Readerly and Writerly Doings

book covers

Reading of Late

I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff. Jackie Morris’ beautiful Song of the Golden Hare. Rosemary Van Deuren’s moving Basajaun. Beth K. Lewis’ The New Gothic, about which I’ll most definitely have more to say later. Murder on the Ballarat Train, vol. 3 in the Phryne Fisher series. Melanie Lamaga’s The Evolution of Reptilian Handbags. Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals, an intriguing book about, well, the daily rituals of sundry writers, composers, artists, etc. Last but not least, Gregory Miller and John York’s The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town.

Writing proceeds apace. I’m not where I want to be pace-wise for the year, but I expect that I will make it into the Cadbury Creme Eggs that I set aside for various wordcount goals. Since January 1 I’ve started and discarded countless things, but three of the short stories appear to be viable, as does the novel. My writing group is meeting regularly, and the critiquing and discussion are both pleasurable and good for me.

I am waiting, not particularly patiently, to post some exciting writing news. In the meanwhile I’ll mention that The Children of Old Leech received a fine review from Publishers Weekly, citing stories by T.E. Grau, Orrin Grey, Molly Tanzer, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., and J.T. Glover & Jesse Bullington. This is, as far as I can tell, my first mention in those pages, and it was a thrilling way to start the past weekend.

Kindles, Dragons, and Goodreads, Oh My!

2013 is coming to an end, and December’s been a pretty mixed month overall, all things considered. “Curse this metal body,” I’ve said more times than I can count in the last three or so weeks, given sundry problems, but nonetheless, some progress. My writing is noodling along about as well as one could expect after a period of indisposition…

Dragon Naturally Speaking

For Christmas I got a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking. This was something that I’d considered doing several years ago. I was reminded of it by Cat Rambo, who wrote a nice post (with followup) about gifts for writers for Christmas. I am, in fact, composing this post using a headset, and it feels a little strange, but anything I can do to improve my flow of words, well, that’s a good thing. The accuracy is pretty good out of the box, better than Windows’ native speech-to-text, but I’ve started to “train” the software to my speaking patterns, and it’s a little bit shocking how well it works.

Goodreads

Years ago I established a Goodreads account. I didn’t use it all that much because I did not really see a need for it, but with my revived focus on writing, I’m trying to do a little bit more with it this year. To which end, I have finally put together a Goodreads Author Page. Humble thus far, but I expect that it will improve over time, or, if not improve, at least grow.

picture of J. T. Glover with Kindle

The Kindle Has Landed

The Kindle Has Landed

Hitherto I haven’t really been a fan of e-books. Everything from a love of paper to affection for authors who don’t get e-book editions to the kind of rootlessness I’ve felt when reading online have conspired to make me shun e-books to this point. Recently, however, I got the opportunity to try a Kindle of the current generation.

Wow. It was a huge change from my past experience trying to read on Kindles, computer, iPad, or otherwise. My local public library has also expanded their selection of e-books since the last time I looked a couple years ago. At this point, it contains a solid range of books that I want to read, have read and would like to reread, and books I’ve never heard of… enough to keep me merrily reading along for years.

So, I got a Kindle for Christmas. What am I reading? Well, I’ve checked out Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, which I first read when it came out, lo those many years ago, and I’m thoroughly enjoying rereading. I’ve also purchased a copy of The Lord of the Rings, because you have to have The Lord of the Rings, as well as a couple novels in the aforementioned Phryne Fisher series. All in all, I have read more in the last month then in any single month since I don’t know when. It’s a good feeling.

Into 2014

Right now I’m finishing up a short story begun a few weeks back, and which I promised to send an editor friend at the end of this month. I think it has some promise, but whatever comes, it feels so good to be putting down words. I’ve something else on deck for January, ideas for what comes after that, and at least one other bit of news to announce down the road. And, at the end of the day, a heck of a good start lined up for the year to come.

Theme & Variation, Mystery Edition

Should you read the book before the movie? Conventional wisdom says BUT THINK OF THE PURITY OF YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS, UNFETTERED BY THE SCREEN. Codswallop. We’ve always got stories and images running through our heads, and you aren’t a blank slate during your first encounter with any text, ready to form impressions based solely on a media-free life in the splendid isolation of the Orkneys, the Canadian tundra, etc.

phryne fisher

The Honourable Phryne Fisher

Take Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. My wife got me hooked on the TV series with little effort, and it hits plenty of my sweet spots, from the Roaring Twenties to unconventional P.I.s. The stories tend to be good, from the setups to the dialogue, and each episode blends genuine acting and light, set-piece banter, in the manner of Buffy et al. The Honourable Phryne Fisher takes on a range of standard and novel cases, from stolen paintings to occult gobbledygook, but each is given new life, typically springing from something in Miss Fisher’s character, or that of other recurring characters.

Subsequent to watching the first season (all we Yanks can get at this point, legally anyway), I started reading the books. The screen adaptation is good, and it reaffirmed my view that you need to be a good conductor if you want to translate a story. Here bring the strings up, there back the horns off, all in service of creating something that works in the new medium. Had the books been adapted with no sensitivity, the show would not now be on Season 2. The dialogue works on the page, but Kerry Greenwood‘s novels are decidedly written for history nerds. We can relish her deployment of slang and period terminology, going to look up (and learn from) her word use at need, but too much of that on the screen would be deadly. In similar fashion, the characters are well drawn on the page, with backstory, motivation, and personality galore—they have more complexity than backup characters can hold, particularly given each episode is usually distilled from en entire novel.

I’m neither glad nor sad to have seen the TV series first. Each has its own merits, and I don’t count myself poorer (!) for having Essie Davis in mind while reading. If anything, I’m grateful for the interest that the television series piqued, in the same way that watching Mystic River ultimately led me to read Dennis Lehane. The joys and flaws of adaptation aren’t particular to mysteries, but for some reason I notice them with more interest than I do when watching mainstream, fantastic, or whatever other kind of stories. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings? Plenty of changes—some I loved, some I hated—but none that caused my noticing machine to start clicking. Dexter? A completely different story… but that’s one for another day.