Monthly Archives: July 2008

Books I Read This July

The Magicians and Mrs Quent by Galen Beckett
Mr Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler
Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey
The Soloist by Steve Lopez
Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris
A Romance on Three Legs by Katie Hafner
Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss
Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope
Runemarks by Joanne Harris
The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris
Ink & Steel by Elizabeth Bear
This Lullaby by Sarah Desser
Small Favor by Jim Butcher
Body and Soul by Frank Conroy
Charlie Bone and the Hidden King by Jenny Nimmo
Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors by Jenny Nimmo
Birds for Dummies by Gina Spadafori & Dr. Brian L. Speer
Guide to the Quaker Parrot by Mattie Sue Athan

Quick notes:

Mr Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll: Epic fail. Got halfway through. Tries too hard to be Regency-style, tries to pull in too many new characters in a very un-Austen manner. I could take the basic subject matter; I couldn’t take the execution. Gah. I’m including it even though I didn’t finish it because I need to note it down somewhere.

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris: Wow. I so didn’t see the twist coming. I should have. This reads like Robertson Davies meets Patricia Highsmith.

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris: A well-handled not-really-a-sequel that addresses further wanderings of certain characters from Chocolat, but whose protagonist is someone new. I read it in one afternoon.

Runemarks by Joanne Harris: Yes, I went on a bit of a Joanne Harris rampage this month. This was an interesting take on what comes after Ragnarok. She got most of the Norse deities bang-on, albeit reduced to one or two traits.

Ink & Steel by Elizabeth Bear: Brilliant Elizabethan/faerie parallel story with really sharp characters and a story that draws one in and really makes one care about the characters and events. And yet, it is completely different from Brennan’s Midnight Never Come. Let’s see, what did I say about it earlier…

Last night I finished reading Ink & Steel, the first part of The Stratford Man duology by Elizabeth Bear. I’ve already geeked out on her journal about how excellent it was. I direct you to her website to read the available excerpted material and get yourself hooked. No, you don’t have to read Blood & Iron and Whiskey & Water to read Ink & Steel and Hell & Earth; they’re all part of the same universe but not in a serial fashion (beyond the loose duology of the first pair, and the definite duology of the second pair). Very, very worth reading. Bear continually astonishes me with her versatility and her ability to handle any genre at which she tries her hand. The heart of her success is most likely related to the fact that she writes a good story, about real characters with flaws and irrationalities as well as strengths, and makes it happen in a setting that has enough detail to create an entire atmosphere without going overboard. Also Elizabethan England, vile playwrights, and Faerie pretty much covers all the stuff I squee about, so when tied together, huzzah!

All I can add to that is: Eight days till Hell & Earth! Let the stalking of the bookstores looking for early copies begin! [SQUEE! I just checked stock and there are already two copies in at Chapters! I know where the boy and I are going after dropping HRH off at work tomorrow…]

Quick Post-Trip Update

Hullo world; we are back safe and sound. I have much cello news to jot down, but it will have to wait until Monday, most likely. Other than that: lovely trip, am proud of the boy in general for behaving very well, loved seeing the parental units. We got a bike trailer. The car trunk has been officially dubbed The Trunk of Extended Holding, because there is no way it could possibly have held all our bags, the bike trailer, a box with a printer inside it, assorted things we bought there (like a bike helmet for the boy and a couple of toys to be put away for Yule), and a cello.

Did I say a cello? I did, didn’t I. Oops.

Okay, all you get until I have the proper time to post is this: No, I did not buy one of the 7/8 Jay Haides I tried out, although they were lovely and smooth and dreadfully easy to play and had nicely balanced tone throughout the complete range, especially the second one. I came home with a turn of the century German-made one instead.

That’s all the explanation you get till early next week. Maybe sooner, if I have the time. Muah-hah-hah.

Checking In

We have been here in the cultivated wilds of Southern Ontario for a day now. The drive was very good, made even better by passing Fearsclave and exchanging waves with him as he entered and we left his local Tim Horton’s drive-through, where we had stopped for a late breakfast. I find it very amusing that we ran into the one person we know in Alexandria.

The boy traveled wonderfully. The new car traveled very well too, although we are very close to exchanging these high-performance (and loud) tires for the regular Goodyear ones we used on the station wagon. It didn’t rain, nor did we encounter construction or ludicrous traffic across Toronto as we usually do. We are suspicious but thankful.

