Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Time-Travel Tale

In case you missed it in my 8 Things Meme, I've now made the decision to put aside my "Doctor Who" novella series to write this non-Who tale that's bugging my brain. It's becoming very insistent (much as my fourth Doctor Who tale did) about being written, and I can see that if I don't sit down to write it, I shall be driven totally to distraction (as if I'm not distracted enough !) So I've pulled out some books to read, ear-marked a trip to the library for more books, and scribbled further notes. I'll begin the preliminary reading whilst I'm finishing the current 6th Who story-in-progress and then see where I go from there. Expect updates as and when I've some news to share - it'll be a couple of weeks or so before I begin writing the first draft - don't be surprised if the number of books I review drops even further whilst I'm doing the preliminary reading.

On the one hand, I'm excited at the thought of doing this story, but on the other, I'm terrified, as it means starting completely from scratch - new characters, new universe (though it's based in our world), new just-about-everything in fact ! And no familiar Doctor to hold my hand when I hit a rough spot...

Oh, and if you're interested, it features an older teen boy (I thought he was older than that when I first "saw" him, but it turns out that the uniform he was wearing fooled me) - so I guess that makes it a YA tale. Not that I'm writing it for anyone except me (but yes, I'll share it with others if they want to read it !)

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: If we're gonna find their weakness, we need to know where they're from. So, judging by their body shape, that narrows it down to about 5000 planets in travelling distance. Now what else do we know? Information!"
Harriet Jones: They're green.
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Rose: Good sense of smell.
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Harriet Jones: They can smell adrenaline.
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Harriet Jones: The pig technology!
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Rose: The spaceship in the Thames - you said slipstream engine.
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Rose: They hunt like it's a ritual.
The Doctor: Narrows it down!
Harriet Jones: Wait! Did you notice when they fart, if you'll pardon the word, it doesn't just smell like a fart, if you'll pardon the word, it's something else, what is it?
Rose: Bad breath!
Harriet Jones: That's it.
The Doctor: Calcium decay! Now that narrows it down!
Rose: We're getting there, Mum!
The Doctor: What else... what else... Hyphenated surnames. Of course! That narrows it down to one planet! Raxacoricofallapatorius!
Mickey Smith: Oh, great, we could write them a letter.

("World War 3", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thinking Blogger

Kelly has also tagged me today as a Thinking Blogger. This award started appropriately enough at The Thinking Blog. Now I'm fairly surprised by this because, of late, my Blog's been fairly frivolous from a book-reviewing point of view - lots of raving about "Doctor Who" (Yes, I know TV drama is a form of storytelling - that's why I love it so much - aside from the current Doctor's gorgeous incarnation !), and witterings on about this and that. Not much, I'd have said, to make anyone think (except perhaps along the lines of "Is she ever going to shut about the Doctor Who/David Tennant obsession?"), at least compared to some of my earliest posts way back in July and August of 2005. Still, Kelly has declared me a Thinking Blogger, and who am I to argue with so multi-talented a woman ? (grins)

The rules are as follows:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative gold version of the logo if the silver version isn't to your taste!)

I'd quite like to tag some Bloggers that haven't been tagged before, but I've a sneaking suspicion it's too late in the day for that - so I'm not going to check whether these Bloggers have already been tagged, I'm just going to list five Blogs which I read regularly which make me think for one reason or another (in alphabetical order):

Jen Robinson's Book Page
Lowebrow Blog
Original Content
Wands and Worlds
Wild Rose Reader

Thanks, ladies !

8 Things Meme

I've been tagged for a meme today. This one is the "8 Things Meme" and it comes to me from Kelly H over at Big A, little a. Here are the rules:

Each participant lists eight facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning of the post, before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags eight people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Eight things about me (anyone who's read this Blog lately - or my 100 Things About Me list - will probably know most of these already):

1 - I love "Doctor Who" - it's just about the most awesome TV show airing in the UK right now.

2 - I'm a huge fan of David Tennant (aside from the fact I think he's gorgeous - if a little bit too skinny!), he's the most charistmatic, mesmerising, engaging and compelling actor I've seen in recent years. His range and versatility are extensive, yet he remains refreshingly down-to-Earth.

3 - I got bitten by the fiction writing bug in January (thanks to aforementioned David Tennant and "Doctor Who"), and I'm now a total addict. I'm going to start a non-Who story in a couple of weeks time, once I've finished the current story-in-progress.

