Thursday, 25 February 2010

To Whom Do We Pass The Torch?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

John Babcock, Canada's last veteran of the Great War, has died.

Blue Rodeo - One Light Left in Heaven

Nora Ephron Said It First OR A Writer's Goal

R eading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.

- Nora Ephron (from the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck)

I've just surfaced from spending several days in a state of rapture - with a book. I loved this book. I loved every second of it. I was transported into its world. I was reminded of all sorts of things in my own life. I was in anguish over the fate of its characters. I felt alive, and engaged, and positively brilliant, bursting with ideas, brimming with memories of other books I've loved. I composed a dozen imaginary letters to the author, letters I'll never write, much less send.

- Nora Ephron (from the essay collection I Feel Bad About My Neck)

Somerset Maugham Said It First

Long experience has taught me that when you set out to write a piece and can't think what to say, the best plan is to leave it to your fountain pen. That invaluable little instrument is wayward and to fool you will often start by writing rubbish, but if you give it its head and take no notice, it will generally settle down and write something that at least looks like sense. It has its pride; it knows that the typewriter can't do this, and it knows that the typewriter, once it starts, goes on and on intoxicated by its own facility. Further, no typewriter has ever learned to spell and will complacently (except after c) put e before i till it comes to seize and will then suddenly put i before e. The fountain pen has a singular mastery over this difficult English spelling of ours and if by chance it has made a mistake will give a little start which calls your attention to it and urges you to consult a dictionary.
- Somerset Maugham, from the Introduction to Dorothy Parker (The Viking Portable Library, 1944)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


At the moment, I'm reading a number of books at the same time again.

One of them is Easter Walk, by Zan Marie Steadham, which is up for a GAYA award!

(that awkward first sentence was structured in order to fit the lovely drop cap in...)

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Can't Help Wondering...

Yes, I can't help wondering why my characters are always wondering things. They wonder what others are doing, wonder what would happen if..., wonder whether so and so is wondering about such and such...

Perhaps I ought to stop wondering about this and just write, which is what I was doing, actually (before you ask) when I stopped to wonder about this.

Blue Rodeo - Can't Help Wondering

Friday, 19 February 2010

Reading Is...

Though I don't normally read Non Sequitur, Tuesday's comic came on the heels of an Alchemy of Writing post on how interactive books are actually squeezing out the mind's interaction with the written word, and I feel it's quite a lovely way of showing how deeply one can be involved with a story:

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Post About Posts To Come

Wonder of wonders, I've been writing!

Getting up early and getting words down on paper, I mean, not just following random plot trails in my head. I've also typed up some words and gotten ahead in research (boning up on the Renaissance).
Which leaves me with a list of blog ideas and no actual post. I've got some Nora Ephron quotes to mull over, a wonderful quote on writing from Somerset Maugham, a new book to discuss (Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead) and some thoughts on plotting, inspired by Marsha and the writers at All The World's Our Page.
Meanwhile, Bill Watterson has given an interview, and Maker's Mark have a new bourbon coming.

Very important events, these, from a writer's point of view.

Friday, 5 February 2010

8 Things

Seems I haven't done a meme in a while (OED Online: meme, n. Biol. [Shortened < mimeme (see quot. 1976 1); ancient Greek that which is imitated (to imitate: see MIMESIS n.), after GENE n.2] A cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. imitation), is considered as analogous to the inheritance of a gene.) so I tagged myself off Pam (I added the project section):

9 lots of 8 things about me:

8 projects I'm working on:
1. Rose's story - 25000 words into the first draft
2. Finding an agent for The Face of A Lion
3. Research for Rose's story (currently reading about pilgrimage, monasteries, the Jews in Spain, the Renaissance, Provence, etc., c. 1450 to 1525)
4. Knitting projects: a blanket, socks on the magic loop, a Victorian shawl and four or five other projects not yet begun
5. Finalising the scrapbook of our road trip photos
6. Organising all the papers in the house (okay, I'm not actually working on this, but I think about it often)
7. Short stories featuring Kedi
8. The February Houseparty (coming up soon on the Forum!)

8 TV shows I watch (not sure what this means, since I don't really watch any new shows, only DVDs of shows I like, every once in a while or reruns on DejaVu, depending on what they're featuring each month)
1. Last of the Summer Wine
2. Father Ted
3. Fawlty Towers
4. All in the Family (still haven't seen the UK version!)
5. The Golden Girls
6. Three's Company
7. Red Dwarf
8. Doctor Who

8 favourite places to eat and drink
1. Up north at Steve and Di's
2. Turkey - yup, anywhere in the country
3. My mother's house
4. The pub - usually McKibbin's downtown
5. Someplace with a really good steak
6. Wagamama in the UK
7. I'd like to try Jamie Oliver's restaurants
8. That homemade ice cream place at Atwater market in the summer

8 things I look forward to:
1. Publishing a book and holding it in my hands
2. More family
3. Upcoming concerts by Blue Rodeo, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, etc.
4. Seeing Runrig live in concert someday
5. Reading (I need to take another reading holiday off work and curl up on the sofa for five days or so...)
6. Driving from Calais (after taking the ferry from Dover, natch) to Istanbul
7. Travelling to places I haven't been yet (Italy, Sweden, Germany, more US states...)
8. Trivia with Livia at O'Hara's on Thursday nights!

8 things I love about winter:
1. Bragging rights. It might be -35 and my face about to fall off but at least I can compla - er, boast about it
2. Staying indoors on a freezing sunny day and sitting in the sun, pretending it's summer sun cos it's so warm
3. Opening the back door and watching my cats try to figure out what snow is
4. The train station and the trees in the nearby parks early in the morning on a day with a gentle snow fall
5. Knitting scarves and hats and actually using them
6. Skating!
7. Cocoa!
8. Blankets!

8 things on my wish list:
1. Travel. Okay, let's be specific and start with Italy and more of Scotland
2. Read all the books I own, set up a proper library, and get more books
3. I like Pam's "Get rid of all the clutter in my house and Keep It Out"
4. To walk from Scarborough to the Lake District. Or any other walking path in the UK. I'm not picky
5. Drive across Europe, Canada and the States. Not necessarily as part of the same trip
6. Now then, what's the difference between a wishlist and things I look forward to? I'd like to see Runrig in concert. And the Manic Street Preachers. And the Divine Comedy. And so on
7. Finish the first draft of my current novel by the summer
8. An intern to organize all my papers, CDs, library, notes to self, saved clippings/brochures/etc., files, recipes... and to set up a garage sale for me

8 things I am passionate about
1. Truth
2. Accuracy. Especially when it comes to grammar, the written word, dialects, historical facts, etc.
3. Writing
4. Knitting (and other handicrafts)
5. Music (by which I mean subcreation. You know, real bands, not manufactured formulaic nonsense)
6. Travelling. The freedom of being able to get up and go whenever I feel like it
7. Reading
8. Trying to get at the essence of food. No additives, chemicals, preservatives, genetic modification, hormones, etc. I tried buying cream the other day. To my mind, cream should have one ingredient: cream. Not guar gum, carrageenan, salt, sugar or anything else

8 things I have learned from the past
1. You know that little voice inside you that knows when something is off? Listen to it
2. Don't second guess yourself on a test or exam
3. A good mood goes a long way toward harmonious relations with people, especially those you have to work with. Don't whine or moan or snap at others
4. Don't talk too much. Listening's better
5. There's a lot to be said for the euphoria of a gorgeous day in the woods
6. Get a pet. Or two. Or three
7. Learn how to write. Don't use peak when you mean pique. Don't say your when you mean you're. It's hard to think clearly if you don't have the vocabulary to think with
8. Live in a small town before the age of 10, a big city between 10 and 20, and travel often after that

8 things I want/need (well now, what's the difference between this and a wishlist?)
1. A real library in which I can set up all my books (want)
2. A sideboard/cabinet to display all my wool and current knitting projects (you know, instead of tote bags scattered around the place) (want)
3. Every Friday off (dream)
4. The ability to get up an hour early each day to write (need)
5. Blue Rodeo concert tickets (must buy soon to get good seats)
6. A pint. And a dram
7. A daily fruit basket with all the fruit pre sliced (another dream)
8. An agent

8 people I want to tag
and anyone else who enjoys lists!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Naked in Knightsbridge II

Every once in a while I get lucky and have a chance to read some British Chick Lit. The last two times were while I was in England: the first one I ever read was Love Is A Four Letter Word by Claire Calman, which was sweet; and the second was Meet Me on Platform 8 by Carole Matthews, which was fun but had a slightly disturbing ending.

Last week, courtesy of Marsha Moore (24 Hours London), I had the opportunity to enjoy Nicky Schmidt’s new book Naked in Knightsbridge, which tells the story of Jools Grand, who’s hit rock bottom in her life at the tender age of 28. Her cleaning business has failed, her debts are mounting, and her crazy landlord is set to evict her any day now. What’s a girl to do?

Not one to find a conventional solution (what do you expect from a girl who’s attracted to the hobo that hangs around her apartment building, aka Hunk of No Fixed Abode?), Jools decides to auction herself online. Though she gets a good price – from a politician seeking a wife as a cover – Jools discovers that money isn’t quite the solution to her problems that she expected, and that she still has to find better ways to resolve her issues with a best friend that won’t drop a lecherous boyfiend, a father on the run from the law, and her own addiction to pastries.

Fast-paced, humorous and believable (I even caught myself Googling Carlisle’s of Sloane Square, where Jools has her wedding registry), Naked in Knightsbridge was a fun and breezy read, despite some lingering typos (poor Skuttle had his name spelled wrong at one point) and a few issues with point-of-view switches in the same scene. Overall, though, the characters are well-defined and memorable, and I certainly hope they feature in Schmidt’s upcoming novel Marrying Out Of Money!

(I tried posting this review on but it wouldn't let me, as I've not ordered any books from them - despite being a regular, monthly customer of and I had to sign in one or two times before I was finally able to post my review on Sheesh!)

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