Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Week with no Posts

A week with no post? Now that would be interesting - no ads to throw away, no bills to pay, no forms to fill...

But a week with no blogposts? I have to stop a moment and wonder what on earth I've been doing all week. Reading, I guess: I did put some more book reviews on gather. And writing. And rewriting. And housework, and pulling weeds (ah, that's the trouble with the weather getting nice).

Remember that February Wrimo challenge our local writers' group was doing? Well, February's almost done, so I guess I have to confess I didn't succeed in my self-assigned task to write the third of my Hemlock books. In fact, a lot of last week was spent splitting up what I'd written to make two separate books. Somehow the events I'd planned for Hemlock 4 were appearing in Hemlock 3 and they really didn't fit. They prefigured entirely the wrong conclusion, resulting in a serious case of writers' block. So now I have two novels half-written in the month instead of one completed. Still, two halves do make, sort of, one whole.

And next week I'll be busy making sure that "whole" doesn't become a black hole. I'll need to remind myself to keep writing until they both get done. Perhaps I could call it editing and join in with National Novel Editing Month. The timing's kind of right.

Still, back to that "Take the Journey" reading challenge. I'm doing a little better there and have safely made it to more than 300 points.

The Fire Within, by Chris D'Lacey, was a brilliant change of pace and a really fun kids' book, mixing environmental concerns for a squirrel whose tree gets cut down with, well, dragons. An excellent read.
Duma Key, by Stephen King, has to be one of my favorites of his, a perfectly balanced mixture of art, character study, recovery and something very strange.
Mirrored Heavens, by David J Williams, creates a scarily plausible future world with computer implants, internet and politics, and beautifully smooth transitions from real-world to computer-world intrigue.
And Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, was just stunning - so good that I had to go out and buy his other book straight away. I'm already reading it, and hooked. And it's probably mostly his fault that this has been a week with no posts.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Three Awards

I’ve been writing—well, that’s my excuse. Which means I’ve been somewhat unprolific at blogging recently, so I’m not quite sure how I won these awards. It’s all because our local writer’s group is running it’s own mini wri-mo, and I promised myself I’d try to write the first draft of a novel. First draft half-done and almost three-quarters planned, I’m now taking time off to play a little catch-up.

The first (recent) award was a Prolific Blogger award from a prolific blogging friend called A.F. Stewart. The rules for this one are:
1. Pass this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers.
2. Link to the blog from which you received the award.
3. Link back to this Prolific Blogger post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
4. Add your name to the Mr. Linky.
Never having met Mr. Linky I was slightly nervous, but he does have a great list of interesting blogs and it’s well worth following the link, whether or not you aspire to be prolific.

Then came A Sunshine award, also from A.F. Stewart. And the sun really is shining today, the trees pink with blossom, the earth coated with flowers, and the sky a vivid blue. Anyway, for this one I have to:

• Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
• Pass the award on to 12 bloggers.
• Link the nominees within your post.
• Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
• Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

And finally, just today, there another Honest Scrap, which I suppose at least means I’m honest. This one’s from Harvee at Book Dilettante, and comes with instructions to give seven bits of information about myself and tag seven others.

So, combining the awards… here goes: Seven bits of information.

1. When I can’t think what to write I walk round the green.
2. Walking round the green was more with a dog.
3. Walking round the green is more fun when the sun shines.
4. Meeting dogs on the green is always fun, even when they’re muddy and it’s raining..
5. I like dogs. (You probably already worked that out.)
6. I also like my family.
7. And I wear my cell-phone on the green like a dog wearing a leash, just to make sure I don’t miss any calls from my family. (No dogs have called me yet.)

