Book Review: My Old Clock I Wind and Other Poems by K. Morris

mociw-for-acx-cover-2-small

The first poem in this collection of 74 contains the theme that pervades the entire work – the relentless passage of time.

Morris’s verses are products of reflection and mature thought, expressing both resignation and a zest for life. This poet is not fighting advancing age and eventual death, but lives with an intense awareness of the temporary nature of human lives and preoccupations. “Passing By,” for example, sums this up perfectly in only three lines. The fleetingness of beauty and attraction are pictured in “Chiffon” and “Dark and Light.” As sadness frequently follows delight / Mourn not, for there can be no dark without the light.

The poet’s mixed feelings about his relationships with others are exemplified by “Shall I Sit Out This Dance?” whose last five lines are especially poignant. “What Is A Double Bed?” further explores love, joy, and pain.

Humour is not absent from the collection. “Howling At the Moon,” “Count Dracula Went Out To Dine,” and “It’s Raining Out There,” along with a group of limericks, celebrate the absurdities and quirky angles of life.

A certain amount of social commentary appears in “Crack” and “Girls in Unsuitable Shoes,” which has a touch of wry brilliance. Climate change is acknowledged by the short poem “Melting Ice.” Of the poems that question progress and technology, perhaps the finest is “Man’s Destiny,” which contrasts the poet’s enjoyment of life’s small pleasures with grandiose aspirations and predictions.

Most of the poems feature pairs of rhyming lines – not rhyming couplets, exactly, because the lines often differ in length and metre. The effect is one of ticking, bringing to mind the clock of the title. In densely packed sequences of short lines, this rhyme pattern can become a bit tedious. “Understanding,” which features a more complex rhyme scheme, is a notable departure.

Morris’s poems are distillations of thoughtful life experience, and thus best savoured slowly, like good wine. Readers will find something here to match any mood, to celebrate life or commiserate with sorrow.

I received a copy of this book with a request for a review.

Advertisements
open books, grass

My Best Reads of 2017

I just looked over my Goodreads books of the past year and quickly identified the ones I found most memorable. This doesn’t necessarily mean flawlessly written or expertly edited. It means books with interesting premises, characters, or writing styles. Some are by indie authors, others trad pubbed. Some are print, some “e.” A few were free (take note, those who say no one ever reads, much less likes, free ebooks).

Sorry, no cover images or links. This is just a list, in order of date I finished reading.

Hunter’s Daughter by Nowick Gray. A gritty novel of culture conflict and change in Canada’s Arctic.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead compiled and translated by E. A. Wallis Budge. A fascinating classic, full of remarkable words and images.

The Girl and the Crocodile (Crocodile Spirit Dreaming #1-5) by Graham Wilson. A long, complicated, rather messy but compelling saga of adventure, sex, murder and love, set mostly in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Shadow Unit 1 by Emma Bull et al. A TV series in ebook form. Binge read it!

Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. True tales of old New York. Almost as good as time travel.

In No Particular Order by Kevin Brennan. A beautifully written “memoir-in-vignettes” by a fellow WordPress blogger (What The Hell).

The Man Who Found Birds Among the Stars by Lorinda J. Taylor. Science fiction and a compelling future biography in three parts. I’m happily reading Part 3 right now.

Baiting & Fishing by Meredith Rae Morgan. Mystery, romance, deception and lots of fishing.

Dreaming In a Digital World by Blanche Howard. Weird but strangely interesting tale of business and romance at the dawn of the computer age.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Start with mysterious footage on VHS cassettes. Follow the hints and clues over decades in the Iowa countryside. Ask questions. Be disturbed and enlightened.

The Crown Crescent Chronicles by Guy Bullock. Goofy goings-on among the residents of an unnamed community. Domestic ructions, feuding business partners, small-time criminals, monkeys, bananas. You get the picture.

Tallis Steelyard, Shower Me With Gold and Other Stories by Jim Webster. This collection of short tales and poems “by” the estimable Tallis Steelyard is one of many books about life in Port Naain and environs. The jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard may be found on the WordPress blog of that title, along with lovely and aptly chosen illustrations for each tale.

Of Patchwork Warriors (Being Vol. 1 of the Precipice Dominions) by R.  J. Llewellyn. An engaging, action-packed, and yet thoughtful fantasy adventure, featuring three really strong female characters. The author is also a WordPress blogger (heroicallybadwriter).

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. A delightful confection of steampunk and clockwork, history, romance and mystery set in Victorian London with side trips to Japan.

Transhumance by Andrew Shilcock. “A short collection of some even shorter stories where the familiar meets the unfamiliar for a half hearted wrestle.” That is an accurate description of this book of speculative fiction that will make you think and wonder.

That’s it for ’17! Happy reading in 2018, everyone!

thinking, contemplation, statue

Unspoken Thoughts And The Inner Voice

Readers and writers, I need advice!

What’s the best way to represent unspoken thoughts in first person, past tense?

My work in progress contains unvoiced thoughts and interior monologue, as the first person narrator shares her private thoughts with the reader and holds debates with herself.

Like dialogue, the narrator’s uncensored, unvoiced thoughts must be in present tense. The problem is that readers may perceive them as random departures from the prevailing past tense, i.e., as mistakes.

Which leads to these two questions:

a) Are unvoiced thoughts confusing or distracting for the reader, and therefore best avoided?

b) What’s the best way to tell the reader This Is An Unvoiced Thought?

Three possibilities:

  1. Incorporate the statements of the Inner Voice into the past tense narrative, with the tag “I thought” as the signal (same as the “I said” tag in spoken dialogue).
  2. Put the unvoiced thoughts in italics, in present tense.
  3. Unvoiced thoughts in present tense, but without italics or any other signal.

EXAMPLES:

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny, I thought.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“You look great!” Only like a sausage about to burst its casing, I thought.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I wondered, turning back to my crossword.

OR

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“No, of course not!”  Only like a sausage about to burst its casing.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I turned back to my crossword.

OR

She clattered downstairs, all gussied up for her big night out.

“What do you think?” She twirled around, the short pink satin number revealing her thighs.

“You’ll wow ’em, for sure.” Too short, too tight, too shiny.

“It doesn’t make me look fat, does it?”

“No, of course not!” Only like a sausage about to burst its casing.

The door closed behind her. Why am I so judgmental? I turned back to my crossword.

OR?

My thoughts on this: I don’t like the first technique, of adding “I thought” and similar phrases. It works if the unvoiced thoughts are brief and few. It’s awkward if the thoughts are longer than a single sentence, or are frequent enough that a phrase other than “I thought” becomes necessary. “I thought” is more obtrusive than “I said,” and becomes irritating with repetition.

I favour using italics to designate any thought that’s not spoken aloud (#2 above). But I’ve heard that italics can be confusing or irritating.

A fairly extensive treatment of this matter, mainly with regard to third person narrative, however, may be found here. It suggests the technique used should reflect the intensity or importance of the unspoken thought, with italics kept to a minimum. Given all the unvoiced thoughts and interior monologue in my WIP, I will have to keep this in mind when I work it over once the first draft is complete (soon, that will be!)

So what do you think? Here are the two questions again:

a) Are unvoiced thoughts in a narrative confusing or distracting for the reader?

b) What is the best way to tell the reader This Is An Unvoiced Thought?

 

 

snow, Christmas 2017, magnolia

White Christmas in Victoria, BC

Apparently the chance of a white Christmas here is 15%, but on Christmas morning, we awoke to a couple of inches (4 cm) of white. It was a nice, polite snowfall, starting late evening Christmas Eve, and mostly gone by Boxing Day.

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017

The view from my front door about 8 a.m. December 25th

front garden, snow, Christmas 2017

Looking the other way…

back garden, snow, Christmas 2017

And around the back.

Can’t complain, really.

Solstice and Christmas

Here is a poem from a few years ago. It’s not really jolly-holly, but I think the featured image above makes up for that.

 

The Gardener In Winter Night

Cold rain drips from branch and twig,

Winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum

Sullen,

Slow

From edge of roof.

Yellow jasmine lights went dim at dusk,

The garden cloaked in absence and night.

The sky flattens,

The soil accepts.

Ailanthus

The eye sees black.

Pond water steeping leaves,

Tree shapes flat against grey sky.

The gardener in negative space,

Opposite of summer’s exaltation,

Contemplates…

Snowdrops soon to raise their elfin spears,

Violets wet and secret within dark green,

012

Crocus and tulip bulbed in earth,

Honeysuckle buds held tight by leaf to stem,

Blue poppies crowned in tattered leaves,

Rose canes studded with ruby nubbles,

Moss velvet green between reposing stones.

Remember snow,

And hope.

Consider sleet,

Believe.

Return to rest.

cosmos

Image from Pixabay

New Review of The Friendship of Mortals

I would like to share a lovely new review of The Friendship of Mortals, by Denzil the Book Owl, on his recently launched review site. Read it here, and the interview in which I answer several questions about the book and its writing.

fofmresized

While you’re there, have a look at some of Denzil’s other reviews. They are what book reviews should be, thoughtful and thorough.

Into Winter

November departs and winter approaches…

Front garden late November

Goodbye, November!

Persicaria foliage with garlic chives seed heads

Brown foliage of Persicaria with starry seedheads of garlic chives.

Cotoneaster with berries December

Cotoneaster bush full of berries.

Yellow chrysanthemum and Cineraria foliage

Chrysanthemums and Cineraria foliage.

Euphorbia and fallen seed head of Allium christophii in front garden

Euphorbia and fallen seedhead of Allium christophii (plus all kinds of other foliage, fallen leaves, etc.)

Sunset December 9, 2017

Winter-ish sunset.

Christmas lights on house

Lights in the darkness.

Book Review: Of Patchwork Warriors by R.J. Llewellyn

“There came an era when the threat of incursion from the infernal other world realm of the Zerstorung was strong, placing the survival of entire unsettled Oakhostian Empire at risk and thus disparate forces began to marshal, to take up any cause or seize any opportunity.
There in the background The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia just a few names for the force which had arrived upon The World in Ages faded from record. Viewed either as a pernicious creature seeking to control, a power for good, an aspect of Nature to be treated with caution or a means to an end, it remained a constant. With an oft forgotten tendency to engage with the unwilling, the unassuming and the unruly from the ranks of lesser folk whose consequential and various struggles would unsettle many a careful plan.
This is the tale of three such, an innocent housemaid, a dutiful soldier and a self-appointed scourge of evil quite unaware the safety of an Empire would soon be resting on them.
They did not take uniformly or conventionally to the task, for that was the way of things, when involved with The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia.”

Don’t let the magisterial tone of this description fool you. Of Patchwork Warriors is an engaging, action-packed, and yet thoughtful fantasy adventure, featuring three really strong female characters. Fate throws them together, and once they realize they have to cooperate despite their differences, these ladies really kick butt.

It’s hard to say if the setting is a post-apocalyptic future or a parallel reality, and it really doesn’t matter. The Oakhostian Empire vaguely resembles Europe in geography and cultures. Technology is sort of medieval, with a few notable exceptions, the primary one being the force called, variously, The Ethereal, The Stommigheid or The Astatheia. Although poorly understood, it is monitored and made use of by different groups to further their interests — ecclesiatics, military, criminals, and assorted independent operators. This force is sort of like our internet, but much more powerful and dangerous. It can be used to cause time-jolts and move things around (whole buildings, for example), even into other dimensions. If messed with too much, it can open portals into a dread realm called the Zerstorung, where there are monsters. An imminent breach of this sort precipitates the events of this novel.

In contrast to the setting, the three main characters, their personalities, and their lively and colourful dialogue humanize the story and make it irresistible. Arketre Beritt is a medician in the elite LifeGuard. From her point of view, the reader is introduced to the military culture of this force, its practices and outlooks. Trelli (whose surname is never mentioned) is a maid in the household of a merchant family. A younger son of the family is a Jordisk (sort of like a hacker), who has built his own device to access the mysterious force called the Stommigheid. Unfortunately for Trelli, the force has an affinity for her, which throws her into situations beyond belief. And then there’s Karlyn Nahtinee, a zany individual with a nose for evil (and good) and a talent for incendiary devices. When a number of conflicting interests collide with disastrous consequences, these three must join forces to save each other, and maybe the world.

The supporting characters are varied and memorable. They include priests, soldiers, organized (and disorganized) criminals, pirates, noblemen, and one nasty evil-for-the-fun-of-it type. There are also monsters.

In fairness, I must note bumps in the form of typos and omissions, but the story is compelling enough to ride over them. For anyone who enjoys fantasy with a difference, I thoroughly recommend this idiosyncratic work. The author has provided a helpful glossary that explains invented terms and swear words. Those invented swear words are strangely apt; you may find yourself using some of them!

Of Patchwork Warriors is available at the usual Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com.au

 

 

 

front garden in November, decline, brown

Faith to the Finish

The work in progress is at a crucial stage. Not only is the protagonist about to face a really big challenge, but the author (that would be me) is being attacked by thoughts such as these:

Why would she wear that dress while crawling through the tunnel? That’s just dumb.

The photos can’t be in two places at the same time. Uh-oh.

Okay, she finds the cello in the underground room. No, she doesn’t. Because it’s the reason she decides to meet him in the wadi. Even if she knows what he did? That’s just dumb.

Aaargh, let’s think this through again.

There should have been more foreshadowing.

This doesn’t make sense. Any of it. Even with foreshadowing.

This novel is a pile of crap.

Trouble is, I’m at 75K words, and until now I’ve been pretty happy with the thing. It’s too late to call it a false start (especially since I’ve been beavering away on it since January).

Can’t quit, can’t go back. The only way out is to keep moving forward. It’s sure to look better when I’m done.

This is where faith comes in. Faith that I can realize the vision for this novel I’ve been carrying around for the last three years. I wrote the first 17 pages and then abandoned it for more than a year, but I never stopped thinking about it.

There are few things worse than being haunted by an unwritten novel. At the beginning of 2017, I resolved to go back and write it. Now that I’m getting to the climax scenes, a kind of performance anxiety has arrived. These are the crucial scenes! What if I mess up? But I’ve learned a lot by now…

The handwritten proto-draft always feels like crap. The real first draft (Word doc) is always better.

Overthinking details is pointless at this stage. Just write ’em down.

Keep pushing the pen and don’t look back.

You’ll work out the kinks later. You’ve done it before and will do it again.

The earlier sections can be tweaked, adjusted, added to and, if necessary, totally rewritten.

Focus on the key elements of the original vision: that which must be preserved, and and that which must be sacrificed.

Focus on how great it will feel to lose this albatross realize this vision.

KEEP WRITING!

 

winter jasmine, yellow flowers, Jasminum nudiflorum

Winter jasmine in bloom: little yellow sparks in the darkest time of the year.