Wednesday, 30 November 2011

I Survived NaNo - Or Did I?

You know when you're in a language class and the teacher asks you a question that you simply don't have the vocabulary for?

You fill the air with words, so that instead of saying something as brief as "my grandfather lived in France" you start blabbing.

"My relatives on my father's side two generations back used to reside in France." You use 'backside' instead of 'back' and the wrong conjugation of the verb reside. And if you don't cut yourself off, you sink into even deeper mires of wordiness.

That's what the last week of NaNoWriMo felt like for me. There were certain scenes I knew I needed, but every time I drafted them they came out shorter than intended. I know the book will grow when I go back to add everything that's missing from the drafts (namely any and all description and dialogue tags - the thing looks like an overblown screenplay at the moment), but for now I feel like I've staggered across the finish line, and just want to catch my breath.

I've got a couple of pages still to type up. Then I've got to turn back - and edit Out of the Water based on beta reviews. It feels like a lot of work but hopefully won't require much stress. Or should it? Is a novel not worth it unless all your blood, sweat and tears goes into it at each stage?

Author Sam Sykes had a morale-boosting take on why writers shouldn't despair, just this week: "Your writing moves the way it does. You can nudge it along, you can try marketing techniques, you can try holding your breath and whistling Dixie if you think it'll make your moustache grow quicker. But the only way to succeed at being a writer is to write, no matter what else happens."

For now, I've got this:

Meanwhile, it's Mark Twain's 176th Birthday and Google has a Doodle:

And the awesome Claire Legrand is hosting a giveaway to celebrate the announcement of her second book!

How did everyone else do? And if you're not doing NaNo, where are you on your ROW80 goals?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Talli Roland's Build A Man

Round of Words check in - I had a dry Friday and got a few hundred words yesterday. Trying to write as much as I can in order to devote the last few days of NaNo to typing them all up.

Meanwhile, though, I've been reading - finally got around to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, and I've also just read Talli Roland's Build A Man, out now on Kindle.

(cover image by India Drummond!)

"How far would you go to create the perfect partner?

Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she's a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients' liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie -- the hang-dog man determined to be Britain's Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between -- giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.

With London's biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy's progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy's life. But when Jeremy's surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job."

This book was both funny and touching. Serenity draws you in right away - I loved seeing London through her expat eyes and her caustic comments on all the "Botox Bitches". I enjoy the pacing in Talli's books, and this one is no exception - she always has me turning the pages, even if it's past midnight!

I could have used a longer denouement, but that's me, always looking for more romance. Still, it's great know there's a sequel coming, Construct A Couple - yay for more Serenity and Jeremy! Well, of course they get together, what did you expect? But you'll have to read the book to see what happens - it's not necessarily what you'd expect.

Meanwhile, I was a third of the way in before I even realised that the story's told in present tense - the last time that happened was when I read Water for Elephants. Nothing better than a story that feels so real that you forget the craft!

Talli's having a launch party on 7 December:
"Drop by to vote in an interactive poll to construct the 'perfect partner' -- if such a thing exists."

Friday, 25 November 2011

Ioan Gruffudd and Character Photos, and Sharing Old Snips

The other day, Joshua posted a snip from an old work, and then asked me to do the same.

I've already shared my kitchen mystery story, and the strange circus poem I wrote in high school, but here's something else:

First half of an untitled very short story I wrote in 1995:

"gary had a sweetheart, my sweetheart, he called her. she was years younger, it was almost like a father and a daughter; she called him daddy, cos he made her feel happy in a way pops never had. gary was a drunkard like her father but not a bottle-throwing, window-smashing
drunkard, simply a nice chap who grew calm and happy as a child when he was drunk. they had some good times, gary and his sweetheart, lola. other days, it wasn't so tranquil.

but on the nice days, people would come by their flat, people of all kinds. once, they had a circus clown come for dinner, he laughed at odd moments, yet had these long periods of serious silence, when he looked like a chess champion considering his next move. his face would twist up into a determined scowl, and lola asked him if he was trying to solve the problem of world peace. gary laughed, he always laughed or smiled when lola spoke, and suddenly, so did the clown. so they broke out the bottles of wine, and the clown told a few jokes.

after a few months of serenity, gary was fired from the warehouse due to "low performance value from excessive drinking, before, and during company hours." lola was sympathetic, and tried to be caring. even though he did not want to - it was too much effort and he was suddenly very tired - gary could see her mind working, planning where she would go once she had left him. finality hung in the air about them, thick as the fog over the streets of their city."

