A Happy New Home

Many of you may have noticed that the blog has not been very active; indeed you haven’t received a lot of e-mails from this site. This is because I’ve opened up shop at a new location, and you can access it from here. At the end of 2015 it will be the third New Year’s I greet at Before the Second Sleep‘s new location, and I would love it if you joined me there.

I’ve continued to work on book reviews and other series, such as “Ordinary People,” “Great Land History” and “My Tottering TBR,” and others are yet to emerge, focusing on food, arts, interviews, Alaska and more.  I’m also currently undergoing transitions in terms of affiliations and projects, deliberately shifting priorities in order to be able to look forward and expand my creative thought, abilities and output. I may have time to post links here to the new location, but also encourage you to jog on over and follow me there.

Here are a few examples of some of my newer pieces:

Friday Night Flashback: Words and Walking

This flashback dips into another piece of writing from a few years back when my son was no longer pretty tiny, but still very much a little boy. He was growing into what I tend to call being a “regular boy,” more and more asking me to tell him stories about himself and about me when I was his age.

This is one that leads into his own experiences…

When I was a little girl, my mother and I were in the habit of going for walks. There was something poetic about these walks, partly because we talked a great deal about the natural world set out all around us: what we could see and what lay buried beneath the cold winter’s snow. But also, as we walked through the sometimes terrifically cold and windy evenings–I recall our winter walks the best–we spoke silly rhymes and recited poetry, even if it were only a few lines from each poem we wanted to talk about.

In moments like these I suspect my mother was a lover of words and, had she been born later, may have had opportunity to develop her fascination, but for then we roamed the streets and fields, calling out the name of the first thing we set our eyes on after we opened them, then trying to come up with words to rhyme. Sometimes these would be phrases, nonsense ones even, or sentences that we took turns stringing together, spinning a yarn in verse.

More in Friday Night Flashback: Words and Walking

Of Pies, Books and other Essentials: An Interview with Anna Belfrage

Hello, Anna, so good to see you again! It’s been awhile since we’ve sat down for a chat together! Thanks so much for joining me here today. I got a little ambitious this time. (gestures to plate)

What, you’ve made me chocolate torte – and you don’t even like chocolate? How lucky I brought a lemon meringue pie! (whips out pie)

Wow, just as you promised! That was super sweet! Although… (peers at pie)…it’s a bit, umm, droopy?
I know, the meringue looks sort of weird, the heat in my oven is a bit uneven, but I can assure you it tastes great.

I’m all for testing that theory! (picks up cutter) Well, first of all I’d like to congratulate you on winning The Review’s Book of the Month award! I found myself becoming more and more excited as reveal day drew closer, that’s how much I wanted people to know about A Rip in the Veil.

I think I’m as excited as you are – and very, very honoured. To be quite honest, I’ve been considering to relearn how to cartwheel just to celebrate, but that little effort resulted in a sprained wrist – and three sons who were falling over laughing. Huh: as if they can cartwheel!

(chuckles) You spoke briefly last time about Alex, who travels in time back to 17th century Scotland and meets up with Matthew Graham, and indicated she was not modeled on any person you knew. What about other characters or events? Do any of them have roots in past memories? I suppose I’m fascinated when I learn of the way writers bring some of their memories to life in association with those who populate their stories. If they’re all new from your imagination, how did they all develop—many at once or did they come as you went along? Do you have full backgrounds laid out for them?

The more I write, the more I realise that characters spring into life through different channels. Quite often, I see someone doing something – like the auditor who had this habit of always fiddling with her long hair. In my books, it is Matthew doing the fiddling with Alex’s hair, but the gesture comes from a PWC [Price Waterhouse Cooper] partner.

Some characters do have a real life model. Mrs Gordon in A Rip in the Veil owes a lot to Elsa, my mother-in-law. It was Elsa who taught me to knit, it was Elsa who laughed her head off the first time we met and the first thing that happened was that my pants split all along the inside seam. (What can I say? I wanted to impress, so I wore my best pants, unfortunately a tad too tight.)

In general, no, my characters do not appear as fully-fledged Athenas, springing out to meet the world. Some are reticent – Matthew did not want to share the humiliating experiences at the hands of his wife and brother – some are too unformed. Usually, they come to me as voices first, I hear snippets of conversations, words that allow me to grasp how they think and why they think that way. From the voices, I progress to visual impressions – but I am not interested in detailed descriptions of what they might look like, I want my readers to fill in the blanks for themselves. I think that as a writer, one must decide which characters need a full background and which don’t – but even the secondary personages must be brought to life, become relevant to the protagonists. Otherwise, they serve no purpose.
What is important when writing historical fiction is to ensure your characters fit the period. This requires a lot of research – very varied research covering religious views, reading matters, dress, diet, etc. What I want to achieve is a sense of immersion that will allow me to paint the period for my readers, without coming across as a heavy-handed know-all. A fine balancing act, let me tell you.

More in Of Pies, Books and Other Essentials: An Interview with Anna Belfrage

Book Review: Martyrs and Traitors

With Never Be at Peace, Marina Julia Neary opens up to readers’ awareness and imagination the world that existed behind the 1916 Easter Rebellion, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB)-led event doomed to failure by its own participants. To be seen in this telling of events would be the backdrop of theatre consumed and surrounded by love affairs and casual assignations; jealousies and rivalries; and the rise and fall of groups and leaders of questionable sustainability.

Chief amongst these is Bulmer Hobson, an upper middle-class Quaker and Ulsterman, whose northern accent somehow is charmingly evident despite Neary’s choice not to emphasize burrs and brogues. He appears once more here in Martyrs and Traitors, which also recounts the events of the Dublin-centered insurrection, zooming in to brighten the field and all within it. Though he is the novel’s central character, the story is not told from Hobson’s point of view, but rather that of an omniscient narrator with the purpose of additionally seeing him the way others do, a narrative choice that develops Hobson’s person even further and also allows his interactions to provide greater insight into who he is.

This Neary pulls off with skill, aplomb, grace and remarkable understanding of this era’s events as well as implications that affect every moment. She brings in Helena Molony, Hobson’s first love, often to showcase the pair’s opposite approaches to their nation’s fight for freedom, not to mention the incandescence of Helena’s nature and the hue she brings to her perspectives.

More in Book Review: Martyrs and Traitors

There are loads more great entries waiting and many more to come. Welcome to my new home!

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Welcoming 2015

Just over one year ago I wrote here about before the second sleep‘s shift to a new location. Since then I’ve continued to write reviews, periodically post my “Friday Night Flashbacks” and work on other behind-the-scenes projects.

I can also still be found at The Review where I recently posted a review of Judith Starkston’s novel of Briseis and the Trojan War, Hand of Fire. I also have a copy of the book to give away; at this writing the drawing has not yet occurred, so come on over and comment to get your name in the hat–that’s all it takes!

Now that we are in 2015, in addition to continuing with book reviews, I have lots of other ideas I’m working on and at The Review will, when the baton finds its way to me, make a choice for our new Book of the Month award. So keep on coming to The Review and before the second sleep (2.0) for great book reviews and other fun tidbits literary and otherwise!

Happy 2015!