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  • Writing and publishing

    The economics of writing

    An unusual post from me, but I found I had some blog-length things to say about a currently ongoing conversation on Twitter.

    Short version: If you want to support an author:

    1. Buy their books (or ask your library to)
    2. Tell other people about their books (leave a review, tell your friends, etc.)
    3. Support a reasonable copyright term that allows them to plan for the future and benefit over time from the work that has gone into the book.

    Me and my background:

    I am a self-published author of 10 books and counting. I am a librarian. I also have more education under my belt about copyright law and where it comes from than most lawyers who haven’t focused on intellectual property.

    (I took the CopyrightX class in 2017: it is a by-application but free to take class offered by Harvard Law School. I did quite well on my final exam, thanks. You can access the lectures and readings on the course site, but much of the meat of the course comes from the discussion sections.)

    I’ve been putting out a book every three months since the end of 2018, and I just had my best month ever in February 2021. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what that actually means.

    Disclaimer: I’m speaking in generalities about publishing here, except when I’m talking about my own personal numbers. Otherwise, this would be vastly longer.

    The conversation:

    There’s been a lot of discussion on Twitter the last couple of days about changing the copyright term for written works. One of the things someone tossed out was limiting copyright to 30 years, or to the life of the author.

    Both of these are incredibly damaging to authors and future works.

    Books are a very long-tail business.

    People come to books at different times, different paces. There are fashions in books and genres, and sometimes a genre will toddle along amiably for a decade or two, and then everyone wants more of that genre.

    An author might have a whole string of “sure, that’s a fine book” and then have one book decades later that gets all the buzz (and all their previous books suddenly get a lot more interest and sales.)

    In today’s media market, of a few super huge companies, there is a real risk that they will wait until the term expires, grab the property, and put out whatever they like. As opposed to the current system, where authors can choose to agree to options on their work or licensing, as they see fit.

    Here’s Courtney Milan on the topic (romance author, and previously intellectual property lawyer) and here’s a thread from Ursula Vernon (a hybrid author). To give you a tase of the issues. And here’s my editor Kiya with several more important points.

    (Note for Commonwealth country and European readers: the US does not have a moral rights clause in its copyright law. This means that after the creator sells the rights to publish, they do not have a say in what happens with the work after that. They may if they license, or if there’s some other contractual agreement.)

    The current system is already abused (see the case of Alan Dean Foster, recently), but there are at least systems that avoid much of that. But you might see why creators are dubious about the idea the big corporations wouldn’t just take what they could, as soon as they can. We’ve seen it happening already.

    Thinking about the long tail

    A lot of authors – trad published, self-published, and all the hybrid folks out there – rely heavily on backlist sales. Each time a new book comes out, you have potential for some new readers. If they discover your books (because you have included their favourite trope or setting or plot device, say), they might give the rest of your books a try, or mention it to someone else they know.

    The other problem is that authors are not islands of their own. They may have kids (and may have kids who have disabilities or needs that will need ongoing care or support into their adult lives). They may have a spouse. They may have elderly parents (or other family) who rely on the extra income they get from the author.

    If copyright expires when the author dies, what happens to all of those people? What happens to the book they spent a year or more on, that just came out, and has not earned much yet?

    The work that goes into a book makes money over a long period of time, and that work should be valued in a way that supports the creator before anyone else. Books that were written fifty years ago can still be tremendously popular, or a hundred years ago (look at the Golden Age of Mystery authors…)

    On a somewhat more pragmatic level, think about it as a reader. If an author you love gets a diagnosis of a medical issue that means they will die sooner than later, what incentive is there at that point for them to finish writing the book you’ve been waiting for? Why should they spend their time doing that, rather than with their family, or their friends, or whatever else they want?

    (This is not at all hypothetical for me. My father died when I was 15, after a cancer diagnosis that gave him about a year to live. He was an academic who also wrote about 30 books over his career, including one novel. I’m very clear that copyright laws influenced his decisions to keep writing as well as spend time with us as a family. Various people (including his entire field of study) benefitted from that choice, and not just financially.)

