A New Site

Posted in Uncategorized on January 25, 2011 by Lizzie

Because I began this blog a while back in school, I gave up on it a few weeks after the class ended.  But I didn’t account for the fact that I would miss the actual process of blogging – the self-imposed discipline of writing to a public audience at least once a week. 

I’ve received countless questions about whether or not the blog will ever again be updated, and my response was to create a new blog, a blog less general, and a blog more intent on the art of writing.  So in an attempt to answer all the future questions about The Galley Slave to Pen and Ink, you can find its cousin here:



Tis the Season

Posted in Well-Spun Tales on December 5, 2009 by Lizzie

With Christmas rapidly approaching (and my birthday for that matter), I keep getting hounded to produce a list of things I want to find, neatly wrapped in reds and greens, under the tree on the morning of December 25th.  So I began my morning with a mug of blueberry cobbler coffee and a list.  There I sat at my kitchen table, drinking more coffee than actually writing out a list of my wants and needs.  After about fifteen long minutes, I had:

1. A one way ticket to Ireland.

2. An apartment far, far away.

3. Yet again another U2 band shirt.

4. Pheonix‘s Wolfgang Amadeus CD

5. Hmmm . . .

Needless to say, I don’t need twenty copies of the same CD, so unless I think up a few more items to clothe my now naked list, I will be stuck with just that.  And maybe a few sweaters that I will never end up wearing.  Thus begins my search for the most promising reads.

1. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

4. A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein

5. The Deportees by Roddy Doyle

6. The Murder Room by P.D. James

7. Waterland by Graham Swift

8. 101 Recipes for Microwave Mug Cakes by Stacey J. Miller (Did you seriously think I’d be able to overlook a book that claims a little cake in just a few minutes?)

9. A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth’s Castle by Liza Campbell

10. The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lycett

Any books on your wish list this season?

Awaiting January

Posted in Well-Spun Tales on December 5, 2009 by Lizzie

Every writer knows that reading enriches writing, and even if that fact were not true, it would still be a great excuse to forget the dishes and escape in a book.  I first discovered Elizabeth Kostova‘s The Historian between waitressing shifts this summer, and I spent the next few days engrossed in the lengthy vampire narrative.  I couldn’t put it down, and I even managed to sneak in a few pages between tables at work.  One night when I got home from a particularly long and stressful night, I found that I had left the book at work, and right then and there in my kitchen, I broke down and cried.  I had to wait until my work shift the next night to continue reading.  The Historian was that good.

Now Elizabeth Kostova is finally releasing her second novel, The Swan Thieves, and I am already on the waiting list for the January release.  Her first novel mingled beautiful prose in with spell-binding history and brilliant narrative, and her new novel on French Impressionism promises to be no less intoxicating.

The Swan Thieves will be released January 12, 2010.  Check out Elizabeth Kostova’s glimpse into the upcoming novel above.


Posted in Well-Spun Tales on December 1, 2009 by Lizzie

I’ll admit it.  I’m a Redwall addict.  I planned on naming my first-born son Matthias years ago.  I could never get enough of swashbuckling buccaneers . . . especially if you add in a cast of furry woodland animals as characters the Brian Jacques way.  Nothing makes a novel like medieval abbeys and fearless warriors and seaweed grog (please reread sentence in a pirate accent for the full effect).  I first picked up Redwall in elementary school because of its enormous size (I’ve always been a fan of long, long books), and with Jacques’ 21st Redwall book, The Sable Quean, coming out in February, I’ve never had to put them down.  There’s nothing like medieval garb and grub.

Am I still allowed to enjoy young adult’s fantasy books?  Uh-huh.  Then why do people still laugh when I admit to being a Redwall junkie?  It’s just like reading Harry Potter or TwilightBut with animals. 

I don’t plan on giving up this series anytime soon.  Even if I do find myself sandwiched between two preteens in line for his latest novel.

Mourning the Big Bad Bookstore

Posted in From the News on November 30, 2009 by Lizzie


Remember watching Tom Hanks battle out Meg Ryan as Fox Books took out all the little independents in You’ve Got Mail (1998)?  Well, the opposite seems to be happening in real life.  Borders is dying out in the United Kingdom, surrendering its customers over to smaller and cozier bookshops. 

What do you think?  Yes, large chains are impersonal and lacking in charm, but they do tend to offer books at more affordable prices.  And then there’s just something about spending hours in an independent store with friendly staff and sliding ladders.  While living in Boston this past summer, I spent more time in the small cellar bookshop streets away than in the Borders directly across from my building just because the atmosphere was warmer and more . . . bookish.  Will we be losing something if Borders closes its doors?

Read Rachel Cooke’s “Beyond Borders: the future of bookselling.”

The Master of Suspense

Posted in Advice from the Pros on November 23, 2009 by Lizzie

A few months ago I stumbled across a book sale at my county library and picked up a silverfish-nibbled copy of Stories to be Read with the Lights On, compiled by none other than the magnificent Alfred Hitchcock.  My obsession with British crime dramas – film or print – led me to this quote by the ego-driven genius himself:

With a characteristic lack of modesty I have allowed myself to be billed as a Master of Suspense.  The description is indeed accurate, and you must admit, fully justified.

As with all so-called experts my counsel is often solicited by interviewers seeking definitions.  Just what is this business of suspense, they inquire.  Well, years ago I consulted one of those massive unabridged dictionaries one lifts only with the aid of a derrick.  It defined suspense as uncertainty accompanied by apprehension.

Fair enough.  In my films I try to intensify this apprehension to a point where it becomes unbearable.  That is the name of the game.

With monumental films like Rear Window and Psycho, Hitchcock undoubtedly deserves the Master of Suspense title in film, but his advice can be easily adapted from movie reel to printed page.  He insists the key to writing suspense is in architecting spine-tingling anxiety until it becomes “unbearable” to the reader.  So many authors build and build their complicated plots only to rush the endings and ruin the books.  Hitchcock’s method is tried and true.  Build the suspense slowly . . . and deliberately . . . until your audience cannot take another moment . . . and then give them a real Hitchcockian ending.

The Undisciplined Writer’s Dream

Posted in The Writing Climate on November 17, 2009 by Lizzie

My childhood memories are sepia toned: I climbed trees with the boys, downed pixie sticks with birch beer, and wore ridiculous pink high-heeled pumps with my pajamas.  While I still like to pair heels with flannel, I’ve pretty much accepted that I’m getting smarter. 

That was until I read Dave Caolo’s post, “Setting Up a Writing Mac.”  He advises dragging that old computer out from the basement and actually using it again – for writing only.  No web browser for convenient procrastination or iTunes for those distracting dance parties (exactly what I did for the last hour instead of writing this post). 

My first electronic love was a prehistoric typewriter that hummed like a mosquito when I plugged it in.  I would type away for hours, pretending to be famous and pumping out the most pathetic plots possible.  When I moved to Jersey, I graduated to the Mac, biking over to the public library if I needed the Internet or printer.  The computer was bigger than the desk it was on, but it served a purpose, and I still have some of the stories I drafted on that desktop.

What do you think about recycling an old computer?  Would your writing benefit from less distractions?