Stuff and Are You A Writer or An Editor?

Yes, I have completed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and no I have not even started working on the review! My spare time these past few says has been taken up by another project that I’ll mention later.

In the meanwhile, I’ve finished Georgette Heyer’s A Civil Contract that has pretty much no romance in it but which I enjoyed immensely. I also decided to try Kate Noble after reading some text from her somewhere on the web and I have to say that I am not disappointed. Follow My Lead is the first Kate Noble that I have tried and I have a suspicion that I might end up reading all her books.

On a totally unrelated note, here’s a link I’ve been meaning to share that I found thought provoking: Are you a writer or an editor? To quote Ed Yong on whose excellent blog I found the links, “Interesting, although it feels a little Sorting Hat-ty”

And here’s a piece from Hugo Lindren, who talks about his unplanned road to editorship.

In which I fall in love with Laurie R. King (of The Mary Russell Mysteries fame)

I had heard of but never read the Mary Russell mysteries. And then I came across Laurie R. King, the author of the Mary Rusell mysteries’ website. As I always do, I clicked on the page that said ‘Bio’ and stumbled upon:

Her Autobiography

I am a writer, because I love and have been nurtured by books.

and

One of the great pleasures in being the sort of writer I am, in having published The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, is looking up during a signing and seeing myself in the back row. The book, which begins with the heroine fifteen years old yet easily capable of meeting the great Sherlock Holmes as an equal, is the story I wish I had when I was twelve or fourteen. Fantasy, affirmation, a hint of romance, a dash of adventure: along with those shy girls in the back row, I am Mary Russell. Or I was at that age, in my mind.

and

But what do a much-uprooted childhood, a love of theology, travel to distant places, and the establishment of three homes have to do with the Laurie R. King entry in Contemporary Authors? If my husband had not been so near to retirement age, I might well have gone on into doctoral studies, become a Biblical scholar, and had a far different entry. Or if back in high school my math teachers had been more encouraging, my other secret passion might have taken root, leading me into architecture, in which case a Laurie King biography would have been found in another series entirely. Or if life had tugged just slightly harder in another direction, I might have pursued the mysteries of birth, and plunged into the joyous obscurity of a midwife, known only to those whose babies she had caught.

Instead, in September of 1987, when my daughter was in her second grade classroom and my son off to his preschool three mornings a week, I sat down with the Waterman fountain pen I had bought on the Oxford high street the summer before and wrote on a canary pad the words, “I was fifteen when I met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him.”

And like that, I was a writer.

I think I am about to fall in love.

And so it begins! (House of Niccolo)

My insides are dancing a jig. My brain is squealing in excitement. And the reader in me has a distinctly satisfied smile on her face.

All this because I have decided to embark on The House of Niccolo series. Yes! Miss Dunnett leaped across like a seasoned athelete, clearing the miles long TBR pile confidently and sure-footedly.

Having been gobsmacked by Miss Dunnett the first time around though I am determined to be better prepared this time!

For one, I am ordering the Dorothy Dunnett companion books by Elspeth Morrison. Miss Dunnett’s superb wielding of European history and my woeful ignorance of the same, her use of archaic words that prove un-findable, her lavish use of poetry that goes right above my head and her switching between multiple languages — all these were frustrating obstacles during my reading of the Lymond Chronicles and issues that I would like to address before commencing the House of Niccolo series.

For another, I intend to read up all the spoiler-y things about the Niccolo series. Before Dorothy Dunnett fans jump up and scream blasphemy, let me explain my rationale! My whole experience of the Lymond Chronicles was marked by a sort of lurch forward, a stagger backwards where my desire to savour each and every word was at a constant war with my impatience to know what happens next. One could argue that a mark of a good story is inspiring this very behaviour in a reader. This time around though I have an overwhelming desire to focus more on the rich details and the incredibly beautiful prose that is so central to Miss Dunnett’s works than spending energy fretting about future events. I’d also like to read more critically which I know will require a more patient reading as compared to how I read Francis of Lymond’s chronicles.

Knowing myself this will be possible only if I have a general idea of the biggies of the series, of which, two I know I need to know for sure for my strategy to succeed – the identity of the villain, if there is one; the identity of Niccolo’s love interest and the one he finally ends up with.

I am also thinking of processing my thoughts on this blog as I read along. I don’t know what the schedule would be – halfway through the book, end of each section / book, or something else – but I’m tempted for sure!

Or that’s the plan anyway!

~*~

In the meanwhile I have The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield ready and waiting for me.

Something else that I want to get to is a review of “The Chocolate Kiss” by Laura Florand, easily one of the better romances I have read in a long long while. It’s funny like hell, has delightful characters and really good writing, a Parisian hero and a Parisian pastry shop and to top it all oodles of hot chocolates and dozens of macarons! Ahh, I shall just have to sit down and write it out, n’est-ce pas? (and that’s the sum total of my French!) ((and I really hope I used that correctly!))

Quick & Snappy

It’s another year! A Happy Happy 2013 everyone! To quote Dag Hammarskjöld, “For all that has been — Thanks. For all that shall be — Yes.”

Kindle Paperwhite Anyone?

As I’ve told my husband his gift to me this Valentine’s Day shall be the Kindle Paperwhite! I AM interested in user feedback before the purchase though – what has been your experience if you’re using it?

While I love e-ink which is easy on the eyes I HAVE found myself wishing for a backlit screen for all the times when everyone else is fast asleep and I’m snuggled in and too cozy to move elsewhere!

Reading & Writing Resolutions

I don’t really have any except to whittle down my TBR, and inflate it at the same rate.  And of course to write more and more.

These Last Few Weeks

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer: A delightful romp despite the implausibility of a heroine who is perpetually perky, a few character turnabouts a little hard to believe in, a 20 year old age difference between the hero and the heroine and the general omniscience of the hero.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Another rave-review getter which turned out to be ok-ish for me. The characters and the plot line were somewhat simplistic; they lacked the layers for me to sink my teeth into despite Kristin Cashore touching on some tough-world issues in the book. The overall tone was a little juvenile for me – which considering that Graceling is marketed as a YA novel is something that I should not be complaining about I guess! Oh, well.

The Snow Child by Eown Ivey – Review to come. On the whole, I enjoyed it!

Coming Up Next (reading-wise). Hopefully.

The Chocolate Kiss – Laura Florand
Brownies & Broomsticks – Baily Cates
Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

No fantasy for the time being. The very thought of fantasy brings up that sickly sweet feeling that one gets after gorging on too much sugar!

The Liebster Award

Image from: http://www.amylynnwentz.com/2012/10/the-liebster-award.html

The Leibster Award

I think this month long break from writing while I was busy getting married has rendered my pegging-thoughts-on-to-the-right-words skill a little rusty. I’ve been trying to pin down the long overdue review of Among Others but every word that blinks into existence on my computer screen feels colourless. So to ease back into the whole process of gathering my thoughts, structuring them and clothing them with the right words I’ve decided to have a go at the questions that Litlove so kindly tagged me with. I’ve just read up on the Leibster award and I feel honoured that someone I really look up to decided to tag me with this award alongwith Miss Darcy, Desperate Reader, Dolce Belleza, Mrs Carmichael, Curate’s Egg and Helen at A Gallimaufry – thanks so much Litlove!

Without further ado, here’s my answers to Litlove’s questions:

1. What do you think of literary prizes? Good idea or bad?

As someone relatively new to the whole organized literary scene (including lit blogs and review sites) I find myself wanting to sit on the fence with ‘Insufficient Data’ as the justified excuse! Having said that I do have an off-the-cuff response – as a reader my impulse is to say that literary prizes is a good idea.

I’m cognizant of the fact that like any other public honour a literary prize has a whole gamut of politics associated with it and that there are hundreds of other books out there perhaps more worthy of our attention. However, I see value in literary prizes as a way to discover new books. In so far as it’s a recommendation mechanism literary prizes expand the scope of my reading to include books and authors I might either have not come across or paid attention to. The bestowal of the prize itself does not necessarily predispose me to like the book in question. It’s just that as someone who loves to glom on books and is forever on the lookout to add more to her TBR, I find a certain usefulness to having literary prizes.

2. If you could write any sort of book, what would you write?

Ahh, definitely something that would uplift the reader. A work that would deal with the lives of ordinary men and women and bring out the poetry of everyday existence. Something that while delving deeper into the questions we come across in our daily lives also leaves a smile on the reader’s face. As I’m responding to this question I’m thinking that while I also love reading fantasy and stories that have grand sweeping adventures at their core, yet if I were to sit down and write I would want to explore more of our day to day lives.

3. Describe your ideal home library/study.

Here’s the features that my ideal library would be endowed with:

  • A big fireplace that one could lounge in front of while sighing through something comfortable
  • Ample lighting – both electronic and from the sun
  • A whole side taken up by french windows that would look out over a garden bursting with flowers across the year and at the shimmering blue of a lake or a river in the distance that would be ringed by mountains in the faint horizon
  • Shelves upon shelves of teak wood laden with books that would extend from my forehead to my waist – not an inch above nor an inch below
  • Sofas that one could burrow into and that would be scattered throughout the room
  • Window sills broad and comfortable enough to dawdle on as I think through bookish thoughts and jot them down on my laptop
  • And of course nooks and crannies that I could just lounge back against if I felt too lazy to scurry to one of the sofas!

4. Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices.

I shall pass on this question as I feel woefully inadequate in answering it – I can’t think of anyone for whom I can say this and more than likely that’s because my repertoire and range of reading has been / is perhaps very limited.

5. Which books do you hope to get for Christmas?

Oh!! Here’s the best way to answer this question – My Amazon Wishlist!

6. What’s the last book you did not finish and why?

I am afflicted with complete-it-itis. The book has to be really really bad (think Fifty Shades of Grey bad) for me to give up on it. If nothing else just wanting to know how it all ends will compel me to reach the last page. Though if I dislike a book I do have the tendency to skip sections. The last book that I was racing through though had nothing to do with me not liking it. Rather it was my impatience to know what happens next. It was the Lymond Chronicles.

7. Would you accept 20 books that were absolutely perfect for you and dependably brilliant reads, if they were also the last 20 books you could ever acquire?

No! Who’s to say that a more brilliant and perfect read will not come out the very day after this duplicitous proposal!

Ok, so here’s my 7 questions!

1. Are you genre agnostic or do you read only specific genres? Why?

2. How and who started you on your love affair with the written word?

3. What were some of your favourite books as a tween and a teen?

4. Have you found your reading taste change across the years?

5. What’s your absolute favourite comfort read? Why?

6. Do you think a love for reading automatically leads to a love for writing as well?

7. What’s your favourite book/reading memory?

And here’s the blogs I’m tagging (though probably none of them are newish!):

The blog from Williamsburg Regional Library, Full Soul Ahead, Bookeywookey, The Sheila Variations, Belle from Miss Bookish

And of course anyone else who would fancy a go at these questions is more than welcome to them!

Of being drunk on poetry

There is a review I planned
sitting half-finished

But I-
‘I am Blissful and Drunk and Overflowing’

This unexpected slight winter chill
in the balmy city of Mumbai
has made me think
of ‘a plain fired-clay cup,
the steam rising from a boiling teapot’
of that line that whispers itself to me often,
‘Everything is Waiting for You.’

I am thinking of those other winter nights
from years gone by
of sitting underneath the starlit sky
and of having my heart thrown wide open
where ‘Love
wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.’

I can hear David Whyte
and Hafiz and Daniel Ladinsky
And Mary Oliver and Jane Hirshfield

And I hear my soul
shouting back in recognition
rushing forward,
‘tripping over joy’

~~*~

‘Everything is Waiting for you’ – David Whyte http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Everything_is_Waiting.html

‘I am Blissful and Drunk and Overflowing’ – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky

‘a plain fired-clay cup, the steam rising from a boiling teapot’ – Basho from The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield

‘Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, Break all our teacup talk of God.’ – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky

‘Tripping over Joy’. – ‘I heard God Laughing: Poems of Hafiz’ by Daniel Ladinsky

a reading meme

Found this wonderful meme over at Litlove’s and wanted to give it a whirl!

