Sunday, 30 October 2011

Fun Links, News and Atkinson-Laurie-Shakespeare

Followers! Nearly 300 followers!

Can you tell I'm blushing bright red? I'd like to thank each and every one of you.

And of course there will be prizes!

In other news, beta revisions are progressing nicely - and I've got a pile of handwritten pages for the new novel, and lots of ideas heading into NaNo!

Until then, I leave you with these links:

Word Wenches: eight historical authors who share a blog. Featuring a little history, a little wordplay and a lot of wit.

Jill Murray: YA author currently leading a workshop on crafting YA stories. And very generously sharing her workshop notes!

And, if it's been too long since you read something new about Jamie Fraser or Lord John, and you don't mind spoilers, come by the forum, where Sarah and Sheila celebrated their birthdays with an awesome big (a special form of begging designed to elicit a snip from Diana Gabaldon): a bigging cake! Who know how the next bigger will top that?

Finally, are you in the throes of editing? Perhaps being requested to make changes you're not sure you agree with? Why not bargain with the editor, as Shakespeare once did:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Haunting - Romantic Friday Writers' Blogfest

Ooooooo... All Hallow's Eve is coming... And, to celebrate, another blogfest:

"Romantic Friday Writers, a weekly on-going blogfest run by L'Aussie and Francine Howarth, has an open challenge to everyone to write a 400-word story or poem on the theme Haunting for Friday 28 October." If you'd like to participate, head over to the Romantic Friday Writers site.

Denise asked me to play, and the more I thought about Ayten and Devran, the quicker my resistance crumbled. So here she is from a scene early on in her novel, Verse, Venice and Viziers. She's waiting in a chapel of the church in her hometown; it's about an hour before her father's funeral begins. And we're in Devran's pov:

She had an elbow propped on a lectern, scribbling on a scrap of paper with the stub of a pencil. He coughed, to let her know he was there without startling her, but she jumped all the same, whirling round with a hand over her heart.

"Who were you expecting?" he asked.

She narrowed her eyes. "No one."

"I thought - the look on your face -"

"Who would seek me here? Except you, it would seem. Must you dog my every footstep?" She set down her pencil and curled the paper into a tight scroll.

"You of all people ought to know it's not safe to wander alone."

"I came with Rosa." She tucked the scroll into her sleeve and strode past into the church.

She hadn't changed her dress, he realised, but someone had lent her a black cloak to wear over all. Why hadn't he thought of it? But she never would have let him help.

Her firm footfalls resounded from column to column. Nothing hesitant about this girl. She'd decided he wasn't worth talking to, and would ignore him as if he'd never walked in.

But there had been fear in her face. He crossed himself, with a glance at the altar. I can't help it; I've got to follow her.

She sat in the first pew, her head bowed.

"Ayten. I apologise if I'm intruding." When she did not speak, he slipped in beside her. "I lost my mother two years ago. I know a little -"

"So do I." The snap had gone from her voice. "I was twelve when my mother died. Sometimes I can still hear her voice."

"Can you?"

"It grows more faint with each passing year." She fingered the scroll in her sleeve. "That's why I write to her."

"Do you now?" As gently as he could, he held a finger to her cheek and brushed aside a tear. "I'm sure she's reading over your shoulder. And now your father will, too."

I came in at 332 words. I might have kept going except that in the next line, Ayten and Devran are interrupted by others arriving at the church... It's funny - I keep sharing the moments where the two of them are connecting. Next time I might post an argument or two!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Final Installment of Rule of Three Blogfest Story, and a Whisper

Renaissance has been good to Ayten.

If you've been following along, we've been having a Rule of Three blogfest, posting a story each Wednesday exploring the relationship between three characters in the created town of Renaissance.

The setting is the same for all of us, but everything else - genre, characters, etc. - are our own. I've been writing a historical romance:

Scene One featured Prince Cem, avowing his love for Ayten.
Scene Two featured Ayten herself, and a narrow escape.
Scene Three featured Devran, holding his emotions in check as he offered Ayten a way out of her dilemma.

And now, without further ado, Ayten on board ship:

She took up the lap desk on Devran's trunk and brought it over to the bunk, unhooking the silver clasp and lifting the lid. Two quills, a bottle of ink, a sheaf of smooth paper. She'd been using bits of lead and charcoal for weeks, while he'd had this wealth of writing material. Judging by the shine of the wood and lack of scratch marks on the blotter, he'd never used it once.

Of course, it was the only wealth he did have, and if he saw fit to squander his last coin on such temporary possessions, it wasn't her affair. If she'd been in his place, she'd have been more concerned with re-establishing her reputation among the rulers of the Ottoman Empire. Yet he seemed unconcerned with anything important. The feast he'd supposedly ordered for that night, and new writing implements – these held more worth, apparently.

"I see you've found it."

She gripped the quill, steadied the ink bottle. And peered at him out of the corner of her eye.

Devran kicked the door shut behind him. He had a cup in his hand, and did his usual trick of slipping his tongue out before taking a sip. The familiar thrill swept her at thought of how that tongue might make her feel, if once he set his mouth on hers. She shut the lid.

He drained the cup and dropped it onto the nearest shelf. "I did not have time to wrap it." One stride and he sat beside her, touching her at knee and shoulder. He raised the lid and pointed out all the items. "There's more paper underneath this partition. Sealing wax, a few sheets of parchment."

"It must have been quite expensive."

"Would you rather I'd handed you a bouquet of wildflowers?"

"I – me? This is for me?"

"Yes. A wedding gift."

"But it was meant to be a contract, in name only. To be annulled as soon as possible." The desk and all its contents would tumble to the floor if her hands didn't stop shaking.

"But I don't wish to. And I hoped you might... Never mind." He dropped the lid, narrowly missing her fingers, and headed for the window.

"What can you see?" she asked, after a while.

"Come, see for yourself."

She set the lap desk back on his trunk and stepped up to the window. Devran stood behind her, his breath cool on her flushed neck.

"I can see the whole town!" Despite herself, she was moved by the sight of Renaissance, fading against the horizon as their ship sailed away. The forests, the barest shimmer of light that marked the desert. "There are the Roundeli mountains, where we went on that expedition."

"And my heart nearly stopped beating when I thought you’d fallen to your death."

"Is that so?"

"Yes." His hand landed on her shoulder. "Ayten. I am not so impoverished as you think. And a letter arrived from the Sultan this morning. An official pardon. They've discovered the truth of the matter – the same truth I've been stating all this time. So I ask you..." His fingers left her shoulder, grazing her neck. "If we do not dissolve our contract right away, do you think you might come to care for me, a little?"

She turned in the circle of his arm, and met his gaze. Hope flared in his eyes. He had helped her elude Cem's clutches, after all.

"I think I already do."

He cupped her cheek in his hand and sealed their hope with a kiss.

Renaissance had a happy association for her now.

I used two of the prompts: "The misfortune is resolved/accepted" and "Relationships mend/are torn asunder" and came in at exactly 600 words (had to cut it down from the first draft of over 800!)

Thanks to all our hosts (Stuart Nager at Tale Spinning, J.C. Martin at Fighter Writer, Lisa Vooght at Flash Fiction, and Damyanti at Amloki) for such an exciting blogfest. I'll miss posting snips so regularly and reading everyone's exciting and mysterious tales.

On the other hand, this blogfest has been an amazing way to stick to my ROW80 goal of delving further into Ayten's story, Verse, Venice and Viziers, and [whispers] a warmup for NaNoWriMo.

Alright, it's out in the open. Yes, I'm doing NaNo this year, again, and hope to have as much success as I did last year (and way more than my first year, when I failed abysmally). As always, I promise not to fill up the blog with all NaNo all the time. Add me as a buddy, if you're doing NaNo, too!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

ROW80 Update, Story Links and Into the Woods

I've been writing like mad, even if it doesn't feel like it.

While I wait for the final input from beta readers for Out of the Water, I've been delving more into Ayten's story, Verse, Venice and Viziers.

For a while, it was hard to make the switch: Rosa was in my head so much and so often that every time I fell into that world, it was her and Baha I saw. I had to wrench myself from their happy ever after and focus on Ayten and all her conflicts with Devran.

A little of what I've come up with found its way into the Rule of Three blogfest: Part One featured Prince Cem, and Part Two featured Ayten Hanım (Miss Ayten), and Part Three featured Devran, the son of the Grand Vizier. Part Four - the final part - comes on Wednesday.

An outtake, from a scene occurring somewhat later in the story, was my entry in Rach's third challenge as part of the Third Writers' Platform-building Campaign. If you liked my story, please Like it on the linky list for the challenge.

And yesterday I wrote 1,800 words of all the story bits that have been filling my head. Longhand, of course, and with great gaping holes of description, along with nuances missing from when I first saw the scenes unfold. But all that, and further writing, will have to wait for November. Who else is taking part in NaNoWriMo this year?

So that's my ROW80 story. Meanwhile, last week I saw a local production of Into the Woods, Sondheim and Lapine's topsy turvy hilarious take on a few fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm. Nothing could ever be as good as the original Broadway production, of course, but the Music Theatre Montreal production was a great one nonetheless, that matched the singing and nuances of the original.

No YouTube links for the Montreal troupe, so here's the original Agony, sung by the two princes, one in love with Cinderella and the other with Rapunzel:

Friday, 21 October 2011

Ayten's Story Outtake for Campaign Challenge Three

Campaign Challenge Three!

I have to stay in the wip, of course. This comes far, far ahead in Verse, Venice and Viziers, after some harrowing events have separated Ayten and Devran from the others on board Devran's ship (challenge details below):

A ship was approaching.

