Skip to content

Advent Day 2

December 2, 2016

masksFor our second day of Advent, I thought I would stick with a historical fantasy novel. Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis
Masks and Shadows is set in the court of Eszterháza Palace at the height of its decadance, 1779. While war rages in the American colonies over taxes and tea, Prince Nikolas is driving the peasants into the ground to maintain his lifestyle and expand his palace. He keeps a private opera company and one of the best composers of the age, Joseph Haydn, for the amusement of himself and his guests. Further, he has his mistress acting as his hostess while his wife, Princess Marie Elizabeth, remains cloistered in her rooms.
Into this decadence comes Countess Charlotte von Steinbeck, the widowed sister of that very mistress. Charlotte is hoping for some peace and quiet with her sister in order to recover from the death of her husband and to dodge the matrimonial schemes of her mother. Instead, she finds a palace teeming with intrigue, vice, and music.
Kapellmeister Haydn is composing a new opera for the Prince. One of the foremost castrati in Europe, Carlo Morelli has come to sing, and Charlotte’s own maid has demonstrated an unexpectedly pure and beautiful voice.
Ranked against the sublime music, there is treason, espionage, and dark magics. And it comes down to Charlotte and Carlo to penetrate the masks of civility that everyone is wearing and stop the plot before it can overthrow an empire.

Advent Calendar 2016

December 1, 2016

It’s Advent season again. I don’t happen to be religious, but I do enjoy organized lists, so I thought I would do a literary Advent Calendar this year.
If you like that idea, Book Riot has a fantastic one! Every day they are posting a poem, essay, or a story. I’ll be focusing more on books than smaller works.

So, for our first day: A ghost story for Christmas
Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

At its heart, Ghost Talkers is a spy story set during World War I that has a very small twist on history. What if the Spiritualist movement had been right? Ghosts exist and mediums can, in fact, communicate with them.
That opens up an unprecedented pipeline of intelligence data from the front. The ghosts of dead Allied soldiers report to the Spirit Corps headquarters to give their reports.
Ginger Stuyvesant is one of the driving forces behind the Spirit Corps. She is a powerful medium, with a profound sense of duty and a keen intelligence. It is, therefore, not a surprise that she is the first to discover that there is a traitor working among the Spirit Corps. Unfortunately, a female American in the 1910’s is not considered the most reliable witness. So, Ginger has to rely on her own abilities, both mental and metaphysical, to unmask the traitor and block their plans to destroy first the Spirit Corps and then the Allied army itself.

Ghost Talkers is one of my favorite books this year. It hits so many of my personal buttons. I’ve been reading loads of circa-WWI murder mysteries in the last several years and I was beside myself when Mary said she was working on a story set in the period. This book has the attention to historical detail that I expect from one of Mary’s books. She doesn’t bash you over the head with how much she knows. Instead there are tiny details perfectly worked into the narrative so that you truly feel that you are there with Ginger, on the trains with the boys going off to war, in the trenches moments after disaster, and in the quiet dark moments snatched between barrages.
Mary’s characters become friends. You celebrate their triumphs and mourn their tragedies.
So, during this holiday season, may I introduce you to my friend, Miss Ginger Stuyvesant? I think you will be great friends.


Day One: Allyship

November 13, 2016

My friend Clair posted this today and it seems to be consistent with some feelings I’ve also seen on Twitter. And I can’t argue with any of it. But…
And that’s the thing. I always have a “but.”
Here is the comment I left on Clair’s post:
I understand the frustration people have with the safety pin activism, but at the same time, I will continue to wear mine. It’s something small. It’s something I have to think about every day. When I take it off today’s shirt and put it on tomorrow’s it’s a promise to myself.
It makes me visible. Maybe people will roll their eyes, but maybe someone who need it will see it.
And if I do see a situation where I should step up to be a better ally, the pin is there to remind me that I’ve promised not to stay silent, to let it slide this one time.
I’m very privileged. The things that would make me a target (outside of being a woman) are generally invisible. No one can tell my sexual preference or religion just by looking. So this is a reminder to myself maybe more than a signal to someone else.

So, I guess that’s where I stand. I’ll keep wearing my pin. And I absolutely LOVE the images that children’s book authors & illustrators have been doing. Because, yeah, kids need to know that the characters they love are there for them. So, I think that’s amazing too.
Author Anne Leonard commented on a thread where I was discussing this issue over on Twitter.
She said, “Any sort of organized resistance is going to have infiltrators. They’ll wear safety pins.” And that’s totally true.
But, that doesn’t mean we don’t organize. And I know that there are better ways to do it than to wear safety pins. And I’m positive people who are much more competent than I am are working on it (which doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it too.) But for now, a safety pin is what I’ve got to make my promise. So, I’ll be wearing it.

See Clair Write

Not enough.

Since the election, a lot of people have been posting about wearing safety pins as an outward indication that you’re an ally. Unless you’re backing that up with your dollars, time, and actions, it’s not enough. In fact, a Facebook post indicates that white nationalist groups have already co-opted the problematic symbol.

If you want to be an ally, please don’t ask your People of Color, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, people of faith, people of no faith, and Othered communities. And for the love of everything holy, don’t tone police them, especially not in this time of grief.

One tough thing to keep in mind: Being an ally isn’t about you. It’s not about shouting your views from the rooftops, it’s about your actions. And yes, I recognize my privilege and the irony in posting on my personal blog about how to be an ally. There’s not much more I can say on that end…

View original post 214 more words

The Heart and the Bottle

November 10, 2016


With everything going on in my own life and the country at large, I decided to re-read The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers.

This is a picture book about a little girl who loses someone important to her. And it hurts so much that she puts her heart in a bottle. But you can’t lock your heart away without losing a huge part of who you are.
And once you’ve lost that part, you may not be able to get it back on your own. Luckily, there is another little girl who can help her out.
This book has been personally important to me. It came out in March of 2010. My Dad got diagnosed with cancer in February of that year. The Sunday before the book actually came out I was looking at it in the back room of the store and it was exactly what I needed. In the face of my Dad’s mortality, I had to remember not to protect myself so much that I lost myself.
fullsizerenderSo, I did what any early 30-something would do. I got a tattoo. I took the book to an artist that afternoon, pointed at a picture from it and said, “I need THAT.”
So, he gave me that picture.
This tattoo broke all my rules. 1) I have to think about a design for a year before I get it. 2) No color. 3) No tattoos that would be visible in your average ball gown. (No, I’ve never worn a ball gown. But I thought I might someday.)
It’s in color. It’s on my wrist. And I got it two hours after I’d seen the image for the first time.
It’s been six and a half years. And I’ve never regretted it, but I’ve definitely needed to refer to it more than once.
Which brings us to today.
A friend is gone. And I need to remember that I can’t avoid other people just to avoid feeling like this again.
My country is not what I was hoping it was. But I need to remember that you have to get up and keep going.
This doesn’t mean don’t practices self-care. Absolutely do! Protect yourself. But don’t protect yourself so much that you end up damaging yourself.
And remember, sometimes the best stories are in the smallest books.

You Matter

November 9, 2016
While I was agonizing over election results early this morning a friend decided to take her life. I don’t know what brought her to that point, and I may never know.
We weren’t close.
We had never met in person.
But she was a friend.
Now she is gone.
She mattered.
She will be missed. There are many people coping with that today. Many who are much more qualified than I am to speak about her.
So I will speak to you.
You matter.
You would be missed.
I don’t care about the things that divide us all right now. You matter. You would be missed.
If you are having a hard time, please, reach out. Reach out to a hotline, another friend, to me.
I will help in any way I can.
Because you matter.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
To Write Love On Her Arms – To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The Trevor Project – 866-488-7386
The Trevor Project is focused on preventing suicide in the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to their 24/7 hotline, they also have texting and online chat that have slightly reduced hours.
Trans Lifeline – 877-565-8860.
Trans Lifeline is aimed at specifically at the transgender community. All of the people who work there identify as transgender.
Veterans Crisis Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
The Veterans Crisis Hotline is a resource for veterans and their families. They also have a 24/7 chat option.
The Crisis Text Line – text 741741
This is a text only hotline that is available 24/7 in case you feel you cannot talk on the phone to someone.

