First Sentence, New Story/ And Self’s Discovery of a New Fantasy Book Series

  • Let me tell you about wind.
Self was going to take a picture for this week's WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

Self was going to take a picture for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

It is a red-letter day. Self started a new series by Christopher Paolini. The first book of the series, Eragon.

Over the years, she has had much cause to thank various nieces, nephews, sons of friends who tell her, “Read this! You won’t regret it!” She thought it would be fun to compile a list of series she started because niece/nephew/children of friends brought them to her attention. Here goes:


  • The Hunger Games: Thank you to Niece G, who saw self reading Twilight and told her: “You should read The Hunger Games.” Self put off finishing Book 1 (the last 50 pages) because she thought Peeta was going to die. Until, one fine day, she spilled her angst to Niece G and Niece G said, “Peeta makes it.” Then self had to rush back home because she needed to finish the last 50 pages she’d put off reading. For three years. Two books later, self was a goner. How deep into this stuff is self? She even entertained the notion of meeting up in Dallas for a convening of Everlark fan fiction writers)
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief:  Thank you to son of Gayo A.
  • The Infernal Devices: Thank you to niece in Calgary, Karina Villanueva.
Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

  • Eragon: Thank you to Isaac S. At first self thought she would never get over The Infernal Devices — the angst! The Victorian Steampunk! London and York! — but Isaac thought she just might like this new series, so anyhoo, she gave it a shot. Hoooooly Smoke !!!! The Prologue was — mind-blowing.

Also just began reading Kass Morgan’s The 100 (which she heard is very different from the CW TV series). The plot goes something like this: 100 juvenile delinquents get sent to Earth to re-populate it. YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

On the Way 5: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

The Trans-Canada National Highway, Banff: May 2015

The Trans-Canada National Highway, Banff: May 2015

On the Road to Banff with Mike and Pixie: late April 2015

On the Road to Banff with Mike and Pixie: late April 2015

Just Outside the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum, Alberta: late April 2015

Just Outside the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum, Alberta: late April 2015

Queen of Victorian Steampunk


London, April 1878

The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.

—  Prologue, Clockwork Angel, Book One of Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices

Beg pardon, dear blog readers, but ever since self read those lines, in the house of her cousin Mike V in Calgary, Canada, her life has never been the same.

It’s almost like the way she felt when she encountered Annie Ernaux and Gish Jen and Nina Berberova for the first time!

All three (500-page) books in Cassandra Clare’s TID trilogy are going with her to London and Ireland.

Self had to think long and hard about this one, because she’ll be hauling ass. Oh! Pardon the language. She means, hauling suitcases on and off trains and buses. By herself.

But, dear ones, self must be permitted her eccentricities. After all, they’re part of what make her such an indefatigable writer/blogger!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day, CLOCKWORK PRINCE, p. 389

Self is still reading Mark Twain, but to Twain does not belong the Sentence of the Day (Is that even correct grammar, self? Something wrong with the construction, apparently. Nevertheless)

She has reached p. 453 of Clockwork Prince! And tomorrow she mails the book back to her niece in Calgary, who lent her a hardback collector’s edition. Thank you soooo soooo much, Karina, for introducing self to The Infernal Devices! (And oh by the way she’s still into Peeta Mellark, and she still writes Hunger Games Everlark fan fiction, and she’s also still in the Banff Writing Studio, but none of that matters now, because, because — now she has to reveal her Sentence of the Day!)


The climax of Clockwork Prince is when Magnus Bane kisses Will Herondale.

Ooops — NOT!

Clockwork Prince is a really great novel. Self would have given it five stars if not for all those wasted scenes between taking-so-slow-to-die Jem Carstairs and that Silly Twit Tessa Gray.

There is no sentence like a Cassandra Clare sentence when she describes Will Herondale in action. Allow the slight digression, dear blog readers, but self will never forget that sentence on p. 446 of Clockwork Angel when Will was hurrying to save Tessa from the evil and lascivious clutches of a certain gentleman (This is Victorian London, after all! Did you perhaps think this was a Sarah Waters novel — BWAH. HA. HA!), and he has to ride bareback through the streets of 19th century London, and he has to take out his stele while on a dead run, and he hits a locked door in the Institute, whereupon:

He slashed the stele across the door’s surface, creating the fastest Open rune of his life.

Now, in Clockwork Prince, tiresome Jem has broken a leg or something and is completely useless against a giant automaton and Tess’s dastardly brother Nate has been quite brutally slappiing Tess about, and only Will is left to protect Tess from an explosion set off by one of Henry’s infernal contraptions, and of course after it goes off Tess is all sad because her evil brother has died, and very belatedly she looks at Will and notices that he is lying very still because:

His gear had been shredded all along his spine and shoulder blades, the thick material torn by flying shards of razored metal.



So once again, Cassandra Clare has dug in the knife and self can’t even.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



It was cold today in Banff. Self feels like she is coming down with a serious head cold. Never mind! She has Cassandra Clare to keep her company. Everlasting gratitude to her niece Karina for recommending The Infernal Devices trilogy. Holy holy moly. Only two words fill her vocabulary at this moment:


Cassandra Clare, you are genius.

On p. 387, it is the night of the full moon and the Clave has gone to strike the vampires led by de Quincey (who formed an uncommon attachment to Will’s neck when he was pretending to be a subjugate at the party at which Tessa Gray was channeling a vampire named Charlotte and if that is too much for you just buy the book for heaven’s sake!)

Will and Jem, a flighty girl named Jessamine, two servant girls and Tessa Gray are left alone in the Institute. Suddenly, they receive a very unexpected visit from a mundane named Mortmain (and every nerve in self’s body is screaming, Don’t you put any credence in what this shifty mundane tells you, Will Herondale!)

