Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas from the girls

Years ago when I lived in New York I found two sets of ornaments in an art supply store around the corner from where I worked in Midtown. One was Dickens' characters. The other -- and why this is Christmas-associated I don't know and don't care -- was Golden Age Hollywood actresses.

Alice Faye, Bette Davis, Hedy Lamarr

This is Sonja Henie, who made ice-skating movies and was also a three-time Olympic champion. (If you ever watched M*A*S*H, you may remember that Colonel Potter was a fan of her films.)

And I've completely forgotten who this is. My best guess is Irene Dunne.
When we first moved to the house I hung the girls up on the staircase as Christmas decorations and somehow I never took them down. This year I finally moved them back to the tree, to join Mr. Micawber, Tiny Tim, David Copperfield, Little Nell and....Mrs. Gamp?

Merry Christmas to all! Have a happy and healthy set of holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

End of the year reading

The end of the year is well-known as the time that all the big Oscar-type movies come out. There's kind of a similar effect in books, with blogs and publishing industry magazines talking up the big books and potential prize-winners. So here's my list. Probably not all prize winners but well worth seeking out and keeping in mind for that after-Christmas shopping.

Most recent read: The Returning. Published in Australia originally as Bloodflower (truthfully, I would probably never read a novel called Bloodflower, so this is one time the US title is an improvement.) The Returning is hard to characterize. It's set in a unnamed country whose culture is at times vaguely English, at other times vaguely feudal Japanese. A civil war has unsettled everything. The main character, Cam, returns to his village, but soon leaves again because of the resentment everyone bears him (he was the only one, of all the men who went, who returned.) The narrative follows Cam but also the other inhabitants of the village: an orphan boy, a refugee girl, Cam's sister, his former fiancee. It's at this point that I break off and say, just read the darn book. It's very well done, one of the most thoughtful and interesting books I've read on the YA side in a long time.

Potential Newbery(s): Bigger than a Bread Box. I don't read a lot of middle-grade or contemporary novels but I read this feeling I had fallen into the hands of a master. The plot works, the problems are realistic, and best of all, not only is there magic, but there are consequences to the magic. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making. This is one of those books that winks at adults, and might even be aimed at them for all I know. (I did wonder, while I read it, how many children would really get into it, but then I remembered that at age 10 I read all the Oz books I could find, and they do much the same thing.)

Obligatory Mentions: Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Chime.

Overlooked: Fly Trap. Frances Hardinge in the only writer I can think of fit to inherit Diana Wynne-Jone's mantle. She just comes up with stuff that makes other YA fantasy seem pallid.

And one other mention, since I'm only 3/4 of the way through: Life: An Exploded Diagram. Love and the Cuban Missile Crisis and do I get the feeling that Mal Peet still doesn't quite know what kind of a writer he is? Yes, but worth reading.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Awhile back Laurel Garver at Laurel's Leaves posted this piece on boosting writing credits by publishing in literary magazines. Specifically, she suggested using scenes or chapters which you have cut from an MS but which can stand alone as stories or flash fiction.

After I read this, I turned over, mentally, what I had that might fit her suggestion...fragments from an abandoned project that are still rather fragment-y...two short stories I wasn't sure what to do with. Then I remembered a prologue I had written for my current WIP. It takes place about 20 years before the main action and I wrote it out partly to give one of my characters a backstory. I liked it, but I wasn't sure how it fit in with the main narrative and finally one day I took a Joan Crawford-style vow of "No more prologues, ever!" and cut it entirely. It worked as a stand-alone story, however, and thanks to Laurel's piece I polished it, sent it out and and this week, as short story now called "The Feeb," I got an acceptance for it from The Waterhouse Review, an online literary magazine in Scotland.

(And they pay! OK - a token payment of 2 pounds -- but still!)

I'm really excited. It's kind of a smashing little story and I was always very proud of it but it's nice to know that other people see the same thing in it. And not for nothing is The Waterhouse Review known as a "personable" market. They've been great to deal with, honest and cheerful and so quick to respond!

I think I'm still a little in the is-it-all-a-dream phase...

I'll post a link when the story comes out in January. Big thanks again to Laurel for the idea. I had dipped my toe in the magazine market years ago when everything was print and response times were looooong and I never would have been motivated to do it again were it not for her post.