My Thursday was busy but nice. I had lunch with Karen at Lebanese Taverna, did some shopping, won two Articuno raids but failed to catch the bird both times, got some work done, dyed my hair, was chased down the basement by a cat who wanted to sit in the laundry basket, and watched the Nationals score a lot of home runs. Also, I watched some of the White House shit show, excuse me, comedy show.
Paul made cranberry chick'n for dinner. After eating, we all watched a screener of The Circle, which felt like a mediocre half a movie that forgot a third act. Here are some more photos from the Mets game last weekend, including some of the Hall of Fame plus Jackie Robinson rotunda, Flushing Meadows from the stadium, the rain in the lights, and the Home Run Apple as the Mets began their comeback:
( Citi Field )
Our camp's Pennsic prep is a little unusual:
Me: dials phone
Her: Castle Towing1
Me: Hi. I'm going to need some towing at Cooper's Lake this weekend. Can I book that in advance?
Her: Oh you don't need to. We offer 24x7 road service; you can just call.
Me: It's a 20' trailer. Probably 3-ton, but we don't really know.
Her: ... oh. Uh, I don't know if we can do that.
Me: For what it's worth, you did it two years ago. That's why I specifically called you. But I understand things can change.
Her: I need to check with a driver. I'll call you back.
Her: He remembers you. When did you say you need him?
With luck, this will be the last year we have to do our own towing for the house. The Coopers declared it too heavy for them to tow a couple years ago. A lot of what makes it too heavy is the kitchen structure and furniture we store in it. We are well under way with building a new kitchen trailer, which will replace most of that and store the rest between Pennsics. And that will make the house light enough that the Coopers should be willing to tow it to and from our campsite like they had done for years before the new rules. And hey, kitchen trailer instead of having to build and take down our current structure every year.
1 Yes, that really is their name, and yes they're familiar with the Pennsic site.
If she's in the mood for it by then. I'm not sure if my brother-in-law would be one of the 15 million people to lose his health care under skinny repeal, but it seems a dangerous possibility. I even called Mark Warner Tuesday night, first time I've called a Senator after freaking out in the middle of a phone call to one back in January. Who knows if that's doing any good in the end...
Also worried about my mother in general. She underwent huge dental surgery yesterday, and still isn't back to herself yet. Her vacation's in two weeks, and at this point we have to hope she'll be capable of going. This evening was not a good one. She wants to use Lyft tomorrow, but we can't figure out how to set up payment. I apparently connected it to my Apple account back in October, but no longer remember how I did so. It ended in tears for everyone.
I might have spoken too soon when I said I was feeling better, so let’s just do Karmic Balancing gifts and try not to think about it. I’m taking today and knitting a sock, and working on catching up on paperwork, and trying to put my business to bed for the week that I’ll (hopefully) be away, and I’m trying not to whine. Thanks for the donations my petals, you guys are so amazing that I’ve now met my public goal – I’m looking now to blow it out of the water. Last year you guys took me way, way over my private and public goals, and I know that there’s no force out there like knitters. None. Every ding on my phone makes me feel a little better, and makes me more hopeful that this is going to be okay. Let’s hope that Karma works, and that trying to put something good out there does something good for how I feel. A miracle cure by tomorrow would be nice.
Anne at The Twisted Fleece has two beautiful gifts the first one is for Grace T:
100 g of handdyed Shetland roving. Dyed by Anne, and the fleece came from her friends’ flock. Comes with a handcrafted (again, made by Anne) orifice hook, of sterling silver, embellished with a handcrafted lampwork bead.
Anne also has 3 skeins of 100% merino worsted weight yarn. Dyed using food safe dyes. 120 yards/skein, 1.75 oz, 50 grams, and she’ll be mailing those to Kay W..
Belinda went for a stash dive, and came up with these two beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Lace. Turns out they’re for Helen H. Enjoy!
The Oswego NY Coffee Connection knitters would like to donate two skeins of Berroco Weekend in colors 5947 (salmon swimming upstream) and 5966 (blue sky in summer). They’ll be mailing it out to Peg L, and I hope she loves it.
Helle has two beautiful skeins, going out into the world to make a little magic. Heritage Yarns 100% tencel, colour is Sunrise Serenade 8 ounces; 1680 yards for Donna G.
and Knitted Wit Worsted, 100% Super wash Merino, Colour: She Persisted (how appropriate) 4 ounces, 200 yards for Lisa B. Thank you Helle!
Our good friend Kathleen Sperling has three lovely gifts of e-book pattern collections. First, her blanket trilogy, consisting of Cervelli, Around the Block, and The Celtic Knotwork Baby Blanket. That’s for Donna B.
Last, but not least, she’ll be sending her Darling Layette eBook to Maggie B.
Tim has a set of four 3 X 4 1/2″ wonder wallets, each with five pockets. They are great for extra credit cards or cash or for giving gift cards. Those are going to Pippi S.
Next, a copy of a great new book from Tracy Purtscher, Dimensional Tuck Knitting.
It’s not out until September, so there will be a tiny delay in getting it, but when Tracy H does, I hope she loves it.
We’ve got a few from an amazing person who would like to be an anonymous Balancer, one 8oz bag of Elsie’s Discount Roving & Dyes “Amethyst”, and one in purple. The secret Santa will be mailing those to Rhea K.
Our mystery person also has approximately 20 batts, each weighing about 40 grams, of a creamy white Finn-cross roving. Hand processed by Anonymous Balancer, those are for Robyn R.
She’s also parting with one 40 oz. bundle of Plum Crazy Ranch Fiber Art Mulberry Silk Sliver, and one 1oz bundle of blue-green, hand-dyed Firestar, and mailing it to Linda L.
Last but not least, she’s somehow parting with THREE braids of Upstream Alpaca “Hand Painted Combed Top 100% Baby Alpaca” in “Pinot Noir” – 4 oz each braid. Those will be winging their way to Kelly M.
Emily has an amazing gift. 8 balls of gorgeous blue angora, in its original box. Emily says “It is old, though I don’t know by how; I received it from a fiber artist friend who is retiring and downsizing. Her only condition of giving it to me was that I “make something awesome”, and since you are doing that with PWA and the Rally, it only seems fitting.” I hope Holly W makes something awesome!
Karen Fletcher’s got a good one, TEN free copies of her pattern The Texture Block Cowl. It’s a good one, takes a single skein of worsted weight yarn, and looks like a charming defense against the elements. (And a good Christmas present, if you’re in the mood.) She’ll be sending those along to Kathleen R, Cherilyn P, Sarah R, Barbara J, Tara W, Jaime P, Beth W, Maggie H, Alicia R, and Belinda H.
Finally, a gorgeous “Rainbow is the new black” project bag from Jan Smiley. (Peek at her shop, it’s all lovely.) This bag is for Janis M, and I hope she loves it.
Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go lie down and wait for my miracle. I’m sure it’s on its way. Cross your needles, everybody.
This year, RWA is live-streaming the festivities once again at 7:00pm EDT this Thursday, July 27th! We hope you’ll be watching along with us and cheering on your favorite books from last year.
Earlier this afternoon, The Ripped Bodice accepted the award for the 2017 Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year! Congrats to Leah and Bea! You can see their acceptance speech here.
If you’d like to look through the books up for a RITA this year, check out the reviews from this year’s RITA Reader challenge! Here they are broken down by genre:
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Romance with Spiritual or Religious Elements
Best First Book
If you’d prefer the quick and dirty overview, we’ve compiled all of the grades this year in a spreadsheet. Be sure to click on the GRADES tab at the bottom of the sheet.
Check back tomorrow with a more in-depth breakdown of the reviews, grades, and the winners in each category!
Which books do you think will take home an award? Any betting pools going on?
LONDON — A march against wildlife cruelty will be held in London August 12. The joint protest is being sponsored by The Badger Trust, the Make Hunting History coalition, and Care2.
Organizers write, “The key aim […] will be to call on the new Conservative minority government to bring an immediate end to the cruel, costly and ineffective badger cull policy and to strengthen rather than seek to repeal the Hunting Act.”
They also want to “raise public awareness of the barbarity of fox-cub hunting, otherwise known as ‘cubbing’ or ‘Autumn hunting’, which is currently in season and has started across the UK.”
Additionally, the driven grouse season starts August 12, the same day as the march, and is reportedly “detrimental to the much persecuted Hen Harriers.”
According to the organizers, the march is “expected to be the largest ever British wildlife protection protest” and will bring together “thousands people united in their determination to stop the government from playing politics with the future of our wildlife.”
Although opinions among UK-based pagans obviously differ on the issues surrounding various forms of hunting, the community in general remains opposed to wildlife cruelty as described by the host organizations. UK Pagans, across various spiritual paths, support of the ban on fox hunting, and a number of Pagans are currently engaged in activism against the more recent badger cull.
Fox hunting in the UK has been a practice for several hundred years, until a ban was introduced in 2004. That legislation bans the hunting of wild mammals, most notably foxes, deer, hares, and mink, with dogs in England and Wales.
Drag hunting – the practice of dragging a bundle of scented material across the countryside to allow the dogs to follow a trail – is still permitted. Therefore, traditional fox hunts across the UK are still active.
Policing the ban is obviously problematic. Hunts are wide-ranging and often occur in remote areas, and the police are overstretched. Whether these hunts actually keep within the law remains a concern.
Badger culling was trialed in the South West of the country in 2013, in an attempt to control bovine TB. The theory was that badgers were contracting the disease and spreading it to cattle.
However, there is significant scientific controversy over whether this is actually the case. Now concerns are being raised over the way that the culls have been conducted.
This particular issue has raised concerns in the Pagan community. Colin Lovelace said, “I just hope DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] see sense and at least stop killing badgers whilst they re-examine the huge amounts of data and evidence that shows culling badgers will never stop btb [bovine TB] transmission.”
“In my area, North Cornwall, there were relatively few farm breakdowns until culling began last year and since then the breakdowns reported by DEFRA on ibtb website has exploded,” Lovelace went on to say.
“As predicted, culling badgers increases outbreaks. All the research recently carried out shows infection from badger to cattle is minute, less than 5% as previously known from previous culls. 95% of infection is cattle to cattle or from contaminated slurry spread on fields. The weight of evidence against culling badgers is enormous but DEFRA refuses to look at it.
“The only way to control btb is better testing methods, vaccinating, and tighter movement controls of cattle…Very angry, very active doing everything in my power to obstruct this cruel and damaging cull.”Maggie Bond, a representative of the Pagan Federation said, “The badger cull is despicable and there is no scientific evidence to prove that badgers are spreading bovine TB. With regard to fox hunting, this is a so-called ‘sport’ and serves no useful purpose.”
She added, “Blood sports are archaic and have no place in the 21st century. The majority of the British public do not want the hunting ban to be repealed.”
Activist Diane Evans said, “The Badger culls so far have been inhumane, astoundingly costly, caused prejudice and violence in communities and not achieved the desired result ….yet they are still going on. The elephant in the room is the demand for cheap food and greed in the western world for choice and plenty of it regardless of the cost to animals’ lives and the Earth…
Evans has been involved in actions against Badger Culling and theFox Hunts. “Millions of people protest against Badger Culling and Fox Hunting and a good part of these follow a Pagan path,” she said. “I don’t believe we stand up against such barbarism just because we are Pagan but because we are in the main, decent people trying to protect these animals and the Earth we all live on. I guess the fact that we hold them in such high regard is why we followed a Pagan path in the first place.”
The level of feeling against these practices continues to run high, both within and beyond the Pagan community in Britain. There will be reportedly a considerable Pagan presence on the forthcoming march in the capital.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Coco. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the YA Romance category.
For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
Here is Coco's review:
I picked up this last-minute review of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever last week because I felt like doing one more of these RITA reviews when the opportunity came, but, well, it was a push to get it done and written before the deadline! I hadn’t read the book—as YA isn’t normally my happy place within the romance genre, despite the odd fact that I reviewed another YA RITA earlier this year—but I thought it’d be fun, and then life happened, and it didn’t go quite according to plan. Instead of a leisurely full seven days to read and write a simple review, I, of course, didn’t get the time to do it until two days ago. Luckily, reading it quickly wasn’t a problem as I was drawn into the story by the midpoint and raced to finish it.
