Wednesday, 31 July 2013

ROW80 - Edits are Done! Also, Research Library and Photos

Finally have some exciting news on the ROW80 front - I've finished editing Druid's Moon!

Just in time too, as I'm submitting it for the Harlequin eShivers fast track submission call (open till 2 August). All I have to do is fine-tune the cover letter and synopsis and write an epilogue and... Nothing's ever quite complete, is it?

And then, wow. I have a bit of breathing space to decide what-next? I'll share the novella with betas, of course (and hope they like it) but in the meantime...

I do have a short story to finish editing (and add 80 words to!) for another contest. As for a larger project - I've got last year's NaNoWriMo story to start typing up! Yup, I invoked the Luddite clause for that one. Or a brand new idea that's been percolating for some time... Set in Canada just after the Edwardian era.

Any of these are going to involve research. Yay!

Lori Benton, whose novel Burning Sky is out now!, had a post a while ago showing off her historical fiction research library.

Here are some of my books:

As for the research in general...

The short story involved research on the library at Alexandria:

The NaNo story, Captive of the Sea, is set in 15th Century London:

And the new idea... no title yet. I'm calling it Alice and George at the moment, after the main characters. This will be the first time in a long time that I'm writing a novel set in a historical period for which there's not only research but an abundance of contemporary accounts. Fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, newspapers, paintings, catalogues, portraits, photographs, timelines... I'm looking forward to it already!

I think it'll be set at a summerhouse in Muskoka, Ontario.

There will also be birds, kept by the main character's grandmother. I know nothing about birds as pets!

I found this photo of Henry Cavill in a magazine, but don't know who the photographer is and no longer remember which clothing line it was advertising. No matter, to me it looks like George! (before he breaks his leg)

Looky-here: goodies!

Thank you to Amara Royce for this exciting collection celebrating the release of Never Too Late!

What have you been researching lately?

Any exciting new blogs or blog posts you've come across?
(I feel badly visiting only once a week and don't want to miss out on any!)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

ROW80, Intimidating Books, Ottawa, Writing Challenges, and a Quick Tease!

Top Ten list - another one!

Margo (who was featured on Nutschell's Writing Space the other day!) had a list of Top Ten Most Intimidating Books.

Of the ones she listed, The Grapes of Wrath is actually at the top of my TBR pile at the moment. And I have read Ulysses! It took me a year - I read a chapter each Sunday (or so). After each chapter, I read the corresponding chapter in Stuart Gilbert's James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study. Is it really possible to read Ulysses without any help at all? I haven't tried Finnegan's Wake yet...

Here are my Top Ten Most Intimidating Books:

War and Peace - I don't like admitting it, but I still haven't gotten around to reading this. I haven't read Crime and Punishment yet either, but I've read other books by Dostoyevsky, so I don't feel as badly. I'd also like to read Anna Karenina...

Numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7 belong to books in other languages - I haven't gotten past the first chapter of Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul in Turkish, or the third chapter of the Turkish translation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, or the fifth chapter of the German translation of Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn... and I need to find another French book to read now that I've finished The Count of Monte Cristo. Any suggestions?

Number 7 is for the Morte d'Arthur. I've read bits and pieces, and all sorts of other versions of the Arthurian tales, but haven't read all of Malory's version yet. For someone used to Tolkien, the Morte d'Arthur just seems so haphazard, to say the least. And I feel badly for even criticising it...

Finally, numbers 8, 9, 10 and higher up belong to... anything on an ereader! So far I've only read one ebook in its entirety, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I read it on my phone, and while the experience wasn't a bad one, I just can't seem to settle down to regular e-reading. Meanwhile, the books are piling up - 50 of them last time I checked my Kindle for iPad!

Which books are you intimidated by?

ROW80! I've been doing better on the editing front lately. The goal is to finish the final read-through on paper, write one more spell and one more curse, then enter those final changes and send Druid's Moon off to betas next week!

I've also started editing the latest short story, and am hoping to take part in this month's exercise on the writers' forum - drafting for that tomorrow!

If you'd like to participate, here's the challenge:
"The idea is simple. You think of a character - even a limited number of traits is OK to start with; you need very little to begin the process.

Next, for each letter of the alphabet (or a subset; even 5 letters is going to work quite well), you let the character pick a single word that starts with that letter, then write a short (single paragraph) scene or thought or idea or comment from the character's POV. I'm a workaholic, and I started at A and went to Z, but you can pick any letter in any order because the idea is to be spontaneous, like free writing or free association."
Here's another challenge I'd like to try, even though the deadline has passed: Writing a story based on a Neil Gaiman prompt! I found out about it on Twitter, and then on Madeleine's blog.

Neil gave us this line: "It wasn't just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat."

And now to write the rest...

More photos from the weekend before!
After Upper Canada Village, we went to Canada's capital Ottawa for a day:

Yes, apparently they baked a special maple leaf cookie for the President, and he loved it!

I think the iceberg is just a fancy way of covering up renovations.
But that spider is all too real; it's called Maman.
The National Gallery bought it in 2005 for over three million dollars!

St Patrick's Basilica



I like the angle of this, it makes Ottawa feel like Paris!

Another shot of Bytown, showing more of the locks on the Rideau Canal

Changing of the guard at Parliament - we have it too! Even if it's not before a palace

Rideau Canal - it's disorienting to see it in summer when I remember skating on its frozen surface in winter!

Teaser alert! I've got a very special interview coming soon!

What are you working on? Any other interesting writing challenges out there?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

800th Post!, Under the Dome, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Milking a Cow!, ROW80, and Recipes

Horror, as a genre.

I wouldn't actually say I read it, the same way I don't really watch zombie films. But after a while, there's bound to be one or two books and movies that creep into your life. So, for instance, I've seen the classic Dawn of the Dead, as well as Shaun of the Dead ("we do the quiz!") and most recently read World War Z.

And as for reading horror... I read Stephen King. I'm sure I've read a handful of other authors, and of course I've read lots of folkloric ghost stories, but King is the one that sticks.

The hardest part about King, though, is when friends or bookstore employees (this happened again just last week) say: "I've always wanted to try Stephen King, but I don't like horror/being scared/ghosts."

I get all tongue tied and don't really know how to recommend him, beyond babbling "but it's a good scary, and usually - okay, sometimes - it turns out all right in the end! Also, try Bag of Bones or The Body."

What it comes down to is type casting, and I don't think an author who writes local New England speak as well as King does, who captures entire generations, who can create in-depth characters in barely half a page, who has such an original voice, and more, should be typecast. I mean, look at this list: Stephen King novels. That's only the full length books! There's so much to choose from in his bibliography. There's a lot more than one clown.

I lost all of last weekend to reading Under the Dome. (I won't say anything about the tv version, which I'm not sure I'll ever get around to watching; I couldn't beat Stephen King's own words on the subject anyway: King on the adaptation of Under the Dome.) Someone on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum mentioned that the ending felt a bit rushed, but I didn't think so. It was more a case of caring so much about the characters that you really wanted to know what happened to them for the rest of their lives! And the pacing worked really well, given what the survivors (trying not to give too much away here) were attempting - a last gasp at life.

Around the same time, I got my signed copy of Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane from Porter Square Books (thanks for all your help Theresa!). Perhaps I shouldn't have read it so quickly after another intense read - I'm thinking I might turn around and reread it this weekend just to savour it a little more. I learned a couple of new words, was pleasantly reminded of Madeleine l'Engle (in both the time and space aspects, and the importance of naming things), and - best and worst of all - the old UK fire, which had been lying dormant for some months, has been rekindled. Some day, some day, I will live there (or at least visit for longer than a month!).

Neil has mentioned in various interviews that the Hempstock family of OceanLane, and their farm, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book, have been in his mind for years and that he's "lived with" the characters since he was very young. I don't actually have a full story or characters like that, but I do have one line that has stuck with me for years and years and years:

"you know it's the ride to hell, because the red woman just got off"

Perhaps someday I'll find out what exactly that means...

Speaking of doing things for the first time off the list of 30 Things I'd Like To Do, I can cross one off!

Last weekend, I milked a cow!

first attempt...

show me how, again?

It was both easy and difficult - easy because the cow was so placid and patient, and hard because I just couldn't get the rhythm. Because of that, I didn't quite get to taste it either (and wasn't supposed to try - it's against health regulations. But I'd like to try it some time. And I did get to buy cheese made at the factory on site).

Here she is:

forgot to ask her name!

This all took place at Upper Canada Village, a Canadian version of the Ironbridge Gorge's Blists Hill - basically a recreation of a 19th century farming village. We visited right in the middle of re-enactments of the War of 1812, and the fields were covered in soldiers' tents...

across the marsh...

tree swing!

if you can learn the rules...

soldiers, post-battle

other conscripts

panorama - the United States across the river

one of the ships used in the re-enactment

a hoary old tree

inside a masonic lodge

outside of the lodge
(this reminded me of the Outlander books, of course, where Jamie Fraser is made a mason while in prison)

signal point

interesting looking anchor

commemorative edition of the village Gazette
(I know it's hard to read - the most fascinating thing about this was learning that it took about eight hours to set one column of type - this sheet has six columns, and the Gazette cost five cents. Five cents for a week's worth of work!)

a playbill for Beauty and the Beast! Aww, perhaps it's an adaptation of my novel...

type cases - the upper case letters are in... the upper case

The last post on this blog was my 800th post! To celebrate, please enjoy some fun links:

Misha's hosting the Pay It Forward Awards once more!

