So you almost didn’t get a post today because I faceplanted into my pillow and Did Not Move as soon as today’s conference panels were over. When I groggily came to, I thought it was Friday morning. The sun hadn’t even finished going down yet.
And The Rings of Power is out today. I haven’t seen it yet, which is kind of killing me, but I’m sure that’s what all the other nerds are doing right now, so who’s going to stop the party to read this?
Nobody, that’s who. I’m entertaining, but I’m not Young Galadriel in Middle Earth and the future of Amazon Prime streaming as we know it entertaining.
bookmarkedone would like to take this moment to remind everyone that our policy for spoilers is to chuck the grenade and ask questions later. You have been amply warned.
But I’m still posting anyway. Someday you’ll come back from Middle-Earth and the bookmarked blog will be here, right where you left it.
Still tired though, so expect this to be even more speedrun than yesterday.
(debates if “speedrun” is the proper conjugation. Decides not to care)
First panel of the day, author interview with T.R. Napper, talking about a lot of things while sitting in front of his enviable floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, but mostly his experiences as a Dungeon Master and the comparisons and contrasts between novel writing and writing for roleplay games. Would be a shame if we didn’t have a DM somewhere in the mix, right?
Interview with Emmi Itäranta next. She had my attention as soon as I heard her bio about being a Finnish speculative fiction author who writes her books in two languages (the second being English). Why?
Because Finnish Mythology Is A Thing and I have The Kalevala on the brain so of course I wanted to hear about her experiences and if the culture/history/mythology was in her books,
Tolkien’s interest in the Finnish language,
Because Itäranta reminds me a little of Cornelia Funke in the bilingual book aspect.
Beyond that, Itäranta was a little nervous about her first book premiering as a film tomorrow (so if it’s a huge deal, we the ProWritingAid Sci-fi-ers heard about it first and watched history take shape), and her latest novel is interplanetary sci-fi with a character who has spiritual/herbal/magical abilities. This is the combination of science fiction and fantasy I have been begging for since–well, at least for the last six months. It’s a brilliant concept. Snobbish curmudgeon bookmarkedone is intrigued.
Bethany Clift interview. Discussing a pandemic novel written before the pandemic with a posh, proper, reserved British author…who swears fluently. I’d say it was an experience, but my internet was still having issues through all three of these panels and especially this last one. I probably missed a lot. She gets one point for grinning and saying she’s writing a rom-com which means “less death” than her previous book. Not “no death.” Fair.
(skipping the Networking event because I still am in Forest Goblin Mode and Do Not Want to Socialize)
And then on to “How to Tell a Clear Science Fiction Story,” presented by Hayley Milliman. This one wasn’t earth-shattering for me, but again, internet issues didn’t help. A lot of sound advice I’ve heard many times before. Milliman’s cat and dog were also in attendance.
Last of all, “Marketing your Science Fiction Book,” presented by Sue Campbell. I have mixed feelings about this one. A lot of what she said made perfect sense, but her Number 1 recommendation was to start an email newsletter. I have never met anyone who voraciously reads email newsletters. I cannot accurately recall anyone who didn’t delete them as spam because they were too lazy to unsubscribe. Even though she had good reasons why…I still feel uneasy, like I’d only be alienating readers. Thoughts, anyone? Do you want me in your inbox as well as on your blog feed?
The good part about the marketing panel is that none of us were idly sitting by. We were taking action according to her advice. I mentioned yesterday that I snuck into the Discord channel, and that popped up again then. Better, everyone was sharing podcasts, blogs, and Twitch channels and asking for guests. I didn’t volunteer much, but I was copying everyone’s links to look at later. Especially the Alligator Preserves podcast. What’s that about? I don’t know. But you’ve got to find out with that name.
And…yeah, that’s about it. I changed a peaceful comparison of plotters and pantsers into a fight club on the Discord (unrepentantly. This brings me immense satisfaction) and last I heard we’re slaughtering each other with our manuscripts and outlines in a library while I, your humble bard and a self-proclaimed plantser, play DJ and get to watch the show. From a safe distance, of course.
There are some beautiful things in life, aren’t there?
Okay. It’s late here, everybody, so I’m signing off. Take care in crafting your Rings of Power, don’t sell me out to the Discord for being more pantser than planner in my plantser life (please. I want to live through this war I’ve single-handedly created), and tune in for the final day of the con recaps tomorrow.
Don’t expect this posting every day thing to last. I–no. I’m too lazy for that.
So I’m not going to lie. I’m getting the Bilbo Baggins “butter scraped over too much bread” tired level today.
Still, I couldn’t leave you wondering what adventures befell me on Day 3 of the ProWritingAid conference.
So we’re speedrunning this. Clearly that’s the only logical choice here.
Started with an author interview with Rachelle Atalla. Chatting about her book, set in a bunker. Has a lovely cover, even if it doesn’t sound quite my style. She actually reminded me of one of my creative writing teachers…
Next was the World Anvil Software Demo. I got a Word Anvil account ages ago but haven’t used it much. The timeline function looks like it could save me an age of headaches though, considering my controversial decision to include multiple dimensions and time travel in the same WIP (muffled bookmarkedone villain laughter…what have I done?). Couple of other cool features on there too…it probably deserves another look. Also the panelists had a black cat that kept jumping into Forbes’ lap and being unceremoniously plopped back on the floor before it could steal the chat’s entire attention.
Samit Basu author interview after that…had internet troubles again so missed a lot of this one, and was tired enough that I had trouble focusing on what was going on when I was there.
Skipping over the fact that I crashed out after that and slept through the networking event…it’s been a week for your blogger, m’dears.
I did channel Bilbo Baggins vibes again when I woke up. If you recall in the Fellowship, I think, he says he has the remarkable habit of waking up just in time for a meal. I snapped awake again six minutes before Save the Cat Writes Science fiction. Weird, but weird in a nice way because I didn’t want to miss that one.
Save the Cat Writes Science Fiction! (see? I told you there’d be cats). If you are astute and read between the lines of my posts, you may have gathered that I am not a “planner” writer. I balk at outlines. I resist them to my core. But–in the spirit of applying a form retroactively…Save the Cat is brilliant. It makes so much sense to my weird writer brain, like a code, a formula for writing the perfect book. And I like codes and formulas. You can build puzzles with them far too intricate for any but the cleverest to hope to unravel. And then have the sticky notes app delete half your notes on the panel because it is spiteful and cruel…
Last was “How to Craft the Perfect Dynamic Between Your Protagonist and Antagonist.” Had to attend this one because my relationship with writing antagonists is…complicated enough to warrant a post of its own. It was good, but not “Save the Cat” good.
One of the moderators also has both a tabby cat and a little dog that were glimpsed in the background today. I think it’s a challenge for the chat to see who gets to say Everyone look there’s a cat pretty cat tell us it’s name first. No, I have not attempted to win this challenge.
And there’s a Discord now! Apparently has been since the first day, but I just didn’t know about it. It’s nice, because the lively chatting was one of the things I really missed from LTUE–Zoom chat isn’t the same.
And…yeah. That’s all I’m going to say about today. Short little post, so thank you for reading. More interesting things happening tomorrow, so tune in again then.
I told myself that I wouldn’t spend so much time chatting about tea and the weather today.
Because when I threw back the curtains this morning, it was foggy.
Everyone has their favorite types of weather. Sunshine, thunder, puffy clouds, rain. Fog is one of mine.
(Is this an apt time to confess that bookmarkedone’s garrett looks out on a cemetery? No, no. I’ve fed you a lot of wild tales, but living next door to a graveyard, that’s too perfect an aesthetic to be believed).
Tea, fog, and a writing conference. Night crickets still singing in the dewy grass. A mourning dove comfortably pattering across a lower roof to check on me and walk back, grey feathers and bright orange feet. The way the pale gold sunlight finally pierces the fog and gives the leaves a light greenness that is more beautiful than you ever remembered.
Scold me all you like for not getting to the point. It was too beautiful to miss.
Day 2 started out with an author interview featuring Ian Douglas.
Author interviews are just cozy.
You’re sitting with an author, listening to them talk, their glasses slightly askew, shelves crammed with knickknacks and books, as if you’ve known each other long enough to be called old friends.
As opposed to perfect strangers on a conference Zoom call, of course.
The Douglas session was lovely.
Finding inspiration (and taking notes before it evaporates again)
Writing characters that grow and change,
Independent vs. small press vs. big six publishers (he’s staunchly small press, in case you’re curious)
Crafting the first line (as opposed to being too clever for one’s own good)
Really, it was nice just to hear Douglas stop and say “I don’t know!” in regards to a question because he’d been writing too long at that point to remember and “Buy my book!” (which, of course, just happened to be within arm’s reach so he could show the covers on camera). It’s charming to know that no matter how successful you are, some things don’t change.
(an interlude of internet connectivity issues, and getting distracted by noisy corvids outside…)
And back I came for the interview with Andy Weir.
Weir was actually the only name I was certain I recognized when breezing through the panelist list pre-conference. I knew he was big in the SF/F book world. It slipped my mind at the time what he’d written.
The Martian. He wrote The Martian. And Project Hail Mary.
So despite being ridiculously popular and successful at this point, Weir’s actually nice enough. Interview included discussion of
his cat (JoJo. Comparatively polite. Judged from a distance, sitting very neatly and waiting until stream ended to demand attention from Weir. Yes, the chat went wild over glimpses of him in the background. Yes, Weir pounced on the first “oi is that a cat” with yes it’s my cat this is his name let me tell you about him hellooo. You know. As one must.)
his writing fanfic (happily. Refusing to accept judgement)
his desire to write ever-deeper characters, since he sees that as a personal writing challenge.
Guys…just checking, but…if I started posting serial fiction on the bookmarked blog…you’re not just sitting around waiting to launch me into a fairytale writing career…right?
(clears throat). Right, yes, anyway.
It was a lovely panel. Weir has a good sense of humor (i.e., shouting happily at every glimpse of someone else’s pet in the Zoom window), and you can tell he loves writing.
I didn’t go to every panel this time. And I probably don’t have the time/stamina/interest/energy to do so for the rest of the week either.
And my internet connection was kind of a wreck today.
So what you’re getting now is my special highlights of the con, not a complete overview.
I know, you’re delighted. Two bookmarkedone posts in a week! What luck! Please, you flatter me.
Next was an interview with Nghi Vo
…another author I’m not familiar with. This one was more a book club-type discussion of her latest novel, but on the other hand–
the comparison of the Fay realm to Hollywood is frankly totally unexpected and gorgeous
Vo was charming in the “I’m a feral author” and “got-recognized-so-said-NO-definitely-not-me-and-ran” type of way. You know, the best kind.
Little Free Libraries
I meant to attend the last panel, but aforementioned Connectivity Issues reemerged…it wasn’t the sort of panel you’re going to do well by just catching half of it…or less than half…or just a few words at a time and just sibilants caught by the microphone and then part of the Q&A when everyone else already knows what they’re talking about…
My brain’s feeling pretty crammed with everything I stuffed in it, so I’m signing off now. Tomorrow promises to be an equally interesting day…even if there isn’t fog.
Yes, yes, it’s time! Hold on to your hoods, friends, as I regal you with tales from the first day of ProWritingAid’s free conference.
So to start, a moment of applause for the people who put this together. For many reasons, but not the least of which, I can’t imagine the headache the planners went through when looking at time zones. No matter what you try, someone’s bound to be eating goldfish crackers and watching the conference under a fleece blanket at four in the morning.
No, that is not self-referential.
It was still pretty dark when I got up, both from the hour and because it was a grey day. You know, the kind when the sky seems to be a solid mass of thick cloud, silent, watching, unrelenting, without drop of rain. Waiting.
I only turned a little light on, so the shadows from my tea mug and other whatnot on the counter stretched out almost comically, like in old superhero comics. All the color seemed to leech out of the room. Even the green matcha seemed almost grey. All I needed was a hard-boiled detective’s gravelly voice narrating, and I would have been transported into the start of some film noir adventure.
It seemed about the right way to start the morning of the conference.
Getting to the conference itself…
…the first panel was cancelled. This isn’t anyone’s fault at all, since the panelists had an emergency (hoping it was the oh how irritating a flat tire or the oh how inconvenient I’ve been captured by a dragon suppose this is my life now-type emergency and not the more negative kind)…but it means the worldbuilding session was postponed and I can’t talk about it.
On to the next!
Next up was an interview with author Alastair Reynolds.
And after seeing it, I don’t actually think there was an assigned topic? I think the interviewer had some starter questions, but once you get a writer going, they just…go.
It’s a beautiful thing to behold, the ramble.
But perhaps most refreshing was the little detail Reynolds shamelessly admitted–despite having a background in a hard science field, he doesn’t know everything that goes on in his world. There are plot holes. There are continuity errors.
There are also good stories.
I get intimidated sometimes with Tolkien as my no. 1 on the “write like this please, chaos brain” list. It’s a little less pressure to hear perfectly successful authors say “Yeah, I’ve got no clue. Yes, there are continuity issues. Enjoy the story for the story.”
And really, what else are they doing besides leaving plot holes in which fanfiction can appear?
That’s both hopeful and ominous…
As I told you before, I’ve never been to a ProWritingAid sponsored conference before, so I didn’t have a clue how it worked. Nor did I realize there was an hour break between most panels in case something runs long/to stay perfectly on track.
And actually, I really like that because it gives you time to absorb, take a break, think things through, make sense of your half-scribbled notes if you have any (I didn’t really)…
By this point you’ve stopped the conversation to ask if I thought panels were back to back and two hours long each, surely I wasn’t prepared to sit that many hours unmoving and absorbing information?
I decline to comment on such notions.
So next up…
(as presented by Samantha Skal)
Even though most writers see the actual writing, the drafting, coming up with stories from nothing as the fun part (or the part where your eyes start bleeding?), this was an enjoyable one. Skal is very professional, always centered on having a plan, mapping things out, taking the rhinoceros of a project down one step at a time.
And when you have a half-written manuscript as long (and as convoluted!) as I do…having a plan sounds pretty good!
It’s probably a good one to revisit, if I get the chance to watch the replays.
The next panel was supposed to be about the ProWritingAid software. I imagined it was going to be “A Word from Our Sponsor” type thing like the corn flake or Carnation milk commercials in tired, black-and-white TV series–but I didn’t get the chance to find out.
My age-old rival, Time Zone Conversion, struck again.
I was doing pretty good keeping the calculation straight in my head…but I wasn’t paying attention and thought every panel had an hour break between it and the next…they do not.
Which means that I completely blew through the ProWritingAid one because I thought I had more time and was too lazy to recheck and recalculate…
Ah, time zone converter. You have scored a point. But the next victory shall be mine.
Anyway, I decided to opt out of the next session because
didn’t want to do face cam
was going to be required to speak English to other life forms
didn’t want to be ousted as a fantasy writer among sci-fi-ers.
Okay, but this was actually a legitimate concern as the con went on. In case you don’t know, I write mostly fantasy.
Almost completely fantasy. Urban, medieval, chaotic, high, steampunk, what have you. Sometimes even science fantasy (did you know that’s a thing? It’s a thing. I love that it’s a thing), which is why I thought I’d benefit from this con in the first place.
It can be a little daunting around “real” sci-fi writers when your particular brand is androids + wizards.
Yes, I realize I just said I write magic robot stories. I’m aware.
I’m not even going to apologize for that right now. Draw your own conclusions; it got me my first Writers of the Future Honorable Mention.
Anyway, SF/F are besties in the genre world, get lumped together in almost every anthology, and writers of one at least occasionally dabble in the other, so I thought it’d be…fine…right?
But maybe not.
Maybe it’s the fact that the panel was labeled “Speed Dating” and I balked. You’ll never know.
More importantly, my tea ran out hours ago and bookmarkedone needed food. Pro tip: keep your resident scribbler well supplied with snacks. It doesn’t stop us from writing, but we will remember you favorably after the murders begin.
After resupplying the Hoard with snacks…
I scampered back in time for the next panel, “Essentials of Writing Science Fiction.”
…Which could be literally anything! Worldbuilding! Plots! Characters! Rockets, dragons, and cats!
What it turned out to be was Anne Hawley and Rachelle Ramirez pleasantly lecturing on story types, something that (yes, get your shocked gasps and clutching the pearl necklace in now), was a topic largely new to bookmarkedone.
It’s essentially a map. An equation. Like the hero’s journey has certain beats, pop songs have certain chord progressions (I-IV-V-I, I am looking at you), fairytales always come in threes, story types boil down all the tales we’ve ever told into seven different narratives.
It’s kind of beautiful.
And let’s face it, I go about writing in a chaotic way that makes outlining about as distant as certain stars, but to look at a story retroactively, looking back on it at the point when one gets stuck and isn’t sure which way to go–that could be brilliant.
Perhaps it’s because they presented it in such a simple way–what sort of story do you want to tell? What’s most important to you (your characters)? Solving puzzles? Saving lives? Redeeming yourself? It’s crystal clear the way these two present it.
And let’s not forget that they have a recent (or classic) SF/F publication for every example they gave, so it’s both a crash course and a booklist at the same time, like two panels in the place of one wrapped up and tied with a bow–
By the way–Hawley and Ramirez agreed that there is a line between science fiction and fantasy. They confirmed that they crossed it during their recommendations/comp titles and wandered into the fantastical. They happily have no idea exactly where the blurry line dwells.
I like them quite a bit.
One more panel before the day’s end.
Creating Emotionally Impactful Science Fiction
I’ve read my share of dry books. I think everyone has–or at least has left them half read with a bookmark tucked between the pages for me to pull out later when it inevitably winds up on the secondhand bookshelf at the fairgrounds or in the dark corner of a musty, half-forgotten thrift store.
Well, it’s got a reputation.
Frankly, it’s so easy to get tangled up in the technical jargon that a story gets swamped under it all. And it’s not just science, it’s anything you know too well–sort of like the opposite of write what you know. Like looking at an impressionist painting too closely.
It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time writing about music. It’s–so much a part of me, I don’t know how to explain it any more than some people could teach you how to breathe.
Anyway, in that light, I was quite interested to see what this last panel of the day had. I was cozied in the garrett, the thunderstorm that had been raging for the last few hours had boiled itself out to a disgruntled simmer, smell of rain tickling my nose–really, I was having a nice day at this point, wasn’t I?
The last panel’s suggestion?
Structure. Know what kind of point you want to make with the novel before you even start. Know thyself, in essence, and discover what matters most. Then you’ll have a story that never varies from its emotional core.
And–it’s certainly one way to go about it.
It’s funny, because right about when I was going to take issue with the strategy, Dani Abernathy remarked that this wasn’t something everyone was going to automatically like.
And she’s right! I–don’t like it.
To be fair, I didn’t hear all of this panel because Ye Thunderstorme was back and playing havok with my internet connection (good for you, buddy. Looks like fun), so I might have missed some Golden Nugget of Truth that would completely change my opinion.
I’m–a very exploratory writer. I think a lot of fantasy kids are. So what if the point is just being there, in that place you’ve built from ink and paper and nothing? What then? I can’t help thinking that just by living with the characters I’ve created, they’ll feel more natural, grow around me and find their own voices, their own character arcs more realistically than if I demand something specific from them.
My particular characters don’t respond well to demands.
Probably one of the many reasons why I adore them.
Anyway, that’s Science Fiction Writers’ Week, Day 1! We’re ploughing on through Friday, so stay tuned for further adventures.
Get ready, everyone, because Life, the Universe, and Everything is about to fall into your lap.
Right, so page back in your memories to 2021. A lot of events still cancelled because of Ye Olde Plague, everyone getting a lot of reading done, and even some dedicated introverts starting to miss their fellow nerds, pressing noses to the glass as steampunk plague doctor masks came back into fashion and Death stalked the streets.
Good times, right?
What you might not remember is that the cancellations included the Life, The Universe, and Everything Symposium 2021.
Instead of giving up, the panels were shuffled online and it was on with the show (plus technical difficulties which were just funny most of the time).
Tickets were frankly dirt cheap, the Discord channels were lively, and great fun and edification was had by all.
I talked to Jessica Day George. Yes, the middle-grade fantasy author. Yes, I was slightly terrified.
And it was in the middle of February! So what else did we have to do on a dreary winter weekend?
I spent almost the entire runtime of the symposium curled up in the garrett listening to panels, soaking up brilliance, working on Morale Fiber’s Elf Coat to wear to the next Dragonfest Renaissance festival, and only tearing myself away to stuff food in my face and dash back.
I have no memory of what I ate that weekend. I don’t know why I say that like I normally would.
(I could go on waxing poetic, but you could also just read my LTUE post if you missed it)
So you know after having a time like that, I was more than ready for the next year. It was too much fun.
Important note here. LTUE is normally in Utah.
Bookmarkedone does not live in Utah.
And in 2022…LTUE was fully in-person. No online component.
(cue sounds of bookmarkedone being utterly crushed, contemplating a ridiculously long trip and plodding back to uni)
Why am I telling you this admittedly sad story?
Because, darlings, it turns out the disappointment of last February was only the second act of this adventure.
The LTUE Edge of the Universe Mini-Conference on August 20th!
Guys, it’s here.
Allow me to clarify:
It’s fully online so you can join in remotely from your own writing garrett/Hobbit Hole/tree house/exploding nebula. As long as you’ve got an internet connection.
It’s completely, utterly, and totally free. Have you been won over yet? Yes, yes, you have.
It’s recommended by your favorite snobbish book curmudgeon. Yes, me. LTUE is fabulous. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. You’ve read my book reviews, you know.
Panel topics include books around the world, board games, writing dialogue, book marketing, self editing–anything a writer, gamer, roleplayer, or general bookworm could ask for. Really, the hardest part about LTUE is picking which panels to attend and which ones to miss because ooh what if that’s a good one too!
So it’s basically cake. Or leprechaun gold, I guess. I know, it seems too good to be true and you’re probably checking the fine print for signs of a Faerie contract, but hey, I made it into last year’s and out again, so…
…that’s probably not as comforting a reassurance as it should be.
Anyway, since I’ve now so obviously convinced you, (drumroll please)
Come join me on the Edge of the Universe!
You can register here to get access to the Discord server and panels once they go live (word of the wise, check and triple-check your time zone). I’ll be there too (@bookmarkedone! Okay, technically already am there since I logged in like a week ago to poke around), so feel free to @ me in Discord and make a big show to all the other writers there about how cool a blogger I am…or don’t and play Where’s Waldo Bookmarkedone edition until I inevitably pop up in the chat.
If you do want to hang out…it would quite literally make my day if I find out someone came because of my posts.
Also as I’m writing this post, I’m discovering someone in Paris tried to log into my Discord. Like, as of today.
Um. Okay. You can’t have it, but thanks.
(sounds of bookmarkedone crafting a more devious password)
And…yeah, that’s it. Come to the Edge of the Universe this Saturday and get your mind blown.
And if you come out still craving for more?
Oh, I’m so pleased you asked.
Science Fiction Writer’s Week presented by ProWriting Aid (August 29)
I’ll be honest. I’ve not actually been to a ProWritingAid conference before. I signed up for Fantasy Writers’ Week last spring, but life was absolutely mad (something about getting a diploma? what nonsense) and I ended up missing it.
Not so this time! I fully intend to go and see what’s what.
That’s not to say I can’t add to the hype. Pros of this one? Besides hanging out with me, of course.
Instead of a few hours on a Saturday, this conference is a week long. A week of glorious nerdery! Miss one day because of scheduling conflicts? Come back tomorrow! Coming for every session? Even better.
Like the Edge of the Universe mini-conference, Sci-Fi Writers’ Week is totally free. Sign up and get access to goodies. That’s it.
And it’s also totally online. Because why leave the overstuffed armchair in the library if you don’t have to?
Panel topics include worldbuilding, networking, marketing, revising, protagonist/antagonist dynamics, and a literal pile of big-name SF authors on the panel list.
Convinced yet? Thought so. You can register here and see the full list of guests and panelists for yourself. Should be a good time!
If after my brilliant description you still aren’t tagging along on the adventure…or you just can’t make time stretch and pull enough to fit something else in–
Never fear. I’ll be hitting the highlights on the blog after both events. I imagine I’ll have at least a few good stories to share.
So…yeah! I’m off to the Edge of the Universe.
See you soon!
As usual, I do not get any bribery money, merch, chocolate, books, head pats or other reimbursement from plugging these events. I just think they’re cool and want to share.
That’s not the truth, not really. It’s not my tree. Never has been. It grew in a park, where it could have belonged to anyone, or no one at all. I don’t know who cut it down. Maybe nobody did and it died in a storm and fell when no one was looking.
The tree isn’t there. And I missed it.
They cut down my tree.
I went for a long walk on Saturday. Going home from somewhere, sun beating down on me, trying to let go of everything. I’ve walked that route to the park a lot. I know the trees along the way like good friends. There’s the funny evergreen by the edge of the campus parking lot where someone left a little ceramic donkey that looked like it belonged in a Nativity set, the wise trees with holes in the trunk by the university garden, the tunnel of spindlier trees along the walk by the house with more cats than even I know, the huge oaks in the park itself.
And then there is my tree.
I think it’s a cypress. That’s probably why it’s gone. Cypress don’t do well here. They grow for a while, tall and strong and slightly wonky, trunk with rounded bumps where branches once grew that make it look as if the bark is boiling, and then they stop. They’re so tall they could crush everything if they fell, so they get cut down.
I met this particular tree when I was ten or twelve. It was perfect in every way, with branches extending right at the height of my small shoulders, begging to be climbed. I did once, because someone said I couldn’t. Just as high as the first branch. I was dressed up that day, didn’t want to go to class covered in sap and needles, so that was as far as I went.
I vowed I’d climb it all the way to the top someday.
Somehow, something always seemed to stand in my way. One day I tried and I was wearing shoes worn too smooth on the bottom and couldn’t scrabble up the trunk. I had people with me that day and I was sweating a little because they were watching me and laughing as I failed. So I didn’t climb. Even if I made it up, it wouldn’t have felt right. I’d have carried that bad laughter up with me, and that’s not how I wanted to see the top of the tree.
Other times I came and walked a circle around it, following the way up with my eyes, heart beating a little faster, knowing just what it would feel like when I found my way up, when the ground was so far away.
Some days, I don’t know why I put it off. Why I didn’t climb the tree. Maybe it was because I was still scared I couldn’t do it. Maybe it was because I knew I’d only get to do it once. You only ever get to do anything the first time once.
I greeted that tree every time I went around that corner in the path. It’s funny, I guess. Greeting trees. I was thinking about it Saturday, when I was greeting the others, looking for mine.
Sometimes I run my fingertips across the bark, feeling the coolness, the silence. The way they feel like home. Just as often, I don’t.
You know when you walk through a crowd and your path changes, gets more weaving, not because you don’t want to bump into somebody, but because you can feel their gravity, the space around them that you don’t want to enter, the pull of their orbit, pushing you away like the poles of a magnet.
It’s like that, the trees.
One time a friend took me to the art museum and there was a guest exhibit on modern sculpture. They’d torn out the usual carpet and put in some fluffy dark green stuff that didn’t make you feel like you were outside, but reminded you of it, like you were in a children’s play area and you knew you stood in The Yard. They were funny statues, blobby and ceramic and smoothly uneven, white with tiny bits of colored pottery that ranged in color like a sunset from orange to pink, blue to green to purple. Some of them were as tall as my shoulder, others were short as a low stool.
It made me feel like I was in a Studio Ghibli movie.
When I thought no one was around, I walked up to the tallest one and gave it a little bow, so I was almost the same height it was, a little greeting that sent my scarf end swinging cheerfully, no need for a breeze.
It’s like that too, greeting the trees. It makes sense because it doesn’t.
I couldn’t find my tree. Sometimes I look for it at the wrong point in the path, miss it and feel my heart kick up a beat until I relax, because there it is, waiting, like always.
That day it wasn’t. Wasn’t there to greet me.
I left the path and went to sit on a bench, thinking I’d just missed it. Thinking it had to be there somewhere. It’s become a habit of mine, at that park. Finding an empty bench and watching the world go by. Families taking their kids to the swings, Ye Healthy Ones jogging (what even is jogging?), people walking their dogs, old couples leaning close together, strolling arm in arm. Usually I sit near the entrance to the park, by the tree that blooms and buzzes with honeybees in spring, but Saturday is a busy day for the park and my hideaway was already taken. I kept walking until I found a bench the rest of the park seemed to have forgotten.
It must have been an uneven patch of ground, the space that drinks up all the water. The only grass was tiny little two-leafed sprouts poking up out of the soft earth. The dirt was still shaped into scalloped waves from some recent torrent of rain, soft enough to hold the print from my light step. It was so dark under those trees, even at three o’clock in the afternoon, that I couldn’t be quite sure there really was a bench until I was there. I wondered if that was how it looked everywhere in the park, if I was half hidden from the world when I sat there, watching all from the heavy shade like something you can only glimpse from the corner of your eye.
I sat there for a while, trying to think about nothing, ending up thinking about everything instead. There was a party going under the pavilion at the other end of the park, I think, with loud music and a good beat. I listened, half listened. Studied the graffiti on the bench proclaiming some young Romeo and Juliet’s affections in a silver-purple ink.
I went looking for my tree, to see if it really wasn’t there.
I think I found the spot where it once grew. A place where the grass was different, a little dip and a little hill. There was no stump. I stood looking for it, alone in that corner of the park, but it wasn’t there to be found. Nothing, nothing to whisper about the tree’s memory.
I read the other day about a possible scientific link between fairy rings and dead trees. How the mushrooms spring up where the rotted roots once were, even long after any human memory of the tree has been lost.
I like thinking about that. Thinking that even when the tree is gone, some ghost, some memory, some magic remains.
I’m kicking myself for never climbing that tree. I don’t really have a point to this, I just–don’t like living with regrets. Not one.
I remember reading Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle” and “On Fairy-Stories,” how he said it was all because of a tree that grew outside his window that one day wasn’t there. If I were as eloquent as he was, maybe I’d make something out of this, something more than a rambling CNF piece, something that captures the beauty of a tree when it’s alive, instead of the hollowness when not a single branch is left.
I hope a fairy ring grows there. I hope that patch of sweet earth remembers the lost tree.
Whilst bookmarkedone was on hiatus, I was tagged by the lovely Elizabeth Hyde at The Temperamental Writer! So thank you, my temperamental friend, for the wonderful surprise. I’m sure you thought I’d forgotten. I haven’t. I was looking forward to doing this while slogging through the last of my finals, and now it’s finally time.
Excluding Lewis and Tolkien, what is a book you think of as a truly solid book?
First of all, how dare you exclude the kings? You know me too well, too well indeed.
Okay, but this isn’t actually that hard. I positively adore Patrick Rothfuss’ novel, The Name of the Wind, but please don’t get me started on the sequel because I haven’t finished it and…stuff happens I’m not happy about. That being said, The Name of the Wind is divine. I’ve never seen anybody write about music as eloquently as Rothfuss does, and that’s me included. He says so many things about performance that are exactly accurate and so poetic that I feel as if I’ve been searching for the words my entire life and finally found them. And the magic system is out of this world good. And there’s also a very soft, sweet romance. And did I mention the dragon?
But there are so many others that should be on your to-read list too, like Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, The Fog Diver by Joel Ross, and if you haven’t read Ursula LeGuin’s A Wizard of Earthsea by now, what are you even doing with your life?
I think I cheated on that answer. I gave you four solid books. Should I be sorry?
Who is a character who deserves a better book to inhabit?
Hmm. I don’t know if I have someone in a world I don’t like because fantasy worlds are so gorgeous even if they are deadly…I guess that’s just my type.
But if the question is “Who is a character who deserves a better story?”
Maglor. It’s Maglor.
And while I’m at it, I’ll take Maedhros, Maglor, Beleg Cúthalion, and Turin Turambar from The Silmarillion, please.
It’s been years, and I still can’t even, guys. Every time, I find this gorgeous Silm fanart, and it’s one of them, and I’m just quietly crying my eyes out.
Maglor is the hardest because it’s so easy to fanfiction what just might have happened please you should be happy Tolkien doesn’t say it didn’t happen that way…exactly.
Feels. I have the feels.
If you know, you know. If you don’t–
What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?
(sounds of bookmarkedone consulting Goodreads)
Hmm…well, bearing in mind that it’s only June and I do most of my reading over the lazy days of summer…
I’m going to cheat again and pick two.
The best novel so far was probably The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling. It’s a charming children’s book in just the way I wanted it to be. It’s scary if you’re reading it to a young audience, as JKR tends to be, but it has such a good heart and sweet fairytale feel. I have a thing for cuddly monsters. Even if I often consider them cuddly when everyone else firmly assures me they are not…If I keep talking, I’m going to start spoiling, so go read The Ickabog and enjoy a nice long fairytale.
But I’d be remiss if I left out Writers of the Future Volume 38. What’s that, you say? You haven’t read my review of WOTF 38? So you’re about to brew a cup of tea and find out why it’s awesome, aren’t you?
What’s something that happens in books that you wish would happen in real life?
Oh, darling. I need an interdimensional portal. I need to open the cupboard/fall out of a tree/unlock the secrets of a magic carpet like yesterday.
Imagine if magic is out there, and you just need to figure out how to unlock the door. Imagine if you could have all the adventures your heart could desire, all the unicorns and dragons and monsters and heroes, all of them, and you haven’t yet just because you haven’t opened the right door.
If you could step into another world, what else could you possibly ask for?
What book do you wish you could read again for the first time, knowing absolutely nothing about it?
Hmm. Probably Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. I picked it up the other day to get a quote for an essay I was working on and it was like being smacked down in the middle of the forehead. I read the trilogy, what, my junior year in high school? Dude, that was the same semester I wrote my first WOTF entry…wow. Anyway, it was one of those things where you’re flipping past the pages and you realize just how much you have forgotten, even though you promised you’d remember the story forever. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget Inkheart completely, but it would be something to fall in love with it again.
And have my heart ripped out by the sequel, of course.
It’s a journey that’s quite worth it.
But that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure I’d love to read The Lord of the Rings for the first time again, and there are so many, so many others…
Has the library ever grievously failed you? How so?
“The Library” itself? No. But I can think of at least one library I’ve been to that…I don’t consider a library. I’m sorry, but when I know as much as the part-timer behind the circulation desk, when the primary function is “a quiet place” or “computer access,” when I don’t feel welcome…that isn’t a library. It’s a tomb, a sepulcher, a monument to an ideal, a universe of beauty which it failed to attain. A temple to a ghost.
Funny story. At the library I’m thinking of, the nice young lady working there once brought me a totally different title from the selection my professor had reserved for the class. Actually, I’m not even sure if that book was for our class. She held it up like “I know this isn’t even kind of what you said, want this instead because I can’t find the other one?”
Normally, perhaps. But that doesn’t get the homework reading done.
I don’t blame her a bit. I had to break in–what, three part-time librarians over the duration of that course? Nobody had a clue how “books on reserve” worked. One poor guy looked like he started sweating when he saw me heading for the desk the second or third time he helped me. I almost felt sorry for him, but hey, he figured it out. It’s the shelf in the back. Yup, under the course number. Whole shelf just for the three students. Got it on the first try this time, buddy. Gold star! See, I’m going away now. No more scary lady.
Were there any books that traumatized you as a young child?
Yeah, probably. I remember this weird Faerie cult book that I can’t remember the name of now…it was probably okay, I was just young when I read it and we did the whole “monster-kidnapped-your-mom” trope–not at the beginning, but after she’d been developed as a character and we’d gotten attached to her as readers.
She was a painter. And a good mom.
It’s a shame, because that book had a lot going for it. Time travel, fairy magic, scary monsters, cult murder–actually, I don’t think that last one’s true. Cultish society and attempted murder. That’s it. I can see its shelf in the library, black and silver cover spine and everything, but nope, cannot recall the title.
And after all that, I still kind of wanted to finish the book.
I’m sure there are others, but I tend to–block out things that scared me as a kid? Like there have been multiple times I’m rewatching movies and it’s the weirdest déjà vu because I know I’ve been here before but I cannot tell you how, when, or why until I see the thing that scared me and realize oh, it’s you…and promptly feel embarrassed because I was scared of a cartoon dude in a hood who was supposed to be playing Death.
It’s a little like reading the book for the first time again without quite knowing it.
Are there any tropes that are likely to make you like a book even if it falls short in other aspects?
HA HA HA I would like to say no, but yes.
I will fall for a book that has a thief. I will follow that little thief and hang on to his every move (usually judging the writer if the technique isn’t completely described or if that’s not even kind of how you pick locks are we serious right now). I love, love, love, the sneaky characters. There’s just something about them being like “I’ma steal that whole ham” (Sage, The False Prince) or “I’ma rob a wizard” (Conn, The Magic Thief) or just being like “Please I am just minding my own business don’t stab me also your wallet is missing how did this happen.”
Bonus points if the thief is snarky. Even if it’s a façade and we know they’re just as terrified as the rest of the characters.
I think it’s because they know what the rest of the world is like. They know nobody cares about them–they’re disreputable and scruffy and usually ill-mannered–but that means they see people for what they really are, rather than who they pretend to be. They know who they are, in good times and bad. And when nobody expects anything of you, you’re free to do whatever you want.
I mean, you’re already supposed to be in jail, so…
Short answer: snarky thieves. If there’s a book blurb that says “This protagonist is a snarky thief,” it’s going home with me. No further questions asked. I know my weakness.
When is the last time you can remember laughing out loud while reading?
Hmm, probably the Lauren Holbrook novels by Erynn Magnum. It was a long time ago, but there are some pretty funny moments in Miss Match.
Before that? I read Nanny Piggins and laughed until I cried.
What’s a historical era or event you would like more books about (be they novels of historical fiction, historical fantasy, alternate history, etc.)?
Probably steampunk. I know it’s out there, but I can never find one that’s magical enough for me. It’s like writers think, “Okay, I just made Queen Victoria a vampire, I should stop now. That’s enough.”
