German Studies with Agatha Christie

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on my German studies, so I thought I’d share a little bit of the latest novel (der Roman) that I’m reading:  Agatha Christie’s Blausäure (prussic acid).

This is one of the few Christie’s that I’ve never read before in the original (Sparkling Cyanide).  So it’s truly a first adventure.

The backcover reads:  “Es sollte eine gelungene Geburtstagsfeier für die junge Erbin werden.  Doch nicht nur die Errinerung an den Selbstmord der Schwester trübt die Gesellschaft, auch der Zweifel, ob nicht doch einer der Anwesenden das Zyankali in den Champagner mischte…”

general translation:  “It should have been a harmonious birthday celebration for the young heiress.  But not only the memory of the suicide of her sister dims the party, also the doubts, whether or not anyone present mixed cyanide into the campagne.”

The novel begins:

Iris Marle dachte über ihre Schwester Rosemary nach.

Fast ein Jahr lang hatte sie versucht, Rosemary aus ihrem Gedächtnis zu verbannen.  Sie hatte sich nicht erinnern wollen.

Es war zu schmerzlich- zu grauenvoll!

Rosemarys blau angelaufenes Gesicht, die gekrümmten Finger, die nach ihr gegriffen hatten…”

General translation:  “Iris Marle thought more about her sister Rosemary.

For almost a year long, she had tried to banish Rosemary from her memory.

It was too grievous- too gruesome.

Rosemary’s turned, blue face,  the crooked finger, that she had gripped towards…”

Here’s a word-for-word translation to give one an idea of the German sentence structure:

“Iris Marle thought about her sister Rosemary on. 

Almost a year long had she tried, Rosemary from her memory to banish.  She had self not remember wanted.

It was too grievous- too gruseome!

Rosemary’s blue turned face, the crooked finger, that on her gripped had…”

If anyone notes any errors in my translation…feel free to kindly correct.

For those studying  foreign languages, how are you doing?

Published in: on December 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm  Comments (15)  
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A Writer’s Mad Tea Party

“A bright idea came into Alice’s head. ‘Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?’ she asked.

‘Yes, that’s it,’ said the Hatter with a sigh: ‘it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.'”- from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

If you could cordially invite six authors (3 males, 3 females- living or dead) to a tea party- who would they be?

Sitting around my checkered-clothed table, while  indulging in scones, clotted cream and jam, I would love to converse with the following:

1. Agatha Christie- Not only did she write over 80 novels and therein create the über-sharp Miss Marple and brilliant Hercule Poirot (Belgium.  Warning: Never call him French), but she was a nurse during the second World War, and later traveled around the world from England to Australia to Egypt.   The  true stories she could regale us with!

2.  Mark Twain-  Not only a great writer (Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer…), but witty as all hell.  I’d invite him just to hear him wax poetic on the German language:

3.  Anne Bronte- Of course, a Bronte must be invited to my party.  Why not Emily or Charlotte?  Well, let’s face it.  Emily would just turn down the invitation, and spend the day roaming through her moors.   Charlotte would be fun, but she left us many letters.   Anne, however, has been quieted throughout the centuries.  But it’s obvious in her novels, Agnes Grey and Tenant of Wildfell Hall that she was very perceptive of human nature with much to say.   I’d want to meet the oft- forgotten sister.

4.   Edgar Allen Poe- To him recite The Raven, The Conqueror Worm, and Annabel Lee.  To listen to how he came up with his ideas for The Tell-tale Heart, Ligeia, and more.  And most of all, to let the man know who died penniless and alone,   how beloved and respected his work is today.

5.  Daphne Du Maurier-  When she wasn’t spinning  incredible gothic romance tales such as  Rebecca and Jamaicca Inn,  she was penning chilling tales such as The Birds and Don’t Look Now.    I’d love to hear her insights on plot and narrative structure.

6. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- Creator of  Sherlock Holmes.  That’s reason enough.   But he was also part of the 19th century Spiritualist movement and it would be so much fun to hear first hand accounts of seances he attended.

So, who is cordially invited to your tea party?

Of Writing and Swamps

My writing process is not pretty.  

 This current WIP is beginning the same way PORTRAITS  did.  In utter madness.   My stories begin with me diving into a mental swamp.  It’s dark and murky, but I know something is down there.  My first drafts are never really true drafts in the sense they aren’t a narrative at all.  Rather, they are pages and pages of discovery.  Random images, dialogue, scenes.  I write it all down as it comes, in all its nonsensical glory.

Seventy five pages in and I’m learning about my main character.   Her loves and fears.  Why she was placed in the asylum. . .

And then there’s the murder.  I’m combining my love of the Victorian era with my love of  Agatha Christie whodunnits.  I have my victim and the culprit.   The end scene is clear.

This swamp is fun to play in.

How is everyone else’s writing coming along?

Agatha Christie: Quotes on Writing


From, Agatha Christie:  An Autobiography

1.  “I myself was always recognized, though quite kindly, as ‘the slow one’ of the family.  The reactions of my mother and my sister were unusually quick- I could never keep up.  I was, too, very inarticulate.  It was always difficult for me to assemble into words what I wanted to say……It  is probably one of the causes that have made me a writer.”

2.   “There always has to be a lapse of time after the accomplishment of a piece of creative work before you can in any way evaluate it.”

3. “You start into it, inflamed by an idea, full of hope, full indeed of confidence.  If you are properly modest, you will never write at all, so there has to be one delicious moment when you have thought of something, know just how you are going to write it, rush for a pencil, and start in exercise book buoyed up with exaltation.  You then get into difficulties, don’t see  your way out, and finally manage to  accomplish more or less what you first meant to accomplish, though losing confidence all the time.  Having finished it, you know it is absolutely rotten.  A couple of months later you wonder if it may not be all right after all.”

4. to a friend who wished to be in one of  her novels, “I don’t think I could put you in.  I can’t do anything with real people.  I have to imagine them.”

5.  “It is awfully hard for an author to put things in words when you have to do it in the course of conversation.  You can do it with a pencil in your hand, or sitting in front of your typewriter- then the thing  comes out already formed as it should come out- but you can’t describe things that you are only going to write; or at least I can’t.  I learned in the end never to say anything about a book before it was written.  Criticism after you have written it is helpful.  You can argue the point, or you can give in, but at least you know how it has struck one reader.  Your own description of what you are going to write, however, sounds so futile, that to be told kindly that it won’t  do meets with your instant agreement.”

6. “Your criticism is bound to be that you yourself would have written it in such and such a way, but that does not mean that it would be right for another author.  We all have our own ways of expressing ourselves.”

7.  ” An early story of mine was shown to a well-known authoress by a kindly friend.  She reported on it sadly but adversely, saying that the author would never make a writer.   What she really meant, though she did not know it herself at the time because she was an author and not a critic, was that the person who was writing was still an immature and inadequate writer who could not yet produce anything worth publishing.  A critic or an editor might have been more perceptive, because it is their profession to notice the germs of what may be.   So I don’t like criticizing and I think it can easily do harm.”

8.  “The only thing I will advance as criticism is the fact that the would-be-writer has not taken any account of the market for his wares.  It is no good writing a novel of thirty thousand words- that is not a length which is easily publishable at present….You have got something you feel you can do well and that you enjoy doing well, and you want to  sell it well.  If so, you must give it the dimensions and the appearance that is wanted….It is no good starting out by thinking one is a heaven-born genius- some people are, but very few.  No, one is a tradesman- a tradesman is a good honest trade.  You must learn the technical skills, and then, within that trade, you can apply your own creative ideas; but you must submit to the discipline of form.”

9.   “The disadvantage of the dictaphone is that it encourages you to be much too verbose.  There is no doubt that the effort involved in typing or writing does help me in keeping to the point. ”

10.  “There is a right length for everything.  I think myself that the right length for a detective story is fifty- thousand words.  I know this is considered by some publishers as too short.  Possibly readers feel themselves cheated if they pay their money and only get fifty-thousand words- so sixty- thousand or seventy-thousand are more acceptable.  If your book runs to more than that I think you usually find that it would have been better if it had been shorter.”

