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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.



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.


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

June 6, 2017

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.


… 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:

DSC09277 Rubus


DSC00897 Thalictrum

and June:


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

osten ard h

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 and 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…


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.)

Books Are Magic, or, a Fannish Fairytale

March 24, 2017

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who didn’t believe in magic. She didn’t even like to read about magic.

The little girl read books so quickly that her mother brought her the biggest book she could find in the library. The book had magic in it, and the little girl thought that was a little stupid. But the book also had a princess in disguise and a troll with a very long name and a lost city in the forest and creepy midnight meetings, and the girl fell in love with the book, even though it had magic in it, and even though she was too little to really understand all of it.

The book went back to the library, and the little girl read many other books and fell in love with some of them, and learned that books with magic in them didn’t have to be stupid.

The girl grew older and grew lonelier, because she was often afraid of the world and the people in it, and friends of flesh and blood are harder to find and less faithful than those made of paper and ink.

The girl’s mother still brought her books from the library, and one day she brought a very big book again. The girl – no longer so little now – read it and found that she had read about these people before: the princess in disguise, the troll with the very long name, the kitchen boy, the prince, the evil priest…

And this time, the girl finally read all the books about these people, and she read them forwards and backwards and all over again, and then decided she wanted to have them for herself.

She read them again, in a language that wasn’t her own. She’d learned it in school and from simple books, which had taught her most everyday words. But these books taught her strange and beautiful words, like scullion and acolyte, like obsequious and moribund.

She read the books many times, but never talked about them. Because there were many more people in the world who believed – as she had done – that books with magic in them were stupid, and who would have only unkind things to say.

The girl grew up and grew lonelier still, by herself in a city full of strangers, far from all she held dear, and still so afraid of all that was unknown and new.

At her lowest and loneliest, she turned to books again, to ink-and-paper friends old and new. And one book was a magic one, with words that took her gently by the hand and led her to an online fairyland. A kingdom ruled by a writer-king who had brought into being that world and those characters who had so enchanted her, the kitchen boy and the princess, the troll and his wolf…

She was cautious at first, having heard many warnings about the dangers of the fairy world. She hid her name and face and all things that could give anyone power over her.

But before long, she signed her soul away to the king of this strange realm, and found friends among its denizens, truer and more faithful than most she’d found in the human world, and freedom in choosing a new name and being her true self without fear of judgement or mockery.

For those were the rules of that land that she learned to live by: to be silly and mischievous and a little mad, but also respectful of each other, and above all, to be kind.

The girl grew into a woman in the years she spent in fairyland’s taverns and teashops, its greenhouses, factories, bouncy castles and libraries, growing older and less lonely and less afraid.

And soon, the friendships she’d found existed not just in that fairyland built with the magic of fingers on keyboards and words on screens, but spilled over in the human world, luring her onto trains and planes by the promise of meeting faraway friends, and the magic was just as real in homes and hotels, in shared meals and games and laughter and hugs.

For some years, fairyland grew sad and quiet, with the king in exile and many of his subjects moving on to other lands, and still she stayed, tending the gardens and sitting by the fire in the tavern, waiting to share a drink and a hug with the few others who remained.

She also stayed to study the king’s books and discuss them with other scholars, and took up the cloak of the protectors of the realm and the mighty smiting hammer, to fight off the spam demons and keep order in the jumble of derelict taverns.

The first time she met the king in the human world, she was alone, just one of many waiting for an audience, with nervous stumbling words and a book to be signed – that book, that first book she had fallen in love with as a little girl.

But the second time she met the king, she was side by side with friends, and the magic of fairyland was strong that day, sharing drinks with the King in the warm summer air. Her life changed that day, as much as it had when she found fairyland. Alongside her friends, she swore an oath and became a councillor of the king, entrusted with the kingdom’s biggest secret.

There were more meetings with the king after that, shared meals and drinks and laughter and hugs, until she could believe it when the king called her “friend”. She travelled and saw more of the world than she had ever thought she would. She put aside her fears to cross an ocean, and met high members of the king’s court, whose names she had long known from the pages of books, and learned more secrets. She travelled further, across that faraway land and to the shores of another ocean, to visit the king in his own home.

There were some years when the woman herself grew sad and quiet, when dark demons stole much of her strength, and she could do little more than sit quietly in the tavern. But with what strength she had left, she still did her work as protector of fairyland, as a scholar and councillor. She studied the king’s books new and old, and wrote messages to the king and queen to make the books the best they could be.

And one day, there came a courier from the king’s faraway land, to bring her a reward.

The familiar words of that first book she had fallen in love with, that had taught her so much of the language, and in which she had helped find the few words that were wrong – those old and beloved words, now polished and perfected with her own help, and bound in a new book. And at the end of that book, there was her own name, among those of her friends, all those raised to councillors to the king, for all the world to see.

And some months later, the king’s new book was revealed to the world, and there was her name again: at the front this time, like the names of the members of the king’s court she had read of so many times, standing alone among words of thanks.

She knows the truth now: magic is real. Books are magic, in so many ways.

(Much Belated) March Calendar Picture

March 6, 2017

03 DSC02071 Filipendula ulmaria

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).

I’m sorry. I still haven’t gotten around to scheduling these posts this year. Or to blogging at all. Busy, busy, busy. Work and boyfriend and friends and balcony and making birthday presents and receiving birthday presents and actually inviting a couple of people to celebrate my 30th birthday, and then a mad scramble to finish the paper I need to write to become a master horticulturist… can you keep your fingers crossed for me on that account? I need to call my advisor tomorrow and ask what he thinks of it… and I’m terrified that he’ll tell me it’s total crap… I have had a really hard time with writing this thing. So much crying, so much nearly-giving-up, and now I’m so close. I just need him to tell me that it’s okay, that I just need to finish up the bits and pieces I already know about.

In other news, if any of you speak German and are interested in balcony gardening, on March 17th/18th you can watch me give an interview about it here.