Wednesday, 29 June 2011

30 Day Song Challenge and Houseparty Hijinks

One month can go by really really quickly when you're doing one of those 30 day challenges. It's also been a long time since I actually knew the date each day, without having to hem and haw before coming up with the answer.

Very busy over at the Mall at the End of Time writers' houseparty - where we've knocked five lives from a Ginger Tom, had some interludes in the kinky shop and at the edge of the planet under the stars, met and detonated a little bomb family, healed broken legs and more in a Japanese garden, and so on - so here's a rundown off Facebook of...

The 30 Day Song Challenge

Day 1 - Your favourite song
One song? How does anyone pick one song? Let's ignore the regular stuff altogether and go with Bilbo's Bath Song by J R R Tolkien: "Sing hey! for the bath at close of day / that washes the weary mud away!... A loon is he that will not sing: / O! Water Hot is a noble thing!"

Day 2 - Your least favourite song
Least favourite? Or hated? In the whole world? One song? Meatloaf. Any of his songs. Especially the ones that go on for 11 hours or more. No, I'm not posting a link.

Day 3 - A song that makes you happy
Lilly by Pink Martini. Actually, most of the songs off their second album. Pineapple Head by Crowded House. The Hollies are fun too. And The Bluetones' Time and Again: "If I found a brand new colour / something no one had ever seen / dug it up right there in the garden..."

Day 4 - A song that makes you sad
A lot of Johnny Cash's songs. Dağlar Dağlar by Barış Manço or Gülümse by Sezen Aksu. And many of the songs on the last Blue Rodeo album, especially Venus Rising. I'll link to my general Blue Rodeo playlist, just for fun.

Day 5 - A song that reminds you of someone
I first saw Mes Aieux with my friend Deniz (yes, same name!), during the Montréal Jazz Festival. Here's Degenerations.

Day 6 - A song that reminds you of somewhere
The radio station Radyo Eksen reminds me of living in Istanbul. But there's also The Small Faces' Tin Soldier, which I heard for the first time on a Turkish radio station.

Day 7 - A song that reminds you of a certain event
George Formby reminds me of our first visit to Holmfirth. And all the songs from Rubber Soul or Revolver remind me of the 1998 Ice Storm.

Day 8 - A song you know all the words to
The first I ever deliberately memorised were Roxette's Fading Like A Flower, and all of U2's Achtung Baby and Bryan Adams' Waking Up the Neighbours (on cassette!). I know the lyrics to most songs I like. There's always The Clash: The Magnificent Seven, London Calling or White Man in Hammersmith Palais.

Day 9 - A song that you can dance to
That I can dance to or that makes me feel like dancing? Going Downhill Fast or A Drinking Song by The Divine Comedy. Or Just When You're Thinking Things Over by The Charlatans.

Day 10 - A song that makes you fall asleep
Johannes Brahms' Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, Gute Nacht, Op. 49, No. 4
("that's Brahms! Brahms' third racket!")

Day 11 - A song from your favourite band
Can't choose just one. Here's my playlist for The Divine Comedy's A Short Album About Love.

Day 12 - A song from a band you hate
Er, why would I put up anything from a band I hate? All you have to do is turn on a Top40 radio station. Blech! Okay, seriously. I'm not going to post it, but I hate that Girl I Want to Make You Sweat song about rape. (After I posted this on Facebook, I learned that maybe that's not quite the intention of the song, and that others, including UB40, have covered it!)

Day 13 - A song that is a guilty pleasure
Well, guilty maybe cos so many people don't seem to like 'em. But I love Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. I won't subject you to Heart of Kentucky or If Fingers Were Xylophones or Llad Eich Gwraig, so here's a song called Stood on Gold.

Day 14 - A song that no one would expect you to love
Something by Tool, perhaps? Does anyone remember the song about the carrots? Also, anything by Gyllene Tider and The Carter Family. But I'm going to go with something Canadian here: The Age of Electric's I Don't Mind. Watch out for the Bolan reference!

Day 15 - A song that describes you
I don't know, you tell me!
I'm going with Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark at the moment, only for the line "sick of sitting around here trying to write this book". Though I quite enjoyed writing this book, actually. It's the editing that never ends...

Day 16 - A song that you used to love but now hate
I don't really do that. How about a song I used to love but now wonder how I could have mustered all that emotion toward. Most Def Leppard songs fall into this category, as does Don't Cry by Guns 'n' Roses. Though I still love all of Appetite for Destruction, and Patience.

Day 17 - A song that you hear often on the radio
I grew up with CHOM97.7, so 70s rock sounds welcome and familiar (Journey, anyone?); they've got all the Heart, Honeymoon Suite, Cars, Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, etc. you could wish for. When they get the Led out, it's usually the same songs, but you might get lucky: No Quarter, Battle of Evermore, or When the Levee Breaks.

Day 18 - A song that you wish you heard on the radio
Ha! None of the bands I like get radio play (except in the UK). When was the last time anyone played The Cure? What about Die Toten Hosen? Duman? Jean Leloup? Jacques Brel? Anyway, here's Sali Mali by Super Furry Animals.

