Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry Friday 73

This week saw the 250th birthday of William Blake, who was born in London in 1757. When he was four he saw God's head appear in a window, later on he saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting in a field, and once came upon a tree full of angels. However, when he tried to tell his parents about these visions, his father threatened to beat him for lying, so he stopped mentioning such things and began drawing pictures instead. His work seemed so promising that his parents sent him to art school to become an engraver. Blake learnt how to engrave copper plates for printing illustrations in books, then went on to produce illustrations for books about botany, architecture and medicine. Since his work was so good he was commissioned to create his own illustrations for the work of Dante, Chaucer and selections from the Bible, which now are considered amongst the greatest works of engraving ever produced. Blake even invented a method of printing illustrations in colour, and art historians are still unsure how he did it.

Unfortunately, Blake's work as an illustrator grew more and more bizarre, until in the end he could only make a living by selling watercolours to a small group of private collectors.

However, Blake had also been writing poetry for most of his life, and since he had his own printing press, he decided to print it himself. He developed a process of writing his poems directly onto copper plates, then engraving illustrations around them. He would print a few dozen copies and stitch them into pamphlets, which he sold himself. His books got no attention in his lifetime and most critics dismissed him as a madman. He died in 1827, and it wasn't until 1863 that a biography about him persuaded people to read his poetry for the first time. Today, he's best known for the poems he wrote for children, Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794).

William Blake once wrote, "To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour."

He also said, "Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow."

This is one of his poems from Songs of Experience:


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Two Writing Teachers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poetry Friday 72

The weather's been a lot colder here in the UK this week so these lines by Shakespeare from "As You Like It" (Act II, Scene vii) seem somewhat apt !

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Susan Taylor Brown's Blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Blog's Reading Level

I snagged this from Liz over at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy. Allegedly

cash advance

I have NO idea how they work this out but it seems a little - unlikely, shall we say?!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry Friday 71

For this week's Poetry Friday offering, I have a poem of Matthew Arnold's:

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I find this poem incredibly evocative of the sea at night and can easily see in my mind's eye the scene that Arnold describes.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Big A, little a with Kelly H.

* * * * * *

In personal news, my mum's surgery went off OK yesterday and she's now back home with my dad and brother.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poetry Friday 70

This week, in honour of receiving lots of Doctor Who related goodies for my birthday yesterday, I have three of Shakespeare's Sonnets, as addressed to "The Dark Lady" (according to the second episode of Season 3 (The Shakespeare Code), the Doctor's Companion, Martha Jones, was Shakespeare's inspiration for what are known as the "Dark Lady Sonnets"):

Sonnet 127

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature's power,
Fairing the foul with Art's false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

Sonnet 128

How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Sonnet 132

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O! let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

* * * * * *

This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by A Wrung Sponge

Friday, November 02, 2007

Poetry Friday 69

Shakespeare's Sonnets seem to be on my mind a lot again lately so I've got another one for you this week:


Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O! how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O! none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Since I am continuing to write Doctor Who stories, this Sonnet about Time's power over everything has really been filling my thoughts this week.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Mentor Texts and More.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Awards News

Two lots of awards news to cheer me this morning:

From The Times online: A gothic tale about vampire hunters has become the perfect Hallowe'en winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2007, it was announced yesterday. Marcus Sedgwick won the prize with his sinister story, My Swordhand is Singing, about a woodcutter and his son who fight the legendary undead in the forests of seventeenth-century Romania. (My review is here)

For more details about the prize visit Bookheads or Booked Up

* * * * * *

And in the non-Book Awards category David Tennant and Doctor Who both won awards in their categories in last night's National Television Awards ! Alas that Freema Agyeman couldn't make it a hat-trick.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Comments on this Blog

I've just had to turn off the anonymous comments on my Blog after getting a spate of them that are basically just trolling. (An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who intentionally posts controversial or pointless messages with the sole intention of baiting users into an argumentative response.) Even though I moderate all comments, I quite frankly can't be bothered to waste my time even reading such comments, so if you're not a registered user of, you won't be able to comment on this Blog. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but I don't see why I should have to read insulting comments.

Poetry Friday 68

Yesterday was St Crispin's Day, so here is the St Crispin's Day speech from Henry V by Shakespeare:

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

The Poetry Friday round up is over at Literary Safari

Friday, October 19, 2007

Poetry Friday 68

I'm back with more Shakespeare this week (sorry about last week's no-show - personal stuff got in the way of everything last Friday). This week I've got "Under the Greenwood Tree":

Under the Greenwood Tree

Amiens sings:
UNDER the greenwood tree,
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

Who doth ambition shun,
And loves to live i' the sun,
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleased with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

Jaques replies:
If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdamè, ducdamè, ducdamè:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up will be hosted by Kelly Fineman.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Personal News

October is Breast Cancer Awareness week, and today I found out that my mum (who had a brain tumour removed last year) has been diagnosed with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). She'll be going into hospital for an operation to remove it on November 15 - an overnight stay only.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mirrorscape Competition

Egmont Press have launched a competition in conjunction with The Telegraph newspaper to celebrate the publication of Mike Wilks' new novel Mirrorscape on October 1. If you go to Telegraph Promotions you will find a link to "Find the Snail for your chance to win £5,000".

Mike Wilks' trademark is to include a snail in all of his paintings and so to celebrate the publication of his stunning debut fantasy adventure, Mirrorscape, Mike has hidden a snail in an exclusive version of the Map of Vlam which illustrates the setting of the novel. Visitors who follow the Telegraph link will be taken to an online version of the map where you can use the zoom feature to navigate round the map to find the snail.

In Mirrorscape, Melkin Womper, son of a village weaver, fulfils the dream of a lifetime and is apprenticed to a master painter, Ambrosius Blenk. In keeping with the story Egmont Press is launching this competition to help a young person fulfil one of their dreams for the future. Those who find the snail will automatically be entered into the prize draw to win £5,000 to be spent on Premium Bonds in the name of a child (or split between children) of their choice, or in your own name if you are 17 or under. All entries must be received by 5th November 2007.

There's also a Mirrorscape website which features an utterly addictive game.

Poetry Thursday: National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day here in the UK, so I'm doing Poetry Friday as Poetry Thursday. And this week I bring you Shakespeare (again) - and some lines from Henry V:

I am a king that find thee, and I know
'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,
The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farced title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
That beats upon the high shore of this world,
No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,
Not all these, laid in bed majestical,
Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,
Who with a body fill'd and vacant mind
Gets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;
Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,
But, like a lackey, from the rise to set
Sweats in the eye of Phoebus and all night
Sleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,
Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,
And follows so the ever-running year,
With profitable labour, to his grave:
And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,
Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,
Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.
The slave, a member of the country's peace,
Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wots
What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,
Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

William Shakespeare, Henry V Act IV, scene I

This week's round up will be at Whimsy Books tomorrow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: Sonic blaster, 51st Century... Weapon factories at Villengard?
Capt. Jack: Yeah. You've been to the factories?
The Doctor: Once.
Capt. Jack: They're gone now. Reactor went critical. Vaporised the lot.
The Doctor: Like I said, once. There's a banana grove there now. I like bananas. Bananas are good.

("The Doctor Dances", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Poetry Friday 67

As you'll know if you're a regular reader, I'm obsessed with "Doctor Who". At the moment I'm particularly obsessed with the character of the Tenth Doctor's Companion, Martha Jones, so when I spotted this poem by Walter de la Mare this morning, I jumped on it (although the description of Martha here doesn't fit the lovely Freema Agyeman (pictured above) who plays Martha Jones):


"Once...Once upon a time..."
Over and over again,
Martha would tell us her stories,
In the hazel glen.

Hers were those clear gray eyes
You watch, and the story seems
Told by their beautifulness
Tranquil as dreams.

She'd sit with her two slim hands
Clasped round her bended knees;
While we on our elbows lolled,
And stared at ease.

Her voice and her narrow chin,
Her grave small lovely head,
Seemed half the meaning
Of the words she said.

"Once...Once upon a time..."
Like a dream you dream in the night,
Fairies and gnomes stole out
In the leaf-green light.

And her beauty far away
Would fade, as her voice ran on,
Till hazel and summer sun
And all were gone:--

All fordone and forgot;
And like clouds in the height of the sky,
Our hearts stood still in the hush
Of an age gone by.

This week's round up is hosted by AmoXcalli.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Edge of the Forest Volume II - September Issue

The September issue of The Edge of the Forest is now up. There are many exciting features for you, as well as the usual interviews, reviews, and more.

Here is what's in store this month:

Don't forget to subscribe to The Edge of the Forest with the Subscribe feature. Just enter your name and e-mail address and you'll receive notification when each new issue is published.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Poetry Friday 66

My poetry choice this week is by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Come Into the Garden, Maud

COME into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.
For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.
All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr'd
To the dancers dancing in tune:
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.
I said to the lily, "There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.
I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lordlover, what sighs are those
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I sware to the rose,
"For ever and ever, mine."
And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash'd in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;
From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewelprint of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.
The slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh'd for the dawn and thee.
Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.
There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;"
And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;"
And the lily whispers, "I wait."
She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Sara Lewis Holmes at Read Write Believe.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: Funny little human brains. How do you get around in them?
Rose: When he gets stressed, he likes to insult species.

("The Doctor Dances", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

High Culture Meets Popular Culture Contest

Proving that (a) "I aten't dead" yet and (b) that I am reading Blogs still, I'm linking to the latest contest by Nancy at Journey Woman - High Culture Meets Popular Culture.

Here's what Nancy says:

Here is your mission, if you want to play:

Submit your comments here with examples of TV shows, popular songs, or movies that used references or quotes from famous poets or authors in a way that may have caught people by surprise. Caught by surprise? I mean, don't include the movie Sense and Sensibility, where half of it was quotes from poetry because two of the characters sat around and read each other poetry throughout. Don't include Shakespeare in Love or Hamlet, where of course there will be a lot of, um, Shakespeare.

Give me movies like Porky's II, or songs like Dire Straits "Romeo and Juliet." Better yet, give me quotes from The Simpsons. Any extra explanation you can include, similar to mine above about Porky's II, will gain you extra points.

You also get extra points for posting about this contest on your blog.

Deadline: October 12
Prizes: Good. I'll randomly draw 4 winners and I'll send them gift cards worth real money ($10 to 25).

Enjoyment factor: 10

Oh, and I'll create a post of all the submissions. Please include links to videos, or pictures, if you can, because that will make the post more fun.

My own response (this will surprise no one who knows me) was as follows:

"Doctor Who": Season 1 - we had a meeting with Charles Dickens (doing his "A Christmas Carol" one-man show) in "The Unquiet Dead"; Season 3 - we had a meeting with Shakespeare (lots of quotations in "The Shakespeare Code", plus references to Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle", Harry Potter and the "Back to the Future" fims - talk about giving me a Nerdgasm !), poetry quotations from T S Eliot in "The Lazarus Experiment", and part of Laurence Binyon's "For The Fallen" at the end of "The Family of Blood". In addition there were the episodes with historical themes (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, Tooth and Claw, The Girl in the Fireplace, The Idiot's Lantern, Evolution of the Daleks/Daleks in Manhattan, and Human Nature/Family of Blood).

And that doesn't include the many, many meetings with literary and/or historical characters that were scattered throughout the Classic Who series.

Plus which, David Tennant's going to be playing in "Hamlet" and "Love's Labour's Lost" next summer/autumn - that's bound to get at least a few non-Shakespeare fans into the theatre !

And yes, I AM going to see David in "Hamlet" - my family have agreed to fund a trip to Stratford as my 40th birthday present next year - and a friend who's an RSC member is hoping to get us both a ticket once the online booking opens this week - so hopefully I'll get the date I want (September 5) which is a matinee performance with a full-cast "talkback" session afterwards. And did I mention Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation and X-Men fame is also in "Hamlet"? That makes it major Nerdgasm territory for me !!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Poetry Friday 65

It would have been Roald Dahl's 91st birthday yesterday - and as some of you know, my brain currently resides in the Whoniverse, so I thought this poem would be apt:


The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.

