Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bookshelf Tag

I saw this fun bookshelf tag over at The Edge of the Precipice, and couldn't resist doing it for myself. It was originally created by Natalie at Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens, and there's no rules about passing the tag on—it's for whoever wants to join in. Now, I'm just sticking to my own personal bookshelf, which is one of several in our house—it doesn't hold our main Jane Austen collection, for instance, or the N.C. Wyeth-illustrated Scribners, or any of the horse books and children's historical fiction that are now in the keeping of my youngest sister. These are just the books that I personally own.

Describe your bookshelf (or wherever it is you keep your books-it doesn't actually have to be a shelf!) and where you got it from:
My bookcase is a three-shelf folding bookcase, light reddish-brown—it's actually a stackable unit; you can add another of the same kind to the top if you like. I got it as a birthday gift from my parents two years ago, and believe me, it was the perfect gift—all my books were stored in boxes and bins under my bed before that. Right now it looks pretty much the same as it did in the pictures I took for this post, except that I parted with my copy of Calling Dr. Kildare, which I decided I wasn't likely to read again, to make room for National Velvet and Understood Betsy on the top shelf. I also evicted 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea from the bottom shelf to make room for the copies of The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment that I want to re-read, and the household copies of Anna Karenina and War and Peace have been crammed in on top of some other books. I'm due for another sorting-through of my library, which I'm going to do as part of the thirty-day minimalism challenge.

Do you have any special or different way of organizing your books?

I have them loosely arranged by type—fiction on the top shelf; history, biography and memoir alongside writing craft books and mystery on the middle shelf; classics, poetry and miscellaneous on the bottom. I've also managed to arrange them by height—and I use the library shelving method my mom taught me, pulling all books forward to stand equal with the widest on the shelf so the spines are even all the way across. It certainly looks nicest, but it does mean you have to take them all out every once in a while to dust behind them!

What's the thickest (most amount of pages) book on your shelf?

Les Miserables, at 1463 pages, just beats out The Complete Works of O. Henry at 1424. (I suspect anybody with Les Miserables on their shelf will be answering this question the same way.)

What's the thinnest (least amount of pages) book on your shelf?

Beechenbrook by Margaret Junkin Preston, at 50 pages.

Is there a book you received as a birthday gift?

Yes, several! My siblings gave me No Life For a Lady by Agnes Morley Cleaveland one year, and the O. Henry volume was another splendid birthday gift from my parents.

What's the smallest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?
My paperbacks of Ivanhoe and Murder on the Orient Express are the shortest, both the same height; the front cover of Ivanhoe might be a fraction of an inch narrower.

What's the biggest (height and width wise) book on your shelf?

The Art of Illumination by Patricia Carter.

Is there a book from a friend on your shelf?

Well, if you count my family as friends, sure! But no, I don't think there's any gifts from outside the family there at present.

Most expensive book?

I'm guessing the Complete Works of O. Henry, since it's leather-bound.

The last book you read on your shelf?

From start to finish (as opposed to pulling something off and reading a chapter or two)? The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington, out of the Growth trilogy volume.

Of all the books on your shelf, which was the first you read?

Tough one! It could be Understood Betsy or David Copperfield; I know I read them both as a little girl but can't recall exactly when.

Do you have more than one copy of a book?

Not personally, no.

Do you have the complete series of any book series?
Not on my personal shelf. There's a full set of the Anne of Green Gables books in the house that began as mine, though it's sort of become family property now.

What's the newest addition to your shelf?

If you don't count those books I mentioned at the beginning of this post as just having moved on there (which we've owned for a while), I think it's the Growth trilogy.

What book has been on your shelf FOREVER?

That's hard to say, since most of my collection went on there at the same time when the bookcase was new.

What's the most recently published book on your shelf?

Ahem. Left-Hand Kelly, by myself.

The oldest book on your shelf (as in, the actual copy is old)?

Meadowlark Basin by B.M. Bower, published and printed in 1925.

A book you won?

None at present.

A book you'd hate to let out of your sight (aka a book you never let someone borrow)?

Probably Growth, because it's old and rare, and rather a favorite.

Most beat-up book?

The most beat-up book I own is not actually on my shelf; it's a used copy of The Singing Hill by B.M. Bower that's so battered I have to keep it in a plastic bag. The pages are yellowed and fragile and the covers are crumbly and discolored. But it had taken me quite a while to locate any copy at all, and it kept me up late finishing it, so I didn't mind.

