Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life and Two More

If you're a professional, skilled, talented writer, you know the dread and desperation you can sometimes face when looking at that blank page in Microsoft Word, or the blank screen of your blog, or even the white page in your typewriter, or legal pad, if you're a luddite.
Fortunately, author Nava Atlas has created a gorgeous book of inspiration, guidance and insight, called "The Literary Ladies'Guide to the Writing Life" Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way" available from Seller's Publishing.
Atlas has gathered excerpts from diaries, journals, letters, memoirs and interviews with twelve famous female writers, from the wit of George Sand to the wisdom of Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton.
There is reassurance from Virginia Woolf, who says in a letter "I hate safety, and would rather fail gloriously than dingily succeed!" And "Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for women rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different. She still has many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed, it will be a long time, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against." Yet we know that Woolf conquered her inner phantoms long enough to write several wonderful novels.
Willa Cather offers advice on balance, relating that she worked only two and a half to three hours a day, because "if I made a chore of it, my enthusiasm would die. I make it an adventure every day...I attend to my housekeeping, take walks in Central Park, go to concerts and see something of my friends. I try to keep myself fit, fresh; one has to be in as good a form to write as to sing." Louisa May Alcott echoes these sentiments by stating that she also writes for only two hours a day, as otherwise she suffers from writer's cramp, or what one suspects was carpal tunnel/repetitive stress injury from long writing marathons when she was younger.
Pulitzer-prize winning author Edna Ferber speaks of her fantastic inner life, "Writing is lonely, but the creative writer is rarely alone. The room in which one works is peopled with the men and women and children of the writer's imagination. Often they are difficult, but rarely boring, company."
Yet the each authors work is so necessary, so vital in its unique voice, that writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe believed that the pen would prove mightier than the sword in future battles for equality. "The way to be great lies through books, now and not through battles."
This book provides 192 pages, gorgeously illustrated with photos, drawings and pull-quotes, allowing writers of all stripe to read, reflect and absorb the wisdom and enlightenment of the female authors who have gone before us. Truly a great gift or a present for oneself, "The Literary Ladies" is a feast for scribes and scribblers everywhere. Highly recommended!

I've also just read "The Winter Sea" by Susanna Kearsley, the second of her works I've read, after "The Rose Garden" which I enjoyed, and before "Mariana" which is waiting patiently in my TBR stack.
The Winter Sea was engrossing and fascinating, as it had to do with Scotland, a part of the world that I long to visit, and it was about a novelist, Carrie McClelland, who writes historical fiction, and comes across an ancestor during her research, Sophia, who was involved in the Jacobite invasion of exiled James Stewart in 1708 off the coast of Scotland. Carrie rents a cottage from a lovely old Scotsman who just happens to have two handsome sons, and as Carrie becomes more involved with Graham, the eldest son, she also seems to have more dreams and trances in which she sees and hears what happened to Sophia at nearby Slains Castle before, during and after the attempted invasion. As each fact of what happened proves to be true, Carrie realizes that she's dealing with not just a case of deja vu, but ancestral memory, perhaps gotten through reincarnation, though that option is never fully explored in this book. Still, the way Kearsley mingles the past and the present, and weaves in historical fact and real figures with fictional characters is seamless and hypnotic. The reader pulls for Sophia to be with her Moray, and agonizes over his apparent demise. The prose is robust and the plot, though adventurous, is somewhat measured in pace, slowed by necessary historical explanations that are important as set up for the denoument. I would recommend this book to those who like gothic fiction and historical romance, and give it a solid B+.
Finally, I read the last book in Kristin Landon's "Hidden Worlds" series, "The Dark Reaches" today.After reading "The Hidden Worlds" and "The Cold Minds" in reverse order, I wasn't sure what to expect from The Dark Reaches, so I was pleasantly surprised when it proved to be a fine read. Linnea, the protagonist, and her dynastic pilot lover Iain, set off for earth to try and rescue the last remaining people who've not been taken over by sentient nanobots known as the Cold Minds. Linnea gets something of a distress signal from the "deepsiders" a group of space hippies, for lack of a better term, who have managed to survive being taken over by the Cold Mind nanobots by a kind of vaccination. Meanwhile on Triton, a moon of Neptune, an evil pilot-consort of that civilization's president (whom he's managed to beat into submission) has made a deal with the Cold Minds to let them regularly raid and steal the children of the deepsiders for use as pilots to their spaceships, because pilots can't be subsumed by nanobots and still navigate "Otherspace," which is the wormholes between solar systems. Linnea's noble insistence on saving as many people as possible from the Cold Minds serves her in good stead in this novel, but her insistence on keeping Iain alive, even after he's been infected with Cold Mind nanobots really makes her seem almost too noble and too unwilling to believe that sacrifices are inevitable during war with an implacable enemy. Still, because this is an SF/Romance hybrid, there is an HEA and some satisfying removal of the bad element toward the end of the book. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to my friends who have enjoyed Ann Aguirre's Jax books, or Linnea Sinclair's Dock Five series.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Few Items of Interest, and The Cold Minds by Kristin Landon

I agree with Mr Salardino 100 percent, a book is a great gift, and one that I am giving this year to my mom and dad and stepdad, as well as to myself, from local bookstores Island Books and Baker Street Books.

