A big, brief, catchup post, but here are some Cold Comfort Farm sketches to brighten it up. Also, I’m starting to keep track of books read on Goodreads as well.
Crusade – Peter M Ball (part 3 of the Flotsam Trilogy omnibus)
Bone Swans – C. S. E. Cooney: Such beautiful novellas. I wept. I drew fanart.
Tempting Mr Townsend – Anna Campbell
A Few Right Thinking Men– Sulari Gentill
Madensky Square– Eva Ibbotson: I had not read this Ibbotson and it is enchanting! A romance of pre WWI Vienna.
Winning Lord West – Anna Campbell
Pawn in Frankincense – Dorothy Dunnett
Q’s Legacy – Helene Hanff: So charming! So tiny! The follow-up to 84 Charing Cross Road and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. Has influenced my driving.
The Ringed Castle – Dorothy Dunnett. Suffocated sounds of distress.
The Foundling – Georgette Heyer: Perhaps a new favourite.
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons: The first time I’ve read it, and I finally read it due to being presented with it at breakfast as a fait accompli by my landlady at a Devon B&B. I read it as a science fiction novel set in the world of The Fantastic Mr Fox, which was certainly memorable. I love her sheer disregard for agriscience.
The Tree – John Fowles
Stranded with the Scottish Earl – Anna Campbell
The Summer Bride – Anne Gracie
A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald – Natasha Lester
[Can’t tell you about it yet but very good]
Cotillion– Georgette Heyer
The Devil’s Delilah – Loretta Chase
Marked for Death: The First War in the Air – James Hamilton-Paterson: Fascinating WWI aviation history.
Movies & theatre
Captain America: Civil War
The Nice Guys
The Hunt for the Wilderpeople: This is really, really good, people, I highly recommend it.
Fun Home(musical): Helpless crying.
Love & Friendship: A remarkable study in telling only the connective tissue between big events, which works because it is all about the main character’s continuous, inventive self-justification and repositioning.
Star Trek: Beyond: Suffered for being seen between Sully and Deepwater Horizon, in both of which people try to actually do a headcount of surviving passengers and crew.
In which even the contemporary Australian noir fantasy has a Regency connection.
[Lady Helen and] The Dark Days Club – Alison Goodman: Regency urban fantasy, with a beautifully precise approach to research and a heroine who doesn’t actively dislike her ladylike life (even if she doesn’t get much chance to commit to it), but I may never forgive Alison Goodman for opening my eyes to the true horror of Regency presentation gowns. Also I really, really like the typography on the cover of the edition I have. Here is Angela Slatter’s interview with her (which I illustrated): Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club: Alison Goodman
The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer: A re-re-read, and out loud to my dad. This time it struck me that Sophy is basically a Regency Pippi Longstocking, down to the absent indulgent father, the vast bank-account, the horse and the monkey. If you haven’t read it, Mari Ness’s reread on Tor.com (while of course containing spoilers) also discusses the, ah, problematic issues of the book and will give you a fair idea of whether you want to read (or re-re-read) it.
The Seduction of Lord Stone– Anna Campbell: I… did not read this one out loud to my father. Though I must give a general cheer for forthright, determined heroines and negotiation of relationships (and while it exceeds my tolerance levels for certain content, since I belong to the ‘curtain blew across the screen’ school of romance, I do enjoy Anna’s writing in all the other scenes).
Exile – Peter M. Ball: You may think I broke my Regency streak with these two, but the main character reads Persuasion on stakeouts. Myth-heavy hardboiled Gold Coast pre-(assorted)-apocalyptic fantasy. It resonates with the parts of my mind where American Gods took up residence.
Frost– Peter M. Ball: See above – I’m reading the third now and will report in the May read.
The Boss: Disappointing. It was two movies: a mildly crude disgraced-business-mogul-turns-good farce, and a violent-angry-girl-scouts classic comedy. Either could have been strong, but it never committed to one or the other. Which is a shame, because I like Melissa McCarthy, enjoyed Spy and I’m fairly sure would have adored the movie the end credits promised. Although we knew from Hotel Transylvania that good end-credits can retroactively ruin a decent movie.
