Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Right book + Right time = Book Loff

The Day Job has bumped my hours to full-time and this means I've got pretty much NO free time AT ALL for anything, and I've had to steal time from the writing career and the volunteer work and everything else.
So yes. I apologise for my blogly silence.

I've been robbing Peter to pay Paul. (Now, the Peter in my life is a really tall Army Sergeant who takes no nonsense. He would get on my case for how I'm burning the candle on both ends.) I've figuratively maxed out the Time credit card and someday soon it's gonna come back to bite me. Okay, enough with the cliches. I'm so busy I can't even come up with my own metaphors.

And yet...


I am squeezing bits and pieces of moments in for reading. We're all readers. We all know how reading is both relaxing and invigorating at the same time. Because I'm so busy, I need this two-birds-one-stone escape from the ol' grind. (Okay, I'll quit with the cliches.)

It doesn't help that the beautiful Baldivis Library has just opened and I can't stay away. (Ooh! Books! Shiny!)

I got a noir novel based on a true story--"Bury Me Deep" by Megan Abbott.  Normally I don't read noir, but the cover was so evocative, I had to pick it up.  (Just goes to show you what a great cover design can do).

Overall, I enjoyed the book and you can read my review on Goodreads. I've put another of her books on hold and will pick it up presently at the library.

It got me thinking. (Good books do that.)  Why did I enjoy this book so much? What intrigued me? Why don't I read more noir?

When I reflected on that last question, I had a revelation, an epiphany, if you will.

  1. I don't read much noir because the characters tend to dwell in deep, dark places, and they never leave. 
  2. I have the same issue with most Literary fiction. The characters occupy the nadir of human existence and they either fail to realise they need to change and grow, or they fail to leave that Black Doghouse, despite their misguided efforts. This is depressing, especially for a Meritocratic Idealist who reads for Escapism.
  3. Novels are all about the characters. Even the plot-based ones. (More on this later, possibly next week.)

 This has confirmed to me that I'm all about the HEA (Happily Ever After) or, in certain cases, making such an impact on the world it can't help but change. Eucatastrophe. (Doncha just love that word?)

EVERY character goes through darkness and despair. It's necessary for the tension of the book. If everything were light and bubbles, it would be one boring book.

My taste is that the characters don't remain there. I want them to get to the HEA or at least appear that they're gonna make it.  I want them to be proactive in their fate. They've gotta do something, even if that something doesn't turn out the way they expected.

I want my books with characters making stuff happen, not just having stuff happen to them, or worse, happening around them. And if they are successful, all the better. HEA, The End.

So why am I all gushy over this noir? 
  1. It takes place in 1931, at the beginning of the Great Depression, and the dead-dog-party end of the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition! Loose morals! Lost flappers!  This is sufficiently different from my current lives to satisfy my need for Escapism.
  2. Despite everyone's spiral into darkness, pretty much all the characters (barring a couple) have redeeming features and intriguing quirks. Roundness is good.
  3. Plotty goodness.  Okay, this was more character-driven than plot-driven, but there was plot, and there were characters trying to take control of their destinies to some degree.  I can accept that.
  4. The ending had a sad wistfulness at the end of it, with a lost love flavour to it. I am a sucker for lost love. 
So there you have it. I have learned that I can fall in love with a story that's outside my usual preferred genres, if it strikes the right chor-- hits the nail on th-- ticks all the box--.

Aw heck.  I like something if it's got the right stuff.

Her Grace needs a clichectomy.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Randomosity on the Weekend

Words make books, now books make words. Check out this Folded Book Art By Luciana Frigiero--->

I may get an old throwaway and give this a try.

I must confess, this is something a print book can do that an ebook cannot.

Her Grace has added Folded Book Art to her neverending wish list.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners 2014

...are here. They are so worth a read. This year's winner, Betsy Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, Washington State (for a moment, I read, "Western Australia") is truly deserving of her win. Her entry is subtle and clever. Check it out.

Dear Michael Shaw of Rockville, Maryland,
Your excellent prose was poignantly beautiful. You made me cry for all the right reasons.
Her Grace
His excellent entry:
The tears of her loneliness rolled from her cheeks and fell upon the steaming pavement outside a second-rate shopping center in Torrance, California, those tears quickly evaporating in the heat and turning into molecularized water vapor that was gradually pulled into the upper atmosphere and slowly dispersed across the planet until, many years later, a few of the molecules descended upon Riomaggiore, Italy, where they were inhaled by her soul-mate, Giorgio Abatangelo whom she would never, ever, meet.

Doesn't that just break your heart?

Her Grace wishes she could aspire to the truly awfulness of the Bulwer-Lytton.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Girls Don't Spoil It. Others Spoil It for the Girls.

It speaks to the child in us all
I recently read this thought-provoking article by Kelly Jensen about "Girls Ruin Everything: Stephenie Meyer, Lois Duncan, and Childhood Nostalgia".  You need to read it too.

She opens with reference to some others' opinions about Stephenie Meyer producing films of other author's work, those opinions being that Meyer's "reputation" will "ruin" the works.  Jensen disagrees with them and so do I.

Really, people?  Honestly? Meyer's reptuation is so bad it will ruin another author's? Are you serious? Or are you just being stupid?

I've seen quite a bit of Meyer hate being flung about the past few years, but not from me. Never from me. I'm no Twi-hard; I confess I'm rather indifferent to her books (maybe one of the few people in the world who is), but I admire her as a fellow author who managed, much to the surprise of her critics, to influence a surprisingly high number of reader.

That's cool in my books.

Sometimes I wonder where all this vitriol comes from? 

Is it because she writes YA?  (There's a bit of a YA kneejerk movement going on in some obscure corner of the Internet. They just don't get it.) 

Is it because she's a woman who's going about empowering other women's dreams?  (You know, that whole feminist thing is pretty scary stuff.  And Meyer comes from a culture with a two hundred year history of feminism.) 

Is it because she's a Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon)?  (Just ignore the fact that Mormons tend to be highly-successful people on the whole with a reputation for generosity & honesty who tend to live about ten years longer on the average.) Personally, I'm rather fond of Mormons.

Is it because she's a successful author? Quite probably. Jealousy often brings out the worst in people, sometimes without them realising it.  Is she hogging the limelight?  Heck, no! Just like JK Rowling isn't hogging the spotlight (despite the fact that others have accused her of that, and suggest she should back down and let others "have their chance").

That must be it. After all, the publishing industry isn't exactly a meritocracy. It's an industry of sheer dumb luck. So Meyer hit the market at the right time and right place with the right product.  If anything, her success is evidence in my eyes that Rowling wasn't a Once-in-a-Lifetime miracle.

If Meyer can do it after Rowling did it, maybe I can.

Okay, the reality is I'll end up as a midlister with a small core of rabid ne'er-say-die fans whom I'll love to bits, but because lightning's struck twice, that gives me hope.

Some day I'll be one of those household name authors (shh... let me dream) and when I am, I, like Meyer, will take my earnings and turn them to the benefit of others. She's producing movies. (I watched Austenland and enjoyed it.)  Me, I'm going to hit the crowdfunding sites and hand out scholarships. I'm going to hit the microloan sites and fund worthy causes.

And when I do these things (make it big and dole out cash), am I to be the target of disgruntled green-faced people with no sense of nobility and too much time on their hands?


Just letting you know now it's them, not Meyer, not Rowling and not me.

Her Grace might not hit it that big, but she will still find a way to fund scholarships.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Randomosity with Cookies

(Yes, I still love Richard, but an awful lot of Tom Hiddleston has been crossing my feeds lately.)

This is Tom and Cookie Monster enjoying cookies.

I like Cookie Monster. I like cookies. I'm starting to like Tom. He seems like a fun guy.

Me and Cookie Monster:

Her Grace believes one is never too old for Sesame Street. Or cookies.

Monday, 11 August 2014

What was she casting?

Happy TASE Day.

Last night I found the following items in my Fairy Godtoddler's pockets:

They are, in order from top:
  • A spider
  • A shell
  • An eyeball
  • A bell on a golden string
It made me wonder; what kind of spell was she casting?

Her Grace wonders.

Friday, 8 August 2014

My Forgotten Novel: The Clock That Struck Nothing

I don't know if this counts as a novel, because I never finished the first draft.

After I wrote The Atomic Girl and before I wrote Legacy of Leporis, I came up with a YA urban fantasy called "The Clock That Struck Nothing".  Dreamed up the whole plot, even wrote a few scenes, but it never got beyond that.

I did that sort of thing when I was young. Came up with all sorts of plots for stories. Short stories got written, because they were short. Longer stories got dreamed up, weighed and either entertained me for a while, or were quickly forgotten.

TCTSN was the only novel in that time I bothered to start writing. Never finished it, as the idea behind the novel was pretty lame.

Essentially, a girl finds a curious antique clock in a shop and absolutely has to buy it. Once she gets it going, it has a funny little chime for the hour.

That night, when all the world was asleep, the clock began to chime. Not the tinkly little sound before, but great big booming belltower-type chimes. This startles the girl awake. When she looks at the clock face, the hands are gone. The clock chimes on and on, and a sparkly black cloud of magical whatever smoke comes pouring out the the clock, envelops her, and sweeps her away to a fantasy land that needs her help to save it from... whatever it was that was threatening the clock.

So yeah. That entertained my young adolescent self with magical escapist adventures where Our Heroine spends time in a place where she's truly needed and wanted. Every morning she was returned to her reality, which grew duller and duller each passing day.

