Friday, 30 March 2012

The Saga of the Kilt Hose

[Cross posted from my knitting blog.
A-Z Challenge and the next round of ROW80 start this week. Look for me on Nutschell's blog on 4 April!]

Kilt hose. Long stockings worn as part of full Highland regalia. Kilts, at least, have been around for hundreds of years.

Apparently, this is one of the earliest depictions of kilts, a German print showing Highlanders, from c. 1630.

Back in 2008, I was saying things like 'If I ever knit a sock...' Round about then, Helen and I started knitting at lunchtimes. I made a knitter's crossword! Yet when I referred to socks (and there's also one typo), I only mentioned double pointed needles.

I started my first pair of socks in September 2009, and it was on double pointed needles. It only took one sock for me to become discouraged. As I said in a follow-up post, "there's another major reason some of us - cough cough - don't like knitting socks: you have to make another one exactly the same directly after you've finished! I knit my first sock last month and now I'm suffering from second sock syndrome; can't seem to get started on the pair! It might also have something to do with the size of needles - I used tiny 2.5mm ones; perhaps I'd enjoy the process more if they were bigger and the wool thicker... Or if I could knit both at once! My next pattern will definitely be a two-socks-at-once pattern."

Helen came to my rescue, and I started another pair of socks, working on both at once on two separate circular needles (while listening to Scottish band Runrig).

By January 2010, Helen had discovered the magic loop method, which lets you knit up two socks at once on one circular needle. Finally, knitting both socks at once! By February, they were complete, and I wrote: "After the ones on dpns, where I only made one sock, and the ones on straight needles, where I only sewed up one sock and ran out of wool for the second, it's nice to be able to say "I've made a pair of socks!" Hooray for the magic loop method."

And then, it came to me. Kilt hose! And no, not just because Jamie Fraser knits socks and wears a kilt. I do have a couple of friends from Scotland, and one of them happened to have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. What could be easier than making a pair of kilt hose?

I ordered the wool from elann: 10 or 12 (I can't remember) skeins of Oatmeal Heather Highland Wool.

By mid-March, they looked like this:

The birthday came and went. However, by April, the kilt hose had feet:

As much as I loved the magic loop method, I found it impractical for the kilt hose, as I'm not good at spatial imagining/planning. I couldn't figure out how to adapt the original magic loop pattern to the additional stitches of the kilt hose. Also, knitting on two circular needles was less tight, and gave me more room to see what I was doing.

The pattern I used was John Anderson's Kilt Hose by Robert Jenkins. The pattern is named for a Robbie Burns poem:
"John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And monie a canty day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo."
As far as traditions go, Jenkins specifies that "Kilt hose are traditionally worn 3" below the bottom of the kneecap, though 3-fingers distance is close enough if you aren't in the Regiment or have very wide fingers . As long as no part of the knee is covered by the stocks, all will be well. Any color from the kilt can be selected for wearing at any occasion. Some say that colored hose are only for casual or daywear along with cream shades and neutrals, while snow white would be worn only in the evening or for formal occasions, according to convention. Others aver that any color that harmonizes with the kilt is fine for formal occasions as well. Suit yourself."

So far so good. I was halfway up the calf when summer came and I switched to cooler projects with cotton wool, and that's where I stopped.

Autumn and winter came and went. I made another pair of socks using the magic loop and briefly noted: "And now, back to our regularly scheduled kilt hose." In January 2011 I had another brief note about "the neverending kilt hose (I knit an inch up the legs yesterday!)".

In between, I'd knit so many other things (not to mention all the writing related projects), but meanwhile I'd missed the deadline for Burns night, and I was on my way to missing birthday number two. I'd bring along the kilt hose in my knitting bag and, while I knit other projects at lunch, friends would point and ask, "what about those? are you ever going to finish them?"

They'd become my longest-lived UFOs, or unfinished objects.

Last month, having completed all my other UFOs, I cleaned out the knitting bag. And there were the half-calf kilt hose, staring up at me from the bottom. My friend's birthday was in a little over a month. Maybe I could finally meet a deadline!

I dropped everything. Editing, blogging (I got posts up but fell way behind on commenting), laundry. I didn't log into Facebook for a week and a half and started getting "you have notifications pending" messages in my email. Instead of bringing a book with me, I knit on the train on the way to and from work.

Surely I must have reached the 3" limit, I thought. I held it up to my friend's leg - at least six inches left to go. Eek!

I woke up and knit. I knit before going to sleep. I had three skeins left. Finally, one day, I measured, and I was ready to begin the cuff! There were some tense moments when the pattern seemed less clear than it could be (especially when they tell you to turn the socks inside out, and that you'll be knitting on the reverse side, but don't quite tell you when to switch and knit facing the other way...), but at least when I made a mistake, it was the same mistake on both socks. To the unknitting eye, it might look like part of the pattern...

With two days to go till B-day, I finished the kilt hose!

Close up of the cuff. The cables actually align!

Sneak peek at the garter:

The garter:

Some pink snuck in there, I don't even know how. But at least you can tell left from right, if needed...

Shiny kilt hose!

I was very excited to learn that they fit perfectly! Now all we need is a Highland Games or a Gathering, and I'll have live-in-action photos to post. Thus ends the saga of the kilt hose. I love cables, but not sure I'm ready for another such project any time soon. Perhaps a baby blanket with no pattern whatsoever...

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Award!, Vacations, Afghanistan, Charles II, and Ditties from Grade School

Jamie at Mithril Wisdom, who - like me - still plays with LEGO, tagged me with an award!

"Thank the person who gave you this award and link back to their blog.
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you've recently discovered or follow regularly.
Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself."

1. My cousin, Fabrice Nadjari, and his friend, recently filmed a documentary - and more - in the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan.

2. I've got a trip to England and Scotland and Wales coming up! So much to see and do.

3. I'm still keeping an eye on the Decorah eagles cam. Eagle chicks!

4. Recently, I spent a weekend up north. It looked like this:

5. I'm not normally into zombie stories (with the exception of Lord John and the Plague of Zombies) but I've been reading World War Z by Max Brooks, and I can't put it down. Finally, an apocalyptic story that acknowledges the rest of the planet and how interconnected every country in the world is.

6. On another weekend, I went to the Westmount Antiquarian Book Fair. Among five shilling books about bathrooms

and guidance on book care

there was a law passed by King Charles II.

I got to touch it. Actual paper from the 17th Century that Charles II had touched. If I had squeeed out loud, I think the hills would still be echoing.

7. All Things Boys had a post recently featuring a ditty she remembered from camp. I've got two that have been stuck in my head since grade school:

(cross your legs and arms, and sing)
I am slowly going crazy
1 2 3 4 5 6 switch!
(switch positions by crossing your legs and arms the other way, and sing)
crazy going slowly am I
6 5 4 3 2 1 switch
(switch positions again)
(keep singing, faster and faster each time)

The second one goes like this: 1 2 3 4 5 / Once I caught a fish alive / why did you let him go? / because he bit my finger so / which finger did he bite? / the little finger on the right

Funny how these things stick with you. What kids' songs do you remember?
I'm tagging all of you on the award!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tolkien Reading Day, Judy Blume Is *Not* Too Tame, and Lucky Seven

Yes it's that time of year again: Tolkien Reading Day. I'm in the middle of rereading the second book of the History of Middle Earth, the Book of Lost Tales, Part Two. I love, especially, all the connections to Old English, which reminds me that these tales are part of the history of the British Isles. Well they are.

Our local paper featured an article the other day called "Does Judy Blume matter anymore? Today's kids find her stories too tame."