Day 19 - A song from your favourite album
Hard to choose. There's the first Stone Temple Pilots album, every Arctic Monkeys album, various punk compilations, the first two Pearl Jam albums, Pulp's Different Class and We Love Life, both Marion albums... All the albums mentioned throughout this challenge. Here's Nutshell from Alice in Chains's Jar of Flies.

Day 20 - A song that you listen to when you're angry
The whole of the Manic Street Preachers' The Holy Bible. Here's The Intense Humming of Evil. But it's not like I ever really get angry...

Day 21 - A song that you listen to when you're happy
Any of The Divine Comedy's first five albums. Or my Runrig playlist.

Day 22 - A song that you listen to when you're sad
Albums! The Divine Comedy's first 5; MSP's The Holy Bible; Gene's Drawn to the Deep End; Tom Petty's Wildflowers. Cousteau are *very* depressing. Magnetic Fields aren't far off, but I love Get Lost. And there's Crowded House's Afterglow, featuring Lester. Don't listen if you have a dearly loved pet.

Day 23 - A song that you want to play at your wedding
Already had that - Harvest Moon by Neil Young and Scheherazade from Rimsky-Korsakov (which reminds me of Tolkien's The Lay of Leithian, about Beren and Lúthien).

Day 24 - A song that you want to play at your funeral
I don't know that I actually want these played at my funeral but I do love the hymns I Vow To Thee My Country; Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven; Jerusalem; and... Solus na Madainn by Runrig might be nice, too. But here's The Smiths' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Day 25 - A song that makes you laugh
Hmm. There's always George Formby, with his cheeky lyrics. The Smiths' Frankly Mr Shankly or Roxette's How Do You Do. Or Murry the Hump's The Green Green Grass of Home (yes, that grass), which they don't have on YouTube! You'll have to settle for Booze & Cigarettes.

Day 26 - A song that you can play on an instrument
There's no such thing. Though not entirely true; a friend wrote a song ages ago that I could pick out on piano (G, A, C, A, C, A C C, A D C, D D D D, E D). I also, once, painstakingly taught my tone deaf self to play the intro to The Stone Roses' Sally Cinnamon.

Day 27 - A song that you wish you could play
Any song - I'm tone deaf. I'd love to sing Jerusalem. And it'd be fun to sing The Jam when in the UK; Strange Town or Down in a Tube Station at Midnight or That's Entertainment. Even more fun to join others and belt out Spirit of the West's Home for a Rest. Here's a link to my blogpost featuring Vince Ditrich of Spirit of the West's favourite YA books!

Day 28 - A song that makes you feel guilty
Guilty about what? Guilty for listening to it? Okay, I've got one. The Spice Girls' Viva Forever. Though I haven't actually listened to it in about five years.

Day 29 - A song from your childhood
Sesame Street's Pinball Number Count. Also Rebel L, and The Muppets' Mahnamahna. There's also Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire, and Paul Simon's Graceland album. Oh, and Bad, which was the first U2 song I ever heard.

Day 30 - A Your favourite song at this time last year
Well, really, I wasn't all that different last year. How about nine years ago this time (give or take a few weeks), when I heard Idlewild for the first time. Hmm, which song to post... You Held the World in Your Arms is a good one. So's These Wooden Ideas. Here's American English.

Songs and artists I couldn't get around to mentioning: Clapton's Old Love, Alan Jackson, Deanna Durbin, Vera Lynn, Guster, Roy Acuff and Crowded House's Distant Sun.

Whew! What would be on your list?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Mall At The End Of Time and Poetry

Day Three of the Houseparty!

Pay a visit to the Mall at the End of Time, created by Ron Wodaski, where there's a cragon running around - along with rats-that-aren't-rats, time travellers, veterans of three different wars, a couple of cats-that-aren't-cats and a scruffy kitten named Snack - in between shops like Rake's Art Gallery ("Art for Evil's sake is the motto here. Would you like to crawl into a painting and wreak havoc? We also have a selection of come-alive sculptures (just rub the appropriate part), as well as enchanted lamps and a wide variety of cursed items suitable for instigating chaos on a moment's notice. A great place for evildoers and criminals to find that extra-special treat") and Psychic Solutions, Inc. ("The neighborhood computer store of the 21st century has evolved to suit the needs of the End of Time traveler. Did your ego get busted during a teleport? Are you feeling depressed about the end of everything? Need someone to pump up your virtual tires? Whether your id is stuck or your super-ego needs a boost, we have everything psychic. Bring in your old minds for a trade-in").

Part 53456322 of why I love English: "Said my get-up-and-go must have got up and went" (Sweet Emotion, Aerosmith). In what other language could you have such a mixed up sentence that nevertheless works perfectly as a song lyric?

Reason 76498953 for why I wish I lived in the UK: "To mark 100 years since Tolkien left the school they both attended, Tom Shippey, Professor Emeritus of English, St. Louis University, will be delivering a general lecture entitled: Tolkien: the Books, the Films, the Phenomenon. The lecture is on Tuesday 5th July 2011 at 6 pm in Big School (the main hall), King Edward's School, Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham. Admission is free."

I've finished reading Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled (it's great fun reading a book that makes me want to say yes, that's it! to every well worded opinion), which dovetailed nicely into this month's literary resolution. Apart from Fry's exposition and essays, quite a few poems are featured in their entirety in the book, some of which were new to me. I couldn't be bothered typing all the titles into my Books I'm Reading and Finished Books list; it was easier to scribble the list on paper:

Grocery List of Great Poetry

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Round Up of A Round of Words in 80 Days

Uh oh. I haven't quite been keeping track of my daily progress on editing Out of the Water. The only thing I can tell is that compared to 80 days ago, I've actually got less square brackets. They're actually down to a finite number - all highlighted in purple.

Some statistics:

Total pages: 180

Current word count: 140,380 (way too high for a historical romance, apparently)

First 60 pages: CLEAN. No highlights, no brackets, no question marks! Even passed out to a couple of readers!

First 120 pages: relatively clean. Just a few more linking scenes needed.

Last 60 pages: a MESS. Total rewrite necessary.

Additional: c. 150 words looked up in the OED Online so far. So many anachronistic words I can't use...

Something I was thinking about yesterday: This year is the 560th or so anniversary of Gutenberg's printing press. I still haven't succumbed to e-books; I print everything.
There was a guest post recently on Nathan Bransford's blog, exploring the relation between memory, learning and books. I don't want to decry new technology, because I think my fear - that people are getting dumber and that stupidity is becoming more accepted - has been around for hundreds of years.
O tempora, o mores! And yet - it's exciting being around in a time of flux, when all the rules are changing.

Next round of A Round of Words in 80 Days starts on 4 July! And I've got my first assignment for Barbara Rogan's Revising Fiction Workshop to do before then. Details coming soon!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Liz Fichera's Craving Perfect, Houseparty and I've Got A Tumblr Page

Tumblr. I caved, I got a page. Still not completely sure how to do what I'd like to do - how do I link my blog to it? How do I find images and videos I'd like to share without losing hours out of my life? How do I keep it writing-related and not filled with cats and Tolkien's art? That's where the background came from; this drawing from 1915:

Read Liz Fichera's upcoming release, Craving Perfect last week! Take a peek at the trailer.

"Grace Mills craves being perfect almost as much as she craves raspberry scones. In fact, her life would be perfect if only she could lose ten more pounds, if only the pastry café she co-owns with her sister would turn a profit, if only the hottest guy at the gym would look her way...

And then "if only" comes true. Grace is suddenly straddling two lives: an alternate reality where she's a size two, weathergirl celebrity and being chased by the hot guy. Only Mr. Gorgeous isn't very nice, and she doesn't get to eat...anything, much less bake!

In her other life, she's starting to realize her sister is less than happy running the family café, and hunky Carlos, the gym's janitor, seems to have a secret crush on her. Maybe there's more to him than meets the eye...

Grace is living two lives and it's beginning to cost her. Is there a way to pick one...that's perfect?"

Grace Mills craves being perfect, but I like her fine just the way she is. I don't think I've read a chick lit since I read Talli Roland's wonderful The Hating Game, and it was very exciting to jump back into the genre with Craving Perfect, a sweet tale of love and difficult choices. Of course, I was rooting for Grace and Carlos right from their first date, but the story keeps you guessing what will happen right to the end. Grace has to survive a lot before she learns what's best for her, and a few times I was actually biting my finger, worried about what would happen and whether she'd manage to pull herself out of the tricky situations she'd landed in.

All the elements are there - romance, a dash of fantasy, recipes for yummy desserts, two believable characters the reader can easily relate to... Pre-order Craving Perfect here!

This review will be crossposted at a later date on the site where I have another new review, of Don't Quote Me by Charlie Kramer, up; The One Hundred Romances blog. If you're an author of romance, send us your books for review!

And if you're an author of anything, why not leap into our next houseparty? Yes, it's back! Here's a rundown for those of you that missed the last few:

What is a writers' houseparty? (A hilarious no-holds-barred writing event)

When was the last one? (Real time: October 2010; Party time: June 1493)

What good does it do? (Helps you get to know your characters, write in unexpected situations, have fun!)

Which other houseparties have I missed? What haven't you missed? Australian outback farm, 1914; Scottish ceilidh, 1691; Hallowe'en, 2007; The Doctor Is In therapy sessions, 2009; The Washing of the Lions, April 1675 (London, the court of Charles II); Armageddon and Skiing in New Zealand, 2009; London, during the Blitz; Cherry Hill, Georgia, 2008; and Constantinople, 1493. That last one was hosted by my Rosa!

I hear this one starts on Friday and is being held at the Mall at the End of Time. What is that?
So very excited to explore the world that Ron Wodaski's set up for our characters!

(And, a propos of nothing, here's another tumblr page, on images from children's books)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

ROW80 and A Snip from Out of the Water

A weekend of editing! Does it get any better than that? Well, unless you're drafting for a shiny new idea, of course.

I haven't posted a snip in a while (and I lost a follower, I think. I'm sorry, whoever you were!), so here's a wee peek at Out of the Water:

Brother Arcturus and Baha appeared together soon after, while the men were still out in the grounds, and led them further into the woods. Once they had left the fields and the river behind, and the calls and shouts of the fire fighters had receded, Arcturus and Baha lit torches and spaced themselves along the line. Rosa, finding her footing behind Arcturus with Tía Mira following in her steps, wished they had stayed in darkness. Torchlight was misleading, creating shadows, leading her to step high over obstacles that were not there, and not highlighting stray rocks and branches that littered the path.