Joshua's been handing out awards, too! I'd like to pass the Liebster Award on to all the blogging buddies that come by this post:

I've blabbed before, possibly on the blog, and most definitely on the Compuserve Forum, that the only actor I find worthy to play James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser is Ioan Gruffudd.

The other day, I was looking for photos to support my case, when I came across the following still shot from his film Solomon and Gaenor. I saw this movie almost exactly ten years ago; at the end, I cried and cried... It's a very sweet, sad tale of star-crossed lovers.

Meanwhile, since I'm in the middle of Ayten and Devran's story, I'm constantly on the lookout for images that will add to my inspiration (I'm also looking for an image of Magdalena, or Mawdlen, Rosa's mother, for the prequel to Out of the Water, but that is a whole other story).

Imagine my excitement when I saw this image from Solomon and Gaenor, and realised it looks exactly like the scene in Ayten's story where she and Devran find themselves barricaded in a cave:

I've got to finish drafting this story so I can share snips from this scene with all of you...

And now, two fun links:

Susan Mitchell has been posting 15-minute drawings in a sort-of-illustrators'-version-of-NaNoWriMo, and they're absolutely adorable and pensive.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wednesday Link Happy - and Giveaways!


Jon Paul's given me this gift:

I'd like to pass it on to... all of you! Your comments always put a smile on my face. Whoever comes by that doesn't have this award yet, feel free to snap it up.

I came across Jon Paul's blog through his NaNoWriMo Video Songfest. If you haven't signed on yet, you still have a week to do it! My post was up last week and featured the Whisky Trench Riders.

Two celebrations!

Michael's having a giveaway and a party for his one year blogiversary and for reaching 500 followers.
Congratulations, Michael!

Len's hosting a thanksgiving and friendship celebration, with a giveaway!
Very glad to be your blogging friend, Len.

Meanwhile, the folks at Random Acts of Reading are hosting a series called Books in the Wild, showing books in their natural habitat, with kids, booksellers, animals, or just proudly on display. Snap some photos of your own novels, and your favourite books, and send them over.

Here's one from me, back in 2008 or so:

So excited to meet Diana Gabaldon again that I've got red eyes!

As for A Round of Words in 80 Days, I've finally caught up with NaNo. But in the true spirit of ROW80, my goals got revised a little. Now it's all about completing the draft of Ayten's story this month. Then December I can focus on editing Rosa's story, Out of the Water.

As usual, during NaNo (or a writers' houseparty, or any big event), housework is the first task to fall by the wayside. But one thing I do without fail is make the bed. I mean, would you rather come home to this:

(Yes, there's no bed in that image. But given the state of the room, I'm sure you can imagine what the bed must look like!)

Or this?:

(Image taken from the Tommy Hilfiger site)

Where do you stand on bed making? Is there any one chore you perform without fail?

Finally, Nathan Bransford had a hilarious post the other day about writing styles and What Not To Do. Go have a laugh!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Yesterday was my birthday, which explains the NaNo-fail this weekend.

Way back when, Michael at In Time hosted a What I Did On My Summer Vacation blogfest. I didn't get a chance to play then, but since it's finally starting to snow around here, I'm thinking back to heat and sunshine.

There were a couple of weddings, the Bleu Lavande lavender fields, a concert or two and the Cirque du Soleil... Then came the trip to England and Turkey:

England from the sky

Dorothy Sayers' house in Witham, Essex

Windsor Castle, looking across from Datchet village

Kadınlar Denizi Beach

Kuşadası Marina

The water. Ah, the water


Olive trees

A kervansaray, or Ottoman inn

A 14th Century mosque

Kystros, a river god

A road in the ancient town of Ephesus

A statue of Artemis

Istanbul, looking across the Golden Horn toward Topkapı Palace

The Maiden's Tower (or Leander's Tower) in the distance.

What do you remember from your summer vacation?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Who Is Frances Rain? and P. G. Wodehouse

Going to talk about two things today, a great book and writing styles.