While I understand that kids these days are exposed to life's so-called realities a lot earlier than they used to be, I object to the idea that "life is infinitely more complicated for girls today." It is not. Sure we have more activities, less chores, more distractions - especially online - but I hope that for girls under the age of 12, there are still friendships to be made, lessons to be learned, and new discoveries to be made every day. Given all that, any guideposts along the road, any nuggets of wisdom from books about characters who are struggling, have a value that can't be dismissed.

Candy Lynn tagged me in the Lucky 7!

"1. Go to page 77 of your current MS
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know"

It's not easy finding page 77 on Scrivener. But once I've exported Rome, Rhymes and Risk into Word, I get:

Her hesitance must have shown in her face, for Cem insisted that she not risk further hurt.

"I am rather shaken," she admitted. "And my wrist aches, but I do not need my wrist to walk. I do not wish to [hinder] anyone else."

"Of course not," he agreed. "The others may go on, and I'll have the guide return and lead us at a more leisurely pace. Until then, I am willing to remain behind, so that you need not wait alone."

Now isn't that funny. This is the continuation of the same scene I used in part two of my Rule of Three blogfest story.

So what happens when Ayten and Cem are left alone on the side of the mountain? We shall see... This is about where I stopped editing two weeks ago and started completing the kilt hose. More on that soon.

I'll tag anyone who feels like sharing a snip - I hope you all do!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

End of Another ROW80 Round, Kedi's Paw Award, Stephen King, and LOTS of Blogger Love Links

Here we are at the end of another round of A Round of Words in 80 Days. I did really well - at least, working steadily - until last week. Then I got derailed by kilt hose.

With one chapter left to go, I'm going to jump into the next round, and promise to finish editing Rome, Rhymes and Risk, and query a few more agents off my list, for Out of the Water.

But I've been neglecting the blogs. So I thought, in case I can't make it to all the commenters on my last handful of posts, I'd give all of you an award! Presented by Kedi! (And I'll leave this post up through Sunday, and skip a Friday post for once.)

Kedi is a... spirit who currently happens to be in cat form. Only those with whom he is in direct contact realise that he's more than just an ordinary cat - currently he lets his guard down only around Austin, the English boy he's befriended in my middle grade novel The Face of A Lion.

As a cat, he's a soft grey colour with a white underside and paws, and very long whiskers. He makes chirping noises and purrs very loudly; to Austin and others who understand him, this sounds to them like English or whichever language it is they speak.

Here he is, passing on his Badge of Honour to you:

Please feel free to pass on the Paw!

And now, some of the links I'm meaning to follow as I get back into blogging:

Here's my latest review, of Alyson Reuben's A Beautiful Cage, on One Hundred Romances. And there are new reviews over at Romance Book Haven!

A snip from Siv Maria's story as part of the Lucky 7 meme.

The Daring Novelist types up old stories over at Daring Adventure Stories. What an amazing idea! Here's the latest, a story called Girl From Nowhere, from 1915.

Medeia Sharif was also tagged on the lucky 7!

Carol Riggs has got a great post on the effect your story has on readers.

Sara's recent post talks about the main character dilemma. What do you do when you like a book but dislike so much of the character?

Cherie Reich reveals cover art!

The Eagle talks about home schooling and features a Turkish March.

The Capillary's doing a 21 day challenge!

Robin McCormack has a friend for Kedi!

Madeleine has new limericks!

Susan Fields talks about revision.

I just read some wonderful truths by Stephen King about revision:
"My approach to revision hasn't changed much over the years. I know there are writers who do it as they go along, but my method of attack has always been to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible by constant use, and trying to outrun the novelist's most insidious enemy, which is doubt. Looking back prompts too many questions: How believable are my characters? How interesting is my story? How good is this, really? Will anyone care? Do I care myself?.

When my first draft of a novel is done, I put it away, warts and all, to mellow. Some period of time later - six months, a year, two years, it doesn't really matter - I can come back to it with a cooler (but still loving) eye, and begin the task of revising."
--Foreword to The Dark Tower reissue, 2003

Nadja's got exciting news for the end of ROW80.

