Monthly Archives: October 2011
I am about to lose a month of my life. If you are a book lover, chances are you are also a writer. November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately nicknamed NaNoWriMo. During NaNo, participants attempt to write a small novel in 30 days. The word count goal? You must write 50,000 words in one month.
Doing the NaNo challenge is a breakneck race to the finish line and you can’t stop for anything. You can’t stop to edit. You can’t even stop to think. If you stop, you’ll lose. You’ll fall behind on your word count and it is murder to catch up. NaNo is nothing more than word diarrhea. It gets you writing; and as long as you are writing, you are producing something. Even if what you are producing is complete utter crap. But NaNo gives you free license to produce complete utter crap. It’s about volume. You can edit later. Just don’t stop writing!
Large cities have their own region forums. Saint Louis, Missouri is mine but there are also region forums for Columbia and Kansas City. Each region has their own municipal liaison, or ML. They organize kick-off parties, official write-ins, and any after parties. Our region’s ML, Jen, organized the kick-off party for Saint Louis a few weekends ago. It was great. It’s always wonderful to see fellow NaNo’ers and reconnect with people who are just as crazy as you are.
A write-in is a gathering where NaNo participants huddle in coffee houses, furiously typing and guzzling caffeine in liquid form. Or not. Not much writing actually goes on during a write-in, I’ve found. But it’s great fun meeting with other writers and making friends. You get to tell everyone your novel idea and grouch with everyone over your sore fingers. And drink coffee. Lots of lovely, lovely coffee. Did I mention the coffee? My town’s write-in is every Saturday morning in November. I can’t wait.
But the fact of the matter is that I won’t have as much time to read while doing NaNo. During the month of November children get shoved out the door to “play”. Pets go unloved. (Not my cat though. She knows perfectly well that if she wants attention while Mommy is on the computer all she has to do is park her furry butt across the keyboard. Mommy can’t ignore 9 pounds of fluff sitting on her hands.) But if you don’t see as much activity on Lady with Books, it’s because I’m having a small freak out over my word count and have forgotten the world exists. I’ll be back in December.
I read a fair amount of books with witches in them and a good number focus on witch trials. They are inevitably set in some small village fallen on hard times, famine or disease. There is always some reason, something, that drives otherwise logical, fairly decent people into a frenzy. Those who were once friends are now foes. Sometimes it is the outcast accused. Other times it’s a well-to-do woman that the finger is pointed at. Occasionally a man ends up in the hot seat. A religious man or even just a witch hunter is there to goad the people into a passion. But fear, hate, and anger make people do strange things. The tale told in The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman is no exception.
The Witch’s Trinity is set in Tierkinddorf, a small village in Germany. Really, the only things that mark the story as set in Germany are the names and a few pieces of vocabulary. Such as using Mutter for the word Mother. Otherwise this could be any village anywhere in Europe in the early 1500’s. The village and the surrounding area have fallen onto hard times. There is famine and plague (the Black Death). For several years now the grain has not grown in the fields and the mill sits silent. The whispers of witchcraft start and a friar arrives in the little village, promising to stamp out the dark seed of evil. (I have to pause and wonder why the author chose to call the religious man a friar and not simply a priest. There must be some distinction, possibly in the Germanic way the clergy is set up, that I do not understand. There is a priest in the village already but he isn’t important to the story.)
The village of Tierkinddorf is beset with famine and pestilence. The crops have failed for many years and the people are starving. A friar arrives, armed with the Malleus Maleficarum, The Witches Hammer. The villagers hope that the friar can find the source of their misfortune. A witch is among them and God is punishing them all until the wrong doer can be found and dealt with. The friar turns his eye on each of the villagers, meaning to find this witch and put them to death. Now, each person is eyeing their neighbors, their friends, with distrust. How far will this witch hunt go?
The main character in this story is an old woman and bravo to the author for focusing on such an overlooked character. A lot of fiction books with witch trials have the main character as a young woman. All the better for readers to relate to and all the better to throw a little romance into the mix. (Obviously there is no romance in this story.) In reality, many of those accused as witches were the elderly and the poor. The unwanted peoples of society had no protection. Güde Müller is an old woman living with her son, his wife, and their two children. Irmeltrud, the wife, would like nothing more than one less hungry mouth at the table.
The first person is accused and it turns out to be Künne, Güde’s childhood friend and the local healer. Güde knows that Künne cannot be the witch but all her protests and those of her son, only allow suspicion to fall on her own head. Künne, unable to pass a ludicrous test for witchcraft, is burned at the stake. Irmeltrud is then all too willing to tell the friar that her mother-in-law is a witch. After all, the friar brought food and is willing to gift some of it to those brave enough to accuse a beloved family member of being a witch. Güde is arrested under the suspicion of witchcraft while her son, and most of the male members of the village, have left on a long hunting trip, hoping to find food further afield.
(Now for a bit of light historical fact. Being accused as a witch was not the death sentence most fiction books seem to portray it as. A good number of those accused were acquitted; sometimes more than once! Your social standing might never have recovered, but there was a chance you would be freed. Also, the burning of a person found guilty of witchcraft was not as prevalent as popular culture would have us believe. The preferred method was actually hanging (it’s easier), at least on continental Europe. Burning was seen more often in the United Kingdom.)
Witch trial stories are always driven by hate, anger, and greed. The little village of Tierkinddorf has all these in spades. The arrival of the friar (which I have now just realized is never named in the story) and the witch hunt allows people a chance to remove any thorns from their sides. Nobody is safe. At the end, it gets a bit ridiculous with everyone pointing fingers and screaming ‘witch’. Even the friar can see that he has lost control of the situation. Even Irmeltrud is accused by another blackheart seeing a chance to grab what they want. (Irmeltrud does not seem to realize that damning her mother-in-law (already under suspicion because she was friends with Künne) will just open the door for accusations to be leveled on every member of the family, including her children.) Both Güde and Irmeltrud are saved from being burned only by the timely return of the hunting party, who has captured a woman who may or may not be the true witch.
This story can go both ways. It can either be a supernatural story or a realistic tale. Supernatural events happen, involving what might be sex with the devil (only slightly graphic) and dancing in the woods. But the main character, Güde, is not quite sure if these things are really happening to her or if her aged mind is merely tricking her again. We are led to believe that it is possible that all this is happening in Güde’s head. She does display mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s or even dementia during the story. There is either a witch really pledging Tierkinddorf or it’s just bad weather. We are never sure.
In the end, the supposed witch and the friar are burned. (Break out the marshmallows and noise makers! Asshole friar deserved to die.) The villagers, in a frenzy of bloodlust and manic superstition, kill them both. The supposed witch is a surprise. She is not from the village of Tierkinddorf but from the next village over. Güde sees the woman in the woods as a part of the strange witchy visions she appears to have. Our main character remembers seeing the other woman during feast days years ago and Güde can never decide if it is her breaking mind that summons up the image of the woman or if she is really a witch. But at the end of the story prosperity returns to the village and the crops grow again. We are left wondering what really happened in Tierkinddorf.
Best line: “Fuck your Roman protocol!” he snarled. “We are Germans!”
Warning: While torture is not shown, it is described in detail. A torture device is shown to Güde and the process described by the friar in order to get Güde to confess to witchcraft. The description is more than enough. (shudder)
This week’s Musing Monday question is: Do you listen to audiobooks? Why, or why not?
I have and I enjoy them intensely. But, they do take a certain amount of concentration. It’s rather like listening to a teacher give a lecture. You are trying to retain information being spoken to you. I don’t listen to audiobook in the car because of this. I think it’s just as distracting, if not more so, than talking on your cell phone.
But, at work or out walking I listen to audiobooks all the time. I find it a great way to knock out those books I really want to read but don’t have time for. Multitasking at its finest. I used to have an Audible.com account but I wasn’t using the credits fast enough (even one credit a month) and ended up canceling it because I wasn’t really using it. There are so many resources on the ‘net where I could find audiobooks for free that I didn’t need it.
The trick is to make sure the narrator is to your liking. I had to stop a book once because the narrator’s voice just drove me up the wall. Then you’ll find those narrators who are really good at it. For example, Neil Gaiman reads all his books himself. Sometimes having the author read their own books is an advantage because they know what tone to use and where to place inflection on the words just right. They wrote it, after all. But Neil Gaiman is a master at the audiobook. His voice is very soothing and the dry wit of some of his books comes across perfectly. I also love me some British accent. (I should stop before I declare my undying love for Neil Gaiman’s voice.)
So, audiobooks are a great way to be reading on the go. I’ve gone through the whole of Sherlock Holmes and the Jeeves books by audiobook. LibriVox.org is a great place to find free audiobooks. It’s all public domain, so the books are old but that means they also have all the classics. I have “read” Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and several other classic books I wouldn’t have had the patience to sit down and read by listening to the audiobook while at work.
Well, it’s Sunday night. Almost 10pm for me, and I need to go to work in the morning. So, I’m going to post my round-up for the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon and hit the sack.
All of my Twitter posts for the read-a-thon can be found under the #WWReadathon hashtag for @ladybooksblog. I’ve made a lot of new friends with the Twitter party. It was great. All my blog posts for the read-a-thon are tagged Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon.
I managed to finish The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones reading Friday evening and Saturday morning. Then I started on We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I’m on page 83 as I write this. I spent Saturday evening and night reading on the computer (into the wee morning hours of Sunday). It wasn’t a book but a fan written story. By now, I estimate I’ve read over 20,000 words this weekend.
On Friday I discovered my cat, Boots, was having diarrhea. She’s old and in ill health. So, I lost some reading time dealing with her. She had a few accidents. Poor Boots will be going to the Vet tomorrow. Then today, Sunday, I woke with a migraine. I occasionally get migraines and if you have never had one before, drop to your knees and thank whatever God you believe in because you are blessed. The only cure for a migraine is medication and sleep. I lost the whole afternoon.
I’ve completed all the challenges except one. Life caught me and I missed the first challenge on Saturday. I missed Book Savvy’s Guess the Character Game. Since I only knew the first question, I guess it’s not a total loss. I’d like to thank all the challenge hosts and our organizers April and Rebecca for arranging and managing this read-a-thon. It was fun.
April at My Self Confessions has the last challenge up for the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-thon. She asks what 5 books we would take with us if there was a zombie apocalypse and we had to hide for 5 years. Here are my answers.
1) M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman. ~ It’s a book of short stories, so it would be like several books in one.
2) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. ~ A TV show I once watched, Stargate Atlantis, had a character that took this book with him to another galaxy because it is so long. It’s an in-joke that he’s been on the same page for years. I wouldn’t be able to resist the irony of taking it with me.
3) The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks. ~ Because fuck you and shut up.
4) The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien ~ I happen to have the trilogy smashed into one book, so it counts as one.
5) I’d probably end up taking another book by Neil Gaiman. Stardust, Neverwhere, or The Graveyard Book. I’d want to bring something by Terry Pratchett but I love the Discworld series too much to have to choose just one book.
How many people can I push in the way of zombies so I can take more books? Seriously, I’d probably just take my Kindle. There are over 50 books in there. I’d be set.
I finished The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones by reading through Friday night and into Saturday morning. It’s set up like an encyclopedia and it lists every fantasy clichés known to man – 90% of them from The Lord of the Rings. Let me get you an example.
DARK LADY. There is never one of these – so see DARK LORD instead. The Management considers that male Dark Ones have more potential to be sinister, and seldom if ever employs a female in this role. This is purely because the Management was born too late to meet my Great Aunt Clara.
(OMT means Official Management Terms.)
CRONE. On most Tours a ragged old woman, sometimes of wild and sinister demeanor, tends to crop up by the way-side in moments of stress, hobbling(OMT), and cackling(OMT). If the Tour has lost its way, she will misdirect it, usually throwing in a few GNOMIC UTTERANCES of a depressing nature as she does so. If the Tour takes in a public EXECUTION, this Crone will be present at it busily knitting(OMT). Since KNITTING is not a normal mortal skill, it is clear that this old lady is an ASPECT of some GODDESS or other.
This book is one of the most hilarious things I’ve read all year.
DRAGONS are very large scaly beings with wings and long spiky tails, capable of breathing fire through their mouths. They can be almost any color or combinations of colors, though green, red, and black are preferred. They are always very old. Most of them seem to have flown to Fantasyland eons ago across the void. This migration was almost certainly to get away from our world, where people would insist that they were dangerous MONSTERS that had to be exterminated.
Dragons, as all Fantasyland knows, are no such thing. They quite like people, provided you can get their attention. They are very wise and can do MAGIC of a type not known to other MAGIC USERS. But they do not have human emotions. This can cause misunderstandings, if Tourists are trying to make friends with them. Female Tourists are best at this. Dragons seem to be in tune with the female mind. A friendly Dragon will airlift female Tourists to the OFFSHORE ISLAND where most Dragons live. A male Tourist will have to wait to meet Dragons until he has been through the CAVERNS that lead to the Hidden VALLEY, where Dragons also live; or until the Dragons have joined the forces of GOOD for the Final CONFRONTATION. Even then, the relationship is likely to be a bit edgy. This is because Dragons can, if they want, eat people.
Michelle over at Book Briefs has her challenge up. Guess at her book puzzle and then make one of your own. Simply find some pictures that spell out the title of your book.
Michelle’s is, of course, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. See if you can guess mine!
Bonus internet cookies if you know where the house is from!
I’ve said several times in posts what book I’m reading. So, if you can’t guess the title then you can probably find it somewhere.
Edit: Since the read-a-thon is now over, I can tell you I was reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Daniellewski.
It’s the first day of the Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon hosted by the wonderfully wicked April at My Self Confessions and Rebecca at Kindle Fever. The information post is up on both of their sites, along with the list of challenge hosts. Rebecca already has her challenge up and people have been responding with their creepy book or movie ideas for the past two hours or so.
I have to work today (like most adults) and I’m doing the phones. Which means an endless amount of ringing and no chance at concentrating enough to read or write. Kill me. The amount of people who can’t seem to answer simple questions when they call a company is mind boggling. But enough about my work woes.
I managed about 37 pages from Tomorrow’s Magic by Pamela F. Service at lunch. I was going to read House of Leave by Mark Z. Danielewski but I forgot the stupid book in my rush to leave for work on time. It’s sitting on my dining table. It probably has a cat sitting on it by now. Luckily, I had a book already at work that I can read until I can get home. Hopefully, I can even stop off at the library and pick up my reserve books. Then we’ll really be cooking with fire.
You can see more updates at my Twitter @ladybooksblog
(Also, I have a habit of posting my comments with Patricia H. as the name. I will be floating around.)