Thanks to for the list.

It’s like Christmas!

November 8, 2016

It’s Election Day here in the US. I’ve voted. I hope you have too. And that’s all I’m saying about that.

The other exciting thing that happened today was that my boxes from DK arrived! Last year, I participated in an advisory panel of librarians and booksellers. And as a thank you, we all got books for our libraries! So, I have a mega-haul of new books to take into the CMS library on Thursday and it’s awesome! DK has amazing non-fiction books as well as all your Star Wars needs. So, I hope I got a good selection the kids will like. 

The Annotated Tam Lin

November 7, 2016

Tam Lin.jpgOne of my favorite books is Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. Not only is this book based on a ballad I really like, but it’s also an amazing fantasy novel that is simply stuffed with references to other books.

The basic story centers around Janet, a student at Blackstock College in Minnesota in the early 1970’s. She and her roommates get involved with an unusual melange of characters from the drama and classics departments. They trade witty banter and Shakespeare quotes back and forth and it all seems like a fairly typical college coming of age story.
However, things are not quite what they seem. Something is rotten in the Classics Department and it all seems to be focused on the unbelievably beautiful Thomas Lane.
The book follows the major beats of the ballad faithfully, but transcends into something quite special.

As I mentioned, Dean has packed huge numbers of references to other books, plays, and texts into this book. And when I was in college I set out to record them all. And thus was the Annotated Tam Lin born. It was handwritten and illustrated with pictures cut out of magazines, comics, and trading cards. I spent most of New Year’s Eve 1999 writing out quotes in glittery gel pen.
Alas, the green cloth bound sketchbook that I used has gone the way of all flesh and vanished in one of my many, many moves. So, I’m now recreating it online. At the moment, it’s housed over on Tumblr at the Annotated Tam Lin. I’m hoping once I have everything collected again we can get it hosted at Tam Lin Balladry, which is an awesome site if you’re at all interested in the story of Tam Lin. Just to give you an idea, in Chapter 1 alone, I had 24 references to track down. This book could double as a liberal arts degree if you actually read all the works referenced.

Here is the text of the best known version of Tam Lin, Child Ballad 39A

  1. O I forbid you, maidens a’,
    That wear gowd on your hair,
    To come or gae by Carterhaugh,
    For young Tam Lin is there.
  2. There’s nane that gaes by Carterhaugh
    But they leave him a wad,
    Either their rings, or green mantles,
    Or else their maidenhead.
  3. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she’s awa to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she can hie.
  4. When she came to carterhaugh
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  5. She had na pu’d a double rose,
    A rose but only twa,
    Till upon then started young Tam Lin,
    Says, Lady, thou’s pu nae mae.
  6. Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
    And why breaks thou the wand?
    Or why comes thou to Carterhaugh
    Withoutten my command?
  7. “Carterhaugh, it is my own,
    My daddy gave it me,
    I’ll come and gang by Carterhaugh,
    And ask nae leave at thee.”
  8. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she is to her father’s ha,
    As fast as she can hie.
  9. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the ba,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    The flower among them a’.
  10. Four and twenty ladies fair
    Were playing at the chess,
    And out then came the fair Janet,
    As green as onie glass.
  11. Out then spake an auld grey knight,
    Lay oer the castle wa,
    And says, Alas, fair Janet, for thee,
    But we’ll be blamed a’.
  12. “Haud your tongue, ye auld fac’d knight,
    Some ill death may ye die!
    Father my bairn on whom I will,
    I’ll father none on thee.”
  13. Out then spak her father dear,
    And he spak meek and mild,
    “And ever alas, sweet Janet,” he says,
    “I think thou gaest wi child.”
  14. “If that I gae wi child, father,
    Mysel maun bear the blame,
    There’s neer a laird about your ha,
    Shall get the bairn’s name.
  15. “If my love were an earthly knight,
    As he’s an elfin grey,
    I wad na gie my ain true-love
    For nae lord that ye hae.
  16. “The steed that my true love rides on
    Is lighter than the wind,
    Wi siller he is shod before,
    Wi burning gowd behind.”
  17. Janet has kilted her green kirtle
    A little aboon her knee,
    And she has broded her yellow hair
    A little aboon her bree,
    And she’s awa to Carterhaugh
    As fast as she can hie.
  18. When she came to Carterhaugh,
    Tam Lin was at the well,
    And there she fand his steed standing,
    But away was himsel.
  19. She had na pu’d a double rose,
    A rose but only twa,
    Till up then started young Tam Lin,
    Says, Lady, thou pu’s nae mae.
  20. “Why pu’s thou the rose, Janet,
    Amang the groves sae green,
    And a’ to kill the bonny babe
    That we gat us between?”
  21. “O tell me, tell me, Tam Lin,” she says,
    “For’s sake that died on tree,
    If eer ye was in holy chapel,
    Or christendom did see?”
  22. “Roxbrugh he was my grandfather,
    Took me with him to bide
    And ance it fell upon a day
    That wae did me betide.
  23. “And ance it fell upon a day
    A cauld day and a snell,
    When we were frae the hunting come,
    That frae my horse I fell,
    The Queen o’ Fairies she caught me,
    In yon green hill do dwell.
  24. “And pleasant is the fairy land,
    But, an eerie tale to tell,
    Ay at the end of seven years,
    We pay a tiend to hell,
    I am sae fair and fu o flesh,
    I’m feard it be mysel.
  25. “But the night is Halloween, lady,
    The morn is Hallowday,
    Then win me, win me, an ye will,
    For weel I wat ye may.
  26. “Just at the mirk and midnight hour
    The fairy folk will ride,
    And they that wad their true-love win,
    At Miles Cross they maun bide.”
  27. “But how shall I thee ken, Tam Lin,
    Or how my true-love know,
    Amang sa mony unco knights,
    The like I never saw?”
  28. “O first let pass the black, lady,
    And syne let pass the brown,
    But quickly run to the milk-white steed,
    Pu ye his rider down.
  29. “For I’ll ride on the milk-white steed,
    And ay nearest the town,
    Because I was an earthly knight
    They gie me that renown.
  30. “My right hand will be gloved, lady,
    My left hand will be bare,
    Cockt up shall my bonnet be,
    And kaimed down shall my hair,
    And thae’s the takens I gie thee,
    Nae doubt I will be there.
  31. “They’ll turn me in your arms, lady,
    Into an esk and adder,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    I am your bairn’s father.
  32. “They’ll turn me to a bear sae grim,
    And then a lion bold,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    And ye shall love your child.
  33. “Again they’ll turn me in your arms
    To a red het gand of airn,
    But hold me fast, and fear me not,
    I’ll do you nae harm.
  34. “And last they’ll turn me in your arms
    Into the burning gleed,
    Then throw me into well water,
    O throw me in with speed.
  35. “And then I’ll be your ain true-love,
    I’ll turn a naked knight,
    Then cover me wi your green mantle,
    And hide me out o sight.”
  36. Gloomy, gloomy was the night,
    And eerie was the way,
    As fair Jenny in her green mantle
    To Miles Cross she did gae.
  37. At the mirk and midnight hour
    She heard the bridles sing,
    She was as glad at that
    As any earthly thing.
  38. First she let the black pass by,
    And syne she let the brown,
    But quickly she ran to the milk-white steed,
    And pu’d the rider down.
  39. Sae weel she minded what he did say,
    And young Tam Lin did win,
    Syne covered him wi her green mantle,
    As blythe’s a bird in spring
  40. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    Out of a bush o broom,
    “Them that has gotten young Tam Lin
    Has gotten a stately-groom.”
  41. Out then spak the Queen o Fairies,
    And an angry woman was she,
    “Shame betide her ill-far’d face,
    And an ill death may she die,
    For she’s taen awa the bonniest knight
    In a’ my companie.
  42. “But had I kend, Tam Lin,” said she,
    “What now this night I see,
    I wad hae taen out thy twa grey een,
    And put in twa een o tree.”