So since it’s almost 2020 (Happy New Year, everybody!) and most normal people are forming resolutions, I thought I’d make a little list of writing habits that are frankly terrible ideas and should probably be resolved.
Right. About that.
The idea comes from the fabulous children’s book author Diane Zahler, who left a post “I Resolve Not To” on her blog in 2013.
(Diane. If you are listening, please give us more fairytales. With dragons, if possible. I’d love to see you write dragons.)
Anyway, here goes.
I have no specific writing time. I’ve hinted at this one before. I’m somewhat baffled by the people who say “Write every day at the same time. Clear your desk. Light a candle.” Undoubtedly it’s a good idea…but performing artist/university schedule makes that literally impossible. Also not a big fan of scented candles…sorry.
I work on several stories at once. Not as bad about this as I used to be, but still results in a blank stare sometimes when people ask “What’s your work in progress?” As if there’s only one. Imagine a snarl of at least five balls of yarn a cat has knotted together and you’ll be closer to the truth.
Peak writing time is 11:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.Do not try this at home. It’s very unhealthy and makes your eyes feel like sand has been flung in them. I know this one sort of goes against my “no specific writing time,” but it’s also one of the few times I know I can safely steal away in a quiet house and write. And the other plus is my little inner editor is very well-scheduled and checks out for the day at 10:45. So after that, everything sounds like a good idea. Werewolves in 1900 London? Giant spiders? Living ink blobs? Why not? Type away.
I listen to music while I write. In itself, not a bad habit. Sometimes it’s inspiring. But remember I’m a musician–my tastes can get a little bit snobbish. And when I can’t find anything to match the mood of what I’m writing and spend far too much time browsing for it…that’s a very bad habit indeed.
I do not explain my magic systems enough. This is probably the greatest personal flaw in my writing. I workshopped a story set in Japan once–consensus was “We love the prose, can really see your descriptions…but we have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”
I edit as I go. I know! Number one rule of writers is to write now, edit later. But I can’t help myself. Things change and grow as I write and I have to go back and fix the beginning to reflect that. I am also what one of my past instructors would have called a “mindless copyeditor.” I just can’t ignore a typo. Ever.
I am a shameless (okay, mostly shameless) word thief. If I read something I like (or hate), my mind’s already turning over how I can adapt it for my purposes (or rewrite it the way I feel it should be written). I can see threads of my favorite books in plenty of my writing.
I write different pieces of the same story in different places–notebooks, journals, multiple computer documents…and then I can’t find any of them later. I can remember writing them…there was something gooey I had to get on paper…where’d it go? Under the couch? In the fridge? Usually I give up and write it over again. And find it shortly afterward…
I don’t back up my work nearly enough. Personal nightmare fuel here in a life of scattered thumbdrives. But when I do back it up, I get confused about which version is the latest one and then wind up losing new work because I can’t find it…
Despite being warned, I still sometimes have drinks around my laptop. That scares me just typing that. I know, I live dangerously.
I lose track of ink pens the way some girls lose hairpins. But then, I’ve never been good at keeping track of hairpins either, so…
Fantasy or die. I am a genre writer to the core. Do not speak to me of suburban literary fiction. If I were forced to write half as many dramatic scenes in an ordinary kitchen as there are in print–arrgh! No.
Okay…so I probably should fix at least a few of these. Anything sound familiar, writers out there?
The funny thing is, I’m not uncomfortable with all of these. I’m probably not going to stop writing at night (even though I really should), and I certainly can’t see myself writing without at least some elements of fantasy. I’m going to keep scribbling things everywhere because I can’t help myself when I’m “in the moment.”
They might be bad writing methods, but they haven’t stopped me from writing yet.
Well, it’s December now. All of the groggy little writers who spent a month writing 50,000 words are sleeping in and waking up to see the world hasn’t fallen to shivers while they’ve been away. Everything’s much the same.
Except, of course, for those of us who made the journey.
Victors or not in the challenge, we return laden with words. The greatest treasure a writer could ask for. We lost sleep and caught colds and gave ourselves bloodshot eyes and sent each other memes in the dark of night to tell each other keep writing, keep writing! And we came out again on the other side.
