Blog Hop: Literary Disguise

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: If you were to dress up as a literary figure {author or character} for Halloween, who would it be?

I have dressed up as a literary figure–I was September from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland several years ago.  Probably long enough that I could bring it out for another Halloween!  I still have the orange dress in my closet (it’s not especially attractive, unfortunately), and I periodically wear the Coat of the Green Wind.

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of dressing as Lyra, my lead character from The Storyteller and Her Sisters.  I have a blue cloak that would be period-appropriate, and it wouldn’t be too hard to find a blue medieval-ish dress.  And I’m sure I have a nice old book I could carry under one arm…

I’ve thought about other costumes, but the dilemma is to find a favorite character with a distinctive enough look to be recognizable–which is harder than you’d think.  Though no one recognized my September costume anyway!

Have you dressed as a literary figure?  Did people know who you were?

Writing Wednesday: Gabrielle’s Necklace

I’ve almost finished another rapid pass through my Phantom novel, putting in references to Meg’s sister–because I decided she did have one.  Though I’m not 100% sure that won’t change again!  But for now I’ve dropped in a few references to her sister Gabrielle, who died before the novel began, and even more references to the necklace Meg is wearing throughout the book now.

I realized this was an excellent opportunity to give Meg a tell-tale habitual gesture–and now she touches her necklace whenever she’s feeling lonely, alone or disappointed by her friends.  And perhaps the excerpt below will explain why!

*****

I wished I could talk to someone about the Phantom, really talk about the Phantom, but that someone was not ever going to be the police inspector.  He was the last person I wanted to tell about the man in the mask.

“Meg Giry knows about the Phantom,” a voice announced.  The words made me start and I turned my head to find the speaker.  Jammes, of course.  “Her mother is the Phantom’s boxkeeper.”

Enough gazes were directed towards me that Inspector Mifroid had no difficulty identifying me.  He paced closer, pencil poised above the notebook’s open page.  “Your name, mademoiselle?” He looked at me out of cold gray eyes that didn’t seem as comfortable and at ease as I had expected.  A smirk still lingered in the corner of his mouth, but the eyes were serious.  I felt myself go still and grow small under that gaze.

“Marguerite Giry,” I said, my voice sounding small too.  My hand crept up to touch my necklace.

His gaze followed my hand and he said, “With a G, of course.”

I blinked, then realized he was looking at the G engraved on the small gold disk of my necklace.  It was not for Giry.  It was for Gabrielle.  Somewhere my mother had a matching necklace with an M on it, my necklace, but I had worn Gabrielle’s ever since—well, for years.

I was as likely to tell the police inspector about Gabi as I was to tell him about the man in the mask.  So I only said, “Yes.”

Top Ten “Tuesday” – Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

I love Top Ten Tuesday and rarely post for it–but this week’s Book Blogger Hop question didn’t appeal to me, so I thought I’d see what was happening on Tuesday, and it was a pretty good one!  Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, with a new topic each Tuesday.  This week, it’s the longest books I’ve ever read.

Off the top of my head, very long books that come to mind…

  1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (though I admit I skipped past large portions of the history)
  2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (a little skimming, much less though)
  3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien (which are not actually that long, they were just built up in my head as massive)
  4. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (32 hours on audiobook, I kid you not, and he kind of lost focus about halfway through)
  5. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (I read this 800 page book in a week for a book club meeting that I ended up missing due to a confusion of dates.  It was sad.  And I never read the rest of the series because I couldn’t figure out why this one took 800 pages!)
  6. Winston and Clementine: Personal Letters of the Churchills (they were married for…60 years?  So that adds up to a lot of letters, even for people who were together most of the time.)
  7. The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier (long historical fantasy books, with 100+ page climaxes…they get intense)
  8. The Mrs. Quent Trilogy by Galen Beckett (fantasy books inspired by Bronte and Austen, delightful but big)

Since I put some series on here, let’s call it good at eight.  The only two that seemed longer than they needed to be were The Eye of the World and The Pickwick Papers.  All were fairly serious undertakings, but that also makes them some of the most satisfying books I’ve read.

What are the longest books you’ve undertaken?

Book Review: Enlightenment Now

I stumble on books in a lot of ways—including, apparently, The New Yorker.  I don’t actually read it, but I occasionally encounter an article online.  Somewhere I found an article discussing Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker.  It made the book sound intriguing enough that I picked it up—though it may have led me astray a little too!

The New Yorker article gave me the impression this was a book about how, contrary to the popular view, the world (society, the human experience) is in fact improving.  Considering how often the news cycle makes me feel the exact opposite–yes, please, I’d like to hear that argument!  And that part of Enlightenment Now was very good–but I’m not sure that’s actually what Pinker intended his book to be about.

The book opens with, as wasn’t too shocking because of the title, a discussion on the history of the enlightenment and enlightenment values.  Not fascinating, to be honest, but engaging enough.  Then he got into the section The New Yorker wrote about, and made a pretty compelling case.  In brief, taking the long view (over a few decades, perhaps a couple of centuries), life expectancy has increased, poverty has decreased, diet is improved, health is improved, democracy has spread, literacy has increased, violence has fallen, civil rights have increased, standard of living has risen…and all by huge margins.

