Twelve-year-old Lucy returns to the small English village of Hagworthy, which she hasn’t visited since she was seven. There she stays with her aunt, reconnects with some childhood friends and finds that both she and they have changed, and looks on in growing alarm as the well-meaning but ignorant new vicar resurrects the ancient tradition of the Horn Dance, which is connected to the Wild Hunt.
The premise plus the opening sentences probably tell you everything you need to know about the book:
The train had stopped in a cutting, so steep that Lucy, staring through the window, could see the grassy slopes beyond captured in intense detail only a yard or two away: flowers, insects, patches of vivid red earth. She became intimate with this miniature landscape, alone with it in a sudden silence, and then the train jolted, oozed steam from somewhere beneath, and moved on between shoulders of Somerset hillside.
This is one of my favorite genres which sadly does not seem to exist any more, the subset of British children’s fantasy, usually set in small towns or villages, which focuses on atmosphere, beautiful prose, and capturing delicate moments in time. Character is secondary, plot is tertiary, and there may be very little action (though some have a lot); the magical aspects are often connected to folklore or ancient traditions, and may be subtle or questionable until the end.
You can see all those elements in those two sentences I quoted; the entire subgenre consists of inviting the reader to become intimate with minature landscapes.
This is obviously subjective and debatable, but I think of Alan Garner, Susan Cooper (especially Greenwitch), and Robert Westall as writers with books in this subgenre, but not Diana Wynne Jones. The settings are the sort parodied in Cold Comfort Farm. Hagworthy is full of darkly muttering villagers who kept making me think, “Beware, Robert Poste’s child!”
In The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, Lucy’s parents are divorced, and her mother is now living in another country with a baby brother Lucy has never met. This is mentioned maybe two or three times, very briefly, which is interesting because so many books would make a much bigger deal of it. Lucy returns to Hagworthy for a vacation with her aunt, a botanist.
Of her childhood friends, the two girls have become horse-mad and have nothing in common with Lucy. The boy, Kester, is now a moody misfit teenager, and Lucy, who is also a bit of a moody misfit, becomes friends with him all over again. They wander around the countryside, fossil-hunting and stag-watching, periodically getting in fights over Kester’s refusal to discuss the thing hanging over the story, which is the new vicar’s revival of the Horn Dance to fundraise at a fete. This is very obviously going to awaken the Wild Hunt, and Kester has clearly been mystically targeted as its victim. Though there is a ton of dark muttering about what a bad idea this is, no one does anything about this until nearly the end, when Lucy finally makes first a misfired attempt to stop the Horn Dance, then a successful one to save Kester.
The atmosphere and prose is lovely, and if you like that sort of thing, you will like this book. Even for a book that isn’t really about the plot, the plot had problems. One was the total failure of any adult to even try to do anything sensible ever, for absolutely no reason, until Lucy finally manages to ask the right person the right question. This could have been explained as some magical thing preventing them from acting, but it wasn’t.
The other problem I had was that nothing unpredictable ever happens. Everyone is exactly what they seem: the blacksmith has mystical knowledge, the vicar is an innocent in over his head, the horse-mad girls have nothing in their heads but horses, and so forth. I kept expecting something to be slightly less obvious—for the vicar to know exactly what he’s doing and have a nefarious purpose, for the horse-mad girls to not be as dumb as they seem or to have their horsey skills play a role in saving Kester, for Lucy’s aunt to know more about magic than the blacksmith, etc—but no.
I looked up Penelope Lively. It looks like her famous book is Ghost of Thomas Kempe, which I think I also own.
There’s an album of music based on the book which you can listen to online. It’s by the Heartwood Institute, and is instrumental and atmospheric.
The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy
The art of craft;
Historical atlas of the classical world [sold];
Benjamin Franklin Poor Richard's Alamanacks illustrated by Norman Rockwell;
Asterix the Gaul;
Masquerade by Kit Williams;
Alberic the Wise and other journeys;
How to hold a crocodile;
The big book of American humor;
An informal gathering... by Oliphant;
Fuzzy Logic by Darby Conley;
Blueprint for disaster, by Darby Conley;
Get Fuzzy, by Darby Conley;
Companies that changed the world;
Sense Relaxation: Below Your Mind;
Private Eye's Romantic England;
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain;
Gessar-Khan: A Legend of Tibet;
Psychology: Understanding human behavior, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. 1958.
1) In Google Drive, you can show files sorted by file size across all folders by opening the quota page. To get there, either click on that link, or:
* Hover over the sidebar item showing how much space you've used.
