Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Year-End Writing Recap and Full Set of Characters' Faces Images

And the winner of my 900-posts contest is...Theresa!

I've previously employed my cats to choose winners, because it's easy to toss rolled up bits of paper in the air and have them choose one to bat around. This time, though, I used a new method. I asked this little girl to choose from a range of items on the windowsill:

A foolproof method! Except when she launched her chosen item on the floor...

For today's post and ROW80 check in I'd planned to do a year-end review of my writing in 2014. Yet I'm afraid to look, as I don't think I've accomplished very much. Let's see:

January 2014 – I was wise last January. I recapped my knitting as well as my writing, and I only entered one vague goal: edit Druid's Moon. Unfortunately, I'm still stuck on that project. It's a great little novella. It just needs a bit of tension-adding tweaking...
February – Not much writing, again. But I updated my characters' faces file! This is very exciting. For handy reference, and fun, I'm going to repost that portion at the end of this post.
March – I made it over to the Forum for an exercise on flashbacks.
April – The A to Z Challenge!
May – I participated in another Forum exercise, kept up with Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions, and met Irvine Welsh!
June – Well, I read the latest Outlander book...
July – Let's call it filling the well; I was certainly reading a lot.
August – Book reviews count as writing! I wrote more of them in August, and also completed the Forum exercise.
September – Another Forum exercise, on similes and metaphors, plus I started typing up the longhand draft of Larksong.
October – More book reviews, more typing, and I started thinking about my NaNo story.
November – NaNoWriMo! Plus book reviews.
December – Filling the well again. Recap of books read in 2014. I typed a few more hundred words of Larksong; I've got half a notebook to go! Also submitted a short story to a contest.
January 2015 – Almost completed a new batch of Wallace letters. Also, I've found out about a few new agents I'd love to submit Out of the Water to. Here, then, are my goals for 2015:

Keep up with blogging and the Wallace transcriptions, and maybe the Forum (no pressure on the latter).
Get going on the Druid's Moon revamp. I can start by printing it again and reading it on the way to and from work.
Submit Out of the Water to new agents.
Find homes for the vignette and short story I haven't submitted anywhere yet.
Finish typing Larksong in plain text on the iPad and enter it in Scrivener.

What I really need to do is revise my schedule and draw up a plan that carves out writing time in my day-to-day (which I used to have either in the evenings or at 5 a.m.). I'd like to get that done this week.

Characters' Faces!

The Face of A Lion

(I have been trying to track the source of this photo, discovered in Real Simple magazine, for years.)


Out of the Water

(this photo was taken by Ara Güler.
The surroundings are completely anachronistic (picture Baha carrying an easel, not a mattress!)
but the pose and expression are just right.)

(this is actually Edwin Long's The Marriage Market, 19th Century.
I discovered the image on The Orientalist Gallery.)

Brother Arcturus
(this is actually Anthony Van Dyck's Portrait of the Sculptor Duquesnoy, 1627-29)

Rosa's father is in there too, but he also has a story of his own:

Captive of the Sea

(ahem. Some of you might recognise him as Mike Wolfe from American Pickers.
What can I say? It's that expression on his face, it's pure Santiago.)

(this is from the Elegance series by Rob Hefferan)

Rome, Rhymes, and Risk

(um, yes, that is Canadiens defenceman Tomas Plekanec. Why?)
(actually, Devran also looks a bit like actor Tom Ellis.)

(another image from The Orientalist Gallery)

They also look like this when they're together:
(Solomon and Gaenor is one of my favourite films.)

Druid's Moon

(this guy is French Formula 1 racer Romain Grosjean.
I saw his photo in the paper and thought, "Frederick! Since when do you race cars?")

(this is a screenshot from some survey that I took.
I was halfway through when this image appeared on my screen. I was very excited!)


This is completely the wrong face, but the outfit and stance feel right. I still haven't quite located a photo of George's face. I came close yesterday though, when I noticed some of the faces in a link someone posted to a Karl Lagerfeld shoot on dandies for Numero Homme magazine.

