Muggles Love Wands, Too!

Dear Mystical Moments,

Let’s have a chat, friends. I was happily scrolling through my newsfeed this morning and came across this article about you. While I am quite happy to read about something other than the unimaginable horror show of the US election season and Trump’s latest brain damaged utterances, I am very disappointed to see this take its place. If I can say so, you’re taking yourselves way too seriously. Sell the wands to the Muggles, already!

Look, I’m not saying that your wands aren’t awesome. You have a product you’re proud of. You SHOULD be proud of what you sell! I’m also not really saying that you can’t believe only some people are worthy to have them. I’m just pointing out why you are super wrong in not sharing it with the Muggles. You could probably make a metric fuckton more money if you would change your opinion on that, but whatever. Someone else will probably open shop across the street and sell wands to anyone who wants them. Next time I go to England, I’ll be sure to visit that shop. But honestly, how did you decide to deny selling your wands to Potterheads? Is it JUST the Potterheads that are refused service? Or do you similarly refuse to sell your Very Special Wands to fans of, say, Alice Hoffman, or Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Sarah Addison Allen, or Neil Gaiman, or Paula Brackston, or any other authors who write witch-themed novels who might decide they want a wand because of something they read in a book? There are many, many to choose from.

Or is it just YA you are opposed to? Do you turn your nose up at Cate Tiernan’s fans as well? How about Kami Garcia, Diane Duane, Sarah J. Maas, or Diana Wynn Jones? Because, honestly. If you discriminate against one, you should at least be consistent and discriminate against them all. One rabid fan is much like another and equally deserving of your disdain, amirite? Also, it smacks of genre snobbery. A friend of mine is dealing with that right now with her MFA mentor, of all people, who is convinced that nothing other than Proper Literary Fiction(™) can possibly be good writing; certainly not fantasy, which everyone knows is garbage! Genre snobbery isn’t cool.

Also, um, so what if Harry Potter is for children? (Side note: just because it is YA doesn’t mean it is childish. It deals with some hard core concepts like bravery, tolerance, acceptance, death, and discovering oneself as a unique person. It’s not just kids waving wands around. Maybe you missed those parts.) Even if it was just a silly kid’s book, if it prompted a child to be interested in your religion, would you not welcome that and use it as an opportunity to teach them about it? If you are concerned about real witches not being able “to reveal themselves without people thinking they are mental,” then a good way to combat that is by educating people. How do you expect to do that when you are turning away people who might be somewhat ignorant about the details of your faith but might at least have some earnest interest in learning about it? You’re effectively preaching to the choir by only serving people who already think the same way as you do.

I’ll share a secret with you. When I was 11, I read The Mists of Avalon for the first time. It blew my mind in so many ways. I’d always loved Arthurian legends, but beyond that, it was the first time I’d considered that there could be a goddess-based religion. By that time in my life, I knew I wasn’t Christian like my dad’s family, and I hadn’t learned yet that my mom was atheist (which is what I ultimately ended up), but I didn’t really know what else there was. That book opened my eyes to at least one new-to-me possibility. As a result, I spent several years afterward learning about and practicing Wicca. I even had my own wand! That never would have happened if I hadn’t first read and loved The Mists of Avalon. My experience was many years before Harry Potter was a scribble on Rowling’s cocktail napkin, but if I had been younger, I might easily have had the same experience with that series instead. How do you know there aren’t several other young people with similar experiences and questions who might wander into your shop, looking for a wand and some answers to some questions, only to get turned away because you have a preconceived idea about them? You assume they are just children wanting a wand to play with, just like some others might assume real witches are “mental,” as you put it.

How about, instead of disdaining someone who wanders into your store because you decide they aren’t the right sort of person, you strike up a conversation with them instead of reading their aura and deciding they are minions of the Dark Lord who are only up to no good and see what’s going on? Maybe you’ll learn they have some questions you can help them with. Maybe they came to those questions by way of Harry Potter, but that doesn’t invalidate the question, or the questioner. And yes, maybe some will only want a wand because they want to display it on their bookcase next to their beloved set of Harry Potter books. If you know anything about Potterheads, you should be flattered they’d want to buy your wands to display next to their books. I, for one, am ridiculously picky about items that get displayed on my already too-crowded bookcases and so have to be very selective. Besides, what harm does it do to provide some joy to someone? Remember the Threefold Law. If you give joy to a Potterhead, you’re going to get a major karmic kickback. Fangirls and fanboys tend to get really excited about things. Just sayin’.

Books have real power to change the way people think about real issues in the world. How a reader comes to understand – whether it is through fantasy or graphic novels or literary fiction – is irrelevant. It is the journey that matters. Don’t dismiss someone because they took a different path than you did. At the end of the day, you may end up in the same place.

Love,

Me

(This post originally ran on Book Riot).

Indigenous Authors

In the spirit of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which was August 9, I wanted to learn more about indigenous and ethnic peoples. The theme for the 2016 International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is the right to education, specifically the right of indigenous peoples “to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.” I think that’s absolutely rad, and in an effort to educate myself and anyone who might read this, I made the following reading list of indigenous authors, based on broad geographic regions. I tried to include a little bio wherever possible for each entry, though for some it was all I could do simply to find authors for the region at all. Hopefully one day it won’t be so hard to find diverse and indigenous authors like this.Read More »

Geoffrey Chaucer: Poet, Spy…Character

(This post originally ran on Book Riot).

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Chaucer: Ellesmere Manuscript

This year, I missed my personal Chaucer Day celebration. Woe. It was on April 17, 1397, that Geoffrey Chaucer first told The Canterbury Tales at the court of Richard II. For medieval scholars, there are many things to love about Chaucer – his language, of course; his rich cast of characters; the glimpse he gives us into the lives of regular medieval people. I even had a shirt from the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), which is run through my alma mater, that said, “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” Yay, Parliament of Foules! I wore that thing until it was in tatters and thoroughly indecent.Read More »

Bibliotea: Tea Blends Based on Books

(This post originally ran on Book Riot)

teacupbook-e1421864503784-295x300Oh, ye of little tea! Or something. It rhymes, so I like it. I’m in a weird mood today, so it’s best just to go with it. I’ve been thinking that I need more tea. And that I would dearly love a day off from Day Job to just sit and read with a cuppa and do nothing more taxing than decide which blend I want next. I think most, or at least many, of us agree that books and tea are a perfect pairing. Like Elizabeth and Darcy, like Picard and the Enterprise, like Anthony Bourdain and just about any kind of meat in tube form, books and tea just seem to compliment each other in a strange kind of symbiosis. Indeed, our own Rioters have made several posts to that effect, like hereherehereherehereherehere, and here! I agree with Dodie Smith when she wrote in I Capture the Castle, “I shouldn’t think even millionaires could eat anything nicer than new bread and real butter and honey for tea.” Reader, I love. My. Tea. And I’m going to brew it and read a book while sipping my tea from a fancy teacup like a fucking lady.

Snuggling up with a book and a cuppa is one of my great pleasures in life. As a single mother, it is a rare treat that I jealously guard. I do not let very much interrupt those times when I do get to have a nice spot of tea in my fancy cup. Usually I end up trying not to spill it all over when I invariably fall asleep on the couch. OMG, you guys, I’ve turned into my mother!

As a huge fan of both books and tea, and preferably both together, I was delighted when one of my best friends introduced me to Adagio  teas.* I’m a little bit of a tea snob and prefer loose tea if possible. I’m convinced it tastes better. Adagio has all kinds! But what really frosted my cake on this site was that you can make your own blends just for fun. And holy cow, do people do just that! There are pages and pages of special blends based on various fandoms and books and characters. I could almost hear the angels sing when I clicked that link – I had just found the fanfiction version of tea!!

I have, since my discovery, made many, many custom tea blends. My cupboards runneth over. I do brew tea like normal, with a kettle and pouring the hot water over the tea. But because I live on the surface of the sun (more commonly known as Arizona), I also love to cold brew a lot of my blends. I have fun coming up with blends that would taste good both ways. I wonder if Jane Austen would be horrified at the thought of a cold brewed tea?

Below are links to some of my personal favorite blends that I diabolically concocted. What tea would you create based on your favorite books or characters?

Dragonrider (based on The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey).

Sorcha (based on Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier).

Ayla (based on the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel).

Gwenhwyfar (based on The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley).

