Wednesday, 5 December 2012

IWSG, and Whole Lotta Authors: Talli Roland, Alberta Ross, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Richard Russo

Every Talli Roland book I read becomes my new favourite, and The Pollyanna Plan is no exception!
"Thirty-something Emma Beckett has always looked down on 'the glass is half full' optimists, believing it's better to be realistic than delusional. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé in the same week, even Emma has difficulty keeping calm and carrying on.
With her world spinning out of control and bolstered by a challenge from her best friend, Emma makes a radical decision. For the next year, she'll behave like Pollyanna: attempting to always see the upside, no matter how dire the situation.
Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea?"
The story is told from both Emma and Will's points of view, and I found both characters equally compelling, all the more so because they fit so well together!

It's always hard to pull off love-at-first-sight, whether you're writing that sort of story or reading one, but in this case Talli's nailed it - I was thinking of these characters long after I'd finished the book and am still inventing futures for them in my head; just can't let them go!

I was a bit surprised that Emma's best friend Alice, when she comes up with the idea for the Pollyanna plan, refers only to the tv show, and not the book by Eleanor H. Porter (along with its sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up), but actually that's completely in character for Alice. Without getting into spoiler-territory, I noticed there's nothing definite said at the end about Alice's relationship with Will's friend Chaz. I hope this hints at a sequel - and that we catch a glimpse of Emma and Will in that story too!

The Chick Lit Club is hosting a competition - win a copy of The Pollyanna Plan!

And now, I turn the blog over to Alberta Ross for a moment...

Welcome Alberta!

Once Upon A Time in a Car Park

Once upon a time in a car park, a few miles away, I glimpsed a fairy princess.

I watched with mixed feelings as a small child plod seriously between the puddles, taking such care to protect her finery from stray splashes. Quite rightly, her finery was worth the saving. Yards of tulle and net in the brightest pink shouted defiance at the heavy lowering greyness of the day. Her skirts were wider than she was long. Parental common sense had endeavoured to protect the purpling flesh from Jack Frost's icy fingers and a sensible, warm parka draped her shoulders as she negotiated a large sheet of water. The parka slipped and we were treated to the sight of a beautiful cloak of 'velvet' tied around her neck. On her tangle of hair perched a rather battered tiara of pearls, a few missing, the result of a terrible two tantrum maybe?

The child negotiated her way safely to her car and we were treated to a flash of undisguised pleasure in her gappy smile. The last view I had of her, was her triumphantly waving her wand around her space as the family drove away. Another triumph of fairy land. Was she I wondered a fairy, princess or queen? Did she know? Did it matter? She knew she was beautiful, she knew she was special. Was she actually old enough to know she was a fairy?

At what age does our imagination and capability to imagine another realm begin?

We take our imaginations so much for granted especially if we read or write, we tend to assume it is there from the beginning. We who play with imagination and fantasies are following a very long history of others. Story telling is such an old form of presenting the world we can only guess at which pre-human species developed it. This ability we possess of forming images and sensations which are not formed from a tangible visual present sensation is in itself amazing. Children do not appear to have it. We have to teach imagination to them and the better it is taught and assimilated the better the child's development in empathy and social cohesion. The better it is taught the better the child's sense of the world. Imagination is such an essential skill in a child’s development.

Imagination cannot exist before a child develops a sense of 'other' and therefore a sense of 'self'. Cannot develop before a sense of time exists, the past and the future as well as the present. Considering imagination requires emotions, memory, thought, knowledge and perception it is remarkable that miraculously by three or four they have it. Truly the brain is a tremendous organ.

I did not know the child in the car park and could only guess at her age from external clues. I would have said she was too young to know what she was dressed up as, too young to be actively acting out a mental fantasy. Was she role- playing a seen vision on TV or film? Or maybe just enjoying wearing a dress her mother or father had smiled and clapped their hands in delight at? It didn't matter, she brought moments of magic to that dreary car-park. To the watchers who stopped their hurry for a second or two, who smiled, despite themselves, to watch her pretty concentration through the puddles. Brought memories flooding back, revived hopes and dreams. Tatty tiara not withstanding the young fairy spread sparkling magic dust.

And to the old cynics such as moi, a flash of sadness with the thought that maybe her life wouldn't always be so joyous. Children are a constant reminder of how good the moment can be, before life throws worry and anxiety in the way. I have to also, admit to a trace of green. When I was that young, imagination was hidden in our homes, wearing a pretty pink, totally unsuitable, dress to the shops was not an option, acting out our fantasies in a public place not encouraged. I cheer for them while I envy them.

I loaded up my groceries and drove home with a wish, that the little girl has a happy ever after life. Fingers crossed.

We all need the small fairy moments in our life. Some of us are fortunate enough to create them for ourselves and for others. The most exciting, wonderful occupation ever.
The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al. by Alberta Ross: Alberta's new collection of tales offers a handful of Once Upon a Time stories. Twisted, slightly shuffled to one side and wrapped in a modern day perspectives.
Find good and evil in equal measure.
Discover greed and vanity.
Cheer the lovelorn and boo the wicked.
Observe the shape shifters, princesses and talking animals.
Watch as revenge is sought for a past time and justice demanded for an ignored crime.
Ponder the truths that can be found in all fairy tales and myths.
Take nothing for granted, these well crafted tales may sound cosy as you begin, but watch out. As a summer breeze these redefined fairy tales can turn in an instant to a tempest.
Sit back and enjoy them.
Excerpts from The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al:

From Royale Randide: Conrad came to stay one weekend, charming all except Ophelia who saw into his shallow ways. Conrad certainly tried with the 'old lady'; aware that Sarah held her in great esteem, but he wondered why 'his girl' wasted her time on such an untidy piece of humanity. Sarah's parents had been easy to win over. His private education had polished his performance to a gleaming brightness the like of which Annabel had only dreamed of for her daughter. Sarah's father enjoyed chats on masculine matters, declaring the 'boy' bright and destined to go far. Conrad came from money and would go on to carve a world in the City to make even more; of this the world was certain. Sarah, her parents, relatives and friends all agreed, had done very well to catch such a prize.

'Well, dear, you won't want for anything material with that young man.' Ophelia was gazing around her garden as Sarah performed the 'I'll be mother shall I?' routine, with delicate porcelain china. Sarah glanced at her with a smile.
'You're not keen are you?'
'I'm sure he will, as your father says, 'Go far'.'
Ophelia brought her gaze back to the girl's face and smiled gently at her young friend.
'How much material do you want in life? That's what it comes to. You are still young you know, whole world of possibilities ahead. This man will not share you with the world. He's a trophy collector.'
Sarah remained silent all through two cups of remarkable tea.
'Where do you buy your tea? This is wonderful,' she murmured eventually.

From Red Shoes: You can locate the place on Google Earth. Zoom in down – take some ginger first if you suffer from motion sickness. Keep on until you get to street level. There, you can see the shop on the left hand side, between the boarded up baker's and the trashed greengrocer's. Of course it's not like that now. Google Earth hasn't been there lately. You'd not recognise it these days. Smart? Well yes, all the shop signs newly painted and all but it's more than that. An air of buzz, industry and confidence. Let me tell you how it happened. This is the truth, I was there, no fairy tale this. Comfortable? Okay then, here goes.
Once upon a time, but in living memory, there lived a shoemaker and his wife in a little Victorian cottage, smack in the middle of a village. Tiny front garden and small back. He was a good shoemaker, taking pride in his workmanship, still in love with his wife despite thirty years of marriage. But market forces had created a devastating recession around them; cheap imports of throwaway commodities, including shoes, flooded the market and demand for beautiful craftsmanship slumped. The couple were looking at bankruptcy, the bank's foreclosure on their house – and only a few more years left on their mortgage, shame – and what then, they dared not question.
'Just a bit of luck, that's what's needed,' he said gloomily.
'Where's it to come from though?'
Luck is a strange and chancy thing in this world of ours. Sometimes it comes, most times it doesn't.

Alberta's books may be purchased as print copies from Lulu. The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al is available now at Smashwords in all formats, and on Kindle at and
Alberta spent the first part of her adult life travelling the world, the middle years studying and now has settled down to write. From the first part she has endless photographs, memories and friends. From the second a BSc Hons, an MA and friends. Now in this part everything comes together.
Over the years her interests have expanded, as has her book and music collection. A short list would include reading (almost anything) science, opera, folk, gardening, philosophy, crazy patchwork, freeform crochet, ethics, social history, cooking (and eating of course) gardening, anthropology, climate change and sustainability.
Alberta says the best gift her parents gave her, apart from a love of reading and music, was an interest and curiosity in everything which, in itself, has become a total inability to be bored and for this she is always grateful.
Find her on her website, and her blog, for background to the writing of Alberta’s publications, as well as typepad, for whatever takes her fancy, and WordPress, for all things writing

Alberta can also be found on: Facebook, Twitter, the Independent Author Network, and Goodreads.

The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al is also visiting the Indie Book Exchange on 12 December!

There will be six e-book copies of The Fiddling Feline, the Flea and the Frog et al up for grabs at the end of her mini tour: winners will be selected randomly from those who comment (print copies available to UK residents only).

Thank you, Alberta!

Yes, today is Insecure Writer's Support Group day. I don't have much to say on that this month except to point out how silly it is for us to feel insecure when we have such an awesome support group of fellow writers blogging. Thank you Ninja Alex Cavanaugh!

Also, in other news, there's a movie version of Tolkien's The Hobbit coming out.

Yes, there is. Exciting, huh? The Hobbit soundtrack is available for streaming already, and there are some gorgeous glossy trailer posters out (Kili, anyone?).

So I'm excited. But I'm also scared.

Matthew's blogged about his Hobbit predictions, and I don't really have anything to add, except...

Everyone seems to think the third Lord of the Rings movie is the best one, but actually, I kinda preferred the first one. While they, as usual, left out a boatload of character development and plot (even Bilbo in The Hobbit doesn't get to Rivendell as quickly as the four hobbits jumped from the Shire to Bree), in most cases the cuts were seamless. More importantly, in contrast to films two and three, they didn't add a bunch of nonsense (Aragorn floats downstream) or ruin characters with the sweep of a weapon (Faramir acts exactly like Boromir! Gandalf and Denethor fist fight!).

Just thinking about some of those changes gets me depressed. And then I catch The Hobbit trailer and excitement bubbles up all over again. I love the grand sweep of the hills and mountains in these movies. And at least they won't - I hope! - be as bland as the Harry Potter films (which at least had character appearances down pat).

So I'm scared. But also excited.

During Virtual Surrey I started a thread on Books to Movies, where I discussed a few other books that have been made into movies and vice versa. Last weekend I read another: Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. I saw an add for this book in a magazine way back in 1993 or so, and have wanted to read it ever since.

Have you ever had a book sit in your wishlist that long?

I've seen the movie a handful of times and quite like it. I loved the book.
How often does that happen?


Megan Hand said...

This Talli Roland one looks too cute! Thanks for the share! I laughed at your comment on my post, haha, pages of a manuscript. Sounds about right :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Grr. The thought of all the things they changed in the LOTR films still chaps my hide, and yet I love them still. Definitely looking forward to the Hobbit, too.

stu said...

But I thought that the whole point was that all these people would help me practice being insecure, until I was really good at it, like a proper writer.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. Talli is amazing because she keeps the books on coming - so I'm looking forward to getting it. Alberta's too looks fun ...

You're right about the supportiveness of bloggers for whichever phase of life we're in .. cheers Hilary

alberta ross said...

Quite flattered I share a post with Tolkien, always my hero, thank you;0
i have to disagree strongly with those who like the 3rd film best - the ending was totally trashed. Happy ending back in Hobbit land - rubbish in the book they reality of how life can never be the same after a major war. The spitful ruination of the green plesant land of the hobbits was the bitter pill the returning heros had to face, laughing and dancing on the green - pish - desecration to prove all are lossers in conflict - Tolkien had seen this in his lifetime - it was one of the devasting endings that remain - those who have only seen the film will have missed this 'proper' ending to the conflict - okay rant over:) I did enjoy the films apart from that - they did mess a bit but too much and from someone who has prob. read the work over 30 times starting just after 1st publications it is high praise.

great post as always:)

Ryan King said...

I'm rather hesitant to go see the Hobbit. I hope it turns out to be okay (or good). LOTR was enjoyable. I know they modified the story to fit the big screen but that's typical.

Talli Roland said...

Thank you so much, Deniz! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it.

Interesting comment on Alice's explanation of Pollyanna. I debated having her talk about the book, but thought given her age and character, the TV show would be better.

Thanks again! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I did a shout out for Talli as well! And yes, this support group rocks.

M Pax said...

This community is great support. Congrats to Talli and Alberta! Woot!

Denise Covey said...

Yeah, Talli's books are great. Read them all. Am reading Mistletoe ATM then will read Pollyanna. Hi to Alberta Ross too! There was big hoo has in NZ at the Hobbit premiere. Hobbit fever hit the city. When we went to NZ a coupla years ago we visited some of the sites from the LOTR movies. Great...

DL Hammons said...

I read Talli's first book and its absolutely awesome to watch her build up a catalogue of offerings!

Planning on making THE HOBBIT our Christmas Eve movie this year! :)

Linda Jackson said...

Just stopping in to say hi, Deniz. I've been neglecting Blogger lately, so I haven't been visiting my favorite blogs. ...will do better in the coming weeks. :)

Romance Reader - Nas said...

Hi Deniz,

Talli is amazing because she keeps the books on coming. I just got her The Pollyanna Plan.

Alberta's look great too.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Deniz,

WOW ... This is ONE JAM PACKED POST... Lots going on!

Thanks for sharing your reviews and opinions. I am totally looking forward to seeing the HOBBIT on the 14th.

AND you are so right about our AMAZING community. Although I still have my bouts of insecurity...

Medeia Sharif said...

Yes, I've had some books on my wishlist forever. I hope I get to read them all.

I look forward to reading The Pollyanna Plan.

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks so much for coming by everyone! I'm falling behind in commenting of late, but I really appreciate everyone coming round. Aww, supportive bloggers :-) Have a coffee/wine/pint/tea!

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
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