I don't have a picture of Alice! Well, I do. I have a gorgeous shot of a couple on the beach that looks exactly like Alice and George once they've openly admitted to their love for each other, but unfortunately it was a photo that an author shared of her parents (from close to Alice and George's time period) and I haven't yet asked permission to share it here. Sorry, Alice!

And finally, there's this image, which makes me feel like I'm inside a story every time I look at it.
It's Daniel Ridgway Knight's Rural Courtship, but when I saved it on my desktop, I called it "nothing changes, huh?"

I hope you all had a great writing and reading year in 2014!
Which images have inspired you to write?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Contest to Celebrate My 900th Post!

This is my 900th post!

The last milestone was my 800th post, which featured the first sentence of a story, milking a cow, and lots more.

Prior to that, I celebrated my 500th post with a week-long contest and a recap of all the posts that had gone before, including a very handy list of all the books I'd reviewed, plus blog awards and writing snips and author interviews and writers' houseparties and Charles II and so on. I'd really like to do that for today's post. Unfortunately, I don't have time to go through 400 posts one by one. Maybe when I hit 1,000 I can make the effort, especially since going through the list of posts has gotten me intrigued about all the authors I've reviewed or interviewed.

Instead, I'm going to share a few random ones from the last 400 posts that leap out at me based on their titles:

30-day Song Challenge


Reading a Book is Like the Star Trek Revolving Door

Speaking of Star Trek -- Wil Wheaton!

30 Things I Want To Do

How do you read?

I'd forgotten I'd appeared in Real Simple magazine!

For the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I listed my favourite books.

For the 2013 A to Z Challenge, I had no theme! I started with A is for Astronaut.

The 2014 A to Z Challenge was based on our move to Geneva, Switzerland. There were lots of photos!

I hosted a virtual writers' conference, for everyone missing out on the Surrey Conference that year.

Research weirdness!

My favourite coffee mug

If I was doing a proper summary of all the posts, I would have an entire group called ...And Then There Was Neil. It all started with An Unexpected Post About Neil Gaiman. Things have been very exciting since then!

I missed the Insecure Writer's Support Group day last week and didn't have a chance to introduce myself. For the benefit of an ROW80 update then, here's what I'm working on:

Larksong, a romance set in the summer of 1914 in Canada. First draft being typed up into second draft.

Druid's Moon, a paranormal romance set in Cornwall. Final draft, needs editing based on agent and beta feedback.

Three historical romances with interconnected characters, set in 1470-1493 London and Barcelona and Constantinople: Captive of the Sea, Out of the Water, and Rome, Rhymes, and Risk. The second novel was written first and is out on queries. The other two are in various stages of editing.

There are others, including my recent NaNo draft and short stories, but those are the main projects. Currently I'm focusing on completing the typed draft of Larksong -- and getting back into the Alfred Russel Wallace transcriptions. The goal for this week is to print the latest batch and start typing them.

And now, let's break up all that text with some fireworks!

(from the Living in Geneva blog)

900 posts! Contest! Woo!

Very simple really --
anyone commenting on this post over the next week is eligible to win a 20$ gift card for books.
Your choice!
Amazon, Indigo, BookDepository, AbeBooks, whoever does online gift cards.

Thank you all for reading and for being such a great blogging community.
Here's to another seven years and 900 posts!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

One Winter's Day and Escalade Photos

Winter's day...

Mulled wine cart



Not sure what this was. Preserved plants in jars...but I missed the young lady's explanation.

Songs of the Escalade. All of these photos are of the commemoration festivities of the Escalade, an event that took place in 1602 -- enemies of the city were beaten off the walls and their invasion foiled. Boiling soup was poured on their heads!

Marching band


Men preparing to head for battle

City walls

The Alps in winter

Every day, in every light, they look different. Save for the fact that they always look like something out of an ancient story. I'm always taking photographs!

The current run of ROW80 has ended and a new round has begun, to run until 26 March. Eighty days of writing and other goals. For now I'm going to stay vague. I'd like to get some editing done, and maybe send a few more submissions to agents. I'd also like to finish the current crop of Alfred Russel Wallace correspondence transcriptions!

What are your newest goals?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Vitamins and Death by Medeia Sharif -- Giveaway!

Happy new year!

Medeia Sharif has a new book coming out, and she's hosting a giveaway!

YA Contemporary, Prizm Books
Release Date December 10, 2014
Purchase from Prizm, Amazon – Vendor sites will be updated on the author’s site.

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother's briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High. Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, she thinks no one will figure out they're the Battles from recent news and that they're safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed Deidra's life. Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Find Medeia, multi-published YA and MG Author

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Books Read in 2014 Review

Year-end review of books read -- it's here!

First, a side note. We've reached the end of another round of ROW80. My goals petered out at the end. I haven't done much writing and no editing at all in the last couple of weeks. It's been nice to read for pleasure for a bit!

Also, join me on 3 December for a birthday toast to Tolkien!

And now... 

Annual Books Read Statistics!

Here are the statistics for 2013, 2012, 2011 (and the list), 2010, 2009 (and the list).

Books read: 113, of which 84 were novels and kids' books (I count 'em all!), 8 were short stories, 2 were poems, and 19 were essay collections and comics and so on.

This is compared to 188 novels and short stories in 2013 (plus poetry), 142 in 2012, 124 in 2011, 92 in 2010, 131 in 2009, and 101 in 2008. That's not counting the thousands of words written and read for writers' houseparties over at the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, plus other forum writings, and magazines and newspapers, etc.

My average over 50 weeks, not counting the poems, was 2.2, or two books and one short story. In 2013 it was one more than the previous couple of years, 3.5 books per week (or three books and two short stories). So far no serious post-baby decline in reading, then, happily.

Authors read: 61 (counting all; plus three anthologies), compared to 88 in 2013, 105 in 2012, 89 in 2011, 63 in 2010, 57 in 2009, and 69 in 2008 (not counting anthologies).
Hmm. I seem to have stuck to the familiar this year.

Most Books by One Author is tied between Louise Penny and J. K. Rowling (with Gaiman and Tolkien coming in a close second). And haven't finished Louise Penny's series yet! I'm already looking forward to rereading them now that I know the characters a lot better.

Last year it was Neil Gaiman with eight books, three short stories, two poems, a speech, and five Sandmans. Also L. M. Montgomery, Josephine Tey, J.R.R. Tolkien, Brenda Novak, Stephen King, E. L. Konigsburg, and Budge Wilson. In 2012 I read Tolkien and Stephen King, plus four Talli Roland books! The year before I reread The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion, Outlander, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (before seeing the last movie), and in 2010 I again reread L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, including The Road To Yesterday. Rereads in 2009 included J. K. Rowling, Diana Gabaldon, and Agatha Christie.

Oldest book: Childe Harold by Lord Byron and The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. Parts of a poem and one short story, that is.

Last year it was Keats and Byron's poetry, plus The Count of Monte Cristo and, if you go by the stories themselves and not the publication date, Land of the Seal People by Duncan Williamson, which is a collection of retellings of ancient silkie stories from the Scottish islands. Along with a John Clare poem and an old song from the Shetlands that I read on Kate Davies' blog. Then there was the short story "Why, Of Course" by James Edmond Casey (published in 1912 in Top Notch Magazine), which was a sort-of-predictable-but-mostly-unsatisfying tale of a con artist.

In 2012, Cyrano de Bergerac and Voltaire were the oldest, and the oldest published books (not reprints) were the two anthologies, The Land of My Fathers - A Welsh Gift Book, and Princess Mary's Gift Book, both from 1914, including stories and poems by Arthur Conan Doyle, Kipling, etc. There was also Ah King by Somerset Maugham, Shakespeare in London by Marchette Chute, and Helena by Evelyn Waugh. In 2011 it was the 14th Century Book of Good Love by Archpriest Juan Ruiz, though the translation was only a hundred years old. After that, it was the chapter on the Earl of Rochester from Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets, and Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers, as well as P. G. Wodehouse. In 2010 it was the Earl of Rochester as well (and Perreault's fairy tales), plus Hours at the Glasgow Art Galleries by T. C. F. Brotchie, An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott and When the Going Was Good by Evelyn Waugh; in 2009, there was Shakespeare and a handful of books from pre-1950; in 2008, the oldest authors were Aesop and Pliny, but the oldest original book was by Dorothy L. Sayers, followed by John Fante and John Steinbeck.