Has anyone else read Who Is Frances Rain? by Margaret Buffie? Apparently it's also known in the United States as Someone Else's Ghost. I don't remember how I first came across this book. Must have been a choice from the Scholastic catalogue.

"It's going to be a long, hot summer for 15-year-old Lizzie. Normally a vacation at her grandmother's northern Manitoba cottage is the highlight of the year, but this summer the whole family is going along, including her new stepfather whom she detests.

To escape the family's bickering, Lizzie explores a nearby island, where she finds the remains of an old cabin and uncovers a pair of spectacles. When she tries on the old glasses she is surprised to find herself watching a woman and girl from the past. Lizzie is determined to find out who these ghosts are, and why they are appearing to her. Enlisting the help of her grandmother's teenage neighbour, Alex, she puts together clues about the ghosts' identities and in doing so, finds a way to help her estranged family reunite."

The book has won all sorts of awards, including the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Canadian Book Award. I've reread it a few times since that first read, and fall in love with it each time. It was part of a jumble of Canadian YA books I read when I was a kid and they each showed me a different way of being Canadian - and introduced me to parts of Canada I'd never seen.

I haven't lost my love of this genre. I'll be reading Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson this weekend!

And now, writing styles. Specifically, the transferred epithet, which is when an adjective is applied to the wrong thing. The Inky Fool wrote about this the other day, in reference to that master of the transferred epithet, P. G. Wodehouse:

"I balanced a thoughtful lump of sugar on the teaspoon"

"He was now smoking a sad cigarette"

Aren't they lovely? And yet I can't imagine using this style in my own writing at all. Not unless I happened to have a character who talked this way naturally...

Are there any styles you love but haven't used yet?

Also, here's Stephen Fry on Wodehouse. Just because.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Your Typical Day As A Writer

Your typical day as a writer...

Sara's just done a post detailing her usual daytime routine. Now here's mine.
(Read on, three bits of really exciting news will follow!)

6 am - alarm goes off. I don't leap out of bed. Cat lands on belly and purrs. Other cat sits on the floor and stares up at me.

6.10 - get up, write for an hour (this is a NaNo- or Drafting-Stage-only routine. Otherwise, sleep wins out).

7.10 - shower, dress, head out the door. Read for beta reviews or book reviews on commute, run errands before work.

8.30 - 4.30 - work. Work work work work work.
At lunch:
run errands,
lunch with friends or family (especially if I'm starving from having skipped breakfast),
work on Alfred Russel Wallace transcripts,
work on translations if I've received any
OR (not 'and'. You didn't think I was going to write 'and', did you?)
clear emails (saving blog comments and emails that require longer than one line for later).
Sometimes I drop everything and make lists just to clear my head. Wrote up a revised Christmas gift list today.

4.30 - 6 pm - read on afternoon commute. Get groceries, do dishes, make dinner and eat it, read the paper and maybe flip through a magazine. Do other chores if I'm out of clean clothes or people are coming over (read: speed clean the bathroom).

6 - 10 pm. here's where things get tricky. Ideally, I type up my words from the morning (I'm more inclined to do this during NaNo, otherwise I save it all for the weekend). It takes me about an hour to type 1000 words because they invariably need editing.
Other times I do blog-related stuff. There're exercises on the Forum to attend to. Pub Trivia Night on Mondays! Knitting to catch up on, friends to visit with...
And if Diana Gabaldon has a new book out, this entire schedule goes out the window: I read. (That's where the girl in the Martini glass comes in. Kidding! I'd rather have a single malt...)

Speaking of which, ooh boy! Now it can be told: a number of us November Birthday Girls got together on the Forum for a colossal Big (not beg, big: Bigging 101 rules), including Karen Henry of Outlandish Observations. And Diana Gabaldon gifted us with not one but two excerpts, one from The Scottish Prisoner and one from the next Outlander book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood.

Also, our Campaigner Challenges eBook is here! The wonderful Cat has put together an ebook of 176 stories from 81 participants in Rach's Campaign Challenge, including mine. All proceeds go to Help Harry Help Others to fund research on brain cancer.

Available now on Smashwords and Amazon.


