Monday, July 26, 2010

blackberries for breakfast

Not quite enough of a crop yet for a full bowl, so I filled in the gaps with whitecurrants. Eaten while sitting on the front porch watching the sun push up over the roofs across the street. Inside the kitchen, two fruit dehydrators buzzing along, full of apples.
Yes, it must be summer. Time for rose pictures!

A bud of Sir Clough, deep pink at first. They pale somewhat as they open. Nothing from the Blanc Double this year, but a bud on the Rosearie de la Haye, which is nice. I've been watering more in July to make up for the heat, and for overhanging city tree that pretty much covers the front yard, keeping both sun and rain off the front garden.

I think this might be Henry Hudson, but I'll have to look it up to be sure. The three bushes in the corner are so intermingled and overgrown that it takes careful tracing back of the vine or cane to establish the origin of any one flower.
Been cutting out the dead wood, but this year I'll have to do serious pruning. I quail. I hate cutting live wood. It seems so wasteful.

The Quatre Saisons damask in the back yard. I missed this blossom entirely, so it's a good thing Mark was watching.
I was distracted by the Overwhelming Albas overwhelming the garage.
Now that it's had a year of growing upright in a trellis, I suppose I should get down to pruning and training it properly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forced-perspective cat

menaces tiny deer. Roger Corman directs.

Nature, red in bloom and berry, is yapping about my heels like a border collie, lately. The rhubarb has sprung up again, after a disappointing first season, and the Transparent tree has already begun to drop apples. I have a huge bowlful that I need to process and turn into crumble or pie soonest.

I've been trying to thin out the apples, but it doesn't seem to have much effect. The deer is helping, so to speak, but concentrates his efforts on the same areas I can already reach. That and he's eaten the tops off the broccoli and the tomatoes, yet we aren't allowed to shoot him within city limits.
The alba roses are pretty much done, the gallica are still blooming away, and the front yard roses are small but steady--the Dortmund continues as usual, promiscuously.

Last month we drove out to Le Coteau and other farms & nurseries on the south island, and came back with more blueberry bushes, a josta and another currant bush. The last two have been planted behind the workshop, where a stand of volunteer poppies is flourishing away already.
We also stopped at a couple of wineries, a ginnery (I'm sure that's not the word) with an amazing steampunkish distilling apparatus, Babe's Honey and Sun Wing Tomatoes.
The spearmint honey doesn't taste at all like spearmint. It's like a double buckwheat honey. Mmm.

This month I've been to the Stranded Mermaid Tourney, near Lund, and to July Coronation, sort of near Yakima. Clear hot weather for both, with a side of mosquitoes. I'm hoping that will be it for the next while, so that I can get back into the routine of writing.
Still, had a great drive back from Mermaid, the ferry from Powell River to Comox, then taking the Seaside scenic route whenever possible. Stopped in Qualicum, and Kellii and I went wading in the shallows, which were bathwater warm and clear enough to see all the tiny tiny crabs skittering across the sand. Near the Malahat, the wind picked up, and swirled clattering arbutus leaves and barks in a russet barrage against the van. Three times this happened, as if we were driving into a pocket of autumn. I hope it doesn't mean some sort of arbutus die-off.

Coronation was at Fulbright Park, near Yakima. It's big and flat, with a stream/river running along one side. It had been mown a few days before, but not baled, and I spent part of the first night making mental plans for what to do if the field caught fire. Given that most SCA members are unacquainted with camping except within the SCA, and seem to think of open flame as a sort of special effect or CGI, I think it must be entirely due to that god that looks after imbeciles that there's been no serious fire in the last dozen years. One encampment had low tiki torches to mark their entry, and had cleared the hay away to a big pile right next to the torches and almost exactly as tall.
I figured I could, with the right incentive, scramble through the wild rose and thistles on the bank of the river closest to us, and land in the water. Fortunately it didn't come to that.

However, while investigating the river bank, I discovered that the edge of the field was full of great big teazle plants, and cut about a dozen teazle heads for Elisa to make a teazle comb, for next year's Fort Rodd Hill. And, y'know, they're cool, as noxious weeds go.
Alicia and I set up under a big willow tree (YES!) with shade from afternoon on. We laid a thick layer of straw in the tent, and laid tarps and mats over that, then our beds. I wished like heck that I'd brought one of the tick bags from home, so that I could have stuffed a tick with unthreshed hay, and maybe snuck a bagfull home to try making a bee-skep with it, and see if it worked better than threshed & baled hay, which is annoyingly short.

