June 29, 2015, 4.17 pm
1. I just finished reading Kate Milford's book Greenglass House, which was WONDERFUL - warm and charming and mysterious and fun. You can read my Goodreads review here.
2. Normally, when I'm riding the bus to town, I don't take much notice of all the named houses I pass. But the other day, I happened to look out the window just in time to see a house called "Green Dragon Cottage" - and my whole body was seized by one urge: WANT!!!!! (It was a nice-looking house, too, which was a nice plus...but really, that wasn't the point. I'd live in almost any house that had that name!)
3. It may be getting a bit dangerous for me and Patrick to keep on watching the TV show "Grand Designs" together. We now have elaborate plans for the eventual mansion we will (naturally) one day build for ourselves, having vigorously debated a million different specific details (but of course being in total agreement on the needs for [a] a full library, complete with comfortable couches, and [b] a dragon mosaic on the ground floor). In fact, we have everything sorted out...except for how, exactly, we would ever afford this. Hrm. Well, maybe watching a few more episodes will help pin that final little detail down! ;)
4. I really liked the band Civil Wars, and now Joy Williams (one half of that band) has just released a new album of her own, Venus, which you can listen to in full on the NPR website this week. I'm listening to it now, as I type, and I'm really, really liking it so far! It's a cool mix of pop, American folk, and more, with a really big, warm sound.
5. My edits for Masks and Shadows are due in two days. So I'm going to end this blog entry now, to get back to them!
April 28, 2015, 2.35 pm
Wooot! I just finished a new draft of my MG dragons-and-chocolate novel and emailed it off to my agent for the very first time. Hurrah! Needless to say, I immediately made myself a strong, dark hot chocolate in celebration. :)
The last week was a frustrating one in terms of the M.E., but it was a great revision week anyway, which made me feel better about everything. I was greatly helped by two of my favorite inspirational tools: the dragon figurine that Patrick gave me for Christmas (to help me write the first draft of this novel!) and the writing tiara (which used to be my wedding tiara) that I wear whenever I need extra confidence.
Patrick and I also made it out to the cinema BY OURSELVES for the first time since last August, which was an incredible treat - especially because it was to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, which was my most-anticipated film this year! No spoilers, but I thought it was great, and I came out absolutely determined to hunt down an action figure of the Scarlet Witch to stand on my writing desk (or writing bed, depending on the week) for inspiration.
And Episode #2 of the Worried Writer Podcast came out last Friday, with me as the interviewee! You can listen to it here. Sarah and I talked a lot about writing process, productivity, discipline, life challenges and compassion. It was really fun to chat with her, and I hope you enjoy listening to it. Sarah's a really lovely, generous person and writer, and I was so glad to be a guest on her podcast.
Oh! And I can't forget to mention that I've read two great MG books in the last week - Candy Harper's Perfectly Ella and Jennifer Cervantes's Tortilla Sun. They're very different from each other but I loved them both! (The links are to my Goodreads reviews.)
Now it's time to pick up another book...and start writing another one, too (while I wait for the next round of revision). Whew!
April 9, 2014, 12.37 pm
Whew. After three long weeks, my chest infection is finally all gone - and on Monday (aided by my just-arrived inspirational Elsa figurine), I had my first real writing session in 3-1/2 weeks!
I am sooooo much happier this week than I have been for the last few, I can't even begin to express it.
Of course, I also feel REALLY far behind where I'd expected to be by now, since I'd been writing 5,000 words a week on my Kat novella ("Courting Magic") in the weeks before Baby X and I got sick. So, honestly, I'd been hoping to be nearly finished by now, whereas I'm actually only about a third of the way through - and since this is a 4-day school week for MrD, followed by two and a half weeks of school holidays, I don't think I'm going to be getting back to that 5K/week writing model any time soon!
Oh, well. I'm having an enormous amount of fun with the story, and that's what really matters most. I love reading it out loud to Patrick after each writing session, especially when he laughs at some character interaction. I totally live for that kind of laugh! And he's already bought the image that's going to be used in the final cover! I'm hoping to finish first-drafting the novella by mid-May, then send it out for waves of critiques, then proof-reading, etc., and finally put it online sometime in late summer or (more likely) early autumn. But if the cover is finished earlier, I will definitely post it here! Because I can't wait.
And in other news...well, if you're one of my Facebook or Twitter friends, you'll already know this, but: this past weekend, I FELL IN LOVE - head over heels love - with a movie: Frozen. I know, I know, everyone else in the world had already seen it! But with Baby X still so small (and without any available babysitters for him), I'd never managed to see it in the theater despite all the friends who told me (rightly) that I had to see it. (One of them told me in an email that it was "the ultimate Steph movie". She was so right!) So instead, I pre-ordered the DVD, it arrived last Monday, I used all my willpower to hold off and not watch it until I could watch it with MrD on Saturday morning...
...and it was just wonderful. Sisters and magic and love and guilt and drama and humor - oh, and fabulous trolls! It really couldn't have been more perfect for me. (Or for MrD, for that matter - he says Frozen is not only his favorite movie but also his second-favorite, third-favorite, etc. It's swept the ratings, for him!)
But it wasn't just fun to watch. That's what movies I like usually are, and I really enjoy them. But every so often - very rarely, honestly - I'll watch a movie that turns a key somewhere inside me and sets my mind buzzing with new creative ideas. The very last Harry Potter film did that for me - I loved it so much, it reminded me what I'm really aiming at with writing - how powerful and fabulous fantasy stories can be. Then Frozen did it for me, this weekend. Something went ting! inside me when I watched it.
Ever since, I've been buzzing with ideas for all sorts of stories - a new opening scene for my Family Magic rewrite popped into my head, for one thing! They aren't Frozen-linked ideas or fan-fic - but watching Frozen reminded me of how great a story can be, how hard I can fall for it, with so much personal connection AND fun, and it made me want to try even harder as a writer. Better yet, it made me want to play.
What about you guys? Have you had that kind of response to any movies? Which ones?
February 24, 2014, 2.31 pm
We had two big family health scares pop up at the end of last week, neither of which has been resolved yet, and what with that new stress added to exhaustion and a week of pushing myself too hard, I really crashed with the M.E. on Saturday. It was a very bad day, as some of you know or probably guessed. (Thanks so much to everyone who sent virtual hugs on twitter or facebook! They really meant a lot.)
In the middle of a bad M.E. crash, it's always hard to escape the moment. It's so easy to feel despair, because the truth is, that moment is honestly quite terrible. It's hard to remember that, really and truly, it is only a moment. By Sunday, I was so much better. I didn't go out, but I had a nice day and even a productive one, too. Today, I woke up exhausted (because Baby X had woken up 9 times between 11pm and 6:30am! Augh!) but no longer crashing. The moment had passed.
I need to find some way to remind myself, whenever those moments come, that they are temporary. And the same is true in other parts of life, too. Next time I feel despair about a writing issue that feels impossible to solve, my larger writing career, our finances, or, actually, anything else...I'm going to try very hard to remember to tell myself (and believe, if at all possible): This is one moment. It will pass.
Now, life is easing back into its normal grooves, except that it's Half Term here in Wales, so MrD is off school for ten days. That means that writing time is VERY hard to come by - the only goal I'm even attempting this week is the rewrite of my latest freelance audition, since it's due next Monday! - but I'm really enjoying the extra time with MrD. I love, love, love how curious and funny and fun he is, and oh do I love watching him play with Baby X. That really is one of the biggest joys in my life.
And! I finally discovered (YEARS after everybody else!) the American TV show "Leverage", which is so much fun. I've always been a big fan of Gina Bellman, and I sucked down the first few episodes with total delight this weekend after reading this fabulous blog post by Jennifer Crusie: Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Community in Storytelling. She's using an ongoing "Leverage" re-watch on her blog as a way to analyze that theme, and it was really fun to watch the first episode of "Leverage" and then read her step-by-step analysis of it.
What about you guys? What have you been doing for fun lately?
January 21, 2014, 2.40 pm
Warning: this is a whiny blog post! The truth is, it's been a hard week to stay positive. I'm really tired (Baby X is 6 months old and still waking up at least once an hour all through the night*), we've had a rotten cold going around the family, and I'm scared about money. It feels like a tough combination to cope with right now.
(I also keep thinking back to Anne Lamott's book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. There was one point where, just when she was feeling most desperate about money, she got an out-of-the-blue phone call: Seventeen Magazine phoned to offer her a fantastic, completely unexpected gig as a book reviewer, for $2,000 a month! She was saved! It's a great moment in the book...but now I keep thinking: I want a Seventeen Magazine Moment, too! ;) So do feel free to let me know if anyone wants to offer me a lovely, out-of-the-blue writing gig...)
(Most frustratingly, I actually saw a Practically Perfect creative writing fellowship listed yesterday - one that sounded amazingly stimulating on an artistic level, as well as being financially fantastic - but sadly, it's not on my side of the country. Somehow, the fact that it's in Leeds, where I lived for SO many years - and at the university where I did my PhD work and Patrick worked for years and years - makes it feel even more frustrating! But there's no way I could commute back and forth between South Wales and Leeds, especially with a baby. I even took a moment to wonder: Should we consider moving back? Because the money was that good - but no. We have roots here in Wales, now. I couldn't bear to break those off, even if I didn't know that a move that big would set off a major M.E./CFS crash.) (If any of you guys live close to Leeds, though, do check it out. It looks fabulous!)
I have been writing away, albeit a bit slowly this week. I'm a third of the way through my first-pass revision of MrD's chapterbook, The Desperate Adventures of the Badger Bandits. (I'm also realizing that the brevity of chapterbooks doesn't make revision any faster - with such a short length to work with, every single word counts!) I'm also about a quarter of the way through my brother Ben's veeeery belated Christmas-gift short story (and a similar percentage of the way through my brother Dave's story - luckily we're ALL late on our short-story gift-giving this year!).
And there have been fun things going on. I went to a "babywearing" meetup yesterday at my favorite cake shop in town - tons of mums of young babies were there, and it was a really wonderful, fun atmosphere as we all looked through baby slings in the new sling library that's been set up locally. What a wonderful concept - getting to actually try out baby slings before buying them! (Because they are SO expensive, and I've spent way too much money before this on slings that didn't work for me - and Baby X screams heartrendingly whenever I set him down, so a good sling would be incredibly useful.) I'm using a hired one right now which I love, so I'm desperately strategizing how I could afford to actually buy one, once the hire period ends.
Who knows - maybe my Seventeen Magazine Moment will arrive by then! ;)
And in the meantime, there's a new Three Musketeers adaptation to watch free online on the BBC iPlayer, there are fun books from the library to read, and Baby X is so adorable as he rides around on my chest, grinning up at me with his amazing blue eyes.
So I'm trying not to let the tiredness make me forget all the good stuff.
*PS: I know I'm whining pathetically here about Baby X's sleep - but honestly, I really am aware of all the sleep-training ideas out there, so I'm not asking for advice right now, just virtual hugs!
November 25, 2013, 3.18 pm
Congratulations - and thank you so much - to Sara Glassman, who won the critique in my Authors for the Philippines offer! I'm really looking forward to doing that.
And it's been a really good week over here, because - hooray, hooray! - my youngest brother is visiting, for the first time in four years. MrD is ecstatic to have an uncle to climb all over and play with nonstop, and the rest of us are thrilled too. :)
We've been doing lots of Doctor Who-watching ("The Day of the Doctor"! It made me happy! plus "An Adventure in Space and Time," which made me both happy AND sad in a good way! and tonight we'll be trying out "The 5(ish) Doctors", too), I talked Dave into finally watching "Thor", and we've had various family adventures. This week, we'll be celebrating two Thanksgivings - one with just the five of us (me, Patrick, MrD, Baby X, and Dave) on Thursday, and then a second, bigger one on Saturday, when my wonderful in-laws can join us. I can't wait to have so many people I love together! (Maybe next year I can even talk my parents into coming!)
I might not be online as much during the couple of weeks when Dave is visiting - because, y'know, when I only see my little brother once every four years, I really want to make those visits count! - but I am formulating schemes about a project I might do just for fun on my blog and website in December, involving a lot of free fiction. I hope it works! If it does, I'll begin it (and probably first announce it) on December 1st. Wish me luck!
How are your weeks going?
September 13, 2013, 9.29 am
OK, question 14 in the 31 Days Meme is total fantasy, and - since I've been awake since 4:30 a.m. today - I am SO ready for fantasy! Here we go. :)
14. If you won the lottery...
Ohhhh, yes, I have ideas. I have so many ideas for what I'd do with that money!
(Which is kind of ironic, since I never, ever enter a lottery. That's the problem with having been raised by a math professor - and one who used to teach statistics, in particular...but never mind. Let's pretend I won the lottery anyway, because that makes me sound even luckier! ;p )
1. Buy a house. Oh, how I would love to own a house instead of renting! Never to have to move unless we wanted to, being able to hammer nails into the walls if we chose, paint walls random colors, heck, even let the kids paint the walls if they really wanted...owning a house sounds like a delicious combination of freedom and security, to me.
2. Get a housekeeper. OK, wait, how much money would I get in this lottery, exactly? Hmm. Well, at any rate, I would hire a cleaner to come in at least two or three times a week. Our forever-house would thank me for it!
3. Go on a trip. No, wait. Go on LOTS of trips! I'd sweep our family across the ocean to Michigan for a long, long visit, move on to travel around the US and Canada to all the different parts I want to show MrD and Baby X (when he's older), then head back to Europe to re-visit Vienna and Stockholm. After that, we'd spend a full week in London (which I've only ever visited for 24 hours at a time) and then move on to new (to me) cities like Copenhagen, Paris, and Oslo. Yes, please! (Don't ask about how this would work with the M.E./CFS. Let's just decide that the traveling would be spread out over a number of months/years, and I'd have more than enough trusted childcare to make it work!)
4. And of course... Buy a LOT of books! Endless books! Really, this is the final part of my plan. Just be able to buy books whenever I want them. Heaven!
How about you guys? What would you do with your lottery winnings?
August 17, 2013, 2.15 pm
Oof. Stress-based insomnia is no fun, especially when it comes in the wake of a month of 3-hour-a-night sleeps. Right now, though, we're trying to work out a Big Schooling Decision for MrD, and as a result, I am very, very tired today.
However, I am determined NOT to turn this blog into a constant moan about my tiredness (which is indeed constant and therefore boring)! And if I just talk about the stuff I spend my days doing right now...well, you'd get tired of nursing descriptions pretty fast.
(Of course that's not all I'm doing right now, though. I'm...I'm...watching television! Or, well, watching Netflix, anyway! The two shows I've gotten addicted to are Modern Family and Lost Girl, which...do not share many commonalities. Oh well! I also read Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling's The Cuckoo's Calling, which I thought was fabulous - my favorite mystery novel in a long time. But mostly, as you can tell, I'm doing fairly passive stuff - i.e., things I can do while nursing a baby.)
So, instead of blogging my current lifestyle, I'm going to (for your sakes as well as mine!) launch into the meme I've been enjoying on a lot of other people's blogs. It's called the 31-Day Blog Challenge, but since there's no way I can blog every day right now, I'm just going to answer the questions I'm interested in on any given day, drop the rest, and double or triple up from time to time. And I'd love to read your answers to any of these questions in the comments!
Here we go!
3. Your Favorite Quote
I don't have a single favorite, but here are a few I do love!
“[A]s Agatha Swanburne once said, 'To be kept waiting is unfortunate, but to be kept waiting with nothing interesting to read is a tragedy of Greek proportions.” - Maryrose Wood, The Hidden Gallery
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.” - J.K. Rowling
4. What Are You Afraid Of?
Oh, well. I'm a parent. Do I even need to write out the answer to this question? At approximately the moment that each of my children first moved, noticeably, inside me, their welfare became the biggest priority in my life - which comes with a very particular set of fears. (Speaking of quotes - who was it who said that when you have children, suddenly your heart starts walking around outside your body, held inside these fragile little creatures? So you never feel quite safe again.)
But on a less life-shattering level...well, I've mostly overcome my fear of spiders, but my fear of snakes continues unabated (as embarrassed as I am to admit this, when I have snake-loving friends who read this blog!), and I have sooooo many fears when it comes to my career. (Will people like the new books I've written? Will publishers buy them? Aah! Well, we'll find out.)
13. What Is Your Earliest Memory?
Holding my mom's hand, running for the bookmobile, sooo excited and desperate to get there in time to check out fabulous new books for the week! I must have been only 2 or 3 at the time...but really, this one memory says it all, doesn't it? ;)
What about you guys?
August 6, 2013, 2.42 pm
Oh, do I miss sleep. I keep reminding myself that the first 6 weeks of newborn baby-hood are always the worst, and since today is Baby X's three-week birthday, that means that we're halfway through...
OK, moving on...
The best news is that my parents are staying with us for August, which makes such an enormous difference. Right now I feel like I'm operating at survival-level because of sleep deprivation (I've been averaging 3 hours a night for 3 weeks now, which feels brutal), but oh, does it help to have loving parents/grandparents here with us, helping with everything. I am so, so grateful for that.
I'm at the point where I've started to really, really miss fiction writing. I really want to get started on revising Family Magic! I got a couple of fabulous crits for it just before Baby X was born, so I can't wait to dive in again. (And thank you SO MUCH to my Clarion West Write-a-Thon supporters - without that motivation, I would never have finished the full first draft before Baby X was born!)
Pre-birth, I'd been thinking that I'd wait until October to start writing again. Right now, though...well, I need to get my brain functioning first, so it probably won't be until the first 6 weeks are over. (Please let the sleeping situation get better after the first 6 weeks!) But maybe I can start writing again in early September, if I'm lucky?
(Baby X, like MrD before him, is definitely an "up" baby - one who's only happy when he's being held - but MrD did give me lots of practice in writing while I had a baby napping on my lap...)
And I had two really nice pieces of writing-related mail this past week. First, I got my author copies of the gorgeous French edition of Kat, Incorrigible (Kat, apprentie magicienne)! Ohhh, so beautiful.
And then I got my countersigned contract from Simon & Schuster for something that makes me really, really happy...there's going to be a boxset of all three Kat books in paperback next year! I feel giddy when I think about that - I love boxsets, and I am so excited that there's going to be a Kat boxset. Eeee!!!
Right now, though, since I'm not doing a lot of producing fiction, I am devouring a lot of it. I've been re-reading Louise Rennison's Talullah Casey books (starting with Withering Tights). They're not flawless, but oh, are they funny, and they're all set at a fabulously over-the-top performing arts camp/high school, which is particularly fun for me after both attending and working at performing arts camps (and also a music conservatory, which was, well, its own very intense world). The third book, The Taming of the Tights, just came out and was fabulous, my favorite in the series so far.
Also, since I've finally signed up for the UK Netflix, I've caught up on the Avengers-related movies I hadn't seen yet (Iron Man 2 and Captain America). My favorite movie in the series is still The Avengers/Avengers Assemble, followed by Thor, but it was fun to catch up on the others, too. Now I'm debating whether or not to try the spin-off novel by Alisa Kwitney, New Avengers: Breakout, which tells the backstory of Hawkeye and the Black Widow. Have any of you guys read it yet?
June 14, 2013, 12.00 pm
I've hit that point in pregnancy (with 6 weeks left to go) when I Just. Can't. Sleep! anymore, and everything hurts. Wahh! This is, needless to say, no fun, so honestly, part of why I haven't posted any blog entries this week is that I didn't just want to whine at you guys about how tired and fed up I am.
But! There were some really good things this week, too. Today, my current state of vegetable-brain may have won over my willpower, leading to a puny daily wordcount on my novel, but over the whole course of the week so far, from Monday onwards, I've written over 5,500 words - which really is great by my standards! (And that leaves me with less than 19,000 words left to go!) Also, I had a long phone call with a close friend a few days ago, which felt great. Then I went to yesterday's coffee morning and ate delicious chocolate cake and carrot cake (yes, of course I sampled both kinds! Yum!) while hanging out with smart, fun women who made me feel better about everything.
And! I got a copy of Merrie Haskell's Handbook for Dragon Slayers in the mail, and it really is wonderful so far. Hooray for smart medieval heroines with big dreams!
Finally, I watched this TED talk by Shawn Achor (found via Jenn Reese), "The Happy Secret to Better Work", which really made me think:
It's only 12 minutes long, and well worth checking out. Not everything he said resonated for me, but a lot of it did - and I'm going to try to follow his list of steps to follow for creating lasting positive change.
What about you guys? How have your weeks been?
April 5, 2013, 11.05 am
It's been a quiet few days since Stolen Magic's book-birthday. MrD is still on his two-week spring break, so I've been taking him to playgroups and doing lots of reading together at home - re-reading lots of his favorites, like Mr Popper's Penguins, Finn Family Moomintroll, and ALL of Hilary McKay's Lulu books!
Our most recent re-read (one of my favorites in the series) was Lulu and the Dog from the Sea. Perfect for anyone with a rescue dog, like us! Maya got very excited when I made the barking sounds of the dogs in the book, and when I read Lulu's line "Good dog...you're a good dog," Maya's tail thumped and thumped against the couch. So she's a big fan of the book, too. :)
And I am SO happy that Jenn Reese's Above World is finally out in the UK! I can't wait to buy it from my local Waterstones next time I visit. I love this series SO much. I already have hardcover American copies, but I'm planning to buy British paperbacks of each book, too, to have as my lending-out-to-friends-and-family copies. I love that British kids finally get to discover Jenn's world too!
In my own book news, my brother Dave gave me a really fun book-birthday gift - a book trailer for Stolen Magic! I love it - it was just the perfect book-day gift. :)
And I'm on the 3rd stop of my Stolen Magic blog tour, posting at Cari's Book Blog about Magic and Mischief - or why I found it so irresistible to write a heroine who breaks so many rules.
How about you guys? How is your week going? And what have you been reading lately?
January 21, 2013, 4.16 pm
Today's one of those days when I feel completely flopped by 3:30pm...but hey, at least I got a bunch of stuff done beforehand. (A massive session of freelance writing! An antenatal visit, complete with even more blood tests! Lunch-cooking and Lego-playing with my son!) And hmm, since I did have to have a lot of blood taken...maybe I'm contractually required to eat some chocolate cookies now? Possibly?
(On exactly that possibility, I did buy a pack of chocolate cookies at the café on my way out of the hospital. I haven't actually opened the pack yet, but I am seriously considering it...)
Alas, I've run out of my lovely writing bursary from Literature Wales (which ended at the end of December), so it's also time for me to start looking for more freelance work soon. I'm going to give myself until the Low Road rewrite is finished before I bump up my freelance workload beyond my current half-time schedule, but then...well, then it'll be time to get serious about finding more work. Please cross your fingers for me!
In some very cool news...I looked on Amazon.fr last night and saw that the French translation of Kat, Incorrigible is already listed there! There's no cover yet, but it's due to come out in May, and just seeing the French title for the first time - Kat, Apprentie Sorcière Tome 1! - made me gasp out loud with excitement. I cannot WAIT to hold it in my hands!
And of course there are two American editions coming out even sooner than that. Renegade Magic comes out in paperback on March 5th (woot! woot!), and Stolen Magic, the LAST book in the series, comes out in hardcover on April 2nd! When it comes out, the whole trilogy will be complete, and just the thought of that is bittersweet but amazing.
I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do to celebrate Stolen Magic's release, but I am definitely going to put out my Kat short story "Dueling Magics" as a free ebook on Smashwords and Amazon.com (where I HOPE it will be free - we'll see if I can make it happen!) in time for Renegade Magic's paperback birthday.
And in the meantime, I've gotten happily addicted to the new BBC show "Blandings", which is an adaptation of PG Wodehouse's Blandings stories, complete with wonderful actors (including Jennifer Saunders!), fun music, massive amounts of joyful silliness, and fabulous comic timing. I liked the first episode a lot, despite a few issues; I 100% LOVED the second episode, which showed last night, and I laughed uncontrollably for about the last 10 minutes of it. If you're in the UK - or if you're in the US and have Tunnelbear on your computer - you can watch the episode online here.
What about you guys? What's been making you laugh lately?
January 6, 2013, 4.06 pm
Today is the last day of our lovely 2-week holiday with MrD. I'm so glad we took it. I haven't gotten any writing done - but I have read zillions of books with him, gone with him on fun trips, watched movies together, watched movies on my own (something I almost never do!), and generally had a really lovely time.
Also, in a really priceless emotional shift, I went from feeling guilty about not writing, at the beginning of the holiday, to actively wanting to be writing by the end - and that's a REALLY nice change!
For once, this holiday was more focused on watching than reading for me. I did read and LOVE Susie Day's Pea's Book of Big Dreams (you can read my Goodreads review here), and I enjoyed Mike and Rachel Grinti's Claws (Goodreads review again!), but mostly, I fell totally in love with a TV series this holiday: Call the Midwife.
Have you guys all already seen this show? It's available in the US as well as the UK, and I LOVE it. It's full of fantastic characters (mainly women, but some men as well), and while there are sad stories included, and there's plenty of injustice showcased in 1950s London (and lots of class issues explored, as the mostly middle- to upper-class midwives enter the world of London's working poor), there's an overwhelming sense of hope and compassion in the show.
And oh, the writing! It's just such smart TV, and it's smart, absorbing TV about the everyday lives of women and children, which is rarer than it should be. I devoured the whole first series in less than 72 hours, and if I'd had more time on my own, I would have done it a lot faster.
What about you guys? What TV or movies have you been enjoying lately?
December 17, 2012, 3.43 pm
This afternoon, my brother Ben left for America, after a really wonderful week-long visit. I love living in the UK...but oh, do I hate living so far from my family. Every time I say goodbye to a family member at the end of a visit, knowing that it might be a year - or years - before I see them again (it's been over 3 years now since I've seen my brother Dave), it feels like something breaks inside me.
Immigration: emotionally hard! Who knew, right? Sigh. It makes me think about all of my ancestors who emigrated to the US from Croatia, the Ukraine, Ireland, and elsewhere...and of course I'm so much luckier than them because not only did I get to make my choice completely voluntarily, for love rather than survival issues, but I get to continually stay in touch with my family back home using email and skype. My British-born son knows the faces of all his American relatives because he sees them on live video-calls every week.
And this was a really great visit. We watched enormous amounts of Doctor Who (Series 5, my favorite); I got to see MrD enjoy his uncle's company (he was NOT happy that Ben was leaving today!); and we watched The Hobbit in our lovely little local cinema, eating mint-chocolate ice cream while being taken back to Middle Earth.
(Btw, every critical thing that's been said about The Hobbit, in terms of structure and pacing? Probably all objectively true...but absolutely none of that changed my deep, deep pleasure in the film. I enjoyed every single minute of it, and I cannot wait to see it again, regardless of any objective flaws.)
We even had a mini-Christmas celebration yesterday, trading our gifts with Ben - and because he is an awesome brother, I got Tina Connolly's Ironskin, which I am really loving so far! I tend to be very, very wary of new, novelized adaptations of classic novels (especially classic novels I love, like Jane Eyre), because they're written so often as straight adaptations where exactly the same things happen in the same order (only in a different setting), and I end up thinking...well, what was the point of that? I'd rather just re-read the original.
But Ironskin (at least 50 pages in!) is doing really fascinatingly different things from the original, with great, evocative fantasy worldbuilding that genuinely changes the story and characters in ways that are really intriguing.
And I really need good books right now. These last few days...well, you guys all know the news reports flooding in. I've spent a lot of time in the last few days crying, signing petitions (including this one) and hugging MrD hard. I wish I had money to donate to The Brady Campaign, but - as I have done ever since losing a relative of mine to random gun violence a few years ago - I have been signing every petition and taking every other internet action they suggest to me.
When all the petitions have been signed, though, and when the news reports have been read...I have to stop, at some point. Because otherwise it just becomes a spiral that goes nowhere good.
I'm so grateful for good books and movies and a great brotherly visit. This afternoon I'll be reading MrD his newest Astrosaurs! adventure and signing Christmas carols with him by our (enormous! the biggest we've ever had) Christmas tree. Tonight I'll be curling up with Ironskin.
What about you guys?
November 14, 2012, 3.07 pm
In honor of The Princess Bride's 25th anniversary, SFSignal asked several fantasy writers - including me! - how we'd been influenced by the movie. OHHH, was this a dangerous question to ask! (Mainly because: I had to fight to force myself to eventually STOP writing about it! I love The Princess Bride SO much.) My answer begins:
I still remember the night my dad took me and my brother Ben to see a new movie at the theater. I was ten years old, and my brother (who’s also turned out to be an f/sf author) was seven. Neither of us knew anything about what we were about to see, but Dad promised it would be something special.
You can read the rest, and all the other fab responses (from authors including Rachel Caine, Anne Lyle, and more) right here.
What about you guys? How would you answer that question? I'd love to read your responses either here or over there.
November 1, 2012, 10.25 am
Hey, first the PSA - I spent the last few days really sick with either a terrible feverish cold or a flu (can't tell which), and then woke up this morning to find poor MrD throwing up. So, I'm basically out of internet commission this week and won't be replying to any emails very quickly. (Thank goodness, I got an extension on my current freelance project deadline, so at least I'm not panicking about that. I am SO grateful they were understanding about it!)
I really hope I'll start catching up on everything early next week. In the meantime, I am reading all the messages I get even if I don't have the time or energy to answer them yet.
I also finally, several years after the rest of the world, watched Iron Man yesterday while MrD was out trick-or-treating with his cousin. I didn't love it like I loved Thor and The Avengers, but Robert Downey, Jr. is definitely fabulous in the role, and it was the perfect movie to watch while I was feverish - entertaining enough to distract me, without requiring any intellectual commitment whatsoever!
Now I'm looking for good movies to distract a poor little limp four-year-old who is feeling Very Sick. Unfortunately, the first couple Disney movies I thought of aren't available for immediate download on iTunes, and the only others that occurred to me are probably still too scary for him at this point.
Can any of you guys recommend good comforting, not-too-scary movies for little kids?
October 19, 2012, 10.51 am
Less than twenty-four hours until we get in the car for Bristolcon and my launch party - wootwootwoot! :) MrD is most excited about the cookies our friend Trish is baking for it. I am most excited about the people who will be there! (But I am excited about the cookies, too.)
Today I'm forcing myself to rest in preparation for the weekend. So, no writing session - but I did take some time just to dream over Next-Book, with its Pinterest board open and its soundtrack playing on iTunes. Here's one of the things I really love about novel collages, whether they're done on paper or on Pinterest: they work soooo well at pulling out clues from my subconscious!
I started the Pinterest board for Next-Book months ago, while I was still working on the first draft of Low Road (which has its own Pinterest board, of course!). At that point, I was just adding images fairly randomly, whenever I saw something that seemed to fit the mood that I had in mind for the next book. I never even took the time to sit down and look at all the images together until a couple weeks ago. But today, one of those older images suddenly caught my eye for the first time...and something went click! in my head.
A slippery character-arc/plot-point had been nagging at me for at least two weeks...but looking at that image suddenly gave me the answer, exact and perfect. Oh! Of course! How did I not think of it before?
Well, maybe some part of me had thought about it, when I'd first seen that image and thought Yes! That's my next novel. But without my Pinterest board, I wouldn't have consciously thought of it for a long time yet.
And that's why I really love collaging.
I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend! And I can't wait to see some of you at my party TOMORROW. Woot! :)
PS: And if you haven't seen this awesome baby elephant-rescue video...well, trust me, you have to. The ending actually made me cry, but in the best possible way. I loved it!
September 26, 2012, 1.12 pm
Honestly, I'm ready to stop having multiple anxiety dreams a night any night now. Got that, subconscious???
Sigh. I don't think it's gonna happen, though...not yet, anyway. Between A Reckless Magick coming out in five days (and what will people think of it?) and the fact that I'm busy getting my new book ready to send out to critiquers (what will they think of it??) and then, after the next round of revisions, I'll send it to my agent and then to editors (and what will they ALL think of it???)...
...well, ah. It's hard to deny that there is just a tiny little bit of tension vibrating through my spine several thousand times a second, pretty much every second of the day, nowadays!
However! I found (via Jenn Reese) a wonderful quote by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, which is helping a lot:
"Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength."
And in active rebellion against my pre-publication nerves, I'm planning a celebration for Monday's Reckless Magick book-birthday which will not, repeat not, involve endless refreshing of its Amazon.co.uk listing to check its sales rankings! Instead, it will involve a decadent slice of chocolate cheesecake at Caffé Nero. It will involve a really big coffee, and a happy, browsing bookstore trip. And it will involve nothing but pure celebration of how lucky I've been to get to write and publish this trilogy that I love.
Also on Monday, I'll be giving away (internationally) one of the beautiful rings that Emily Mah has designed to tie in with A Reckless Magick. I saw a first picture of the rings on their way to the casters, and even that first picture made me gasp with sheer delight. They're so perfect for the book, and for the series. I can't wait to wear one on Monday while celebrating A Reckless Magick's book birthday!
(I don't have a final photo of the rings to post here yet, but if you want a clue, do check out the pictures and description here of witch's heart jewelry in the 18th and 19th centuries! I've been obsessed with this jewelry pattern ever since I first started writing the Kat books - and one day I will have time to write the Kat short story which involves a witch's heart brooch and a scandalous Christmas gift from Frederick Carlyle to Angeline. Maybe by the time the final book comes out in the US as Stolen Magic, in just over six months...)
And in the meantime, I'm distracting myself deliciously by watching Nigella Lawson's new cooking show, Nigellissima. What is it about her shows? I don't even like to cook! But I find watching her cook (while talking charmingly in that lovely rich voice about the decadence of the food) just endlessly relaxing and comforting.
What about you guys? What are you doing this week, or looking forward to? And can you recommend any good online distractions for me?
September 19, 2012, 12.35 pm
Someday I am going to have time for all the writing I want to do, just for fun! As a reader, I love the fact that some of my favorite paranormal romance authors for adults have started releasing tie-in novellas written in the worlds of their series. I'm reading Thea Harrison's latest ("Hunter's Season") right now, and it's making me absolutely burn to write one of my own in my own genre - I have a novella I would absolutely love to write about the further adventures of Lucy Wingate from Renegade Magic/A Tangle of Magicks! Not to mention all the fun Kat tie-in short stories I still want to write. (Yes, these are fan-fic for my own series. Oops.)
Right now, though, I am just happy that I'm making good progress on my revisions for my next novel...and making notes for things that would also be fun to write on the side whenever I next have time to write just-for-fun pieces on the side! :)
Of course, as I revise, I'm having to finally take time to look up all the small details I left in brackets in my first draft, blithely thinking "Oh, I'll look that up later". Oops. Later has arrived! But for a history geek like me...well, I'm not even going to pretend to be martyred about having to spend time ogling pictures of Victorian-era jewelry cases as research. ;)
Then again, as anyone who follows me on twitter already knows, I would happily ogle jewelry and jewelry boxes any time, for any reason. Probably the most unlike-me thing I've had to do so far in the name of research for this book was to spend ages watching YouTube videos of guns with silencers, to try to figure out how to describe the exact sound that a silenced gunshot makes.
(I'm still working on that, so there may be even more videos in my future. Huh. Not something I would have ever expected to spend a significant amount of time doing! But by the time I've finished revising my novel, I really want to have all the details right.)
I'm also finalizing details for my Reckless Magick launch party at Bristolcon, on October 20th, and it's going to be so much fun. My wonderful publisher is paying for drinks (with different options for kids and adults) and nibbles, and one of my best friends has already promised to bake for the party, too. There'll be music and fun and a Kat-jewelry giveaway (and of course there will be books to be signed, plus a very short reading which I'll do at the beginning), and I would love to see any of you guys there! I'll let you know what the exact time of the party is as soon as I find out, but it should be sometime around the early afternoon, I think.
Alas, our childcare plans for the day fell apart, so Patrick and I will be juggling childcare ourselves through the day...so if anyone wants to have a conversation at Bristolcon, PLEASE do come to the launch party! Because that's the one time I can guarantee I'll actually be able to relax and talk, without having to go tearing off in the middle of a conversation to chase after my very creative and active son... ;)
In other news, Sara Glassman at the Little Professor Bookcenter interviewed me, and I really enjoyed her questions. You can check it out here! (Anyone who's read my blog will probably know the answer to the first question already, but after that they were all-new questions, which made the interview really fun for me to do.)
And I've just discovered my favorite song in a while, via Terri Windling's blog: Rebekka Karijan's "Wear it Like a Crown". So here it is:
How are you guys doing? What's the weirdest thing you've ever had to research? And/or: if anyone could pick a character from the Kat books to get a tie-in story or novella, which character would it be?
September 16, 2012, 10.29 am
And today I am, ahem, expressing my deep bafflement over at the Smack Dab group blog, after watching various movies about writers in a row. The entry is called (Type-)Writing Misconceptions, and here's a snippet:
This month's theme is "Misconceptions about the writing life", and having watched multiple movies lately about writers, I just have to ask...
...What is up with all the typewriters?????
You can read the full entry here - and I'd love to read any comments from you guys! Seriously, I want to get to the bottom of this question. Because it is bizarre!
September 6, 2012, 2.59 pm
Today I am focusing on taking long, deep breaths. I have a major freelance deadline next week, and while I should definitely be able to make it (knock on wood!), that means putting in a LOT of intense work every day, and the pressure is definitely on.
I keep looking back at this picture from our lovely French holiday, though, not just as a reminder (that the joy of that holiday was SO worth the deadline panic I'm facing now!), but also as a symbol: there is good stuff ahead. All I need to do is make it through the next eight days, and everything will be better, truly.
(This was the view from our bedroom in the holiday cottage, looking out onto the gorgeous courtyard garden. Mmm.)
Things that are getting me through these last couple of weeks:
1. Chocolate. Ohhh, so much chocolate. Dark chocolate. Mmmm...
2. Coffee. (Natürlich!) I am actually proud of myself, though - I've forced myself back to just one (large) coffee a day after sliding back into coffee-guzzling habits in France. (Mmm, those French coffees! SO GOOD! But ouch, not so good for my already-quite-high-enough stress levels, really.)
3. Thor! I finally, finally watched Thor (in preparation for re-watching The Avengers), and I was surprised by just how much I loved it. So much humor! So many strong female characters (two of whom didn't even have clear romantic interests)! A geeky girl scientist as Thor's love interest! And genuinely laugh-out-loud moments! Not only am I glad I saw it, but I'll be watching it again.
4. J.D. Robb (a.k.a., Nora Roberts). I had been going through a period of having a really hard time settling into any reading, partially because I'm getting frustrated about lack of time for my own fiction writing. (I am still on my half-time bursary, but I worked fulltime on Low Road for a while last month and now have to work fulltime on my freelance work for just as long to make up for it. I'm really happy and lucky to have the freelance work, which I enjoy, but I cannot even tell you guys just HOW impatient I am to get started on Low Road revisions!)
For some reason, though, JD Robb's Celebrity in Death managed to knock me right out of that reading slump and get me reading happily again. WHEW. Maybe it worked because it's soooo far from what I write myself? The truth is, when I can't do my own writing, I find myself getting irrationally resistant to reading anyone else's novels in my genre. It's like my subconscious is going into a massive sulk, wailing, How come theeey get time to write?
I know, I know, I suck. It's not a good or reasonable attitude, and I do know better, but unfortunately, my subconscious isn't that mature. Luckily, though, I have no desire to write adult mysteries, so I feel totally relaxed reading other people's adult mystery novels! And I really enjoyed that particular one. I love watching her characters develop, and this was one of her more lighthearted mysteries, which made it perfectly in line with my taste.
What about you guys? What have been your highlights this week? And if you're a writer: do you ever find yourself unable to read in your own genre?
May 28, 2012, 10.24 am
It’s my birthday, and I’m sitting on the lounge chair in my warm, sunny garden. The first roses are already out, along with big white, blue, and purple flowers whose names I don’t know. (As you can tell, I’m not the gardener in our family!) There are birds everywhere in the hedges all around, filling the air with chirping and trilling as I sit here and drink my morning latte. Maya keeps wandering over to investigate the sounds, but with a pretty casual air - bird-chasing might be fun for a dog, but even she’s too relaxed to get excited about it.
I can’t remember any other birthday I’ve had in the past ten years when I’ve been able to sit outside in a sunny garden - every other year, it’s either rained or we haven’t had a garden of our own to sit in, until now. I’m really appreciating it this time.
This morning I woke up to birthday messages and virtual gifts in my inbox, and fabulous presents from Patrick and MrD. This is the first birthday where MrD really picked out his presents for me himself, and I love them. I also love my haul of birthday books! They’re a perfect combination of already-favorites that I really love but didn’t own until now (like Caitlen Rubino Bradway’s Ordinary Magic, the one gift I’d told Patrick I REALLY REALLY wanted this year!) and new books that look fabulous (like Lizzie Foley’s Remarkable and an adult romance novel I’d been really wanting, Jill Shalvis’s Head Over Heels, the third in her Lucky Harbor series).
He even found me a secondhand copy of an old childhood favorite I’d been searching for for years, Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays. (I LOVED it as a kid but somehow confused it with the Noel Streatfeild books, so it was only when I went looking for it as an adult that I realized my mistake. Luckily, I adored the Streatfeild books when I discovered them that way! But it wasn’t until I read a great UK book blogger writing about The Saturdays that I finally figured out which book really had been the one that I loved back when I was eight.)
Because I have a wonderful husband, I’ve even finally got the DVD of the new version of Jane Eyre (which I’d never managed to see in the cinema) with a promise that yes, he really will watch it with me, since it was a birthday gift. The power of birthdays! :)
This afternoon, we’re planning a birthday picnic with MrD, and then birthday brownie-cake. Thank goodness, after working like a maniac all weekend, I finished my copyedits early, so I get to take today off from doing any real work (although I’ve still got just a few pages I want to go back over one last time tomorrow morning before I send those copyedits off). When I first finished my copyedits, I thought, OK, great, I’ll use the child-free time on Monday to work on my WIP, then! But then...
Well, then I read an email from a really smart friend asking me: When are you taking any time off??? And when I looked back on the last few weeks of ER trips, parenting worry and high stress…well. Let’s just say I couldn’t think of any days off in the recent past, including weekends.
So today, here I am. I’m 35, and just this once, sitting in a sunny garden, drinking my latte and simply luxuriating in my hoard of presents feels like just the way to spend the morning.
May 1, 2012, 6.58 pm
Yesterday I got a file sent electronically by my aunt, with the title: "Surprise!" It was a video of me at ten years old, way back in 1987, being interviewed by her about what I wanted to do when I grew up (write, of course!) and exactly what I wanted to write. The first thing I said was: "I want to write some children's books..." Then I said, "And I want to write some fairy tales."
Well. Since I'm now writing children's fantasy novels...talk about a vivid reminder that I really am living my childhood dream! It was pretty amazing to see it.
I tweeted about it yesterday, and my agent replied: "You should make a chart of the things 10 year old Steph thought about the writers lifestyle vs reality. :)" So here it is:
The one other thing that really affected me as I watched the video was listening to my ten-year-old self talk with such frustration - and shame! - about how I just could not manage to write any story longer than a couple of pages. I felt SO BAD and so frustrated with myself about that!
I still remember, a year or two later, one night when my dad found me crying with frustration because I couldn't make it more than a chapter into any novel before the words ran out. He put his hand on my shoulder and reassured me: "The novels will come. Just give yourself time." It really helped me to hear that (obviously, since I still remember it, over 20 years later!), but at the time, I only hoped that he was right - I wasn't sure of it at all.
I did learn how to write stories longer than 2 pages. The novels did come. And I'm going to try to apply that memory to the things I struggle with now in my writing. I will figure out how to do them, too, even if I can't do them yet.
And oh, am I grateful for how far I've come already!
Because Jenn Reese asked for it, here is the video of me as a very geeky ten-year-old. The person interviewing me is my aunt, and at various points, you can hear my little brothers piping up (one of them seven, the other a baby). The sound quality isn't great (this is a 25-year-old video!), but if you're really curious... Here is the proof: yes, sometimes it really is possible to turn childhood dreams into reality.
And wow, is that cool. :)
April 20, 2012, 9.01 pm
Honestly, it's been one of THOSE weeks - but tonight was perfect. We took MrD to his very first movie at a theater, our local cinema, which is small and friendly and fun, with fabulous ice cream. We watched The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, which was silly and funny and totally entertaining. Evil Queen Victoria! Terribly misguided Charles Darwin! Tons of women with good swordfighting skills, Hugh Grant and David Tennant as the two main voice-actors, and an adorable dodo! It was just a perfect Friday night flick.
And to finish off this week's treats for myself, my short story ebook "Undead Philosophy 101" is now up on Smashwords (for 99 cents), Amazon.com (for 99 cents) and Amazon.co.uk (for 77p). This is the story I wrote as a Christmas gift for my (then) philosophy grad student brother Ben when he asked for a funny vampire story set in East Lansing, our hometown.
(The premise was also inspired by years and years of watching in bafflement as T-shirt-wearing barhoppers waited in line outside the bars in freezing East Lansing winters, often with snow falling onto their bare skin...obviously, it only made sense if the fashion leaders were secretly vampires who didn't feel the cold! ;) )
Anyway, it was a fun story to write, and I love the cover that Patrick designed for it:
Eighteen-year-old Amanda has finally escaped her unconventional upbringing in northern Michigan to go to college. All she wants now is to concentrate on her classes and ignore the vampires blending in on campus...but when her roommate is bitten, it's time for Amanda to take action.
(Some of you might remember this story from when it was posted on the December Lights Project!)
This is the second and last of the short stories I'm putting out this month, and it's been really fun to do it. I will be putting out more in the future, so let me know if there are any you'd specifically like to see as ebooks. (You can see the whole list of published stories on my website.)
Now I'm going back to reading my ARC of Garth Nix's A Confusion of Princes, which is wonderful - just so much fun. It feels to me a bit like a YA version of an Iain M. Banks space opera - it has all the rich imagination, excitement and humor of some of my favorite British space operas for adults (space-scooters shaped like manta rays! weird nanotech! great battles! sly comedy!), but it's all streamlined into a faster pace and with more emotionally-connected characters to fit the YA genre. As I read it, I keep thinking of more and more relatives and friends who would love it too.
Hoping you guys all get to treat yourself in some way this weekend!
November 17, 2011, 3.24 pm
Today, I am going to list some of the things that brought me joy in the last few days:
1. A picnic. This morning, after I finished my writing session, I made two cheese sandwiches, packed them with an apple, a flask of water, and (I'll be coming back to this later!) some luscious leftover panettone. Then MrD and I shared our picnic lunch on a bench in front of our local library, which we both love. By mutual agreement, as soon as we'd finished eating, we went inside and read book after book after book together. A picnic and lots of reading. What could be better?
2. Panettone. How could I not have discovered panettone earlier? According to Wikipedia, panettone is an Italian Christmas cake, but none of the pictures I found online looked quite like the gooey, raisiny, melty wonder that I discovered at my favorite coffeeshop yesterday for a ridiculously low price. I bought one for MrD and me to share, but it was so mouthwatering that for the first time ever in such a situation, I actually broke down and bought a second one afterwards. (We didn't eat all of the second one - I wasn't that lost to its awesomeness! But the leftovers stored beautifully in the fridge.)
3. Good writing sessions. You guys know I've been working to forgive myself on the days when other stuff gets in the way...but yesterday I wrote 1900 words on the freelance project, today I wrote 900+, and I'm confidently expecting to have a full draft of my first big freelance project finished by the end of tomorrow morning. (Knock on wood!) That gives me two full weeks to polish it before it's due, and just the thought of that leeway makes every muscle in my shoulders relax. This was a new kind of writing challenge for me, and it is such a good feeling to prove to myself that I really can do it. (I hope! We'll see what other people think of it once it's done.)
4. This "Tiny Desk Concert" by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, and Stuart Duncan. (Just click on the link to watch it.)
Yo-Yo Ma is one of my favorite musicians in the world, and I love getting to see him play with other truly amazing musicians. You can listen to the concert audio-only on the NPR website, if you prefer, but I loved watching the dynamic among the musicians, especially in the first, funny piece as their expressions bring out even more of the humor in the music, along with its beauty.
I LOVE chamber music - back when I was training to be a musician, lo those many years ago, my very favorite thing was to play in a wind quintet. SO much more fun than either solo or orchestral work! And it's such a gift to be able to watch such incredible musicians having musical fun together.
What about you guys? What's brought you joy this week?
October 4, 2011, 1.55 pm
For the past week, pretty much all of my energy has gone into parenting, as we had (good) Big Events going on around here. A party! Party preparation (i.e., massive shopping trips and cleaning frenzies)! Museum trips! And more! It was all genuinely great and definitely the right stuff to prioritize...but it ate up a LOT of energy, as you can probably guess by the fact that this is my first blog post in over a week.
Frustratingly, I'm having to accept that this current week is now going to HAVE to be devoted to recovery time, because the ME/CFS demands it...so I'll probably stay pretty quiet, online and elsewhere, while my energy recharges. (Having CFS makes me kind of like a rechargeable but leaky battery, one that takes a long time to charge but then spends all the energy all too quickly.)
There have been lots of good things in the past week, though, even apart from the big joyful parenting events. Here are some of them:
1. Patrick and I finally, FINALLY saw the final Harry Potter film...and wow. Wow, wow, wow. I can't remember the last time I sobbed SO MUCH during any movie - or the last time I loved a movie quite that much. If it hadn't been for the fact that our babysitter expected us back home, I would have stayed and watched it all over again in the evening showing. (We saw the matinee.) I loved all those books so much but especially the final one, and while the movies have been pretty changeable (some of them I love, some of them I REALLY don't), this one delivered on every level. As a huge Harry Potter fangirl, I was blown away, overwhelmed and in love...and as a writer, I was so deeply, deeply inspired.
It really reminded me that THAT is the point of writing - not the publishing contracts, the financial earnings, the Bookscan numbers or the career issues that are all too easy (and toxic) to focus on, but the chance just to try for an achievement like that, a story so full of magic and intense emotional power. That's what makes it all worthwhile, and that's what I have to focus on in every single writing session. I doubt I'll ever manage to achieve what JK Rowling did in The Deathly Hallows (built up to by the wonderful series as a whole), but just the fact that she did it sets the bar incredibly high - and I LOVE that. I love having that as an inspiration and something to aim for. (What's that old saying - if you aim for the stars, you might at least land on the moon?)
2. I read Linda Urban's new novel Hound Dog True (my treat to myself for getting UK payments for Kat Books 2 and 3) and oh, did I love it. You can read my full Goodreads review here, but here's a quick snippet:
...When I closed the book at the end, I felt warm all through, and slightly weepy again but in the best possible way. I'm so glad to own this one in hardcover - I want to read it again and again over the years. And I can't wait for Linda Urban's next novel.
3. I kept knitting. Oh, the knitting! It's like Valium but without any of the side-effects of drugs. I reached the official end of the shawl I'm knitting myself (it was supposed to end when it was 36 inches long), but I've kept going anyway, partly because I want it to be REALLY warm and cozy to wrap around myself in winter (36 inches was just right for a pretty, decorative shawl, whereas I want a big knitted HUG all winter long), and partly because...well, it feels too good to stop! With luck, I'll manage to stop myself before it gets so big it fills the house. If nothing else, I have only three balls of wool left in that color...
What about you guys? What have your highlights been this past week?
(And also, don't forget that the giveaway for the Kat charm bracelet is open through the end of tomorrow.)
August 19, 2011, 11.21 am
It's a Welsh August over here...which means that today is cool and cloudy, just warm enough to crack open a few windows. This has been a quiet week for me - the CFS demanding its due after so much travel lately - but luckily, when I haven't been working on the freelance project or looking after MrD, there's been lots of interesting stuff to see online.
1. I loved this profile of Frances Oldham Kelsey, the FDA doctor "who saved countless lives and protected any number of babies from grievous harm, using nothing but science and her own strength of character." I found it really inspirational to read about how she stood up to massive pressure and refused to ignore her own scientific instincts. I had never heard of her until I read that profile, but I'm really glad I have now.
2. You guys might remember me raving last year about Kate Elliott's Cold Magic, an alternate-history fantasy novel that I absolutely adored. Tor.com just published a fascinating, in-depth interview with Kate Elliott, where she talks about different kinds of writing, music, and much more. Even though I don't tend to read much epic fantasy myself (it just doesn't press my personal buttons the way historical fantasy/alt-history does), I really loved her description of it in the interview:
...What that means is that for me at the heart of epic fantasy is the emotional response it engenders in the reader. That emotional response is going to be something different for each reader rather than a static characteristic required for all but it should be deep and it should be big. For me it’s a teenage girl standing on a wind-swept promontory overlooking a vast landscape and distant ocean; she’s got a bow and arrows slung over her back and a falcata at her hip, a faithful dog and horse at her side, sturdy boots and a cloak, and a long journey ahead of her. By which I don’t mean that any story — not even mine — has to have that scene in it to be epic fantasy. I mean that when I read epic fantasy, I want to feel a sense of discovery and adventure and anticipation and vista. I want to feel unbalanced, destroyed, and remade.
Doesn't that sound delicious? You can read the full interview here.
3. The upcoming movie Cheerful Weather for the Wedding looks like exactly the kind of fluffy historical British fun I really enjoy. It's a comedy-drama set around a 1930s dysfunctional upper-class British family wedding, with every single British (and American, in the case of Elizabeth McGovern) actor whom you'd expect in that kind of film, and if you click on "Promo" on the website, you can get the code to watch the trailer. I'll definitely be watching the film when it comes out!
4. And if you're in the UK yourself, the Bookbabblers are giving away three sets of A Most Improper Magick AND A Tangle of Magicks. The giveaway is open until 7pm Sunday for UK residents.
What about you guys? What have you found online this week?
August 10, 2011, 2.15 pm
As everyone who's seen the news lately knows, it's been a really worrying and sad few days in the UK. In my tiny, peaceful Welsh town, I'm too far from the riots to be able to give any intelligent commentary on them, but like everyone else, I have spent a lot of the last few days feeling unhappy, worried and tense as they've taken place in cities that I love, and where many of my friends live. I'm horrified, sad and deeply concerned for everyone involved.
Here in Wales, though, life keeps going on in a nearly-normal way, even as the temptation is to spend all day reading or listening to the news. Here are some of the things that I've been doing and things that I've found comforting this week:
I guest-posted on Bookbabblers about 5 Favorite Reads that I've discovered recently - Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy and Sheela Chari's Vanished. You can read the entry here, and I'd love to read comments about books you've found and loved recently.
I also went to the library - always a comfort activity for me - and I listened to this 2 Cellos version of "Fields of Gold" over and over again. It's beautiful, melancholy, and incredibly soothing:
I got a wonderful package in the mail - beautiful new earrings designed by Emily Mah for the launch of A Tangle of Magicks! They're shaped like drops of water - the Bath water filled with wild magic in Kat's adventure - and the text, "Sisters/Friends", is incredibly thematic to the book. In person, these earrings are tiny and adorable, and I love them. I've worn them every day since they arrived, and I'll be giving away a pair at the launch party on Friday...after which, Emily will start selling them on her site.
I also saw a photo of the final version of the beautiful charm bracelet she's designed for Kat, Incorrigible/A Most Improper Magick, which I LOVE:
The text on the bracelet reads (in Jane Austen-style script): "Everything's better with highwaymen!" The charms include Kat's mother's two magic books, a highwayman mask, the magic mirror, and the key to her mother's cabinet of secrets. It is SO beautiful and perfect, and I can't wait to wear it myself.
And today I had the most amazing surprise, when someone on twitter pointed out to me that Robin McKinley - one of my favorite writers since I was ten years old, and one of the writers who inspired me to write fantasy in the first place - had recommended Kat Book 1 (in its A Most Improper Magick edition) on her blog! I actually almost hyperventilated. My heartbeat was racing for ages afterwards, I was so, so excited and happy and...it was a really, really amazing moment. I really wish I could go back and tell my ten-year-old self that that would happen!
So, you know...it's been a really, really weird, mixed week over here. Although I've been dealing with a real CFS fallout after all of my recent traveling, so many good things have happened to me in my peaceful little town - but that has just not been the case for a lot of the UK, so much so that I feel weird and guilty even posting about my good news here. If I didn't, though, I don't know what I would post, because I don't even feel qualified to choose between the wildly contradictory opinion pieces I've seen on the serious outside news - I just don't know which ones are closest to the truth, or which I should be passing on here.
So here I am instead, on a Wednesday, passing on the things that have made me feel happy or comforted this week, no matter how tense all the news from the outside world became. I would truly love to hear about what's getting you guys through this week, too.
July 9, 2011, 7.04 pm
My brother Ben is in town this weekend, meeting MrD for the very first time, sending Maya wild with joy through lots of extra petting and walks, and making me awfully happy, too. It had been way, way too long since I'd gotten to hang out with him. (Are you still allowed to refer to someone as your "little" brother when they're eight inches taller than you? As an oldest sibling, I say YES! Kat, though, would probably say no, so hmm...)
Right now we're about to eat an Indian takeaway dinner, so this blog entry has to be brief...but I just wanted to share the "Horrible Histories" sketch that made us both laugh a lot last night. It may be the worst possible dining experience - the reality television show "Come Dine With Me", set in ancient Rome:
Hope everyone's having a good - and non-Horrible - weekend!
June 30, 2011, 11.54 am
Huh. After two-and-a-half days of mysterious non-connection, our internet just-as-mysteriously reappeared yesterday at noon. Why did it go away in the first place? Who knows? Why did it come back again? I have no idea! The scheduled engineer isn't even due to arrive to fix it until this morning. I'm still waiting for him now, in hopes that he can find some explanation for the mysteries. But it was honestly a bit pathetic just HOW excited Patrick and I both were yesterday when the internet turned itself on again out of nowhere. We are not people who live happily without that internet connection, anymore.
Waiting for the engineer right now feels only-too-symbolic. Right now I'm waiting in a bit of a limbo for various responses to different projects, any one of which could arrive any day now and totally change my writing priorities. And of course A Tangle of Magicks comes out in just 32 days! That feels totally surreal and exciting, both at the same time. I meant to have a whole new section of my website up for it by today, but, well, losing the internet didn't help with that...sigh. Soon, I hope!
But since I do feel in a bit of a limbo right now, it's hard to settle into fiction-writing - which means that I really needed and loved this video, "29 Ways to Stay Creative":
My favorite line from the video is one I think I really need to tattoo onto the backs of my hands so that I can be forcibly reminded, over and over again:
Stop trying to be someone else's perfect.
Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Oh, do I need to hear that, and on a daily basis!
What about you guys? Are you waiting for anything right now? Join me here in the waiting room - I have chocolates! :)
And if you're not currently waiting on anything - what's inspired you recently? Any good discoveries, either on- or offline?
June 14, 2011, 3.42 pm
1. After my language-of-fans and highwayman song discoveries, I spent all weekend mainlining Horrible Histories episodes on the BBC iPlayer and on YouTube. I'm now debating whether to buy ALL the Horrible Histories DVDs now with the last of my birthday gift certificate money. I so, so wish that show had been around when I was ten years old! But I am still loving it even at 34.
2. I had the best mail today - April Lindner's Jane and Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic both arrived! I am actually so excited about both of them that it's hard to pick up either one. Does that ever happen to you guys? The anticipation is so great - and the competing pulls are both so strong - that it's hard to break the tension by settling on just one and picking it up! I'm also really excited that my pre-ordered copy of Sonia Gensler's The Revenant is heading toward me in an Amazon.co.uk box right now. I have had a REALLY good time with my birthday gift certificates!
3. I would be really, really happy if no one ever again wrote a sentence that goes like this: "Women [or even more blatantly "All women"] do X, and men do Y." I'm happy to be a woman. I've always felt like a woman, and also a feminist. And yet, somehow, I never, ever fit into any of those sentences (even when they're written by smart people whose politics I generally agree with), any more than the men I know fit into the generalizations about men in those same sentences.
Now, I do understand that anecdotal evidence doesn't equal statistical evidence. So I really am perfectly happy to accept that I am statistically unusual for my gender, and so are the men I know. But please, could we all just start adding the word "most" to our gender-generalization sentences? Just say "Most women do X while most men do Y", and I'll shrug and go along with it...without feeling like something's clearly gone very, very wrong with my two X-chromosomes.
(This particular rant was sparked by some stuff I've seen online lately, but it was also a problem several years ago when the Lord of the Rings films came out and various prominent female columnists in the UK sighed knowingly and went on at length about how obviously "all" women were bored by this whole type of film, especially the battle scenes, etc...and I thought, "I beg your pardon?" Because...well, yeah. If any of you were reading my blog back then, you'll know what a huge LotR fan I am, and I'm lucky enough to be friends with plenty of women who feel the same. "All women/men" sentences are just never a good idea!)
4. And now to make up for my rant, have some more Horrible Histories! I love this hilariously awesome Viking song (which was recommended to me by the fabulous Robin Bridges), "Literally":
June 10, 2011, 4.38 pm
After this, I swear I will stop writing blog entries today...but in Kat's honor, I could not possibly refrain from sharing just one more fabulous Horrible Histories piece, Dick Turpin's Highwayman Song:
(And in contrast, if you haven't seen it before, you have to watch the music video they're riffing off, which I've always thought of as Kat's theme song: Adam and the Ants' Stand and Deliver!)
June 10, 2011, 12.50 pm
WHEW. I just finished the first draft of a proposal for my WIP. (Which will definitely not be the last draft...or even the second-to-last one. Sigh. Proposals are HARD!) Just as I was starting to feel disgruntled - where was the celebratory champagne for my superheroic efforts? where was the chocolate? where were the wildly cheering crowds??? - the doorbell rang. A delivery man stood outside carrying a large package from Simon & Schuster.
Guess what? Fate had actually come through for me with a wildly exaggerated reward! No, there wasn't any champagne or chocolate inside the package...but there was something even better: beautiful, beautiful ARCs of Renegade Magic (the US version of Kat 2). Ohhhh, this cover is beautiful. Ohhh, it felt amazing to hold the ARCs in my hand!!!
And it's a sign of just HOW excited I am that I'm willing to post a picture here despite the fact that I REALLY REALLY REALLY need a haircut. But just look at those gorgeous ARCs!
So! It is a really good Friday, all in all. And even though I'm feeling flattened by my MONUMENTAL, AMAZING EXERTIONS (okay, now even I am starting to feel skeptical of my own hyperbole), luckily lots of other people have been posting great things on the internet for me to link to:
1. If you regularly read any fantasy or science fiction magazines, you've probably have read some of Theodora Goss's lovely short stories. Although I admire her work a lot, I don't usually personally identify with the way she thinks about writing. (She talks and thinks a lot on her blog about the seriousness of writers as Artists with a capital 'A', whereas I can't let myself think about what I do that way because it makes me feel wildly itchy and over-sensitized. It actually stops me from being able to create at all, because I'm too freaked out about whether it's Serious and Important enough. In order to relax and be creative, I need to think of writing not as Art but as Play, even when it's really, really hard play that takes tons of thought and effort.)
(Which is not, by the way, to imply that either mode is better or worse than the other. Everyone has to figure out what works for them, and I find it really fascinating to read about what makes other writers tick, especially when they work so differently from me.)
I do read her blog regularly, though, because she writes so beautifully, and every so often something on there really resonates for me despite our differences in personal approach. This week, she wrote something that made everything in me go: Click! and YES:
There’s one final thing I want to add, which is that underlying the foundation of belief is something deeper, something like a sort of calm. It’s as though when I sit down to write, my mind goes home – to the place it always wants to go. To a fishing village in Cornwall, or nineteenth-century London, or wherever my writing takes me, but really to the shore of the sea of imagination. The place where all invention comes from.
Imagine standing on a shore, looking out at the sea, a strange green sea whose waves are always coming in, edged with foam. And the waters of that sea, and the spray, are always forming into shapes: hippocamps, sorceresses, castles. Magical rings, glass mountains, dragons. Warriors. Witches. Trees that bear flowers and leaves and fruit all at once. All the ingredients of story. (I suppose in a way I’m playing with J.R.R. Tolkien’s image of the soup. Because the soup of story is made by human beings, but the sea of imagination – that existed long before us, and will exist long after.)
In a sense I always live both where I physically am, and on the shore of that sea. Because throughout the day, my mind is imagining. I’m living as a writer even when I’m not writing.
I really love all of that, but particularly that one line: It’s as though when I sit down to write, my mind goes home – to the place it always wants to go. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. That really is exactly how it feels. And you can read the rest of that blog entry here.
2. And on a lighter note - oh, how I loved this adorable Horrible Histories video on the 18th-century language of fans. So much fun!
(Found via Two Nerdy History Girls, one of my very favorite blogs.)
What about you guys? What's making you happy this week?
May 29, 2011, 12.28 pm
Sometimes it's really useful, as an author, to be reminded of just how subjective entertainment really is.
Last night, Patrick and I watched the latest Doctor Who episode. (No serious spoilers, I promise!) I'm a huge Doctor Who fan and have been ever since I was a kid. This episode was really well-written, brilliantly acted...and the revelation at the end (which had been built up to very cleverly throughout the series so far) really, really traumatized me, to the point where I actually no longer want to watch the rest of the series.
Yes, the plot development was very clever. But no, I don't think I'm going to watch any more episodes. For me, it took the show to a level so dark and upsetting that the show stopped feeling fun to me. And that's how I've always seen Doctor Who - as fun adventure that I can safely escape into. So for me, it felt like a broken promise to have something so awful happen to someone I cared about in the show.
But those are the key words: for me. This morning on twitter I saw someone tweet that she had been right about to give up on the series for different reasons, but then that revelation came, and suddenly she was on board again, drawn into the story and loving it. For her, clearly, that darkness was anything but a problem...and like it or not, the show-runners never made me any promises that nothing that bad would ever happen. Those were purely my own personal expectations.
And what is "too dark" anyway? Lots of dark things have happened in the last several series, none of which crossed my personal lines until now. This one didn't cross that other tweeter's line. And the thing is, I could come up with some plausible-sounding theories about why this plot point was morally bad and why it was wrong for them to do it (after all, I went to grad school, where I had to regularly write essays at a moment's notice, putting forward arguments I couldn't have cared less about - I can spin theories at the tip of a hat!) - but all that would actually, genuinely mean was: I hated that that happened. It hit my personal hot buttons, in a big way. But it had exactly the opposite effect on other people.
And as a writer, who has to read bad reviews as well as good ones of my work, it's really, really helpful to be reminded of just how subjective all this stuff really is.
May 27, 2011, 10.15 am
There are many things I regret about the way I spent my undergraduate years of college. Why did I let myself be influenced by friends who looked down on f/sf and romance? Why did I spend so much of my time pretending not to like the books/music/plays I really liked, just so that I could fit in with people I thought were smarter than me? Why, oh why, did I watch SO MANY endless existentialist French films while dying inside?
Now I know the answer: so that I could truly appreciate this video, which made me laugh hysterically. It's the 3-minute-long French existentialist version of Star Wars, which I found on the 2 Nerdy History Girls blog:
"Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I exist, and I find it nauseating."
Oh, this made me happy.
(In a similar fashion, I finally realized a few years ago that it had been worth sitting through the movie The Omen after all - because it made me get all the fabulous jokes in Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman's Good Omens.)
Just as an added bonus for anyone who is either an academic or (like me) an ex-academic, check out this utterly accurate answer to the question "How many historians does it take to change a lightbulb?" (which includes, of course, the response from peer reviewers). Yes, it's esoteric humor, but if you happen to have spent any time in grad school - or better yet, if you've ever submitted a paper to a peer-reviewed journal - I promise that you will enjoy it, too. (I found that one via Theodora Goss's blog.)
What about you guys? What were your favorite finds on the internet this week?
PS: I keep forgetting to mention here - I was interviewed by R.L. LaFevers (the author of the fabulous Theodosia books) over at The Enchanted Inkpot a couple of days ago. It was one the hardest set of interview questions I've ever had to answer, which resulted in one of my favorite interviews I've ever done. You can read it here.
May 12, 2011, 12.04 pm
Today, the ME/CFS has clamped down and is demanding payment for all the cool stuff I did in the last few days. Sigh. Thank goodness for excellent hot chocolate (courtesy of Patrick), and interesting internet links. Here's a roundup of stuff I've loved and really NOT-loved in the last few days:
1. Terri Windling's blog The Drawing Board has become my very favorite blog to read. I enjoy almost every entry I read there, and many of them move me and make me think about things in new (often better) ways. My favorite entry this week: The Things That Save Us
2. I've raved here frequently about how much I adore Alyxandra Harvey's Drake Chronicles - young adult romantic comedies complete with vampires, swordfighting, and oodles of witty banter. Delicious! When I read them, I feel like Harvey and I must have grown up loving the same classic books, like Prisoner of Zenda and Jane Austen's and Georgette Heyer's novels, and these are her own responses to those books, just like Kat is mine. (Who knows if that's actually true? But it's how I feel when I read the books.) She's running a great contest right now on her website, in conjunction with this trailer for the series:
(I have to confess that I love the books but do not love the trailer - I'm posting it purely to enter the contest, because I want the contest prize SO badly. But that's a good sign about how addictive her books are - and you should read the books even if you don't like the trailer!)
3. Jackie Dolamore is also holding a fun contest organized around the upcoming paperback release (on May 24th!) of her novel Magic Under Glass, which I reviewed last year on Goodreads, calling it "A really lovely mash-up of Jane Eyre with fairy tale elements. Totally charming and romantic!" If you feel the same, you should check out the contest, which is aimed straight at giving fans more fun.
Remember my Hard Truths blog entry about that upcoming novel about a female P.I. which mentioned she ALWAYS successfully exposed ALL the disability claimants as fraudsters? Well, last night I was reading another recent novel by a totally different author (also one I've loved for years), also about a female P.I...and midway through the novel, in a casual paragraph of background detail about the heroine's job, it was mentioned that those disability cases are always the easiest to close, because "Invariably" the claimants will all end up posting on Facebook about how great their health is and bragging about how they plan to spend their ill-gotten money...
...Gaaaaah. I can't believe this is becoming a meme, but it really seems to be - whenever (good! respected! nice people, even!) authors want to throw in some background detail about what female P.I.'s do in their dayjob, this is becoming the detail du jour to toss in for a note of "realism".
Too many good authors are falling into this trap, and it really needs to stop.
I didn't put the book down, this time, because that detail wasn't tossed in until midway through the book, when I was already hooked on the plot and characters. But it made me wince and grit my teeth, and took away a lot of the pleasure I'd been feeling as I read. And I really don't want to come across that note again when I'm reading to relax and escape on a bad ME/CFS day. Please.
April 13, 2011, 11.31 am
And a quick links round-up, since they've been piling up lately in the open tabs on my browser...
And in the non-me, me, me! group of links...
And this video of a cat and dolphin playing together (which I found via Jo Knowles) is just unbelievably adorable. MrD and I both love it!
What about you guys? What are the open tabs on your browsers - or the online links you've been loving this week?
March 29, 2011, 4.19 pm
1. Right now Patrick and MrD are in town together without me, doing manly things like visiting the bookshop and my favorite coffeeshop. I am counting down the minutes until they come back with my promised decaf latte! It was one of the only reasons I allowed them to leave without me in the first place. Mmm, those lattes are soooooo good... (And that really says something, when we're talking about decaf!)
2. Author Lindsey Leavitt (whose fabulous-looking YA novel Sean Griswold's Head is about a girl who's just found out that her dad has Multiple Sclerosis) is donating $1 to MS Research for every comment left on her blog entry about National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. Needless to say, I've already left a comment there, and I hope a lot of other people will, too. I have a funny, smart, kind, strong friend who received her own MS diagnosis a few years ago, so this is an issue I care about strongly. I'm looking forward to reading Lindsey's novel when it comes out in the UK this summer (it's already out in America), and I hope that some of you guys will pop over to her blog entry, too.
3. I forgot to mention this last week, but after I finished reading Sheela Chari's Vanished, I wrote a full review of it on Goodreads. The short version? I ADORED it. About five minutes after finishing it, I was already desperate to read more books by Sheela and had tweeted her begging to become a beta reader for whatever she writes next! I am normally friendly to other authors, but not THAT friendly, trust me. ;) I REALLY loved this book, and I think a whole lot of kids and other adults will love it, too. This is one book that is really worth a pre-order.
4. I've joined a brand-new group blog made up of MG authors, Smack Dab in the Middle. I was really pleased when Holly Schindler (who organized it) invited me to join the party, along with lots of other great authors like Jody Feldman, Dia Calhoun, Alan Gratz, Irene Latham, and more. I'll be posting there every 16th of the month from now on.
5. It's seven days until Kat, Incorrigible comes out in the US and Canada. NOT that I'm checking Amazon.com or BN.com every single day to see if it's in stock yet...er...well, not TOO many times a day, really. What is "too many times", anyway? Anyway, I'm desperate enough to start offering bribes.
I know that Kat's already been spotted in a few libraries in the US, so I assume that sometime in the next week or so it'll start filtering into more libraries and bookstores...and since I can't go look myself, will any Americans or Canadians who read this keep a look-out for me? Anyone who lets me know that they've seen the North American edition on a shelf somewhere will get my deepest gratitude, and anyone who actually takes a picture for me will ALSO get (if they want one) a signed bookplate in the mail. I really, really want to see it on shelves! Yes, I really am desperate. ;)
6. But to make up for that, let me share the silly cat video that made MrD laugh and laugh this weekend even when he was feeling most sick - so in other words, it really saved all of us:
March 25, 2011, 1.37 pm
Aiyee. MrD's illness is back with a vengeance, I was up with him for much of last night while he fought a high fever, and he's off at the doctor's office with Patrick now...
...so in other words, I REALLY needed something to make me laugh today, and thanks to the internet, I found it: this brilliant "Jane Austen Drinking Game" skit:
(As an MG author, I guess I ought to say in warning: yes, this video does contain images of people drinking...but since it's on a theatrical stage, I'm pretty sure it's not really beer in those cans!)
And my one other consolation today is Sheela Chari's Vanished, which I'm reading as an e-galley and absolutely adoring. I probably would have finished it by now except that Netgalley insists I read it using Adobe Digital Editions on my laptop, and ohhh, how I hate reading books that way! Last night I read Vanished for absolutely as long as I could, until my head hurt so much that it forced me to stop. Today I'm reading it in greedy gulps during my time off from childcare.
I'll post a full review when I finish, but for now I can say that at 130 pages in, it's already become one of my very favorite MG novels in a long time. I can't wait to buy a printed copy in August!
What about you guys? Have you found any good videos lately? Or alternately, what have you read and loved recently?
March 21, 2011, 7.05 pm
OK, I'm not going to whine (much) about the fact this is Day 9 of toddler sickness. (Sadly, I spoke too soon on Thursday - but antibiotics have now been applied, so...knock on wood!) Or about how tired I am. (Ohhhh, am I tired!) Instead, I'm going to talk about a couple of the good bits that have carried me through and made me feel better about everything.
This Saturday, I got an amazing package in the mail - a beautiful Glamourkin pendant sent by Stephanie Gunn. Stephanie's an Australian spec-fic writer whose blog I've loved for years, and as we've gone through some very similar life experiences in semi-parallel, we've been able to help each other through them. Getting the pendant felt like a double-gift - I would have loved it anyway because it's beautiful and so exactly my kind of thing, but getting it from a friend as a just-thinking-of-you gift during a difficult time made it really, really special.
I've been wearing it pretty much non-stop since it arrived on Saturday morning, and it makes me feel better every time I look down and see it!
And then this morning I discovered (via Terri Windling's blog) a new-to-me band that I absolutely love. Katzenjammer is an all-girl Norwegian band that mixes up Balkan folk music, klezmer, and punk, and their sound is quirky, fun, and overflowing with crazy energy - energy I seriously need right now! I've been listening to their songs on Myspace all day today, and it's helped my mood so much.
Here's the first song of theirs I heard, because listening to it feels to me like getting an infusion of enthusiasm and positivity:
What about you guys? What's cheered you up lately?
And also (or alternately), can I pick your brains for some advice? I've been asked to take part in another auction for Japan, and I don't want to offer them exactly the same item I offered the last one (a signed Kat, Incorrigible hardcover). What else might be useful or fun to offer instead? I'm drawing a bit of a blank right now...sadly, as much as I'd like to offer another Kat2 ARC, I just can't at this point because I don't have enough of them. But...what else would people genuinely like?
(I promise that making suggestions will NOT in any way commit you to bidding in the auction - I'm just desperate for ideas at this point!)
February 28, 2011, 4.33 pm
OK, I just have to get this out of the way first: I LOVE being a mom. You guys know that, right? I adore MrD wholeheartedly, and I wouldn't give up parenting for anything. Seriously, it's kind of scary what happens when you have a child. You find yourself willing to do ANYTHING for them, to the point where - honest to God - I found myself thinking earlier today, as I looked at MrD:
I would fight to my last breath for you.
Yes, it really does get that melodramatic in my head, from time to time.
BUT. In the past few weeks, I've read sooooo many descriptions of fabulous writers' retreats that friends online have attended, and ohhhh have I felt wistful. The thing is (warning: many mixed metaphors ahead!), right now I'm trying to dream up a new novel from scratch, set in an era of history I've never worked in before. I'm trying to listen hard enough to the heroine's whispered voice that I can really tune into her and her needs, absorb myself in her historical era, really put enough nurturing into the project for ideas to start to flower...
...and, well, it would just be really lovely to be on a retreat for a week or two right now, somewhere really beautiful where there was nothing for me to do but write and think about my project all day long. Sigh...
OK. Whine over! And honestly, even beyond any questions of responsibility (or joy, because parenting brings an awful lot of that, too), I think it's actually good for me to balance writing with parenting, 99% of the time. It keeps me a balanced person and keeps me anchored in the real world. It's just that it's an awful lot easier to do that when I'm working regularly on an ongoing project than when I'm trying to dream up a whole world in the first place.
And maybe because I had all of this turning itself over in my head already, Janni Lee Simner's new short story, "Seal Story", hit me with an enormous wallop. I cried when I read it. And I loved it. I recommend it to everybody, but particularly to moms (as long as they have kleenex on hand, just in case).
I've also been having a wonderful time lately doing Serious Important Research in my off-hours, since one of the things that that involves (I have decided) is watching every good 1930s screwball comedy out there. Woooot! Ahem. I mean: what a shame. The things we have to do, as artists... ;)
I started my project a few days ago, and so far I've watched My Man Godfrey (SO funny! I loved it) and After the Thin Man. Bringing Up Baby is next on the list, and I've ordered It Happened One Night, which I haven't watched in years. Which ones should I watch next? What would you guys recommend?
February 25, 2011, 11.43 am
Thank you guys so much for all the good wishes after my last post! MrD is feeling much, much better, thank goodness. Toddlers are amazingly resilient. By yesterday, he was running around like a 2-year-old ball of energy again...while Patrick and I were feeling totally flattened. Funny how that works.
There are times when desperate measures have to be taken, though. Last night was terrible. I mean really, really terrible! Literally hours and hours of wake-ups all through the night (because MrD, though cheerful and better in the day, feels worst at night). And yet, US copyedits on Kat 2 (Renegade Magic) are due TODAY - and although I'd done most of them Wednesday night after MrD went to sleep, I'd put off the very hardest ones to deal with Later.
Today, the dreaded Later has arrived...and this morning, when MrD came in at 7am to wake me up, all I wanted to do was hide under the covers.
Noooooooo! MUST SLEEP! CANNOT THINK! Too tired! Too CFS-y! Waaahhhhhh!
But really, there were only two options. I could curse the world and spend the morning feeling massively self-pitying...or I could make it a good morning, despite itself. Which would be more fun?
For once, I picked Option B. I made pancakes. We almost never make pancakes, so they're a special treat, and I made Nigella Lawson's amazing blueberry-infused maple syrup to go with them. (Here's the entire recipe: mix 125ml of maple syrup with 200g of frozen blueberries in a saucepan. Heat to a boil, let it bubble for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and pour over pancakes for PURE BLISS!)
It's amazing how much better a day becomes when you start it with pancakes and blueberry syrup! Our whole family was feeling much, much happier by the end of the meal.
And then my shift of mood was completed when I found this wonderful video on the Fluttering Butterflies book blog. It's called "Post-it Love", and it's a perfect short film - just 3 minutes long and filled with happiness. Watching it felt like getting a pure infusion of sweetness and energy. Heaven!
Now I've worked my way through all but the very last of the copyeditor's notes. The last one, of course, is the hardest. (I wouldn't have put off the easiest...although maybe a smarter person would have gone that route.) Please wish me luck.
And let me know if you've found anything cheerful or fun on the web lately for a rainy, tired Friday!
February 23, 2011, 3.11 pm
This was going to be a productive day. Seriously, it was. I had it all planned out: I'd spend the morning writing my fun new project (still too tentative and fragile to talk about in detail), then I'd write up some guest blogs that are due, write a meaningful blog entry here, and spend the afternoon speeding through Kat Book 2 copyedits (for the American, Renegade Magic edition). I was all set...
...until this morning, when MrD turned out to be really, really sick.
He's doing better now, and he's started antibiotics, so - knock wood - things are definitely looking up. But from the moment of waking up until 2pm, everything else in life stood still while we all went into sick-child panic-mode, and now that I'm off childcare duties, I'm feeling completely exhausted and wrung-out, both physically and emotionally.
Very much hoping that if I listen to it enough, it'll give me the energy to do at least a bit of what I'd had planned for the day...
What about you guys? How are your Wednesdays going?
February 15, 2011, 11.53 am
Last night after MrD went to bed, Patrick said, "What do you want to do for the rest of Valentine's Day?"
I knew exactly what I wanted. "Can we watch another episode of Battlestar Galactica?" (Yes, I have FINALLY discovered this show, only several years later than the rest of the world...and now I am addicted. Patrick has already watched it, but he's kindly re-watching the whole series with me now.)
"Sure," Patrick said, and shut down what he'd been doing on the computer.
I started to feel guilty. After all, it was Valentine's Day, and he had already watched this show once before. "We don't have to, though, if you don't really want to..."
"I beg your pardon," he said. "My wife wants to watch killer robots on Valentine's Day. Why would I argue?"
"It's definitely proof you married the right woman," I agreed.
And I definitely married the right man. It was a very, very nice way to spend the evening of Valentine's Day. :)
And for more about love - the reality as well as the romantic fantasy - check out my guest blog post on Fluttering Butterflies, Lessons Jane Austen Taught Me About Love. Here's a quick sample...
I fell in love for the first time when I was eight years old. My dad said, “I think you’ll like this book…” and took out Pride and Prejudice to read to me, one chapter a night. That was it: I was a goner.
Oh, the banter between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy! Oh, the crunchy conflict! The laugh-out-loud humour! The romance! I read P&P over and over again and lapped up every single movie and TV version. I devoured every book Jane Austen had written, adding Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion to my list of Favourite Books Ever.
And along the way, I learned some things about romance. Real romance, I mean, not just the fictional fantasy. Here are the top five rules I learned...
Read the rest of the blog post here (and please do leave a comment if anything strikes you!).
February 4, 2011, 11.14 am
Poor Maya. Wind buffeted our house last night, making our neighbor's security lights flicker wildly on and off, and our thunderstorm-phobic dog flew into a total panic. She ended up closed inside our study all by herself with the lights on and a fan blowing inside the room just to try to offset the sound of the noisy gales of wind that were blowing against the outer walls and windows. When I came in to let her out this morning, I had to persuade her out from underneath the desk, where she'd hidden all through the night.
The good news is, windy though it still is, now that it's light outside and obviously NOT thunderstorming, she trotted off very happily with her dogwalker this morning, perfectly ready to go climb a mountain and race around investigating scents with her tail swishing.
I feel like I ought to be trying to pull a metaphor out of this, and wow, is there plenty to work with this week. As always after sending off a new novel (this time to my agent, less than a week ago), I'm going through my own mindless panic (What if he hates it? What if I've lost the ability to write? What if everything I thought was fun and funny makes him want to puke?), and even three very positive responses to the novel from writers I trust have not yet dampened my neurotic-author panic.
So I've been doing my own version of the lights-on, soothing-background-noise approach by working on my trilogy proposal, making plans for the next book, starting to write some of the guest blogs that I've promised for the next few months...lots and lots of writerly distraction, in other words.
But no, Maya isn't the only one who's been feeling a little panicky of late. ;) I wonder whether any authors do get to the stage of feeling absolute confidence, when they send off their manuscripts, that the books they loved writing WILL be loved by other people? I would assume that Nora Roberts and Stephen King must have gotten there by this point, based on their enormous success...except that, having watched a fair number of JK Rowling interviews, I have finally figured out that the pressure of worldwide expectation and anticipation can actually make that part of writing even more nerve-wracking.
Ah, well. Going back to the distraction method, via Kristin Cashore's blog, I've discovered a fabulous, new-to-me band that is perfect for my family: Apocalyptica. It's a Finnish heavy metal band formed by four classically-trained cellists (so, a perfect mix of my and Patrick's musical tastes!), and it is awesome. Kristin linked to their cover of "Nothing Else Matters", which is great (and which led me to listen to lots and lots of other Apocalyptica songs on youtube and finally buy their album Cult), but as a classical music geek, my very favorite of their pieces is their adaptation of Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King", for heavy metal cellos. Alas, I can't embed it in this blog entry, but here's the link to the official video, which is so much fun. I love it!
What about you guys? Can you recommend any other good distractions?
January 22, 2011, 12.37 pm
It's always frustrating to have to end a writing session that's going really well - and especially frustrating when that means leaving it on a cliffhanger! - just for practical, external reasons. (In this case, Maya needed a walk...and it really wouldn't have been fair not to give her one just because I was having too much fun playing with my novel!) But on the bright side, at least that gives me two more days (till Monday's writing session) to figure out exactly what happens after the cliffhanger...
(This is the part of writing where I always thank all the writing gods for my subconscious, because I could NEVER figure out how to resolve all the issues in any of my books if I had to rely on my rational, conscious mind to do it! I'd be stuck in front of a blank screen forever.)
And in the meantime, for anybody who hasn't already seen this (either through my tweet or on Nicola Griffith's blog, where I first saw it), here is the video that has made me laugh hardest (and empathize most) for a very, very long time. I think an awful lot of us can relate to this one:
Happy Saturday! I hope everybody manages to fit in at least a few minutes of uninterrupted reading time...
Do you guys have any fun activities planned for the weekend, or are you just (like me) hanging out without a schedule (and waiting impatiently for the next writing session)?
December 11, 2010, 9.03 pm
I just finished watching the Season 4 Doctor Who episode "Midnight" for the first time. EEK! It was far, far creepier than most of their monster episodes, because it wasn't the monster who was the real danger, here - it was the ordinary, perfectly decent human beings who became terrifying as they reacted all-too-believably to danger. I'm about two years too late in discovering this, but I really want to nominate it for a Nebula or a Hugo or a....well, basically I loved it and just needed to burble a bit here. :)
And in case you're wondering why a total Doctor Who fangirl would be two and a half years late in watching that episode...well, the answer is kind of embarrassing.
When it first aired, I was pregnant. Heavily pregnant. Of course, I was watching the current Doctor Who series regardless of my pregnancy...right up through the previous set of episodes, Steven Moffat's excellent "Silence in the Library" two-parter. Which had an ending that was very, very bad for a set of children.
Patrick pointed out, patiently and while holding me as I sobbed, that they were only imaginary children (in more ways than one). It didn't matter. BAD THINGS had happened to children, their mother had not been able to save them, and I was a wailing wreck for the rest of the night.
Patrick watched the next episode, "Midnight", without me, and said afterward: "You'd better not." I took his word for it with pure relief.
Tonight, though, when I found out that the BBC was re-airing it, I asked Patrick, "How scary is it, really?"
"For you now? Not bad," he said. "But then? It was that awful time when you were crying over everything! I couldn't risk it."
It was a really good episode. But I have to admit that he was probably right to warn me off it, two years ago.
"It was a toss-up at the time," Patrick says now. "On the one hand, no children were hurt. But on the other hand, a teenage boy was in some vague danger. I didn't know whether you could cope."
The truth? I couldn't have. And ouch, is that embarrassing. I am so grateful not to have pregnancy hormones flooding me anymore. It's no wonder that stories of personality-changing possession (whether alien or ghostly) have struck a chord with so many people over the centuries. Women go through the real thing every time they have children.
NOT that I am comparing MrD to an alien...just me to a pod-person. I think that's less offensive... ;)
November 29, 2010, 10.08 pm
There are times when it makes no sense to take on a new project on the side, when you're already feeling tired and stressed. And yet...
Several days ago, I started talking about the kind of story I really, really want to read right now, at this time of year, and Patrick had a brainstorm - a website we could put together just for December, inviting lots of other authors to join in. It would be a lot of work. But the thought of it filled me with excitement and new energy.
Tonight, by the time I'd finally gotten MrD to sleep, I was exhausted and cranky and in the mood to do absolutely nothing at all. But two authors had sent in stories for our project. It was only polite to read them straightaway... .
..and by the time I finished the first story, I was laughing out loud. By the time I'd finished reading the second one, I was in the BEST mood, happy and amused and excited all over again.
Sometimes, taking on an extra project turns out to be the best medicine for tiredness and stress, after all.
(Details - and the website link - to follow on December 1st!)
And also in the category of surprises...
On Saturday, Patrick and I went out to see the film of Harry Potter 7-1. This would be surprising enough on its own - it's the first film we've seen in a theater since Harry Potter 6! (And that left me REALLY nervous about this one, since I was really, really disappointed by the film of number 6. But still, I am a huge HP fangirl, and of course I wanted to give 7-1 a try.)
Luckily, a movie theater had opened in our town this spring, so we didn't have to drive 30 minutes to get out to The Big City to watch Harry Potter this time (unlike last year). It's a tiny little theater, and they made all of us wait outside in the snow until 10 minutes before the movie was due to start. We all huddled together, joking and bouncing up and down for warmth. (Well, I did. Patrick was just stoic.)
They finally let us in. We went into the small room, with the small screen, and sat down. The movie began. It was nothing like number 6. From the first scene onwards, I LOVED it. (And oh, I've always loved Hermione, but in this movie I ADORED her!)
I was totally gripped, totally absorbed -
- and then at the end of a particularly tense scene, just when all the kids were trapped, and there was no possible way for them to escape...
The lights went up. The screen showed a single word, in enormous letters: INTERMISSION
We all gaped. WHAT?! I beg your PARDON?!
"We should have driven the 30 minutes!" I snarled.
Then a man stepped to the front of the room...and he was carrying a whole box full of ice creams for sale. Well...I was, of course, still horrified, but as long as the movie had stopped anyway, I thought I might as well buy an ice cream. Just out of politeness, really.
It turns out I really, really love mint-chocolate cornettos, something I would never have discovered otherwise. (When I'm in a supermarket ice cream section, I tend to head straight for the Ben & Jerrys.) And by the time I had happily devoured my lovely cornetto, and the movie had begun again? I was pretty fond of the concept of an intermission after all.
What movie isn't EVEN BETTER with ice cream added?
November 13, 2010, 4.00 pm
Today we all woke up to find MrD miserably sick, so in other words, not much is happening here...but comfort and cheer are All-Important.
Here is the site that made me giggle today despite my mood: Lady Mary Crawley tweets (which I'm guessing may be written by Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter - but I'd love to find out for sure, because the tweets are hilarious and perfect, and I admire their writer tremendously). If you are a Downton Abbey fanatic, like me, you must read this entire twitter stream, which starts in the middle of Season 1 and continues through the first year of World War One, well after the season's ending.
And oh, it is so funny...at least if you know the show. I can't swear that it would work at all otherwise, but it really saved my sanity today.
A couple of my favorite tweets:
Carson said, Mrs Patmore's holding a kitchen séance tomorrow - she produces a mass of ectoplasm I am told. Papa pushed away his egg posset.
Granny had a ghastly incident with wet leaves when she was young & in a crinoline. It's why she never leaves Downton now. Shame...
Historically-based humor may have been my savior today, but for another part of our family, horses are always key... Here is the book trailer that MrD insisted on watching three times in a row because of the beautiful, beautiful horses (which took my breath away, too):
(Judith Tarr, aka Caitlin Brennan, was the writer who first made me fall in love with historical fantasy, back when I was a teen, and I so wish that she'd written this book when I was younger and full of my own [utterly hopeless, in East Lansing]] horse-girl fantasies...I'm still looking forward to reading it now, but I think I would have killed for it back then!)
And although these are way on the other end of the spectrum, COMPLETELY inappropriate for kids, I have to be honest for the sake of the adults reading this blog (or at least those who enjoy romance) and say that although I'm not a huge fan of paranormal romances in general, Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling books have become total comfort books for me in situations like this. I got my pre-ordered copy of her most recent one earlier this week and have been re-reading the whole series ever since, because it really helps.
Yes, they are over-the-top in every way...but wow, do they work, and I really love how strong the heroines are, not to mention the pleasure of watching all of her characters (and the world itself) develop across the series. (I think she's gotten better and better as a writer, but I also think this is a series that needs to be read in strict order.) They're right up there with Georgette Heyer and PG Wodehouse for sheer comfort value for me nowadays.
What about you guys? What have you found lately that works well when you need distraction/comfort?
October 31, 2010, 7.05 pm
When it comes to TV, I'm a very bad audience member. We don't have an actual television set, but we do have the BBC iPlayer and the ITV-player available online, and we have lots of great DVDs...but in a normal week, I might well not watch any TV at all, and it would be really unusual for me to watch more than two episodes of anything in a full week.
(This isn't because I don't like TV - it's just that for some reason, I have a harder time focusing on a TV show for an hour than focusing on a book or - my worst habit - endlessly surfing the internet during my free time.)
But! This weekend has completely broken that rule. Last night, MrD went to bed unusually early, and I was at loose ends. First, I tried out the pilot of "Warehouse 13", which was fun enough that I'll certainly watch more of it in the future...and then, with some skepticism (because I'd heard of mixed reviews, although I hadn't actually read any), I decided to give ITV's new period drama, "Downton Abbey", a try.
I fell headlong into love with it.
Is "Downton Abbey" out yet in America? We're 5 episodes into the first season in the UK - and although the pilot's no longer available online, I watched the other four episodes all within less than 18 hours, snatching every child-free moment I could find and ruthlessly ignoring everything else I should have been doing with that time.
"Downtown Abey" was created and written by the same screenwriter, Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay of "Gosford Park", and I can only imagine that his brief was: Let's do Gosford Park as a full TV series! (Although it is set a bit earlier, I think, in the spring of 1914). And oh, it's wonderful - and wonderfully soap-opera-y, with every character (in the aristocratic family circle and the servant's hall alike) drawn in shades of gray and vibrant with secret drama.
The atmosphere is ripe with all the intricacies and injustices of different classes rubbing shoulders in a big Edwardian country house. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful to look at (ohhh, those Edwardian hats and gowns! oh, that gorgeous house!)...and of course with Maggie Smith playing the FABULOUS role of the awful Dowager Countess, it was almost guaranteed to be funny.
And in the episode I watched today, I was shocked by the moment of genuinely perfect romance. Oh, Mr. Bates! Oh, Anna! Oh, how I love you both! And oh, how I love that the real, true romance is happening not between two of the pretty, shiny, white-toothed aristocrats but between a middle-aged valet and a housemaid in her late twenties.
But I also love wonderful, generous suffragette Lady Sybille, wannabe typist (but current housemaid) Gwen, perfect butler Mr Carson (with his very carefully-hidden past)...it's all just delicious. Period drama chocolate!
And now I'll stop burbling...but I can't wait for the next episode to arrive online for me to watch tomorrow.
What about you guys? Do you have a favorite period-drama TV series? If not, what else is your favorite kind of TV?
October 23, 2010, 2.40 pm
Right now Patrick is sitting next to me, wearing headphones and watching an episode from a fantasy TV show (which I will not name, for reasons of kindness). He's having a very good time and laughing a lot - but possibly not for any reasons that the show-runners would approve, since he also keeps saying things like, "God, this is terrible! These are the worst special effects ever!"
It probably says something weird about me that I'm deeply tempted to set down the computer and watch the TV show with him. But then, I did grow up in a family devoted to the arcane pleasures of watching the cheesiest, most intentionally camp bad movies ever - for example, as kids, my brothers and I adored Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death and The Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and even as an adult, I used to pull those two movies out again and again as comfort viewing when I really, really needed them (like, at the end of final exams week)...
Am I alone? Or do any of you guys share my weird enjoyment of silly, camp bad movies?
I have to announce one piece of important book news and two upcoming events - but if you don't live in the UK, you can feel free to just skip the next five paragraphs, okay? You can come back and find me at the bottom of the entry, underneath the asterisks...
The big piece of news is: A Most Improper Magick is now available not only in paperback but also as an eBook in the UK! You can order it for the Kindle on Amazon.co.uk, and it should be up on Waterstones.com for Sony Readers soon, too. My understanding is that my publishers are also making it generally available in ePub format, which should be fine for iTouches and iPads as well, but I'm afraid I don't actually know where else you would look for it apart from those two big bookseller sites...can anyone tell me which UK sites you use for buying ebooks, apart from Amazon and Waterstones?
(Meanwhile, being a big dork, I of course downloaded a sample of my own book onto our Kindle. I had to! I couldn't resist!)
And I have two upcoming events, one in Newport, Wales, and one in Bristol, England. The first is this Wednesday, October 27th: Big Read Day at the River Front Theatre in Newport, where I'll be leading a writing workshop for kids aged ten and up, focusing on worldbuilding. I'm really, really looking forward to this! I'll also be signing books at the Waterstones table sometime between 1-2pm. You can check out the programs for both adults' and kids' activities and also download a booking form through the Newport City Library website.
The second event is BristolCon, just two weeks from today! I am ridiculously excited about this, because I have been just sick with con-hunger for months now. I love, love, love f/sf conventions, and I haven't been to any since EasterCon, though I've spent a lot of time sighing enviously over other people's con descriptions in the meantime. Bristolcon is a one-day event on Saturday, November 6th, and you can check out the full program here. I'll be on the "Visualising Fabulous Worlds" panel at 3:00 (with Joe Abercrombie, Kim Lakin-Smith, Mike Tucker, Andy Bigwood, and Roz Clarke), I'll give a short reading at 3:50, and I'll also sign books earlier, between 1-1:50pm. (Forbidden Planet is going to have a dealer's table at the con and will have my book in stock.)
I'm thrilled to have a con so close (only an hour's drive from home!)...and I'm also, of course, deeply frustrated because I just can't justify staying for the entire evening - MrD's bedtime is at 7pm, and we're still at the stage where I need to be around for it. Wahhh! I could give a pretty good impression of a toddler tantrum, myself, at the frustration of it all. Still, I'll be around for as much of the day as possible, and would love to meet people there!
OK. News and events announcements are over, we're back to normal...
...and Patrick just turned his computer around to show off a particularly, egregiously bad special effect. WOW. I may have to give up and watch the rest of that TV show after all...
Do you guys have any favorite bad movies? Confess: are there any really camp, totally silly, or even outright dire films that you just can't help loving anyway?
July 29, 2010, 4.13 pm
Today I am not going to post about the crazy. (Or at least I'm going to try not to. Sometimes it leaks through.) Today I am going to post about something that made me really happy:
Sherlock: A Study in Pink
This week I watched the first episode of Sherlock, Steven Moffat's modern-day updating of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Steven Moffat is my favorite writer for TV, so I really hoped that it would be good, even though I am a total Sherlock Holmes geek and was seriously disappointed to hear that it would be set in the 21st century. Still, Steven Moffat is awesome, so I was willing to give it a try...
...and, WOW. I was completely blown away. I haven't been this excited about a TV show in...well, let's just say a really, REALLY long time. It honestly was the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation I've ever seen. Despite the changes made for the contemporary setting, this was the first adaptation I've seen that perfectly got across the brilliant and intense weirdness of Sherlock Holmes as a person, managed the fast, fun pace of the original stories (this show was just SO MUCH FUN to watch!), and most of all conveyed the really great dynamic between Holmes and Watson (who is really not supposed to be stupid, as in so many of the film and TV adaptations - he's only stupid compared to Holmes because everybody is, when compared to Holmes). In their friendship, each of them is supplying something that the other really, really needs.
People in the show comment nervously on how much darkness must be in Holmes, to make him so obsessed with murder and crime - but there's something in nice, friendly Watson that draws him to be a part of that, too. Lots of yummy ambiguity done really well, along with sparky, funny dialogue and a great story...just perfect.
Oh, and I LOVED the scene at the end between Holmes and his arch-nemesis. No spoilers, but it made me very happy. :)
The single thing I didn't like about the episode was something that pops up in so many shows nowadays (including Buffy, another show I absolutely loved) and which always upsets me: the use of torture as an easy and reliable way to get instant truth from a bad guy. I really, really hate this plot device on so many levels, I hate that it's used SO MUCH in TV, which helps to normalize it in the broader culture, and I wish Steven Moffat hadn't cheapened an important revelation at the end of the show by getting it out that way. (Just once, how about someone lies under torture? Or genuinely doesn't know the information that's being pursued, but makes something up just to get the hero to stop hurting them - y'know, the way it often happens in real life? Sigh.)
Still, that was a very small moment in the episode, and if I wasn't willing to cope with shows that use that plot device, I'd have to watch almost no action-adventure television at all. And overall, I just loved, loved, loved Sherlock and can't wait for the second episode to come out.
Today MrD and I spent the morning in town, and it was good. We dropped off invitations to the book launch (two weeks from today!), we hung out at our favorite café, and we both got new books. (Mine was Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere, which is really lovely so far.) When we got home, I found a package from my publisher waiting for me: beautiful Kat bookmarks and postcards! I can't wait to start giving them away.
And best of all, all day today I've been hearing from people who'd pre-ordered A Most Improper Magick from The Book Depository, letting me know that copies are being dispatched! It's now officially in stock there (although not yet at any of the other UK booksellers). Eeee! Luckily, today the crazy is at a low enough level that I managed to restrain myself from ordering myself a copy just because I could. But it was bizarrely tempting... ;)
What have you guys done lately just for fun? (And OK, I admit that dropping off invites was not just for fun - but hanging out with MrD in the café, drinking hot chocolate and playing with him while we people-watched together? That was awesome. It made me really happy.)
June 30, 2010, 5.12 pm
Today has been a happy day. Why? Because it's the last day of the month...which means it's the day I let myself order a bundle of books online. Wooooot! Soon, Holly Black's White Cat and Alyxandra Harvey's Blood Feud will be mine, along with a couple of adult romances and the latest (Billie Piper) version of Mansfield Park.
(And yes, I have seen it, so I do know it really isn't all that good...but I just can't help myself. It's a Jane Austen adaptation that isn't absolutely terrible - so I have to have it and watch it, over and over and over again! It's like a sickness...but a fun one, at least.)
Yesterday was a happy day, too, because MrD and I went into town for adventures and made an unexpected and wonderful discovery: there were real, live owls in town! It was an outreach program being run by The Welsh Owl and Wildlife Sanctuary. MrD loves owls but had never seen any in person before, and I hadn't seen any since I was a young kid. We spent a long time just hanging out watching the owls, donated some coins to their collection jar, and will probably be either buying a WOWLS membership or adopting an owl very soon.
We also went through a bunch of charity shops, which is always fun. Charity shops might be my favorite aspect of living in a British town - so many cheap, cheap books and clothes (charity shops are the UK equivalent of thrift shops), and all for such good causes! Yesterday I got to feel virtuous about donating a bit of money to Oxfam and the Marie Curie society, while at the same time picking up incredibly cheap clothes, books and toys for MrD and for me. Shopping glee + virtue = score! ;)
Today has been a quiet day apart from my online book-buying binge. I finally watched the second part of the Doctor Who season finale, and ohhhhhh, I loved it. But I can't believe I have to wait until Christmas for more! I really loved David Tennant as Doctor Who, but the switch to Steven Moffat (my very favorite writer in television) as the show's head writer has been such a good move, and Matt Smith is so good as his own version of the Doctor, that I've coped with the change in cast much better than I'd expected.
What about you guys? What have been the highlights of your weeks so far?
June 25, 2010, 6.06 pm
Today at the library I did something rash. I was looking at the DVD rack, and I saw it: a really, really trashy-looking TV miniseries. But it is SO my kind of trashy miniseries. The cover trumpeted:
Johnny Lee Miller IS Byron!!!!
And it showed a photo of Johnny Lee Miller (aka, Mr Knightley in the most recent TV version of Emma) with really, really poofy hair and a mad grin on his face.
I looked at it. I turned it over to look on the back cover for any good reviews that could possibly imply that it really was a good miniseries. There were none. No quotes at all...about the movie, at least.
The one quote on the back cover, made to look as if it were about the movie, yelled in big letters: "Mad, Bad, AND Dangerous to Know!"
...which, y'know, is actually an old quote about Byron, not about this particular two-parter. But I read the back cover anyway.
WILL Society's darling find that he has gone too far if he has an affair with his half-sister? Will he?
I couldn't help myself. I checked it out.
Here's the thing: if Byron were set in modern-day London, I wouldn't have felt an ounce of temptation. But set a piece in Regency England, and I just can't help myself. I think, Wellllll, how bad can it be?
Of course, all too often, the answer is: VERY bad. We'll see how this one goes...knock on wood!
What about you guys? What are your favorite trashy movies/TV shows? The ones you might not respect in the morning, but you couldn't help watching anyway?
June 10, 2010, 5.05 pm
Sorry for the radio silence, guys! Things are a bit tough here at the moment in terms of health and energy. Because of my CFS, our usual state of play is for Patrick to do all the housework, dog-care, and at least half the childcare, which leaves me with enough energy to do half the childcare, write fiction, write lots of emails and a couple of journal entries every week, and even do wild and crazy things like going downtown once or twice a week.
Well. Unfortunately, that's not what's happening right now, because Patrick's still not feeling well himself, so all of my energy is being funneled into childcare and housecare, leaving very little energy for writing...and as much as I love blogging and writing emails, they can't take priority over my contracted novels. So I'm guessing that blog entries will continue to be scattered for a while, and I really apologize to everyone I owe emails to.
Have I mentioned how much I really hate CFS? :(
I'm still popping up a bit more often on twitter, because 1-line updates are more do-able than full blog entries - if you're there, you can find me at http://www.twitter.com/stephanieburgis - and otherwise...please know that I miss you guys and can't wait to come back to regular blogging and emailing! In the meantime, though, here's a quick roundup of some of my favorite things from the past couple of weeks:
I have finally become a Nigella convert. I'd seen a couple episodes of her various cooking shows on TV and never been won over, but then I checked out her cookbook Nigella Express last Friday and fell in love. Luscious photos of food that's fast and easy to prepare (and so far, that promise has been upheld in all the recipes I've tried from the cookbook, all of which have been delicious as well as easy to make) - and I love, love LOVE the way she writes about the food. Her long, chatty intros to each recipe are lushly written and make the cookbook fun to read on its own, even if you don't do any cooking. I was completely blissed-out by the end of an afternoon spent reading it on the couch, even before I tried a single recipe. My only sorrow was that there aren't nearly enough vegan-convertible recipes included for my liking...but if that isn't an issue for you, there's really no downside to this cookbook.
Lisa Mantchev's Perchance to Dream book trailer
So dreamy and beautiful! I loved it. And as you guys know, I'm a huge fan of Lisa's books. Check it out:
Marie Brennan's A Star Shall Fall
I was lucky enough to get an ARC for this, and loved it. Eighteenth-century fantasy based around the impending arrival of Halley's Comet, with scenes of faeries debating real eighteenth-century scientific theory...it made my geeky, eighteenth-century-loving heart extremely happy. :) And have I mentioned yet that Halley's Comet is connected to a very, very cool and frightening dragon???? Here's what I wrote about it on Goodreads:
A beautifully written fantasy novel. The magic is perfectly interwoven with 18th-century British history and scientific theory, and the characters and their emotions are wonderfully complex.
I loved Book One in Brennan's Onyx Court series (Midnight Never Come, which was really fun), and I admired Book Two (In Ashes Lie) for how ambitious it was, but A Star Shall Fall is my favorite of Marie Brennan's novels so far, and it stands alone perfectly - you definitely don't need to have read either of the earlier Onyx Court books to enjoy this one.
If you like smart adult historical fantasy (and note, this is adult rather than MG or YA, so while there aren't any explicit sex scenes, there are complex romantic relationships and it is written in a different tone than fantasy for kids), I'm guessing that you might like this a LOT...and although it isn't due to be published until the end of August, you can read a copy sooner than that just by commenting on this entry.
Tell me either (a) your personal favorite historical period, (b) your favorite historical fantasy novel, OR (c) why you want to read it even though you don't have favorite periods OR historical fantasy novels....and you'll be entered to win my ARC from me! (Shameful note: the cover of this ARC is a little beaten-up, because MrD got hold of it. HOWEVER, nothing has been damaged apart from the wrinkled cover.)
I'll pick a winner next Thursday. The giveaway is open internationally!
And now I'm going to rest for a little while before it's my turn to take over childcare again.
June 2, 2010, 1.04 pm
If only birthdays could last forever! Sadly, the last of the birthday cake ran out two days ago, and life went back to normal...or rather, an awful lot busier than normal, since Patrick hasn't been feeling well, so I've been doing a lot more housework and childcare than usual. I'm seizing this opportunity to blog, though, while Patrick and Maya and MrD are out on a trip to the local park. (I love living just a block away from the park!)
I finished Season 2 of The Gilmore Girls this weekend, and ohhhh, the ending of that season! Sad and wrenching but real, and with all sorts of intriguing new complications implied for the future. I can't wait to find out what happens next. Luckily, one of the best birthday presents I got was a gift certificate to Amazon.co.uk, so along with all the books I ordered, I also ordered the Season 3 boxset. Now I'm just waiting for Patrick to catch up on the last few episodes of Season 2 so we can watch Season 3 together!
One of the other birthday presents I really, really loved was Leah Cypess's Mistwood. It's YA high fantasy in the same vein as Kristin Cashore and Robin McKinley, and mmmm, it was so good - romantic, emotionally intense, and genuinely magical, with complex issues of independence and power interwoven through it. Definitely worth checking out if you love good high fantasy! You can read the first three chapters here.
I also particularly loved the way Mistwood threw into question the whole idea of "rightful", "true" kings. One thing that I don't personally like about a lot of American fantasy novels is how implicitly monarchy-loving so many of them are. I understand why it happens - we all grow up reading fairy tales with princes and princesses as heroes, and before I moved to the UK, I enjoyed that as a fantasy trope without ever thinking twice about it - but now that I'm living in a country with a continuing monarchy, it doesn't feel like such a harmless fantasy to play with anymore.
I don't mind authors using royal characters or setting their books in kingdoms - I hope I never become that cranky and unreasonable! - and a lot of great writers use the idea of rightful kings/queens to write wonderful books which I'd hate to miss out on just because of my own personal hang-ups. But, on a personal, subjective level, I just particularly enjoy reading books that do show some of the complexity and gray areas of real-life monarchies and class systems...because personally, I have a big problem with the idea that one person is better or more important than anyone else just because of the family they happened to be born into.
Rant over now! I promise. ;p But I really can't wait to read more Leah Cypess novels.
And I also wanted to wish a happy belated book birthday to two fabulous books that came out in America this past week: Lisa Mantchev's Perchance to Dream, the second book in her Theatre Illuminata YA fantasy trilogy (you can read the first chapter here); and Sarah Prineas's Magic Thief: Found, the third book in her Magic Thief trilogy. I was lucky enough to read multiple drafts of Perchance to Dream as Lisa was writing it, and it got better and better every time (and I'd loved even the very first draft!) - I can't wait to read the final version when my copy arrives. And I read Magic Thief: Found last week and enjoyed it so much - it gives an incredibly exciting conclusion to the trilogy, and the ending was just perfect, beautiful and right.
What about you guys? Which books or TV shows have you really enjoyed lately?
May 19, 2010, 2.56 pm
Oof. I feel like I'm just now starting to re-emerge, blinking, into the normal world after dropping into a black hole for the last week. (MrD got sick last Thursday - he's finally showing signs of real improvement now.) When MrD is sick - especially really, truly, scarily sick - it feels like the world compresses around me and becomes a completely different place, with muted colors and drastically different priorities than my normal life. Now I'm back, and trying to remember what I was doing and caring about a week ago.
Of course, that means that I just took an unscheduled full week off of my Kat3 rewrite, which is due to my editor in just 12 days...eek. Let's hope that deadline panic inspires extreme efficiency...and that MrD is well enough to get at least a little bit of childcare from someone else very soon. *knocking on wood*
Oof. I feel like I'm just now starting to re-emerge, blinking, into the normal world after dropping into a black hole for the last week. (MrD got sick last Thursday - he's finally showing signs of real improvement now.) When MrD is sick - especially really, truly, scarily sick - it feels like the world compresses around me and becomes a completely different place, with muted colors and drastically different priorities than my normal life. Now I'm back, and trying to remember what I was doing and caring about a week ago.
Of course, that means that I just took an unscheduled full week off of my Kat3 rewrite, which is due to my editor in just 12 days...eek. Let's hope that deadline panic inspires extreme efficiency...and that MrD is well enough to get at least a little bit of childcare from someone else very soon. *knocking on wood*
(Normally Patrick and I share the parenting as equally as possible, and we also get 6 hours a week of childminding from someone we like very much. When MrD was most sick, though, Mama suddenly became the only one he wanted, and to be honest, I didn't even want anyone else looking after him - I wanted him right here in my arms, where I knew exactly how he was doing at every moment. But that's not exactly the perfect recipe for getting a big rewrite accomplished...and even since that full-on intensity has eased, when he's been napping or hanging out with Patrick - usually my prime writing time - I've been so exhausted and limp that I've had to rest, mentally as well as physically, to keep the CFS from rearing up and whopping me.)
Here are the three things that have carried me through the past week, though, during my time-out periods: <em>Glee</em> (I'm not exactly a fan, but I have gotten to the point where I watch whole episodes instead of fast-forwarding between the musical numbers - and I did love the whole Madonna episode); <em>Gilmore Girls</em>; and my newest and craziest addiction, for which I TOTALLY blame Karen Healey: <em>Hana Yori Dango</em>. It's a Japanese show, based on a manga (I think?) and featuring the most horrific romantic anti-hero ever...and yet it is insanely addictive.
If you want to know why - and why I hunted it down in the first place - just read Karen's entries about it, which start <a href="http://karenhealey.livejournal.com/874153.html">here</a>. She is not exaggerating AT ALL!
What about you guys? How are your weeks going? And what shows do you turn to when you need comfort/escape?
Here are the three things that have carried me through the past week, though, during my time-out periods: Glee (I'm not exactly a fan, but I have gotten to the point where I watch whole episodes instead of fast-forwarding between the musical numbers - and I did love the whole Madonna episode); Gilmore Girls; and my newest and craziest addiction, for which I TOTALLY blame Karen Healey: Hana Yori Dango. It's a Japanese show, based on a manga (I think?) and featuring the most horrific romantic anti-hero ever...and yet it is insanely addictive.
If you want to know why - and why I hunted it down in the first place - just read Karen's entries about it, which start here. She is not exaggerating AT ALL!
What about you guys? How are your weeks going? And what shows do you turn to when you need comfort/escape?
March 27, 2010, 10.31 pm
Whew. I've been working on my UK copyedits this weekend (part-Anglicization, part-last-minute line edits), and MrD is sick, so all in all, my head is in a state of total mush right now. And of course it didn't help that I ended up watching In the Night Garden with MrD tonight for comfort when he was feeling feverish and sad...I actually like In the Night Garden (MrD's favorite TV show), but there is definitely a surreal quality to it.
Also, every time I watch an episode, I end up with all the theme tunes echoing in my head, and not much else left in there...
(I know ALL the major characters' theme songs by heart, AND I can do the dances. Yes. This is how parenthood REALLY changes a person. And the weirdest thing about it is, MrD sees maybe one episode a week, if that! But there's just something so hypnotic about that show...)
Luckily, our timing with the house move worked out after all - we don't have to leave our current house until the second week of April, giving us plenty of time to move into the new one. Whew. Only 5 days ago, we'd worried that we would have to move out on Friday, and I can't imagine how we would have coped, what with MrD feeling as sick as he does.
And best of all, we don't have to move before Eastercon! I'm so relieved about this - it means we can arrive with full energy intact. And I can't wait. I've had so much fun at the last two Eastercons, and this year, I don't even have the stress of a panel to take away from the fun factor - I can just focus on hanging out with people and (of course) spending way too much money on books in the Dealer's Room.
How many of you guys will be there this year? Please come up and say hi if you see me - I will be the one following around an active blonde toddler while carrying far, far too many books...
Oh, and for all the Americans who won't be at Eastercon, check out the The Book Scout's YA Author/Pet contest (US-only, alas): you can win a bunch of YA fiction & swag by matching up YA authors with their pets! Maya and I participated in this one, so you may recognize at least one of the photos from my flickr account/old journal entries... ;)
March 7, 2010, 4.47 pm
OK, there are some days, ever since I signed my first book contracts, when I can actually pretend to myself that I am a Serious Professional Writer...and then there are days when I just can't.
Here is the most recent evidence, from my Friday night of prewriting play for the Austen-y dragon novel:
Erm, yes. Well. Um... ;)
Of course, as hopelessly silly as it is, playing with the novel also really, truly works. The more playful I am, the more productive I am and the easier the novel flows. My evening of pre-writing play resulted in me finishing Chapter One today and feeling total happiness about it...
...but, well. It's not exactly the kind of thing that looks like an impressive, grown-up job, does it? Oops.
In other breaking news, dark chocolate also helps writing, in a pinch. And vegan hazelnut brownies are full of super-delicious WRITING MAGIC.
Also, I may have been watching just a few too many episodes of "Castle" lately. I keep finding myself imagining all my surroundings, wherever I am, as the setting for one of the gruesome victim-discovery scenes that open every "Castle" episode.
Then, of course, I need more chocolate...
February 18, 2010, 2.29 pm
1. I finished a new short story today. Yay! This is the first short story I've written in over a year. (Actually, I had the original idea and wrote the first page almost exactly a year ago, but I wasn't ready - either practically, in terms of time management, or emotionally, in terms of the story's issues - to sit down and write the rest of the story until now.)
