Saturday, 28 August 2010

Where'd the Week Go?

What happened? I haven't posted since Sunday? And yet there's been so much going on:

Diana Gabaldon's Czarina of Traffic on the forum is celebrating two years of her blog, here. And Diana herself has posted a few snippets here and there of scenes from Book 8!

I started a thread on the forum regarding expository paragraphs, those grand, sweeping descriptions of events that cover weeks or more, and relate everything as a summary. Rather than skipping time altogether and later relating it through flashback, this sort of description, I think, moves the reader along with the characters in real time, only quicker. One of the other forumites called it a moving sidewalk, which I think is a pretty apt description.

In case you missed it, Kait's got the next installment of Forsaken by Shadow up, here.

You've heard of Gutenberg and Google Books, now India's got a list of other places to get free e-books!

Have I mentioned The Orientalist Gallery before? Some absolutely gorgeous Oriental-themed paintings from the 19th century, such as this one by Oliver Dennett Grover, "Harem Scene":

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Middle Grade and Young Adult Scavenger Hunt

X marks the spot!

I've adapted this from From The Mixed-up Files:

Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction Scavenger Hunt

1. Find a book whose author’s first name begins with the same letter as yours.
My find: Can't find one that I've actually read, so we'll go with last name starting with a D - Matilda, by Roald Dahl

2. Find a shelf less than half full and pick the third book from the left.
My find: A shelf less than half full? I don't have one of those! Okay, there's one that has space for a few more books, and on there we've got a Welsh book Deian a Loli by Kate Roberts (in Welsh)

3. Pick a shelf at random and look for the shortest book on the shelf.
My find: William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience

4. Find a book with the word “secret” in the title.
My find: The Secret Garden by Frances H. Burnett

5. Find a book featuring one of your favorite characters; pick the book to its left.
Character: From Anna by Jean Little; my find: Kate by Jean Little

6. Find a book with the word “dog” in the title and pick the book to its right.
My find: Dog Stories by James Herriott; my find: Cat Stories by James Herriott

7. Find a book with a number in the title.
My find: The Babysitters Club #13 Goodbye Stacey, Goodbye by Ann M. Martin

8. Find a one-word title.
My find: Perelandra by C. S. Lewis

9. Find an un-jacketed, library-bound book — if there are more than one on the same shelf, pick the one that looks most “loved” (worn).
My find: I've got lots of these! My find: More Stories for Fun and Adventure

10. Find the Newbery winner for the year you were born.
My find: I love the one from 1931, The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth and of course A Wrinkle in Time from 1963, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler from 1968 and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH from 1972. I wish Susan Cooper's The Grey King and Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia were from my year, because while I love the 1979 Honor Book, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, I've never read the 1979 Medal Winner, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

Here's the full list.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Collection of images and songs that have inspired me over the past couple of weeks:

First up, from a family history narrated in Ladino, a lovely photo of Columbus' caravels:

Then there's the song Nothing Has Changed by Ryan Bevan, here.

And... confirmation that I'm not the only one to suffer from the fear of writing something stupid.

Finally, from Christopher Columbus avenue in Montreal, a bust of Isabella:

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Countdown to Marathon's End and Books for Young Readers

The 51 Day Marathon Ends Tomorrow! I struggled slightly at the start, but ever since our wild and crazy writers' house party (dangerous too; at least two of us nearly suffered real-time injuries and one of us did!) I've been on a sweep, a roll, a grand roller coaster ride, and... No, somehow, I'm still not quite near completing the book, though I'm already at c. 60,000 words. I have at least 10-15 scenes more to write but keep getting sidetracked with more romantic episodes that may or may not make it into the final MS.

For bits and pieces of Out of the Water to read, go here.

If you're following Kait's serialisation of Forsaken by Shadow, go here.

I subscribe to the Pandora newsletter; this amazing bookstore has at least two branches in Istanbul, but ships books all over the world at very reasonable rates. Their stock is continuously expanding and covers both Turkish and English books.
In a recent newsletter, I noted the following in the Books for Ages 11-14 Section:

Anna Karenina - Tolstoy, Lev
Büyük Umutlar [Great Expectations] - Dickens, Charles
Madame Bovary - Flaubert, Gustave
Tess - Hardy, Thomas
Vahşetin Çağrısı [The Call of the Wild] - London, Jack

I read Great Expectations at 13, and am reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles now. Haven’t read the others yet, but I’m curious – when was the last time you saw all of those books marketed to 11 year olds here in North America?
Are we lowering our standards? Expecting less from young readers, with all our emphasis on MG and YA themes and language? Putting too many labels on our work?

