A candle in the bitter dark

Hold the light illustration

#HoldOnToTheLight is a campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world to raise awareness about treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. My contribution is below.      -0-

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There was this throwaway conversation about a compelling What-If — what happens if the same first-born child is promised to two different witches? There was even a brand new niche subgenre coined for the resulting tale.

Helping Hands - Witches story illustrationI said,

That’s almost irresistible.”

So why are you resisting?”

I was asked , and so I stopped.

 

 

To read my version of the newborn “morewitchcentriclesbianfairytaleromcom” literary genre, think about making a small contribution HERE

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13 Books About Books for Big Book Nerds

At offtheshelf.com, Kerry Fiallo offers us a meta reading experience. “Here are thirteen great novels in which books play a prominent role—usually instigating the plot.”

First Impressions CoverFirst Impressions, by Charlie Lovett

A Jane Austen superfan takes a job in a London antiquarian bookshop when two different customers request the same obscure book. What should be a simple inquiry turns into a gripping mystery about the true authorship of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Bibliophiles will love this compelling novel celebrating the love of books.

See the other selections HERE

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A candle in the bitter dark

No story worth telling – no matter how meticulously planned – has ever survived intact its first encounter with good characters, or the first really unexpected twist in the plot.

That transformation is precisely what happened to me when I set out on the story journey that turned into my YA series, The Were Chronicles.

Let me give you just a little bit of a background snapshot. Someone put out a call for a new anthology which would revolve around the idea of Were-creatures – but “not wolves”, the guidelines said emphatically. “Give me something OTHER than wolves.”

I immediately came up with the idea of the Random Were – a kind of Were-critter hitherto unknown (or at the very least unexplored) in the genre literature. Randoms were Weres who had a primary form, to be sure – and yes, that could really be anything so long as it was a warm-blooded creature (as in, no insects, no fish, no snakes). Without any further stimuli it would be this primary animal form that they would assume when their time of change came – they would Turn at the full moon, like every other Were, and stay in that shape for their three changed days before they return to being themselves.

But if any Random, at the cusp of their transformation,  so much as glimpses something ELSE, another creature, anything warm-blooded that isn’t themselves or their primary form… THAT is the shape they will assume. That happened to a character in my own novel, an unfortunate farmyard accident ensured that she went through  the rest of her life as a Were-chicken.

The comedic potential for all of this is high and the original story I started to write was, well, light. And comic. And possibly laugh-out-loud. But it didn’t stay that way. Much like the Random of the title, my story seemed to catch a glimpse of something very different and much darker, and turned into that instead.

The story that came out of all of this was not simply a light-hearted Were-critter yarn. It changed into a story which was, as one reviewer said, more about what it means to be human than what it means to be a Were. My changeling creatures became avatars, taking on the mantle of everyone who has ever been feared, mistrusted, mistreated, herded, concentration-camped, studiedly annihilated… because they were different from the rest.

And this story turned into a very sharp light that shone starkly into the dark shadows where the bullied and the battered souls lived.

Without spoiling the books, let me just tell you that Celia, one of the pivotal characters of this story, a Random Were by birth, accidentally Turns into an animal shape in front of the eyes of her entire school filled mostly with Normals, not Were, because she was too close to her Turn. From the moment that she is seen changing into a cat, she is marked – as someone with a scarlet letter on her forehead, perhaps, in this instance a large red W.

In Celia’s world, the Were have been marginalized by strict laws which have been promulgated “for their own safety” but which mean that it is impossible to run away from being one in a normal everyday society.

Much like a parallel pattern in our own historical reality, in the manner of, perhaps, the yellow stars forced on Germany’s Jewish population during a period not too long ago, my Were are permitted to live amongst and mingle with the “Normal” human population but only if they carry identity cards which are marked with a paw print. The mark of “shame”. The mark of being different and therefore fair game.

Celia’s life descends into nightmare. Her peers, goaded by the mores and expectations of their society, begin to make her days miserable. And because she is still a child, under control of authority figures who choose to take the side of the bullies, there is literally nobody to whom it is possible to appeal for help.

I did not sugar coat it. I wanted it to be stark and brutal and terrifying. And for poor Celia, that’s exactly what it was.

Paraphrasing one of my favorite G K Chesterton quotes, the value of fantasy lies not so much in scaring our children with the idea that dragons exist – but in giving them hope and courage in grasping the thought that they can be defeated.

It is invaluable for someone who feels lonely, isolated, backed into a corner, despised, feared, and cast out by a society to which they desperately want to belong to know that although it might often seem that way *they are not alone*.  And my story grew the dark wings of a brooding and dangerous kind of a guardian angel – the kind that doesn’t necessarily defend you against harm but which arms you against it so that you learn how to stand up to it all by yourself.

When I was young, I was a solitary, bookish child, often by myself, and certainly (given my peripatetic wandering childhood) always somehow *other.* I was lucky in that I was never bullied for it. I was simply left alone. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know what being bullied is like, I’ve seen plenty of it. I can understand what gives it form, strength, power. I can feel the pain visited upon the victims.

Candle in the dark imageWhat all of that does mean is that I found myself writing a story which was vastly more important than the one I thought I was embarking on when I started out. I was holding out a light in a dark place. Perhaps it wasn’t a flaming sword – perhaps it wasn’t making a victim into a warrior, at least not directly – but this story turned into writing on the wall, “You are not alone.”

That is a powerful message, and it resonated with readers. I got feedback about how much it mattered to someone who had either direct or indirect experience with these things. It was a story which may have been hard to read, for some. It might even rate a trigger warning, for some. But the catharsis was very real, too, and this story – this #HoldOntoTheLight story that was born out of a moment of lighthearted whimsy – is perhaps the most important thing I have ever written, or might indeed ever write.

This is a fantasy that is more real than I would have believed possible – and it is at once an indictment of what people do to other people who are deemed to be “not-us” and therefore ripe for being dehumanized and called enemies, and a shining story about how at least one of those marginalized people stood up and took matters into her own hands and said “No more”.

Everyone matters. It is sometimes hard to get people who have been downtrodden or hated for a long time to believe that truth about themselves. That’s why a story which shows them that they own their own place in the universe can be so important. Sometimes it’s very dark out there, when you’re the only one holding a tiny flickering candle – and sometimes it just helps when someone else steps up beside you holding another.

