September 2008

Something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, now made more urgent and poignant by the death of Michael D Johnson–a once weekly ebook review, to appear on Fridays. Most of the books reviewed will be freely available from Gutenberg or Manybooks, but I may throw in some others that require purchase. (Assuming I can get the ARCs for free, anyway…)

This week: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
Available from

This book, described by the author as a “shocker,” was first published in 1915.  It features the very clever and intrepid South African mining engineer, Richard Hannay, and a host of other repeating characters.  Although Hannay has taken up residence in London, he is soon caught up in a web of espionage and peril, in the lead up to the first World War.  An exciting read, full of rather unbelievable escapes and coincidences.  Hannay is modest and forthright, and not afraid to use his fists if necessary.  Full of period details–motor cars, servants, and stately residences on the beaches of England.  The first of five books by Buchan starring Hannay, that see him accept a commission during the war, make General, get knighted, and even marry and start a family.

This book has been made into a film on three occasions, with my favorite being the 1978 version starring Robert Powell as Richard Hannay.  The story is modified for the film and includes the famous “Big Ben” scene, which is not in the book!

add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

I heard this afternoon from Dianna Petry that Mike Johnson, of Sage Fire Reviews, had passed away very suddenly from a heart attack.  I’d never met Mike, but we exchanged a lot of correspondence via e-mail, and he struck me as a really lovely guy, and one who was passionate about books and writing.  In fact I had an email from him just yesterday, outlining a lot of plans and ambitions he had for his website.  Mike sounded upbeat and very excited.

He will be missed.

add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

Almost exactly three months to the day I started writing, the first draft of Wintermoon Ice is done! Yaya!  I had actually planned to make it a little longer, but I when I finished a certain paragraph, all of a sudden it felt complete. I kept trying to add things after that point, and it just didn’t work.

Now I have to put it away for a couple of weeks, until I can look at it with a little bit of objectivity.  In the meantime, school holidays approach, meaning the house will be noisy and crowded.  Probably not the best time to start the sequel, Summermoon Fire.  But maybe I can write a short story or two…

add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

I know it seems incredible, but this is the way I work: I never decide the events leading up to the ending until the… End.

I have a chapter by chapter outline, but the ending is always pretty vague, and tends to change quite a bit over the months involved in writing a book. I just started Chapter 19 of Wintermoon Ice, which will be the final chapter. Yesterday I put the final plot twist in place. Why wait so long?

Well, the thing about plot twists is, you want them to come out of nowhere. The reader must be surprised and yet, the twist device must sit “naturally” within the arc of the story. A tall order. For me, it is easier to decide at the end, and go back and salt the story with tiny clues. This time I had two ideas in mind. I tried the first, but ran into logistical problems almost immediately. (How to get the body back up the stairs, basically.) Nothing worked. Nothing seemed natural. So taking a Taoist approach, I bagged this twist and went on to the next one.

Now I’m happy! 🙂

Maybe other authors do it the other way round…

What I am listening to: Arie Antiche/Dmitri Hvorostovsky
What I am reading: The Red Cross Girls With Pershing to Victory/Margaret Vandercook

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I’ve been busy acquiring a short, sharp education in paperback cover art.  It is much more complex than I thought.  You have to start with a very high quality picture.  It has to be a certain size, to allow for trimming.  Everything important must be away from the edges, so that it doesn’t get trimmed.  Insignificant flaws in the image are magnified.  It is complicated stuff, I tell you, but I am enjoying the process.

I got nothing done yesterday, thanks to a dose of food poisoning, probably from some fish I ate Sunday night.  But today I have been good–I have finished a review for Sagefire that I promised them ages ago, and worked on the cover for Heart of Hythea. And now I am telling you about it in a blog posting! 🙂

What I am listening to: Kammersymphonien/Arnold Schoenberg
What I am reading: The Campfire Girls at School/Hildegard G. Frey

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Here are the two leading candidates for the paperback cover of Ketha’s Daughter.  I like them both.  I’d like a second opinion!

Just a quick post to say that I have sent BTG off to my publisher for the first round of editing. I am a little nervous, because I had a great deal of trouble with the beginning of this book, and while I am satisfied with the outcome I don’t know if HE will be.

It’s nerve wracking to say the least.

Progress on Wintermoon Ice has slowed to a crawl. My son was home from school all last week with a bad case of the flu. I spent the weekend working on another new cover for Ketha’s Daughter. I’ll post the candidates sometime later today.

add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank