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Authors I enjoy – Dorothy Sayers

Allow me one sentence as a kind of preamble: This is my second book review I’ve ever written. I even think this is not a book review – these are just some thoughts I want to share regarding an English author which has me in her grips for some days now. I would be very glad if those written down thoughts will prompt you to read one of her books, even if I run the danger of getting thumped on my head for making you spend money on a book you won’t like. But maybe you will like it or them?

A long time ago I  read all of Dorothy Sayers’ crime novels. Now I am rereading them again – in English. Reading one novel after the other (I began with “Strong Poison” and have now “The Nine Tailors” and “Busman’s Honeymoon” on my desk) I am more and more convinced that however brilliant the translation into another language may be: Those books must be read in English.

Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. The leading character of her detective stories is Lord Peter Wimsey who uses his sharp brain to solve murder mysteries, supported by his manservant, Mervyn Bunter. Although they are on different social levels the relationship between both men is full of mutual respect. There are even moments of tenderness without words, for example when the time has come for the  murderer to be hanged, and Peter Wimsey is feeling guilty of being the cause for his death.

In “Strong Poison” Wimsey meets his love, Harriet Vane, in the courtroom – she is accused of having killed the man she lived with, and of course he manages to prove her innocence. Let me quote the beginning of the book:

“There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.
The judge was an old man; so old, he seemed to have outlived time and change and death. His parrot-face and parrot-voice were dry, like his old, heavily-veined hands. His scarlet robe clashed harsh with the crimson of the roses. He had sat for three days in the stuffy court, but he showed no sign of fatigue.”

Wimsey’s familiy is not very happy about his relationship with somebody accused for murder and not on their social level. This may sound strange to us living in the 21st century; but in the society of the beginning 20th century in England this was a fact – that people kept to themselves. Wimsey’s way of speaking is definitely ‘upper class’,  but his way of treating people on lower ranks is one of kindness and respect.

In “The Nine Tailors” he and his manservant Bunter have to leave their car on New Year’s Eve because it broke down. Fortunately they find their way into a village nearby, where there are wined and dined by the parson. The parson’s big goal is it to ring in the New Year with nine hours of Treble Bell Majors, and one of the ringers is struck down by influenza. So Lord Peter Wimsey has to have a go, one lord among 8 people from the village. Of course there is a dead body found later on, and of course Peter Wimsey solves the mystery of his death, but it is the atmosphere in this village deep down in the Fens which kept me reading on and on.

Whereas in other detective stories the focus is on action here I have the impression that Dorothy Sayers put the focus on the atmosphere, the social setting, the people, some lovable, some shown with their weaknesses. And this is what makes me love her books.

Stephen King, “It”

One of my favorite books. Photo: Ulla Hennig

I bought this book in the 8os, and it belongs to those books I use to read twice or more. Some say that “It” is one of Stephen King’s weaker books, but it is among my favorites.

It describes how a band of schoolchildren fights against “it” in their town, “it” being the impersonation of everything evil. They have become friends because everyone of them is some kind of outcast (one of them is a big fat boy, the other one a jew, the third one stutters and so on) and this binds them together.

They are successful in their fight against “It”, but they haven’t killed it. Years later, when they have all grown up, they are called again to fight against “It”. Suddenly they remember their fight and the horrible moments that went with it. And they come, with the exception of one man who commits suicide because he neither can meet the challenge nor forsake his friends.

It is a book about friendship and about the power of children. I simply love it.

Another new adventure: ezines

Yesterday I submitted my first article at ezines.com. While I am still doing a happy dance (will do a bigger one if the article will be accepted) I am reflecting on the reasons why I did it.

  1. I hope to get some traffic to this blog and to my Squidoo lenses. I know there is some kind of a regular readership here on this blog, and I appreciate that very much and I am proud of it, too. But it would not be bad if more people would know about it, would it? Regarding my Squidoo pages I want to get more people from outside the Squidoo community to them, because I really think they are worth being looked at (hah, my inner critic, got you to shut your mouth!)
  2. I wanted to have a go at article-writing. I wanted to try out a new form of writing. I wanted to know if I could do it. Actually, the writing was not so much the problem. The problem was to submit it. I did not dare to do it. Fortunately I have got me an accountability partner, a wonderful Scottish Squidoo lensmaster called WordCustard , who offered to proofread my article. She made a few suggestions (Thanks, Nicki, my dear friend!) and told me to submit it. Which I did.

