You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2013.

I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving!  I certainly did.  We had the traditional meal on Thursday, watched Moby Dick (not your usual family movie night, perhaps, but we enjoyed it), and had a grand old time.  Today we drove out to my brother’s spiffing new place and got the tour of the house (he has a moat!) and his office (he has his own office!).  Despicable.

Today, the end of an era: I’ve finally finished listening to all of the RadioLab episodes from the past 10 years, or at least as many as are available on radiolab.org.  What will I do with my life now??

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special was incredible, and seeing it with so many people who were likewise thrilled just to be there was a blast.  People were getting weepy over the opening credits, and the entire theater exploded at the introduction of various, um, characters, old and new.  Check out this  NPR article on why we’ve been travelling with the Doctor for 50 years and be sure to look at this list of 35 Easter eggs you may not have caught in the special.

Geekery:

Hilarity:

Know this:

Music:

Books:  I’m working on the Collected Poems of Sarah Teasdale these days.  I became a fan of hers many years ago after reading “The Look” in high school, and I’ve been rather enamored ever since.  This collection is a little rough in spots–sometimes she can be a little on the trite, melodramatic side–but sometimes she’s perfectly brilliant.  Careful, though: her poetry will make you want to fall in love.

I’m also working on Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian, another NC ComiCon acquisition.  The story is billed as “our generation’s Alice in Wonderland,” and I really can’t improve upon that definition.  The artwork is incredibly intricate, and the book is worth checking out for that alone.  Check out a few of the pages on Amazon so you can see what I mean: using the tiniest of brushes, the artist fills each page brimful with intricate illustrations.

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UntilThatDistantDayCover

Paris, France

1792

Colette DeMer and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.

Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?

Coming April 25, 2014

From Rooglewood Press

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Jill is offering an enormous bundle prize of ten print novels and novellas, including her award-winning Faithful Traitor, several novella collections, and her three-book Longtree series. These will all be autographed! (US and Canada only, please.) Check out Jill Stengl’s Rafflecopter giveaway here.

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Excerpt from Until That Distant Day

Opening of Chapter 1

I was born believing that the world was unfair and that I was the person to make it right.

One of my earliest memories is of Papa setting me atop a nail keg in the forge; I could not have been older than two at the time.

“Colette, give Papa a kiss,” he said, tapping his cheek.

“Why?”

“Come and sit on my knee.”

“Why?”

My response to every order was the same, asked with genuine curiosity. I did not understand why his watching friends chuckled. Why should I press my lips to Papa’s sweaty, prickly cheek? Why should I hop down from the keg, where he had just placed me, and run to sit on his knee, a most uncomfortable perch? I felt justified in requesting a reason for each abrupt order, yet he never bothered to give me one.

Mama, when thus questioned, provided an answer in the form of a sharp swat. This I could respect as definitive authority, although the reasoning behind it remained dubious.

My little brother Pascoe was born believing that the world was his to command. As soon as he acquired his first vocabulary word, “No,” he and I joined ranks in defiance of established authority.

Many impediments cluttered the path of destiny in those early years: parents, thirteen other siblings, physical ailments, and educational difficulties. And as we grew into adulthood, more serious matters intervened, even parting us for a time. But I will speak more of that later. For now, let me assure you that, no matter the obstacles thrown in our way, our sibling bond seemed indissoluble; the love between us remained unaffected by any outside relationship.

Pascoe and I were young adults when revolutionaries in Paris threw aside the tyranny of centuries and established a new government based on the Rights of Man. From the seclusion of our little village in Normandy we rejoiced over each battle fought and won; and when our local physician, Doctor Hilliard, who had first mentored then employed Pascoe for several years, was elected as deputy to the National Assembly from our district, a whole new world opened at our feet.

My story truly begins on a certain day in the spring of 1792, in the little domain I had made for myself in the kitchen at the back of Doctor Hilliard’s Paris house. Perhaps it wasn’t truly my domain, for it did not belong to me. I was merely the doctor’s housekeeper and could lay no real claim. Nevertheless, the kitchen was more mine than anything had ever been, and I loved that small, dark room; especially during the hours when sunlight slanted through the bubbled-glass kitchen windows, making bright, swirling shapes on the whitewashed walls, or each evening when I arranged my latest culinary creation on a platter and left it in the warming oven for the doctor to discover whenever he arrived home. That kitchen was my home. Not the home I had grown up in, but the home I had always craved.

On that particular day, however, it did not feel the safe haven I had always believed it to be. Loud voices drifted down from the upper floor where the doctor and Pascoe were in conference, disturbing my calm. When I closed the connecting door to the dining room, the angry voices drifted in through the open kitchen windows. I couldn’t close the windows; I might smother of heat. Yet I needed to block out the sound, to make it stop.

So I slipped a filet of sole into a greased skillet and let it brown until golden on both sides. The hiss and sizzle did not quite cover the shouting, but it helped. Then I slid the fish onto a waiting plate lined with sautéed vegetables fresh from my kitchen garden; and I topped all with an herbed wine-and-butter sauce. A grind of fresh pepper finished off my creation.

But my hands were still trembling, and I felt as if something inside me might fall to pieces.

Pascoe often shouted. Shouting was part of his fiery nature, a normal event. He shouted when he gave speeches at section meetings. He shouted about overcooked meals or inferior wines. He shouted when his lace jabot refused to fall into perfect folds.

But never before had I heard Doctor Hilliard raise his voice in anger.

Doctor Hilliard was never angry. Doctor Hilliard never displayed emotion. At most, he might indicate approval by the glance of a benevolent eye or disapprobation by the merest lift of a brow. Yet there could be no mistaking the two furious voices overhead. I well knew Pascoe’s sharp tenor with its sarcastic edge; but now I also heard the doctor’s resonant voice crackling with fury.

I managed to slide the hot plate into the warmer alongside a crusty loaf of bread and closed the door, using a doubled towel to protect my shaking hands.

Behind me the connecting door was flung open, and Pascoe burst in as I spun to face him. “Gather your things; we are leaving,” he growled. His eyes blazed in his pale face, and the jut of his jaw allowed for no questions. He clapped his tall hat on his head as he passed through the room.

I donned my bonnet and sabots and picked up my parasol. “What has happened?” I asked just above a whisper.

“I’ll tell you once we are away from this house.” His lips snapped tight. His chest heaved with emotion, and he grasped a portfolio so tightly that his fingers looked white.

I could not recall the last time I had seen my brother in such a rage.

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AuthorPhoto1

Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

I chickened out and decided not to get my car fixed after all.  It’s leaking coolant veeeeeery slowly, and I would rather top coolant off once a week for the few years left in the car’s life than sink $1200 into an already elderly vehicle.  I enjoy living dangerously.

The renaissance fair was a lot of fun, as always, mainly because of the people I went with.  I ran into a couple old friends I hadn’t seen in years, which was a lovely surprise, and I enjoyed talking archery with lots of interested folks.  Sadly, however, I didn’t see a single other archer there this year, at least on the day that I went.  Bows are where it’s at, kids.

Monday is the showing of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special on the big screen, so swing by Crossroads in Cary if you want to meet an excessively long-haired River Song!  Be sure to check out The Last Day beforehand, one last mini-episode before the special.

Beautiful:

Critters:

Music:

Books: I had picked up The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt at the Durham book sale, and I just finally got around to reading it.  Victoria Holt was a fascinating woman, as I’ve described at length before, and I wanted to try a few more of her works.  The King of the Castle is a bit of a romance mystery that gave off a lot of Jane Eyre vibes, and I found it highly entertaining and somewhat reminiscent of Mary Stewart’s books.  The (British) heroine is named Dallas Lawson, but if you can get past that, you’ll be golden.  There are some nice French historical references and an unexpected amount of information on painting restoration, if that’s your thing (it’s mine).

Years ago, a beloved professor recommended The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and I’ve just now finally gotten around to reading it.  The cover calls it charming and life-affirming, which would normally be enough to turn me off. (I have no problem with charming and life-affirming, but the books to which those adjectives are typically applied are usually pretty dull to me.  No space battles, for one thing.)  However, since Dr. Peterman recommended it, I knew it had to be good, and she was, as always, correct.  You may not think that Botswana detective stories are your thing, but you’d be wrong: this is Agatha Christie in Africa.  As it turns out, there are 14 books in the series, and a television series has been made as well, so I seem to have hopped onto a very well-established bandwagon.

I read the two Mouse Guard books (Fall 1152 and Winter 1152) by David Petersen that I picked up at NC Comicon, and they were delightful!  Imagine the Redwall books, but for an older audience, with beautiful artwork.  Even if you’re not a comic book fan (I usually am not), you’ll enjoy these for their artistry and for their stories.