* * * * * *
"All right!" you'll cry. "All right!" you'll say,
"But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children! Please explain!"
We'll answer this by asking you,
"What used the darling ones to do?
How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?"
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY... USED... TO... READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
TO READ some more.

You'll find the poem in full here.

Oh, and in case you're wondering - I AM still reading - I'm not spending all my spare time in watching Doctor Who, but I've just got very lax about posting reviews because all my writing energy is going into my Tenth Doctor/Martha Jones stories. I was slightly appalled to discover this week that I've completed 26 of them since mid-July, at a total of nearly 70, 000 words (that's actually the equivalent of a novel in three months!) But writing these stories is helping me to stay a bit saner whilst I'm working from home so I guess it's not that surprising that I've written so much !

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[The Doctor, Capt. Jack and Rose are cornered by the "Empty children".]

The Doctor: Go to your room. Go to your room! I mean it. I'm very, very angry with you. I'm very, very cross! Go to your room!
[The children lurch away.]
The Doctor: I'm really glad that worked. Those would have been terrible last words.

("The Doctor Dances", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poetry Friday 64

Today's poetry offering is from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

My Lost Youth

Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of a Lapland song
Is haunting my memory still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
And islands that were the Hesperides
Of all my boyish dreams.
And the burden of that old song,
It murmurs and whispers still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the black wharves and the slips,
And the sea-tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And beauty and mystery of the ships,
And the magic of the sea.
And the voice of that wayward song
Is singing and saying still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
And the fort upon the hill;
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
The drum-beat repeated o'er and o'er,
And the bugle wild and shrill.
And the music of that old song
Throbs in my memory still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the sea-fight far away,
How it thundered o'er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o'erlooking the tranquil bay
Where they in battle died.
And the sound of that mournful song
Goes through me with a thrill:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I can see the breezy dome of groves,
The shadows of Deering's Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a Sabbath sound, as of doves
In quiet neighborhoods.
And the verse of that sweet old song,
It flutters and murmurs still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
Across the schoolboy's brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
Are longings wild and vain.
And the voice of that fitful song
Sings on, and is never still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

There are things of which I may not speak;
There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
And a mist before the eye.
And the words of that fatal song
Come over me like a chill:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

Strange to me now are the forms I meet
When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o'ershadow each well-known street,
As they balance up and down
Are singing the beautiful song,
Are sighing and whispering still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

And Deering's Woods are fresh and fair,
And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[Captain Jack commenting on the Doctor's leather jacket and Rose's Union Jack top.]

Jack: The way you guys are blending in with the local color- I mean flag girl is bad enough, but U-Boat captain?

("The Empty Child", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: You're very sick.
Doctor Constantine: Dying, I should think. I just haven't been able to find the time. Are you a doctor?
The Doctor: I have my moments.

("The Empty Child", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group Reminder

This is just a quick reminder that the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone discussion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Sheila of Wands and Worlds posted two lengthy comments overnight which are thoughtful and invite further discussion, so if you have the chance (and I realise most are busy with school about to or already starting up again for the new term), please stop by, and read and comment !

* * * * * *

And yes, I am still here - still reading others' Blogs, though not posting much on my own. Sorry - the fiction writing bug that gripped me mid-July (to write Tenth Doctor/Martha stories) simply hasn't let go of me yet, so I'm still busy writing lots of shorter stories for them. I presume the pair's death-grip on my brain will lessen eventually and then I'll actually get back to writing other things...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Poetry Friday 63

*Phew* It's the start of a long weekend here in England and I've got Monday off work, yay ! So after an exhausting week that included a 3.45 fire alarm call (uh, thanks...), I'm feeling glad that it's Friday and in a little bit of a contemplative mood, so I chose a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem for you this week:

The Candle Indoors

SOME candle clear burns somewhere I come by.
I muse at how its being puts blissful back
With yellowy moisture mild night’s blear-all black,
Or to-fro tender trambeams truckle at the eye.
By that window what task what fingers ply,
I plod wondering, a-wanting, just for lack
Of answer the eagerer a-wanting Jessy or Jack
There God to aggrándise, God to glorify.—

Come you indoors, come home; your fading fire
Mend first and vital candle in close heart's vault:
You there are master, do your own desire;
What hinders? Are you beam-blind, yet to a fault
In a neighbour deft-handed? Are you that liar
And, cast by conscience out, spendsavour salt?

This week's round up is over at The Book Mine Set.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: And I'm looking for a blonde in a Union Jack. A specific one, mind you, I didn't just wake up this morning with a craving.

("The Empty Child", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday 62

It's been unofficially confirmed that the incomparable David Tennant will be doing Hamlet with the RSC in Stratford next year (and no, it's not certain whether that means he's leaving "Doctor Who" at the end of the fourth season, which is currently being filmed). Since I studied Hamlet as part of my degree but have loved the play for many, many years, I thought I would share some lines from what is one of my favourite plays.

The first section is Polonius' advice to Laertes (Act 1, Scene III):

Yet here, Laertes! Aboard, aboard for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for.
There ... my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel but, being in,
Bear't that th' opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man;
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

And how very wise is Shakespeare: "to thine own self be true"...

The second section is Hamlet's famous soliloquy which I memorised years and years ago and can still recite (Act III, Scene I):

To be, or not to be : that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: (To a stray kitten) One day, just one day, maybe, I'm going to meet somebody who gets the whole "don't wander off" thing. 900 years of phone box travel and it's the only thing left that surprises me. (The TARDIS phone rings and he looks around in surprise.)

("The Empty Child", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Poetry Friday 61

I missed Poetry Friday last week - I kept putting it off until later in the day bceause I'd been so busy during the week that I hadn't picked a poem beforehand, and the next thing I knew it was bedtime and too late... That's the first time I've missed it since Kelly instituted it - although I've occasionally done Poetry Thursday or Poetry Saturday posts, I'd never not posted a poem before. So I was determined not to miss it this week and fortunately the Writer's Almanac reminded me this week of John Keat's Endymion:

A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.

