Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Happy Canada Day and IWSG Day!

Happy Canada Day!

The above image is from the Activity Village colouring pages site.

Round Three of A Round of Words in 80 Days begins on Monday. And I just realised that CampNaNo officially opens today!

Luckily, I'd kept my goal for CampNaNo vague: I'd like to explore the story of Brother Arcturus, a secondary character in Out of the Water.

My other goals for ROW80 are to keep up with blogging and commenting, transcribing the Alfred Russel Wallace letters, editing my new short story "One to Another", and beta and review reading.

Today is also Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

In line with the fact that I haven't written any words for CampNaNo yet and still use phrases like "keep up" with my goals, my theme for today's IWSG day post is: Let go of guilt!

Instead of feeling guilty for items we think we've missed or tasks we haven't accomplished (yet!), why not celebrate all that has gotten done?

Those Wallace transcriptions, for instance, won't end for a long time. I should celebrate the fact that I manage to submit one batch after another, instead of feeling guilty for some reason that I'm not whipping them out at lightning speed.

I should quit bemoaning the fact that I haven't edited one or the other of my novels in many weeks, and celebrate the fact that I've completed a short story!

Once you start looking, there are lots of positives to celebrate.

And just in time, there's a T-shirt for it, too!

Yes, it's the IWSG T-shirt! I can't wait to order mine.

Here's the full list of IWSG participants, and thank you to this month's co-hosts:

Happy Fourth of July, too!

What will you celebrate this month?

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Quote Auden and Carry a Big Stick


I tend to save many many things -- names of intriguing books, links to interesting videos or podcasts, poems, images, words, etc. -- and then sometimes return to them, as my interests in certain fields wax and wane, and then other times I forget why I saved a particular item.

For example, the poem If I Could Tell You by W. H. Auden. It's been floating in an email of To Do items, but I can't remember what the connections are. Perhaps it's linked to the fact that I'd like to read at least one poem per day, but this doesn't always happen. Rather, I think part of it was quoted in a novel I read last year or the year before (possibly Josephine Tey or Agatha Christie). Anyhow, here is a quote:

If I Could Tell You


If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.


The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reason why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.


This seems especially relevant today, given the news about Anthony Martignetti (whose books I've blogged about before). Here is the stick reference:
"We used to talk about what would happen when he died. I worried about it. He's more than twenty years older than me. It seemed inevitable. I once asked him what I should do at his funeral, since probably I'd have to say something.
He gave this some thought. He said he'd like me to walk up to the front of the room, carrying a stick from a tree outside.
'Don't say anything,' he requested. 'Just hold that sucker up in the air, break it in half, and throw it on the floor.'
Everything breaks."

This is the last week of this round of ROW80. Very pleased to say I've finished the short story -- except for the last line -- tentatively entitled "One to Another", and am slowly editing it. The first line comes from the Word Factory Fables for a Modern World contest (which is only open to UK residents): "Long ago, in the days when there were still fish in the oceans and cars on the road, there lived a woman who was not afraid of governments."

I've also pre-ordered some books! I haven't bought any since the last book fair, in April. Almost two months! That must be some sort of record for me. Although, actually, it's a bit inaccurate, since I've purchased at least five for my Kindle app...

Here are the books due to arrive at the end of August
(The Story of Kullervo is actually by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Verlyn Flieger):

Which poems and stories have you been reading?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Mini Reviews of Smoke and Occasional Soulmates, ROW80 Check In, and WRiTE Club

More mini reviews!

I've been catching up on some beta reading, but I did finish my short story! Now I just need to edit it...

In the meantime, I've recently read two intriguing books about relationships:

Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan

These days, since I have to read on a screen in the evenings (baby in the room!), I tend to judge books by whether they hold my interest despite the annoyance of holding up my iPad and reading on a screen (I'm sure a dedicated eReader would be easier, but I don't need another device in my life and I still don't like the pause that comes when swiping from one page to the next. I especially don't appreciate the random things that happen, for example, the Kindle app recently updated and the fact that I've read most of the books in my Kindle library was erased; they all look new and unread now).

Occasional Soulmates definitely held my interest. The voice and the locations are very specific and well-drawn. I read Maugham's Liza of Lambeth (published in 1897!) last year, and this book reminded me of that one. Maugham's story was also very specific in its location and also a sad slice-of-life (though Occasional Soulmates ends on a slightly more optimistic note). One hundred years from now, I'd like to think that someone will discover Occasional Soulmates just the way I read Liza of Lambeth, and be intrigued by the setting, the language, and the characters and the choices they make.

"An evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.
After a decadelong career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.
For Elizabeth's ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.
As the encroaching inferno threatens the town's residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved."

Another book that held my interest on screen, to the point where I stayed up too late one night because I simply had to finish it. The novel takes place over a week, and weaves in and out through the various interpersonal problems and revelations, so that the reader is always wondering what next. I'm getting to be a fan of tentatively happy endings, which leave the reader room to speculate on what the characters might be doing a few years after the end of the novel.

Smoke is told in alternating points of view, Elizabeth's in first person and Mindy's in third (along with a couple of brief chapters from other viewpoints), which further underscores Mindy's feelings of alienation from everyone in town. Oddly, it's relative-newcomer Elizabeth who has more connections to the town, as she interacts with more different people than Mindy does. But right from the start it's evident that the two need each other to help them navigate their lives.

Next up on the Kindle for iPad: Every Month Was May by Evelyn Eaton!

There's still time to vote in the first round of WRiTE Club!

This is the last week of regular bouts, before the next round of elimination bouts and then the playoffs. Good luck to all the entrants!

What intriguing books about relationships have you read lately?
Do you always hope for a happily ever after ending?

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen (Rivendell)

Photo day!

Nearing the end of the current round of ROW80 and my words have slowed to a trickle. The main excuse is travelling! Next week might be a photo post as well. Hope you all enjoy!

Interlaken and Lauterbrunnen (otherwise known as Rivendell)

Interlaken: the Catholic and Protestant churches, an old monastery, and roses:

Heritage apple tree

Views of Interlaken:

Selecting a Swiss single malt!

Train to Lauterbrunnen:

Lauterbrunnen, Tolkien's inspiration for Rivendell, from his trip in 1911:

Decommissioned bell from 1472


Site of the Last Homely House East of the Sea

Back in Interlaken:

Investigating a cow...

Our hotel

As if my own photos aren't enough, here's one from Shari Blaukopf, since I haven't shared her lovely watercolours in a while:

Hope the skies are clear, wherever you are!

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The North Star is Nearer by Evelyn Eaton
  • The Christie Notebooks by John Curran
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • First and Second Things by C. S. Lewis
  • Journal of Inklings Studies
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • 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)
  • 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***
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (loved My Pretty Pony)
  • Every Month Was May by Evelyn Eaton
  • Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan
  • secret beta!
  • Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
  • In Two Aeroplanes Over the Sea by Amanda Palmer (poem)
  • Jim at the Corner by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Finding Fraser by kc dyer
  • Mother Tongue -- The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson
  • The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
  • The Lord Fish by Walter de la Mare
  • The Going To Bed Book by S Boynton
  • The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang
  • In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
  • Subterranean Scalzi Super featuring To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story available nowhere else) Muse of Fire Mallet of Loving Correction Lock In, Lost Chapters (available nowhere else) How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story An Election Judge Sn Goes Golfing Questions for a Soldier The Sagan Diary The Tale of the Wicked The God Engines You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi
  • Emily Goes to Market by William Mayne
  • Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (reread)
  • Colours Are Nice (Little Golden Book)
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley (reread)
  • The Captive Diary of Catherine Logan by Mary Pope Osborne (Dear America)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (reread)
  • The Poky Puppy (Little Golden Book) (abridged)
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (reread)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • secret beta read 2
  • Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story by Linda Grimes
  • Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
  • Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M. R. James (short story) (1904)
  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  • Usborne board books
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (so lovely)
  • Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • 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
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  • 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