Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Wishlist, NaNoWriMo, and You Have To F***king Eat


I shared a wishlist a couple of years ago and, as I've racked up a few items since then, thought I might share one again. I've gotten all the items on my 2012 list except two:

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

A subscription to the Sunday New York Times. Or even the Telegraph or the Guardian. It costs about 1000 dollars to receive each one in Geneva. Scary.

There's always at least one Tolkien item on my wishlist; this year it's the latest editions of some of his short stories, with new commentary, from the official Tolkien book shop.

A colouring book from artist Pete McKee!

And the last item on my list is a coffee table. Not just any table, though. I need a flat surface that's about the width of a sheet of printer paper, which hovers nearby. Mainly so that when I'm settled with book (or notebook or iPad) and baby, I have a convenient place to rest my coffee mug. Not a nightstand that's two inches too far, or a kitchen table that's at the wrong angle, or a sofa cushion that's too close to the unpredictable cats. Nope, it's got to be a hover-stand, floating patiently by my elbow. Yup, that's all I need.

I got a peek at the forthcoming sequel to Go the F**k To Sleep:

Isn't it funny how so many kids act this way? I wonder what it is about the growth process that makes a person refuse food or hate something they've previously loved? This book captures those conditions with just the same exasperation and salacious language as the first book devoted to the matter of no-sleep.
The illustrations have just the right touch of the familiar yet otherworldly, especially in all the animals that come to life. It would be easier if we were like pandas, and had only one main diet, wouldn't it?
There's a delightful mini-twist at the end of the book that I won't spoil. Recommended for anyone with a fussy eater in the house!

In writing update news (for ROW80), I've almost made it through NaNo -- with about 7500 words to go! I really hope to be earning that winner's certificate in the next couple of days, even though the story itself won't be complete. There are a few scenes I've skipped, many scenes that need fleshing out, and the ending needs to be written.

Hope you're doing well if you're NaNoing!

What's on your wishlist?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Mini Highlights of Fellow Bloggers! and the YA Novel Discovery Contest

Blogging buddies!

I'm so far behind in comments! Thank you all for coming by and commenting on my last few posts. I'm going to try visiting many of you today and as I do, I thought I'd highlight a few here:

Zan Marie at In the Shade of the Cherry Tree features an interview with brilliant author Joanna Bourne today! I love what Jo says here: "I want happy endings. I want heroes and heroines. I want brave, clever, principled characters who behave well under difficult circumstances. So I write Romance."

Pam at A Novel Woman shares photos, hilarious stories, and makes Montreal look good!

Forgotten Bookmarks gives away a collection of vintage books every week.

Ayak is an English lady living in Turkey; she blogs about her experiences at Ayak's Turkish Life. She's also a rescuer and caretaker of abused street/stray dogs. Please donate if you feel inclined!

Then there's Trisha, who's rescuing cats!

Pop Sensation has a great time showcasing and gently poking fun at vintage paperbacks: 'Page 123 -- "Yes, but the thing is," the medical examiner said again, "where is the other body, and where is the other head?"
My favorite part of that quotation is "again."'

Here's a contest I entered a couple of years ago. I was one of the 20 finalists that year! Now they're in their fifth edition:

No query? No pitch? No problem!
Get in front of top YA editors and agents with only the first 250 words of your YA novel!
Have a young adult novel -- or a YA novel idea -- tucked away for a rainy day? Are you putting off pitching your idea simply because you’re not sure how to pitch an agent? No problem! All you have to do is submit the first 250 words of your novel and you can win both exposure to editors, and a reading of your manuscript from one of New York’s top literary agents, Regina Brooks.
Regina Brooks is the CEO of Serendipity Literary Agency and the author of the award winning book Writing Great Books for Young Adults, now available in a second edition.
The top 20 submissions will all be read by a panel of five judges comprised of top YA editors at Random House, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Penguin, Scholastic, Feiwel and Friends, Kensington, Candlewick, Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin. The top 20 authors will receive a free copy of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. Of the 20, the judges will pick the top five submissions and provide each author with commentary. These five winners will also receive a free one-year subscription to The Writer magazine. One Grand Prize Winner will win a full manuscript reading and feedback from Regina Brooks.
Please submit all entries via the contest website at one entry per person; anyone age 13+ can apply. Open to the U.S. and Canada (void where prohibited). Entries for the YA Novel Discovery Contest will be accepted from 12:01am (ET) November 1 until 11:59pm (ET), November 30.

And my ROW80 update -- getting through NaNoWriMo by the skin of my teeth. I keep starting scenes, only to be stalled by my lack of research. Here's what I need to learn about:

Constantinople during WWI
Military ranks
Evacuation of Gallipoli (December 2015)

What research have you been doing lately?

Entered any interesting contests?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Mini Book Reviews!

Books galore!

I've been reading a lot in the last week or so. Here are a few of the books and stories:

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

I tweeted about this yesterday and today. I'm always impressed by writers who can take real life and distill it into a lesson, a moral, a story. I tend to find it hard to connect the dots of real life events. Amanda does it brilliantly.

Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman

A brilliant retelling of the classic fairy tale. Isn't it sad that when, in the middle of the tale, he writes "Gretel and Hansel" it jumps out at you? Why does the boy's name tend to come first?

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Another retelling, of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty's stories. I love what he did with Snow White's character. I do wish dwarfs had been pluralised dwarves, but I guess they're not the same creatures as Tolkien's dwarves. Really intriguing spin on Sleeping Beauty's tale. And the illustrations are beautiful.

Married by Midnight by Talli Roland

I read this in one sitting! I was drawn into the world of the characters almost from the first sentence. And oh! it's full of Christmas spirit. I wish it was out in a slim, large size paperback or hardcover so I could give out lots of copies as gifts. Or am I the only one that still finds it hard to read on screen? This is only the third book I've done that with!

The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny

It's always dangerous reading the first book in a series. This is the third and I've got nine books to go! If you've ever wanted to visit the Eastern Townships neighbourhood or anywhere in rural southern Quebec (south of Montreal, that is, and north of the US border), reading this series will transport you there instantly. And the mystery aspects of the books are intriguing too. This review from the Charlotte Observor, by Salem Macknee, says it all:
"If I thought for one minute this place really existed, I would be packing the car. As it was, on finishing "The Cruelest Month," I grabbed the first two books, "Still Life" and "A Fatal Grace," and spent a lovely weekend in the village. The mouthwatering food, the beautiful gardens, the quirky and literate villagers -- Three Pines is a charming oasis for the's more about the journey than the destination in these wonderful books full of poetry, and weather, and a brooding manor house, and people who read and think and laugh and eat a lot of really excellent food."

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil Revised and Expanded Edition by J.R.R. Tolkien

I've read these lovely poems before, but the commentary was new to me. The best part, of course, is the language; all those intriguing words, some invented, some ancient. And the delicious thrill of "The Mewlips".

And then there's NaNoWriMo!

I've been writing steadily (ROW80 check in!), which is the positive way to look at things. Some days I fall behind. What I need to do more of is think of the story during non-writing times, so that when I set paper to pen, there are definite scenes to be explored and some forward movement.

Plotters out there must be shaking their heads. But as a pantster, that's how I plot, by seeing my way forward a little at a time, towards the distant horizon I know is there. That is, the limited amount of plotting I do is to know what my characters want, and the end-point they're headed for. The path they'll take is uncertain until written.

How do you feel your way into a story?

What good books have you been reading lately?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Writing Survival Tips for IWSG Day, NaNoWriMo, and ROW80

National Novel Writing Month is here!

It's also Insecure Writer's Support Group's Day, and so, inspired by Tina Hayes' NaNo Survival Kit and Lauralynn Elliott's post on Tools of the Trade, I'm sharing my own Writing Survival Kit:

1. My favourite pen and a brand new notebook. The notebook can't be too shiny and pretty though; the more attractive it is, the more I worry that my words won't be good enough for its pages. Many times I'll start writing from the back of the notebook and only return to the front pages once I'm in the swing of a story and more confident in its development. Hence:

1b. Do what works for you. There's lots of advice out there for writers, but none of it seems to come with the important caveat that a writer need not follow any of it. Use all the -ly words you wish, while typing your novel on the back of a truck in the wind (a la John Cleese in that Monty python sketch), just do what works. That said,

2. Get the words down. I'm always frustrated by people who bemoan their writing to the point where they're paralysed before even starting. It's true what they say, you can't edit a blank page. Every NaNo reminds me all over again how important it is to write every day. It's only by writing all the time that a writer can stay nimble. It takes me a few hundred words into each session to stop telling, stop using cliches, and really get into a scene and inside the characters' heads

3. The Compuserve Books and Writer's Community. This is one of those stories I never tire of repeating: if my friend hadn't lent me Outlander, if I had let it languish in my TBR pile, if I had not read the acknowledgements and decided to check out Compuserve, then I might not have found the spark that led me back to writing after a two-year drought and might not be writing today.

It doesn't have to be Compuserve, of course. Any group of writing friends or critique partners will do, for writing exercises, idea sharing, commiserations, celebrations, and understanding that you have voices in your head!

4. Accountability. Some writers are disciplined enough that they get their words down and their editing done within self-imposed timelines. I, on the other hand, need outside pressure. I've sweat with Sven, I've joined Ning groups and Facebook groups, but the best to date has been A Round of Words in Eighty Days:

"A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. We are all different and we all have different demands on our time. Why should we all have the same goal? The simple answer is that we shouldn't. If you want to be a writer, then you have to be able to roll with the punches and adapt to your changing circumstances. If that means changing your goals when your life blows up, so be it. ROW80 is the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life."

That's exactly what I did; when November came in I revised my goals. Though I still had a notebook and a half of Larksong left to type up, I've had to drop it. I feel badly, but it's also thrilling to be back on a drafter's high, writing every day and exploring the world of a brand new story.

I haven't found a title yet, though. For fun, I've been calling it The Ottoman Sultan's Captive, which makes it sound like a cliché '70s Harlequin!

And now, a break-up-the-text image!

Winter is coming (in the Northern Hemisphere); bundle up!

Are you doing NaNo or busy editing?
Please share your writing tips!

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