You still have to wait for the sunrise to see things in the bright light of another day – but sometimes, truly, all it takes to drive away a sense of darkness and keep your spirits up through the remainder of the night is knowing that you aren’t out there in the shadows all by yourself.
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#HoldOnToTheLight believes fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment. Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go HERE

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The Power of Magic

Fantasy is a lens which sharpens and clarifies the sliver of reality viewed through it. Magic is one of the tools used to accomplish this, and it’s a powerful one.

Sufficiently advanced magic takes on a reality all of its own and begins to be something believed in on its own terms, with something approaching religious faith. This is possibly why the more fundamental Christian ilk feels so violently threatened by such things as the magic in The Golden Compass or Worldweavers.

They confuse a powerful system of magic being used to shape a fictional story with a potential rival to their own creed and dogma and set of beliefs and a false dichotomy of “people who like and believe THIS cannot possibly believe OUR magic faith and so they must be our enemies”.

I am going to take this one step further. If any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, then any sufficiently advanced magic can be indistinguishable from a religion.

If anything that is beyond our comprehension may be tagged with the word “magic”, then the Christian mythos starts to drip with it – what are miracles if not magic? Changing water into wine? Walking on water? Resurrection, for that matter? But over the course of two thousand years the magic has hardened into a cracked outer shell of dogma. It is no longer the original magic but the recasting of that magic into something useful and controllable by a series of human interpreters who have sought to use it as something that supported their own theory, or grip on power.

Upstairs To The Magic Land illustrationThere is real magic in belief. Sometimes wishing for something hard enough actually does make it come true because the sheer power of the act of visualization often means that you are also working in real-terms for the manifestation of that thing in your life.

I remember reading Richard Bach’s “Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant Messiah” I couldn’t remember the exact title so I just looked it up and this jumped out at me from one of the book’s Amazon reviews: “I’m a Christian, but believe that when you move beyond a literal interpretation of Christ’s words and see the symbolic message in them, it’s not too different from what’s in this book. But that’s a big leap for most Christians and this book will probably make their blood boil.”

True magic lies in weaving together something that is impossible with something that is yearning for the impossible in such a way that the impossible thing becomes not just possible but inevitable.

This is what writers do every day.

What is it that makes magic come alive for the reader? Is it that the writer must believe in it first, and to what degree should that belief be taken – philosophical, empirical, dogmatic? What is it about magic that pulls in the human mind? What are the riptides and the undertows of that wine-dark sea in which we all like to occasionally drown?

What makes magic… for YOU?

The full version of this essay can be read at at Book View Café HERE

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How to Con it

I went to my first SF con in 1995 – ConQuest in Auckland, New Zealand.

The primary reason I went was because Roger Zelazny, one of my personal literary gods, was one of the writer Guests of Honor. He carried out his GoH duties with grace and charm, despite the cancer that was ravaging him. The Con was in April, by June he was gone.

I will always be grateful for the chance to have met him, spoken to him, shook his hand, had him sign one of my favorites of his books, and to receive at his hand the words of benediction that have been my guiding light ever since. During a writers’ workshop where he had read a story I had submitted for critique, he told me:

“You have a voice all of your own. Nobody else will ever write this way.”

I remember very little of that convention, other than the Zelazny encounter. And my con-going was sporadic from 1995 until 2000, when I moved to the United States and began to get involved in the true hub of the SF con circuit. I started with a vengeance, attending as many as nine conferences a year before I slowed down.

I went to even these early conventions as a writer, interested in the literary aspects of the panels and the discussions, looking out to meet people whose books I had read and loved. As I climbed the ladder in my own right, many of those people became colleagues, and many of those moved forward again to become friends. If I go to a convention today it is usually as a panelist, a guest, an author, a pro; I’ve done a couple of GoH appearances of my own, since the day I gazed on Zelazny in that role.

Until the spring of 2015 I had not visited any of the more massive cousins of the smaller regional cons I usually frequented, a true Comic Con. When I did visit the Emerald City Comic Con in early 2016 it was once again as the newbie, someone who’d gone to a Comic Con for the experience of it, the costumes in the halls, the electric atmosphere fueled by stars of the literary world but also those of TV and the silver screen. Con-gone-Hollywood, as it were.

For any new con goers who might be just joining the circuit, I can offer a few major tips.

  1. Avoid overload.

    Unless it’s a VERY small single track convention, you are going to be faced with a thousand and one things to do, places to be, people to see. You’re going to go out of your mind trying to do it all. You need to prioritize – and most of all, you need to pay attention to things that don’t appear on your program but which are pretty much essential to your own well-being. Make time to eat. Make time to sleep. Do not schedule every minute of every day, allow yourself room for rest and for spontaneity.

  1. Be respectful of other people’s space and activities.

    Cons are a great place to meet like-minded people but nobody is going to thank you for your unbridled enthusiasm if you simply barge in uninvited into ongoing conversations, or if you interrupt your favorite writer’s breakfast with a breathless declaration of your undying devotion and demand a signature on books or program booklets. Also, and this is important, there are people in this sphere who are out-and-out extroverts and who are ready to party until they drop but there are also people who are NOT and who don’t particularly relish being joyfully accosted by other con-goers who try and infect them with their own puppy-like enthusiasm for things. Some cons have instituted special ribbons people can wear on their badges, indicating what level of social interaction they can cope with. Respect those. If your con doesn’t have those ribbons, respect the attitudes anyway and behave accordingly. If you err in your social interactions, have the grace to apologize and back off if asked. Nobody likes pressure. Don’t be that guy.

  1. Enjoy yourself

    Cosplay Superpeople photoThis is a living incarnation of your dream world, many of your dream worlds. This is the place where it’s okay to be yourself, to let the weird hang out a little if you have enough weird to hang out there. Having said that, don’t forget that others are there for their own reasons. When it comes to things like cosplay — performance art in which participants wear costumes to represent a specific character — remember the maxim that a lot of cons are now enshrining in their programs: Cosplay is not consent. There are people who will have gone to a great deal of time and trouble to perfect their costumes – but don’t assume that they did it with a particular audience in mind or with a particular agenda – they will have done it because of their own passions, for love, and no conclusions should be leapt to by those who think there was a hidden message in that cosplay.