* In the bubble pop-up, you'll see a little teeny tiny "i" next to the Drive line. Click that.
On Friday I got an old 35mm rangefinder camera similar to a Canonet for a fiver - working well except for the meter, which senses light but for some reason isn't connecting to the camera controls. But I have a cheapo exposure meter I can throw in with it, should sell OK.
Today was interesting:
A Zip 250 drive (with a 250 disk) for a fiver, working well.
A Praktica 29mm lens (why 29mm? Damned if I know) in M42 fitting for £7
A Praktica M42 screw body with a 50mm lens, a zoom, and a flash for £18
And a bit of a gamble - a Sony Nex 5 body and zoom lens with flash, unfortunately without battery or charger, for £30. The seller swore it worked (but he would, wouldn't he), so I've spent another £8 or so on a battery and charger, we'll see what happens. If it works it's a very good price, and I will have to decide it I want to add yet another digital SLR to my collection...
Ebay are giving me a "maximum seller's fee £1" deal this weekend, so I think I'll also be selling off my Lensbaby fisheye - it's an interesting lens but I've used it twice in the last year or so, and it's a bit of a pain to use compared to my other lenses, since it uses their "swap out the stop disk" system. I think that one will be a fixed price item, not an auction.
It's listed as shareware, but the trial version only converts the first third of the book. I think it'd be more legitimate shareware if it would only convert 5-10 books before locking itself up.
I just had it convert my current library: 410 books consisting of 6.7 gig (after conversion), took about 42 minutes on my late 2015 i7 iMac with 16 gig of RAM. So it's pretty quick. The way that iBooks stores purchases makes it VERY hard to back up your books to a different media when your library gets big, and I had no idea mine was over 6 gig! A lot of those books are not purchases from Apple, they're from Humble Bundle or ebooks that I've made using Stanza. Regardless, a purchase ends up with a file name that is a numeric ID that you don't know what the heck it is. After iBookCopy is done, the file name is the title of the book plus an epub extension. Very clean.
A violet sphere of energy burst overhead, and most of the nearby lights went out. Two sniper shots, muffled, but audible to a practised ear, came in rapid succession. A short burst of less-muffled machine gun fire - and then a small armoured ship appeared from overhead, dropping hard and fast to low hover. The large hatch on the side blew open; from inside, a masked figure shouted in a machine-like tone, "GET OVER HERE."
Lena ran. Ran, and dove, reacting, not thinking, onto the platform, and it raised, carrying her with it. As she tumbled to the deck, the masked figure said, "Trafalgar Square?! Points for style, but are you insane?" now with a distinctly Hispanic accent.
"It was either that or blow up Fleet House, mate. I thought this would be better."
"I'm not so sure."
"I could still change my mind."
"Get in the crash chair, we're moving quickly."
Widowmaker appeared at the opposite hatch shouting, "GO, GO, GO," slammed its close button, and dove into a second crash chair as the ship shot forward, horizontally, low, and vanished from sight over a partially darkened Old London.
The ship shot west, tilting upwards, pulling four Gs for 12 straight seconds, as it just cleared buildings.
"That... was fast..." said Lena from her crash chair as the retrieval ship broke towards the Channel.
"We've been keeping an eye on you," said Sombra, with some effort, from the pilot's seat.
"Several," said Widowmaker, somehow effortlessly. "No one escapes from my sight. But... Trafalgar? Êtes-vous une folle? Why?"
"I... I'm not even sure. I think I wanted to give 'em the two-finger salute. I wanted them to know."
"Well," Amélie admitted with a mix of amusement and irritation, "they certainly know now."
"Four minutes thirty seconds to international airspace," said Sombra, from the pilot's seat. "33 seconds to cloak recharge."
"I didn't expect you to bring in a bloody troop carrier. How are we not shot down?"
Sombra mocked, "World's greatest intelligence agency! Spycraft is in our blood! And they still rely on CCTV. Pathetic - they won't even be sure you're gone until we're too far away to care." As gravity returned to normal, she turned and tossed the semi-prone Lena a seemingly-random collection of electronics. "Much better. Here, a present for you."
"What are they?"
"CCTV relays, a couple of encoders - it's all stuff they were using to track you tonight. Junk, really." A chime from the console. "Cloak reactivated. 15 seconds, changing course."
"So you knew," said Lena, looking towards, but a little past, Amélie.
"We watched them watching you," said the spider, looking back, "and I anticipated, and made contingency plans. I did not know, until they took you in. I'd hoped, if you came back out, that you'd go out of town to summon us - not go as far into town as possible." She checked the tactical board visible on the wall from her crash chair, and to Sombra, said, "No one is painting us. I don't think we need to use the backup boosters." From the pilot seat, Sombra agreed. "Boosters on hot standby."