At the beginning, however, I was dubious. I thought it was going to be another melodramatic YA story chock-full of painful childhood experiences, which were then overcome quickly at the end by the power of young L-O-V-E. You know. And, I think it’s far to say, there is an element of that in this story that might turn off some readers. (When I was adding the TWs, I was like, damn, this story sounds majorly dramatic!) But—BUT—it’s not that simplistic. I was ultimately submerged in the story and impressed by the author’s commitment to talking about the long-term effects of childhood neglect and abuse. I’d say it’s a pretty even mix of a coming-of-age story with a YA romance. I wasn’t familiar with the author, but she appears pretty prolific, and has done a mix of independent press, self-publishing, and major pub houses (like this one from Harlequin Teen); she writes predominantly YA, YA fantasy, and New Adult. I like to find out a little bit about authors, and while I didn’t have the time to do that here, I liked the impression I got of her simply from her Acknowledgements section, especially when she refers to the way in which someone else “adeptly dubbed this book one of my horcruxes even though the last time I checked I didn’t commit a great evil. I think.” It makes me think that this story was important to her, and I like the idea of authors putting little pieces of their souls into their books—but, you know, without the evil part.
In The Problem with Forever, Mallory (“Mouse”) and Rider (…of course his name is Rider) spent several years together (maybe, like, from ages 4-13?) in the same unsafe foster home. The foster sibling thing wasn’t emphasized that much—helped in part because the house was so dysfunctional that they were nothing like a family—and instead their relationship was framed in terms of friendship.
Perhaps most importantly, Mallory’s survival mechanism was to be as silent as possible and to hide alone to avoid the wrath of the foster “parents”, whereas Rider sought to attract (negative) attention in hopes of protecting Mallory.
They are eventually separated as tweens and lose track of each other. Mallory ends up adopted by two doctors (in a rather miraculous turn of events) and begins the hard work of dealing with her trauma, seeing a psychiatrist and a speech therapist, and working through (but, thankfully and more realistically, not simply overcoming everything) her issues, the most tangible of which is her difficulties around people and with speech. This was fairly well fleshed out, considering it’s a romance and can’t focus entirely on her recovery. After homeschooling for a few years, she wants to try high school for her senior year in order to see if she would be able to eventually handle college. On her first day at school, she sees Rider again for the first time in three (or four?) years. Despite the fact that he tried to find her, and she asked her foster parents about him, they never reconnected or even knew if the other one was still alive. But, luckily, they’re in the same speech class!!! Bam! Insta-romance-plot-development!
I appreciated how Armentrout eventually complicated the early depiction that Mallory (and the reader) had of Rider. At first, Mallory views him merely as a White Knight figure but she ultimately realizes he has self-destructive tendencies and doesn’t see his own self worth, which led to behaviors that one might mistake for heroic but, with maturity, she could recognize as potentially problematic. This is an example of the tightrope that Armentrout walks when playing with both traumatic storylines and classic bad-boy-saves-shy-girl tropes.
There are a few other instances of life-and-death drama (including a fatal shooting and a potentially life-altering disease) that serve as turning points in our protagonists’ lives, and I feel somewhat conflicted about their treatment. I think one is handled with more care than the other, but they still felt at times like literary devices to spur changes in the characters. But, then again, things that happen to other people obviously can have a big impact on us, especially at that age, when it’s easy to turn everything into something about yourself.
There are some moments of awareness that touch on class and race and the incredible role luck (good and bad) can play in determining young people’s lives and their prospects. I wish she would have gotten more into those issues and be more explicit with regard to the drugs and gun violence present in many young people’s lives, but I didn’t have a huge problem with Armentrout’s depictions and at times oblique explanations.
Armentrout uses is Margery Williams’ 1922 classic, The Velveteen Rabbit—which is available to read online here, in case you’ve forgotten this harrowing children’s story—to nice effect (or it might seem overly saccharine and unrealistic, depending on your point of view and if you’ve been sucked into her world). The story is a common refrain throughout the book and is used when developing Mallory’s and Rider’s backstories, their relationship, and each one’s personal growth.
The other theme that occurs throughout the book, and the titular inspiration, is the concept of forever and its connotations. Again, the story begins somewhat simply as Mallory remembers how Rider said he’d always protect her—forever—which doesn’t happen. Again, by the end of the story, I was somewhat impressed with Armentrout’s ability to deepen Mallory’s understanding of what all “forever” implies, both good and bad.
Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist… Then there was me. I’d thought I’d be stuck the way I was for forever, always scared, always needing someone to speak up for me. I’d learned to cope with my fears, found my voice, and realized that Carl and Rosa would love me even if I wasn’t perfect. Forever wasn’t real. And I guessed, for me, that I was lucky it wasn’t. But for others, I wished it was real, that they had forever.
As soon as I returned to find a few quotes pertaining to Mallory’s self-realizations in the latter half of the book, I felt a little dubious about their effect as, once again, I wondered it was too over-the-top. But, to Armentrout’s credit, when I was reading, I didn’t have those doubts; I was fairly engrossed and simply present in the world she’d created. It’s only looking back that I question myself and the somewhat dramatic prose, like “Forever wasn’t a problem. Forever was my heartbeat and it was the hope tomorrow held.” Dramatic, yes. But, shit, I mean, she’s not wrong?! And only teens can get away with the kind of bold and sweeping statements.
Even though now I tend to look back at that time of life, and teen characters in fiction, with a somewhat more jaded and indulgent half-smile, I still kind of love teens and young adults for this very reason.
And Armentrout does lighten the tone at times. For instance, she has Mallory observe that “our story was something straight out of an Oprah special or an ABC Family movie” and later Mallory quips that Rider looked “good in the way I didn’t know a teenage boy could look. Like they did on TV, when played by twenty-five-year-olds.” And Ainsley, Mallory’s one real friend before starting at the public high school, rants about another boy, “Do you know, one of his friends last week actually argued with me about that? He was all like, let me wannabe mansplain this to you while incorrectly explaining the First Amendment.” I’m not sure this is how teens talk, but I liked it and it was nice break from the intensity.
And though I don’t tend to want to read YA romance too often, a good author can pull me back into that mindset.
And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I mean, it doesn’t last forever.*
*C’mon, you knew I had to do it!!!
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
RIPPED BODICE RECOMMENDED: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is $2.99! This has romance, a bit of mystery, and some historical elements. On a podcast episode with Bea and Leah of The Ripped Bodice, Leah mentioned that she recommends this book pretty frequently. Have you read this one?
Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?
Blood of the Earth
Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter is $2.99! This urban fantasy novel is the first in the Soulwood series, which seems to be a spin-off of Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. It was also recommended during our SBTB Reader Recommendation Party at RT 2017. I remember because I immediately added it to be TBR pile.
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.
When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.
Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.
Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…
Dare to Run
Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin is $2.99! This is the first book in the Boston-set Sons of Steel Row series. The heroine is a bartender and the hero has criminal ties, which I know isn’t for everyone. Readers loved the pacing and action, but wanted the heroine to have more of a backbone. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.
The New York times bestselling author of the Out of Line Novels takes readers to Boston where one gang of criminals knows how being bad can be so good…
She knows what he’s like on Boston’s mean streets. Now she’s going to find out if he’s got some heart.
Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.
Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one.
The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth by Tracy Anne Warren is $2.99! This is a contemporary workplace romance set in the world of advertising. Readers loved the antagonism between the heroine and hero, but found the hero was a bit of a jerk overall. It’s the first book in The Graysons series.
From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren comes a sexy and romantic new contemporary series about corporate combat in the boardroom and under-the-covers passion in the bedroom……
Idealistic good girl Madelyn Grayson believes in doing what’s right. Even as a high-powered executive in the mad world of advertising, she doesn’t cut corners, making her ad campaigns sizzle without having to burn anyone along the way.
Rival exec Zack Douglas never wastes an opportunity to land the next big deal—especially when it benefits him. A bad boy with a reputation to match, he has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter who gets in the way.
When a hot promotion pops up at their company, both Zack and Madelyn wind up on the short list for the position. But as the two square off, they discover that being heated rivals in the office makes for scorching bed play behind closed doors. Will Madelyn’s steamy, secret affair with Mr. Vice make her compromise her ideals—or worse, lose her heart?
A song that you would sing as a duet on karaoke. I don't do karaoke, and I don't do duets, so this is a bit of a non-starter for me.
No, let me explain, because I'm having fun answering this meme in way too much detail. I think karaoke is an absolutely excellent idea in theory. It's really great to encourage people to sing just for fun and not worry about skill level. And it's really great to use technology to play the backing music and display the lyrics so that someone can just get up and sing the melody with little preparation.
The problem is that for me personally, karaoke means packaging up 30 plus years of abject humiliation over not being able to sing in tune, and asking me to enjoy that in public. I find it hard anyway to make myself sing in front of other people; I do it, because I absolutely do believe that music belongs to everybody (not just people who are "musical"), and shared music is a great way for people to connect. Singing in front of an audience who are paying attention to me, or even worse, in a competition, however light-hearted, is too terrifying.
Duets are possibly extra impossible, because singing in unison with someone else is already hard for me. Especially if they have a lower range; I can't really hear octaves, so I find it very difficult to join in with someone singing in the bass clef range. Singing in harmony is really really hard, because not only do I have to sing the correct notes which I always find difficult to remember, I also have to match the note which is very imperfectly in my head while being distracted by my partner singing a different note that my actual ears can hear. I can sometimes do multi-part harmony if there are several people singing each section, so I can listen to someone else who is singing the same line as me. And I'm fine with parts in music in general when I don't have to worry about pitch. But a sung duet is really tricky.
And really, I can think of very few duets that I know at all, for whatever reason, even to listen to. Let's call the whole thing off might work, because (at least in this superlatively great version with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong) it's mostly alternating verses or lines between the two singers rather than harmony. But hypothetically, if I were to find the courage to sing karaoke, I probably wouldn't start with something really amazingly great; somehow I'd feel less bad about murdering some ephemeral extruded pop product than attempting an actually good song.
I will admit, though, that my brother and I have been known to sing Always by Bon Jovi, as a sort of duet, sometimes in public and definitely not caring that neither of us can really sing. Partly because we always liked the dubious rhyme of:
I'll be there til the stars don't shineAnd partly because Bon Jovi can't really sing either, he just projected a persona calculated to appeal to teenaged girls in the 90s. So I probably wouldn't sing it actually in karaoke, and I probably wouldn't sing it with anyone other than my brother, but it seems slightly less impossible than any other options, so I think it seems in the spirit of the meme.
Til the heavens burst, and the words don't rhyme
( video embed )
Congratulations! Your book was a success! Now do that trick a second time! In discussing Killing is My Business, author Adam Christopher talks about doing the thing that you did so well all over again — but different this time.
You know how it goes, the difficult second album: a band spends years meticulously crafting a collection of songs, polishing them through endless live sets until they shine, and these songs form their incandescent debut album.
Then they need to produce the follow-up and essentially come up with an entirely new repertoire on demand. That second album can be a difficult one indeed.
Now, I didn’t spend years crafting the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – Made to Kill, the first full-length novel after the Tor.com novelette Brisk Money, came out in 2015 and was something like my seventh published novel – but somehow the series has a certain kind of weight, just like that debut album of your favourite band. I think it’s because that original big idea was very big indeed – I was writing Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction epics, a series about a robot assassin working in Chandler’s near-future Hollywood of 1965. That idea sprang from Chandler’s own letter to his agent in 1953, in which he complained about sci-fi, saying “people pay brisk money for this crap?” Clearly, this was a front, the famed hardboiled author conducting a fishing expedition, seeing if his agent would bite.
Sixty years later, I wrote a story named for Chandler’s letter – Brisk Money. The idea was everything – a whole world was open to me, enough not just for a novelette but for a trilogy of hardboiled novels and another in-between novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity – the title, again, taken from Chandler’s letters.
So far, so good. Made to Kill was a blast to write.
And then came book two.
I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump. Far from it. The three novels were pitched together, right from the start, so I knew what I was doing and where the books were going. But there was one thing in back of my mind while I was working on what became the second novel, Killing Is My Business.
What would Raymond Chandler do?
That mantra, in essence, became the big idea of the book.
The concept of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries is simple: the robot revolution came and went in the 1950s, and Ray is the last robot left in the world, designed to be a private eye working in Hollywood. The only snag to this is that his supercomputer boss, Ada, was programmed to make a profit – and she quickly figured out you could make more money by killing people than finding them. A little tinkering with Ray’s CPU and Ada turns him into an accomplished hit-robot.
Simple enough, and, importantly, an open-ended concept. You could write a hundred stories about a hitman.
Which was actually the problem – because while I could easily write endless hardboiled, noir-ish stories set in Chandler’s seedy LA underbelly, a world full of wiseguys and dames and crooked cops and the mob, that’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before a thousand times. Hell, that’s basically Chandler’s oeuvre and people have been calling him a genius or a hack for the last seventy-plus years.
No, what I had to do was to write science fiction. There was no point in Ray being a robot if that wasn’t vital to the story. Ray had to be the central player in the trilogy – he’s unique, literally, and that has to drive the story arc that stretches across all three books.
So: what would Raymond Chandler do?
More specifically, what would Raymond Chandler do… with a robot?
