Sunday, 30 December 2012

Real Mermaids Festive Treats!

Got a treat for you all today!

I love Hélène Boudreau's Real Mermaids series of books, which all started with Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings:
Read the first chapter here!

Today I'm lucky enough to have heroine Jade here, presenting...

Real Mermaids Festive Treats

Hi everyone! Jade here from Real Mermaids.

One of my favourite things about the upcoming holidays is the great treats we get to make and share. I love food so much, in fact, that I included a recipe for some of my favourite snacks in each of the Real Mermaids books.

My friend Cori and I thought we'd experiment a bit and 'holiday-ize' each recipe for you!

In Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, I was stuck at my Gran's cottage without any chocolate in sight. That's when I turned to Google and found a recipe for a 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake. Yes! Cake in FIVE MINUTES. I added raspberries and whipped cream to this version. Holiday dessert, anyone?

Chocolate Mug Cake with Raspberries and Whipped Cream

First, get yourself the biggest microwaveable mug in the cupboard. Add:
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa

Mix it well. Then add:
- 1 egg

Mix. Then add:
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 3 tablespoons oil

Mix. Then add:
- 3 tablespoons chocolate chips (NOT optional -- at least as far as I'm concerned)
- 1 capful of vanilla extract

And... MIX!

Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will look like it's going to overflow but don't freak out! Let it cool for a bit (unless you want to burn your lips off) and add raspberries and whipped cream to make it fancy, then ENJOY!

Happy treats and have a great holiday, everyone!



Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Blog of the Year Award! Also Year-end Writing Review and December's Sparkling Sentences

Yay blog award!

Thanks so much to Melanie for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award!

Here are the official rules:
1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the Blog of the Year 2012 Award
2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there's no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and present them with their award
3 Please include a link back to this page Blog of the Year 2012 Award and include these rules in your post (please don't alter the rules or the badges!)
4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the rules with them
5 You can now also join our Facebook group – click like on this page Blog of the Year 2012 Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience
6 As a winner of the award please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar... and start collecting stars...
I've learned from so many blogs this year, and had so much fun visiting blogging buddies! The A to Z challenge in April was a blast, as was this year's WRiTE CLUB.

I'm going to pass the award on to two lovely bloggers who've always got something interesting to say:

And now, a look back at my writing in 2012:

Back in January we posted yearly goals on the Compuserve Forum. I've met quite a few of mine:

Edit Rome, Rhymes and Risk. I did, but on paper. I haven't yet entered the edits on the MS... I did conduct an character interview with the male hero, Devran, though.

Keep agent-hunting for Out of the Water. Ongoing. There was, and has been, much revision of the query letter.

Try to write another short story or two and submit them somewhere, and edit the plot bunny story. Sort of done. Rejections.

On top of that I spent the summer writing and typing a completely new story, Druid's Moon, a contemporary paranormal romance. I did a bit of editing on that last week, but it needs a lot more.

And for NaNoWriMo I wrote another historical romance - on paper, still not typed - Captive of the Sea, the story of Rosa's parents, which comes before Out of the Water. Every time someone mentions Columbus or the Wars of the Roses, I jump. I feel like I've been simultaneously living in the 15th Century for the past two years.

I participated in the Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign and wrote short snips for the challenges.

I interviewed authors Barbara Rogan and James Forrester! Following on from my last post about all the Neil Gaiman books I read, here's the backstory that I wrote in January of How I Came to Read Gaiman, and also the first time Neil Gaiman wrote back! I also interviewed Zan Marie Steadham and Jamie from Mithril Wisdom!

Later on, I created the Kedi's Paw Badge of Honour Award.

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 pass it on!

I wrote a piece of flash fiction for Özlem Yikici's Continuing Story. And then I shared a story I wrote when I was 10...

There were also houseparties on the Forum, and in October I hosted the Virtual Surrey Conference, featuring guest "speakers" Kait Nolan and Talli Roland.

The last writerly event I've been participating on in the forum is the December Sentences, created by Carol: "I am proposing -- beginning on Monday, December 3rd -- that those of us who commit to it, agree to post ONE sentence a day for 29 consecutive days onto a thread I'll begin for us.
Every day, no matter what you are doing, you surely have time to write -- even if it's only a new paragraph. But I am not asking for a paragraph -- just one wonderful sentence.
That's the only caveat to this craft collective: your sentence can't be mundane. It can't be "Look, Jane, look." Or, "See Spot run."
The sentence has to sparkle like the season of light. It has to be evocative. Or emotionally charged. Good description, or simile or metaphor. It has to reek of voice and originality.
In other words, it has to be a great sentence, a keeper."

Here are all the ones I shared, from various different novels and short stories:
The kiss was sweet, and though it did not leave her empty, it left her hollow, the shell of the kiss surrounding the empty air of all the unspoken words that lay between them.
So it was that he found himself wedged onto a pier crowded with shoving labourers and rank with the smells of a hundred different goods, saddled with an ill monk, a surly youth, and a captivating maiden – the only one among them that seemed enthused at the prospect of being in a hitherto unexplored city – all looking to him to provide a diversion, as they waited for the captain to finish trading and resume course for Nice.
With no one else around and the world forgotten, then might he kiss those flame-reddened cheeks, then might he brush her hand and linger on the touch.
Is that how I look when offering a prayer to the Lord?
He'd have to court her properly, gallantly, as was her due, except he did not know how much longer she'd remain on the ship, and it would take all his effort to thrust down the urge to throw his arms about her and coax kisses out of that rosebud mouth.
The day after my father told us the history of the curse - and I thought that was the longest night of my life - my brother was found drowned in the Severn.
He was very attractive, for a stranger, but his words spun a web around her, and if she showed any sign that she cared, the spinnerets would trap her in its threads and bind her to him.
A muddy splash would splatter on her forehead and she would instantly think back on all the things her father had said or done that day; his mood was the most important thing to consider.
If he tormented himself trying to weigh those kinds of nuances, he’d never sleep again.
The fire crackled, but the only heat came from his body, pressing against her back.
It was one thing to dig up old manuscripts of legends and curses, and quite another to find herself in the midst of one as it unfolded.
His obvious enjoyment made her attend to its flavour, both tart skin and sweet flesh.
What sentence would you share?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Hobbit Review, and Year End Books Read Statistics!

Long post ahead, beware! Brief mention of an award, reviews of The Hobbit, and The Books Read in 2012 Statistics!

Thank you to Melanie for the Blog of the Year Award!

I'll be passing it on in my next post.

So, The Hobbit. I've posted reviews on a few blogs, and I'll summarise my main points here. I'm sorry if it all sounds like criticism. But I've been reading these books every year for over 20 years, and I have to say, they change things and I simply don't understand the reasoning for it. Not everything has to be over-the-top. It can be real, without losing any of its epic nature.

Here's the review I submitted to The One Ring (with a couple of embarrassing typos corrected):
As a lifelong fan of Tolkien, I'm excited to be living through the release of these grand-in-scope movies, both of The Lord of the Rings and of The Hobbit. Having relied on my own imagination and Tolkien's illustrations for years, it's interesting, and more often than not exciting, to see the characters and images on the big screen. In some cases the scope seems almost too large: Hobbiton was inspired by, among other places, Lancashire in England, and the New Zealand landscapes are often overwhelming.
One thing I didn't see the need for was changing the storyline regarding Thrain, Dol Guldur, and Azog. Why not simply have Bolg chasing the dwarves, rather than a maimed Azog? Why not have Gandalf reveal the sad story of Thrain to Thorin? Why not have Gandalf and the White Council certain that it's Sauron in Dol Guldur? They could - as they did - still argue over what to do with him. And they needn't do it in such stilted, disjointed fashion either. Which is my main criticism of the movie - the dialogue never seems to flow naturally. The characters all speak as though they'd been up the night before, plotting their words. Emphatically not the feel of the books.
This was originally posted on the Ironical Coincidings blog (which is also has a very good review):
I don't think that's fair to Tolkien - arguing that this is a better movie than some of the other drivel out there - as it doesn't negate the fact that Jackson had some amazing, long lasting (a classic for nearly a century!) source material to work with, and once again turned it into a film that barely scratches the surface of theme and character development.
The stilted dialogue is one aspect of this - in Tolkien's work, the characters are real, and true to themselves, and talk according to their beliefs of what's going on in the world around them. In both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, they all talk the same - in slow, stilted, halting, self-important sentences. They might as well be reading for the first time off a tele-prompter. Where's the passion?
By contrast, one of the aspects that bothers me most about the films is how badly they portray the "lightness" also inherent in Tolkien's work, especially among the hobbits. Warmth and closeness and domesticity in the books come across as twee silliness in the films, when they're bothered to be included. Perhaps it's a very good thing they left out Bombadil completely.
Some of this might be personal preference - I'd rather have dialogue and character growth any day over constant action scene after fight scene after escape scene.
One more thing - one of the complaints I've heard from people who haven't read the books is that Gandalf always seems to be there to save the day. And from their point of view, they're right. I mean, Gandalf gets a butterfly to summon the eagles? (Not to mention, how the heck did the eagles get there so quickly?) Why not simply show Thorondor keeping an eye on the world?

And this was on Lara's blog, in response to her review as a non-reader of Tolkien (apparently they exist! Sorry, Lara):
I love hearing reviews from those who haven't read or don't remember the books, because I always feel justified in nitpicking and complaining about the movie (Harry taking the Tube during the summer, anyone?).
So yea, the movie does make it seem as though Gandalf saves everything, doesn't it? But the book definitely makes it seem less so - for one thing, in the scene with the trolls, in the book, none of them knew Gandalf was there (as opposed to Bilbo catching sight of him in the movie). And the escape from the goblins' lair was less overtly Gandalf's doing in the books - more run and chase, less fighting.
One thing I always complain about is the stilted dialogue and lack of dialogue in the movies. Why can't the characters talk properly/naturally? Why can't we have some scenes of them sitting around the fire at nights, getting to know one another? Okay, they did it once, to explain some of Thorin's backstory - but they changed the backstory! For no reason that I could see...
Here's some of what I added on the Forum:
It was kinda fun while watching it, but afterwards I was just left picking at the holes. Nothing could ever match Tolkien's writing.
Added comment (not wearing my Tolkien-fan hat as I say this): Kili's quite good looking!
Also, I was happy they included the songs, and quite liked them!
Finally, on the Shire Wisdom blog I mentioned that Armitage added a depth that's not there in the book until all the scenes after his capture by Thranduil.