As a more experienced con goer, or a pro who is there for a busman’s holiday and working the panels, there is a whole other set of rules. Be patient, be kind; smile; talk about the things you know about, don’t pretend you know things you don’t know, and generally don’t bring arrogance or one-upmanship into the game. Don’t use the entire convention to promote your books. Sure, there are moments where it is apposite to do so, but panelists who wall themselves off with a barrier made out of their published works; or who cannot seem to have a conversation about ANYTHING without bringing it around to themselves, will quickly find that the reactions of the fans will measure up to that.

What you bring in, will be given back to you in fulsome measure. Practical things which have nothing to do with any of the attitudes are legion. Hydrate. Make sure you know where the things you need are to be found. Be considerate. Be patient (yes, there will be times when you will want to swear at hotel elevators and how they’re always full or going in the wrong direction when you desperately need to be somewhere else in a hurry. Bring bandages because you will probably have blisters. I had to go to the professionals at ECCC because I rubbed my foot raw and didn’t have the right equipment handy.

Be helpful where you can (a tiny gesture like helping someone who is about to spill a full folder of papers or a cup of coffee over one will earn you lots of brownie points. Speak up, but don’t dominate conversations. Try not to get obnoxious (and if you know you get that way after a few stiff drinks monitor your intake).

Try not to be a complete ass and be loud and giggly in hotel corridors – in wings not designated as party wings – after a reasonable hour (take conversations into rooms, if you need to, but also remember that hotel rooms are not precisely sound proofed and if the person next door can report your conversation back to you verbatim because they could hear it through walls you are being way too loud about it).

Make it a point to say something nice to someone at least three times a day (if everyone did that you’d get nice things said to you, too. Remember that,) Bring aspirin (or equivalent) – it’s always handy to have. Try and learn something new. Bring money – you’ll find SOMETHING you will want in the dealers rooms, and make it a point to support the dealers, while you’re at the con; if you pick up something, no matter how small – a comic book, a new novel, a CD, a pair of earrings, a cute dragon puppet – that someone has made, it makes their day and supports the con you love and hey, YOU have something new to treasure. Volunteer, if you can, and you feel so inclined. Make at least one new friend.

Have fun.

I’ll see you there.

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A fundamental truth.

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Moving Potterverse

Once upon a time there was a literary phenomenon named Harry Potter.

The twenty first century YA and children’s literature has been dominated by this story like no other, with its midnight launch parties at bookstores across multiple nations, massively popular movies, and characters that became as iconic as the Potter crew… or the much-vaunted School of Magic itself, Hogwarts The Magnificent. (Well, all right, the honorific wasn’t in there. But it’s the unheard suffix to that name. You know it. The world believes it.)

The author of this grand literary endeavor, JK Rowlings, has been transformed into one of the world’s richest and most recognizable women. She could live in luxury on the Potter millions without writing another line for the rest of her life. But that’s not what writers do.

After the Potter books were done, she tried writing a couple of books in an entirely different and unrelated genre. They did… fair to middling. And in the end, she went back to to her magnificent Potterverse. Minor controversies dogged this endeavour – like the casting of a grown-up Hermione in the new Potter installment as black.

But then Rowlings tried to go global…and far bigger problems emerged.

Harry Potter coverLet’s just reiterate one thing about the original Harry Potter books – the canon, the history of HP himself, Hogwarts, all of that. What it all is, really, is the iconic British Boarding School Story with a layer of magic thrown over it like a cloak, set into a wildly inventive world.

You would have had to be heart-dead, if you love fantasy at all, not to respond to wonderful things like owls carrying mail, Diagon Alley, and that wonderful castle. (I went to boarding school in a castle, too, BTW, but it wasn’t anything like Hogwarts with the FEASTS they had for every mealtime.)

This is where Rowlings’ gift was – invention. She invented stuff, scattering these wonderful shiny ideas across the basic backbone of the story in double handfuls of fairy glitter until the thing fairly LOOKED like a unicorn – and people loved it. A couple of generations of kids have grown up with these things.

But the strength of these stories is this: they are bone-deep BRITISH. It’s English mythology, with a couple of generic things thrown in from somewhere else. It is something that Rowlings knew from within, being a part of it herself, and dammit, it showed, because you could take any part of that narrative and pull it out and it would be nicely and solidly BRITISH.

The appeal was double-pronged – for the home-crowd readers it was the beauty of familiarity and the ability to simply relax into a familiar story, comfortable in the knowledge that no matter what the story-inventions actually came up with in terms of the glittering ideas the basic narrative was a non-threatening one which would prop up and support an already existing worldview.

For the away team, the Across-The-Pond American readers, one attraction was the sense of delicious foreignness to it all, a layer of extra magic over the original story – first magical and Hogwartsy, then oh so British and weird. And so the scene was set and the foundation was laid and Harry Potter rode forth to conquer the world.
But the cozy British Boarding School narrative doesn’t work as well when planted in foreign soil.

To do this properly, it would require half a lifetime of research and dedication. You would practically have to get a PhD in comparative mythology and enchantment, or perhaps several, one from each different sphere of study – and there are so many spheres.  Unfortunately, Rowlings seems to have rushed her fences and assumed that the old trick would work – picking up that fairy dust and sprinkling it over a different base this time, and expecting the same magic to happen.

But the result was quite the opposite.

I won’t rehash it all here. Rowlings’ original stories about “Magic in North America” and the backlash to them from various indigenous groups and individuals are all over the net, and some of those people have already done a perfectly good job in reacting to Rowlings’ attempt to Potterize America. I will just make a few salient points.

1)    The most basic error here was the crass generalization – the “Native American community”, indeed. The reason for the generalization appears to be simply that it was easier to cherry-pick bits from this tribal culture and bits from that one, and just transmogrify it all into a great generic “Native American” cloth which covered an entire continent’s worth of stories. But there is no “Native American community” in this sense, any more that there would be a “European community” under which umbrella you would be writing about a mishmash of Celtic and Norse and Greek and Roman and Slavic gods and spirits, as if just calling them all “European” they would somehow coalesce into a magically coherent backdrop to an entirely unrelated story you wanted to tell.