Me, I want the monsters and mayhem. I don’t read steampunk and want alternative history for it to read like another history. I want to see the magic happen. I want goth elephants on the battlefield and dragons in the skies and warlocks throwing gloves in one another’s faces and a potions mistress hiding all the little vials and bottles under the bell-shape of her hoopskirt and thieves running amok and making trouble.
But that’s just me.
Last step! Now to tag someone else and keep the fun going.
At first I assumed everyone cool had already been tagged, but lo and behold! Some of the lovely bloggers I follow have been overlooked and shall not escape being poked by me.
So to say there has been chaos in my home lately is an understatement.
There has been chaos. Understatement made.
But it’s also June! And for those of you who don’t know, June is the month when I read far too much, hunt for fireflies, and watch the Days, hours, minutes and seconds until next faire counter on the White Hart website tick slowly down to zero.
I love faire sites with the countdown timer. Makes it all so much more exciting.
But with the whole graduation thing and crashing and being sick for a couple of weeks, it slipped my attention until the calendar flipped to June and suddenly the faire is ten days away? That’s it?
I haven’t been to a faire since October (yes, read the post please, read the post), so I was very ready for this. And I am sentimental for White Hart. It’s one of the faires I went to as a kid, so it has a special place in my heart.
And since I went last year with my mercenary steel fighting buddies, I popped a message to one of them asking if we were on the crew again this year.
(Cue sounds of bookmarkedone being emotionally crushed).
I hadn’t actually realized how excited I was for White Hart until I realized the gang wasn’t going.
But that’s alright. Just because I wasn’t working the faire didn’t mean I couldn’t go to the faire. As myself. Just for fun.
And I haven’t done that since…oh…
…(whispers) cancelled for Plague in 2020…Dragonfest the year before that…uh…I didn’t even realize I’ve been doing this for that long…
Let’s just say it’s been a few years, okay?
And my pirate buddy (yes, the same one from the Dragonfest 2021 post) wanted to tag along, so before you say “turkey leg,” we had a plan to go as patrons.
In costume, of course. Like, seriously. How could you not go in costume?
So I gathered my buddies and counted my crew, hauled the long dresses and leather pocket-bags out of the closet and waited.
And listened to the end of Portents of Chaos and waited.
And checked the weather forecast three times and waited.
And I think it’s just an unspoken tradition or some kind of innate instinct in my family that one simply must be working on costumes the night before.
Okay, so technically it was the afternoon before, and it wasn’t really a costume thing because I have a cool steampunky dress that needs no more tweaking! But yes, I was making water bottle holders (is there a name for that? It’s like a macrame plant hanger except for a bottle) the day before going. They turned out rather well. A lady stopped us in a booth to say I should make them to sell, so…that’s a nice compliment to get.
Anyway, Saturday morning finally arrived and we all trooped out, maps, playlists, snacks, sunhats at the ready–
–and had to make a quick stop at the auto place.
Here’s where I should stop to explain a little feature of Ren faire/cosplay/concert musician culture. If you finished an event and are absolutely starving, it’s totally okay to stop at a little all-hours, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in garb. Especially if it’s late at night and/or you’re there with the crew (because if you bring an army of cosplayers, really, nobody’s going to question your actions. Here’s your waffles. Please leave a tip). Going for ice cream at 10:30 at night in tuxedos and black formal gowns? Totally cool. Even later and you’re dropping into Village Inn wearing a ballgown? They won’t ask. Waffle House at three in the afternoon in combat armor? I personally know people who have done it and reported no reaction. Breakfast before ComicCon with the crew all squished into one booth? You’re probably going to have someone take a picture, but hey, they’ll be subtle about it. And you can’t blame them. You all look great, don’t you?
How did this start? I have no idea. I think to some degree it’s innate–the Must Have Waffles instinct kicking in. It is not to be denied.
And this isn’t just something I’ve observed. Cue the Reddit post, please!
Do I believe an immortal Greek god runs a restaurant chain and thus attracts Ye Weirdoes to his abode? No. Do I believe that a spirit of weirdness, what cares, waffles and chaos inhabits late-night diners?
Yeah. That sounds about right. It’s pretty normal to show up in garb to a place like that, if anything we do can really be called normal at all.
But does an auto shop have that energy?
Um. No. No, that’s just an awkward silence and standing halfway behind people not in garb and pretending not to care until you can bolt out the door again like startled jackrabbits.
I’ve gone shopping for ice cream in a floor-length black dress. I should be used to it by now.
Anyway, it was a quick stop, and we were soon on the road again, laughing at people’s careful lack of reactions.
We didn’t quite get lost.
Someone told me when I was small that you can’t have a good road trip without getting lost at least once, and it’s something I’ve repeated probably more than my fair share. It’d been a year since I headed up that way, and even with the maps, there’s a long stretch of country road that makes you bite your lip and think, “No, no, we really must have blinked and missed it somewhere back there.” You haven’t. You still haven’t.
It’s funny, the things I remember and the things I don’t. I remembered the sudden curve in the road (Go right. Yes, yes, yes, I’m sure. I remember this.), the shape of bramble thorns and brush bent into almost right angles by a fence or tree that is no longer there, the little white church (no, wait, there are two of them and you only see one if you really have gone the wrong way), even the shape of some of the hills, the way the oak trees shade the road a little no matter what time of day you swish past them.
I remembered where the drive was a second too late to turn into it, but hey. Nobody’s perfect, right?
And then it was just down the long, white-gravel drive to the wooden palisade, pennons fluttering in the breeze.
It was also really hot.
Renaissance festivals in June are their own kind of creature. You will burn. You will boil. You will sweat. You will swish your skirts to catch the breeze and buy fans from the vendors and grimly pity the jousting knights in full combat armor and yearn for the return of autumn and faires where you can wear a heavy cloak–and yet you will still have a fabulous time.
Maybe it’s the determination. Maybe it’s knowing that it’s so important to us to be there that we’ll come even in the heat to be together, to build this place, this thing, this moment.
Maybe we’re just crazy.
It’s like we all become family for the day, some strange sort of secret club, whether you’re in costume or you’re a patron coming for the first time. I hear it when people start telling me stories, a little haltingly as if realizing I’m a perfect stranger in a very nice sunhat, the way the vendors act as if they’ve known you for years even though you’ve never met. I hear it in my own voice, suddenly chirping and bright instead of burned-out tired, grinning before I run away again. It’s in the way we dress too, even if you didn’t come in costume. Little touches, a nerdy T-shirt, a bracelet with a Norse hammer amulet, the Elf ears with an otherwise normal outfit, earrings you just bought, a shimmer of this fairyland coating your skin–or maybe that’s just the sweat.
Whatever it is, it brings us together. One community, one group, one crowd, standing in the tents before the joust, screaming for blood.
That doesn’t sound–um–no, we actually do that. Hip, hip, huzzah, if it please the good sir to take the other man’s head off. Or, y’know, a cantaloupe.
Yeah, Sir Charlie and the Knights of Mayhem were back. I’ve been to a lot of their jousts by now (sometimes two or three times per faire), so I know the drill pretty well–two lances into a hay bale, a decapitation each, and then the full tilt, four lances (or as many as they have left at the end of the day) against each other until the painted wood is shattered to smithereens. I know Sir Charlie’s jokes, too, some of them funny, some of them bad puns, some even a little political or saucy.
I still go. Even if, I confess, I’d sometimes rather cheer for Sir Charlie’s opposition. And it’s fun this time too, because I know all the beats of their routines, it’s like I’m in on the joke. I can already be smirking at my friends, watching for their reactions by the time Sir Charlie delivers his punchline. And, I hope, bringing the crowd a little more to life.
We were all pretty limp fish in the heat by the one o’clock joust. There were even (amusingly) murmurs of dissent and revolution when Queen E. arrived to take her seat on the dais. Nobody curtsied.
