Tuesday, September 30, 2008

exactly one year ago

A year ago tonight I sat down at this keyboard and wrote the first paragraph of a novel about Hild of Whitby. I wasn't sure I was ready to begin but I'd been thinking about this woman, her times, her place, for years, and for some reason I just had to put my stake in the ground, right that minute, and start this book before I turned 47. So I did. And tonight, exactly twelve months later, I have 69,000 words.

I'm pleased. It's a new kind of work for me, using a new voice, new point of view, new kind of character, and involving a time period where new research is published just about every week. The people of this time were balanced at the corners of at least four languages, several religions, many new paradigms, tropes and fashions. It's thrilling to live behind their eyes, to grow and change with Hild.

The thing is, I have nearly 70,000 words and she's only twelve. This is going to be a big book...

Anyway, for the forseeable future I'll be away from the Intarweb every afternoon between 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm. (I've been testing out the new timetable and my productivity has tripled.) With any luck, you won't notice a difference. Except perhaps for today when I'll be working my way through my list :)

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Monday, September 29, 2008

the dozen daily delights

After my posts yesterday about wine and chocolate, plus pondering the end of the world, I've decided to list the twelve daily deeds of delight for health and happiness. Each must be performed every single day. Each must be done without hurry, without thinking about what comes next.

  • drink tea (I like hot Irish breakfast with a spash of 2% aka semi-skimmed milk, but some strange people prefer it cold, with ice in it, and I'm okay with that, as long as the tea is freshly brewed and not some vile packet thing)

  • eat chocolate (I mean chocolate not brown 'candy', and I most definitely do not, notnotnot, mean Hershey's; may be combined with drinking tea)

  • drink wine (may substitute beer)

  • eat a piece of fruit (I mean fruit, a whole something you could pick from a tree or vine: an apple, a nectarine, a pear; not juice; not sorbet; not a disgusting frozen pie; a plump ripe luscious piece of mouth-watering fruit grown without herbicides or pesticides)

  • eat fresh vegetables (I mean a brightly coloured, vitamin-stuffed vegetable, not starch, not french fries or creamed corn or frozen peas, but some still-glistening with the dew courgette, lightly sauted in olive oil; roasted butternut squash; steamed cabbage tossed in Danish butter and freshly-ground white pepper. Vegetables.)

  • have a conversation (I don't mean an information exchange about who's cooking dinner tonight; I don't mean a shouting match or politely modulated torment about politics; I don't mean an angsty confession about childhoold trauma, or a monologue about javascript; I mean a relaxed, lively, back-and-forth exploration of what gives each of you joy; maybe combined with eating vegetables and drinking wine)

  • have sex (why would you do Kegel's exercises when orgasm is the best way to exercise your pelvic floor? why would you do step-exercises when you can use all major muscle groups and get a good cardiovascular exercise with thrills? why do couples therapy when you can bond the old-fashioned way?)

  • get out in the fresh air (walking from the office to the car doesn't count; I'm talking about the park, the beach, the city at one o'clock in the morning: breathe deep of cool, living air)

  • do nothing, think nothing, say nothing for at least 5 minutes (it gets easier with practise; beginners should start in the bath)

  • look at something with attention--a bird or a beetle, the back of your hand or a glass of water, a shoe or a pencil--until you see something new (newness is all around us; trust me, this one puts a sparkle around your day for hours, and it's a must for beginning artists)

  • read a novel (may substitute a good poem or two, or a play or script, but not non-fiction)

  • enjoy a glass of cool water and feel very, very lucky

A bad day is when I do fewer than seven things on this list. A good day is nine or more. A brilliant day--which I'm planning for tomorrow--is every single thing on the list (some more than once) plus a few extra.

What makes a good day for you?

Oh, and by the way, this is my 200th blog post since the very first one exactly six months ago.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

oh, and chocolate too

Earlier today I suggested getting blotto on vino to beat fallout. Drinking is good for you! So, it turns out, is chocolate:

6.7 grams of chocolate per day represent the ideal amount for a protective effect against inflammation and subsequent cardiovascular disease.

A new effect, demonstrated for the first time in a population study by the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University in Campobasso, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of Milan.


So now I'm thinking of all the fine and wicked things one should do every day to stay happy and healthy. Perhaps more on this tomorrow.

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get drunk, survive apocalypse

Well, okay, not quite. But close:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A natural antioxidant commonly found in red wine and fruit may protect against radiation exposure, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Tests in mice showed that resveratrol, when altered using a compound called acetyl, could prevent some of the damage caused by radiation, the researchers told the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Boston...

(Thanks, Cindy)

But, hey, if I had only one hour left til The Bomb Hits I'd dig out that bottle of Chateau Margaux we've got tucked away and take it and Kelley to bed. There are worse ways to go. Of course, I'd rather there was time for the bottle to mature (I think it has another 8 years to go before it's perfect) and then I'd like to have time to talk about it afterwards, and to wait for the next year's batch and see how that compares, and... Well, huh, I don't want the world to end.

But if it was going to, how would you choose to party?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barack and Jed chat

In the New York Times nearly a week ago, Aaron Sorkin imagined a conversation between Barack Obama and Jed Bartlet:

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.

OBAMA Why?

BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.

OBAMA O.K. —

BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.

OBAMA And?

BARTLET I was.

OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?

OBAMA Sir —

BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”

Last night I watched the first thirty minutes of the 'presidential debate' (I put both words in quotes because, oh god, they are both so bloody useless at being proto-presidential and debating) and couldn't stand it. So I've retreated once again to la-la-la world and think I'll stay here until the election's over. Then I'll move to Canada.

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an edible house

An Edible Prefab Home for Humanity

This home concept is intended to replace the outdated design solutions at Habitat for Humanity. We propose a method to grow homes from native trees. A living structure is grafted into shape with prefabricated Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) reusable scaffolds. Therefore, we enable dwellings to be fully integrated into an ecological community.

(thanks, Cindy, for sending me to this article in Wired)

Follow the link for more groovy pics. There's even a movie.

This reminds me just a little of the skelter tree shelters in Ammonite, the ones in Holme Valley. Now I feel all smug and eco-prescient...

