Monday Hunk Who Reads – Dan Stevens

posing in a library, looking much younger.
(Photo: Mark C. O’Flaherty)
(I miss his naturally dark hair…)

Dan Stevens

British actor Dan Stevens is our topic for this week, and nerdy ladies are you in for a treat! Best known for his roles as Edward Ferrars in the 2008 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and as Matthew Crawley in iTV’s Downton Abbey, this hunk is an intellectual. The picture above is his promo pic for the Carte Noire Reader series, where he reads love scenes from classic and contemporary novels. On his bio page for this endeavor he has this to say about books:

I adore books and love reading, but it’s hard to find the time. Life is a bit hectic this year – I just got married, and now we’re expecting a baby, and then there’s the play every night. I’m getting through Richard Holmes The Age of Wonder at the moment.

He then goes on to say: “My other dissertation at Cambridge was comparing The Picture of Dorian Gray to Will Self’s Dorian – so I know the book well – it’s beautiful.” Excuse me while I catch my breath.

Okay, back now: your OTHER dissertation? Yep, turns out he was an English Literature major at Cambridge.

Anyway, here’s the list of books he’s read from for the Carte Noire program. He’s definitely making a name for himself in audiobooks too, with his reading of My Dear I Wanted to Tell You: A Novel, which won UK’s national book award for best audiobook of the year. Here he is excited about the win:

He’s the voice for several other books, but how cute is he reading Jack and the Beanstalk?

He is Editor at Large of the online literary salon The Junket which launched this past fall. The Spectator had this to say about the startup:

Set up by friends for friends, all the essays in this virtual literary salon revel in extremely well written flights of fancy — read the meditation on Ukrainian airplane food; about the art of memorising poems for impromptu performance or how Guardian reviewer James Purdon thinks covert culture in the Cold War is still relevant. It’s more duffle-coat than polo-neck.

He writes a column once a month for The Telegraph — in the December issue he discusses how his bookshelves are already groaning from the weight. Non book-related but of interest to his fans, is how he laments the passing of old-school romance… And, he has a secret ambition: he wants to write a novel.

Last month it was announced that he will be one of the judges for the Man Booker prize for fiction.

Here’s what I could find on books he’s read

In an interview last month, he says that the last great book he read was  Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which he says is  a love letter to his favorite city in the world.

He read John Lewis-Stempel’s book Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War.

And, be still my heart, he’s reviewing books. Here’s a quote from his review in the Times of Caitlin Moran’s book How to Be a Woman:

Man-made scales of ‘fitness’ or ‘hotness’ have been wildly confused with those of beauty… As an actor, you continually see the ridiculous additional pressures heaped on actresses to ‘look right’ when actually what the camera sees when it spies the ‘great actress’ – what distinguishes them, and indeed the ‘great woman’, from her peers – is not on the surface at all. It is what illuminates the love-light in every man, whether he knows it or not. It’s that little spark behind the eyes; an intellectual curiosity, an erotic imagination – and just maybe a knowledge of early Nineties indie and dance music

You can also find him on Twitter talking about Downton Abbey, of course, but also chiming in with thoughts on history, books and even “there’s nothing sexier than rhetoric. fact.”

And here’s a photo of him at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, Oct 9, 2011

Due to just the sheer awesomeness of his love of books and his brainy side, I hereby bestow this post with the following accolade:

Before I wrap up, I want to thank Historical Romance writer Merry Farmer for alerting me to the fact that he has a sexy brain! Thanks Merry, I had fun doing this!

EDIT: Mere minutes after I posted this, he posted an article to The JunketBloodlust on Safari.

So that’s this week’s Hunk Who Reads. You can find him on twitter at @thatdanstevens. And ladies (or gents), before you get any ideas, in case it slipped by you in the beginning of the post, he’s married :)

For further opportunities to idolize men and books:

Reading is sexy people!

Do you have any photos of male celebrities reading?

Come back next Monday to see the next Hunk Who Reads…

Six Sentence Sunday – 1/8/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP. I currently have this out to Beta readers for feedback and hope to be in a position to query for agents in the new year. Here’s my working query hook for it: Isabelle Rochon has met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem: he lives in a different century.  (You can see the other entries here.)

This week I’m going to take a deep breath and share my new opening. I haven’t been happy with my previous one as I think it started with too much action at the sacrifice of character development. So I scrapped it and came up with several new starts. I’ve settled on one and I’ve been revising and revising it all week. I thought I’d post it here to get your honest feedback/critique on it as an opening. Does it hook you?

A reenactment ball was the perfect setting for romance. Or not.

Isabelle fidgeted in her oddly-shaped, but oh-so-accurate dress surrounded by women who’d sacrificed accuracy for sex appeal. It was as if she were a dorky kid again, showing up to dress-up day at school when everyone else had magically decided it was lame.

At least her co-worker Anna had also taken it seriously; like Isabelle, her dress was circa 1834. Better yet, this being the first time they’d hung out, Isabelle discovered they shared a mutual obsession with guys in period clothes — specifically men in tight-fitting breeches — which had helped propel her through the early stages of the party.

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here. Another poster today doing time-travel, check her out: Ginger Simpson

Have a great Sunday!

On writing: Is my zipper down or do you just not like my pants?

We’ve all gotten those critiques or reviews of our work where the reader has a lot of things to say of the not-good variety. As writers, we have to learn to grow a thick skin. At least, that’s what they always say. But I think that analogy is a little off as it implies being impervious, which is not exactly what we want to be. Yes, we need to learn to be tough and withstand criticism, but we also need to be able to absorb and learn from others.

During the critique and beta phases of our WIPs, we have to learn to tell the difference between helpful advice and just plain bad advice. This isn’t always easy. I touched upon a way to look at critiques in the fall, but being a new writer I’m still learning and have come upon a new fear. (Yippee! Not.) And that is…

Is my zipper down or do you just not like my pants?

I’ve been getting extremely helpful critiques from critters at critiquecircle.com as well as by fellow writers I know or have met online (Yay Twitter!) and I’ve learned a lot in the process. My writing is stronger because of it. I still have metric tons more to learn. Sometimes I’ve received critiques I haven’t agreed with, or they were trying to stamp out my voice and insert theirs, or I could just tell they didn’t like romances. These were easy to see. I’ve also had helpful feedback where mistakes and lapses were pinpointed, weak spots highlighted, or being told outright that a scene wasn’t working and why. This was gold to me. I would rather hear this kind of stuff and grow as a writer, than be patted on the head with a “that’s nice, dear” and live in blissful ignorance that my writing sucks.

Recently, however, I’ve been the recipient of a new kind of feedback (which I’m sure you veterans are familiar with) which has made the evaluation process tougher. This critiquer pretty much had something snarky to say about each scene, belittling plot choices I’d made, etc. You might say that I should dismiss this person as they obviously don’t know how to give constructive feedback. But what if he/she’s right, or that hidden amongst it are good gems I just can’t see past the snark factor?

Could it be my zipper’s been down this whole time and everyone else has been too polite to tell me?

The problem with the delivery of this person’s feedback is that it makes it very hard to look beyond it and see if any of it is valid. Or to understand that they just don’t like my voice and genre (which I’m fine with).

I love critiquecircle.com, but one of its drawbacks is that it’s mainly done chapter by chapter with inline comments. To continue with my metaphor, everyone’s helped me make sure the stitching is straight, my pockets look good, cuffs are the right length, etc. (Thank you guys!!!) It’s not ideal, though, for stepping back and evaluating the whole and noticing that my goddamn zipper’s been catching air this whole time. The whole forest for the trees thing… I think that’s why the recent critter worries me, because she might be seeing things everyone’s missed. The other problem is that I’m a new writer and haven’t yet learned how to evaluate this.

It could be a confidence thing. Heck, I’m sure it is. But I think it’s also because I ache to improve my writing and I really, really don’t want to be missing an opportunity to learn. But I haven’t developed the skill yet to tell if this person just doesn’t like my genre and style. Since I don’t know this critter, which would help in the evaluation department, I’ve reached out to a writer I trust to read my fourth draft (which I hope to have soon) and let me know if my zipper is down.

How about you? Have you had a rough/snarky critique that ran in complete contrast to all other critiques? Did you also have a hard time putting that one critique in perspective?

EDIT: Coincidence time! Just saw from another blogger I follow that the first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day blog hop. So, I just entered my name into the ranks and making this my first post. Visit some others today and help boost morale.

Top 5 posts from last year

Today’s the start of a new year, and I’m very excited to see what it brings for me and my family and friends! I thought I’d do a quick look at my SHORT blogging “career” and share with you some Top 5 posts. Obviously, folks are liking the man candy that has a brain, so I’ll keep doing those as they’re tons of fun. If you’re a regular, what things have you enjoyed and what would you like me to blog about? I just started on September 22, so all this is still new to me as I find my blogging legs.

5. Monday Hunk Who Reads – Bradley Cooper — he has the disadvantage in the numbers game since this was my last Hunk I posted (Dec. 19), but considering that, it’s pretty impressive he already made the Top 5.

4. Monday Hunk Who Reads – Hugh Jackman

3. Who Was Ada Lovelace? — really excited to see this post in the Top 5. She deserves as much time in the spotlight as she can get.

2. Eric and Sookie – Why So Steamy? Writing Sexual Tension… – not sure what caused the numbers here, that it’s about writing sexual tension or that it features Alexander Skarsgard. I really liked this post, though, and spent a lot of time writing it.

1. and with THREE times the number of hits as #2, is: Monday Hunk Who Reads – Alexander Skarsgård

Since I do like to write the occasional writing craft post, I thought I’d do a Top 5 (excluding the one above):

5. Go Deep! Eliminate Distancing Phrases for Deep POV

4. Firefly Friday – Dialogue – How Scary is Pain? It’s all in the delivery

3. Writing Lessons from the TV show Firefly

2. Adding Truth to Fiction Might Cause Hair Loss

1. My struggles with interior monologue, which is really interesting since this was only posted on Dec 22. Obviously a lot of writers are interested in this problem.

Six Sentence Sunday – 1/1/12

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP. I currently have this out to Beta readers for feedback and hope to be in a position to query for agents in the new year. Here’s my working query hook for it: Isabelle Rochon has met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem: he lives in a different century. 

From the second chapter, Isabelle Rochon is leaving the reenactment ball with Lord Montagu (Phineas) and Ada Lovelace. He’s baffled by her, and she’s still clueless that she’s traveled back in time. This is from his POV, hence the 19th century-sounding voice. (You can see the other entries here.)

Phineas turned back to Miss Rochon and held out his arm. “We will be happy to escort you to your carriage. It is warm for May, so I trust the short distance should not inconvenience you too much.”

Miss Rochon gave every appearance of mounting a protest. However, she shook her head instead and said something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like, “Whatever, dude.”

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here.

Have a great Sunday and Happy New Year!