It's one of the few short stories I've written in direct emotional response to a loss, so I can't say that it was exactly fun to write, but it was really emotionally satisfying - and what was genuinely fun was getting to start a project and finish it within less than a week. Short stories: the yummy snack-foods of a writer's life!
2. The current Olympics are drawing out the REAL cultural differences between a woman brought up in snowy Michigan and a man brought up partly in sunny Zambia and partly in cool, rainy Bristol.
Patrick: "The Winter Olympics are boring. What's the point of the winter sports?"
Me: staring at him blankly "But...they're the only sports that are actually interesting!"
So in other words, we're not watching the Olympic events together. ;)
3. We're attending the London Literary Party next week, and I can't wait! We've decided to splurge and make it a really great (albeit short) overnight trip, so we went ahead and booked a really plush-looking hotel near Covent Garden. (By London standards, it's not even that expensive. But by ours? Yes, this is a HUGE splurge for us.) I can't wait to wear my new Little Black Dress, sip champagne, meet my agent's British co-agent, AND have a great dinner beforehand with my London sister-in-law, who's going to be spending the evening with MrD. But...
4. I have a LOT of stuff to get done first. I.e., my desperately overgrown hair (my bangs hang in my eyes in a very un-stylish way), my lack of any black shoes to wear with the Little Black Dress...eek.
I love living in our beautiful, small Welsh town. I do. But Tuesday, when I spent the morning shoe-shopping with increasing desperation, I found myself equally desperately missing Leeds - or rather, missing the Leeds high street shops. After nearly two hours, I gave up - I genuinely could not find a single pair of black mid-heel dress shoes in my size and in my price range.
Wah! This just shouldn't be so hard...should it?
On the other hand, in Leeds I couldn't walk to a coffeeshop and buy a vegan hazelnut brownie. I don't go to that many London Literary Parties (in fact, this is my first one ever)...so I guess I'll go for good brownies over good shoe-shopping almost any day. ;)
5. And without having to leave the house at all, I got the coolest package the other day. It was a beautiful 13" x 19" print of the front cover of my book! Barnaby Ward, my wonderful cover artist, sent it to me as a gift. When I opened the package and saw Kat grinning out at me, I actually cried. It was just so amazing to see her drawn so beautifully, by such a fabulous artist - the vision in my head all these years turned so perfectly into art. And it was such amazing timing to get it just after finishing Kat3! Right now I'm looking for a perfect frame to hang it on the wall. This was such an amazing gift to get. Thank you so much, Barnaby!
What about you guys? What have been the highlights of your weeks?
January 29, 2010, 4.05 pm
Wahhh, our friends are gone...which means it's time to go back into the writing cave! And as we all know, the most vital supplies for trekking through unlit and dangerous writing caves are dark chocolate and Earl Grey tea. (Unless, like Patrick, you prefer Sencha green tea, or, like the pre-baby me, you get to enjoy the intense and decadent luxury of drinking coffee...oops. I may have started drooling on the keyboard there. Sorry about that!) (One more year till I can go back to drinking coffee. Only one more year to go...)
Anyway, it was great being social. And yesterday I had one of the coolest things ever happen to me. I got a beautiful invitation on thick, cream-colored paper, inviting me to a London Literary Event (TM) at a super-glamorous hotel. Eeee! Obviously, I said yes...and equally obviously, my first thought was: I need a new dress! Honestly, I really do. That's the thing about having a baby - I don't have any dresses that actually fit anymore, because my size first went WAY up and then WAY down. And all the comfy jeans and toddler-food-stained T-shirts that I normally wear just don't quite gel with my idea of appropriate attire for an evening party serving champagne and canapés, to say the least...
So thank you to everybody on Twitter who leaped in last night to help me pick out a Little Black Dress! It was incredibly fun to shop with help from friends all across the world. Now all I still need are some shoes...hmm... ;)
(And of course part of me right now is asking, "Who do you think you are????" Because once you become a mom - or no, I should be honest and say, once I became a mom, the concept of wearing a little black dress and going off to an evening party suddenly started to sound like a total pipe dream. But I am going to be strong and have faith that I can still carry it off after all, even after 16 months of living in stained T-shirts and jeans and a total lack of glamor!)
Now back to the writing cave...but with really excellent music to cheer me on. Patrick recently bought the full boxset of Sharpe TV episodes and got me totally addicted to them. Sean Bean plays a rough Northerner promoted to the rank of an officer (to the horror of all his upperclass-twit colleagues) who swashbuckles his way through the Napoleonic wars with awesome female guerilla commanders fighting by his side in Spain, obnoxious aristocrats blocking him at every turn, and - of course - evil French captains twirling their mustaches menacingly. It's just enormously fun...and now that we also have the Sharpe soundtrack on CD, that's become the perfect writing music.
So off I go. Wish me luck in the cave!
January 16, 2010, 3.12 pm
So, I watched the 2007 version of "Mansfield Park" (the one with Billie Piper) last night. I didn't have high expectations (the reviews had been pretty bad), which meant that actually, I was nicely surprised. It was fun, and it was surprisingly romantic. I really enjoyed the ending. Of course, I pretty much enjoy ALL Austen adaptations no matter how bad they are (except for the recent BBC "Sense & Sensibility", which I hated SO MUCH I would have thrown things at the screen and turned it off if I hadn't been a guest in the house where it was being watched).
So it was a safe bet that I was going to enjoy it...but the one thing that really puzzled me about this version was: why on earth would someone adapt an Austen novel and leave out all the humor? Mansfield Park is a really funny book. It has my least favorite Austen heroine of all time (and I'm not the only one who feels that way - pretty much every movie adaptation RADICALLY changes Fanny Price's character to give her a spine, because it's hard for modern audiences to sympathize with her otherwise)...but I've still re-read it many times because it's so nastily funny in all the character interactions. Jane Austen was hilarious when she was writing about really horrible, self-centered and shallow people, and Mansfield Park is absolutely filled with them, in the movie as well as the book...but in this adaptation, all the humor was left out. Yes, we hated the horrible people who were oppressing the heroine, but we couldn't laugh at them...and that felt very un-Austen to me.
Having said all that? It's on my Amazon wishlist now, because I have this uncontrollable weakness for Austen films. And if I end up getting it, I bet I'll watch it many more times, even if I'm sighing over the missed comic opportunities every time. I really love humor...but I'll take Austen even without it.
And these have been a very decadent few days, because this morning, as I thought about "Mansfield Park" (and, yes, as I seriously considered re-watching the 1999 version for comparison - see, this is serious study, not fun, people! - er, yeah, right...), I sent Patrick and MrD out to pillage the local village for me. It was a pirate raid full of swordplay, drama, witty banter, and high adventure, and when they came back? They came bearing hazelnut-praline vegan brownies, handed over by a terrorized café-worker.
It's a good brownie, too. Mmm. Maybe I'll see how Austen films work for me with added chocolate goodness on the side!
This could be a good Saturday...
January 4, 2010, 3.01 pm
OK, I admit it. As much as I truly disliked the Dr Who Christmas special, which was Part I of the season finale, and as much as I wondered if I should even bother to watch Part II after such a disappointing Part I...well, by the end of Part II, I was in tears. It totally blew me away.
I am so, so sad that David Tennant (my favorite Doctor ever) has left the show...which makes it all the more impressive that, after watching the very end of the finale, and after seeing the preview for next season (which we raced to watch directly afterward), I am actually incredibly excited about next season. I'd already been pleased that Steven Moffat (my favorite TV writer) was going to be head writer in this next season, but now I'm even tentatively excited, after all, about Matt Smith. Of course, he isn't David Tennant...but then, nobody (except Tennant) is, and I'm starting to hope that he'll also be wonderful in a different way.
So, yes. My TV disappointment was completely turned around.
I also watched a really lovely, inspirational writing video made by Jackson Pearce and a bunch of other YA writers. Most of you have probably seen it already, but just in case you haven't, here's the link to watch it on YouTube: Everybody's Free (to Buy a Laser Printer). It's a great video not just for aspiring writers but for published writers, too. I plan to watch it several more times, whenever I need it.
In other news, I've reached the beginning of the climax for Kat3, and I'm in a mad writing daze. This is the point where a lot of full-time writers stop showering, answering phone calls, or cooking meals until the novel is DONE. I feel some wistfulness about that - that approach sounds really tempting right now - but as a mom, and as someone with CFS, I just don't have the time or mental energy to go that route.
Even without 24/7 writing, though, I've doubled my daily target wordcount, which feels like speeding to me, and I'm at that crazy stage where the novel is constantly running through my head, even as I read Where the Wild Things Are to MrD for the thousandth time (and even when I'm howling along with him during Max and the Wild Things' wild rumpus). It's a dizzying, almost schizophrenic feeling - here I am with my family, and there I am with my characters, both at the same time - but it's also the most magical feeling I know.
I've been hoping for a long time to finish this draft by the end of January. Knock on wood, I really think I will. But I hadn't been anticipating just how sad I'd feel as it drew close to an end...
December 27, 2009, 6.24 pm
Aaaand life slowly goes back to normal. It was a really lovely Christmas, with lots of great presents, even better company, and yummy food. The one disappointment was - without giving any spoilers - how disappointed I was by the Dr. Who Christmas special. The Christmas specials have never been as good as the regular show, but I thought this one was actually depressingly bad. On the other hand, Patrick didn't dislike it as much as I did, so who knows? It's a subjective thing.
I'm tempted to babble at length about my own presents, because I love them all (I'm just in the middle of reading one of them, M.T. Anderson's Whales on Stilts, which is hilarious, and as I type, I'm listening to another of them, Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone, which is gorgeous)...but after that brief hiccup (oops), I'm going to stop myself, because it just feels like gloating. (Of course, I spent all of Christmas and Boxing Day gloating shamelessly over my stack of presents, stroking them like a dragon would stroke new additions to her hoard of gold, but Boxing Day is over now and it's time to get mature about things.) So instead, I'm going to move on to Christmas presents that other people can share.
So first off: Maureen Johnson is giving away e-books of her awesomely stylish and funny YA novel Suite Scarlett. I own a paper copy of this book and enjoyed it an awful lot, and now I'm planning to download an e-copy so I can carry it around with me on my iTouch. Enjoy (and make sure you download it before January 15th, when the offer ends)!
And secondly, Karen Healey wrote a wonderful, funny, magical Christmas story this year, which you can read on her website: Queen of the Kitchen. I loved it, and I hope you guys do, too! (And if you like it, make sure to look out for her YA fantasy novel, also set in New Zealand, which is coming out this spring: Guardian of the Dead. It's darker than the short story, but equally wonderful, and Karen and I are going to share a launch party at WisCon.)
What about you guys? What were your favorite gifts this Christmas? Or, if you didn't celebrate Christmas, what books or CDs have you been enjoying recently?
December 24, 2009, 3.56 pm
Right now Christmas Eve on Sesame Street is playing in the background (on YouTube!), and poor Cookie Monster keeps accidentally losing the plot of all his letters to Santa. Meanwhile, Patrick is taking down the baby gate that we've used to protect our Christmas tree from eager toddler fingers this past week. All of MrD's presents are wrapped, along with most of the presents for other relatives, but Patrick and I are waiting until tonight to wrap each other's presents, because that's part of the fun.
We've still got snow on the ground, and I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that it'll stay at least another 30 hours. We went out this morning and bought ingredients for pancakes for Christmas breakfast. It's almost time.
Merry Christmas to everybody who celebrates it, and I hope everybody has a warm, relaxing day tomorrow whether you celebrate it as a holiday or just a winter day off work. :)
November 28, 2009, 12.11 pm
I am SO not allowed to watch nature documentaries anymore.
Yesterday morning, Patrick took out MrD to give me a chance to rest after an awful night of interrupted sleep. I looked on the BBC iPlayer and saw that there was an episode of Natural World available called "Bringing Up Baby". It was all about mothers and babies in the wild.
Oh good, I thought. I should find that interesting.
When Patrick got home an hour later, I was sobbing uncontrollably. "...and the mother lion was roaring and fighting to protect them, but then he killed her babies in front of her and she was in so much agony as she had to watch...and then the penguin mother couldn't get back with food fast enough, and her baby was dead!...and then...and then..."
Patrick finally managed to interrupt. "Why in God's name would you watch that documentary?"
I blew my nose. "Well, David Attenborough was narrating, so I knew it would be good...and I thought that episode would be the most topical one for me, since I'm bringing up a baby right now..."
It was a bit too topical for either me or my hormones to cope with, it turns out. On the plus side, I feel very grateful to have been born human, after watching that film. But I'm going to feel emotionally shattered for a long time whenever anyone mentions lions...or penguins...or fur seals...or lemurs...or far too many other kinds of animals!
Those wildlife documentaries are NOT a good idea for mothers of babies to watch. They really ought to come with warning labels.
In completely more uplifting news, though, there are still two days left to enter my Thanksgiving giveaway! And Joan Bauer's Squashed has only ever made me laugh, even after watching traumatizing documentaries. ;)
November 6, 2009, 9.53 pm
Tonight I did something bizarre and shockingly unprecedented: I sat down with Patrick, and we watched a TV show. WHOA. It's been...
...hmm. It's actually been a really long time since we last watched a TV show together. The last time I can remember even trying to do that was way back in the middle of January, and at that point, we finally decided it just wasn't practical to watch TV together with a baby in the house (especially a baby we're trying NOT to allow to watch television*).
Well. We finally, finally have (I'm almost scared to say this out loud, in case I jinx it!) a routine where MrD goes to sleep at least 2-3 hours before the rest of us do. That means that Patrick and I have actual TIME, which - especially since my brother's here to help - we can often spend together. Better yet, in our new house, we can play music or watch a TV show in the living room without headphones, because it's far enough away from the bedroom not to wake up MrD.
So tonight we sat down and finally went back to Season 2, Episode 6 of Gilmore Girls, which is where we'd left off this past January, almost 11 months ago. We sat cuddled up together, with Patrick's arm around my shoulder, we laughed at the jokes...and it felt amazingly good.
(Although I am worried about the coming arc for this season, because the new love interest they've introduced for Rory? Ewww. NO appeal whatsoever, at least for me, so I'm going to be really depressed if Rory falls for him. It's not that I don't think a sixteen-year-old girl is capable for falling for him - I just really, really hope it doesn't happen. Sigh. I'm pretty sure that's a lost cause...but hey. It's nice to be able to think about TV shows again and argue about show decisions!)
*...except in cases of emergency, when In the Night Garden leaps to the rescue!
September 9, 2009, 9.01 pm
First of all: I blame Karen Healey COMPLETELY for the fact that I can't get this chorus out of my head: "Omigod You Guys!", from the musical of Legally Blonde. I've never even seen the movie because the previews turned me off so much, but Karen raved about this song & video on her blog, and I thought, oh, well, why not give it a try...
Sigh. Those must be some of the most dangerous words in human history, repeated in SO MANY dubious situations! ;p
For the past several hours, voices in the back of my head have been singing the refrain of "Omigod, omigod you guys!" over and over AND OVER again....! BE WARNED.
Of course, after watching that first video I had to watch a couple other videos from the musical...then I started wishing there was a full performance online of the entire show...and now I'm wondering whether or not to put the movie on my rental list, after all these years of resisting it. Darn you, Karen!!!!
In other news, on Sunday I finally summoned up the nerve to actually start reading through an ARC of A Most Improper Magick, which I'd spent two days feeling way too scared to attempt. How come some of the most exciting parts of publishing are also so terrifying? I think part of the issue with ARCs is that these advance copies are the ones that are going to be sent to reviewers...so I am PETRIFIED by the fear of finding something TERRIBLY WRONG and knowing that it's too late to keep any reviewers from seeing it. Eek. Luckily, I'm about halfway through the book now, and while I've come across a couple small inconsistencies and several line edits, there's been nothing that makes me swoon with horror. At least, NOT YET...
Here's the thing that makes it all so scary. The embarrassing truth is: I really, really love this book. It feels terrifying just to admit that, even to myself. The thing is, if it were a book I didn't care so much about - if I'd just tossed it off, or if I'd written it like an assignment without any passion, I could pretty much shrug off any bad reviews. But that isn't how it happened. I wrote this book with so much joy and care, and I am so in love with Kat and all her siblings, and all of that makes me feel more and more horribly vulnerable as publication day approaches. Because as much as I've longed for it to be published, I also know that not everybody will like this book. Even the books I love most in the world are hated by many people. That's the way the world works.
But I'm petting my ARCs a lot right now, even as I hunt through them for typos and still-fixable flaws. And the occasional bout of distraction therapy - like the one I got sucked into this afternoon, thanks to Karen's blog entry - is priceless.
August 15, 2009, 12.19 pm
I've been moving through a zombie-like haze of exhaustion for the last few days, since MrD is teething and therefore none of us are sleeping. Days like these, I don't do much writing or anything else productive beyond survival. I am in AWE of moms who manage to work fulltime jobs when their babies are this age. How do they not fall asleep or space out in the middle of important meetings? Here are five things that have been making me happy, though, even in the midst of my zombie haze:
What about you guys? What's been making you happy lately?
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