Perhaps I embellish a bit. Perhaps it’s not quite like the exploits of a tremendous explorer. Perhaps writing about dragons isn’t the same as meeting them and splashing the spray of salty waves against a ship made of ink won’t quite give you the taste of them on your lips.
But it is something, and I’ll hazard a guess that the handful of people across the world that made the attempt are a good measure more adventurous for it.
So here’s to the adventure, and to all of us who made it. The lunatics, the people who finished, the people who didn’t,
So I actually already finished my goal of 50,000 words for the month. Two days ago?
Not sure how that happened.
Not sure how I feel about it, either.
No bells and whistles and whooping went off in my head. No banshee-screams like when I’ve discovered news of favorable contest results, loud enough to frighten the peaceful community saddled with me.
I just updated my word count on the NaNo site, hit the 50,000…and kept writing.
I’m still writing, mostly because it seems a shame to quit before November is over. And partly because the project I started can’t really begin to be called finished.
This always happens to me.
It’s more like I took automatons, mermaids, dragons, magic rings, circuses, flowers, war and who knows what else and shoved them into a pile and told them to be quiet while I called it a novel.
I don’t think they’re going to be quiet very long…
More than likely, they’re going to keep me awake at night until I polish them into the little fire-jewels I know they could be.
But it’s still November now. Too early for thinking about that.
I have slowed down writing a bit, since there’s no real goal I have to hit now. Taking a few deep breaths. Trying to make sense of the things I already wrote. Reading.
I read the final book Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief series in two days flat. Actually, in just over 24 hours.
This is what happens when you deprive yourself of books. You stay up too late turning page after page as if the little “hamster at the wheel” everyone talks about has been given 100 milligrams of caffeine and an irresistible desire to exercise regardless of the lateness of the hour.
The series is a personal favorite. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? Pickpockets, little dragons, steampunk-y magic and a character that reminds me immensely of Gandalf if he wore a black frock coat and top hat–it’s really quite delicious. And after some hard, painful reading/book trauma the last few days, I needed some cheering up.
So in between working on NaNoWriMo (I’m still alive after 18,000 words in 6 days! Ha!), here is the promised blog post about Grand Bookish Adventure no. 2: Dragonfest Renaissance faire. Even though it’s been a couple weeks since it happened.
As word of explanation, I am a strolling player at the festivals–wander around, wear cool clothes, and play music (this is actually my job description. Simplified, of course. Don’t be too jealous). If you want to come to Dragonfest sometime, feel free to poke around on the website. And if you like this little adventure, I’m having another performance mid-November, so keep your eye on the blog.
Otherwise, here’s the story!
If you missed my ranting about how awesome Dragonfest and Renaissance faires are in general…Life off the Page. It sometimes happens.
Anyway, some of you may remember I was hoping in terror it wouldn’t rain. Because the violin does not get wet.
And yes, I went anyway.
Probably not the most logical of my logicless decisions in the last week and a half (please note, most of this was written before NaNo–but the point stands).
And some little droplets of water got on the violin I take to faires.
(Sound of Strolling Player internally dead. Not dying. Dead.)
(Feel free to imagine here whatever wet squelching sound, dry banshee wailings or aghast poetry you like)
Of course I wiped them off as soon as I saw them and was as careful as I could be. And for those of you holding your breath, when I scrutinized it later, the worst damage appeared to be light smudges on the high-gloss varnish. Similar smudges have appeared before because my hands typically sweat rivers when I play. So. Probably no lasting damage.
Didn’t help other musicians were quietly judging me by politely commenting how surprised they were I had come.
Can’t blame them. I’d be judging me too.
Let’s none of us tell my concertmasters/former or current teachers/professors/friends/employers/anyone remotely related to my music career who knows anything about music anything about this, okay?
Cloaks are wonderful things, do you know that? You can hide an entire violin and bow underneath it when you feel the first raindrop on your nose and run for cover.
I spent most of the day doing that and playing for people under the various tents I’d taken up residence in. No one seemed to mind. In a way, you can make more sales if everyone is forced into your booth to get out of the rain. And you suddenly have free entertainment.
Everyone was super sweet about tipping me too. I know a lot of performers station themselves in one place and put out a jar/hat/open case. Not that I blame them; faire life full time can be expensive. But it’s not my style. I like to wander, browse booths, visit the Queen, walk as I play…no copper beggar’s cup. I am a mummer, not a beggar. No offense.
But people tipped me anyway just because they liked me playing. There’s one man who sells swords (ah, beautiful swords.) that tips me every year. A pirate asked if I knew the tune Katyusha, and after hearing Maria Lazareva’s version…well, that was a very good suggestion, indeed. He tipped with coins. I appreciated the authenticity but found them very difficult to put into my belt pouches one handed.
He wasn’t the only one to request music. Two boys early in the day wanted to try my violin, and yes, I did let them.
One reason for this– a story my mother never tires of telling. When I was a wee little girl myself going to the faires, I met a lady who played violin with a little band. Even that young, my genetic must play violin had already kicked into gear. Short attention span or not, I think I would have stayed planted in front of her all day long. Despite all the other magic of the faire.
She asked if I wanted to hold it.
Her violin. If I wanted to hold her violin.
Yes. Yes, I did.
She showed me how to hold it and play a note. And I can’t say I’ve ever completely forgotten her, or the violin that was easily three or four sizes too big for me.
So when two young lads came up and asked if they could play, I said yes.
I began to reconsider after they’d done it two or three times each during the day. Despite the happy faire memories, there is a darker, jealous side to musicians.
I have never heard it said better than Kvothe in The Name of the Wind.
Asking a musician to play his instrument is roughly the equivalent of asking a man if you can kiss his wife.
As best I can remember it. Don’t have a copy yet and can’t find the quote anywhere. Bother.
While he uses stronger terms than I would…he isn’t wrong. If I hand you my instrument, you can either conclude it isn’t my Precious, that I trust you very much, that I am watching your every move, or I am partially-brain dead or have no other options before the world goes up in smoke.
I was watching their every move.
I imagine watching them play was rather like skydiving. No, I’ve never done it. But it has that sensation of standing on the edge of a cliff with nothing under you.
From a few words and the way they clutched and crunched the bow, I soon learned they were both 2Cellos fans. Unusual, but approvable. Also explained their horrible form.
Don’t think I’m being cruel. Everyone has horrible form when they first pick it up. If they don’t…I suspect wizardry or the mythic Inherent Talent which I have yet to come across in full glory.
Eventually, I agreed to learn Thunderstruck for them by next year. Since they didn’t know how to play it themselves. And why not? I like 2Cellos. Maybe more than I should.
Between performing, I stopped by Lady Jillian’s booth and bought my very own LillaRose hair clasp, which I’d been meaning to do since the first Dragonfest. It has a dragonfly with Celtic knotwork designs. I am very satisfied. Next time I’ll buy one of the gaudy ones with trailing beads to wear to symphony performances.
There were also gentlemen who made me a bit too amused at the prospect of using the clasps to pin back their beards.
Yup, that’s still funny. I think they were pleased to have entertained me.
Also stumbled across a booth selling rings while I was there…so I bought one of stone and one of wood. I was thinking of Kvothe again, of course, with his rings of bone and fire and blood. They’re both a bit big for me, but most rings are. I have small hands. I don’t know why I picked the black stone ring. They had orange and jade-green and a brownish color…somehow I just felt like the black one.
Speaking of Kvothe, I did run into J. Christopher Wilson again, writer of Wards of Iasos. We have had a few tentative book discussions since Dragonfest Year 1.
I read Iasos. He reads George R.R. Martin. I therefore had no compunction in recommending The Name of the Wind. Well, very little anyway. If Game of Thrones is half of what I’ve heard as far as content…he’ll be fine.
My recommendation was somewhat solidified by a woman who appeared behind me while we were talking. As soon as she heard Rothfuss, she firmly seconded my opinion.
Then apologized for interrupting. A true bookworm, I presume.
Actually, as soon as she said Mr. Wilson should read the Rothfuss, her head swiveled to me and she said:
“Are you Kvothe?”
I burst out laughing. She shook her head and mumbled no, guess not.
I couldn’t help thinking–should I be offended? Flattered? I know where she got the idea, wandering minstrel just happening to recommend that book to someone.
Should I have been offended at the comparison to a blade-tongued musician who lies freely and spends far too much time noticing the appearance of young women?
And is also very handsome with bright red hair and one of the best musicians ever penned?
Am I okay with that?
Apparently I am okay with that.
Maybe. Sort of. Not like I’d go around telling people that. More like “Oh. I guess I’m Kvothe to you now. Okay.” I guess there are worse names. Maybe. Ish.
I should have said “One family,” the way all Ruh do, but I was too surprised to think of it in time. Anyway.
Whoever you were Bookish Lady of Dragonfest–you made my day. A deep curtsy to you and your library.
Of course, that’s saying a lot. Most of the day was fantastic (minus the rain).
There was a booth full of wooden wands where the carver said to “Feel free to swish and flick.” I was tempted, but holding my violin at the moment. They were about the prettiest wands I’d seen around.
The jousts were, as usual, very good. The final joust of the day a little girl in full armor came to watch. Of course one of the knights chose her as his Lady. I love that they choose little girls so often–you know it makes their entire year. Especially this little girl getting her yellow rose.
We actually had an unhorsing. The knight stayed still so long I actually started to hold my breath, worrying he’d gotten hurt. Then he bounced up light as you please and threw his arms in the air for applause.
He got it. You have to know that hurt. He also took two more passes in the lists at least.
We have amazing knights.
New steel fighting group The Order of the Red Boar this year. They are…intense. Very intense. To the point I hope they don’t actually decapitate each other. Historical martial arts groups are graceful, one hand disengaged, foil flicking like the tail of a cat. The Red Boar, with their broadswords and fury, well, they’re more like tipsy Vikings who grabbed the sword instead of the hammer. Expect much shouting, falling, and slamming.
They also invited me as resident musician…it is a highly tempting offer. And slightly flattering.
And for the last event of the day…you are now reading the narration of a minstrel who has officially played in the Rat Puck.
Somehow I missed mentioning this game before in my description of the faires. Not sure how.
The Rat Puck is a game I’ve never actually heard of outside of the Hartville faire. One of my distinctive early faire memories involves a woman and baby (both in garb) standing on one side of the road, gentlemen rat pucking on the other.
And when they pucked it in her direction, she belted out if they would be so kind to keep their rat on their side of the road.
Never blamed her for that, but after playing it and almost being whacked and whacking others with flying rats…woo, she was right.
The rules are simple. Everyone gets a hollow bamboo pole with an end chiseled to look like the mouth of a recorder (delicate rules regarding pole width I don’t fully gather). You are also bequeathed with a color coded felt “plague rat.” And it is your duty to wedge stick under rat and fling it halfway across the faire shouting “Cheese!” and hoping to be the first to get it to its wooden circle.
It’s rather like a bizarre game of golf.
Not sure why we shout “Cheese.” Apparently affects the accuracy of rat puck. Kind of cheese does not matter. Adding other food words to cheese does.
Not going to question that.
How did I do? Badly.
But it was all in fun, and I didn’t really care. I’d wanted to play the game for years, but thought it was gentlemen only (and I wasn’t there/didn’t have the nerve to ask/was probably smaller than the poles at that time). Whenever one of the seasoned players made a bad puck, they howled “Shame, shame, you are a shame to the clan” at each other. It was…highly amusing.
Also pucked rats over the main road that bisects the faire. At that point we were pucking rats toward people, even thought the faire was almost over.
Nobody got hit (that time), but I did hear about it afterwards.
One of Queen E.’s ladies had offered to hold my violin while I played, and when I hurried back to the court area, the Queen herself was holding it very carefully, like you would delicately rest a bare sword across the palms of your hands.
