Bell, Book and Candle: Part 24

In which Lizzie does something she didn’t want to do…(Part 23.5) (From the beginning)

From the outside, it didn’t look like much. A yellow awning that used to be bright but was now fading and streaked with soot and pigeon-shit framed the dirty glass storefront, proclaiming this “Mama’s Botanica Santeria”. The window was crammed full of candles, dried herbs and flowers, animal bones, figurines of saints, and other detritus. None of it looked like it had been touched in months. All of it needed a good dusting.

Inside, Mama Milagros did enough business selling Santeria paraphernalia and offering consultas to her neighbors that no one questioned her ability to make rent, or wondered what she sold in her back room. Continue reading

The Mirror of Fiction

If you’ll indulge me, dear readers, I’d like to ramble a little bit about representation in fiction.

I’m not going to dive too deeply into an analysis of why representation is a good thing; that’s been done before and better by other people — and regardless, it should be intuitively understood that seeing yourself reflected in the culture you consume is validating, normalizing, comforting. That privilege has too long belonged mostly to young-to-middle-aged cis white men, and so any deviation from that “norm” (which is, in the context of the diversity of the real world, not normal at all) is to be celebrated.

I also don’t want to dwell on representation done badly, and all the harm that can do. I’ve argued about it too much recently, what with J.K. Rowling’s latest foray into Native American mythology.

What I want to do instead is to highlight a couple of books I’ve read recently that have done a good job of representing the sort of people who are traditionally ignored or elided in fiction — because the sense of relief when you can finally see yourself on the page, know that you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do or being the way you are, is immeasurable, and if I can help others to feel that, I should.

So with that said, three books read recently where I noted a particular attention to diversity in representation: Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: An Interlude

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 23) (From the Beginning)

He’d been called many things in his life — and in his afterlife. Malphas was just the latest in a string of designations; every so often he threw his old one away and took up another. Anything to break up the tedium.

This one was his own little joke, not that that fool of a sorcerer was clever enough to understand it. A pity he was forced to use such clumsy tools, but there were drawbacks to his lengthened lifespan.


Elizabeth, now… Elizabeth might understand. Elizabeth might yet solve the puzzle. He had teased her, that day, given her clues. Where was the fun without a little risk, after all? And yet he was beginning to think now that he had underestimated her. He could feel her burning, a bright spot against the frosty grey expanse that he now inhabited. All hex-eyes were bright to his eyes, but Elizabeth…she was something special. Something more.

Something dangerous.

She would have to be dealt with.

Plot Clinic: the Middle Third

Note: I’m going to do some plotting for BBC in this post- spoilers for this book and future possible sequels under the cut. If you’re reading along with the serial and would prefer not to be spoiled, better skip this post.

Often when writing and outlining it’s easy to see how the story should begin, and easy to see how the story should end, but quite difficult to see how it should proceed in the middle. The middle third of a book is generally prone to what I call “story collapse”, where there’s just not enough going on to prop up the narrative arc and everything turns to unpleasant mush.

Of course, with “Bell, Book and Candle” I don’t even know where the story will end…which gives me even less of an idea of what to do in the middle, and I’ve just arrived (with Friday’s post) at the end of my outline. :/

So, what to do?

What else could go wrong?

Below is some excellent advice from the peerless Tami, which she shared with me when I was going through plot collapse with Princess’s third act:

Write down a quick synopsis of your main plot and any side plots (including romances) you know you’re keeping.

Ask yourself “What else could happen?” or “What else could go wrong?”
Alternately, list out your characters very very briefly and ask yourself “what are they contributing to make the plot WORSE or more uncomfortable or screw things up? What are they contributing to solve the problem?” and if you have someone not doing enough to screw things up, go back to plan A and “What else could happen?”
Okay. So let’s give this a shot with BBC, and see where it takes us.

Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 23

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye. (Part 22)  (From the Beginning)

Author’s Note: The scene where the locket is introduced is one that needs to be inserted during editing; it’s Henry’s anchor and though Lizzie usually carries it with her, Henry convinced her to leave it behind while she went to Darlington so he could continue to investigate.

I had hoped my trip home would settle me, but I left Darlington more apprehensive than when I arrived. Mom and Dad were on the Case of the Disappearing Ghosts now, but they hadn’t made any breakthroughs. Three heads working on the problem was certainly better than one, but in the meantime school wold start again, we’d all three get busy, and there was no guarantee the disappearances wouldn’t continue. Then there was Adelaide and her secret, and the still-unsolved mystery of Emily’s possession. And final exams.

