May 2011

Books read in May:

  1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Poirot at his best? I enjoyed it, though was a little put off by the ending.
  2. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier. A wonderful retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and the Frog Prince set in medieval Romania.
  3. The Outlines of Mythology by Lewis Spence. A short little book about the study of mythology.
  4. The Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and Legends by Katharine M. Briggs. Briggs, perhaps the best folklorist I know of, talks about fairies in Britain. Informative as always.
  5. Sula by Toni Morrison. Two girls grow up in a black community in Ohio in the early 20th century. One gets out, but that doesn’t mean she had the better life.
  6. Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin. The people of the Uplands have strange gifts, each unique to their clan. A boy blinds himself because he cannot control his gift; a girl refuses to use hers.

Best new read of the month: Wildwood Dancing.
Best non-fiction of the month: The Vanishing People.
Best (only) non-genre of the month: Sula.

Last month I also read six books and said it was a disappointing list. I don’t know why. Six books seems a standard, or even impressive?, number for books read in a month. Maybe I was feeling particularly ambitious in April and was disappointed. Anyway, all of the books read this month were enjoyable. Two months in a row now I’ve read non-fiction, and I already know there will be some included for June. Hopefully reading non-fiction will become a habit because I have a few books sitting around that need reading…

Today is not only a special day for reviewing the books I’ve read the previous month: it’s also JuNoWriMo Eve! I’ve read countless folk and fairy tales over the past few days, and have puzzled and thought, and tonight have solved some of the remaining problems that were bothering me. Now I just need to finish writing up the outline, plan the opening scene and start writing as soon as it’s 1st June!

Also, today is my birthday. It has been a very, very, very pleasant and good day. From receiving wonderful and thoughtful gifts, to running around the house following clues for my gift from Ros (clues that were hidden under my bed, in my favourite book, behind a mirror, in a cupboard…), to having a lovely lunch with one friend and tea with another, to cooking a delicious huge dinner of steak, potatoes, and veggies, to skyping with another friend… it has been a very good day. Thanks to all who have made me happy!

My birthday shrine.

And what did Ros give me? A citrus juicer and an egg shaker (though not a tambourine). 😉

Myths & fairy tales

It’s only three (3) days until JuNoWriMo — because NaNoWriMo isn’t enough insanity for a few of us (meaning, me and Kelly). I have decided to write Book 3 of my Fairy Tales series and I am terrified. Book 2 was nerve wracking enough, and now I’m going to pull it off for a third time?

The Faerie King was easy. I was essentially rewriting Sir Orfeo, one of my favourite Middle English romances, and the Orpheus myth naturally paired with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The Harpy (formerly The Knight of the Rose) was trickier, but Beauty & the Beast and Cupid & Psyche came together better than I thought. Now I need another fairy tale, and another myth.

Do you know how difficult it is to find fairy tales about princesses who actually do something? And tales about princes don’t easily lend themselves to adaptation into tales about princesses. I have a couple of ideas that I am trying to milk into being novel-length. I’ll be writing on 1st June whatever happens…

Let them eat cake

In the weeks leading up to my birthday lunch (held a few days early this year), I told Ros and Rebecca that I wanted two cakes. So they made mint chocolate chip ice cream cake and bannoffee pie. I also wanted strawberries and cream and/or divine rhubarb crumble. I opted for the strawberries and cream… though I might make some crumble next week when it’s my actual birthday. I have a lot of cake to eat the next several days…

After recovering from the initial shock of booking accommodation in London for this summer, I’m getting quite excited. Despite the traveling I do, I haven’t had a real Holiday (one in which I go somewhere simply for the sake of going there) since spring break 2009. And the last time I spent any significant amount of time in London was in 2008. A trip is long overdue!

So a book

Last night Ros asked me what I wanted for my birthday.
‘A tambourine,’ I answered. She has already established that I am not allowed to have one. ‘Except a tambourine,’ she said.

I searched my mind, realising I had forgotten the list of things I had wanted for my birthday. ‘A garlic crusher,’ I said, at a loss. Earlier that evening I had used two spoons to crush a clove of garlic.

‘A garlic crush.’ She was unimpressed.

‘Well I don’t know! Or a fruit juicer thingy.’ This was accompanied by the brandishing of a soapy wooden spoon. I was doing the washing up.

‘A citrus juicer,’ Ros corrected. She paused. ‘So a book,’ she said.


…But I still want a tambourine. One that has a drum on one side of it. Please may I have one?

O furious wind

Wind is no stranger here where we are perched on the edge of the North Sea. But never have I seen the streets littered with tree branches. St Andy’s churchyard was so full of broken limbs that I couldn’t quite see the door to the church. As for myself, I’ve been described as a ‘slight’ person more than simply in jest, and today was certainly a day I could have used a pair of weighted shoes. If it weren’t for my computer bag and bag of books, I might have had a much more difficult time walking home. Though I’m sure the sea would have been a sight to see today, standing on the top of a cliff to see it wouldn’t have been the best idea!

When I came home I found that our garden was not spared from the fury of the wind. I lost the second largest of our sunflowers — it was snapped in half. I ran out at once and tied the remaining two sunflowers to poles for support. My poor sunflowers. If it isn’t slugs or soil, it’s wind.

At long last

With JuNoWriMo only 10 days away, I decided to finally put my room into order. I know, it’s only taken me nine months to finish moving into my bedroom, but there you have it. Hoovering, dusting, filing, hanging up the clock I bought months ago, posting pictures on the bulletin board – it was a day for being industrious. My room now is the cleanest, most organised it will probably ever be. And the desk – at last – is actually at a point where I can use it.

My folklore books will be at hand; the postcards used as inspiration for the previous two WriMos I’ve done in Scotland are arranged on the board, along with a NaNoWriMo guilt monkey ready to make sure I write.

More on JuNoWriMo as we draw closer to June – I’ll only say now that I’m really excited for it and my mind is bubbling with ideas…

A few tips

When presenting a paper, do not do the following:

  • Drink blue Powerade before or during your presentation (or any colour);
  • Read from single-spaced text;
  • Wear a graphic t-shirt and jeans (with or without holes);
  • Make asides in sotto voce;
  • Speak in monotone;
  • Neglect to indicate quotations;
  • Make funny noises or faces when one mispronounces something;
  • Go over time.

Instead, take these words of advice: read from a double-spaced, size 14 text; know your text well and practice reading it ahead of time. Have someone listen to you with a timer and their own copy of the text so they can mark places that are unclear or awkward. Smile, and act confident even if you don’t feel like it. If you make a mistake, continue forward as if you meant to do that, and few will be the wiser.

Despite some of the above occurring at the conference I attended this week, it was a very good conference. It was very enjoyable to discuss my topic with ‘my kind’ — other folklorists, even a few of them also being medievalists. I presented my work on a comparative etymological survey between fairy and elf and was told by one of the Professional Folklorists afterward that he enjoyed it because it went ‘whoosh — right over [his] head’. I was greatly impressed by the group of postgraduates that organised the conference: it was obvious they worked well together, as a team they were very welcoming and friendly, and also as individuals actively mingled during break times. Definitely a good model to follow if I ever co-organise a conference!

Our Garden, Part 5

Green and growing things in our garden.
Apple blossoms:

Baby basil:

Sunflowers growing:

Sweet colourful surprises:


It’s been raining off an on the past several days: bright, warm sun suddenly shadowed by stormy greys, dark and cold, with big fat drops of rain, only to return just as suddenly, washed clear and clean. Spring is unpredictable in its moods. The other day, though annoyed that the clouds decided to open right over my washing that was almost dry, I was delighted to see a pure, perfect rainbow arcing across the sky.

A reminder of promises, of God’s faithfulness. The Lord keeps his promises, even when his people do not. Amen.

More about books

A book meme stolen from Kelly, who stole it from someone else. But who can pass up the opportunity to talk about books?

  1. The Book I’m Currently Reading
    Murder on the Orient Express
    by Agatha Christie, received last year from Kelly for my birthday. A highly enjoyable mystery that takes place on a passenger train, starring the detective Hercule Poirot.
  2. The Last Book I Finished
    The Queen of Attolia
    by Megan Whalen Turner. Perhaps one of my most favourite books, I’m tempted to reread it again after I finish the book I’m reading now.
  3. The Next Book I Want to Read
    As Kelly said: ‘This is always the hardest question’, and it is. I’m wavering between The Queen of Attolia or The King of Attolia, but it will probably be Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.
  4. The Last Book I Bought
    The last books I bought for myself were The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, on 11 December 2010.
  5. The Last Book I Was Given
    Probably Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin, given to me at Christmas by Kelly. Hopefully my upcoming birthday will produce some more titles for this category.

An inheritance of plants

I am used to ‘inheriting’ items from friends. From kitchenware to bedspreads, I can now add houseplants. Faith and Isaac left this weekend to return to the U.S., parceling out their belongings among their friends and among the things Faith gave me were some plants.

Chris will be very pleased to know that I now have a cactus: the plant on the right is some sort of cactus, but which type I’m not sure. Christmas cactus, maybe? I re-potted the one on the left — I can’t remember what kind of plant it is, but hopefully it will be much happier now. The cactus needs re-potting as well, except I ran out of both compost and coffee grounds, so that one will have to wait a little bit. The hyacinths in the middle are doing just dandy.