Tag Archives: Ritual / tradition

Clement, J.A.; The Locket; 2012/2017

Originally The Locket was one of the short stories in the Christmas Lites II anthology edited by Amy Eye.

The Locket takes us back to a time before On Dark Shores begins. A Scarlock before war, poverty and desperate choices visits the life of Nereia. It is also a tale about Yule and family.

“Is it true that I don’t have to go to bed till midnight, Mama?” Nereia cut into her memories, coming away from the window to sit next to her mother. “Papa said that if you said yes, I could stay up and see the actual Yule ceremony this year. May I, Mama? I’d really like to, may I?”

The Locket is a sweet story that had me thinking about all the things I am grateful for and how they have both changed and stayed the same through my life. It also had me re-visiting my thinking on the excuses leaders make for going to war with other people.

I’m not sure my review is completely neutral as I was one of the betas for the 2016 edition of The Locket.


The Locket is available at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Smashwords


My reviews of

  1. On Dark Shores 0: Songs of the Ice Lord
  2. On Dark Shores 1: The Lady
  3. On Dark Shores 2: The Other Nereia
  4. On Dark Shores parallel: The Black-Eyed Susan

McKinley, Brian Patrick: The Chermasu (Order Saga) (2007/2012)

The Chermasu by Brian Patrick McKinley

“Alia went still as she remembered exactly where she’d seen him before. It swept out from her childhood memories like canyon debris washed out by a flash flood …”

Memories have power. In Alia’s case these memories were triggered at a point in her life where a choice needed choosing. That choice brings her deeper into lore and traditions she loves. Following those traditions and that lore has the potential of making her more of an outsider than she is already.

While reading I wondered if McKinley was Navajo/Hopi himself. At the very least he must have researched the matter. Skinwalkers at one time worked for the benefit of the people but are now considered evil. Alia also believes they are evil until she discovers that everything depends on what side you are on.

Brian Patrick McKinley clearly has a talent for writing and has added to the joys of my reading obsession.


The Chemasu is available at amazon.com

Cooper, Elspeth: The Raven’s Shadow (The Wild Hunt III) (2013)

the_ravens_shadow
Illustration by Dominic Harman
Design by Sue Michniewicz

You know, Ailric is a douchebag. He is about as power-starved as you can possibly get and Tanith is his way to the throne. Talk about being willing to do and say anything to get his way. Humans are less than dirt to him and his jealousy knows no bounds. As if he has anything to be jealous about. Tanith tells him over and over and over again that she is not interested and could he please stop touching her. Being the third in line for the throne of the “elves”, Tanith feels pressured by many of the folks at home to bind herself to Ailric as the joining of their two families is seen as a good match.

According to Psychology Today a person with a narcissistic personality disorder is one who is arrogant, lacks empathy for other people, needs a lot of admiration. Narcissists are cocky, self-centered, manipulative and demanding. They are focused on unlikely outcomes (I don’t know – like becoming consort to Tanith) and feel they deserve special treatment. For some reason they have a high self-esteem – which goes along with their arrogance. If their self-esteem is threatened they may become aggressive (like Ailric’s threats and actions toward both Gair and Tanith) even though their self-esteem is rooted in the bedrock of who they are.

Holy cow, this is soooo Ailric. He manages to match all of the qualities. Like I said: a complete and total douchebag.

Gair is your basic good guy. He’s not perfect, not by a long shot. In fact he is feeling pretty murderous when it comes to Savin. I get this need for vengeance. Not that anyone has ever effected the killing of one of my loved ones, but there have been people I would have liked to, at the very least, beat up. People who hurt my children in any way come to mind – even if mine are adult now. In real life I prefer the good guys (and women). I happen to be married to one of the most decent men on earth. Like Gair they are all flawed in some manner, but something shines through. This strange quality is what Ms. Cooper manages to catch in her writing. Someone like Gair is often presented in a manner that makes me wriggle uncomfortably due to their unbelievability. But Ms. Cooper stays far, far, far away from that trap. Gair is a guy I would like to hug just because he is huggable. I guess he could be good-looking but that is not what I am remembering – and I finished The Raven’s Shadow at 6 am this morning.

