Friday, 31 December 2010

Books Read in 2010 Statistics In All Their Glory

Caveat! This is a longer post than usual - but it's all about books. Chime in with your own opinions - I'd love to hear what everyone else has been reading.

Here's the list of Books Read in 2010, and for reference, there's also the Books Read in 2009 list, the addendum to the 2009 list, the Books Read in 2008 list, and addendum A and addendum B to the 2008 list (I must have had more days off during the holidays that year, and kept reading).

Note - Thank You Contest still running! Only five new followers needed - to enter, please leave your comments on the original contest post.

Books read: 92, compared to 131 in 2009 and 101 in 2008. Though if you count three writers' houseparties over at the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum - the best writers' hangout on the web! - that ran to hundreds of thousands of words (each story read through twice), plus the beta reads, other forum writings, and so on, the number rises a little. I won't gripe, since I think the number of books is directly correlated to the fact that I wrote nearly 150,000 words in the last five months.

My average over 50 weeks has gone down from 2.5 books per week (or two books and two short stories) to perhaps two books.

Authors read: 63, plus a few compendiums; about average, compared to 57 in 2009 and 69 in 2008 (not counting anthologies), though I definitely read a lot more works by new, up-and-coming authors this year.

Most by one author: L. M. Montgomery, hands down, with a reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, as well as The Road To Yesterday (which features Anne and Gilbert behind the scenes). In 2009 it was Janet Evanovich, followed by rereads of J. K. Rowling, Diana Gabaldon and Agatha Christie; 2008 was Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, Emily Carr and Dorothy L. Sayers. And, hey look, I reread The Tales of Beedle the Bard this year too! As well as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; I'd normally reread the entire series before seeing the movie, but was too busy writing to make time for that this year.

Oldest book: All the poetry of the Earl of Rochester, and Perreault's fairy tales. Oldest published... hmm, I don't have the copies in front of me, so can't check, but it must be either Hours at the Glasgow Art Galleries by T. C. F. Brotchie, An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott or When the Going Was Good by Evelyn Waugh - second hand books rock! Though these aren't old at all compared to 2009, with Shakespeare and a handful of books from pre-1950, though they are comparable to 2008, where my oldest authors were Aesop and Pliny, but the oldest original book was by Dorothy L. Sayers, followed by John Fante and John Steinbeck.

Newest book: In 2008 I had only two books, by Joanna Bourne and Marilynne Robinson. Many more last year, including books by kc dyer, Hélène Boudreau, Linda Gerber and Diana Gabaldon - Forumites all!

This year, Forumites have done it again:
Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau
Trance by Linda Gerber
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne
An Easter Walk by Zan Marie Steadham
A Christmas Walk by Zan Marie Steadham
Dear Canada: A Christmas To Remember (anthology, featuring a new short story by Marsha Skrypuch)
Closed Circuit by Marte Brengle
Facing Fire by kc dyer
The Exile by Diana Gabaldon
Songs of Love & Death (anthology, featuring a new short story by Diana Gabaldon)

Other new books:
Just Let Me Lie Down by Kristin van Ogtrop
Naked in Knightsbridge by Nicky Schmidt
Forsaken By Shadow by Kait Nolan
Hush Money by Susan Bischoff
The Hating Game by Talli Roland
Milo - Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks
Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (Miracle Girls 2) by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
With A Little Help From My Friends (Miracle Girls 3) by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Love Will Keep Us Together (Miracle Girls 4) by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (love this series!)

Some were relatively new, including Break on Through by Jill Murray and the first book in the Joy of Spooking series by P. J. Bracegirdle, who was in The Gazette this morning! (My friend Miss Sugarpuss aka Holly Gauthier-Frankel, was also featured!)

Rereads: the Anne of Green Gables series, many of the Beatrix Potter tales, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (haven't seen the film yet, though), The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte's Web, Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease, The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriott, Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott, as well as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Agatha Christie's Poirot's Early Cases and Diana Gabaldon's Lord John and the Succubus.

My tastes don't seem to change. Last year I reread some comic books, some Babysitter's Club series books, C. S. Lewis, the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (my yearly reread), the last three books in the Outlander series, and all the Lord John series, as well as lots of Agatha Christies - as if I hadn't had enough in 2008, when I reread The Chronicles of Narnia, the first three books in the Outlander series, E. L. Konigsburg, Stephen King, Dickens, and The Return of the King (I reread the first two books of The Lord of the Rings in December 2007). Coming up with a post on why Tahereh should read The Lord of the Rings was quite fun!

Stories/Authors I didn't like: two, Libba Bray and Thomas Cobb (the film version of Crazy Heart was much much better). One author last year (Ilyas Halil) and three authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan and Ian Rankin) and one story ("Hairball" by Margaret Atwood) in 2008.

