Tag Archives: Bill Bryson

Andy Weir on writing The Martian, sex lives of slugs, agency and female characters and more {From My Haphazard Twitter Files, No. 9}

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It’s about time for another edition of From My Haphazard Twitter Files. Here are some links I’ve shared on Twitter since the last edition. This week there’s Andy Weir, the sex lives of slugs, agency and female characters and more!

How Science Made Me a Writer.  In this engaging piece, Andy Weir talks about how he came to write The Martian (which he initially serialized it on his website and then self-published it on Amazon).

… as I wrote, I bungled my way into a revelation: Science creates plot! As I worked out the intricacies of each problem and solution, little details I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed became critical problems Mark had to solve. No need for meteor strikes — the surprises, catastrophes and narrow escapes were coming fast and furious on their own.

The Sex Lives of Slugs—and Other Mysteries of the Animal Kingdom. Seriously, how does one resist a title like this? In this interview posted at National Geographic, Simon Worrall interviews author Simon Barnes about his new book, Ten Million Aliens: A Journey Through the Entire Animal Kingdom, a book I added immediately to my to-read list. Oh, and those slugs?

Slugs start as hermaphrodites, so they’ll be both male and female. One courting ritual will often involve two slugs circling around each other, each waving its penis. The penis, relative to body size, is quite massive, about half the size of the body. So they circle around, waving a giant penis overhead, then mutually enter each other and fertilize each other in a process that will go on for hours and hours.

When it’s all done, they then have to break it off, and this, alas, is not always a mere metaphor. Sometimes the penis, which is corkscrew shaped, will be reluctant to come out, whereupon one of the slugs will kindly perform the favor-you may cross your legs at this point—of nibbling it up. It’s called apophallation.

The Road to Little Dribbling: Bill Bryson is releasing a new book and I can’t wait.  I can’t wait, either – a new Bill Bryson travel book is coming later this year!

This Twitter Rant Might Change How You Think About Female Characters. On agency and female characters. A few highlights, from writer Ada Hoffman’s Twitter feed:

… agency is a component of plot. Who is and isn’t able to make choices that have an effect on events is a component OF PLOT.

So what often happens is that a female character seems very cool, and then THE PLOT IS CONSTRUCTED so she can’t do anything.

Down and dirty fairy tales: How this rediscovered stash of darker-than-Grimm stories destroys our Prince Charming myths

Schönwerth just refuses to homogenize the stories, and so you find that there’s a lot more gender bending in Schönwerth. There isn’t that strict division of gendered labor that you find in the Grimms. The Grimms don’t have a male Snow White, for example, whereas Schönwerth does. Schönwerth has a male Cinderella. He has a boy who wears out iron shoes while searching for the woman he loves, a figure who is a girl in “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” He has a prince who gets under the bedcovers with a frog so she can be turned into a beautiful princess. You just don’t find that in the Grimms at all.

Gung Haggis Fat Choy. A fusion foodie celebration I’d never heard of before. It doesn’t quite tickle my taste buds, but I’ve never been too fond of haggis.

At Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a holiday that melds Chinese New Year with Robbie Burns Day, we eat gung haggis dumplings: Chinese dumplings filled with haggis—the savory pudding made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs; minced with oatmeal, suet, and spices; stuffed into the stomach lining of the sheep; and usually plated as a football-sized lump. They’re a fitting tribute to the undeniable cultural amalgamation of Vancouver, where the celebration was founded.

I confess, I’m always surprised when I go back over the links I’ve tweeted on Twitter. Each time, I’m reminded of why each link caught my eye in the first place!

Audiobook Appreciation

I’m done with this most recent clump of deadlines! I don’t think I’ve worked at quite a pace like this for a long while – it’s been three to four weeks of fourteen hour days. I am very, very thankful for my audiobooks – I think they kept me sane in the midst of all those deadlines.

Audiobook Treasure Trove

headphones I was lucky enough to come down with a head cold for Christmas and Boxing Day, so I had a grand time those two days: I got to loll around while everyone took care of me, and to top it off, on Christmas Day, I discovered a virtual audiobook treasure chest! I spent most of Christmas Day and Boxing Day lying on the couch, listening to some great audiobooks and snacking on the most delicious foods.

If you live in Ontario, you might be able to take advantage of this audiobook treasure chest yourself. The Ontario Library Service Download Centre is available to all library patrons of participating Ontario libraries, and it is just wonderful. There are loads of audiobooks available for download, much like you would for Audible. The files are deleted at the end of your checkout period, but you can checkout each audiobook for one or two weeks, which is nice.