You can read the whole poem here. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Big A, little a.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: I say 'spaceship', you're not interested, I say 'time machine'..."
Rose: I didn't plan it, I just saw it happening and thought I could stop it.
The Doctor: Ah, I did it again: I picked another stupid ape. I should have known. It's not about showing you the universe. It never is. It's about the universe doing something for you.
Rose: What's the problem? He's never gonna be famous, he's not gonna start World War Three or anything.
The Doctor: Rose, there's a man alive in the world who wasn't alive before. An ordinary man. That's the most important thing in creation! The whole world's different because he's alive!
Rose: So you'd have him dead?
The Doctor: I didn't say that...
Rose: No, I get it: for once, you're not the most important man in my life.
The Doctor: Rose, my whole planet was destroyed, my family - do you think it never occurred to me to go back and save them?

("Father's Day", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group

This month (and next) we're discussing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so please head on over and add your tuppence or two cents' worth - that's assuming you're not already all talked-out about this one...

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Edge of the Forest Volume II - Summer issue

The summer issue of The Edge of the Forest is finally up. It has many exciting features for you, as well as interviews, reviews, and much, much more. In short, here's what's in store this month:

The Edge of the Forest will return September 10.

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Just before ye hasten away to read it, don't forget the very spoilerific discussion of Harry Potter 7 will start tomorrow over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone - everyone's welcome to join in, so see you there...

Now ye may hasten away to The Edge of the Forest !

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[While The Doctor and Rose are in mannacles]
The Editor: Now, there's an interesting point. Is a slave a slave if he doesn't know he's been enslaved?
The Doctor: Yes.
The Editor: Oh, I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I'm gonna get? "Yes"?
The Doctor: Yes.
The Editor: [chuckles] You're no fun.
The Doctor: Let me out of these mannacles. Then you'll find out how much fun I am.
The Editor: [To Rose] Oooh, he's tough, isn't he?

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Poetry Friday 60

With large chunks of Oxfordshire (including the area around the station) and Gloucestershire (my parents' home county) under water this week, I thought this poem by John Clare was appropriate:

The Flood

On Lolham Brigs in wild and lonely mood
I've seen the winter floods their gambols play
Through each old arch that trembled while I stood
Bent o'er its wall to watch the dashing spray
As their old stations would be washed away
Crash came the ice against the jambs and then
A shudder jarred the arches - yet once more
It breasted raving waves and stood agen
To wait the shock as stubborn as before
- White foam brown crested with the russet soil
As washed from new plough lands would dart beneath
Then round and round a thousand eddies boil
On tother side - then pause as if for breath
One minute - and engulphed - like life in death

Whose wrecky stains dart on the floods away
More swift than shadows in a stormy day
Straws trail and turn and steady - all in vain
The engulfing arches shoot them quickly through
The feather dances flutters and again
Darts through the deepest dangers still afloat
Seeming as faireys whisked it from the view
And danced it o'er the waves as pleasures boat
Light hearted as a thought in May -
Trays - uptorn bushes - fence demolished rails
Loaded with weeds in sluggish motions stray
Like water monsters lost each winds and trails
Till near the arches - then as in affright
It plunges - reels - and shudders out of sight

Waves trough - rebound - and fury boil again
Like plunging monsters rising underneath
Who at the top curl up a shaggy main
A moment catching at a surer breath
Then plunging headlong down and down - and on
Each following boil the shadow of the last
And other monsters rise when those are gone
Crest their fringed waves - plunge onward and are past
- The chill air comes around me ocean blea
From bank to bank the waterstrife is spread
Strange birds like snow spots o'er the huzzing sea
Hang where the wild duck hurried past and fled
On roars the flood - all restless to be free
Like trouble wandering to eternity

So far I've been unaffected by the flooding, but my parents and brother are without mains water and have been for two days - although there's no flooding in their area - we believe, but haven't been able to find out for sure - that the water company, in its infinite wisdom, have diverted water from their area to one of the flood-affected areas - which makes perfect sense (or not!)

My annoyance over this is made greater by the fact that the Government, in its infinite wisdom, allows planning permission to be given for building on flood plains. They're called "flood plains" for a REASON you know !!

This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Jone, aka Ms Mac, over at Check it Out so be sure to - check it out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Rose: I'll let the Doctor describe it.
The Doctor: The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Planet Earth is at its height, covered with megacities, five moons, population 96 billion, the centre of a galactic domain that stretches across a million planets and species.
[Adam faints.]
The Doctor: He's your boyfriend.
Rose: Not any more.

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J K Rowling

No, this is not a review - I'm saving that for the forthcoming HP7 discussion over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone in early August.

I have finished it though. It took me around seven hours in total - and I'm actually relieved to say I enjoyed it. I wasn't sure I would as I'd been resenting the prospect of reading it so much since rading it would be taking me out of the Whoniverse for several hours - the longest period I've spent *out* of the Whoniverse since I became immersed in it back in January. But once I started reading, the story tugged me along...

It was interesting reading this book from a fiction writer's point of view. This is the first HP book I've read since I began writing fiction myself and it was intriguing. I think I've mentioned here before that I have the facility to read on more than one level at the same time: I read as a child - wanting to get to the end of the story, hoping for a good ending, and I also read as a "critic" - looking at the structure, themes, language style, etc. And since I took up writing fiction I've been reading books at the level of someone who's also producing fiction - it's given me an extra awareness that I didn't possess when reading as a critic - sometimes that merely means thinking "Hmm, not sure I'd have written/structured that like that..." Sometimes it means a flare of admiring envy at the way something has been expressed and the desire to have that kind of mastery myself.

What it means for my reading of Harry Potter is that I've an extra appreciation of how bloody hard it is to tie up all the loose ends of a seven book series in a satisfying way that also gives readers at least a half-way decent story. And I think Rowling achieved that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Oh and I don't totally hate the children's cover any longer - I still prefer the adult one, though ! But seeing it on book it seemed a little less morbid than in the photos (go figure !) And now that I know to what the UK cover relates, I'm impressed that it actually *fits* the story so well !

Friday, July 20, 2007

Live Webchat with Anthony Horowitz

Now this, in my view, is something worth getting excited about (certainly more than the publication of the last HP book - yes, I know, I'm hopeless - but the boy with glasses has been pushed out of my affections by the lanky Time Lord with glasses, what can I say ?)