11.  “When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and, whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style.  Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly.  But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration.  You will admire certain writers, you may even wish you could write like them, but you know quite well that you can’t. If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Sparks, or Grahame Greene, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t, and it would never occur to me to attempt to copy them.  I have learned that I am me,  that I can do the things that, as one might put it, me can do, but I cannot do the things that me would like to do.”

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 6:29 pm  Comments (33)  
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Meme: Seven Degrees of Separation

In my short time having this blog,   I’ve discovered my Astro Sis (waves hello to  Digital Dame).  And now, in the wee hours of the morn, I have learnt of my Telepath Sis: LeftyWritey.

This afternoon, while I was procrastinating  taking a break from writing, I went over to Ms. Uppington’s Blog. (All  Things Good) Scrolling down, I came across a post that somehow I’d missed.  She’d written a Meme back at the end of January, and further, she’d Memed me.

So, today I spent some time wondering what little  tidbits to reveal. And just short moments ago,  at 2 a.m. in the morning, I received an email from Ms. Lefty.  Out of the friggin blue, she asks if I know I was Memed a month ago, and am I going to write one?

Um.  Yeah.  I am.

Let’s see…

1.   If I wasn’t aiming to be a full-time writer, I’d want to be a professional researcher of some sort.  Whether it be anthropologist, archeologist, historian, or parapsychologist.  The wonderful thing about writing fiction is I can combine my never-exhausted imagination with my interest in these fields of study.  

2.  I love chess.     Bring it on.

3.   I collect Agatha Christie novels.   Didn’t intentionally set out to, but having discovered  I owned almost all hers in English, and a few in German,  I figured I should get them all.   And that older pulp covers would be fun to get too…

4.  I never go anywhere without a book in my purse.  (except like last week when I ran to Customs to pick up a package and ended up in the waiting room for two hours)

5.  I’m superstitious.  Never open an umbrella inside or walk under ladders.   I figure people must have had some reason for these warnings; and hey, better safe than sorry.

On that same note: I believe in the Sock Fairy and the Pen Fairy.  Really.  They exist.  Buy a new package of socks and see how long it takes before half of ’em disappear.   Now, the Pen Fairy, rather than being an all-out thief like her cousin, always returns the pens.   She just likes to put them back where they never were.  Or, hours later, where they were supposed to be, but weren’t.  

6.   I love Farscape.   Otherwise known as “Crack TV”.   And, like any self-respecting addict, try to hook others.   You want rich storylines filled with complex, realistic characters?  TV episodes filled with drama, laughs, romance, adventure, goofiness all rolled in one?  Just start watc…

7.    I much prefer  old black and white films to modern.   Often feel as though I were born in the wrong time, except I want today’s conveniences and Rights.   So, basically I belong in some alternative historySteampunk novel.

 So.  There.  Done.

I’m not going to Meme people as I’m not sure who’s been tagged already.  But if you feel like procastinating, this is a fun way to do it.   So carry on…

Agatha Christie-Books

In my previous post- I listed a few of my favorite novels.  I decided to give the Queen of Mystery her own space.  After all this time, no one has surpassed her intricate plots or  stunning conclusions.  No matter how surprising the ending may be- she never cheats.  One can always look back and say,  “Oh, yes!  How did I miss that?”

And even after you’ve gotten good at figuring out, “whodunnit”- they’re always fun to read.

Ms. Christie wrote over 80 novels.

Here are a few of my favorite ones:

1. And Then There Were None- 10 strangers all accused of murder are killed one by one on a remote island

2.  The Hollow

3. A Holiday for Murder

4.  After the Funeral

5. Cards on the Table

6. Murder at Hazelmoor

7. Crooked House

8. Towards Zero

9. Ordeal by Innocence

10. Five Little Pigs

11. Easy to Kill- the killer is quite easy to spot, but this is one of her creepiest reads

12. Hickory Dickory Dock- a sentimental favorite since it was the first I read

13. Seven Dials Mystery- change-of-pace comedic mystery

14. A Murder is Announced

15. Death on the Nile

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 11:03 am  Comments (2)  
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