It is a wonderful feeling to overcome one’s fear and to go forward.

What the Journaling Challenge taught me

Yesterday was the last day of my Journaling Challenge over at http://www.ruzuku.com. The challenge was to journal for 15 days at least 15 minutes a day.

I have been journaling more or less the last years. There were times when I didn’t write anything for weeks. Then came the year 2007 with the death of my husband, and my friends recommended journaling for me as a way to cope with it. I still have those notebooks, and sometimes I reread my writings. I carefully wrote down anything I did on the weekends amd how I managed to spend them on my own.

Then came a time when my journaling became a more or less regular report on what I did on that or that day. I did it, but it was not so important to me anymore.

A few weeks ago I learned about the Journaling Challenge at Ruzuku and I decided to participate in it. I enjoyed every day of it, sitting at the breakfast table, writing in my note book, sipping my tea. I noticed that I needed more space to write with every day. I wrote down my feelings after telephone calls which made me uneasy; I wrote down the feeling of “Am I stretching too wide – how far with adding things to my agenda do I want to go?” I used my journal for planning the day.

In one short sentence: I used my journal to talk to myself, to sort things out. And I think I will keep up doing this.

Are you journaling regularly? And what does it do with you?

Writing and Learning

In my last blog post I wrote about what journaling teaches me about me. In this blog post I am going to focus on an other aspect of learning.

Since some time I have been writing Squidoo lenses. “Squidoo lenses” are webpages which focus on one subject – they can be compared with articles for a magazine or a newspaper. The main thing here is to provide facts, and you should try to provide them in a way which makes your readership want to read your lens.

While creating thoses lenses I learn a lot.

  • I learn the facts. When you want to write a lens about Mozart’s operas you have to know them – the date they were composed, the plot. I must admit I did not know the plot of the “Magic Flute” up to the day I wanted to write about it. I only knew that the music in it was wonderful. Which information do I get at Wikipedia in English? Are there facts which are important but only given in the German edition of Wikipedia?
  • I learn how to get audiovisual material about my subject. Are there any videos on Youtube? Is there any other media material at Wikimedia Commons? One of my last lenses is about a Western trilogy by the famous American Director Howard Hawks. I decided to write about that without knowing that there was only one bad video covering the last film of the trilogy. Wah!
  • I learn to “break down” my material to my supposed readership. What are the essentials? Which facts cannot be left out, which can be neglected? Which videos are the best? How do I structure my lens? Which titles and subtitles are best to catch my readers’ attention?
  • I learn that I should better write the introduction when everything else is already written (I vaguely remember that we were taught this at university regarding writing a thesis!).

The learning process is still going on, and writing a new lens is always a new learning adventure. And I deeply enjoy it!

Can you Write Following a Plan?

From now on till the end of December I will carry on an experiment.

Since May 2009 I am a member at Squidoo. I’ve successfully graduated at RocketMoms (writing one lens a week for eight weeks). Instead of taking a break after that adventure I have thrown myself into the next one: I am going for Giant Squid.

What are Giant Squids? Giant Squids are people which have 50 lenses and more. So my aim are 50 Squidoo lenses at the end of the year. Just now I am at # 19. Well.

So I sat down yesterday, picked up my calendar and wrote down a lens-writing-plan. It is a rather strict one: two days for one lens in the week, and two lenses from Friday to Sunday.

Do I feel pressure? It’s funny or even strange, but I don’t. I look forward to each day on my calendar because I know I will write. I don’t mind the grey days and the early darkness of November and December – because I know I will write.

By the way: I just published a new lens about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In case you want to throw a glance at it, here it is:

http://www.squidoo.com/wolfgang-a-mozart
Enjoy!

Do you write following a plan? What’s your opinion on that?

About me

screenshot squidoo lens

Screenshot of Squidoo Lens

I know I should rewrite my “About me” page. But I want to offer you something different if you are interested in knowing more about me: Some weeks ago I wrote a Squidoo lens about my top ten favorite activities, and I think that special lens will tell you a lot about me. Maybe the way I wrote it may be a bit strange to you – writing a squidoo lens is a bit like writing a magazine article (and provide the graphics and photos!).

It would be awfully kind of you if you came back from the lens again to this place here and tell me what you think about the lens!