Review: Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

Emma Jane Holloway
December 27, 2015  •  No Comments

One of the pleasures of Christmas holidays is a little bit more time to read. Book time is also one of the benefits of having a rotten cold since nobody wants to talk to me right now. So, I bring to you a taste of what I’ve been dipping into. This bon-bon fell into my TBR pile a month or so ago. I love historical fiction, I love books about musicians, and I love Mozart so this was a triple win.

goldlineVienna Nocturne

Vivien Shotwell’s Vienna Nocturne is the story of Anna Storace, a soprano whose career takes her across Europe and into the sphere of Mozart as well as other musical luminaries of the period. The book seemed to be positioned as something of a romance, but it wasn’t—at least not in the conventional way. Anna has a deeply felt affair with Mozart, but her art is just as much her true love.

 

Readers who know classical music will lap up the references to the theatres and composers of the period, singing techniques, and the highs and lows of an artist’s life. It’s no surprise to me that the author is also a singer. (see her website). Those less familiar will encounter some unfamiliar terminology and allusions connected with music practice and the history of the period. However, most of it should be understandable from the context.

 

The book is constructed out of many vignettes that give it almost an epistolary nature, which absolutely suits the eighteenth-century period. There is some gorgeous writing that had me stopping to savor a line here and there. The storyline is straightforward biography but it reads more like a literary than a genre novel, with less detail and a distilled quality of emotion. The form works wonderfully well, never drawing attention to itself and leaving Anna’s discovery of her personal strength a powerful narrative.

 

I recommend this for music and history lovers, and those who would like to be.


Work-work balance

Emma Jane Holloway
November 27, 2015  •  No Comments

The last while I’ve been pulled into a day-job project that has monopolized a lot of my time. It finally came to fruition this week and now I’m on the other side blinking like some small, furry creature plucked from its burrow and into the daylight.  As well as relief and some satisfaction, I’m feeling the OMG of everything I let slide until “after.”

 

Work projects are an opportunity to show what you’re capable of doing, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also humbled by the number of willing hands who pitched in to make it happen. I work with kind and brilliant people. And, in the end, we had a days-long training event with speakers and food and hotel and travel and hospitality suite and recognition–all with very little budget to speak of. Folks came from many cities to take part and seemed to actually enjoy the experience, if rumors of cartwheels in the lobby are to be believed. It’s all good. No doubt I’ll eventually forget the hours of nail-biting and remember only the fun stuff, which is how it should be.

 

And now I can get back to writing!  It’s my muse doing the cartwheels today.owlcartwheel


Ross Bay Villa

Emma Jane Holloway
October 6, 2015  •  No Comments

2015-08-15 14.31.48I recently had a chance to visit the Ross Bay Villa in Victoria. It’s a historic house I’ve driven by a thousand times and finally made time to visit. Both the garden and building are being restored and tours are available. The best part of visiting was the tour guides, who were tolerant of all my questions and willing to go off on a tangent if asked!

Here are a few details about it, mostly borrowed from its excellent website here, where there is also a fundraising campaign to preserve the site:

  • Ross Bay Villa was the home of Francis James Roscoe, his wife Anna Letitia, and their five children from 1865 to 1879.
  • Roscoe was a Member of Parliament for Victoria from 1874 to 1878.
  • A “Villa” in Victorian architectural terms was the country dwelling of a gentleman. This one is built in the gothic revival style.
  • It is believed the house was designed by Write and Sanders, Victoria’s first professional architects.

I can’t imagine seven people plus servants living in this small residence, especially as they must have entertained given Roscoe’s political aspirations.

The wallpaper in the photos was replicated from examples found buried beneath other paints and papers. They believe it is the original or close to it. Notice how the pictures are hung from trim placed right under the ceiling during this period.


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Evelina finally gets to college

Emma Jane Holloway
July 31, 2015  •  No Comments

University Coeducation in the Victorian EraSo, when I was about to begin A Study in Ashes, I was hunting about for some reference material on female colleges. I found plenty of references to the fact that such things existed, but not much detail until I got my hands on this book. I blogged about it here.

To my delight and trepidation, the Baskerville Affair (and A Study in Ashes in particular) has been made part of a college course!  http://cdmyers.info/Steampunk.html

It raises some interesting questions about the use of history in what is essentially fantasy. I tend toward a real or real-ish setting because it grounds the story in an “ordinary world” that is the foil of the fantasy. I don’t think it is “bad” or “good” to include a certain level of historical detail but I do think it’s important to make what’s included reasonably accurate.

The other benefit of researching is you never know what you’ll find. The entire setting of the Dartmoor laboratories is a real place I discovered by chance. It’s an old farm and the ruins of a gunpowder mill. However, it serves delightful cream teas and holds pottery classes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was an old collie, I’m afraid.

 


Khandarken Rising

Emma Jane Holloway
July 6, 2015  •  9 Comments

Khandarken rising_CVR_SML A member of my local writing chapter has just released a fantasy book. As it’s a genre very close to my heart, I thought I’d introduce it here. Please welcome Sylvie Grayson and the first volume of Khandarken Rising:  The Last War.  This is brand new to me and I look forward to reading it!

 

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What do you usually write?

I have been writing contemporary works, with an emphasis on suspense, romance and attempted murder. I like the way suspense pushes the story along with greater speed and purpose. It keeps the reader reading (and the writer writing 🙂 ) when there is danger lurking and bad guys looking for their own goals.

How is this book different from your others?

The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising, just grabbed me by the throat. I read every genre, and enjoy them all. But some books speak to me more at different times than others do. The whole world of Khandarken rose out of the mist, as far as I’m concerned. And I loved writing it. The idea of creating a new world, with different issues, and another focus was very freeing. I hadn’t realized it would be this way, but felt it opened up so much to me. I’m currently working on Book Four of the series.

Will this be your new focus?

Perhaps. Because I have a few contemporary books calling to me too. So if I am free to move back and forth between contemporary and sci-fi/fantasy, it just seems like the best of both worlds. It is also more of a challenge in some ways. Working on Book Four has forced me to go back and really study my notes for the first three – some of the details have evaded me and I have to remind myself of all the nuances of that world. Each book takes me into a different part of the territory and the surrounding countries, and it’s been so much fun creating that.

_________

 

The Last War: Book One, Khandarken Rising

 

The Emperor has been defeated. New countries have arisen from the ashes of the old Empire. The citizens swear they will never need to fight again after that long and painful war.

 

Bethlehem Farmer is helping her brother Abram run Farmer Holdings in south Khandarken after their father died in the final battles. She is looking after the dispossessed, keeping the farm productive and the talc mine working in the hills behind their land. But when Abram takes a trip with Uncle Jade into the northern territory and disappears without a trace, she’s left on her own. Suddenly things are not what they seem and no one can be trusted.

 

Major Dante Regiment is sent by his father, the General of Khandarken, to find out what the situation is at Farmer Holdings. What he sees shakes him to the core and fuels his grim determination to protect Bethlehem at all cost, even with his life.

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Sylvie Grayson loves to write about suspense, romance and attempted murder, in both contemporary and science fiction/fantasy and has published Author photoromantic suspense novels, Suspended Animation, Legal Obstruction, and The Lies He Told Me, all about strong women who meet with dangerous odds, stories of tension and attraction. She has also written The Last War series, a sci fi/fantasy adventure, the first book of which was released in June 2015.

She has lived most of her life in British Columbia, Canada, in spots ranging from Vancouver Island on the west coast to the North Peace River country and the Kootenays in the beautiful interior. She spent a one year sojourn in Tokyo Japan. She has worked as an English language instructor, a nightclub manager, an auto shop bookkeeper and a lawyer. She lives in southern British Columbia with her husband on a small piece of land near the Pacific Ocean that they call home, when she’s not travelling the world looking for adventure.


Interview and giveaway

Emma Jane Holloway
February 17, 2015  •  No Comments

I did an interview with Between Dreams and Reality, which reviews in both French and English. There’s a great giveaway there, so spread the word to any steampunk lovers!

The brooch is by Copper and Lace and I confess to wanting to keep it …

http://www.betweendandr.com/2015/02/16/interview-emma-jane-holloway-giveaway-traduction-concours/

Copper_and_Lace


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Emma Jane Holloway
February 14, 2015  •  No Comments

Happy Valentine’s day to all you avid readers out there!  May the love affair with reading never end!valentine's day antique card


Book sighting!

Emma Jane Holloway
January 25, 2015  •  No Comments

A writing friend caught a picture of Silks at Powell’s over the holidays. Thanks for sending this, Jennifer McKenzie!

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Truby Software

Emma Jane Holloway
December 31, 2014  •  5 Comments

I’ll start by saying that I am a great admirer of John Truby’s work. Although I take exception to the idea that all fiction should be written like a film script (a book can do so much more than a movie), there is much to be learned from scriptwriting techniques. John Truby has a brilliant grasp of storytelling, and I highly recommend his books. His newsletter has some pretty good insights, too.

Based on these warm and fuzzy feelings, I took advantage of a half price sale and ordered his Blockbuster software. I figured there was something I might learn there. What I learned was that they were marketing for a Mac operating system from lo, many generations ago and customer service at Truby’s Writers Studios is not speedy, either by phone or email. Mind you, if all the Mac users taken in by this sale are contacting them, what a surprise. Plus, it is the holiday season, when they apparently have time to market but not to answer the phone.

So, I’m posting this as a public service announcement. BE ABSOLUTELY SURE that your operating system is covered before ordering any software. Don’t be stupid like me. Even on sale this stuff isn’t cheap (thank heavens I only ordered the basics and none of the add-ons!). And as I know a lot of you are also writers on Macs, I advise caution with this particular product. Double check and check again.

To be fair, I will post here about any response I receive from the company, whether they make it right, offer a refund, or whatever. If they make me a happy camper, I’ll move on to giving a product review instead of just a consumer beef.

ADDENDUM:  I’ve heard back from the mothership and they gave me the code to activate the software. Of course, it took some poking around to convince the program to give me the window in which to enter said code, but that eventually got it up and running. If I close the program, it’s really slow to reopen. Despite their conviction that it runs on Yosemite (which it does) I get the idea from the Mac’s grunting and grumbling and slow response that the Mac OS is not the program’s happy place. Two more advisories: one, the software has not got any instructions with it. I recommend getting Truby’s book or other supplementary info–I’ve already read the book so I’m further ahead. Also, if you don’t get the genre add-ons, it’s missing a lot of info. In other words, some of the clickable bits don’t work.

However, all that being said, the software is really good for sorting out ideas. Yes, it can be done on paper and yes, I’m fully capable of much of this stuff on my own but the program prompts me to examine things I hadn’t thought about yet. I’m just beginning a project and in the last hour I’ve focussed the conflicts really effectively. That, for me, saves on rewrites. I have some big projects I’m eager to load into this puppy because I can already see how it will help them along.

I’ll keep going and report back later.


Lucy’s Blade by John Lambshead – review

Emma Jane Holloway
December 29, 2014  •  No Comments

Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, was the greatest spymaster the world had ever seen. But when he asked Dr. Dee to summon a demon the result was unexpected, especially for his orphaned niece Lucy. Sir Francis’ duty as her guardian was to find Lucy a suitably aristocratic husband, not to let her fight demons and witchcraft for the Queen’s Secret Service. But his and Lucy’s duty to protect Queen and country from enemies both natural and supernatural kept getting in the way. And so did all those demons . . .

This book caught my interest enough to want to say something about it. I’m always fascinated by Walsingham and Dee, and (in my opinion, anyway) to mix those two figures with a free-floating futuristic intelligence (aka demon) and Elizabethan privateers takes a special kind of authorial swagger. This is a very ambitious premise.

It’s also a bit of a different style of book. It’s the kind of narrative that wanders from one point of view to another, feels free to introduce historical sidebars, and takes its time with the material. It’s not for those who like their stories as high-velocity bullets, pared down to the bare necessities. Rather, it’s for those who like wry humour, unlikely juxtapositions, and storytelling outside the box.

Was it successful? Yes, I believe so. I like quirky books and this one was refreshingly unlike anything else I’ve read lately.

Want to find out more?  Click HERE to read an excerpt on the Baen Books site


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