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And Today – Happy Witchwood Crown Day!

June 27, 2017

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I wish I could post a picture of my shiny new hardcover, but alas, it is not here yet, and I don’t know when it will be.

But happy publication day to The Witchwood Crown anyway!

Being one of the first to know it would be written, and playing a tiny part in making it the best book it could be, will always be among the things I’ll be proudest of. Think of me when you read the foreword, and know that the one thing that I could drag myself out of my depression hole for was to rant about the impossibility of berry-picking in March.

Twenty Years Ago Today…

June 26, 2017

I’m trying to remember who I was then. Ten years old and shy and quiet, a little strange but not yet bullied the way I would be later. Late June twenty years ago, it would have been the last few days of primary school, and I don’t have the slightest recollection how I felt about that.

A gardener already, and a voracious reader, mostly of Thomas Brezina.

There is one thing I remember from those days, actually: our English teacher telling us that few of her classes got this far, and giving us some extra worksheets about Winnie the Witch, where I discovered that unlike the rest of the class, I already knew the word “witch” (and probably some others) because of a picture book I had. (Because unlike the rest of the class, I had friends whose mother was American and gave me English picture books for birthdays and such – which sure provided a challenge for my parents, neither of whom are good at English!)

I also learned some highly useful words such as “wand” from Winnie the Witch.

Of course, back then I didn’t know how useful they would be. How was I to know in a faraway country, a book was being published that day that would end up being so important to me?

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A book that did not drop into my life for another four years, that I tried to resist and that drew me in after all, with that magic that books have?

A book that I fought my way through with the help of a tattered dictionary as old as my father, a book that taught me so many words that I now use without thinking twice about them?

A book that opened the gates to a wider world for me, by undoing the damage of an incompetent teacher, by reminding me that English was a language for communication and fun first, and a school subject second. A book that taught me the joys of teaching myself more, of using English because I could and not because I had to. And if I had not learned that, how differently would my life have gone? Would I even be here, blogging in English? Would I be here blogging at all?

And it opened so many other gates for me, it built a bridge between my little island of weird interests and the rest of the world, it gave us a common ground at last.

And I wish I could end this with the fanart I drew, once upon a time, but I have no clue where it would be. And I’m certainly not ending this with any of the fanfiction I wrote, once upon a time, because a third of it is crackfic written long before I even knew there was a word for it, or that fanfiction was a thing in general, collaborations with the Carpenter Brother and our crazy friend Bone-Hard, and a third of it is the classic Mary Sue thing, which had its time and place when I was fourteen, but I’m not even going to look for it now, and the remaining third was good, but will probably always remain unfinished, and so looking at it makes me sad.

So, just… happy 20th birthday to those dear old fictional friends. I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, but they’ll always have a place in my heart.

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A Reason to Celebrate

June 15, 2017

After two years and 8 months, after weeks and weeks of classes, and however much money spent on them (I don’t even want to know), after so much studying and crying and feeling like I could not do it…

I’m done, I’m free, I’m a master horticulturist.

 

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It still doesn’t quite feel real. I kind of want to talk about it all day, but I don’t even know where to start…

The final exam, which was on Tuesday, felt kind of … anticlimactic, actually. I’ve struggled so much in the last few years, especially with the paper I had to write, to the point that I ended up going to therapy because I could not have done it otherwise.

And then the final exam was so easy, and we spent most of the day just feeling bored, because we spent about 8 hours just sitting around at school and waiting.

But as grateful as I am that this is over – I’m even more grateful for the friends I made thanks to it.

Having been very shy for most of my life, I was never good at making friends at school. I’m still not quite sure how I became friends with K, M and A. Maybe because we were the only ones who took the train instead of driving? Or maybe because we see each other as support rather than potential competition, as some of our classmates seem to?

However it happened, we spent a lot of time studying together, and made a trip to a trade fair in Germany together, we’ve visited each other’s homes and workplaces, and I’m sure we’ll try to keep that up (minus the studying).

I wonder what the rest of the class did after the exam – did some of them go out to celebrate? Did they all drift apart, never to see each other again?

In the past, I was always the one to quietly slip away, having formed no connections with anyone.

But this time, I was one of a group going out for dinner and ice cream and drinks, and that is so, so precious to me.

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Like You‘ve Been Here Before (The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams)

June 6, 2017
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Where do we begin…

I’m not usually a person who associates books with certain songs – I don’t listen to music much in general – but I must have heard “Pompeii” by Bastille around the same time I was reading the manuscript of The Witchwood Crown, and found myself back in a world and with characters I’ve loved for so many years, and my mind quietly started singing,

But if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like you’ve been here before?

And of course things have changed in the decades that have passed, in Osten Ard as well as in our world, but it’s still Home, the places and the characters’ voices so deeply familiar.

There are new places to explore, too, corners of the world we haven’t seen in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and yet even those places feel Right to me, and as if I have known them forever.

And of course there are new characters, along with our old friends from the first trilogy, but they already feel like friends, too.

Looking at the lyrics now, it seems like almost every line relates to The Witchwood Crown somehow.

I was left to my own devices
Many days fell away with nothing to show

Doesn’t that describe the many years we waited for this, for the return to Osten Ard? So many years without even knowing that we would ever get to return, and feeling like no other book would ever be able to fill the hole that the end of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn had left in our lives.

And the walls kept tumbling down
In the city that we love

Is it a spoiler to say that there are no walls tumbling down… yet? Knowing Tad, I would be surprised if there’s no collapsing building at the end of the trilogy.

Great clouds roll over the hills
Bringing darkness from above

There are certainly clouds rolling over the hills, once again… because the Norns are back as well, with magic and sinister plans.

How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

This part always reminds me of eating pizza with Tad and a group of other Scrollbearers and Smarchers, talking about how George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire was inspired by Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and how Tad wanted to “keep the conversation going” with The Last King of Osten Ard. And more importantly, the part where he talked about his and Martin’s different outlooks – how Martin is more of a pessimist, and Tad has a more optimistic view of humankind.

And as in all of Tad’s other books, this attitude shows in The Witchwood Crown. Like The Heart of What Was Lost, it also has Norns as point of view characters, meaning it’s not divided into “good humans” and “evil Norns” as clearly as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was, and in that, it does remind me of A Song of Ice and Fire and its many factions that are equally good and/or evil (and of course, many small similarities are still waiting for me to discover them). But where A Song of Ice and Fire feels like “everyone is awful and cruel”, The Witchwood Crown feels like… well, not quite like “everyone is good”, but like “there are good people on every side”, people who love other people and have to make difficult decisions – that faith in the fundamental goodness of humankind (or, even, Nornkind).

And that, ultimately, is what draws me to Tad’s books. And it’s what makes me believe that his books are so important, because how can we ever hope to create a better world ourselves if we subscribe to a black-and-white view of the world or to “everyone is awful”?

The one thing that I struggled with a bit was Morgan, one of the new characters. I think he has become a little more likable since the manuscript, but I still find it difficult to connect with him. It’s not just that I’m older than him, while Simon and Miriamele and me were all stupid teenagers together when I read Memory, Sorrow and Thorn for the first time. I think teenage me would have found him even more difficult, since Morgan’s main interests are the things that did not interest me at all as a teenager, and I think he would have felt far too much like the boys I tried to avoid for fear of bullying or worse.

I’m sure there are teenagers out there who could identify with him, and who would benefit greatly from accompanying Morgan on his journey – wherever it will lead him, how long do we have to wait for the next book again? But are they the kind of teenagers who would read this kind of book? I’m afraid I can’t imagine that.

But fortunately, there’s not just Morgan, and in addition to the many old friends I’m happy to revisit, there are many new characters I’m already falling in love with, and now that I think about them, I want to interrupt writing this just to read the entire book again, which I really do not have time for.

For some reason, this book always finds me when I have so little time to read – both the manuscript and the ARC came at a time when I was quite busy at work, and now I should also be preparing for my final exam. And so I had to read, not like I wanted to, undisturbed and holed up in my home for days at a time, but in brief moments while eating or waiting for the train, or even while walking to the train. And while doing that, doing ridiculous things in public like squeeing loudly , grining widely and pressing the book against my face, tearing up and laughing so loudly that the guy sitting next to me at the train stop asked me what I was reading.

While reading the manuscript, on the other hand, I was still struggling with depression and too exhausted to do much of anything, which was why I ended up not sending much feedback.

But there was one thing early on in the book that bothered me enough to fight through the haze of “everything is too hard and nothing really matters”. And I can’t tell you how much it means to me to see that scene changed, insignificant though it is in the story as a whole. No “apples in Maya” scene in this book, and I can remind my brain, if it starts lying to me again, and telling me that nothing I have to say is important – it is.

Thank you, Tad. For this, and for this wonderful book.

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… the rubble or our sins. (Yeah. I don’t know how it got quite that tattered in the short time I’ve had it.)

I Miss Blogging

June 2, 2017

And yet, I should not be doing it right now. I should be studying, or sleeping. Because my final exam is in eleven days, and I have done nothing to prepare, and because I’m sick (getting better, though, don’t worry.)

There’s so much I could have, should have posted about. Garden stuff, and medieval fairs, and book stuff, and work stuff…

Speaking of work stuff. My bosses are going to retire at the end of the year, and guess who’s going to rent the plant nursery and run it herself? Yup. Me.

I don’t want to talk about all of it publicly, so I made a separate blog for it – if we’ve interacted before, and you’re interested, leave me a comment so I can see your email address, and I’ll send you the password for the posts.

I never even posted the last three calendar pictures…

So this would have been April:

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May:

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and June:

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I want to promise that at some point I will get my life and blog back on track, but … I don’t really feel like I can promise that.

Tad Williams discusses New! Osten Ard! Novels! (Part 2)

April 29, 2017

If you have a bit of time, listen to Tad talk about his return to Osten Ard.

Two of the questions were actually suggested by me – whether there are any characters he regrets killing off, and whether there are any ideas for characters or such that he hasn’t been able to fit into a book yet – so hearing his answers to these was particularly interesting to me.

Treacherous Paths: Your Guide to Osten Ard

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ere is Part 2 of our video interview with legendary fantasy and science fiction author Tad Williams, author of the now-classic “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series; the questions from the interview were submitted by readers from TadWilliams.com and Westeros.org forums.

In this interview, Tad Williams discusses his new Osten Ard novel project, including his thoughts on Tolkien, whether or not new areas of Osten Ard (such as Nascadu and Khandia) will be seen, as well as whether or not he regrets killing off characters (and if he’s ever tempted to resurrect some of them). He also discusses the problem of the Norns, and how challenging it is to write sympathetic characters who do monstrous things.

Williams also discusses both Binabik and Duke Isgrimnur, two beloved characters from the original series, as well as a 45-foot crocodile in the swamps of the Wran. The Witchwood Crown, the latest Osten Ard…

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Coming Soon

April 27, 2017

Yeah… I haven’t posted here in far too long. Live is busy and the days too short…

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But I’ll make time to read this.

And I’ll make time to write a review.

I can’t wait to see how much it has changed from when I read the manuscript (although I was not in the best mental place then, and my memories are fuzzy.)