Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

An Interview with Author Trilby Kent on Her Writing Process

Trilby Kent

I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview author Trilby Kent! Trilby’s debut novel Medina Hill, was released on October 13th and I had a great time talking with her about her journey to publication and her writing process.

What is Medina Hill about? Set in 1935, Medina Hill is the story of 11-year-old Dominic Walker, who has stopped speaking. Life with an ailing mother, an unemployed father, and unanswered questions about the war that haunts his family have led him to retreat into a world of silence. But everything changes when his Uncle Roo invites Dominic and his little sister Marlo to spend the summer on the Cornish coast. Dominic soon finds himself taking a stand for justice and the victimized Travelers community, armed only with a treasured copy of Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert. In doing so, he learns what it truly means to have a voice.

I’m always so curious about authors’ writing processes, and I think the tale of how Medina Hill was created will definitely interest those of you out there doing NaNoWriMo. No, Trilby didn’t write Medina Hill for a previous NaNoWriMo, but she very well could have!

I also ask sone of my favorite questions: plotter or pantser? Revision process? Writing quirks and habits? Trilby answers all!

***************************************************

Medina Hill MsBookish: Medina Hill is your first book. Could you tell us a bit about your publishing journey?

TK: I spent a couple of years working on my first children’s novel while I was at university. It was actually three books squashed into one, with storylines ranging from fifteen-century Venice and Egypt to nineteenth-century India and present day New York. Because I really didn’t know anything about the children’s market at that stage, I ended up with a beast of a book: it was about 400 pages too long and a structural nightmare. I had enough encouraging feedback from a couple of agents to know that the writing wasn’t bad, but it soon became clear that The Travels of Maris Fauré was destined for the bottom drawer. It was a really useful apprenticeship, though.

I spent a couple of weeks grieving before starting work on Medina Hill. Within a month, I had a first draft; a few months later, I started sending it out to publishers. I didn’t have an agent at that stage – it would be another three years before I signed up with Judith Murray at Greene & Heaton – and I knew that the chances of having a book picked up from the slush pile were incredibly slim, so I’d almost given up hope when I received an email from Kathy Lowinger at Tundra asking if we could talk. The rest, as they say, is history.

MsBookish: You chose an interesting time period in which to set Medina Hill: it’s 1935, on the Cornish coast. What drew you to this time period?

TK: I find the interwar years absolutely fascinating. There’s a delicious dichotomy at work: people were still coming to terms with the horrific losses of the Great War by the time the Depression hit, and yet there was also an incredible outburst of creative expression, a weird exuberance that accompanied groundbreaking social change. By 1935, you also have the dawning realization that another global conflict might be just around the corner, so there’s a real tension in the air. The long, hot summer before the storm has been a popular motif for many writers over the years, because it’s so ripe with creative potential. It’s a great time in which to set a coming of age story.

MsBookish: In addition to being set in 1935, Medina Hill also involves the story of Lawrence of Arabia, whose adventures serve to inspire your protagonist, Dominic. It’s an intriguing storyline. How did the idea for the novel come to you?

TK: I’d been interested in Lawrence ever since I saw David Lean’s epic 1962 film as a teenager, and I was already toying with the idea of writing a piece of fiction about the Arab Revolt when the idea for Medina Hill cropped up following a trip to Cornwall. By that stage, I knew that I wanted to write in the voice of a child with selective mutism. Somehow, these rather disparate ideas converged, and the book was born.

MsBookish: Whenever I think about writing historical fiction, the first thing that comes to mind is the research. Could you describe your research process? How long did you spend on research before you began writing your first draft? Was there a moment when you knew you had everything that you needed, or did you find that you continued to research even after you began writing?

TK: I love research. Typically, I spend a lot of time reading around a subject before putting pen to paper, but the research also continues throughout the writing process. Now and then, I’ll hit a point where I simply can’t continue until I’ve managed to clarify some historical detail, and it’s incredible how often I’ll start to look into something and discover some bit of information that throws a whole new light on things, or provides the inspiration for an unexpected plot twist.

I can’t remember how long I spent on research before starting to write Medina Hill – I wrote the book four years ago, and I’ve done a lot of unrelated research and writing since then! – but it was probably a few weeks in total.

Shortly after returning from a few days in Cornwall, I saw a documentary on selective mutism, and things started to come together very quickly after that. I make notes all the time, so I already had quite a few ideas in store that were waiting for a home. The idea for Birdie’s character was already there, for instance, inspired by an artist called Madge Gill whose work I’d discovered months earlier.