2)    Rowlings was using Native American props to set her stage – but that was what they were, props. Look behind the (arguably magnificent) painted scenery and – oh, look – we’re back in an Anglocentric universe. All this “Native American” stuff is not treated as vivid, and living, and real, and ITSELF.

It was simply used as a new backdrop to Rowlings’ tried-and-true basic story, but that was ALL that it was good for. There doesn’t appear to be any kind of depth or research or respect for the material she was making this patchwork quilt out of. This is not what a writer does when creating a story. You can’t just mug other people’s worlds, stuff them willy-nilly into a gunny sack and take them home where you cut them up and piece them together in some fashion convenient to you — clandestinely, in the basement, by candlelight, and hope that nobody notices the stitching.

3)    The North American School of Magic. As and of itself – I mean, good grief, anyone would think that Rowlings invented the whole school of magic idea whole-cloth. Newsflash, she didn’t – lots of such schools exist in the literature, and have done long before Hogwarts ever fluttered into its pennanted and turreted existence. Her New World school story appeared to be  an extension of the Hogwarts idea, but there were…problems. They begin to multiply when the details are examined.

One, this particular school is called “Ilvermorny”, and it was started in America… by an Irish girl. It’s divided into Houses, much like the iconic Hogwarts is, but the Houses here… in a school founded by an Irish lass… are creatures from the Native American iconography. Creatures like the Horned Serpent, Thunderbid, the Pukwudgie, the Wampus. For Houses founded by Anglo folk. With English names.

Rowlings’ own account of the formation of this school, comes a rather telling sentence: “Faithful to the taboos of his people, the Pukwudgie refused to tell [Isolt, the school’s Irish lass founder] his individual name, so she dubbed him ‘William’ after her father.”

How many ways does this wave red flags? The magical Irish lassie finds an indigenous creature in the New World. The creature *does not trust her enough to tell her its true name*. So she just calls it William. As you do, when you’re the colonial power wading into the “lesser” and the “native”. You don’t know their true names or natures, so you just give them a name you understand and can handle and treat them exactly as though you would treat any other creature by such a name with whom you might be familiar, taking little account of all the background which you’ve just swept under the carpet.

So a School of Magic founded in a New World teeming with its own magic and mythology… sets itself up in a wonderful old-fashioned British Boarding School narrative… fits itself up with Houses (and because we’re Over Here now we’ll just play games and name the characters after local creatures we really have no deeper understanding of).

But then, a burning question.

4)    What does this school teach? And to whom? Because if it simply imports nice white colonial children to be taught the magic brought all the way from the Old World and therefore superior to anything in the new world, then it is problematic on a certain level of demanding a question as to just why it exists in the first place. Young (white) wizards and witches intent on learning traditional magic… could have been shipped “home” to learn it at the source. And if the student body were to be widened to include the native-born, things really start getting sticky.

If the magic being taught is the white colonial kind, then this is a rather prettily dressed up version of the horrors of the indoctrination schools where American Indian children of many tribes were forcibly taken to be “civilized”, forced to cut their hair and not to use their own language and follow their own culture, until they could be extruded on the other end of this “education” as properly improved. Or at least “improved” enough to POSSIBLY be considered as worthy of being included in the white man’s society (and even then treated as fourth-class citizens, demeaned and denigrated and discriminated against). All their own culture and language and legends and, yes, magic, shriveled and died underneath the heavy hand of those who came to “improve” the “native lot”.

This school is White Man’s Burden writ large. No amount of pretty window dressing will make it other. There isn’t enough fairy dust in the world to hide the ugliness of this. The indigenous magic had already existed in this place long before a magic white girl named Isolt thought to build a clone of Hogwarts here. The practitioners of such magic did not need this “school” – they would have been trained, in their own way and in their own magic, by their own elders and adepts.

This is an egregious way to try and paper the tried-and-true lucrative formula that drove the Potter phenomenon over an underlying structure which has no relationship to that formula, in the hope that the Potterverse juggernaut will just keep on sailing right along.

Well, she’s been called on these points, and more besides. The resounding silence from an author who’s been known to interact with her readers on social media and elsewhere on the Internet is something of a clue that Rowlings probably realizes what a mess this all is, and is trying to figure out which way to jump from here.

Personally, I see the whole mess as having been eminently avoidable. If only the author had been able to take that sideways step, to set aside the livery of Eurocentric and Anglocentric fairytale, if she had been willing to put in the time, to talk to people she needed to talk to. It would probably be best if she were willing to take responsibility for it all now, and by that I don’t mean a defensive retro-explanation of the whole thing, trying to make it all seem copacetic in the rear view mirror. I mean take a stand and come out from behind the silence and say “I messed up but let’s see where we can go from here”.

Rowlings has found out, the hard way, that you cannot simply endlessly recycle one good idea – and most emphatically you cannot simply clothe that idea into an “exotic” overcoat and call it a new idea. There are people out there – there are always people out there – who will discern the shape beneath the cloak, and who will know the cloak as an attempt to pull a fast one. This particular effort is akin to dragging out a pantomime horse (you know, the kind made up of two people, one of whom is the horse’s ass) onto a beautifully set stage, sticking a cardboard horn on its forehead, and insisting that the audience accept it as a real Unicorn.

If you don’t have the Unicorn of a true idea… your best bet is bring on something else entirely. A budgie. A squirrel. A Capuchin monkey. A salamander. Even (if you insist on staying with a four-footed equine of some description) a zebra. Something new. Dressing up an old idea in new clothes and then laying a cloak of silence over it all… is simply not going to work.

Not even for the woman who invented Harry Potter.

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Are you a god?

If you are a writer, yes.

In a very real sense what you do when you create a fictional world is neither more nor less than being a god of a universe of your own creation.

We writers, we artists, we take the building blocks of the familiar and go on to make something different from them, something rich and strange. There is a train station where all the trains to these places stop, and we all stand there on the platform selling tickets, tickets to OUR worlds, and we smile when someone picks one up and boards a particular train and sits there leaning forward with shining eyes full of anticipation.