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Audio: Touching Fire

I was going to run the last of the Stay readings today but after being blown away yesterday by Karina's vid I thought I'd post the "Touching Fire" reading she used. There a 90-second context-setting introduction, then a 9-minute reading. (Below is the direct link to the .mp3 for those of you who don't/can't use Flash.) Enjoy.









(direct link)

Next week I'll do the last Stay reading, and after that I'll tackle Ammonite and Slow River and Always. But I'll leaven it with a few songs.

By the way, thanks to Dave (who is always prodding me to keep up, keep up--I'd still be using a pencil, probably, if not for him) you can now subscribe to the Nicola Griffith Podcast to listen to all my audio on your iPod (or whatever). Have fun.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Murder music, heat and sex music

Some of you have read my story, "Touching Fire." Some of you in Seattle may even have heard me read from it. But I can guarantee you have never experienced it like this:


(Here's a direct link at better quality.)
It's a vid called Sun on Dragonfly, created by Karina. Just as the fictional Nadia's dancing does for the story's narrator, this vid makes me 'ache fiercely for...something'. Actually, no, it makes me ache fiercely for everything: right here, right now, and all I can get.
I've never met Karina though I've met her blog, and she's met my voice, written and spoken. And that has triggered this brilliant collision, this dense star born of me, and her, and Patricia Rozema, and the Wachowski brothers (and Susie Bright and Kathi Prosser & Caroline Richardson, and Edvin Marton, and, yes, even Madonna). Karina brought all those element together in this expression, this explosion of pure, visceral fission. It's mesmerising, ferocious, exciting. It has pull. All you writers, vidders, musicians, film makers, photographers, costumers, poets, designers: go find someone to collaborate with, to collide with, to orbit around and escalate and mutate with. It will wrench you open along every seam and hurl you into the unknown.
I believe art is the need to reach out and touch the wordlessness and then to share it. This vid does that. And it makes me feel as though my own reach is greater.
Sun on Dragonfly captures the kernel of "Touching Fire," which is a story of the erotic savagery of art and risk and self-belief. I hope you enjoy it. Go read the story (it's free--though if you like it, you might like my short collection, With Her Body, which isn't) then watch the vid again. Then tell Karina how much you liked it. Then, seriously, go find someone to collaborate with today, on anything--a recipe, a programme design, making a baby. Stretch. Take a risk.
Oh, and tomorrow, for Friday Audio, I'll be posting the original 9-minute reading the vid is based on. Meanwhile, go watch Karina's other vid, the wonderful Mad Rush, which is a response to Kelley's story, "Strings." I think Karina is building a brand new artform...
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

a detailed analysis of the econonomic meltdown in cartoon form

A Detailed Analysis of the Economic Meltdown in Cartoon Form, by Lee Camp:

click image to enlarge

So what do you think? Funny? Poor taste? Poor taste and funny? A welcome release of tension? Should have been drawn in red? Or what?

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a bigger threat than global warming!

Something is tweaking our boy-making! Cue creepy music and villain twirling mustachios...

Here's a long article in the Globe & Mail on a subject I've mentioned before: the genetic fragility of maleness (human and otherwise). None of the info in the article is in itself particularly groundbreaking but it pulls together lots of bits and bobs to paint a very interesting skiffy scenario:

Something is happening to today's boys and men: Fewer are being born compared with girls, they're having more trouble in school, virility and fertility are down and testicular cancer rates are up. Now, scientists say these 'fragile males' may be more vulnerable than females to pollutants, affecting their development as early as the womb. If so, writes Martin Mittelstaedt, it could be a bigger threat to our future than global warming.

Here's Mittelstaedt's nifty list of 'science's top five worries over the fate of the human male':

1. Lost boys

Studies on births from the U.S., Japan, and Canada have found a drop in the percentage of boys born compared with girls. The reason isn't known.

2. Declining harvest

Men in farm country can be half as prolific when it comes to making sperm as their city counterparts, raising the possibility that pesticides undermine male fertility.

3. Downsizing

It's disputed by chemical companies, but some researchers say they have found an everyday plastic compound - phthalates - that feminizes baby boys, causing penises and other reproductive organs to be smaller.

4. Hormones not so raging

If you're a middle-aged man, you're likely to be less virile than your father because you make less testosterone. In recent decades, the decline has averaged about 1 per cent a year. If it continues over another generation or two, the consequences could be dire.

5. Equipment failure

Rates of testicular cancer, hypospadias and other genital abnormalities have soared over recent decades, rising by more than 50 per cent each.

It's not a secret that at some point genetic boyness will have to make the leap to another chromosome (see, for example, the good-in-places, crap-in-others pop-sci book, Adam's Curse, by Bryan Sikes) but this pollutant-based destruction is far more rapid than I, for one, had bargained for. Naturally, a lot of the notions in the article are wildly speculative and, in order to sell newspapers, rather alarmist--but, yes, I do think this, like global warming, really is happening. As with global warming, most people will ignore it as long as they can because it's, y'know, inconvenient. And also, frankly, because of over-the-top articles like this. But, hey, I love a wild theory as much as the next reader.

So, what do you think?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

autumn is here

I slept with the windows open last night, listening to the rain. For the first time in weeks the owls were quiet, the coyotes were quiet, the raccoons were quiet. Autumn arrived on little cat feet. It was peaceful.

It would have been more peaceful if I'd been able to sleep, but I couldn't. Hild is pouring through my head at the moment, and at one o'clock in the morning I gave up, got up, and wrote down about 500 words worth of notes. Things are getting exciting: marriages, pregnancies, treachery, assassination attempts, family betrayals. At last--yay!--I can (literally) get the knives out.

So my presence here might be a little erratic for the next few days. I'll be posting, and I'll be reading comments, but I'll be returning comments with reduced frequency. Meanwhile here's a pic of moody Bebbanburh (okay, actually a pic of Bamburgh, made to look, y'know, medieval--I forget where I found it; it's been on my hard drive for ages; I've been trying to figure out for ages where it's from, who should get the credit; if you recognise it, please let me know). And do, please, talk amongst yourselves...

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Monday, September 22, 2008

yumminess through the ages

The Guardian tells us about Richard II's cookbook--well, not his, but his master cooks':

A rare medieval cookbook is to be digitally photographed page by page and the results uploaded to the internet for gourmands around the globe to study.