4 - I love to whistle, sing or hum along to music - it must drive people crazy but I rarely get moaned at for it !

5 - I absolutely adore Shakespeare.

6 - I once joined a newly formed Reading Group - and it folded two months later (cause and effect ? Hmmm...)

7 - I'm 40 next year - but in my head I'm still 21 !

8 - My favourite children's/YA authors are (in no particular order): Charles Butler, Diana Wynne Jones, Marcus Sedgwick, Rick Riordan, Philip Pullman, Susan Cooper, Linda Buckley-Archer and Terry Pratchett.

Now who am I going to tag ? Knowing my luck, everyone I want to tag has already been tagged - so if I double tag you, I apologise and don't feel you must do this again!

Sheila at Wands and Worlds
Lady_Shrapnell at So Many Books
Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Elaine at Wild Rose Reader
Jules and Eisha at Seven Impossible Things (perhaps you could do one list each if you've been double tagged?)
Susan at Chicken Spaghetti
Nancy at Journey Woman
and Monica of Educating Alice.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I want my brain back !

Six months ago I was still swearing that I didn't have the imagination to write fiction. Then I re-watched New Doctor Who Season 2 and my brain started teeming with ideas, so now I find myself in the midst of a series of novellas featuring the Tenth Doctor and an original companion. You'd think that would be enough for one person - after all, I've written 5 of these novellas since mid-January - over 110,000 words for goodness sake ! But no, it's not enough apparently.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I read Linda Buckley-Archer's The Tar Man last weekend and it seems to have sparked a whole chain of ideas for a time-travel tale of my own (with nary a Doctor in sight). I went from the mere glimmerings of an idea at the beginning of the week to a 250 word (so far!) synopsis by last night. Which is all well and good, but I am in the midst of writing my sixth Doctor Who story and I've got plans to write several more yet. Plus to do this tale well, I'd have to do a whole lot of research for it - not that I mind doing research (love it, in fact) - but it's finding the time for it and to sleep and work as well !

How is that not only did none of my writer acquaintances warn me that writing fiction is as addictive as hard drugs (well so I assume - I've never actually taken hard drugs), but none of them warned me, either, that writing fiction would result in my brain teeming with ever more ideas - that it's like dropping a large rock into a still pool, the ripples spread out ever wider and end up engulfing everything in their path ?

Of course, this does mean that all those people who've made comments to me about wanting to see me write some "original fiction" (a phrase I find odd, frankly - my Doctor Who stories are original, I'm not stealing them after all - they just happen to feature a single character I didn't create !), will now be happy/pleased, I guess (hope!). Just don't hold your breath waiting for it, because you'll surely expire ! Even if I did set aside the Doctor Who series at the end of the story-in-progress, I can't see this non-Who tale surfacing any time soon !

As yet there's no knowing whether this tale would be a full length novel as opposed to the novella-length stories I've been writing. So far I seem to have naturally fallen into writing tales of around 22 - 23,000 words, but looking at the synopsis, I can see that this might well work out longer than that - I guess I'll have to wait and see, just like everyone else.

The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay

I hadn't heard of Australian author Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding until it was mentioned in Philip Pullman's list of books included in the What Children Should Read suggestions that were offered early last year. However, I was suitably intrigued by Philip's passion for it to keep my eyes open for a copy and I managed to pick up the library's copy of the New York Review of Books Children's Collection edition (shown here).

The story features a walking, talking pudding that enjoys being eaten and never runs out - and if you whistle twice and turn it around it changes to a different flavour - from steak and kidney to apple dumpling or hot jam role. The pudding is owned by three companions, Bill Barnacle (a sailor), Bunyip Bluegum (a koala), and Sam Sawnoff (a penguin) who engage in various adventures, all the while happily eating the "Puddin'", but occasionally they're forced to defend their property from two impudent pudding thieves. The book is divided into four "slices", rather than chapters. The pudding was created by the cook on board Bill and Sam's merchant ship after it had sunk and they were starving on an iceberg, except for the amusingly-named cook, "Curry and Rice". When Bill and Sam learn of the existence of the pudding, they apparently push the cook into the sea, then forgot about it, so they won't appear vicious.

Bunyip leaves home because he's fed up with his Uncle Wattleberry's whiskers always getting in his soup - and he soon meets up with Bill and Sam, and sets off on their wild and wacky adventures across Australia.

