All around the internets

Anybody like book review blogs? Well, today’s your lucky day! Several of the reviewers I most admire from GoodReads have joined forces in two new group blogs, and I’d like to encourage you to check them out.

The Readventurer blog was originally a solo effort by Flannery, but she has recently been joined by Tatiana and Catie. These are three of the best-read, most judicious reviewers of my acquaintance, and I think this blog is really going to be something special with that many excellent brains behind it.

In the other corner, we’ve got the new, improved Cuddlebuggery Book Blog, where Kat and Stephanie have joined forces to fight evil and bring back the awesome. I anticipate a lively, irreverent take on YA literature over here. I know I’ll be checking both blogs often to see what’s new and happening.

On a slightly different subject: my author friend Elizabeth May just wrote an informative post on self-editing. If any of you are going through that process now (or will be in the near future, or might be in the distant maybe), it looks like she’s broken it down into helpful stages.

What I find interesting (‘cuz I’m weird like this) is where she says she used to hate the editing part of writing. My friend Phoebe North has expressed a similar distaste, and although both of them say that was in the past (which I don’t doubt), it does make me wonder: do writers tend to prefer either composing or revising? I suppose it makes sense that one would come more naturally than the other. I’ll tell you, though, I’m a reviser. I am so close to finishing the first draft of the sequel, and I can’t wait because it means I get to go back and make everything RIGHT.

(And no, I can’t just write it right the first time. I don’t really know why that is, although it might be fun to dig into sometime.)

How about you, if you write: would you rather have the endless open page ahead of you to fill, or are you more interested in the myriad obsessive minutiae of revision?

As they round the last curve…

…into the home stretch, it’s Rachel coming up the outside, Slothful Sluggard stuck at the rail, he’s going nowhere, now Rachel’s still thundering up the outside into the straightaway, past Angsty Frets, past Infinite Indecision — whoa, he’s pulled up; is he hurt? — Thissuckssomuch still ahead by a neck entering the final furlong, but Rachel’s passing him too, she can see the finish post, folks, she’s like a cow to the milking barn, but Always Say Never is still ahead by a two lengths, a length, half a length, she can see the finish, it’s right there, quarter length behind, neck and neck, can she do it?

The end of this draft is in sight, friends. Still a ways to go, and don’t count out Thissuckssomuch yet. That horse is always breathing down my neck.

Farewell to the gerbil boys

Our two geriatric gerbils, Clang and Klink, were euthanized this morning by a kind and sympathetic vet.

I am surprised by how sad I am. I hadn’t considered them particularly interesting, these gerbils, and yet as I talked to the vet I found myself able to tell her amusing anecdotes, as if they’d been little people with personalities and quirks: how they used to box and Clang would always win; how Klink seemed convinced that he could dig through glass, if only he kept at it long enough; how yesterday, when it was clear they were both sick, they had huddled together and seemed to comfort one another. They were brothers.

Hug the people you love today. The gerbs lived well; they grew old. Bodies break down. This is all of us, on fast-forward and in miniature.

I (don’t) smell

Fascinating article on synaesthesia in The Economist this week: Smells like Beethoven.

It turns out that people who would not normally consider themselves synaesthetic will still relate musical sounds to flavours – and with an interesting consistency between individuals.

Sweet and sour smells were rated as higher-pitched, smoky and woody ones as lower-pitched. Blackberry and raspberry were very piano. Vanilla had elements of both piano and woodwind. Musk was strongly brass.

Also of note: the same toffee tasted different depending what background music was being played while the subjects ate it. The right music could add bitterness to it.

Ah, brains! Aren’t they wondrous, with all their crossed wires and obsessive (mis)interpretation of data! I don’t find the article surprising at all, but it’s nice to see scientists actually attempting to explore and document the phenomenon.

About seven years ago, I lost my sense of smell in a tragic olfactory accident (not really: I had a rhinovirus so terrible [according to doctors] that it left scar tissue in my nose). My sense of smell has recovered enough that I can now distinguish a fair number of odours, but it’s still far from great.

Back in the early days, however, when it was truly terrible, I used to experience smells oddly. I would use eyesight as an analogy: many of us have glasses, so we know there are gradations of sight. Legally blind people often have some sight, enough to make out large shapes, or distinguish light from darkness. That makes intuitive sense. Gradations of olfactory ability are less intuitive, but they exist. When I first began detecting smells again, for a long time my nose was only sensitive enough to tell that there was a smell present. I couldn’t discern what it was.

The next step was a sense of pitch – or alternately, of brightness. I could determine whether a smell was low (dark) or high (bright), but again, not what it was exactly. That was a very weird bit of information to have, but not as useless as you might suppose. Low-pitched smells often required my attention — diapers, mould, dinner burning.

I can smell all kinds of things now, even some I wish I couldn’t (dog poop), but I’m still not 100%. The thing I smell most clearly: oregano (which I’d say is bassoon-like, ha ha). Oranges, I fear, may be lost to me forever. They have a low, bitter, vomitous dissonance lurking beneath the high, sweet orangy smell; the sweet smell is the stronger of the two, so most people never notice the other one, but it’s the sweet smell that is still muted in my nose. Instead of tasty orange, I mostly smell vomit (trombone?)

Hehe. “Vomit trombone”. I suspect my amusement at THAT juxtaposition says more about my brain than anything else here.

Writing advice from Lindsey Davis

My husband and I have long been fans of Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco mysteries. It was our friend Josh who got us addicted in the beginning. Even now, years later, we still fight over each new book as it comes out.

(Or not really: when you’re married long enough, you learn which of you is the faster reader and which is more likely to inadvertently give away spoilers. In our case, fortunately, those aren’t both the same person. Scott reads books first in a mad whirlwind dash, and I blurt out spoilers later, in my own time, when he no longer finds them spoiling.)

It was with manic glee, therefore, that I watched him reading Falco: the Official Companion these last few days. I hadn’t even realized this book was coming out, and a fan companion – though not as exciting as an actual novel – was surely something to relish.

Uncharacteristically, Scott kept reading bits of it out loud to me. They weren’t really spoilers, as such, but I couldn’t help feeling bemused by the whole thing. It seemed he was finding this book reminded him… of me.

I found this very encouraging, not just because Davis is hilarious, but because I think it underscored that I’m not the only crazy writer out there. Apparently we’re all just a little bit eccentric. That can only be good news, right?

So I finally started the book, and I already find myself grinning and needing desperately to quote it at you. She starts off with great advice, right in chapter one:

Never reveal that you write in a paint-stained velour leisure suit, with orthopaedic inserts in your thermal slippers.

I won’t, Lindsey. I won’t. But I may just giggle through this entire book.

ALSAP #1: “Stand Beside Me”

Howdy, buckaroos, and welcome to the first entry of my Asinine Love Song Ananysis Project (or ALSAP, cuz it’s all sappy, all the time). I know you were all hoping I forgot or got too embarrassed, but no such luck. It’s February, after all. Consider this my absurdist Valentine to you.

Today’s inexplicably awesome love song is “Stand Beside Me” by Kansas. Itunes says I’ve listened to this song approximately 40 billion times, mostly while writing (although I’ve been known to have it on repeat while walking the dog).

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