So, lots of disparate comments overall. But then, I am a book fan. Give me a blanket, some cocoa, and a pile of books any day over something on screen. To each his own!

Speaking of books... Here we go with the 2012 review of books.

Here's the list of Books Read in 2011, Books Read in 2010, Books Read in 2009, the addendum to the 2009 list , Books Read in 2008, and addendum A and addendum B to the 2008 list (the statistics posts come after those posts).

Books read: 95, plus 8 that I skimmed, 36 short stories and excerpts, and 2 MAD Magazines, as well as 18 poems, for a total of 141 plus the poetry.

This is compared to 124 in 2011, 92 in 2010, 131 in 2009 and 101 in 2008. That's not counting the thousands of words written and read for writers' houseparties over at the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, plus other forum writings and magazines and newspapers, and so on.

I don't know if it's a bad thing to have read so many - it doesn't feel like a lot to me, but then there's Joe Hill tweeting about barely managing to read 52 books in a year (not counting board books or comics), and then I start wondering whether I should be spending more time writing and editing, rather than reading.

But I can't give up reading! If I go more than a day or two without a good novel (despite reading magazines, or non-fictions, or work-related stuff, or...) then I feel bereft. Which is why, I suppose, it's so disappointing to read a not-so-good novel. Of the three books on the list that I think I might finish in the next few days, I'm having a lot of trouble with The Cove by Ron Rash: I think this is what they mean by telling, not showing.

Anyhow, my average over 50 weeks, not counting the poems, is about the same as the year before last, 2.5 books per week (or two books and two short stories).

Authors read: 105 (counting board books and poets this year), plus a few compendiums, beta reads and so on; much more varied, compared to 89 in 2011, 63 in 2010, 57 in 2009 and 69 in 2008 (not counting anthologies).

This was the year of Neil Gaiman. I read American Gods in January, and I was hooked, instantly and irrevocably. All year I've been reading Neil, so far 19 books and short stories and poems and comics (and blog posts and tweets and...):
M is for Magic (reread of some short stories)
First chapter of Coraline (read by Neil)
"The Price" (short story)
"We Can Get Them For You Wholesale" (short story)
Sandman Vol. 1
Conjuctions (poem)
A Writer's Prayer (poem)
Australia Day (poem)
A Cat in the Ointment (poem)
Signal to Noise (by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean)
Good Omens (by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)
American Gods
The Graveyard Book
Odd and the Frost Giants
Smoke and Mirrors (short story collection)
Fragile Things (short story collection)
Anansi Boys
Next up for Most Books by One Author are Tolkien and Stephen King, with five books each, and Talli Roland with four! In previous years I've read a lot of Janet Evanovich, Emily Carr, Dorothy Sayers, and Anthony Horowitz (one book by him this year, The House of Silk - first ever Sherlock Holmes novel authorised by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate).

Last year I reread The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, Outlander, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (before seeing the last movie), and in 2010 I reread L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, including The Road To Yesterday. Rereads in 2009 included J. K. Rowling, Diana Gabaldon, and Agatha Christie.

This year I reread a lot: Auden, Browning, Gaiman, King, Zan Marie Steadham, and Tolkien, plus one each of Michael Bond (Paddington!), Kristen Callihan, and Agatha Christie (I know! Only one!).

Oldest book: Hmm, I didn't go very far back this year. Probably Cyrano de Bergerac and Voltaire are the oldest, and the oldest published books (not reprints) are the two anthologies, The Land of My Fathers - A Welsh Gift Book, and Princess Mary's Gift Book, both from 1914, including stories and poems by Arthur Conan Doyle, Kipling, etc. There's also Ah King by Somerset Maugham, Shakespeare in London by Marchette Chute, and Helena by Evelyn Waugh.

Last year it was the 14th Century Book of Good Love by Archpriest Juan Ruiz, though the translation was only a hundred years old. After that, it was the chapter on the Earl of Rochester from Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets, and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers, as well as P. G. Wodehouse. The year before that it was the Earl of Rochester as well (and Perreault's fairy tales), plus Hours at the Glasgow Art Galleries by T. C. F. Brotchie, An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott and When the Going Was Good by Evelyn Waugh; in 2009, there was Shakespeare and a handful of books from pre-1950; in 2008, the oldest authors were Aesop and Pliny, but the oldest original book was by Dorothy L. Sayers, followed by John Fante and John Steinbeck.

I wonder if I should be reading more Greeks and Romans?

Newest book: 36 this year, whereas I had 44 last year! In 2010 I had 13, plus 10 new books by Forumites. In 2008 I had only two books, by Joanna Bourne and Marilynne Robinson. Many more in 2009, including books by kc dyer, Hélène Boudreau, Linda Gerber and Diana Gabaldon - Forumites all!