The Book I’m Reading

Jo Walton’s ‘Among Others’ – universally good reviews plus a 2011 Nebula followed by a 2012 Hugo clinched the deal. This was, however, a month ago. At the time that I started Among Others I also embarked upon Francis Lymond’s 10 year journey with Dorothy Dunnett little realizing that I would be dead to everything else till I finished the six part series. Of course, once I finished the series I was left gasping for breath and had to breathe in a lung-full of something sweet, something light. Once THAT was over with as well I could finally settle into Among Others.

Among Others is a fantasy unlike others in that the story’s not choc a bloc with fantastical creatures and other-worldly happenings. In fact now that I think of it the story’s touched more by an air of mystery than fantasy – the event that triggered Morganna’s current life situation are never fully revealed (Morganna is the 15 year old socially awkward bibliophile who narrates the story). Her mother is hinted at being literally evil but we do not really hear from her or of her other than Morganna’s oblique references. The secondary characters especially Wim and Morganna’s paternal relations, grandfather Sam and her father’s three sisters, all portend trouble – of things coming to a head in the second half of the novel where all these secondary characters are going to become important. And of course writing the above just made me realize that Miss Walton has definitely succeeded in imbuing her story with a certain atmosphere – a thick pall of rain and thunder and storm is what I would associate the story with. I’ll come back to this once I’m done with the whole novel.

The Last Book I Read

Pride & Prejudice – Ahh, I loved this re-reading so much. Sort of like soaking in the warmth of the sun after a particularly chilly night. The romance between Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy was delightful. So too was the ridiculousness of the haughty Lady Catherine and the obsequious Mr. Collins. I appreciate the fact that while from my 21st century perspective I find these characters a tad unrealistic and tending to be a little caricature-like they probably have their grounding in the norms that were prevalent in the late 18th century and early 19th century. Of course each character could also be held up as a template of a certain type of individual that remains as true in the 21st century as it probably was in Miss Austen’s times – Mrs. Bennett and Lydia Bennett, the fluffy heads with nary a care except all that would be judged by the social barometer; Jane Bennett and Charles Bingley who seem naïve and too-good-to-be-true with the sweetness of their tempers and kindness of their dispositions; Mr. Bennett who seeks solace and amusement in his books and the absurdities of life as his coping mechanism for the choice he made in marrying Mrs. Bennett; and last but not the least Elizabeth and Darcy who in the surety of their opinions and in the blend of a certain selfishness and caring affection towards their family members and friends are perhaps the most easily relatable. I have to admit that I would not mind reading Pride & Prejudice in a proper classroom setting with a rigorous analysis of the novel as well as of the context in which Miss Austen wrote this much beloved work.

The Book I’ll Read Next

Ahh, all the contenders have been swept aside by the release of Karen Marie Moning’s next installment in the Fever world series – Iced.  I am a fan of Miss Moning’s packs-a-punch storytelling where half the world’s population is dead and the other half is busy cavorting ‘in the Faerie’. I came to the Fever series late which was odd considering that I was a big fan of her Highlander romances. However, once begun I could not put the books down – a heavy dose of paranormal elements crossed with alpha-male-hunkiness dunked in a world of non-whimpering females who can kick some major ass is as good a pleasure-read as it gets. Why these would not be the epitome of comfort-read is something that I might need to explore in another post; for the time being for a thoroughly enjoyable bout of pleasure reading I’d most certainly recommend the Fever series.

The Last Book I Bought

My last purchase was actually last night – Persuasion from the Kindle store since after re-reading Pride & Prejudice I want to go through all of Miss Austen’s works again.

The Last Book I Was Given

It’s been a while since I was given a book. I think the last one was a collection of poetry edited by Edward Hirsch. I love what I call ‘Poetry of the Everyday’ and I distinctly remember this collection featuring several of those kind… perhaps it’s time for a re-read. Speaking of poetry, I love the sort written by David Whyte, Billy Collins, Jane Hirschfield and Mary Oliver – they remind me of the joy and the poetry lurking in the interstices of life. And writing this brings the forceful realization that it’s been a really long while since I read any. I think one of my next purchases is going to be a book of poems!