Most pristine book?

I don't know exactly; most of my newer history/biography hardcovers are in quite good condition.

A book from your childhood?

I've already mentioned Understood Betsy twice, so I'll go with Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs, one of my favorite historical fiction books.

A book that's not actually your book?

I've sort of inherited the Dickens and the Russians, but the one that my mom occasionally reminds me really belongs to her is The Day I Became an Autodidact.

A book with a special/different cover (e.g. leather bound, soft fuzzy cover etc.)?

The Complete Works of O. Henry definitely has the most elegant binding—dark brown leather with gold lettering and designs on the spine, shiny gold edges to the pages and red-gold moire endpapers.

A book that is your favorite color?

My favorite color is coral, with pink for a runner-up, and there are actually no coral or pink books on my shelf! The red spine of the War and Peace dust jacket has faded to a rather peachy shade (all that reading it out in the sun by the pool last summer), but that doesn't quite count.

Book that's been on your shelf the longest that you STILL haven't read?

I think the only book on my shelf that I haven't read is Alexander Stephens' History of the United States. And I've only read a bit out of the Robert Frost's Complete Poetry.

Any signed books?


Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorite TV Episode Blogathon: The Virginian, "Siege"

When I heard about the Favorite TV Episode Blogathon being hosted by A Shroud of Thoughts, an event focusing on single episodes of classic television, it sounded to me like the perfect opportunity to write about an episode of my favorite TV Western, The Virginian, something I'd occasionally thought about doing before. The choice of episode was an easy one: an entry from the show's second season, "Siege."

"Siege" features a device often used by Western series when they wanted a change of scenery: sending one of the regular characters off on a journey, where adventure will most certainly befall. In this case it's Trampas (Doug McClure), who, after striking it rich in an all-night poker game, decides to go back to the little town of Logan, New Mexico, where he spent some time several years before, to pay off the debts he left behind and visit some old friends. He's particularly looking forward to seeing Carole (Elinor Donahue), a girl he once courted before her disapproving brother, banker Duke Logan (Philip Carey) ran him out of town—but finds that Carole is now happily married to the new town marshal, Brett Cole (Ron Hayes).

Now with no reason to stay longer, Trampas heads out of town to visit some former employers before going back to Medicine Bow—but his trip takes a darker turn when he finds the elderly couple have been robbed and murdered by marauding Comancheros. Tracking down and capturing the killers, he brings them back to Logan, where the authorities seem strangely reluctant to imprison or try the men.

The situation as explained by Duke, along with Trampas' friend Charlie Sanchez, the amiable Mexican hotelkeeper (Nestor Paiva) is that the Comancheros essentially run a protection racket in Logan—they are allowed the run of the town so long as they mostly behave themselves, and the townspeople can't lift a hand against them under threat of what the Comancheros would do if they did. Since the murders took place outside the town limits, the only way the killers can be tried is if Trampas stays to press charges. Comanchero leader Lopez (Joseph Campanella) wants his men released or else, and Duke, determined to pacify Lopez, puts all the pressure he can on Trampas to drop the charges and leave—persuading his sister Carole, whom he has convinced to share his views, to use her influence with Trampas to the same effect. But meanwhile, Trampas' determination to see justice done is having its effect on Brett, who has slowly awakened to a sense of his duty as town marshal and is now also determined to back Trampas, much to his brother-in-law's anger and his wife's dismay.

Much as I like the usual episodes of The Virginian set around Medicine Bow and Shiloh Ranch, "Siege" is a favorite because of its engrossing plot—which, as it gradually builds to its suspenseful climax, becomes a clever variation on the High Noon-style stand for justice—and its overall high quality. The guest cast is excellent, and the script by Don Mullally is perhaps the best thing about it, filled with practical and moral conflicts for multiple characters and keen, layered dialogue that fits together like pieces of a puzzle. "Siege" has an almost cinematic feel; a self-contained story running an hour and a quarter (the running time of the show was 90 minutes with commercials, the first Western TV series of that length), it's very like a compact Western movie. Whether as a standout entry in a good series, or a stand-alone Western for fans of the genre, it's definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Spring Cleaning of Life

This spring, I'm doing another thirty-day minimalism challenge. It's not like our challenge of the autumn before last, which focused specifically on cleaning out unnecessary possessions. This is a clearing-up and simplifying of life in general—a spring-cleaning of life, I'd call it. Minimalism isn't just about getting rid of physical things; it's about simplifying your life and your possessions so you can more fully enjoy the things that are most important to you, and hence cut down on mental clutter and stress. And minimalism as a title doesn't entirely satisfy me either, though it's the word most people use and springs handily to the tongue. To me the word conjures up an image of a bare white room with metal furniture, modern art and no curtains. And that isn't me at all, as Miss Pole would say. Some folks do invent their own term for the mindset...how about 'simplisticism'?