Newest book: Not counting reissues (such as Tolkien's Tom Bombadil), here are the most recently published books:
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Beloved Demons by Anthony Martignetti
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak
Fatal Fallout by Lara Lacombe
Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe
Married by Midnight by Talli Roland (short story)
Marriage To Measure by Talli Roland
The No-Kids Club by Talli Roland
mini Twitter stories by Talli Roland
The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie
Spin by Catherine McKenzie
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay
How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern
One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
Once Upon an Heirloom by Kait Nolan (novella)
Once Upon a Snow Day by Kait Nolan (novella)
Hands-on Therapy by T L Watson
The Christmas Crossing by Bev Petterson (short story)
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
Temptation by Sandy Loyd
The Incorrigible Mr. Lumley by Aileen Fish
Effie's Outlaw by Karen Lopp
The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi
My Dancing Bear by Helene de Klerk
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Snip, Snip Revenge by Medeia Sharif
Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
Go the F*^$ To Sleep (board book)
You Have to F*^$ing Eat (board book)

Exactly the same number (37) as in 2013! Last year included four by Forumites, as well as blogging buddies, and the Cabinet of Curiosities authors, as well as the 60th anniversary edition of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (with an introduction by Neil Gaiman). 36 in 2012, including nine Forumites, 44 in 2011, and 13 in 2010 plus 10 new books by Forumites. In 2008 I had only two books, by Joanna Bourne and Marilynne Robinson. Many more in 2009, including books by kc dyer, Hélène Boudreau, Linda Gerber and Diana Gabaldon -- Forumites all!

Stories/Authors I didn't like: A couple of the romances left me flat. Also, I have to admit, I did not enjoy the short story collection The Progress of Love by Alice Munro. I just can't seem to empathise with her characters.

In 2013 I only had two. Getting better at not forcing myself to slog through books I'm not instantly attracted to. The one book I didn't like, but finished, was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The one book I didn't like and didn't force myself to finish was Jenny Lawson's semi-autobiographical memoir. I explained a bit about why on the Forum. In 2012 there were no books I actively disliked, but there were two I distinctly felt "meh" about: Before Versailles, and Inkheart. The year before that featured Jonathan Franzen, Philippa Gregory and Gillian Bagwell, and 2010 Libba Bray and Thomas Cobb. One author in 2009 (Ilyas Halil) and three authors (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan and Ian Rankin) and one story ("Hairball" by Margaret Atwood) in 2008.

Books that made me cry: Last year I made a note to keep track of this throughout the year because it's not very accurate at year-end when I can't remember. But I forgot!
Let me see which ones I remember...
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern
One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

In 2013 I listed: Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi; The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread); The Lay of Aoutrou and Itroun by J. R. R. Tolkien; The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows; She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (skimming reread) (it's that last line ("Thayer, I saw her!" I yell. "I saw!") that gets me. Every. Single. Time.)
In 2012 I listed: Bag of Bones by Stephen King; Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque; The Fault In Our Stars by John Green; The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (because of Krystal); and Lunatic Heroes by C. Anthony Martignetti (if you haven't yet, you have to listen to him reading the chapter The Swamp. Bullfrog.).
In 2011 (the first year of this category) I had many books that made me cry: The Scottish Prisoner, and Outlander, both by Diana Gabaldon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, all of which were rereads, but there was also Rowing in Eden by Barbara Rogan, The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen Randle, This and That by Emily Carr, The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells, Dancing Through the Snow by Jean Little, Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, The Day of the Pelican by Katherine Paterson, and Fifteen by Beverly Cleary.

Youngest books: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss (reread) (brought to you by Neil Gaiman) and Emil In the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren, plus a few YAs and MGs. Not sure if Go the F*^$ To Sleep and You Have to F*%$ing Eat count, since you can't quite read them to children...

In 2013 I had quite a few board books, just as in the last few years, including: two Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems; Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman; The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman; The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman; Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman; To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr Seuss; Who's A Pest? by Crosby Newell Bonsall; Star Trek Book of Opposites (board book); Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch; and Rainy Days with Bear by Maureen Hull (this one should appeal to writers!). Also quite a bit of YA and MG. Old favourites never leave you.