But then in rode Sir Charlie, and, well. He knows how to play a crowd, in the way only a good performer can. One who can command his audience and amuse them at the same time. Before long, we were howling for both the nights, screaming as they charged, trying to keep track of who was ahead (as much as you can scream in a stuffy tent canopy, sweating so much you don’t even want to breathe).
Sometimes, I guess it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a show, heard the same song. If it’s good, you can have a go again.
I know the pictures are kind of blurry, but I’m too giddily proud that I got the shot right as Sir Marcello was about to whack the melon. I’ve now seen the decapitation segment with cabbages, pumpkins, and now cantaloupes. Changes with the seasons, you know.
But of course, Ren faire isn’t all jousting and chugging cold water while lamenting the heat from the shade of the oak trees. It’s also turkey legs and funnel cake (in Ye Non-Plague-Infested-Times), fencing, music (um, hello? Did you forget my job description?), costuming, vendors, the Rat Puck games, putting your friends in the stocks, posing with wanted pictures–anything one’s heart could desire, more or less. Queen E. was teaching a dance when we arrived. And although she was red-faced and completely out of breath when we stopped to say hello afterward, I confess to being a little envious that we were too late to join in.
We also got a tea shop booth this year. The vendor looked almost exactly the way you would expect a slightly mad tea shop proprietor to look–thick, frizzy hair, full costume, with a bright copper kettle hanging from her belt so it tangled in her full skirts. Perfect, in other words. She had either checkers or a tak board inside. I wish I could have stayed longer than I did. I think it was the same booth I darted in years ago to get out of the rain, refurbished but still rough and a little dark inside. A slightly creepy tea shop, then.
Then there was the potter, with all his mugs, quietly working away at his wheel on another while his wife sold their wares. It’s always a pleasure to watch him work, somehow both peaceful and startling. I have artist friends, so I have to appreciate the potter and exactly how good he is at what he does.
The answer to that is very, very good.
Who else was there? Hmm, there were the pirates I didn’t hang around because–well, I think we’d come to bardic disagreements. And I, without my instrument, was at a disadvantage.
There was the girl at the information booth yelling “Get your food! Get your T-shirts! Get your rat on a stick!” And when my pirate buddy and I were musing over which T-shirts we liked, “Skip the choice! Buy one of each.”
There were the mushroom hat cosplayers. There was the girl with the pink fairy skirt and her gothy friend in all black. There were the chainmail jewelry-makers, dancers, I think a fire-eater, but honestly I’m not sure, the man who runs the forge but didn’t most of the day because it was just too hot.
There was the lady with the rock booth with earrings, pendants, keyrings, polished crystal balls a little smaller than a baseball–and not just white crystal, either. Rose quartz, tiger’s eye–they were gorgeous. I had to pick one up just to feel its weight in my hand. She was a good vendor. She understood perfectly and let us touch and admire all the wares.
Including these, which I’ve been informed were her little daughter’s creation:
You knew I’d have to gab about my goodies eventually, right? I try to pick up some little trinket every year to remember the adventure by. I think the stone is real amethyst, and they just might be short enough that I can play the violin while wearing them.
If you have too-long earrings they bump against the instrument and scratch and buzz so why do all you lovely vendors keep making the coolest earrings that are two inches or longer arrrgh!
Anyway, the rock-booth-lady also had some pretty crescent moon shapes, and of course the little pocket size stones. They were all so gorgeous it took me a while to pick out the earrings. As I and several others teased her, we’d have happily bought out her entire stock.
Next stop was a little booth that at first glance, only had posters, frames, and prints. That’s great if you’re into the visual arts…which I’m not. But the Keeper of the Booth politely invited us in, and I’m very pleased she did.
I fell hard for her necklace pendants.
Aren’t they beautiful? We both gushed over them as she was wrapping them up for me. There was another little one with the night sky that struck my fancy, but someone bought it before I had a chance to make up my mind. It’s really for the best–I didn’t need to buy three new necklaces. I hope they’re very happy with it, whoever they are.
There are some vendors who are charismatic in their talk, the way they tell you the stories of their wares, have a scripted store of jokes to spice up the long day. But then there are vendors like her, who are simply sweet and charming because they love what they do and they’re delighted their crafts have found a home. It’s hard to say which I prefer, but I’m glad to have met both. She blew us a kiss as we left her booth with our treasures.
Last stop (which really, by logic, should have been the first stop), was a booth with all sorts of odds and ends–shawl pins, beads, wooden swords, pendants, juggling balls, and fans. It was so hot I decided to get a fan I could carry around the faire. I’d always skipped it before since my hands were busy with the violin, but I take breaks to chat with people, and then a little pocket breeze would be just the thing.
My pirate friend picked up a fan while we were browsing and tried to snap it open without much success. I waited a beat, then said, “Here. It’s like this.”
I flicked the fan open with one hand and started the “I’m a fancy lady at a glittering Victorian ball who would like to dance with a handsome gentleman but is probably also trash talking you in the most graceful way possible” flutter. You know the one.
Cue my pirate staring at me as if I were some sort of wizard. I laughed a little. I hadn’t even done the flick-and-flutter that smoothly, but then again, I guess I did know what I was doing. You pick up little skills like that in eccentric professions like mine.
Anyway, when I picked up one of the plain wooden fans, the three vendors who were chilling in the back started trying to get my attention.
This being a somewhat odd request, I made an effort to comply. It was probably an aromatic wood like olive, which I could not smell through the mask I was wearing.
So I asked, “What is it?”
“You can’t tell what it is?”
(Cue visible signs of bookmarkedone confusion). I shook my head. “No, I can’t.”
So apparently it’s common knowledge among Ren faire patrons what the scent of sandalwood is? As in “we think you jest if you say you don’t know it?”
That’s…not the most implausible thing I could say about us.
I took my time picking this one out, because I didn’t really want one with glitter or sequins or obviously plastic–nothing wrong with any of that, but I guess there’s a certain character I’m building when I play at the faires. A story, if you will, that’s not quite there. You have your lords and ladies, your pirates and your knights, goths, fairies, monks, rangers, D&Ders, and crafters–
And then there’s me.
When I was first starting to work at the faires, someone called me a “traveler” character. Someone who sees the world and carries a bit of all those places inside them. I think I like that explanation the best, fitting together my odd manners (still going to curtsy and say “sir” and “my lady,” but is not above playing the Rat Puck, running in a skirt, or hanging out with mercenaries) and the history, creating a character that probably never existed before but most certainly does now. And of course the costume reflects that, never as glitzy as the ladies in waiting, but never without attention to detail, either.
It’s more fun than sitting with the court. I get to be out where things happen as a traveler. I get to watch mischief and make more of it.
And music, of course. My music.
How was it, going to the faire without my violin?
Interesting. Lighter, I guess. I joked that it would be a lot of fun having both hands free to do things, although I’ve gotten very deft at one-handed maneuvers while I’m holding the violin in the other.
And after working the faires this long, it was fun pointing out (and occasionally getting noted) by people I knew. Queen E., of course, but also one of her guards (who stared at me a little too hard but couldn’t seem to remember before I’d slipped away), the fiddler I met officially at last Dragonfest (I was singing Scarborough Fair while walking down the main street as she was performing it for the queen. Nobody outside of my little crew even seemed to notice. Bungled the lyrics, of course, because I’m an instrumentalist and we don’t know what those are.), the Knights of Mayhem, ladies-in-waiting and patrons. I said I was there incognito, and without the violin, I kind of was. Even in costume, there was nothing to notice about me more than any other patron. No reason for anyone to guess that I knew these grounds so well
Well–at least, that’s what I thought.
We do this thing at the faires, where we send kids on quests. You go from one booth to another and ask a cryptic question, get a little coin or pebble, solve a riddle, have some fun, and maybe win a prize. I’ve played both sides, as the “NPC” and the adventurer, but what I didn’t expect was for a little fair-haired girl to come up and ask “Do you have a favor for me?”
I sort of blinked, wondering why out of everyone she’d picked me, before smiling and telling her I was afraid I didn’t and she went off with her dad. Probably she was just asking anyone, trying to solve her riddle, but–
My pirate friend leaned over and said, “So you’ve got a doppelganger.”
Whether it was from the description of the costume or character, the assumption was that I looked like whoever she was supposed to find.
Or maybe it was something in my manner, the way that I flowed so easily into the way the faire runs that I couldn’t quite hold up the illusion that I was just a visitor, incognito, enjoying myself for the day.
So now I’m home, and very tired. Drinking cold lemonade and listening to the wind make the tree outside my window creak. But I can’t quite call the adventure finished.
Tuesday morning, I got a message from my steel fighting friends. Because guess who got a short-notice invitation to perform at White Hart the second two weekends?
Yup. We did.
I’m already hoping to have some fun when I show up again with the violin and have people remember the odd little patron from the first weekend. Or, with my luck, not remember me at all.
So stay tuned! More mirth and mayhem might be coming.
I know I warned you, but a month and a half is a really long time to wait. So thank you, everyone, for sticking with me and not deleting the blog from your feed while I was gone.
Why was I gone?
…and this happened
And finals and a bunch of other stuff also happened, but we don’t want to talk about those.
So I’m…tired. But I’m also back. And that means Bookmarkedone is going to have a regular posting schedule again for the first time in…an embarrassingly long while.
I’ll probably take a few days off to breathe first, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peak of what’s coming to the blog in the next few weeks:
My review of Writers of the Future Vol. 38! It’s not technically an ARC review anymore since the eBook is available for purchase, but I’m still very proud of this one.
Book Haul! Technically I think two book haul posts because I’m super behind!
Music/Life off the Page update! No further details because…spoilers. Yeah, we’ll go with that.
I went thrifting…not sure if this is important, but it was fun.
Writers of the Future Vol. 29 review! Because I read it and I want to talk about it!
I got tagged by Elizabeth Hyde at The Temperamental Writer! And it took me a ridiculously long time to realize it, so (whispers) I’m sorry. You can go check out her post here while waiting for mine. Or just read all her posts. That’s great too.
In the meantime, I have a colleague’s recital to attend. And I’m going to bake a cake. And sleep should probably be in there somewhere?
This isn’t an April Fool’s joke. You really are seeing another rare post from bookmarkedone!
Please, contain your enthusiasm. I know, I know, you missed me. I missed me too.
Okay, the point is that I have exciting news.
Bookmarkedone is an official advance reader for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38!
(cue the delighted squealing and puffs of happy dragon smoke)
This may not come as a surprise to some of you, since this will be my third year reading and reviewing the WOTF anthology…but it’s still exciting to me.
For those of you who don’t know, the WOTF anthology is a yearly publication of the next latest greatest science fiction, fantasy, horror, and dark fantasy writers (and sometimes steampunk!), with each story accompanied by a full-color illustration by one of the Illustrators of the Future winners. I’ve entered the WOTF contest more times than I should probably admit and am fully determined to place one day. Not only is there a cash prize, but they offer an exclusive writers’ retreat taught by some of the biggest figures in the SF/F industry.
And the Golden Pen award. That’s gorgeous. Very gorgeous.
Okay. Enough me fantasizing about the contest. Here’s why you should read the book (and tune in soon for my review!):
Anyone can enter. Anyone, from anywhere, with no entry fee, judged blind. So anyone could be the next Writers of the Future winner, based on the quality of their writing alone.
In addition to the stories and illustrations, every anthology includes a few craft essays by Jody Lynne Nye, David Farland, Nnedi Okorafor, and many other big names in the industry.
I’ve fallen hard for at least one story both years I reviewed these (and usually more than that). Notable stories include Leah Ning’s time travel/murder/romance concoction “Yellow and Pink,” and Luke Wildman’s bafflingly witty and clever “How to Steal the Plot Armor.” Now I’m irritated with myself for leaving out all the others I adored…
Do you have another book with a woolly mammoth and a robot on the cover? I didn’t think so.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself by gushing over the book before I’ve read the whole thing, but I really love what the Writers of the Future is about. It’s a big deal to me that I get to be a part of it.
And I got a free book! Just for reading! How cool is that, right?
Which brings me to my next bit of news…
You too can get your own copy of Writers of the Future Vol. 38, free of charge! To celebrate the June 28 release, GalaxyPress is holding a giveaway of 100 copies of Vol. 38.
Since most of you read (a lot) you probably already know the drill, but just in case, here’s how you enter:
Click the “I have read the terms and conditions” box
Wait anxiously until the end of the giveaway on April 6
Find out you won and start reading your eBook immediately! Or, alternatively,
Find out you didn’t win! And go buy a copy of Writers of the Future Vol. 38 when it’s released on June 28!
To clarify: I am not reimbursed or otherwise compensated for any information/promotion included in this post. All opinions are my own. But, y’know, if someone wants to try bribing me with ridiculous sums of money–?
So there’s that. But as I was browsing Goodreads, I realized there are a few other great fantasy titles up this month too.
Check out a Goodreads Giveaway of The Hobbit, Kindle Edition!
Um, if you haven’t heard me yell about how much I love Tolkien…do you even know me at all?
But in all seriousness, The Hobbit is worth it. Frankly, I was tempted to enter the giveaway, even though I already have my lovely anniversary edition with Tolkien’s color illustrations. Just because Hobbits mean a lot to me, with their second breakfasts and magic rings and dragons and furry feet and their beautiful, good, gardeners’ hearts.
If you haven’t read it, you gotta, and if you have, you need a copy. You do.
There’s been a lot of hype over Cornelia’s book lately, with the 2020 Netflix film adaptation of Dragon Rider or Firedrake the Silver Dragon. I’ll be frank–I haven’t seen it yet. It’s been ages since I read the book, but rumor is that it’s…loosely adapted. The trailer was different from what I remembered. Even Cornelia herself has suggested enjoying book and film as two rather separate stories.
But what better time to read the book than now, to get the novel’s perspective? As if there’s ever not a right time to read a Cornelia Funke book.
Again, I won’t lie. Compared with The Thief Lord or Inkheart, it’s not my favorite of Cornelia’s books. It’s a little long, a little thick.
But on the other hand…Cornelia’s signature style is still there. There are still little surprising turns of phrase, moments I still think about.
Someone picked up a copy of Dragon Rider for me at a secondhand shop a few weeks ago since I gab about Cornelia all the time. Another friend tried to gently step in with “Oh, she’s already read that one,”
I wasn’t having it. No, no thank you, I will handle this. “I don’t have my own copy. I borrowed it.”
“But that’s not the one you liked–“
“Hush. It’s mine. Thank you. I want it. Where is it? I need to get my grubby little hands on it.”
It’s hardback. Maybe I’m fonder of it than I thought? I read the second one in the series while flopped on my stomach on a blue rug one summer (review here!) even if I grumbled all the way…and I will probably read the third one when it’s published in English…
And dragons. There’s that.
So…yeah! Enter the giveaway here until April 14 if you’re interested, and if you’ve read it, come tell me what you thought!
In the Meantime…
If you’ve been wondering why you only got one post in March and what I’ve been up to, well, I can say for certain I haven’t been lazing about. No, I’ve been writing three short stories, running to rehearsals, chugging matcha tea like it’s a magic potion (which, you know, it really could be), and skimming my way through this whirling madness that is the spring season for string musicians everywhere.
And I’m trying to graduate. So there’s that.
So if you miss me, I’m happy to hear it, but don’t expect a lot of posts beyond the WOTF review until I’m finished in May and have a chance to sleep a lot.
I’ll be back with more adventures before you know it.