This year, Forumites have done it once again (all links in the lists below are to my reviews):
The Picture Book by Ev Bishop (short story)
"Jesse the Dead Guy" by Becky Morgan (short story)
"The Beast in the Mirror" by Lauralynn Elliott (short story)
Mischief and Mistletoe (anthology featuring Joanna Bourne and all the other Word Wenches)
Poems from the Edge of Spring by Elise Skidmore
The Peculiar Princess by Christina Graham Parker
The Night Lamp by Carol Spradling
Real Mermaids Don't Hold Their Breath by Helene Boudreau
Firelight by Kristen Callihan

New stories and poems by blogging buddies:
"Whisper of Shadow" by Kait Nolan (short story)
"Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts" by Talli Roland (short story)
The Pollyanna Plan by Talli Roland
"Mistletoe in Manhattan" by Talli Roland (short story)
Construct A Couple by Talli Roland
short story by Sam Sykes
Bring Out Your Dead by Li (poem)
Lighting Candles in the Snow by Karen Jones Gowen
Operative by Kate Kaynak
The Scholes Key by Clarissa Draper
The Lie That Binds by Linda Jackson
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand (first chapter!)

Other new books:
poem by Becca Darling
Dinner Tonight: Done! by Real Simple Magazine
Colours of Shetland by Kate Davies
Lunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti
xkcd Volume 0 by Randall Munroe
The Perils of Sherlock Holmes by Loren D. Estleman
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
Before Versailles by Karleen Koen
Sacred Treason by James Forrester
Who Writes This Crap? by Luke Wright and Joel Stickley
When I Was A Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson
When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak
Secrets of the Knight by Nina Jade Singer
A Beautiful Cage by Alyson Reuben
"The Duke's Blackmailed Bride" by Leigh D'Ansey (short story)

Stories/Authors I didn't like: Last year it was Jonathan Franzen, Philippa Gregory and Gillian Bagwell, the year before that Libba Bray and Thomas Cobb. One author in 2009 (Ilyas Halil) and three authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan and Ian Rankin) and one story ("Hairball" by Margaret Atwood) in 2008.
This year, well, there were no books I actively disliked, but there were two I distinctly felt "meh" about: Before Versailles, and Inkheart. I wonder if I might have enjoyed Inkheart more had I read it in the original German? I actually had no foreign language books this year.

Books that made me cry:
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (because of Krystal)
Lunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti (if you haven't yet, you have to listen to him reading the chapter The Swamp. Bullfrog.)

Because, yes, reading Neil led directly to listening to Amanda Palmer, and then reading her friend Anthony's book about growing up in Boston in the 50s and 60s. Here's Amanda's blog about Anthony and all that's going on.

Last year (the first year of this category) I had many books that made me cry: The Scottish Prisoner, and Outlander, both by Diana Gabaldon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, all of which were rereads, but there was also Rowing in Eden by Barbara Rogan, The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen Randle, This and That by Emily Carr, The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells, Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson, and Fifteen by Beverly Cleary.

Youngest books: Quite a few board books, just as in the last few years, including Canada 123 by Kim Bellefontaine and Per-Henrik Gurth, Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (adorable!), Hallowe'en by Jerry Seinfeld (yes, that Seinfeld!), That's Not My Puppy!, I Can Help (a My Little Pony book), and the wonderful We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Fluff but Fun books: Last year I read Andy Capp, MAD, and an Archie, which was fewer than the past three years. This year was even fewer than that, with only two issues of MAD. That's not counting the random issues of Guitar World magazine from c. 1991 that I found and read...

Books/Authors I'd recommend: Last year I gave a shout out to Forumites, and to my old favourites, Tolkien et al. There are a lot from this year's list, too, especially the books that made me cry.

Shortest book: This one's rather subjective. There were quite a few novellas, lots of short stories, and of course the Middle Grade stories. Last year the shortest was The Tales of Beedle the Bard, same as in 2008 and 2010, and The Object Lesson by Edward Gorey (besides the short stories, the youngest books, Andy Capp, Archie, and MAD). So this year I'm going to recommend the longest of the short pieces: The Space Between, a long novella by Diana Gabaldon.

Longest book: Every year there's a Tolkien or Gabaldon in there, and this year was no exception. All the others seem to be about the same length. No long series this year, either, that I might have counted as one book. Unless you count Neil. Yes, let's go with that.

Research books: I had a hodgepodge last year, including books on English history, poetry, Mediterranean flora, and the Renaissance. This year's crop was just as varied, given that I was reading for both Druid's Moon (contemporary paranormal) and Captive of the Sea (15th Century historical romance):

Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales
Shakespeare in London by Marchette Chute
A Brief History of the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis
Two Families in the Wars of the Roses by Rosemary Goyder
Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove
Artisans of Empire - Crafts and Craftspeople Under the Ottomans by Suraiya Faroqhi
Not very many, I suppose because I've been reading about the 15th Century for a few years now.

Books from the 19th Century: None last year! I did a little better this year: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, plus poems by Longfellow and Browning, and "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Books from 1900-1960: Last year there were only 12 novels and two short stories. Honourable mention went to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, which is all about growing up in a small midwestern US town in the 50s. There were 27 such books in 2010, 17 in 2009, and in 2008 this time period made up 1/4 of my list. Counting the short stories, I had a lot this year, too, including all the Tolkien, plus:

Crooked House by Agatha Christie (reread)
Op. I. by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Sunny Side by A. A. Milne
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Helena by Evelyn Waugh
Shakespeare in London by Marchette Chute
Bodies and Souls (1950s Dell Paperback featuring crime stories by Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, etc.)
The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Ah King by Somerset Maugham
Come to Think of It by G. K. Chesterton (essay collection)

I also had four beta reads this year, same as last year! And, finally, here's the list of poems:

The Host of the Air by W. B. Yeats, and one other
The More Loving One by W. H. Auden (reread)
Sea Fever by John Masefield
The Trees by W. B. Yeats
Autumn Day by Rilke
a poem by Becca Darling
My Last Duchess by Robert Browning (reread)
A Very Little Light by Stephen Watts
I Shall Not Care by Sarah Teasdale
I Am Not Yours by Sarah Teasdale
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
The Sound of the Sea by Longfellow
Bring Out Your Dead by Li
A Writer's Prayer by Neil Gaiman
Australia Day by Neil Gaiman
A Cat in the Ointment by Neil Gaiman
Conjuctions by Neil Gaiman
On sale at Neverwear; the page features the story behind the poem.
Here's the corresponding Amanda Palmer song and story.