Because I didn't have many commitments, I was able to reduce my TBR pile, just a little. Finished The Last Apprentice, by Joseph Delaney, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan, Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair, Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett, The Silver Ship and the Sea, by Brenda Cooper, and Precious Dragon, by Liz Williams.
Didn't get as much napping in as I'd hoped, even though I should have been tired enough. But I did sleep most of the way back from Yakima, shirking my duties as shotgun to keep the driver entertained.

I still haven't seen the actual deer, by the way. The photographic evidence is all Mark's work.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I write like

Since everyone I know is trying it out, I threw in a bunch of different excerpts:

opening of Chimps & Blimps (novel using setting & characters of Transmontane Run) - Margaret Atwood

opening of "On the Transmontane Run with the Aerial Mail Express" - Mark Twain

opening of unfinished Boxer Rebellion story - Mark Twain (damn! I was aiming for Kipling)

cut scene from The Willow Knot - Neil Gaiman

opening of The Cost of Silver - James Joyce

2d chapter of Trading in Ghosts - James Joyce

opening of Bookwyrms - H.P. Lovecraft

opening of Children of Mercury - Dan Brown

opening of unfinished True Heir story - Rudyard Kipling

I think the program is using keywords, rather than anything really diagnostic like sentence length and complexity, paragraphing, etc.

Bookwyrms is written quite straightforwardly but includes the words 'curse' and 'shamanic'. The cut scene (a couple of entries below, actually) has 'charms', the opening of Transmontane has 'I reckon' and 'tall tales', the Trading in Ghosts chapter has some bad words, and Mercury is set in a medieval Italian painter's studio (though there are no codes and Leonardo hasn't been born yet).

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Honest, I will finish filling in the previous post with all kindsa fun detail about the week with chickens and odd names of children and silly things visitors say. Really I will. Before leaving for the Stranded Mermaid Tourney tomorrow morning.

However, tonight I wish to share my, um, gobsmackedness. I haz been mansplained. Yes I haz. A male poet and author has explained to my poor slow female brain how:
a) the publishing business is broken, because it is driven by publishers, not by authors.
b) it is impossible to get an agent.
c) good writing is languishing unpublished because publishers don't recognise quality
d) it is impossible to get an agent.
e) you have to submit to all agents and publishers, regardless of their interests or specialties.
f) it is impossible to get an agent.

Even after the others in the writing group had asked me about my revisions* and I had in a non-info-dumpy way noted that I had an agent, Poet-guy repeated that it was impossible to get an agent. Even after I had mentioned that I expected a lot of revision because she started as an editor.
He didn't ask how I got an agent, or how long it took, or how many rejections I got, or about my query letter. He just refused to integrate it into his view of the world.
I almost want to admire his impermeability.
Of course, he writes poetry and nonfiction (a book on meditation) published by an actual publisher in both Canada and the States, so why should he take into consideration the experience of a genre writer? And a gurl at that.

*ask me about my revisions! They are done! I dance the happy dance!

Monday, July 5, 2010

ancient lights

is a doctrine of English Common Law, that a window 'glazed or unglazed' through which light has shone uninterrupted for at least 20 years cannot be obscured by buildings or structures on adjoining land. The law came about in the 1660s, and has one of the cooler names going.
I also find it a useful reminder, for writing pre-industrial settings, that the dominant (and free) light is sunlight. Other kinds of light, candles, fire, oil-lamps and rushlights, require money and materials to maintain, and provide less trustworthy illumination. There was solid reason for most guilds forbidding work to be done after nightfall, and calling it 'false work'.

I try to be aware (a habit picked up from painting) of the light source and direction within any scene I'm writing. Overall, I think I have the hang of it, and I've been quite pleased with the effects in some night scenes I've written.
Which is why I was more than a little embarrassed recently, reading over a scene from Cost of Silver. The scene involves Tom/Griffin, by night and rain, cutting the hand off a hanged woman. At first I found it quite satisfactory, jus needing a little polish. Then I realised that I'd written it leaning heavily on the visual, as if the gibbet in a small English village would have been lit by streetlights. Aaarrrgghh.
So. Must rewrite, swapping out all visual detail for tactile.

Last week was our annual Living History Week at Fort Rodd Hill historic site. Not as big a group of us as a couple of years ago, but livened by the addition of a party of Vikings up the hill, who joined us for dinner most nights.
The stone maze was set up just below the dining tent, and that proved an excellent position, visible and accessible for visitors, but discouraging people from wandering straight up into the dining tent. The pathway was very thoroughly trodden down over Thursday, and even easier to follow post-takedown. A few photos were taken of our ceremonial post-labyrinth walk-through, and if I can get hold of one I'll post it.

This is me trying out a different head-wrap, with a rather 15th c. look, and the stylish addition of a huge smear of ink on my face. Amazingly, I didn't get any of the ink on my veil--everything I own eventually does get ink on it, though.
By the end of the week I had cut all but 4 of the feathers into quills, and given several away. My theory--that lefties would find a quill and a writing slope easier than joined writing with a modern pen--was confirmed by experiment by two left-handed youngsters and one adult. I was quite chuffed.

I do rather wish that there was less ambient light on the site, and most especially that the horrid bright sodium light on the washroom building was either turned off or dimmed. You can see so many more stars then. Still, the site remains beautiful with deer grazing fearlessly nearby, and the company unmatched.

This year we had the diversion of repeatedly escaping chickens, including one roosting in a tree. It's surprisingly difficult to catch hold of a chicken that's flying straight at your face.
Partway through the week, the rowdy hens were replaced by a sedate and dutiful hen with three half-grown chicks. She was tethered by the leg, as per the illustration in the Luttrell Psalter, and the chicks stayed nearby.
One meal was enlivened by the sudden stoop of a hawk onto something small and furry (odds say gray squirrel) followed by the hawk flying away with the small thing going squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksqueak in its talons. The chickens, who had been talking amongst themselves up to that point, were abruptly entirely quiet and still for quite some time.

This is Elisa weaving, always a great attraction. A little trouble with the loom this year because of the ground not being quite level, but eventual success, and an opportunity for many visitors to try weaving a few rows.
The Fort Rodd Hill group was this year so female that the guys were joking it should be renamed from Medieval Village to Medieval Convent, with Mark and Paul to be the priest and the gardener (there's a Boccaccio story being referenced there, but I can't remember which one).
There are several children running about, so it would have to be a convent that took in orphans, but that doesn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle.

Meals were fairly low-key, with breakfast and mid-day being a matter of foraging through what was laid out on the table: smoked meat and sausage, hard and soft cheese, apples, cherries, dried apples, plums and raisins, bread, honey, dripping, pear butter, mustard, boiled eggs, and suchlike. Supper was usually a pottage (barley, lentils or rice) with vegetables and a little meat (beef, rabbit, bacon or lamb) mixed in. One roast of lamb and one roast rabbit, which led to many entertaining discussions about the ethics of eating meat--beef never seems to provoke the reaction that rabbit did from visitors.
This photo is of me and Alicia making sure that the last of the barley pottage didn't have any bits of bacon in it before it went to the hens.

The oddest names I was asked to write this year (Your Name Written With a Feather!) were brothers named Rylan and Shaunison. Rylan sounds like a blend of Ryan and Dylan, but I wonder if Shaunison will be calling himself Shaun once he's on his own? His mother even said it was easier to spell than pronounce, which seems a bit counterproductive.
Olivia is still popular, and Kayleigh/Ceilidh/Kaylee/etc. holding its own. One pair of sibs named Kayley and Kaydon, and a charming group of ladies from Trinidad or Jamaica whose names included Edith , Lauren and Theda.
Luthien and Elanor were very pleased that I not only knew how to spell their names but recognised the source (how should I not?) and their sister revealed that her middle name was Galadriel so I added it to the page.

Silliest thing said by visitor
That Paul heard:
Young boy (pointing at rabbit): What's that?
Paul: It's a rabbit. I'm roasting it for supper.
Mother (pulling young boy away): He didn't need to know that!
That I heard: On the last full day, an older lady with (I would guess) her granddaughter, about 7 or 8, the lady being of the sort who lectures rather than converses, and the little girl being carefully kept from engaging with any of the activities. Four or five of our kids, ranging in age from 12 to 6, were running through the labyrinth, shrieking.
Lady: The children had very short childhoods, and were put to work at an early age ....
(Kids reach the middle of the labyrinth and collapse onto each other in a giggling heap)
Lady: Their clothing was a miniature version of their parents' dress ....
(Kids get up and start racing back out.)
The kids are, indeed, dressed in clothing similar to the adults, but simpler and cut shorter.
The little girl is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and black stretch trousers. The older lady is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and black stretch trousers, plus short vinyl jacket.
So I guess the great emancipating advance of today is that adults' clothing is an expanded version of their children's dress?