Sisters of the Vast Black — Lina Rather. Nuns! In! Space! and much more earnest and focussed and charming than that sounds. But also: nuns in space!
Lord Ashwood Missed Out — Tessa Dare. The high glee of Tessa Dare’s romances is very welcome in difficult times.
A Lady by Midnight — Tessa Dare. See above. I started a list of “unlikely abrupt intense proximities” in lighter-hearted romances at about this point.
Delicious — Sherry Thomas. Something about Sherry Thomas’ books always makes me feel like I’ve run into someone who agrees with me about certain decidedly unromantic historical novels. It also prompted me to work out my thoughts about food magic (this will probably show up at some point in the observation journal posts).
The Monster of Elendhaven — Jennifer Giesbrecht. Nasssty oily murderous far north industrial gothic fantasy, my precious. Lovely writing.
You Let Me In— Camilla Bruce. I quite liked the origin of the fae in this one.
Chalk — Paul Cornell. Argh! Also it was interesting reading it beside You Let Me In, working out the boundaries of folk horror and my own tastes. Also loved opposing magics (earth vs ad-hoc pop magic).
Thus Was Adonis Murdered — Sarah Caudwell. (Reread). The straight-faced flipping of steretypes. The wine. The legal humour. The first line. “Scholarship asks, thank God, no recompense but Truth.” The beautiful Ragwort…
Black Sheep — Georgette Heyer. (Reread). There’s a trick played at the end of this book that I always kind of forget is coming.
For obvious reasons, I didn’t get to a cinema in May, and I hadn’t been in the habit of recording other things I watched.
I’ve previously mentioned incorporating Austin Kleon‘s “things to steal” into my general Todd-Henry-based note-taking structure (Patterns/Surprises/Likes/Dislikes/Steal — see Bookmarks & remarks). It’s also become an occasional feature in the Observation Journal.
I used to make a note of things that were merely “interesting” or “to try”. What I like about phrasing it as “steal” (yes, obviously not plagiarise) is that, as well as adding a touch of glee, it forces me to immediately think of ways to transform whatever it was I was admiring.
The “five things” also fills the page usefully. It’s a nice length, easy to remember, and usually makes me either think just one or two steps beyond the obvious, or distill my very favourites.
Here’s a close-up of the right-hand page: FIVE THINGS I WANT TO STEAL FROM EMILY CARROLL’S THROUGH THE WOODS (a wonderful collection of… comics? illustrated stories?)
Her use of endpapers. This tied into broader thoughts on surface decoration, and a general reminder (and licence) to draw on everything. I’m working on this for some projects now, in a completely different style and for a different purpose.
Using white outlines for only certain characters, with notes on the ethereal effect, and a desire to try to achieve this in prose (I think I wrote a paragraph or two to experiment with this; I also have a continuing interest in how authors get specific art styles into purely prose pieces — among others Dorothy Dunnett’s buttery Rembrandt light; Mirah Bolender’s Ghibli-esque curse motion in City of Broken Magic; and a very Hellboy-esque lighting setup in a novella I read recently and can’t find again).
Her use of different colour schemes in the same scenes to show brief flashes of memory. Again, I wanted to try this in prose, but also to see how to get away with the effect in (for example) black and white.
The variable structures of the stories, panels, style, and whether this could be replicated with e.g. subtitles in a purely prose piece. I have some story ideas I want to recast and plan to revisit this (in combination with some mythic/folk horror scene transition/viewpoint gymnastics managed by Paul Cornell in Chalkand Maria Dahvana Headley in The Mere Wife).
The last one is the only observation without a specific adaptation, and it’s mostly a reminder that the ordinary and extraordinary both gain power when they’re mixed.
Also some tree-appreciation — “Einar?” was a late-night misremembering of Eyvind Earle.
The last point, a “question for later”, led to playing with some small creepy stories in other formats, inspired by other books.
I enjoy this format, and what it’s led to. I’ll probably post some more examples later.
Find something you admire in another field than the one you work in (a movie, a book, a comic, a painting). List five things you like about it. Try to work out how you could steal each of those elements and convert them into something in your own field.
And in case it needs to be said: Don’t plagiarise!