If you're busy writing or editing (like I'm supposed to be - got through a few chapters of print-out edits last night, so I don't feel entirely worthless), then don't forget to check out the official A Round of Words in 80 Days site for pep talks from fellow authors!

An interview with WRiTE Club founder DL Hammons, by Ninja Alex!

And look! Mini Alex at his first gig! I'm so happy he likes his Who Scarf.

Finally, both Lara and Ayak posted recipes last week, for 3-ingredient berry cobbler and 3-ingredient brownies. Yum!

I've featured börek on the blog before, but today I've got Neil Gaiman's pancakes! From his interview with Joe Hill:
"NG: There is no make-believe in cooking. There were few things I took as much fun in cooking, when I was a boy, as pancakes. (I liked making toffee, too, because it was a little like a science experiment.)

Right. The night before you are going to make them, you mix:
1 cup of ordinary white flour
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups of milk and water (a cup and a half of milk and a cup of water mixed)
1 tablespoon of either vegetable oil or melted butter

(You'll also need some granulated sugar, and a couple of lemons to put on the pancakes, along with other things like jams and possibly even maple syrup because you're American.)

Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Crack the eggs in and whisk/fork the egg into the flour. Slowly add the milk/water mixture, stirring as you go, until there are no lumps and you have a liquid the consistency of a not too thick cream.

Then put the mixture in the fridge overnight."
Read the rest - how to cook and eat 'em - and Neil's answers to questions about OceanLane on Omnivoracious. At the end, Neil adds: "This is a very peculiar interview, Joe. Let me know how the pancakes come out." See the photo above for Joe Hill's verdict - they came out great!

I might have all three, the cobbler, the brownies, and the pancakes. How can I resist?

What have you been eating lately?
Are you writing or editing, or is it too humid out?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

New Songs, New Adult, Top Ten Book Covers, ROW80, and Summertime!


Well, not so's you'd notice around here, where it's cloudy and rainy and cool a lot. And not so much down under, where it's winter. Though, hey! sunshine-y news:

Trisha's band Woody's A Girl has a new album coming out!

And Whisky Trench Riders have a new song!:

In other news, the New Adult label is storming through everyone's reading lists and wishlists and now, courtesy of agent Suzie Townsend, we have a banner:

Head over to her blog for all sorts of discussions and giveaways!

Margo had a great post the other day on her favourite covers, and I thought I'd show off my own:

Top Ten Favourite Book Covers

All Day Long Stories: One of my favourite fairy tale collections as a kid

John Bellairs, The Lamp from the Warlock's Tomb: Gotta love Gorey

Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone: Aren't they evocative?

Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Neil! With purple stuff coming out of his head! Dreams!

Yasar Kemal, Kuslar da Gitti: The title of this book translates to: The Birds Have Also Gone

Madeleine L'Engle, A Wind in the Door: I loved this cover even more once I found out about these "dragons" and their fewmets

C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: Pauline Baynes is one of my favourite illustrators. Every time I reread The Last Battle I cover up the page with the drawing of Tash on it because it scares me so

Kit Pearson, A Handful of Time: Not sure why I liked this when I was younger. Probably because the story was so well written, and the light on the cover just reminded me of the story and characters all over again

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lost Road: Outside of all of Tolkien's own drawings and paintings, I think John Howe comes closest to how I see the stories and legends

E. B. White, Charlotte's Web: I love the illustrations by Garth Williams. They're one of the few sets of images that stay in my head - the rest of my headspace is usually full of words.

Actually, there have been a couple of days of sunshine here and there. I documented them!



wildflowers II


wildflowers III

near sunset, watching a little league game

wildflowers IV

As for ROW80... About all that can be said is that I'm doing research and trying to keep up with the Forum exercises. I'm also rereading all eight Anne of Green Gables books, which sort of counts as research for a new idea I might explore at the next NaNoWriMo. At least, that's what I'm telling myself!

It is sort of hard to concentrate with a new Neil Gaiman book out...

How are you doing on your goals?
Do you have exciting summer (or winter!) vacation plans?

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