
I haven't had this problem in any books that I've enjoyed. Usually, if a book is badly written, it's not so much a matter of repetition as a certain tendency to wander all over the place.

What's your favourite piece of writing by you?
This is going to sound ridiculous, since I’m most proud of my current novel The Face of A Lion (agent hunting as we speak!) but the stories I always remember are the one I wrote in first grade, about a boy named Aldo, the one I wrote in fourth grade, calle…

12 Things My House Is Overrun With

A non writing post! Tag yourself if you wish!

Courtesy of Adventures in Chaos:

•Travel brochures
•Books I haven't read yet
•Scissors
•Glasses and mugs with logos on them (such as Wintzell's Oyster House)
•Cat hair
•Candles
•Hand lotion
•Rag ends of wool skeins that remind me of items I've knit in the past
•Knitting patterns
•Itty bitty scraps of paper with scribbles on them of dreams, story ideas, things to do, etc.
•Aluminium foil balls (in other words, cat toys)
•Framed photos and art - none of which has been hung on the walls

How Many Whiphands Does It Take?

I've signed up for another accountability challenge! This one starts today and runs until the end of October (before which I'll have to decide whether I'll participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I might, but then, there's going to be another house party over on the forum...) and is hosted by Kait, from Mission: Accountability.

The daily goal in Kait's Novel Post Initiative is a minimum of 250 words every day! Watch our progress on Kait's blog, and here!

Perhaps by the end of the month I'll have a title for the story, and can stop calling it "Rose in 1492, featuring Kedi", or variations thereof.

Beantown!

22.09.09 and An Echo in the Bone

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22 September is:

a) the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Vernal Equinox in Southern Hemisphere;

b) the day on which 100 days are left to the end of the year;

c) Oktoberfest in Munich;

d) Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthdays;

e) my Frodo (aka Chirpy)’s birthday;

f) the day in 1653 when Marguerite Bourgeoys landed at Quebec with de Maisonneuve and 100 soldiers;

g) car-free day in Montreal; and

...drumroll, please...

h) the release date for Diana Gabaldon's An Echo in the Bone!

New Year Tag!

Marsha had a recent post about how September sometimes feels more like a New Year than 1 January does - at least in the Northern Hemisphere, what with back-to-school-shopping et al. - and summarized her writing life for the past two years.

I've turned her post into a tag! Mine covers the period since I joined the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, which was almost exactly three years ago.

If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged (though it needn't be about writing, of course, but whatever project you've embarked on).

Drafts written: About 4 for The Face of A Lion (YA novel), 3 or 4 for my short story He Ain't Heavy, 2 YAs currently started

Books completed: 1 (The Face of A Lion)

Books published: Ha ha. Not even an agent yet!

Rejections received: Hmm... I think I'm at 40 (from agents). Though I did just participate in CANSCAIP's Blue Pencil contest and received some very favourable comments.

Wine consumed: No wine, and unfortunately no whisky, as my wr…

Writer Appreciation Week!

Only one and a half days left in Writer Appreciation Week, hosted by agent Nathan Bransford.
Say something nice about a writer, and make their day a little brighter (erm, cheesy rhyme, I know).
I'd like to thank Nathan for hosting such a detailed and interesting blog, and shout out to all the writers and readers on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum!
My greatest thanks and appreciation to all the YA authors out there, past and present, as well as authors not labelled YA but whom I read regardless (starting with Tolkien and Lewis), all of whom made my childhood a little bit more magical...

Meanwhile, it's the first anniversary of Outlandish Observations!

Writer's Block, NYC

We spent two nights in New York City during our road trip.

I’d been hoping to stay at the Algonquin Hotel, that haven for writers from the 1920s on, who met as part of the Algonquin Round Table, which also features a resident cat named Matilda.

The Algonquin also offers a Writer’s Block special, offering 25 per cent off their best rate if you present a work in progress or a published work. Unfortunately, we were told that this rate was for prior reservations only, and not offered on the spot, though we both showed up with manuscripts in hand.

We ended up at the Clarion Park Avenue. This hotel may not have as storied a history, boast a pet or offer the chance to meet other writers. What it did do for me, however, was provide an intense bout of inspiration.

I woke up the next morning directly out of a dream of a brand new murder mystery, a story whose bare bones were all laid out for me – all I had to do was take notes.

The only catch is that the detective in the story is Hercule Poirot. I’l…

Help! Can You Identify This Item?

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A number of posts and photographs on our travels, as well as a post on "Writer's Block, Algonquin Hotel, NYC" will come soon.



For now, though, I and the good people at the Talbott Tavern, Bardstown, Kentucky, need your help.

What is this thing?

The Fallstars

More songs added, here!

And an Australian take on The Hobbit, here.

Meanwhile, I'd like to post a clip of Homer Simpson in New York City, as part of my travel series (details to come!), but the copyright restrictions seem to be strictly enforced. Here's a description.

Singing Springsteen's A Good Man Is Hard to Find

"It's cloudy out in Pittsburgh
It's raining in Saigon
Snow's fallin' all across the Michigan line
Well she sits by the lights of the Christmas tree
With the radio softly on
Thinkin' how a good man is so hard to find..."

I was going to put up a page for Country Roads Take Me Home (about West Virginia) but we're just driving through.

Singing Blue Moon of Kentucky

I think the Carter Family did a version of this:

"Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and proved untrue
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue

It was on a moonlight night the stars were shining bright
When they whispered from on high your love has said good-bye
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and said good-bye."

Singing Roy Acuff's Pan American

While in Nashville...

"I have heard your stories about your fast trains
But now I'll tell you bout one all the southern folks have seen
She's the beauty of the southland listen to that whistle scream
It's that Pan American on her way to New Orleans

She leaves Cincinnati headin' down that Dixon Line
When she passes that Nashville Tower you can hear that whistle whine
Stick your hand right out the window and feel that southern breeze
You're on that Pan American on her way to New Orleans..."

Singing Johnny Cash's Jackson

"I'm goin' to Jackson, and that's a fact.
Yeah, we're goin' to Jackson, ain't never comin' back."

Singing Paul Simon's Graceland

"The Mississippi Delta was shining
Like a National guitar,
I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war,

I'm going to Graceland
Graceland
In Memphis Tennessee
I'm going to Graceland..."

Party Time!

We've been having another house party over on the writer's forum, this one hosted by Jill in New Zealand. Mischief and mayhem abound!

200 Years - Tennyson

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"Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more."

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of erstwhile Poet Laureate of England, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, a position to which he succeeded upon the death of William Wordsworth. Tennyson was Poet Laureate nearly as long as Victoria was Queen. One of his most famous poems is The Charge of the Light Brigade, a tribute to the British cavalrymen involved in a charge at the Battle of Balaclava, during the Crimean War (1850s). Here is the last stanza:

"When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred."

Others of his poems drew inspiration from the tales of King Arthur, or from even older sagas, though I believe Tolkien's recreations of Norse poetry are much mor…

Children's Books Are...

A little while ago, Jen asked:

"Which of these represents your view about children's books?

Childhood is a sweet and innocent time, and children's books should be about fluffy bunnies and other comforting subjects.
Childhood is a mean and dangerous time, and children's books should represent reality with all its obstacles and troubles.
Childhood is a mean and dangerous time, and therefore kids need comforting fluffy-bunny stories because that's the way life ought to be.
Children's literature should be prescriptive, describing the world kids should aspire to.
Children's literature should be descriptive, describing the world as it is and kids as they really are, for better or worse."

I don't disagree with the latter two, and there's nothing wrong with some children's books representing reality with all its obstacles and troubles, either. Jen goes on to note that we need all types of books, "humor and adventure, realism and fantasy, poetry and …

I will consider this weekend a raging success if I:

don't stay up too late at my sister's bachelorette tonight;

manage to clean the entire house tomorrow morning before our guests arrive;

find/create/buy some food to keep said guests happy;

make it to the Montreal Highland Games on Sunday, despite many errands;

catch up on emails and the Characters Houseparty over at the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum; and

write another scene for the new work in progress. 1492!

Thanks to Anne and May for the Friday Fill in the Blank!

An Echo in the Bone...

...is done! For all intents and purposes - Diana's finished writing it, and now it's on to galley proofs, and everything else the publishers do to get it ready for the bookshelves. I drool at the thought of copy editing this book; so many twists and turns to double check, facts to verify, names to spell correctly, languages that are translated... And Diana writes so well that it would be a joy to tidy up the final copy. Copy editing is a very satisfying process; if only it was my full-time job.

I'd like to herewith promote myself as copy editor extraordinaire, available for hire!

For Diana's Compuserve announcement, go here. Karen's announcement and countdown are here.

Which Book Would You Want To Live In?

Last week, Nathan asked that question, and quite a number of people mentioned The Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. Two other authors, Erika and Beth, mentioned Outlander, but they both wanted to steal Jamie from Claire.

Those books would be some of my knee jerk reactions, too, as well as the books of Susan Cooper and Madeleine l'Engle, among others. I think the world of Outlander would be much more fun if I was friends with Jamie and Claire both, instead of risking my life trying to separate them.

Then I got to thinking. I'm not sure I'd enter any of these books without setting some conditions. Hobbiton would be a grand place to live, and Narnia might be fun, depending on which age you jumped into. But Hogwarts while the Death Eaters are loose? You'd have to know beforehand which time you were going to and whether you'd be a main character...

On the other hand, where's the fun without a bit of risk? If it was just to visit, it would be…

Is This A Good Query Letter?

Nathan Bransford posted a new example of what he considers a "stellar" query letter.

I'm still trying to put my finger on why I completely disagree with him.

There are three strikes against me: I'm not an agent; I may be rejecting it off-hand because the plot bores me to tears; and I'm a bit soured by the Lakers reference (what're you supposed to do if you don't even like basketball much? Find something else to hate with Nathan?).

As for a proper critique, I've been staring at the letter for a good few minutes, and still can't put my finger on why it feels wrong. Perhaps it's the idea that a medic would get involved in conspiracies - she's not a cop or an agent, so what's she have to offer? "claiming to be on her side" in what? Perhaps it's because the letter gives a strong sense of the author, but reveals next to nothing about the protagonist.

But maybe it's just me. I don't like the kitchiness of this letter, either…

The Face of A Lion is Complete!

After a marathon 24 hours of editing last week (not all in one stretch, but close), I can safely and without any reservations, state that my novel is Done! It's Finished! Complete! Over!
Ah, there's always a 'but', isn't there? This is without beta reads and without any substantial agent-requested changes, since I'm still agent-hunting. For all intents and purposes, however, it's confetti time!
[we pause now to indulge in a moment of skippitty-hoppity]
Leaving me free to write and research for the new wip as I see fit. I've got about ten scenes under my belt but no links or overall themes yet. Still in exploration mode on this one, which is set 1450 years ahead of The Face of A Lion. The next one is likely to take place in the 1930s - getting closer to a modern novel with each step...

Another Contest!

If you'd like to win a copy of Linda Gerber's Death by Denim - and if you haven't read it yet, then you ought to want to win! - skip on over to the YAthenaeum site!
I've entered this morning, even though I'm actually spending the day getting some serious work done. It's going slowly, but I may, just may, be COMPLETELY finished editing before the week is out. Wow!
And rereading hasn't been so difficult either. I'm always wary, as I think "oh no! what if I reread my work and realise I'm a terrible writer?" but this time around, I think I might have something good here. We hope.

Montreal Poets and Writers, and Scottish Singers

A new feature of the online edition of our local paper starts tomorrow...

Sorry, got a little distracted by Frodo and Sam, who are frolicking on the bed as only cats can do. Frodo is cleaning Sam's face, holding it between his two front paws... Where was I?

Ah yes, among the writers and poets to be featured will be Monique Polak (I missed having her as a teacher in CEGEP by about two years; but was fortunate enough to be taught by Claire Holden Rothman (resisting the urge to call her Ms Rothman; student-y habits die hard)) and Robyn Sarah.

Meanwhile, the Compuserve Forum login feature is down, and I haven't been able to reply to any messages. A couple of days ago in response to a question from Diana, Sharon posted: "We tuned in because of a documentary about the Scottish band Runrig who we have listened to for years. If you haven't heard of them, I would definitely recommend them. They sing in gaelic and English and the music is just beautiful."

I've been meani…