I was overly impressed by many of the books I read this year and, besides rediscovering Romance and feeding off the energy from houseparties, I wonder, did reading all that brilliant writing and powerful storytelling also help fuel my new enthusiasm?

Youngest books: Rainy Days With Bear by Maureen Hull - a reread, but it's just too sweet! - and the Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter (about the same as 2009 and 2008 in terms of kids' books). Lots and lots of Middle Grade books as well.

Fluff but Fun books: Andy Capp, Calvin and Hobbes, 50 Uses For Your Cat and... does Dave Barry count as fluff? He's quite funny.

Books/Authors I'd recommend: All the Forumites listed above! Plus the other new authors, and of course my old favourites, if you haven't read them yet - Tolkien, Lewis, Sayers, Christie, etc. - and all the authors I reread. Shucks, I may as well say the same as last year - I'd recommend the whole list!

Shortest book: besides the youngest books, Andy Capp, Calvin and Hobbes, and 50 Uses For Your Cat, I suppose the shortest would be The Tales of Beedle the Bard, same as in 2008.

Longest book: Not counting anthologies, or research books, I suppose the longest books are The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and the five by Dorothy L. Sayers: Clouds of Witness; Gaudy Night; The Documents in the Case; The Nine Tailors; and Whose Body?. Our last two houseparty stories certainly came close, however. In 2009 and 2008 it was Tolkien and Gabaldon, of course!

Research books:
Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks (I wasn't expecting it, but I won a copy of this book and it was quite helpful as I neared the conclusion of my latest draft)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis (I reread this in order to be ready for the movie, but all the details about life on board ship were invaluable)
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (I reread this specifically for the boating references; who doesn't love messing about with boats?)

Constantinople, City of the World's Desire by Philip Mansel
A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul by Boyar and Fleet
Istanbul: The Imperial City by J. Freely (I only read up to my time period)
Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin (I skimmed the last few chapters as they're outside my time period and I don't want to get confused)

Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Lord Rochester's Monkey by Graham Greene (Okay, he's not directly related to the novel per se, but Rochester's affair with Rosa during houseparties does help me learn more about her, and his poetry would be worth reading even if I didn't have that excuse)

Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally (I didn't start out reading this for research, but there were certain aspects that were very illuminating)

Colours by J. Finlay (Skimmed this one for historical aspects of colours and painting)
Perrault's Fairy Tales (Started out by trying to see if any of the tales were old enough for Rosa to know; they're not, but I had fun reading them all the same)
Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease (I reread this one since I knew they did a lot of cross-country travelling in the story. I really ought to read more of his books, I hadn't realised he'd written over a hundred!)

Books from the 19th Century: An Old-Fashioned Girl and Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott (read one of her short stories last year), and many of the stories in Crime Stories from The Strand, as well as the poem 'The Diplomatic Platypus' by Patrick Barrington.

That's not many at all compared to last year (which included Andrew Lang and Lewis Carroll), but especially to 2008 (most of the stories in the Tales Before Tolkien anthology, F. M. Crawford, Richard Jeffries, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hughes, Jane Austen, Anna Sewell, Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Temple of Diana at Ephesus by Falkener).

Books from 1900-1960: 27, about 1/3 of the list. There were 17 such books in 2009, and in 2008 this time period made up 1/4 of my list! This year, the number is nicely balanced by the 20 or so new books/authors I read.

Books I won't finish before midnight tonight:
Legacy by Kate Kaynak
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Journey to the Alhambra by Washington Irving
The Book of Good Love by Juan Ruiz

Books I'm reading at intervals:
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (first reread)
A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway (reread)
Warriors (anthology, featuring a new short story by Diana Gabaldon)
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine l'Engle
All My Life Before Me the diary of C. S. Lewis
"Parma Eldalamberon" 14 and 18: Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

And there you have it. Happy New Year and Hogmanay to one and all!

Books Read in 2010 Listed Here

Books read in 2010!

Here's the full list, with all my original comments:

Rainy Days With Bear by Maureen Hull (reread)
A Christmas Walk by Zan Marie Steadham
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (reread before I see the movie!)
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling (reread)
Break on Through by Jill Murray
Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks (for review)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis (reread, of course)
Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau
Songs of Love & Death (anthology, featuring a new short story by Diana Gabaldon)
Milo - Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg (brilliant!)
Facing Fire by kc dyer
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L Sayers
50 Uses For Your Cat
Constantinople, City of the World's Desire by Philip Mansel
The Hating Game by Talli Roland
The Joy of Spooking Book One - Fiendish Deeds by PJ Bracegirdle
The Cat Who Tailed a Thief by Lilian Jackson Braun
Our houseparty story (set in Constantinople 1493; c. 200 000 words!)
beta read!
You're A Riot Andy Capp by Smythe
Trance by Linda Gerber
Yukon Ho! (Calvin and Hobbes) by Bill Watterson
The Exile by Diana Gabaldon
A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul by Boyar and Fleet
Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin (skimmed last few chapters since outside my time period)
Closed Circuit by Marte Brengle
The Diplomatic Platypus by Patrick Barrington (poem)
Hush Money by Susan Bischoff
Lord Rochester's Monkey by Graham Greene
The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriott (reread)
Our House Party Story - set in Cherry Hill, GA (reread)
Istanbul: The Imperial City by J. Freely (read up to my time period)
Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up
Dave Barry's Greatest Hits (remember Dave Barry? Columnist? What's he up to these days? He's hilarious! And at times quite touching as well. I need to find a second hand bookstore that has all his books!)
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
The Road to Yesterday by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich
Forsaken by Shadow by Kait Nolan
An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott (reread)
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (not overly impressed with the pov so far...and you know what, I dropped it.)
The Best of Dorothy Parker (Folio Society edition)
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
Looking for Alaska by John Green (brilliant! read it now!)
The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter
The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe
The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers
Timbuktu by Paul Auster
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (reread)
The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun
L'elegance du herisson by Muriel Barbery
Exiles From the War by Jean Little
Just Let Me Lie Down by Kristin van Ogtrop
Hours at the Glasgow Art Galleries by T. C. F. Brotchie (skimmed)
Crime Stories from The Strand (Folio Society edition)
Love Will Keep Us Together by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (the final book in the Miracle Girls series)
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (reread, of course)
Easter Walk by Zan Marie Steadham (Yay! for Forumites)
Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb (one of those rare instances where I saw the movie first) (the happy ending in the movie was better!)
Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon (reread)
When the Going Was Good by Evelyn Waugh
Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie
The Old Jailbird's Tale by Capek (short story)
With A Little Help From My Friends by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (#3 in the Miracle Girls series - these books are amazing!)
Colours by J. Finlay (Folio Society) (skimmed for research)
The Secret of Sentinel Rock by Judith Silverthorne (part of the From Many Peoples series in association with the LaVonne Black Memorial Fund, Saskatchewan)
Dorothy Parker - The Viking Portable Collection
Yes, Prime Minister Volume II
Perrault's Fairy Tales (Folio Society Edition)
The Brief History of the Dead by K. Brockmeier
Poirot's Early Cases by Agatha Christie (reread)
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease (reread; I reread this one for research, since I know they did a lot of travelling in the story. I really ought to read more of his books, I didn't realise he'd written over a hundred!)
Naked in Knightsbridge by Nicky Schmidt
The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread)
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (Miracle Girls 2) by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron (essay collection)
The Cat Who Turned On and Off by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
The Olive Route by Carol Drinkwater
Miracle Girls by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt (read it! read it!)
Dear Canada A Christmas To Remember (Jean Little, Marsha Skrypuch, et al)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Woo for Wednesday Contest, New Releases and Recommendations

A post on Books Read in 2010 is coming soon!

Until then, Woo for Wednesday! presents... Contests, New Releases and Recommendations!

1. Three fellow bloggers are hosting contests to win copies of Helene Boudreau's Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings - a new Middle Grade novel that'll have you laughing out loud.

2. Marte Brengle has just published her grandmother Evelyn Eaton's collection of autobiographical short stories Every Month Was May. Don't forget to check out Brengle's own novel, Closed Circuit.

3. Ev Bishop has three new short stories out!

4. I've finished reading Zan Marie Steadham's A Christmas Walk and highly recommend it. You've still got lots of time to order her first devotional, An Easter Walk.

5. Don't forget to order a copy of Legacy by Kate Kaynak, third in the Ganzfield series. I've just started and if I don't watch it, will be pulling another all nighter - I just can't put it down!

Anyone else have recommendations or contests they'd like to announce?

Don't forget to leave a comment on my 100 Followers Thank You Contest!

A Round of Words in 80 Days starts on 1 January! Post your resolutions, whether you plan to be writing, editing, or everything in between. I've got to draw up a schedule soon, as I've taken next week off work; my brain is nearly fried from all the work-related editing I've been doing but I've got to turn around and apply that lightning-struck mind to editing Out of the Water!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Year End Writing Wrapup

Six days left to the end of the year on St Stephen's Day. Let's see... What have I actually done this year, writing-wise?

January - At the start of the year I wrote a post called Where I'm At; looking at it now, it's obvious how little I'd written of the novel. I didn't even have a title! And Rosa was still all mixed up with a boy called Joseph. A little later on I was excited to have written 1,000 words in one day.

More importantly, January was when Baha came into the picture, thanks to an amazing exercise that Claire posted on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum. The story was still meant to be Young Adult (YA), but the idea of Baha dying was there from the start. Ah, if only I'd known what was coming...

February - A Post About Posts to Come. I'm impressed to see that I was actually getting up early and writing, as well as doing some research. Looking at my writing diary though, I see it was a matter of a mere hundreds of words per day. I'd begun research, though, and kept it up steadily throughout the year.

