Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Oh You Pretty Things

Pretty things!

I was about to say that it had been a while since I'd blogged about my characters' faces, but apparently it was only last year! The full set of character images are here.

I wish now that I hadn't looked at that post, as I see it's taken me a year and a half to accomplish the goals I'd set for myself in January 2015, and two or three (involving being published) haven't even happened yet. Oh dear. On the other hand, those were simply the writing-related goals, and didn't include hobbies or life projects or anything else. So there is a positive side!

In keeping with all that, and going back to character faces, I thought I'd share some pretty things today, one of which is a set of drawings by the talented illustrator and current UK Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell. He sketches all the time, and shares a lot of his work on social media. Sometimes he sketches real people, and I find it interesting to compare the expression of the person in the photo with the expression he gives them in his sketch.

One of his recent illustrations for Literary Review featured a couple that straightaway reminded me of Rosa and Baha from Out of the Water (which I'm supposed to be submitting to agents, as part of my ongoing goals).
Out of the Water (historical romance, set in 1492)
Book One of the Middle Sea series
After she becomes separated from her family as they flee their Spanish homeland - and the Inquisition - the last thing eighteen-year-old Rosa expects to find is love.
Her one hope of reaching Constantinople and finding her family lies with a stranger, Baha, a Muslim artist from the Ottoman Empire. Rosa's drive to find her loved ones is matched by a deepening desire for the man at her side. Yet despite all his help in reuniting them, her family rejects this man of a different faith, forcing her to choose between them.
Constantinople was meant to be her family's refuge, but when janissaries arrest her father and brother, Rosa and Baha risk their lives on a daring rescue. Together they will prove that their love can withstand their differences... if the Sultan's Grand Vizier doesn't throw them both in the dungeons first.

Riddell shared images of the sketch as it developed:

Also pretty is the cover of Theresa Milstein's forthcoming book!

And then there's Milushka's pretty jewellery. I discovered her through Caramella's blog, and can't wait to get one of her creations for myself -- I've already bought a few as gifts!

Aren't they sweet?

As I used his song title for my blog title, I thought I'd better share a Bowie clip:

What pretty things have you come across recently?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Mini Reviews of McKenzie and Nolan, and 100th Anniversary of Hercule Poirot

New books!

I finally checked to see when Amazon might be sending my copy of the latest Louise Penny, A Great Reckoning, and it's not till this Friday! I've been kind of at a loose end with my reading because of that, not wanting to start anything else that's going to take over my life in the way that such books do.

Which is why I've been rereading lots of Agatha Christie. I'm not sure if she gets enough credit for her characterisation -- she really achieves so much with just a few quick turns of phrase. And Tommy and Tuppence are brilliant. I still haven't seen the latest BBC version of their adventures, Partners in Crime (featuring David Walliams and Jessica Raine) -- goodness, I just looked up the show site and realised that Major Carter is played by James Fleet, none other than Hugo Horton on The Vicar of Dibley. And, of course, he's the Reverend Wakefield in the screen version of Outlander! -- but now that I've been rereading, I'd like to catch up.

As for ROW80 goals, I've started on the secret knitting project! Secret because it's a group project for a friend, and I'm not running any risks by blabbing about it yet... I've also ordered wool for another project, a fox scarf, that will be a gift. Here's what it ought to look like when completed:

Round 3 of ROW80 is winding down, and for round 4, I hope to tack on another goal -- sorting through story ideas to select one for this year's NaNoWriMo!

I've got four mini reviews today! (Mini reviews are an idea I got from ZanMarie, who had some intriguing books in her last mini-reviews post!)

Catherine McKenzie's latest, Fractured, is coming soon!

Each character in this book could be an unreliable narrator in their own right -- the reader's never completely certain about their motives or whether they're hiding something. Yet each is empathetic in his or her own way -- John and Julie let their guards down once, and of course that's the one time someone else observes them. They doubt themselves, they question their own actions, but they're still trying to do the right thing. As are each of their neighbours, for their own reasons. And yet -- they clash. I always find it intriguing that people (not just in books) can be true to their own desires, not want to hurt others, yet succeed in doing just that. This story explores the extremes of that idea, and of how small actions, even those recanted or regretted, can lead to an ultimately terrible consequence.

Love the first question in the reading guide, too, as it captures the suspense and trepidation: "Fractured begins with John at his front window, spying on the house across the street. What is it about living in close proximity to someone else that gives people the need to know what is going on in their lives? Have you ever been 'caught looking'?"

Taking it one step further, the novel written by the protagonist of Fractured also explores the idea of how far innocence may be stretched. A murder has been committed. Yet the victim himself was a criminal, a predator. Can a case be made for individual justice?

The Murder Game

Yes, it's actually Catherine McKenzie, writing as Julie Apple!

McKenzie has a great way of making the settings of her books seem real, not just in terms of description, but on a human level. I always feel like if I walked into the town, I'd know where to go for coffee, where the attractive neighbourhoods are (love looking at older architecture!), where the river or other waterfront is. The Murder Game not only has all that, but it's set in Montreal, and I recognise every building, restaurant, bar, and Metro station -- it's exciting to think that other people reading this book might be intrigued by the depictions, and want to visit Montreal for themselves.

Parts of the book also flash back to the 1990s. I suppose more books will start being written in that time now (incidentally, author Kevin Brennan has just written a piece for another blog all about 90s nostalgia. I might start thinking about writing a few essays myself...).

I really enjoyed the description of the rally held before the 1995 referendum; I remember attending, I remember the giant flag, and I remember staying up all night later, on referendum day, growing more and more tense as the votes were counted (I was too young to vote!). But this was before digital cameras and smartphones. I don't have a single photograph of the event (except for the poster I bought of a photo from above of the crowd and the giant flag) and memories can be so sketchy. I think we walked there from school, but how did we get back, by bus? What did we talk about? Was there singing (besides the anthem)? Which politicians made speeches? Did we linger downtown afterwards? Was there underage drinking? Maybe if I start writing stories set in the '90s, some of these memories will resurface...

The other day I mentioned that I had only one Kait Nolan book left to read -- but apparently there were two!

I thought I'd read Know Me Well, but it turns out I hadn't. Well, now I've read both that and To Get Me To You. I'm all caught up on the Wishful stories, just in time, as there are new ones in the works!

Another lovely Wishful romance! One of the things I really enjoy about the Wishful stories is the layers -- there's the couple, and their backstory, then there's the work they do and their devotion to their jobs or vocations, and then there's the town itself, and all their friends and neighbours. The novel weaves in enough of the other elements to ground the reader, without ever losing focus on the hero and heroine.

The first Wishful story!

Usually I read things in order, so I'm not sure how I missed reading Norah and Cam's story when it first came out. They keep popping in and out of the other stories, and I love the ongoing question of when they'll finally find time in their schedules to get married. It was great to finally read of their beginning, and how Norah first settled in Wishful. I like her even more now that I've seen things from her point of view!

Plus you can read this one for free! Choose your format for To Get Me To You here.

It's the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot (and Captain Hastings), who first appeared in 1916, in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Guess I'll reread that one next...
Love the new commemorative stamps from the Royal Mail

Have you read any new stories set in the 1990s?
Or is there another time you look back on?

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Crystal Collier Cover Reveal! Plus ROW80 and Mini-Rant About Twitter


Guess who's revealing a cover today?

Before that, a quick ROW80 update from me -- we're nearing the end of this year's round 3, and in true ROW80 style, I'm revamping my goals for this current round and the next. No, I haven't finished edits at all. I'm hoping that after this year's NaNoWriMo, when the writing is in full swing once more, I'll have the motivation for edits.

Until then, I've suddenly got three new knitting projects! I'm not doing too badly with unfinished objects (UFOs!) -- I only have two at the moment. One will likely never get done, while the other is easy, and will hopefully fall into the knitting I'll be doing on the new projects. I expect all this to take up either my weekend reading time or my commute reading time. On the other hand, I'm actually starting to read regularly on the Kindle app on my phone, which means more reading time at night after baby falls asleep (in the same room) -- and yet this completely removes Twitter time.

[As an aside, I have a mini-rant, because this has been bugging me for over a month now: I love Twitter but am really soured by the version for Android -- compared to the Twitter app for iPad, the app on Android is utterly useless with regard to lists. And, the main news feed being impossible to keep up with and full of advertising, I only ever check my lists.
I've been forced to use Hootsuite to actually be able to check lists with any kind of completeness, and even that is subpar -- both Twitter itself and third-party apps only scroll back to a designated number of tweets, which is utterly infuriating. I check Twitter only once a day, and I want to scroll back in the last 24 hours, start from the bottom, and read up. I don't want to only go back 20 hours or 17 hours or to whenever an arbitrary number of tweets has been reached: just show me everything!
And I certainly don't want -- or understand the need for -- the insane way Hootsuite loads: I scroll all the way down as far as the stupid arbitrary code permits, start reading up and, suddenly, there's a blank spot and it says "load more tweets" -- but I just loaded everything! then I have to reload, scroll back down to where I'd stopped, start reading up again, and after a designated number of tweets, there it is again, "load more tweets". It's like reading a newspaper article online, trying to scroll up to check something in the first paragraph, and having to reload the entire page once more.
What on earth is going on here? Why won't Twitter itself just load every tweet in my lists for as far back as I care to scroll, then keep it loaded so I can happily read up for as far as I want? The iPad version does this just fine -- what gives with Android?]

Now for some excitement!

(#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier

TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
by Crystal Collier
YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016


In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat -- along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart -- the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and "friend" (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, Facebook, or Goodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.

Congratulations, Crystal!

Speaking of ROW80, I've got more book reviews of novels by founder Kait Nolan to come, as well as the latest Catherine McKenzie and more (let's not get into how impatiently I'm waiting for my copy of Louise Penny's new book) -- and photos of all the knitting projects, natch!

If you know of a third-party app that's also free but handles lists on Twitter better than Hootsuite does, please tell me!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

IWSG Day and Library Out of Storage!

Happy Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

Today's question is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

The short answer is, I don't!

The long answer is, that when I'm drafting a new story, there's no question about finding time. Time just magically appears. I stay up late writing, and don't feel unrested. I scribble on napkins. I write notes to myself on my phone. I avoid social media because, hello!, there are characters to discover and exciting events happening. I hear conversations in my head while walking. Every image I see reminds me of the characters...

Then the story is done. It needs typing up, most of the time, from notebooks. That's okay, too. There's time in the morning if I get in to work early. There's time during the baby's nap. Slowly the crumpled already-typed pages pile up. Minor edits are done and missing scenes have been written.

And then there's a complete draft in Scrivener. Time to print and start editing!

This gets done, too. There may be a long train trip, a work event with a long break during which I can hole up and read. The manuscript is covered in scribbles.

And that's the stage I'm at with most of my stories -- a pile of printouts covered in scribbles. For some reason, entering those changes, really digging in to character motivation and story arcs, seems to be a sticking point for me. I just cannot find the motivation. And suddenly there's no time in the day. Work is extra busy. Lots of family events. Niggling chores. Many exciting books to read. And my own tales just get pushed to the wayside.

This is why I love doing NaNoWriMo -- an excuse to go back to the happy drafting stage!

But when will I edit?

Thank you to our co-hosts this month! C. Lee McKenzie, Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata.

I've got my photos together to share the day our storage stuff arrived:

47 bins, 12 boxes, and 4 wardrobe boxes!

(I ended up collating most of the photos because Blogger continues to turn half my photos upside down, and I just can't figure out why.)

I wanted to have all the storage stuff all organised as quickly as possible, and managed it in just a few days, with help from family.

For the first time, we have all our books out -- yes some are in cupboards and some (also for the first time, as I'd much rather have everything visible -- it's out of sight out of mind with me, and I forget a lot -- but there's just no space) are in the second layer on the shelf behind the first (to help my memory I tried to suggest their presence -- e.g. one big crime story hardcover is a clue that all the Agatha Christies are back there!), but there are no books in bins, hidden away!

Found the reply card that Julian Barnes sent me, when I had the temerity to answer his questionnaire at the end of Flaubert's Parrot. Wish I'd kept a copy of my answers to all those philosophical questions! 
There's the truck arriving... And a Delftware dish showing an absinthe drinker...

It begins...

Getting there...

A few piles to go...

Avalanches of books... and some school stuff in bins, to be kept in our storage space here in the apartment...

Done! All the Folio Society books are now together, for the first time!
Hmm, I didn't catch all the comic books in that first photo on the left... And there's one other shelf in another cupboard, for all the Paul Austers and Rose Tremains and many others. Plus the cookbooks in the kitchen!

Finally have all my MG and YA together!

Tolkien, Inklings, Canadiana, poetry, Celtic myths and legends,  art,  Bukowski, Stephen King, and Diana Gabaldon plus Forumites!

Tolkien shelfie!

Then there are the bins of books to give away -- that is also a first. I'm finally parting with a few books, especially some of the duplicates I've bought here and there at book fairs, not remembering I already owned them. Might even hold a contest here for some!

And, of course, this means they'll all have to be removed from the library catalogue!

But there are still items missing!

The movers were so quick and efficient that there wasn't time to arrange with family to have other items brought to the storage space and included in the packing, so we haven't got our records, or my coin collection, or a few scrapbooks, or the three bins at my sister's:


I'd forgotten which books were there; turns out there are many of the Turkish books in translation by Professor Joseph S. Jacobson that I reviewed, and all the Vonnegut, and more.

Or the 11 other Andrew Lang fairy books (I brought the Blue Fairy Book with us as a token), which are still at my parents' house:


As a result of all this, I've instituted the third round of the Book Buying Ban, effective until Christmas -- at least!

Have you moved recently?
Did you throw out lots of stuff before you moved, or in your new space?
Or did you keep everything?

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