Letterpress – The Time Guzzler or Why There Is A Break From Regularly Scheduled Programming

I’ve been trying to finish Jo Walton’s Among Others but alas! I have given up! No NOT because of any inherent issue with the book but because I’ve  been whiling my time away playing a shiny new game called Letterpress!

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/letterpress-a-game-from-the-creator-of-tweetie-lifts-off/

Oh what a time guzzler! I have been locked in Letterpress battles for the past few days rendering me useless for anything else other than scrunching my eyebrows into my forehead, and hunching over the screen of my phone; eyes glazing, busily searching the recesses of my mind in an effort to come up with the looooooonnngggest words while stealing some of my opponent’s tiles at the same time!

I absolve myself of all guilt and lay all the blame fair and square on Loren Brichter. In my defense –

  • It is easily the best word game I’ve discovered in the past few years – a word game that demands both vocabulary and strategy
  • The interface is soooooo pretty!
  • I love the ‘tut’ sound the letters make
  • I’ve been whupping people’s behinds left-right-and-center!

Ok. Now that I’ve unburdened myself I hope I shall be able to make an effort to read rather than play on my commute back home today.Or not.

On a separate note that makes me want to ask – where / when does your reading happen? Mine is confined to slivers of times during commute or before falling in the bed. I’m longing for a vacation which involves nothing more than sun, sand and a few perfect reads!

P.S. I shall make Letterpress culpable for not organizing my thoughts and writing down the second part on comfort reads as well!

In the meanwhile

I need a break. In the wake of Dorothy Dunnett this implies:

  • Prose which I can read at my normal reading speed
  • Plot which does not turn and twist on itself
  • Villains who are not creepily scary
  • Characters who have not had a classical education
  • A completely and thoroughly contemporary setting (I cannot bring myself to read anything historical for a while)

In other words a reading experience which is soothing and comforting and is absolutely the opposite of the all-consuming Lymond Chronicles. I feel like a diver who has surfaced after a particularly intense dive and is gasping for breath.

I am looking forward to reading Miss Dunnett’s Niccolo series but will have to build the stamina for plunging into her world again – something which I do not think will happen before the beginning of the next year.

For my immediate consumption I have lined up:

  • 2 Carla Kelly romances – one of my favourite comfort-read authors
  • Sarah Addison Allen – The Girl Who Chased the Moon
  • Jo Walton – Among Others

Next I want to try the Persephone books which I’ve come across a lot on other book blogs.

If anybody reading this has any reccommendations for comfort reading, do give me a shout out!

On Reviewing

The blogosphere has been atwitter with the whole process of book reviewing. Here’s 2 essays I found thought-provoking:

From themillions.com

From litlove, an excellent blog that I had the good fortune to stumble upon recently

I think there’s a lot to litlove’s comment that “personal-opinion based reviews tend to say a great deal about the person reading, but less about the book.” (Indeed her whole article is worth perusing. So is the comments section).

While I do not want vapidity in my writing, especially book-reviews, I am also wary of sliding to the other extreme where the impressions and the experience are subsumed into the objective and the critical. Both the perspectives are equally important. And ultimately all the ingredients would have to blend together seamlessly – the voice that is uniquely me, my experience of reading the story, and the gleanings from the critical filter.

I also have to confess that I am sort of not sure what reading critically actually encompasses. Is it a hyper-awareness of what one is reading while one is reading – maintaining a sort of an objective view-point  while being immersed in the subjective experience of the story? No, that does not sound right. For one it sounds awfully exhausting. For another it seems implausible that one could sustain this state through the length of a book. More importantly, I think it would detract from the enjoyment of the story.

To answer my own question – the no-brainer answer would be to commence with the critical thinking once the last page has been turned and all the details are available. And if one is prone to forgetfulness (like this writer) which would make using the framework that litlove mentioned a tad difficult the no-brainer answer (yes, again) would be to go back to the story.

Hmm. That does not sound too difficult. Unless it is? Well, I’m sure to find out in the days to come!

****

A litte while later – And while trawling through the webs just now came across BrainPicking’s ‘How to Read Like a Writer’