March - I posted a snip from the novel. This scene is now gone, though the fact of Rosa finding herself at the bottom of the cliff still happened; it's simply not shown in real time any longer. Also, Rosa is definitely Rosa now, not Rose, and no, she doesn't wear spectacles...

April - Ron posted a brilliant exercise on the writer's forum, which led me to finding out more about Rosa's brother, and about Arcturus, but most of all led me to a very important scene in the novel; the one where Baha rescues another woman at the grotto in Capri and Rosa realises that she's more than a little jealous. Between January and April though, I barely managed 10,000 words, and was hoping to finish the first draft by the end of the summer. Meanwhile I was sending queries to agents for my YA, The Face of A Lion. A few partial requests, but nothing more, sadly.

April also began a new feature on my blog - Canadian Musicians and What They Read. First up was Vince Ditrich of Spirit of the West!

May - I held a writing marathon upon reaching 50 followers. If I hit 100 before the end of the year - only one week left - I'll have gained 50 more followers in eight months. Thank you to all of you!

Houseparty!Houseparty!Houseparty! Houseparty, London, 1940, hosted by Claire. Austin, Kedi, Rosa and Arcturus attended.

Meanwhile, Roni of Fiction Groupie did a critique of the first page of The Face of A Lion.

June - And We Have A Title! Instead of Rosa, 1492, I actually started calling the novel by its real name, Out of the Water. I also had an idea for a post-apocalyptic story, but of course it'll have to be on the back burner for while.

July and August - Houseparty!Houseparty!Houseparty! The houseparty came at the end of the month, and this was the month when everything changed. At the start, in the middle of my marathon, I matter of factly and rather optimistically said "at the half way point of my 51 day marathon and I've been writing nearly every day... As soon as I get all the handwritten scenes typed up I'll up my word count widget; should be at 55,000 words at least. Only 20,000 more to go until revisions start - and then perhaps some celebrations (read: contests) might be in order."

And then Houseparty, Cherry Hill, Georgia, 2008, hosted by Zan Marie, hit. Rosa was still only friends with Baha, who was still slated to die. Rosa met Lord Rochester for the first time and I posted outtakes twice. Thanks to the energy from this party, I kept up my marathon and slowly but surely wound my way towards changing the story from YA to Romance, and discovering the exact nature of the relationship between Rosa and Baha. I was at 60,000 words, and posted a number of snips in our Writers Forum Toolbox. This was when I realised that Baha might live...

September - I was writing in earnest and didn't find time to blog about it. Other writing news came from fellow forumite Marte Brengle, who published her novel Closed Circuit! I guest posted at Kait Nolan's about the houseparty to come, which I - or rather my characters - were hosting.

October - Contests galore. I won a copy of Linda Gerber's Trance, and of kc dyer's Facing Fire, both brilliant YAs. I also entered the Dear Lucky Agent contest and won a copy of Regina Brooks' Writing Great Books for Young Adults.

I attended a local meeting of the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers and picked up - and was hugely impressed and inspired by - books by Jill Murray, PJ Bracegirdle and Alan Silberberg.

And then I won this month's Middle Grade/Young Adult category of OUT OF THE SLUSHPILE, Novel Journey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest, with The Face of A Lion!

And then... Houseparty, Constantinople, 1493, hosted by me. I posted the statistics after the party; I wrote over 44,000 words in two weeks, and the novel itself was at 85,000 words. And I worried that the novel might seem dull after the party! I'd forgotten the galvanising power of romance.

November - National Novel Writing Month! 51,300 words at 24 November, setting Out of the Water at over 120,000 words. I promptly turned around and began cutting words out, editing, even as I continued to write more. Clarissa featured a critique of a chapter from Out of the Water; all the cutting I've done means that this is now Chapter 2 or 3 of the novel.

December - I'm at 95 followers! Okay, that's only obliquely a writing-related item, as it refers to the blog and not the novel. Don't forget to enter the 100 Followers Thank You Contest! Other writing news has to do with fellow authors:

Kait Nolan's novella Devil's Eye is out!

Zan Marie Steadham has both A Christmas Walk and An Easter Walk flying off the shelves!

Talli Roland held an amazingly organized and successful blog splash for her debut novel The Hating Game!

Hélène Boudreau's latest Middle Grade Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings had me laughing for days!

As for Out of the Water... I posted my schedule of what I hope to accomplish in 2011. Wish me luck and energy - I wish the same for you all, no matter what stage of the process you're at. And chocolate for everyone!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Chocolate and 100 Followers Contest

Jingle bells! It's Christmas Eve Eve, and I haven't written a new word in days (though over the past week I have typed up half the 10,000 words of The End that I wrote last Saturday). On the other hand, I just discovered something fun:

Did you know that chocolate can be used to cure a cough?

This may simply be anecdotal. However, it was precisely the sort of historical fact I was seeking. I needed something that my heroine's father might have obtained during his voyage with Christopher Columbus, something that only he could provide to help cure her husband's illness, and something which he eventually does offer, once he accepts her marriage. And now I know exactly what he brought back - cocoa beans!

Rather appropriate for holiday time, no?

Speaking of holidays, if you have a day off and would like to see a brilliant movie, I recommend The King's Speech. Don't think I've ever plugged a movie on this blog before, but this one is certainly worth it. Found a penny with George VI in my pocket the other day and grinned foolishly for a few minutes, thinking of the film. I echo Carol's wish: Colin Firth Please Talk Dirty To Me Again.

Thank you to my new followers and don't forget to enter the 100 Followers Thank You Contest!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Review of Regina Brooks and a Love Letter to Lord Rochester

Only a little while ago, I entered the Dear Lucky Agent Contest.

While I didn't win, I was one of the first 100 entries, and won a copy of Regina Brooks' Writing Great Books for Young Adults. Came home one day to find it on my doorstep!

I don't normally read writing advice books; I can count all the ones I've read on one hand: Stephen King's On Writing, White and Strunk's The Elements of Style and Donald Maass' The Career Novelist.

Yet Brooks was a pleasure to read, and would make a great gift for the beginning writer in your life; basic enough not to scare them, while covering all the essential points so that they feel well-armed and not daunted to start writing. Her style is clear and straightforward, and the book even features exercises, to help kick start your ideas.

Having just completed my first/second draft, I found the sections dealing with story arcs and conclusions the most helpful. Brooks has fired me up to finish my synopsis and start storyboarding my scenes, ready to move them around, delete or add to them, for the greatest impact.

At one point, she provides a link to Read A Summary, which I thought was a rather interesting website. I never would have thought of distilling From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to "investigation and analysis lead to knowledge" – it sounds like a text book!

On the other hand, reading all those narrow theme sentences gave me an idea for my own for Out of the Water: "if you lose everything, but gain love, you may have found all you need."

I love a good romance [g]

[Interlude! Don't forget my 100 Followers Thank You Contest!]

Now, speaking of romance... Today's lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice for the first time since 1554. For those that were around when I was blogging about our Writers Houseparty at Cherry Hill, Georgia back in July, 1554 was the year that Rosa wrote her letter to Lord Rochester. This is the first thing that came into my head when I saw the newspaper article on the eclipse; right away I figured out how old Rosa was when the eclipse last happened on the solstice and, on realising she was 80, remembered the letter.

For those of you that weren't there... my character Rosa fell in love with Lord Rochester at that party, and after they'd separated, and once she'd neared the end of her life, wrote him a letter for him to find in his own time.

Here it is:
One day the court woke to a buzz of rumour. Rochester had left for France unannounced! He did not return for some weeks, by which time speculation as to his doings had reached fever pitch. On his arrival, the lords and ladies remarked on his haggard appearance and enjoyed themselves immensely as they relished the rumoured details of his supposed debauchery on the Continent.
Only Charles and Buckingham knew the truth. Rochester showed them the letter, handling it with his fingertips on the very edges of the crackling parchment. There was a note overlaying the top sheet, which he kept entirely to himself...

Galata Tower Street
1 April 1535

My belovèd John,

I append a covering note to my epistle, on paper which you will perhaps recognise from that first party when something deeper than friendship was kindled between us. The parchment has grown even more yellow with the passing years, as it has lain inside pockets and drawers, always hidden, save for those precious moments when I stole it out of its hiding place. How strange I might have looked, had any spectator chanced to see me, gazing enraptured at a mere eight lines of poetry. Yet how could they know of the wondrous scenes I saw through the words and the passionate memories I relived at its touch? I return it to you now, for safe keeping. The ink has faded with each passing year and I am far from certain that it will hold for another century, deep under the ground. No matter; the ink I now use shall not fade, I promise you, for I have mixed it myself and poured my soul into its making. The entire pot will not suffice to bare my heart to you.

I write you this letter as an elderly matron, but look forward still, to a few months ahead and yet another house party, where I will be young and lithe and yours once more...

(Yes that beloved was simply an excuse to use the accent on the letter e. I love that accent!)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Break on Through by Jill Murray and Contests

Question number two: when was the last time you read a book straight through without stopping?

(Question number one was a few days ago, on The Lord of the Rings)

I did today, when I read Jill Murray's Break on Through, a fast-paced tale about six months in the life of Nadine 'Lady Six Sky' Durant, who just happens to be a breakdancer. Talk about reading outside of my comfort zone, but Jill's writing is so smooth and Nadine's voice so true, that I couldn't step away from her world for even a minute. I can't wait to read the next book, Rhythm and Blues.

It felt even better doing this - that is, the guilt factor was very low - as I wrote over 10,000 words of my own yesterday. Yes, I even wrote The End. Squee! Of course, now I have to turn right around and rewrite it.

The last time I read a book straight through was Alan Silberberg's Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze, and before that, PJ Bracegirdle's first book in The Joy of Spooking Series.

What can I say? Let's hear it for YA authors from my neighbourhood!

As for contests, there's my 100 Followers Thank You Contest - thanks to those that have signed up so far!

And Pam's having an easy-peasy Outlander giveaway. If you haven't read one of the best books ever, now's your chance to have your own straight-through-without-stopping reading day. Outlander will do it, for sure.

The next instalment of Kait Nolan's Forsaken by Shadow is up!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why Tahereh Should Read The Lord of The Rings

My favourite question!

Tahereh asks "YAY OR NAY on Lord of the Rings?" and who better to answer than someone who named her blog after a J. R. R. Tolkien reference? Well, of course there are Tolkien scholars that may be more qualified - and I hope to join their ranks someday if I start my Master's degree - but for now, I'm the most Tolkien-obsessed person I know, so...

Here are my top ten reasons to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings:

1. They are, in no particular order, exciting, scary, funny, lyrical, sad and satisfying all at once. And so much more.

2. Authenticity! The languages, landscapes, histories and so on were each painstakingly created and checked for continuity by the author himself (and sometimes by his son) and form a seamless whole.

3. "Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien's attic." It's true! Heck, even dumbledore - as a word not a name - was used by Tolkien before Rowling (others used it before Tolkien, but in between? I haven't seen it at all). (Just in case - yes, I am a Rowling fan as well!) But to understand and appreciate many new stories, it helps to read the man that influenced them all.

4. Language. Tolkien was a master of English, from its very beginnings to its use as current in his day, and is an unmastered reference for authors on how to describe scenery and action, how to write witty dialogue, and how to seamlessly move from the heights to the most regular forms of speech.

5. Adventure. I know many people don't read fantasy; I know many don't care for so-called other worlds and quests. Please bear in mind that Dungeons and Dragons came after The Lord of the Rings. Everything about the movies, the role playing, the costumes and so on was inspired by the books, but do not even scratch the surface of the meaning and depth of character that are in the written words. And adventure? Oh yes, emotional and in real time!

6. The books are applicable to every situation - not allegorical, of course, as that's not what Tolkien set out to do, but they relate to nearly any theme you can think of, whether that's relationships, loss, standing up for yourself, sacrifice, homecoming, ambition, etc.

7. All the poetry! Comic songs, ballads, sad refrains... the books are chock full of 'em and are mere teasers to Tolkien's canon.

8. England! Wales! Now, granted, this has more meaning if you're an Anglophile (or, I should say, UK-o-phile) like myself, but for those of you that are (are you, Tahereh?), well, it doesn't get any better than this.

9. Men. Wait a minute! Before you all jump on me, there are women - strong women - in the books. That's not what I meant and I don't wish to have that argument here. But, at the risk of starting a different argument, one of the many reasons I reread The Lord of the Rings every year is to read about real men. The kind that go out and get the job done, that are afraid but do it anyway, that don't whine or moan or primp and cream or... Well, you get the idea. Men with cojones. No metrosexuals allowed [g].

10. Beauty. Not to say that darkness and dread don't exist in Middle Earth, but there is much in the scenery and population that is beautiful and it's pleasant to have Tolkien's words on that beauty echo in your mind long after you've finished reading.

Thanks to Tahereh for leading me to reflect on Tolkien this morning!

And PS - Don't forget to enter my 100 Followers Thank You Contest!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Some Early Resolutions - Thank You Contest Still Ongoing

Not much left to the year, is there?

Perhaps it's time for some resolutions - writing related ones, of course!

Let's see if I can break this down month by month for Out of the Water:

January - a relaxed month for edits, but more research is needed

February - tying up loose ends; finding missing names, filling in square brackets, lots more research

March - ramped up edits; checking the themes, imagery, character arcs, and so on

April - possibly another houseparty on the forum! A good time to put the MS aside a little and let it breathe.

May - pick up Out of the Water again. Panic a little. Edit some more. Polish some more.

June - am I ready for betas? Or shall I really put the book aside? Maybe, gasp, start work on the three or four other ideas swilling about in my brain?

July - time to decide. Betas or bust!

August - possible feedback from betas. Good or bad, it'll mean more edits and rewrites, no doubt.

...and I think I'll stop there. Doesn't do to think too far ahead, for things inevitably don't pan out quite the way you'd expect. I can't wait to be able to say, yes this book is ready for sharing with others!

Read more of Kait Nolan's Forsaken by Shadow, here.

Don't forget my 100 followers thank you contest! Sign up here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Thank You Contest for Followers!

December is shaping up to be a month of conclusions. I'm this close *pinches thumb and forefinger* to finishing Out of the Water (before I start the final round of edits) and I'm only 11 followers away from 100.