How's everyone doing with their goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days? I've been writing consistently for Ayten's story, and collecting reviews from beta readers for Out of the Water, but it looks like December is going to be editing month for the latter. I'm excited because now I can see all sorts of places in the novel where I can cut words - scenes I was too close to before and didn't want to chop off. But I'm at 110,000 words, so I've got lots of room to play. And here I thought I'd be querying already... Still, better to polish as much as I can.

Hope everyone's having a good week!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Dreaded Middle: NaNo, ROW80 and Literary Resolutions

Woe is me.

It's here, the dreaded middle of the novel. Except that, because I'm a pantster/chunkster, the middle is not quite the middle.

Instead, I'm 30,000 words into the latest novel (while waiting on beta reviews for Rosa's story, Out of the Water, whose own middle needs editing before I start thinking of querying again) - which was called Verse, Venice and Viziers - a nicely convenient and alliterative name - until I discovered that for historical accuracy, the characters need to be in Rome, not Venice - and I don't know if I've got any more words to add.

I feel as if I've written all the pivotal scenes (even though only half of them are typed up) and I'm starting to wonder if this is more novella than novel. On the other hand, I had this same trouble with Rosa's story and ended up with 140,000 words. I'm at 120,000 now and still trying to cut down.

I seem to go through the same ups and downs with every novel. Do we all have patterns as writers?

I know I said I wouldn't do a lot of NaNo posts, but this one's in honour of the penultimate Literary Challenge/Resolution for this year: "Jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon and try to write a novel in a month."

I don't think I'd do NaNo at all if it didn't fit the way I already write - mad drafting and scribbling, followed by gradual typing, then editing ad infinitum (I use a Latin phrase with some trepidation. I once used cum instead of and, but Facebook, when transferring my blog post to the news feed, cut off my sentence to end at that word, and I got some, ahem, comments...).

I'll add that signing on for NaNo helps keep me disciplined, wakes my inner competitive self, and - mainly - a lot of my author friends from the Forum are participating, and it's exciting to work on a solo project yet be part of a group that's embarked on the same journey.

I, I, I. Maybe instead of focus on me, the writer, I ought to think some more about my characters and their needs. So let's see...

Escaping from brigands in a cave, somewhere in the wilds of Granada, Spain, in June 1493...
Hero and heroine have to fend for themselves.
They have no money, don't speak the language, and need to get back to their friends at Cadiz.

Oh, and neither will admit to being attracted to the other.

What happens next?

Friday, 11 November 2011

Jessica Bell's Amazon Chart Rush, Take Your Child To A Bookstore, and Whisky Trench Riders

Author's helping authors! And all you lovely readers out there:

Help author Jessica Bell top the Amazon charts today with her debut novel String Bridge, and receive the soundtrack, Melody Hill: On the Other Side, for free!

Here're the links:

eBook on Amazon US and on Amazon UK.

Paperback on Amazon US and on Amazon UK.

In other book news, author Jenny Milchman has organized an annual Take your Child to a Bookstore Day for 3 December, and you can help spread the word!

Print the poster of the event and take it to your local bookstore, library or school - or any other place where children and books come together. Or simply spread the word about the event on your blog or other social media sites.

By the way, I just discovered an interview on PBS with Katherine Paterson.

And I'm finally posting as part of the NaNoWriMo Video Songfest!

In honour of NaNo, and to wish all writers good luck, here's a song called The Perfect Ending, by the Whisky Trench Riders, as featured on UK station Amazing Radio:

The first single off the first Whisky Trench Riders album is Driftin':

And while I'm at it, here's The Wandering Ragged Stranger:

Please post your own inspiration songs! What fuels your writing?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Jennifer Hendren and By The Pale Moonlight


Jennifer Hendren's By The Pale Moonlight is out now (get it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords)!

"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.

During a moonlit night, Ty's secret is revealed. 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."

Jen's dropping by the blog today to answer a few questions... Welcome, Jen!

Thank you so much for hosting me, Deniz!

Which is the most embarrassing song, book, movie or TV show that you love?

I can't believe I'm about to admit this. Okay, I'm a hopeless fanatic of Little House on the Prairie. There. I said it. I can't help myself. I cry nearly every episode. It just gets to me. I mean, the episode where Laura trades her horse to Mr. Oleson to buy Ma the stove she wants... wait... *fans her eyes* Gah. I'm a SUCKER for that show. I still love to watch it whenever it's on, and my family always gets a kick out of it.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Madison from Faking It. Hands down. She's a total geek and has my sense of humor. I just wish I had her metabolism. The girl is always eating ice cream and she never gains weight! (g)

Have you secretly chosen actors to play your main characters?

Gulp. Yes. I have actual actors for my Faking It books (Rachel McAdams would make such a good Madison)... but for the Moonlight series, I have pictures I swiped from the internet. The one I chose for Ty is a model... fits my image of him perfectly.

How's the indie/self-publishing journey been so far?

It's going well. I really didn't know what to expect when I began. Though By the Pale Moonlight is by no means selling in record numbers, its sales are steady. I can only hope they will increase as time goes by. There's a great reliance on word of mouth when you self-publish, and I really hope that if people read and enjoy my book, they'll recommend it to friends. [I sure do!]

Favourite werewolf not your own?

Oh, goodness. This one is hard. I have to tell you, I'm a fan of the oldies. Lou Chaney as the original Wolf Man has a special place in my heart. I love the idea of this lovable guy turning into a monster he can't control. His character really showed the helplessness a werewolf must feel -- how the moon rules everything. Special mention has to go to Joshua Jackson in Cursed because I think he's a cutie patootie -- and Jacob Black, in parts. Definitely before that imprinting mumbo jumbo.

Who was the last person that haunted you?

I've actually had my fair share of paranormal stuff happen. Part of me wants to write it off as my imagination, but I'm not really sure... Last thing I remember happening was when I was living in Tennessee. I toured a local plantation and I swear something followed me home. The tour guide told us that Union soldiers were held in this small closet beneath the stairs, and at least one of them died there. Be it my imagination or sub-conscious messing with me, the light in my closet kept mysteriously turning on -- even when I double-checked it several times. It happened for over a month, and then just stopped... yeah, it was freaky, but not scary in a horror movie type way. [ooh!]

Getting a good review from which author would make you freak out the most?

Oh man. Where to begin? Anyone I admire would probably top that list. I wouldn't want to let them down. If I had to name one person, though, I would probably say Maureen Johnson. Anyone happen to read her review/guide to Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol? The woman could rip me apart, and I'd probably laugh the entire time. That's just wrong on so many levels. To get her thumbs up would be AMAZING. [oh man, that guide is hilarious!]

What's the weirdest thing you've researched?

My research tends to be pretty minimal (yay contemporary). I did a lot of research about werewolves and the various legends for the Moonlight series... But the strangest is probably when I researched how to shoot up heroin for Faking It. I kept expecting some alert to go out to the police or something. :)

What's your earliest memory related to writing?

I used to make up these really elaborate songs when I was maybe five or six. I used to sing them to myself for HOURS. I'm sure it was wonderful to listen to. (heh) The first time I remember putting pen to paper to write fiction was probably right around fourth grade or so... I recall it being one of those teenage books where some mean girl is trying to steal the main character's boyfriend. It didn't really go much further than that. I just knew this girl was mean and that she was up to all sorts of shenanigans.

What's next?

What's next is Walking in Shadow -- the sequel to By the Pale Moonlight. It's a completely different book in many ways, and it's going to be challenging on a lot of levels. I'm excited and nervous to really dive into it fully. But dive in, I shall. I hope to have a solid first draft by the end of November. Wish me luck! :)

Thank you again for having me, Deniz! These questions were a blast!

Thank you for visiting, Jen! I didn't ask you how NaNo was going but I hope the words are flowing... 
It's been steady for me; better than the first year I tried it, but not as crazy as last year,
when I was writing and typing non-stop.
Still on track for my ROW80 goals, though, I hope. And November's barely begun!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Theresa Milstein in... Fangtales


Sounds delicious, no?

Fangtales, edited by Berni Stevens, is the third YA anthology by Wyvern Publications, after Dragontales, published in 2009, and Mertales, published in 2010.

Fangtales visits the terrifying realms of the most popular creature ever to grace the pages of fantasy fiction. The vampire. The tales are fresh, original and scary enough to send delicious shivers down the spine of every reader. Lose yourself in the blood-soaked pages of Fangtales, where a best friend mysteriously disappears, a small child roams the woods alone at midnight, and a terrified girl seeks help when her house is surrounded by hungry vampires.

Theresa Milstein's Allured features in Fangtales, and I'm lucky enough to have her stopping by today to answer a few questions about the story - and more.

Which is the most embarrassing book, movie or TV show that you love?

Where to begin. I watch too much reality TV. I've watched LA Ink, NY Ink (I have two tattoos, maybe that's why). The Soup is one of my favorites. I'm really into cooking shows. Most are pretty normal like Top Chef and Chopped, except for Hell's Kitchen. The most embarrassing? First season of The Jersey Shore. (Should I even admit that?) By the second season, I despised myself.

Getting a good review from which author would make you freak out the most?

Just one? Okay, I can do this. J.K.RowlingLoisLowryJudyBlumeNeilGaiman.

Would you like to be one of your characters, or do you the writer torture them too much?

I do torture my characters too much to want to live their lives. Besides, what makes me able to write YA are my vivid memories of what it was like to be a child and teen. I'm not living those years again. I'm no fool.

Have you secretly chosen actors to play your main characters?

If I tell you, it's not a secret. [good point! but we really wanna know...]

I created an older Italian character, and used Fabio from a previous season of Top Chef. In my book, he's Antonio. When I saw the show where they had former Top Chef contestants, I kept getting confused why they called him Fabio.

Another time, my vampire protagonist who was based on a contestant named Alison from America's Next Top Model. (Oh no, I just admitted another embarrassing show. But I don't watch it anymore. I swear.)

Other than that, I use my own imagination or an amalgamation of two or more people, living and/or famous.

How many times did you rewrite Allured?

I don't keep track. I probably looked it over at least 10 times, maybe 20. Then I gave it to my critique partner, Aubrie Dionne. When I edited based on her suggestions, I sent it to Judy Mintz. After I edited from Judy's critique, off it went to Wyvern Publications.

Which scene(s) in Allured were most difficult to write?

The end of Allured was the most difficult to write. That's when the complete mystery is revealed. Some of it was thought and some was dialogue. I had to find a good balance.

How did you come up with the idea for Allured?

Beats me. Seriously, that's kind of the answer. I read the guidelines for submissions for Fangtales and did some research about the rules of traditional vampires in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Then I just looked at a blank page. A sentence sprang in my head, and I wrote to see where the story would take me. I write in the fog, with a vague sense of where I'm going. Sometimes I know the final destination (sort of) but I have only the foggiest (sorry) notion of how to get there.

The original lines are not far off from this final version:

"I twisted a golden curl in my usual alluring way. Guys loved it when I did that. I lowered my voice, so Reid had to lean in to hear me, his elbows propped on his knees. I locked his green eyes with my gaze."

Do you keep a journal?

No. I've tried a few times in my life, but then I lose interest. For a time, my blog felt like a journal, but I've done fewer essay-like posts since I started working full-time and returned to graduate school. I'm having a hard time squeezing in any writing.

Who was the last person that haunted you?

Nobody, thankfully. Sometimes, I'll get a whiff of a certain coffee scent, and feel like I'm in my late grandmother's kitchen. Or I might have a strong memory of someone who died out of nowhere. In those moments, it's like those people are with me.

I like to write spooky, scary, fantasy but I'm a wimp in real life. I'd like to be placed in Gryffindor, but there's no way The Sorting Hat would place me there.

Deniz, thanks for interviewing me on your blog and being a part of my Fangtales tour. I've appreciated your support ever since we became blogging buddies.


Thank you for being here, Theresa, and I wish you the best of luck with Allured and all your writing!
I'd like to be in Gryffindor with you!

Meanwhile, back to NaNo for me - it's helping me no end to keep up my ROW80 goals. Hope everyone else is having a good writing week.

Friday, 4 November 2011

String Bridge Blog Tour and Other New Releases


No, no, what am I saying?

I mean, yes, I'm doing NaNo and writing like a fiend in the mornings and trying to type it all up at nights, but that's neither here nor there.

Jessica Bell's String Bridge comes out this month!

"Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage -- and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits..."

There's no way to read an intense book like this and not take sides. Jessica does an amazing job of luring the reader in and, even though the story is told from Melody's point of view, every character's background comes through.

First you're on Alex's side, then on Melody's, then... Well, by that point you're so caught up in the emotional whirlwind that there's no turning back.