And now for a week of not answering phones, checking e-mail and news and journals only sporadically, and likely not posting often, if at all. Have fun. Don’t break the internet while we’re gone.

(Three more sleeps till 7/8 cello!)

Mailbox Joy!

I just got my long-awaited delivery cheque for the hedge witch book! I am solvent again!

I could actually buy a Jay Haide 7/8 cello next week. Not that I’m going to, but I could. I feel much relief.

I have to make this last as long as possible, though, because I don’t know when I’ll be doing another book, what with the imprint I worked with being closed down and the publisher’s focus going vague and basic. Or if I’ll ever get around to finishing one of the several YA books on the go and shopping it around to agents so that they can shop it around to publishers. (Or, you know, get paid by the Big Corporation for whom I did work last May. Ahem. Not that the amount is large at all, but it’s all money and bills don’t stop coming just because a client doesn’t pay me.)


So. much. work. done. today.

I am dizzy at the mound of stuff I’ve accomplished. And yet when I look at the file I’ve just built it doesn’t seem like much. Still, I’ve verified or updated a bunch of out of date contact info, tracked down new contacts and their info, written a press release and a supra-condensed version for free listings, added the finished touches to a two-page edit I did on Monday, and handled a bunch of communication/e-mail stuff. I am much further along than I expected to be. I can remember when writing a press release took me a whole day.

Whoa. I am mighty.

Also? I have crossed not one, but SIX things off my to-do list.

I like meeting new people. I got an e-mail this morning from someone who had found the Court via a Google search for cello-related things, and we have been chatting back and forth since then. Hello, new readers who have alerted me to their presence via e-mail or a recent comment, and readers I don’t know about who have been reading stealthily for a while! I declare this a temporary delurking thread. If you read the journal and have never commented, just say hi so I can say thanks and welcome in a way that feels more personal. I could always make a pot of virtual tea to share. I promise, you never have to prove you were here in any other way unless you want to.

In Which She Muses About ‘Celebrity’

Despite the fact that I have worked in the book business for mumble-mumble years (good gods, has it been seventeen!?) and I know perfectly well that Editors and Authors Are Real People, I still have to work through the ‘yikes Famous Person’ veil that descends over my eyes when I meet one. I am, as previously mentioned, deathly shy, which makes self-promotion a challenge to say the least. It also means I have a permanent inferiority complex.

Brendan Cathbad Myers is someone whose work I’ve read since he published essays about druidry in Wiccan Candles, a now-defunct Canadian publication. (You can still read his articles, though, on his web site here.) His articles demonstrated to me that there was a deeply philosophical and ethical aspect to Paganism, above and beyond the basic foci (and petty arguments) that seemed to resurface again and again.

I tend to write and publish material that has a practical application focus to it. His work is on a completely different level academically and intellectually. (His work is stuff I wish I could write. And maybe did, once upon a time in university, before I was swayed by the need for not-101 books about alternative spirituality.) So when we finally came face to face on Saturday night in the resto-bar where we were waiting for a table, I was expecting someone different. Instead, he was excited to meet me.

(Funny story: I walked into the dark and crowded area with Blade and Silly Imp and waved at everyone, including someone who I knew was Brendan from his author photo. Brendan turned to another friend of mine and said, “Who did I just wave back to?” “That would be the famous and best-selling local author Autumn!” t! replied enthusiastically and on purpose because he knows how uncomfortable I am with having fuss made about me.)

We were both excited and a bit nervous. I admire his books immensely, and he appears to like mine. Which boggles my mind, because they’re so simple as compared with his own. Apples and walnuts, I suppose; you can’t really compare such different things. We were both thrilled to meet a fellow Canadian and pagan author, and we began to chatter away. He has such wonderful experiences to share, and a sense of wonder and appreciation pervades his conversation when he shares stories and thoughts.

We talked a lot about our experiences publishing, which isn’t a surprise. We shared our frustration about the very real needs of the intermediate to advanced readership within the alternative spirituality market that aren’t being met because publishers are more interested in putting out basic books that appeal to a broader cross-section of the market. I can’t argue with their reasoning; it makes sense on a piece of paper. There will always be more people in the beginner stages of study than those who choose to continue through. At the same time, however, one of the most common requests in esoteric bookshops is “Do you have something that’s more advanced than this?” He told me about his current publisher, about whom he has nothing but positive feedback to share, and I’ll certainly look into them as I develop ideas that the publisher I’ve worked won’t touch.

We talked about the festival experience, and the need for people who have more experience under their belts to hook up and share their own experiences and thoughts. It’s hard to find stimulation when you’re the one teaching all the time. And we talked a lot about responsibility and ethics and values and other cultural themes related to his most recent book, The Other Side of Virtue (which I glowingly review in the upcoming Summer 2008 issue of WynterGreene Magazine. The short version: Brilliant, insightful, valuable. Read it.).

At the end of the evening it was hard to leave someone I’d just met and with whom I’d made such a wonderful connection. And it was truly wondrous to meet someone whom I consider an established and respected authority only to discover that he was just as eager and nervous about meeting me. I am an idiot. There is a lesson here, if only I’ll absorb and remember it. On the way to the restaurant Silly Imp told me she’d met and worked with Thorn Coyle recently, and that she thought we two were a lot alike. This was another source of ‘yikes’, as Coyle is another huge name who I respect immensely. I suspect that I will never shake the feeling that I’m a kid masquerading as a confident and qualified adult.

Apart from Brendan fitting into the group remarkably well, it was really, really good to (a) be out after dark, and (b) be out with friends deliberately ignoring what time it was. I’m paying for it now but it was good at the time, and I’d do it again (just not any time soon). We all have such a hard time scheduling things that it was remarkable to have us in one place to begin with. The only downside to the evening was that HRH couldn’t share it with us. I know he and Brendan would have hit it off rather well.

I’m feeling even more excited about the Hamilton festival now that I’ve met Brendan.

Warp And Weft

I am now the owner of a 24-inch four-harness table loom. It’s missing the shuttle and I believe a heddle hook, but apart from that it’s in usable shape. It’s very similar to this model, only older and a bit more rustic. An elderly friend of the ADZO family passed away recently and left no local family. She was a weaver, and had three (three? two?) full-size looms set up in her split-level home. She was a member of the Lakeshore Weavers Guild, who came in and took the full-size looms. The ADZO family went over yesterday and was told to take whatever of her things they liked. One of the things they mentioned seeing was a tiny loom in a back corner of the storage room.

My maternal grandfather was a weaver. I have a set of curtains he wove hanging in my office (which can be seen in these pictures). One of the atmospheric things I remember the most clearly about his house in Farnham was the entire room he had upstairs filled with his floor loom, his wools, and his equipment. Over the past couple of years I’ve planned to at some point learn how to use a drop spindle to spin my own wool, as part of a spiritual and meditative practice. Ideally, once I’d worked on that for a while, I’d move into weaving with the yarn I’d created. I like the sense of taking up a craft that’s been in my family.

It seems that the universe has decided to switch things up for me a bit.

Jen called and told the executors that she’d found someone who wanted the table loom if it was still available, and so ADZO and I went over this morning to collect it. There was a member of the weavers guild there too, and she asked me if I was interested in joining. I told her quite honestly that I had no time at the moment but a beginner’s workshop at some point would definitely interest me, so I got as much information from her as I could. Before we left she rummaged through some bags and gave me three huge spindles of synthetic yarn to dye and play with.

A 24-inch loom is tiny. You can’t do huge projects on them, unless you intend to patch your work together somehow. They’re pretty limited to table runners, place mats, scarves, that sort of thing. But it’s not the products I’m interested in so much as the process. There is so much spiritual metaphor and simile encapsulated in the process of weaving, as well as the attractive notion of doing something meditative with the hands that doesn’t feel like a waste of time. And as I said above, there’s the family connection that makes it all the more special for me.

I suspect that I’ll invest in a stand with treadles when I get around to using it seriously, because using hand levers to shift the harnesses slows you down a lot. You only have two hands, after all, and they’re already passing the shuttle back and forth and operating the beater.

So I have a whole new set of things to research and read about. (Plant dyeing! Patterns! Techniques! History!) It’s not pressing. I’m looking forward to it.

(What am I talking about? Wikipedia has entries on looms, heddles (which are set in a harness), and weaving in general to help you out.)