Thank you to all of you that have followed me since... looks back... 2007, when I'd started my YA, The Face of A Lion. Two complete novels and a short story later, here we are. And that's just me - all the novels and query letters and stories you've all written... NaNo or no, between us all we must have close to a billion words by now.

Jessica's hosting a roundup of what everyone's up to this month and I thought it was high time I held a contest for everyone, just to say thank you!

It's very simple - because I know we're all busy. Just leave a comment on this post, and as soon as I hit 100 followers, I'll hold a random draw (yes, Frodo will likely be roped in again for drawing duty) for a prize of your choice:

10$ at or
10$ for your PayPal account
Mystery Book Bag with three books!

And now, a gratuitous montage of the images that have been filling my head lately:

Thursday, 9 December 2010

For Your Reading Pleasure - A Snip!

Rosa dictated a few scenes to me this morning; I woke up thinking I knew exactly which scene I wanted to explore (The Ending Scene. The Last One.) but she - and her husband and father - had other ideas. I also figured out where Arcturus went when he disappeared inside the Imperial Palace.

But I digress. I can't share any of those scenes as they're freshly handwritten but, inspired by Al who has a new snip on his blog, here's a piece from Out of the Water where Santiago tells Rosa how he met her mother, near London, c. 1472:

"The first thing I did was befriend her father. He was as interested in me as I was in him. I spoke enough English, at least, for the two of us to ask each other questions about our homelands and the ships that came in and out of the ports every day. He had a longing in his face, I remember, listening to my adventures, of storms and tides, of new towns...
"I'm not ashamed to say I played on his feelings. I added what romance I could to my stories, I embellished every detail. By the third night, I was invited round to his house with a few other men. Magdalena - your mother - had retired, of course. We sat in the dim kitchen, drinking ever more ale, our voices rising as our tales grew wilder.
"I spent my days wandering the streets about her neighbourhood, a place called [Blackwall], hoping for a glimpse of her. When night fell, I was desperate. We gathered again at the Three Sailors' Inn, a large crowd; over 20 men, all strangers. None of my shipmates joined me on these excursions; they frequented - well, needless to say, I did not go round with them of a night.
"My only chance would be to leave the inn early. Shall I tell you how I managed that?"
"Yes. I want to know everything."
"I'm not proud of what I did... All right. I promised you the truth. We were at the inn; it was crowded, noisy, reeking of men. A crowd of fishermen came in. They'd been at the market the entire day; they were sweaty and hungry, dying for an ale. I couldn't even wait until they'd finished their pies. I looked them over, chose the loudest, largest man, yelled out that he'd spilled my drink, and [decked] him."
"You did what?" She leaned back and glared, but he only smiled, squeezing her shoulder with one hand.
"I was young, Rosa. Not much older than yourself now. I was on the way to being [drunk], in a strange town, surrounded by foreigners." He sighed and continued. "The entire room erupted. Tables overturned, bodies flying, curses, punches, fists everywhere. I ducked and dodged and managed to make my way to the door. But the men followed, pouring out of the room, the innkeeper himself joining the fray. We tumbled all about the stableyard, and then a constable appeared. Half the men pointed at me as the instigator, and what did I do? I ran."
"You left them?"
"Yes, I did. I ran all the way to Magdalena's, stopping only to straighten my clothes and hair. Her mother recalled my face from the night before. She permitted me to enter, to wait for her husband. They assumed I had come directly from my ship; I did not disabuse them of the notion. They sat, knitting, in the parlour, while I did my best to hide my bruised knuckles and charm them.
"Her mother - yes, your grandmother - would not retire and leave us alone, of course. I cast looks at Magdalena - they pronounced her name Mawdlen - I contrived to touch her fingers when she showed me what she was knitting."
"But -"
"Yes, her father came home - too soon for my liking. And that's when he realised..."

For Diana Gabaldon's most recent discussion of story telling, in which she answers - again - the question of why Jamie had to suffer everything he did at Wentworth, go here.

And just in time for my nearing The End, Claire - who's also pushing her way towards the end of her second draft - brings you The Eight Stages of Writing An Ending.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Ten for Tuesday: Introduce Your Characters

Here we have over 10 centimetres of snow and the blizzard isn't over yet!

It's the perfect weather to stay indoors, wrap up in a blanket, have some cocoa... and think about your novel. More specifically, think about the story, and the characters (not the other kinds of thoughts, the when-am-I-going-to-find-an-agent and let's-see-what-Tahereh-has-to-say-today procrastinatory thoughts. She has a new website, by the way).

Here are ten of my characters from Out of the Water, a historical romance that takes place in 1492-93 (credits for the photographs are here, along with a discussion on anachronisms):

Rosa Magdalena: The heroine; bold, daring, outspoken yet demure. She leaves Spain with her family, becomes separated from them by misadventure, and then learns the truth of her parentage. Captured by the Inquisition, she manages to escape, only to run straight into the arms of another man. Does she have a flaw? She's slightly head strong, and doesn't take advice very well.

