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May 2011

Saturday Morning

I'm popping in on a Saturday morning to pass the word that Erin Underwood has posted a terrific "shared world interview" with Bordertown writers Chris Barzak, Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tim Pratt, Sara Ryan, Janni Lee Simner, and Jane Yolen, over at Underwoods: Life Literature, & Everything in Between.  She's also giving away a copy of the Welcome to Bordertown ARC via Book Club on Facebook today.

I must post this link quickly because I'm not really meant to be in the office on weekends. After a lifetime of working basically 24/7 (as so many self-employed writers, freelance editors, and artists do), I've been persuaded to actually take weekends off during my months of convalescence...and I'm finding the weekly break so helpful, bringing fresh energy and clarity to the rest of my work week, that I plan to carry it on when convalesence is finally done. If you, too, are an over-worked, overstressed 24/7 type, I recommend giving it a try. You'll be amazed. (I also recommend having one day a week when computers remain entirely switched off, which we do in my household on Sundays.) 

So I'm out of here now, and leave you with the video above, recommended by my friend Bożena Małek in Poland. It's Bruno Mars in a studio session performing "The Lazy Song." Perfect.

Below: The pup in lazy mode (which dogs are so effortlessly good at), chilling on a bench in the front garden.

Tilly's office 2


Recommended Reading:

Tilly at the enchanted springs

* Christina Cairns, in western Australia,  has started a new Moveable Feast rolling with a thoughtful post called "Meditations on Home," which you'll find over at A Mermaid in the Attic. "As a descendent of immigrants from another, very different land, she writes, "I’ve always felt as if I had a foot in two worlds and belonged to neither. This country is the only home I’ve ever known, I know its rhythms, its seasons, its beauty and its frustrations. But culturally, spiritually...this land remains a cipher, a mystery that I cannot take part in beyond a superficial level...." Don't miss this beautiful meditation. (If the Feast travels anywhere else, please let me know in the Comments section of this post. Past Moveable feasts can be found here [on blogging] and here [on magic].)

* Katherine Langrish discusses myths and folklore about apples on Seven Miles of Steel Thistles. (And when you've finished reading that, if you're, er, hungry for more, try: "The Lore of Simple Things: Milk, Honey, and Bread" by Ari Berk, and "In Praise of the Cook" by Midori Snyder.)

* A great blog that I've just discovered (via Ellen Kushner) is Daniel Rabuzzi's Lobster and Canary, dedicated to "speculative, fantastical and surreal fiction, poetry, and visual arts, fairy tales, oral epic, & children's literature." Oh, my!  It's based in (but not confine to) New York City, and it's terrific. 

* Rex goes it alone on the John Barleycorn blog...and manages to pull off his first solo post with aplomb.

* Theodora Goss offers some very wise advice to aspiring writers in a blog post titled "Finding the Joy."

* Also for new writers: Nick Mamatas has an interesting new book out (with a fabulous cover): Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life. I've read a couple of pieces from the book online (you'll find links to them on Jeff Vandermeer's Ecstatic Days), and they're wonderfully blunt, clear-eyed, and provocative. Like Jeff says: "You may disagree with some of it, but that’s part of defining yourself as a writer, too."

* Richard Curtis discusses the state of the publishing industry in "The Real Kindle Killer," over on the Clarion blog. It's one of the best short pieces on the subject I've read: informative and succinct.

* Cliff McNish lists his top ten most frightening books for teenagers, on The Guardian's site. And they are not necessarily the ones you'd think they'd be.

* The finalists for the 2011 Mythopoeic Award have been announced. Congratulations to everyone on the list. (Very fine books all.)

* Midori Snyder has a couple of posts reflecting on "writers and their hair" (scroll down the page to find them both) on her blog, The Labyrinth, which in turn were inspired by a post on Favorwire. Also check out the fabulous video Midori posted yesterday: Behind the Seams. It's wild!

*  Janni Lee Simner has organized a big "Bordertown Lives!" Sweepstakes to help spread the news about Welcome to Bordertown, with all kinds of great prizes for three lucky winners. All the info is on the Bordertown blog, along with other B-town news, reviews, contests, etc., as the May 24th pub date quickly approaches. It's been fun, and moving, to see so much enthusiasm out there for the revival of the series. And lordy, how I love the Bordertown-bound kids in the new book trailer video.