The sights and sounds - and smells - of Athens are strongly evoked, and the lyrical imagery puts the reader right there on the streets, in the homes, at the dinner tables. Each chapter could almost be a short story in itself, as Melody works through her fears, reaches a plateau - and then meets the most difficult challenge of all.

And of course there's rock 'n' roll. How can you resist?

Here's a glimpse of the trailer:

Jessica's not only an author, musician and poet - she's also hosting a writers' retreat in September 2012: the Homeric Writers' Retreat and Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus.

If you'd like to participate in the String Bridge chart rush - and get a free copy of the soundtrack! - do so on 11 November on, and

If you can't wait, the book is out now via Lucky Press - and don't forget Jessica's contest to win a signed String Bridge paperback, signed String Bridge soundtrack Melody Hill: On the Other Side, signed copy of Jessica's poetry book Twisted Velvet Chains, and random book off her bookshelf.

So many ways to celebrate - congratulations, Jessica!

Two other releases this month:

Susan Kaye Quinn's latest release, Open Minds - the first book in the Mindjack Trilogy - is now available!

Jennifer Hendren's By the Pale Moonlight is out in paperback!

And finally, a propos of nothing except last weekend's post, Tuesday was the anniversary of the first performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest, on 1 November 1611.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Lynne Sears Williams' The Comrades and Insecure Writers

NaNo Day Two.

Insecure enough yet?

Actually, there's no reason to be insecure when writing during NaNo - turn off that inner editor and get scribbling!

I think fears never leave us - c.f. Joanna Bourne's first comment in her latest blog post - but we can learn and relearn ways to quiet those fears and work past them. On of the best ways is to arm yourself. You've got your pen, paper, computer, research books, library card, and so on. But what about the words? What about the grammar? In a recent interview, Grammar Girl talked about new approaches to teaching grammar, and how important it is to know the basics for clear thinking and writing.

So, fellow insecure writers, stockpile your arsenal and you'll feel braver. If it's the writing itself that's got you blocked, take a look at the 30 Questions Writers' Exercise that Ron Wodaski set up last September on the Forum. It's the quickest springboard to getting to know your story and your characters.

Speaking of characters you'd like to know, Lynne Sears Williams has a new release, The Comrades, available now on Amazon.

[That quote on the cover is from Diana Gabaldon: "Three more engaging Welshmen have never been written! By turns hilarious, poignant, bloody - and bloody accurate - historical fiction seldom gets as good as this."]

"9th century Wales...

Evan, king of Powys, returns from a wedding to find a village ransacked, with women and children dead. Neighboring Gwynedd has broken the peace, crossing the mountain to pillage and murder. The dead babes tear his heart, and Evan vows to break the heart of Gwynedd.

Gwynedd's most guarded treasure is a pampered princess. In a bloody raid, Evan's comrades return to Powys with Gwynedd's heart. Evan knows holding the princess will be dangerous and her safe-keeping may mean the difference between the lasting peace he desires and a bloody war. He's prepared for her to be kept safe but unprepared for the girl's intelligence, compassion and damnably kissable mouth.

Morleyna's secret gift of Sight reveals a cruel betrayal that sends Evan on a mystical journey where he discovers his only chance for redemption rests in the hands of his captive. Her brothers will arrive to claim their sapphire-eyed sister. Will her kinsmen, bent on revenge, destroy Evan and his comrades? Or will destruction come from Morleyna, who may be the reincarnation of someone whose beauty captivated a nation?"

That just gives you a taste... There's a lot in this book you'll want to read and savour slowly: from manly men to wise cats, scenes that make you weep to dialogue that has you bubbling with laughter. Of course, I'm also a sucker for stories set in Wales. The names roll off one's tongue, and the world - the Keep, the crofts, the food and feuds, the hills and heights - are vividly realised.

I'm trying to find a wonderful line to quote, but don't want to throw out phrases out of context. Here's a lovely bit:

"'I admit I made a mess of this, dragging you here the way I did. I have no regrets; I never in a hundred lifetimes would have visited Gwynedd and met you. Yet, here you are.'
'All right, then, I will do it.'
'Which?' he said, in a half-strangled voice. 'Be impertinent or marry me?'"

If you would know the answer to that question, read The Comrades! But meanwhile, you may watch the trailer:

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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  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
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