Spotlight on … JD Robb

The best thing about JD Robb’s In Death series is that she neatly combines two of my favourite genres: romantic suspense and science fiction. Robb, better known as international romance phenomenon Nora Roberts, introduced her classic protagonist Eve Dallas  to readers way back in 1995. The fiftieth novel in the series will release next year … and if that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is!

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Some favourite musicals on film

Continuing the theme of sharing stuff that I love, in the hope that you’ll give it a go (if you haven’t already)  and end up loving it too … welcome to a post about some of my favourite musicals. As usual, this is the edited highlights list, or we’d be here all day!

Interested in some viewing suggestions, or just want to compare notes? Read on!

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Interesting book trade article

So, real books are making a comeback, apparently.  Yay! Nothing against ebooks and the folks who swear by them, but I gotta say I’m a boring poky stick-in-the-mud traditionalist. I like me a real book that I can hold in my real hands. Also interesting in the article is the realisation that Hey! Every bookshop is different because every location and demographic is different! No, really? she said sarcastically. Sorry, guys. I adore Waterstones, I really do, they have been brilliantly supportive of me, but as a former bookseller and a current author, sometimes I do roll my eyes so hard they nearly roll out of my head.

I can’t believe the professionals need reminding about stuff like this. Bookshops are retail, but not all retail is the same. When was the last time a customer rushed into a supermarket demanding the newest Colgate toothpaste release????? Um, I think that would be never. Unless of course the customer is a dentist, in which case there is no hope for them. *g*

Of course managers should have the power to do their own ordering, based completely on what their regular customer base wants to buy. By all means make sure there’s other stuff to broaden the reading base, but core customers? They make the world go round. Also of course this means you must make sure to hire really good store managers, who love books and love readers and get their jollies interacting with them and talking books and reading  books which they then recommend and who encourage their staff to be the same way.

So hooray for Waterstones, who are getting back to good, old-fashioned basics. And let’s hear it for real books and the people who love them!

Best worst line in a movie, evah!

So, I’m still fighting cervical spine issues, which is a real drag. Hopefully, now that the holiday break is over and I’m back at the physio playing Traction Princess, I’ll be back to full speed by the end of the week.

In the meantime, I’m being careful. Playing catch-up with some things that don’t involve me writhing in pain. And watching a disaster flick here and there – my guilty pleasure! Which leads me to something that was in a film I caught on the SyFy channel yesterday. Truly, it was bad. So bad I’m not going to name it, because I don’t want to be mean. Only I have to share this priceless bit of dialogue, because I honestly think it’s the worst -and funniest – I’ve met in a long, long time.

‘This is beyond an extinction-level event! It’s the end of the world!’

Words fail me. Mainly because I’m still laughing myself sick.

What are some great bad lines you recall from the movies?

Some favourite fitness inspirations

I have to tell you (like you didn’t already know!) that this whole getting fit, losing weight thang is sometimes tedious and even overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like all we’re ever doing is denying ourselves, saying no, focusing on what we can’t have (often) even though we really want it. (Yes, Lindt chocolate balls, I’m looking at you … sob …)

Here’s what I do when I’m desperate need of inspiration …

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Here’s to a fabulous 2015!

If I have one wish for this brand new year, it’s that I can finally leave all the stupid health drama behind me once and for all. 2014 was a nightmare of things going wrong.  The start of the year was me finishing off with The Falcon Throne – and that had been an incredibly challenging task marred by stupid health drama. It’s true I got a brief respite during my trip to the UK and France, but as many of you know, what followed upon my return was a ridiculous litany of physical ailments that cut me off at the knees, writing progress-wise.

So let me draw a line under the woes of the past. It’s time to look forward to a new year, a new me, and new challenges met and conquered. 2015 will see me complete the next book in The Tarnished Crown series and hopefully tackle the next Rogue Agent adventure. Of course I’ll be keeping up with this blog, and my reading and TV watching, and with luck getting back to my sword-fighting classes! Plus I very much intend to forge ahead with the whole getting fit thang!

As much as I flail about moaning over the things that went wrong last year, I do have much to be grateful for: family, friends, and wonderful readers who support what I do. I live in a great country, and am most fortunate to do so.

So let me wish you and yours the most bountiful of new years. Let’s all of us make 2015 a year to remember for all the right reasons! And, if you care to, share with me some of your goals and aspirations!

Spotlight on … C.J. Sansom

In this edition of Spotlight on I want to heap praise upon the wonderful Matthew Shardlake historical mystery series, written by British author C.J. Sansom.

Writing really great historical fiction of any flavour is an enormous challenge. There’s the research, and the plotting, and the added burden of an intriguing mystery if you’re doubling up with a crime element. To my way of thinking, Sansom is one of the best in the business.

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Spotlight on … Person of Interest

Person of Interest is one the smartest, sneakiest SF tv series around. For the longest time you don’t even realise you’re watching SF … that truth sneaks up on you, as stealthy as any of the series’ shadowy characters. At its core,  Person of Interest is a show about artificial intelligence, and what happens when you wake up one day to find that the future is here now … and it’s not as cool as you thought it would be.

I have a confession. The first time I tried to watch the show, it didn’t click for me. I don’t know why, it just happens sometimes. With books, on occasion, as well as tv. But a good friend encouraged me to give it a second go … and wow, I am so glad I did.

Here’s why I love this show to pieces …

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Joss Whedon Avengers interview. No spoilers!

I’ve watched one trailer for the upcoming Avengers sequel film, and I won’t be watching any more. Trailers these days are crap. They always give away too much. I mean, I basically had the plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness figured after 2 trailers!

Having said that, here is an interview with Joss Whedon as he approaches the finishing line of his next Avengers film. I loved the first one and I’m really looking forward to the next one. The interview is full of interesting, insightful stuff. It’s what I’d call pretty much spoiler free and a great read.

Enjoy!

Podcast #8: Taking the plunge

Welcome to another podcast about writing! This time I talk about things to consider before sitting down to start the gruelling process of writing your book – with some particular commentary about the dreaded first draft.

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

Wash – rinse – repeat

So last Friday morning I had a fall while helping my mother move house. Ripped my thumb, wrenched my arm, my shoulder, did something to my knee, traumatised the lumbar discs that are just recovering from the recent prolapse, bunged up a rib and rattled my marbles good and proper. 4 days later and I’m on the mend … but it’s yet another physical smackeroo.

I swear, it’s maybe time I stopped leaving the house entirely!

So I’ll be getting back to work tomorrow, once I’m sure I can stand and/or sit without pain. Can’t use the kneel-sit chair because stupid knee means I can’t put any pressure on it.

It’s official. I am done done done with 2014.

In closing … doubtless you’ve heard about the catastrophic day we had in Sydney yesterday. Heartbreaking and infuriating. There’s no way that terrorist slime should have been out on bail. I hope this terrible event results in more protection for innocent people and less hand-wringing for human garbage like this man.

Please hold the families of the two victims especially in your thoughts and prayers – and send healing vibes to those hostages who didn’t lose their lives but are still gravely wounded in mind and spirit.

Australia is a great country. We can – and we will – rise above this assault.

Six favourite Shakespeare films

William Shakespeare was a phenomenon. A truly once-in-human-history kind of writer, I think. He transformed the English language – we quote him nearly every day without realising it. No writer before or since has captured the human condition so acutely, or impacted the society and culture around him so profoundly.

The big problem with Shakespeare’s work, though, is that too often we’re exposed only to the dry words on the pages of an annotated script which is inflicted upon us in the desert of a classroom. This is insane. Shakespeare’s work is meant to be experienced, lived, not studied at a dry distance. A great live production of a classic Shakespeare play is a joy. I’ll treasure for ever the memories of seeing David Tennant’s Hamlet and Richard Freeman’s Richard III. And I’ll forever regret not seeing other live performances, like James McAvoy’s Macbeth or Scott Wentworth’s Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.

Luckily, some really wonderful performances of Shakespeare’s plays have been created and captured on film … and I’d like to share some of my favourites with you.

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Favourite SF TV shows: part 1

TV has a long, rich history of supporting speculative fiction. Ever since Star Trek (the original series) and Lost In Space debuted way back in the 1960’s, there has been science fiction and fantasy on television. Ranging from the sublime (everything I’m about to mention, which is subjective, I know!) to the ridiculous (let’s hear it for It’s About Time, for starters!) tv producers and writers have thrown their hearts into the fabulous worlds of sword, sorcery and space ships.

Read on to find out which shows (in no particular order of merit) have left an indelible print on this fangirl’s heart … then chime in with comments about your favourite SF tv!

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New faces!

And it seems a veritable slew of new people have paid me the enormous compliment of signing up to follow my blog. Thank you, guys, and welcome. I hope you enjoy my various mutterings about this, that, and the other thing.

To that end, I’d really like to hear from readers what kind of posts you’re most interested in, what kind of things you’d find interesting for me to write about. I mean, I can natter on ’til the cows come home about all kinds of things – but that doesn’t mean you want to read it!

So please, drop me a line in the comments section and let me know how I can make this the kind of blog you think is worth following!

Ten favourite SF films

I could be wrong, but I think the first proper SF film I ever saw – certainly the first one I remember seeing, on tv – was the original version of The Fly. I don’t remember much of it now, because it was a long time ago, but the one scene that has stuck with me through the years was the very end, SPOILER ALERT HERE, AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU NEED TO! with the teeny tiny part man, part fly, stuck in the spider web screaming Help me! Help me! in his teeny tiny voice as the giant hairy spider creeps closer and closer …

After that, my most vivid SF movie memory is turning on the tv and catching the end of the original (because in my world Tim Burton’s remake never happened) Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston  SPOILER ALERT HERE, AVERT YOUR EYES IF YOU NEED TO! stumbling across the half-buried Statue of Liberty.

My love affair with speculative fiction began when I was in fourth class primary school and the librarian handed me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Once I fell through the wardrobe in Narnia I never looked back.

So in this post I’m going to share with you ten SF films that I love a lot, that I rewatch at least once a year, that cheer me up and help me recapture that feeling of being gloriously entertained … which is enormously helpful when the words are flowing like cold molasses.

Ready? Then go below the cut to be amused, annoyed, surprised or forced to abandon any respect you ever had for me …

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Spotlight on … Lois McMaster Bujold

When I think about my literary tastes with regards to science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) I realise that from the get-go I’ve always been attracted to more adventury, character focused, space-opera kind of stories. When I was at school I devoured all the Andre Norton I could lay my hands on – and I still have super fond memories of the Tom Swift novels in my high school library. The Norton was undeniably superior fare, but even so … for me it was all about the fun and the imagination and the characters. Hard science was never my thing. Ideas over people never floated my boat.

So I suppose that makes it pretty much inevitable that I would fall hook, line and sinker for Hugo and Nebula winner Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga novels.

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Podcast #6: Character part 2

Here is the next podcast on the craft of writing … in which I continue to talk about the elements of creating characters in fiction. It’s in 2 parts because I had a brain fade moment and left out an important element. Sorry about that!

As always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

 

 

City of Stars guest post, and other stuff

So I was very kindly asked to do a guest post for the great blog City of Stars. Shortly thereafter my stupid liver decided to knock me for six, and then a couple of lumbar discs slipped … so it’s been fun, fun, fun at Casa Karen. Not. And sigh. And moan. And grumble.

However, I’m on the mend and back on my feet and now playing crazy catch-up. To that end, here’s the link to that guest post!

 

Photo essay: Gargoyles

One of the great delights of Europe is the ubiquitous gargoyle. So much character, so much creativity. To me they’re the artisan’s finger given to the sometimes repressive conformity of the established church over what could and could not be portrayed in art. Almost pagan in their nature, I love the juxtaposition of that old belief literally grafted onto the great churches and cathedrals.

Enjoy!

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Photo essay: Daily Life

Another of the tantalising aspects of visiting wonderful museums in search of medieval inspiration is that so often only moments of those ancient lives have been preserved. A cup here, a coffer there, some jewellery, some glass. Little pieces of the jigsaw puzzle only, and never enough. But the pieces we do have are magnificent, and it is a miracle that so many have survived the centuries. Here are some for your perusal …

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Photo essay: Guedelon

Ah, Guedelon. What an extraordinary, visionary project. For more detailed info, you can visit the official website. Briefly, though, here’s an overview.

I first learned of Guedelon while watching research dvds. It’s the recreation of a medieval castle and village, built from scratch using only medieval tools and techniques. Most of the people involved are volunteers, and they come to work on the site from all around the world. Guedelon is located in the middle of nowhere, in beautiful French countryside roughly half way between Paris and Nevers. There’s no public transport, you must get there by car or with a coaching group. There were plenty of both when I visited. It started in the late ’90s, and the plan is to finish the entire project by 2023. I hope I can get back there to see it completed. I can only imagine it will be fantastic.

One thing that really amazed me was how fast the exterior of the building was weathering. It didn’t look brand new at all. Of course on the inside, protected from the elements and still under construction, the difference is quite marked.

Here is a selection of the photos I took …

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