Firstly, the important stuff: How to help Typhoon Haiyan survivors.

NC Comicon last weekend turned out to be a lot of fun!  I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around, browsing the stalls, and checking out all of the amazing costumes.  Everyone was quite friendly, and for a girl who isn’t a massive comic book fan, I ended up purchasing more than anticipated.  Danielle very wisely recommended checking out Cursed Pirate Girl and Mouse Guard, and I adored the artwork.  I discovered a few creations that I’d like to explore further too (Son of SedoniaDeath Elf and Woose, and Shattered with Curve of Horn).  Anne Elisabeth did a neat little write-up of the experience over at her blog, and I put up a public (for now, at least) album on Facebook, including some photos of my costume.

My plan to come up behind everyone dressed as the Doctor and purr, “Hello, sweetie,” in my best River Song voice did not, alas, pan out, due to circumstances beyond my control.  The first Doctor I met was a girl, the second was older than my father, and the third was there with his mother.  I am incapable of doing anything even mildly flirtatious in front of someone’s mother.  The fourth was the father of the third, so, nope.  I did run across one last teenager in a fez who looked like he was probably a home schooler (I can say that since I was one, right?), so I gave it a shot as I walked by.  Three other guys turned around to look immediately, but he didn’t look up until a second later with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, and by then it was just awkward, so I beat a hasty retreat.  I’ll have to work up some more gumption for the Doctor Who Anniversary screening on the 25th and give it another go.

I’m off to the Carolina Renaissance Festival on Sunday, in spite of my car possibly being in its death throes.  So far my strategy of topping off the coolant and hoping for the best before every drive has so far been successful, so I’m feeling moderately confident about my plan.  If you see me by the side of the road next to a fiery Ford inferno, however, do stop by for some roasted marshmallows.  (I’m serious.  They’re in my trunk.)  I took the poor baby into the shop this week, but the price tag ($1200) and time required (2 days) to fix it were such that I had to wait until Monday to let them tear it apart.  Cross your fingers, kids.  I did have a lovely conversation about Ray Bradbury with an older gentleman in the waiting room at AAA, though, so the day wasn’t a total wash.

Fascinating:

Hilarity:

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Music:

Books: I read Goddess Tithe, a novella by my friend Anne Elisabeth, in a couple quick gulps.  Maritime fantasy is pretty much guaranteed to make me happy, and this little fellow was no exception.  The novella covers an untold chapter in AE’s second book, Veiled Rose, so if you like what you read here, check out the rest of the series.

I was reading Let’s Kill Constance by Ray Bradbury in the AAA office, which is what sparked the conversation with the other poor car-less soul.  He hadn’t heard of this one, and I only recently did myself.  It’s the third in a loose detective story trilogy even more loosely based on Bradbury’s experiences working as a writer at a film story.  Even bad Bradbury is usually pretty good, but this trilogy drives me a little nuts.  Behold, to illustrate, here is an excerpt of an old man talking about the title character:

“Here are six different address in twelve different summers.  Maybe she drowned in deep grass.  Years are a great hiding place.  God hides  you.  Duck!  What’s my name?!”

He did a flip-flop cartwheel across the room.  I heard his old bones scream.

“Ta-ta!” He grinned in pain.

“Mr. Metaphor!”

“You got it!” He dropped cold.

I leaned over him, terrified.  He popped one eye wide.

“That was a close one.  Prop me up.”

It does not make any more sense in context, I assure you.  Did he have a heart attack?  Is he just a crazy old man?  Who knows!  There are the usual excellent Bradburian turns of phrase and the occasional flash of insight, but the rest is just complete pandemonium.  I have vague ideas about what happened, but I still don’t know how much of it was real.  It wouldn’t greatly surprise me to hear that Bradbury wrote this trilogy while under the influence of something or other, possibly drunk on his own creativity.

Max, the three-month-old son of one of my friends, passed away this week from hypoplastic left heart syndrome, so I’ll be going to the funeral in Eden tomorrow.  If you would like to show your support for the family, donate to the Sisters by Heart, the Ronald McDonald House, or the UNC Children’s Hospital.  I stumbled across this NPR article today and couldn’t agree more.

In happier news, I had a wonderful afternoon with the girls on Sunday afternoon.  We got together to talk and drink copious amounts of tea, and both of those goals were certainly fulfilled.

On Sunday I’m going to NC ComicCon.  Don’t get excited–it’s not the cool ComicCon in San Diego–but NC tries hard.  I wanted to support Anne Elisabeth at her booth, and I thought it’d be fun to check out the con once, even if the focus isn’t really on my areas of interest.  (Unlike San Diego’s ComicCon, which is an excuse for any kind of geekery, NC actually seems to focus on comics and collectibles.)  I’ll be dressed as River Song with slightly (massively?) more hair.  November is turning into a nerd bonanza, since next weekend I’ll be making my annual trip to the Carolina Renaissance Festival with a crew of fantastic people.

Beautiful:

Bizarre:

Geekery:

Music:

Books: I’m rereading Ender’s Game before going to see the movie, for obvious reasons, and I’m smitten all over again.  Such a great book!  It makes me want to dive straight into the sequels and the parallel series, but I have a long list of booksale acquisitions I should really take a few stabs at first.  I know Orson Scott Card has announced he’s going to write more Ender books, but I have mixed feelings about that.  I have no interest in a novel that’s only written to capitalize on movie hype to sell copies, but if Card has more of the story that he wants to tell, I’ll happily read it.  I adore Card’s work at the same time that I really can’t stand the guy personally; I met him at a book signing in Greensboro several years ago, and he was a jerk.  He’s good, and he knows it, and he won’t let anyone forget it…but…he IS really good.

I was back in my home state for the first time in 11 years this past weekend.  Indianapolis wasn’t half-bad, although I had a moment’s pause when I walked into the hotel and “Hotel California” was playing.  Indy is a nice place to visit, but I’d like to leave sometime.  My 18th-storey hotel room looked out over the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, so I had a great view.  In between work, I found a fantastic chocolate cafe, went on the Canal Walk, found Indy Reads Books, walked past the Eiteljorg and a slew of other museums, wandered around the Indiana War Memorial and a slew of other monuments, explored the Indianapolis library, and generally saw as much of the city as was possible on foot.

When we lived in Indiana, I only visited Indianapolis rarely, but I don’t recall the city having so many homeless as it does now.  Admittedly, I do have a spectacular talent for finding the rougher parts of town–drop me in the downtown area of any major city and I will manage to innocently wander into the sketchiest neighborhood within 15 minutes–but most of my homeless encounters were close to the fancy hotels and businesses.  I can only say no to requests once or twice without feeling guilty and caving, and I think word got around that the chick with the long hair was good for a couple dollars because I have never been asked so many times.  One gentleman named Mike asked me to buy him some food, so I was very happy to accommodate.  We sat together and talked for quite a while, and he told me all about his plans to get back on his feet.  As I was getting up to go, thinking rather well of myself for being such a good Samaritan, I managed to trip embarrassingly over a wet floor sign.  It seemed like such a blatantly Providential warning to get off my high horse that I couldn’t help but laugh, and so did Mike, which was really the perfect ending to the encounter.  I hope everything works out for him.

The trip was a little too good for my ego; I was whistled at twice and beeped at three times in my perambulations, neither of which has happened in a while.  Must’ve recognized me as an Indiana girl.

When I got home, I read that Cary, NC has the lowest crime rate in the entire US, so evidently all the crime in the town is happening at my apartment complex.

Watch:

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Speaking of reading, I read Pudd’n’head Wilson by Mark Twain on the way to Indianapolis.  I don’t know what I was expecting–nothing specifically, I guess, since I didn’t know anything about the storyline–but I was surprised anyway.  While funny in parts and a detective story in parts, in the main it’s just tragic.  The novel paints racism in a negative light at the same time that it reinforces some aspects.  I was left thoughtful and slightly uncomfortable, which was probably Twain’s intent.

Right now I’m reading The Bride of Innisfallen and Other Stories by Eudora Welty.  I didn’t think I’d read the title story (I don’t remember doing so, anyway), but I think I must have, because I remembered a line word for word.  A woman is carrying a baby past a train window: “It was a red-haired boy with queenly jowls, squinting in at the world as if to say, ‘Will what has just been said be very kindly repeated?’ ”  I love Welty’s talent for description such as that.  In terms of plot, some of the stories are a little lackluster, but it doesn’t even really matter too much when you have such images.

I’m also working on a book written by an acquaintance, but unfortunately I can’t own up to ever reading it anywhere.  Yep, it’s that bad.  I feel obligated to finish it, at this point, but I’m going to need some Bradbury or something to wash the taste out of my mouth afterwards.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

my read shelf:
Stephanie Ricker's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

A Storytelling

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