Thursday, 31 July 2008

Grumbles & groans

I'm bombarded with the advice that an author must have a website. I understand the need for a web presence, of course, but what I don't understand is why a writer who has a blog needs to have a separate website. Isn't a blog a website?

I've looked at several writers' sites and most are quite basic, with some variation of the following:
  • Their bibliography
  • A synopsis of each book, sometimes with excerpts or sample chapters
  • An author bio
  • Contact information
  • Some had a photo gallery
  • An itinerary if the writer is doing tours and signings
  • Links: to Amazon or wherever the books are sold, to the blog, and random others of the author's choosing
There is nothing there that can't be posted or linked on a blog. If I create a website, I'll simply be duplicating all the information on the blog. This pisses off the minimalist in me. In addition, the blog has the advantage of being user friendly: I manage it myself, update as frequently as I like, and it's wonderfully interactive. Managing a website, I understand, requires knowledge of html or some such voodoo.

I'm a stubborn PITA when I can't see the logic behind something that everyone insists is necessary. So I'm throwing this out there: Someone, anyone, please, please convince me why it is necessary for me to duplicate all the stuff I have on this blog onto a website.

[And it's not about the money. My son's job is building websites.]

Monday, 28 July 2008

Twisted meme

Did this meme back in May, but I got an idea from Karen's version. When she didn't like her responses to one question she just did a new set of (riotous) answers. So here I go again: How I'd answer if wishes were horses.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was a nun. Then I turned forty and decided to live a little.

Five things on your to-do list for today:
1) Buy new shoes. 10 pairs.
2) Meet with broker to discuss my stock portfolio.
3) Lunch with Yann Martel. He's interested in some kind of collaboration.
4) Teleconference with producers of Under the Tuscan Sun about a film deal for Café au Lait.
5) Leave for working vacation on Mustique with mysterious significant other.

What are three of your bad habits?
1) Collecting pink diamonds.
2) Men.
3) Wishful thinking.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
I'd give it all away - well, most of it anyway.

What are some snacks you enjoy?
1) Frogs' legs.
2) Eels en brochette
3) Truffles. I've got my own pigs sniffing them out at a farm in France.
4) Escargot
5) Whipped cream served on hard - um - chests.

What were the last five books you read?
1) The Complete Works of Shakespeare
2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
3) Ulysses by James Joyce
4) Delta of Venus by Anais Nin
5) The Bible

What are five jobs you have had?
1. Body double for Beyonce
2. Owner-director of eco-resort
3. Writer on location for the National Geographic Magazine
4. Writer of obscure literary masterpiece
5. Writer of blockbuster popular novel.

Five places you’ve lived
1) Tuscany, Italy
2) Provence, France
3) Patagonia, Argentina
4) Harbour Island, Bahamas
5) In my head, mostly.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Religious meme

You fit in with:

100% spiritual.
20% reason-oriented.
Your ideals mostly resemble those of the Taoist faith. Spirituality is the most important thing in your life. You strive to live by all of your ideals, and live a very intellectually focused life.
Take This Quiz at

Friday, 18 July 2008

Reality Bites

One of my writer friends recently received a review of his collection of short stories and although it was a mixed bag (from "part-gripping, part-lackluster" to "Stanford captivates with shocking plot twists and turns") the overall tone was negative. Several of the criticisms with regard to my friend's execution of the stories may well be merited, but I take issue with the reviewer's claim that although the stories are set in Trinidad and Tobago they provide no "insight into Caribbean history and culture". The events could have taken place in Anytown, USA, he claims.

This brings me to the whole question of people's preconceptions. My friend did not attempt to write a travelogue. He did not write his stories to acquaint foreigners with the culture and history of 'the islands'. He wrote about the violent crime that is right now tearing the fabric of his homeland to shreds. According to the reviewer, the stories "tell little of island life". Oh, really? What the reviewer means is that the stories tell little about his preconceptions of island life. In fact, the stories showcase the reality of life on this island right now; violence is an issue that Trinidadians confront every day, and I don't believe the writer should be chastened for omitting titillating cultural soupçons and historical tidbits from his stories.

Our similarities transcend our differences. Our struggles are universal. The reviewer himself says that "Stanford gives much more attention to exploring universal questions: What is right? What is wrong? What is justice?" If these are concerns that Anyone, from Anytown, USA can relate to, what of it? Why is this considered a flaw in the work? An American writer of similar stories would not be rebuked for his laser focus on the central issues. He would not be told to include more cultural and historical elements in his stories.

Criticize the writer's pacing, his prose, his characterization, his use of dialogue or whatever, I say, but please, don't censure him for not writing about limbo dancers drinking rum under coconut trees to pander to the assumed preconceptions of a 'foreign' audience.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Mating rituals circa 2008

In my mother's youth a boy who liked a girl and wanted to see more of her had to ask her parents' permission. In my teens we were a lot freer, but a boy would be on his best behaviour, bringing little gifts, saving seats on the bus, and generally trying to create a good impression. Now it's the turn of my thirteen year old niece, and courting has gone to the dogs.

I held this particular boy in my arms when he was a squalling newborn. His parents are family friends. His neighbours are another set of close family friends. Imagine my dismay when I heard that he had approached my niece with, um, amorous intentions. It was not the fact of his liking the girl that took me aback, but his approach.

Did he bring her a flower? A chocolate? Did he dedicate a song to her, as another little fellow did some time back? Maybe you're thinking that he wrote her a cute little note, something like the serviceable 'Roses are red, violets are blue...' Or just held her hand and stared into her eyes while building up the nerve to ask her to the cinema or something?

None of the above. He sauntered up to her in sailing class and just... popped the question:

'Hey, you wanna deal?'

I'm horrified. Horrified. What is puppy love coming to these days?

Thursday, 10 July 2008


It's one of those days. Woke up to darkness when there should have been sunbeams streaming over the mountain and setting the valley aglow. Woke to blowing rain, rolling thunder, a lovely chill in the air. Today's rain is devoid of anger. It's mellow, dreamy almost. Even the thunder seems muted.

When I stand at the door and look up at the hills they're half veiled by low grey-white cloud and streamers of mist. The rain slivers down in silver streams. Makes me smile and hug myself. Makes me want to dance. Or something.

Here's a double tribute in song to my favourite kind of day: Rain, by SWV, the multiple Billboard and Grammy Award winning Sisters With Voices, and I Can't Stand the Rain by Eruption. I love both songs - and today I'm cool with the rainy-day memories, okay MysteryMan? (You know who you are.)

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Yet another bookish meme... via Kevin

Think I saw some version of it over at Urban Recluse some time ago, too. Before anyone starts getting steamed over the selections on the list, please check the link to see how it was compiled, okay? It's all in fun.

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read six of the Top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read six and force books upon them! :)

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling (I so can't summon the enthusiasm...)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (One of the best ever.)
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (read about half)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19 The Time Traveler's Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis (couldn't finish this)
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving (loved Garp and Hotel New Hampshire.)
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47 Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding (a truly frightening book)
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (dude can write!)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth (highly recommended by a friend)
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (the movie didn't wow me, but I'll read the book)
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson (Read A Walk in the Woods and plan to read everything by this author.)
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – A.S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (Loved the movie, so subtle and sensitive. Will definitely read this.)
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web – E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute (read so long ago I recall almost nothing)
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (read his memoir Boy and loved it)
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Reason to smile

Two or three weeks ago the production supervisor at Dorchester asked me for author info for my profile. It's three AM now but I'm up and feeling self-satisfied because I just placed my very first Amazon order (Chumplet, The Space Between is in there - finally!). Came to the e-mail to check for the order confirmation and found another Google Alert. (Thank you, Google!)

My author info, the same stuff that's going on the inside back cover of the novel, is now up on the Dorchester Publishing website. It's about time, yanno. I've been checking there off and on for months and wondering just when it would appear.

Yeah. I'm smiling.