    A lot of people also don’t understand the mechanics of how a book makes money.

    How authors make money

    Traditional publishing

    In traditional publishing, generally the author writes a book, then the author and maybe their agent convince a publishing house to buy it. The most usual mode is that the publishing house pays an advance (a flat sum of money, usually in two or three payments that might stretch over a couple of years).

    If the book eventually earns more than the advance, the author eventually get royalties (a split of the income, based on whatever’s contracted.) Note the ‘eventually’ here – the vast majority of books do not earn out the advance.

    In return, the publishing house does the work of designing a cover, doing the book design, editing, and some degree of marketing, and distributing the copies. (The amounts of editing and marketing have been generally declining for the past decade or more.)

    Advances are generally not big, especially when you look at that money being paid over a couple of years. Usually it’s something like the initial agreement to buy the book, when the completed version is turned in, and when the book comes out. Note that the author controls only one piece of this timing.

    Jim C. Hines has been doing breakdowns of his own income and some conversation about trends in the science fiction and fantasy community, which may give you some ideas. Here’s his 2020 writeup with a lot of context for his own numbers.

    Self-publishing

    I self-publish, which means basically all of the things that need to be done to make a book, I either do myself or hire someone to do (or trade skills for…) If I can’t pay for it, the thing doesn’t happen – even if that might well lead to better sales down the road.

    There are lots of different approaches out there to self-publishing. Some people turn out a lot of books fast – maybe one a month, or even faster. Others take longer between books, but that can make marketing harder for all sorts of (often algorithm driven) reasons.

    The people who make significant money are usually writing toward the middle of the genre, things that have the widest possible audience. In romance, this might mean shifter romances, billionaire romance, etc. The things that make the top of the sales charts, reliably, month after month. If you’re keeping an eye on what’s selling, and can turn out words reliably in that subgenre, and have an engaging writing style, substantial income is possible.

    I know people who are having mid four figure to lower five figure (c. 5k to 20ishK) months on regular basis, usually noticeably higher in new release months. But to do that, they have to spend a lot of time and energy paying attention to details of what’s selling, adjusting accordingly. They usually spend a non-trivial amount of money on ads or on otherwise finding new readers. And frankly, they have to get lucky to get the traction that helps them get those sales.

    There’s one other factor here: Kindle Unlimited versus what’s called “wide”. Self-published authors whose books are in Kindle Unlimited make an agreement that the ebook will be exclusive to Amazon. (Big publishing houses get different deals with Amazon.)

    These books get additional money for the number of pages read each month. For most authors in Kindle Unlimited, that’s often a larger part of their income than direct sales.

    For wide authors (like me), who want their books available on every ebook platform (which also means libraries can get them), you don’t get those page reads. I have to figure out how to tell people on all those different platforms that I have a book they might like.

    There is no advance here for either kind of self-publishing. The only money I make from my books is when someone buys one, the vendor sells it, and eventually they send me money. I have no idea what that number might end up at. If I write a great book a lot of people love, maybe a lot. Maybe I write a great book that only a few people love, and it’s a lot less.

    Let’s talk numbers

    First, I have a full time job. But I have a full time job as a librarian (not a super well-paid field) in a high cost of living city. I have some debt (including from the grad school required for my current job and from some health-related needs.)

    I’m single and live by myself with the cat. I dream of a future in which I could buy a condo or townhouse and not worry about getting priced out of the rental market, or where I’d have some more financial reserves in general. I worry a lot about long-term financial stability. And I like to sometimes buy books, and music, and maybe travel every couple of years.

    I hope that over time, writing will fill those gaps for me. We’re not there yet, even though I’m writing stuff that some people have really enjoyed.

    Besides my writing and day job, I also do monthly data wrangling for a friend (on a ‘paid per hour’ basis), and occasional consulting (mostly organisational editing).

    Publishing costs

    While actually writing the book doesn’t directly cost much money (I already have a computer, a keyboard, and my brain), there are a lot of costs involved with publishing, even if you do it relatively cheaply.