So far, in the past two weeks, I’ve listened to Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent, Ellen Degeneres’ The Funny Thing Is, The Green Witch and The Grey King from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, and The Bunnicula Collection by James and Deborah Howe.

Other Listens

The Price of Butcher's Meat

Over the past three weeks, I also enjoyed the audio versions of Reginald Hill’s The Price of Butcher’s Meat (I listened to the British version, which is called A Cure for All Diseases) and Exit Lines. I’d already read A Cure for All Diseases earlier last year and loved it (my review is here) – it translated superbly into audio.

I also played several Agatha Christie audios while I was working – I find I can do “rereads” in audio, as well as memoirs and nonfiction, while I’m working; I somehow have the ability to follow along while getting my work done at the same time. Audiobooks don’t work well for work if they’re audios of books I haven’t read yet, though.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links, Poirot Investigates and The Big Four helped me get through a lot of otherwise tedious work, so I’m very thankful for them!

Curtains for ThreeAnd finally, I listened to Rex Stout’s Curtains for Three, a trilogy of three Nero Wolfe novellas. I must admit, the first few times I listened to audiobook renditions of Nero Wolfe novels, I had a hard time getting used to the narrator, Michael Pritchard, because he didn’t sound quite like I always imagined Archie Goodwin would sound. But Pritchard’s voice has grown on me, and now my idea of Archie Goodwin sounds exactly like him! I like the way that worked out.

Coming Up

Thanks to the Ontario Library Service Download Centre, I have some more goodies waiting for my hearing pleasure this coming week:

About Face

About Face, by Donna Leon. I’ve been wanting to read a Commissario Guido Brunetti book for a while, and since this one was available for checkout, I decided to give it a try. I only just started listening to it last night, and it promises to be a good story.

Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper. This is the final book in The Dark is Rising series. The version I have is narrated by Alex Jennings, and I started listening to a bit of it yesterday as well. I’m looking forward to finishing my reread of the series in audio.

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So Long as You Both Shall Live, by Ed McBain. This is my first 87th Precinct mystery; it’s a little bit challenging keeping track of all the names in audio, and the story line behind this one isn’t quite to my taste, but I will definitely be looking into reading more of the 87th Precinct series.

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. I’ve had Bryson’s memoir on my shelf for ages; when I saw it was available at the OLS Download Centre, I decided to check it out, as I really enjoy listening to memoirs in audio.

And from my local library:

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. The audio version of The Thirteenth Tale came highly recommended – I seem to recall lots of people recommending it on Google Wave. So I thought I’d take the plunge and give it a first read in audio instead of in print.

I recently bought the following, which are waiting for me to get to them:

The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. This is Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series – I began reading the series ages ago, but stopped at around Book 6 or 7. I recently received a review copy of the final book in the series, The Gathering Storm, which is written by Brandon Sanderson based on Robert Jordan’s extensive notes, so I thought it would be a good thing to reread the series. I’ve had so much luck with rereads in audio, I decided to give the audio version a try.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris. I have the first seven books in paperback, but haven’t read the Sookie Stackhouse series at all; a while back, I decided to give the first book a try in audio. I haven’t found myself in the mood for it yet, but I know I will soon – from what everyone’s been telling me, I’ll probably be hooked once I give it a try!

I also have two Audible credits to spend, and I’m thinking I’ll probably splurge on more Rex Stout and Reginald Hill.

So there you have it – audiobooks have managed to keep me on the reading track even while I was submerged up to my neck in deadlines! And yes, I’ve been feeling like a kid in a candy store …

Coming up this week: my giveaway winners! No, I haven’t forgotten about my giveaway. The winners post will be coming soon.

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Back from Holidays!

I’m back! And of course, feeling rather like I could use a little break. Isn’t it funny how that works?

I had a grand time in Nova Scotia, and it was fun blogging about it occasionally. Thank you to everyone for your comments – I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from each of you. It was almost like you came with me on holidays.

The air conditioning people have just left; our new air conditioning unit is now installed! Our old air conditioner died on us when we turned it on for the first time this year about a week before we left on holidays. We had to endure a bit of a heat wave during that week; it wasn’t very pleasant, so it’s so nice to know that we’re prepared again for whatever temperatures summer might bring us.

Traveling with Audiobooks

Audiobooks made our 19-hour drive back from Nova Scotia (spread over two days) a rather fun event. While we were away, my husband had picked up a small battery-operated iPod dock. So, while the kids were engrossed in their movies on their portable DVD players, we listened to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself (Notes from a Big Country) together.

