Life

resolutions that i didn’t keep in 2017

Look, I think I’m allergic to resolutions. Terribly, awfully allergic to them. I had resolutions made last year – heck, I wrote an entire blog post on how “I’m giving myself goals that I know are possible for me to achieve.”

Oh. Ha. Ha ha ha HA!

In my defence … I was working very hard in order to come to Canada. Please picture someone slaving day after day, taking up every single shift possible, coming home in the wee hours exhausted and drained … and then going back to do it all over again the next morning. Seven days a week. Four weeks a month. Twelve months a year. Ten years a decade …

(That’s not how it went, but it’s how I’d like you to imagine it went. Thank you.)

This is how I did …

1 // READ A DICKENS. JUST ONE. SURVIVE IT.

I didn’t read just one. Oh no. I outdid myself: I didn’t read any.

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2 // READ LORNA DOONE

I tried, but the book I had was a) very thick (I’m not kidding – you could clobber an intruder with it. It might not be completely effective but … you could), and b) the text was  too small and uncomfortable to read. If I remember correctly, I had it out on my desk for a few months, in painful hope. I managed to read a few pages … or paragraphs. So I suppose, in a way, I did read Lorna Doone.

Just, you know, not all of it.book-2572013_1920.jpg

3 // FINISH THE LIBRARY LASS

This didn’t quite work out very well. Why? I wrote too much and then there was nothing and then stage fright sprouted and “this is the way the project ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.

“Marriage is a give and take situation – the husband gives the money, the wife takes it.
– by Authors Numerous, CYNICS THROUGH THE YEARS

(I liked to pepper The Library Lass with quotes by fictional people. It was enormous fun.)

Maybe I will return to it, maybe I will not. Maybe I have commitment issues with my projects. Maybe I don’t. Maybe I’m indecisive. Maybe I’m not.

4 // PUBLISH SANDWICHESbooks-2596809_1920

Oh. I think that this was a dream too lofty. Though this story has a special place in my heart, it needed plenty of work and I did not have the time or the urge to complete it. I did not have the ‘umph’ as we say in my family.

5 // WORK ON THE SALT PUN

I worked on it – I did. I swear I did. I had a wonderful name for it, I had character pictures and background information and went through the ENTIRE manuscript with highlighter pens for every story arc. (I know. It was like, the ultimate level of commitment!) But then, in September, it suffered a major blow – I moved continents and left my hard-copy-scrawled-with-irreplaceable-notes manuscript behind.

Put a bit of a spanner in the works, to say the least.

It is now waiting for me to return to it, this September. (I miss you too, my love!!!)

Join me, later on in the week, when I draw up a list of goals for this year. Oh yes, my friends. You know what they say – once bitten, twice DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN FOREVER AND EVER AND LEARN NOTHING!!!!

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I think I just rambled, Life

a christmas away from home

merry-christmas-2984138_1920.jpgThis Christmas was my first spent away from home, without family, and with the burden of cooking resting on my shoulders and that of my friend.

It was a little bit hard, but FaceTime exists, and so do books.

COOKING

On the whole, the meals that my friend and I cooked were edible. It’s been well over twenty-four hours now and neither of us have expired. We cooked an English Breakfast followed by a Sunday Roast followed by … nothing; we were too full.

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LIST OF (PROBABLY) HELPFUL HINTS FOR COOKING THINGS

  • If your muffin tray is rusted, just give up on making the Yorkshire puddings. DO NOT – and I repeat, DO NOT – use cupcake holders and put too much of the mix inside.
  • If you do this, bin it. Your Yorkshire puds will turn into Welsh ones – soggy.
  • … aaannnddd they will be like flour glue. Flour. Glue.
  • Maybe don’t use chicken gravy for pork. Doesn’t quite go._220206.jpg
  • Don’t get exotic sounding sausages. They do not match an English breakfast. You will bin them.
  • Don’t make cupcakes with no recipe with the remaining Yorkshire pudding mix.
  • Don’t overcook the cupcakes you just made.
  • Don’t eat the overcooked cupcakes you just made – they will be hard and they will taste like sweet bread with sugar granules and chocolate chips to garnish.

ENTERTAINMENT

With breakfast, we watched Four Lions which is a dark British comedy about four terrorists. It was not an overwhelmingly Christmas movie.

We both FaceTimed home. I spoke to my parents about drugs and life and witches which entertained everyone involved, I think.

Afterwards, with dinner, we partook of Pride and Prejudice – and, please don’t slay me –  but I’ve never found Colin Firth to be attractive.

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I suppose it is because the first time I ever watched him on-screen, I was quite small and he was just an ancient bloke on a TV diving into a pond for some reason unknown to me.

And then, I curled up on the sofa with a book, An Unlikely Duchess by Mary Balogh – which had STRONG AND MARVELLOUS Heyer undertones and so made me very happy.

And finally, we watched Spiderman: Homecoming with friends. I’ve discovered that I too need Captain America to be there to help me through life.

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so, you broke a nail …

MISC.

The house that my friend lives in has AMAZING acoustics and so she had a violin and I had a tenor recorder and we played carols and songs. We are going on tour soon – and will be bringing tears to people’s eyes. Tears of PAIN!

(I’m kidding. I just really love that joke.)

Presents were from as far a field as England, and as near a field as a Wal-Mart. We had stockings and opened presents like grown-ups. (I’m just kidding – we broke and opened a present each the night before.)

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Was I homesick, you ask? Yes. A little. But I survived – with the aid of friends, plenty of FaceTime, movies, books, and sort of edible cooking.

Happy New Year!

Life

bloggers, blogging [part two]

Part One was here. This is Part Two (WHAT! IT IS?). I’ve spent a long time on the blogosphere, mostly stalking people. Here are a few more of my victims …

THE PENSLAYER

THE AESTHETIC + ‘SHE LIKES SUTCLIFF TOO?!!!’ ONE

When I was a teenager, I was slightly in awe of Jenny Freitag, because a) she was an author (A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!), b) she dripped with intellectual greatness (my humour and writing has ever been … none-intellectual. I have since learned to accept myself), and c) she read Rosemary Sutcliff’s books.

Freitag’s book The Shadow Things was the first book I bought from a blog I’d followed. (My logic was: she likes Sutcliff, therefore, her books might be flavoured with some Sutcliff-y things.)

(And it was.)DistortedBitesizedIndusriverdolphin-small.gif

I still read Jenny’s blog, but mostly I stalk her instagram where there are kittens + babies + and a beautiful aesthetic. (Which, FYI, is not pronounced as ‘anaesthetic’. Yes. I’m glaring at myself in the mirror.)

BLOG STATUS: active, still slayin’ and that instagram tho’

HOWEVER IMPROBABLE

THE ‘I HAVE TO CLICK BECAUSE OH MY WORD THAT POST TITLE’ ONE

I’d be reading a blog and if they’d have a ‘blog’s I follow’ bar down the side and followed this one? I’d have to click on Jack’s posts. Every. Single. Time.

Oh yes. I was clickbaited before it became a thing. I am a hipster clickbaited chick (?). And you know what? It’s been years now, but when I go back to my blogger homepage and I see her posts? I still get drawn in.

She uses quotes, you see. And I can’t resist a good quotation.

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BLOG STATUS: ‘What if we covered his nose and mouth” “That’s called murder.” [Actual blog title] [DO YOU SEE WHY I HAVE TO CLICK?!!]

MIRRIAM NEAL

THE ‘I BLAME HER FOR EVERYTHING’ ONE

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this, but maybe tripled …

I think it was Mirriam Neal’s blog that introduced me to Heyer. I blame her. Oh, do I blame her. I own a bloomin’ awful lot of Georgette Heyer’s books, have blogged about them, obsessed about them, decided to marry their heroes, quoted them, and consumed a biography and a book about Heyer’s regency world.

To sum up – Mirriam Neal has cost me a pile of money and I regret NOTHING.

And because I have no intelligence or worry that the Heyer Happening could happen again, I still follow her blog. C’mon, it’s interesting – and it’s not like when I discover a new author I buy all their books, is it? Is it?

BLOG STATUS: active, taking my life and bank account into my hands each time I click on her blog. [I’m kidding.] [I’m not.]

JUSTWAYTOOBOSS

THE ‘LIKES K-DRAMA TOO’ ONE

I think Faith first commented on my blogspot blog. (THANK YOU, FAITH) And for some reason still reads this blog – for which, of course, I adore her.

But when I stalked her – I found, to my delight, that she too liked k-dramas (!!!!!!!!). I haven’t watched a k-drama since last Christmas – but Playful Kiss, The Devil Beside You (yes, I know – not a k-drama, but a t-drama?) and Fated To Love You will always have a special place in my heart.

(And also that drama with Mike He and the bread and amnesia and the song ‘Ideal Garden’ that I love. But … I can’t remember what that’s called.)

