Monthly Archives: January 2016

More New Stuff, and a Surprise

You know how I’ve been promising Book 3 in the Septimus Series for quite some time now? Well, it’s getting close – really, really close! And just to whet your appetites, heeeeeere – DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! – is the amazing, snazzy, mysterious and oh-so-promising COVER (once again designed by the great Steven Novak).

May I introduce: CHECKMATE!

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And of course you want to know what the book is about, don’t  you? Yes, you do. Here’s what:

Rhitha’s life is miserable – but then she meets Bina.

Rhitha’s sister has been bullying her all her life, for no reason that Rhitha can see. But when they move to Ruph, there is a new friend in Rhitha’s life: with the help of Bina and her unique powers Rhitha begins to see that there might be more going on in her family than meets the eye. There is a secret nobody suspected…

Things come to a head between Rhitha and her sister in a clash that draws in everyone around them. Are the peculiar forces at play in Ruph responsible for fanning their conflict? Who is the mysterious stranger that appears at Grandmother’s door in the middle of the storm? And can Bina help Rhitha find the strength to stand up to the bullies and become who she is meant to be?

I know, I know – there’s nothing about Cat or Guy or Bibby in this blurb. Or is there? To find out, you’ll have to wait just a tiny little bit longer, because I have another surprise for you that’ll help explain – and that one is going to be free! A special treat, from me for you, to shorten the wait.

Life, the Universe, New Stories and Surprises.  Just a few more days!

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Filed under Checkmate, The Septimus Series, writing

Hanging Out My Shingle, or: A New Endeavour

It’s a new(ish) year, and time for a new endeavour. Remember I told you a few weeks ago that I was cooking up something new? Well, here it is: I’m hanging out my shingle as an editor. That’s right, I’m joining the ranks of the professional nitpickers. I aim to occupy myself with such questions as whether it’s “endeavour” or “endeavor” – or perhaps even “Endeavour” (which depends on whether it’s British, American, or the title of the TV series).

For now, I’m starting small, with copy editing and beta reading. The latter is really a form of content or structural editing, letting the author know what I think of their piece as a whole, as a reader. Copy editing means the nitty-gritty of mechanics – spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice – and as such can even go into the realm of stylistic editing (smoothing language, clarifying meaning, making things sound better). All of which has the purpose not to tear down a work, but to make good writing even better.

It’s just a little scary to hoist my flag and announce to the world that I’m now available to take apart your writing (that’s “take apart”, not “take a part” – although, of course, by taking it apart I’m also taking a part in it). But, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And as I wrote on my brand-new editing page (that tab up on top of this page), helping a good story take shape and get ready to go out into the world to meet its readers is a tremendously rewarding thing for me.

So there it is: amo vitam Editing Services. I’m excited, and a bit nervous, and on the one hand kind of unsure of what I’m doing, but on the other quite certain that working with writing is what I want to do and that (not to boast or anything) I’m actually quite good at it.

Life, the Universe, and a New Shingle Hung Out. Do me a favour and pass the word?

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Wordless Wednesday: Winter Garden

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20 January 2016 · 15:36

Required Reading

3268My friend over on Jangled Nerves just let off a blog post on classics – based on yet another post, here, that details “16 Books Every Teenager Should Read in 2016”. So, I toddled over to that post and checked out this list of required reading. I mean, I’m not a teenager – haven’t been one in quite some time (sorry if that bursts a bubble for you) – but if there’s a list of must-reads, I want to know what it is.

And you know what? Of that list of sixteen books, I’ve read all of five, or maybe six. One (or two?) I read under duress, aka Literature Class in school, the other four I read because I loved them. And I pretty much know the Cliff Notes version of several others, which is enough to tell me that I’m not, in fact, interested in reading the full-length feature.

I actually find myself rather annoyed at the title of that original post. “16 Books EVERY Teenager SHOULD Read”. Why on earth should they? Because these are good books? Good grief, if that’s the reason, picking just sixteen is ridiculous. But what’s more, this list is highly subjective. For one, it’s quite US-centric – Gone With The Wind tops the list, but it’s one of those Cliff Notes books for me. No, I haven’t seen the movie either, because frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about that story. For another, it’s a girl’s list of books. Sense and Sensibility? Jane Eyre? Fabulous books (they are, of course, on the list of four that I read for sheer pleasure*), but I can just see giving them to 16-year-old boys to read. 19th-century emo chicks mooning over romantic heartbreak – “Oh, Willoughby, Willoughby!” and “Reader, I married him…” – just kill me now. This, coupled with horrifically disturbing weirdness like Kafka’s The Trial (see “reading under duress”, above), is what’s chiefly responsible for turning many, many teenagers off books for life. Thank you, high school English class.

It’s not that I have a problem with this list of books per se – they’re great books, from what I hear. It’s not even that I disapprove of suggesting books for people to read; far from it. No, it’s the dogmatic headline, the “Thou Shalt Read This” that gets my goat. Because like every really voracious reader, I want to make up my own mind on what to read. And I think teenagers should be making up their own minds, too.

I never filled my children’s plates with food and then insisted they finish every last bite. I did (and still do) insist that they eat some vegetables with their dinner – but I don’t cook them spinach, because I know they hate it. I quite like cooked spinach, thank you very much, but if the kids would rather have it raw with salad dressing, so be it. There is no law that says “Thou Shalt Eat Thine Spinach Cooked”, nor is there one that says “Thou Shalt Read Kafka”. There are far too many good books in the world to force people to read according to a predetermined list. The ticket is to offer the veg, to suggest the book titles. I love Jane Austen – but if you don’t, why not read Sir Walter Scott instead? Ivanhoe is a darn good yarn.

Life, the Universe, and Books You Ought To Read. But only if you really want to. When you’re done all those other great books you’re reading at the moment. And the ones your friends suggested. And that one that just jumped at you from the bookstore shelf. And… Ah, never mind – just keep reading. And let me know when you hit on a good one, I’ll add it to my list of books to check out. I might get to it when I’m 80.

*PS: the other book from that list, the one I’m not sure if I’ve read or not, is Death of a Salesman – I remember being forced to read some kind of weird gloomy drama in undergrad English class; it might have been that. You can tell it made a big impression on my life. The other two I loved were, of course, The Horse and His Boy, and The Hobbit.

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Filed under books, Jane Austen, this and that

Goodbye, Colonel Brandon

You’ve probably heard it by now: Alan Rickman died this morning at age 69. For most people, it’ll probably mean “Goodbye, Severus Snape”, but for me, it’s “Goodbye, Colonel Brandon”. That’s the first role I ever saw him in, and the one I’ve watched most often, over and over – Sense and Sensibility is only one of my top ten favourite films. I love it so much, I’ve written grad school papers on it – including a fairly detailed analysis of Rickman’s Colonel Brandon compared to David Morrisey’s version in 2008.

Rickman was the master of the black flapping cloak – an ability he rocked as Snape, of course, striding through the halls of Hogwarts with his gown swirling out behind him like the wings of an overgrown raven. But Colonel Brandon is no slouch in that department, either. “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad,” he begs Elinor in a broken voice, convulsively clutching at the wood panelling outside the gravely ill Marianne’s bedroom (the stage directions say “He is dangerously quiet”). Elinor (no doubt thinking that the last thing she needs now is an emo going off his rocker) sends him off to get her mother. He slams out of the house (cloak swirling), flings himself on his horse, and after one last desperate glance up at Marianne’s window from under his wide-brimmed brigand’s hat digs in his spurs and rushes off, ventre à terre, cloak flapping, to find relief for his beloved. We next see him galloping at full speed across the brow of a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky, his cloak – you guessed it – “billowing out behind him” (that’s in the script, verbatim) in the most impressively romantic manner.

Rickman’s interpretation of the character (going off Emma Thompson’s script) imbued Colonel Brandon with a romanticism that simply isn’t there in Austen’s book. Andrew Davies took this interpretation even further with his script for the 2008 miniseries – David Morrisey’s Col. Brandon is not only romantic, he is heart-throbbingly heroic – but he could not have done this had it not been for the Thompson/Rickman version in 1995. Scene after scene of the 2008 version is directly cribbed from the 1995 one: Brandon as music lover struck speechless by Marianne’s piano playing; Brandon as sensitive lover bringing Marianne thoughtful gifts; Brandon, frantic with worry, rushing out into the rain storm to find a wet-through Marianne and carrying her home in his arms… None of those scenes are in the book (Seriously! I know – they’re my favourites, too…). But once Rickman had embodied a Colonel Brandon who did these things, Marianne’s lover had become a romantic hero, and the flapping cloak was de rigeur.

So what could be more fitting as a tribute to the great man than this song, the scene that introduces Colonel Brandon to the film? “Weep you no more, sad fountains / Why must you flow so fast? …  Rest you then, rest, sad eyes, / Melt not in weeping / While [he] lies sleeping / Softly, now softly lies / Sleeping.”

I will miss Alan Rickman – but I’m so glad that we will always have his Colonel Brandon.

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Wordy Wednesday

It seems time is just slipping through my grasp these days. Time, and the ability to generate words. It’s not that I don’t have things to say, but somehow, sitting down at the computer, opening a document, and putting those things into actual words and coherent sentences seems to not be happening.

There’s just been too much other stuff occupying my time and, more importantly, my headspace. For one, there’s a new project I’ve got in the offing which I will tell you about soon. [By the way, did you know that the word “offing” means “the horizon on a sea shore”? So if something is “in the offing”, it’s just showing up on the horizon and about to sail into harbour. I learned that from the annotations the last time I had to read Heart of Darkness in lit class. Anyway…] There’s stories to edit and get ready to publish – yes, they’re still coming. Soon! I promise! And then there’s ordinary life – you know, dust bunnies, family meals, laundry, emails… Between all of that, somehow, elaborate erudition on this blog has been elusive.

Hence the “Wordless Wednesday” posts; one picture being worth etc. etc. And it’s true – sometimes you can say so much with just an image. Why bother spoiling the impact with excessive verbiage? That’s even true for the writer’s craft: sometimes one single verbal image is worth more than pages of exposition (it’s what’s known as the “Show, don’t tell!” rule).

And even right here – I’ve run out of things to say that actually make sense. But I just didn’t want to leave you hanging in cyberspace, thinking that I’ve abandoned you all and gone off to party with the cyber fairies (they throw mean parties, those little critters). I hope that my thoughts will, soon, gel into sense again, so I can once more drop my pearls of wisdom (or witless waffling?) into your path.

Meanwhile, let me leave you with a picture worth of Wordy Wednesday – another act of random refrigerator poetry:

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And that, today, was Life, the Universe, and a Wordy Wednesday.

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The Tale of Us Against the Monster…Introduction

I don’t often get personal like this. But this post by a grad school friend of mine just needed to be shared. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Monster Stories in Popular Culture – Frankenstein, Zombies, that sort of thing. Now the monster is coming after her – and the courage with which she is facing it is heartbreaking and inspiring. And as she says: “…maybe someone suffering with their own monster will read this ‘tale of us against the monster’ and know that they are not alone.”

Writing a Line or Two...

I have finished my Master’s degree now. Just as my husband and I believed this huge mountain was behind us, we immediately slammed into another one.  This one is bigger and meaner and we will not survive it together.

People talk about “living with cancer” as a thing that one simply does. One “lives” with cancer.  I don’t know how true that is.  I know, so far, that my husband has “suffered” with cancer.  By suffering, I mean that he has experienced intense pain, overwhelming sadness and grief that his life is ending, rage at the enormous unfairness of it, the terror of approaching and unavoidable death, and the utter indignity of losing much of his mobility and independence.  As for me and “living” with cancer, I simply die a tiny piece at a time, like a chisel is being applied steadily to my soul.  Little bits chipped away slowly. …

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