Forme of Cury, a recipe book compiled by King Richard II's master cooks in 1390, details around 205 dishes cooked in the royal household and sheds light on a little-studied element of life in the Dark Ages.

Written in Middle English, it contains the instructions for creating long-forgotten dishes such as blank mang (a sweet dish of meat, milk, sugar and almonds), mortrews (ground and spiced pork), and the original quiche, known in 14th century kitchens as custard.

I don't read Middle English, so I'm hoping someone will translate at some point, and I'll throw a splendid dinner of blank mang and mortrews--but no 'custard' because I think quiche is vile.

Or, hey, maybe we should have a themed multi-themed orgy banquet: some 7th C. food, then some 14th C, then some Aubrey/Maturin-inspired yumminess (always fancied some lobscouse followed by a flummery), then perhaps an Aud-related smorgasbord. And appropriate music (or scopery, e.g. Beowulf). And lots o' drinks. And dancing girls. And--well, what you like to see/eat/drink/ogle?

Oh, and by the way, the 14th C wasn't even remotely near the Dark Ages. Tuh.

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anniversaries good and bad

September is full of annivesaries. There's our wedding. There's the day we decided we'd live together: that I would leave my partner at the time; I would leave my family and friends; I would come to a strange continent with bad health, no money, no job, and practically zero hope of getting a visa. There's Kelley's birthday. There's my birthday. There's the death of my little sister, Helena.

Helena died twenty years ago today: September 22nd 1988. She was 24. I loved her. I didn't always like her because, well, she was crazy--borderline personality disorder--and was dependent on heroin and indulged in the full panoply of criminal behaviour that entails. But I always loved her. Her death was utterly expected (she'd been trying to kill herself, on some level, since she was 15) and a terrible shock. Here's a photo of us taken in Hull when I was 21 (before my nose got broken) and she was 18:

click to enlarge
photo by Heidi Griffiths (no, no relation--that would be very, very wrong)

It's exceedingly strange to find that she's been gone for twenty years. She never met Kelley and never will. She never read any of my novels and never will. I will never find out what kind of adult she might have been. I miss her.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

A glad day

Today is Kelley's birthday. I'm glad she was born. I'm also glad she loves life enough to live it to the full, day in day out, and glad she chooses to spend those days with me. I'm glad her mother and father met. Glad they loved and cherished Kelley and helped her become the person she is. I'm glad for all their forebears who gave her the most fabulous set of genes on the planet, that contributed to the fact that she's healthier today than at any point in the last twenty years. And she looks awesome, too :)

Glad is a good word. As well as meaning feeling joy or pleasure; delighted; pleased it also means very willing, as in 'I'd be glad to take you out for a beer or three this afternoon and bask in our absolute trust and attraction and mutual delight and see what happens'. And one of the very many things I love about Kelley is how very willing and cheerful she is, even when faced with less than delightful tasks. She is also, of course, always willing to say, Ah fuck it, let's go drink beer! (Yes, that's what we'll be doing this afternoon, going to a pub we know where they see us walk in and have our favourite pint on the table before we even sit down.)

Glad comes from the Old English glæd--that æ is pronounced just like the a in glad, so the OE word sounds, well, very like the New English word. There's a reason for that. It's a word that is so basic, so foundational to a good life that it reached perfection a very long time ago. (No, that's not how it really works but just for today let's pretend.)

So today I'm glad. I hope you find some gladness, too.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Party for sale!

This just in from Payseur and Schmidt:

Payseur & Schmidt Mailing List Sale!

Because we appreciate all of our fans out there, we're having a mailing list-only sale! Until October 11, the following Payseur & Schmidt projects will be on sale:

Paul DiFilippo/Jim Woodring: Cosmocopia: $50
Nicola Griffith: ANWAGTHAP: $50
John Clute: The Darkening Garden: $35

All prices include delivery. In order to take advantage of this sale, submit your order directly through PayPal (NOT via our website) to orders@payseurandschmidt.com. Indicate in the message field which books that you are ordering. A great chance to grab a few projects that you may have missed!

I have everything P&S have ever printed, and it's all fabulous, especially, ahem, a certain memoir. And if you don't know about And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner Notes to a Writer's Early Life, well, go take a look at the tidbits such as videos of me reading, exerpts, photos of all the deliciousness, interviews, reviews, and more, all conveniently gathered here. I think $50 is an excellent price and, hey, it's autumn any minute now, and after autumn comes the holiday season...

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plastic logic

Now this looks more like it. (The article is somewhat oddly and sketchily written but it has an image gallery that's worth a thousand couple of hundred words.)

Startup company Plastic Logic on Monday demonstrated an e-book reader that it hopes will give business users the same document-reading convenience that theAmazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Kindle gave to consumers.

"I've been reading, writing, and talking about the paperless office for 20 years," said Chris Shipley, executive producer of the DEMOFall 08 conference, introducing Plastic Logic. "You know the joke -- the paperless office will happen when the paperless bathroom does."

Plastic Logic is looking to bring the paperless office closer -- or, at least, reduce the amount of paper that that business users have to carry around with them -- with the introduction of its e-book reader.

I admit to being one of those people who prints long web articles to read over breakfast or while drinking tea outside in the sun. Anything over 1500 words is beyond my ability to focus on at my computer. Then there are all those periodicals I subscribe to; manuscripts I'm sent for blurbs (which I rarely feel able to give, alas); my own mss. to review...

Assuming this slice of tech is priced reasonably (< $150) and has some kind of annotation function, this would let me save many, many trees. Yes, I recycle, yes, I print on both sides of the paper but, still, that's a lot of ink, a lot of energy. And think of all the littering I can avoid, e.g. when those pages fly off into the ravine as I see a flock of hot needle birds (tiny things, some kind of nuthatch or chickadee, possibly, with a call so high it goes through me like a hot needle) and gawp at them happily and forget to hold down the pile. (Okay, I'm lying, my papers have never flown into the ravine, but they have fluttered off over the fence into the garden; much grumpiness ensued.)

