Monday, 31 August 2009

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’ll have to come up with my own detective, with his own nationality. I hope I succeed better than Agatha Christie's foil, Ariadne Oliver and her Finn...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Help! Can You Identify This Item?

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?

Thursday, 20 August 2009

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.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

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."

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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..."

Monday, 17 August 2009

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."

Sunday, 16 August 2009

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

Monday, 10 August 2009

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!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

200 Years - Tennyson

"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 more stirring.

Here he is at Trinity College, Cambridge (.jpg from Wikipedia):

Finally, here's the entirety of Crossing the Bar:

"Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar."

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

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 prose... We need books that challenge kids and books that reassure them."

More importantly, from a writer's point of view, is knowing where in the spectrum your own books lie. I have no trouble writing about some of the darker stuff. Yet, partly because it's YA, and partly because all my books seem to have historical bents to them, the horrors always seem to have a certain fantastical element. They're not gritty modern tales but rather explorations of human failings and strengths, set against past events.

In short, the kind of stuff I always liked to read as a kid.

As CS Lewis once said "I put in [my children's stories] what I would have liked to read when I was a child and what I still like reading now that I am in my fifties" (Of Other Worlds, p. 22).

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