This book is genuinely funny for adults as well as children. The line illustrations (by Lindsay) are magical (and I'm not a huge fan of illustrated books!) and there are some raucous and ridiculous rhymes interspersed throughout the narrative. If you haven't read it yet, I recommend that you grab a copy and have some fun. The Magic Pudding is also available from

Friday, May 25, 2007

Poetry Friday 51

I'm back with Shakespeare again this week - just because his words buzz through my brain on a regular basis. It's interesting, I think, to compare these lines from Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 1:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

with these by by Colonel Henry Heveningham, a poet born in the middle of the 17th century:

If music be the food of love,
sing on till I am fill'd with joy;
for then my list'ning soul you move
with pleasures that can never cloy,
your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
that you are music ev'rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
unless you save me in your arms.

Many years ago my younger sister took part in a school version of Twelfth Night, and I conceived an instant dislike for the words "If music be the food of love, play on, give me in excess of it". I was very scornful of that "romance stuff" as a teenager. Now I'm older, wiser and better acquainted with the Bard, I actually like the concept of having a surfeit of music to get over one's lovelorn state (having been through a period of unrequited love in my 20s, I totally understand poor old Orsino's state.)

As for Heveningham's lines:

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.

I can completely understand that, too - leaving aside the metaphor of music as the food of love - I know several pieces of music that transport me and feast my senses until I'm sated.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted my review of Doctor Who Season 3 episode 7 "42" over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone. And it's posted only four days after the show aired (and two days after I got the disc) !

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted my review of Linda Buckley-Archer's The Tar Man over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Mickey: I bet you don't even remember my name.
The Doctor: It's Ricky.
Mickey: It's Mickey.
The Doctor: No, it's Ricky.
Mickey: I think I know my own name.
The Doctor: You think you know your own name? How stupid are you?

("Aliens of London", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Branford Boase Award 2007 Shortlist

I've finally managed (after lots of digging) to establish the full shortlist for the Branford Boase Award (you may recall I mentioned that Gideon The Cutpurse has been shortlisted).

Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer, Simon & Schuster
A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd, David Fickling
Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher, Hodder
Beast by Ally Kennen, Marion Lloyd/Scholastic
The Awful Tale of Agatha Bilke by Sian Pattenden, Short Books
You're a bad man, Mr Gum by Andy Stanton, Egmont
Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma, Random House

The judging panel includes Nicolette Jones (writer and critic), Claudia Mody (fiction buyer for Waterstones), Annie Everall (Derbyshire Libraries) and Frances Hardinge, who won last year for her debut novel, Fly by Night. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on Thursday 28 June at Walker Books in London.

I confess I've only read two of the shortlisted books - and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Stoneheart, I'm unashamedly rooting for Gideon the Cutpurse !

Monday, May 21, 2007

Carnival of Children's Literature 14

Susan, over at Chicken Spaghetti is hosting the 14th Carnival of Children's Literature on the theme of Fiesta! Do pop over and explore the dozens of links she's pulled together.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted my review of Doctor Who Season 3 episode 6 "The Lazarus Experiment" over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone. Sorry, it did take two weeks to review after all, but that's partly because it took a week for the disc to get into my hands between the workmate who usually records it for me taking a week off work, and the Post Office deciding to keep the disc that an acquaintance had kindly sent me!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Lloyd Alexander RIP

Lloyd Alexander, known to millions of children's literature fans as the author of the book series The Chronicles of Prydain, died two days ago at the age of 83. There's an obituary in the Washington Post. (You may need to register to access this, but it's free to do so.)

I only read Alexander's Chronicles (which consists of The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King) for the first time last year, but I enjoyed it immensely, as well as the less well-known The Fantastical Adventures of the Invisible Boy (known in the US as The Gawgon and the Boy). Even though I'm a relatively new fan, I felt quite sad when I heard the news. I'm quite sure the world will be a slightly less rich place without him in it.

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just posted a review of Catherine Fisher's Incarceron over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

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I've begun reading Linda Buckley-Archer's The Tar Man - so far, so good (nice bit of horse riding in the opening chapter !!) - but I honestly haven't got far with it yet as it's been a busy morning.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Poetry Friday 50

I mentioned last week, Stephen Greenhorn's use of T S Eliot's The Hollow Men in his episode of "Doctor Who". The Doctor also alluded to Eliot's reference to Lazarus in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock "I am Lazarus, come from the dead", so I thought I would share part of the poem with you this week:

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening.
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains.
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys.
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me.
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

You'll find the full poem, with annotations, here.

I picked this part of the poem in particular because of the references to Time and tea (the Doctor's favourite, life-saving (post-Regeneration) beverage), and just because I like it!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Interview with Alan Garner

The Guardian has an interview with Alan Garner in their "Why I Write" series. As I've mentioned here before I read his The Owl Service at school and it scared me so much it took me over 25 years to go back and re-read it, and then I couldn't stop reading his books (you'll find reviews of nearly all his books somewhere or other on this Blog). I also went to hear him speak at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature last October, which was a fascinating treat. Anyway this brief interview is interesting. I particularly liked the following two exchanges:

What advice would you give to new writers?
AG: Get on with it and don't ask for any advice. If you are going to write, nothing will stop you and if you are not going to write, nothing will make you.

What do you need to write?
AG: Dedication, without compromise.

I've had friends comment on the amount of time I devote to my writing (both non-fiction and fiction) - and my response has always been along similar lines to Garner's - if you want to do a thing well you have to practice and practice and practice - and that means dedicating yourself to it (be it writing, playing the sax, painting or whatever) 110% as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Does anyone else do that ?

...go into the library for one book and come out with a handful, that is ? I just popped up to the little branch library here (I don't use it often because it's not directly on my route to anywhere else, unlike the Central library), but they had a copy of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke on the shelves, and all the Central library's copies are out on loan. This is the next Reading Group book (and I don't actually own a copy as yet), so I had to borrow a copy. And whilst I was hunting along the shelves for it (and trying not to fall over the 2 year olds who were moving about in a pack!), I found Cat Weatherill's Barkbelly - which either Kelly Herold or her mom reviewed a while ago over on Big A, little. I also found David Cunningham's Cloudworld - which I had looked at in an actual bricks-and-mortar bookstore last year and thought looked rather interesting, but it wasn't then available at the time in the library (and Barkbelly wasn't even out here!). I'm pleased as punch to have both these books on my TBR - but slightly concerned that I only went in for one book and came out with three...

Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse - Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse is the third book of the five books in the Percy Jackson series.

As you will know, if you've been following this series, the Big Three Olympian Gods (Poseidon, Zeus and Hades) all agreed after World War II to stop siring half-blood children with mortals as such Half-Bloods generally cause major problems for the world (such as WW2!). Unfortunately 14 year old Percy Jackson's dad reneged on the deal and Percy's the Half-Blood son of Poseidon). He's not the only one who was guilty of breaking the agreement though. Zeus also broke it and his daughter, Thalia, never made it safely to Camp Half-Blood, where the children of gods and mortals are trained to cope with the monsters that beset all Half-Bloods. As Thalia was dying, her father turned her into a pine tree and she stood guard over the Camp for many years until Luke, son of Hermes, poisoned the pine tree. Percy and his friend Grover the Satyr managed to recapture the Golden Fleece and bring it back to heal the tree which magically protected the camp, but not only did the Fleece expel the poison from the pine tree, it also expelled Thalia. This happened a few months before The Titan's Curse opens (at the end of The Sea of Monsters review).

Thalia is still getting used to being amongst people again, but she and Percy have become friends, and the two, together with Percy's friend Annabeth (daughter of Athena), set out on a rescue mission to help Grover get two newly-discovered Half-Bloods from the military boarding school where they live to Camp Half-Blood. Unfortunately, one of the school teachers is really a Manticore and he objects to Nico and Bianca di Angelo being taken from the school. During the battle that ensues, Annabeth is captured, despite the timely arrival of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and her Hunters. Artemis offers Biana the chance to become a Hunter and she agrees. Afterwards Artemis sets off alone to hunt another monster that is destined to cause the downfall of Olympus, whilst Percy, Grover and Thalia, together with the two Half-Blood siblings and Artemis' Hunters, travel with Apollo the Sun God to Camp Half-Blood for their safety.

Back at Camp, The Oracle delivers a prophecy that leads to a team of five Campers being chosen to go in search of Artemis, who has gone missing. Thus Percy, Thalia, Bianca, Zoe (another Hunter) and Grover set out on a journey that takes them across the country from East Coast to the West, to San Francisco where Percy finds out, amongst other things, what it's like to carry the weight of the sky on his shoulders. Cool monsters, skeletal warriors and bad guys abound in this tale, as well as the Gods behaving badly (and occasionally making bad haiku - Apollo). Percy gets to meet Aphrodite, they visit the Hoover Dam, two of the party of five are killed, then finally, the Gods vote on how to kill the three survivers of the quest!

Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse is also available from - I must say, I do like this blue cover on the US edition !

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

Rose: She slapped you.
The Doctor: Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone's mother.
Rose: Your face...
The Doctor: It hurt!
Rose: You're so gay!

("Aliens of London", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Book parcels that make me squeak

I got two book parcels in the mail today which almost made me squeal with pleasure (almost - I was at work after all!)

The first was Catherine Fisher's Incarceron which has been loaned to me by the very kind Lady_Shrapnell of So Many Books.

I also got a signed copy of the ARC of Linda Buckley-Archer's The Tar Man as well. Of course this means I'll have to re-read Gideon the Cutpurse (I reviewed it last November) - which of course will be such a hardship ! (Jest)

Right now I'm finishing up Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse which is great - review to follow within the next couple of days.

The Edge of the Forest Volume II - May issue

The May issue of The Edge of the Forest is up!

Here's what's in store this month:

The Edge of the Forest will return June 10.

Harry Potter Book 8 ?

According to one British newspaper, J K Rowling has admitted to fans that she feels "heartbroken" at having finished the Harry Potter serie and she has held out the prospect that she will weave her magic with another book for Harry, Hermione and Voldemort. She said she might incorporate spare notes from the last decade for a special Encyclopaedia of Magic, with the proceeds going to charity.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone Update

I've just (finally !) posted my review of Doctor Who Season 3 episodes 4 and 5 -"Daleks in Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone. (I promise not to take two weeks to post a review of "The Lazarus Experiment" !)

Doctor Who: The Inside Story - Gary Russell

Gary Russell's Doctor Who: The Inside Story is a gorgeous book full of dozens of photos from behind the scenes of filming; of concept art designs for monsters, planets, space stations, etc; and of the actors being made up in their alien outfits. It also contains a detailed look at just how "New Who" (as it's known to Whovians) came to be commissioned and produced ("An Adventure in Space and Time"), how the various producers and directors, writers, actors, and artists (such as the man in charge of the team behind the prosthetics, the heads of the team at The Mill who do the CGI work, and the model makers) all got involved in the show ("Bringing Back the Series" and "Casting"). There's a detailed examination of the steep learning curve involved in making season 1, when everyone was still mastering the difference between using a CGI or a prosthetic suit to create a monster, and also when directors were learning what it's like to work on an effects-laden show. Reading this section made me feel awed at just what they all achieved in season 1 ("Behind the Scenes - Getting Up and Running" and "Crafting the New Series"). There's an episode guide for seasons 1 and 2, and a brief look at "Christmas 2006... And Beyond". The Foreword is by David Tennant, which finishes with the following

As you have bought this book, then presumably you know at least a little bit about this madness of which I speak [the madness that drives the Who team to spend nine months working their socks off and their guts out in producing a 13 episode + one Christmas special series]. There is probably already a corner of your soul that is dimensionally transcendental. I bet there is. Isn't it great? Isn't it? It's fine. You're among friends.

The Afterword is by Russell T Davies. If you've got a Whovian in the family, they'll probably adore this book which has been so lovingly written and put together by Gary Russell. Doctor Who: The Inside Story is also available from

Friday, May 11, 2007

Book Related News

This news just in from e-newsletter:

What better way to fall in love with a country than to do so in your formative years? Anyone who read Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking as a child would have longed for a life free from adult supervision, sharing a house with a horse and a monkey in Sweden! This children's classic is being re-published in September with illustrations by British picturebook queen, Lauren Child. Known and loved as the creator of some equally feisty little girls - notably Clarice Bean and Lola - Lauren has brought her own inimitable style to this beautifully-illustrated edition of Pippi Longstocking.

I have to confess that I've never yet read Pippi Longstocking but I know she's highly regarded by lots of fans of children's literature.

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In other book-related news, David Yates has confirmed that he's going to be directing the movie of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Post-production work on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix finished a few weeks ago and the movie's due for world-wide release on July 13 (which means that this is going to be a very Potteresque summer what with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hitting the shops eight days later !)

Poetry Friday 49

Astonishingly last Saturday's episode of "Doctor Who" ("The Lazarus Experiment") saw T S Eliot's The Hollow Men quoted by both Professor Lazarus and the Doctor. Why astonishingly? Well I'd used lines from Eliot's Burnt Norton in one of my own "Doctor Who" stories, and it seemed a little uncanny that Stephen Greenhorn, who penned "The Lazarus Experiment", had also picked an Eliot poem to use. So I thought I'd share with you a section of The Hollow Men with you this week:


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

You'll find a hypertext version of the full poem here.