 

*I am not affiliated in any way with Adagio tea, nor did anyone from Adagio pay me to write about them. I’m just stoked they let their customers geek out with tea, y’all!

Children of Earth and Sky

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Cover image from Children of Earth and Sky

I’m a big fan of magical realism and what I call near-fantasy, where things are familiar and close but just different enough to make you remember you aren’t actually in your own world. Guy Gavriel Kay is a master of creating this type of world (as are Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link). His newest novel, Children of Earth and Sky, is another example of his creative skill and delightful storytelling ability.

This book creates such a lovely, rich world full of complex and interesting people. Kay’s main characters in this novel are fascinating and multifaceted. He has a wonderful ability to make you get attached to them quickly, which isn’t always a good thing when some of them die right away. Only it is, because it’s awesome when a book gives you the feels right away and DOESN’T FREAKING STOP. The characters are all well rounded and interesting throughout, even the minor characters. You can’t help but care about them, even ones you don’t think you want to care about. Danica, Marin, Pero, Leonora, Neven, they are all vibrant and living people, each with their own path to take, and I genuinely cared about each of them every step of the way.

Kay gives a tale of a quasi-Renaissance Europe that is rife with political turmoil and intrigue, complete with his usual flair for weaving in elements of magical realism. The world he creates is just on the edge of recognition, which I absolutely love about all of his works that I’ve read. I always get the feeling that I’ve been there or studied this in history before, but then he pulls a literary stunt to remind me that I’m actually reading a really well crafted fantasy, like a dead relative cohabiting in someone else’s mind with them. This was the perfect escapism fantasy for me. I want to reread all of Kay’s other novels now!

I submitted my Gitmo chapter!

I have been sadly neglecting my little blog of late, and I miss it. But I have reasons. I’ve been busy with, among other things that are only out in daylight because some beast drew them out like wriggling worms from the earth, my writing. Some small amount of that writing has been for fun, creative pursuits. But the vast majority of the past 8 or so months of my life have been fully absorbed with research and writing for Operation: Save My Own Ass, AKA the Gitmo Chapter.Read More »

A Year of Literary Holidays

As a child, two of the best days of the year were, of course, Christmas and my birthday. My cousins and I were spoiled blind by doting grandparents, so there was a glut of presents at Christmas. I was an only child from a broken home, so my birthday usually ended up being The Week of Me, receiving parties with my mom, my dad, with friends… Since I have always been a giant booknerd, my gifts were almost always book-related. Yay! It was an embarrassment of riches, except I’m an only child so I feel no embarrassment.

Over the years, I gradually began building, quite inadvertently, a calendar of events centered around my favorite books and authors. After I became aware I was doing so, I started crafting actual holidays around them until I had my own bookish traditions. They give me something to look forward to each month, to have friends over to help celebrate, or just to contemplate on my own.

Below is my personal year of literary holidays. Read More »

The Dark Lady’s Mask

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It is not often that I read a novel that makes me want to do actual research on a person – in a good way, not a fact-checking way – and then blog about it. But Mary Sharratt’s latest novel did just that. It is a wonderful take on an often-speculated theory that Aemilia Lanier may have been the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

In Sharratt’s story, Aemilia Lanier, historically the first professional woman poet in England, is the daughter of a Marrano (a Jew who was forced to convert to Christianity). She is educated from the age of eight in the home of the Countess of Kent after her father’s death. From there, she becomes the mistress of the Lord Chamberlain, bears his son, is banished from Elizabeth’s court in disgrace, and married off in haste to Alfonso Lanier to mitigate the scandal. She eventually flees to Italy with a relative, taking with her the up-and-coming poet William Shakespeare. Lanier initially proposes a business deal with him to co-write plays together, since she knows she couldn’t publish them under her own name. The two fall in love and add their passion to their writing. Things go awry, and ultimately Shakespeare ends up publishing his sonnets as attacks against Aemilia, and she replies by publishing her Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum.

Sharratt creates a believable and delightful portrayal of Lanier and her possible role as Shakespeare’s Dark Muse. Her characters are rich and complex, and the intricacies, joys, and pains of their lives are realistic. The speculation within the novel works extremely well, because Sharratt works with historical fact and academic theory in the space between the documented facts of Lanier’s life, Shakespeare’s life, and their written works. Very highly recommended!

Find the official review HERE.