    In my case, I hire my cover artist, do a trade of skills with my editor (a long-time friend), count my blessings for my early readers, and pay for a couple of services and tools to help the publishing parts go as quickly and smoothly as possible. When I can throw some money at it, I run some ads. I host this website. I have a big enough mailing list I’m no longer on the free tier. You get the idea.

    If you think about this for a second, you’ll realise that every single book starts out costing me money (not just the time in which I might have been doing other things to earn money or save money).

    Time

    How long it takes to write a book varies hugely – by person, and by book! It’s especially hard to count “was reading something totally different and had an idea that improves the book” or “background reading for something that might be a small detail in the book” or the traditional “I had an idea in the shower!”

    I do track my time routinely, so I can tell you that to create The Fossil Door (my most recent book that’s come out), it directly involved:

    • About 90 hours of writing time (I average about 1000 words an hour), over the course of 90 days.
    • 15 hours of focused editing time
    • 2 hours to write the blurb/cover copy and other material
    • 2 hours to upload for publication
    • 1 hour to set up this website for a new book
    • 2 hours for release notes (mailing list, social media)
    • 1 hour for follow up edits on the website

    Total: 90 hours writing, 23 hours for everything else = 113 hours. It was almost certainly my easiest book to edit so far.

    When I say books vary, I mean they can vary a lot. Eclipse (coming in May) is so far my most time-consuming. I’ve spent 39 hours editing it so far, and I expect to add at least 5 more.

    I also spend probably 5-10 hours most weeks on various tasks across all of my books – things like blog posts, wiki notes, replying to emails, planning future promotions, reading things to improve my skills.

    Now, I’m single, I don’t have kids, so while I have to do all the household stuff (or it doesn’t happen), I’m not juggling anyone else’s schedule.

    My output is linked closely to the fact that I can spend two hours a night in writing time (I also write other things, for other purposes, usually when I need to think about the next thing in the novel in progress). It also means I can devote most of my Sundays to editing and other focused publishing-related time.

    Income

    As I said above, February 2021 was my best month yet. I have 10 books out, and I made $704.71. $317 of that was The Fossil Door, which came out at the beginning of the month. (Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy or told people about it!) The rest was scattered through my other books, each of which sold at least 14 copies.

    Each of the places through which I sell books takes a chunk of the sales price for their fee (usually 20-30%, depending on the site and agreements). Also key: I will not see most of the money for my February sales until the end of April.

    When it hits my bank account, I will throw 50% into future expenses (those covers, ads, and other things that help me sell books, basically continuing to support book output and sales).

    I will put 25% toward taxes (this is a bit higher than it needs to be but it makes doing the math on a dozen payment sources easier in my budget app. The usual recommendation for self-employment is 15% or so.

    I set aside 25% for actual “I made a little money doing this, yay!” salary equivalent.

    $704 is less than half a month’s rent on my apartment (I live in a Boston suburb because of where my library job is. Rents are high.) 25% of that – $176 – is not nothing. But it’s not going to pay much of my living expenses for the month.

    For a brand new release, that means that so far (if we don’t try to calculate expenses specific to this book), that I’ve made about $2.80 per hour of active writing and editing time. (Not counting background reading, developing my skills as a writer, doing all the admin parts of the writing business, etc.)

    And if we look at my actual ‘salary’ from that income, we’re talking more like $0.70 an hour.

    Now, if I’m lucky, and people keep telling their friends about my books, those numbers will continue getting better. I hope so (because I want people to love my books!)

    But if you look at it purely on a numbers perspective, it’s going to take a possibly rather long while for it to have made me as much as those hours would have done at my day job, never mind more.

    Back to copyright

    (And the long tail of sales…)

    So why would I spend my time writing, when I could be doing quite a lot of things that would make me more money? Well, partly because I do have stories I want to tell.

    But it’s also because I hope that over time, as people find my books and continue to read them, people will buy more of them. I want to build up a steady income from that work, that will continue creating a great shared thing (I can keep writing more books, readers can keep reading them). But if that cuts off at some arbitrary point in my lifetime, that changes a lot of equations.