Anyhow, this is the challenge sheet, found at this link:

Click to enlarge

The daily challenges can be taken in any order; I've already marked mine up and re-numbered most of it. You can also freely adapt and invent your own challenges to replace things that don't really apply to you—for instance, a day devoted to reading instead of TV would be no problem for me anyway, so I've replaced that with an overhaul of my physical book collection. Likewise, I'll probably come up with a new one to replace "Don't buy anything for 24 hours." I'm typically frugal by nature and don't have an issue with shopping too much, so it'd be more to the point to challenge myself to spring-clean an aspect of my life that really is a challenge.

I enjoy fits of organizing from time to time, and spring is usually one of those times, so an overhaul of closets, plans and schedules appeals to me right about now. How about you? Do you like this sort of spring-cleaning?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington

When I read The Turmoil for the first time a few years ago, it was a novel that I liked moderately, but after mulling it over a good deal and reading it a second time, it has firmly ensconced itself as my second-favorite book by Booth Tarkington. Written first of what he would later group together and call his Growth trilogy, it is set chronologically after The Magnificent Ambersons, in what we're given to understand is the same nameless "midland city" (likely based on Tarkington's native city of Indianapolis), now in the full grip and roar of the industrial age. At the center of the novel is the Sheridan family, wealthy owners of a business empire worth millions. Its plot focuses around sensitive youngest son Bibbs Sheridan—the sickly one and the "odd one" of the family, who hates the noise and smoke and rush and greed of the city, and wants no part of his family's business. Family patriarch James Sheridan Sr., meanwhile, is exactly the opposite—a memorable, larger-than-life character, noisy and blunt and boisterous, who loves the noise and smoke and the continual battle to build bigger and own more as much as Bibbs hates it. Completely incapable of understanding Bibbs' feelings or his wish to be a writer instead, Sheridan is bent on molding his incomprehensible youngest into his own image, and oblivious to the cracks appearing in the foundation of his family.

Next door to the Sheridans' new mansion live the Vertrees family, the remnants of one of the city's "old families," whom Sheridan's daughter Edith and daughter-in-law Sibyl are anxious to cultivate in order to "get in with the right people" in society, something the nouveau-riche Sheridans have yet to accomplish. Unbeknownst to them, the Vertreeses' fortunes have declined and they're now living on the very edge of poverty—their only hope is for daughter Mary to charm and marry Jim Sheridan, the oldest of the clan, something she sets out to do as a deliberate sacrifice for her parents' sake. But a self-revelation on Mary's part and an unexpected catastrophe combine to put an end to this...and in the aftermath, a friendship gradually grows between Mary and Bibbs, a friendship that inspires him with the will to live and to endure the work his father has pushed him into. Yet trouble still lies ahead, as Sibyl now cherishes a grudge against Mary and intends to exact bitter revenge on her...

When I started to read The Turmoil for the first time, I thought it would be hard to take a book seriously with a protagonist named Bibbs. But after just a few chapters I had forgotten all about his name (which is explained early in the story), and by the middle of the second reading I just loved him. Tarkington demonstrated in other books his ability to create characters you want to smack upside the head, but here he proves an equal ability to create, in Bibbs Sheridan and Mary Vertrees, characters you love and whom your heart aches for, so that you long for things to turn out well for them. Even Sheridan Sr., exasperating as he is, you can never really hate; there are moments, especially toward the end, where you feel a kind of fondness for him in his bluntness and rough good intentions. All the characters, good and bad, are drawn with the same keen, understated insight that is probably what I like best about Tarkington's writing, and the story is not without its moments of joy and humor in the midst of the drama.