The worlds we create can be filled with intricate and painstaking detail – or they can be just hinted at, with the larger picture there for you, the reader, to fill in when you lift your eyes from the words on the page and the ideas blossom in the back of your mind.

Some of the best world-creating moments are almost incidental – like in a fairly silly episode of Doctor Who named “Gridlock” where the premise rests on this ludicrous idea of a traffic jam that has literally lasted for lifetimes… and yet this silliness is lifted into the transcendent.

Right at the end of the episode, the Doctor speaks with passion and pain and longing and regret and nostalgia and the purest love, of his lost home, Gallifrey. The world is built, sketched in a a few powerful words, a couple of incandescent sentences.

I’ve never been to Gallifrey. I can’t have ever been there. It does not exist any longer – the Doctor said it’s been destroyed. But, of course, it never REALLY existed at all, outside the story, outside the Doctor’s own mind and heart and memory.

Gallifrey illustrationAnd yet some part of me thrills to the “burnt orange sky”, and the “mountains that shine when the second sun rises.”

 

(With a little search you can find a video clip of this brief scene online and it’s worth the effort.)

I do this thing, worldbuilding. I take pride in creating worlds that live and breathe.

And sometimes I get rewarded.

“I could almost smell the cold and the freshness of the air and the tremble of the earth,” someone told me the other day, in reference my novel ‘The Secrets of Jin-shei‘.

I took a reader into a world that rose, real, around her as she rolled into the heart of it. One journey into a sense of wonder, validated. There are moments of which entire days are made. This gave me one of those moments.

Professor Tolkien wrote about all this, powerfully:

Although now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons- ’twas our right
(used or misused). That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we’re made.

Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker. — J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien on Fairy-stories

In a LiveJournal essay a few years ago I challenged my readers to:

“Take me to a place you’ve never been and make me homesick for it. Make me yearn for it and believe in it and love it and miss it as though it once belonged to me and I still carry it in my heart.”

It’s easy – well, easier, anyway – to write about a place one has personally known and loved. I have done it talking about the Danube and the way I feel about that river; I’ve done it about the places of my childhood.

But can you be homesick for a place you have never been, can never go? Is it possible for an Earthbound human to be homesick for a planet called Gallifrey, or a wood known as Lothlorien? Is it possible to be homesick for some patch of this our own world which one has never seen or visited?

For instance…

Oh, the moment in which the sun is not yet quite risen, not yet quite ready to pour itself around the shadowed crags in their veils of mist, but the day has started – and the light is pearly and nacred, shifting and shining, and the mists flow and coil around their great standing rocks and islands as though they are saying farewell to a lover. And the sky is lost in a brightening glow and the silhouettes of stones sharpen into individual sharp edges, and trees, and in between all there is the river, and the water is starting to change from darkness to a dull pewter glow which echoes the pre-dawn light to the glitter of sun on water as the first fingers of sunlight touch the ancient river and wake it into day once more, another day.

Already there are boats moving, and men silhouetted against the sky, and the faint shimmery lines of nets being cast into the water where the fish are waking, too, and waiting to offer themselves in the daily act of love and sacrifice that feeds the people of these crags, of this river. And the shadows are black, and the crags are charcoal gray and deep deep green in the faint light, and the water is turning golden and the sky is turning a faint blue, like the delicate shell of a bird’s egg, and soon the sun will come and the water will blaze with glory.

I am talking about a real place, the Li river, Guilin, China. But I’ve never been there. I’ve never seen this, outside of pictures.

River in China photo

I found this photo AFTER I wrote that paragraph above. I went looking for images that matched the view from my mind’s eye. I wasn’t describing the pictures; the pictures were found later to match and illustrate what I had already described…

And yet it’s there in my mind’s eye. And I can make myself homesick for it by letting the image live in my mind.

Perhaps it is possible to take a soul to Gallifrey. And make that soul love a place never seen, impossible to reach, a place that may never have existed outside the mind and heart of a character in a story…

~~~~~

My first book audiobook – Paper and ebook and voice, oh my.

I am a very visual writer. I sometimes basically close my eyes and just transcribe the movie that’s unfolding before me on the backs of my eyelids. I SEE things.

Some writers dictate their books into a recorder before transcribing them onto the page, and some use software such as Dragon to dictate their books directly onto the screen. But that is not the way I think, not the way I write. I need to see the words dance on the page. Not hear them.

For the same reason, I haven’t really taken to audio books the way others, my husband for example, have. I don’t take in stories JUST by listening to them.

But the times they are a-changing, audiobooks are becoming more popular and I have now taken a step into the future with my first book in audio format, ‘Embers of Heaven‘.
.
Embers of Heaven coverI listened to the sample on the Amazon page for the audio book and it’s eerie to hear my own words spoken at me. It’s well done, at least in the sample I heard. (I have to admit that I would probably have chosen a female narrator voice since my main protagonist is a woman and the final section of the book is pretty much a first-person journal-like narrative from her POV.)

My first audiobook. Huh. I feel all grown up now.

You can sample or buy it at Amazon HERE

