Thursday, August 30, 2012

Saying Something Sensible

'Under the Trees' by Thomas Moran
I'm looking forward to autumn. I know this will draw cries of protest from some in my family who are lamenting the end of swimming season, but I can't help it. For one thing, I love the crisp autumn weather. For another, the change of seasons always feels like a good opportunity to overhaul my daily schedule, set new goals and try to correct patterns I don't like. It is a time eminently suited to touching up one's blog layout, reorganizing one's personal library and cleaning out one's top dresser drawer.

Although there were many pleasant days in it, I admit I haven't had the most comfortable summer. A lot of the time I felt like I was being pulled in two directions. While I was outdoors, I was always thinking of writing work I ought to be doing. While I was inside working, I was thinking rather guiltily that I ought to be outdoors enjoying myself. All that was entirely my own fault, of course, and I'll have to do things differently next summer vacation.

But I have other things to think of for this autmn. To be frank, I haven't been entirely satisfied with the quality of my blogging lately. I can put some of that down to my divided summer, I suppose, but that's not the only reason. There have been plenty of times when I couldn't write a post because I was just suffering from Internet burnout, a consequence of spending the bulk of my internet time on less important things. I want this autumn to be different. I'd like to write something of substance, whether that means writing less frequently, choosing my topics with more care, or anything else it takes.

Perhaps another part of my blogging difficulties is that I'm still not quite sure of my identity as a blogger. I don't have a how-to writing blog; I don't have a dedicated book review blog. It's not simply a personal blog that's a journal of my daily life. I suppose I could call it the personal blog of a writer, but maybe I haven't quite figured out what the personal blog of a writer is just yet. I feel a bit like Mary Bennet, wishing to say something very sensible, yet knowing not how.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An interview and more...

Well, it's another day of links here at the Second Sentence! First off, I have an interview today over at the Homeschool Authors blog, where I talk a little bit about my homeschooling experience, early writing attempts, and my short Civil War story War Memorial. Click here to read it.

I also have a couple more contributions up over at the Vintage Reader—a post on beautiful Prince Edward Island, the setting for so many of Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved books, and then a two-part series on the many charming folksongs featured in Kate Douglas Wiggin's short story "Miss Thomasina Tucker" (part of the Ladies in Waiting collection). Here's Part I and Part II.

And speaking of War Memorial, now that my first KDP select experiment is over with, it's available on Smashwords, with Nook and Kobo to follow within the next day or so!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: The Girls of Silver Spur Ranch

The Girls of Silver Spur Ranch isn't so much a straight-out Western as it is a family story that happens to take place on a ranch—the story of three sisters and their mother dealing with little family struggles and trying to make ends meet, with the help of an orphan boy and an elderly ranch hand, while the father is away fighting in the Spanish-American War. Some of their challenges are familiar Western elements, as in the stubborn uncle who holds the rights to their waterhole. The simplicity of the way the story is told makes me think it may have been aimed for younger readers in its day—it's rather like a Louisa May Alcott or Kate Douglas Wiggin type of story set in Texas, though neither the writing nor character developement is quite as high-quality as you'd find with those authors. But it's a cute, pleasant little story with some good moments—I got a kick out of the youngest sister, the ten-year-old "Babe," and her fascination with knights and Ivanhoe.

The Girls of Silver Spur Ranch, which was co-written by Grace McGowan Cooke and Anne McQueen, is available in different digital formats at Internet Archive. It appears to have been subjected to an automatic digital conversion, so it's pretty thickly littered with nonsensical paragraph breaks and typos, but it's still certainly readable.

This is an entry for Friday's Forgotten Books, a weekly blog event hosted by Patti Abbott.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Quote: Absolutely in the Throes

I work best on the sofa; I think most clearly in what appears to the hasty observer to be an attitude of rest. But I am not sure that Celia really understands this yet. Accordingly, when a knock comes at the door I jump to my feet, ruffle my hair, and stride up and down the room with one hand on my brow. "Come in," I call impatiently, and Celia finds me absolutely in the throes. If there should chance to be a second knock later on, I make a sprint for the desk, seize pen and paper, upset the ink or not as it happens, and present to any one coming in at the door the most thoroughly engrossed back in London.

~ A. A. Milne, Once a Week

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sneak Peek: The Silver Shawl

Well, I've once again arrived at that moment where I can give you a little sneak peek at what I've been working on—at my next release, in fact! This is the first time that I've had my blurb written well in advance. I usually find that one of the toughest parts of preparing for publication. But the synopsis for The Silver Shawl: A Mrs. Meade Mystery—a historical mystery novelette—sprang into being with surprising ease. I wonder if that means I'm getting better at writing blurbs? (Wishful thinking!) Or perhaps I'd just been thinking about it so much I'd done most of the mental work in advance without knowing it. Either way, you can check it out at the bottom of the My Books page on this blog.

Right now I'm thinking of a mid-September release...we'll see how that works out.  This week I'll be working on final edits and formatting. Once that's done, I'm going to be offering some advance review copies—I'd love to have some blog reviews and/or customer reviews scheduled for the week of the release! So if The Silver Shawl sounds like something you'd enjoy reading and reviewing, drop me an email.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Lady For a Day (1933)

Lady For a Day gives both a glimpse at the Great Depression and features the fairytale-like exploits of the rich and famous that were such a popular form of entertainment during those hard times. It's combining unlikely things, really, that produces the comedy in this film. What do you get when you mix New York City gangsters and European aristocrats? Just the idea is funny, and so is the execution.

Elderly street peddler Apple Annie (May Robson) has for years been writing to her daughter Louise (Jean Parker), brought up in a European convent school, that she's a wealthy high-society lady. Her charade is put in jeopardy when Louise writes that she's coming to New York—she's fallen in love with the son of a Spanish count, and the Count wants to meet her mother before he consents to the marriage. But Annie gets help from an unlikely source—gangster Dave the Dude (Warren William), who regards her as his good-luck charm, buying an apple from her before every business transaction. He proceeds to borrow a friend's luxurious hotel suite complete with butler (Halliwell Hobbes), hires a rotund pool hustler with a penchant for flowery speech (Guy Kibbee) to pose as Annie's husband, and with the help of his girlfriend (Glenda Farrell) and the rest of his "mob," temporarily transforms the ragged peddler into the wealthy lady she's supposed to be.

Having gone that far, the Dude finds himself called upon again and again, in a number of delightfully funny scenes, to help keep up the farce after the arrival of Louise and her future in-laws. The Count wants to meet the friends of the supposed "Mrs. E. Worthington Manville," so the Dude decides to costume and rehearse his hired thugs and have them pose as the elite party guests. But in the meantime, all this odd activity has attracted the attention of the police, who are sure that the Dude's mob are up to no good.

A lot of the film's best lines go to the Dude's scene-stealing assistants, the morose, wisecracking Happy McGuire (Ned Sparks) and thick-headed heavy Shakespeare (Nat Pendleton). The interaction between the Dude's crowd and the very proper butler is particularly amusing. The balance between the drama in Annie's situation and the hilarity of the gangster scenes is nicely achieved, and the ending, as is broadly hinted in another one of the great bits of dialogue, is indeed a fairytale ending to a very funny and charming film.

Lady for a Day, which was based on a story by Damon Runyan, is available on DVD and Netflix Instant. It's also scheduled to be shown on TCM on August 30th.

This is an entry for Tuesday's Overlooked Movies, a weekly blog event hosted by Todd Mason.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Summer Reading, So Far

It happens to be exactly two months since I posted my summer reading list on this blog, so I thought I'd share an update on my progress. These are the books I've read so far (with a link to my review where there is one):

Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed
Jim Waring of Sonora-Town by Henry Herbert Knibbs
The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
Kathleen by Christopher Morley
When a Man Marries by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Casebook of Monsieur Jonquelle, Prefect of Police of Paris by Melville Davisson Post
Son of a Hundred Kings by Thomas B. Costain
Elsie: Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher 1913-1916 by Barbara Anne Waite
Fool's Goal by B.M. Bower
Behold, Here's Poison by Georgette Heyer
The Divine Fire by May Sinclair
The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington

A Summer Day by Charles Louis Baugniet
I requested a couple titles that I was looking forward to the most—High Rising by Angela Thirkell and Clearing Weather by Cornelia Meigs—at the library way back in June, but interlibrary loan hasn't found them yet. And I'm trying to figure out the best way to get a readable file of Silverwood by Margaret Junkin Preston onto my Kindle, since it's only available on Google Ebooks and Internet Archive. So that leaves me with just The Highgrader by William MacLeod Raine and The Lookout Man by B.M. Bower.

But the funny thing about me is...I don't just stick to my reading lists. I always end up reading other books in between. So since I posted that list in June, I've also read these:

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery
Letters On an Elk Hunt by Elinore Pruit Stewart
Starr, of the Desert by B.M. Bower
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers
Clouds of Witness by Dorothy Sayers
The Daffodil Mystery by Edgar Wallace
Ladies in Waiting by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Filigree Ball by Anna Katharine Green
The Flirt by Booth Tarkington
Mother Carey's Chickens by Kate Douglas Wiggin

My favorites out of these lists were Elsie, Fool's Goal, Letters On an Elk Hunt, Kathleen, The Glass-Blowers and both the Tarkingtons. Least favorite goes to The Daffodil Mystery (closely followed by Behold, Here's Poison, which I described to my mother as "three-quarters squabbling family and one-quarter detection.").

How's your summer reading going? Have you read any of the books I mentioned here?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quote: Enough Bookshelves

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
                                                                          ~ Anna Quindlen

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: The Flirt by Booth Tarkington

The Flirt sounds like a rather brief and simple title. But upon reading the book, you see how the title really encompasses the whole story. Cora Madison can stand up to any of the lovely and completely heartless ladies of literature—she doesn't truly care for any man; she only cares for the pleasure and flattery of their attention. Though she seems to get pretty much whatever she wants, ruining or nearly ruining several other people's lives in the process, Tarkington lets us see clearly—not really by lecturing to that effect but by stepping back and letting the characters' words and actions speak for themselves—that even getting what she wants will never bring Cora lasting happiness or satisfaction.

The story concerns the tangled web into which Cora leads a number of people when she meets and immediately sets her cap for Valentine Corliss, who has motives of his own in paying his attentions to her—he wants her to use her influence on her father and suitors to get them to invest in a doubtful business scheme. In Cora's shadow is her quiet older sister Laura, who is secretly in love with Richard Lindley, one of the young men that Cora has charmed. Though Laura knows her sister for what she is, she still manages to love her devotedly and tries to help her where she can. Also in the mix is mischeivous thirteen-year-old brother Hedrick, who adds the comic touch and does some meddling in his sisters' affairs, with sometimes disastrous results. There are glimmerings of both Penrod and Alice Adams, I thought, in the character of Hedrick and in the not-too-affluent Madison household as a whole.

As in so many of Tarkington's books, there's a wonderful flavor of early-20th-century American life—the description of a hot summer afternoon on the residential streets of that unnamed Midwestern city, with all its commonplace details, gives you not just the feeling of being there, but the sense that you have been there at some time. It's a well-crafted, satisfying reading experience, watching the different threads of the story intertwine and the subtly foreshadowed events play out.

As a sidenote, I don't know exactly what edition of the book the cover image seen above dates from, but I think it's awfully pretty, even if there is no ice-skating scene in the book!

This is an entry for the weekly blog event Friday's Forgotten Books, hosted this week by Todd Mason.