The year before I stopped reading the following and I still haven't finished them:
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine l'Engle
All My Life Before Me, the diary of C. S. Lewis
"Parma Eldalamberon" 14 and 18: Tengwesta Qenderinwa and Pre-Fëanorian Alphabets by J. R. R. Tolkien
 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Great Explorers (Folio Society)
Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett

This year I have the following to add:
Le Morte d'Arthur by Malory
Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England
Shadow Show (Anthology in Honour of Ray Bradbury, including Neil Gaiman!, which is as far as I got)
The Mabinogion (Penguin edition) (reread)
Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy
Warriors (anthology) edited by George R. R. Martin and G. Dozois (featuring a new Lord John story by Diana Gabaldon, which I skipped ahead to read)

I'm not sure what the list of unfinished books says about me.

What were some of your favourite books in 2012? Most surprising books?

One of my most unexpected books was World War Z - the first zombie book I've ever read. And I liked it! Also unexpected was how much I liked The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I've blogged before about how I fell out of fan-hood with Barnes, but I was happy to report on the Forum that this book completely renewed my support for him. Even more unexpected was reading Joe Hill's The Heart-shaped Box as an e-book - without printing it! First time I've done that.

Which categories do you think I should add?

Of course, none of this mentions the list down the side of the blog: 180 books to read before 2015 (to which I could add about 50 more). I'm, uh, not getting very far on that, is the most euphemistic way of putting it.

Finally, after a long post like that, if you need relief and a bit of Yuletide cheer:

Here's the full list of books for 2012, original comments and all (but condensed into one big paragraph, thank you html-to-compose switch, Blogger): The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams Old Man's War by John Scalzi The Cove by Ron Rash The Host of the Air by W. B. Yeats (poem) Ruled Britannia by Harry Turtledove Dinner Tonight: Done! by Real Simple Magazine Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman Colours of Shetland by Kate Davies A Christmas Walk by Zan Marie Steadham (reread) The Annotated Hobbit by J R R Tolkien and Douglas Anderson (reread) Come to Think of It by G. K. Chesterton (essay collection) M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman (reread of some short stories) The Pollyanna Plan by Talli Roland Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo (Oh boy! This book has been on my wishlist for 20 years!) The Trees by W. B. Yeats (poem) Autumn Day by Rilke (poem) A Little Stranger by Kate Pullinger The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes Lunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti A Trail of Fire by Diana Gabaldon (reading new novella A Space Between) Mischief and Mistletoe anthology (featuring Joanna Bourne and all the other Word Wenches) The Picture Book by Ev Bishop (short story) Put A Lid On It by Donald Westlake poem by Yeats (read aloud to me, it was in an anthology I'd read before) Mistletoe in Manhattan by Talli Roland The Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill (my first ever e-book read as an e-book, i.e. without printing it!) The Lays of Beleriand by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread) My Last Duchess by Robert Browning (poem; reread) short story by Sam Sykes (for Hallowe'en) the 800 word Harry Potter prequel by J. K. Rowling Two Families in the Wars of the Roses by Rosemary Goyder a poem by Becca Darling four short stories by Forumites Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean Whisper of Shadow by Kait Nolan (short story) xkcd Volume 0 by Randall Munroe The Perils of Sherlock Holmes by Loren D. Estleman Paddington at Large by Michael Bond (reread) first chapter of Coraline by Neil Gaiman (read by Neil) The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (first Sherlock Holmes story ever authorised by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate!) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett secret beta read! The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling The More Loving One by W. H. Auden (poem) (reread) Sea Fever by John Masefield (poem) Before Versailles by Karleen Koen (ARC) Canada 123 by Kim Bellefontaine and Per-Henrik Gurth Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann Sacred Treason by James Forrester Who Writes this Crap? by Luke Wright and Joel Stickley (hilarious!) The Book of Lost Tales 2 by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread) Lighting Candles in the Snow by Karen Jones Gowen Conjuctions by Neil Gaiman (poem) Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist (skimmed the last couple of chapters) Hallowe'en by Jerry Seinfeld (board book) Ah King by Somerset Maugham A Brief History of the Celts by Peter Berresford Ellis The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (I bawled, many times) The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley A Curious Fragment by Jack London (short story) Micromegas by Voltaire (short story) All You Zombies by R. Heinlein (short story) The Picture in the House by H. P. Lovecraft (short story) EPICAC by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (short story) The City by Ray Bradbury (short story) I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison (short story) two excerpts from Other Worlds by Cyrano de Bergerac Homage to the San Francisco YMCA by Richard Brautigan (short story) The Sword of Welleran by Lord Dunsany (short story) Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend Shakespeare The World As A Stage by Bill Bryson Shakespeare's Life and World (Folio Society Edition) (skimmed) That's Not My Puppy! (board book) Shakespeare in London by Marchette Chute Bodies and Souls - 1950s Dell Paperback featuring crime stories by Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, etc. secret beta read! The Land of My Fathers - A Welsh Gift Book (1914) (skimmed) I Can Help (My Little Pony board book) selections from Princess Mary's Gift Book (1914) (including stories and poems by Arthur Conan Doyle, Kipling, etc.) The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque The Peculiar Princess by Christina Graham Parker Helena by Evelyn Waugh Willow and Twig by Jean Little The Cat Who Wasn't There by Lilian Jackson Braun The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell by Lilian Jackson Braun The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems The Scholes Key by Clarissa Draper Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury Construct A Couple by Talli Roland When Lightning Strikes by Brenda Novak (ARC) MAD Magazine #289 MAD Magazine #286 Inkheart by Cornelia Funke Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand (first chapter already up on her blog!) Coraline by Neil Gaiman The Lie That Binds by Linda Jackson When I Was A Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson Real Mermaids Don't Hold Their Breath by Helene Boudreau Crooked House by Agatha Christie (reread) A Very Little Light by Stephen Watts (poem) five vignettes by Beste Barki Four Past Midnight by Stephen King (introductions only, and skimmed Secret Window, Secret Garden) Timeline by Michael Crichton Op. I. by Dorothy L. Sayers The Sunny Side by A. A. Milne Firelight by Kristen Callihan (ARC - I'd beta read a much earlier draft) Secrets of the Knight by Nina Jade Singer The Night Lamp by Carol Spradling Nobbut a Lad by Alan Titchmarsh (first half - book belonged to a B 'n' B) Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella (first half - book belonged to my friend) Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman Belshazzar's Daughter by Barbara Nadel Stephen King's Danse Macabre (bits and pieces) Our Dumb World - The Onion Atlas (skimmed) An Easter Walk by Zan Marie Steadham (reread) Bring Out Your Dead by Li (poem) World War Z by Max Brooks Artisans of Empire - Crafts and Craftspeople Under the Ottomans by Suraiya Faroqhi (first half only) Introduction and Foreword to The Dark Tower I by Stephen King A Beautiful Cage by Alyson Reuben secret beta read Bag of Bones by Stephen King (brilliant!) Stardust by Neil Gaiman Slow Tuesday Night by R. A. Lafferty (short story) The Transcendent Tigers by R. A. Lafferty (short story) Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R. A. Lafferty (short story) Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts by Talli Roland (short story) The Book of Lost Tales I by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread) first draft by blogging buddy A Writer's Prayer by Neil Gaiman (poem) The Price by Neil Gaiman (short story) Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman Operative by Kate Kaynak (ARC) It by Stephen King (reread) Australia Day by Neil Gaiman (poem) A Cat in the Ointment by Neil Gaiman (poem) Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman We Can Get Them For You Wholesale by Neil Gaiman (short story) Caspar David Friedrich (a Phaidon edition) (skimmed) American Gods by Neil Gaiman I Shall Not Care by Sarah Teasdale (poem) I Am Not Yours by Sarah Teasdale (poem) The Duke's Blackmailed Bride by Leigh D'Ansey (short story) The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe (short story) Unfinished Tales by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread) Poems from the Edge of Spring by Elise Skidmore The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper (poem) The Sound of the Sea by Longfellow (poem) Jesse the Dead Guy by Becky Morgan (short story) The Beast in the Mirror by Lauralynn Elliott (short story) My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

End of ROW80 Round, Year-end Goals, and Romantic Friday Writers Snip!

A Round of Words in 80 Days ends tomorrow!

The current round, that is. Thanks to NaNo, I met my major goal, which was to get Santiago and Mawdlen's story, Captive of the Sea, down on paper. Also sent a few more queries for Out of the Water. But I've stalled on the editing, so my goals for next round will involve more of that, in better structured fashion. I might have to start doing some early morning rounds again; it's just so much easier to be productive earlier rather than later in the day, after work.

As for all the goals from the past year... back in January we posted yearly goals on the Compuserve Forum. I've met quite a few of mine:

Edit Rome, Rhymes and Risk. I did, but on paper. I haven't yet entered the edits on the MS...

Keep agent-hunting for Out of the Water. Ongoing.

Try to write another short story or two and submit them somewhere, and edit the darn plot bunny story already. Sort of done. Rejections.

Think about cutting back on blogging from three days a week to two. Done! My new schedule is awesome!

Knit more. Don't gain weight. Done. Ish. I love bread.

What have your goals and goal-making been like this year?

I've got a wee snip for the Romantic Friday Writers Challenge!

"For this Holiday Spirit blogfest, we are looking for excerpts involving fiction or non-fiction stories of family tradition, favorite/unique recipes, inspirational articles, etc.; that represent the essence of the holiday spirit."

To keep it short, I've knocked off the scene directly before this, wherein we find out that it's holiday time, and Baha bargains for some Turkish coffee (kahve) to share with his wife, Rosa. It's the 15th Century, and this is the first time either of them have tried coffee:
The inner door opened and she dropped her knife among the vegetables, poking her head round the kitchen arch. "You're late!"
Baha met her halfway down the corridor and encircled her in his arms.
"What's that smell?" She wrinkled her nose, sniffing at his cloak.
"Kahve." He produced a muslin wrapped package from his satchel and she took it from his palm.
The smell grew stronger, and she opened it to find a fine-ground powder, like semolina wheat but the colour of black beans. There was a strange contraption called a cezve that went with it, a sort of bowl the size of her palm, with a long handle.
"You hold it over the flame," Baha said, taking her hand and leading her to the kitchen brazier. He grabbed a cup off the shelf. "A measure of water, and a spoonful or half a spoonful of the kahve, depending on how many cups you wish to make. I think there's enough there for two, if you’d like to taste it."
She filled the cup twice with water and poured it into the cezve at his direction, adding the ground kahve from the muslin.
"It comes from a bean," he explained, stirring the mixture with a spoon and holding the cezve over the fire. "I tasted some today that a merchant brought from Yemen, and he gave me the rest in exchange for my work."
"I suppose he thinks you'll buy more from him tomorrow."
"I might, at that. It has a strong flavour, like nothing I've ever tasted before." The liquid began bubbling on the surface and he poured some into each cup, enough to coat the bottom.
"Don't drink it yet," he cautioned. "It has to boil three times."
She watched as the kahve bubbled again, and again he poured a little into each cup. After the third time, he topped up the cups and set the cezve on the shelf. He clinked his cup against hers.
She peered dubiously at the murky liquid but took a tentative sip. The kahve warmed her tongue, bitter and sweet at the same time. A knock came at the door and as Baha went to answer, she tidied up the kitchen, finishing her kahve as she worked. The drink seemed to heighten her senses, so that the fire seemed warmer and she heard Baha's murmured words to the messenger from down the corridor.
Market in Turkey

Can't wait to see everyone else's snips!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Wish List!

What gifts are you hoping to receive this year?

No one has actually asked me, and those who have, are family members and friends whom I feel guilty sending on what - to them - might be feel like wild goose chases. Easiest to ask for stuff for the house (who doesn't love new towels?).

There are a handful of items that I really, really want, however:

Miss Lupescu, Banana Peel in a Graveyard, or The Owens' Tomb perfume oil blends from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Yes, all inspired by Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

A Tolkien Society membership. Yes, really. Can you believe I'm not a member? At first it was because teenage-me couldn't afford it. Now I'm not sure what the excuse is. It's about time! I've got tickets for The Hobbit tomorrow. No spoilers in the comments, please!


Lush stuff, such as a Space Girl bath bomb and Big Shampoo. I'm not much of a bath person, but I love the feel and the smell of (most) Lush products.

Mugs and coffee from TimPeaks, which was (sort-of) started by Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.

A subscription to the Sunday New York Times. This is also a money thing. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for delivery to Montreal. Couldn't they arrange with a local printer and cut down on costs?

I'm trying to think if I can come up with a gift idea that doesn't relate to writing in any way. Perhaps these gorgeous stamps:

Especially as the editing is going rather slowly (in this, the last week of #ROW80). Why is drafting so easy, and full of such frenzy, and editing such a slog? All of our accountability groups and NaNo-type drives seem to relate to writing. And NaNoEdMo is not until March. I suppose I could use the holidays as an excuse and do nothing but read (and knit, and eat, and sleep in, and so on). I feel guilty somehow.

One gift that I wanted I got for myself, as it was on sale - about 5$!

How do you manage to stay focused? Unless you have holiday plans, of course!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Jessica Bell, Hobbitfest, and Dispatches from the Twitterverse, featuring Doctor Who and Joe Hill

One hundred books challenge is nearly at an end!

This post serves as a prelude to my upcoming Books Read posts. I've knocked off all the poems and short stories and one-off chapters and forewords from the list at the bottom of the blog (unless they were part of an anthology or collection) and I've got... 93 so far! Er, and that's counting all the children's and board books I've read. Think I can catch up in two weeks?

I've got longer than that for the Canadian challenge, at least - all the way until next July. So far I've read these awesome Canadian authors:

Talli Roland

Kate Pullinger

Hélène Boudreau

Kim Bellefontaine

Meanwhile, across the seas, Jessica Bell's Show and Tell in a Nutshell is out!

Click to add me to Goodreads!
Have you been told there's a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. Dispersed throughout, and at the back of the book, are blank pages to take notes as you read. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a light, convenient, and easy solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. Keep it in the side pocket of your school bag, throw it in your purse, or even carry it around in the pocket of your jeans or jacket, to enhance your skills, keep notes, and jot down story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

If you purchase the e-book, you will be armed with the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, where you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader's highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes instead.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at

“Jessica Bell addresses one of the most common yet elusive pieces of writing advice—show, don't tell—in a uniquely user-friendly and effective way: by example. By studying the sixteen scenes she converts from “telling” into “showing,” not only will you clearly understand the difference; you will be inspired by her vivid imagery and dialogue to pour through your drafts and do the same.” ~Jenny Baranick, College English Teacher, Author of Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares
“A practical, no-nonsense resource that will help new and experienced writers alike deal with that dreaded piece of advice: show, don’t tell. I wish Bell’s book had been around when I started writing!” ~Talli Roland, bestselling author

Purchase the paperback:
$4.40 on Amazon US
£3.99 on Amazon UK

Purchase the e-book:
$1.99 on Amazon US
£1.99 on Amazon UK
$1.99 on Kobo

About the Author:
The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the Co-Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and co-hosts the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek Isle of Ithaca, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

For more information about Jessica Bell, please visit: 

And now, HobbitFest!
Hosted by M Pax and Tyrean Martinson.