She stood on the hilltop in the shade of the pine, and shielded her eyes from the rising sun. Three masts. Not their own ship, then.

Devran had led them from the brigands' cave, and estimated that they would reach the city in another week's time. If he was right, and the brigands were unable to track them, then they would only have been gone for two weeks.

She had no idea what to expect - had the brigands demanded a ransom, so that Rosa and the others would at least know they'd been wastopaneer? If there'd been no word whatsoever, she couldn't begin to imagine the worry and confusion the others might be feeling.

She sank to the roots of the pine, the knotty bark digging into her back. It was easier to think about the others now, this far from the horrors of the cave.

Devran had insisted they spend two nights on this hilltop, so that he could hunt and fish for them. It wasn't an attractive spot by any means. The land was dry as a desert, and something rotten to the north had even attracted a vulture. Every once in a while, its beak clacked, making her jump.

She took the last of their tacise, stolen from an orchard four days ago, and held it to her nose, breathing deeply of the clean scent before digging in. The juice was tart, but washed with delicious coolness down her throat.

Boot heels rang out on the rocks below and she scrambled to her feet. Had Devran caught a synbatec, perhaps? She hadn't even gotten a fire going.

"Don't be alarmed, Ayten," he called. "I've got someone with me."

He appeared over the top of the hill - leading another woman by the hand.

These were the rules: "Write a blog post in 300 words or less, excluding the title. The post can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should show:

  • that it's morning,
  • that a man or a woman (or both) is at the beach
  • that the MC (main character) is bored
  • that something stinks behind where he/she is sitting
  • that something surprising happens.

Just for fun, see if you can involve all five senses AND include these random words: "synbatec," "wastopaneer," and "tacise." (NB. these words are completely made up and are not intended to have any meaning other than the one you give them)."

I think I did it all... in 300 words! Not sure if events as written will appear quite this way in the wip [wink]. Looking forward to seeing everyone else's entry!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Third POV in Rule of Three and Some Book and Contest News

What would Joss wear?

Susan Bischoff's having a contest!

In ROW80 related news, I'm moving pretty steadily; looking over reviews from beta readers for Out of the Water, and drafting here and there for Verse, Venice and Viziers. It's so exciting diving into the free flow pantsing of a new story!

In sad book-related news, this year's book fair at McGill University is the last.

I ran up the hill on my lunch hour and had my final browse, discovering a few gems (including an A. A. Milne I'd never heard of) and the hardcover of the first book of Janet Evanovich's new series for only 4$. The fair has run for four decades, but there're no volunteers left to organize and run it.

And now we come to part three of my Rule of Three Blogfest story! An as-yet untitled historical romance: Part One featured Prince Cem, and Part Two featured Ayten Hanım (Miss Ayten).

For this part, which is at 596 words, I used the prompt relationships unravel or strengthen.

Devran tapped his quill on the blotter. His eyes strayed to the letter before him, but he'd placed his palm over the offending words. It was dangerous, covering the letter that way, for his fingers twitched with the urge to crumple the paper and launch the rude demands into the cold grate.

The door opened and a maid stood aside, admitting Ayten Hanım. She kept her head down as she crossed the room, and stood before the table, and all he could see was a part of her high forehead, furrowed.

She might well wonder what had dared him to summon her to his presence, in this oddly furnished chamber. What he wouldn't give for a proper, comfortable, divan, and none of these straight backed chairs and rigid tables.

He motioned for the maid to leave, and felt his lip curl when she left the door ajar behind her. Once again reminding him that these were not his halls. That they were all guests of 'Prince' Cem, in the town of Renaissance, outside the bounds of the Ottoman Empire.

He looked again at Ayten's figure, as straight as any one of the chairs, and the paper crackled under his hands.

"I have here a missive," he began, smoothing out the sheet. "From our host. He goes on at length of last night's masquerade and the feast to be held tonight. I shall be blunt in my retelling. He asks for you."

"He summons me to his chambers?"

"Ha! If only that were all. He will have you to wed."

Raise your head, Ayten, he wanted to command. Look at me, so that I may see what these words mean to you.

"But is he not –"

"Yes, of course. You would be his second wife. For a while. I doubt not that he would choose another concubine before long." The thought of fair Ayten being used in such fashion smote his heart and he lost control of his hands. The balled letter smacked against the chimney and landed in the grate.

"I have been a slave before," she said, "and will not willingly become a chattel ever again. I am free." Yet her voice wavered, and she had not lifted her eyes.

"Of course. There are, however, conditions." He rose. Taking up the poker, he pushed the letter deeper in amongst last winter's ashes. She was only a step away from him. "I did not say he asked for you. I said he will have you. The only way to prevent his taking you by force would be for you to wed someone else."

"That's absurd!” Finally she met his gaze, but her eyes were chips of blue ice. "We leave in two days' time – would he send a fleet after us? For me?"

"There is no knowing what he might do. He is a man dangerous to cross. Thwarted in his claims to the throne, dependant on the rabble of Renaissance for succour, he is used to having his way in all smaller matters."

"How dare you!"

"I did not mean that you should be considered as such. If I had my way –" He closed the space between them, but she stepped aside. He flung the poker on the marble floor and threw himself back into the desk chair.

"Yes?" she whispered. "If you had your way?"

"I am willing that we should be married. It will keep you from a servitude you do not deserve. Only a contract, with no grounds for preventing an annulment at the soonest opportunity. If you so desire."

By the way... here's what Ayten looks like:

Sunday, 16 October 2011

7 x 7 Link Award and ROW80


Thank you to Trisha for the 7 x 7 Link Award!

So I've gone through four years (!) of blog posts and found the following: a quote about Tolkien and orcs by Joanna Bourne, a fly-by comment about myself writing romance that was oh so wrong ("I guess writing romance has had it, now that I've gotten those two fan-based novels out of my system and don't seem to be writing any new, adult stories..."), a question about bringing snails to Constantinople, a dream about being a snail, thoughts on serendipitous character naming, and a review of Lady Chatterley's Lover that was very pleasurable to re-read, if I do say so myself.

I also seem to have learned a lot about blogging after the first two years, when I was merely throwing words into the dark - and at a select few friends. I'm glad to be part of a wider community now!

But the award actually specifies that you link to seven types of blog post:

Most beautiful
I'm not sure it's beautiful, but here's the longest sentence I've ever written.

Most helpful
Not sure I've ever had any helpful posts. I have, however, had a few posts where I've asked for help:

On the other hand, I did contribute two posts to the Your Neck of the Woods contest by Marsha Moore (aka Talli Roland), one on Istanbul and one on Montreal.

And I have a recipe for börek, featuring Charlie Sheen's mug.

Most popular
And I thought this one, a guest post by Talli Roland, might be.

Most controversial
It wasn't at the time, but for better or for worse I'm bringing it back into the light: the post where I critique Ariana Franklin and Jason Goodwin.
Hmm, there's a spelling mistake in that post. And one more each in two other posts. Tsk!

Most successful

Most underrated
Also my kitchen mystery story, which I wrote in elementary school.

Most prideworthy
Something about having twenty story ideas under my belt...

I'm adding an extra one:

Most frustrating
I mentioned that I woke up, in New York City, with a fully fledged idea for a mystery.
But I didn't write down the idea! Now I can't remember the details, anymore, unfortunately.

Since I originally saw the 7 x 7 award on a number of Aegean bloggers' sites (Ayak's Turkish Delight, Turkeys for Life, Being Koy and Glynis Smy), I'll pass it on theme-wise as well, to fellow Compuserve forumites:

As for my ROW80 check in, I've been doing really well, making corrections/changes to Out of the Water based on beta readers' reviews, as they come in. And I've got my query letter and synopsis ready to go. Also, my essay on the lavender fields is up! It's hard to believe that summer's over already...

Friday, 14 October 2011

Pay It Forward Blogfest and More Fun Links

Pay it forward blogfest is here!

The brainchild of Matthew MacNish and Alex J. Cavanaugh (whose blogs you really should visit), this one is really simple:

"List, describe, and link to three blogs that you enjoy reading, but that you suspect may fly under the radar of a lot of other bloggers. Or they can be famous blogs, as long as they're awesome. But don't stop there! Certainly visit and follow all the blogs that are featured in people's posts the day of the blogfest, but those don't have to be the only blogs you visit. You can visit everyone who enters in on the fun, and signs up on the linky list."

Here are the three blogs I'd like to showcase:

The writers at All The World's Our Page. Five brilliant authors with amazing stories to tell - and two of them are on their way! The stories, that is. Kristen Callihan's Firelight comes out in February.

Jennifer Hendren's By The Pale Moonlight comes out in just a few days! (Trailer in the post below.) Here's the scoop:
"Makenna Wilhelm knows all of her friends have their quirks, but when Ty shows up naked in her yard one morning, she finds it beyond weird. Stranger still are the deep gashes across Ty's chest and his sudden ability to hear and smell things that no human should.
When her boyfriend tries to take advantage of her during a moonlit night, Ty's secret is revealed when he comes to her rescue. He's no longer the boy she's crushed on forever, but rather a werewolf with one serious aversion for all things silver. Makenna is left wondering if he's to blame for the recent death of one of their classmates, the apparent victim of an animal attack. With the help of Melanie, the dead girl's friend, they manage to shed doubt on Ty's guilt, only to discover Makenna was the intended prey.

Even worse, she's still a target.

In a race against the full moon, the trio struggles to find who murdered the young woman. However, without a way to cure Ty, they have no way of knowing who poses the greater threat: Ty or the unknown enemy."