And MY WORD isn’t Jang Hyuk’s laugh the absolute most hysterical thing you’ve ever heard?

Obviously, Faith’s blog is not allll about k-dramas – she has excellent taste in books too – but this has given me the opportunity to ramble about them, so thank you.

BLOG STATUS: active, tempting me to throw my life aside for a little while and dive into another drama.

PAPERFURY

THE ‘HOW THE HECK DOES SHE DO IT?’ ONE

Cait writes books in a flicker of an eyelid, devours books like the bookdragon she is, and blogs almost daily.

She’s really quite funny, is obsessed with cake and dragons, and also has just got a two book deal. So a huge congratulations to her.

But one day, I will find out how she does it. One day. The answer probably has something to do with dragons and I am 100% okay with that.

BLOG STATUS: active, HOW DOES SHE DO IT I AM BOGGLED.

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Books, On Writing

i kidnapped Suzannah Rowntree for an interview

I have Suzannah Rowntree, author of Ten Thousand Thorns, with me today. Well, not really because … we happen to live on different continents. But with the wonder of the internet, she is here, with me on my blog …
 
// 1 //
WHEN DID YOU THINK ‘LET ME SET THIS FAIRY TALE IN CHINA’ AND WHAT BROUGHT IT ABOUT?
Haha! OK, I’ll be honest with you: it was while I was watching a movie called THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM with my sisters. I know, a lot of wuxia fans detest that movie as a lamesauce American homage to the genre, but then again, it does have that epic Jet Li/Jackie Chan duel in it, and none of the great Chinese wuxia films have that, so. I’d always loved these adventurous, fantastic, and beautiful martial arts films (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and HERO must be the ones most familiar to Western viewers), but it was while I was thinking about the philosophical underpinnings to Taoism as they cropped up in THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM that I got the idea of telling Sleeping Beauty in this style. It occurred to me suddenly that in China, a princess wouldn’t be cursed to sleep for a hundred years: on the contrary, she would meditate, not sleep, and it would be this wonderful spiritual blessing. Or would it?
 
This would also give me the opportunity to write a Sleeping Beauty retelling that was absolutely chock-full of kung-fu action scenes. I mentioned the idea to my bro the same evening, and from the look of awe and anticipation that crossed his face, I knew it was a winner.
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// 2 //
THE WISE SAYINGS – HOW AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM? DID YOU MAKE THEM? CAN I STEAL YOUR BRAINS? WERE THEY INSPIRED FROM SOMEWHERE?
I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t make them up myself. I don’t have that level of brains! I just spent a lot of time trawling through collections of Chinese proverbs online. Aren’t they marvellous? I did this because my Chinese beta reader told me that one’s martial arts master is supposed to speak in wise riddles, which the disciple is then supposed to figure out for himself. And if you can figure out what your martial arts master is saying, that proves you’re worthy to be his disciple. I thought the best way to get that effect and make it authentic would be to pepper his dialogue with gems of Chinese wisdom.
 
// 3 //
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE TEN THOUSAND THORNS?

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The actual writing wasn’t too bad, though with other projects in the mix it took about a year from beginning to end. I took a month to write the first draft, a month to write the second draft, and another month to apply the edits suggested by my first-round beta readers. It usually doesn’t take me this long to do edits, but I had a Chinese
beta reader whose critique was very challenging and far-reaching. He gave me amazing help.
 
// 4 //
WHAT WAS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE?

I tend to plan on a macro level. I’ll start with a concept and some research. I watched a lot of Chinese films and read two very long classic wuxia novels to prepare, which took me months. I also watched the director’s commentary for CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (yes, I spent a lot of my “work” days watching entertaining foreign films. I did not feel guilty about this at all).

I kept detailed notes of interesting things I noticed that seemed relevant to the story’s theme or a fun part of the martial arts story world: blood brothers, shocking betrayals, intense tea nerdery. Once I had all these details under my belt, I was able to construct a basic plot outline that expressed the theme and drew on all these elements that I enjoyed, hopefully also weaving them into something new. Then it was just doing the writing itself, which I usually do in a boring manner from nine till five with the assistance of silence and a succession of cups of tea. giphy-6
One thing I did do differently for TEN THOUSAND THORNS was to adopt a slightly different writing style than usual. It’s a bit more pulpy, a bit more humorous, and draws on the diction (in English) of Chinese friends and literature.

