In which we talk words again

If I give time to words I like the sound of–regardless of meaning–then I should probably do the same for words I DON’T like, right?

Coddle, spittle, velour, viscous, fossil, squid, cruller, subtle, splinter, plane, pendulum, forklift, reap, rattle, grout, bagel, comma, rocket, custard, prelate, kitten, cupboard, polyp, alibi, cement, cranium, grotto, cousin, bottle, supercilious, rampart, excrement, defibrillate, crop, gruel, swamp, gerbil, guppy, onyx, mammal, lime, glisten, restaurant, boil, kettle, pedantic, steak, climate, propitiate, proton, anchor, rice, venom, carpet, ketchup, noose, root, nectarine, primate, stew, shuttle, pyramid, colander, drab, clock, saliva, kelp, cadre, squab, sponge, succotash, respite, credit, recliner, vinyl, gear, liquidate, fester, culpable, blister, nutrition, pedal, ruche, scramble, notch, vomit, metal, mixture, vigil, crust.

What about you, chickens? What words set your teeth on edge?

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In which we’re discussing comfort reading

Been pondering a post on comfort reading and dug through the archives only to find I’ve already written one!

Comfort reading comes in many forms. There are almost as many varieties of comfort books as there are readers, and no one has the claim on perfect comfort reading. Except me. No, REALLY! I think books we read for comfort ought to be easy. There shouldn’t be thorny thickets of prose to hack your way through. If you’re looking for comfort reading, you want something familiar with a promise of a happy ending without too much suffering before. (This is why PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is comfort reading but PERSUASION is not. Poor Anne Elliot. I WEEP for her.) All favorite books from childhood count towards comfort reading–for me this means classics like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, LITTLE WOMEN, and some Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Alright, really just the first one, but so many of you are Wilder fans I thought I’d get stoned if I didn’t throw one in there.)

Other favorite books or authors for comfort reading are:

E. M. Delafield: the Country Lady series. Domestic, funny, and very quick reading.

Elizabeth von Arnim: THE ENCHANTED APRIL. I was recently horrified to realize I’d never read von Arnim, so I trotted off to the library and read this and was then bitter to realize my friends have read her and never held me down and forced me to do so. I ranted about this on twitter and pal Kaite’s response was, “But I just assumed you would have read her!” Many of von Arnim’s other novels have been converted to free ebooks, so I’ve downloaded them all in a fit of greed.

Beverley Nichols: a man and his garden. But what a man! Nichols had a superb eye for detail and a lovely way with words. He can describe a tulip and make it sound like the most interesting thing you’ve ever heard. He also tells horrifyingly delicious stories about the villagers he encountered. Think COLD COMFORT FARM crossed with CRANFORD–two other excellent comfort reads, now that I think of it.

Dodie Smith: aside from her best known book about Dalmatians, Smith is known for I CAPTURE THE CASTLE. I recently discovered some reissues of novels I never even knew she’d written. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I am comforted just knowing they are there.

Doreen Tovey: I have no idea who recommended these books, and I don’t even like cats, but Tovey’s books about her Siamese are hilarious. And her claims about their vocalizations forced me to YouTube what Siamese cats actually sound like. My eardrums will never be the same, but the books–about Tovey’s experiences with her cats living in a small English village–are charming.

Angela Thirkell: I haven’t read hers yet, but I have at least one stashed in my TBR pile because I am not sure an Anglophile can get away with never having read her. My fear is that I will get sucked into her series and never come out again…

What about you, chickens? All of my comfort reading seems to involve small English villages and animals. What soothes you?

Having reread this, I’d add Gerald Durrell’s books about his family, Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce series, and Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks.

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In which we’re talking about words

Every once in awhile I like to repost this just to muse on words:

Years ago I read a study which published the most popular words, chosen by sound only, not meaning. I’ve tried to compile a similar list for myself, although I’m sure a word or two has crept in there by virtue of its pleasant connotations rather than its euphonia.

Violet, leopard, thrust, deceiver, whisper, buttery, crescent, scandalous, bashful, sumptuous, cuttlefish, translucent, pastoral, tale, camellia, moose, bliss, perfume, mystery, embrocation, scarlet, bodice, luscious, ribbon, lascivious, silken, punish, mollusk, bivouac, implode, incantation, slipper, wistful, plum, glisten, nacreous, willow, shiver, eviscerate, feather, tumble, incense, velvet, mellifluous, limber, moon, invocation, stormy, mirage, blush, regime, tantalize, cassowary, plume, thistle, marshmallow, revenant, enthralled, benediction, creamy, pillow, vivacious, seduction, mist, ruminant, thunder, cupcake, moss, luminous, serpent, wander, stocking, fig, honeysuckle, sibilant, teacup, gossamer, salamander, invidious, supper, tumescent, pleasure, shimmer, enchant, odalisque, rapture, conjure, silver, hither, relucent, plangent, capture, plaintive, destrier, tempest, ocelot, aqua, fallow, mermaid, serendipitous, ponder, pluperfect, veil, siege, trebuchet, tarantella, glassine, savage, puffin, ossuary, hoplite, incandescent, bumblebee, marionette, nascent, illuminate, madrigal, lilypad, pearlescent, toadstool, escarpment, autumn, madeira, tassel, tuffet, pomander, quicksilver, epistle, parasol, picaresque, epaulette, fable, tulle, salsify, seraphim, illuminate, myth, tortoise, galleon, fortuitous, galleon, feverfew, gust, corsair, forbidden, sacred, smoky, caravan, amaranth, rosary, lush, basque, leather, mystique, voluptuous, paisley, glamour, wisteria, russet, ellipsis, glissade, chrysalis, pellucid, lucifer, invidious, oubliette, statuesque, inviting, hermitage, escapade, desire, glorious, champagne, voluminous, turret, soliloquy, violin, dulcet, phantom, alchemy, castanet, scriptorium, palanquin, wolfish, bellicose, vicious, cygnet, whimsical, whisker, capricious, mulberry, lashing, lilac, fenestration, forthright, testament, melancholy, calypso, gloved, malicious, weep, lust, lubricious, sparkle, sympathy, ensorcel, woebegone, nautilus, vicarious, pessary, flutter, dolorous, rampant, phantasmagorical, sylvan, passementerie, ambrosia, villainess.

What words do you love the sound of?

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Okay, that’s not really a thing, but if it were, I’d be dead of it. For many moons I’ve been a fan of the Fug Girls. Their fashion blog, GO FUG YOURSELF, is utterly hilarious–so snappy and fresh they’ve taken to writing novels! Much to my delight, it turns out the Fug Girls enjoy my work just as much as I enjoy theirs. Our paths crossed quite by chance a few weeks back on Twitter, and much mutual admiration ensued. The result is a FIVE BOOK LADY J giveaway! Huge thanks to Jessica and Heather for giving Lady J all the love and sharing it with Fug Nation. Go forth and enter, chickens! (Oh, and if you click through their archive to the commentary of the Will & Kate movie? You will get abdominal cramps from laughing. Pinky swear.)

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In which I’m reading

So the other day a reader asked in passing whether I preferred to read print books or digital, and it got me thinking that the way I read is odd. I have a system that’s quirky but works for me and makes sense–at least in my own head.

My first choice is a print book in a trade edition. I don’t love mass markets because the print is soooooo small. (A common grump amongst those of us over 40.) I don’t love hardcovers because they’re too heavy–especially in the bathtub. I will read those versions if there’s no other way to get hold of a book, but if I have a choice between either of those and trade, it’s trade all the way. There’s significantly more white space than in a mass market which is easier on the eyes.

For my ereader–and I have a Kindle–I download novels. (This avoids the mass market tiny print issue if there’s not a trade edition of a book.) My other use for my Kindle is the out-of-print books that have been digitized and are in the public domain. MANY times I have needed a research book that was difficult to track down or exorbitantly expensive in print, only to find it was free for Kindle. So I snap those up even though I really, really don’t like reading my research on an ereader. I find I retain much more of the material if I can mark it up as I go–some books I read with a pencil in hand at all times to highlight passages I don’t want to forget. When I finish with a research book, it’s usually covered in pencil marks and bristling with tiny post-its. I tend to visualize where I saw something in a book which makes it easy to find later. This is almost impossible with a digital edition, so it’s my last resort for research material.

I also use my Kindle to download samples of books that I later purchase in print form. It’s a quick way to screen books and weed out what doesn’t thrill me as well as a handy reminder of books I wanted to track down at the library or bookstore. (I’m still lamenting the fact that I can’t sort the books into folders!) I also use the Kindle for reading manuscripts that friends send along before publication–the conversion to a Kindle doc is FAR easier than trying to scroll through an attachment to your email or printing out 500 pages of a pal’s book.

And I purchase multiple copies of favorite books just to have them handy in different formats. Some are free–Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, even some Agatha Christie–but others are just too loved to be without. In that category you’d find Dodie Smith, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Sarah Caudwell, Elizabeth Peters, Alan Bradley, and FINALLY Daphne du Maurier. I have print copies of all these authors, but the digital books are a security blanket, ensuring I never have to go without.

And here’s a photo of me actually reading–from SCRIBBLING WOMEN at Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC in June: Lady Jane

What about you, chickens? How do YOU read?


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In which it’s time to mark your calendars!

Our October 1 release is ready to go–so get ready for NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS! If you enjoyed Gabriel Starke in CITY OF JASMINE, I can promise you a cameo appearance…

Just follow the links to pre-order! Here’s a sneak peek:


On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

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In which there are too many sports

I don’t know about y’all, but I think we have too much of a good thing right now. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that between the World Cup and Wimbledon, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage the start of the Tour de France. (And anyone who knows me knows that watching the Tour is NON-NEGOTIABLE.) A reader tweeted back, “ARE YOU GETTING ANY WRITING DONE?” Well, of course, chickens. I have BONFIRE NIGHT, the next Julia Grey novella, due to my publisher at the end of July. It is well in hand, I PROMISE. But I also know that with two novels and three novellas getting pushed out this year, a girl needs a little recreation, am I right?

And when I say recreation, we all know I don’t mean ME playing the sportsball. I am notoriously uncoordinated. I have managed to sprain both wrists very badly and get the wind knocked out of me, and that’s just in high school gym class soccer. (I will admit to thoroughly enjoying the unit where we got to play football. We were supposed to play flag football, but the coach never cared what the girls did, so we went straight for tackle.) I also didn’t entirely mind the cross-country unit only because we got to loop around the ag barns and fields behind the school which made a nice change from the track. The only thing worse than running is doing it IN A CIRCLE.

I confess, I don’t watch soccer. First of all, it’s ridiculous that we call it that. It’s not our game, it’s played with the feet–why can’t we just agree that it IS football? And secondly, OH MY GOD, it’s hours of nothing happening except some spectacular displays of aerobic fitness and acting ability. If I’m going to learn the intricacies of a game enjoyed by other cultures, it’s going to be cricket–which I’m reliably told is similar to baseball and which I do not believe for a minute. But the outfits are spiffy, and they stop for tea, so I am completely on board.

Then there’s Wimbledon which I enjoy but not when players stand at the baseline slamming serves at each other. I like a scrappy game with strategy, so I tend to favor the smaller players who move a lot and come in to the net, but I fear they’re a dying breed. I like grass and clay because those surfaces fight back, so I generally only watch the French Open and Wimbledon, and thank heaven Wimbledon is over because THE TOUR, Y’ALL.

I was beyond excited about this year’s Tour because it’s starting in England–specifically, in Yorkshire, one of my favorite parts of the country. They’re making their way through towns we’ve visited, winding up and down roads we drove. They even stopped at Harewood House, a stately home with a royal connection. (George V’s only daughter, Princess Mary, married the Earl of Harewood.) Wills and Kate and Harry dropped by to wave the riders onto the start of the stage, and it’s been an utterly insane two days of brilliant riding, beautiful countryside, unexpected tactics, and a spectacular course. It feels like the full three weeks have already been crammed into the first two stages. I am giddy at the thought that we have so many days left…

Don’t forget, I’m taking reader questions for August bloggery! We’re almost full–only four slots left, so be sure to drop a question in the comments here or email me at deanna(at)deannaraybourn(dot)com. Remember that comments here are in moderation and won’t post immediately. Thanks!

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In which this about sums it up

A few publishers are reissuing delectably old-fashioned vintage books, and among that most satisfying are those of D. E. Stevenson. After I discovered the delightful Miss Buncle last year, I was delighted to find a follow-up in which Miss Buncle gets married. (See MISS BUNCLE’S BOOK and MISS BUNCLE MARRIED, of course.) The third is THE TWO MRS. ABBOTTS, allegedly the third and last in the series, but a fourth book, THE FOUR GRACES, was just reissued and picks up right where THE TWO MRS. ABBOTTS leaves off, albeit with different main characters. In any event, you must love a book whose preface concludes with this quote: “…all the best people have at least one bat in the belfry.” Indeed!

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In which we have a bonus post

Quick Monday post to say Happy Blogiversary to Kindles & Wine! In honor of their two years of book bloggery, they’re doing a huge giveaway–check out the goodies they have up for grabs!

Also, we’ve got great questions lined up for August’s blogs; keep them coming! You can leave them in the comments here–remember that comments are in moderation and will not appear immediately–or pop them in an email to deanna(at)deannaraybourn(dot)com.

Today I’m putting the finishing touches on July’s newsletter, so if you haven’t already signed up, DO. The sign-up box is in the sidebar to your right, and I only send out one newsletter per month, so things don’t get spammish. Please note I’m in the process of scaling back my presence on Facebook, so this is a great time to sign up for the newsletter or follow me on Twitter. (In case you missed it, FB–in addition to being increasingly less effective and useful–has recently gotten itself into hot water by experimenting on over 600,000 users in a seriously unethical fashion. If you’d like to read about it–here’s the article in the WSJ.)

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In which it’s almost reader question time

Oh, August is always my favorite month on the blog because it’s the month when YOU get to ask questions and have them answered! I did notice that we’re a little short on blogging days in August–the month starts on a Friday so that pushes our first entry all the way to August 5. So, if we have too many questions for August, I’ll actually start answering them in July posts. And in the interest of being able to prepare the blogs with plenty of time, I’d love to get your questions now! Ask in the comments here, via Twitter, or on FB–all are fine. They’ll be answered in no particular order, and I’m happy to talk about the Julia series, the Vespiary series, writing in general, etc. My only request is to be discreet with your spoilers! Lots of folks are still catching up with the spring releases. If you’re concerned about posting something spoilerish, feel free to send your question along to me at deanna(at)deannaraybourn(dot)com. Spoilerish questions are always answered on the blog with big honking warnings at the top, so you can still ask questions that give things away. Alright, chickens–what do you want to know?

*As ever, comments are in moderation, so please do not be alarmed if your comment does not appear immediately.

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