* This week's folklore recommendation: check out The Company of Green Men, a blog from a group that "gathers, archives and makes freely available information, images and folklore about the green man and the traditional Jack-in-the-Green."

* This week's art recommendations: you'll find some very beautiful collages over on Lynn Hardaker's Beneath the Bracken; and are you familiar with the art of Julianna Swaney? I've been watching her work evolve over the last few years, and her website and blog are well worth a visit.

* This week's video recommendation: Ben Okri (author of The Famished Road, Starbook, etc.) discusses his approach to writing. "A story, " he says, "is an interval in the enchantment of living." Beautiful words, beautiful man.

Have a good weekend.

(And if I owe you email, my apologies for the delay and thank you for your patience. It's been a complicated week for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is having a new book with Ellen Datlow due in to its publisher on June Ist. )


Out of the Woods, Part III

1

Sitting on the rocks at the top of the hill, Tilly's posture went suddenly rigid with concentration. I followed her gaze, then saw what she had spied...

2

...white cows moving through a meadow full of bluebells near the border of the woods. Tilly is usually wary of the creatures (an attitude we encourage here in farm country, where she mustn't ever chase the cows or sheep), so although she raced down the hill in great excitement, she kept a sensible safe distance from them...

3

...while the cows drifted slowly through the flowers, gentle ladies glowing white within a sea of blue and green.

4

But when she heard me coming up behind her, Tilly grew bold and decided to inch closer...and then just a little closer still...

5

...until a big black rock in the grass suddenly moved, and the pup nearly jumped out of her skin! It wasn't a rock, it was a black-and-white bull, glaring down at her as if to say, "Yeah, that's right, come closer, little doggie. Come closer and make my day."

6

After that, Tilly stuck close to my side, her ears slicked back, seal-like, in her chagrin. We turned back down the hill again, following a narrow sheep path toward home...wading through flowers...raising clouds of golden butterflies with each step we took.

Butterfly 1

The butterflies were feeding on the delicate nectar of bluebells, gorse, stitchwort, and campion....

Butterfly 2

They brushed against us as we passed through, lighting in my hair and on my hands, darting from girl to dog to flower, little whispers of color and wind.

Butterfly 3

No wonder I write fantasy, I thought as we reached our own back gate again. They say that you should write about what you know. And what I know is that the world is full of magic.

Butterfly 4


Out of the Woods, Part II

Bluebell hill

As we climb to the top of Nattadon Hill, there are bluebells everywhere, lining the path and peaking up shyly from the cover of bracken.

At the top of the hill is a bluebell field, the color so delicate among the green than my camera barely registers it...but to the eyes, it's a cloud of blue; and to the nose, an extraordinary perfume. Tilly crosses the hilltop, wading through flowers. Then she sits on a rock, looking down on the village and the rise of open moorland beyond.

Bluebell hill 4

Bluebell hill 5

Soon we will have to head down towards home, but for now we just sit and absorb it all: beauty, magic, light, wind, sun. The raw materials for art-making, myth-making, story-telling. Food for the soul.

Tilly on the hill


Out of the Woods, Part I

Howard in fairyland

Last week before he left, Howard and I took the pup for one last walk together on the slope of the hill behind our house. We followed a path that is one of Howard's favorites, though it is one that I don't often travel myself. I'd been heading for the cover of the woods instead, enchanted by the bluebells that had bloomed among the trees and were now pale ghosts fading back into the green. "Ah, but I know a place where the bluebells are just now hitting their peak," he told me; and he whistled for the dog, and led the way, and this is what he showed me:

Bluebell hill 12

Bluebell hill 9

There's a lesson for me here. Sometimes the things you think you're losing aren't really gone at all. You just have to come at them from a new direction...and then there they are, stronger than ever.

Bluebell Path 4

T&t

So I'm out of the woods, in the literal sense, and maybe in the creative sense too. As I push ahead with creative work, I am, metaphorically speaking, walking farther afield with each passing day, and if the work is not exactly easy, it is oh so interesting, which is even better.

These pictures come from the bottom of the hill, bordered by some sheep fields and an old stone wall. Tomorrow, pictures from the very top. On Thursday, down the other side.

May your own journeys be interesting too, wherever and whatever those journeys may be.

Bluebell hill 14