~~~~~
Quote of the DayBenjamin Franklin posterIn his own way, he was talking about building a world.

~~~~~

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People people EVERYWHERE

The last days of a Comic-con

I had been hearing distinctive Artoo Detoo chirps and raspberries for a while but I couldn’t quite nail down where they came from – until the next morning, when I noticed a bevy of life-sized R2 units in the concourse.

I raced down to play with them of course.

There’s a picture. I’m leaning over one in a full Leia pose, one hand on its noggin.

Alma and R2-D2 photoDid you say ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope?” someone asked on Facebook, later, upon seeing the photo.

Well, not out LOUD,” I responded primly.

My signing at the University Books booth was at 2 PM and so I presented myself there at that time, together with John Pitts and Robin Hobb, who of course immediately drew a line of people who were telling her how much they loved her books.

A young lady came up to the table where I was sitting, without a book in hand, but with a very earnest expression.

I just wanted to tell you, I love your books, and I think they’re wonderful,” she said, and I got this lovely warm feeling all over. “I think I have them all…

“There’s a brand new one,” I said, lifting ‘Empress’.

I tend to read on Kindle,” she said.

It’s on Kindle,” I assured her.

She lit up. “Thanks!” she said. “Ill look for it!

Other people wandered up with copies of ‘AbductiCon’ or The Were Chronicles books. It wasn’t Nathan Fillion, it wasn’t Robin Hobb, but it was a pleasure.

Cosplay Superpeople photoI made my way through the fairies and the warriors and the hobbits and the wizards and the princesses and the monsters and the superheroes and the gods (and one Sheldon Cooper) and walked those long five blocks back to the hotel where I keeled over. With another book. Which, yes, I finished before bedtime…

The crowds had worn me down and there was no “have-to-see” panel or event on Sunday. It was time to go home.

On the way out, a family of four – Mom, Dad, and two kids, one teenage, one slightly younger – all smiled at me as I stepped into the elevator. They were all wearing lanyards with Comic-Con badges on them. I wasn’t wearing my own badge any more but my T-shirt had a Tribblecentric version of the “Soft Kitty” song that Sheldon Cooper so loves on Big Bang Theory, a crossover of two fandoms, and the Mom of this little family nodded at it.

I’m guessing you’re in sympathy with all this, going by the shirt,” she said, clearly meaning the Comic-Con gestalt we all shared.

I caught the eye of the teenager, and she grinned broadly. I smiled back. The Next Generation.

Ever After

I’m a convention veteran with two World Fantasy Cons under my belt, six Worldcons, and countless other smaller cons across the breadth of the continent. I have badges stuck on a cork board from cons in New York, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Canada, from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal.

But they’re all tiddlywinks compared to something like this. It was literally the first time I had gone conventioneering with the population of a small TOWN. It was… an interesting experience.

Cosplay Wizards photoThere’s a buzz, something in the air. There’s a knowledge that you can say something weird and crazy and utterly esoteric and be certain that someone will *get it*. It’s a feeling of belonging. It’s a sense of being able to smile at a complete stranger wearing wings or horns or a cut-out shell of BB8 covering her large pregnancy bump or the robes of a Middle Earth Wizard or the uniform of a Star Trek officer or a Spiderman mask, and know that even if you’re wearing none of those things they’ll grin back and know that you’re “in sympathy with all this”. There’s an immensity of inclusion.

But for a cast-iron introvert like me there’s also a weight to it which can become crushing – there is a reason I tend to avoid large crowds. I can spend a limited time in them, amongst them, and then I get the urge to find a quiet corner somewhere to catch my breath and re-collect my scattered energies. I NEEDED to leave that space when I left it because there were PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. The constant stream of people up and down the packed escalators looked like a gush of water from a busted hydrant, unstoppable, powerful, sweeping all away before it. There were moments I was part of it. There were moments that it was imperative that I *get out of its way*. It was an exhilarating but also very draining three days.

Am I glad I did it? Oh yeah. I asked Maleficent to excuse me when I stepped on the trailing edge of her cloak on an escalator. I hugged an Artoo unit. I watched a Unicorn playing a fiddle out in the sunshine of a convention center courtyard. I caught a glimpse of a Captain Mal smile. I met some of my own fans at the book signing.

I’m glad I did this.

Tomorrow: How Comic-con came to be. A history

~~~~~

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Surrealism in Seattle

My first Comic-con: Friday, Day 2

The closer I got to the Convention Center the more surreal the streets became. Pirates. Boba Fetts. Lots of Reys, of different ages and sizes, the youngest maybe not yet seven, the oldest possibly older than ME. SCADS of Spidermen (that was the thing for some reason. Lots and lots of those.) Fairy princesses. People painted green. Star Trek crews from different eras. A dog made up to look like an Ewok.

All flowing towards the center of gravity. ECCC in full bloom.

I had asked someone the previous day how many people they thought were there.

About 50,000,” I was told. “And you wait. This is just the first day.”

On Friday I heard revised estimates. 80,000, maybe 85,000. I was an ant in an anthill. Some of the ants were mousy, like me, but some were truly spectacular. I started taking pictures.
Eccc Hall Crowds photoThe signing queue in front of the booth where the star attraction, Nathan Fillion, was signing autographs was a heaving mass of hundreds of souls. I contemplated joining them but the price of admission was a little too rich. I don’t think I’m ever going to be convinced that $80 for the price of a signature was a prerequisite for getting within eyeball distance of anyone.

I remember the Worldcon in Japan where they had George Takei doing much the same thing – but there I simply joined a queue and when I got to the front I spoke a few words to him and shook his hand and that was enough – there wasn’t a requirement for money to change hands.

I just drifted on the edges a bit, saw Captain Mal flash that brilliant grin at someone else at the front of the line, and went on my way.

I did go to another signing. I had bought a copy of Matt Ruff’s latest book, “Lovecraft Country”, the previous day, and finished reading it that night. (and LOVED it.) After getting my copy autographed and chatting with him until the next fan stepped forward, I pressed on.

There was a 3-D scanner for people. You could climb in and be full-body-scanned, and then they could print a figurine of you from that. The scan was free, you could decide later if you wanted to buy the action figure, so I had myself 3-D scanned. How very futuristic.

And then there was the artist R.K. Milholland sitting at his booth chatting to a friend until I smiled at a sign that he had there in front of him: ‘I DO FREE SKETCHES FOR NICE PEOPLE.’

You want one?” he asked.

I don’t know, am I nice enough?”

He grinned. “Well, you haven’t pissed me off yet.

He hauled out a piece of white card. Wolf boy cartoon

So what do you want me to draw?”

In honor of The Were Chronicles, I requested a Were creature, half boy, half wolf. He quickly drew this hilarious caricature, and then broke me up completely by putting in a speech bubble above the creature he drew, who had an expression of pure comical consternation, which bore the single word,

….Help.”

I took more pictures.

I bought a T-shirt with the picture of a cat drawn WITH NUMBERS. Which portrayed the maths of the Uncertainty Principle. The cat, of course, was Schrodinger’s.

I saw a panel that looked interesting but by the time I decided I wanted in, the panel had been declared full and I was turned away. .

My usual affliction was starting to present itself. Namely, I have wretched feet. No matter what shoe I put on, I will end up with a blister SOMEWHERE. The one I was beginning to cultivate this time was getting painful. I found a first aid station and, like my wolf-boy, I said “…Help.”