From the Anthony Horowitz website:

Do you want to know what's in store for the five Gatekeepers following Nightrise?
Or how Alex Rider bites back in his next adventure, Snakehead?
Well, now's your chance to find out...

Anthony Horowitz will be hosting a live web chat from 14:00 - 15:00 (BST) on Tuesday 31 July 2007.

With Snakehead, Alex Rider's eagerly-awaited seventh mission, out on Wednesday 31 October we're sure you'll have masses of questions to ask Anthony.

All you have to do is log on to the link below at 14:00 GMT on Tuesday 31 July armed with your questions: Power of Five Chat.

Poetry Friday 59

It's been many years since I saw a Kingfisher, but I like this poem about the Kingfisher by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
What I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is?
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

This is quite a complicated poem and you might find this lecture by poet Desmond Egan, delivered during the 2004 International Gerard Manley Hopkins Summer School, useful in illuminating it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor Who Book Reviews

I've been spending so much time *writing* fiction of late (I began a series of Tenth Doctor/Martha Jones short stories last week - I didn't mean to, of course - a plot bunny came bounding into my head and wouldn't leave !), that I've not been writing any reviews of the fiction I read, and although I've just re-read Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon the Cutpurse and The Tar Man (still brilliant on a third and second reading, respectively), I owe you reviews of about six other books. So I'm combining quick reviews of the latest three Doctor Who novels featuring the Tenth Doctor and Doctor-in-Training Martha Jones. All these books feature the Doctor and Martha Jones as played by David Tennant and Freema Agyeman in the acclaimed hit series from BBC Television.

The first of these is Stephen Cole's Sting of the Zygons which brings back Tenth Doctor actor David Tennant's favourite monster from the Classic Who series, the Zygons.

The TARDIS lands the Doctor and Martha in the Lake District in 1909 (although he'd been aiming for Russia), where a small village is being terrorised by a gigantic scaly monster. All the local huntsman are taking part in the search for the elusive "Beast of Westmorland" as it's been dubbed, and a number of explorers, naturalists and hunters from across the country are descending on the area. Even King Edward VII is on the way to join the search, offering a Knighthood for whoever can find the Beast. But there is a more sinister presence at work in the Lakes than a mere monster on the rampage, and the Doctor and Martha soon become embroiled in the plans of an old and terrifying enemy of the Doctor's. As the hunters find themselves becoming the hunted, a desperate battle of wits begins - with the future of the entire world at stake.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Reggie Yates (who played Martha's younger brother Leo in the TV series).

* * * * * *

The second book is Jacqueline Rayner's The Last Dodo in which the Doctor and Martha set off in search of a real live dodo and find themselves transported by the TARDIS to the mysterious Museum of the Last Ones (MotLO). In the Earth section there they discover one specimen of every extinct creature up to the present day; there are billions of them, from the tiniest insect to the biggest dinosaur, all of them still alive, kept in suspended animation. The Museum's only job is to preserve each species by collecting the last surviving specimen of wach creature from all over the universe.

This book is particularly interesting in that Rayner does something that "Doctor Who" authors seldom dare to do - she writes sections of the story from Martha's perspective, in the past tense. Not only does this make a refreshing change, style-wise but it's also fascinating to experience first-hand Martha's thoughts about events, including an accidental genocide that she perpetrates (which, fortunately, the Doctor is able to reverse), as well her larger feelings about the Doctor and their travels together.

Unfortunately these passages have clearly been written with a younger audience in mind so they aren't as detailed as they might have been. Pleasingly whilst Martha's television story arc concentrates a lot on her unrequited feelings for the Doctor, Rayner makes only fleeting references to this in the story. The book also features the amusing device of the "I-Spyder Book of Earth Creatures Guide" which the Doctor gives to Martha before they arrive at the Museum, and which underpins the whole novel in a very humorous Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy manner.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Freema Agyeman.

* * * * * *

Martin Day's Wooden Heart features the "Castor", a vast starship which is apparently deserted and has been left drifting slowly in the void of deep space. Martha and the Doctor explore the ship and discover that they may not be alone on board it after all. It appears that someone has survived the disaster that overcame the rest of the crew. The pair try to discover what continues to power the vessel - and why a stretch of wooded countryside has suddenly appeared in the middle of the ship. As they journey through the forest, the Doctor and Martha find a mysterious, fogbound village that is traumatised by some of its children going missin and by tales of its own destruction. The Doctor and Martha find themselves in separate races against time to save the village, Martha from with the forest and the Doctor from outside in the ship.

There is also an Audiobook available, read by Adjoa Andoh (who played Martha's mother Francine in the TV series)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

[The Doctor, encouraging Adam to explore the station]
The Doctor: The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in. Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers... or is that just me?

("The Long Game", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

From the Guardian Online

There's an interesting article in today's Guardian by Sarah Crown, one of this year's Forward Poetry Prize Judges. She writes:

In the run up to the judging meeting for this year's Forward prizes shortlist, I read nothing but poetry for three weeks. No newspapers, no magazines, no reference books and, crucially, no novels. Nothing. But. Poetry. It was a mind-bending experience.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining, quite the opposite. I'm a sucker for poetry. I'll happily read a collection from cover to cover, and usually get through four or five new ones every month - as well as dipping in and out of volumes and anthologies I've read before. But to consume so much - somewhere in the region of 120 collections, I think - in such a concentrated way, without the leavening effect of prose, effected a profound and - to me, at least - fascinating shift in the way I read.

It's an interesting article that's worth reading in full. I can't actually imagine reading nothing but poetry for three weeks - or even three days ! I love my narrative fixes - even when I'm reading a lot of non-fiction (as I am now for researching my story, "Improbable Journeys"), I still like to read some fiction in bed before I sleep to allow my brain to unwind towards sleep. But I confess I'm intrigued !

Friday, July 13, 2007

Poetry Friday 58

Today is the birthday of the rural poet John Clare, of whose poetry Edmund Blunden was a champion.


The water-lilies on the meadow stream
Again spread out their leaves of glossy green;
And some, yet young, of a rich copper gleam,
Scarce open, in the sunny stream are seen,
Throwing a richness upon Leisure's eye,
That thither wanders in a vacant joy;
While on the sloping banks, luxuriantly,
Tending of horse and cow, the chubby boy,
In self-delighted whims, will often throw
Pebbles, to hit and splash their sunny leaves;
Yet quickly dry again, they shine and glow
Like some rich vision that his eye deceives;
Spreading above the water, day by day,
In dangerous deeps, yet out of danger's way.

Clare was born in Nottinghamshire on July 13, 1793 and may be the poorest person to ever become a major writer in English literature. His father was a peasant farmer and the family often had to live off the proceeds from a single apple tree in their yard. Clare went to the village school between the ages of five and eleven, and having learnt to read and write, he decided that he wanted to write poetry.

He was forced to support himself by working as a farm labourer. Malnutrition had stunted his growth and he was never more than 5 feet tall, so he couldn't do any heavy work. Most of the time he weeded, stacked hay bales and looked after the animals. Since he couldn't afford to buy paper, he made his own from birch bark; he also made his own ink. However some of his poems were written on old envelopes.

Whilst other romantic poets, such as Wordsworth and Keats, were writing nature poetry they wrote about nature as a metaphor for something else. Clare, however, always tried to write about nature as it was, the thing itself.

His first poetry book came out in 1820 and the fact that he was a peasant helped to make it a bestseller. However, there was a bank crash a few years later, and then a recession in England so his books sold fewer and fewer copies, and he eventually moved back to the farm.

John Clare wrote: "I live here among the ignorant like a lost man ... they hardly dare talk in my company for fear I should mention them in my writings." He began suffering from a psychiatric disorder and his behavior became more and more erratic. He began seeing things such as spirits and demons, and was committed to an asylum where he forgot who he was; at some points he thought he was Lord Byron, and wrote some poems in Byron's style. He escaped from the asylum at one point but was returned and lived there for the rest of his life.

In all Clare wrote about 3,500 poems of which only 400 were published in his lifetime, and his great importance as an English poet has only become clear in the last few decades, in part due to the work begun by Edmund Blunden, himself a Nature poet even in the midst of the First World War.

Today's Poetry Friday round up will be hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Dalek: [appears on a monitor] I shall speak only to the Doctor.
The Doctor: [sees the fire sprinklers in action, raining water upon the Dalek] You're gonna get rusty.
Dalek: I fed off the DNA of Rose Tyler. Extrapolating the biomass of a time-traveller regenerated me.
The Doctor: What's your next trick?
Dalek: I have been searching for the Daleks.
The Doctor: Yeah, I saw. Downloading the internet. What did you find?
Dalek: I scanned your satellites and radio telescopes.
The Doctor: And?
Dalek: Nothing. [Beat] Where shall I get my orders now?!
The Doctor: You're just a soldier without commands.
Dalek: Then I shall follow the Primary Order: the Dalek instinct to destroy, to conquer!!
The Doctor: But what for? What's the point?! Don't you see? It's all gone. Everything you were, everything you stood for.
Dalek: ... Then what should I do?
The Doctor: All right, then. If you want orders, follow this one. Kill yourself.
Dalek: The Daleks must survive!
The Doctor: The Daleks have failed! Now why don't you finish the job, and make the Daleks extinct?! Rid the universe of your filth! Why don't you just DIE?!
Dalek: [Beat] You would make a good Dalek.

("Dalek", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Campaign to Save the Potterverse

I confidently predict this will cause uproar in some circles: Waterstone's has launched an online petition to Save Harry Potter. The site proclaims:

There has never been a place like Hogwarts. There has never been a writer like JK Rowling. And there has never, ever been a character like Harry Potter. Millions, perhaps billions of us love reading his adventures, and we never want them to end.

The professed aim of the site is "to get one million names by July 21st (the launch date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)" at which point the petition will be presented to J K Rowling, who during a recent interview on the UK chat-show Friday Night With Jonathan Ross apparently agreed that you should "never say 'never'" with regard to the possibility that she might write more fiction set in the Potterverse in future. (You can see something of the JKR interview with Jonathan Ross on YouTube.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Book and Blog News

I meant to post about this last week, but got bogged down in a post-weekend-off work slog; still it's not too late to be relevant. The Bath Festival of Children's Literature programme is now available and amongst the literally dozens of fab events they're holding are the following which made me squeak with pleasure, then moan with despair as I don't think I'll get to any of them. The second one is the one that got me most excited and despairing:

Wednesday 26th September
F1 5.30 – 6.30pm, The Forum, £5
A brilliant performer and one of the most popular writers for young people today, Anthony Horowitz will fire up the imagination with a sneak preview of his eagerly awaited new Alex Rider novel, Snakehead, discuss his bestselling series The Power of Five and deliver a quickfire question-and-answer session covering his writing for page and screen.

Friday 28th September
H2 7 – 8pm, Guildhall, £4.50
Accompanying the current Doctor Who BBC TV Series is a successful range of tie-in novels – brand new and original adventures featuring the Doctor and Martha written by some of the best writers around. This is a rare chance to hear many of these Doctor Who experts talk about how they write for the last of the Timelords. Join Mark Michalowski, Mark Morris, Paul Magrs, Justin Richards and Steve Cole in conversation with Michael Stevens, Doctor Who Range Editor at Bath-based BBC Audiobooks, for an evening of fascinating insight into everyone’s favourite time-traveller.

Sunday 23rd September
C5 11 – 12pm, Assembly Rooms, £5
You lucky people! Come and meet award-winning fantasy author Garth Nix in his first UK appearance for more than two years! Hear him talking about his current Keys to the Kingdom series, plus the legendary Old Kingdom trilogy and Shade's Children. Don't miss your chance to hear this master of storytelling explain all.

Sunday 30th September
K16 6 – 7pm, Guildhall, £4.50
A rare chance to catch together three great fantasy authors discussing their craft. Frank Beddor is a best-selling author who has written two bold fantasies inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Catherine Fisher's past work is popular and very highly acclaimed. Her new novel, Incarceron, is her hugely enjoyable yet terrifying vision of the future. David Clement-Davies unique brand of literary, anthropomorphic animal fantasy has won him rave reviews all over the world. His new novel, Fell, is a sequel to The Sight.