What do you think?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Notes from Underground Contest

Quite frankly, White Nights and Notes from Underground are two of my favourite novellas by Dostoyevksy. And now there's a contest named after the latter: The Literary Lab's second annual Genre Wars Anthology, "Notes From Underground" contest.

The best part of this contest is the 'free form' entry: you can enter up to five pages of whatever you want, be it poetry, writing, photography, flattery, a resume, an idea, anything!

I found it very hard to limit myself to five pages; should I include poetry? should I talk about all my ideas and not include any actual writing? In the end, still on a high from the recent house party, I included three scenes from Out of the Water and two scenes from the house party. One of the snips from the novel is Baha's letter to Rose, which she finds after his death. Read it here.

(And yes, sometimes I start my blog posts with random phrases just so I can slip in a gorgeous Drop Cap.)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Handwriting Tag

Yes, still glowing from the, as ZanMarie calls it, houseparty alchemy. I'm up every morning, writing; something which was like pulling teeth before but comes effortlessly as flowing water now that I've gone back to my natural fit, romance. I'll post more snips of Rose - this time from the real wip, so no more Lord Rochester, unfortunately - soon, but if you can't wait, head on over to the forum and check out our latest venture, the Toolbox!

Meanwhile, a handwriting tag from Tessa! Alright, I tagged myself, so I hereby tag anyone who comes across and reads this.

Answer the following, in your handwriting:

1. Your name/Blog's name
2. Are you right-handed or left-handed?
3. What are your favorite letters to write?
4. What are your least favorite letters to write?
5. Write: "The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."
7. Your favorite song lyrics are?
8. Make sure you tag 7 people to join in on the fun.
9. Tickle your fancy and add a special quip for us to enjoy.

Here're mine:

Friday, 6 August 2010

A New Romance!

First, a note - I've got 12 days left in my writing marathon; I've written maybe 20,000 words since I started. And yet since last Friday, when our houseparty started, I've written close to 40,000 words! Unfortunately not all usable in the main story; though I've learned even more about Rose, Baha and Arcturus. It's such a freedom to write in a context and setting that's pre-defined, where all that's left is to throw your characters in with those of other writers (like Claire's!), and have them interact with each other. All sorts of adventures, brawls, tender moments and frightening scenes take place.

Speaking of romance, here's a scene from Rose and Lord Rochester's ongoing passion, which is going to be nipped in the bud soon. They have a few hours left together at the houseparty and then, as far as they know, they will be parting for the rest of their lives...

The garden was silent.
From beyond its edges came calls and shouts, the laughter of their friends, a shouted curse that sounded like Nathan's voice. Yet any sound that filtered through the rose bushes was muted, and no breeze stirred, leaving them in an arbour all their own. The two of them - and across the fountain, Laura Grace, with Austin and Kedi.
Each minute seemed to be an hour long.
One minute to memorise his features; the length of his nose, the dip in the centre of his lips, the lines around his eyes, the slight, very slight cleft in his chin.
Another minute with his lips resting on hers, no movement at all, and one shared breath between them.
One last minute with her head on his shoulder and his arms holding her up in the world.
Long minutes without words.
But then, he wasn't a man to be silent. His wit, his laughter; she needed his words as well.
"Tell me a story, please, John," she asked.


"What kind of story would you like, love?" He kissed her in the hollow behind her ear.
"One with sailing ships." She let her hands roam where they would, along his arms, across his chest; as though she had sculpted him and was now smoothing out the last lines.
He began, "Once upon a time, nearly a hundred years before my time and a hundred years after yours, there was a Queen on the Throne of England, Queen Elizabeth. The virgin queen, they called her."
Before she could frown or even blink, he continued, "Though I doubt that very much; I believe she must have had one man, one passion, so great that she kept it hidden from the eyes of the world, so that none should see her soul splinter when he left the circles of the earth for the last time."
His fingers stroked her hair, her jaw, her nape, as he told the story. "The Spanish, I'm afraid, as Catholics, considered the Protestant rule of England to be a heresy. It was her own half-brother Philip that launched a plan to overthrow her rule. He set an armada of one hundred and thirty ships to sail for England. The English navy fought them, on the beaches and on the landing grounds, they sent fire ships against them and harried them into the Northern waters, where storms raged and and the waves rose against them, and nearly half the ships were lost. Philip, when he heard of their fate, said only, 'I sent the Armada against men, not God's winds and waves'.
"Many men landed on the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, their ships broken beyond repair. Bereft of aid, the men stayed behind, took up women among the villagers as their wives, and never saw Spain again."
"Saudade," she whispered.
"What does that mean?"
"My father - my real father - taught it to me. It's a Portuguese word."
She spoke as though reciting a poem:
"It means everything:
"A vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist,
"For something other than the present;
"A feeling of loss for people and things whose whereabouts are unknown,
"A lost lover; a faraway place where one was raised; loved ones who have died.
"There's a rush of sadness and also of joy;
"When one accepts one's fate and knows that the object of one's yearning will never return;
"Yet hopes to recover - in the next world - or in the present, with wishful longing, that which is now missing.
"It is the love that remains when the loved one has gone."

He smoothed the frown from her eyebrows, wiped the single tear that threatened to fall from each eye. "My dear saudade Rose," he whispered, matching her intonation perfectly. He wrapped his arms about her and drew her ever closer. "Not with me you aren't."

Also, stop by Kait's and read installment two of Forsaken By Shadow.


Behold! Another snip from the house party going on at the forum (full story here).

This one features Rose and Lord Rochester (thank you Adderbury!) at dinner time; I post it here because it reveals a lot of the plot for Out of the Water:

Rochester piled a plate high with meats and fruits; anything he could find that he thought Rose might never have tasted, including potatoes and tomatoes. He tossed a couple of oranges into the pocket of his ridiculous apron, for pudding. They perched together on a single wicker chair, and he fed her bits and pieces from the plate, delighting in her rosebud mouth, her dainty manners and the way, when she thought no one was looking, she licked sauce off his fingers. He'd brought a tiny smear of foie gras on some homemade bread, and began explaining it to her, when she interrupted.
"I've eaten that! In France, at the inn..."
She might never stop surprising him, this girl. "When were you ever in France?" He asked. Suddenly she was telling him all about her journeys. Separation from her parents in Spain, the sojourn in the monastery where she'd met Arcturus, her capture by the Inquisitors and how she'd rescued an entire group of her cousins by setting the place on fire...
"You did what?"
"I tricked the guard, and ran away, but I couldn't leave my family! At least, I'd talked to Uncle San already - my father - and I knew they weren't my relatives, really. I guess everyone here knows that much about me. But I couldn't leave my cousins there! So we started a fire, in the woods, Arcturus and I..."
He stared at her, then caught up her hand and kissed her knuckles. "Very noble of you, my dear. A knight couldn't have done better."
She blushed and ducked her head, so he leaned in and kissed her.
"You still haven't told me how you came to be in France," he said, a long while later.
"Arcturus and I led my family across Spain, over the border to France. We separated there -all except my cousin Joseph."
She blushed again, and he wondered if there was more to this Joseph fellow. He wouldn't ask, of course.
"We went on to [Nice], to the port, to find a ship that would take us to Constantinople. I wanted to find my parents - my former parents."
"What happened to your father?"
"Didn't I mention it? He sailed with Senor Colon, to find a new route to the Indies."
Rochester choked on a grape, and pounded himself in the back, coughing. Rose passed him a glass of water and he gulped it down. "And you haven't seen him since?" He asked, finally.
She shook her head, silent.
"How long were you in France?" He asked, drawing the conversation away from maudlin territory.
"Only the weeks it took to travel to the port. We spent one night at the inn there and met Baha the next day. He got us onto his ship. Did Arcturus tell you he was seasick the entire journey?"
Rochester grinned. "I believe that detail escaped him. No wonder he hardly ever mentions the journey itself; only talks about France and Constantinople."
"I was with Baha the entire time we sailed along the Italian coast and -"
"You were in Italy?" Rochester interrupted. She nodded again, her face beaming. Knowing Baha, he'd introduced her to all sorts of friends and shown her all kinds of beautiful places. To think that he might have walked the same roads, the same woods that she had! "So was I," he told her. "Did you see the grotto at Capri?"
"I did! Only, that's where Joseph disappeared and we had to rescue him!" She told him the story.
He gazed at her in wonder. She seemed to have grown a foot taller, at least. It was astounding to think of Rose doing all these things, practically all on her own. He'd been half-teasing that morning when he'd suggested that Charles might be able to doctor the fog, to bring her to his time permanently. If he made the same suggestion now, he was afraid the desire for it might break him. He remembered how she'd looked at Charles' court on her first day, when she'd arrived for the Washing of the Lions, young and nervous, when he'd given her no more than a passing glance and an encouraging smile. If only he had known! He could have had her with him in his very own chambers.
"Why are you staring at me, John?"
He came to himself with a jerk, and told her the truth. "I'm awestruck, my dear. Is there anything you haven't done?" He pulled an orange and a knife from his pocket and began scoring the rind.
"I haven't - I don't think -"
He looked up, to find her eyes had wandered. They seemed to be watching Kasia, standing by a table, laughing, a hand resting on her belly. Ah, now he understood. Jake's faraway expressions, Kasia's closeness to Sarah, it all meant only one thing. But why should it affect Rose so strangely?
"What is it, my love?" he asked, slipping her an orange slice. She took it, their fingertips grazing, but didn't eat it.
"Oh, John." She sighed. "My father's disappeared, I have no mother, no family, no faith. I'm keeping house for a dying man -" she gulped "- and a monk. Who would ever have me in marriage? And without a husband..."
He smiled inwardly, but kept his face serious for her sake. So it wasn't marriage she longed for, it was children. He might tell her of his own, but that wouldn't be much of a gift. He'd tell her of Columbus instead.
"Eat your orange, my love," he prodded. "And I'll tell you about your father's journeys."

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Writers' Party Time!

Are you looking for a rollicking good read? Adventure, magic, romance, brawls and civil wars, a king in danger and two demobbed brothers in conflict... Not to mention my own Rose, her dying friend Baha and the monk Brother Arcturus from Out of the Water and Austin and Kedi from The Face of A Lion.

The link to the full story - still not finished! is here.

And here's another snip (the first one is here). If you're meeting her for the first time, Rose is 18 years old, from 1492 and has just been whisked to a house party taking place in Georgia in 2008 and met a young Lord Rochester, courtier to Charles II:

Rose tightened the laces on her - what had Meredith called it - caftan, and fanned herself with one of the paper plates. It was sticky and even hotter out of the water, though there were plenty of cool drinks spread out around the tables. That lovely pink mixture she'd heard Emily calling fruit punch was absolutely delicious. It was amazing how many varieties of fruit they had here, and how they managed to keep it all cool.
"You're not fooling anyone, you know," she muttered to herself.
"What's that?" Rosemary asked from the other side of the table. The older woman seemed nervous, as though she'd forgotten something and was furiously trying to recall where she'd misplaced it.
"I'm sorry," Rose called. "I was simply... thinking out loud." She smiled and Rosemary turned back to stacking empty plates and cups.
I'd better find something to do while I wait, she thought. I can't sit here swooning over John and waiting for him to return.

She looked up and spotted Len and Charlotte returning from somewhere, walking close together so that their shoulders kept bumping. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead at the sight of Len in his long trousers. How delightful this time was, when you could undress in the heat and not be layered in three different garments. When only a bathing suit and a pair of shorts stood between you and...

She jumped off the table and hurried across the sand to Baha, who was pacing back and forth under a large umbrella.


"Rose! I hear you've been having a grand time with the king's courtier."
She frowned in face of Baha's grin.
"Heard? What have you heard? Who's talking about us?"
"Don't worry, I'm only teasing. I saw the two of your returning up the beach."
She relaxed, then, and fell into step beside him. "There's really nothing to tell, anyway. I'm out of time here, and find myself doing all sorts of things I'd never consider at home."
"You don't need to explain yourself to me; I spent quite a bit of time with Charlotte this morning."
"You're not with her now."
"No." It was Baha's turn to frown. He stopped walking and rested his hands on the back of Laura Grace's chair. "She seems to have met her match in Len."
They both turned to look down toward the water. Lionel had found a football from somewhere and was tossing it hand to hand, performing tricks as Charlotte sipped a drink and watched.
"Are you feeling alright, Baha? Maybe you should join Arcturus; I think he's gone up to the house for a bit."
"No need. The air here is wonderfully clear. Have you noticed I haven't coughed once?"
"I did actually. I know -"

She stopped abruptly and Baha glanced up to see her eyes caught on a figure coming down the slope. Even in shorts and a loose shirt, Rochester was still a strapping young man, tall and thin, with a graceful long stride. His blond locks curled about his chin and shoulders, framing his face like the halo of an angel in some Orthodox icon. He didn't wonder Rose was enraptured.
"Be careful with him, Rose my dear," he said quietly in her ear. "You never quite know the true nature of a man while he's at a party."

Monday, 2 August 2010


Nothing says summer like postcards!

Here's one I got from Jill from Ethiopia:

And here's one from Tessa from Spain:

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Alexandria by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • 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***
  • Hermit Crab by Peter Porter (poem)
  • The Hidden Land by Private Irving (poem;
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Managed by Kristen Callihan
  • beta read! (JB)
  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • 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