    I think of Jane Yolen, who just had her 400th book come out (no, not a typo). She has a career spanning decades. (She’s 82 this year). Her work went into all the early books (as well as other people, who have benefited from salary or percentages, as suits. the role.) It doesn’t stop being her work and her effort, created by her particular unique brain, at some point determined from the outside.

    And it also means we can take care of an author who had one really well known book, and a bunch of others that have had much smaller sales.

    Because there’s the last part. If you’re relying on income from your writing, the copyright is the real thing you hold that gives any security. You don’t have a salary. You don’t have benefits from your job if you’re writing full time. You have to pay more in taxes (because there’s no employer paying some of them.) What do you do have is the premise that if people choose to buy what you wrote, what you created, that there will be something coming your way.

    They might not buy next month or next year. What you write has to cover an indefinite future.

    We can make that indefinite future a tiny bit more under the creator’s control with reasonable copyright limits. I’m fond of life+30 years or so for people. (Corporate copyright, sure, have a thirty year cut-off, or renewable terms.) But people have kids, have people relying on them, have unexpected things happen.

    If you want people to create more things, give them hope of a future that treats them decently. Creativity works a lot better that way, for so so many people.

  • 2. The Fossil Door,  Announcements

    Come explore The Fossil Door!

    Cover of The Fossil Door: A man and woman in silhouette at the right looking to the left, at something on the ground. He is wearing a hat. The background is deep burgundy and golden yellow, with a small illuminated manuscript inset in the top left corner. Star and sparkles swirl around the figures.

    When a recently established portal stops working in the Scottish Highlands in 1922, Rathna, a Portal Keeper, is assigned to figure out what happened. Gabe is assigned to assist her. Neither of them expect the challenges they find, the dangers of the local wildlife, or the way history and magic can come back to haunt you.

    They’re both keeping secrets. Can they learn to trust each other, fix the portal, and move forward in the world?

    Gabe is perhaps one of my favourite heroes so far – and a book set in the remote Scottish Highlands gives him plenty of scope to show off his skills and knowledge. Rathna is much quieter, the sort who looks before she acts, for all sorts of reasons.

    (Sign up for my newsletter for a short character study about Rathna’s apprenticeship that I’ll be sending out in March 2021.)

  • A pair of knit wristers (one done, one in progress and on the needles) in a pale khaki yarn.
    1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Knitting for the war effort – Wristers

    Knitting for the war effort during the Great War involved all sorts of things. Some were simple – wristlets and mufflers (scarves), and socks. (I admit, I am intimidated by knitting socks.) They also included more complex items, like gloves designed to allow for easy shooting of a gun, or caps to be worn under helmets.

    Elen, the heroine of my latest book, Carry On, does a lot of knitting. I wrote in my last post about wartime knitting in general, but I wanted to give it a try myself.

    So I spent a bit of time in late November knitting up a set of wristlets. (About 7 hours, all told.) Read on if you’re curious about knitting your own historical pattern.

    An example

    I ended up using a modernised pattern from Holly Shaltz, taken from a July 1917 issue of Modern Priscilla Magazine, using patterns from the American Red Cross. There are very similar patterns in British Red Cross guides too. Holly has patterns for a scarf there too.

    British and American knitting needles are different sizes. Worse, needles during the Great War were also different from the sizes we used today. I was happy to use someone else’s guidance on an appropriate combination.

    The yarn for these is in a colour suitable for wartime (not quite British khaki, but would not draw attention), Jagger Spun Heather in the Peat colourway. Basically any wool worsted-weight yarn should do for this.

    My yarn comes from my local yarn shop, Mind’s Eye Yarns. Much thanks to the shop owner, Annie, who also consulted on some of the historical knitting here.

    My adaptations and process

    I have small hands, so instead of 20 stitches on a needle for a total of 60, I went for 16 each.

    (Since the pattern runs in groups of 4 stitches, you probably want to add or remove stitches in groups of 4. If you want to remove fewer than 12 from the original pattern, you could remove 4 from just one side. This saves you having to remember whether you start each needle with knitting or purling.)

    I used double pointed needles (three to hold the stitches, one working needle). I liked this pattern edit because it also gives an option for knitting flat and seaming the finished piece into a proper tube (leaving a hole for the thumb.)

    Other than the multiple needles, it’s a very simple pattern – knit 2, purl 2. Repeat for as many rows as you need.

    I did 40 rows total. 25 to the start of the thumb, 10 for the hole for the thumb, 5 more plus binding off to make the band across the palm above my thumb. They’re shorter than the original version, but I wasn’t entirely sure how much yarn I’d be using up.

    For the thumb hole, I rotated so I could knit going the opposite direction, leaving the gap for the thumb – this worked great.

    Let me know if you try your own Great War knitting project! I’d love to feature it if you’re willing to share.

    Resources

    A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)

    British Red Cross knitting and sewing patterns (via the Internet Archive). Dated 1914. Includes everything from hospital clothing to knitting to dressmaking.

    British Red Cross knitting patterns (PDF). Undated, but I think this is from around 1917. Includes patterns for sewing as well (pyjamas and other hospital attire.)

    Historical Resource Shenanigans talks about a sock knitting project using a British Red Cross Pattern. (She’s also got a post about a Canadian knitting nurse.)

    Some examples of American patterns (with modern samples) from the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

    The Antique Pattern Library for a wide range of (mostly not War related) historical knitting patterns

  • eReader with cover of Carry On showing on it, on a bed of pale pink rose petals.
    1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Knitting for the war effort

    Carry On, my latest book, takes place in March 1915, early in the Great War. Knitting for the war effort was still ramping up to some extent, but many people were hard at work knitting all manner of items to go to the front.

    Elen, my heroine, is no exception. She knits when she’s waiting to be called into someone’s office. She knits when her patient is dozing. She knits when she’s not doing something else with her hands. Basically.

    A pair of knit wristers (one done, one in progress and on the needles) in a pale khaki yarn.

    What did they knit?

    There was a huge range of war time knitting, but there were a few constants:

    The items had to be practical

    Mufflers (scarves), wristers or fingerless gloves, gloves, socks, and knit caps to go under helmets were the most common, but in the resources below you’ll see patterns for a few other things.

    Colour mattered

    Items going to the front had to be a suitable colour. In 1915, this was a bit more flexible, but dark colours or khaki were common. White or other light colours not only would show dirt (and other things) but they could make it easier to spot you in the dark.

    Wool was great.

    Wool has a lot of advantages as a fibre. It wicks moisture well, and it will still keep you warm even if it’s wet. It was also widely available in the British Isles

    Some modern techniques didn’t exist quite yet.

    If you’re a knitter, you might be wondering about circular needles (patented in 1918, so not quite available during most of the War.)

    Likewise, the Kitchener stitch (now widely used in sock patterns) didn’t start being used until 1918 – lore has it that it was intended to reduce trench foot. You can read more about the history in a post from In The Rounds.

    Resources

    Knitting for soldiers, a blog from the Kingston Public Library in Ontario, with some fantastic photos and images.

    And American knitting for the war effort from Atlas Obscura. Also with great photographs of people knitting. I can’t decide if my favourite is the motion picture office employees knitting during lunch or the grand jury knitting socks.

    Curious about knitting just before the War? Here are some examples of patterns and finished garments from The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done.

    A short video guide to getting started with historical knitting from Engineering Knits. (She’s also done some great Edwardian and 1920s pieces.)

    Coming soon, my own attempt at a (simple) pattern from the Great War.

    eReader with a copy of Carry On displayed on the cover, sitting on a bed of fall decorations - small pumpkins, bittersweet berries, and dark green leaves
  • 1. Carry On,  Mysterious Powers

    Carry On is out!

    I’m delighted to be able to share Elen and Roland’s story with you. 

    eReader with a copy of Carry On displayed on the cover, sitting on a bed of fall decorations - small pumpkins, bittersweet berries, and dark green leaves

    The first thing Roland remembers after being injured at the First Battle of Ypres is waking up in a hospital room at the Temple of Healing in Trellech. Over the following weeks, he is tended by a series of nurses, none of whom stays more than a week or two. He never sees the healer assigned to his case – and worse, he has heard nothing from his family.  