MsBookish: How long did it take you to complete Medina Hill, from the very beginning of your research to finishing your final draft?

TK: I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but very little time at all. The book came out in a great whoosh over a couple of weeks – I was only able to write in the evenings in weekends, so that concentrated me even more. It’s pretty atypical for me, actually. I spent a year researching my first novel for adults, and two years writing it. I’m currently revising another novel for children which took a year to write, and several months to research. To be honest, I’d love to get back into the “whoosh” style of writing, because I think there’s a lot to be said for working with that kind of momentum.

MsBookish: Some writers are plotters, and swear by outlines. Others start with a spark or an idea, and write to see how the story ends. Where would you place yourself along this continuum?

TK: Oh, I’m a plotter. Definitely. Partly because I enjoy it, and partly because, if I’m going to dedicate loads of time to a project, I’d much rather know that I’ve got a watertight plan at the outset, rather than start to discover leaks when I’m already 50,000 words into the thing. That was the lesson I learnt from my first failed attempt at a children’s novel. When I’m writing short stories, I’m much happier to start with an idea and see where it leads.

MsBookish: I’m fascinated by the writing process. Could you talk a little about your writing process during the writing of Medina Hill? Did you have a writing routine? Particular writing quirks or habits? Favourite places to write? How would you describe your revision style?

TK: When I wrote Medina Hill, I was working full-time, which meant that writing was pretty much limited to evenings and weekends. I believe quite strongly that there’s a lot to be said for having limited time to write, because it focuses the mind. I’ve been writing full-time for almost four years now (first as a freelancer, now as a PhD student), and I find it absolutely crucial to have a structure – otherwise there’s a real risk of wasting an entire morning on YouTube (this always starts as “research” but can quickly devolve into watching the entire first series of The Lawrence Welk Show).

I’ve always written on the computer in my study, surrounded by loads of books – reference material, but also novels that inspire me to be a better writer – and various fond possessions, such as my 1910 tabletop letterpress, a pink seashell from Juno Beach, and a silver samovar from a friend who lives in Oman.

MsBookish: What are you working on now? Is your writing process any different now that you’re working on a second book, with your first one now published?

TK: Since finishing Medina Hill, I’ve completed a novel for adults, a few short stories, several articles, and another two novels for children (one is now with my editors at Tundra; the other is sitting in a drawer). I’ve recently started a PhD, which will require me to produce another novel as well as a critical commentary, so I’m starting to write in a much more systematic way; at the moment, I’m working with a target of 500 words a day. Otherwise, the process hasn’t changed very much – it’s just intensified! I’m having a lot of fun, and I feel very lucky indeed to be where I am today.

***************************************************

Thanks, Trilby, for a great interview! Interested in hearing more about Medina Hill? Check out all the other stops on the Medina Hill blog tour, sponsored by Tundra Books!

Saturday Randomness: Halloween, NaNoWriMo, Twitter, Food and Comments

Happy Halloween to everyone who celebrates Halloween! It looks very windy outside my office window right now – hopefully the wind will die down before all the trick-or-treaters hit the sidewalks tonight.

I’m feeling a little random today (have you noticed I get this way at least once a week?) So I thought I’d throw all my scattered bookish and non-bookish thoughts together into a post for today.

First, Some Halloween Pumpkin Awesomeness

New Moon and Yoda pumpkins

Twilight fans, wouldn’t you just LOVE to have this New Moon pumpkin standing outside your front door? I’m rather partial to the Yoda pumpkin myself.

There are many more incredible pumpkin carvings here!

NaNoWriMo Starts TOMORROW!

Yes, that’s worth some caps. And I am so behind – I’d planned to get some work deadlines tucked away before November 1st, and now I have one day to get at least one finished (the best laid plans, and all that …).

And when it comes to my NaNoWriMo novel, well, let’s just say “unprepared” is the word that comes to mind. I don’t even know what the names of two of my three main characters are.

Luckily, Twitter came to my aid. This morning, I met @CarmenRenee, who sent me a link to this great article on succeeding with NaNoWriMo. I felt much calmer after reading the article. I might end up at the starting line calling my two characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, and you know what? I’m okay with that. Truly. If it gets me writing the approximately 1700 words I’m aiming for tomorrow, well, that works for me!

And Speaking of Twitter

I’ve decided that Twitter + #NaNoWriMo = Writers’ Watercooler/Cocktail Party/Awesome or What (take your pick). Writing my NaNoWriMo novel this year will not be an isolated experience, and I’m looking forward to taking part in the community feeling as I write (or after I write).

I have also been on Twitter much more now that I’m using Evernote. I hadn’t really been going on Twitter all that much when I was on my iPhone, mainly because one of the things I like most about Twitter are the links I come across, and it was just too frustrating for me to see a great link that would be useful for the future (I’m a link packrat), and have to get out of my Tweetdeck app and email the link to myself.

But now with Evernote, I just send a quick DM (direct message) to the special account Evernote has set up specifically for this kind of thing, and the tweet gets saved. So quick, so easy!

My Husband Has Become a Blogging Machine (Or, What I’ve Been Dining On This Week)

I mentioned recently that my husband has taken over blogging at our food blog, Muse in the Kitchen (after a year of persuading on my part, I might add). And he’s loving it! My job is to edit and format his posts (he insists he’s not a good writer, but he is. He just has his own style, that’s all) and add my two thoughts in at the end of each post.

Unlike me, Ward is not a procrastinator. And since he cooks at least one or two recipes five nights of the week (the other two nights he’s teaching classes at his dojo) he’s got a lot of blog posts in the works. Every time I log on, there are three or four new draft blog posts waiting for me to edit (at least, it seems that way!)

Here’s the latest good stuff we’ve been eating this week:

Spicy Spiral Bread: perfect for the lunchbox, and it’s got a great vegetarian bean filling!

Green Tea Cheesecake: this was an unusual and not-too-sweet dessert that we served at our dinner party last Saturday (the night of the Readathon)

Grilled Sesame Baby Bok Choy: one of the first recipes Ward created, this is our “go-to” dish when we want a quick and easy vegetable entrée

Asian Marinated Flank Steak: another go-to recipe of ours, Ward tinkered with a Martha Stewart recipe and came up with this delicious and very easy flank steak

Grilled Shark and Bakes: I wasn’t here for this one, which is actually the reason Ward made it (I don’t really like shark). I can vouch for the fact that the “bakes” (grilled) are delicious, though!

Comments and Commenting

I’ve been so busy doing things (well, thinking about doing things, I guess) to get ready for my very busy November that I haven’t had a chance to respond to comments here, or to go visiting all the wonderful blogs in my Google Reader.

So I just wanted to end with a huge thank you to every one of you who’ve stopped by this week to read my ramblings! You’re what makes all this blogging stuff fun!

What are you up to this Halloween? And how’s your November shaping up? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, are you raring to go, or feeling unprepared?

[TSS] International Book Giveaways, Readathon and NaNoWriMo

I just realized, now that my regular Sunday Salon book giveaways list is much shorter because I’m only featuring book giveaways open to everyone, I can get all chatty in my Sunday Salon post! When the giveaways list was a huge, massive list, there really wasn’t space for any chatting.

Yay! Because I also want to talk about the readathon and NaNoWriMo today!

*********************************************

List of Book Giveaways Open to Everyone

First, here’s the international book giveaways list. As always, the links in this list will open up in either a new tab or window (depending on how you have your browser set up) to make it more convenient for you. I’m also indicating the genre of the book being given away.

This international book giveaways round-up post is a regular feature here at MsBookish so if you’re holding a book giveaway that’s open worldwide, let me know and I’ll include your giveaway in my next international book giveaways round-up post.

  1. Children’s Picture Book: Danny the Dragon “Meets Jimmy”, by Tina Turbin, at Simply Stacie (ends Nov 1)
  2. General Fiction: Only Milo, by Barry Smith, at Beth Fish Reads (ends Nov 2)
  3. Historical Fiction: Virgin and the Crab, by Robert Parry, at Historical Fiction (ends Nov 4)
  4. General Fiction: The Last Will of Moira Leahy, by Therese Walsh, at Peeking Between the Pages (ends Nov 14)
  5. Fantasy/Paranormal: Bound to Shadows, by Keri Arthur, at Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings (ends Nov 1)
  6. Fantasy/Paranormal: Bite Marks, by Jennifer Rardin, at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ News and Reviews (ends Oct 26)
  7. Fantasy/Paranormal: choice of Bite Marks or Once Bitten, Twice Shy, by Jennifer Rardin, at Vampire Wire (ends Oct 28)
  8. Fantasy: Shadowfae, by Erica Hayes, at Dark Faerie Tales (ends Oct 27)
  9. Fantasy/Paranormal: Some Girls Bite, by Chloe Neill, at The Book Resort (ends Nov 30)
  10. Fantasy/Paranormal: Charmed to Death, by Shirley Damsgaard, at The Book Resort (ends Nov 20)
  11. Selection of books, at Teens Read and Write (ends Nov 15)
  12. Mystery: Happy Hour, by Michele Scott , at The Book Resort (ends Nov 9)
  13. Fantasy/Paranormal: Release (e-book), by Nicole Hadaway, at Layers of Thought (ends Oct 30) **Note: you need to email your entry, rather than comment for an entry
  14. YA/Paranormal: Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick, at Liyana Lands (ends Oct 31)
  15. Fantasy/Paranormal: Covet, by J.R. Ward, at Fiction Vixen (ends Nov 3)
  16. Fantasy/Paranormal: Once Upon A Nightmare, by Lee Moylan, at Friends and Family (ends Oct 31)
  17. Nonfiction: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Edition, at Traveling Mom (ends Oct 30)
  18. Fantasy/Paranormal: Dark Times, by Dakota Banks, at Wordsmithonia (ends Nov 6)
  19. Cookbook: Chocolate, A Love Story, by Max Brenner, at Book Junkie (ends Oct 30)
  20. Selection of short story collections, at Fantasy/Sci-Fi Lovin’ Giveaways (ends Oct 30)
  21. Fantasy: Traitor’s Gate, by Kate Elliott, at Fantasy/SciFi Lovin’ Giveaways (ends Oct 31)
  22. Science Fiction: Red Claw, by Philip Palmer, at Fantasy/SciFi Lovin’ Giveaways (ends Nov 2)
  23. Nonfiction (for Twilight fans): Robert Pattinson Inside Out or Taylor Lautner Inside Out, by Mel Willliams, at Chicklish (ends Oct 26)
  24. Nonfiction: Parlour Games for Modern Families, by Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras, at Mommy PR (ends Nov 5)
  25. Paranormal: Choice of one book from Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty series, at Book Chick City (ends Oct 31)
  26. Historical Fiction: Sarah, by Marek Halter, at Historical Fiction (ends Oct 31)
  27. Historical Fiction: In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Dunant, at Historical Fiction (ends Nov 7)

And for writers, there’s the *Another* Another Faust “retelling” contest. The contest is open to all unpublished authors. This one ends Jan 31, 2010, so you’ve got lots of time.

*********************************************

The Readathon!

I had a blast cheering for Dewey’s Read-a-thon yesterday. The Read-a-thon occurs every six months, so the next one will be in April. Will I be participating? Definitely, but probably as a cheerleader again.

Probably the most fun for me was the time I spent on Twitter between 11:00 pm and 2:30 am; it was getting down to the wire, and all the lovely, committed and dedicated readathon readers out there were getting tired. I did my best to tweet encouragement and support because truly, because of the immediacy of Twitter, I felt like I was right there with them! My tweets were my version of cups of hot, strong coffee.

At one point, I made so many tweets, Twitter locked me out for a while. Thankfully, Twitter relented after about 20 minutes and let me tweet again.

By 2:30 am, though, I couldn’t stay up any longer. I really, really wanted to, because there were quite a few readers still up and trying to get a few more pages in, but I couldn’t. So I had to sign off, but I dreamed about waving my readathon pompoms in my sleep!

Altogether, I visited 170 blogs from the sign-up list, plus clicked over to blogs via links in Twitter. I left comments on all blogs I visited that had a readathon post up.

I am so impressed with the amount of pages everyone was reading. The update posts were all wonderful. Some bloggers even managed to put up reviews!

I’m hoping to have some time later tonight to check out as many readathon wrap-up posts as I can.

What did I get out of my participation? A real sense of community. Community has been the best thing about blogging for me, and my experience during the readathon has enhanced this feeling of community.

*********************************************

NaNoWriMo Is Only Seven Days Away!

I know! It blew me away when I realized that November 1 is next Sunday! Even though I theoretically had the entire month of October to do all my prep work for NaNoWriMo, I still haven’t gotten as much done as I’d have liked.

So this week, I’m going to get through all the things on my “prep” list. No outlines, because I’m not an outliner, but here’s what I’d like to have done before next Sunday:

  • Finish up my “words” research (my novel involves “words as words”, and I’d like to have several lists on hand so that wherever my muse takes me as I write, I won’t have to stop to think.
  • Create a whole bunch of character collages for potential secondary characters. I’m hoping having a lot of characters on hand who might or might not play a part in the story will help prevent me from having to stop to think. (You might be noticing a trend, here. Yes, I do not want to stop and think while I’m writing. I want to get 50K words written in November! Stopping and thinking would make things more difficult.)
  • Create a “Shiny” list. This is just such a fabulous idea!
  • Along the same lines, create a list of things I like in fiction.

There’s a Toronto meetup for NaNoWriMo participants this coming weekend, and if I can get my sister to go with me, I just might attend, even though doing things like that scares the bejeebers out of me. I am not good at meeting people, although I’m good at becoming friends with people, if that makes sense (I call it my introverted extroverted tendencies).

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? What (if anything) will you be doing this week to prepare?

Incoming! Books About Words

(Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles some of the recent new book arrivals at the Ms. Bookish household.)

I’ve been getting prepared for NaNoWriMo; the novel I’ll be working on in November is a middle-grade fantasy novel that involves words (as words, that is – because of course, the actual writing of it will involve words!).

So I’ve been researching words, and it’s proving to be a lot of fun!

I thought it would be interesting to highlight the books I’m currently looking through as part of my research – along with a few that I picked up along the way simply that won’t be useful for research purposes but are just too fun to pass by.

Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English’s Best Expressions, by Barbara Kipfer

Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best ExpressionsSynopsis (from the back cover):

Phraseology is the ultimate collection of everything you never knew about the wonderful phrases found in the English language. It contains information about phrase history and etymology; unusual, lost, or uncommon phrases; how phrases are formed; and more than 7,000 facts about common English phrases.

Practical enough to be used as a reference book but so fun that every book lover will want to read it straight through, Phraseology contains such engrossing tidbits as:

ACROSS THE BOARD is an allusion to the board displaying the odds in a horse race

ARTESIAN WELL gets its name from Artois, where such wells were first made

BEST MAN originated in Scotland, where the groom kidnapped his bride with the aid of friends, including the toughest and bravest – the best man.

First line(s): Phraseology is a collection of really interesting things you probably do not know about thousands and thousands of phrases.

Where I got this book: Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog recommended this to me when we were having a Twitter discussion about this recent post of mine. I went straight to Chapters and bought this one that very night!

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 301 pages

*************************************

The Word Detective, by Evan Morris

The Word DetectiveSynopsis (from the jacket flap):

Comic, skeptic, cyber-sleuth, syndicated columnist, and inspired wordsmith, Evan Morris is the Word Detective. Morris’s unique approach to language and his distinctive brand of humor account for his loyal following of readers who wonder about everything from soup to nuts – and that means the origins of the phrase soup to nuts, as well as hundreds of other perplexing words and phrases.

The Word Detective is a collection of Morris’s language columns, which appear in newspapers around the world and on his popular Web site. The Q & A format makes for lively and unusual interactions between Morris and his readers: Dan from Brooklyn is perturbed by television newscasts that incorrectly use the word factoid to mean “a piece of trivia.” (Morris agrees and adds that factoid was actually coined by Norman Mailer in 1973 to mean “a rumor disguised as a fact.”) Tim via the Internet asks how the word moxie came to mean “courage.” (Morris replies that Moxie was, and still is, the name of a soft drink with a taste so intense it takes real gumption to swallow the stuff.) Whether the question is from a student hoping to win a word dispute with his professor or a daughter-in-law trying to wow her mother-in-law with an esoteric phrase, the Word Detective snoops around, does the legwork, and uncovers the answers.

First line(s): It all started with sticky dimes.

Where I got this book: I came across this when I was at the library looking for some specific “words” titles. It isn’t really relevant to my research but I just couldn’t resist.

Format & Pages: Hardcover, 228 pages.

*************************************

Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language, by Richard Lederer

Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our LanguageSynopsis (from Amazon):

Anguished English is the impossibly funny anthology of accidental assaults upon our language. From bloopers and blunders to Signs of the Times to Mixed Up Metaphors…from Two-Headed Headlines to Mangling Modifiers, here is an outrageous treasury of assaults upon our common language that will leave you roaring with delight and laughter.

First line(s): It is truly astounding what havoc students can wreak upon the chronicles of the human race.

Where I got this book: This is another book that’s not really relevant to my research for my NaNoWriMo novel, but I recently mooched this book from Bookmooch and it’s too fun to leave out of this post.

Format & Pages: Mass paperback, 175 pages

*************************************

g

You’ve Got Ketchup on Your Muumuu: An A–to–Z Guide to English Words from Around the World, by Eugene Ehrlich

You've Got Ketchup on Your Muumuu: An A--to--Z Guide to English Words from Around the WorldSynopsis (from the jacket flap):

With dry wit and remarkable erudition, Eugene Ehrlich takes us on an eye-opening tour of our ever-changing language, showing us how English has, throughout its history, seamlessly sewn words from other languages into its original fabric. He reveals that the language we call our own has in fact been culled from the languages of ancient invaders, such as the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, and the French.