There are four questions:

What is your favourite hobbit characteristic/or the one that you think closely resembles you...?

Hmm, something along the lines of hoarding. I love giving gifts, but I also like maps and genealogies. And breakfast. And pubs, of course!

Save The Hobbit!

If you could choose between a scrumptious second breakfast and a perilous unexpected journey – which would you prefer?

I love breakfast (with unlimited coffee) but since I've never been on an unexpected journey, I'll go with the latter. I need to brush up on my riddling!

Have you ever left behind something on a journey (expected or unexpected) and wished you could have it over and over again? (a pocket handkerchief?)

I lost a pair of pants once... I swear I left them at my grandmother's house... But where did they go?

What is your favourite part or quote from the book that you hope will be in the movie?

All of it? The songs, definitely. The more trailers I see, the more I'm afraid everyone's going to be talking in affected accents again. Why can't they speak naturally, as if they're living their lives and not on camera?

Some of the scenes I'm excited to see probably won't come until the second or third film - Bilbo and Thorin's final farewell, Bilbo's invisibility before Smaug, the eucatastrophe moment when Bilbo cries "the Eagles are coming!"

Say, does anyone know who's going to be playing Bard the Bowman?

PS, I'd love to attend the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit conference at Valparaiso! And look! They're angling for a Silmarillion movie!

In case you thought I'd forgotten about writing completely, #ROW80 is going slowly. I did get some editing done on Druid's Moon! I love the story and characters. But, oh boy, the words sure need beating into shape.

In closing, I bring you Dispatches from the Twitterverse:

Doctor Who: they film more than they show! Gaiman outtakes!

Here's the song he selected: The Wandering Ragged Stranger

What's going on in your universe?

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Gaiman is Rochester, The Next Big Thing, and Amelia Bedelia

Forgot to check in for A Round of Words in 80 Days last week!

The current round is ending soon, but things are moving slowly, now that I'm back into editing. I sorted all my snips and notebooks and a few beta notes, and now... all that's left is to pick a story and edit the heck out of it. I've got four novels and five short stories to choose from.

That's why NaNo was so helpful - I seem to work better with external pressure. If I had an agent setting deadlines for me, now that's when I could work in a whip-crack frenzy. How do I apply it to myself by myself?

Especially when there are other things to get distracted by, such as Neil Gaiman saying if he could be one historical person for a day, he'd choose the Earl of Rochester. Ah, Rochester. I sort of feel proprietary, now that I've written stories about Rochester. I wonder if this happens to all historical novelists?

Speaking of stories, I've been tagged by Jeff in My Next BIG Thing:

Hmm, I've already answered these questions about Out of the Water so now I get to answer them for Druid's Moon:

What is the working title of your book? Druid's Moon

Where did the idea come from for the book? A dream! The scene I drempt of was two characters trapped in an underground room, and a mysterious villain/monster chasing after them.

What genre does your book fall under? Speculative/paranormal romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? So far I've got three options for Fred: Alexander Skarsgård, Henry Cavill, and the Formula 1 racer Romain Grosjean (but only in the specific poses/expressions I've linked to), and these two mystery girls for Lyne

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Apprentice on an archaeological expedition in England, Lyne unearths more than she bargained for when she discovers a thousand year old curse enslaving a man in Beast form, whom only she can rescue.
(Still tweaking. I just drafted this.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I'm hoping for an agent!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? About two months, plus one month of typing it up.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hmm, other Beauty and the Beast retellings... Which reminds me, Joanna Bourne's Booty Tuesday features Kristen Callihan for two more days!

Who or What inspired you to write this book? That dream! I just had to find out how those characters had gotten into the cave, and how they were going to get out.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Druids! Legends and spells! British Isles! Kraken!

Tag yourself if you wish, I love hearing about everyone's stories.

Back to tumblr for a second - recently, Joe Hill posted about his ideal bookshelf, and I thought I'd list mine here, narrowing it down to five books/series:

The Lord of the Rings (under this banner falls all of Tolkien's books. Er, it's a rather long bookshelf)

The Outlander series (including the Lord John books, of course) by Diana Gabaldon

Hemingway's collected short stories

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

Neil Gaiman's collected short stories (and The Graveyard Book, if I can sneak it in)

T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets

Grimms' Fairy Tales

And also... er, wait, I've passed five, haven't I? Darn it, I haven't even gotten to the MG/YA yet!

Speaking of which, the 50th anniversary of Amelia Bedelia is coming up!

Did you read these books when you were a kid? I like them, even if they are a bit silly.

And on a sad but lovely note, here are two letters from Johnny Cash.

Oh, one more thing! Caught a Twitter conversation between Joe Hill and the Whisky Trench Riders the other day:

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?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Alexandria by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • 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***
  • Hermit Crab by Peter Porter (poem)
  • The Hidden Land by Private Irving (poem;
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
  • My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary
  • Managed by Kristen Callihan
  • beta read! (JB)
  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • 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