Friday, January 30, 2009

Soundtrack of Your Life

If Your Life Was A Movie What Would The Soundtrack Be?

So here's how it works...

1. Open your music library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc.)
2. Put it on your iPod Shuffle or other MP3 player
3. Randomize sequence
4. Press play
5. For the first question, type the song that's playing
6. When you go to a new question, press the next button TWICE
7. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...just type it in, man!
8. Tag 10 people, and they have to do it, too

My movie seems to be unfolding like a medieval dream.

Opening Credits:
by Maggie Sansone & Ensemble Galilei
from Ancient Noëls
Nowell, Nowell - Tidings True - Riu, Riu, Chiu

Waking Up:
by Robert Shaw Festival Singers
from Rachmaninoff Vespers
O Serene Light

First Day at School:
by Loreena McKennitt
from The Book of Secrets
The Highwayman

Falling in Love:
by Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
from Chant II
Angus Dei, Qui Tollis Peccata Mundi

Losing Virginity:
by Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos
from Chant II
Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Fight Song:
by Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music, Cologne
from Edda - Myths from Medieval Iceland
Ragnarok (The End of the Gods)

Breaking Up:
by Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music, Cologne
from Hildegard von Bingen - Voice of the Blood
O rubor sanguinis, antiphon for Saint Ursula & her companions

by Secret Garden
from Songs From A Secret Garden

by Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music, Cologne
from Edda - Myths from Medieval Iceland
Voluspá 3 (Prophecy of the Seeress) - Á fellr austan um eitrdala

Mental Breakdown:
by Robert Shaw Festival Singers
from Rachmaninoff Vespers
Glory to God in the Highest

by Loreena McKennitt
from Share the Journey
The Lady of Shalott

by Loreena McKennitt
from An Ancient Muse
The English Ladye And The Knight

Getting Back Together:
by The Chieftains and Loreena McKennitt
from Tears Of Stone
Ye Rambling Boys Of Pleasure

by Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music, Cologne
from Hildegard von Bingen - Voice of the Blood
O ecclesia occuli tui, sequence for Saint Ursula & her companions

Birth of Child:
by Sequentia Ensemble for Medieval Music, Cologne
from Edda - Myths from Medieval Iceland
Hangakvæði Hávamála (Óðinn's Rune-verses) - Veit ek at ek hekk

Final Battle:
by Robert Shaw Festival Singers
from Rachmaninoff Vespers
Christ is Risen from the Grave

Death Scene:
by Loreena McKennitt
from The Book of Secrets
La Serenissima

Funeral Song:
by Maggie Sansone & Ensemble Galilei
from Ancient Noëls
Cantiga de Santa Maria, No.48

End Credits:
by Robert Shaw Festival Singers
from Rachmaninoff Vespers
Rejoice, O Virgin

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Honoring Our Inspiration

One hundred and ninety-five years ago, today, saw the first publication of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, forever inspiring legions of readers and writers.

P&P is Austen's second published novel. Its manuscript, first called First Impressions, was initially written between 1796 and 1797 at the rectory in Steventon, Hampshire. Austen later revised the novel in 1811 and renamed it to P&P.

Austen sold the copyright for the novel to Thomas Egerton of Whitehall in exchange for £110 (Austen had asked for £150). Egerton published the first edition in three hardcover volumes in January 1813, priced at 18s each.

We all know about Colin Firth emerging from the lake and Matthew MacFadyen striding through the dawn mist, but here are a few of the lesser known adaptations:

  • Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy (2003) places the novel in contemporary times.
  • The central premise of the television miniseries Lost in Austen is a modern woman suddenly swapping lives with that of Elizabeth Bennet.
  • The off-Broadway musical I Love You Because reverses the gender of the main roles, set in modern day New York City.
  • The Japanese manga Hana Yori Dango by Yoko Kamio has a wealthy, arrogant and proud protagonist falling in love with a poor, lower-class girl.
  • A 2008 Israeli television six-part miniseries set the story in the Galilee with Mr. Darcy a well-paid worker in the high-tech industry.
So, Romanistas, which is your favorite retelling of the much-loved story? Inkhornism — A learned or pedantic word or expression, like something a flaybottomist (see post below) might use — Sir James Murray's "New English Dictionary" (1901)

The History of Bookmarks

Collecting Bookmarkers by A.W. Coysh "The need for some device to mark the place in a book was recognized at an early date. Without bookmarkers, finely bound volumes were at risk. To lay a book face down with pages open might cause injury to its spine, and the crease on a page that had the corner turned down remained as a lasting reproach." —A. W. Coysh in his work on the history of English bookmarks, Collecting Bookmarkers (1974).

Rotating disc bookmark made of vellum from ~1500 by Antiquarian Bookstore Steinbeisser Bookmarks were used throughout the medieval period in Europe, consisting usually of a small parchment strip attached to the edge of folio or a piece of cord attached to headband. The rotating bookmarks were attached to a string, along which a marker could be slid up and down to mark a precise level, to the row and column, on the page.

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth I was presented with a fringed silk bookmarker by Christopher Barker, who had acquired a patent as Queen's Printer in 1577. This gave him the sole right to print the Bible, and since he was also a draper, he used silk for the bookmark.

The Royal Museum of Brunei showcases an ivory bookmark made in India, which is embellished with a geometrical pattern of pierced holes dating from the 16th century and used in illuminated Korans. These are the earliest known references to bookmarks in written history and found in excavations.

Hoyt's German Cologne AdGirl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes VermeerIt was during the latter part of the 19th century that bookmarkers really took off as collector items in themselves. Bookmarks continue to be made of a wide variety of materials: linen, silk, satin, leather, paper, plastic, copper, gold, pewter, brass, glass beads, wood, ivory, bone, papyrus, vellum, paper, cardboard, and animal skins.

Sami from Lapland in Leather & Carved Reindeer BoneGumnut baby Bookmark Artwork by Cecilia May GibbsArt Nouveau by Czech Alfons MuchaKenyan Masaai BeadedSwitzerland Embroidered PatchworkSwitzerland Embroidered PatchworkNepali Carved Bamboo

Now Romanistas, y'all are book collectors, I know. Are you also collectors of bookmarks? (Ooh, can we all say Conference Goody Rooms together?)

A Bag of Moonshine — hogwash, illusion, nonsense — G.F Northall's "Warwickshire Word-Book" (1896)

Flaybottomist — pedantical whip-arse —Randle Cotgrave's "Dictionary of the French and English Tongues (1611)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Libraries Through The Ages

Loucinda McGary of the Romance Bandits, who blogged here about the Library of Celsius in the Roman city of Ephesus, present-day Turkey, said, "The library was heaven on earth for me, and I'm definitely not the only one." Indeed not.

Luis Siriano Biblioburro Colombia Even children in Colombia's war-weary Caribbean hinterland hunger for the books that only Luis Soriano can bring them. Every Saturday without fail, Soriano loads up his two donkeys Alfa and Beto with picture books, dictionaries, fables, and tales of derring-do and heads off into the small villages clinging to steep hillsides. His home has hardly any living space because it's stuffed to the rafters with books.

A whimsical riff on the bookmobile, Soriano's Biblioburro is a small institution: one man and two donkeys. He created it out of the simple belief that the act of taking books to people who do not have them can somehow improve the lives of the people of this impoverished region.

Jay Walker's Geek LibraryDiametrically opposite to this is Jay Walker's lavish Geek Library, a bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. The room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels with artifacts, such as the Sputnik, books bound in real rubies, a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London, and a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. There's even a massive "book" by the window, which is a specially commissioned, internally lit 2.5-ton Clyde Lynds sculpture.

Keira Soleore LibraryKeira Soleore Book PileBy far more modest is my library...

...and the spill-over from my library, that's most likely to go on IKEA bookshelves in the study but is now piled up sculpture-style in one corner of the living room.

Nalanda University LibraryLibrary of Angkor WatSince ancient times, libraries and learning have reserved a revered place in human society and culture. Take for example: the 3rd century BCE Library of Alexandra, the Buddhist Nalanda University from 500 CE India, engraved oracle bone repositories of 1700 BCE China, Sumerian clay tablets from 4,000 BCE Iraq, and a 200,000-volume Library of Pergamum in the Hellinistic Age.

Library of AlexandriaWhile I'm more likely to keep graveyard hours than those averred by an old Sumerian proverb: "He who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn," I'm in awe of the fact that women in early Mesopotamia learned to read and write just like the men, and there were libraries in most towns and temples. The ancients were rather modern in their outlook, wouldn't you say?

University of California San Diego's Geisel LibraryVancouver LibrarySpeaking of modern, library building designs these days, range from odes to the Romans, like the Vancouver Library in B.C., to the high-tech space of Geisel Library on the grounds of the University of California in San Diego, and everything in between.

Now, here's a library I would looooooooove to have. Which is your Library of Drool?

Whether your library is a humble bookmobile that comes every Saturday to your neighborhood cul-de-sac or a multi-storey building in a prime downtown spot, do you frequent the place?

[Editied to add photos of the Library of the House of Lords, UK. Oceans of drool...]

Monday, January 19, 2009

Writing Advice from Jo Beverley

Jo Beverley is a New York Times bestselling author and the five-time winner of Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award. She visited our chapter last fall and had the following advice for aspiring and newly published writers.

She classifies herself as a "fly into the mist" kind of writer, not a pre-plotter.

Publishers want to pull in younger readers.

Historicals aren't modern people in period dress. However, some readers prefer these to having historical people doing things appropriate to their historical period. Bear in mind though, the same plot set in different periods rarely works.

Know the Obscure...
-Legal systems
-Where the sun sets
-Daily dress, not just what the fashion magazines tell you
-Cultural norms

The Hardwick Act of 1754 made it illegal to kidnap and marry a person (man or woman). Gretna Green marriage were before 1754. Then, you could marry in Scotland in front of four witnesses and the marriage was legal.

A possible but implausible plot: Hero cop's grandmother was killed by heroine hairdresser with a bad perm. :)

Final words of advice...

Is there a character imperative behind every element of the story? Embrace and challenge the "why" at every point. Romance is about real people, not merely character-driven or plot-driven fiction.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Writing Advice by Cherry Adair

New York Times bestselling author Cherry Adair was invited for a chat with our RWA chapter last November. She is a fantastic mentor, generous with her time and advice and genuinely cares for the careers of junior and newbie writers.

–Own server on
–Change password periodically to avoid hijacking of site
–Have copies of all your files
–Hire a graphics person
–Draw up template pages to make deployment easy

Career Plan
–Plan a career before launching a career
–Goals & strategies
–Number of pages per day & number of books per year
–Write 44 weeks/year at five days/week implies how many pages/week
–By Sunday night, you have to have your pages completed. If Cherry is done Friday night, then she has the weekend free. Write today's pages and then only does she tweak yesterday's work
–For category, send out a proposal (5-pg synopsis + 3 chapters) every three months
–Five-year plan: get an agent, dollar amount of money to make, number of pages to write every year

Take the first best agent who loves you and loves your book. For Cherry it was Nancy Yost. Don't hold out for the ideal agent. Try to look for the junior-most agent at the firm. She will be hungry and will try hard to sell. Even for category, try to have an agent. Cherry cultivates junior agents for new Seattle writers. Cultivate Cherry. :) Cherry advises the Jane Rosterosen agency highly. Scrutinize every new publishing contract carefully to be sure that it serves both your career and your publisher well in the long term. Your agent is not your friend. It's a business relationship, so be professional with each other.

Category Plan
–Send out a proposal (5-pg synopsis + 3 chapters) every three months
–Month One
– –A -> write proposal (synopsis + 3 chapters)
–Month Two
– –B -> write proposal
– –A -> send proposal
–Month Three
– –C -> write proposal
– –B -> send proposal
– –A -> write book

Your Pen Name
Last name should start with first six letters of the alphabet so your books are at eye-level at a bookstore. Your first and last names should be small so the font can be bigger on the book cover.

– Two-three weeks for plotting
– Synopsis from plot in two hours
– Character sketches
– Aim all dialogue towards establishing POV, what they're wearing, what the point is, scene setting
– Master template
– Research includes: paint chips and fabric swatches
– Pick one genre and one story and write the damn book first. Get it in your brain. Give yourself a year
– When you read a book, read first as a reader, then read as a writer. Copy-type stuff from a favorite author's favorite writing to understand the rhythm

"Children's cries are marriage music," according to B.E.'s New Dictionary of the Terms of the Canting Crew (1699).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Author Websites 101

Early in September last year, Liz Beemis of Bemis Promotions presented a Websites 101 workshop to Seattle's Eastside RWA chapter. These are my notes from her talk.

As an author, your website should reflect your personal brand, state your logline, explain what you write, and convey your voice, tone, and image of your books.

For a professional and functional appearance, you want to be sure that
–your colors aren't timid
–the look is clean and uncluttered with easy to read text fonts
–the pages are at most 800 pixels wide
–menus are logical, consistent, and are text-based with hover text or image effects
–every page on the site should be accessible within two clicks via navigational buttons
–new, up-to-date content
–professional headshot(s)
–search capabilities on your website and blog. Google has free search tools that can be added
–all pages are consistent and look relatively alike (same background, same color scheme, same fonts, menu-layout, etc.)
–splash page may be different
–animations kept to a minimum

Find sites you love and you don't like and analyze why that is the case. In your analysis consider: content, theme, colors, fonts, images, overall design, menus, layout, and branding. This is to discern your personal taste. Some good examples are: Jenn Stark, Trish Millburn, Pat White, Toni Blake, and Karen Kendall.

A strong first page is essential and should have a "What's New" section and a "Dear Reader" section. For personal information, photos and blog convey a good sense of your personality. Other essential pages from the main nav bar are articles, links, contact, and media page. An example of a site logline is "Taking you where you want to go..." Book pages should give special insight into your books wth blurbs, excerpts, book trailers, upcoming books, and newsletter signup.

Be sure to register and own alternate domains to your main .com site, such as .net, .biz, .org, and different spellings of your name so that no one else can attempt to hijack your name, brand, and traffic. Registration on Go Daddy for $9. A good hosting service is Brinkster. Track and analyze traffic to your site and blog via Sitemeter.

Marketing your site
–on collective author sites
–via a group blog or guest-blogging
–co-promote with a buddy
–mailing lists and newsltters
–articles for your chapter newsletter
–book trailers
–Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites
–reader sites
–reader-author message boards

Book Trailers
–keep it short (Allison Brennan, KILLING FEAR)
–make the viewer feel something (Lisa Gardner, HIDE)
–make it memorable (Diana Holquist, THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE)
–make sure it selling your product (Meg Cabot)
–remember the medium (Karen Kendall, TAKE ME IF YOU CAN; Elizabeth Bemis, EDGE OF DECEPTION)
–think MOVIE trailer
–use a narrator if possible, narrate in audio, avoid words on a screen
–avoid dialogue, may be one line here and there
–don't use scenes from book; script separately
–avoid bad music
–use upto 36 different images from royalty-free images (like from iStockPhoto)
–making the viewer feel something makes the trailer go viral; scare them like hell
–put them on YouTube

Case Study – Ramona Richards
Before –
–great content
–consistent menus/color/design
–book covers are the perfect size
–all books link to external sites
–great pictures
–site tells a story
–everything within two clicks
–Layout: too wide, doesn't speak to her personal brand, colors are timid, design feels choppy
–Home: doesn't feel like a front page (middle of the story)
–Writing: too much on one page, want to see logical groupings (articles/fiction) on separate pages
Excerpts should be with fictional books, not a separate menu item, one excerpt per page
After –

Learning Resources
BA, W3, Web Monkey
HTML for the World Wide Web by Elizabeth Castro (ISBN 0321130073)
HTML 4 for Dummies by Ed Tittel & Mary Burmeister (ISBN 0764589172)

Web Designers
Bemis Promotions, American Author, Author Bytes, Authors-online, Authors on the Web, Book a Design, Dream Forge Media, Etherweave, Glass Slipper Web Design, Romance and Friends, Romance Designs, Smart Author Sites, Wax Creative, Writerspace

"A shamocrat is someone who pretends to be possessed of wealth, influence, rank, or indeed any quality which is only conspicuous by its absence," according to John Farmer's Americanisms Old and New (1889).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Photos from Trip to India

Here are a host of photos that show me to be a card-sharp (winning hands of poker and bridge as proof), with henna on my hands, and in a rare saree display. My sister-in-law has great taste and her cousins great ability to pin me into the sarees (which I had to wear on three different ocassions).

I was so thrilled to see an 1839 coin minted by the East India Company. Pictures of the male peacock are especially for Anna Campbell. Check out my reticule for The Beau Monde Soirée at the RWA Conference in July. Puppets from Rajasthan, a mural with colored powders, and a fellow playing the flute with his nose (nope, I'm not making this up, see the evidence).

PJ, the first few photographs are by Hubby with his Canon digital EOS SLR.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Rabaris, the Original Gypsies

Women in CostumesTattooed WomanReading Mine Till Midnight and Seduce me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas, Gypsy Lord by Kat Martin, and A Dangerous Love by Brenda Joyce has been a great pleasure for my gadjo eyes. During my trip to India, I was privileged to run into the ancestors of these gypsies that Lisa, Kat, and Brenda write about.

Little Camel HerderVillage BeautyFor countless generations, the Rabaris have moved with the seasons, around the desert, and through the plains of northwestern India and parts of Pakistan, searching for green pastures, keeping up an age-old tradition as wandering cattle herders. It is a surreal sight when the savvy desert dwellers emerge on the barren horizon, their large turbans, colorful costumes, mystical tattoos, and striking jewelry evoking tales of far away lands and exotic people lost in the mists of time.

Proud ElderDesert DwellerAfter years of enduring the merciless summer sun, sandstorms, and chilly winter winds, their chiseled faces are a testament to their lifestyle. Persecuted and prosecuted endlessly for their cultural mores and nomadic lifestyle, the Rabaris have retained their folk music and dance, their language(a mixture of the Marwadi and Gujarati), their wandering ways, and their independence.

They've succeeded in gaining recognition for their distinctive arts, especially embroidery, beadwork, and mirrored mud sculpture. Rabari embroidery, known as bharat-kaam, not only tells us much about their culture, but is also like a language in which the women express themselves. The compositions created by the women comprise specific motifs, each of which has a name and meaning. Many of these symbols represent elements intrinsic to Rabari everyday life and throws light upon how the community sees their world. Others have historical meaning and help to perpetuate the Rabari knowledge of their heritage.

Rabari Women's Traditional CostumeRabari Woman Showing Off Her HandiworkThe kediyun, a gathered jacket with an embroidered smock, worn by young Rabari men and children and the ghagro, skirts, kanchali , blouses, and ludi, veil, for the women and girls are all dexterously embroidered. The Rabari girl, completes over the years, her entire dowry which includes clothes as well as beautiful quilts or derkee. Much of the handiwork seen in their decorated homes is also by the women.

Spiral Gold JewelryKokulashtami, after the rains, is marriage time. The men are back from their wanderings for this all-important occasion. All marriages take place on this one day. Since child marriage is still very much in vogue within this tribe, outsiders are distrusted. Again, the Rabari marries only within the tribe and often into families which are closely located. Marrying outside the fold leads to social castigation and is very rare.

Camels at the Altar of Mother GoddesssThe Rabari believe that they are directly descended from Shiva, one of the Holy Trinity of Hinduism. However, their patron god is Krishna. They trace their ancestry back to Shamal, a mythical camel herder who punished a thieving goddess by making off with her clothes. Shamal later married the goddess and their descendants lived in the Indian state of Haryana. Rabaris are also ardent followers and worshippers of Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva and known as the Mother Goddess. Each clan has its own tribal goddess as the patron deity, though their homes often have pictures of other gods and goddesses as well.

Especially over the last 1,000 years, the need for additional grazing areas have forced the Rabari south through India's Rajasthan and the Sind in Pakistan, before arriving in The Rann of Kutch in the Indian state of Gujarat. The land is dry with temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees in this saltpan desert. During the monsoon or wet season, the salt pans fill with water, effectively cutting the region off from the rest of India. This has also ensured both physical and cultural isolation, which is why the area retains so much of it's old traditions.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Janet Mullany will be our Guest in August

Janet Mullany - A Most Lamentable ComedyFriends and Romansistas, I'm honored and thrilled to be letting you in on a secret.

Award-winning Regency chicklit author Janet Mullany will be guesting here in August to coincide with the release of her A Most Lamentable Comedy (AMLC). UK Publisher Little Black Dress calls it a "Racy Regency Read."

If you enjoyed Janet's The Rules of Gentility (TROG), then you're going to love this sort-of sequel to it. In AMLC, Janet continues her story in the same wickedly funny and wittily sexy style as TROG.

Mark your calendars and join Janet is what's guaranteed to be a humorous discussion. She's also giviing a copy of AMLC away to one of the commentators. In honor of my very first guest blogger, I'm giving away a book and some goodies to a second randomly chosen commentator. So visit early and comment often to win.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


According to John Mactargart's Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia (1824), a griezie is "a person fond of prying into matter which concern him nothing." The president of the United States is known to receive and shake hands with all who desire to call upon him on New Year's Day.

And so today, I invite all lurkers and new visitors to my blog to leave comments and voice your opinions. You will find that I'm an attentive poster and commentator.

This is the fourth year running that I have Forgotten English sitting on my desk. It's a 365-day calendar by Jeff Kacirck that delves into the meanings of strage lost words like matriotism and phrases such as marriage-music. It also catalogues abandoned holidays and traditions, outdated etiquette, historical curiosities, and quotations with verwe and humor.

I opened the first day with anticipation and griezie did not fail to disappoint. I also have a month-at-a-glance calender-mousepad with tropical beaches in the background and a week-at-a-glance pocket planner, not to mention, a list of goals and a spreadsheet with my schedule.

Friends and Romansistas, are you as calendar obsessed as I am? What goals do you have down for the year? the month? the first day? Of course, I am a griezie...and proud of it.