After stubbing her toes for the tenth time, and stumbling backward into her aunt, Rosa waited for the group to pass, Baha carrying the final torch. She held her aunt back beside her with a whisper and the two of them resumed walking at the end of the line, feeling their way among the drifts of leaves. It was easier to keep their footing with the men marking a passage, and with both lights shining ahead of them. Baha glanced once over his shoulder at them and something warm that was not the heat of the fire or the torch flushed her cheeks.

Her shoulders bumped Tía Mira's every once in a while, but she did not try to prevent it, finding comfort in her aunt's closeness.

"She is my aunt!" She repeated fiercely in her mind, any time thoughts of Santiago's revelations threatened to intrude. Best to not think at all, but keep walking. Arcturus would lead them somewhere safe, where they could rest, and then she would have to answer all the questions they must be holding in, and to think and plan, for herself and for her family. Easier now to keep shuffling forward, filling her mind with idle fancies of laden tables and her soft bed, in the home and warmth that had been hers so many months ago.

But I was Rosa de Toledo then. Who am I now?

Three notes:

Found a great tumblr site thanks to Kate Kaynak: My Daguerreotype Boyfriend. I almost wish I had a story set in the 19th century so I could pretend one of these guys was my main character.

Since Julie tagged me in the meme from the other day, I'm linking to her page so you can check out her answers as well.

I've won a copy of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit by Susan Kaye Quinn! And I've finished reading Craving Perfect by Liz Fichera, which was great! Reviews coming soon...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fun for Friday Featuring Montreal, Glass Beaches, Inner Critics and Tolkien

Pottermore! I can't wait to find out what it is.

Onto Friday's Fun Five:

1. Did you know that we have a piece of the Berlin Wall here in Montreal?

2. A couple of weeks ago I went to the McGill University library exhibit on nursery rhymes, fairy tales and fables.

Andrew Lang!

An historical description of the cat appended to an edition of Cinderella:

3. Susan at All The World's Our Page has written a beautiful metaphor on glass beaches and writers. It made me feel like grabbing pen and paper and letting words wash over me in ceaseless waves. I love language!

4. The other day, Zan Marie had tea with her inner critic, and recorded their conversation. Watch out for the reference to Old Wilmington's Lord John Grey! I'm having a cup right now.

5. I've been a Tolkien fan for so very long that I thought I'd seen it all, whether his writing or art, photos or videos of interviews, what-have-you.

Then, suddenly, thanks to Glynis Smy, who linked to the British Library Archival Sound Recordings, I started exploring the site and found a host of fun stuff, including an interview with a World War I veteran, interviews with pre-World War II farmers (on haymaking, dry stone walls and marking sheep, and a year in a sheep farmer's life, from shearing and dipping to mating and lambing) and two conversations with Tolkien!

They're not actual conversations, though, but scripted pieces for a Linguaphone series on English Conversation. Tolkien is featured in Part 20: At the Tobacconist's, and Part 30: Wireless. Replace the word "wireless" with "iPad" as you listen to the latter, and it sounds remarkably modern.

Here's The Professor himself...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Kait Nolan's Blindsight, ROW80 and Free for All Awards!

Wham! A teaser!

Actually, it's a short story by Kait Nolan called Blindsight.

"Isla's ability as a Seer has made her a life-long captive of a paranormal crime lord. Fae assassin, Ransom, offers her a chance at escape, but when she touches his hand she sees only blood, horror, apocalypse. What reason can Ransom have for wanting to rescue her, and can she possibly trust a man who deals in death?"

Not only is Blindsight a riveting tale with just the right touch of romance (love it when the sensuality hits the perfect note) but it's a great introduction to her Mirus world, if you haven't read any of her other stories yet. And if you have... You'll just have to wait for autumn for the next full-length installment. Blindsight is available here.

On the ROW80 front, I've found a failsafe method of dealing with square brackets - delete the sentence! I used to cringe at all the yellow-highlighted square brackets on a page. Oh no, more research, word choices and phrase juggling!

Now, when I see something like, "Rosa walked up the [deck] with a hand on the [rail] and passed the [forecastle]...", I don't even flinch. I hit delete!

Who needs all that stress? The new sentence reads: "Rosa moved up the ship with a hand on the rail and rounded the corner. There was a space there, with a bench jutting out..."

Next pass around, it'll be even smoother.

I hope.

Thanks to Nadja for the yummy Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award!

1. Link to the person who sent it to you. Thank you Nadja!

2. List seven random facts about yourself:

I play FarmVille. There, I've finally admitted it. It's been four months since I started. I'm a little soured by the fact that it's not very realistic - I've got elephants, chinchillas and something called a poncho llama on my farm, besides reindeer. And the regular farm animals.

I've been in a book club for the same length of time! Right now we're reading The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

Pasta two nights in a row for dinner... with herbs from the balconey pots.

I'm trying to cut back on coffee. *cries* I love coffee!

I rarely blog in advance. I wonder if I could take a day to write enough posts for a month, and then relax all month?

Love LEGO.

My cat has a heart on his head.

3) Pass the award on to other awesome blog buddies.

I was going to be a little lazy and say, anyone coming by can have it, but I was so happy to receive this lovely award that I'm going to pass it on... to everyone who commented on my last post. Thanks awesomesauce blog buddies!