So undying respect to the Queen and her court. They understand a musician’s fierce-toothed possessiveness and how to handle an instrument properly.
So as an apology for not blogging as often lately, and for the absentee blogger I am almost certainly going to become during NaNoWriMo, I am going to bend one of my rules and blog about my life instead of books or things that didn’t happen or someone else’s stories. That way you can understand a few things that have been keeping me away from the keyboard.
Don’t get too comfortable with the idea; I enjoy my privacy as much as a curmudgeonly old cat lady and this is probably not going to be a regular thing.
After starting this post, I realized it was very long…so after a week’s delay, rather than have one gigantic story that will be too long for me to edit or anyone else to read…I give you three.
Starting (in chronological order of my Grand Bookish Adventures) with the
Feel free to use your imagination about what they’re like. And share the whimsical stories with me. I will gleefully fabricate more fantastical details for you. With dragons, of course.
In truth though, the biannual library sales are two of my favorite weeks of the year. The books are inexpensive to the point of making those of us buying them seem like sneak-thieves and robbers. There is almost always something for everyone, and if you walk out with only one book, you are stared at with a mixture of revulsion and disbelief (To my memory, I have never done this). Sales typically run from Wednesday through Sunday, fall and spring (you’ll see why this detail is important shortly).
This year I bought…way more books than I should have. Most are sitting in a tidily stacked little tower, patiently waiting to be shelved. My first recent adventure went something like this:
Went to sale on Day 1
(because, seriously. There are lots of other good book hunters out there. I don’t want someone to snatch my favorites before I get there. Also why I haven’t mentioned where the sales are held. I will share books with friends…but only very, very close friends)
Bought Nielsen’s Runaway King and anything else of hers I found.
C.S. Lewis’s battered Space Trilogy (but it’s complete, and in condition I won’t mind loaning out to other readers, especially those with questionable book-eating habits)
The Wise Man’s Fear–identical edition to the one I’d borrowed from the library.
What! you say. Why would she buy that book? Doesn’t she hate it? Wait…does this mean she loves it now? Why did she buy it?
…Because I need it. You’ll get a full explanation after NaNo is over and I have time to write the Rothfuss reviews. Now stop questioning my character inconsistencies. It was there, I wanted it, I bought it. Mine. The end.
The one-volume His Dark Materials…a friend recommended them, and I bought a battered The Golden Compass last sale…so now I have a duplicate…but it saves tracking down the others if I find out I like them.
Tehanu!!! Finally I have my hands on you and can keep reading Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea cycle. Also the sole LeGuin find for the duration of the sale.
Several Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books. Including the first one so I can finally start reading the series.
Adam of the Road. Again, how have I never read this?
Several other Unknown Authors, Collection of Fairytales, and anthologies that made their way into my hands between Sale Days 1-2 (no, I didn’t camp out there, searching the stacks…that actually sounds like fun though…)
Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone. I’ve actually never heard of this author. Which is somewhat irksome and gloriously exciting at the same time. Usually I’m hesitant to buy an unknown book…but it was Ace Fantasy…and it looked good. Like Ursula LeGuin high-epic fantasy good. The covers were gorgeous, the volumes were slim, back-cover blurbs intriguing and condition practically brand new. They had vol. 1-4, 7, and the “newest,” The Revenge of the Rose, but I only picked up one, hesitant of an unknown author…which leads us to…
Day 2. Went back to the sale for the rest of the Moorcock series.
Yeah, I know. But if they were good, I’d be kicking myself for years for not getting the rest. And if I hate them…well, that’s nothing that hasn’t happened before. (Actually, if anyone knows anything about/totally loves this author, please fill me in! I love hearing what other people think of books. Just no spoilers, please!).
I was also browsing books for someone else who couldn’t be at the sale that day…so don’t judge me too harshly for going back just for Elric.
The Crown of the Collection:
Backtracking a little–Day 1 I made the mistake of going to the old/fine books section. Never do this if you aren’t willing to meet a book you can’t part with.