Lena's focus moved further out again. "They one-thirty-foured me. And they took my license. Amélie," she said, distantly, as the adrenaline surge faded. "They took my wings."
Amélie reached across the lengthening gap, and took Lena's hand. "That, I did not know. So that is why... all this." She scowled. "I know what it meant to you. I am displeased, but much more than that, I am sorry."
"I told you they were bastards," Sombra chimed in. "10 seconds to full cloak charge..."
"Tactical board still clear. At recloak, bring us down to noise level and evade; we should be able to demicloak the rest of our way out."
"Cloaked... dropping... we're in the muck. Stealthed."
"Thank you," said Widowmaker. But she stayed in her crash chair, counting seconds. Three minutes to international airspace. "Once we hit the channel, deploy the decoy east and drop below Mach 1 - let's take the long way home."
"I understand," said the spider, carefully. But it is unnecessary, she thought.
Tracer - no, not Tracer, she'd need a new name - paced around the small cabin, as the ship flew quiet and low over the north equatorial Atlantic, moving slowly towards normal traffic lanes, just another surplus straggler finding its way back to its place.
"I want to kill him," the pilot repeated. "With my own hands. I want it to be close, I want it to be personal, I want him to know why."
"I am hearing you," the assassin said again, soothingly. "I am listening; tell me. Tell me all of it."
The former Flight Officer raged, "They knew I was back. They knew who I was the whole time, toying with me, trolling me even, I see it now. They were watching me since I showed up at the consulate and they cut me off and they moved my friends and threatened the one they didn't and they bled me 'till I almost gave up and died and then they took me and they put me in a box and told me to go do nothing and be nowhere and they took my wings and they took my life and they treated it like some kind of favour and now I want to take them and show them what kind of favour it was."
"I believe you, and I hear you. Keep going."
"Why?!" the flyer shouted, "What else is there? The box, the glass room, it was a bomb chamber, I get it now, I didn't get it at time, they were ready for me to explode, or they were ready to blow me up, I don't even know which, they'd planned it since I reappeared, I am so angry and feel so sick..." Pain and anger radiated from her body, so clearly the assassin could almost see it, as she slammed her fists down onto the flattened crash chair, now a bench, and then sat, face in her hands. "Why?! Why would they do that?"
If she did not want to kill them, I would..., thought the spider, struggling to keep her own emotions controlled. No, she realised, I do want to kill them. Not for history. For her. "I will tear through them until not one is left standing, if that is what you truly need," she said, voice quick with her own unexpected cold fury.
Lena looked up, face wet, and the blue woman thought, She has had no one, for weeks. "I have missed you," she couldn't not continue, aloud, reaching out her hand, "more than I could have possibly imagined. May I sit with you?"
Lena grabbed Amélie and pulled the taller woman down beside her, sobbing as the dam broke, digging into Amélie's shoulder and gasping for air, just holding her, so tightly, "i've missed you so much, it's hurt so much "
"I stayed away," Amélie said thickly, through her own new tears. "I didn't want to, but I did, until you called. It's what you said you wanted." She pulled the smaller woman closer against her, holding on tight in return. "Please say it's what you wanted. Please, please, or I will burst, I..."
"It was..." Lena managed slowly, though shuddering breaths that she fought to control, "...I thought I needed..." another heaving breath, "oh god, Amélie, I was so wrong..."
"Everyone," said the blue woman, finding herself suddenly, confusingly happy, "is wrong. Sometimes. But you are not, for me. Not ever."
"Don't let go. Never let me go again."
Not unless you want me to, the spider thought. Only then. But that is not what you need right now. And the most rational part of her mind raced, I need you with a whole heart, but I need that heart to be whole, and it is tearing...
And then, with the clarity of stars in a deep black sky, she knew.
"Pilot," she said softly, "would you fly us home?"
Lena gasped, eyes instantly wide open. "..."
"Sombra needs a break, she has not slept, and we are not too far away now. Are you cleared on this kind of craft? Could you take us home?"
A final heaving sob out of Pilot Oxton, and then she sniffed and laughed amidst the crying, and for the first time in what felt like years a smile peeked through the tears falling like rain. "uh," she sniffed, and swallowed, "B, uh, B-10M class, right?" She looked around. "Yeah. I can fly her. If... if Sombra doesn't mind..."