I was so distracted, as I debarked at Grand Central and fought through the crowds toward the subway, that it took me a minute to realize that my phone was ringing. I fumbled it out of my pocket – didn’t recognize the number – and swiped to answer just before it went to voicemail. Continue reading

ATP: A Wildlife Guide to Pembroke & Environs

As a native New Yorker, “wildlife” to me means rats, pigeons, cockroaches, and maybe the occasional raccoon. One of the nice things about England has been getting to see some different animals…

Wood Pigeons

These delight me. I don’t know what it is about their enormous, chubby bodies that always makes me smile. They’re quire prettily feathered for a pigeon, too. All my friends here think it’s weird that I find them so interesting, but then again they don’t know what it’s like to grow up surrounded by city pigeons. (And when my dad came to visit, he agreed that they are really big).


I’ve only seen pheasants a handful of times — once out behind Queen’s College, once at the Botanical Garden, maybe once or twice more — but they’ve made a strong impression on me. I think it’s probably because of that Roald Dahl story, plus the association with game hunting, which I think of as quintessentially ye old English. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 22

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell, hex-eye and poltergeist-banisher. (Part 21)  (From the Beginning)

For a long moment, there was silence. Dad jutted his chin out, indicating that I should say something.

The ghost was nearby – I could sense her in the room, but as a house poltergeist she so permeated the building that it was hard to tell exactly where. I stayed facing the door, but kept my senses alert for movement on any side. I trusted Dad to cover my blind spot.

I cleared my throat. “I know you’re here,” I said. “I just want to talk to you.” Continue reading

Review: The Royal Ballet in Frankenstein (5/17/16)

The Royal Ballet has done it again, putting on a smashing (and brand new) production of Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein.

I basically have nothing bad to say about it. The dancing was good from everyone, from the corps de ballet up to the principals. Particular commendation to Steven McRae (The Creature) for a truly phenomenal solo in Act II. The children in the production were quite charming and obviously well trained; Guillem Cabrera Espinach (William) was very cute and did well keeping up with the adults he was dancing with. Continue reading

Bell, Book and Candle: Part 21

The continuing adventures of Lizzie Bell,  poltergeist bait. (Part 20) (From the beginning)

The front door closed behind me with an ominously final-sounding click. The ceiling above my head creaked as Dad walked around – unless that was the ghost. But it was probably Dad, setting up the salt circle and chalking signs on the walls.

I drifted further into the foyer. A small wooden table stood against one wall, scattered, with mail and odd bits of change. And a photograph, in a frame so new I could still see the spot where they’d peeled the price tag off. I picked it up. Continue reading

The Podcast Post (Redux)

It’s been a while since the last podcast post, so let’s revisit the subject. First we’ll see which podcasts have stood the test of time, and which new additions have filled out my repertoire.

Looking Back

What podcasts did I mention last time? Am I still listening to them?

  • The SF Signal PodcastStill listening to this one — not every episode, but I keep an eye out for interviews or topics that look interesting. However, now that SF Signal is shutting down, I anticipate that the podcast will stop as well.
  • Writing ExcusesStill short, still sweet, still listening.
  • SF SqueecastUnfortunately is on (possibly permanent) hiatus.
  • Welcome to Night ValeI can’t, I’m sorry. This one is just not grabbing me. I gave their other project “Alice Isn’t Dead” a try as well, and similarly it’s just not for me.
  • Tea and JeopardyJust as lovely and as British as ever 🙂
  • Galactic SuburbiaStill as excellent as when I first started listening. Alisa, Alex and Tansy have really interesting and insightful things to say, and we have very similar tastes in books!
  • The Thrilling Adventure HourStill in love! Although as part of my recent change in life philosophies, I’ve allowed myself to stop listening to the segments that I don’t enjoy as much. Which means, essentially, that I’m listening to “Beyond Belief”, “Sparks Nevada”, and “Down in Moonshine Holler”, though that last may not be a permanent keeper. We’ll see.

Looking Forward

What new podcasts have I picked up?

  • Breaking the Glass Slipper: A podcast about women in SF, Fantasy, and Horror. There have only been two episodes so far, but it seems very promising. And certainly a subject matter I’m invested in!
  • Fangirl Happy Hour: A podcast very much in a similar vein to “Galactic Suburbia”, though it has more cursing in it. Also enjoyable to listen to, and a good source of recommendations.
  • The West Wing Weekly: GUYS. You don’t understand. I love this show so much. This is an episode-by-episode discussion of the West Wing, with your hosts Hrishikesh Hirway and JOSHUA MALINA he was on the show for real, guys, I can’t. With insightful discussion of episodes and lots of guest appearances from interesting people (actors, writers, costume designers etc.) involved with the show.

And You?

Any interesting podcasts on your radar? I’m always open to recommendations!