The chance to hear Justin Richards and Stephen Cole, whose Doctor Who novels I've really enjoyed, is fabulous, but 8 pm talk requires an overnight stay and as things stand, I can't afford it...

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Nancy, of the Journey Woman Blog, has just celebrated her Blogiversary (it was mine last week but did I remember? Nope ! That's two years in a row I've missed it!) and she's holding a Lives in Letters Contest during July.

She says:

The prizes:

I'll award 4 prizes, each a $25 gift card. Probably Starbucks gift cards, though I might shake it up a bit and go with Target gift cards too. Plus each winner will get one mystery prize of small monetary but huge sentimental value.

The deadline:

All entries must be in by July 31, midnight. I announce winners on August 2, which just happens to be my 39th birthday.

If you want to know more about how to participate, hightail it over to Journey Woman now !

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted my review of Doctor Who season 3 episodes 12 and 13 "The Sound of Drums" and "The Last of the Time Lords" (the final two episodes) over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Question for readers of Time Travel Tales

I'm hoping (see previous post) to properly start work on my non-Who Time Travel tale next week and I've been thinking about it a good deal in the meantime. The one thing I've been wondering is whether or not to have an object that precipitates Danny's time-travelling. My original idea was that he would not have such an object - no mechanical or magical machine that causes him to time-travel, so no TARDIS ("Doctor Who"), no DeLorean ("Back to the Future"), no Art Deco radio (London Calling), no Rift ("Torchwood"/"Doctor Who"), no bags of Time (Johnny and the Bomb), etc.

But I remembered conversations about Susan Cooper's King of Shadows, in which young Nat Field travels back to 1599 without the use of a particular time-travel device and now I'm wondering which method readers prefer ? If I choose to go for the no device option, how much of an explanation would you want for how Danny manages to travel in time ? Personally I'm quite happy without a detailed explanation (I think part of the reason I love King of Shadows is the mystery that surrounds Nat's time-travelling, but I'm curious to know what others prefer.

Poetry Friday 57

Time for some more Shakespeare this week. This Sonnet turned up in my inbox last week via the daily "The Writer's Almanac" email, so I thought I would share it with you.

Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

It seemed particularly apt following my poems last week to commemorate the anniversary of the start of World War 1 and because I've been doing some WW1-related background reading for my non-Who Time Travel tale, which I hope to begin work on properly next week, work schedule permitting (I've taken to getting up at 5 am to write before breakfast since I can't seem to fit any writing into the day and I'm far too shattered most evenings).

This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Farm School.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Rose: [Approaches the damaged Dalek] ... Hello?
[no response] Are you in pain? My name's Rose Tyler. I've got a friend who can help, he's called the Doctor. What's your name?
Dalek: [weak] ... Yes...
Rose: What?
Dalek: [eyestalk lifts feebly] ... I... am... in pain... They... torture me... but still they fear me... Do you fear me?...
Rose: [soft] No.
[the Dalek's eyestalk lowers again, as if in despair]
Dalek: ... I... am... dying...
Rose: No, we can help --
Dalek: ... I... welcome death... But... I am glad... that before I die... I met a human... who was not afraid...
Rose: Isn't there anything I can do?
Dalek: ... My race... is dead... I... shall die... alone...
[Rose touches the Dalek's dome to comfort it]
Adam: Rose, no!
[Rose pulls her hand away in pain. And the Dalek is triumphant.]
Dalek: [Voice volume steadily increases] Genetic material extrapolated! Initiate cellular RECONSTRUCTION!!!

("Dalek", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

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My review of the season 3 two part finale will go up later this week as I've not yet had a chance to re-watch the 13th episode since it aired on Saturday.

Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group

Just a quick reminder that the discussion of Louis Sachar's The Boy Who Lost His Face has now started. Feel free to pop over and participate if you've read it.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Harry Potter tag

Sheila of Wands and Worlds tagged me for this Harry Potter meme that's doing the rounds right now.

1. Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?
Since I don't drink alcohol and have a lactose intolerance, Pumpkin Juice...

2. What House would you most likely (or want to) be in in Hogwarts?
Without a doubt, Ravenclaw.

3. If you were an animagus, what animal would you turn into?
Like Sheila, I'd probably be a cat.

4. What character do you empathize with, or resemble best?
I most resemble Hermione (I was nicknamed Hermione by one friend whilst doing my degree; I most empathise with Harry though...

5. What position do you play at Quidditch?
None - can I be excused even watching it so I can spend more time in the library?

6. Which teacher is your favorite?
McGonagall and Lupin - I can't choose between them.

7. Any Harry Potter 7 predictions?
Sure - over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

I'm not sure who's been tagged for this and who hasn't, so if you want to pick it up, feel free.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Poetry Friday 56

Yesterday saw the anniversary of the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the catalyst for the start of the First World War, so today I bring you war-related poetry. Whilst the First World War is famous for producing many memorable poems, that was not the first time that poetry was written about war. The following comes from Shakespeare's Henry V:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

(William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3, lines 40-70)

This next poem reflects the utter futility of the First World War in a handful of lines:


We'd gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke.
Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.
The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps
And trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair,
Bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime.
And then the rain began, -- the jolly old rain !
A yawning soldier knelt against the bank,
Staring across the morning blear with fog;
He wondered when the Allemands would get busy;
And then, of course, they started with five-nines
Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud.
Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.
He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape, -- loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.
An officer came blundering down the trench:
'Stand-to and man the fire-step!' On he went . . .
Gasping and bawling, 'Fire-step . . . counter-attack !'
Then the haze lifted. Bombing on the right
Down the old sap: machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front.
'O Christ, they're coming at us!' Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rifle . . . rapid fire . . .
And started blazing wildly . . . then a bang
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle: none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans . . .
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.

Siegfried Sassoon, 1917 (© George Sassoon)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Scholar's Blog Book Discussion Group - Reminder

Just a quick reminder that on July 3rd, the Scholar's Blog Discussion Group will begin discussion Louis Sachar's The Boy Who Lost His Face - everyone who's read it is welcome to participate (and yes, this is the second non-fantasy novel in a row, but we'll make up for that properly in August and September by discussing the final Harry Potter book.)

Private Peaceful - Michael Morpurgo

I've been meaning to read Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful ever since it came out but just never got around to it until this week. This novel charts the childhood of young Thomas Peaceful in the early years of the 20th century, and his eventual underage enlistment into the British army alongside his older brother to help fight in the First World War. More than anything else, this is a poignant story of childhood and war, and about the many life-changing effects a war has on those involved in it. It also reflects some of the brutality of the commanding regimes and the relentless squalor of trench warfare. This books is definitely not for the squeamish as Morpurgo tells the truth of life in the war as it really was.

The book opens at "Five Past Ten" (all the chapter titles are times) as "Tommo" Peaceful is recalling his childhood whilst waiting out the night on one of the First World War battlefields. He remembers his big brother Charlie taking him to school for his first day (and how much he didn't want to go), the tragica, accidental death of his father, his mother working hard to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table in spite of the grudging support of her husband's employer and Tommo's aunt. He remembers his brother Big Joe, who is called simple by some but who is very special to Tommo. He also recalls the only girl in his life, Molly, and how his brother Charlie took her away from him. But as the world turned to war, he was forced, like so many young men, to grow up fast. Charlie and Tommo enlist together and are sent to France almost immediately, to what could is most accurately described as hell on Earth. Bullets, bombs, death, shells, noise, dirt, disease, rats and stench fill their lives, and Charlie and Tommo fight for their lives and fight to stay together - facing certain death in the face every time they try to advance the British lines.

I won't tell you the twist at the end of this story, but it made me sob unrestrainedly to read the last few pages.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Unresolved - T K Welsh

T K Welsh's The Unresolved is based on a true story. In 1904 a fire on board the steamboat General Slocum killed more than 1000 people, mostly woman and children, most of whom were German immigrants, on New York's East River. Many people suffered as a result of this tragic event and Welsh has written a hauntingly compelling novel that looks at who was to blame for this tragedy. The focus of the story is 15 year old Mallory Meer who shared her first kiss with the boy she loved, Dustin Brauer, the son of a Jewish beer brewer; he's accused of starting the fire, and he and his father are both persecuted by the Lutheran German community of Kleindeutschland. Mallory's spirit haunts the community, moving through time and space, influencing people, until justice is done and the person who really started the fire is discovered.

I don't want to say too much more about this book because that would spoil it, I feel. Just find a copy, if you can, and read it; it's well written and very moving.

I received my copy of The Unresolved from the author.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: I could have killed that Dalek in its cell. But you stopped me.
Van Statten: It was the prize of my collection--
The Doctor: [loses it] YOUR COLLECTION?!? Well was it WORTH it?! Worth all those men's deaths, worth Rose?! Let me tell you something, Van Statten. Mankind goes into space to explore. To be part of something greater!
Van Statten: Exactly! I wanted to touch the stars!
The Doctor: You just want to drag the stars down and stick them underground, underneath tons of sand, and dirt, and label them! You're about as far from the stars as you can get!

("Dalek", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Skulduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy

I saw Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant in the bookshops and was intrigued by the jaunty skeleton on the cover. Then Kelly H of Big A, little a reviewed it very favourably and I knew I had to get a copy from the library.

For 12 year old Stephanie Edgley everything starts when her uncle Gordon Edgley dies. Gordon wasn't much of a family man and Stephanie was the only one who was close to him. Although saying that is a bit of a stretch; it would probably be more accurate to say that he tolerated her presence better, and more frequently, than he did the presence of the rest of his family. But that doesn't completely explain why he leaves his house, his fortune and his book royalties to Stephanie. Actually, there's a lot of unexplained things about Gordon, even more so now that he's gone. Like the strange man who turns up at the funeral wrapped tightly in a scarf, sunglasses, and an overcoat, so that you can't glimpse even an inch of his skin. That was the first time that Stephanie encountered Skulduggery Pleasant.

The next time they meet is at the reading of Gordon's will. The one where he left most of his things to his twelve-year-old niece, much to the dismay of Stephanie's aunt and other uncle, who get a boat (Uncle Fergus gets seasick), a car (they already have a car), and a brooch (which doesn't even have any jewels on it). Stephanie's parents, incidentally, get a villa in France. Skulduggery Pleasant however, receives the strangest bequest of all, some very cryptic advice. Ye he seems completely content.

This was not to be the last encounter between Stephanie and Skulduggery, however. After spending most of a day exploring part of Stephanie's new house, she and her mother get in the car to go home only to find that the car won't start. A mechanic comes to fix it and has to tow it back to the garage. Stephanie convinces her mother that she can stay at the house for an hour or so whilst the car is being fixed. However, the storm which started whilst they were waiting for the mechanic to arrive grows worse and the road to the house is flooded. Stephanie is stuck at her new house for the night. Stephanie couldn't be happier, though - she likes the idea of freedom and solitude - unfortunately it only lasts a few minutes before someone is trying to break into the house, and somehow Stephanie doesn't believe him when he says he won't hurt her if she just lets him in to get what he wants. Fortunately, Skulduggery Pleasant arrives to rescue Stephanie - and what a strange rescuer he turns out to be. In his struggle with the intruder, his hat and scarf fall off to reveal he's actually a skeleton! This promps dozens of questions, such as who and what is Skulduggery ? How did he get to know her uncle ? Why was he at the house ? How is it that he can throw fire and can he teach her to do it ? And how does he stay upright when there's no skin and muscle to hold him together ?

Skulduggery Pleasant is an exciting adventure with a fun plot, well drawn characters and a great sense of humour. I foresee this book being immensely popular with children and adults alike (like Harry Potter, but with more humour and far less angst...) I hope it's the start of a series. If you can get hold of it, do read it - it's such fun !

There's also a Skulduggery Pleasant Audiobook available - and of course, it's available from There's a Skulduggery Pleasant website which is quite good fun, and you might want to check out the Book Trailer - that's the first Book Trailer I've actually made a point of watching, and it was quite amusing.