The following conversation ensues:

Will’s blue eyes were dark and thoughtful. “Thank you for the information,” he said, “but de Quincey will soon be no more of a threat to us, or his mechanical monsters, either.”

Mortmain’s eyes widened. “Is the Clave to move against the Magister? Tonight?”

“Goodness,” said Will. “You really do know all the terms, don’t you. It’s very disconcerting in a mundane.” He smiled pleasantly.

So blah blah blah ensues and Will and Jem decide  to go check out Mortmain’s story. Tessa Gray wants to accompany them but Will tells her she can’t. At which point the following conversation ensues:

She turned her gaze back to Will. “But what about Boadicea?”

For a moment she thought he’d forgotten what he’d said to her in the library. Then the glimmer of a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, as if he’d tried to fight it and couldn’t. “You will be Boadicea someday, Tessa,” he said, “but not tonight.”

And then, chapter ends on a cliff-y!

And the next chapter begins with a quote from Robert Browning, his poem “The Lost Leader”:

Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more
One task more declin’d, one more footpath untrod,
One more devil’s triumph and sorrow for angels

Dying, dying, dying.

Stay tuned.

CLOCKWORK ANGEL, Book 1 of The Infernal Devices Trilogy by Cassandra Clare

One good thing about getting into Banff Writing Studio is that self got to visit her cousin Mike V, who lives in Calgary.

Self discovered that Mike’s daughter Karina (Communications Major at the University of Calgary) is a fan of Cassandra Clare, so self decided to give Clare’s Clockwork Angel a whirl.


Self loves Will Herondale! He is this very delicate-appearing, almost fey, British guy who has an arsenal of out-of-this-world knives.

The setting is Victorian London. Lots of dead bodies appear randomly in London’s grey streets. Is Jack the Ripper a Nephilim? Who cares! Let’s see more of those moves, Will!

Cassandra Clare writes really really really really well.

Her dialogue is top-notch. In this scene, Will Herondale and Tessa Gray, the heroine, scope out a Den of Iniquity called . . . well, self forgets what it is called. All you need to know is that it is a Den of Iniquity. Where there will assuredly be Vampires present.

With his right hand he was tightening one of the metal knife-bearing cuffs on his left wrist. He was staring off toward the window, as if seeing something that wasn’t visible to her. “You might be thinking of vampires as feral monsters, but these vampires are not like that. They are as cultured as they are cruel. Sharpened knives to humanity’s dull blade.”

Do you see what self means when she says that Clare’s writing is really good?

Tessa and Will are admitted into a private residence where “among the candelabras moved vampires, their faces as white as clouds, their movements graceful and liquid and strange.”

And here self thought she was so over Vampires and Shadowhunters and their ilk!


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Motion 2: Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum, Drumheller, Alberta

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is MOTION:

Some situations lend themselves to “action” photography: sports, dance, the wind gusting through trees on a stormy evening, but anything that can move is a candidate for these types of shots.

Today, her cousins took her to the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum in Drumheller, a fascinating museum.


Soft-shell “Pancake” Turtle at The Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum. This was a live specimen, not a fossil, and it moved pretty fast across its tank. Self tried at least 10 pictures before she gave up trying to get a clear shot.


Excuse the blur. Self resolutely refuses to use flash.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Early Bird 3: Good Morning, Calgary

It is self’s first time to be in this Canadian city. She’s on her way to the Writer’s Studio at Banff. By chance, she has Bacolod cousins here. Amazing synchronicity! She’s spending a few days with them.

A Prairie Subdivision

A Prairie Subdivision

It is huge. A prairie city.

Self still posting on the theme EARLY BIRD:

This week, I encourage you to set your alarm for the early hours, grab your first (several) cups of coffee, and challenge yourself to capture an outstanding photograph in the early morning light.

Without further ado, Early Bird, Calgary edition:

Good morning, Calgary!

Good morning, Calgary!

First stop of the day, a nearly deserted Calgary Olympic Park:


The Olympic Flame, Calgary Olympic Park

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Afloat 3: St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin; A Pet Turtle in Bacolod

More on the WordPress Photo Challenge, AFLOAT.

Self took the first two pictures when she was in Dublin, May 2014. It was her first time ever to Ireland. She walked along Grafton Street, met author Catherine Dunne for lunch at Bewley’s, then walked around St. Stephen’s Green.


The water in the lake had a sort of mineral quality that self has never seen anywhere else.

And this is a picture of Manong Freddie’s pet turtle in Bacolod. Turtles bring good luck:

Manong Freddie's pet turtle

Manong Freddie’s pet turtle

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Blur 4: Self’s Head Is Still in Winter

It had been decades since self had ridden on Amtrak. But when she lived in New York City, and her sister was still taking her MBA in Wharton, she used to take trains all the time.

Last month, she visited one of her sister’s closest friends, Kathleen Burkhalter, who is now Mrs. David Bell and lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was officially spring, but the landscape was still snowy.

View From the Train Heading from New York (Penn Station) to Providence, RI

View From the Train Heading from New York (Penn Station) to Providence, RI

When self lived in New York, she started out sharing the basement of a house in Flushing, then moved to a sublet on 8th and First. She loved New York with a passion.

Returning last month, she saw her first heavy snowfall in decades. The snow coated the sidewalks, the streets, the trees in Central Park.

Trees, Central Park, March 2015

Trees, Central Park, March 2015

Finally, Bjork’s Swan Dress.

Self managed to catch the Bjork retrospective at the NY Museum of Modern Art.


Self took many pictures of the dress. But since this week’s Photo Challenge theme is BLUR, she picked one of the blurry ones:

The Infamous Swan Dress, the Bjork Retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art, March 2015

The Infamous Swan Dress, the Bjork Retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art, March 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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