Horror, The Fall & other news

Mark E Smith of the FallOut now:

Over on the Fox Spirit Books blog I get to kick off Women of Horror month with a piece on The Haunting of Hill House, one of the finest novels ever written. Go read it (my piece and the novel).

I have a piece ‘The Three Rs’ over at 3AM Magazine. I had written for another thing that fell apart but it suited as a kind of encomium for Mark E. Smith. More to come doubtless as there are many things floating around in my head.

Chapter 4 of Madonna of the Wasps is out: chapter 5 at the end of the month. If you want to have a print copy, I have good news coming soon.

You listened to the radio show, right? Feel free to let WGXC know you liked it.

UPDATE: I am always forgetting to share my History Witch posts: most recently Sounding Out the Water Elf (another bit in my thinking about the sound of charms which I’ll be talking about at the Harvard conference in April).

NEXT WEEK: The SpeakEasy dames and I will be guest hosts at Ione’s Annual Dream Festival next week. If you’re on Facebook, join us talking and thinking about dreams and how they affect our waking lives. Some of the posts will be here as well. Starts on Monday!

Forthcoming Publications:

Twice Reviled: Medieval Fact & Fantasy.’ Out of the Cloister: Lone Medievalists Making the Middle Ages Matter: forthcoming piece on what it’s like to be the lone medievalist in a department as well as a fiction writing-lit prof (hint: even people in academia like you to stick to one category or the other).

The Unlikely Milliner & The Magician of Threadneedle-Street.” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature: forthcoming essay on the use of tarot in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell — yes, yet another piece on that book so I suspect I may well end up writing a book about it.

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Travel: after a break of [cough] years, I’ll be heading to Kalamazoo for the annual Medieval Congress. Looking forward to my first paper on Rauf Coilyear, one of my new obsessions. I feel a little sad because I think the last time I was at the ‘Zoo was when I got to hang out with Kathryn Fernquist Hinds, who died suddenly this week. Her husband Arthur has asked those honouring her memory to make donations in her name to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. You might also want to read her books.

I hope to go to MAMO as well: this year it will be in Rome. We shall see. Finances always questionable — and of course, I need to get accepted! But a scheme afoot to catch up with Alexandra Bava naturally and Dan Curley who I think might be there as well in November.

[Fill in the elventy thousand things I have forgotten to mention or haven’t finished]

Oh, and I have more Edinburgh pictures to share: must remember to do so!

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Louhi at @FolkloreThursday

Dream Book

My introduction to Louhi, witch of the north in The Kalevala, appears at @FolkloreThursday today. Folk familiar with my work know that she appears in my stories in Dream Book which were inspired by Finnish mythology in both The Kalevala and The Kanteletar.

Some helpful links: The best translation of The Kalevala; the only English version I know of The Kanteletar; here’s me playing a kantele so you know what the traditional Finnish lap harp sounds like and here’s a fantastic classical piece inspired by Louhi from Tomi Räisänen.

Of course you can get my collection Dream Book thanks to Fox Spirit Books. Stories, poems and a play inspired by the Finnish mythology and music that fills my head. Oh, and ancient rock paintings, too!

Hang around Twitter and see all the fun: @FolkloreThursday is a great opportunity to learn and share.

#FolkloreThursday: Palakainen

My Finnish murder ballad-based story ‘Palakainen’ first appeared in the Mythic Journeys magazine. It’s included in the Dream Book collection from Fox Spirit Books. Like all the tales in Dream Book I wanted to keep the original well in mind; I tried to capture the feel of the Kanteletar in the language, giving it something of a lyrical, almost circular style.

He came with raven feathers. He came to woo our daughter. Had the wind whispered her secrets into his ear? For she would not have become the wife of any ordinary man, Kommi stubbornness made sure of that. Swanlike she was born, swanlike did she grow, with white hands and a graceful neck and eyes that looked unblinking at you. The servants, who all grumbled day and night about their work, would give her the best of the cream, the finest weaving, the sweetest olut brewed for her. Her brothers and sisters too, who should be jealous of the attention our little star received, instead protected her, coddled her. Her sisters did the mending rather than let her prick her fingers. Her brothers gathered kindling, which should be her job, carried hay to the cows in winter, rather than let her chap her hands. Swanlike they stayed, white.

Palakainen she was named, our little tidbit, our little treat…

Read it in full here.


Image from the original printing (wish I knew the artist!)


I know it appears as if I am doing nothing at all, but I promise there is a lot going on behind the scenes — much writing, some news to share soon, and more background on Finnish myths and folklore for Dream Book. It’s true too that there has been much time for amusement and fun, which has restored me greatly from an exhausting academic year.

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TOA/V: Bear Feast Polska

I love this version of the Bear Feast Polska by Rymäkkä. It captures the mythic heart of the song. ‘Karhunpeijaispolska’ is one of the first songs I learned to play on the kantele. I imagined cheery bears frolicking in the woods to the jaunty tune, which of course I figured out eventually had nothing to do with the lyrics.

The song is of course about the ritual of hunting and eating the bear. The song honours his sacred gift to the community. Bears are very important in the folklore and myths of Finland. Even today when you arrive at the airport in Helsinki, the signs outside are held in place by concrete bears.

I worked that into my noirish tale ‘Baltic Tango’ in Dream Book. It reunites two characters from À la Mort Subite who somewhat unexpectedly find themselves in Finland and have a hard time adjusting. They even hear the explanation of the Bear Feast over dinner one night. It’s important that the bear agrees to be sacrificed. To kill the bear when it’s unnecessary is a great crime again the living and all would suffer for it.

Besides, he has a good beer that’s perfect after a sauna.

2013-08-04 18.14.01Drop by Todd’s blog for more conventional TOA/V.

Magic Music

KanteleOne of the important themes of Dream Book is the music of the kantele. Long time readers of this blog know well the Finnish lap harp. I have a couple of five string kanteles, a ten string made by Gerry Henkel that’s waiting for me in Dundee and a fifteen string one that I got back recently. I have improved my playing though I’ll never be a superstar, mostly thanks to the Maine Kantele Institute, where I even made a five string kantele.

It’s a wonderful instrument that’s great for meditative music. Unamplified it’s rather quiet so you won’t disturb anyone — though I am still longing to get a red electric fifteen string. One of the stories explores a little girl’s relationship to her kantele — and the imaginary friend she discovers with it (or is it just her imagination…?)

Here’s some samples:

Albacon This Weekend!

Dream BookUPDATED!

Hey, kids in the capital region, I’ll be among the attendees at Albacon — which surprisingly has nothing to do with bacon at all but is the local SF/F/H/anime/manga/comics/costuming etc con. Plenty of fun people will be there: GoH is Mur Lafferty and Ghost of Honor is jan howard finder a.k.a. wombat. Doubtless I will be doing my best to flog Dream Book to all and sundry.

My schedule includes:


(possibly taking Debi Chowdhury’s place on the 9 and/or 10 am panels too)

Getting it Published
Laity, Hartwell, Chowdhury, Willis
Getting the Word Out
Laity, Chowdhury, Shvartzman
Social Media
Kressel, Lafferty*, Laity, Shvartsman
Flash Fiction
Hammond*, Laity, Schneyer, Shvartsman, Rothman
Noir in SF Cinema (or, perhaps,SF in Film Noir!)
Doyle, Laity*, Barnett/Grant

Full program here. Sorry for the rush job: trying to finish grading!