How to Edit a Novel – Charlotte Nash: (full disclosure, I was given a review copy and am friends with Charlotte) A very plain, step-by-step, mechanical approach to editing which is VERY USEFUL as it is easy to get caught up in high-concept flights of editorial lyricism. I’ve been editing a manuscript and used a lot of her pointers, which successfully calmed me down and got the new draft quickly finished.
Hellboy: The Chained Coffin, and others – Mike Mignola: I loved this so much. How have I managed not to actually read Hellboy before? It is laconic and wry and yet with a kindness, for all the bloody myths and tales. And the art which is so simple and weighty and full-mouthed.
The Rabbits – John Marsden and Shaun Tan (illustrator): This book! The art is so rich. It glows, it looks flat as a mosaic and then the shapes resolve into sails and landscapes, the regimented patterns move with meaning, there are more stories in the tiny details. It has less than 250 words, and they are the high, clear bells chiming out a fine melody over Tan’s orchestral compositions.
Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay: This is such a good book, still, and I don’t know how? I thought it got away with not solving the mystery by not being about the mystery but about the people left behind, and yet on a reread she keeps pulling it back to the investigation as well? It’s a book about the ripples caused by an unsolved mystery, and about the little things that change lives as well as the big things, the weight of something vast and inexplicable on the world. It’s also a reimagining of The Little Princess and The Secret Garden, and beautiful and dreadful. It’s also made me think that the very end of The Lovely Bones weakened that book’s impact.
Picnic at Hanging Rock sketches
The Elusive Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy: C.S. Pacat and I stumbled upon a bookstore which was full of sequels we’d never heard of to very famous books. Now, the Pimpernel sequels are certainly generally known to exist, but this was the first I’ve read. It was a much smaller story than the first, really a battle between two wills, which is something I appreciate in sequels (instead of just making the antagonising forces bigger and badder). Also my personal theory is that Marguerite is the opposite of the cleverest woman in Europe, and in her Paris days people only called her that as a joke BUT Chauvelin, who was in love with her then, thought they were serious, and because he keeps so drastically overestimating her, the Blakeneys continue to triumph.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (movie): Twice. We had so much fun. It was silly, but smartly so (new lines frequently taken from other Austen writing), and the production values were solid. I want to watch the outtakes just for more Bennett sisters as a team. I love Pride and Prejudice and many of its revisions, and a couple of these castings and scenes were extremely gratifying additions to the mythology.
From Dusk till Dawn (movie): Rooftop cinema. I still don’t know how this movie manages to form a coherent whole.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (play: Malthouse Theature): For such a visual book, it was fascinating to watch it staged with familiar descriptions but a minimalist, slate-grey set and almost none of the familiar imagery. The night-on-the-rock sequence was fabulously suspenseful, and Amber McMahon’s turn as Michael Fitzhubert was mesmerising.
The Rabbits (opera: QPAC): Affecting and gloriously textured interpretation of the book (see above).
London has Fallen (movie): Exactly what I expected, having seen Olympus has Fallen.
Zootopia (movie): Another fun movie, surprising, endearing, quotable and honestly the most convincing integration of mobile phones I’ve seen.
Hail Caesar (movie): Odd, though frequently gratifyingly so, and less a story than a ‘day in the life of’. I wanted more but also more of this. Peter M. Ball wrote up his thoughts: Would that it were so simple?
Monsters! This new, Karen Beilharz-helmed anthology of comics (with sea monsters by me) is now funding on Pozible. It’s all written and illustrated but we need the pre-orders to get it printed. Rewards include a map by me. (Because it’s been asked, and Pozible isn’t entirely clear on this: if you want to help, but don’t necessarily want a book, you can enter an amount here: Pledge amount). The first comic, “Monster Hunter”, has been posted already.
