Les Semaines

October 26, 2008

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal

 §

Catch Up: Or Where I've Been These Long Months

Thanks, everyone, for the responses to my birthday whine. Pitiful, I know, but the messages really cheered me up.

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that I haven't really updated since since August. Shocked because I've managed to put off the guilt every single Sunday. In all fairness, I have been busy, but who isn't and when aren't they, and all that. And other people update. So. Here's a quick catch up.

August was visitors month. The Graham & Gurley B & B was quite busy. I had only three or four days after Clarion West ended to pretend to catch up on sleep.

First our friend John Barton visited, and a good thing he did, too, because he's off to spend a year as Writer in Residence at the Saskatoon Public Library, which means no further visits until he returns to B.C. next summer.

Then Devin's sister Breanne visited to help Devin celebrate her 30th birthday. This also included a party at Golden Gardens beach, featuring a glorious sunset. Unfortunately our attempt to get Breanne to move here as Devin did were foiled (despite the sunset) by the fact that she was in the process of buying her first house back east. So much for our evil plots.

Then I did some frantic cleaning for Mom's visit. For some reason it really matters to me that I have the silver polished and the house as clean as I can manage in the time given. It's not that Mom criticizes, because she knows there are many things more important to me than having a clean house, but she does notice. Anyway, we had a lovely visit even if we did do a lot of shopping.

Then we had a three-day span with no visitors in town. I'm not sure what I did. Probably slept. Then nephew Mark arrived and we promptly had an extremely lazy time. It was fun.

So September and back to work. I started my usual way, feeling like I had plenty of time to clean out my office and catch up and suddenly I had the shocked realization that the students were arriving and I needed to get ready and do all the beginning of the academic year stuff fast. There's a lot going on with my programs this fall (special events and a program review) that have kept me very, very busy there.

At the same time I was writing my final report for my Canada Council grant, which for some reason made me very anxious. I also spent a lot of time working on the project, as though revisions would make a difference at that point. In any case, I did think about the amazing time having the grant had been. I know I haven't written much about it here, but a lot has been going on with it in my noggin. Maybe I'll make a post about it, because it was a fascinating process.

The project still isn't finished, but I made a wonderful, solid start. First I want to complete some other projects that have been hanging about a while.

October, well, I turned 50 and got a little bothered by it, much to my surprise as no other birthday has ever been more than an excuse to celebrate. I guess it's a lot to do with all those projects that are uncompleted. Wrestling with whether or not I should continue sending the first novel out or entirely re-think it, or just put it in a drawer and get the second one out there hasn't helped. I've been spending way too much brain power on that recently.

And really, now that I'm 50, do I have that much brain power to spare? You've got to wonder. Especially as I've spent the last week rather sub sub par, fighting the good fight against some rogue virus.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing

Listening

Discovered a wonderful French artist, Claire Diterzi. Her two most recent albums, Boucle and Tableau de Chasse are weird, wonderful, playful, and profound. Love them!

last week's listening § next week's listening

Reading

Robin McKinley asks on her blog, in answer to the possible question "What single thing would improve the quality of your life most?": "That readers would learn the difference between 'this book didn't work for me' and 'this book sucks dead bears.'"

I hope that I've learned that, especially given the narrowness of my interests.

I probably have missed a few library books I read along the way, and sadly I have few comments here, but I read a lot of good books over this time span. I've asterisked the ones I recommend most highly. There also were a bunch of books I didn't finish or bounced off of in other ways.

  • Elizabeth Bear's Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth are a duology of historical fantasies set in the late Elizabethan era and alternating in viewpoints between Shakespeare and Kit Marley (Christopher Marlowe), who was rescued from death by Morgan le Fay and now lives with the Fae, subject to the faery queen. The faery queen's rule is tied to Elizabeth's and both Kit and Will are part of a group who work to keep order in England--but the group has split into factions and have different ideas about who should rule. This is tied with politics, Elizabethan and celestial and fey, and human relationships, as well as the world of Elizabethan theatre. Fascinating stuff, well handled.

  • * Gregory Frost's fantasy novel Lord Tophet is the second half of his Shadow Bridge duology (really one split novel). Such inventive and wonderful storytelling, very deftly handled. I loved the improbable, fantastic, emotionally true world. I wish I'd read the two volumes at the same time because I felt that I'd lost a lot in between reading the books.

  • Robin Wasserman's young adult science fiction novel, Skinned, which was interesting and well-handled, very much with a Scott Westerfeld feel.

  • Irene Gammel's Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L.M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classes is an account of Montgomery's life and the influences that helped her come up with the novel. As a writer I found it intriguing.

  • Lauren Mclaughlin's young adult fantasy Cycler about a young woman who spends five days transformed into a male. felt this could have been better had the author not chosen to have the mother in utter denial. It added tension which I'm sure is why the author did it, but limited the scope of the male side and thus missed a lot of opportunities.

  • Carrie Bebris, Pride and Prescience (Or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged) and Suspense and Sensibility, mystery starring Mr. & Mrs. Darcy which are amusing.

  • * Robin McKinley's fantasy novel, Chalice. Damn, I love her books. This one, too. I could read it again right now.

  • Georgette Heyer's historical romances, Arabella, Faro's Daughter, and Black Sheep, some of my favourites of hers, with great heroines.

  • Libba Bray's young adult historical fantasy, The Sweet Far Thing, the completion of her trilogy of novels about women in a Victorian girl's school who get caught up in an otherworld struggle for power.

  • * Melissa Marr's young adult fantasy, Ink Exchange, a companion to her Wicked Lovely, where here a friend of the previous main character gets caught up with the fae and suffers for it.

  • Paula Uruburu's non-fiction American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White: The Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century, a fascinating read.

  • Patricia A. McKillip's charming fantasy, The Bell At Seeley Head. I always love her work.

  • Juliet Marrillier's young adult fantasy, Cybele's Secret, with intriguing bits of Istanbul merchant life, a sequel of sorts to Wildwood Dancing.

  • Daryl Gregory's fantasy Pandemonium, a world in which a set of demons possess people.

  • * Graham Joyce's young adult fantasy The Exchange, where a young girl goes house-prowling at night and is caught by a woman who snaps a bracelet on her-one that she can't get rid of, and that gives her an insight into people's inner lives. Very cool.

  • * Jo Walton's Half A Crown is the completion of her series about a world in which British fascists created a treaty with German during World War II. Smart, pointed, and a good story on its own.

  • Elizabeth Peters' mystery Crocodile on the Sandbank set in turn of the century Egypt with archeology and a great female lead. I keep trying them, but mystery novels really aren't my thing, though I liked this.

  • John Berger's To The Wedding and From A to X are mainstream fiction. I enjoyed thse but found them a little wanting, a little too enamoured of the pattern they were making over the people they were writing about.

  • Hale Hale and Hale's graphic fantasy novel Rapunzel's Revenge, a Rapunzel (an after) retelling set in an old West analogue world.

  • Kristin Cashore's young adult fantasyGraceling in which a young woman becomes her uncle, the king's, punisher because she never loses a fight. Interesting characters.

  • Liz Berry's young adult fantasy The China Garden about a young woman caught up in an ancestral charge. Mythic and engaging.

  • D.M. Cornish's children's fantasy Monster Blood Tattoo--this feels very much like a better, and 1/4 of the book was appendices! A fuly realized world and interesting characters, that's for sure.

  • **Margo Lanagan's fantasy Tender Morsels, a wonderful, wonderful retelling of Snow White and Rose Red. Painful and stark and healing and beautiful.

  • **Ysabeau Wilce's wonderful fantasy Flora's Dare. Even better than the first! It's marvellous. A romp with depth, a middle novel better than the first with promising much in the third. What a delight!
last week's reading § next week's reading

Writing

Writing lots of poems, revising poems, revising the novel, rethinking the other novel. Busy times!

Had a poem accepted by Canadian Literature. I think that's all the news there. Need to get more things out there!

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

No time to be retrospective.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week

Email comments, questions, and complaints to neile@sff.net § Neile's main page

1150 people have wandered through this week with me