Jamie at Mithril Wisdom tagged me! He's also got great advice about tweaking your old blog posts.

Candy tells us what writers can learn from soap operas.

Sia Mycke's guest is Kim Sanders.

Misha's guest is Stephen Tremp.

Jessica Fritsche met all her ROW80 goals!

Vicki Tremper's been tagged.

The Science of Romance has a Lucky Leprechaun giveaway that ends tomorrow!

Naina Gupta's given a new interview.

Nas Dean features a new romance author.

Joshua features another excerpt of older writing...

Chris Kelworth's starting a new series...

Jessica Salyer has a guest poster discussing self-publishing...

...and Ali Dent talks about being overwhelmed sometimes. And KM Huber talks about silence.

Lauralynn Eliott has reached the end of ROW80, too.

Tia Bach talks about loving to write for teenagers.

Carolyn's got a post on tips she picked up at a writers' event - Publicity for Authors.

Suzanne's got tips too, on specificity.

Michael ...In Time... looks back on over a year of blogging!

Outlander Kitchen now has an index!

Julie Glover's got a great meme about reading habits.

And Marcia Richards' had a recent linky post too, featuring great stuff, including an interview of Diana Gabaldon by Authors Road, and writing tips from Steinbeck.

Finally, big congratulations to Theresa Milstein and Roland Yeomans and Connie Keller for reaching the quarter finals of ABNA!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Sunday Summary, ROW80 Fail, Nesting Eagles, and the Saint Patrick's Day Parade

Taking a leaf out of Kait Nolan's blog today and posting a summary:

Writing and editing: For one week now I've taken an unexpected, unplanned and unadulterated break from editing Rome, Rhymes and Risk. I did manage to revise the query for Out of the Water, thanks to everyone who offered insightful comments over at Matthew's, but I haven't sent out any new queries. A little scared...

Blogging: I've posted, and thanks to everyone for coming by - I will visit all your blogs soon!

But, and the reason I've been so slack with social media - though I did manage to vote for Jo Bourne and Kait Nolan and Darlene Marshall as they moved up the ranks in DABWAHA - is that I've been:

Knitting: Yes, it's The Saga of the Kilt Hose! I started this project two years ago, for a Scottish friend, and every time I dropped it and started again there was a new deadline. His next birthday. Robbie Burns' night. The Saint Patrick's Society of Montreal Annual Ball. His birthday again.

Not sure what stuck a spur into me this week - the derisive laughter of colleagues who've seen me work on this project on and off for two years might have had something to do with it - but I've been determined to complete the socks for his birthday on Wednesday. I'll put up full details and the annotated pattern (I had quite a few problems understanding it) on the knitting blog at a later date.

Here's what the kilt hose looked like when I had only the feet done, two years ago.

I've got ten rows left to go and then comes the 'finishing' (weaving in the ends and possibly washing and blocking them, if I have the nerve). Wish me luck!

(image courtesy of the Shady Shamrock blog)

Until then, it's parade day! I promise not to get too happy, so that I can finish knitting tonight. Montreal has the second oldest Saint Patrick's Day parade (after NYC, of course) in all of North America; this year's is the 189th edition. I was in/on a float one year (college float - any and all alumni were invited!), but I still can't decide if it's better to be a participant or a spectator.

Two extra items:

Friends of mine participated in a Polar Bear Plunge yesterday, to raise money for the Special Olympics. While the plunge is over, I believe you can still donate - head over to the Feisty Fusion team page!

Now, for your viewing pleasure, live stream of nesting eagles in Iowa:

Free desktop streaming application by Ustream

She's sitting on three eggs that are due to hatch at the end of the week!

Friday, 16 March 2012

DABWAHA, Britannica, Gabaldon and Pez Dispensers, St Patrick, and Me in Real Simple!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day tomorrow! Today it's breakfast at McKibbins Irish Pub, bright and early.

