Birthday Posts and Story Snips

Happy birthday month to me!

I'm reposting two fun posts from birthday months of long ago on this blog.

First up is a celebration, from November 2017, of the final houseparty on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, before we moved to thelitforum:

Round of Words in 80 Days update!

We have 35 days to go in this round.

These were my initial ROW80 goals (shared the same day as my cover reveal!):

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: catch up on the September X on the Forum and finish entering all edits for The Charm of Time

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: send The Charm of Time to betas, work on two short stories with a view to submitting them places, (re)learn how to crochet!

Learning: Essays for school
Performance: NaNo! Time to work on the sequel to The Charm of Time, which I've been calling A Handful of Time (which is the title of one of my favourite YA books, by Kit Pearson)

Learning: Keep up with graduate school work!
Performance: Take a break! Time for a reading holiday. Probably with some crocheting, too. I'll also be busy compiling my year-end books read posts and statistics.

As is the nature of ROW80, these have gotten tweaked. I accomplished the September and October goals (except for crocheting), and November is on track, but December will require a major overhaul!

Writing at the Auberge Guillaume Tell

No time for reading if I'm going to enter all the beta notes to The Charm of Time, and work on my query letter and synopsis, before school starts again in January. I'll have my commutes free to read, though, at least!

The other major change is that my characters will be attending a houseparty in December! This is an unexpected treat, yet it comes as a result of terrible news: AOL, Verizon, whoever the parent company is, is shutting down the last of the Compuserve forums for good, including the Books and Writers Community.

I don't even know how to begin describing what this place has meant. I first discovered it through Diana Gabaldon, who refers to it in the Acknowledgements to Outlander (or maybe it was Dragonfly in Amber) as follows:
"... stumbled into a group called the Literary Forum—basically, a 24-hour cocktail party of people discussing books ... I signed up with Compuserve and have basically regarded the Forum (in its various iterations) as my electronic hangout ever since. For quite a long time, Compuserve was a members-only place; you had to subscribe to get in (it didn’t cost anything, but you did need to be a real person with a real name—not an avatar, a handle or anything of that sort). This meant that it was also a pretty private place, with a relatively small population.
Well, the Internet evolved, and so did Compuserve. It’s open to the web now, like everything else, and has grown somewhat in size. At the same time, the forum (now called the Books and Writers Community) has kept its character as a place where well-organized discussions and conversations take place. We actually have rules of civil discourse, and while discussions are honest and occasionally heated, we rarely have trolls and when they appear, they don’t last long." (this version is taken from her Facebook post on 4 June 2016).

I joined the Forum in 2006, about a year before I started this blog. From the start I loved the in-depth book and craft discussions, the hilarious thread drifts, the wit, the humour, and the personal level of the place. It wasn't a fly-by-night set-up with random people coming and going -- by the time I joined, some of the members had been around for nearly 20 years. There was history, institutional memory, and a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere for newbies.

I also got very lucky -- right around the time that I joined, about 20 other new members came on board, and we grew closer and closer as the years went by. Some of us have met in person (though I haven't met half as many of these friends in person yet as I'd like to!), but that hasn't been necessary to growing together.

To quote Tolkien, "in that time I changed my house, my chair, and my college" -- I've moved twice (once to a new country!), changed jobs once, and started this year at The University of Edinburgh. I have a daughter. I've lived with and said farewell to two cats. I've written about 10 novels, and have my first publication coming out next month.

And I have learned so much!

Looking back on old blog posts, I see that the Forum was such a part of my life that I didn't even bother explaining what it was, but simply threw in references to it from about my third post (which has an egregious typo in it!). I was such a newbie that I didn't include links in my posts, even when directly referring to Writers Exercises on the Forum, snips from Diana, the wonderful camaraderie and marathons that predated NaNoWriMo for me and got me writing more regularly, and even in a reference to one of the earliest houseparties, without any explanation of it whatsoever.

Later, I got a bit better at explaining houseparties.

But what I'll miss most is the wit. Here's a very brief sample, from a blogpost in which I cited the master, Jo Bourne, on "write what you know":
"One of the more spurious bits of advice given to writers is "write what you know" - as if to be a writer you can elaborate only on your morning commute to the office and the dimwitted things your colleagues say, not to mention your evenings spent doing chores and preparing supper/eating supper/clearing up after supper. Of course not! If Tolkien had followed this kind of lame advice... well, here's what Jo Bourne has to say (quoted verbatim from the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum):
#11 of 15 Posted Oct-8 10:01 PM
From jo bourne Posts 1312 Last 7:43 PM
To Diana Gabaldon [Msg # 57558.11 57558.10 ]

Hi Diana --

Whenever I see the 'write what you know' advice, I have this picture of nice Professor Tolkien interviewing an ork.

"So tell me, Urlurk Orklag ... did you always want to grow up to be a souless servant of evil?"

And now, the houseparty!

"In honour of all the fun we've had before... we're going to be retracing our steps back through several of the previous house party settings ... We'd love to see everyone going all out, bringing characters and complications and memories from past parties, present stories, and future creative efforts, as a final farewell to this place."

I keep picturing a sort of ballroom, with all my couples slowly rotating. The trick is to decide what age they'll be, because some of them are parents and children! It'd be funny to meet your child before they'd even been born.

And if that sounds strange, you don't know the half of what can happen at these houseparties!

Please join us, if only to read. This may be the last one for a long time to come.

Where are your favourite online hangouts?

And now, a really old post, from November 2012, featuring a snip from a story that I've never well as one of Talli Roland's books!

Today's post is brought to you by the letters P and J.

By which I mean, Pearl Jam.

Yes, if this post seems short, it's because blogging time was interrupted by emphasising-how-great-Pearl-Jam-are time, as I came face to face with a reluctant fan.

Also, in keeping with my last post, I forgot to link to Claire Gregory's other blog, The Road to War and Back.

I distracted myself from NaNo the other day by reading Talli Roland's latest, Mistletoe in Manhattan:

"As Little Missington's first Christmas baby in fifty years and the daughter of Christmas When You Like It party-planners, Holly West has been surrounded by the holiday spirit since birth. Trouble is, she's not exactly filled with festive cheer. In fact, Holly can't wait to ditch the tinsel and Santa suits for champagne and celebs, and become a party-planner to the stars.
When British TV star Dean Layton hires her parents' company to throw his holiday bash in Manhattan, Holly jumps at the chance to help, confident she can handle a little Christmas in exchange for access to Dean's exclusive world.
But New York and Dean's over-the-top demands are more than Holly bargained for. Can Holly deck the halls and make it a party to be proud of, or will this Christmas be one she'll never forget . . . even if she wants to?"
Such a sweet story! There's a fine line between sweetness and so sugary your teeth hurt, and Talli's story definitely falls on the not cloying side. I read this novella in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from Holly's journey, wondering what choices she'd make and rooting for her to find love. I kept smiling to myself so many times at Holly's turns of phrase. Hope we get to see her in a sequel! And Alex, oh yes... Talli, if you come by, could you let us know who you might cast for Alex if he was ever portrayed on screen? Now there's a perfect guy.

I found out about False Starts Friday from Sara: Post the beginning snip of a piece of writing that didn't go anywhere.

I've got quite a few of these! Actually, the one I'm about to share is a story I still hope to return to someday, as it's intended for Scholastic's Dear Canada series, an awesome collection of stories from Canada's history, all told in the form of diary entries, each written by a different author.