Fluff but Fun books: The aforementioned F*%#ing books, plus Tintin and Asterix and the Caliph.

In 2011 I read Andy Capp, MAD, and an Archie, which was fewer than the past three years. 2012 had even fewer than that, with only two issues of MAD. 2013, I reread some more Andy Capp, the Far Side, and Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, the Music edition.

Books/Authors I'd recommend: Louise Penny! And if you’re looking for non-fiction, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

2012 I recommended the books that made me cry, and the year before that I gave a shout out to Forumites, and to my old favourites, Tolkien et al. 2013 I recommended (besides all Forumites and blogging buddies!), bearing in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, all of Josephine Tey and E. L. Konigsburg, plus: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (for general intriguingness); The Reader Over Your Shoulder by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge (for writers); A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman (for storytelling); The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (for all-around strength of purpose); Esio Trot by Roald Dahl (for the sweetness of it all); The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (for the wonderfulness of it, and the fact that it's a wartime story); A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka (for the wonderful tone); A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan (for the keep-you-on-your-toes mystery, and the characters); and the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems (for the witty kid in all of us).

Shortest book: Quite possibly The Tales of Beedle the Bard, same as in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Also the two lovely mini-stories by Kait Nolan, Once Upon an Heirloom and Once Upon a Snow Day.

In 2011 the other shortest was The Object Lesson by Edward Gorey (besides the short stories, the youngest books, Andy Capp, Archie, and MAD). In 2012 I recommended the longest of the short pieces: The Space Between, a long novella by Diana Gabaldon. In 2013 I read a lot more essays and short stories in general, so it was hard to single out just one.

Longest book: Every year there's a Tolkien or Gabaldon in there, and 2014 was no exception, same as 2013.

2012 I had no long series that I could count as one book, so I decided to mention Neil Gaiman. 2013 I reread the Anne of Green Gables series, read all of Josephine Tey's books, and also read John Scalzi's wonderful Old Man's War series. Also some long Stephen King: Under the Dome; the uncut The Stand; and 11/22/63. I also read The Count of Monte Cristo. In French.

Research books: I count L. M. Montgomery as research for my pre-WWI story. A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French was also chock full of information. But no actual non-fiction research done this year.

I had a hodgepodge in 2011--2012, including books on English history, poetry, Mediterranean flora, Ottoman history, and the Renaissance. The 2013 crop was just as varied, given that I was reading for Druid's Moon (contemporary paranormal romance), Captive of the Sea (15th Century historical romance), and Larksong (pre-WWI Canadian romance). Some of the novels I read (especially Forrester's) doubled as research. I loved Archaeology is Rubbish by Prof. Mick Aston and Tony Robinson. And I skimmed the following: Medieval Civilisation by Jacques le Goff; The Great Explorers (Folio Society edition); Parragon's Encyclopedia of Animals: a Family Reference Guide; and Celtic Myths and Legends by Mike Dixon-Kennedy.

Books from the 19th Century: Only two! Byron’s Childe Harold and Andersen’s The Snow Queen.

2013: Only one! Le Comte de Monte-Cristo par Alexandre Dumas. And a handful of poems. And the Grimm brothers' story "The Blue Light". 2012: The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, plus poems by Longfellow and Browning, and "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe. I must read more in this category.

Books from 1900-1960: Not as many as usual. The Tintin books, L. M. Montgomery, Tolkien, Maugham, Sayers, Christie (plus The Floating Admiral by the Detection Club, including Christie, Sayers, Chesterton, etc.), Wodehouse, Graves, Milne, and Tutankhamen's Tomb by Howard Carter (excerpt essay from his book).

Counting the short stories, I had a lot in 2012, including all the Tolkien, plus Christie, Sayers, Milne, Bradbury, Waugh, Chute, Maugham, Remarque, Chesterton, and Bodies and Souls (1950s Dell Paperback featuring crime stories by Agatha Christie, G. K. Chesterton, etc.). In 2011 there were only 12 novels and two short stories. Honourable mention went to The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, which is all about growing up in a small midwestern US town in the 50s. There were 27 such books in 2010, 17 in 2009, and in 2008 this time period made up 1/4 of my list. 2013 was no exception. Lots of Tolkien, all the Josephine Tey and L. M. Montgomery, plus: Esio Trot by Roald Dahl (such a sweet love story!); Poet's Pub by Eric Linklater (so much fun!); The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (reread); To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr Seuss; The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis (reread); "Four Fables for Our Time" by James Thurber (short story) (reread); "You Should Have Seen the Mess" by Muriel Spark (short story) (reread); "Ha'penny" by Alan Paton (short story) (reread); The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 1 by C. S. Lewis (read by John Cleese) (reread); "Why, Of Course" by James Edmond Casey (short story); Acquainted With the Night by Robert Frost (poem); Medieval Civilisation by Jacques le Goff; All My Life Before Me: the diary of C. S. Lewis (finally finished this one – I’ve been reading it in fits and starts for over 15 years!); Stories in Words by C. S. Lewis; Emerson (bits and pieces of his essays on his travels through England and Scotland; read aloud to me); and The Reader Over Your Shoulder by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge.

I also had three beta reads in 2014. I had two in 2013 and four in 2012. And much less poetry this year. I should be reading a lot more poetry.

Forumites were at it again this year! Here are the latest releases:
Fatal Fallout by Lara Lacombe
Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Hands-on Therapy by T L Watson
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne

Finally, a category introduced in 2013 as a result of comments from the year before: Most Surprising Book:This year it'd have to be Louise Penny's series of mysteries. I fall deeper in love with the characters and the setting with every book I read.
And a special mention to non-fiction books that touched me this year, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield and The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

In 2012 it was World War Z by Max Brooks. 2013 I listed three: Poet's Pub by Eric Linklater (a fun, romantic romp through 1930s England), The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (I was not expecting anything about this story. It's truly different), and Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling.

Which surprising books have you read this year?

Happy New Year to all! 

Here's the full, unedited list for 2014:
Asterix in Switzerland by Goscinny and Uderzo
Marriage To Measure by Talli Roland
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
The Hangman by Louise Penny (short story)
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
The Murder Stone (A Rule Against Murder) by Louise Penny
Emily's Quest by L. M. Montgomery
Emily Climbs by L. M. Montgomery
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
You Have to F%$ing Eat (board book)
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien (expanded edition; reread of some)
Married by Midnight by Talli Roland
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
Dead Cold by Louise Penny
The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
Lessons for a Sunday Father by Claire Calman
The Magician by Somerset Maugham
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (annual reread)
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (skimmed last third)
A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak
Fatal Fallout by Lara Lacombe
secret beta read 3!
The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak
Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe
Carry On, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
The Floating Admiral by the Detection Club, including Christie, Sayers, Chesterton, etc.
Brief Lives, Sandman 7 by Neil Gaiman
Liza of Lambeth by Somerset Maugham
The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona (I give up on finishing this; skimmed to the end)
Childe Harold by Lord Byron (listened to the parts of it set in Switzerland read aloud)
Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
My Dancing Bear by Helene de Klerk
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery
Tu Vas Naitre by Sylvia Kitzinger
Goodbye To All That by Robert Graves
secret beta read 2!
Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay The Caliph's Vacation by Goscinny (Iznogoud series; Canadian translation) (reread)
Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
Le Tresor de Rackham le Rouge by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
Le Secret de la Licorne by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
L'Affaire Tournesol by Herge (Tintin series) (reread)
The Bum by Somerset Maugham (short story)
The Colour of Magic, Discworld 1 by Terry Pratchett
Once Upon a Snow Day by Kait Nolan (novella)
Fables and Reflections Sandman 6 by Neil Gaiman
Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party by Graham Greene
Once Upon an Heirloom by Kait Nolan (novella)
The No-Kids Club by Talli Roland
Snip, Snip Revenge by Medeia Sharif
Journey to an 800 Number by E. L. Konigsburg
various Neil Gaiman short stories on the An Evening With Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer album (reread (well, this time in audio))
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (reread; actually this was an older edition, published under the original title of Ten Little N******)
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie (reread)
Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay
How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern
biographical note on Lord Peter Wimsey in reissue of Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers (on Gutenberg)
One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres
The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King (reread)
Temptation by Sandy Loyd
The Incorrigible Mr. Lumley by Aileen Fish
Effie's Outlaw by Karen Lopp
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
The Christmas Crossing by Bev Petterson (short story) secret beta read!
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
Forgotten by Catherine McKenzie
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie
Emil In the Soup Tureen by Astrid Lindgren
Whales by Jacques Cousteau (excerpt essay from his book)
Tutankhamen's Tomb by Howard Carter (excerpt essay from his book)
Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King
Go the F*^$ To Sleep (board book)
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss (reread) (brought to you by Neil Gaiman)
The Sagan Diary by John Scalzi
mini Twitter stories by Talli Roland
The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada The Wonders of Winter
Beloved Demons by Anthony Martignetti
Hands-on Therapy by T L Watson
Let Me Make Myself Plain by Catherine Cookson
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham
Mystery of the Fat Cat by Frank Bonham
Spin by Catherine McKenzie
Virgins by Diana Gabaldon
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen (reread)
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
The Ghost in the Window by Betty Ren Wright
The Progress of Love by Alice Munro
The Treason of Isengard - Book 7 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling (reread)
Behind the Lines (poems) by A. A. Milne
the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (reread)
Chicken Soup for the Expectant Mother's Soul