In Killing Is My Business, Ray’s unique character is used to rather unsubtle effect when he uses his virtually indestructible chassis to protect a mob boss from a drive-by shooting, literally placing himself between the crime lord and his would-be executioners. This is something that only Ray could do. It’s a key scene, the first piece of the story that I had thought of.
And it was also a scene that I knew had to happen – if Ray is a robot then being a robot is the story. With that thought foremost in mind, I could write book two and I could make sure the series as a whole is more than just a set of pastiche crime novels, it was something original.
Now, if he only Ray Electromatic knew what I torment I had in store for him in book three…
Remember that mishna I summarized last week, the first one of this tractate? The g'mara is still discussing it (not surprising, given its length). On today's daf the discussion turns to intercalating of years, the decision by a beit din to add a leap-month to the current year. The g'mara tells a story about a case of this and from it we learn lessons of humility:
The year can be intercalated only by a beit din appointed for that purpose. It once happened that Rabban Gamaliel had called for a court of seven to assemble early in the morning, but when he arrived he found eight people there. He asked the group: who has come without permission? Let him leave. Shmuel the Little said: I'm the extra; I didn't come to sit on the court but to learn the process. But Shmuel the Little wasn't the extra person; he spoke up to save the intruder from humiliation.
The g'mara tells another story of this kind of face-saving, this time about R. Meir. A woman came to his study hall and said: rabbi, one of you here has taken me to wife by cohabitation. R' Meir immediately arose and wrote her a get (a bill of divorce), after which every one of his disciples did likewise. And the g'mara says that he learned this from Shmuel the Little. (11a)
Here at Bitchery HQ, we are constantly recommending books, music, and podcasts to one another, and it occurred to me that our podcast recommendations, both for particular episodes and for entire series might be of interest – and that you probably also have episodes and shows you like, too. So, hey, there, new feature!
Seriously, this is one of the things I love about blogging: New idea? Cool! Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes.
Actually, let’s be honest: “Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes” is how I do most things creatively. It’s like the cousin to, “I can’t be the only one who finds this freaking fascinating, right?”
Now, I can’t recommend my own show (HA YES I CAN It’s right here) but in part because I host and produce a podcast, I listen to a ton of others. Here are some episodes and new shows I’ve really enjoyed while walking the dogs or cross stitching.
By the Book is a new-ish show from Panoply wherein the hosts, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, try a different self-help book for two weeks and record their results with interviews, candid conversations with their spouses, and a post-book conversation between the two of them. There’s also an epilogue for each where they respond to reader and listener feedback.
One episode in particular that was deeply touching for me was their focus on French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. The conversation dealt with self-harm, eating disorders, and Greenberg and Meinzer’s relationships with their own bodies, and the epilogue was equally affecting for me. It also created a new guideline for their show: no more diet books. That episode is available at Panoply’s website, on Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your fine podcasting programs.
Still Processing is a podcast from the NY Times, hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. They discuss culture, current events, music, television, BBQ, and the ways in which the media they consume affect them. From the description: “Still Processing is where they try to understand the pleasures and pathologies of America in 2017.” It’s terrific.
RedHeadedGirl, who has her own podcast, Anglofilles, recommends the Dunkirk episode of Stuff You Missed in History – and says that pretty much every episode is great. You can listen on Stitcher or at the podcast website.
Amanda says, “I’ve been loving The Daily! It’s produced by The New York Times and focuses on one or two current events, complete with interviews with the people who cover said events at the NYT. It’s Monday-Friday and is usually less than a half an hour. Because it focuses on current events, there’s no pressure to go back and listen to the archives. Unless you really want to!” It’s available on Stitcher and at the NYT podcast page, too.
And finally, my never-ending perennial recommendation to anyone who loves uplifting, funny, and engaging podcasts to try: Friendshipping with Jenn and Trin.
Every time there’s a new episode I squee, and my Thursday afternoon or Friday dog walks, depending on weather and download times, are my favorites. They take questions from listeners about friendship problems, they have the best theme song, and they offer advice from a place of incredibly warm empathy and kindness. It’s one of my very, very favorites, and I’m so happy I found it.
What about you? What podcast episodes or programs do you love? Any that you’ve just discovered? (And would an entry on how you listen to podcasts be helpful? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together!)
Max Seventeen is a science fiction romance that has a lot of problematic elements (several of which ambushed me near the end of the book). On the other hand, it has an action heroine of color, a rickety spaceship with a motley (and diverse) crew, and mosasaurs. Once I started the book I couldn’t stop reading it, and every time I said to myself, “Wait, WHAT?” another mosasaur or some other shiny plot device popped up to distract me.
Our story begins with a trial and a heist.
Our heroine, Max, is busted for various crimes and sentenced to one year of slavery. She winds up shoveling fuel into a train engine. Meanwhile, our hero, Riley, signs on to a rickety spaceship (the Eurydice) as engineer in order to escape from being a soldier with The Service, a military group. After Riley and the rest of the crew rob the same train that Max is on, Max ends up on the Eurydice as Riley’s property. It’s all very complicated, but basically, there are technical reasons why Riley can’t free Max until her year of servitude is over. The ensuing plot includes, but is not limited to:
- Found family
- A lot of explicit sex and violence
- Dry humor
- Competence porn
- Potentially triggery descriptions of child abuse and rape
- Children, mosasaurs, and many adults in peril
- Discussion about consent
- The defeat of a massive conspiracy
- A plot twist I truly did not see coming
The first two-thirds of the book contain some content that I was ambivalent about. I honestly could not tell if this book is sex-positive or slut shaming. Sometimes Max’s joyful tendency to sleep with every willing person she can find comes across as a celebration of her agency and seize the day mentality, but she also worries that people see her as a toy, and her eventual decision to be monogamous is portrayed as a sign of her increasing self-esteem. Sometimes sex work is portrayed sympathetically, but sex workers are also portrayed as disloyal and dishonest (although frankly, so is everyone else).
The book does a better job when it comes to the problem of power imbalance between Riley and Max. Riley refuses to have sex with Max for quite a while because even though he is only Max’s owner in the technical sense he still (rightly, in my opinion) believes that Max can’t truly consent because of the power imbalance. When they finally do have sex, Max has consented verbally and specifically over and over again, but she calls Riley out later when he refers to them as equals. While Max insists that she has enough agency and control to honestly consent to sex, she also points out that as long as Riley owns her she can’t be, and isn’t, his equal in their relationship. Although they establish a relationship while she’s still serving out her sentence as a slave, there’s always an understanding that they won’t, and can’t have a true HEA until she’s free.