In this story, set in the 1930s, main character Willa runs off to New York City to meet a famous singer. Instead, she meets his son, Sam, and they are instantly attracted to one another. This scene shows their second rendezvous.
Willa waited under the awning of the front door. She hadn't been able to eat for excitement, and felt rather nauseated, from hunger and nervousness. She tapped a foot on the marble step, acting preoccupied, pretending that she belonged there and trying to ignore the throwing-up sensation in her stomach.
The building didn't look at all like what she'd imagined a recording studio to be – no celebrities streaming in and out, calling each other by stage names, no sounds of tuning instruments coming from the upper floor windows.
Instead, from what she could see through the plate glass window, the lobby was empty, save for a woman dressed much the same as she was, in a grey two-piece, with pinned hair, and seated behind a typewriter on a massive mahogany desk. A bank of elevators stood silent behind her. Willa waited to see if they opened and Sam came out, but for five minutes, during which she must have checked her watch and peered up and down the street at least fifty times, no one came in or went out.
Finally, having caught the receptionist's eye on her again, Willa shuffled through the revolving door and clattered across the marble floor, her high-heeled steps echoing back at her from the walls. She did have a reason to be here; why should she feel nervous?
The woman at the desk held her fingers poised in the air over the typewriter, ready to start tapping away at any moment, and glared at Willa.
Willa pulled herself up straight, resisting the urge to snatch her hat off and twist it in her fingers. "Hello. I'm here to meet – see – Mr. Springsteen."
"Not gonna work, honey. Think you're the first? We get about ten of you a day." The woman's words were chatty but her tone was dry as sand.
"No, I meant Mr. Sam Springsteen; not –"
"Yeah, I've heard that one, too. Come on, honey, don't waste my time, okay?" And she really did lower her hands and start pounding the keys, ignoring Willa completely.
At that moment, a loud voice sang from down the corridor, "that's good, baby. Oh yeah. Oh-h-h-h yeah" and then a door slammed.
The thought flashed through Willa's mind, "I just want to go home," but she didn't, not really. Wasn't this part of what she had run to New York City for? To be with musicians and catch a glimpse of their lifestyle?
The receptionist stopped tapping and glared again when she saw that Willa had made no move to leave. A great clanking came from the metal grilles of the elevator directly behind her, and Sam stepped through the doors.
"Ah, you found our offices?" he called to Willa over the woman's head. "Let's go, I'll give you a tour." He beamed at her, coming around the desk.
Willa felt generous now that she had been vindicated before the receptionist. She cast her friendliest smile at the stunned woman and gleefully slipped her arm through Sam's proffered elbow.
"May we go through there first?" She pointed at the corridor down which the lewd lyrics had floated.
Sam laughed. "Not now. Van Zandt's very picky about his surroundings; he doesn't appreciate strangers coming upon him while he's recording."
In the end, she saw only the cafeteria on the first floor. As Sam towed her back along the corridor, pointing out the awards along the walls, a boy Friday came running toward them. He looked frightened yet thrilled to be approaching Sam.
"Mr. Springsteen, sir! There's a telegram for you at the front desk!"
Willa wondered if the boy's fear was at speaking to a superior or what the telegram might say.
"Stay here," Sam told them both, and skidded off to the lobby.
"But Sam –"
"Don't move!" he called back, not turning.
She shared a look of surprise with the boy at Sam's curt tone. The kid clapped a hand over his mouth, remembering his place, and nodded at her before scurrying away in the opposite direction.
Willa certainly didn't feel like being stuck in the corridor all by herself, with only an irascible singer in a room nearby, and hurried to the lobby after Sam.
"Are you sure you can handle it?" the receptionist was asking in a low voice.
"Shut up! You want somebody to hear us?" Sam hissed.
Willa's heels echoed again as she stepped onto the marble flooring, and Sam and the woman lifted their heads as one. At least I don't feel like throwing up anymore, she thought.
Now she was angry.
As you can see, a lot of the names were place-fillers (among other things that need fixing. Sigh.).

If NaNo goes on the way it does, I might be returning to this story sooner than I expected; I'm worried that Captive of the Sea is fast turning into a novella and might be complete before I reach 50,000 words.

That said, I should get on with my other mini-ROW80 goals; I haven't sent a query in weeks.

Hope everyone's writing - whether you're attempting NaNo or not - is going smoothly!

Here's one of the songs I was attempting to sway my friend with:


Which bands or books have you defended lately?

Have you revisited old blog posts recently?


That's sad they shut down the forums, but you certainly got a lot out of it over the years.
Jeff said…
First of all, happy birthday. You have an amazing and busy life! I hate how some things go away in this new electronic world and connections are lost.
Hi Deniz - you've done so much with the Literary Forum ... so I feel for you ... sad to see it go. I hope you've been able to relax a little for your birthday - you've always got lots going on. Good to read Talli's recent book ... and to you for this excerpt from your book - take care and stay safe - Hilary