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Déjà vu Blogfest - The Saga of the Kilt Hose

Wow! I'm five posts away, counting this one, from 900 posts on this blog.

What better time to participate in DL Hammons's Déjà vu Blogfest?

I'm posting early, and I'm not sure I'll add my name to the linky list, as I've no hope of catching up on all the comments, though I'm sure I'll make the rounds of all your blogs! I'm also not quite following the rules, since the post I'm sharing is from 2012!

(As for ROW80, all I've done lately is read. I hope I don't lose my writing groove from NaNo! I'll need to re-establish a writing and editing schedule for my weekends, perhaps with the next ROW80 round.)

It's been fun to scroll back through my blog. My first post featured a To Do list. Later, I discussed how I started writing. I quoted Somerset Maugham on writing with a pen (instead of typing). And I had all sorts of book reviews and contests and writing snips and travel photos and scenes from writers' houseparties and author interviews and notes of research weirdness, and so on (even an interview with Vince Ditrich, drummer and manager of Spirit of the West, on his favourite books as a child).

Then there was the time I sailed on HMS Sofa. And once I asked how would you take a snail to Constantinople?

The post I'm reposting here is called The Saga of the Kilt Hose:

[Cross posted from my knitting blog.
A-Z Challenge and the next round of ROW80 start this week. Look for me on Nutschell's blog on 4 April!]

Kilt hose. Long stockings worn as part of full Highland regalia. Kilts, at least, have been around for hundreds of years.

Apparently, this is one of the earliest depictions of kilts, a German print showing Highlanders, from c. 1630.

Back in 2008, I was saying things like 'If I ever knit a sock...' Round about then, Helen and I started knitting at lunchtimes. I made a knitter's crossword! Yet when I referred to socks (and there's also one typo), I only mentioned double pointed needles.

I started my first pair of socks in September 2009, and it was on double pointed needles. It only took one sock for me to become discouraged. As I said in a follow-up post, "there's another major reason some of us - cough cough - don't like knitting socks: you have to make another one exactly the same directly after you've finished! I knit my first sock last month and now I'm suffering from second sock syndrome; can't seem to get started on the pair! It might also have something to do with the size of needles - I used tiny 2.5mm ones; perhaps I'd enjoy the process more if they were bigger and the wool thicker... Or if I could knit both at once! My next pattern will definitely be a two-socks-at-once pattern."

Helen came to my rescue, and I started another pair of socks, working on both at once on two separate circular needles (while listening to Scottish band Runrig).

By January 2010, Helen had discovered the magic loop method, which lets you knit up two socks at once on one circular needle. Finally, knitting both socks at once! By February, they were complete, and I wrote: "After the ones on dpns, where I only made one sock, and the ones on straight needles, where I only sewed up one sock and ran out of wool for the second, it's nice to be able to say "I've made a pair of socks!" Hooray for the magic loop method."