I found a limited edition Anne McCaffrey, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern.
I gaped. Unfortunately, it was buy that book (because word of the wise Book Hunters, don’t bring your checkbook to the sale. Only cash. You will most assuredly overspend) or take home the towering stack of bargain books I’d already collected.
I went with the pile of books. Gave the limited edition a loving look and promised to be back on half price day. If it would wait for me.
Day 3 I refused to go to the sale again; I had too much work-stuff going on.
But if my loved ones trouping out the door on their merry way wanted to peek in on the McCaffrey, just to see how it was doing…
To Skip to the End…
Apparently there’s a rule I wasn’t aware of that better books are culled before half price and bag day.
…and I wasn’t there…
The Merry Troupe of Day 3 brought the book back for me.
They are awesome in every sense of the word. (initiate BookmarkedOne low, graceful bow of undying gratitude).
Here’s a grainy picture of the glorious crown to this year’s collection:
Did I mention the blue is fuzzy? Anybody else ever had a felted book cover?
Needless to day, I did not go back to the sale again this fall.
(Is that needless? Or would you keep wondering?)
Anyway. That really was the end of my visit to the fall book sale. If any of the titles struck your fancy and you’d like to see them reviewed first, let me know! I’d love to hear what your favorites are or what books you were curious about reading yourself.
And NaNo starts at midnight tonight so…for those of you who aren’t writing 50,000 words this month, happy reading and relaxing. And those who are…
Call your dragons and brew your coffee! Swallow your fears and stir your ink! Our day has come!
So I finally caved in to my writing brain and announced a project for NaNoWriMo 2019. That’s right–in addition to full time-university classes, work, rehearsals, performance gigs, blogging, theorizing on magic systems and hunting dragons (was that last one out loud?) I am going to attempt to write 50,000 words in a month. Maintaining sanity during this endeavor is strictly optional.
This is a terrible idea.
And I am very happy about it.
I did demur for a while. Hence “To NaNoWriMo or Not NaNoWriMo?“. I should get some rest from my life. Take care of my health. Make the logical decision.
Ha. Sure. You may notice the logical part of my brain rarely wins these arguments.
On the other hand…
If I spent the entire month of November only sneaking writing time once in a while as thousands of other writers were charging ahead to do battle with and feast upon glorious new words, slaying monsters, riding dragons, crowing their names to the clouds like Peter Pan because we are writers….
I’d miss it.
And what would I have to show for the month after I hadn’t joined in? Certainly not a completed draft of a novel.
So I might give this a go again.
Late nights typing, noveling music, forgetting deadlines until they are breathing down my neck, dodging loved ones’ questions of whether NaNo is actually a peaceful writing community or more like a demanding boyfriend or addictive substance…meeting new characters, giving aloof nods and sudden bear hugs to old ones, making myself wonder if I really know how the world works at all…and falling in love with fantasy all over again.
So this month, I get to do one of my favorite things in the world.
No, I’m not spending three days locked in a closet with my laptop and a pile of snacks to get some writing done. Funny.
I’m actually going outside, in the crisp fall air, forgetting about deadlines, stress, and responsibilities, and instead spending the day playing my violin for anyone who wants to listen and wandering among swordsmiths, cloak-makers, nobility, knights, patrons, and people who love a good adventure story just as I do.
And I guess I should explain this, because while it’s second (or maybe first?) nature to me, I realize some people have never been and/or don’t realize how awesome they are. I remember talking to someone from the Kansas City area about a year and a half ago who had never been to the faire there–and it’s a pretty big one. Not my favorite, but big. If you live there and haven’t at least heard of it…well, no one should judge me for being a Hobbit and never coming out of my hole in the ground again.
If you’ve never been, there are two steps to this.
Listen to me when I tell you they are awesome. As Hazel from The Fog Diver would say, “three kinds of awesome.”
Go to a faire. Seriously. I can’t explain in words everything there is to see and do and fall in love with. Some things you just have to stumble into yourself. Make sure that you pick one with real jousting. Not this choreographed nonsense where the victor is predetermined. What nonsense.
Optional steps involve dressing up in costume, talking like a pirate, and participating in the games of strength or valor present in almost all faires. Because that’s half the fun of going.
And I also realize there might be more to my love for the faires than there seems to be at first glance. It’s a bit of a long story, so if you’re going to listen to the whole thing, make sure your dragon is comfortably settled with his tea and your kittens aren’t quibbling over the accuracy of nursery rhymes.
From the beginning, then.
Little children, when they are small, believe in Fairyland. Some of them. They read about it in books, they see beautiful pictures in glowing colors, softly beckoning them to a world that must be possible, a world they know is glorious and magical. Full of dragons and creamcakes and steamed plum puddings and happy endings and impossible feats of strength and valor and deep, dark forests that never end.
When I was a little girl, I didn’t have to just believe in Fairyland because I’d read about it. I knew it existed. I’d been there.
Several times, in fact.
Every spring, about at the beginning of April, my family made a trip to a Renaissance festival (Yes, I have cool parents. Very much so).
We went about every year when I was little. I met Queen Elizabeth, was made a lady of her court, cheered jousts (to this day, it’s one of the few sports I’m actually fanatical about), still have a blue stone a fairy gave me, listened to stories from wizards, I think first tasted funnel cake, watched magicians, and met a wonderful woman who let Little Me hold her violin and play a note or two. Highlight of my young life, as yearning for violin seems to have been in my brain and blood since birth.
Sometime as the years spun by, we stopped going to the faires. I don’t really know why–moves, changing interests, forgetfulness, something. But I never really forgot about them. I mean, really, how could I? I’d watched men swallow fire and knock each other off huge horses galloping at each other at full speed (in retrospect, this could be why I’m not easily impressed by things these days…conversation for another time). And I got bored. Or something.
So the shoe got on the other foot, and I dragged my family to the faires. Hartville in the rain, Kansas City for a burning hot weekend, to the very first Dragonfest. Most of the time, they had to coax me away.
After all, what child would willingly leave Fairyland? When there are dragons and juggling and adventures to be had?
Last October was my first chance to actually be a part of Dragonfest as something more than a patron. I’ve been spending most of my time since counting down the days until I could go back again.
Which leads us to this month. Or the next two weeks, specifically. October 19, 2019.
I’m going to be the Strolling Player of Dragonfest.
And Knights of Valor are going to be there in all their glory (best joust I’ve seen in some time!) J. Christopher Wilson with his Wards of Iasos book (review another time, don’t worry), Lady Jillian who is absolutely amazing when it comes to hair (seriously, she had mine in a French twist within minutes using only two pins that must be magic. There’s no other way I would have been able to keep all my hair up like that), and so many others with cloaks, little books, cold cider and all the glorious faire trinkets for sale I have terrible weaknesses for. Last year there were blacksmiths who kept time for me as I was fiddling, whether they realized it or not. And Queen E. and her court, of course. I’m actually quite fond of everyone in the court. Yes, including the Goblin King.
But the stories from last year, from the jousts to the gypsies singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” (no joke) to the Goblin King getting a small gourd sliced off his head by Knights of Valor–I can’t begin to fit them all in this post. I could make a full post of each of them and still wonder if I’d left something out.
So for now, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with crossing off the days until Dragonfest and hoping, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t rain. Because even though faires are rain or shine, the violin, I am afraid, is not. So I’m hoping and praying for a day as perfect as last year.
Because I really do live for the faires.
But not yet weary are our feet, Still round the corner we may meet A sudden tree or standing stone That none have seen but we alone…
Home is behind, the world ahead, And there are many paths to tread Through shadows to the edge of night, Until the stars are all alight.
Tolkien, J.R.R. “Upon the Hearth, the Fire is Red,” The Fellowship of the Ring. Allen & Unwin, 1954.
Book Review no. 5: Dragon Rider: the Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke
Series: Dragon Rider, no. 2
Genre: Middle-grade fantasy/magical realism
Completion Date: August 10, 2019
Content for the Sensitive Reader: some conventional mild language, oath-swearing by mushrooms and the Norse gods, references/appeals by characters to unknown gods for help, violence below the level typical in fantasy.
BookmarkedOne Rating: 7/10
Not quite what I would hope for from Cornelia Funke. The woman who whisked us far away with Inkheart, The Thief Lord, andall of Jacob Reckless’s adventures doesn’t present quite the same captivating style in this book.
Still, I did enjoy this one a good deal more than the first Dragon Rider. In that book, the writing style and repetition of the same ordinary descriptor words had bothered me. I’d found myself bored halfway through the enormous volume (perhaps because I disagreed with her ideas and magical theory regarding dragons?), and didn’t read another Funke book until I fell head-over-heels for Inkheart.
Whether you look to dragons or not in this one, and there is very little dragon-riding to be done, Cornelia does throw in Indonesian islands replete with creatures real and mythical that create a veritable Neverland.
With griffins, of course.
And there is a refreshing reunion with Ben, Firedrake, Twigleg, Sorrel, Lola Graytail, and pretty much all the other chief characters from the first book, while acknowledging the passage of time, and the things that change with it. It’s perfectly successful as a sequel, as all of Cornelia’s second books seem to be.
She also continues a tradition I loved in the Inkheart trilogy, leaving quotes from other famous (or not so famous) books at the beginning of each chapter. It feels almost like taking a look at Cornelia’s personal library and seeing what she likes to read, creating a map to answer the persistent question of what to read next, what to read next?
On the other hand, it’s a book with an agenda. From before the first page, it becomes clear that Cornelia is using this book to champion the cause of animal protection. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I don’t read books for the righteous cause they champion, or the lesson they seek to teach.
I read them for the story.
I expect there to be a moral. A truth. Sometimes I even demand it. Every story has one, from The Lord of the Rings to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Save Me a Seat. But this book felt a bit too much like the story was the vehicle for the lesson, rather than a story in itself. There were just a few too unveiled statements that made me frown, things that felt like the storyteller was trying to teach rather than tell a story. If the story does its job well, the lesson is accepted unquestioningly. It’s proven without a single word pointed at the reader through the narration. That’s good writing. But this book felt more like something Cornelia did during her afternoons for fun, rather than spinning a crafted spell that would wind us all so tightly we couldn’t let go.
There’s also very little violence. On many fronts, that’s a good thing, and Cornelia is to be congratulated. But I couldn’t help feeling a little distracted when the good talking monkeys were humanely tying and gagging other monkey guards during conflict rather than injuring them. Not because of the principle. Certainly not because of that. It’s simply the fact that even though they are slightly humanized in her book, I can’t help but think of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. The final battle scenes between Peter and Hook were brutal and ruthless. So ruthless people were concerned. Yet Barrie defends it as necessary for the story. I can’t help feeling that the way Cornelia tried to make her book nonviolent is just a little bit of a cheat. I think of Fox from her Reckless series, as ready to bite as to frolic, simply because that’s her animal nature. It’s instinctive. When you take that away, you get a gentler story, but the animals don’t feel quite as real.
But perhaps the greatest issue I have with the book is one that lurks underneath the surface of the words and seems perfectly innocent at first glance. A problem that I am certain is the furthest thing from the authoress’s peace-loving mind. By giving the ordinary animals human voices, intelligence, and kindness, Cornelia puts them on the same plane with humans. Total and complete equals. In doing so, she makes any character in that book’s world who is not a vegetarian a murderer, and ultimately may make the ending of a human life, for any reason, as guiltless as eating a hamburger.
It’s not a pleasant thought. I hope I’m wrong about it. I hope I’m the only one who noticed. I really do. Books about flying dragons shouldn’t be troubled by what Cornelia’s characters would surely call “Nonsense!” They should be free to fill children’s minds with impossible possibilities and beautiful worlds of silver scales and enchanting islands. And beyond the agenda, the lesson, the problems, the less enchanting prose, that is, ultimately what The Griffin’s Feather has the potential to do.
It’s fantasy, after all. Filled with words that have the power to change the world.