Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Keats and Happiness Blog Hops, eBooks, and Author Interviews

Coming in late on two blog tours...

Last month a few bloggers hosted a John Keats blog tour!

It's hard to choose just one Keats poem to share. I visited his house in Hampstead over ten years ago, but only managed to take a couple of photos, and those not with a digital camera. On the same day, I walked across Hampstead Heath, and then had a drink at the Spaniard's Inn:

Here are two Keats sonnets:

Rereading these poems on the screen, instead of in a book, reminds me of something I came across the other day. Joe Hill was comparing books and ebooks on Twitter and noted that for some chapters in his new book, NOS4A2:

I hadn't thought of this angle before. It sort of dovetails into my discomfort with reading ebooks, when I can't get a sense of where in the novel I am (it's not just the page numbers - it's having a constant visual sense of what part of the book I've reached, when I can see all the pages at once in my hands). Not to mention, why do ebooks always start on the first page? I like reading all the publisher's pages and the table of contents and the dedication and all, before I start the novel proper.

But I'm still trying! Because I'm really running out of space in the library, and the TBR pile by the bed is climbing up the walls...

Which brings me to the other meme that's doing the rounds, How To Be Happy! I love Alex and Arlee's answers, so I won't echo them, but I'll add five more:

1. Take a walk and act like Anne Shirley - glory in every leaf on every tree, the colours of the birds, the chattering of squirrels, the blueness of the sky or the varying sounds of the rain or snow or wind (I'm reading Before Green Gables at the moment, so thinking like Anne - or Pollyanna! - is at the forefront of my mind)

2. Don't compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to project timelines!

3. For the writers out there, don't forget to read and write for fun

4. For everyone else, travel! Lots of people complain about travelling (especially airports and planes), but the journey is fun too, if you're full of excitement and anticipation and don't pack too much!

5. Eat More Fruit

Finally, here're two recent author interviews:

Hélène Boudreau, talking about her inspirations, before she left for her TD Book Week tour


P. J. Bracegirdle, on his new young adult thriller

What would you add to the happy list?
Have you come across any other poet or author bloghops recently?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

ROW80 and Houseparty Wrap-up, New Novak and Other Books, and Raccoons!

End of this round of ROW80! I'm proud to be an ROW80er (and thanks to everyone who helped with the fundraiser for Lauralynn!).

I shuffled my goals around quite a bit, but the idea was always to edit something. And I didn't do much of that. Last week, though, I was writing again!

All thanks to the party we held over on the Forum: Writers' Houseparty Night at the Museum.

There's no way to describe the madness and emotions that result from that, our 12th Houseparty to date (here's a list of all houseparties that have come before).

I'm looking forward to reading our party story all over again this weekend (all 198,000 words of it. No, I am not making up that number. The length of two long novels (or one Diana Gabaldon novel), all written by a handful of authors), and pulling out all the interesting revelations and scenes on my characters, for use while editing my actual novel, Druid's Moon.

Here are some fun Houseparty statistics:

# of participating authors : 17
# of official characters: 44 (plus assorted crew from the Endeavour)
  (including Kedi the non-cat cat and Siri the non-dove dove)
# of unofficial characters: 2 (Gizwyck and Cthulhu)
# of explosions/crashes: 2 (plus 1 volcano and 1 flood)
# of those caused by the Endeavour: 2 (well, its author wouldn't have crashed the ship into the roof. I did that so I could separate Lyne and Frederick for a while, while Frederick was temporarily the Beast)
# of casualties: 1 kick by a kangaroo, 1 koala fed to a dinosaur, and 1 leg stolen from Oscar Pistorius
# of MandMs fed to Cthulhu: unknown
# of references to famous authors: 2 covert mentions of Neil Gaiman's new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Value of character revelations: priceless

Everyone is welcome to participate in these! Zan Marie and I are thinking of hosting another one in December. We shall see (a week of no-holds-barred creation and interaction takes a lot out of the participants. We'll be having about another week or so this time around of debriefing and decompressing before the hangover subsides).

Here's Kedi, by the way:

I am really looking forward to that new Neil book. Especially because he's coming to Montreal in August! Spent two hours yesterday trekking up to a neighbourhood on the other side of the mountain (walking and by bus, and then a bus across the mountain home) to get my tickets.

Luckily I've got lots of other books to tide me over:

Got to read the latest Brenda Novak this week, Home to Whiskey Creek.

I love reading stories about small towns, so that even if each novel is about two new characters, you get to catch up on the stories of characters you've met before. Whiskey Creek being the small town that it is, the group of friends whose stories the books cover are in and out of each other's lives constantly, but you get a different point of view (and a different romance!) with each book.

If I had to criticise anything, I'd say there was a bit too much 'tell' in this story (but maybe I'm oversensitive because I'm in editing mode). The editing felt a little too rushed as well; I'd have preferred a slower denouement, so I could really absorb the consequences of what happened, and kind of enjoy having the hero and heroine finally being together.

The characters are very well defined, though, almost from the moment they appear on the page. I haven't visited California yet, but feel like I could drive straight into a place called Whiskey Creek and know where to go, and who to talk with!

Lots of other books going on, too. All the Budge Wilson books I ordered secondhand have started to come in, I picked up the anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451 while I was buying the Neil tickets (because Neil's got an introduction), and two fundraiser gifts arrived the other day, from the Lowell Observatory and Sherlockology (who are attempting to save Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's house, Undershaw, from becoming another in a long line of ancient homes renovated into condos):

A couple of days ago we celebrated Blumesday, the day after Bloomsday, and I'm thinking it's time I read a Judy Blume book I haven't yet: Tiger Eyes, which her son is currently turning into a movie.

In other exciting news, Kristen Callihan has a novella coming out in November! And Talli Roland and a group of lovely authors have launched Notting Hill Press! The Curators of the Cabinet of Curiosities have a book coming! If you're lucky enough to live in Wales, there are some neat events going on to do with naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. And... Tolkien!

I can't go long without some Tolkien news. I've been culling all the items I've favourited on Twitter since the A to Z Challenge ended, and some of the best include a letter by Tolkien, an anecdote about Tolkien and elephants, and a few images:

Tolkien quotes, visualised by Emil Johansson

A Gallifreyan tattoo with a Lord of the Rings quote. I don't understand this one. Can someone help?

Smeagol, imagined in Gothic form

Finally, raccoons!

I saw these little guys on the street the other day, but haven't seen them since. Tried to call the city to find out if I should do anything for them, but after waiting on hold for ten minutes, I gave up. If we'd lived just a little closer I might have tried feeding them, but I hope they're surviving in the city/wild!

Aren't they adorable?

What books are you reading this summer?
Or are you celebrating any specific authors?
Have you rescued any wild animals before?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Party Time!, John Bellairs, ROW80, and Photos from Book and Craft Fairs

Night at the Museum!

Featuring... The Tower of London, a spaceship crashing through the roof, monks, warriors, a veteran of World War I, a veteran of the Viet Nam war, a man cursed into Beast form, King Charles II, a race on a Ducati, a koala, a cave that leads to Australia, a talking garden gnome...

All of that, and more!

Yup, the Writers' Houseparty is in full swing, and if I'm falling behind on blog comments that's the reason. Non-stop writing, creating, exploring, and making friends.

Five of my characters are attending this round, including Kedi the cat.

Here's a very brief snip, featuring two of my characters meeting another:
The hair rose on the back of his neck, and before he could prevent it, all the Beast's senses were rushing to the forefront.
He growled, deep in the back of his throat, and made to fling Len off. He'd pin him down, and then... well, his Mistress was always hungry.
"Fred, what are you doing? Stop!"
As suddenly as the Beast had risen, it was tamped down. His hands - hands, not paws - fell from the man's neck.
Lyne had grabbed his arm, and just like that, the Beast had receded.
He stepped back on wobbly legs. "Sorry, man. Look, we didn't see any girl, right? But if you need help looking for her -"
"I heard voices from over that way," Lyne said. "I'm Lyne, by the way. What's your name?"
And the Beast caught a new scent. Of musk, and sandalwood. She found this bloke attractive? How could she?
How could Beauty even look at another?
Not much time left for ROW80, so I'm hoping this party will kickstart my motivation and get me back on the editing wagon. I've got to submit a snip for WRiTE Club!

