Solstice is past and the long deep night.
As the light returns, wishing a happy Chanukah to one and all.
Greetings friends and visitors.
It has been a while since I’ve written here. The year has been hard and busy and full in ways I never anticipated when it began.
That said, Thanksgiving is past and December’s chill is in the air. And for my Dragon-loving friends, I have news to share:
My new book, Llewellyn’s Little Book of Dragons, is now available to be preordered either from Llewellyn or Amazon. A delightfully scaly hardcover book full of Dragon tips, lore, and even a couple of brand-new Dragon tales. It will be officially our February 8th – a perfect Valentine’s present for the dracophile near and dear to your heart.
As I say around Dragons Nest, a little Dragon under the Yule tree or Chanukah bush is always better than a big Dragon sending needles and branches up in flames.
(Next project: a Dragon Tarot. But more on that in the months to come.)
I Do Terrible Things is John Goodrich’s second novel under Crossroad Press’s Macabre Ink imprint, and, like its predecessor, Hag, it provides both chills and pause. Brick by chaptered brick, John constructs a surreal tale of fright and gore, building to a denouement that would make Euripides proud. His prose is a feast – not always savory – for the senses, his violence is never gratuitous, and his characters, no matter their prominence, are all fully formed and multi-dimensional. Especially his protagonist, Donna.
Witty, real, and conflicted as hell, Donna Otálora is a reluctant heroine just trying to survive without losing her mind. Her life in Oakham, Massachusetts, is what one might call ordinary. She has work she usually enjoys, a best friend who would do anything for her, and a boyfriend who’s definitely a cut above her last disaster. So why is her sleep suddenly awash with violence and death? Why is she dreaming of slaughtering people she doesn’t even know? More to the point, is she dreaming?
Even at her worst, Donna is a protagonist you root for. Page by page, chapter after chapter, the reader is drawn into her increasingly paranoid world, relishing each piece of her puzzle as it falls into place. Her quest is not only outward but inward, as she discovers truths she never knew existed and strengths she never knew she possessed.
I Do Terrible Things is a blood-soaked, nightmarish tumble down the rabbit hole. It’s definitely worth the trip.
Some of you may know Marge/Jennifer from her writing on Off the Rails. We’ve been together for forty-two years… Ups and downs, thick and thin.
Words become inadequate.
Friends of the Secret Keeper, I am writing this for Marge – or, as many of you know her, Jennifer/jennifer kiley/jk – because she cannot.
Marge’s stay in hospital and then short-term care has turned into hospice care. I am hoping to bring her home when she is able – and when I can be sure home is the safest, most comfortable place for her to be.
Until then, we take it one day at a time, treasuring every moment we have together.
The posts she had scheduled will continue to be published….
Good energy, thoughts, and, if you are so inclined, prayers are welcome.
Warren MacKENZIE… (1924-2018)
On New Year’s Eve, 2018, my father died.
He was an artist. A master with clay and wheel, glaze and fire. He was a teacher, a mentor, and, though he’d likely shrug it off, an inspiration to generations of potters. His pots are in homes and museums around the world, his life and lessons frozen in time on film and in print. Perhaps some of you are even reading this with a MacKenzie vase full of hopeful spring blooms on your table or a yunomi full of Earl Grey in your hands.
For weeks, I have been trying to put pen to paper, to find the right words to talk about him, to cut through the swirl of emotions, and I always seem to come up short. How can I possibly put him into words? Then, with my mind’s eye, I see him throw up his hands. “Get out of your head, Shawnee,” he says. “Memories, reflections. Just keep it simple.” Then he laughs.
Good advice, as always.
There are some individuals so comfortable in their own skin, the rest of us feel like pod people by comparison, struggling to fit in. My father was one of those people. I always marveled at how at ease he seemed, regardless of the situation. Whether in clay-covered T-shirt and jeans or the occasional suit – I even have a picture of him in a tuxedo! – it didn’t matter (though I’m sure he preferred the former). Whether showing a class of eager students how to center a ball of clay or dining with ambassadors and kings, he was always himself: passionate, generous, and curious about everything.
He was a natural teacher who thrived on the exchange of ideas, the opening of minds. Decades past, when – weather permitting – the yard would be covered with pot-laden tables for one of many quarterly sales, I remember how he held court under our maple tree, wrapping chosen treasures in old newspapers recycled from the neighbors. Perched in the branches overhead, I’d hear his laugh filtering up as he talked with old friends and new acquaintances, about form and function, or how a bowl fits in the hand and why texture is for the eye as well as the fingertips. Whether at the University, doing workshops, or sitting under the maple tree, what he taught was as much philosophy as technique, and, like his pots, it endures.
Growing up, he urged us to say YES to life whenever we could. To try new foods – no matter how strange – at least once. To read voraciously and listen to music, familiar and foreign. To embrace the aesthetic of the world wherever we found it, be it in the smile of a cat, the simplicity of a Han bowl, or the kitsch of pink flamingoes standing in the Minnesota snow. To look at everything with a sense of wonder and trust the world – even at its darkest – as much as we could. And to always vote Blue.
Though I could never convince him to get connected to the Internet, he always had a certain fondness for gadgets, especially tape recorders. I remember many an evening, after long-ago dinners with friends, when he’d bring out the reel-to-reel, and set it up on the table, recording conversations about pots and politics, love and literature, well into the night. I don’t know if he ever listened to the tapes after that, but, at the time, it was the recording that mattered.
He remembered well and told stories with flair, something I like to think I learned from him.
And he loved – and was loved in return by – two remarkable women: my mother, Alix,
and my step-mom, Nancy.
Before Joseph Campbell made it popular, he followed his bliss. Of all the things he wanted for us kids, I think that was top of the list: to find our own paths – even if by happenstance, as he did – and follow them with as much joy and passion as we can muster. To be true and happy in ourselves, and move through life with kindness, loyalty, and love.
A friend of mine remarked how strange it is to be an orphan in one’s 60s. And she’s right. After being independent for years, suddenly we want nothing so much as to be little kids again, to feel safe in arms no longer here, in an infectious laugh now silent.
Tolkien wrote: “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”
My father was a bold, creative, long-lived Dragon. The most remarkable Dragon I have ever known.
It’s his birthday, today. He would have been 95.
I miss his laugh.
When I sat down with the WAFDE Dragons back in 2011 to celebrate the first Month of the Dragon, they insisted, in their don’t-pin-us-down way, to make it a movable feast. So it was that, every year, we would confab in the late summer and, until now, we decided to keep it in October. Personally, I think Halloween was a major draw.
This year, however, we are going to take advantage of the movable part of the feast and push Month of the Dragon to February. The Dragons are being very gracious in this, acceding to the fact that I am on a book deadline – about them, always a plus in their minds. Also, yesterday, one of my furry hose-dragon cats sunk his teeth into my wrist and, though on antibiotics, computer work is rather hunt and peck right now. [Parker is very contrite and promises never to do it again. Right.]
By all means, anyone who wants to celebrate Dragons in October, or November, or every day of the year, have at it with draconic gusto. World Dragon Day is Saturday, October 6, this year, and we will certainly be hoisting a flagon in festive cheer. And, as February approaches, I will be posting reminders for one and all. It may be a short month but it will be packed with draconic fun.
Thanks for understanding. See you all then.
It is always a pleasure to spread the word about good books, doubly so when they are written by friends. Today I want to tell you about Dark Draughts, a collection of short stories by John Goodrich. (Crossroad Press, 2018)
For years, my appreciation of horror lay somewhere between the casual and the academic. Oh, I knew the classics well enough, but was not really familiar with much modern horror. Then I started reading John’s stories, of which Dark Draughts is an evocative debut collection.
Here are tales steeped in Lovecraftian mythos and ghoulish sojourns to the Old West, ancient Egypt, and the acrid battlefields of WWI. There’s even a piece of extreme grotesquery – “Champagne” – for good measure. [Note: I find “Champagne” funny as hell, but it is definitely not for the squeamish.]
Rendered in crisp, redolent prose, these 16 stories are chilling, witty, and unsettlingly modern. John delves into the shadowy recesses of the soul where ancient fears lurk, keeping us awake at night. In short, Dark Draughts is a disturbing delight.
Drink deep and keep the lights on.
Six years ago – can’t believe it’s been that long! – Gatsby the Great came into our lives
and blessed us with three marvelous, magical, mystical children, Parker, Poe, and Carter-Lion.
Sadly, we lost Gatsby the next year, but her kids are still with us. They have grown into amazing beings: Poe wide-eyed and a little wild, in a constant state of surprise; Parker burly but a bit insecure which can make him scrappy (I think he might have taken his mom’s death the hardest of the three); and Carter who is a wonder – an extraordinarily Zen cat if ever there was one, a profound thinker.
Now every Earth Day is doubly joyous as we hug them close in grateful birthday celebration.
Happy Birthday to Poe, Parker, and Carter-Lion! May you have many, many more.
What a time it has been!