Kait Nolan. Any time I think of myself as an overachiever, or feel as though I'll never get anything finished, or wonder if I'm the only list-hungry person out there, I turn to Kait. She blogs every day (and also has an amazing cooking blog, Pots and Plots), she writes stories I have to read, though they're not my usual genre at all, she introduced me to Susan Bischoff's stories, and she's amazingly organized about sharing everything she learns along her indie publishing journey. Yea.

Joanna Bourne. Yup, I included one famous one. You see, I've been writing stories since I was... well, since I learned to write. But it was only after I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and joined the Compuserve Books and Writers Community five or six years ago that I realised I could do more than write stories, share them with my family, then shove them in a drawer. And all the authors and readers I've met on the Community have been so helpful along the way - with advice, with information, with humour and wit. I've got a file going of tips from Jo, and if you're a writer, you can't do better than to start with Jo.

Also, three more, just for fun:

The Inky Fool, who dissects all your favourite English words, plus words you've never even heard of, and has a book coming out next month, entitled The Etymologicon. In his own words: "It's a beautiful book all about the strange connections between words in the English language. It explains the link between film buffs and buffaloes, monks and monkeys, science and going to the lavatory."

Pop Sensation, where crossword puzzle solver extraordinaire Rex Parker showcases his vintage paperback collection and makes snarky comments about the covers. Every post makes me laugh.

One Hundred Romances, where we review all kinds of romance novels and stories. Got one of your own to submit? Please do! Here's my latest review, of Jana Richards' Flawless.

And now, a gag:

Finally, before I forget, there was a very interesting post the other day by Michael Offutt on understanding men in fiction: men want to be somebody. It's worth reading if you're waffling in any way about your male characters' motivations.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some new-story plotting to do...

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Rule of Three Blogfest Story Part Two and By the Pale Moonlight Giveaway

Now we come to Ayten's point of view...

The first part of my story for the Rule of Three Blogfest featured Cem Sultan, finally confessing his love for the maiden Ayten, a guest at his temporary home in Renaissance.

This blogfest runs all month; each Wednesday we'll have a new post exploring the relationship between three characters in the created town of Renaissance. The setting is the same for all of us, but everything else - genre, characters, etc. - are our own.

And today's post is belongs to Ayten. My word count is 594, and I was inspired by these three prompts, given by the blogfest hosts:
Someone is killed or almost killed.
A relationship becomes complicated.
A character lies to another on an important matter.

Ever since we arrived in Renaissance, we've been feted. I felt like idle lady of the court yesterday; choosing my gown for the masquerade, rifling through a stack of silk ribbons, sitting perfectly still -- with not even any needlework -- as my hair was piled higher and my neckline tugged lower than I'd ever dared. And that's nothing to say of the masquerade itself, when both Prince Cem and Devran Bey...

But that was last night. Today we've joined an expedition to the Roundeli Mountains, alongside a Professor, and a woman - apparently in Renaissance, there's no bar to a woman holding whatever position she chooses. Imagine! I could continue my father's business, use all my trader's skills, perhaps open my own merchant's booth in Smyrna.

I'm far from the Ottoman Empire now, though, travelling under Rosa and her husband's protection, as part of Devran's retinue.

I've been avoiding explaining to you about Devran. It's hard for me to speak coherently. Every time I mention his name, images crowd my mind.

There was that time I poked my head up through the hatch, only to see him on deck in nothing but his long shirt, washing, with two sailors pouring buckets of water over his head. His hair was plastered to his head as his shirt was to his shoulders, and --

Then there was last night, at the masquerade. I hid in a curtained alcove to rest my feet, and he came to offer me a cup of sherbet. His fingers brushed mine, and then he asked me to dance. I'd never dreamed that men and women could dance together like that. These Renaissance customs are very new to me.

So these images crowd my head, and I find it difficult to speak. Worse, now there are thoughts of Prince Cem that intrude and I --



Devran's voice rings down the cliffside in a scream so sharp it's as if he's torn my name out of his chest and thrown it down to me.

I've caught on a stiff bush, thankfully, but my sleeves are torn and needles prick my legs through the linen of my skirt. I can hear them up there, berating our guide for not warning us about the treacherous footing.

I try not to look down, and to breathe evenly. Somewhere down in the depths of the gorge I can hear rushing water tumbling along a stony bed.

The guide has a length of rope. Still they argue above; they do not trust the guide, and Prince Cem declares that he will come down himself.

I say nothing. I will not speak until there is solid ground under my feet once more.

Devran stands on the edge, not arguing, not even speaking, simply staring. Our eyes meet for an instant, or so I think. The sun shines bright and hot, so that the very air shimmers and his face is indistinct.

There's an inch of ledge beneath the bush. Cem steps aside onto the rock and winds the rope about my waist. His hands are steady and don't touch me at all, even as he knots the end. Of course, not with all those faces looking down.

I'm hauled up and stumble a little, clutch Rosa's arm as they lower the rope for Cem.

I can see the expression on Devran's face clearly now. He looks as though, if I tripped again, he'd rush over and taken me in his arms.

But I stand up straight. "I'm all right," I say. The lie burns in my throat.


Hope you liked it! Meanwhile, today is Rosa's birthday! She would be - counts on fingers and toes - 538 years old today. Happy birthday Rosa! It's also - not coincidentally - the day that a sailor, let's call him Santiago, Rosa's father, spotted land on Columbus' first voyage.

You know, next year is the 520th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage. Wouldn't it be exciting if I could promote Out of the Water at the same time? Even though Columbus only appears very briefly, at the beginning. He's also mentioned very briefly, at the ending, of the sequel, the story about Ayten, which I've begun tentatively calling Verse, Venice and Viziers.

I mentioned Jennifer Hendren's By the Pale Moonlight the other day. Here's the book trailer:

Enter Jen's contest to win a copy! You can also enter through the All The World's Our Page site. Ah, YA. What would I do without you?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A Round of Words in 80 Days and HEAP

A quiet sort of check in today as I've slowed down a bit since I finished editing Out of the Water and sent it out to readers.

I try not to think about what they might be doing to the MS with their red pens and their eyebrows raised in disbelief...

Let's not think about that. Remember MAD Magazine? The really old ones from the 50s and 60s? Does anyone remember HEAP? The full colour version is available on Dr Hermes. I learned a bit of the background from that post:

"The two main elements giving basis for this story are the old time radio show, INNER SANCTUM, with its famous creaking door and its sepulchral-voiced host Raymond (his ghoulish puns and wisecracks were obviously a big influence on the hosts of EC's horror titles like TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

But the story presented by "Ramon" here is interesting in itself, in that it does a take-off on the Heap. You can read more about the Heap by clicking on the tag below. He was a long-running character in a back-up strip in AIRBOY COMICS. Inspired by Theodore Sturgeon's great story "It," the Heap is the source for every stinky shuffling muck-beasts like Swamp Thing and Man-Thing. And although there have been any number of odd Swamp Thing stories, I don't recall any where he fell in love with female garbage heap and started wearing a Zoot Suit...!"

Here's a sampling of the black and white version. I took photographs of all the pages in my parents' copy, since they're crumbling and I'm always afraid I'll find they've been reduced to dust one day. This story never fails to make me laugh (if you'd like the whole story, try to squint and read the colour version or e-mail me and I'll send you all the black and white images).

And oh yes, A Round of Words in 80 Days. I've been tweaking my query and synopsis. Now to draw up a list of ideal agents... Wish me luck! I've also returned to writing a regular column for the Bizim Anadolu newspaper (follow the link, scroll over the bar down the left-hand side of the page until the names appear, and click on my name) - latest column is on tasting exotic fruit.

 Dragon fruit, anyone?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Carole Anne Carr's Thin Time

Quick post from me today!

I'm working on the next installment of my Rule of Three Blogfest story - see post below - and having a great time reading everyone else's stories.

Also, this month's exercise over at the Compuserve Forum is a doozy: can you make Barbara Rogan cry?

My entry features Rosa and Baha from Out of the Water; please let me know if you think I've succeeded. Er, not that I want everyone bawling their eyes out or anything...

Last week I read Carole Anne Carr's middle grade story Thin Time.

"In the Shropshire village of Tong, a bad tempered tomb dog called Fymm makes a mistake and chooses the wrong girl to be Task Bearer. Chased by gargoyles, Alice reaches the Green Lady's cottage, receives the first of her three gifts, and learns that she must enter the Other World at Thin Time.

Her task is to bring back the New Year seeds before midnight, and prevent the world from dying. With her small stepbrother Thomas, Ratatosk the squirrel who can't be trusted, and Fymm by her side, she sets out on her dangerous quest.

Using the skipping rhyme password to enter the door into the Tree of Life, she travels into the Other World. With the help of the singing cockerel from the church tower, and armed with a stone and a gargoyle's shield, she must face the terrible Sisters at the Well of Wyrd, and the fury of Nidhogg the Snake-Dragon.

But does she possess the one thing that will protect her – a loving heart? For without that, she will never be able to return to her own time, and the treasure, whatever it may be, will never be hers."

The story is a perfect blend of excitement, adventure and coming-of-age that draws you in right from the first paragraph:
"I'm looking for Fymm now that the early frosts are nipping my fingers and toes, like a bite from his small sharp teeth. It's nearly a year since I last saw him, and I'm scared and excited too. It won't be long before Thin Time is here again."
And, Carole Anne is a Shrophsire author! Shropshire's a part of England I've been to quite often, and it's the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, where the Ironbridge is located. I once had a story idea come to me in a pub across the bridge (going west along the Severn Way)...