"Technology is ruining the holidays. A download is a dud gift
(dudload?). When you give a 'real world' book to someone you are saying,
'I am totally in love with this book and think you will be too,' or 'The
sentiment in this book reminded me of you,' or 'Here, this is a journey
you will never forget.' A book is a personal gift--something uniquely
picked out, inscribed, and physically presented to another person. It
has emotional and actual weight. I am not saying there are not other
good gifts out there (a ukulele comes to mind), but with a book you
don't have to: mortgage the home, guess bra size, learn to sing, or find
out too late that they are allergic to nuts. That is why I think the
book is the best gift you can give. It is economical, beautiful, hours
of entertainment, thoughtful, and can last (both physically and in the
mind) a lifetime."

--Steven Salardino, manager of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., from the
bookstore's latest e-newsletter

This is an inspiring list of quotes from Flavorwire, via Shelf Awareness:

This is a reaction to, which is encouraging people to go into their local bookstore, find a book that they like and then buy it from off the computer, while they give you $5 off. I think that is an un-called for blow to Independent Bookstores, most of whom are an important of the community. Good for Garth for his response:

Author Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain), who is appearing at
Third Place tonight with Robert Goolrich (A Reliable Wife), tweeted his
own strategy "I like
to do the Reverse Amazon: hear about a book, read about it on Amazon,
then go buy it at my local bookstore! It's fun! #ReadLocal."

In a blog post headlined " 'This is the Part Where Amazon Jumps the
Shark' or 'Go Forth and Destroy Your Community Sayeth Amazon,' " Jarek
Steele co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.,
observed: "Meanwhile, I can offer this--if you shop at my bookstore, I
will not pay you five dollars to spy on my competitors. In fact, I'll
probably recommend them if we can't get what you need. I won't degrade
your favorite author by giving away a lifetime of her work so that I can
sell electronics. I will not make you feel bad for reading traditional
books, nor will I mock you for choosing an e-reader, e-book or anything
else I offer even if I don't personally like it. After all, customers
are people, not pawns. We still like to shop with people who respect

On Facebook, Occupy Amazon: Shop Local
offered a personal challenge from Kim Gavin of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.:
"Physical retail establishments are not merely showrooms for products. Your local indie
store offers you knowledgeable employees that don't adhere to a
mathematical formula to provide recommendations, physical products to
peruse at your leisure, and a place to meet with members of your
community.... I personally challenge everyone to buy local this Saturday
(and every day thereafter). It's worth $5 to keep our local businesses

On Friday, Sen. Olympia Snowe
(R.-Maine) called for Amazon to cancel its price check plans and
described the online retailer's promotion as "an attack on Main Street
businesses that employ workers in our communities. Small businesses are
fighting every day to compete with giant retailers, such as Amazon, and
incentivizing consumers to spy on local shops is a bridge too far....
During the busiest shopping season of the year, we should remember that
our local restaurants, bookshops, and hardware stores are the economic
engines in our communities."

I've always been a fan of the wonderous claymation of Aardman Animations, since their first "Creature Comforts" video came out, followed by the first Wallace and Gromit adventure to the moon ("We'll go somewhere where there's cheese, Gromit!") so I was delighted to see this trailer for a claymation pirate looks like loads of fun, and it has my favorite Dr Who, David Tennant, as one of the voices!

Sony Pictures Animation and the U.K.'s Aardman Animations (Wallace &
Gromit) have released a trailer for the stop-motion 3D movie The
Pirates! Band of Misfits,
which is directed by Peter Lord (co-directed by Jeff Newitt) and based
on the books by Gideon Defoe. The voice cast includes Hugh Grant, Salma
Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Imelda Staunton and David Tennant. The Pirates!
opens March 30, 2012.

Finally, I happened upon a mass market paperback book in Baker Street Books called "The Cold Minds" and noticed, once I took it from the shelves, that there was a blurb on the cover from Linnea Sinclair, my favorite science fiction/romance hybrid author, and that the main character's name was also Linnea, so the book was sold just from that. Once I brought it home and began to read it, I found it to read like a combination of Sinclairs works and Ann Aguirres, with a heroine who was fiesty and smart, but also honorable and in this books mileau, dealing with a lot of sexism by the spaceship pilots fraternity. Though it's not a long book, it is engrossing, and I was able to spend a bit of time away from Terry Goodkind's "Legend of the Seeker" universe that has become somewhat consuming, as I begin reading book 3, "Blood of the Fold." I've just ordered the third book of Kristin Landon's series, "The Dark Reaches" from Barnes and Noble.