Baha: The man who finds Rosa after her escape, and arranges a ship for her to Constantinople - helping rescue some of her other relatives along the way. Unfailingly charming with everyone, with a strict code of conduct; if he has a flaw it's his strong sense of individualism, which sets him at odds with nearly everyone he meets.

Brother Arcturus: The Cistercian monk who befriends Rosa after she's separated from her family, and leads her to the town of Palos, then continues to journey with her as her guardian, all the way to Constantinople. Arcturus is impulsive and generous, yet struggles to align his wishes with the actions that are expected of him.

Santiago: A close friend of Rosa's family, who confesses - on the day of his departure with Admiral Columbus - that he's actually her father. Santiago is adventurous and kind; his one flaw is his tendency to run from a problem rather than stay and work it out. This is the first time I'm posting a photograph of Santiago, and I'm not 100 per cent certain that this is him; the expression comes close, but the hair is too tame. Anyone recognize who it really is?

Salvatore, Estrela, Rafael and Jacob: Rosa's parents and two brothers, whom she's attempting to reunite with in Constantinople, even after she's found out the truth about her parentage. When she confronts them with her knowledge, however, she is forced to leave their house. Where does she turn? Why, to Baha of course.

Eight out of ten isn't so bad; I do have others, but they're definitely not main characters. When NaNoWriMo started, I made a list of all the scenes I still had to write; now that we're a week past, I've got all of those scenes written (!), yet a few still loom (sigh), so let's round off the list with those:

further details on Santiago's voyage with Columbus, when he returns and proper descriptions of first impressions of Constantinople

the action packed ending, which sees Rosa and Baha at odds with everyone else as they try to rescue her father - and Arcturus - from the Ottoman palace...

If you're reading this, consider this a meme and yourself tagged! I'd love to read about everyone else's characters.

Also, congratulations to Solvang and TerryLynn for winning my Middle Grade giveaway! Please email me your addresses.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A Ramble

My thoughts seem to be everywhere today and this blog post will probably be a reflection of that. Actually, what better way to sort it all out than to write a list?

1. Congratulations to Talli! Here's her run down of the blog splash for her amazing debut novel The Hating Game.

2. Agatha Christie answers the question, where do you get your ideas from?

3. Over on the forum we're discussing why we like or dislike certain characters in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and holding a wrap up of what we all learned from NaNo - including snips.
Here's a teeny one that I shared:

"I will not be beholden to my father. I'm not sure what [style of living] you are accustomed to –" He glanced at her over his shoulder, mouth quirking in a smile. "You never complain, my love, or ask for anything."
He paced across the room and indicated the trunk with an open palm. "This is nearly empty; it came with the house. As did the bedding, the few candles, the single pot. This sort of bareness... it's all very well on board ship but, Allah willing, I will provide for you better than that."
"But I don’t want –"
"You should!"
She shrank against the wall, and the back of her head smacked the windowsill. She rubbed at it, staring at him.
His eyes blazed, but his voice grew calm again. "You should want the moon, Peri, for I would catch it on a string for you." He sat down beside her once more, pushed her hand aside, and kneaded the spot where a bruise was forming. "In order to do that, I have to work. Would you mind being married to a Celebi?"
"What is that?"

4. Read more of Kait Nolan's Forsaken by Shadow, here.

5. The Victoria and Albert Museum needs your help! They're trying to raise funds to conserve the original manuscripts of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, and his unfinished last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. According to The Guardian, "The V&A now hopes to restore the priceless originals – which are still legible although blotched and underscored – in time for international celebrations of the bicentenary of Dickens's birth in 2012... Just like the self-sacrificing Sydney Carton, who is giving the closing lines of the novel as he steps up to the guillotine in place of another man, donors to the V&A conservation cause may perhaps feel: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done."" Make your donation here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Congratulations to Talli!

Congratulations Talli!

If you missed her blogsplash yesterday, you can of course still get a copy of The Hating Game, in the United Kingdom or North America. She came in at Number 24 on the Amazon UK listings and 460 on the Amazon US listings - way to go Talli!

In other book news Hélène Boudreau is having a super easy contest and giving away copies of her latest Middle Grade Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings. I've been laughing out loud as I read this book - don't miss your chance to win a copy!

Or, if you prefer to give, why not give to Heifer International? If you donate through the link on Worldbuilders, they'll match 50 per cent of your donation until 13 December. And you know what? You can win stuff through there too - including signed books from Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Sam Sykes (through whom I found out about this) and many other authors. There are lots and lots of other prizes to be won, as well.

Now then. Who doesn't need a good laugh and a post-NaNo breather? Hop over to Tahereh's and take a look at 7 Steps to Success With Your NaNoWriMo Novel. Look at Carleton dance!

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