Deep Dark Fears: Late to this party, but Deep Dark Fears is deliciously evocative and unsettling, and I have ordered the book.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Went twice, went with incredibly low expectations, had a ball, see it while it’s in cinemas. It’s also got a number of Easter eggs for long-term Austen fans. But I mistook Sam Riley for Kris Marshall and was confused (although not unpleasantly so).
Science! If you like science communication and illustration, the #sciart tweetstorm is currently on.
Two new books:
The first translation in over 100 years of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, from Eagle Books (a new imprint of Christmas Press), with illustrations and gold-edged pages and just the right size to fit comfortably in the hand and handbag.
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the way Home, the last book of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books, which I will buy but which I am afraid it will hurt to read because they are so perfect in themselves that I am sure the ending will be like a knife.
Coffee in Oxley: If you are ever in the western suburbs of Brisbane, check out Re/Love Oxley on Blunder Road – a good little cafe with an industrial shed of old and kitschy things, including pyromaniacal sewing machines.
On looking too long at art reference: Seals are really weird and if you look at them too long it is like staring too hard at the word “walk” or “amongst”. They cease to be unique functioning objects and become gaps in the world, free-floating black holes, units of the matter before eternity. They refuse to be what you desire or believe them to be. If you gaze too long into the seal, the seal gazes back into you.
‘A Plot for the Annoying of the King of Spain’ – this whole stream of tweets is delightful:
In love with the fact that in 1585 Francis Walsingham drew up a document titled 'A Plot for the Annoying of the King of Spain'
Style: Peter de Sève on artist’s style, although I believe it applies equally to any creative endeavour: “An artist’s drawing is a catalogue of the shapes that he loves. When I’m drawing something, I’m trying to find the shapes that please me. I believe that’s what makes up what people refer to as a style.”
Lessons learned: One thing I am repeatedly learning this year is how little you can get done in a day, and how much in half an hour.
I drew Alison Goodman, author of Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, for Angela Slatter’s interview with her. This is one of alternative sketches – you’ll have to click through to see the final:
The X-Files finally started in Australia (everyone complained about the pop-up ads but I thought it restored the nostalgia which the shock of watching on flat-screen in HD took away). In commemoration, here is the original music video to Bree Sharp’s “David Duchovny” which is so full of wait-was-that? cameos that it bears watching to the very end:
If you are into Old Hollywood, You Must Remember This, or Catherynne M Valente’s Radiance, then this long but cumulatively charming article from Brisbane newspaper The Truth, only 100 years ago, is a winsome read: Where Films Are Faked, Fixed and Finished.
The rather marvellous talking-to-writers expedition last week included much talk of pens, and it is one of the joys of working in these fields that asking “what pen do you use” tends to result in an arsenal emptied over the banquet table (that was at Illuxcon), while their owners trade virtues and merits. For the record mine are: Hunt Crowquill 102 with Winsor & Newton India Ink (drawing), Pitt Artist Pens (sketching), slim fine ballpoint (for notes, although I haven’t settled on one that is reliably non-blotting).
Peter’s post (above), however, also underlines the degree to which storytelling advice translates across media. Illustration, movies, novels: all these contain examples and principles which can be incredibly helpful no matter what field you’re working in. Plus, if you need another incentive to watch Every Frame A Painting, it is 7 minutes of all the Best Bits.
Another resource for those trying to make the impossible believable is James Gurney’s Imaginative Realism (that’s James National-Geographic-and-Dinotopia Gurney). It’s also just interesting – my mother made off with my copy to read it. His rather good blog is Gurney Journey.
Here’s a less accessible but in-depth look at some myths about classic composition advice – of direct use to photographers and artists but, I would argue, also very useful to writers if you don’t mind doing some heavy lifting with metaphors (and you’re writers, aren’t you?): 10 Myths about the Rule of Thirds
The Ship Song Project continues to be beautiful – when I sing it while doing the dishes, this is the version I try to sing: