All posts by Margaret

10 Reading-Related Habits

As an author, I take it as a given that I should be reading, widely and deeply. This is a rather convenient ‘should.’

crossroads of should and must ella luna illustration

claire beauchamp fraser outlander catriona balfeThis is in addition to the Must Read command my brain gives me a dozen times a day, whether to sate curiosity, escape worrying about a life problem, or follow a beloved character’s adventures.

 

 

 

gail carriger parasol protectorate octopus

How else does reading shape and influence my life, though? Books get their tentacles into many aspects of a reader’s habits: how and where to eat, for example, or the aesthetics of one’s apartment. Here are a few of my idiosyncracies, readers. How do yours compare?

 

  1. Home Décor: every available surface holds books somehow. The shelves above the microwave. The headspace above the dryer. The custom window-seat with hinged lids. And aaaaalllllll the bookcases.
  2. Productivity: reading the current book is a reward for tasks completed. This means that as an adult I have far fewer long stretches of deep-dive reading and more hour-long indulgent stints.
  3. Schedule: Due to the above, I almost never read in the morning, my most focused and productive time slot, but almost always do before bed, which is the worst time for me to attempt to accomplish anything.
  4. Addiction: I try as best as I can, but sometimes I still find myself buying armfuls of books when I am in austerity-budget mode, and have to merely shrug my shoulders and say, “I’m allowed a vice, right??”one does not simply boromir meme lotr
  5. Decluttering: due to the above, when I declutter periodically, instead of kitchen gadgets or shoes, my cast-offs are always books, and from time to time, clothes.
  6. Friends/ Lovers: If you don’t read, do I really have enough in common with you to hold a conversation?i love lucy friends read together
  7. Rest: Since I compulsively read lettering within visual range, if I want to meditate, I have to close my eyes. It’s a weird feeling to try not to read and interpret the signs when one goes on a walk. You try it and tell me if you see what I mean!
  8. Carry-all: As a writer, I always try to have a pen with me, for when inspiration strikes. As a reader, I always try to have a book with me, for when boredom (e.g. the waiting room) strikes! So, I don’t usually leave the house without a bag. If I do, I don’t carry a wallet either, and generally am back after an hour of exercise in the fresh air (like today).
  9. Politics: Perhaps I became an early environmentalist partly due to the feelings of guilt surrounding the acres and acres of board-feet I was consuming in paper form…
  10. Gift-giving: What will you get from me? Likely, a book!

margaret pinard costume grasping root book

In what other ways does being a reader alter the shape of your life?

…And the photos above are symbols of some of my favorite books of all time. Click on their links for my reviews on Goodeads. 😉

 

 

Images via ofundisputedorigin, PinterestParasol Protectorate Wiki, Pinterest, DavidBruceSmith, and Author

Reading Round-up & Reviews

Reading Round-up

lasso book reading roundup

How many of you have made reading goals for 2018?

I am continuing my tradition of increasing my book-reading goal–although since I was close to not making it last year (!), I’m only increasing it by one book: 102. Improvement is improvement, amiright?

If you’d like to track what I’m reading and reviewing, check out my profile on Goodreads. Here are some highlights from the beginning of the year.

A History of Bristol & Gloucestershire

I got this book by chance and ended up reading it because my NaNo novel took place partly in the Cotswolds and I wanted to see if the geographical history suggested it would be a good place–since I’d picked it at random in desperation during the drafting process.

Lots of interesting stuff and perfect fodder for vacation dreams!

Scrappy Little Nobody

I scrinched my way through this audiobook, as the material was great but the condition of the CD very scratched. Anna Kendrick is an actress-hero, and I’m glad she decided to write up her experiences of growing up and dating and making it big and feeling poor and drifting in the margins of acting before being successful.

She’s honest, sarcastic, and thoughtful, if very self-deprecatory. Didn’t have to take off my rose-colored hero glasses.

Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Favorite book so far! Los Angeles Times Review said it well, “Like John Le Carre…and Graham Greene before him Peter Hoeg has given a thriller moral and political resonance.”

I appreciated learning about Denmark’s relationship with Greenland, about which I’d previously known absolute-zero-nothing. And I loved Smilla’s internal monologue–she’s sassy and turns tough as the going calls for it…buy it from ART and support my local bookseller!

Stardust

I have long had the mass market paperback version of this but then I got the deluxe illustrated version and–Well. It was gorgeous. Tongue in cheek and tolerant and self- and genre-mocking and yet looking to greater truths inside us all. I loved this adult faerie tale story.

Do you like my widely-varying reading list?? It’s how I roll! Because, as the Celtic Lunar Astrologer says, I am both a Chariot archetype, and have 2018 as a Chariot growth year, meaning

…it’s all about balance. Light and dark. Quietness and activity. Stay tuned for my research into Ostara, the next pagan festival of the Celtic year, which celebrates the Vernal Equinox, when the light and dark are exactly equal…

…and if you have been reading The Grasping Root, please don’t forget to leave a review for me! 🙂

light horizon dark sky

Images via Pinterest

Fire and Fertility

Burns Season is upon us, and I am certainly celebrating the Scottish poet (come to Backstory this Saturday!), but something else happens this time of year, or did:

It was called Candlemas by early Christians, and Imbolc by the pagans. Both groups celebrate this day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox by honoring fire and fertility.

candles brigid cross sheep sun symbols of imbolc

Like last year, I am making a concerted effort to open myself up to beliefs and “faith” things that used to make me nervous or derisive.

Crystal healing, tarot cards, astrology, mediatation–yes.

Last year it worked for a few months then sort of collapsed from the weight of family concerns. This year, I hope to keep probing and testing my barnacled skepticism in hopes of more peace with less control. Dig me?

So I dove into the above rando arts, and may well write about those experiences, but one of the practices I’m incorporating this year that feel closer to my bailiwick are traditional Celtic feast days from The Wheel of the Year. Coming up is Imbolc:

Feb 1 is when ewes started giving birth, and therefore had milk that humans could steal. This was important for early agrarians’ survival, as late winter/ early spring yielded few other sources of nourishment. Recipes abound for Imbolc foods involving milk and cheese, which the Celts loved in many forms.

celtic folklore cooking cookbook

Brighid (for pronunciation help!) is a pagan goddess who was taken over by a Christian saint (#moted). The goddess had an eternal fire tended by vestal virgins, according to the legend in Kildare. The fire at Imbolc can represent the sun that is coming back to us, as the days get longer in the Northern hemisphere, and winter starts to lose its grasp.

So we’ve got a day when people used to start preparing the earth to be sown with seeds, when little lambs would be frolicking in the Celtic rain, when people would sweep clean the old dark energy and purify themselves for the new [agricultural] year. It’s like another New Year!

candlemas imbolc light ritual pagan

I like the idea of being more in tune with the universe’s changes. I’m trying to pay more attention to the Celtic Wheel, the moon’s phases, the weather. Why? I’m searching for a feeling of connectedness that does not depend on exclusion. Something that links us humans back before polls and gentrification and online personas.

It is also useful as research fodder to get into the mindset of someone who lives closer to the land and depends on its cooperation from year to year. The almanac used to contain all humans needed to be self-sufficient, provided they had land, seed, and labor. Nowadays, we don’t use them. We don’t ask elders for their experience, either. Our modern arrogance is astounding.

Which is why I love historical fiction! I’m not a Luddite, and I can be just as dependent on technology as the next guy, but I am striving for a better balance, rooted in real change, not just a flash in the pan. Why NOT adopt a goddess to keep yourself in line with your intentions for the season?

Don’t tell them I told you, but I’m going to be sneaking Imbolc practices into my Burns Supper reading on Saturday–cheese on oatcakes, candles, and poetical declamations–of the bawdy variety! 😉

 

Images via The New Pagan and my own

Celebrate the Light of Poetry

January 25 is Burns Day.

(I’m having an event on January 27th! See below)

Robert Burns

What’s that, you ask?

It is the birthday of Robert Burns, widely considered to be Scotland’s national poet. He lived from 1759 to 1796, leading a short life full of struggle, defiance, humility, lust, and heartbrokenness.

He wrote poems and songs, collected folk songs from across Scotland, satirized great figures of the day, wooed many a woman to his bed, and called for radical parliamentary reform when that movement was pushing forward in 1792-4.

robert burns highland mary painting

Burns developed this radical zeal starting with his poor childhood as a tenant farming family in Ayrshire. His poor health–a heart ailment and then a rheumatic condition–no doubt came from poor living conditions as his family struggled to survive.

His best-known poem around the world is Auld Lyne Syne, which everyone sings in a drunken haze on New Year’s Eve.

bagpiper auld lang syne

Another famous folk song traces its lineage back to Burns: A Man’s A Man.  It was composed at a moment when the fight for reform had to go underground. Its words are stubbornly hopeful for a brotherhood of equality:

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that, / That Man to Man the warld o’er / Shall brithers be for a’ that.

Furthermore, when the Scottish Parliament was recently reconvened for the first time since 1707, this was the song that was sung. So moving. I sang it at my December event in SLO, and was so happy people decided to join in!

When Burns died in 1796, the Romantic movement took up his poems as anthems in Scotland and beyond. In the early 1800s, a curious tradition started: the Burns Supper, where people got together to remember the poet, and generally have a good time.

This year, I am getting involved in All The Happenings, but YOU can come join the fun at Backstory Books on Saturday, Jan. 27th. I will be hosting a book chat there, singing songs, and would love to have you come bear witness to Burns’ legacy as lover, fighter, champion of the poor, and speaker of Truth.

Backstory Books
6010 SE Foster Rd.
Sat. 1/27 130-3PM
Please RSVP on Facebook! :)

We can also celebrate the returning of the Light…and prepare for Imbolc! #celticyear

Images via AnnemarielatourJackiKellum, & Singingthesonginmyheart

Preparing for the Darkest Night

Revisiting

Event: Book Reading & Signing (RSVP on facebook link!)

995 Palm St. San Luis Obispo, CA

Wed. Dec. 20, 330-5 PM

let go of the surface, dive into the dark

relinquish hecticity for the calm, chewy center

drop down into the earth' rhythms, your rhythms

find what you are searching for

newgrange winter solstice sunrise ireland

I am revisiting the town where I grew up this week.

And this Thursday, we are all revisiting the darkest night of the year, the Winter Solstice (Danu Forest’s lovely symbolism really feels magical in its ability to connect you through time and space to other cultures).

And so, as part of this revisiting process, I am reconnecting to the intentions I set for myself at the beginning of the year, which had gone suspiciously silent after various stresses and fears throughout the year.

The moon circle I attended to reflect on the December supermoon helped reconnect me to those intentions, and so I am diving into books about ancient Celtic rites and how to meditate on one’s chakras and yea, self-acceptance, yet again.

Why do I hesitate to believe in powers I can’t see? Because it requires faith. And there is no faith without trust. And trust. Is hard.

What are you reconnecting with?

What are you struggling with, as we approach the longest night of the year?

What are you looking forward to, after the light starts to be reborn?

If you’re on the Central Coast, I hope to see you on Wednesday, where there will be singing and costumes and history talk for all.

 

Image via Newgrange