Zan Marie









Sunday, 12 June 2011

Short and Sweet ROW80 Check In


That was the sound of me flying by. I've been eradicating square brackets all day, which involves, at times, Googling such random things as "ledger vs journal vs ship's log", "Spanish medieval units of length", "canonical hours", "indolent vs impudent", "mithridate" and so on.

Please to say I only got distracted twice, once to join the latest thread on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community about possible titles for Diana Gabaldon's next book in the Outlander series (octopi, anyone?), and now to distill what I did today into a check in for A Round of Words in 80 Days.

It occurs to me that I've been assuming in the last few check ins that everyone coming by knows what ROW80 is, but there may be many of you that don't, so here's a brief recap:

"A challenge that happens 4 times a year with a break between sessions. [Round 2 started April 4 and Round 3 starts in two weeks.]

You have 80 days for your Round of Words.

Your goal can be anything you like as long as it is MEASURABLE.

If you're already in the middle of a WIP, that's fine. Tailor your goal to suit that. You may even want to set mini goals (I want to finish the last 40k of this novel. Then I want to spend the last 20 days revising it at x pages a day). There are a lot of elements to writing a book other than the writing itself. Plotting. Outlining. Character Interviews. Whatever. Set your goal to match wherever you are right now on your WIP. If you want to use your Round for editing a novel, that's fine too. Just know that this is, at heart, a writing challenge, so all the weekly inspirational posts will be geared in that direction."

There you have it! So, as part of my goal to finish editing Out of the Water, I've spent all of today (and a couple of hours each day last week) moving scenes around, making the story tighter (I hope), removing square brackets and rewriting the ending.

Hope everyone else is doing well!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Second Summer in the City Blogfest and Literary Resolutions

We're past the first week of June, so time to revisit the Literary Challenges 2011! I found out about this through Theresa Milstein. Last month was all about rereading my old work, and this month is:

Get an anthology of poetry and read the same poem twice every day—once in the morning, and once at night. Does coming back to it in the evening change it? Take June to think about language—what draws you in, what bores you?
I haven't been doing this quite as faithfully; I've been reading lots of poetry, as I've nearly completed Stephen Fry's The Ode Less Travelled, but only a few of them are poems I've read before. I hope it's helping my own writing to be immersed in the rhythmical flow of words that the best poetry swings into your mind. I love words.

Along the lines of goals, I missed the main date for Bess Weatherby's Second Summer in the City Blogfest, so I'll do it right now. My goals for the summer are...

1) Participate to my utmost in Barbara Rogan's Revising Fiction Workshop!

2) Edit Out of the Water so that it's ready for querying by autumn. Eep!

3) Read for pleasure! If you want to see what reading for pleasure looks like, visit From The House of Edward.

4) Take a vacation. Sunshine, sand, waves...

5) Cajole some guest bloggers. If you'd like to write a guest post, to appear in August, please let me know!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Lilian Jackson Braun

Qwilleran, Merlin James. Kao K'o Kung (Koko). Yum Yum.

I was all set to do a post on my knitting blog about the latest Lilian Jackson Braun book I've finished - The Cat Who Saw Stars - since it features an older Scottish gentleman in full regalia piping at the head of a parade that includes Qwilleran's oldest friend knitting a sock with four needles on the Friends of Wool float; and this coming Saturday is World Wide Knit in Public Day. But.

Found out this afternoon that Ms. Braun passed away last Saturday, at the age of 97, two weeks shy of her 98th birthday (condolences may be sent to the family here).

What's that you say? Never read a Cat Who... book? Well, I hadn't either, until I started writing my middle grade a few years ago. Every time I told someone there was a talking cat in it, they asked me if I'd read the Cat Who... books. So I finally picked up a couple at a second-hand bookstore. Well, Koko and Yum Yum are nothing like my Kedi - obviously those people had never read the books. If they had, they'd have been recommending them to me on their merits alone.

The Cat Who... series is part mystery, part social commentary, part ode to cats, part tribute to small town Northern America. There's a little bit of everything, in fact, and Qwilleran himself, the main journalist-crime solver-author-man about town is just the sort of well-rounded character you'd hope to meet someday. He'd sure treat you to a nice dinner out, at least.

Ah, heck. I'm not doing the flavour of the books justice at all. Why don't you start at the beginning, with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards. Margot Kinberg had a post on The Cat Who Could Read Backwards a few months ago, which described it all a bit better. Also, Clarissa Draper included Lilian Jackson Braun in her list of 5 Most Influential American Woman Mystery Writers.

Here's the lady herself:

Ah yes, the knitting. But first, Christopher Smart, the 18th Century poet. Qwilleran quotes a few fragments in The Cat Who Saw Stars, on the subject of cats in general, and of Smart's cat Jeoffry, from Jubilate Agno:

"For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For the sound of a cat is in the most useful preposition κατ' ευχην.

For the pleasantry of a cat at pranks is in the language ten thousand times over.

For the purring of a Cat is his τρυζει."

If anyone knows what the Greek words are, please tell me!

As for knitting... I've gone back to work on a scallop-edged blanket, but I seem to have lost the pattern since I last worked on this project. That's okay; all my spare moments are taken up with editing. A Round of Words in 80 Days: The past few days I've been drafting like mad, finishing up scenes that were missing. For a fourth draft, I seem to have quite a lot of blanks remaining!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Tag! I'm it!

A meme! I was tagged by Medeia Sharif and l'Aussie Denise. Here goes:

1. Do you think you're hot? Never! I'm always freezing cold and asking whether we can't turn the heat up in the office.

2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment. Ooh, I love this one. It's a collage I made a while ago of all the images in my head as I write Out of the Water:

3. When was the last time you ate chicken meat? A couple of days ago. Why?

4. A song you listened to recently: Nightingale, by the Whisky Trench Riders (e-mail me if you'd like to buy the album!)

5. What were you thinking as you were doing this? Of eating and drinking. I'd really like a coffee.

6. Do you have nicknames? What are they? D, Deni, Den Den...

7. Tag eight bloggers:


Zan Marie







8. A few questions about your tagged friends...

Who's listed as number one?
Karen, who does a great job collecting and commenting on all things Outlander-related.

Say something about number 5.
Sara's writing a fascinating story, and her blog is always full of writerly tid bits!

How did you get to know number 3?
Why, the Forum of course! The Compuserve Books and Writers Community.

How about number 4?
Jill's just started blogging - met her through the Forum too. Hi Jill *waves*. She's been incredibly helpful the last little while as I plough through my edits.

Leave a message for number 6.
Hi Tara! Thank you for helping me remove that last gangplank and starting Rosa's story where it should be begun!

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number 2.
Thank you for all the inspiration, Zan Marie (Cherry Hill lives on!), and for that lovely poem you wrote last week. Bless you!

Do number 7 and number 8 have any similarities?
They're both writers, and I wish them both the best of success! They've also got very pretty and interesting blogs.

And hey what about number 9?
9? But you told me to tag 8! Let's tag Talli Roland, just for fun, since she's about to launch her newsletter - sign up if you haven't yet done so!

Speaking of Jill and Tara and gangplanks, I do believe I might be done with revising and re-editing the opening to Out of the Water. Now I've got to turn around and revamp the ending. All in preparation for Barbara Rogan's Revising Fiction Workshop, which starts in *gasp* 11 days.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Linda Gerber's The Finnish Line

Finland, Finland, Finland, it's the country where I want to be" (Monty Python).

I won a copy of Linda Gerber's The Finnish Line the other day and barrelled through it in one - very late - night.

"When Nordic ski jumper Maureen 'Mo' Clark sets off to study abroad in Finland, her goal is simple; to jump in the famous Lahti Ski Games and prove to her family and friends what she's made of. But simple turns complicated when her grades start to slip, her jumps don't measure up, and a good-looking gypsy-blood teammate offers his assistance—for a price. Amid the saunas and snow castles, the ice swimming and Northern lights, Mo discovers strength inside herself—her own Finnish sisu—that she never knew existed."
I'm always awed by authors that, even within one genre, can switch between all sorts of different points of view and settings. From the lush island in the first book of her Death By... series, to the regular city and mall setting of Trance, to the cold and snowy (what else? it's winter!) Finnish countryside in The Finnish Line, Gerber keeps the pace fast and fun.

There's a bit of modern history involved as well - as Gerber was writing the book, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) still barred women from the Nordic Ski Jumping competition at the Winter Games. If I'd known this while the games were on in Canada last year, I might have... well, I'd have done something! However, on 6 April 2011, the IOC voted to include women's ski jumping as an official event in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

And there's even a Tolkien reference! Guaranteed to get me excited. A mention of one of Tolkien's invented languages, Quenya, which is loosely based on Finnish, and of Väinämöinen, the main character from the Kalevala epic; Gandalf and the other wizards share many of his attributes. Hmm, I wonder if this blog gets visitors from Finland? Even a member of the Finnish Tolkien Society?

(As an aside, I stumbled upon the Scottish brogue version of the Väinämöinen Wikipedia page.)

There's only one Linda Gerber book I haven't read, Now and Zen, which takes place in Tokyo. It's going on my wishlist right now!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A Recipe, An Interview, A Book Review and A Check In

Link happy! (Someday I might have time to go through all the drop caps I've used and tally which letter I use the most, which one I use the least, and which designs I've missed using. But I digress.)

I've got a yummy recipe coming up on Pots and Plots.

I've been interviewed as part of J. C. Martin's Writer Wednesday Feature!

My review of The Kraken's Mirror by Maureen O. Betita is up on the One Hundred Romances Project. By the way, if you'd like to become a reviewer, send an email to J. M. Kelley at

As for Out of the Water - third round of edits is done! I printed the colour coded version yesterday... blue for n dashes, green for ellipses (since I use too many of both), pink for all the missing scene links and yellow for square brackets enclosing research-requiring bits. There's a rainbow of work to be done!

I can't believe how many scenes are still missing. And I'm at 148,000 words - need to cull at least 20,000 from that.

Wish me luck!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • 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 Fellowship of the Ring: J.R.R. Tolkien, Catholicism and the Use of Allegory by David Lord Alton (essay)
  • The Oxen by Thomas Hardy
  • The Casuarina Tree by Somerset Maugham
  • The Rose and the Yew Tree by Agatha Christie (Mary Westmacott)
  • The Wedding Night by Ida Craddock
  • No Safe House by Linwood Barclay
  • The Cybil War by Betsy Byars
  • No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
  • SOS by Agatha Christie (short story)
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
  • Lyrebird by Cecilia Ahern
  • The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh
  • 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
  • The Story Toolkit: Your Step-by-Step Guide To Stories That Sell by Susan Bischoff
  • The Devil and Miss Jones by Kate Walker
  • SIWC contest winner (short story)
  • Wish I Might by Kait Nolan
  • Bells by Edgar Allan Poe (poem)
  • The Skye Boat Song
  • Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Long Run by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • secret beta read! (JM)
  • If I Didn't Care by Kait Nolan
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (annual reread)
  • Wedding Days: Letters from Ethiopia, India, and the South Pacific by Monica Byrne
  • Strange Street by Ann Powell (reread)
  • The Hangman by Louise Penny (short story; reread)
  • A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (reread)
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (reread)
  • A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny (reread)
  • Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Murder Stone by Louise Penny (reread)
  • The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny (reread)
  • Dead Cold by Louise Penny (reread)
  • Still Life by Louise Penny (reread)
  • A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
  • Mrs McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Still Into You by Roni Loren
  • Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Remember Me (beta read of short story)
  • Palace Pets busy book
  • Smurfs busy book
  • The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • The Murder Game by Julie Apple
  • To Get Me To You by Kait Nolan
  • Know Me Well by Kait Nolan
  • Smurfs storybook in playmat/figurine collection
  • The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • A Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • Robert Munsch Mini-Treasury One: The Paper Bag Princess, Angela's Airplane, 50 Below Zero, A Promise Is A Promise, and Pigs (reread first two)
  • On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread except for all the expanded edition bits)
  • Elephant and Piggie - Elephants Can't Dance by Mo Willems
  • Elephant and Piggie - Let's Go For A Drive by Mo Willems
  • Elephant and Piggie - There is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems
  • Overdose of Death/The Patriotic Murders by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Once Upon A Coffee by Kait Nolan
  • Turn My World Around by Kait Nolan
  • Hickory Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • "I Give You My Body...": How I Write Sex Scenes by Diana Gabaldon
  • Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
  • The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
  • Maigret Chez les Flamands by Georges Simenon
  • Prince Wild-fire by G. K. Chesterton
  • Birthday Girls by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer
  • The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany
  • No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien
  • BOSS: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - The Illustrated History, by Gillian G. Gaar
  • Age of Consent by Marti Leimbach
  • The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
  • Lethal Lies by Lara Lacombe
  • The Mansfield Rescue by Beth Cornelison (skimmed)
  • beta read!
  • Killer Exposure by Lara Lacombe
  • What Makes My Cat Purr (board book)
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (love this!)
  • Things That Go (board book)
  • Peppa Pig Visits the Hospital
  • Peppa Pig and Friends
  • Ox-Tales anthology
  • Colton Baby Homecoming by Lara Lacombe
  • Traumphysik by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • The Cookie Jar by Stephen King (short story)
  • short story by R. W. (unpublished)
  • The Rose on the Ash-Heap by Owen Barfield
  • English People by Owen Barfield
  • "Come Sing ye Light Fairy Things Tripping so Gay": Victorian Fairies and the Early Work of J.R.R. Tolkien by Dimitra Fimi (essay)
  • Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by J. K. Rowling
  • A Closed World: On By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Emily St John Mandel (essay)
  • Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  • The Summing Up by Somerset Maugham (reread)
  • The New Adventures of William Tell by Anthony Horowitz
  • Gambled Away anthology featuring Jo Bourne, Rose Lerner, etc.
  • The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres
  • The Bog Girl by Karen Russell (short story)
  • Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
  • The Favour by Clare O'Dea (short story)
  • Wizarding History by J. K. Rowling (short pieces on Pottermore)
  • Jack Palmer by Amanda Palmer (essay on
  • All Fixed Up by Linda Grimes
  • One Day I Will Write About This Place by Binyavanga Wainaina
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • various issues of Amon Hen
  • How do artists make a living? An ongoing, almost impossible quest by Monica Byrne (essay)
  • The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy (poem)
  • Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham
  • Kill Me Quick by Meja Mwangi
  • A Pocketful of Rye by Agatha Christie
  • Little Miss Twins by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Mr Rush by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Mr Funny by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • The Mzungu Boy by Meja Mwangi
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • secret beta read!
  • Where the Exiles Wander: A Celebration of Horror by R. B.
  • How to Write about Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina (essay)
  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert Gertrude Bell (compiled by Georgina Howell)
  • Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome
  • Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • A River Town by Thomas Keneally
  • Free Fall by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron
  • New Europe by Michael Palin
  • Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
  • The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie (possibly a reread)
  • Husli the Dwarf
  • Winter Birds
  • Walkabout by James Vance Marshall (reread)
