July 2010

Stuff I’ve been reading in July:

  1. The Knight with the Lion (Yvain) by Chrétien de Troyes.
  2. Sir Launfal edited by A. J. Bliss. *
  3. Sir Degaré edited by Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury. *
  4. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  5. Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey.
  6. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley.
  7. History and the Supernatural by C. S. Watkins.
  8. The Knight of the Rose by C. A. Cole.
  9. The Blue Hawk by Peter Dickinson.

I had forgotten how much I love dragons until I reread Dragonsong, which I hadn’t read in nearly a decade. I immediately wanted to reread the rest of the Pern series. The public library has some of them so I may be making use of my library card to read them. The Blue Hawk is the first book I’ve read by Peter Dickinson, who is Robin McKinley’s husband. And yes, since I actually sat down to read what I had written for JuNoWriMo, I included my novel, too.

Do you know how hard it is to find modern songs to make a playlist for my medieval fairy romances? I recently listened to KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and immediately associated it with the Pooka, and have been building a playlist around this song and my stories. I’ve had to draw on my other music-guru friends for help. I would not have expected to find songs about roses, stars, or dragons so difficult. And what I desperately need for the playlist is hand-clapping, foot-stomping, can’t-help-but-dance song for the Faerie Dance.

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* Indicates in Middle English.
Which means folksy songs like Kate Rusby’s “Sir Eglamore” are out, even if they are about dragons or elfin knights. (Winter is coming. This means playlists must be ridiculously happy and upbeat.)
And believe me, I have a lot of star songs to choose from.

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JuNoWriMo 2010

Today, at 50,610 words I wrote: Here ends the tale of the Knight of the Rose and the Pooka. Just because I’ve finished both NaNoWriMo and JuNoWriMo two days early doesn’t mean I’m going to try this crazy thing in February.*

And now, I only have three months to prepare for NaNoWriMo. What am I going to do?!

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* The 31st of this month was only ever going to be considered as a desperate catch-up day.

Ordinary day

I've had to separate them.

I read today that Peter Abelard and Honorius Augustodunensis doubted that story-tellers could be saved. And Wace apparently lamented that tale-tellers retold history with too much artistic license — conveniently ignoring the courtly embellishment he himself added when he refashioned Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Arthur…

No more fairies?

Thanks for the well-wishes, folks. You will be pleased to know that I braved rice and lentils for dinner last night, and a boiled egg, and seem to be fine. I think a grocery trip today is in order. Kelly says I need to eat more meat.

“No more fae/vampires/angels/gods/etc.” saith one literary agent. I’m glad to see someone putting their foot down about this tidal wave of vampirism in recent fantasy, but… fairies and gods, too? Though I call myself a science-fiction writer, the last three novels I’ve written have been fantasy, as are the next two novels I have in mind. And… I write dysfunctional fairy tale medieval romances. How can I not, with all the medieval romances I read for work? The Faerie King retells Sir Orfeo and Sleeping Beauty; The Knight of the Rose is a combination of Beauty and the Beast and Cupid and Psyche.

Fortunately, I wasn’t planning on submitting them any time soon. It would probably be better for my thesis/academic career if I chose to wait to submit any of my silly fairy stories until after my thesis is done and finished, for the very same reasons my supervisor wants me to be very, very serious in my academic writing. So the pendulum swings, but no one will stay uninterested in fairies for very long.

Only 10,000 words left of JuNoWriMo. I have been remiss on posting excerpts this time around. So a little bit from what I wrote yesterday…

* * *

The Star Queen led them out near to the tip of the bastion and looked up. Linus mimicked her, and caught his breath. The stars had never seemed closer than they did just then. Almost as if he could just reach his hand out to them could he pluck one out of the sky, but he did not try. Each one sparkled and spun. Each at first, he thought, was white, but as he watched them closer he saw that some twinkled with bits of yellow, others with blue, still others with orange and red and green. As they sparkled he saw that each was a woman dancing. And as they danced, the stars sang.

No sweeter music had Linus ever heard than the song of the stars. He knew not what they sang of, only that it was music, the purest essence of music ever known. The Star Queen stood beside him, her hands clasped at her breast, and her eyes glistened in the starlight of her sisters. They stood there for a while, Star Queen and mortal knight, listening, entranced.

The Pooka hopped from the lady’s shoulder to Linus’s. “Sing, you fool,” it hooted in his ear.

Linus could not help but sing.

Cream Crackers

Jacob’s Cream Crackers, ‘The Original and Best’, and they are pretty tasty. And pretty much the only thing my stomach really likes right now, even though there is enough of a nutritionist in me to say, ‘You need protein, sugars, vitamins’, and so have also been eating a steady diet of PB&J sandwiches and dry cereal.

Being sick while being on your own is no fun. I woke up Wednesday with an upset stomach, but was still compelled to go into work because I had an overdue recalled book that had to be turned in before I racked up a huge fine, though despite my stoic efforts I was home again by noon. I spent a feverish afternoon in and out of sleep and slept 17 hours between Wednesday and Thursday. I was duly nervous, because the last time I got what was supposed to be a 24-hour bug, I spent five days in bed unable to keep even water or Gatorade in my system and poor Kali was on the brink of taking me to the hospital. (For those of you keeping count, that was also during my senior year of college.) Fortunately, it has not been so bad as that, and I felt better on Thursday, but have been taking a forced vacation for good measure. I know I’m beginning to feel more like myself because I am beginning to feel a bit stir crazy, but only a very little bit. I did laundry today, but I think grocery shopping will wait until tomorrow. Once I finish my PB&J I’ll be back in bed, reading, and then probably sleep some more.

Though why I blogged this instead of sending it as an email to Sarah, who is apparently my most faithful (only?) reader, I don’t know. Not all of my lurking readers have grad school, small children, or poor Internet as an excuse…  There. Obviously I’m feeling enough of myself to start being snarky.

40,112.

Lest we forget

I went on the OSP field trip to Coventry yesterday, my sole reason for wanting to go to Coventry being to visit the cathedral because of To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. I searched and searched and searched but did not find the Bishop’s Bird Stump. But I tried. In seriousness though, I have a soft spot for World War memorials and the standing memorial of the ruined St Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry is very moving. There is a daily Litany of Reconciliation held at noon that is just lovely. Behind the altar of the old cathedral are the words Father Forgive, and on another wall: ‘The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former saith the Lord of Hosts and in this place will I give peace.’ Amen.

Father Forgive

This morning I said good-bye to the Hardins’ and got a sweet hug from Annie when I left, and then I got on the long train north. I stepped off the train breathing the cool, fresh sea air and was glad to be back in Scotland. Though my time in Oxford was short, it was a good break from the monotony of the PhD. I walked in Oxford, London, and Coventry, I caught up with friends, I read two fiction books and half of a book for work, I edited what I brought to edit, and I slept at last.

Now, I am home.

A bit of theatre

O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

-Henry IV, Part I, I.i.86-89
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So yesterday, Chris and I hopped over to London for the day. We had lunch with Timothy, a former-SCIO housemate who now lives in London, and then headed over to The Globe to see Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Ever since I toured The Globe during is construction when I was 12, I’ve wanted to see a play performed in it, and getting to see two plays in one day was just brilliant. For the first play we were groundlings in the yard and in the second we sat in the gallery. The rain stayed away, it wasn’t too hot, the acting was amazing, the audience responsive — in short, it was a great experience (even with the annoying teenage girls braiding their hair during the performance!). I loved how we were recreating an atmosphere and an experience that we could share with people 400 years ago, how the jokes were still funny, the grief still poignant. There are some things about human nature that just haven’t changed over the centuries. Except, I don’t think that the people back then had to worry about overhead aeroplanes drowning out the voices of the actors.

Even though it was a really long day, I kind of wish they had gone the whole way and started in the morning, so that they could do both parts of Henry IV *and* show Henry V in the evening. I know, I ask too much.

Chris and I also saw four of the actors at Wagamama’s during dinner in between the plays. We were perhaps a little too giggly about this.

We didn’t get back to Oxford until 1.30 AM, so I slept in and have had a lazy day hanging out with the Hardins and their friends, and enjoying a quiet Sunday evening. It’s nice to be able to relax and have no demands for a little while.

On a side note, I used the ‘I Write Like’ analyzer and found out that on my blog I write like Neil Gaiman. Pardon me while I am not-so-secretly pleased with myself.