No problem,” said the first-aid person. He applied a thin gel-like thing over the enormous blister that had developed on the side of my foot and then put a massive oversize bandage to go over that. “You are definitely not the first person to present yourself here with that problem!” he added cheerfully.

I had a standing dinner engagement back at the hotel with friends, so I retreated from the Center in good time to limp back to the hotel slowly and carefully. After they left, I went back up to my room and finished another book. Yeah I know. I read at the speed of summer lightning…

Day 1 can be found HERE

Tomorrow: Day 3

~~~~~
Batman and the Redshirt photoI didn’t see this guy at the ECCC.but  I’m sorry I missed him.

Redshirt killed by every character in history

“Go to any big sci-fi convention,” Gavia Baker-Whitelaw writes at Dailydot.com, “and you’re guaranteed to see a few people dressed as the red-shirted security officers from Star Trek’s original series. It’s a simple costume that provides a built-in theme for cosplay photos: getting horribly killed, which was the primary role of Star Trek’s redshirts.

“Cosplayer Tim Adam has perfected the art and has built up a massive gallery of imaginative redshirt death crossovers with other cosplayers from Marvel to Star Wars to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Go to Dailydot.com to read more HERE

~~~~~
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The geeks and the nerds

My first Comic-con: Day 1

My knowledge of the comic-con phenomenon came from the legends of my tribe, the nerds and the geeks and the science fiction and fantasy people of this world.

The people who can quote you chapter and verse from the canon of half a dozen iconic shows, who have read all the books and know everything there is to know, who are lovingly familiar with all the characters and all the worlds and who do not grudge the time and the money it takes to reproduce those characters in eye watering detail in the halls of the convention center.

I knew this at one remove but I was a comic-con virgin until I accepted a ‘Pro-Pass’ invitation to attend the Emerald City Comicon in Seattle.

I also knew that it was going to be vivid and big and crowded and wall-to-wall-peopled with others who love the things I love. I have to admit that there was a frisson or two because large crowds have always been tough for me to handle, they suck strength and vim from me, and there is usually only so much of a thoroughly crowded place I can take before I start wildly looking for quiet boltholes.

But it is part of geek-cred to do Comic-con, at least one Comic-con, at least once. And here was this one in my back yard – there it was. And there I was going to be.
I drove down to Seattle on Thursday, April 7, Opening Day. They were still not quite a going concern when I got there, with various escalators in the Convention Center being guarded by fierce staffers herding eager con-goers with the wrong kinds of badges — there are several different kinds of badges, and oh boy do they matter — away from the area not yet open.

In the Main Stage area, the drifting populace clumped into a heaving, impatient, queueing mass, a low undertow of chattering squawking occasionally roaring humanity underlying the music played over loudspeakers as they waited for the doors to the main show floor to open at 3 PM – and flowing through those doors like a human river as soon as they were flung wide. I had a bagful of books to deliver to the University Books booth, so I took one of the forbidden escalators to the sixth level as soon as they were opened up and divested myself of those.

Then, exploring the two different levels of Show Floor, I plunged into Huckster Heaven.
Huckster Exploding Kitten photoWhat didn’t they sell at Comic-con? T-shirts, of course, but also Batman bikinis and Superman bathrobes; chocolate mounded into Daleks and the Tardis and Weeping Angels and the Death Star and sonic screwdrivers and eyeballs and brains; every possible kind of stuffed ANYTHING, from Hello Kitty and Kittchthulhu to plush Dust Mites (I kid you not) and sloths and various Manga like critters whom I did not quite recognize and Gothified plushied versions of characters who ALMOST looked familiar but were desperately not quite there; artwork of every description from 2-D posters and prints through figurines, electronic LED flashing things, sculptures that were sometimes quite breathtaking, hand-made leather journals that made me drool over their pure beauty…

Take a breath:
Huckster BRIGHT Booth photo….books, geek-heaven mix-and-match DIY backpacks which you could build out of different bit parts like luggage lego; masks and wigs and cat ears oh my; games (one crowdfunded one which went by the name Exploding Kittens and came in kiddie and R-U-Old-Enough shrink-wrapped versions; mugs; vast piles of comics; things for the making of comics and art (pens, brushes, paints, notebooks, paper); music; craftsman beer; things that had no business being made out of Legos but still impossibly made out of Legos; booths which sold… things…Huckster Cat Ears photo
which were an explosion of color, like a unicorn had wandered past and vomited up a rainbow; endearing ceramic creatures which made you smile just to look at them; fairy things and dragon things and flame-thrower things and wand things and soft things and fascinating things, and ….
I wandered through in a daze, watching one young woman counting out $95 dollars without blinking and handing it over to a booth holder in exchange for a bag stuffed with stuff – and this was THURSDAY, the con was barely open. I wanted so many things. I didn’t buy anything, heroically, at all, at least in those first few hours. But it WAS heroic. There were dollar signs dancing in the crowded aisles between the tables. The air was green with them.

I stopped at a booth (wo)manned by a Facebook friend of mine, who was talking to another woman, and patiently looked at art until they both looked over. And then the other woman, the customer, frowned and said,

But I know you. From Norwescon, right?”

Not this year,” I said.

No, but from Norwescon. You write books. About, I don’t know what was it, magical spam…?”

Spellspam, yes,” I said, supplying the name of one of my Worldweavers Young Adults..

I have your books,” she announced triumphantly. “I LIKE your books.

I meandered on smiling.

I ended up, a little footsore, at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant right next door to the Convention Center, and had dinner over a brisk conversation with two women about women and comics (oh STRAIGHT out of Big Bang Theory! They even discussed Thor, just like the BBT girls!) and after a very nice dinner dragged myself two blocks down and five across back to my hotel.

Tomorrow: Day 2

~~~~~
QUOTE

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time—or the tools—to write.” — Stephen King

~~~~~
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To Kill a Zombie

At Lit Hub, Rebecca Solnit offers a thoughtful essay entitled

80 Books No Woman Should Read

She doesn’t actually offer such a list. The essay is in response to an Esquire list a few years ago, ‘The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read‘, that keeps “rising from the dead like a zombie to haunt the Internet.”

Woman Reading photoPhoto: DreamsTime.com

The list made me think there should be another, with some of the same books, called 80 Books No Woman Should Read, though of course I believe everyone should read anything they want. I just think some books are instructions on why women are dirt or hardly exist at all except as accessories or are inherently evil and empty

“Scanning the (Esquire) list, which is full of all the manliest books ever, lots of war books, only one book by an out gay man, I was reminded that though it’s hard to be a woman it’s harder in many ways to be a man, that gender that’s supposed to be incessantly defended and demonstrated through acts of manliness.”

If you’d like to read the whole essay at the Lit Hub site, see the link at the end of this post.

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At Electric Literature, Lincoln Michel offers us an infographicTolkien On Writing illustration

I just took a 30-question quiz on Tolkien and got 29 right. So OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a fanatic. (If you are a fellow fanatic, drop me a note and I’ll direct you to the quiz.)

But you don’t have to have a copy of ‘Lord of the Rings‘ that’s so well-read it’s held together by elastic bands to enjoy this infographic.

A link to the whole infographic can be found at the end of this post.

~~~~~
Another story at Lit Hub is an interview by Euan Monaghan with Ursula K. Le Guin, an author I greatly admire and whose influence is evident in my own books.

Most particularly when she says,

Like Joan of Arc, I’m hearing voices!”Ursula Le Guin photo

From the interview which first appeared in Structo Magazine:

Q: Lavinia was your most recent novel. It’s an interesting book to come at this point in your career. I’m interested to know how it came about.

Ursula: I’m not sure how it came about. Okay: I’m reading the Aeneid in Latin very, very, very slowly, with my high school Latin revived as best as I could; sort of chewing my way through. On about the third page of [Lavinia], Lavinia begins talking—“I don’t know who I am. I know who I was,” you know? That paragraph just came and I wrote it down. Like Joan of Arc, I’m hearing voices! I knew who it was, but not quite what was going on—she just went on telling me things, so, okay, I know I’m getting one of these dictated books.

...It was a very odd experience. I wasn’t choosing the way as an author, I was taking dictation, as it were—finding the story as it happened. More and more I realize that in my writing I just find out what happens next. It’s an exploration. I’m not following a mapped road; I’m following a road but I don’t always know where it goes. ...

You can find a link to the whole interview at Lit Hub at the end of this post.

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QUOTE of the DayAllende Quote poster

It’s always been like this in my household, since I was VERY young. I was allowed to find my own level. In a house with lots of books, no book was forbidden – if I had the maturity to understand and enjoy it I could read it. If I wasn’t ready for it that took care of itself because I would just lose interest and abandon it. It’s what made me into who I am today, this freedom to read.

~~~~~
LINKS TO STORIES DISCUSSED IN THIS BLOG

To Kill a Zombie….at Lit Hub HERE
Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers … at Electric Literature HERE
Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin at Lit Hub HERE

~~~~~
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Cooler Than Leprechauns?

To honor St. Patrick’s Day, Sandra Gisi offers us

Three Irish Creatures Cooler Than Leprechauns

“You’ll be seeing a lot of images of tiny bearded men in green coats and hats,” Gisi writes at Quirk Books. “Known for causing mischief and hiding pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, the leprechaun gets all of the holiday’s attention. This is a bit unfair to the plethora of characters that appear in Irish folklore. Here are a few other mythological creatures that should get some love on St. Patrick’s Day!”

For example:Clurichaun drawingClurichaun

The “Kloo’-ra-kahn” for example is considered to be the “cooler” version of the Leprechaun. So closely related are the two that people often associate them as cousins. Also a fairy, the Clurichaun is said to be always tipsy and loves wine more than gold. If treated with proper respect, they will protect your supply of alcohol, but when offended they will wreak havoc on your home and spoil your wine. They do tend to become a bit surly if they’ve had too much to drink (who doesn’t?). The Clurichaun seems to be the better choice as the poster child for St. Patrick’s Day.

Read the whole story HERE

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Win a copy of Empress

Empress is my newest book, a historical fantasy inspired by the saga of real-world Byzantine Emperor Justinian and the courtesan Theodora, one of the greatest love stories in world history.

You can read the details about my novel HERE

And enter the giveaway for a chance to win your own copy HERE

And if you just can’t wait, you can buy a copy HERE

~~~
I had a delightful time talking about Empress in particular and worldbuilding in general during an hour-long Skype interview podcast with Beth Barany at her website, Writer’s Fun Zone.

You can view the interview HERE

~~~~~
Anonymous writes at The Guardian

“For many library visitors, I’m the only person they’ve talked to all day”

“As austerity creeps further into people’s lives, more are turning to libraries like mine for help with job applications or IT skills, or to stave off loneliness,” Anonymous says.Libraries photoPhotograph: Keith Morris/Alamy

“I know many people think we don’t need libraries when there’s Amazon, kids can use Google for their homework, and supermarkets sell paperpacks for £3 and are open 24 hours. But libraries are so much more than books.

“They have ebooks, audio books, academic journals, online resources, online driving tests, genealogy research. They play host to art classes, carpet bowls, tea dances, cafes, dementia support sessions. They provide a space for carers to meet, and people to be part of a community when they may otherwise be socially isolated. I’ve lost count of the number of customers who have told me, ‘You are the only person I have spoken to all day.’

Read the whole story HERE

~~~~~
Another story in The Guardian by Mary O’Hara notes that

“Every time I hear of a library closure it hits a nerve”Child in Library photoPhotograph: Getty Images

“As someone who grew up in a home without books, no spare cash to buy them and no tradition of reading bedtime stories, my local library offered something unique and indispensable. It’s hard to think of anything that brought me more joy as a primary school-aged child than walking back from the Falls Road library in west Belfast with a bundle of books.

“Having a library within walking distance of home was a way for a young girl from a poor background to access the same breadth of reading material as anyone else – at no expense. It stripped away at least some of the disadvantage that came with being from a low-income family. So every time I hear of another library closure…it hits a nerve.”

Read the whole story HERE

~~~~~
Quote of the Day

The loss of libraries is another surefire way to entrench inequality” ~ Mary O’Hara

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