Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summertime Travels II: Huddersfield, Holmfirth, Manchester, London, and the Midlands

England again!

I have some more photos of our recent, short trip:

 Sherlock Holmes, on the walk between train stations in London

 Views of Holmfirth, in Yorkshire

 The House of Eccentricity, a quirky little shop in Holmfirth

 The Last of the Summer Wine cafe

 Dessert at Manchester hotel

 The Empire Exchange record and book shop, Manchester

"Manchester has everything, apart from a beach" -- Ian Brown

 Manchester train station

 Me, and a daiquiri

 Obligatory photo from the train

 Buskers in Manchester, "One Love Manchester!"

 Outside a Midlands pub...

 Victoria and someone else -- I didn't cross the street to find out who it was!


In other news, I have actually started one of the planned knitting projects! I've knit about one fifth of the baby blanket... Then I stopped, because I'm still tweaking the synopsis for the Carina Press submission, and also hosting a Master Class at the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, all about raising the stakes.

And I really, really need to catch up on blog comments. Thank you to everyone that's come by recently!

This new song is my current earworm:

Neil Finn, Second Nature

And look! It's the 50th anniversary of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

"Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn’t like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, an indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that’s why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. ..."

The New Yorker has a nice retrospective.

Which song is currently stuck in your head?
Do you have any tips on raising the stakes for story characters?

🎆This is my 200th post on this blog! 🎆

Friday, August 25, 2017

Summertime Travels I: Oxford!


We were taking trains back and forth to the Midlands on a recent visit to see family, and stopped off in Oxford. Like London, Edinburgh, and other places, there's always something new to see, even if you've visited Oxford before.

Hope you enjoy a few photos!

The Museum of Natural History


 Look out!

 Tyrannosaurus Rex head

 Wee dinosaur for scale

I couldn't even fit T Rex into the photo frame!

Philosophers and scientists!






I'm still influenced by my first-time read of Moby Dick a couple of months ago. Look at the size of this single vertebra of a Southern Right Whale!:

Tolkien's pubs!

 The Eagle and Child

 Inspector Morse at the Lamb and Flag

 History of the Lamb and Flag

 Thomas Hardy reference to the Lamb and Flag

The little one happened to be holding a lamb when we were at the Lamb and Flag...

Back in real life, I'm far behind on blog comments and a little behind my goals for ROW80.

The latest deadline for the Carina Press call for submissions is approaching fast, though, and I've got to get my synopsis done this week!

I can't believe it's almost September. Where does the time go?

Which towns do you love to revisit?

Friday, August 18, 2017

Reviews! Terry Lynn Johnson, and Tolkien's Leaf by Niggle on Stage

Another book review today!

I was very excited to receive a copy of the first book in Terry Lynn Johnson's Survivor Diaries series.

I don't read adventure books that often, but really enjoy them when I do (the next book in the series is called Avalanche! and I'm really looking forward to it because of fond memories I have of reading a Scholastic book club story with the same name (Avalanche by Arthur Roth)).

This one is called Overboard! and is a fast-moving, smoothly written tale of how two children survived a rogue wave that tore apart their boat and stranded them on an island in Puget Sound.

Stay Calm. Stay Smart. Survive.
Eleven-year-old Travis and his family are on a whale watch off the coast of Washington when their boat capsizes, throwing everyone into the ice-cold water. Will Travis and twelve-year-old passenger Marina have the grit and the know-how to survive?

With seventeen years of hands-on experience and training in remote areas, real-life survival expert Terry Lynn Johnson (Ice Dogs; Sled Dog School) creates on-the-edge-of-your-seat storytelling featuring the real skills that kids need to survive disaster. Perfect for fans of Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, this book includes Coast Guard-approved cold-water survival tips. You will have a better chance of surviving a real-life cold-water disaster after reading this book!

I really did learn tips from reading the story. They stick in my mind better when I have characters to associate them with, rather than simply reading a textbook. Note to self, pack matches and Ziploc bags and a knife (at least) on hiking and boating trips -- this seems like a good reason to get a proper Swiss Army knife!

I loved the way the adventure also forced the main character to deal with a different problem from his past -- just the sort of emotional arc that's very satisfying for a reader.

Speaking of which, and ROW80, even as I'm completing the line edits (round 2!) for The Charm of Time, I'm working away on arcs and stakes in the background, and hopefully thinking up good ones.

Also working on the synopsis, which just doesn't seem to capture the tone of the novel yet. The story is breathless, fast moving, and yes, erotic. It all takes place over the course of a week, and features love at first sight and some suspenseful accidents and chases. But the synopsis, in comparison, is too tame! I'm aiming to post the latest version on the Forum today or tomorrow, if you'd like to offer suggestions...

I've also finally gotten the wool for two knitting projects due in the next couple of months: a baby blanket for a friend, and a hat for this little girl (I can't believe she's a toddler already!):

Here's another review!

We've had a couple of very short trips to Manchester, Holmfirth, Edinburgh, and Telford and Ironbridge this summer. I got lucky -- was in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival and got to see the Puppet State Theatre Company performance of JRR Tolkien's story Leaf by Niggle.

I reread the story a few days before the show, and remembered what a perfect little story it is. Well crafted, with just enough detail and connection and nuance, and the ending always makes me cry (joyfully). I wondered how it could be translated to the stage, as it's mostly narrative, with little dialogue. I didn't look up the Puppet State Theatre Company because I didn't want to catch any spoilerish reviews, so -- I admit -- I was vaguely expecting something involving marionettes.

Of course it wasn't like that at all, but a spoken word piece, performed by Richard Medrington. Most of the text of the story was there (I wouldn't have noticed the missing bits at all if I hadn't just reread it) and it was wonderful to hear the words come alive with such nuance of expression. I'll bet I'd enjoy more audiobooks if I could somehow work them into my daily life.

I've mentioned before that I'm always eager to hear individual stories from WWI and WWII -- bringing in such stories from Medrington's family and weaving the historical items and words and memories into the telling of Leaf by Niggle was a brilliant touch to augment the storytelling. It's amazing to think of how often he performs this show -- it felt so fresh and vibrant.

Do catch it if you can, while there's still time. I hope they film it, but I don't think it could quite equal being at the theatre. It wasn't hard to get a seat in the front row, and I was very glad I had! Snuck a photo before the lights went down:

HarperCollins has issued a single-volume edition of Leaf by Niggle for the first time, featuring cover art from the stage adaptation.
I couldn't resist buying a copy, of course.

What was the last play or other stage performance that you saw?

The 10-year anniversary of my blog (!) is coming up! Any ideas on how I should celebrate?