And then, it came to me. Kilt hose! And no, not just because Jamie Fraser knits socks and wears a kilt. I do have a couple of friends from Scotland, and one of them happened to have a birthday coming up in a few weeks. What could be easier than making a pair of kilt hose?

I ordered the wool from elann: 10 or 12 (I can't remember) skeins of Oatmeal Heather Highland Wool.

By mid-March, they looked like this:

The birthday came and went. However, by April, the kilt hose had feet:

As much as I loved the magic loop method, I found it impractical for the kilt hose, as I'm not good at spatial imagining/planning. I couldn't figure out how to adapt the original magic loop pattern to the additional stitches of the kilt hose. Also, knitting on two circular needles was less tight, and gave me more room to see what I was doing.

The pattern I used was John Anderson's Kilt Hose by Robert Jenkins. The pattern is named for a Robbie Burns poem:
"John Anderson, my jo, John,
When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
Your locks are like the snow;
But blessings on your frosty pow,
John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson, my jo, John,
We clamb the hill thegither;
And monie a canty day, John,
We've had wi' ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
But hand in hand we'll go,
And sleep thegither at the foot,
John Anderson, my jo."
As far as traditions go, Jenkins specifies that "Kilt hose are traditionally worn 3" below the bottom of the kneecap, though 3-fingers distance is close enough if you aren't in the Regiment or have very wide fingers . As long as no part of the knee is covered by the stocks, all will be well. Any color from the kilt can be selected for wearing at any occasion. Some say that colored hose are only for casual or daywear along with cream shades and neutrals, while snow white would be worn only in the evening or for formal occasions, according to convention. Others aver that any color that harmonizes with the kilt is fine for formal occasions as well. Suit yourself."

So far so good. I was halfway up the calf when summer came and I switched to cooler projects with cotton wool, and that's where I stopped.

Autumn and winter came and went. I made another pair of socks using the magic loop and briefly noted: "And now, back to our regularly scheduled kilt hose." In January 2011 I had another brief note about "the neverending kilt hose (I knit an inch up the legs yesterday!)".

In between, I'd knit so many other things (not to mention all the writing related projects), but meanwhile I'd missed the deadline for Burns night, and I was on my way to missing birthday number two. I'd bring along the kilt hose in my knitting bag and, while I knit other projects at lunch, friends would point and ask, "what about those? are you ever going to finish them?"

They'd become my longest-lived UFOs, or unfinished objects.

Last month, having completed all my other UFOs, I cleaned out the knitting bag. And there were the half-calf kilt hose, staring up at me from the bottom. My friend's birthday was in a little over a month. Maybe I could finally meet a deadline!

I dropped everything. Editing, blogging (I got posts up but fell way behind on commenting), laundry. I didn't log into Facebook for a week and a half and started getting "you have notifications pending" messages in my email. Instead of bringing a book with me, I knit on the train on the way to and from work.

Surely I must have reached the 3" limit, I thought. I held it up to my friend's leg - at least six inches left to go. Eek!

I woke up and knit. I knit before going to sleep. I had three skeins left. Finally, one day, I measured, and I was ready to begin the cuff! There were some tense moments when the pattern seemed less clear than it could be (especially when they tell you to turn the socks inside out, and that you'll be knitting on the reverse side, but don't quite tell you when to switch and knit facing the other way...), but at least when I made a mistake, it was the same mistake on both socks. To the unknitting eye, it might look like part of the pattern...

With two days to go till B-day, I finished the kilt hose!

Close up of the cuff. The cables actually align!

Sneak peek at the garter:

The garter:

Some pink snuck in there, I don't even know how. But at least you can tell left from right, if needed...

Shiny kilt hose!

I was very excited to learn that they fit perfectly! Now all we need is a Highland Games or a Gathering, and I'll have live-in-action photos to post. Thus ends the saga of the kilt hose. I love cables, but not sure I'm ready for another such project any time soon. Perhaps a baby blanket with no pattern whatsoever...

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • 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