I think what may have left me feeling a little ambivalent on that first reading was that Tarkington doesn't seem to pull a definite conclusion out of the themes of the book—he doesn't say or give us to understand whether it's Bibbs or his father who is definitively right, or what the solution to the chaos of industrialization is. Considering this now, though, I wonder if that's because Tarkington was living and writing in the very midst of that era: maybe he honestly didn't know. He offers a suggestion of hope in Bibbs' imaginings about the future near the end, a note which rings a bit false a hundred years later, when we can see it didn't quite turn out that way. But unlike other, "greater" novelists, he does one thing definitely right: he brings his characters' story to a fitting, satisfying resolution. If there is a message of any kind in The Turmoil, the one I sensed was that it's possible to find personal fulfillment and happiness even in the midst of a chaotic society. The final scene of the book has to be one of my favorite book endings now; it's just so beautiful, and...perfect.

The Turmoil, first published in 1915, is in the public domain and available for free online. I recommend the Project Gutenberg edition, since one Amazon review says the Kindle version is missing some sections of the book in the form of journal entries. Friday's Forgotten Books is a weekly blog event hosted by Patti Abbott.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weekday Odds and Ends #2

It was March now, the time of year when winter and spring disagree on who should take it from here, and somebody different seems to be winning each week.
~ The Summer Country by yours truly

I scrawled that in the plotting notebook for The Summer Country probably well over a year ago, and yet it describes the conditions of this month exactly. One day it's an anxious gray sky overhead and hard-frozen snow and mud underfoot; the next it's brilliant blue sky with fluffy white clouds flying across it, a mild, exhilarating wind and melting crystallized slush and puddles to trudge through. And then again the next day it's freezing gusts knocking the downspouts off the house and sending neighbors' garbage cans spinning down their driveways, with wintry sunlight making an intermittent effort to show itself.

Meanwhile, I'm at the kitchen table each morning with my notebooks, scribbling away. So here's a brief dispatch from the front, in the form of various entertaining odds and ends discovered on the internet of late:

  • Bas Bleu is hosting another Tournament of Classics on their blog, a March Madness-style bracket of books for readers to vote on, and this year all the titles are mystery/crime novels! There are some terrific titles on there, and some tricky choices—it was hard not to vote for Graham Green's The Third Man after I enjoyed it so much, but what can you do when it's up against Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca?

  • Now this is what I call a real library. It's the Camden Public Library in Camden, Maine, and it looks like it was really meant to sit and read in. What a beautiful interior and gorgeous grounds and views!

  • For anyone who's as fond of using em dashes as I am: I have discovered that the keyboard shortcut is Alt+0151 (on the number pad), at least for a PC. Now I don't have to go make one in Microsoft Word and then copy and paste it into Twitter.

  • Speaking of punctuation, all I could do after reading this article about the new role of punctuation in texting was shake my head in amazement. I do admit to trying to use punctuation to get the right "tone of voice" in online posts or tweets, but...honestly.

  • A new favorite swing number: "Li'l Darlin'" by Count Basie, a really nice slow, smooth piece. I lost count of how many times I listened to it the first couple days I had it on my mp3 player.

  • Last but not least...if you haven't read Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories yet, maybe you'd like a little sample taste? There's an excerpt up at Short Story Symposium

Monday, March 16, 2015

Window on a Vintage World, Part III: Moving Pictures

I hadn't planned on making a whole series out of this, but since the posts have been so popular, and these next discoveries are so fascinating, I thought I'd do just one more.

What's even better than color pictures? Why, moving pictures, of course!

Berlin and Munich, Germany, between 1900 and 1910.

Paris, France, between 1900 and 1925—including some scenes of what looks like liberation during World War I.

England and possibly Cork, Ireland around 1900. This has been enhanced with modern software for better video quality.

This is labeled Easter in New York City, 1900, but the fashions look a bit later in the decade to me.

A few short clips of New York City in the 1930s and '40s.

The experience of watching these videos is similar to that of seeing the color photos—it's amazing to watch these people talk and gesture to each other, smile, laugh, stare at the camera, walk past and generally carry on with their lives, while dressed in the fashions we're used to seeing only in antique photos and museums, or recreated in movies. I notice that in the earlier films, the focus is more on people and the doings of people, while in later decades it's mainly the streets and buildings of the cities themselves. Was it really a difference in the focus of the filmmakers, or was it just that by mid-century, people captured on film had become more commonplace and therefore not as interesting?

These are just a few samples—I've created a YouTube playlist with these clips and lots of others spanning from around 1900 through the 1940s (including a Part II of the Germany color footage), and I'll be adding more as I find them! Check out the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Window on a Vintage World, Part II: Kodachrome

Earlier this week I shared some of my favorite examples of autochromes, early color photos from the Edwardian era. Today's post features some even more vivid color pictures from the 1930s and '40s. Pictures taken with Kodachrome color film, introduced by Kodak in 1935, were still in the minority during this era, but they were there. Some fashion photos (like this one) and movie stills and portraits (such as this, and this) were done in color—but I must admit, I find slice-of-life photography capturing ordinary people in color the most fascinating. And happily for history buffs and historical writers, there are a couple of wonderful archives online featuring these kinds of photos.

The first is the archive of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI) color photographs at the Library of Congress site—over 1600 pictures taken between 1939 and 1943 by photographers assigned to capture images of the Great Depression and the early days of the war effort across the country. (The black-and-white Great Depression pictures by the same photographers are perhaps more famous.) I discovered the color photos via this this book which features highlights of the collection, but the whole thing is online for anyone to browse. Here's a few samples:

Barbecue in Pie Town, New Mexico - 1940

Distributing surplus commodities in St. Johns, Arizona - 1940

State fair, Rutland, Vermont - 1940

Robson, Texas - 1942

Fourth of July celebration, St. Helena Island, South Carolina - 1939

Best seen at super-size is this photo of a huge crowd of aircraft factory employees from 1942. You could look at it for hours and still discover new details!

Then there's the Charles W. Cushman collection. Cushman was an amateur photographer who traveled extensively around the United States and the world between 1938 and 1969, taking over 14,000 color photos as he went. Cushman took a lot of landscapes, but there are also many street scenes and some snapshots of people. Browsing through this collection is incredible; it's like taking a mid-century tour of the world. The collection is so extensive, it's difficult to choose samples, but here's just a couple:

Manhattan, New York City - 1942

Lower East Side, New York City - 1941

New Orleans - 1941

(A footnote: while photographing the city of Salzburg, Austria in May 1964, Cushman took a casual snap of a movie crew working in the Siegmundsplatz. Guess what movie was shooting in Salzburg on May 21? Cushman had unwittingly taken a picture of location shooting on The Sound of Music. All of his Salzburg photos are gorgeous, incidentally.)

Outside of these archives, there's personal snapshots. If you're researching these eras, scrounging about Pinterest or Flickr with "autochrome" or "kodachrome" coupled with a decade or year as keywords can turn up some treasures. Color snapshots were more common from the 1950s onward, but some amateur photographers did take stunning color shots in the '40s. For instance, there's this beautiful set of pictures of servicemen and their wives and friends, taken by a soldier training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1942. Or anonymous charmers like these:

circa 1940

circa 1946

It's the rarity of these pictures that makes them seem so special, I think, compared to the multitudes of black-and-white images—and the small numbers in comparison to the millions of photographs taken today. We have access to so many modern-day photos of city streets that they're unremarkable in themselves; while a good picture of the same city from seventy or eighty years ago has that much more historical value because it's one of a small number. We take countless pictures of our families, but a single antique portrait of an ancestor is exciting and precious because it's the only one. A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words, but when the quantities are limited, the quality becomes more important.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Window on a Vintage World, Part I: Autochrome

The next best thing to a time machine for visually exploring the early 20th century can be summed up in two words: "autochrome" and "kodachrome."

Until a few years ago, I really didn't know about the existence of early color photography. From the 1950s onward, yes, it was common enough to see a color photo. But the first time I saw color pictures from the 1930s, I was stunned. Black-and-white films and photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries are numerous enough, so I think we've unconsciously grown accustomed to thinking of those eras as happening in black and white. But the truth is, not only did our ancestors live in living color, there was color photography in existence, though it didn't become widespread for quite a while. I spent several hours this past weekend browsing through color photos from the early 1900s through the 1940s, and I thought I'd share some of my favorite discoveries, and spotlight some great photographical resources for historical fiction writers.

When I got right down to it, I realized I had too many favorites to put in one post, so I'm going to split it into two parts: the Edwardian era, and the 1930s/40s. First up, the autochrome.

The autochrome was a color photography process developed in France around the turn of the century—patented in 1903 and first marketed in 1907, it was used by both professional and amateur photographers over the next few decades, though it never achieved the popularity of black and white. The hues in some of these pictures are a little pale, but the fact remains: this is the real-life Edwardian era, in color.

circa 1910

Emily Winthrop, 1910, by American lawyer John Bond Trevor Sr. See a few more of his autochrome portraits here.

circa 1907

Wife and daughters of William Applegate Gullick, circa 1909 (source).

A 1908 autochrome by the inventor of the process himself, Louis Lumière. The title is "Madeleine, Suzanne et Andrée à travers les vignes," or (taking Google Translate's word for it), "Madeleine, Suzanne and Andrée through the vineyards."

Come back later this week for a colorful trip through the 1930s and 1940s in Kodachrome, including links to some amazing online archives of color photos!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Catching up with "The Silent Hour"

I had high hopes of finishing the first draft of The Silent Hour a couple weeks ago, but a nasty cold struck the entire household and effectively canceled that notion. I'm over all but the tail-end of a cough now, but it has been hard getting back into the swing of writing—it always takes a long time for me to get my energy back after I've been sick. When you feel exhausted halfway through the morning, that's not the ideal time to write the climax of a mystery.

The last couple days, though, I have been writing again. I have just one scene left in The Silent Hour, and since it's the big explanation scene, it should be all downhill from here. With all my (limited) energies all directed toward finishing this story, I haven't much to blog about, but I've posted a few snippets on the progress of The Silent Hour on Twitter over the past month, so I thought I'd share some of that here. The handwritten excerpts are owing to the new #wordplaywednesday tag started by Rachel Heffington, which you can read more about here.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Beings of the Mind

The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence.
~ Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto IV, verse V

Today Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories is finally out  in the world on its own. And yet even after all these months of editing and preparing and pre-orders, I'm having a bit of a hard time believing it myself. I spent so much time with the characters of these stories—"Wanderlust Creek" in particular, since it took such a long time to come to fruition—living inside my head, known only to me, that it's hard to adjust to the fact that they're actually out there on a printed page for anyone to read. I still feel the same way about Left-Hand Kelly sometimes: "Is that really published?" The feeling is definitely stronger for stories and characters that you've lived with for a long time, as opposed to those written quickly, and those two were among the most slowly brewed.

One does grow fond of one's own creations, and oddly protective of them—don't just believe me; Jane Austen wrote of her Elizabeth Bennet, "How I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know." I suppose there are some who can take a merely detached interest in their characters, but I'm not one of them. I'm no hand at writing up character profiles and quizzes for my blog as some people can do so entertainingly (partly because I can't seem to do it properly without involving plot spoilers), but by the time I get to the end of a story, I really feel that I know these people I've invented, and am close to them in that peculiar relationship of author to character.

I've been re-reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time in years, and appreciating its joys all over again with grown-up eyes—among them, the delights of  Anne's dream friends and imaginary conversations, which are so close to what happens in the early stages of creating a story. And yet there's a difference between simply amusing oneself with fancies, and deliberately turning them into something that is put out into the world to be, as Anne puts it, "laughed at or wondered over." A writer may be first and foremost a dreamer who loves to play in the land of the imagination, but they're also someone with the impulse to take these fancies further and see them find full expression in written stories, which are eventually to be shared with other people. So for me at least, there's always a little bit of inner conflict between those two feelings. Still, the instinct to write a story and share it always wins out, however much shy nail-biting I may do on release day.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Published short fiction: "Revolt"

A few days before Christmas I accidentally wrote a short story. I say "accidentally" because I hadn't planned it at all. I'm always playing with little bits of scenes and characters in my head, most of which eventually admit they haven't the substance to go any further and fade away. A few more promising concepts get scribbled in notebooks for future use. But on this particular morning, the words and images of a short, intense scene were striking me so clearly that I decided I had to write it down right away. So I did what I practically never do: I said "Just give me fifteen minutes to get this down," shut myself in my bedroom, and typed half the story straight to the computer.

On another day I finished it, and after the holidays I edited it. I briefly considered putting it into Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories, but decided against it—the length and tone didn't really fit with the rest of the collection. So I decided I'd submit it to an ezine. This past week it was accepted, and now you can read it at The Western Online!

Click here to read "Revolt"

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cover Reveal: Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree

Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she even wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?

Pendragon's Heir, if you recall, made my list of top ten favorite books read in 2014 after I had the privilege of reading an advance copy. Today I'm happy to help reveal the splendid cover art! The novel releases on March 26th, 2015, and in the meantime you can add it to-read on Goodreads, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win an advance e-copy. And don't forget to stop by Suzannah's blog at Vintage Novels to find out more, and to get a sneak peek at the illustrations that will be in the book! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway