Friday, 30 December 2011

30 Things I Want To Do, Coda

Exactly two years ago I posted a list of 30 Things I Want To Do.

I thought it might be fun to revisit the list and see if I've done any of those things or if I even still want to do some of the items...

1. Find an agent for my novels! [this is still top of the list!]

2. Pick out and decorate a real Christmas tree [hmm... Talli Roland picked out a real tree this year! But not me...]

3. Visit all 50 states (15 down, 35 to go) [27 to go! I've seen 8 new States in the past two years]

4. Drive from London to Istanbul (taking the Dover-Calais ferry, not the Chunnel, natch) [definitely still on the list, this one]

5. Actually finish reading all the books I own (see 180 list below) [I'm working on it, I swear!]

6. Have a proper English library [yea, this will take some time]

7. Spend some time being a boat and fishing person [someday...]

8. Snowshoe [someday soon?]

9. Travel more in Europe. Actually use all the German and Welsh and Swedish and Russian and Spanish I've learned [this might be on the agenda for this coming spring]

10. Ride on a fast horse [anyone own a ranch?]

11. Practice archery [or a bow and arrow?]

12. Play more golf [you'd think this would be easy to do]

13. Milk a cow, make yogurt, churn butter, that sort of thing [anyone own a farm?]

14. See The Divine Comedy and Gyllene Tider and Runrig in concert [I wish!]

15. Attend the Surrey International Writers' Conference [this is a tentative plan for this year, since it's the 20th anniversary of the conference]

16. Stay at the Algonquin Hotel, NYC [especially now that Matilda needs more kindness!]

17. Watch more old movies from the 50s and earlier [hmm...]

18. Get a Master's Degree and write my thesis on Tolkien [ah yes. Still a goal.]

19. Subscribe to the NME or Q or Mojo or the New York Times [only if the price goes down]

20. Use my CrockPot and juicer [juicer yes, crock pot fail]

21. Grow a garden [not with my black thumb!]

22. Complete my state coins collection (only missing Texas, California, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Washington and Alaska!) [I've got Minnesota and South Dakota now!]

23. Ski [this is never going to happen. No one ever wants to go cross-country skiing with me]

24. Learn how to cure olives and attend an olive pressing (for oil) [anyone own an olive farm?]

25. Read more books in different languages [see number five]

26. Attend Festival in the Shire in Machynlleth! [unfortunately we might visit the UK in spring and the festival's in August!]

27. Visit Saint Catherine's monastery at Mount Sinai and Sumela monastery at Trabzon [someday...]

28. Watch a cat give birth (or another animal) in real life and not on YouTube [see number thirteen]

29. Visit Patagonia and Antarctica and Australia and other far places [see number nineteen]

30. Really learn how to crochet and spin [I'm trying!]

What's on your list?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Review, Giveaway, Typewriter and A Second Book in the Wild

My latest review is up over at the 100 Romances Blog! This time I'm talking about When Harriet Came Home by Coleen Kwan.

Pam had a post the other day about sounds that have disappeared, which you can hear over at the NPR site for lost sounds. I still long for an old-fashioned typewriter, but I've heard there's only one store left in New York City that sells ribbons for such typewriters. I suspect they stay open thanks to Woody Allen, who has been using the same typewriter for 50 years. Lucky guy.

Julie Dao's having a giveaway to celebrate 400 followers! And one of her prizes is a copy of Outlander, so if you haven't yet started Diana Gabaldon's series, now's your chance. I mean, just look how happy her books make us:

That's Aven holding her copy of The Scottish Prisoner (part two of my Books in the Wild, inspired by Random Acts of Reading). Got a book in the wild? Send it on to me or Random Acts!

Monday, 26 December 2011

Shakespeare and Company, a New Paranormal Romance, and a Bookshop Cat

Visited Shakespeare and Company ages ago, so I'm afraid I have no photos, unless I dig them out from an album and scan them. I've only been there twice; the first time I bought the history of the bookstore, and the second time, a couple of copies of Julian Barnes books I already had (no point really, but for some reason back then I liked owning different editions of books I enjoyed).

The founder of Shakespeare and Company has now passed away. Publishers Weekly featured a nice memorial the other day.