Eventually she would have figured out a way to remain in the fantasy land, but the story never got that far before I abandoned it.

Completely forgot it had existed for thirty years. Wonder what made me think of it now?

Her Grace's brain is populated by all sorts of stories.  Some of them even see the light of day, if only briefly.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Quilted Randomosity

I love to quilt. I've finally stuck my One Block Wonder onto quilting frames. They take up my whole office. I've made about a dozen quilts in my life, and I've still much to learn.

The other day I came across this Pixel Portrait Quilt by novice quilter LauraLynn:

Yes, that's our favourite Loki, Tom Hiddleston, portrayed in 40,000 carefully selected and pieced together squares of fabric.

Things that absolutely amaze me:

  • What a Pixel Portrait Quilt! It's absolutely stunning! I do not have enough exclamation marks to portray just how amazing this quilt is!  (Here's a few more for emphasis:  !!!!!!!)
  • The detail is amazing. The background is full of Shakespeare quotes.
  • This was LauraLynn's first quilt.  Her. First. Quilt.  Forget about the usual Nine-Patch. This is a Nine-Patch times 4445 times. Did I mention I am in awe?
  • She used more than 150 different types of fabric. I don't know if I've ever owned that many, much less all at once.
  • There's a program out there that'll pixellate and plot out a quilt like this for you. (Not sure if this is covered by Rule 34j: if it exists, there's an app for it, or Rule 43: if you look hard enough, you can find anything on the Internet.)

Oh, how I'd love to give a go at a Richard Armitage Pixel Portrait Quilt.  But 1) I don't have the time and 2) I don't know how the Real Life Husband would take me snuggling up with the Celebrity Boyfriend on the bed.

Meanwhile, I'll go back to quilting my One Block Wonder Hexagonal Kalideoscope. Between the two jobs and the three degrees and the full family, it's gonna take me a while.

Her Grace presents the following quilting facts to you: all quilt patterns have names like "Log Cabin" and "Sea Ways" and "Crazy Quilt" and "Wedding Ring". Not all quilts are beautiful.  Some are downright fugly. There's a quilting technique called "Stitch in the Ditch" or "Ditch Stitching". I can't recall ever having used it. Want to make a quilt super fast? Tie one. Take two flat sheets, whack some batting in between, then at six inch intervals, take a stitch with yarn.  Tie the loose ends.  You could whack one of these out in an hour or two.

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Memory of Love

Someone I know is re-reading one of David Eddings' books (Book 3 of The Elenium). I hope she's enjoying it. I did when I first read it.

I am afraid to go back and read Eddings' books. I read them in the 80's and loveLOVEloved them. They, especially The Belgariad, were formative books for me and my writing career. I remember them as fun, adventurous and eucatastrophic. They occupy a warm spot in my heart next to The Great Adelaide and Granite Youth Symphony.

A few years ago I came across a couple of Piers Anthony's Xanth books, another series I loved as a teen. So when these short little books showed up unexepectedly, I snagged them and dove into one, hoping to relive the exuberant and silly fun of my youth.

What. A. Mistake.  I read the first book in ever-growing horror. Were these books truly this bad and teenage me hadn't a clue when it came to taste in literature? In case I got the One Bad Xanth Book, I abandoned the first and began the other.

Nope, it was as bad as its companion. My lovely childhood memories were shattered. How could I not see the appalling plotline, the sexist characters and trite style in my youth?

Since then, I've been afraid, almost terrified to revisit any book I once loved. While I would love to read them again, and fall in love again, I have no guarantee. Sometimes the memory of love is better than the chance of losing it.

Her Grace has lost many things she's loved, so she's doing her best to hang on to the ones shes got left.

Friday, 1 August 2014

My Cozy Regency Romance Novel: Currently Unsupervised

Right now, the plot of this novel is drawn all over the large window of my office. I formulated this plot backwards. I started with what one of my characters describes as "The Whole Situation", a bit of scandal that must remain under wraps No Matter What.

I've got the major players, and lots of arrows drawn here-there-everywhere, describing what's happening and to whom, and what will happen if The Whole Situation is discovered. (Really. Why some people must leave incriminating documents lying about, I don't know.)

Essentially, Our Heroine, Miss Felicity Abbot of the Essex Colchesters has a talent for undoing locked things. She's also got a bit of an attitude and a rebellious streak. Can you blame her?  She's been kept from the London Season for reasons entirely out of her control.  Naturally, she's going to sneak off to see what's so great about a Party.  Oh, and she thinks negus tastes absolutely terrible.

The first draft is complete, but needs a bit more tweaking. Some of it sags a bit in the middle. However, I do love the scandal.

Her Grace loves a good scandal, as long as she's not involved. She prefers to watch the train wreck from a safe distance.