Tirgearr’s Big Birthday Bash!

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Tirgearr Publishing is turning 5 – but you get the presents!

Enter at the special birthday page and you might win all three Chastity Flame novels, a Kindle Fire or lots of other great prizes. You can also get many books for a reduced price including my collection Unquiet Dreams, which Steve Bissette calls, “the long, deep plunge in the coldest quarry in the woods; the lingering look under the rotting wood at all the writhing life there; the stare into the abyss until one realizes something is staring back.”

See the site for details.

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Lammas

From Leechdom, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, a compendium of wonderful folk knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, a charm using bread [hláf] hallowed on August 1st [hláfmæsse-dæg] the traditional grain harvest day:

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Summer’s last hurrah this month: in sunny Dundee the flowers still bloom:

But the rowan berries have come too, and they spell my doom:

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Last Minute Gift Ideas

Jan Kozlowski: terrific writer & skilled crafter!

Jan Kozlowski: terrific writer & skilled crafter!

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this blog you’ve probably already sampled my writing, though if you’re of a mind to try something new, far be it from to dissuade you to follow Cthulhu’s recommendation and get yourself a copy of Weird Noir! Paperback or ebook available — and you know, all those other titles of mine…

Ahem.

But here are a few other books you can buy (yes, I know there are other things than books in the world, but seriously books are what everyone really wants) that also make you feel good because they help out. Yes, charity anthologies! None of them are expensive (in fact a few are at reduced rates) and all of them benefit people who need help.

Buy a book for yourself, give a gift to someone else (even if you don’t read ebooks yourself, you can give them to those who do), and feel like you’ve done a little bit to help those who could use a little boost. Click on the pictures below to see more about these anthologies. I’m suggesting books that I’ve already put my money where my mouth is, too. Quality.

Re-Imagining the Olympics

Image of Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Cauldron ©James Richmond

The 2012 Olympics are over. If you weren’t in the UK you might not have been aware of just how transformative these two weeks were. That I’m even talking about it is evidence enough. Like many of my geek and writer friends I’ve often found myself in the position of fighting against the popular attention to the millionaire sports industry.

But this was different. It took me back to something I lost long ago: a love of sport. I grew up with four baseball diamonds and a football field behind my house and a huge field beside it where we practiced driving golf balls. We had an archery target in our back yard. And every Saturday my family plonked ourselves down in front of the television to watch Wide World of Sports, where I first learned about things like hurling.

I played sports: it may surprise some of you to know that I have a letter in softball. We played baseball non-stop, mostly with abandoned equipment from the teams who played behind our house: lost baseballs, cracked bats, discarded bases. We all had our own mitts and I was always pleased when my older brother would choose me ahead of some boys, because I knew he was ruthless when it came to teams and chose the best player.

Where did it change? High school, where the social divisions were sharply drawn. I dropped off the tennis team to devote more time to studies. Then there’s the whole thyroid thing which eventually led to trading mine for a five inch scar on my neck. And sealing the deal was working the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Eleven hour shifts in the gift shop, non-stop work and no fun. I never wanted to hear the word again.

I did get to hold a gold medal. The woman who won the sharp shooting gold, a Canadian on her own in Los Angeles, wore it into the shop so we all gathered around her to ooh and ahh. It was heavy and beautifully designed. But I pretty much ignored sports after that. Easy to do with all the bloated hype around professional sports in the US; worse, the scandalous proto-professional world of college sports. Nothing makes grad students more bitter than a library falling apart and wrapped in plastic while a new bronze Husky dog statue gets installed in front of the sports arena.

I’ve slowly gotten sucked into real football over the years (Go Gunners!). Unlike American football, there’s usually plenty of action and it’s not all about the money (Man United cough). But what got me into the 2012 Olympics initially wasn’t the sports per se; it was Danny Boyle’s orchestration of the opening ceremonies. An intense demonstration of the power of narrative, it offered Britons a new vision. Unlike the canned catch phrases of politicians, this reimagining acknowledged the past and honoured the present. Watching it with the live commentary on Twitter I saw its effects take place as the cynicism surrendered to the magic. Boyle’s theatrical ritual used humour but also touched people through powerful images from childhood and ancient representations of the past (the tor, the maypole). And Evelyn Glennie!

At the centre was the cauldron — I was amused to find it had been codenamed “Betty” and just love it.

“We’re normally designing buildings,” Heatherwick said. “It is like the biggest gadget that anyone can make in a shed but this shed is the most sophisticated shed in Harrogate. It was like the Bond gadget workshop.

“When we were thinking about the cauldron, we were aware they had been getting bigger, higher, fatter as each Olympics had happened. We felt we shouldn’t try to be bigger.

“The idea is that, at the end of the Games, this cauldron will dismantle itself and come back to the ground. Each of those elements will be taken back by each of the nations and put in their national Olympics cabinets. Everyone has got a piece.”

The power of that image — and its lighting by the torch literally passed from the old generation to the new — lighted a new vision that so many people embraced and lifted the games from mere sporting event to a truly international celebration. The joy and the tears over the next two weeks resonated and not just with Britons. The radiant face of  Jess Ennis, the tearful one of Hoy, the embrace of Heather and Helen, the American women exploding as they won the 4×100 relay (not literally). All eyes were on Bolt as he raced to his expected victories, but how much more people loved him when he did the Mobot.

Go Mo!

