Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Knitting and Music

Cross-posting to the neglected knitting blog today!

With all the excitement on the writing front, and busy real life, knitting has slid onto the back burner. I see intriguing patterns, and have family and friends with new babies, but can't seem to get a project started that's larger than one square to donate to a group project:

Starting out...

Oh no, I made a mistake and have to tink (unknit)...

Whew! Managed to finish a square!

Now for the inspection...

I'm also still compiling knitting-in-public images and references, as I see them. One of the more recent was a portrait of a knitter in Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva:

Also came across a website listing 46 Interesting Facts About Knitting, including about its origins and history:
"In the 1350s, 'knitting Madonnas' began to appear in Europe, depicting the Virgin Mary knitting. These include Our Lady Knitting (c. 1325–1375) and Visit of the Angel (1400–1410). These paintings are important markers that indicate when knitting entered Europe and how knitting was done. ... There were shepherds in the Landes swamps in France known as tchangues ('big legs') who would knit on stilts while they watched their flocks. The need for stilt walking and shepherds were obliterated by the early 20th century when the government planted a forest of maritime pines over the swamps."
Apparently, knitting for 30 minutes burns 55 calories!

Knitting or otherwise keeping my hands busy is sometimes a good way to work through a plot problem or character conversations. Other times, music can be a source of inspiration:

I've written a couple of thousand words this past week, but am not much closer to finalising the short story. Two weeks to go till the deadline!

What other hobbies inspire your writing (or vice versa)?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A Word Wenches Christmas and Blog Lists: Writing Projects, I Need An Intern, and Blog Tasks


One of the things I used to use this blog for often was as an info-dump for upcoming writing projects, yearly goals, 30 Things I Want To Do, and so on. If they're written down, my brain feels less frazzled.

I've got three such lists today:

Simmering on the Back Burner Writing Projects (not counting items already started):

1930s father
1930s Springsteen
1920s hotel/class-crossed lovers
Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress
possible Lord Rochester romance
Seeing-colours dystopian

Blog Tasks:

Update all the photos in old posts
Compile posts 500 to today, the way I did for posts 1-500 during the celebrations for my 500th post
Related to the above, I'd like to keep track of all my book reviews (see intern list below)
Finish visiting everyone that came by on Blog Blitz Day and keep up with the blog roll
Re-sync with FB and tumblr and Ello and Pinterest
Consider adding tags
Prepare guest posts for Tolkienist, Tolkien Library, ROW80, etc.

Things I Need An Intern For:

Type up all of the scraps and scribbles where I've written my dreams
Type up and collate all my story ideas (the above list is only an indication)
Copy all my book reviews from the blog to Amazon and Goodreads (and vice versa, if necessary)
Add the 500+ books I've gotten since I finished the catalogue, including all items in pdf saved in emails and on the computer(s)

Create a filing cabinet with organized labels for all the articles/webpages/clippings/brochures/etc. I've collected over the years
(this and the next two items involve dealing with our massive pile of items in storage in Canada.
What does one do with about twenty copies of Melody Maker?)

Go through all the piles of "saved stuff" and extract every Folio catalogue, then make a comprehensive list of all the Folio books I want
Create a database to store every knitting pattern/recipe/good idea/remember to look up/quotes/poetry/etc. I've ever collected
Make a master list of books/albums/singles/DVDs I want, including all items in emails
Take care of my plants
Curate my Twitter: Unfollow all the spammers and collate my list of favourites into groups of items to watch, read, research, etc.
Also, figure out whether lists would be useful in keeping up with FB

And so on. There are always items to add to the list.

Time is running out on my main ROW80 goal - I've got half the ending for the short story written. Need to finish it and edit it and polish it before the SIWC contest deadline!

I read this great book this past week:

The Last Chance Christmas Ball

"Christmas 1815. Upstairs and downstairs, Holbourne Hall is abuzz with preparations for a grand ball to celebrate the year's most festive -- and romantic -- holiday. For at the top of each guest's wish list is a last chance to find true love before the New Year...

A chance meeting beneath the mistletoe, a stolen glance across the dance floor -- amid the sumptuous delicacies, glittering decorations, and swell of the orchestra, every duchess and debutante, lord and lackey has a hopeful heart. There's the headstrong heiress who must win back her beloved by midnight -- or be wed to another...the spinster whose fateful choice to relinquish love may hold one more surprise for her...a widow yearning to glimpse her long-lost love for even one sweet, fleeting interlude...a charming rake who finds far more than he bargained for. And many other dazzling, romantic tales in this star-studded collection that will fill your heart and spice up your holidays."

There's something cosy about reading stories set in a bleak, snowy landscape while outside its a warm August day. It's also fun to read an anthology where different authors' characters criss-cross each other through the different stories. All the characters in this collection are well-realised and the romances -- and initial reasons for the characters' troubles or hesitations -- were believable and intriguing. Some of the stories are sweet, while others are a bit more spicy, with some great banter back and forth between hero and heroine. My two favourites are the stories by Jo Bourne ("My True Love Hath My Heart" - this one is actually two romances in one short story!) and Jo Beverley ("Miss Finch and the Angel").