The following are all prolific writers of consistency honest and interesting blogs, sunshine or rain, and mostly connected with the writing profession. Enjoy…

1. A book inside: how to write and publish a book: http://abookinside.blogspot.com
2. A day in the life: ramblings of a author in progress: http://karlabrandenburg.blogspot.com
3. Advanced Fiction Writing: the Snowflake Guy: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog
4. Writing Rambling: http://jackwregan.blogspot.com/
5. The Writing Jungle: http://thewritingjungle.blogspot.com
6. Ask the publishing guru: http://publishingguru.blogspot.com/
7. Author Haven: Refresh, Renew, Recharge: http://authorhaven.blogspot.com/
8. Ambient Moronics: http://www.thefoodaddy.com
9. Breakthrough Blogs: weaving together theoretical physics and technology with greed, murder and mayhem: http://stephentremp.blogspot.com
10. The Old Geezer Blog: http://ronjoewhite.blogspot.com/
11. A twist of noir: Crime and Noir Fiction: http://a-twist-of-noir.blogspot.com
12. Between the Pages: Well, I have to include this one, since I’m taking the journey… http://betweenthelinesandmore.blogspot.com/

And if you should find your blog above, please feel free to pick up whichever award you like best and consider yourself “tagged.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic

I'm still reading, still writing book reviews, still taking that journey. And I read the most amazing book this week - a bound galley, not even published yet, from The Permanent Press. It's called a theory of all things, and I was hooked from the second page.

The first page is emails to and from a young man called Mark. The reader learns he's done something a little out of the ordinary, perhaps embarrassing, but doesn't know what. Then on the second page Mark narrates his own tale. Having been a fairly serious mathematician myself back in the day, I feel like I know him. He's that genius in college who found everything so easy and just had to explain it all, the one who related everything to mathematical theory then wondered why the rest of us seem uninvolved in his great imagining. He's real; he's cute; he's intriguing; and he drives you up the wall.

Marks misadventures had me laughing out loud, his misunderstandings had me cringing for remembered embarrassment, and his theories had me desperate to learn more.

The novel introduces a wonderfully artistic family--painter, writer, photographer, collect of strange things--and every person has their say. The father is falling prey to Alzheimers, and perhaps Mark's theories of entropy make sense of that. But entropy certainly doesn't get the last word in Peggy Leon's novel, and that which falls apart is delightfully rebuilt.

I loved it! And I reviewed it (this is just a taste). And I feel like it truly might have been written just for me.

So I'm reading, I'm writing (even some more chapters of Hemlock, besides book reviews), and I'm even enjoying a foray back into the wonders of Arithmetic (well, mathematics, to be a little more precise). That's got to be good.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Because someone asked...

Someone who read the “about me” on my blog asked what I meant by a Mongrel Christian, so here’s my answer:

I’m Catholic because my Dad was Catholic; I went to Catholic schools and will always be grateful to my truly wonderful teachers; I was a Catholic chaplaincy representative at university; I married in a Catholic church; I became a communion minister, standing at the front holding the cup while my husband sat in the cry-room with our first-born son. And my brother’s a Catholic priest.

I’m Protestant because my Mum is Methodist; my Granddad was a Methodist lay-preacher and I loved to read his sermons; my Uncle served a term as president of Gideon’s in England; my husband grew up in the Church of England and our kids are baptized Presbyterian (USA) and C of E; I read prayers in the Church of England; I led worship in an Evangelical church; I taught Sunday school for kids and adults; I’m an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA); and I’m a regular worshiper at a Christian Reformed church.

I’m mongrel because I belong to so many different backgrounds, and I’m Christian because what I’ve learned of science, history and the Bible convinces me, while what I experience in life sustains that conviction. I’m also a believer in Occam’s razor, evolution, relativity and global climate change. And I think the Red Sea parted when the wind blew down the Gulf of Aqaba.

So that’s me, Catholic Protestant, Mongrel Christian, and writer of What IF…Stories, Inspired by Faith and Science.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Continuing Journey

I posted lots of book reviews this week, not all related to the Take the Journey Reading Challenge. I realized I must have got a long way behind when I saw my review for one book claimed I was going to wait till after Christmas to read the next in the series. Now, when was Christmas?

Ah well. I did find time to read a bit too, besides posting reviews. Mary DeMuth's Thin Places was a beautiful read, and one that I actually reviewed at about the right time, since it's only just come out.

A very different book was Sarah Waters' The Night Watch which I borrowed from a friend. It brought World War II London very vividly to life, and introduced me to some fascinating characters. I was intrigued by the way the story goes backwards in time, rather like the way we meet people and learn later about their pasts; and by the way ones assumptions don't always prove true.

And in a lighter, or darker vein (depending on your point of view), was Greywalker, by Kat Richardson, which my husband suggested I might like. The heroine is a Private Investigator with some rather curious skills, and the writer introduces her ability to see supernatural things very "naturally." A really fun tale.

So, where am I with my Reading Challenge points? 294 to date! Maybe I'll cross that magic 300 mark soon!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Where time and plans wear thin

I had plans for today. Mostly they involved finally putting finger to keyboard and starting work on Hemlock 3. But today had plans too.

It all began with that new year plan to try to be organized. I finally set up hotmail's calendar and starting writing things in it. Which means, of course, that my emails have started sending me reminders...

Today is the release date for Mary DeMuth's Thin Places. It's a wonderful book - a memoir, which is not my kind of thing, but it's really so much more. She tells of those hardest places in her life - the sort of place where secrets hide away - and how their memory can become the thinnest of skins between here and eternity, where God's provision and love come shining through. I really enjoyed the book, and I really didn't want to miss the launch day celebrations... so I posted my review and a 259-word essay about a thin place of my own. And then I put the review on Amazon, which led to Goodreads, Shelfari, Librarything... and reviews of all those other books that were waiting in my queue.

259 words? That's because Mary DeMuth is running a competition to win an Amazon Kindle, and a Kindle costs $259. You have to write 259 words about a time when God's light shone into one of your thin places, then you post it and link it and hope to learn from all your friends who've posted too. Why not give it a try?

Meanwhile there was still the shopping, and the washing, and the cleaning - I've not done that yet. And there was that writers' group contest where I had to put all our entries online today for voting. Plus that other writers' group challenge - February wrimo; finger to keyboard and all that.

My plans wear thin and the sun comes out outside. Characters whisper and try to stand in line: Who's on first? Where does the story begin? Perhaps it's just as well I haven't started to type it yet. With any luck, my delays will be just the right length for the children of Hemlock to get themselves organized. And then I'll hide by the computer while they spill out onto the page.

I've got a Bible study to prepare for tomorrow now, and a list to make for volunteers for childcare. I think that's the last of my email reminders though. Then I'll go for a walk on the green. God talks, and so do my characters, in that thin place where there's only the sky above and the world all around. When I take the time to listen, failing to be organized hardly seems to matter.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

There's a plane over Canada

There's a plane somewhere over Canada and Mum's flying on it. Give her a wave please if she passes you by.

And there's a washing machine in Portland working overtime. Likewise the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher and other such things as I distract myself from Mum's absence. The house feels empty; no one to open the door for me when I came home; no one to make tea for; no one to comment on the weather; no one to do those unexciting things that become so precious when mother and daughter are able to do them together.

There's a dryer just finished with the sheets from her bed so it's time to work on the towels. And somewhere over Canada, Mum, I hope you're getting a good meal and good company; hope your leg's feeling okay; don't forget those exercises; and know you're loved and being prayed for all the way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tweaking my way through the format

It's February. I'm supposed to be frantically writing book 3 of Hemlock for our writers' group challenge. But I promised my Mum I'd publish my next book of children's short stories soon, so I finally agreed to stop putting off reformatting it...

...and finally remembered why I'd stopped in the first place. 44 stories is okay - a few cut and pastes, file > page setup > set margins and headers and footers so they don't overlap, set the gutter, apply to all sections (and wonder where sections came from), edit the stories - start even, end odd - then you're done. I remember struggling to make the page numbers appear on the contents list - turned out it had hardwired the page-size in when I switched from docx to doc. But, as I said, easy enough.

That was Genesis People, last January, just before my Mum went back to England the last time. This one's Psalms and Parables, and she's going back on Thursday. There's one hundred and fifty psalms and a story for each - 305 pages! And there's sections on top of sections on top of firsts and lasts that were meant to be intermediate. I change the header and the page-count jumps. I stop viewing headers and it goes back, except for one story that's turned out too long, so I fix it and another one looks wrong.

I'm dreaming tails on tales... but I did it at last! I've finished reformatting it; 305 pages, 6x9 inches, headers, footers, gutters, each story fitting on a two-page spread. It kind of looks like a book. And Lulu would even give me 15% off my order if I try to buy it today. But I've still got to proofread and that'll take more than a while.

Back to editing.

Back to Hemlock, soon.

Nah, back to a nice hot cup of tea.