"George Whitman's death indeed marks the end of an era on the Paris bookselling scene. Even in an age when online retailers and e-books seem to hold sway in the book industry, though, Shakespeare & Co. surely will thrive, continuing to draw customers to the little bookshop near the Seine, with its slightly-dilapidated façade, the cute little courtyard in front filled during store hours with bookcarts, the wishing well in the center of the main floor, and especially the rabbit warren of rooms on three floors, all filled with books, that can be accessed only by climbing rickety stairs."

Even though I trawl secondhand bookshops less often than I used to, that sort of space - often featuring a resident cat - will always be my favourite place to browse and make discoveries. Amazon is (generally) cheap and (usually) convenient for instantly placing orders when I know which books I want. But you'll never make a serendipitous find or uncover a dusty treasure through an internet portal.

New releases are another story! Entangled Publishing has a great book coming out in the next week or two: Tiffany Allee's Banshee Charmer (From the Files of the Otherworlder Enforcement Agency, #1), a paranormal romance.

"When she's sent to a crime scene and finds her second dead woman in as many weeks, half-banshee detective Kiera "Mac" McLoughlin is convinced a serial killer is on the loose. Incubi are extinct, her boss insists. But what else can kill a woman in the throes of pleasure? When her partner is murdered after using witchcraft to locate the killer and Mac is thrown off the case, her frustration turns to desperation.

Certain the killer is an incubus, Mac works behind her department's back to chase down slim, sometimes perilous leads. While the killer eludes her, she does discover handsome Aidan Byrne, an investigative counterpart from the enigmatic Otherworlder Enforcement Agency. Mac typically runs her investigations fast and hard, but with Aidan at her side, she’s running this one "hot" as well. But Aiden knows more than he's letting on—something that could shatter their blazing romance and add Mac to the killer's growing body count..."

Back to bookshops. Here, for instance, is the Owl's Nest Bookstore in Fredericton, New Brunswick. How can you not love this space?

What kind of book person are you?

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Ring Goes South

Indulge me a little.

It was this time many many years ago that the Fellowship of the Ring set out from the Last Homely House.

In honour of that anniversary - I'm a little behind on this, but I only recently discovered that Ian McKellen was blogging during the filming of The Lord of the Rings - I'd like to quote a little of Ian McKellen on the nature of Gandalf:

"I have never felt that these commercialisations of his image impinged on Gandalf himself. When I'm asked to sign Gandalf as well as my own name by importunate autograph hunters, I explain that Gandalf doesn't give autographs and I remember how Alistair Sim always refused, often really upsetting the juvenile with her album. If anyone persists I also explain that Gandalf isn't here with us. Last week I went on to say that Gandalf doesn't exist! Although of course he does.

Gandalf is a spirit, laid down in Tolkien's novels with love and respect. The wizard and his creator had more in common than a bowl of weed. Isn't Gandalf the old man that Tolkien (and many more of us) would like to be? I wouldn't mind having a few tricks like his up my sleeve and I would be pleased to have a life as active and fulfilled as Gandalf's. Is that why he is so beloved and respected by the readers and now the filmgoers?

I like him for his sense of humour and sense of occasion. I like his independence and need for company. Kids, some as young as five, look wonderingly up as their grandparents introduce us, searching for Gandalf in my face. I hope they feel as I did aged three sitting on Father Christmas's knee in the grotto of our local store in Wigan. I could see it was a cotton-wool beard and it didn't fit. This wasn't the real Santa Claus. He was elsewhere preparing my stocking. The real Gandalf is elsewhere and I bet those kids know it because they trust him and love him like their grandad." —Ian McKellen, October 2003

Now there's a character that lives on.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bodleian Treasures on the Last Day Before Reading Week

Cat chasing its own tail...

Well, not quite. But I am scrambling to print out Ayten's story for future editing, clear emails, reply to all lovely commenters, organize the piles of paper I've accumulated in the past month or so, and arrange the To Be Read stacks.

Reading Week starts tomorrow. Mmm, blankets and cocoa and books...

Part of the piles of paper involves random writing tips that I collect, including this, from an older Nathan Bransford post on John Green's Looking for Alaska:

"Every single interaction between Pudge and Alaska advances their relationship in a series of incremental steps that swing between positive and negative emotion, with each interaction more intense than the last. ... The variance between up and down moments creates suspense as the reader wonders which way it's going to end up going, and since we feel each up and down more acutely than the last, the reader becomes increasingly invested in the relationship. Each time the line swings up to a positive experience it feels earned because Pudge had to suffer through the last negative one.

Too often when aspiring writers try to craft jousting or intense relationships between characters, the relationships will feel one-note because the characters have roughly the same level of interactions over the course of the book with, say, a positive spike at the end if the they get together. They may well be interesting characters, but when every interaction between them ends in the same mixed place, there isn't the same feeling of investment and suspense. If the relationship doesn't grow in intensity or change dynamics, the reader will very quickly decide they know what they need to know about the relationship and won't be that interested in where it ends up.

On the other hand, when the relationship-o-meter swings between positive and negative poles it feels more true to life. Add increasing intensity and the reader won't be able to turn the page fast enough to see what happens."

Reason 76498953 for why I wish I lived in the UK (part two) - treasures from the Bodleian! Luckily, many of these are available online, including these:

Notebook of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

The first ten Penguin books (I've only read Sayers and Christie):

Wilfrid Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth:

J. R. R. Tolkien's Conversation with Smaug:

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Best ROW80 Update Ever - I've Finished Editing!


As of this weekend, I've finished ALL the editing for Out of the Water, Rosa and Baha's story.

That's it! It's over! No more tweaking or tinkering! Now the querying starts...

Sort of. I'm going to collate a few query letters this week, but only start sending them out in January. Here's my pitch:

Eighteen-year-old Rosa becomes separated from her family as they flee their Spanish homeland – and the Inquisition. Now her life is in the hands of a stranger, Baha, an artist from the Ottoman Empire. He is her one hope of reaching Constantinople and reuniting with her family. As they travel together, Rosa's drive to find her loved ones is matched by a deepening desire for the man at her side.

Despite her family's refusal to accept her marriage to a man of a different faith, when janissaries arrest her father and brother, Rosa and Baha risk everything to rescue them. Together they will prove that their love can withstand their differences... if the Grand Vizier doesn't throw them both into the dungeons first.

I've come so far with these two. I do hope I can launch them into the world and share them with lots of readers.

Meanwhile, Kristen Callihan's Firelight is coming soon!

Publisher's Weekly (as an aside, I've paid attention to Publisher's Weekly reviews ever since I was a kid - I noticed early on that all my favourite novels always had a favourable PW review on the back cover) gave Kristen a starred review!

"Debut author Callihan pens a compelling Victorian paranormal with heart and soul. Miranda Ellis has an unearthly talent for creating fire from thin air. Lord Benjamin Archer has lived for decades under the influence of a dark curse and wears a black mask over his disfigured face. After Miranda’s family is ruined, she weds Benjamin for his money and is surprised when passion and romance follow. Shortly after the wedding, Benjamin stands accused of a gruesome series of homicides. As he and Miranda hunt the true killer, Miranda soon sees the innocent, passionate man behind the mask, while wary Benjamin begins to trust in his wife's love even though it endangers them both. Readers will cheer for the couple, especially when the obstacles piled in their paths appear unsurmountable. The compulsively readable tale will leave this new author’s fans eager for her next book."

In other book news, Kait Nolan's Red is out in paperback!

Here's my review of Red. Funny, I haven't reviewed Firelight yet. But Publisher's Weekly got it spot on with "Readers will cheer for the couple, especially when the obstacles piled in their paths appear unsurmountable." Add it to your wishlist!

Friday, 16 December 2011

How Do You Select Contest Winners?

How do you choose your contest winners?

I realised that, while I posted the winner of my 300 Followers (yay!) giveaway on Wednesday, I forgot to show exactly how Zan Marie won.

So here you have the patented Deniz method of random selection:

Numbers corresponding to the entrants are written on scraps of paper and displayed for the benefit of Sam:

What do I do with them? he wonders

Perhaps if I keep staring...

Frodo offers to help

Let me first investigate these small bits...

Then I'm going to stare in a pensive fashion

And, here it is. This is the one.

There you have it. Foolproof!

Regular writerly posting will resume Sunday!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Giveaway Winner and Reading a Book is Like the Star Trek Revolving Door

There's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that features a revolving door on a planet in the middle of nowhere.

The characters step through the door and enter a Vegas-style hotel called The Royale – darkness and void behind them, and light and music and people on the inside.

That's what reading is like. (Never mind that, on the show, they're trying desperately to escape.)

Some books you read as you revolve in the door, and you come out the other side having gone nowhere.

Other books bring you into a sort of vestibule, and you hang out in the lobby for a while.

Then there are the real books, the good books. You take one step into that revolving door and a wind of language shoots you forward and you stumble into an entire world, filled with laughter and tears and a host of people you're so glad, so proud to be with. That same wind had better return and push you back out the door or you'll never leave.

It's a breathtaking rush, that feeling of dropping in amongst characters you'd be honoured to have smile at you, and stories that linger inside you for days and weeks and years.

These are the books that make you keep reading, that you would love to write.

I've been very fortunate - this weekend, I read two such books. One was Diana Gabaldon's The Scottish Prisoner.

And the other was Kristen D. Randle's The Only Alien on the Planet.

"He never speaks. He never makes eye contact. No one has ever touched him. They say he's retarded. Autistic. Strange. His name is Smitty, but everyone calls him "The Alien," and Ginny is intrigued. She's been feeling like an alien in a strange world since she and her family moved here from the West Coast. Against her first impulse, Ginny vows to make contact with Smitty. To be his friend.

But still waters run deep. And Smitty is like the ocean. Ginny soon finds herself being sucked under – going out too far. But Smitty is the one who could drown. Because the world he's created is safe from love, from pain, from everything. There's no room for anyone else. At least – till Ginny comes along..."

As Ginny says: "That's what I love about good films and good books – you can climb right into them and be there. I just hate it when I'm doing that, and then somebody butts in and messes with my concentration."

Randle writes in the tradition of Norma Fox Mazer, E. L. Konigsburg, and two other books that made me cry in the last few months: Looking for Alaska and The Summer of Skinny Dipping.

Giveaway winner!

Thanks to all my 300+ followers! The winner of the contest is...

Let me know which of the four books you'd like, Zan Marie.

Speaking of contests, guess what? Katharine at the Insect Collector is giving away awesome bug prints like this one:

I wish I could draw like that.

Aaaaannnnnd... here's the revolving door:

Sunday, 11 December 2011

ROW80 Update, Book Links and a Book in the Wild!

Dropped off the internet for a day and a half while I was reading this:

Reading Diana Gabaldon's books is not only an exciting, touching, moving (funny and sad) experience, but also a great way, if one is an author, to fill up one's well of words and rhythm.

That said, I've got three big projects on the go at the moment: finishing the edits to Out of the Water; typing up the last few scenes of Ayten's story and adding some more; and completing the revision of my plot bunny story.

As for links, Adam Heine recently posted a comparative list of his novels and milestones. I've got too many to list here, and probably wouldn't remember the details accurately enough. But I did come across hilarious-to-read-now statistics I posted last August (2010) in reference to Out of the Water:

WIP Title: Out of the Water
Author: Deniz Bevan
Genre: YA historical, set in 1492
Stage: First draft, book 1
(53,000/ 70,000 words complete)

It was a month or so later that the book's genre changed to historical romance (the Cherry Hill houseparty was three months gone, and the Constantinople houseparty was in full swing), and that I realised 70,000 was hardly enough to tell the story. By June 2011 I had c. 140,000 words. Yet now I've got too many, and I've been cutting ever since. At 119,000 at the moment and going down...

Nadja's Twelve Days of Christmas has officially begun! Check out the list of awesome books and authors that are featured, and don't forget to leave a comment to win one of the featured titles.

Random Acts of Reading have an ongoing Books in the Wild series, and now I've got one, a book in its natural habitat - in Germany (though the book is in English)!

The giveaway in my last post continues until Wednesday!
So you still have time to comment and win one of four books.

Friday, 9 December 2011

300 Followers Giveaway!

Now that I've done the reading pile and the writing to do list...

What about some new books?

Singing Dragon Books in the United Kingdom is re-releasing Evelyn Eaton's last and finest novel, Go Ask the River, on December 15 - just in time for the anniversary of Eaton's 109th birthday. More information here, including a review from the now-defunct Montreal Star.

Carol's playing a Finish This Story game! Head over and add your sentence.

My latest review - of Jana Richards' The Girl Most Likely - is up at the 100 Romances Blog.

Get your books in now! The One Hundred Romances Project will cease taking review requests for 2011 publications at the end of this week. Submit requests by midnight tomorrow, or wait for us to re-open to submissions for 2012 publications in January.

Resia Stone's latest, Baba's Kitchen: Ukrainian Soul Food with Stories From the Village is out now! Here's Baba herself:

"Why is call Ukrainian Soul Food? Yizha dusha, soul food, is powerful thing. Dusha, soul, is fierce vitality force. It is roaring flame you cannot put out, inside cage of thick flesh and hard bone. Not some kind airing fairy floating around like chiffon scarf. That is Nu Age barfola. Baba going to show you Old Age. Ha! Food is for create more life force, make nourish your soul as well your physical body. You need more? Baba so generous, she give you recipe. Click on Free Sample button to read all about."

Thank you to all 301 of my followers!
Yes, there's a giveaway!
All you have to do is comment on this post and you'll be entered into a draw to
win your choice of the books listed in this post:
there's romance, YA, nonfiction and a historical.
(If you choose Carol's book, you'll have to wait for its release!)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Insecure Writers' Support Group and Houseparties and 300 Followers

Our Insecure Writers' Support Group meets again!

Welcome, all writers.

Today let's revisit the best cure for writer's block I know:

Last year, I wrote a guest post on Kait Nolan's blog, describing what these houseparties are:
Houseparties are a great way to thrust your characters out of their familiar worlds and learn things about them that you may not have known before. Writing for a houseparty is just like writing your first draft – fast paced and fluid, with no second guessing; anything goes at a houseparty, from magic to skipping between time periods, to anachronistic events and language, to romantic interludes...
Links to all of the previous parties are here.

I mention all this as we've just had another party! This time the setting was the Madcap Mansion. Anything goes at these parties, you know.

Having raced, out of breath, to the finish line at NaNo, it felt great to reconnect with Ayten and Devran on a less structured level. After the Constantinople Houseparty, I asked: "Houseparties are so fast and exciting and fun; what if the novel seems dull after this?"

The answer seems obvious now - you know you're hitting the right notes in the novel when it moves as swiftly as a houseparty.

Don't forget to participate in the giveaways for Nadja's 12 Days of Christmas Reading Gift List!

Speaking of giveaways, I've passed 300 followers! Thank you everyone! There'll be prizes soon, I promise.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Traditions and Resolutions and Little Christmas

Twelve days of Christmas. No, I won't start singing about a partridge. This is a literary twelve days!

The final task in the Literary Resolutions for 2011 is to: Buy books, give books, talk about books, and spread your love of literature throughout the holidays.

I can't think of anything more fun, and actually, it fits right in with my own goals, as seen in the post below.

Also, Nadja's hosting a Twelve Days of Christmas gift list starting on 10 December. Be sure to stop by!

One of my favourite Christmas stories, besides the Christmas story itself, is Agnes Sligh Turnbull's Little Christmas.

I read it for the first time ages ago in an issue of Reader's Digest from the 1960s, and only recently found out that it's actually a longer novel. The story as I read it (I have a feeling Reader's Digest excised quite a bit) is very sweet, about a couple and their two children who come together for the holidays and the family dramas that ensue - until the mother recreates the Christmas traditions from when the kids were younger, and they work through their problems.

Aw, I know it sounds cheesy when told like that (I can't even write my own books' blurbs!). But now you have a chance to read it for yourself - I've found a copy printed in the Australian Women's Weekly!

"Suddenly a soft, startled flush rose in Margaret's cheeks. She sat there thinking intently, and then she spoke aloud. 'Little Christmas!' she repeated over and over again. 'Little Christmas; now, today, and mine if I want it!'"

(There's a weird quote about Englishwomen as wives in the margins of the newspaper; I can't tell if it's meant to be a joke or not.)
Which are your favourite Christmas tales?

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Teetering, Toppling To Read Pile

Books, books, and more books.

I have a plan. It involves lots of hard work on editing and preparing queries for Out of the Water, and printing and doing at least one read through of Verse, Venice and Viziers (which still needs a title change, as they're in Rome not Venice).

All of that will be done from now until 22 December. And then!

Ah, yes, and then. I'll be off work from then until 3 January. And the plan is: To Read. To plough through the To Read piles. To devour books at the rate I used to before I devoted time to my own.

See what I'm up against:

180 Books to read by 2015 (list on the left)

The pile in the closet:

The three piles and shelf by the bed, including rereads:

The pile at work:

And there are at least twenty other random books scattered about the house.

Here's one more! Our Campaign Challenges book is now in print, and available on AmazonAll proceeds go to Help Harry Help Others to fund research on brain cancer.

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at