One of the interesting things about these characters is that Riley has been both falsely accused of rape (one of my least favorite tropes EVER) and a victim of rape. He was raped by a female military superior who threatened to ruin his career if he didn’t sleep with her. Meanwhile, Max is the survivor of a rape in which she was physically overpowered. Given their experiences, it makes sense that Riley is so alert to the idea of rape stemming from an abuse of power whereas Max is comfortable with power structures (she ignores them) as long as she feels physically safe.
In the last third of the book, a few of my very least favorite tropes pop up out of nowhere and Riley acts like a jerk. Seriously, it’s as though a different author jumps in, seizes the story for about 50 pages, and then jumps back out. Spoilers regarding Riley’s behavior:
Just as I was about to toss the book aside, we suddenly find ourselves in a science fiction Regency novel and of course I had to see how that went. Everything sort of magically resolves itself, and there’s going to be a sequel which I will inevitably read in one glorious, confusing day. The sequel, Firebrand, came out on July 4, 2017.
Clearly I had a rocky journey with this book, and yet it’s amazingly fun. There’s constant action and intrigue. Max and Riley are both very good at what they do (she’s a programmer and he’s an engineer). There’s a wild, madcap quality to the story, fueled by Max’s high energy, her unpredictable behavior, and the science fiction setting, which is like a crazed mash-up of Firefly, The Expanse, Mad Max, and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s a ton of humor, from slapstick to wry, like Max’s lament when she realizes she’s about to be fed to a mosasaur:
“Fuck it! I was going to die old, in bed, surrounded by five young men.”
In case you are wondering about the mosasaurs Max later explains:
Actually, interesting biological sidebar, apparently they aren’t mosasaurs, really, because they died out on earth millions of years ago, but no one knows what they are so that’s what they call them.
I read this book in May and for various reasons I didn’t sit down to review it for several weeks. What stuck in my head weeks after finishing the book was the character of Max careening defiantly through life. Max is hyper-vigilant, violent, uncouth, and wonderful. She’s determined to enjoy life even though she has suffered. Even though she and Riley get a happy ending, they also both have serious issues that they will probably always need to deal with, and I found that to be realistic and honest. She has a shaved head and when Riley first meets her she’s covered in sewage and yet she is irresistible (after having had a bath) because she has so much energy.
I loved this character and I enjoyed the book, even though I’m still not sure if it was a liberating read or problematic as hell. Am giving it a C for the major problems that I couldn’t escape, such as the inconsistent portrayal of sex workers and of Riley’s attitude in the last third of the book, but a ‘+’ for solid and energetic writing and a fun, creative, exciting story.
I was shocked – SHOCKED – when Reader Jessica left a comment about virgin hero recommendations and my deep dive through the SBTB archives turned up nothing.
Of course, there are some obvious choices and probably a handful of lists on Goodreads, but personal recommendations of books you’ve loved and why go much further, don’t you think?
Amanda: Also…the anthology is currently 99c. Just thought you all wanted to know.
Amanda: I don’t think I know of any virgin heroes, but I’ve read a few sexually inexperience heroes that I really loved. The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) has a man-bunned, NFL hero who has never had penetrative vaginal sex. His first sexual experience was traumatic for him, so trigger warning for that.
I know you have virgin hero recommendations! Let us have ’em!
I had no vehicle on Wednesday, so Alice and Avery came to visit and we spent the better part of the afternoon chasing down Pokemon raids. Despite being out many coins for raid passes, I had a fairly good day -- I caught another Articuno and won a Lugia raid that got me lots of rare candy even though I didn't catch the Lugia -- but we couldn't get enough people for a successful Tyranitar raid so I still don't have one, and Avery didn't catch any of the legendaries at the raids we won, so he was frustrated.
We may do more raiding to help Avery get a legendary on Friday. When we weren't raiding, we had lunch at Cava and watched Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea. Adam was in College Park until very late in the evening and missed all this fun. The rest of my day was chores, though I got to do some of them while Paul and I watched the Nationals make an unexpectedly impressive comeback against the Brewers, which was lovely! Here is Citi Field when the Mets did the same against the As on Saturday:
( Seeing the Mets )
If you like rainbows and eye candy, then give Josie Lewis Art a follow on Instagram. Mostly so you can tell me how she did this:
Guys. This thing is blowing my mind. Honestly one of my favorite films I've ever made. Also it kinda reminds me of cauliflower. Usually I tell people my secrets but not this time--I'll NEVER TELL what this is 🙊, except that @art_resin is the major component, and fairy juice. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #resin #resinart #artresin #color #abstract #artoftheday #design #madetocreate #theweekoninstagram #artistsofinstagram #josielewis #contemporaryart #modernart ⠀ ⠀
It's like a fireball rose! SO PRETTY.
I have this idea to make something as a unique art project. It is either the craziest, dumbest, most impractical thing ever … or it’s a crazy, dumb, impractical thing that will be awesome.
I will need exactly one million people, from anywhere in the world, to make it happen. I wonder if that’s possible.
Feel free to speculate, if you’re into that sort of thing.
What am I talking about? Stuff where Trump opens his mouth and sick toads fall out and sit on the sidewalk, blinking and vomiting. Ugly sick bloated toads, like the speech to the Boy Scouts and the outrageous dismissal of all transgender military personnel.
(My apologies to all truly healthy toads throughout the country, living their lives peaceably, eating flies and mosquitos and staying far from politics.)
I know these things are serious. I know. The president is trampling on people's value, on people's lives, in every direction, cynically and carelessly. But you cannot take them as the only thing that is happening. Horrible as they are, they are only the poisoned icing on the cake, the noxious smoke from the volcano, the peeling top layer of slate. They are *meant* to get you mad. They are *designed* to keep you upset.
Why? So you won't pay attention to what's going on behind the scenes, down there in the strata. Down there, the separation of church and state is being eroded. Women's right to have a say about how their own bodies are treated is being chipped away. The little tiny things we do not see that have huge effects, things that pile up, like permission to get past environmental checks before running oil and gas pipelines near drinking water. The elimination of much of the Congressional Budget Office staff because they vetoed Trumpnocare. I could go on and on. Often I do, and you see it here; sometimes I don't even put it here because it gets me that upset.
I am not saying not to be upset. It is upsetting. Transpeople should be able to serve in the military without comment. To say otherwise is a violation of equal rights under the law. Boy Scouts (and Girl Scouts and other young people's groups) should not have to listen to insane political harangues, should not be put into that arena. National monuments, parks and seashores should stay untouched by developers, drillers, exploiters.
But yelling at Trump, writing to him, even if it feels good to you, won't make a difference. He does not give a flying fuck about any of us -- why would he care about how any subset of us is affected? He thinks health care costs $12 a month. He probably thinks someone who is transgender changes their clothes on a train, or in transit. There is no limit to his lack of understanding and his lack of caring about anything he doesn't understand.
Keep your eyes on the small stuff, the bits and pieces that aren't on page one. Look for what's on page six or the back of a section, with a smaller headline (or in places like The Hill or Politico or other politically based newsletters. Pick one or two areas that interest you, and follow what is going on with them.
And then write your Senators and Congresspeople about them -- on their own email system. (yes, here is that contact list again.) They cannot ignore mail from their own constituents for long. If the time is short, phone and ask to talk to a staff person, instead of leaving a message. Tell them what you think, what you want, briefly and to the point. Tell them you're outraged, when you are. Tell them what you think of what Trump is doing, and (if your rep or Senator is Republican) how can any thinking person possibly agree or support this, because (up to three good reasons). And then, "Thank you for hearing me as a constituent", and give them your name as it is on the voter rolls so they can look it up. Once a week. Pick one thing a week. The staffers should start recognizing your name, your voice.
And keep an eye on the vulnerable Republican seats, House and Senate, the ones that can be overturned in the next election. Support the people running in the primaries to oppose the heartless idiots in office.
Do not be taken in by the sparkly floor show with the mouthy MC. Keep your eyes on what's happening behind the curtain, up in the lighting gallery, over in the wings. That's where things are being done. Look for possible trades and swaps -- Reps and Senators voting for things they should not vote for -- and ask them why they are making such poor, harmful choices? Who benefits from these choices? Follow the money, but also follow the influence. Who's being bought and sold here?
I trust you, all of you. I don't know you that well, but I trust you to do the right thing insofar as you know what it is, and to ask good questions when it isn't obvious. Go find the molten lava under the rock and raise hell. Go and comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, because every one of us matters.
Hello Petals, and greetings from the other side of yesterday’s long, dark teatime of the soul. I don’t know if it’s the rest, ice, baths, massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, drugs, whiskey, homeopathy or donations that helped, but today I feel hopeful and optimistic, and my arse and I have resumed speaking terms. It still doesn’t feel great, but it feels better, that much is sure, and last night I slept the whole night through. It took a lot of pillows, but when I woke up I felt like maybe things are improving for sure. (I will not be getting on my bike until Sunday to be sure, and I’m going to keep doing all the things I’m doing. One of them is working.) I also had a rather fantastic snuggle with Elliot this morning, and the healing impact of his glorious cheeks cannot possibly be understated. He is the most delicious chunk. Fat and happy, and slept the whole hour his mother was in the dentist, while I walked him up to the drugstore and back, and then, wonder of wonders, resisted the urge to scream in the car. (This is his favourite trick. He resents the carseat and all that it is, and generally acts like he’s experiencing death by a thousand cuts all the way wherever he’s going, then brightens right up the minute he’s free of it – though a minute before you would have sworn he was starving or had mere minutes to live. It’s really not hard to tell he comes from a cycling family.)
Also, a minor fibre miracle. The other day, tidying a basket I keep spinning things in, one tucked way back in the cupboard, I found two bobbins of camel/silk singles.
I pulled them out and for a minute, couldn’t even remember spinning them, but then it came back to me. They’re spindle spun, wound onto the bobbins to empty the spindle each time it filled, and I spun them at least ten years ago. Ten years! (Let us gloss over entirely what it means to my housekeeping skills that I can lose things for ten years in a tiny house.) My wheel was still right there, oiled and clean, and so I popped them onto my Kate (I refuse to call it a lazy kate. I has a sexist ring to it. Why is it always a lazy woman? Lazy Susan, Lazy Kate… how come nothing is called a Lazy Gary?) A little while later I had the most delicious tiny skein of laceweight camel/silk. Just a weensie 210m, but still, it’s delicious, and when I told Joe what I’d found and done, I realized that his conversion to Fiber-support-spouse is complete. “Wow honey” he said, “That’s like finding $50 in your winter coat pocket when you put it on in the Fall.”
That’s it exactly.
Karmic Balancing gifts? Let’s do them until I run out of time. Tonight is our last Steering Committee meeting for the Rally, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to say that. It turns out that my dedication does know bounds, and it’s meetings. Only because I can knit at them is this all possible.
First up, Gauge Dye Works has two beautiful skeins for Virgina Y. One skein of classic sock, one shawl. (Man, Catherine who runs that place is so clever. That’s the yarn my most recent pair of socks were knit from.)
Tia has three skeins of Shibui Knits sock weight yarn in 50’s Kitchen (I love that, it’s the colours of my kitchen!) that she’ll be sending to Susan G.
The lovely Suzanne Visch is donating the pattern of their choice to five lucky knitters. (Lucky is right, what gorgeous things!) Congratulations to Nichole B, Heather K, Mary Jo M, Anisa S, Jennifer W, and Susan D.
By the way, yesterday’s yarn went happily to the highest bidder, who asked only two things. That I not mention their name, and that the yarn not go to her, but to someone new to knitting who would adore it, and be inspired by it. I love that idea, and I know just the knitter. Thanks to everyone who bid, it was charming, flattering and made the world a better place for people who need help. You guys are amazing.
More tomorrow – It’s a desk day. Thank you all for everything, you’re my favourite.
2. Sometimes not doing research for a long time because of the cost of travel, and health issues, pays off.
When I started looking for information on Ebenezer Allan, in particular some information on his correspondence with Gen. Haldemand in Quebec, I stumbled across the Michigan Historical Society's annual publications from the late 1800s -- which specialize in the history of the Great Lakes region. And they have published in four volumes Haldemand's correspondence since he was assigned to this region (he had previously been in Florida, I'm sure I don't know why) from 1776 to about 1790. And it's all scanned in online now.
I have the links so I can read it on computer, but that's kind of tedious when it's 1800 pages or so -- and I want to know more about the context. So I am downloading the volumes, one at a time, to my Kindle, reading and making bookmarks; when I'm done, I can go back to the online version (which does not have transcription errors) and copy/paste or type the relevant passages with the bibliographic data (which doesn't come through completely on the Kindle).