"Sombra needs a nap," came a voice from the flight deck. The hacker, being no fool, had already put the ship on autopilot, and stood by the empty flight chair, smirking and motioning towards the empty seat. Lena stepped up to that chair, and looked back to Amélie. "Stay with me? It's been a while."
Lena sat down, put on the flight headset, and grasped the pilot's yoke. "Yeah," she said. "Let's go home."
I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17. Vortex of Crimson is the final book in Lise MacTague's Deception's Edge SF romance trilogy.
All Torrin Ivanov wanted was to get Jak Stowell back, that was supposed to be the hard part. In a cruel twist, Jak is hers again, but her girlfriend is literally losing her mind. The only help can be found on the last planet in the universe to which Torrin would like to return…To cure Jak, they must return to her war-ravaged home planet, Haefen.
For Jak, returning to her home planet gives her the chance to make good on a promise too long deferred. But will she be able to finally take out her brother’s killer? Or will she be pulled into the dark undertow of local politics…
The two women soon find that politics pale next to the threat of the one who still hunts Jak. This time he has bait—Torrin’s sister, Nat Ivanov. As their search intensifies, Torrin and Jak realize that despite all of the obstacles in their way, one thing is clear—they can at least depend on each other. But will that be enough?
Like Vortex of Crimson, Mother of Souls is a third book, though the Alpennia series is both longer-reaching and less of a single story than the traditional trilogy format. The two books have one more thing in common, though: they're both on sale this weekend at Bella Books!
The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.
Right now, I'm awake, but I've still got pretty bad cramps. I think I can manage with the cramps as long as I don't need to walk too far or for too long.
I managed to start my Not Prime Time story last night in spite of still having no ideas on the plot. I know the characters and starting situation, but there needs to be a goal/event of some sort because the characters aren't going to come together unless forced by circumstances. I don't know... Is there a random disasters generator somewhere online? I also need to find where I saved off the canonical timeline so that I can figure out what year it is in the story. Maybe there's something real world that I could use. Not a real disaster-- that would be tacky at best-- but some hint of something that could have been and wasn't.
And the chronology I've got doesn't cover the pertinent part of canon. There's a time skip between what it does cover and when I need to set this. I don't know how long that is. I don't think it can be less than two years, and it seems unlikely to be more than five, but I don't know.
I also wrote another 700 words on other things last night.
I was considering signing up for another fic exchange, but the deadline for that is some unspecified time today, and I keep looking at the options and realizing that what I would be likely to write and what I would like to read are both out of step with what other people seem to be interested in. Maybe I could write a treat or something if I have time and inspiration or do a pinch hit if I see one that's a good match.
I have a library book due tomorrow that can't be renewed. I haven't started it yet, so I rather suspect I'm not going to. Ah, well. I can put another hold on it. The waitlist only has one person on it, so I should get it fairly soon.
I grabbed Windows 7 professional both 32 and 64 bit for the two Win 7 machines in the house.... just in case. Of course you need an activation key to make they work. But since I have them with the machines that's not a problem.
Now there are places on line that will sell you activation codes - usually from systems that have been retired or recycled. Usually. I did find a site that posted a whole pile of codes for 'student use'.
I got two computers with dead hard drives. I used some live Linux distros to check the rest of the hardware so I know they both work okay. One worked surprising well with Linux finding the built in WIFI chip and weird AMD graphics set up.
The question is.. could I replace the hard drives and load up Win7 on them with the disks and codes I found on the Internet?
Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Not really. The result is kinda sketchy because they're not Genuine MS products. If you just use the bare ISOs and sketchy activation codes you get basic Windows 7. It takes hours to load up and then you get the barest of drivers. So then you hunt down the drivers... and reboot after each one is installed. More hours of work. Then there's the many many updates and security patches to Windows to download... best done overnight IF you don't have one that asks you questions (and some do). One of the things about the updates is that some of them are designed to find sketchy installs - like the two I did - and let you know that the software is not genuine, registered software and won't you really like to buy the real thing?
There are ways around these notices... for now. I'm sure MS has a few people working to shut down any sketchy operating systems with the next security patch. The machines do work. Sort of. Usually you need to dig into the Registry to make them function. But even after all the work of getting the operating system, the hardware drivers and dodging the notices that say 'hey, this isn't really registered software' ... you have to download Firefox or Chrome and all the other software that make a computer productive.
So after spending days patching together two sketchy Windows 7 machines... the thought occurs to me: do I really want to deal with sketchy Windows machines?
Nope. They're a pain in the ass and who want's pirated software? I did this more out of curiosity than wanting to own a Windows machine. If I really want a Windows 7 machine I'll buy one second hand.
