- question-and-answer at Book Chick City
- a review at Medieval Bookworm
- my essay on Hild, history and sex at Women and Words
Thanks to a reader I've finally got around to reading yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed about the Church of England's General Synod decision to permit women bishops.
Hild would have been glad. I imagine she essentially functioned as a bishop anyway—even without being a priest—but she would have welcomed anything that made her position as leader of her church easier.
I look forward to future bishops in frocks. Who knows, given the inevitable changes we're seeing around gender: some of them might be men...
...But in the next ten days or so perhaps not here a lot. On Thursday, 24th July, Hild will be published in the UK (and fifty other territories: India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand...). The hardback is available for pre-order from fine bookshops such as Foyles and Word Power, and giant online retailers like Amazon and Waterstones. You can get the ebook now from the online giants in all English-speaking territories (Amazon UK | Apple UK | Apple ANZ | Amazon ANZ | Flipkart | JB Hi-Fi). If none of those take your fancy, take a look at this comprehensive list of where to buy Hild.
I'll be guest-blogging in at least a dozen different places.
One hour ago:
Thank you again for an amazing #ReaderCon 25! Looking forward to 26 with GoHs @nicolaz and @garykwolfe and MGoH Joanna Russ!So it's official. Next year, July 2015, I and Gary Wolfe and the fiercely missed Joanna Russ will be the Guests of Honour at Readercon 26, Burlington MA. Mark your calendars! It's going to be an amazing four days.
— readercon (@readercon) July 13, 2014
From: SallyOh, there will be more Hild. I'm working on Book II now and researching for Book III. (Current reading: Nunneries and the Anglo-Saxon Royal Houses by Barbara Yorke, and Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster). One day there might be more Aud; I think of her now and again.
This is more of a request than a question, actually! More Hild and more Aud, please!
Hild is so brilliant! I can’t wait for what happens next. It is such a beautiful book, so well written. You have a gift, your characters are so vivid. In your writings, while depicting a lot of violence and evil, you write with such love and compassion. In a time of small people you fill your books with super large people and lots of exciting action.
What is it about your mums? Both Hild’s and Aud’s are fascinating.
Aud is larger than life, her faults are frightening, she is so flawed but so lovable I think! Super Aud. She grows quite wonderfully in your trilogy.
I would love to know more about Aud’s mother, it is such a loaded relationship. You leave out and your reader fills in the spaces.
I love the way you bring science and nature into your books, reminding me of Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful books.
Thanks for your lovely books. I wish you well in your writing and in your health. God Bless.
I often find myself helping first-time novelists with query letters. Here are my thoughts distilled.1
In April I taught The Magic of Immersive Fiction, a one-day workshop for Clarion West. The workshop sold out within 90 minutes of announcement. We were all startled (at least I was, and if CW was expecting that kind of stampede they kept it quiet). As an experiment, I offered to teach the same workshop again six weeks later. Within a day that one too had sold out, and had a waiting list.
Participants, it turned out, came from all over the country, and from Canada. I was surprised by that. It seems like a huge investment to fly thousands of miles to attend a one-day workshop. Three days of absence from home life, two nights' stay, food, flights... I didn't feel responsible, exactly, but I did want to be able to offer more than a single six-hour workshop: go out for beer, talk, eat. Something. But because I simply hadn't expected anyone but locals for the first, and because of the last-minute nature of the second, my schedule wouldn't permit it. (I can't remember what I had booked for the evening after the first but after the second it was a talk to a book club about Hild).
The workshops were wonderful. It was a delight to meet and work with such committed people. I wanted to keep going. I was only just beginning to figure out what everyone needed, how they thought, how they learnt best. And they were just beginning to understand each other and work as a group. And there was so much I wanted to teach.
Clearly there's a demand for focused workshops. I've been considering ways to address it. Kelley and I have done a lot of thinking and talking.
We've both done a fair amount of teaching, both writing and other things. One of the many things we agree on is that writing concepts are better absorbed over time. It doesn't have to be a lot of time, a long weekend say, just enough to think and test and question alongside others, formally and informally.
So we're pondering a workshop for a small number of writers. At this stage we're not sure how many because we've only just started thinking. (12? 15? 18? Something like that.) We're not sure of venue. We're not sure of structure or of admission principles. (Selective? First-come basis?) But here's what we do know.
|Lifted from Kelley's Instagram feed--with permission of course|
Just got back from Washington DC. So no mega-post today. But here's a picture of the UK hardback and paperback of Hild, which I took late last night because, well, I'm excited. I know, I've been talking about this book for a year now, but this is publication in the country where I grew up. Publication where old friends and family can see it on the shelves. Publication in the same place it's set. This is what I've been waiting for. Just 24 days to go.
At the end of last summer—mid-August—I unexpectedly wrote a short story, "Cold Wind." It was triggered by heat and brine and music and, especially, art.
When it gets warm here (that is, anything over 70 degrees) we open up the house to the breezes coming up from the ravine. This puts Terri Windling's Deer Maiden on permanent display: with the doors open I see it every time I walk into the kitchen to get tea. It's large. It's arresting.
The story is about two shapeshifters and explores the concept of predator and prey. There is a point in the story where the perspective changes and the roles are reversed. This illustration captures one of the characters mid-transformation; both physically from woman to deer and from predator to prey. I wanted to subtly hint at a sense of danger, and to play with contrasting elements that leave it ambiguous as to whether this character is good or bad, hunter or the hunted.And now I would love to see how she imagines the other character, Onca, changing...
I am reading Hild and I have not been able to discover the definition of "haegtes." I read on my Kindle and cannot find the word on Wikipedia and have not been able to discover a reading group source; maybe I haven't looked hard enough but then I work full time.
I enjoyed your book Slow River.
[This email was edited for readability.]
The top four vote getters for my list of possible future blog posts are, in order:
Three weeks ago, after reading/hearing a disturbing rumour that Guinness uses high-fructose corn syrup, I wrote to Guinness directly to ask them about their ingredients. I did not get a response. So I posted this. But I also wrote to them again:
I'd love a definitive answer to this question: What, exactly, is Guinness made from?
To put it another way: Do you use corn/maize at any stage?As I explained to them, I'm not a purity fanatic, it's just that corn/maize isn't good for me. Also, frankly—though I didn't put this in the email—the thought of drinking beer made with maize/corn makes me shudder. I've always disliked the notion of wheat beer, too (though wheat doesn't make me ill unless I eat way, way too much of it).
Guinness does not contain high fructose corn syrup nor does it contain corn or maize.Yay! Mostly. It's picky, I know, but I wanted them to say, No, we do not use maize/corn at any stage of our process. So I've written to them again. (I might be lazy but I can also be stubborn. I'll add their response when I get it.)
Corn and maize are not used in the production of Guinness.So Guinness does not contain corn/maize.
From: GregoryThat Aqueduct post was long, and when I read it now I'm surprised by how willing I was to reveal struggle. Struggle isn't something I normally discuss in public. But clearly that point in my life I was in truth-telling mode--so much so, in fact, that I wrote a second part (though this one is slightly shorter).
You once wrote "I constantly try to live up to my ideal of myself as a person and a writer (if you want to read more about this, take a look at a long--very long [grin]--interview/essay/rant I wrote on the Aqueduct blog last month). I think it's easy to get complacent about ourselves. Writing--having everything be so public--keeps me on my toes."
I interpret this - perhaps wrongly - to at least in part mean you wrote Aud the way you did because she embodied in many ways a heightened engagement with the physical world and specificity in thought, intention and language (among her other many admirable traits) that represent the best of how you want to live your life.
I prize many of the same values you elucidated with Aud (and your Daily Delights, for instance) and have a number of touchstones to return to when I am feeling complacent or downright lazy in life. Do you have any authors or literary characters you turn to when you feel that way?
Thanks for your thinking and your work.
Liebe Grüße aus Hamburg
[I]n autumn last year, the day before my birthday, I sat down with no clue how the book would unfurl, just the determination I would be working on it by the time I was forty-seven goddammit, and just...began, just jumped off the cliff. I am now falling a thousand feet per second and accelerating. The air is rarified up here and the view incredible. I'm learning how to fold my arms and legs to fall even faster, how to breathe in the rush. I don't know where or when or how I'll land, but I'll know I'll figure it out before I get there. I have to.But to write the kind of book I want, I first have to find that still, quiet place. And then I have to dwell in it.
Not long ago I
found out read that my go-to all-purpose draft beer, Guinness, contains high-fructose corn syrup. Corn (or maize as we say in the UK) does not belong in beer. High-fructose corn syrup doesn't belong in anything. I no longer drink Guinness. [Important ETA: please see tomorrow's blog post. Guinness does not contain maize/corn in any shape or form. I was wrong. Sorry.]
I've since investigated the ingredients of other beers. By investigate I mean I go to the website of the manufacturer--I use the term advisedly; some of these companies don't deserve the title of brewer--and read the posted ingredients. If the language is weaselly, "We use the best ingredients such as..." or "Our key ingredients are..." rather than "We use only the following ingredients..." I email the company directly and ask. It's not hard. I recommend trying it for your favourite beer/s.
If you drink microbrews/craft beer, you're probably fine--as long as it really is a microbrew you're drinking, not something that used to be a microbrew but is now owned by a mega conglomerate. But I tend to drink beer for gulpability--that wonderful combination of taste and volume that is so satisfying at the end of a hard-working day. I'm not a fan of anything over 6% alcohol by volume and prefer weaker than that--one of the reasons I used to love Guinness so much (it's only about 4%).
I've always found American big-label beverages (yes, I'm being very specific with my word choice today) unpleasant so I didn't even bother checking brands such as Bud Light, Coors, Rolling Rock, or Miller. I dread to think what's in them. But I did check my always-keep-some-in-the-fridge beer, Corona--and found it's stuffed with corn. Tuh. It's now off my party list.
However, I'm pleased to report that the following beers are deliciously pure:
After I'd finished my interview on To the Best of Our Knowledge about Hild and had just pushed back my chair to go, the host Anne Strainchamps asked me if I'd like to recommend a book for a new feature they were doing. Sure, I said, and what followed was an utterly off-the-cuff three minutes conversation about Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword which is now live. [That's the streaming link. You can also download the file for your later listening pleasure.]
The Blue Sword was at the front of my mind when Anne asked me to recommend a book because I'd just started to read it aloud the night before and I'd been struck by its voice and rhythms and sure-footedness. In the on-air piece I talk about it being first person. It's not. It's in third although sometimes the narration slips into first without italics or quote marks. It can be mildly confusing, especially to read aloud cold, but after a couple of days I adapted and could give the non-dialogue narration the flavour of dialogue and reduce muddlement.
The Blue Sword might be one of McKinley's first novels but it shows all the trademarks of her later work: that absolute gift for making this imagined time and place feel as real as dirt, for showing people both ordinary and special, and for putting the reader right there in that particular time and place. I admit to flinching a little now at the implied class/caste issues, and the way McKinley doesn't quite escape the gender event horizon (though it's an admirable attempt), but for an early novel it's very fine. It's a serious story about finding one's place in the world and learning to belong, issues very much of interest to many of us, of any age.
Several people have asked me what I think of the recent kerfuffle about adults reading YA. I've talked about how I feel in general about YA before.
Meanwhile, The Blue Sword: Swords! Ponies! Magic! Go read it.