Ehrlich’s comprehensive research and vast lingual experience bring to light what has until now been hidden from the general audience: the origins of some of our favorite and well-used words. The word graffiti, for example, comes from the Italian word meaning “scratches.” The word for one of our favorite breakfast foods, bagel, originated with the German Beugel, meaning “a ring.” And ketchup comes from the Chinese kéjap, which literally means “fish sauce.” So why do we put it on our burgers and fries?

In the clear style his readers have come to expect, Ehrlich effortlessly illuminates the origins, purposes, and meanings of once-foreign words that have become part of the rich weave of our language.

First line(s): (from the preface)

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” – Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Old Polonius was talking about prudence in managing one’s finances, not about borrowing and lending words.

But just as English words are increasingly taken into other languages, English throughout its history has continually picked up words from other languages and treated such words as its own, calling them English.

Where I got this book: I picked this one up from the library.

Format & Pages: Hardcover, 285 pages

*************************************

Scholastic Dictionary Of Idioms, by Marvin Terban

Scholastic Dictionary Of IdiomsSynopsis (from Amazon):

Cat got your tongue? Penny for your thoughts? Come again? Every day, idioms bring color to our speech. Since they don’t really mean what they say, idioms can stump even the native English-speaker. Marvin Terban makes understanding idioms “as easy as pie” with the revised SCHOLASTIC DICTIONARY OF IDIOMS. Explanations for, and origins of, more than 700 everyday American idioms, complete with kid-friendly sample sentences. The entries are amusing as well as educational. Alphabetical listing and cross-referencing index makes finding idioms a “piece of cake.”

First dictionary entry:

Ace up Your Sleeve

“I don’t know how Henry is going to get his mom to buy him a bike, but I’m sure he has an ace up his sleeve.”

Meaning: a surprise or secret advantage, especially something tricky that is kept hidden until needed.

Origin: Back in the 1500s most people didn’t have pockets in their clothes, so they kept things in their sleeves. Later on, magicians hid objects, even small live animals, up their sleeves, and then pulled them out unexpectedly to surprise their audiences. In the 1800s dishonest card players secretly slipped a winning card, often an ace, up their sleeves and pulled it out when nobody was looking to win the game.

Where I got this book: I picked this one up from the library, and it is very relevant to my research! If it comes in as useful as I think it will, I’ll probably end up getting my own copy.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 245 pages

*************************************

Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting It Right , by Bill Bryson

Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right Synopsis (from the jacket flap):

As usual Bill Bryson says it best: “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ‘cleave’ can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ‘set’ has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ‘colonel,’ ‘freight,’ ‘once,’ and ‘ache’ are strikingly at odds with their spellings.” As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for “a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,” he proceeded to write that book–his first, inaugurating his stellar career.

Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from “a, an” to “zoom,” that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and–because it is written by Bill Bryson–often witty book belongs on the desk of every person who cares enough about the language not to maul or misuse or distort it.

First line(s): (from the introduction)

The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that every time a colleague from the humanities department complained that his students couldn’t spell a common word like seize or accommodate, Feynman wanted to reply, “Then there must be something wrong with the way you spell it.”

Where I got this book: I picked this one up while browsing at the library. As I’m making up a collection of random words, I thought I’d dip randomly into this book and pick out different words to add to my collection. Also, I really enjoy reading Bill Bryson’s writing!

Format & Pages: Hard cover, 241 pages

Some Saturday Ramblings

It feels like a “lost” week around here in a way. Monday was a holiday here (not that it matters much to me work-wise since I work when I have a deadline and take time off when I don’t, but there’s the not-minor matter of not having to get up with the kids in the morning as they get ready for school!)

Add to that the head cold I had for three days, which unfortunately came back yesterday and really, it feels like all I’ve done this week is loll around in the grip of cold medication that makes me drowsy.

Reading …

I did manage to get through a nice chunk of The Likeness, by Tana French. I’ve mentioned before that, for some reason, this novel hasn’t hooked me the way In The Woods did. I finally felt really engrossed at around page 189. I’m now very near the end, but (and it might just be because I’ve been under the weather) I don’t find myself racing through to see what happens. In fact, the book has sat on the coffee table, open to the page where I last left it, for the past two days.

I did much better with the audio version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I’m getting close to the end, and I just started listening earlier this week. (It generally takes me longer to listen to an audiobook because I only listen when I’m exercising, cleaning the kitchen and for an hour before bed.)

While I’ve reread the first three Harry Potter books a few times, I realized as I was listening to this one that this is my first reread of it. There were several things I’d forgotten, and one thing I was pleased to rediscover was that (tiny spoiler here, for those of you who haven’t read this one or seen the movie), unlike the movie, it wasn’t Cho who ratted everyone out. I hadn’t realized that the movie had parted ways with the book there (which goes to show how much of the book I’d forgotten by the time I saw the movie!).

Writing …

I’d meant to spend this week doing up character sketch thingies for my NaNoWriMo novel, but never lifted even a finger in that direction. I did, however, find a very handy set of free Excel worksheets right before I came down with that head cold. I’ll only be using the character worksheet, but for those of you who like to plot first, The Novel Planning Excel Workbook might come in handy (you can see all the worksheets in the novel here, but you need to go here to download it).

When I was writing NANTUCKET, I ended up taking a file folder and writing down all my secondary characters in it, because I found myself wasting a lot of time trying to remember names, especially the names of the more minor characters. I think using the character worksheet will really be helpful.

Fitness Challenge

I haven’t done that well this week with the challenge, logging in only two miles, on the day when I was feeling better. I was supposed to do another 1.5 miles yesterday, but kept postponing it, and then that head cold came back again. I really should get on the treadmill today, but I’m still feeling tired.

Ah … discipline. Nope. I don’t have it, not for fitness, anyway!

The Food Blog

Earlier this week, I posted about our Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend; I also mentioned that I was hoping my husband would start blogging at our food blog, Muse in the Kitchen, because I have been doing a terrible job of keeping it up-to-date.

The thing is, while I do love to eat, it’s Ward who’s really passionate about the cooking and the recipes. He’ll be so thrilled about discovering a new technique that creates a much better result, while I’ll be like, “okay, that’s wonderful, is it okay if we dig in now?”

So guess what? He wrote his first post at Muse in the Kitchen the same day I wrote about our Thanksgiving dinner! You can check it out here: 30-Minute Homemade Pasta.

Since that first post, he’s also written several more posts. And today he told me he’s having a great time blogging! My job with the food blog now is very much like my job in the kitchen. During prep time, I play the role of sous chef; at the blog, I do a bit of reformatting.

Life feels pretty near perfect right now …

What Are Your Favorite Words?

From now until November 1, in preparation for NaNoWriMo, I will be in full research mode for my NaNoWriMo novel. (Here’s my NaNoWriMo profile – if you’re participating, let’s be Writing Buddies!)

My research? Words! Lots and lots of glorious, gorgeous words, with perhaps a handful of more desolate words for variety.

I will be in full word-collection mode over the next five weeks.

What types of words am I collecting?

Mainly modifiers: adjectives and adverbs. Verbs and interjections, too. I’m not as interested in nouns, unless they’re abstract nouns.

I’m not looking for unusual words, either, although unusual is fine, too. Mainly, I’m building a random list, filled with a variety of words suggested by lots of different people.

So, what are your favorite words? Words that you always stop to admire whenever you see them, whether in a book, on a billboard, in a magazine. Words that make you smile, or laugh, or perhaps even sniff back a small tear.

I’d love to know, if you’d like to share! Please let me know in a comment, or send me an email. Don’t hesitate to tell your friends, too – the more words I collect, the better!

[TSS] BBAW Giveaways, and NaNoWriMo, Anyone?

I was just over at BBAW and there’s a massive list of Book Blogger Giveaways there – many of them are still open, so rather than re-invent the wheel this week, I thought it would be smarter to just point everyone over there to take part in BBAW giveaway fun.

Okay, yes, I was also feeling a bit lazy. It’s been quite the busy week around here, and I’ve been having fun with the BBAW daily writing prompts and visiting as many new-to-me bloggers as I could. Anyway, I should be back to normal by next week’s Sunday Salon, so if you’re holding a book giveaway, let me know and I’ll include your giveaway in my next giveaways round-up post.

NaNoWriMo, Anyone?

We’re nearly into October already, so I’ve decided to start getting ready for NaNoWriMo over the next several weeks. I also decided to create a new user account, since my last one was affiliated with my personal blog and I never did much with it other than update my daily word count.

This year, I’m hoping that a lot of the bloggers I know now because of MsBookish will be participating in NaNoWriMo; I’d love to have some writing buddies. Here is my profile page – if you’ve joined, or are joining, log-in, cruise over to my link and add me as a writing buddy!