  • Wish I Might by Kait Nolan (novella)
  • A Walk in the Countryside A B C (National Trust and Nosy Crow Books)
  • My First Touch and Trace 1 2 3
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Weep Not, Child by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
  • A Secret Vice by J. R. R. Tolkien (edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins)
  • A Pocket For Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The Narrow Corner by Somerset Maugham
  • Cakes and Ale by Somerset Maugham
  • Le gout d'Istanbul (anthology) (skimmed)
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • Blue Nowruz by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
  • secret beta read!
  • The Road Home by Rose Tremain
  • The Mewlips by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • Just for This Moment by Kait Nolan
  • To Err is Human -- To Float, Divine by Woody Allen (short story)
  • the collected works of Beatrix Potter (Folio Society edition, over 30 books)
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman) (only half read)
  • At Home by Bill Bryson
  • Millions of Cats by W Gag
  • Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster
  • Discovering You by Brenda Novak
  • Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson
  • Report from the Interior by Paul Auster
  • Dream Days by Kenneth Grahame
  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (reread)
  • They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
  • The Creatures of Number 37 by John Watts
  • The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter (reread)
  • A Mother's Confession by Amanda Palmer (lyrics and liner notes)
  • Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean
  • Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, in A Tolkien Compass
  • Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay (poem)
  • For my Wife, Navid by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • An Evening in Tavrobel by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • The Lonely Isle by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem; reread)
  • Bilbo's Last Song by J. R. R. Tolkien (poem)
  • Ancrene Riwle, preface, by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley (poem)
  • Absence of Mind by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth - Book 12 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter (anthology; includes two poems by J. R. R. Tolkien and all of rumble rumble rumble rumble drum belaboured by C. S. Lewis, referred to in The Last Battle)
  • Black and White Ogre Country by Hilary Tolkien
  • The Devil's Coach Horses by J. R. R. Tolkien (essay)
  • Guido's Gondola by Renee Riva and Steve Bjorkman
  • Save Our Public Universities by Marilynne Robinson (essay in Harper's Magazine)
  • Edmund Campion by Evelyn Waugh
  • Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
  • Career by Yevtushenko (poem)
  • Human life in this century by Yevtushenko (poem)
  • Willow by Anna Akhmatova (poem)
  • Sonnet LXVI by Shakespeare
  • Sir Walter Raleigh to His Son (poem)
  • Fair Jenny by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • MacPherson's Farewell by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • World's End, the collected Sandman No. 8 by Neil Gaiman
  • O Wert Thou In The Cauld Blast by Robbie Burns (poem)
  • The War of the Jewels - Book 11 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • The Rolling English Road by G. K. Chesterton (poem)
  • The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  • A Tradition of Eighteen Hundred and Four by Thomas Hardy
  • The Hierophant by Lee-Ann Dalton (short story)
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
  • 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (reread)
  • Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland
  • Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
  • beta read!
  • Ode on Venice by Lord Byron (poem)
  • Little Miss Scatterbrain by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Little Miss Lucky by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Little Miss Trouble by Roger Hargreaves (reread)
  • Homage to Switzerland by Ernest Hemingway (short story; reread but I really don't remember it after 20 years)
  • The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier (reread)
  • Sing a Long Children's Songs
  • Emily's First Christmas
  • Up At the Villa by Somerset Maugham (novella)
  • Telling Stories by Tim Burgess
  • The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Marble Collector by Cecilia Ahern
  • Sophie's Throughway by Jules Smith
  • Baby Animals (Little Golden Books)
  • The House That Jack Built (Little Golden Books)
  • Scuffy the Tugboat (Little Golden Books)
  • The Saggy Baggy Elephant (Little Golden Books)
  • Morgoth's Ring - Book 10 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Who's A Pest by Crosby Bonsall
  • Mine's the Best by Crosby Bonsall (reread)
  • The Case of the Hungry Stranger by Crosby Bonsall (reread)
  • extracts from the diary of John Evelyn (Volume 1 of 2)
  • extracts from Lord Byron's letters about Villa Diodati
  • Pippin the Christmas Pig by Jean Little
  • Ite Missa Est by Anthony Martignetti
  • The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Red Angel by G. K. Chesterton (essay)
  • Emily's Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary
  • The Boy Who Set Out to Learn What Fear Was by the Brothers Grimm
  • The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (reread)
  • secret beta read!
  • Preludes by Wordsworth (extracts read aloud)
  • Little Miss Scatterbrain by Roger Hargreaves
  • Dance Me A Dream by Kait Nolan (ARC)
  • Once Upon A Coffee by Kait Nolan
  • England and Switzerland, 1802 by William Wordsworth (poem)
  • Once Upon A New Year's Eve by Kait Nolan
  • short story by Becky Morgan (
  • Blood In Blood Out by Brenda Novak (short story)
  • That Hell-Bound Train by Robert Bloch (short story)
  • Distraction by J. L. Campbell
  • Humble Bundle Peanuts collection (strips by Charles Schulz)
  • Peanuts Volumes I to VI (bought via Humble Bundle; very disappointing as it's mostly new strips -- how is that even allowed?!)
  • Sandals and Sangria by Talli Roland (short story)
  • Over the Hump by Talli Roland (short story)
  • issues of Journal of Inklings Studies and Amon Hen and Mallorn (Tolkien Society)
  • Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier
  • Babar and his Family by Laurent de Brunhoff
  • Illusions Lost by Byron A. Maddox (short story)
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • Lost My Name book for Emily (
  • Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne
  • When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • Neil Gaiman comics on Sequential app
  • Moranology by Caitlin Moran
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