Did I mention that this is a Word Wenches anthology? If you're not following their collective author blog, do! They've always got lots of fascinating book and research and travel related information and discussions and images.

Are you thinking about the holidays already?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Neuchatel! and Story Starts and Ends


Life is intruding again but it seems to benefit the blog as I get to share lots of photos! These are from a day trip to the town of Neuchatel last month:

At the train station 

An ad for Appenzeller cheese. I think it says "the tangiest/most full-bodied secret in Switzerland".

Town centre 

Town centre 

Town centre, below the castle 

Beginning the walk up... 


Up the winding road... 

Still climbing, now facing the dungeon tower 

Through the arch... 

View from the top 

Looking out on the dungeon tower 

1685! Parts of the castle are even older, at least 12th Century

Collegial church 


I really like the expression on the face on the left

Leaving the church 

The castle 

Castle entrance 

Very steep street! 

The steps of the steep street 

Piggy outside a butcher shop

I think this says All Work in Latin. Wonder why?

As for ROW80, the main thing this week is figuring out an ending to, and editing, my short story.

Questions are still percolating in the back of my mind. What I need is a solid sit-down stream of consciousness session, to see what my characters think about their situation.

Do you struggle with endings or with beginnings?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Entry for a Janet Reid Flash Fiction Contest, CampNaNoWriMo Winner, Celebrating IWSG Day, ROW80

CampNaNoWriMo was a success!

I was about to add "relatively speaking" but I just realised that today is Insecure Writer's Support Group Day! In honour of the occasion, I refuse to feel guilty over all the editing I am not doing, and instead focus on all the ROW80 goals I've accomplished this summer, some set in advance and some unexpected but exciting. Since June, with regard to writing and transcription goals, I have:

Beta read two novels (not counting additional synopsis or query letter or scene-related assistance)
Written a short story (One to Another)
Provided my contributions to a joint novel I'm writing (s l o w l y) with family members (The Horror of Horhor)
Typed up over 10,000 words on Larksong (my 2014 NaNo novel), with only 10,000 left to go
Provided brief copy edits on a self-published novel
Submitted two requested reviews and reviewed a handful of other books read
Finished typing up another batch of Wallace correspondence transcripts (with only the formatting left to do)
Jotted brief notes for a brand new novel inspired by the life of Henry Blythe King Allpass 
Written the first third of an entirely new novel for CampNaNoWriMo! (The Heathen in the Hold)

I hadn't realised that the goals for CampNaNo weren't flexible, in the way our ROW80 goals are. I had originally intended to write 20,000 words on a new story, but only managed 15,000. I declared myself a winner, though, since I made up the other 5,000 with the short story and the contributions to the family novel. I wouldn't have been so lax with myself if there wasn't a baby in the house, of course!

I also wrote one other piece, which was a reworking of a vignette I wrote more than a year ago. There's an image by Dave McKean at the end of one of the collected Sandman (Neil Gaiman) editions, of a dark New York City-type building. As soon as I saw it, I was inspired. I'd originally intended the vignette for Vine Leaves, but wasn't accepted.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I caught a Janet Reid flash fiction contest marking the publication of Go Set A Watchman (which I haven't read yet. I'm just saddened by all the "regular" readers (i.e. those not involved in the publishing industry in any way or frequenting writing-related blogs or what have you) who are buying it because they think it's a sequel. Saddest instance was a colleague who told me he was interested in this new release, but admitted he hadn't read To Kill A Mockingbird).

The main rules were 1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer and 2. Use these words in the story: watch, man, total, flim, flam

I took my vignette, had fun tightening and reshaping it, and then realised that at the moment when I saw her tweet about the contest, the deadline had already come and gone! Instead, I'll share it here:

Riding home, slumped against the cab window -- had two girly drinks (flimsy flamingo straws included) and am playing at melancholy without being totally drunk -- I notice a pine strung with Christmas lights.

An office window's fluorescent white mutes the holiday warmth.

Tonight he said he's moving, "but we'll keep in touch."

The cabman -- watching in the rearview -- asks, "You okay?"

I say no, and he slams the brakes.

Christmas lights and fluorescent glare shine off snow where I stumble out, but even if I'm drunker than I thought, they can't blind me from the truth:

I'll never see him again.

The original (with a more hopeful ending), is under my Shared Writing Snips tab, if you'd like to compare.

Next task is to finish editing One to Another for submission to the Surrey International Writers' Conference contest. I've gotten some great feedback from betas, but am up against my bugbear: needs more conflict. I always struggle with raising the stakes. Oh wait, it's Insecure Writer's Support Group Day...

What are you congratulating yourself for today?

Have you entered any of Janet Reid's flash fiction contests?

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