In perfect timing, Nathan Bransford has a post on When It Feels Like You're Never Doing Enough, and Kait Nolan's got a post that summarises my own lifelong attitude to trying, not trying, and avoiding failure.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the publication of John Bellairs' The House With a Clock in Its Walls. A perfect excuse to reread all his wonderful, mysterious, thrilling books.

illustrations by Edward Gorey! Read more here

I was at a beerfest a couple of weeks ago!

Wey Beer Cream Porter - yum!

A list of Rogue Ales

I had the Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout - yum!

A display of Molson bottles over the years

A massive German bottle

Local microbrewery Boqubiere

Good old Newcastle

Round about the same time, I organised a charity book fair at work!


We raised 925$ for a children's library in Tanzania, which the office 'International Fund' sponsors. I, er, contributed by picking up a few handfuls of books for myself...

And last month I was at a craft fair!

Me on arrival

Setting up

Panorama shot


Ready to sell!

Lots of knitting - a baby hat

Other vendors had interesting items, including homemade soap, handmade dolls, jewellery, jams, baked goods. I won't pretend I didn't use up some of my profits buying from fellow sellers!

Homemade lipgloss in the bottom righthand corner - this, oddly enough, turned out to be my bestseller that day

Have you attended or hosted a fair recently?
Which book's anniversary are you celebrating?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

IWSG, ROW80, Favourite Childhood Authors, and Photos from a Weekend Trip!

Zan Marie - all unknowingly - gave me a great idea for today's Insecure Writers' Support Group Day!

We've got an ongoing goals thread over at the writers' forum (where the character houseparty will start in just a few days!); Zan Marie is our current host, and she set a great theme this month:

"June is a month of settling in for me--settling into summer, settling into warm and *hot* weather. So, I thought we'd settle into the middle of the year, by being good to ourselves.

That's your theme -- What do you plan to do to be good to yourself? Do it just for you."

This is exactly what I need to hear. I've been feeling inwardly guilty (I say inwardly because I haven't been reduced to flagellating myself in public - well, except for on the forum and here) for a month now that I haven't been meeting my main ROW80 goals of editing my novel and current short story.

I've got two weeks left of this round, and I'm going to try to use it to come up with a tangible work and revision plan for the next round.

No more feeling guilty about my pace!

One of those goals is going to involve WRiTE Club! Yes, submissions are open!

Here's how DL describes it for those who haven't participated before:

"Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top. Over the course of eight weeks we'll be holding twice-weekly bouts in which the winners will advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who... or what... you ask. Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that's who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It's a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure."

Follow the link to DL's blog for the rest of the guidelines.

I know exactly which 500 words I'm going to submit, and hopefully this will galvanize me into editing them!

Meanwhile... I've been rereading a few of my favourite books from childhood, including Budge Wilson's The Best Worst Christmas Ever, and Margaret Buffie's Who Is Frances Rain?

Margaret Buffie, by the way, is active on Facebook. It's so exciting to have conversations with a favourite author!

I hadn't made the connection, but Budge Wilson is the one who wrote the newly-authorised prequel to Anne of Green Gables! I had been avoiding reading that, but now that I know it was written by an author who's voice I trust, I've ordered it! I also ordered (yes, yes, I know I already have a TBR pile in the house...) a few other Budge Wilson books that feature the characters from the book I loved so long ago.

Which brings me to a mini-rant: the first thing I tried to do was order these books off Because, you know, I'd like to support the author.

Out of the seven books I ordered, only one was available on either Amazon, as a new book. The rest were secondhand copies. So instead I went to and ordered from as many independent Canadian bookshops as I could find. And one of the Budge Wilson books I got was signed by the author herself to fellow author Jean Little!

And now... a few more vacation photos!

These are from a weekend away in Glens Falls, New York, and Lenox, Massachussets:

Adirondack Mountains

The Cork n Hearth at Lenox, Mass

Berkshire Brewing Company taps at the Cork n Hearth

Davidson Brothers brews at Glens Falls

The Hyde Collection house at Glens Falls

The library at the Hyde house... are you as jealous as I am?

Rembrandt at the Hyde Collection

Glens Falls town centre

A panorama of the view from our hotel at Lenox

And me, having handmade ice cream...

Sunset at Lenox

Would you rather shop at Amazon or a local bookstore? Or a secondhand store?
What fun things have you discovered in secondhand books?

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