The lines quoted by Professor Lazarus were: "Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act" which the Doctor then finished with "Falls the Shadow". Later the Doctor quotes the final lines of section V: "This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper." Also relevant, though it wasn't quoted is the line "For Life is very long" - Lazarus was 76 years old, but he uses science to rejuvenate himself and then he and the Doctor find themselves having a conversation about the value of life - the Doctor noting that some people achieve more in 20 years than others do in 80, and the Doctor asserting also that a long life is ultimately a curse, not a gift, because you see everyone you love or care about wither and die (something he also mentioned in Toby Whitehouse's fabulous "School Reunion" last year) and everything else turn to dust. This was a profoundly philosophical discussion to be having in an episode that largely involved lots of running away from the big scary CGI monster or blowing things up. Which is about right for "Doctor Who" - it usually manages to mix the profound with the purely crazy...

What Books Are You Reading ?

Camille over at Book Moot tagged me for this meme and amazingly I'm reading two books at the moment ! The amount I'm reading has gone down incredibly since I took up writing fiction, but I've been reading Gary Russell's gorgeous Doctor Who: The Inside Story (review pending) and since it's a hefty hardback and a very nice book to boot, I didn't want to carry it around in my backpack and risk spoiling it, so I've also been re-reading Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians as I'm waiting on the library getting me the third book, Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse (and thankfully I can pick that one up tomorrow !)

I think everyone whose Blog I read regularly (and dozens of others besides) have already been tagged, but if you haven't been, consider yourself tagged now!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

J M Barrie's Birthday

Today is the birthday of the creator of Peter Pan and Wendy, J. M. (James Matthew) Barrie was born in Angus, Scotland on May 9, 1860. Barrie first wrote about Peter Pan in a book of children's stories called The Little White Bird (1902). Two years later, he produced the play Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (1904), which included the well-known story about Peter, Wendy and Captain Hook. Even though he'd produced many successful plays before, Barrie became obsessed with the production of Peter Pan. He rewrote the script more than twenty times. It was one of the most expensive productions ever attempted at that time, since it required the construction of harnesses and wires so that the actors could appear to fly around the stage.

Barrie's tale continues to inspire storytellers of all kinds, from Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet and Johnny Depp's Finding Neverland.

Oh WOW !!

Just five weeks ago I wrote only my second ever fan letter to an actor. I included a birthday card because the actor's birthday was a couple of weeks later... Then, with so much going on in my life, I forgot about the letter until I got home today and found a self addressed envelope waiting for me. I looked at it rather blankly, wondering what it was, opened it and nearly dropped the contents in shock: a signed photo-postcard from David Tennant had fallen into my hand...

The funny thing is that David probably has very little idea of just how happy he's made me, just by writing a handful of words on this "Doctor Who" postcard !

And here's the postcard in question (apologies for the quality of the photo which was taken with my mobile phone's camera - and yes, that's my thumb !)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Ship Between the Worlds - Julia Golding

I mentioned, in my review of The Mines of the Minotaur that Julia Golding seems to have turned into a one-woman storytelling phenomenon lately. Her stand-alone novel The Ship Between the Worlds is the second of the books she's published this year that I've read.

The Ship Between the Worlds marks something of a departure for Golding - it's the first novel she's written from the point of view of a male protagonist, not a female one. Young David Jones (whose father went missing one day, resulting in him and his mother moving to a new area where he's bullied at his new school) loves ships, especially ships in bottles and his latest, the "Golden Needle", is a fine pirate vessel that he's been making for some time. So when David finds himself being press-ganged on board the "Golden Needle", he just assumes it's a dream. The only thing is, he isn't asleep! The "Golden Needle" is crewed by an astonishing assortment of fiendish pirates, not many of whom are actually human, who are led by the once-terrifying Captain Fisher. The only thing the pirates have in common is a desire to atone for past misdeeds, oh and a lot of gold thread! The pirates are desperately attempting to stitch together the many worlds - including our own - that are sliding towards obliteration into Inferno Rim. However, not every pirate in the dimension Between the Worlds is good. Some of them still have a yearning for gold and the "Scythe", crewed by pirates who live only to steal the golden thread anchoring the worlds, is in hot pursuit of the "Golden Needle". Soon the Golden Needle will run out of both time and golden thread, and then her crew will have to turn and face the "Scythe". What will David do when the day of battle dawns and who will win this fight to the death? If it's the "Scythe", who will take on the role of trying to save the worlds?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm a big fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (I'm eagerly awaiting the third movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End which is out at end of this month), and pirate tales definitely catch my imagination. This one, like The Wave Runners by Kai Meyer, is great fun and should appeal to both boys and girls.