So what do you think? Plastic logic? Kindle? Sony Reader? iRex? Tablet PC? What I want, of course, is the unnatural spawn of an unnatural mating between the above. I want something to read books, periodicals, blogs, that I can access wirelessly. I want this device to be able to access my own network wirelessly and upload and download. I'd like to be able to annotate, or create whole documents, with both stylus and keyboard. It would be beyond awesome if the screen functioned as a kind of graphix pad. Oh, the blogs I would make! Oh, and it has to weight next to nothing. A few ounces.

So what should our super slate look like, what should it do?

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday audio: Stay #3

Here is another reading from Stay (about 6:20). Aud has just got back from New York, where she nearly died. We join her in the North Carolina woods: naked, covered in blood, and not sure she likes herself much. Enjoy.







(direct link)

After this I have one more Stay reading (but it's a long, juicy one--where Aud does lots of lovely damage to Bad Guys, yay!) then perhaps I'll record another hypnagogic. And of course there's that snippet of "Touching Fire" I promised Karina. Other readings I'm contemplating recording for the first time: something from Always, and Slow River, and Ammonite. I have my favourite pieces, of course, but does anyone have any requests for specific passages?

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

market meltdown


This photo is from Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood. I know, it's a cow not a bull, but let's just pretend, eh? Anyway, it's a good representation of how I feel about money today.

Some perspective: from 1929 to 1932, the DJIA lost 89%. In the crash of 1987, in one very scary week, it lost 31%. When the dotcom bubble burst, the NASDAQ fell from 5,048 to 1,114 about two years later. By comparison, this year the DJIA is down about 25%. So far.

But what makes it all so stunning (and not in a good way) is the cracking of the bases of the global economy. AIG, the biggest insurer in the world--the people who insure bonds, among other things--just got eaten by the US Government. The government had to do it--if AIG had gone down the global market would have been a bloodbath--and they bargained hard, getting a pretty good deal for taxpayers like you and me who now have an 80% controlling interest in the company (and are charging a swingeing 8.5% over LIBOR--a punitive rate, which I'm not saying isn't deserved...) but wow, the US government now owns a lot of what, two years ago, were thriving independent beasts of the finance world. And that means government will probably start regulating the hell out of everything, which means that growth will be much slower during the next recovery, which means we all suffer. (We would have suffered a lot more without the bailouts, no question. And of course this mess wouldn't exist without deregulation in the first place.)

What does all this mean? I don't know, exactly. For once I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around it. I like money. I like playing with it; I don't have issues around it. For me, money is not an emotional marker, it's more like a game chip. Yes, when we lost 80% of everything six years ago I felt like throwing up but, hey, I told myself, it's just money; we can always earn more. But this morning I woke up and found I suddenly didn't understand what all this means. I find myself unmoored. Kelley and I have lost 25% of our pension fund; we've lost the ability to get loans (as has most of the world); our odds of getting a last-resort job have tanked; the likelihood of publishers and studios paying us a zillion dollars for our brain work just evaporated; our house is worth a lot less. Yet we still have money in the bank (the bank, though, is for sale), the trees are still shivering in the breeze, the squirrels are still industriously collecting nuts for autumn. So in the ultimate scheme of things, does this mean much? Probably not, but I don't actually know. That's what bothers me.

So here's my question: how do you feel about what's been going on in Finance World? Does it bother you? Do you shrug and think, hey those bastards deserve all the pain? Are you aware, or not, of what's going on? Does it impinge on your daily life? Do you feel any different today than this time last week?

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talking amongst your shelves


At the Guardian, Talking Amongst Your Shelves: A novel way to organise your books is to use different titles to spell out new phrases...

My favourite example was 'the 18-year-old blogger responsible for the Stuff I've Read blog quite sweetly "raids her mum's library" to come up with the wonderful Somewhere A Cat Is Waiting/To Kill A Mockingbird/In A Dark House/Bad Kitty'.

Just with my novels I can come up with "Slow River: A Blue Place, Always." Or, hey, there's "And Now We Are Going to Have a Party With Her Body." Later, after a beer, I'll see if I can come up with nifty stuff made of historical research titles.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

flying ointment

From: Linda

Is wolfsbane similiar to Deadly Nightshade?


No. Wolfsbane aka aconite aka monkshood is quite different from deadly nightshada aka belladonna. However (thanks Michelle) according to Stephen Pollington's Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing:

"Aconite (known as Monkshood or Blue Rocket) is known to have been collected for use both fresh and dried (mainly the root) for many centuries and is now used in very dilute form as a pain-killer. However, it is such a fierce and deadly poison that it is unlikely to have been used so successfully in ancient times. Under the name Wolfsbane it formed a poisonous bait for wolves. Aconite is also believed to have been an ingredient in witches 'flying ointment', a potent blend of stimulants and narcotics that may have induced 'out-of-body' experiences. Monkshood (aconitum anglicum) is peculiar to the British Isles, confined in the wild to the western counties." p. 95-95.

Many years ago I started making notes for a novel I'll never write about the Old Religions, about women and goddesses and witchcraft. I developed a nifty theory about flying ointment and broomsticks.

Think about it. Women living together, using unguents and ointment to 'fly' on their 'broomsticks'--and one of the best ways to deliver something like belladonna is via the mucus membrane. Please don't make me draw a picture. (I did draw a picture for an editor once who, reading the first sex scene in "Yaguara," said, 'That's impossible'! I said, 'Nope, here, look...')

I'm just not convinced that wolfsbane would have been used--its active ingredient reduces sensitivity and makes you sweat, among other things, as well as being massively, dangerously toxic, whereas belladonna makes your pupils enormous (very attractive to the other witches), gives you hallucinations, delirium, and a kind of spacial disorientation--a big, huge rush, in other words. (It can also give you a big, huge rash, apparently, but it's not as scary as aconite and, hey, some sacrifices might be worth it.)

Anyway, it struck me as a fun theory.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin name generator

Ha, now this is a bit of fun, the Sarah Palin name generator:

Sarah Palin has picked out an All-American set of names for her children. There's Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper.

Ever wonder, What would your name would be if Sarah Palin was your mother? Well now you can find out!

(via The Bilerico Project)

I gave it a go. Aud turns out to be Blaster Commando Palin, and I'm Can Lightning Palin.

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time to giggle and eat rubbish

Here's a story about another Dr. Scientifical Meanie Pajamas taking all the fun out of life:

A new type of drug could alleviate pain in a similar way to cannabis without affecting the brain, according to a new study published in the journal Pain on Monday 15 September.

The research demonstrates for the first time that cannabinoid receptors called CB2, which can be activated by cannabis use, are present in human sensory nerves in the peripheral nervous system, but are not present in a normal human brain.

Drugs which activate the CB2 receptors are able to block pain by stopping pain signals being transmitted in human sensory nerves, according to the study, led by researchers from Imperial College London.

Previous studies have mainly focused on the other receptor activated by cannabis use, known as CB1, which was believed to be the primary receptor involved in pain relief. However, as CB1 receptors are found in the brain, taking drugs which activate these receptors can lead to side-effects, such as drowsiness, dependence and psychosis, and also recreational abuse.

[...]

"Our new study is very promising because it suggests that we could alleviate pain by targeting the cannabinoid receptor CB2 without causing the kinds of side-effects we associate with people using cannabis itself."
(thanks, Cindy)

So why (why why why) do doctors always want to take the fun out of these things? Why can't we giggle and eat crap as well as be free of pain? It's that whole Puritan streak coming out again: no delight allowed. Tuh. Oh, and I also read this story about cannabis crops:

One 2006 study called cannabis the top cash crop in the nation, worth more than corn and wheat combined. It was the leading crop in 12 states, outstripping grapes in California and tobacco in North Carolina, and one of the top three in 18 others, coming in just behind apples in Washington and cotton in Georgia...

The Puritans have a lot to answer for. Prohibition was stupid. The 'war against drugs' is stupid. Small dogs are stupid (okay, that last one was a bit random but, hey, it's true). Well, fuck that. Time to go giggle and eat rubbish...

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Monday, September 15, 2008

do. not. ever.

...tell me your dreams. "Oh, my god," you say, "I had the weirdest dream last night!" and I say, "I find other peoples' dreams deeply boring," and you say, "Yeah, aren't they? But my dream, wow, I'm telling you, it was weird!" And then you tell me the whole thing in mind-numbing detail.

Newsflash: we all dream. All dreams are weird. All other peoples' dreams are boring. There are no exceptions.

I do not give a shit about your dreams. Ever. I will not listen. If you force me to listen (if, say, I'm naked on the massage table, or my mouth is full of dental implements, or I'm in the back of your cab) I will cross you off my Christmas card list. For life. The only person with an exemption to this rule is Kelley because I love her and twenty years of delight buys a certain amount of leeway--but even she knows to use her exemption sparingly.

So don't, just don't.

And while I'm at it, here are some other things that piss me off:

  • people who misspell Ursula K. Le Guin's name, or Samuel R. Delany's. Take a minute. Look at those names, look at the vowels, look at the spaces, look at the initials. If you can't be bothered to get it right, don't bother to talk to me. These are giants of the field. Show some respect.
  • people who talk as though their conversational partner is two miles away in a howling gale. Use your inside voice. Better still, just shut the fuck up and die. You're as fun to have around as the moronic dream-tellers.
  • people who answer the phone in the middle of a conversation or a film or dinner. It makes me want to hurt you. And I warn you: my social conditioning doesn't always hold.
  • people who let their dogs bark. I can't even talk about this one without getting homicidal. Insert the vitriolic diatribe of your choice.
  • people who feel the need to have the last word, who just can't resist the last little stinging verbal slap. My new resolution: you slap me verbally and I'll punch your fucking teeth out. Fair?

If I spent another five minutes on this I'm sure I could double my list, then double it again, but right now there's a cold beer singing my name and batting its eyelashes. So I'm going to walk away.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

almost god but not quite

Your result for The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test...

The Cardinal

You scored 74% Cardinal, 23% Monk, 35% Lady, and 38% Knight!

You are the real power behind the throne. No one dares dispute or refuse you. Which is good because that's how you get things done. You are also, however, completely corrupt and highly immoral. This doesn't bother you in the least as you lounge around your rich comfortable surroundings, reveling in wealth and authority.

Take The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test at HelloQuizzy

(Via Gwenda)

It seems Empress of the Universe or God weren't available. So this will have to do. I'm just glad I didn't turn out to be a snivelling little monk. Tuh.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

From: Janet

I found a copy of Slow River at the Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto, an independent gay bookstore

Actually Evecho recommended your books to me

Reading Slow River was like digesting with my mind the most delectable and filling meal possible.

I work as a professional environmentalist and Sci Fi is my first love. So bringing the prospect of environmental disaster together with Sci Fi was just my cup of tea. And even weirder, I'm one of the few people I know who have actually worked on sewer use and sewer treatment regulations. So while others may find the sludge and grime descriptions you so artfully articulated gruesome I was revelling in them. I read Slow River several months ago and the images often come back to me.

Janet, I'm going to use your Q as a launchpad for a little rant. Please be assured I do not (not not not) think you're cheesy or undiscriminating or condescending. Read on to find out what I mean.

When I first found the SF community (after publication of my first story), I discovered that the community used the term 'scifi' derisively to refer to really cheesy low-budget visual SF produced for the indiscriminate unwashed. For several years, therefore, I bridled, bristled, got belligerent when anyone called my books scifi. Now I wonder what the hell my problem was.

Except, of course, I know what my problem was: respect. My assumption was that those who knew SF well enough to really appreciate it also knew what the in-crowd called it. Those who didn't, didn't. Sort of like judging a white person on whether they're using the term 'black' 'African American' (in the UK 'Afro-Caribbean') or 'person of colour', or a straight person saying 'gay lady' 'homosexual' or lesbian'. If they use the wrong (take that word with a pinch of salt) term you just know they haven't spent much time thinking about the issue--certainly not the politics behind the issue.

So when a reviewer says she doesn't 'read that scifi stuff' I assume she thinks it's all bug-eyed monsters and rockets. She thinks it's crap. She's prejudiced.

And she is. She's a book professional, a reviewer, and there's no excuse for her ignorance. But for those who are consumers (not producers or students or critics) of a genre, the case is different. Why should you inform yourself of specialised genre terminology? SF is something you love, a recreational activity, not something on which your livelihood or reputation or core identity depends.

So I try very hard not to make those assumptions anymore. Plus, the situation is changing--the way situations do.

I was horror stricken in the '90s when the Sci-Fi Channel was named. Ohmigod, my Assinine Assumptive Self thought, they're aligning themselves with the unwashed cheesy people! And then, huh, they bought Kelley's story, "Alien Jane," to turn into an ep of Welcome to Paradox (sucky title, but not a bad show). So then I had to reevaluate.

Nowadays lots o' people who love SF call it sci-fi. The cognoscenti even have an affectionate term for the cheesy stuff: skiffy. It's all good. The reason it's all good is that now us skiffy producers have more respect. We no longer feel like the 90-lb weaking getting sand kicked in our faces (not that I ever did because, y'know, I tend to kick back, and I left 90 lbs behind when I was twelve--I was a jock: tennis, gymnastics, netball, track and field, martial arts, the whole thing--but lots o' skiffy people were not). Now we laugh at ignorance and say, have you seen the box office figures? Life is good.

So, it's easy to hurtle up the ladder of assumption based on word-choice. (I still firmly believe that people who use the word 'bitch' to describe women haven't devoted nearly enough time to thinking about the basic issues of feminism.) But the assumptions that lie behind the assumptions... Ooof. They're endless, and sometimes foolish.

Where am I going with this? Uh, not sure. Just wanted to share. (Been drinking lots o' nice wine--Italian, several varieties--with the neighbours tonight. Don't feel inclined, or even capable, of focusing...) Thanks for giving me the opportunity.

BTW, I'm really glad you like Slow River. Thank you. I had a great phone conversation last week with an Oregon book group--most of whom 'didn't like that scifi stuff' until they read it--who loved it. So I just reread it myself. I thought it was pretty nifty.

Walks off (totters off to bed) with a smug glow...

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Friday, September 12, 2008

audio Friday: Stay #2

Here you go. The second Stay reading (about 11 minutes). This is the one where Aud contemplates Geordie Karp in the restaurant, breaks into his loft, and then goes totally beserk. I always really feel for her at this point; she's barely hanging on. (On the other hand, I have zero sympathy for Karp.) Enjoy.







(direct link)

Also, over at Gemæcca, my research blog, I ask a question about anachronisms in historical fiction. If you have an opinion, I'd love to hear it--here or there.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

ammonites with super powers

About once a month I take a quick look at the search terms people use to find me online:

  • ammonite suits, ammonite powers

Ammonite as superhero, very cool.

  • what do ammonites taste like

They're made of stone.

  • what do ammonites eat

They're made of stone.

  • ammonite reconnection lyrics

Ammonites don't reconnect with lost family or ex-wives or their inner child because they're, y'know, made of stone.

  • swallowing stones quotes

But I guess you could still eat them.

  • as we walk under stars everything is becoming clearly so hard we try to make it work

Oof, this one makes me ache.

  • "is the pain very bad", "little book that could" cancer, a drug to make everything slower

I absolutely understand the need to slow down the world and savour the good parts. I even do my best to savour the bad parts because, hey, sometimes the bad parts of today feel like the good parts tomorrow.

  • what is reading?

This one feels like a koan. When I contemplated it my brain began to feel like the worm Ouroboros which, now I think about, looks a bit like an ammonite.

  • once upon a cat, burrowing wasps, flea circus Seattle, riding the pony

A search for once upon a cat gets 3,620,000 hits, riding the pony more than 7.29 million, and burrowing wasps 102,000. The animal connection is strong but puzzling.

  • I'm not scared by Nicola
Well, good for you.

  • nicola wonder woman

But perhaps you should be.

  • nicola porn

Oh, here we go

  • keltic porn, Hild porn, saxon porn, saxon porno, saxon pron, saxon prom

Dress, check. Sword, check. Corsage, check.

  • loud bang Bridlington 21 august

It was me, at the Saxon prom, clearly having more fun than I realised

  • contemplate navel, contemplate one's navel, contemplate your navel, fucking navel, navel fucking, fucking my gf at Whitby abbey

What to do after the prom at Bridlington

  • vertical fainting

I don't even know which way up this one goes. Though I did find out that there's something called suspension trauma which is very dangerous indeed. Basically, if you faint standing up (while in a confined space, or hanging from a climbing harness or something), you'll die. And I would never have known that without this query.

  • how many stories in a short story collection

Another koan. One that makes me want to reach out and hug all the puzzled people and say, it'll be alright, just get some sleep. Things will look better in the morning...

  • questions i should be asking my characters, questions to ask cost benefit analysis

These questions probably aren't too dissimilar: should I do this?

  • girls only world, woman lift me, winning is wonderful, the pursuit of happiness

Yay for the optimists!

  • naked blonde from Immingham

Well, oddly enough, I do have a story about that, but not one I'd share here. (And Immingham isn't far from Bridlington, which isn't that far from Whitby...)

  • laws of lesbian relationship involving 19 and 16 yr old

Whoever you are, I hope you're somewhere like England because once you're 16, no one cares, no one can hurt you. Just remember that.

  • not today josephine

Poor Josephine.

  • bare body tennis

Ow, ow, ow.

  • draw me crazy

I certainly will, especially if you play bare body tennis

  • blue place game

A board game, perhaps. Throw a six and everything slows down and you get to dart in and out of a crowd like a hummingbird among elephants. Throw less than six and Aud drops by for a little chat. What do you mean, not good odds. Wait, where are you going...?

  • magic moment ho ho wushu on sunday, soo bahk do porn

Your martial arts sound so much more jolly than mine ever were.

  • pictures of naked women in water with silk robes, slow under silk her wet, women with bullfrogs

I'm guessing that this kind of fetish springs from some primal trauma but from my perspective ignorance is bliss

  • what's a tazer bard look like?

Damn, I wish I could draw. I'd illustrate this post with Superammonite in a little cape, tazer bards, Saxons at the prom... The wacky intarweb is a wild, wild world. I'm glad of all those people who yearn and seek and search. May you all find.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

peasant

Here's an old 'news' snippet about work and leisure:

When family rights advocate John De Graff started doing some historical research, he came across a shocking discovery — that medieval European peasants had more vacation time than modern American office workers.

De Graff, the national coordinator of Take Back Your Time Day, based his figures on the number of religious holidays peasants took off to eat, drink, and spend time with their families, and found it was about two weeks extra. He even printed up T-shirts saying: "Medieval Peasants Had More Vacation Than You."

(thanks, Cindy)

First of all, really, is anyone surprised by this? Americans work themselves to death because they have d/evolved to do so: all those Puritans breeding with each other for generations and fixing the Work Ethic gene. This is a continent full of motivated mutants. So, you worker bees, take some time off, go find a lazy, happy peasant and breed up a storm. It's good for you.

Second, wow, can you think of a lamer t-shirt? Uh, that's a rhetorical question. But, okay, I'm open to suggestions for (or links to existing) really, really cool t-shirts. My current favourite: The only good language is a dead language. If someone ever felt the urge to make me one, with a cool design, I'd smile and say 'Gimme!'

So what's your favourite t-shirt?

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Gift of Freedom: $50,000 grant

A Room of Her Own Foundation wants to give a writer a $50,000 grant:

Since its beginning A Room Of Her Own Foundation (AROHO) has given almost $500,000 to creative women through our $50,000 Gift of Freedom awards, scholarships, retreats, public readings, the AROHO Book Club, and our customized web-based resource center.

AROHO has hosted over 200 women writers at our unique retreats that feature a world-class faculty, and we have sponsored approximately $50,000 in scholarships for women writers to attend our retreats as well as other intensive writing programs.

AROHO promotes the interests of our community of women writers by sponsoring and supporting national writing programs and journals, including the National Poetry Slam and the AWP National Conference, the American Academy of Poetry, Poets and Writers, and Creative Nonfiction.

Dedicated to furthering the vision of writer Virginia Woolf, AROHO continues to change the lives of creative women by rewarding and showcasing their important voices to our own community as well as the marketplace. AROHO is committed to bridging the often fatal gap between a woman’s economic reality and her artistic creation.

The only catch that I can see for this is that one has to be a US citizen. I'm not (sigh). Also, well, they want you to jump through a lot of hoops. There again, it's their money--and $50,000 is not an insignificant sum. So if you don't mind doing SAT-type essay questions, if you're a woman and a US citizen, and if you write poetry, creative non-fiction, fiction, or plays, get your application in by October 31st. And good luck. Download the application (.pdf format) here.

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If you're in Memphis, please help Denise on Friday 12th

From: Melinda S

Nicola, I don't know how actively involved you are with LGBT issues nor how far your influence stretches but I have a friend, Denise, fighting for custody of her daughter. The Circuit Court in Memphis Tennessee declared her an unfit mother based on the fact that she had immoral living conditions in the home because she is a Lesbian. She is staging a peaceful assembly at the Memphis Circuit Court on Sept. 12th at 8pm. She can use all the support she can get. If you would be willing please help spread the word.

My influence is small and my reach short but, such as they are, they're at your service. It's an evil thing to separate family, especially for such a ridiculous reason.

What does Denise hope to achieve via this peaceful protest? Do you have media lined up? (How sympathetic is the local media? Forgive me but I know nothing about Memphis--I've been there once a very long time ago.) It's always useful to include a heart-wrenching photo--mother and daughter looking happy together (and 'normal' i.e. clean and well-fed and surrounded by the signs of American Life: car, house, tidy backyard, a fluffy dog, etc.). Yes, I'm cynical, but apart from the Lambda Legal, and the ACLU, the media is your best friend. Manipulate it with all your strength. So, for example, use the daughter's name.

If anyone out there lives in Memphis, or knows sympathetic journalists there, please consider getting in touch with Melinda to help her friend Denise.

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"I've just finished reading Stay"

From: Pat Combs

I don't really do this--well maybe I do now, write to writers I like. I have followed your work since Ammonite. I read Stay AFTER Always, so I'll probably re read Always. Your work fascinates me not only because it's such good work and so interesting and you write about women but also because right now it made me even more homesick. You see, I'm from SC and have spent a lot of time in Atlanta and Asheville. I moved to Nashville in 1995 then to Misissippi just south of Memphis in 2005. Now I'm in CA.If it weren't for my honey, I wouldn't be here. I do like the Bay Area but I'm in Turlock and mostly away from trees and mountains where I can almost walk to them and walk into the woods whenever I want, The up side is that there is still a bit to explore out here, haven't been up to your neck of these particular woods just yet. But thanks so much for taking me home for awhile, and for having the girls win!

You're welcome. I hope Always is as much fun the second time around as the first. But why did you read it before Stay? Have you read The Blue Place, or Slow River? (I recommend reading for free online the first chapter of any book you're thinking of buying--mine are all on my website--then you'll know if you'll like it or not. No sense wasting money.) The reason I ask is that I'm curious about how readers find my books, and then once they've read and liked something, how they, you, go about finding the rest. Do you go to the website and then read my novels in chronological order? Do you order whatever you can find in your local library database, reading on a catch-as-catch-can basis? Do you have an amazon.com wishlist and get what you're given, or what?

Basically, I'm curious about how readers use my website.

I've been looking at it the last couple of days, and thinking. My friend Dave Slusher built the first Official Nicola Griffith Website in 1995 and I started getting, and answering, questions right away. Wow. Ask Nicola questions going back thirteen years... Unfortunately, most of the stuff in the AN Archives isn't dated (much of it isn't sorted at all, just lumped in the 'Not Yet Archived' folder) but you can work out what year it is by what I'm talking about. For example, Bending the Landscape: Fantasy came out in hardcover in 1996 and in one post (scroll down) I'm talking about it 'coming out next year'. So that's a clue.

I admire what Kelley is doing on her blog every Friday, but I quail at the thought of following suit. If I did three ANs a day, it would probably take years to get them all up and, well, life is too full even now. Besides, I don't even know if that's a good use of my time. What do readers hope for from a writer's site? What would you like more/less/different of? Would you rather I did new stuff or found a way to start digging out the old?

Having said that, there really is a humongous pile o' stuff over at the old Ask Nicola area of my website. But I have a search function. It doesn't seem to make sense to me to sort this stuff out when Google or Yahoo or whatever can fish out what you want whenever you want it. (My website currently uses Yahoo.)

Thoughts?

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Monday, September 8, 2008

writers' rooms

Here are some portraits of the spaces where authors create, from the Guardian. (I'm sorry I can't remember where I lifted the link from--Evecho?--but thanks, whoever it was.) All kinds of cool photos of Famous Writers' Sanctums ranging from dead people (Virginia Woolf) to the decidedly alive (Martin Amis, Penelope Lively, etc.). The live ones give lovely personal descriptions of their space. Here, too, are some Canadian writers' rooms. (Thanks, Karina.) It might be fun to do a kind of ethnographic survey: French vs. English, Caribbean vs. Australian, Indian vs. German. Whatever.

Anyway, I have to say, all the English ones (and many Canadian) are nicer than my office--much bigger, for one thing, and with better light. My office has one small west-facing window, too high up to really get a view when I'm working. Here's what it looks like from the door:

click on image to enlarge

As you can see (or maybe you can't, in which case you'll have to take my work for it), I have two desks, one squashed in the north-east corner where the actual typing happens (where I'm sitting now), and one where I do my thinking and note-taking and big-book reading (lots of academic book are ridiculously huge and heavy and need a sturdy flat surface like a library table). Ah, fuck it, here's a picture of that, too:
The big piece of paper is my master chart (I talk about that more here) which, by the time I'm done with writing about Hild, will no doubt be illegible under the mountains of teeny tiny writing. Right now I'm trying to work out what the Anglo-Saxon master temple (to Woden) in Goodmanham would have looked like, circa 625, immediately before Hild's uncle, Edwin, king of Northumbria, marries the princess Æthelburh of Kent and Christianity comes to the northern Anglisc. (As far as I know, no one has the faintest idea how the pagan thing worked then, so I'm having enormous, time-wasting* fun picturing it.)

* It takes many, many hours to figure this kind of thing out. I consult O.S. maps, hikers' photos on the web, Google Earth, my memories of the Yorkshire Wolds, etc. In the end, I'll use maybe four sentences about it in the finished book. But those four sentences have got to convey a whole belief system and culture. Is it worth it? Dunno. But for me that's part of the point of writing a book like this; it's pure joy. Plus I'm coming up with some awesome theories, stuff that will probably make medievalists shriek and run round in circles cursing my name :)

Over on the east wall are my two maps of Britain in the Dark Ages which I spend many hours peering at:

As you can see, I've recently discovered the Joys of Filing, so now I can actually find my notes. Some of them. (I have two enormous folders of undifferentiated stuff hidden away in the drawers of my other desk and, frankly, I'm too faint-hearted to sort them out.) The little grey box is full of index cards of seriously nifty information about food production, curses, jewellery, and other delights.

What else can I tell you? Well, that little yellow thing next to the speaker is part of a nerfish umbrella wotsit I got in the Left Coast Crime goodie bad a couple of years ago. The stem part fell off, but I use it as a hand-exerciser (I squeeze the life out of whenever I pause for thought). The speakers are Klipsch (subwoofer under the desk); I'm particular about my sound. The headphones are Bose noise reduction beasties, which I use when I want to play something really, really loud and K is on the phone or trying to have a peaceful moment or whatever.

In that first photo you can see next to the printer/fax/copier/scanner (oh it's a crap, crap scanner but I don't have room for a better, dedicated one) the Pop Shotz pistol featured in Always. I love that thing. (But I drive K demented with it, so it's only allowed in my office, sigh.) You can also see the microphone and stand that I use to record all my readings. And my computer. It's an okay machine--souped up sound and grafix cards--but the screen is pathetic. I love my ancient keyboard (it's easily ten years old, maybe even twelve). When we win the Mega Millions we'll buy a whole Apple store and get some decent equipment. Then I suppose I'll have to take more pix (but at least I'd be able to download them wirelessly via my fancy iPhone).

And now I realise I forgot to take a picture of the south wall--but it's pretty boring. It's the door, and a double closet door (behind which lurks filing cabinets, my guitar, and a whole pile of mystifying stuff that I'll throw away one day), and an exercise bar. (When I get restless I stand and do stretches.)

Anything else you want to know?

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

move along

No post today. Possibly no post tomorrow. But a big juicy post on Monday. Meanwhile, here's a link to the post I did yesterday on my other blog, all about the Old English word scriþan.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday audio: Stay #1

This is the first nine minutes (8 mins 43 seconds) of the second Aud novel, Stay. I have two more Stay readings for next week and the week after--one is quite long. Then, hmmn, I'll switch to something else. Another song perhaps. Enjoy.








(direct link)

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

fifteen years ago today

Fifteen years ago today Kelley and I got married. We wore white dresses (I had to wear long sleeves because of the horrible track marks on my arms, from a recent IV treatment). Friends and family came from all over the US and the UK to witness our exchange of vows in our Atlanta garden. Most of them were frightened. Would we make them do bizarre ritual stuff? Would we engage in, y'know, Lesbian Things in public?

Strange to think same-sex weddings were so new back then that our guests were nervous. But we were the first s-s couple to be announced in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We were the first to register at Macy's (and, oh, there's a story to that...). One good thing about making it all up as we went along: we did the whole thing--food, flowers, dresses, champagne--for $500 (and a lot of help from our friends).

Here's us a few minutes after the vows:

That thing sticking up from the bottle is a teaspoon. It helps keep the fizz in the champagne. And here's one of the obligatory ring shots (with cake in the background):

(photo by Mark Tiedemann and badly scanned and edited by me)

I could write a whole essay about that day (and the days preceding, and the days following) but for now I think I'll just bask in the glory of it, the memory of saying to Kelley, "I will be strong, and brave, and fierce for you, no matter what." No Matter What is engraved on the inside of our wedding rings.

Oh, and just for grins, here's a picture of us taken two months ago, on our 20th anniversary (yep, we have lots o' anniversaries and celebrate each one with gusto). Despite the fact we'd been eating and drinking for about seven hours at this point (gusto, remember, gusto), I think we look pretty good for an old married couple.



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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm afraid of Americans...


I've been looking at the electoral maps. This is going to be a very, very close election. It's entirely possible McCain will win. This seemed like an appropriate song.

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