    Elen just wants to keep nursing. Sent home from the Front after a bad concussion and ensuing migraines, she knows that taking whatever assignment she is offered is her only option. Even if it’s a decidedly odd assignment – the sole nurse tending to an unusual patient. Together, she and Roland must figure out what is going on with his Healer, how to make sure he gets the care he needs to recover – and how to remember to have hope again. 

    Carry On is full of quiet resolution, knitting, and compassion. Set in the spring of 1915, it takes place early in the Great War. 

    You can get ebooks from your favourite source

    (Paperbacks and library options will be following shortly, keep an eye out at my newsletter for when they’re available.) 

  • Announcements

    A few updates around the place

    If you’ve been by here in the last week, you’ll notice a few updates around here.

    A new page for the books

    These include more information about each series, and quick links to the books in order. (Here’s the main books page, the Mysterious Charm series page, and the Charms of Albion page.) Let me know if there’s more information you’d find useful here.

    Content notes

    I know that there are some things you might not be in the mood to read (right now or ever), and also that some of you might be particularly interested in finding books that focus on certain things or characters. I’ve got a shiny new content notes page that fills in some of this information. (It does include some spoilers, though I’ve tried to avoid them as much as I can.)

    If there’s something I haven’t covered, or something you’d like more information about, you’re always welcome to write and check with me.

    Coming soon

    I’m working on a way to more easily share some additional information with you, like maps and timelines. Keep an eye out here and elsewhere on social media for updates.

  • Books,  Charms of Albion,  Pastiche

    Pastiche is out!

    I’m delighted to share Pastiche with all of you. Join me for a romp in 1906 (pre-War Edwardian) to explore the history of two people who’ve appeared in the Mysterious Charm series, Lord Richard and Lady Alysoun Edgarton.

    There’s an arranged marriage (that might turn into a true love match), a bit of smuggling, a curious museum exhibit, and a couple of my favourite secondary characters yet. And if you’ve wondered how magical duelling works in Albion, this is the book for you!

    Explore Pastiche and get to know Alysoun and Richard a bit better.

  • 2: Goblin Fruit,  3: Magician's Hoard,  7: Seven Sisters

    Threading characters through books

    One of the things I love most about writing about Albion is being able to weave people through different books.

    Sometimes this is in a big way. All the books in the Mysterious Charm series deal with people who are friends or allies or co-conspirators (as the case may be) with Lord Geoffrey Carillon.

    But sometimes it’s more subtle.

    Take Farran Michaels, for example. He first appears (if you read the series by number, which isn’t chronologically in time) in the first chapter of Goblin Fruit as one of the young men apprenticed to the auction house. He turns up later in Magician’s Hoard as a representative of the auction house (he’s now a more senior apprentice).

    But how did he get there? And what’s with his particular gift for materia and objects? That’s where Seven Sisters comes in. While it’s his uncle who’s the hero of that book, Farran’s present for much of the action.

    I love being able to tuck those little touches in. Albion is a sizeable community, but it’s not huge. With only a few more academically focused magical schools, people who went to those schools tend to know each other. Others interact in significant but small professional communities.

    And, as an author, it’s a lot more fun to do a passing mention of a character I’ve already gotten to know in passing, rather than Random Standin#42.

    Readers new to the series with that book should be able to follow everything, but people who’ve read and remember other books in the series should get a little bit of extra amusement, seeing a story from a different side.

    It’s also a fun way for me to introduce characters who will be relevant in later books I’m already planning to write. You’ll be seeing more of a couple of guests from Carillon’s dinner party in On The Bias down the road, for example.

    There is of course, one place right now where that’s a little trickier: Goblin Fruit and On The Bias. It’s very hard to disentangle Carillon (Lord, investigator, and Pavo breeder) from Benton, his valet. However, I also enjoyed the chance to see a bit more of Benton’s very real skills and talent, and to learn more about why Benton has chosen that role and service for some very good reasons.