We could only listen for a couple of hours at a time, though; my face would start to hurt some time around the two-hour mark, probably because of the giant grin I wore more or less the entire time. This is a very funny book, and a perfect choice for audio.

We also listened to several BBC Radio productions of Agatha Christie mysteries: Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile, Miss Marple in A Murder is Announced and then Poirot again in Five Little Pigs. These dramatizations are perfect for a road trip, as they are well acted mysteries each about two hours long.

I would have liked to listen to Janet Evanovich’s Finger Lickin’ Fifteen during the drive, but that had to be done through headphones (the language not being appropriate for certain little ears) and it was much more fun sharing the audio experience with my husband during the drive.

I did, however, start Finger Lickin’ Fifteen last night, and so far it’s off to a good start; I must admit, though, these days I enjoy the series only in audio. Lorelei King is a suberb narrator, and her reading of the Stephanie Plum series has made the more recent books fun for me again.

My husband enjoyed the audiobooks so much, he started listening to Tilt-A-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein at the hotel we stayed at part-way through our trip home. The audio version is read by Jeff Woodman, who is a very good narrator (he does such great voices, and even his female voices sound, well, like women).

This Week at Ms Bookish

I came home to a rather large stack of new books still patiently awaiting their Incoming! posts, plus some new additions, so I’ll be buckling down this week in an attempt to make a dent in the pile. I also have a few reviews to write (for example, I’ve finished all of Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak mysteries but haven’t written any reviews yet).

I’ll also be getting back on track with my daily writing goal of 2000 words. I didn’t write at all while I was away, despite early intentions to do so, but I’m itching to get started again.

And I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the book blog world again. I’ve missed reading everyone’s posts and the fun of commenting and Twitter!

What’s Up Sunday – June 14

I normally post this as “What’s Up Saturday”, but yesterday kind of flew by really quickly, especially since I was behind on the big giveaways post.

Deadline Alley

I’m heading into Deadline Alley over the next ten days – I have five deadlines to lay to rest and I’d like to get everything finished by next Wednesday. That will leave me a day to help my husband pack for our road trip, get our housesitter settled in, make sure there’s enough pet food on hand to feed the assortment of pets and well, just de-stress a little so I’ll enjoy the 19 hour drive to the beautiful shores of Nova Scotia!

Currently Listening

This past week I’ve been really enjoying listening to Tilt-a-Whirl, by Chris Grabenstein. It’s the first book in a mystery series about part-time beach resort town cop Danny Boyle and his partner, John Ceepak; Beth F. recommended the audio version of the series to me, and I am very grateful (if you love audiobooks, check out Beth F’s blog; she always has great suggestions). The narrator of the series, Jeff Woodman, has now been added to my own personal list of great audiobook narrators (joining Lorelei King, who narrates Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Hugh Fraser, for his narration of the Agatha Christie novels, and Jim Dale, narrator of the Harry Potter series).

I’ve been actively on the look-out for good audios primarily because of the 19 hour drive (I can’t read in a car, unfortunately); the other day on Twitter Miriam Parker from Hachette Books suggested that I give Bill Bryson a try, and ever since then I’ve been walking around the house sounding rather demented because every now and then I’ll give out a big burst of laughter. Listening to Bill Bryson in audio will do that to you.

Right now, I’m listening to Bill Bryson’s I’m a Stranger Here Myself; my version is actually called Notes From a Big Country, which you can buy at Amazon UK. Notes From a Big Country has eight more essays than I’m a Stranger Here Myself (I have both titles in trade paperback, so I counted); otherwise, they contain much the same essays (I didn’t do a title-by-title check, though).

If you have an Audible membership, you’ll be getting Notes From a Big Country if you go for the unabridged version; unfortunately, Bill Bryson only reads the abridged version, but William Roberts, the narrator of the unabridged version, does a pretty good job. This listen is, obviously, a “reread” for me (since I ended up buying both versions of the book, it would be pretty sad if it wasn’t!); Bill Bryson’s books are brilliant and very funny reads whether you get them in print or in audio.

This Week: No Picture, but a Video

Rather sharing a picture from my life this week, I wanted to share the following video, called Validation. I discovered it at my dear friend Bethie’s blog, Simply Blessed. It’s a long video – 16 minutes – but I guarantee, if you have the time, and you’d like something to give you a bit of a lift and put a smile on your face, it’s well worth the watch. It was written and directed by Kurt Kuenne, stars TJ Thyne (of Bones fame), and has won a whole string of very well-deserved short film awards. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!