Many writers have been inspired by sport; they released a newly discovered Nabokov piece on boxingJoyce Carol Oates has written on the sport as well. I’m not going to suddenly become all Sporty Spice on you. But I have enjoyed the spirit that suffused Britain the last couple weeks. As a few people said on Twitter, the crass closing ceremonies — full of glitz, supermodels, joyless musical reunions (when Freddie Mercury on video proves the most spirited performer, you know you’re in trouble) and the extinguishing of that remarkable cauldron — may have been the polite way to get house guests to leave, but I hope the joyful moments continue to echo in the subconscious for some time to come.

Read poet laureate Carol Duffy’s encomium for the games.

Profiled at Eden Baylee’s Blog & News

I am profiled over at Eden Baylee’s blog today. Drop by and say hello to find out what lurks inside my mind lately. I suppose it’s the usual sort of thing, but Eden has some interesting questions that I have not had in an interview before, so maybe you will learn a few new things about me.

I sent back the page proofs of Owl Stretching last night. I’m just the worst at finding those last minute errors. I get caught up in the story and forget to check for errors, argh. Let’s hope that the careful eyes of Sharon and Storm have caught the most egregious errors. Any that remain are my fault alone. I was pleased to find that I still enjoyed the story. It has been so long since I actually finished writing it that I found I had forgotten a lot. Of course there are jokes that only a few people will get, but the I think the undercurrent of constant surveillance and the jaded audience are even more apparent now than they were when I was writing it. Yet so much of my life has changed since then; the acknowledgements capture those changes. And yes, there is a Ruby cover forthcoming; fingers crossed it’s just as gorgeous as her work for Pelzmantel.

I’m working away on White Rabbit. Not sure I can say much about it at this point but it remains fun and interesting, and while I’m sure that I know where it’s going, there are a lot of surprises along the way, so that’s a good thing. Writing the occasional short thing in between, but mostly in this for the long haul for as much of the time I have left in Scotland.

Alas, it grows short. And no, not sure what I’ll do once I get to the States. Sorting it out soon.

I have a few reviews lately over at A Knife and A Quill. Drop by and check them out.

Tales of the Nun & Dragon, out soon — and now with music!

We said good-bye to Steve Browne yesterday; his memorial was held at their place in Berne. Maryann told me that Mary had more people offering remembrances, songs and stories than they could accommodate in the service, so a friend was filming all those who wanted to speak or perform. I went to the Howff and thought of Steve and those who loved him and how we would all miss him. Good-byes are always difficult.

Know-vember: Byron Ballard

Yes, it’s your Village Witch, the Appalachian wise woman, Ms Ballard. We first met at the witchcraft conference at Harvard and managed to keep up with one another ever since. I’m hoping Byron will be able to manage a trip over here while I’m in Ireland. Should be wonderful to have her in the land of the ancient Celts — many megaliths and pubs to visit. Of course she would be welcome company any time, any where.

1. What’s the first thing you do upon waking in the morning?

I lie still for a few minutes and imagine the day ahead. Then I get up, put away the futon that is my bed, open the shades at the window. And go pee.

2. What’s a song you might be persuaded to dance to?

I will waggle my ample backside to almost any kind of music–yes, I have danced to Mozart’s Requiem–but I love classic metal, trad Brit, bluegrass. They require different dances…or do they?

3. Where in the world do you live?

I live in the oldest mountains in the world in the southern highlands of Appalachia. From my window, I can see the third oldest river in the world. So here in NC, I feel pretty young.

4. What’s a great night out for you?

A great night out would be seeing a play done well (a rarity), a bottle of excellent French wine, and something delicious to eat–all with friends.

5. What’s a great night in?

A few friends in for high tea that morphs into us making dinner, listening to or playing music, telling stories and jokes. Perhaps a fire outside in the fire pit.

6. If you were offered an all expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?


My first thought is always either Meath or London but since someone else is picking up the tab, I’ll go a bit further afield. Crete or Greece, I think.

7. What book do you wish everyone would read so you could talk about it?


Whichever book I’m reading at the time. Schiff’s Cleopatra bio is my current one.

8. What movie makes you cry?

Gad, I cry at all of them. I’m a big sap. So, Love Actually, Calendar Girls all that sentimental rubbish. I love it.

9. What makes you laugh?

I never tire of Hot Fuzz. I’ve seen it a zillion times and I still fall out at “NWA” on the door of the Neighborhood Watch group.

10. Are there fairies at the bottom of your garden?


Um, yes. I call them the Cousins and we have a fair working relationship in the growing of veg, as long as I remember my place. There is also a disgruntled djinn who can’t figure out how to get home and has taken up residence in the shed. Long story, I’ll show you the scar sometime.

Thank you!

Ghoulway

 There was a persistent magpie knocking at my balcony window and then at the kitchen window yesterday morning. Usually there’s a pair. Maybe she was asking if I’d seen her mate. He was probably down the pub.

 Lame, but this was the full extent of my costuming! I didn’t have any parties to go to, so I didn’t feel obliged to come up with something fantastic. Yes, I am hanging my head in shame.

But I did go out to dinner with Michael and Leslie at the Kings Head; while ambling down Quay Street afterward we saw this sign and it made us chuckle. There were lots of folks in costumes and a few kids out guising, but no one came to my door so I have oodles of chocolate left. Fortunately, I only bought candy I like…

We stopped by the Salt Hill Pub down on the Claddagh side of the Corrib. As I’m off to Scotland on Thursday, I had a Brew Dog which was quite good.