Blog Hop: A Taste of a Story


Today’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  If you could add one interactive feature to reading books, what would it be?

I’d love it if books could be more sensory somehow.  There are picture books (and movies) for the visual senses, and audiobooks sometimes include sound effects.  Beyond that we’d have to stray into fantasyland, I expect, but it would be awesome if books could somehow give you (as an option) a tactile sense when they describe, for example, soft silk or rough tree bark.  There are plenty of things characters feel I wouldn’t want to feel, so it would need to be optional!  Likewise, I’d like to experience some of the smells that are described in a story, but not all of them.

Taste would be the trickiest but maybe the coolest too.  I tend to be intrigued by food in books, especially fantasy-sounding food like bubbly pies (from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern) or butter pies (from Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City).  I’m sure fans have made up recipes online, and I’ve even read a few books that included a recipe or two at the end, but the truth is I’ve never made any of them…so I guess what I really want is a replicator that would just spit out the food described in the book I’m reading!

Writing Wednesday + Shiny Hardback Arrival

I’ll share my usual writing update, but first I wanted to share some very fun author news.  Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne will be published in hardback, and the first copy of the hardback arrived at my house yesterday.  You’ll be able to buy it in June, but you can see it in the video below!

That arrival was a nice boost to a very strange week…I hope you all are staying well and safe in the coronavirus strangeness!  I expect to be home a lot in the coming weeks, and of course I thought about how to use this time for more writing.  I thought at first I might try another week of writing a short story a day, as I did in February 2019.  I tried it for two days and couldn’t get inspired for anything, so maybe not right now after all.  Maybe in a week or two – we’ll see.  For now, I’m turning my focus to another Phantom side-project.  After the trilogy is out, I want to release a companion book of shorter pieces, and I’ve been meaning to make time to work on the scattered draft bits I have for that.

So for the next few days at least I plan to work on a shortish story (it may yet expand to a novellette) telling the story in my trilogy from Christine’s point of view.  I wrote it several years ago, partially just so I could nail down in my mind how she’s viewing events.  I’ve done something unusual with Christine’s character, so I hope readers of the trilogy will be interested to get her perspective.  But that means I need to edit the short story, and make sure it actually lines up with the books in their final form.

Here are the opening paragraphs; I can’t share much else without spoilers!


My father was poor—terribly poor.  And it didn’t matter that he was a genius on the violin.  All anyone saw when they looked at him were the patches on his sleeves, and the ragged cuffs of his trousers.

Father had been a famous, respected violinist once, but he gave it all up when my mother died.  He took me on the road and we traveled about, sleeping in barns and earning mere centimes by standing on a corner, he with his violin, I singing.

Once when I was eight, a woman didn’t give us coins.  She gave me a red scarf instead, remarking on how sad and cold I looked.  No doubt she congratulated herself on her kindness.  I was already old enough to understand about pity, and about charity, and about dependence.  That scarf always felt heavy around my neck.  It was a yoke, weighing me down, reminding me that I was helpless, forced to live on the mercy of others, dependent on the kindness of strangers.  I only wore it on the coldest of days, when I couldn’t do without.

Except once.  Just once I wore my red scarf in early spring, one day when Father and I went to perform at the beach.

Video Book Review: Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera

I recently reviewed Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, the original book that began the story.  I had a lot of thoughts…so I decided this was a good book to start something new I’ve been thinking about trying.  See below for my video review of the book – how it differs from later versions, and why I don’t think we can be sure that it all happened quite as it seems!

Blog Hop: Beyond the Book

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  Other than book reviews, what do you feature on your blog?

Along with reviewing books, I sometimes review movies or TV shows, which I kind of consider the same thing…I mean, it’s all stories.  I also post updates about my own writing each Wednesday, and I do some kind of internet-community/reflect-on-books thing each Friday, generally either the Friday Face-Off or this Blog Hop.  I usually check each one and decide which prompt I like better that week!  I post quarterly about my reading challenge updates, and I was doing a Sunday spiritual quote that I need to get started back up.  Oh, and I post a LOT about my writing when I have a new book coming out soon!

So it’s all pretty story-focused one way or another…which is, after all, supposed to be the focus of this blog!  I have other things in my life, but this space is all about the stories. 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Knitting Threads Together

I’ve been making good progress in the past week on my writing goals.  I mentioned the two short stories I’m writing to contribute to an upcoming anthology.  Happily, I’ve been able to finish both of them in the last few days.

One is about a woman venturing (magically) into The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, and I needed to write a mid-section where she finally manages to meet the Phantom.  That started slow, then took off with a burst of inspiration to finish in a couple of days.  It was very satisfying too, because my character surprised me.  I always thought that when she finally met Leroux’s Phantom she would be afraid of him; instead, she ended up being angry!  I thoroughly enjoyed that.

My second story involves a boy venturing into Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and I also had a mid-section missing here, trying to add in a kind of sub-story of an adventure in Neverland.  But it just wasn’t working and wasn’t working and I finally realized I was better off cutting the whole thing and just sticking to the main arc of the story.  So when I finally accepted that, all I had to do was tweak a few bits to knit either end of it together without the story in between.  Not what I planned, but much simpler!

Right now I’m doing some light editing on both stories, and I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do next.  I might write a couple more short stories (with a different premise!) and then turn back to revision in April, this time for The Princess Beyond the Thorns.

Here’s a bit I added into the Phantom short story, to work with my new title: “Ghosts on the Page.”


So what was my next step going to be?  And just how long did I think I had?

I wandered through the Opera’s halls as I considered that troubling question.  It was so easy to get lost in the world of the book, but I had to remember this wasn’t my life.  This was just a story, and all these people I was meeting, Christine, Henri, the ballet girls, were only characters.  Ghosts, in a way, but even less real than that; they’d never actually lived.  I had to keep that in mind, and remember my real life was much more important.

Book Review: In Other Lands

A Book Club friend recommended In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan some time ago, and I finally got to reading it in the last couple weeks.  I’m glad I finally did, because it was funny, insightful and very original, while commenting on so many familiar story tropes.  Excellent read!

The story centers on Elliot, a boy from what we’d recognize as the real world, who has the chance at age thirteen to cross a magical wall into a country wholly separate and secret from the world he knows, where magical creatures abound.  He’s invited to join the Border Camp, launching us into something that somewhat resembles many other stories of children going away to magic school.  Except – Elliot is obnoxious, sarcastic, and cuts right through any pleasant fantasies.  He’s wildly indignant that they have no pens or central heating, and when he realizes they’re being trained for war promptly observes that they’re being turned into child soldiers.  Which is…actually quite true, but something I’ve never seen put so bluntly in any magical book!

Elliot only agrees to stay because he meets Serene, an elf maiden.  Her full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.  Elliot thinks this is the most badass thing he’s ever heard, falls promptly in love, and agrees to remain.  Also, maybe he’ll get to meet mermaids.

Continue reading “Book Review: In Other Lands”

Blog Hop: Bookish Identity

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  When did you first know you’re truly a bookworm? Did you lose sleep over a novel?

I think I’ve always known I was a bookworm…?  My parents took me to the library weekly since I was toddler-age, and I memorized The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree before I could actually read (so I count it as the first book I ever “read”).  I had a book bag all through my childhood that I’d bring home full of books from the library every week.  So this dates back!

Reading was so normalized that I don’t know if there was a point when I realized not everybody read this much.  Probably somewhere in elementary school, I imagine, when I noticed the divide between people who liked sports and people who liked books (I’m sure some people cross over but the two camps seemed clear to me at age ten!)  Ironically, perhaps, my clearest memory that should have told me I was unusually fond of reading is of reading a book (!) where the kids got points for prizes for each page they read.  I was politely incredulous of the very low numbers of pages they were reading and counting as good…

I can’t say I really lose sleep over books.  I stayed up late recently to find out the ending of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but the previous book I can distinctly recall staying up late reading was Jane Eyre, five years earlier.  And I don’t lie awake thinking about books in a worrying or angsting kind of way.  One thing I like about books is that they don’t make me feel that way!

When did you discover you were a bookworm?  Do other people often lose sleep over books?