  • 1: Outcrossing,  Albion

    Magical creatures

    As you’ve noticed if you’ve read Outcrossing, there are magical creatures in my books, as well as the ones we all know about. There are, broadly speaking, three categories.

    Animals we know and love

    These include your average ordinary wildlife – badgers, hedgehogs, ponies (Well, most of them. There are some magical ones, too.) Birds, snakes, lizards, all sorts of other beasties.

    A magical variant

    Sometimes there are magical variants of a given type. For example, the nightjar is an actual bird (with a very unusual sort of sound – you can hear an American cousin clearly starting at about 1:10 on this recording.)

    This piece in the Guardian about nightjars (and other fauna of the New Forest) delighted me, and describes them as “somewhere between a kestrel and a crocodile in appearance”.

    Twilight nightjars, however, are magical.

    They sound like the non-magical variety, and have the same shape. And nightjars do live in the New Forest. But where the non-magical species are usually brown or buff, the Twilight Nightjar is more like the darker varieties of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon, with a good splash of iridescence. Their feathers and eggs are used in various magical potions and workings.

    Entirely magical

    And of course, we have varieties of magical creatures who either live in Silence-warded spaces (so, fully magical), or like many creatures in our own world are not often seen.

    These include wandermists (a cat-sized winged dragon that appears to be largely made out of mist), or the ginsies, which are poisonous to about half the people with magic (via an extreme allergic reaction, not that Carillon and Rufus would put it that way.)

    Perhaps my favourite are the mirabiles, who live in the deepest parts of the forest, and are rarely seen, but look like dancing lights that sway and twist together. They’re decidedly animals, not Fatae, but they must be where some tales of faeries in the woods come from.

    (One of these days, I would love to have illustrations of these. If you’re an artist this intrigues, glad to talk commissions with you and see if we can come to a mutually cheerful agreement.)

  • Albion

    Lammastide

    Albion has a host of seasonal and agricultural festivals. Some are more celebration than anything else, others are about specific magical commitments tied to the land.

    A field of glowing golden wheat
    Photo by Penguinuhh on Unsplash

    In our world, you’ll sometimes see this festival called Lughnasadh, a festival devoted to the Irish god, Lugh. It was often celebrated with games and competitions and stories, as a connection to the funeral games he held for his foster mother, Tailtiu. (Lugh himself is neither particularly associated with the sun or the harvest: he was a god who was known for being skilled in many ways.)

    However, while there are a number of harvest rituals around cutting the first of the corn in Great Britain, there isn’t good evidence for a pan-Celtic festival, whether dedicated to Lugh or to anyone else. Cutting the first corn is a common element, but some places have links to ritual plays, others to bonfires, some are up on a hill, some are down near water…

    In the Anglo-Saxon tradition, there’s another name, and one that came down through the Christian church, later: Hlaef-mas, which became Lammas. This might involve baking a loaf of bread, breaking it into four pieces, and crumbling each piece in the corner of a barn to offer protection to the grain about to be stored there.

    It was also a great time for harvest fairs and gatherings, before the heavy work of the harvest began.

    A word about corn and grain: In historical works in and about Europe, you’ll often see the word ‘corn’ used. This is actually a generic word for grain. It usually means whatever the main form of grain was in that area – wheat, oats, rye, barley. What Americans think of as corn (the thing that grows on ears in kernels or that you can make popcorn from) is maize. Here’s some more about that.

    In Albion, part of being Lord of the Land is the tie between your energy and the land you are stewarding and protecting. You can see Carillon at May Day, doing his part in Outcrossing, and the upcoming Pastiche has some other brief mentions. (This draws on some old theories about the land being tied to the ruler, that is a whole other blog post or series of them.)

    These customs vary place to place, village to village, and of course season to season. I haven’t figured out the details for the grain harvest, but I know there is one. And it involves bread.

    I’m doing a (virtual) get together with friends of like mind on Saturday, and we’re all baking bread to talk about. I’m making cottage cheese dill bread (something like this recipe), though I usually bake mine as a round rather than a loaf. I’m a dill fanatic, but other herbs work really well in it too.

    A bit more to enjoy:

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