I kid you not. I am 49 years old in a few days and I read through the night. What’s an old woman doing with an all-night-read? Shame on you Ms. Cooper for keeping me up all night. That seldom happens any longer, but I just had to finish. Now I have to wait another year or two for the next installment. What I have just done is a basic case of hurry up and wait. Oh, well. Old age is no guarantee for learning from experience. I choose to blame it all on Ms. Cooper. No personal responsibility at all – oh no!

Teia is the other extremely interesting main character. Poor girl. Once it was discovered she had the talent, she has had to be extremely careful about letting on how strong she was/is. Not only has she needed to watch out for the clan speaker, but she has also had a less than ideal relationship with the clan chief. Well, relationship is a bit strong. Before she was 16 he abused and raped Teia until he had impregnated her. Good thing she ran away even if it did lead to her becoming banfaith of the Lost Ones. A banfaith is a prophetess or oracle. Understandably, Teia feels awfully young for the kind of responsibility she holds. In a sense she is considered next to Baer (their chief) in authority. The Lost Ones ask for her guidance on where to travel which is kind of natural as Teia sees where they need to go. Where the Lost Ones need to go is to the enemy to warn them of the pending invasion.

Ytha is Teia’s old teacher. She is the one who should have made certain that Teia received proper training for a Speaker. But Ytha is afraid of what would happen if someone has more power than she. Anything (including murdering people perceived as obstacles) is acceptable to achieve her goals. Ytha’s goal is to lead all of the Nimrothi clans into the old home-land – together with her chief Drwyn as chief of chiefs. I would not like to get into her way.

Elspeth Cooper’s writing has appealed to me from the beginning. She is one of those rare people who has a gift. In all likelihood Ms. Cooper works hard to provide us with a novel of this quality. But, you know, there is that extra indefinable something that gifted people have.

———————————–

Reviews:


  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (15 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575134380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575134386

My review of:

  1. Songs of the Earth
  2. Trinity Rising

York, J. Steven: A Holiday Explained (2011)

A Holiday Explained
Cover art by Steven J. York

If you are into macabre humour, you have to read A Holiday Explained. You just have to read about how Santa gets the presents delivered and how the Easter Bunny became hollow. A Holiday Explained is a wonderfully funny and well-written short story – all of three pages long. Well done Mr. York.

Reading this to your kids should be no problem. Kids tend to like the gross and macabre – at least that is what my experience has taught me.


Reviews:


  • Print Length: 3 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Tsunami Ridge Publishing (March 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004T4LHD2

Whipp, Deborah: The History of Santa’s Reindeer (2012)

Santas reindeer

I found this article by Deborah Whipp on Altogether Christmas Traditions:

The character of Santa Claus is largely based on St. Nicholas of Myra and Sinterklaas of Dutch lore. Both of those figures traveled via a noble, white steed. Yet in some Western cultures, particularly America, Santa Claus travels the world on Christmas Eve delivering gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. 

In 1812, American author Washington Irving refers to St. Nicholas as “— riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children” in the revised version of A Complete History of New York written under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. Yet no mention is made of what propels the wagon. So where did the story of flying reindeer originate?

The first known written account of reindeer in association with the legend of Santa Claus occurred in 1821. That year, New York printer William Gilley published a sixteen page booklet titled A New Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve Number III : The Children’s Friend by an anonymous author. In the book, reindeer are introduced into the Santa Claus narrative:

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O’er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.
During an 1822 interview, New York’s Troy Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley questioned Mr. Gilley regarding the booklet’s author and the topic of reindeer. Though he did not identify the author, Mr. Gilley responded:

“Dear Sir, the idea of Santeclaus was not mine nor was the idea of a reindeer. The author of the tale but submitted the piece, with little added information. However, it should be noted that he did mention the reindeer in a subsequent correspondence. He stated that far in the north near the Arctic lands a series of animals exist, these hooven and antlered animals resemble the reindeer and are feared and honored by those around, as you see he claims to have heard they could fly from his mother. His mother being an Indian of the area.”

In 1823, the Troy Sentinel published the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, commonly known as The Night Before Christmas. The poem features eight flying reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh and, for the first time, they are identified by name:

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixem!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

Though originally called ‘Dunder and Blixem’ in the 1823 publication, Santa’s seventh and eighth reindeer are commonly known as ‘Donner and Blitzen’ today. Dunder and Blixem are Dutch words that translate to thunder and lightning. Some 19th and 20th century publications of the poem substituted the names ‘Donder and Blitzen’, which are German for thunderand lightning, and in other articles during the 20th century, ‘Donner’ replaced the name ‘Donder’. After Johnny Marks penned the song Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1949, based on the story by Robert L. May, the name ‘Donner’ became the most popular spelling for the seventh reindeer originally named ‘Dunder’ in the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas. May’s story and Marks’ song were both well received and Rudolph is without doubt the most famous addition to Santa’s team.

The above information helps determine the first written accounts of reindeer in conjunction with Santa, but how did reindeer come to be associated with Santa Claus in the first place? Many popular Christmas traditions related to Santa Claus were brought to America by Dutch and German immigrants. As the persona of Santa Claus and celebration of Christmas were being developed in the west, customs and myths from foreign lands, including those of Scandinavian and European countries, were incorporated.

As pagans converted to Christianity during the Middle Ages, winter festivals and traditions, as well as popular pagan beliefs, often mingled with Christian celebrations of Christmas. In Norse and Germanic mythology, Thor is the God of Thunder and soars through the sky in a chariot pulled by two magical goats. Thor was highly revered and was arguably the most popular of Norse gods in ancient times. Images and stories of Thor soaring the skies in his sleigh pulled by two large, horned goats may have influenced the creation of Santa’s sleigh and flying, antlered reindeer by those in the west familiar with Dutch or Germanic mythology.

Reindeer were once viewed as mysterious creatures linked to lands in the northern part of the world. Their population was widespread in Scandinavian and Eastern European countries where, during the 18th century, they were domesticated. They were often used in transportation, pulling sleds and sleighs, and are still an important aspect of some indigenous northern European cultures, particularly to the Sámi people (commonly known as Laplanders to non-Europeans).

Taking these bits of knowledge into account, one can see how reindeer might have come to be used in early writings as the wondrous, flying creatures propelling Santa’s sleigh.

© Deborah Whipp

Diemer, Sarah: The Witch Sea (2012)

I love this cover. It illustrates perfectly the longing of the witch in the novel. In my head that is what The Witch Sea is about. Longing to belong, to have someone to love and to love you back.

Being responsible for holding the magical net surrounding her island is becoming a difficult task for Meriel. She is no longer certain of the beliefs that her mother and grandmother have tried to imprint on her.

Both Meriel’s longing and the longing of the sea-people shines through Diemer’s prose. Very minor-key and absolutely lovely.

The author makes a point of this being a lesbian fantasy short story. Once it was pointed out to me, I could see it.


The Witch Sea won first place in the Kissed by Venus Fresh Voices short story competition.

Grisham, John: Skipping Christmas (2001)

My, my, my, isn’t Christmas fun????? I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of the holidays. I find them costly and full of weird little things that are supposed to be “the right thing to do”. My head just doesn’t get what the big deal is with all of the decorations and having to buy gifts.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham is about that. Lucas is overwhelmed by all of the “things” that need to be done surrounding the so-called holidays. Sick and tired of all of the work and money that goes into Christmas celebrations, Luther Krank gets his wife to go along with his idea of dropping Christmas and instead go on a cruise.

The only thing Lucas and Nora have forgotten is that they are part of a group, and as such certain sanctions and rewards follow any decision that will affect the group. Not putting up Christmas lights and decorations is a major break from group traditions.

It is difficult to go against group decisions. Not only you, but the group you belong to, struggle with the new situation. I feel Grisham is really good at describing these effects. I’ve seen it in his mystery/thrillers and now in Skipping Christmas. Skipping Christmas is only 177 pages long and is an interesting look at values and things we do just because we have always done them. Humor, warmth and insight are excellent qualities in a novel about humanity’s strangeness.