Monday, October 29, 2012


Last week I finished reading the first in Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia series: Silent in the Grave. I wrote a review of the second book, Silent in the Sanctuary, here.

If you like mysteries or Victorian historicals or both, then I highly recommend this wonderful read.

From Lady Julia's eccentric family, to the swarthy, mysterious Nicholas Brisbane the plot thickens, twists, turns and thickens again!

The historical detail is sumptuous, the characterisations exact and the mystery of who killed Lady Julia's husband will keep you guessing until the end.

Here's the opening line:

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor. 

Isn't that a punchy opening?

On finishing this book I wanted to read it all over again, to find the clues I had missed and to just luxuriate in the wonderful world Deanna Raybourn creates.

I have read other reviews that liken this series to Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series. There is definitely some truth in that, but both these talented authors have such unique and powerful voices that, for me anyway, they are incomparable. They are both great reads, and both series are taking pride of place on my book shelf as I slowly collect them. And with Christmas just around the corner, I know my collection is going to grow. (Thanks to a wonderful hubby!)


I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. It only dawned on me yesterday that November starts THIS WEEK! I was so sure I had another week to prepare. Eek! Right, time to put the computer away and get my plan of attack sorted.

Are you NaNo-ing?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


T.S.S.Earnslaw  photo:

This year is the centenary of the building of the steam ship T.S.S.Earnslaw. Built in 1912, in Dunedin, by J.Mcgregor and Co it was dismantled and transported by train to Kingston - a small town on the southern tip of Lake Wakitipu.

Here it was put to service (after they put it back together again!) as a cargo ship, livestock carrier and passenger vessel between Kingston, Queenstown and Glenorchy. In the early days there were few roads so the use of a steamship was essential.

Now, this graceful 'Lady of the Lake' is one of Queenstown's more sedate tourist attractions. The puff of black smoke and the toot of her whistle are as much a part of Queenstown as the snowy Remarkables or the gondolas that traverse Bob's Peak.

T.S.S.Earnslaw  photo:

I have fond memories of my last voyage upon her. It was August 1991 and hubby and I were wrapped up against one of the worst winters in hsitory. The occassion - our honeymoon. I can't share any of the photos as they are the old fashioned printed ones! Despite the cold, the scenery was breathtaking. There is a magical quality to steaming along in an old boat trimmed with wood and gleaming brass.

There is a wonderful site devoted to the Earnslaw and its history, here. I've had a dig around and I've discovered some surprising facts:

It is the largest coal-fired steam ship in the Southern Hemisphere.

Famous guests on board: - the Duke of York, 1927
                                        - the Duke of Gloucester, 1935
                                        - Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, 1990
                                        - President Bill Clinton, 1999

Film appearances:  In 2008 a brief appearance as an Amazon River Boat in Indiana Jones and the  Crystal Skull.
                              Parts of her were the basis for the S.S.Venture in Peter Jackson's King Kong.

I intend to go back to that site and see what else I can unearth. There are some stories of people's memories of the Earnslaw which I'm sure will make fascinating reading. They might even inspire a story or two from me.

On board the Lady of the Lake. photo:

As you can imagine there were plenty of events in Queenstown, Kingston and Glenorchy to mark the Lady's 100th birthday. In Dunedin we had our own festival to mark the occasion. A steam train was brought down from the North Island that offered short rides to Sawyers Bay and back, as well as a day trip to Invercargill. There were also several events organised by our very own steampunk group: The Grand Gadgeteers.

Two of my writing friends are part of this group and I joined them at the Railway Station on Saturday afternoon. The place bustled with train enthusiasts, parents, children and a small group of strange, but beautifully dressed Gadgeteers.

Ruth, aka Miss Prudence Winterbottom.

Kura, aka The Widow, Mia F. Peasgoode 

The next historical event on the calendar is a Victorian Fete at the end of November. A train is running up to Oamaru for the day - the culmination of a whole week of Victorian events in this beautiful town, reknowned for its whitestone Victorian buildings. My friends have encouraged me to dress up in full Victorian regalia, but being of a short, plump disposition I fear I will look like none other than Queen Victoria!  Mmmm, I can't decide if this is a good thing - or not. Regardless of my attire I intend to enjoy the day. No doubt you will hear all about it in due course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


In preparation for tonight's writers group, I have been surfing the net on this month's topic of over-writing. 

Keeping away from Purple Prose and limiting the use of adjectives and adverbs  were, of course, the 'rules' that gave me the most hits. But just how long have writers been given this advice? 

I thought they were a rather newish addition to 'writing 101'. But here we have Horace waxing lyrical about purple patches in the 1st Century BC!   

"Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy
purple patches; as when describing
a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana,
or a stream meandering through fields,
or the river Rhine, or a rainbow;
but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render
a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint
a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?"

- Quintus Horatius Flaccus (8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC), known as Horace in the English speaking world.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus - Horace

And here is Mark Twain's take on the overuse of adverbs and adjectives, a 130 odd years ago. (I particularly like the 1st quote.)  

You need not expect to get your book right the first time. Go to work and revamp or rewrite it. God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God's adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 3/23/1878

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English--it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them--then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
- Letter to D. W. Bowser, 3/20/1880

I am dead to adverbs; they cannot excite me. To misplace an adverb is a thing which I am able to do with frozen indifference; it can never give me a pang. ... There are subtleties which I cannot master at all,--they confuse me, they mean absolutely nothing to me,--and this adverb plague is one of them. ... Yes, there are things which we cannot learn, and there is no use in fretting about it. I cannot learn adverbs; and what is more I won't.
- "Reply to a Boston Girl," Atlantic Monthly, June 1880

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)  a.k.a. Mark Twain
What's your favourite writer's quote?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Yesterday (Saturday US time) was the launch date for Elisabeth Grace Foley's new book. This is the first in a series featuring elderly sleuth, Mrs Meade. This 15700 word novella will appeal to those who enjoy historical mysteries and/or westerns. As a lover of both genres I was in for a treat.

In a small, turn-of-the-century western town, a young lady is missing. Charity's fiance is sure she has been kidnapped, until a detective turns up looking for a woman that fits her description. But Mrs Meade, a shrewd and gentle older lady has her own ideas about what became of Charity.

This mystery kept me guessing until the very end, with a couple of good twists to throw me right off the trail. Mrs Meade reminds me of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. A Western Miss Marple.

Elisabeth has turned out another great story with spot on characterizations, an expert eye for historical detail and a voice that is reminescent of nineteenth century novelists. One could say she breaks the rules with longer sentences and detailed descriptions, but for me it adds to the atmosphere, grounding the reader firmly in the era. I'm looking forward to the next Mrs Meade mystery.

The Silver Shawl can be bought from KindleNookKobo and Smashwords. US$1.50.

You can visit Elisabeth at her blog: The Second Sentence.

And isn't the cover just perfect?