Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

One last piece from Connie Willis's Blackout. This introduces one of the most interesting (and, to me, appealing) parts of the book, its interest in everyday heroism.

"But do you actually have to be on the boat with Lord Nelson or whoever it is? Couldn't you observe him from a safe distance?"

"No," Michael said. "One, the New Orleans is a ship, not a boat. Boats are what rescued the soldiers from Dunkirk. Two, observing from a safe distance is what historians were stuck doing before Ira Feldman invented time travel. Three, Lord Nelson was at Trafalgar, not Pearl Harbor, and four, I'm not studying the heroes who lead navies--and armies--and win wars. I'm studying ordinary people who you wouldn't expect to be heroic, but who, when there's a crisis, show extraordinary bravery and self-sacrifice."

Monday, February 25, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here are the first few lines of Wordsworth's "Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey."

Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view 10
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's the beginning of the short story I recently finished, code-name "Thunder."

“No.” La IncarnaciĆ³n shook her head once, sending her long hair skittering across her back like the legs of a very old, very tired spider. “Burn that candle I gave you. Say a prayer. Forget it.”

I slammed the screen door on my out.

Outside, the air whipped past me, hot and dry, like I was standing inside an exhaust pipe. No rain. July. Chicago. And not the nice side of Chicago either. Not Lincoln Park. Not Gold Coast. Not Evanston. God, if I took my van up there, I’d probably be in cuffs before I had time to shift into park. Evanston people were the scary kind of white people.

The rich kind.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Another scene from Connie Willis's Blackout--this one showcases two of her most enjoyable characters, Binnie and Alf, although it's more enjoyable when read as part of the chapter as a whole.

"I'll wager the line as out 'cause there was a train wreck," Binnie said, appearing from behind a pile of sleepers.

"I'll wager a jerry plane flew over and dropped a bomb and the whole train blew up," Alf said. They clambered up onto the platform. "Boom! Arms and legs everywhere! And 'eads!"

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poetry Mondays

One more from Spenser's Amoretti. I think this one is pretty fun (and interesting).


I IOY to see how in your drawen work,
Your selfe vnto the Bee ye doe compare;
and me vnto the Spyder that doth lurke,
in close awayt to catch her vnaware.
Right so your selfe were caught in cunning snare
of a deare foe, and thralled to his loue:
in whose streight bands ye now captiued are
so firmely, that ye neuer may remoue.
But as your worke is wouen all aboue,
with woodbynd flowers and fragrant Eglantine:
so sweet your prison you in time shall proue,
with many deare delights bedecked fyne.
And all thensforth eternall peace shall see
betweene the Spyder and the gentle Bee.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Another selection from "Bird," the novella between Ebb and White City.

The smell of sweat was sour in the air. Nar picked his way through the dark tent; the shadowed bulk of pallets lined the floor. Old bedding, rarely washed, likely as lousy as it most certainly was filthy. Nar wrinkled his nose and breathed through his mouth. The tent for the grown men who continued working as servants was a glimpse into his future; this was where Nar would be living, if he could not find an apprenticeship. Like Wah, who—even with his pretty smile—hadn’t been able to find anyone to take him on to learn a trade.

If Nar ended up here, though, he would at least have the dignity to wash his pallet-clothes. Fiery Ishahb only knew how long it had been since anyone here had done that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

Here's a passage from the beginning of Connie Willis's Blackout that I think captures her sense of humor as well as the style of her writing.

"What did you wish to see him about?"

My future, Colin thought. And it's none of your business, but that obviously wouldn't get him anywhere. "It's in regard to an historical assignment. It's urgent. If you could just tell me where he is, I--" he began, but Eddritch had already opened the appointment book. "Mr. Dunworthy can't see you until the end of next week."

Which will be too late. Blast, I need to see him now, before Polly comes back.

"I can give you an appointment at one o'clock on the nineteenth," Eddritch was saying. "Or at half past nine on the twenty-eighth."

What part of the word "urgent" do you not understand? Colin thought.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Crimson League giveaway

I think I've mentioned one of my friend's books before, but I wanted to give you all a notice: The Crimson League, written by my friend Victoria Grefer, is available for free this week (more details here). As always, I think people should read the free excerpts available on Amazon before taking any recommendation to buy a book, but since Victoria is offering the whole book for free, I don't feel bad encouraging you to give it a try.

Poetry Mondays

Here's another from Spenser's Amoretti.


MEN call you fayre, and you doe credit it,
For that your selfe ye dayly such doe see:
but the trew fayre, that is the gentle wit,
and vertuous mind is much more praysd of me.
For all the rest, how euer fayre it be,
shall turne to nought and loose that glorious hew:
but onely that is permanent and free
from frayle corruption, that doth flesh ensew.
That is true beautie: that doth argue you
to be diuine and borne of heauenly seed:
deriu'd from that fayre Spirit, from whom all true
and perfect beauty did at first proceed.
He only fayre, and what he fayre hath made,
all other fayre lyke flowres vntymely fade.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

One last snippet from the upcoming novella code-named "Bird":

The tree groaned.
“Burning blazes,” Nar muttered, inching higher. The top of the spruce dipped despairingly. “Burning blazes,” he repeated, a little louder. More daring, out here near the crash of the sea, where Hafis wasn’t likely to hear him. And a little louder, too, because his heart had climbed into his mouth. “Hold still.”
The last was part for spruce, its needles brushing Nar’s cheeks, and part for the sun-tail, which gave a nervous chirp in response. Nar took it as encouragement. He pulled himself a bit higher, bad foot sticky with sap, ignoring the spruce’s warning creak. He was almost level with the sun-tail now; it trilled a song, its dull brown head watching Nar, its brilliant yellow tail lifted with curiosity. Just a little closer now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Novel Wednesdays

One last passage from Blood Meridian before moving on; I just love McCarthy's prose. It's just so very beautiful.

The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they lay opposed to each other across the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Poetry Mondays

Here's a sonnet from Spenser's Amoretti--Sonnet LXXV:

ONE day I wrote her name vpon the strand,
  but came the waues and washed it away:
  agayne I wrote it with a second hand,
  but came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray.
Vayne man, sayd she, that doest in vaine assay,
  a mortall thing so to immortalize.
  for I my selue shall lyke to this decay,
  and eek my name bee wyped out lykewize.
Not so, (quod I) let baser things deuize,
  to dy in dust, but you shall liue by fame:
  my verse your vertues rare shall eternize,
  and in the heuens wryte your glorious name.
Where whenas death shall all the world subdew,
  our loue shall liue, and later life renew.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Rough Draft Fridays

Another section of the novella code-named "Bird":

Hands bright red from the water, Nar pulled the last sheet down the line, drawing it tight so it would dry. It was harder to get things dry here; between the snowfall and the wet air off the sea, the damp lingered, turning clothes and linens musty. The frosty air stung his hands—strange how they could be so hot in the water, and now the cold hurt just as bad—and Nar pinned the sheet into place. The sun was out today. If they had a good breeze, everything might well be dry by evening.
He hadn’t seen her yet today, so he made his way around the perimeter of the camp. Faiyah worked for the shaik too; she was an orphan, just like Nar. There were always plenty of orphans, but the temple farmed out some of its charges to craftsmen or laborers. Not Nar, of course; there were only so many things a clubfoot boy could do. But he was almost a man. Thing were going to change.