If NaNoWriMo is new to you, here’s more information:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

So, what am I planning to do to get prepared for NaNoWriMo before November 1? As some of you know, I’ve been working on finishing up the few final scenes for my current work-in-progress, NANTUCKET (or maybe, not-working is a better phrase, since I’ve been procrastinating finishing up my first draft ever since the end first came into sight three weeks ago).

I am aiming to finish NANTUCKET this coming week – I’m going to go back to my “half an hour of writing a day” goal which worked so well to get me started and kept me writing. And once I’ve finished, I want to keep the writing habit, so I’ll be starting a new novel right away.

My timing, though, isn’t so great. The novel you work on for NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a totally new project, something you’re starting just for NaNoWriMo. So in addition to starting my next novel, I’ve decided to start working on character sketches for my NaNoWriMo novel, too. The book idea I’ll be working on in November is a children’s book; it’s an idea that I’ve had for several years now, but while I have the concept, and the two main characters, I need to flesh things out a bit more before I can sit down and write.

I won’t be doing any outlining – I’m more of a pantser, rather than a plotter. But my idea for the book involves chapters that deal with separate stories about different characters, all linked together by the two central characters and the main concept. I’m not going to try and come up with each of these separate stories, but I’d like to try a somewhat different approach than I normally take, and discover first the characters who will be populating my fictional village before I start writing.

My hope is that I’ll have a nice batch of characters to draw from, and from there, I’ll be able to sit down on November 1 to that blank page, and find out whose stories I’ll be telling, and how they’ll all be related.

If you’re a writer, or have been thinking about writing a novel, I hope you’ll sign up for NaNoWriMo, too – I think it’s going to be so much fun this year, and even better, we’ll all have a first draft, or most of a first draft, when we’re done!

On The Write Track: Some Accountability, Please!

That’s me talking to me, by the way. In the title, I mean.

Recently I re-did my About Me page, and I realized something.

When I decided to start blogging here at Ms. Bookish, it was with two goals in mind: to read regularly and to write regularly. In On Writing, Stephen King wrote:

Read four hours a day and write four hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.

I’m passing the reading part of the requirements with flying colors. The writing part? Well, I am writing a lot each day, but as in the past, it’s not necessarily the kind of writing I want to be doing.

So it’s time to get On the Write Track. With heavy-duty doses of accountability.

33,493 Words: NaNoWriMo 2008

Last November, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I didn’t reach the 50,000 word goal, but I was very satisfied with my 33,493 words.

There was only one glitch.

During the last week of that month, I found myself second guessing everything I was writing. The story was flat; the characters more dead than alive; the writing was really really bad.

I thought, I can’t go on with this. It’s really terrible.

And I stopped working on it.

In On Writing, King suggests writing the first draft without stopping to read what you’ve written; when you do that, you keep the flow of creating your world going. That has always sounded like a good plan to me, so that’s the way I write.

So I had never read my NaNoWriMo novel – until a little while ago when, on a whim, I decided to print it all out. All 33,493 of my words.

And then I sat down to read it.

I was very surprised.

No, it wasn’t in a state to win an Edgar (it’s a mystery). But it was interesting – even to me, and I knew who did it, and why, and how. Reading through it, I tried to see which parts were the really terrible parts I could remember writing: the parts where the story was flat, the characters more dead than alive, the writing really really bad (yes, you’ve heard this before).

But the writing was consistent. Not beautifully polished prose, but still, consistently solid. I couldn’t point to any particular section and say to myself, ah, yes, that’s where I had that one bad session, where the writing just didn’t flow.

I couldn’t tell the parts that flowed out of me, that were a pure joy to write, from the parts that were so agonizing, where I felt the writing just stank.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day.

And when I reached the last page, I was very sorry that I hadn’t written more.

Now For the Accountability

I’ve decided it’s time to stop prancing around, stop being a dilettante about the one thing in the world that has always, for as long as I can remember, been so much a part of me.

I’m not going for the four hours. I have to work for a living after all. And I want to read all the lovely books in my TBR piles. I want to keep blogging (which is, after all, writing and perhaps should count for something).

So here’s the accountability part: I am gong to write (fiction) for half an hour a day.

Yes, it’s baby steps. But I also discovered during NaNoWriMo that I average just under 2,000 words in an hour. Half an hour would give me 1,000 words.

Let me adjust my commitment: half an hour a day, or 1,000 words. Per day. My choice.

I might fudge a bit and give myself a day off here and there. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Anyone want to join me? Some company on this journey would be fun …