Doctor Who Quote of the Week

The Doctor: I saw the Fall of Troy! World War Five! I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party. Now I'm gonna die in a dungeon... [makes a face] in Cardiff!
Rose: We'll go down fighting, yeah?
The Doctor: Yeah.
Rose: Together?
The Doctor: Yeah!
[They link hands.]
The Doctor: I'm so glad I met you.
Rose: Me too.

("The Unquiet Dead", Season 1 New Doctor Who)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Doctor Who: Quick Reads

These paperbacks are part of the "Quick Reads" initiative sponsored by the UK government, to encourage literacy, and is part of the BBC's RaW campaign. The "Quick Read" books are written especially for adults who find reading difficult, but that doesn't mean they're not fun for other readers as well.

Gareth Roberts' I Am a Dalek was published in 2006 and sees the Doctor and Rose preparing to make their own Moon landing - before anyone else arrives. They cheekily decide to plant a flag (the Doctor decides on a Women's Institute flag) there just to confuse later astronauts, but when they open the TARDIS' doors, they discover that instead of the moon, she has brought them to a small seaside town in present-day England. Archaeologists have discovered the dead shell of a Dalek in First century Roman ruins on the site of a decommissioned Cold War-era military bunker. Rose and the Doctor become separated for a while when the TARDIS suddenly dematerialises with Rose outside and the Doctor inside. He finds himself at the archaeological dig where he befriends the senior archaeologist and recognises the Dalek. The Doctor attempts to disarm it by giving the gun arm into his new friend's care, promising to come and collect it later.

Meanwhile Rose witnesses a traffic accident in which a young woman named Kate is apparently knocked down and killed. However, Kate seems to regenerate in much the same fashion as the Doctor - her hair changes colour and — unknown to Rose — her intellect also increases exponentially. Unfortunately, along with Kate's new-found intelligence comes a confusing desire to exterminate every human on the planet starting with her ex-boss. The Doctor and Rose are eventually reunited at the dig site, where Kate reactivates the Dalek, causing it to also regenerate. Rose and the confused Kate escape, whilst the Doctor tries unsuccessfully to disable the revived Dalek before it can go on a killing spree. Sadly he fails and the Dalek tracks down and kills the archaeologist in order to reacquire its gun arm. Not only that, but Kate's personality becomes more Dalek-like and she eventually unites with the Dalek, who bargains with the Doctor for the use of some time travel technology, using the Earth as its bargaining chip.

It's revealed that Kate is a form of Dalek-human hybrid, the result of an attempt by some Daleks who came to Earth millennia earlier (because of the Time War) and infected humanity with a "Dalek Factor". Luckily only a few individuals retained the Dalek Factor to the present day. With encouragement from Rose and the Doctor, Kate's human personality manages to reassert itself against the Dalek influence and she destroys the Dalek and returns to her pre-accident self.

This was quite a fun tale - something I'd expect from the man who penned the fabulous season 3 episode "The Shakespeare Code" - and it was interesting to read the book in light of the Dalek-human hybrid storyline in the Helen Raynor two-parter "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks".

Terrance Dicks is a name well known to fans of "Doctor Who" novels - he's written or novelised dozens of stories for the franchise. He was also the man given the unenviable (I feel) task of writing the first ever story to feature new Companion Martha Jones, even before she'd had her screen debut ! His Made of Steel does a good job of capturing the essentials of Martha's character (Dicks was apparently shown scripts of the first few episodes in order to learn about Martha).

The Doctor and Martha Jones have been visiting the Cretaceous period and decided to make a quick getaway when a T-Rex appears. They journey to present day Earth to find that Cybermen (whom the Doctor believed had all been destroyed at the Battle of Canary Wharf) have been teleporting into buildings and stealing electronic equipment. The Doctor takes Martha to the Royal Hope hospital, where she worked before she started travelling with him, and where they have a confrontation with a pair of Cybermen in the car park. They are nearly captured but the Cybermen suddenly disappear, due to a fault with their teleportation technology. The Army wants to get hold of the Doctor in order to ask for his help, so they arrest him and capture the TARDIS, leaving Martha behind. At the Army Base, the Doctor realises that the Cybermen were built on Earth, not in the parallel universe from which most of the Cybermen arrived in "Army of Ghosts" so they were contaminated with "Void stuff" as the other Cybermen had been, which is why they were not sucked into the Void during the Battle (in "Doomsday"). They have been using teleportation devices stolen from the Torchwood building in Canary Wharf to help them gather together enough equipment to create a portal into the Void from which they intend to release the Cybermen who were trapped inside. But they don't know how to open the Void, so they try to capture the Doctor to do it for them.

After the Doctor is arrested, is captured by the Cybermen who take her to their secret base. They discuss whether or not to kill her, but decide to hold her hostage; whilst they're still talking the Doctor rings Martha on her mobile and tells her where he is. Just as Martha's about to tell the Doctor where she is, the Cyberleader snatches her phone and destroys it, then sets in motion a plan to attack the Army Base where the Doctor is being held. He, however, figures out that the Cybermen are at the Millennium Dome, but before he can head off there, six more Cybermen, who had been kept frozen since the Battle of Canary Wharf, attack the base. The Army manages to destroy all but one of the Cybermen using a newly-prepared weapon they had on hand in case Cybermen should attack the base again. The Cyberleader tells the Doctor that they'll kill Martha unless he helps them, then vanishes.

The Army plans to attack the Millennium Dome, and in the meantime the Doctor persuades them to let him have the TARDIS back and he manages to materialise inside the Dome. The Doctor apparently co-operates with the remaining three Cybermen, and opens a portal by linking up their equipment to the TARDIS. But the Cybermen soon discover that the Doctor's portal doesn't lead to the Void, but rather to Prehistoric Earth where the T-Rex that had earlier caused the Doctor and Martha to make a quick getaway, appears and kills the two Cybermen. Martha damages the force-field generator that has been preventing the Army from entering the Dome, and the Doctor uses an electrical cord from it to fry the Cyberleader. The Army enter the Dome only to discover that the Cybermen are all gone or dead, and the Doctor takes Martha off to somewhere "peaceful".

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Stealers of Dreams - Steve Lyons

Steve Lyons' The Stealers of Dreams features the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack as played by Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and John Barrowman respectively. It's set after the season 1 episode "Boom Town" and is my favourite of the Ninth Doctor New Adventures novels.

The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack are on another world, in the year 2775 where the chips are not quite the same and there are poster-like TV screens everywhere, but the Doctor says the technology is of the 27th century, or earlier and the city is growing upwards, instead of out, leaving 90% of the planet as jungle. The three of them take a room for the night, and are given a tablet to stop them dreaming. Rose flicks through the channels of the obligatory TV and finds only news programmes and documentaries. "All factual programmes. There's no escapism. No imagination. Nothing that tells a story."

The novel starts off in a fairly generic vein, with a situation that seems very familiar at first: a dystopian future where the population are mostly all mind-controlled drones, forbidden to think fictitious thoughts, whilst an underground resistance seeks to disrupt the status quo and free the imagination of the colonists. You might expect that the Doctor will join the resistance, free the prisoners, overthrow the government, and be back on board the TARDIS in five minutes flat, but thankfully the plot features a few twists: for example, there doesn't seem to be any central authority for the Doctor to overthrow, and it turns out that the colonists are restricting their fictional imaginations for a very good reason indeed.

I liked the way Lyons split up the TARDIS team, so that Rose goes off with a young "fiction geek" who draws comic books, whilst the Doctor tags along with Inspector Kimmi Waller as she searches out the "fiction geeks", and Captain Jack sets out to find Hal Gryden, the leader of the pro-fiction rebellion. There were some interesting touches in the story too, such as the dig at the current state of British TV (nothing but reality shows), the mention of secret fan groups that refuse to let fiction die (which will remind Brits, at least, of the "Doctor Who" fans after the 1989 cancellation of the TV show), and the idea of one god-like man who has the power to bring it all back (ie. Russell T Davies). Lyons explores his idea with such concepts as the "Game of Life" board game (get married and have kids before your dreams catch up with you), the Static TV channel which broadcasts illegal drama shows, and the disbanding of the government because they tell too many lies, promising things to people that they can never deliver!

The Stealers of Dreams is also available from