Now, that’s taking the global view, and Pinker is careful to note that he’s not saying any of these problems have gone away, and that there isn’t still poverty and disease and violence–but looking at the numbers, on a global scale, the world is a better place than it was even 50 years ago.  It’s hard for us living it to get that perspective. Continue reading “Book Review: Enlightenment Now”

Blog Hop: Genre Choice for Halloween

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: It’s getting close to Halloween. If you HAD to read one of these two genres, which would you prefer — urban fantasy, or horror, and why?

Urban fantasy–no contest at all.  I have read the odd horror story here and there, mostly classics.  But urban fantasy is a genre I like.  It can be a little dark too, but I don’t think that’s necessarily assumed.  And I like a dark story sometimes–I just don’t like it to be twisted, which is much more of a given with horror!

Charles de Lint is a favorite urban fantasy writer, particularly his Newford stories.  He tackles a lot of very real, gritty issues with a fantasy angle, sometimes with an element of Native American spirituality.  And my friend R. A. Gates writes urban fantasy too, with an awesome Sleeping Beauty retelling (loosely!)

Which is your preference–urban fantasy or horror?  And which would you rather read for Halloween?  Because even though I like urban fantasy much better–I have to admit horror seems much more appropriate for Halloween!

Writing Wednesday: Late in the Day Revelations

Sometimes I work on a novel, or work with characters, for years before I suddenly realize something new about them.  I’ve figured out a character’s motivation, or what caused their most striking character trait, after I’ve finished writing a book.  And I feel like saying that wouldn’t make much sense to non-writers–after all, if I didn’t make up their motivation, it doesn’t exist, right?  Well, true in a way–but not true in another way.  I think most writers experience that click moment, when something comes together or comes to light and it was clearly always supposed to be that way–everything else points to it–you just couldn’t see it before.

Just a few days ago I had what may be my most extreme example of this phenomenon to date.  It requires a little backstory.  I started writing a version of my current Phantom trilogy thirteen years ago.  A lot has changed, but on a fundamental level, my main protagonists Meg Giry and the Phantom have been the same characters since then.  I’m still continually learning more about them, uncovering some new character insight, but I’ve felt like I knew them very, very well for a long time.

But there was a kind of missed thing with regard to Meg.  You see, I read Gaston Leroux’s original novel all those years ago.  But apparently I missed a line that could have changed things–Meg is described as Madame Giry’s older daughter.  It’s one word, one grammatical choice, but it means she has a younger sister.  I didn’t pick up on that line until I was rereading the book a few years ago–it may even have been because I read a different translation.  By then, Meg’s life and her relationship with her mother, largely influenced by the fact that there’s just the two of them (because I did pick up earlier that her father had died) was so set that there was no room for a sister in the picture.

So I figured it was a might have been but I don’t need to be consistent with Leroux in everything–I’m very, very not, in fact–so let it go.  But I mentioned this whole story to a friend just this past weekend, and she said…what if her sister died?

Oh.  Ohhhhhh.

Now, if this was just an effort to line up with Leroux, I wouldn’t bother.  But it clicked.  It fits.  It explains why Madame Giry is so protective, and also so unwilling to take nonsense from anyone (she lost her husband and her daughter–she has no patience for trifles).  It explains why Meg is looking for a best friend and can’t seem to find one.  It explains why she’s drawn to Christine, who seems so innocent and naive, and why Meg wants to look out for her.  It explains why Meg and her mother moved to Paris.  It explains why she actively works at seeing the good side of life and people, because she knows both can be fleeting, and that it doesn’t always come easy.

It just fits.

I think.  Because I’ve known Meg for thirteen years and I never knew she had a deceased little sister, and I may decide in another week that no, it doesn’t really fit who she is after all.  A dead father might be enough tragedy in her past.  So you might buy this book in a year or so and there won’t be a sister in there after all.

But I also kind of think her sister is named Gabrielle and had blond hair like Meg and they probably wanted to have adventures together, and Gabrielle might have been the last person, outside of Meg’s mother who Meg never thinks counts, who thought that her sister was a heroine, not a supporting character.

We’ll see.

2018 Goals – Third Quarter Update

I missed my mid-year update, but we’ve come around to the end of September and time for my next usual update.  Things are a little different this year, with some big goals outside of my reading challenges.  And some big progress has happened.

Getting married was my biggest goal this year and on May 12th, reader, I married him.  It took a lot of work to get there, practically and emotionally, but in the end the wedding was a really wonderful day and all I could have hoped for.  We’re still getting used to a new normal, but things are very good on that front.

Although I haven’t been reading as much, reading challenges are still moving forward.  I did some pretty intense focusing on the Newbery Medals, and got to the end of the list at the end of August.  I already wrote about what that was like, and here’s my list of reads. Continue reading “2018 Goals – Third Quarter Update”