Why not listen to some Irish Rovers:

We're also drinking to the demise of the print edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the reasons for which are succinctly explained in Wired. The one slant I disagree with is the assertion that "I suspect almost no one ever opened their Britannicas" and "Britannica's own market research showed that the typical encyclopedia owner opened his or her volumes less than once a year":

I guess I'm part of the minority that has an affinity for research books. I enjoy idly flipping through encyclopaedias, and I often pull out the (print!) Oxford English Dictionary for a good hunt/read.

DABWAHA is on right now! I know voting is confusing, but that's no excuse - just sign in every day (though I tried to vote in the first round while at the office and discovered that I was blocked from the site, as it somehow got registered as a 'gambling' site. Huh?) and VOTE whenever you see the polls open. There are three awesome amazing wonderful books that deserve to go head to head in the final round:

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne, Sea Change by Darlene Marshall and Red by Kait Nolan.

Once you've done voting, head over to the Free Par-tay!!! and nab some free e-published books!

And some links:

I replied to Real Simple's What Author Do you Admire Most and Why? and they printed my answer in the April issue! Er, I chose Tolkien, of course.

And here's a lovely long interview with Diana Gabaldon. Love the part where she talks of readers expecting writers to be like creativity Pez dispensers!

Speaking of Diana, there's a Canadian connection to the creation of her books, especially The Scottish Prisoner, which is set partly in Ireland.

Which brings us back to Saint Patrick's Day. I remember memorising Dear Old Donegal when I was a kid, but can't remember if it was my school that taught it, or if my sister learned it at her school and passed it to me. In honour of the release of his latest album, though, here's Springsteen, performing another Irish ballad, Mrs McGrath:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Blackadder Status Update Day Is Tomorrow - What's Your Magnificent Octopus About?

I've had two Blackadder (one of the funniest shows in British TV history) related posts before: two of my favourite quotes, for last year's Blackadder Status Update Day ("so what was the chicken impression in aid of?" and "fortune vomits on my eiderdown once more"); and a post on Procrastinating with Rowan Atkinson.

Some of my other favourite quotes are:

(Dr. Johnson, and the word he left out of his dictionary)

"Nathaniel sits on a spike. I sit on Nathaniel. Two spikes would be an extravagance."
(Blackadder's Puritan relatives)

"You shot my Speckled Jim!?"
(Colonel Melchett, on the loss of his passenger pigeon)

"Permission to jolly well speak right now sir, otherwise I might just burst like a bally balloon."
(George, as he's swindled by Blackadder)

"Some beans."
(Baldrick's answer to 'what is two beans plus two beans?')

"Madam, without you, life is like a broken pencil... pointless."
(Blackadder curries favour with the Queen)

(Blackadder tries to get out of the war, with pencils up his nostrils)

And so on. But, in honour of all of us writers, here's Blackadder describing his magnum opus ("Edmund. A Butler's Tale. A huge, roller coaster of a novel in four hundred sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century, with some hot gypsies thrown in"), and Baldrick telling of his own 'magnificent octopus' ("Once upon a time, there was a lovely little sausage called `Baldrick', and it lived happily ever after."):

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Troll Fest - Remembering Your First Ever Blog Post

Troll fest!

Siv Maria has a lovely post about Norway and trolls and how she "can sit on [her] front steps, have a conversation with a moose and listen to a waterfall while drinking [her] morning coffee". To celebrate her Blogiversary, she's hosting a Troll Fest this month! All you have to do is share a story about your first blog post or post it again.

My first post looked like this:
Thursday, 30 August 2007
My First Post
Baby steps... Right off the bat, here's a to do list:
- decide on focus for blog
- write intro message
- email link to everyone
- add quotes, photos
- add music?
- link to Ryan's music page
- don't forget to edit!
It's almost as though I didn't realise other people could see my posts... My second post was a little more focused:
Friday, 31 August 2007
What I Am Writing
This year I have finished a short story, begun a novel, and every once in a while I take out an older novel and tinker with it.
The finished novel is tentatively entitled An Arnavutköy Spring, and is about a young Greek girl in pre-WWI Istanbul who falls in love with a dashing travelling musician from Brittany.
The work in progress does not have a title yet (watch for a contest - with prizes! - coming soon) but for daily purposes, is referred to as Austin and Kedi. Austin travels two millenia back in time to Ephesus in 41 AD, and helps to ensure that the Roman invasion of Britain actually takes place. His friend on this journey is a grey cat named Kedi. I am halfway to my goal of 80,000 words - woo hoo!
This story eventually became the Middle Grade novel The Face of A Lion, which went out on queries last year. I'll be editing An Arnavutköy Spring soon, after I finish the current round of edits on Rome, Rhymes and Risk (only one chapter away from meeting that goal!). And Austin's story is set in 43 AD, actually...

And in exciting news, The One Ring has a new Google calendar: the Today in Middle Earth calendar. Here, for instance, is today:

Hope they start adding items from the First and Second Ages, too!
Don't forget to vote in Rach's Second Campaign Challenge! My entry is one post below...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Writers Events This Weekend, DABWAHA, and I Want to be Anthony Horowitz's Copy Editor

Friday! There's lots going on this weekend.

First we've got what would have been Douglas Adams' 60th birthday on Sunday. Neil Gaiman says (and you have to do what he says): "To celebrate this event, Douglas' family and friends, in association with 'Save The Rhino' (one of Douglas' favourite charities) are holding a very special birthday celebration in his honour at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. An evening's entertainment from some of the finest names in the world of science, comedy, entertainment and music, with a very special premiere performance of Douglas' material, this is one event that is definitely not to be missed."

That's if you're in London. If you're in Montreal, we have the annual Antiquarian Book Fair! I always go, just to drool over ancient books I'd love to own. Especially if there happen to be volumes of Tolkien.

And if you're in Regensburg, Germany, you might try to sneak a peek at one of the 500 new fairytales discovered there. The stories were "locked away in an archive" for over 150 years and are "part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world."

Also in The Guardian, Anthony Horowitz, author of - among other books - the Alex Rider series, and the only new Sherlock Holmes story authorised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate (on my wishlist!), recently had an article entitled Do We Need Publishers Any More?

I thought this comment was rather telling: "I asked my own publisher, Jane Winterbotham, why I needed her and she came straight back with the reply. She said she'd call me next Tuesday. When she did finally ring me, she suggested that without her, I would miss 'all the peripherals'. These were: the promotion, the marketing, the editing and the advance. Well, let's forget the marketing and the advance for a minute, because the funny thing is that when I actually needed them, at the start of my career, that was when they were in short supply."

(Interlude: Three authors I love are nominated in the DABWAHA
(Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hellagood Authors)
this year: Joanna Bourne, Darlene Marshall, and the self-published awesome Kait Nolan. Go vote!)

When it comes to editing, Horowitz says: "I'm sure there are some very good self-published books out there and this may well be one of them – anyway, who am I to say? - but my feeling is that in some indefinable way, having a publisher raises the bar."

I think I tend to agree with him. At least for the moment, when I'm still querying and attempting to publish the traditional way. Ask me again in ten years!

At the same time, I definitely also agree with his idea that "it may be that traditional publishers have less to fear from the digital revolution than they think. Perhaps they should embrace it. I'd love, for example, to write a murder mystery where you could actually tap on a bit of dialogue you mistrusted and discover that the character was telling a lie. Where the reader actually had to become a detective and where the last chapter, the reveal, had to be earned. Or how about a book with different points of view, where you could choose which of the characters became the narrator? I believe someone is experimenting with added music and sound effects as part of the book. For me, the digital revolution offers fantastic opportunities – if you grab hold of them."

At one point, Horowitz adds: "Relations between us have been strained ever since they published my Sherlock Holmes novel, The Mouse of Slick, with no fewer than 35 proof-reading errors. Their proof-reader tried to kill herself. She shot herself with a gnu. Even so, we're doing another book together … a story of murder, suspicion and revenge." (That's actually The House of Silk, by the way)

So there you have it, part two in the series. I want to be Anthony Horowitz's copy editor! Just as I want to be Neil Gaiman's copy editor.

Which author would you like to interact with?

My entry for Rach's campaign challenge is here: please critique or like or both! I'm still visiting everyone's entries, they make for such fun reading.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Insecure Writers, Flash Fiction for Özlem Yikici's Continuing Story and Books from Kait Nolan (it's ROW80 Check In Day!)

You'll have to forgive me. I'm feeling a bit insecure at the moment. I've hit a good stride in my edits for Rome, Rhymes and Risk but, you know, it's easy to hit a stride when you keep leaving blank spots in your wake. [insert scene] and [add more emotion to this] and so on; easy to discard so-called edited pages when you've still got square brackets littering the prose.

On top of that, the blasted alarm clock went off in the middle of such an exciting film/story of a dream this morning. I've been scribbling like mad, trying to get all the pieces down, but I missed the ending, and didn't even get to find out the hero's name - the heroine was just about to call out to him, as a wave took him under, when the furshlugginer alarm jangled me awake.

Even trying to relive the dream in the shower didn't help. What do you mean, I'll have to imagine and write the ending? Oh, right. I'm a writer.

An insecure writer. Thank you, Alex, for the support group!

And if you'd like, you can read my story for Rach's second challenge, vote (she's got Like buttons!), and offer critiques. I need to be more insecure before I can be confident, right?

At the same time, I've got a bit of flash fiction to share with you all!

Özlem Yikici has come up with a wonderful idea: "I want us to write a story together. How? Just like any other Flash Fiction Challenge; but with a slight twist (I can't help myself); we will each write a paragraph (no more than 250 words per entry) to the on-going story (which will start below and continue in the comment section/linky list, I will create a page to collate all the entries). Once we finish this rather exciting online project, I hope to publish our collected works in an eBook - either market it for free or put it on sale for a worthy cause." Another added twist is that Özlem has put up four images for us to draw inspiration from, including the two that I used:

The Lady of Shalott, John William Waterhouse

Nightfall Down the Thames, John Atkinsonn Grimshaw

So here're part one, at C. M. Brown's and part two, at Lara Schiffbauer's, of Paper Canvas Tapestries Collaborations, in which our two heroines find themselves in a frightening hallway in the middle of a windstorm, and one has just been attacked by a sunflower. Or so it seems...

Delphina cried out, but the wind snatched her words away. I leapt forward and snatched the petal off her cheek.

"Jasmine, help me," she managed to whisper, and then she began to cough. Another petal fell out into her hand.

"Let's get out of here." I grabbed her hand and pushed forward, into the wind, down the red-carpeted corridor.

The first door to the left had a rose engraved on its handle, which seemed like a good omen. The wind pushed us harder than ever, but I set my shoulder to the door and shoved.

The door opened and we fell through --

--onto a ship.

No one had seen us. We clutched the rail and looked around at the tall masts, the caravels, the fishermen's rickety rowboats that cluttered up the docks. In the distance, I could see the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.

We were still in London, then. Yet the cityscape didn't look anything like the London I knew.

"Jasmine? What's happened?" Delphina gaped up at me, expecting me to have all the answers, as she always did. There was a vivid red line on her cheek where the petal had sliced her skin.

"We're in London. But as to when..."

That's when I saw her: in a boat with a dragon-head prow, floating towards us on the current, long-haired and pale, the Lady of Shalott.

"Help me," the lady called. She raised her arm, shielded her eyes, and her gaze met mine. "Is this Camelot?"

If you'd like to play, please write to Özlem!

And Kait's books? They're all 50% off at Smashwords, in honour of Read an Ebook Week. Happy reading!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Second Challenge for the Fourth Campaign - Warning! Contains Nuances of Certain Activities - Also, an Award

Woo! This one's a doozy, Rach!

I won't copy out all the prompts/rules, but here are the one's I've followed:

"Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts" - I've chosen prompt 5:

"For added difficulty/challenge: Ask Challenge entrants to critique your writing"

So, have at it!

This is a scene shortened from the original incident in Rome, Rhymes and Risk. Ayten and Devran escaped from their kidnappers that morning and have been walking/running/hiding all day. Tonight they've made camp, with a bit of fire...
The dark woods pressed close all around their camp.

Stirring the fire one last time, he tossed the fir twig onto the flames.

Ayten dozed in the crook of his arm. The blanket had slipped off her shoulder, but her skin was warm against his. They hardly needed the fire.

Her fingers had landed in his lap; if he shifted, they'd be close to - ah.

She hadn't stirred. One by one he raised her fingers, took them in his hand, and tugged them forward to cover him.

"Beautiful girl," he whispered in her ear, and she smiled with her eyes closed, and drew herself up.

Her breasts rose with her movement, and he tasted her gold-shadowed skin, lit by the fire. She arched her back, and her hand fell away from his lap.

"Touch me," he murmured, kissing up her neck, into her hair, redolent of pine needles. He wrapped his hand about hers and guided her, his need at the edge already. His breath came short.


"I was right," he said, some time later.

She lay on his chest, hand curled over his heart. "Mmm?"

He traced a forefinger up her arm. "We don't need the fire."

Cat gave me a lovely award!

Here're my answers to the award questions:

What's your favourite...
colour: purple - or yellow
animal: my cats Frodo and Sam
number: seven
non-alcoholic drink: coffee, with warm milk
pattern: Tolkien's Tree of Amalion (and his friezes and emblems)
flower: jasmine

What are your passions?: reading and writing

Facebook or Twitter: I'm on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr

Getting or giving presents?: both!

This award goes to... Everyone who's stopping by from the campaign and would like a little ray of sunshine!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Inviting You Over for May, and Desert Island Books (including Neil Gaiman with a chainsaw)

What does everyone think of guest blogging? It's lots of fun to hop around and catch authors and fellow bloggers on each other's blogs.

I've had a few wonderful guests here, including Ayak from Ayak's Turkish Delight, Talli Roland on What to Eat While Writing, and Sara, with a wine glass... I've been a guest myself, on Kait Nolan's blog and over at Turkish Muse. I even had a post featuring Vince Ditrich of the band Spirit of the West, listing his favourite children's books.

But it's not enough! I'd love more! If you've got an idea for a guest post and would like to visit my blog in May, please let me know.

To balance out the recent post where I discussed an article poking gentle fun at romance novel covers, here's an essay on The Awl that considers their place in the canon, and why Romance Novels are the Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing.

Speaking of books, which authors would you desperately need on a desert island?

I interviewed Barbara Rogan on Wednesday - here's her desert island authors list. Of course, I'd add Tolkien to my list, among other authors... [cough cough] Neil Gaiman [cough]

Thank you to all my new followers! Looking forward to seeing everyone on Monday, for the second campaign challenge of Rach's Fourth Writers' Platform-building Campaign. I love the way these challenges get me excited about drafting, right when I'm in the midst of slogging through edits. Still 2/3 of Rome, Rhymes and Risk to edit - I'm loftily aiming for the end of March at this point.

And if you'd like to enter another story challenge, Yikici is hosting an exciting collaborative story:

"Just like any other Flash Fiction Challenge; but with a slight twist (I can't help myself); we will each write a paragraph (no more than 250 words per entry) to the on-going story (which will start below and continue in the comment section/linky list, I will create a page to collate all the entries). Once we finish this rather exciting online project, I hope to publish our collected works in an eBook - either market it for free or put it on sale for a worthy cause, I usually choose children charities; but we can decide the final outcome all together once the project is completed."

Come join us!

(Gratuitous image of Neil Gaiman to add excitement to the blogpost. Take a chainsaw to that novel!)

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