Where I'm reading, at the moment, Haldemand has arrived, and is telling the officers running various forts that they are spending way too much money and they have to cut back, and can't the soldiers live on venison and fish they catch from the lakes? I have already read a later letter back to him from Brigadier MacLean, who ran Fort Niagara, about the problems of running out of treaty-specified gifts to Indians of various tribes -- they are supposed to get trousers and he only has shirts, and has had to borrow some from the men, which is not right, and even get some from Fort Erie -- and as I read it I can see MacLean gritting his teeth and trying not to scream because he's writing his boss -- but it comes across at times as *massively bitchy* in the best understated British sense of it. One of the references I already have is a letter of MacLean's to a friend (filed under Scottish Immigrant Papers in the Archives of Ontario) where he lets his hair down and his ire out of the bag and says exactly what he thinks of what's going on when Haldemand did not send the troops to back up the ones retreating and how angry and disappointed everyone was: "The Indians say, "The king has a fool for a general." I cannot disagree."
This is going to be *fun*.
ETA: The other places this info is available is in Michigan and in Quebec, neither of them near enough for convenient research, certainly not for the time to read all 1800 pages. So this is truly a gift.
TWH — This weekend and next, many modern Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are observing the summer festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, Lughnassa, and Harvest Home. Typically celebrated on Aug. 1, Lughnasadh is one of the yearly fire festivals and marks the first of three harvest celebrations.
It traditionally honors Lugh, the Celtic god of light and many talents, and his foster-mother, Tailtiu.In addition, the weekend brings the Ásatrú festival of first fruits called Freyfaxi. Both celebrations are celebrated with feasting, songs, games, thanksgiving, and the reaping of the first fruits and grains of the season.
There are many other late summer religious and secular holidays around the world, some of which are related to the harvest and some are not.
In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, followers will be celebrating Choekhor Duechen, or the first turning wheel of Dharma, July 27. The day marks the time when “the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, India, and first turned the wheel of the dharma.”
The Order of the Black Madonna, based in California, hosts a number of feast days in August, including an annual dinner in mid-August to honor the Queenship of Mary.
During this time, several Native American nations celebrate the Green Corn festival. This was particularly true of “Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Timucua, and others, who used corn (maize) as their single most important food source.” The ceremony and festival, also called puskita or Busk in English, was “an expression of gratitude for a successful corn crop.”
Outside the U.S., the Slavic communities celebrate Dozhinki, a pre-Christian harvest festival that happens in late August. This year, the holiday is dated Aug. 28.
In the Southern Hemisphere, Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are readying for Imbolc, and other holidays focused on late winter and the coming potential of spring.
This year, the full moon arrives Aug. 7, and a total solar eclipse is coming to America Aug. 21. According to reports, the entire country, from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness at least a partial eclipse.
Here are a few recent quotes about the seasonal celebration:
“Lammas is basically about work, coming and going. Mind you, there are three harvest sabbats, and the trick with this first harvest that it falls midpoint of the fiery sign of Leo, which lends its ‘fixed’ energies of sustaining the cycle, to bring our work to full fruition; no slacking behind now! Magick demands much of us at this time. Toil and sacrifice are required if we are to claim the big prize come Mabontides.” — Heron Michelle, Lammas Ritual of Integration and Sacrifice
* * *
“This August 1st, I suggest we forget everything we have heard about Lughnasadh or Lammas. Instead of treading that well-worn path, let’s forget about Celtic myths from long ago and the agricultural customs of 18th century English peasants. Forget even the words ‘Lughnasadh’ or ‘Lammas.’ Instead, go outside. Look. Listen. Breathe in and breathe out. Bend down and touch the earth. And then ask what the world is telling you. Listen for what calls to you. Discover what needs to be celebrated, or what needs to be mourned. And if the season still speaks to you of harvest or sacrifice or making bread, then so be it. But if not, don’t force it.” — John Halstead, “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again”
* * *
“What will I do during those 100 or so sacred seconds [of the solar eclipse]? Will I hold a ritual? Just revel in it? Hug my kids?[…] Would the descent into darkness (and then the return of the light) be better times for ritual activity? After all, those times are ~90 minutes long each, and that would make the whole time of totality part of my ritual if I started before totality and ended after it. […] All religions have sacred times and sacred places. For those of us with a Pagan spirituality (as well as for many others), reality itself – and especially our Earth, moon and sun – often show us those sacred times. For many of us (and certainly me), this August 21st will be one of those most sacred times. What will those 90 seconds be like for you? I don’t think that can be predicted – we can’t decide when the sacred will touch us.” – Jon Cleland Host, “The Spirituality of the Eclipse”
* * *
“Lugh was the first god I got to know as an individual being. Before that, most of my practice revolved around the Wiccan idea of the Goddess and the God, or other concepts that some would describe as panentheist and others would describe as vague. This was before my encounter with the Ennead of Egypt that put me firmly on the road to polytheism, and I honestly don’t remember what I thought about Lugh. But I clearly remember how I related to Lugh – as an individual deity with his own sovereignty and agency. Did Lugh call me or did I pursue Lugh? My notes from the time are sparse and I can’t begin to remember. I just remember I felt a strong affinity with him. I am no master of all arts, but I’ve always had a wide range of interests, and Lugh seemed like he would be the perfect patron for me.” — John Beckett, “The Birth of Lugh”
* * *
“Lughnasadh is a very good time to express gratitude to the gods and the earth spirits for their blessings and gifts that we are now receiving. In times of microwave and frozen pizza it may seem anachronistic to thank for the harvest. Many of our modern foodstuffs make it hard to still recognize the waving grain on the field in them. And yet there is a way to connect with nature via the food that we eat. This is especially valid for self-harvested fruits. But also conscious eating, eating with focus on the food and not on TV or newspaper, is one way of expressing our thanks for the harvest – all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.” — Eilthireach, Deeper Into Lughnasadh
Anyways, we'd love it if you would support our tiny company! The tour is a lot of fun! It's called Off The Beaten Path Food Tours & Experiences (www.offthebeatenpathfoodtours.com), and we are booking our first tours this weekend with Friday - Sunday tours being available.
By way of marketing, I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions. We'd love help promoting it, and we're excited to showcase awesome entrepreneurs in our backyard and sample their delicious eats. If you have a guest in town, run an AirBNB, have a niece starting at Tufts, etc. etc. it's great to learn more about the history of our neighborhood and meet some local folks doing great things.