It's a log of work wasted in a sense, but I'll be wiping the hard drives and installing Xbuntu. The installs won't take is long, the updates are quicker, and they come with all the standard software already installed. Web browsers, graphic viewers, media play back _already installed_. It takes less time, less hassle, you get more and it's all legal and nice!
Oh, did I mention that Linux is both more secure and free?
Finished Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon's Gender Failure. (memoir/book version of a show by two non-binary performers, about being non-binary.)
Finished Martha Wells' All Systems Red. (science fiction novella. MURDERBOT.)
Finished Rose Lemberg et al's Alphabet of Embers (anthology of SFF short stories with illustrations)
Finished Kate Elliot's Black Wolves. (fantasy novel)
Started Kameron Hurley's The Stars Are Legion. (science fiction. living ships, body horror, pregnancy, cannibalism, women (principally defined here as "people who menstruate and give birth",) very good if you can cope with etc)
Started Audre Lord's Sister Outsider, have so far just read the Russia chapter. (feminism and anti-racism and memoir, essays.)
Started Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems. (poetry, some of it very good and some of it well-intentioned but INCREDIBLY ill-considered.)
Started reading Arthur Horner's Colonel Pewter (1950s Australian serialised comic about the adventures of an eccentric retired military gentleman and his grand-nephew and cat. And aliens. The edition I'm reading is a Lever Arch folder of strips my father cut out from the newspaper as they came out and stickytaped to the paper and filed.)
TV and Movies
Saw The Eagle Huntress in the cinema (documentary, sports, a girl and her giant eagle, highly recommended if you can cope with animal harm etc)
Watched DVD of Saving General Yang (2013 historical action film directed by Ronny Yu, based on the Generals of the Yang Family. Now have the terrible urge to dive further down this rabbithole and read/watch ALL THE THINGS about the Yang family. Am resisting.)
A few more B99 episodes. Met Kevin!
Started watching this BBC Watergate documentary (hattip to rydra_wong), am halfway through and enthralled
Played David Teie's Music for Cats for Beatrice and Dorian. (album, music composed for the benefit of cats.) Dorian seemed uninterested. Beatrice sometimes turned her ears around slightly, and might have breathed a bit faster at some points. It made me sleepy, though.
Listened to Janelle Monáe's The Electric Lady. (album, science fiction, third installment of the Metropolis series. Yes, good, love.)
Re-listening to Rhapsody's Dawn of Victory. (album, Italian symphonic metal.) Love the music, would like to listen to some symphonic metal that is a) less of a cishet white nerdboy power fantasy, and b) specifically less rapey now please.
Agreed to join a play-by-post Legend of the Five Rings game, because I haven't RPed in too long and a friend was starting one up.. Realised belatedly that I had NO IDEA what I was getting into, this is some graduate level roleplaying right here, there's over (in meta terms) over ten years of setting, and (in game terms) two millennia of setting, with complicated etiquette etc. Asked for and received GM's permission to join in later once I've disambiguated my arse and my elbow a little more. Am sloooowly reading the handbook and trying to find my bearings.
Have mostly kicked the Stardew Valley habit. Dipped into the Kittens Game briefly for the first time in over a year, then returned to my senses.
Caught up on The Strange Case of Starship Iris (SF series) and The Hidden Almanac (fantasy series) and listening as they come out now.
Listened to a few episodes of Glittership (audio versions of queer SFF short stories)
Really enjoying One From The Vaults at the moment (trans history), still listening in order and not caught up yet.
Re-listening to a lot of old Jay and Miles X-Plain The X-Men (comics recaps) and Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap (drunken reviews of convenience foods) for comfort while falling asleep.
Made a dinosaur toothbrush-holder, as seen in a lot of different crafts and/or autism pinterests and blogs. This just involves buying a $3 plastic dinosaur from KMart, and cutting a hole in its back, just large enough to poke the end of a toothbrush into. That's it, that's all that's involved. Tried making a harness for the dinosaur to hold the toothpaste as well, but this just looked sloppy, so I ended up cutting another hole for the toothpaste. This looks less neat than the toothbrush hole, but is at least functional.
Make a notebook.
Basil everywhere. Capsicums growing. I should be planting kale and daffodil bulbs right the fuck now, but have not gotten up the energy yet.
I made breakfast for tumblr. You're welcome?
The Douchecat Combined Armed Forces chiefs of staff have moved into their winter headquarters, the chair with the heating pad on it. It's nice to have a warm base on which to smack each other.
Also tried out the toilet paper tube method of cat enrichment. It does seem to be making them eat slower, and may or may not be enhancing their enjoyment of dinner.