Speaking of ideas, if you aren't doing so already, then Explore Your Ragged Edge. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone. Write big!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Rule of Three Story, #ROW80 Party, Insecure Writers - Drinks for All!

Hail and well met, visitors!

Stick around, we've a lot to get through. If you'd like a drink, the bar's on the left, and I believe everyone at #ROW80 is having Jello shots. Share a dram of Lagavulin with me if you like.

Now then, first up, here's my #ROW80 party photo!

Yup, that's my ridiculous FarmVille farm - but look, I've got a pub! Told ya you could have any drink you wanted. I kept my Viking costume on, too.

Need I check in for A Round of Words in 80 Days? Do we check in on party day? I'm holding my tumbler over the first draft of my query, but the words are starting to blur a little. And look - there's another party going on - Indie Book Collective is one year old!

Now comes the maudlin bit, where I've "taken as much ale as is good" for me. It's the second posting day for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. Boy am I feeling insecure. Out of the Water's in the hands of betas, my query and synopsis are at a Barbara Rogan course, and one of my saddest scenes is being picked apart in the October Exercise at the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. Please be gentle with me everyone!

Let me top up your drinks. I've got some pumpkin cheesecake to pass around. Everyone comfortable? Then here we go with the most important part of the party - storytelling!

The Rule of Three Blogfest is here! J. C. Martin's one of the hosts, and she was very generous to us participants - we all got to read her shivery short story The Doll; a satisfyingly creepy tale.

The blogfest runs all month; each Wednesday we'll have a new post exploring the relationship between three characters in the created town of Renaissance. The setting is the same for all of us, but everything else - genre, characters, etc. - are our own.

[Edited to add: My entry was 494 words and used these two prompts: "There is fear of an impending misfortune" and "Someone might fall in love"]

My story takes places in the 15th Century, and is historical romance. Here is the Sultan's brother Cem:
On the eve of the Traders' Festival, I hosted a masquerade the like of which had never before been seen in Renaissance. It is not I who boasts thus; the Mayor himself said as much to me, and he has been head of this town through fifty seasons of carnevale.

I had as my pretext the visit of Devran Paşa, son of the Ottoman Grand Vizier to Sultan Bayezid II, my brother. I, Cem, am exiled here with no hope of return – unless my brother should fall prey to illness, or battle wound, or an assassin's blade, and I be summoned to take his place. Until then, I remain exiled, as a so-called honoured guest of the Mayor of Renaissance.

But the masquerade, now. Devran Paşa and all his retinue were invited, being guests of my halls. Yes, all his retinue, even down to the lady's maid and companion of his translator's wife.

Ay, Ayten. Ayten the moon-skinned. Lady's maid did I call her? I do her gracefulness no justice, for she is meet to be a lady in her own right.

Shall I describe to you my awe and captivation on her arrival at my little masquerade, when I first beheld her without cape or shawl veiling her features?

Stay! Rather, I shall relate to you her appearance, attempt to create a portrait with mere words, and if I can depict but a tenth of her beauty, then you too, fair listener, shall share in my fascination.

Moon-skinned her name means, and moon-skinned she is. Fairer and more delicate than any rough maiden of Renaissance. Miners' daughters and traders' sisters have no hope of inhabiting the same realms of loveliness as Ayten. O! the touch of her arm against mine as I led her out onto the floor of the ballroom in a slow pavane. Ah, the chestnut waves of her hair, held back by flowers at her brow, to expose that high forehead, those almond shaped-eyes.

Others would still be scrabbling among the marshes at the feet of Espadon River, while she wandered high above, in the glades of the Forest of Assart.

Well, I see your eyes glaze over. Perhaps you have a maiden of your own and wish to hear no comparisons. Perhaps you are considering how best you might win the hand of Ayten, should you chance upon her long and gentle fingers cupping a rose, in the gardens at the crossroads of Targe and Kris.

You may not!

I have erred, maybe, in revealing my heart to you.

Hear this! I have seen Devran Paşa's avid gaze follow her footsteps. I have caught his glare on me as I slipped her arm through mine to lead her home. She shall be mine; she is mine.

The Mayor hosts a dinner tomorrow at the halls on the Villein route. Devran is set to sail the morning after.

If I have my way, Ayten shall not take ship with the others.

She will stay with me.


There you have it, the beginning of the intrigue.

One last item before we clink glasses in a farewell toast - if you're querying, as I am, why not submit your query to Kate Kaynak's latest query critique contest?

Have a good night everyone!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

I've Finished Editing! and ROW80 Round Four

Woo hoo! Round Four of A Round of Words in 80 Days is here!

And my goal is very very simple: query the novel!

Yes! I finished the penultimate round of edits of Out of the Water last night!

On to betas today, and time to begin polishing up the query letter drafts. Thank you Nathan Bransford for all that query writing advice.

October also means a new literary resolution. I picked up the original list from Theresa Milstein. October is another reading month: "Read a best-selling mystery. What can you learn from a well-paced page turner?"

Finally, an excuse to read a couple more Cat Who... books. Lots to learn from those, about pacing, subtle romance and she-makes-it-look-effortless characterisation.

Don't forget - there's going to be a 24 hour Rock the Row party on Wednesday for:

All the participants who just finished Round 3 of ROW80;
Anyone who plans to post their goals and dive into Round 4; and
Everyone who supported the ROW80 writers throughout the year.

I'm not on Twitter, so will be participating on Google+, Facebook and through blogs. For the rest of you, just use the #ROW80 hashtag. There'll be competitions and prizes!

And now, back to my I've-finished-editing celebration (in between all the other stuff I have to do that I've been putting off, including writing a haiku (more on that to come) and panicking at having to write a query)!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Be Careful, It's My Heart by Kait Nolan
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (annual reread)
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Moranology by Caitlin Moran
  • Sauron Defeated - Book 9 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Journal of Inklings Studies
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Mr. Garden by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Untitled by Claire G (poem)
  • Possum Magic by... (read by Claire)
  • The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (poem)
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
  • Dark Sonnet by Neil Gaiman
  • "Birds of Passage" by Peter McArthur (poem)
  • Marilynne Robinson and Barack Obama in the New York Review of Books (conversation)
  • "Fear"by Marilynne Robinson (essay)
  • A Simple Act of Kindness by Carol Drinkwater (short story)
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten (short piece) (already added this?)
  • Sparkling Cyanide (Remembered Death) by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Les dernieres jours de nos peres by Joel Dicker
  • Spun by Catherine McKenzie
  • Jamadu: Pippa et le crocodile (a Coop storybook)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Hide and Seek Pig: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Postman Bear: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Fox's Socks: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland (short story)
  • Tolkien's Gedling by __ and Andrew Morton
  • A Winter Wedding by Brenda Novak
  • Le livre des Baltimore by Joel Dicker
  • Paddington Bear All Day by Michael Bond
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Mrs Whippy by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Story of Kullervo by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Going Back by T. L. Watson
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (abridged, darn it)
  • Emily's House
  • The Hockey Song
  • The End of All Things by John Scalzi
  • A Christmas Story by Richard Burton
  • Histoire de Founex by Josiane Ferrari-Clément (skimmed)
  • Rabbit's Nap: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
  • La Verite sur l'affair Harry Quebert by Joel Dicker (loving this!)
  • How To Be A Man (and other illusions) by Duff McKagan
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Pop-up Peekaboo: Farm (DK publishing) (board book) (duh)
  • Paddington Bear Goes to Market by Michael Bond (board book)
  • Emily's Balloon by Komako Sakai
  • Bible stories and puzzles (in French) (board book)
  • The Last Chance Ball (a Word Wenches christmas anthology featuring Jo Bourne, Jo Beverley, etc.)
  • Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • CassaFire by Alex Cavanaugh
  • First and Second Things by C. S. Lewis
  • Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
  • Slowly, silently now the moon by Walter de la Mare (poem)
  • I can't work like this by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • CassaStar by Alex Cavanaugh
  • Death of A Century: A Novel of the Lost Generation by Daniel Robinson
  • The Fly by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • Tyger, Tyger by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • The Christie Notebooks by John Curran
  • The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • secret beta 2!
  • The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
  • Chu's Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman (reread, many times)
  • Sacred Inwardness by Marilynne Robinson (essay)
  • New Statesman issue guest edited by Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman (I don't usually include magazines in this list but I read this one cover to cover)
  • The North Star is Nearer by Evelyn Eaton
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (loved My Pretty Pony)
  • Every Month Was May by Evelyn Eaton
  • Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan
  • secret beta!
  • Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
  • In Two Aeroplanes Over the Sea by Amanda Palmer (poem)
  • Jim at the Corner by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Finding Fraser by kc dyer
  • Mother Tongue -- The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson
  • The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
  • The Lord Fish by Walter de la Mare
  • The Going To Bed Book by S Boynton
  • The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang
  • In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
  • Subterranean Scalzi Super featuring To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story available nowhere else) Muse of Fire Mallet of Loving Correction Lock In, Lost Chapters (available nowhere else) How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story An Election Judge Sn Goes Golfing Questions for a Soldier The Sagan Diary The Tale of the Wicked The God Engines You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi
  • Emily Goes to Market by William Mayne
  • Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (reread)
  • Colours Are Nice (Little Golden Book)
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley (reread)
  • The Captive Diary of Catherine Logan by Mary Pope Osborne (Dear America)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (reread)
  • The Poky Puppy (Little Golden Book) (abridged)
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (reread)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • secret beta read 2
  • Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story by Linda Grimes
  • Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
  • Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M. R. James (short story) (1904)
  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  • Usborne board books
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (so lovely)
  • Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
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  • 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