 

// 5 //
I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED BY THE TITULAR ‘THORNS’ – DID THE IDEA FOR WHAT THEY WOULD BE SPRING INTO YOUR MIND OR WAS IT A TAKE ON THE FAIRY TALE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
Aha! That particular concept just came packaged along with the genre. Once I connected the dots between Sleeping Beauty and wuxia, it was obvious what I was going to do with the thorns. The Chinese proverb “crouching tigers and hidden dragons” itself refers to the fact that you can never tell when someone or something will turn out to be highly dangerous and/or well-trained. Just watch any wuxia film and you’ll see that this is true. And that’s all I’ll say about that 😉

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// 6 //
WAS THERE A PARTICULAR SCENE THAT YOU REALLY ENJOYED WRITING?
Oh help. All of them? This novella was pure joy from beginning to end. Maybe I particularly loved the scene with the old lady at Wudang, and all of Iron Maiden and Clouded Sky’s duels in the first half. They had such fun interactions.
 
// 7 //
IF YOU COULD TIME TRAVEL – RIGHT NOW – TO ANY HISTORICAL TIME PERIOD, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
[A WORD OF WARNING – I HEAR JUNE 1348 IN ENGLAND IS A BAD YEAR TO PICK]
Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere in 1348. I even avoid fiction set during that time because I know it’s not going to end well, especially if it has ominous words like “domesday” in the title. No, I’d like to visit Jerusalem in 1183 to do research on my OUTREMER project. Saladin called it “a garden of paradise” and I would just love to see the amazing architecture and mosaics and fabulous clothes they all would have been getting around in.
THANKS FOR STOPPING BY, SUZANNAH!

profile

When Suzannah Rowntree isn’t travelling the world to help out friends in need, she lives in a big house in rural Australia with her awesome parents and siblings, writing historical fantasy fiction informed by a covenantal Christian perspective on history.
 
If you like the fiction of CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Stephen Lawhead, or ND Wilson, you’ll probably enjoy her stories too.
Books, Recountings

recountings: ten thousand thorns

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TEN THOUSAND THORNS 

by Suzannah Rowntree

Princess Morning Light meditates in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Guardian of a long-lost sword skill, the princess is destined to wake after a hundred years to return justice to the world.

Or so legend says.

As the Vastly Martial Emperor extends his brutal domination, rebel leader Clouded Sky flees the capital for the safety of his martial sect at Wudang Mountain. Meanwhile, a renegade martial artist seeks a hero to awaken Morning Light. As bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, Clouded Sky must determine who he can trust – and who may be planning to betray him.

An action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty in the style of a Chinese martial arts epic!

Ah, I really enjoyed this one.

THE WRITING

The writing is clear and crisp, and it truly draws you in; almost as if you are watching a movie – seeing the shadows, hearing the clash of weapons, and watching the cast interact.

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Some of the descriptions were quite perfect:

‘she moved as lightly as a dandelion seed blowing on the wind’

THE CAST

The characters are delightful, Iron Maiden in particular. Sometimes heroines can really get on my nerves (you know what I mean … ‘I AM A STRONG, POWERFUL WOMAN WHO CAN FIGHT BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. I ALSO HAVE AS MUCH CHARACTER AS A CARDBOARD CUTOUT. NO! LESS!) but thankfully, such was not the case in this book.

What really was nice, was the way that Rowntree wrote her – skilled, but not flaunting it. Feminine, but more than capable of handling herself in a fight. The balance was right, and so I was really able to enjoy reading about her.

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Everyone was saying Very Wise And Poetic Sayings, which gives me life goals because I would very much like to drift around and say things like ‘truly, one happiness scatters a thousand sorrows’ (…and then crack out some ‘Awkward-Octopus-Strikes-Thrice-And-Falls’ martial arts move, afterwards, of course.)

THE PLOT

At first, I was a little overwhelmed (gee, doesn’t that make me like a swooning heroine!) with the amount of names, details etc there were – but that could be because my brain has the retention skills of a colander.

But once I caught the gist of the story and memorised names and who was who and what was what … it was clear sailing.

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There were some PLOT TWIST! moments that I enjoyed, and I found the way that the fairy tale was retold to be unique and quite clever.

TO SUM UP …

Altogether, I found this story to be an action filled martial arts adventure, garnished with the perfect touch of swashbuckling charm.

And also, my word, it felt like Rowntree had throughly researched the setting for her book – so hats off and kudos to her for that.

amazon // goodreads

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge in return for an honest review. I would have happily written a review in return for a dragon, but I wasn’t offered any.