Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sue Townsend, Farley Mowat, Page 56! and a few Public Service Announcements

Remembering two authors today, who've recently passed away, Farley Mowat and Sue Townsend.

I've done "why doesn't my newspaper report on the important stuff" features before, on the passing of favourite authors: Peg Bracken, Madeleine l'Engle, Norma Fox Mazer, and so on.

This time, of course, I don't even know if the local Montreal paper reported on Sue Townsend, though I'm sure they did write about Farley Mowat since he's Canadian. I heard about both of these through Twitter.

It's been many years since I read any Farley Mowat. It's possible that I only ever read one - Owls in the Family, about his childhood. Now, of course, I feel guilty about this. I'd especially like to read his autobiographical works about World War II, though the ones about Canada's North are intriguing too. Here's a list of his first 15 works:

People of the Deer (1952; revised 1975)
The Regiment (1955)
Lost in the Barrens (1956)
The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (1957)
Coppermine Journey: An Account of a Great Adventure (1958)
Grey Seas Under: The Perilous Rescue Missions of a North Atlantic Salvage Tug(1959)
The Desperate People (1959; revised 1999)
Ordeal by Ice (1960)
Owls in the Family (1961)
The Serpent's Coil: An Incredible Story of Hurricane-Battered ships the Heroic Men Who Fought to Save Them (1961)
The Black Joke (1962)
Never Cry Wolf (1963)
West-Viking (1965)
The Curse of the Viking Grave (1966)
Canada North (1967)

Sue Townsend wrote the Adrian Mole diaries, of course. For some reason I didn't read these when I was young, but only came to them in my middle twenties -- which was probably better, in a way, as only the first diary dealt with the young teenage Adrian Mole, while the others followed him at later stages. I still haven't read the last one, and Adrian Mole is now older than I am!

One of my favourites of her books is The Queen and I (and the sequel Queen Camilla), in which Labour come into power in the 80s and the entire Royal family is ousted to live on a Council estate. It was fun to see Townsend's depictions of which family members managed to adapt, which didn't, and how they interacted with the other residents of the estate.

Another good one is Rebuilding Coventry, about a woman who commits a murder, in defense of a neighbour being strangled, and then goes on the run in London.

Townsend suffered from diabetes and kidney failure, and a few years ago spoke out on National Kidney Day about the importance of altruistic organ donation. Here's the BBC interview with Townsend about her disabilities, and a more extensive interview with Townsend that also includes other topics.

Last week I read (brief interjection here to say that I've been reading a lot and have not made much progress at all on ROW80 goals. Woe is me!) Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There, about his travels in Europe in the early 90s, and I'm using that book for...

Page 56!

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56 per cent in your eReader (if you have to improvise, that's okay).
*Find any sentence (or a few (just don't spoil it)) that grabs you.
*Post it.

Here's Bryson:
"Goldfish daunt me. Their whole existence seems a kind of reproach. 'What's it all about?' they seem to be saying. 'I swim here, I swim there. What for?'"
To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They are harmless, they look nice, they don't need a box to crap in, they keep the grass down and they are so trusting and stupid that you cannot help but lose your heart to them."

Hmm, I don't think he noticed, when he was in Switzerland, the annual cow battles: the Combat des Reins (Fight of the Queens). I'm not making this up! The last round was a couple of weeks ago and not only was it all over the papers, it was televised too.



I took the page 56 meme from LuAnn's Back Porchervations blog. Feel free to share!

Public service announcements!

I haven't had a chance to do this yet, but a few weeks ago, on her birthday, since it was close to the anniversary of her own successful Kickstarter campaign, Amanda Palmer asked anyone who felt inclined to go support another Kickstarter project as a birthday present to her.

There are lots of intriguing projects out there, including one that's about to begin in a few days -- photographs of real librarians by Kyle Cassidy.

Neil Gaiman recently visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Here's a direct link to his piece in The Guardian.

And the latest Humble Bundle books bundle features a huge collection of Doctor Who comics! Pay what you like! Proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The WRiTE CLUB submission deadline is fast approaching!

DL Hammons explains:
"For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is? It's a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB. There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it here. This unique approach, combined with your participation, continues to set it apart from the other writing competitions and is responsible for its phenomenal growth. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

Over the course of eight weeks I'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.

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!"

Care to share a page 56 sentence?
Have you participated in WRiTE CLUB?
Any other intriguing Kickstarter (or other) projects you'd like to call attention to?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New Story Snip! ROW80 and Nature Photos

Catching up!

Slowly, but surely. I'm still working my way through A to Z Challenge posters and commenters, but I did catch up on all the blogs I was due to visit as part of my minion duties!

Here are a few of the new bloggers I met:









I've also moved a little further on one of my ROW80 goals, which is to participate in the May exercise on the writers' forum.

Here's a brief description of the exercise:
"The Power of Place.

How does a writer go from a generic "dark and stormy night" to creating a world that is so real, so tangible and vibrant that readers and characters alike live in it?

This power of place goes beyond simple world-building such as sketching maps of towns or creating blueprints of buildings. It goes beyond a mention of the weather, or the mountains, or the sunset reflected in a lover's eyes. Those are all good, but it gets better.

Setting is more than just a backdrop for plot and character. It’s another tool in the writer's toolbox that works hard at multitasking."
For more of the description, as well as the guidelines, come visit us on the Forum!

Today I managed to type up the scene I'll be submitting for the exercise, a brief snip from Larksong, my NaNo story from last year.

This story takes place the summer before World War I and features two characters who think they know what hardship is. By the end of the summer they've learned that not only are they stronger than they believed, but just how much they'll need that strength in the months to come. And, of course, it's a romance!

I've shared a brief snip featuring Larksong's Alice and George before, and now here's the scene from the May exercise (the bird reference is to one of the pets in her Nanny's menagerie):
Alice woke in the half light of morning needing the chamber pot. She felt for it under the bed, eyes half lidded, still snatching at a dream of Nanny B that had left behind a pervading sweetness, though already the details were beyond recall. 
Dawn had come and gone outside, though it was early yet. Early morning chill fogged the edges of her window. Far out on the lake an intrepid soul was fishing off the Mary Louise. George. 
There was no mistaking that stubborn outline, quite apart from the leg in its cast, propped on the gunwale at an angle that jarred the idyll of the misty morning lake. 
It was the work of a moment to shove the pot aside, exchange night rail for frock and slippers, and -- somehow remembering her woollen shawl at least -- tread softly down the stairs. 
Turning the key in noiseless increments, she slipped through a crack of doorway and, once out of doors, flew like Oscar the budgie down the lawn and through the tree belt.
Once on the dock she trod softly, lest George catch her at unawares and discover how eager she'd been to join him. She halted at the end, slippers soaked in dew from her mad dash, and watched.
It would not do to disturb the clear unrippled surface of the lake, nor the surrounding firs that gazed solemnly at their reflections. The sun had not yet broken through the morning haze. All was glassy and rough-edged, like a creature startled in a den it had not meant to be found in. A lone loon called to the east. 

George floated in the midst of the scene, ram rod straight, though no one was about to take notice of his posture.

Yet as his boat spun a lazy circle above an unseen current, she glimpsed his set jaw and the thin line of his mouth; he was hurting, and clenching his teeth against it. 

As the boat completed its turn, he saw her, and was apparently as reluctant as she'd been to disturb the raw morning, for he gave no sign or greeting.
Or was it that he did not want company, least of all hers?
She should have kept the peaceful sight of him from her window to herself, and not come down to uncover or disturb his tryst with pain.

Meanwhile, more photos!

lakeside morning

a pot of chocolate mousse! (couldn't fix the sidewaysness)

lakeside morning panorama

this niche reminds me of an Ent house

another United Nations peacock!

advancing on a statue...

one stone, the other feathers; two statues -- or so it seems...

another lakeside morning

amazing rainbow after a recent rain shower

if I could have run out and jumped on that pot, would there have been a pot of gold on it?

tried to get a shot of the full arc; hope you can see it!

Which stories are you working on?
Do you have a snip or favourite line to share?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Book Reviews and Boat Tours!

Reviews! I've been reading lots of great books lately.

First up is Medeia Sharif's Snip, Snip Revenge, a fun and moving tale of a few months in the life of young Tabby Karim (a Turkish protagonist, yay!):



The best part of this book, for me, was how well Medeia captures the teen voice. A lot of times I felt and remembered feeling exactly the way Tabby felt about certain situations. And of course I loved the romance as well!

Also in new books, there's Talli Roland's The No-Kids Club, coming on 3 June:



I can't recommend this book enough. Of course, I say that about all of Talli's books, but the characters in this story really resonated with me. I also found it exciting to see how each character's personal dilemma was resolved by the end of the novel. There are no easy answers in any of their situations, and Talli does a great job exploring the nuances of each relationship.

Can't wait to get this one for all my friends!

And the third book -- I've actually had this one on my Kindle for iPad for a while, along with two others in the same collection (they're not a series, though). I got them on the day they were released! But I still have trouble reading on screen. I just can't get into it, and of course I hardly ever have my iPad on me anyway.

But. I was in a cafe the other day, working on A R Wallace transcriptions (part of my ROW80 goals!), and then had a bit of time between finishing my work and still waiting for the lunch service to start so I could eat something (I didn't go elsewhere because ooh! Cafe Art's makes yummy omelettes! (no one on the web seems to be able to get their name right)).

I had my iPad on me because I've gotten used to typing on there in PlainText (while I wait for Scrivener for iPad to be released!) so I went straight to Kait Nolan's Meet Cute collection. Here's how she describes them:



The one I read was Once Upon An Heirloom:



The sweetness! I can't get over how lovely it was to read an entire mini-novella in one sitting that was both tender and with a depth to the characters that makes you wish for more. I'll be sharing this one around too, but I really wish I had them all collected in a nice paperback that I could foist on everyone.

Speaking of foisting, and hosing, and getting everyone excited, Outlander has a release date!



Even better, the next book in the series is coming on 10 June!

Okay, back to real life for a bit. Went on a lovely tour on Lac Leman (Geneva's lake) last weekend, on a boat that was originally commissioned in 1914 and has been in service since then:

ship's bell

view from the boat


me!

view of the town of Nyon

passing a sister boat, which was similar to ours

view of the village of Yvoire, which has been inhabited since 1306

Yvoire again; the village was voted one of the most beautiful villages of France

Later, I came across a house that George Eliot stayed at in 1850:

"celebrated English author"

Hope everyone's having a lovely week and reading some great books.
Still making my A-Z rounds so don't be surprised if I comment on old posts!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A to Z Reflections, IWSG, ROW80, and Irvine Welsh!

A is for... I mean, and now back to our regularly scheduled programme.

It's hard to get out of A to Z mode! The challenge was really fun this year. I'm still busy making my rounds, so don't be surprised if I come by and comment on older posts!

This was my third A to Z Challenge and third year having a theme. In 2012 I covered Favourite Books and 2013 was the year I showcased all sorts of favourite posts and links from Twitter. That was a fun theme, actually; maybe I'll do it again next year. I favourite a lot of stuff on Twitter and don't always have a chance to go back and read or watch them all.

This year it was nice to have a built in theme based on my life! I'm still collecting random items I'd like to share with all of you, from the world's steepest mountain-side cable car to this fact I just discovered yesterday: author Graham Greene lived his last years in Switzerland and is buried here.

I'd definitely recommend a theme for anyone who might have found it difficult to get through the month, and having a theme that lends itself to photos is a definite plus for those days when you just can't think what to write.

Today is Insecure Writer's Support Group day! I'm not sure I'm the best person to seek advice from at the moment, as I'm quite behind on my ROW80 goals, and still not sure if I'll be able to make it to the May exercise on the Compuserve Forum. It's a great one this month, hosted by one of the All The World's Our Page authors, all about bringing the setting in your story to life, so if you've got a scene you'd like to work on, do drop by!

As for other sources of inspiration... well, I visited the Geneva International Book Fair last Saturday!

The only English-speaking author whose name I recognised on the programme was Irvine Welsh, but it turned out the panel he was on also featured another author, Linwood Barclay who, it turns out, is Canadian! Funny coming all the way here to meet a Canadian author. I've just read his Never Saw It Coming, and would recommend it for fans of thrillers.

Panel with Irvine Welsh and Linwood Barclay, mediated by Corinne Jaquet

After the question and answer session

I couldn't think of an intelligent question. One person asked if there'll be a sequel to the Trainspotting movie and the short answer is maybe. The intriguing bit was that, apparently, a little while ago, Welsh and Danny Boyle and a couple of others locked themselves into an Edinburgh apartment for a week to talk about the books and the movie and see if they could start hashing out script ideas. That would have been a great week during which to be a fly on the wall!

Me!

One other interesting I learned is that Welsh's writing style changes with every book. Sometimes he'll work 9 to 5, other times he'll work late at night; sometimes he'll write at a desk with notes and Post-its everywhere, other times he'll write outside the house... One book was written while riding the Circle Line of the London Tube, apparently!

The fair also had an exhibit of newspapers from the first and last days of World War I:






And of course there were lots and lots of books for sale. Very dangerous for those of us who miss our libraries:


Back to work... I discovered a great place for lunch yesterday:



View from the front porch of one of the villas on the United Nations grounds


This little fellow was surveying the grounds...

Meanwhile, I've got reviews coming up, of Medeia Sharif's Snip, Snip Revenge and Talli Roland's The No-Kids Club. I'd definitely recommend both books, but look for full reviews soon!

Which authors have you met recently?

Do you have a favourite spot to go to at lunchtime?

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 http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2016/12/annual-books-read-statistics-2016.html
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2015/12/annual-books-read-statistics.html
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ch/2014/12/books-read-in-2014-review.html
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2014/01/toast-to-professor-books-read-in-2013.html
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/12/the-hobbit-review-and-year-end-books.html
  • see the 2011 statistics on http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011-statistics-fourth.html
  • see the 2011 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2012/01/books-read-in-2011.html
  • see the 2010 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2010/12/books-read-in-2010-listed-here.html
  • see the 2009 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-ii.html
  • also in 2009 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2009/12/books-read-in-2009-part-iv.html
  • see the 2008 list at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-ii.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-vi.html
  • also in 2008 at http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.com/2008/12/books-read-in-2008-part-iv.html