Reading & Listening Update: Research, L’Morte d’Arthur Lectures, and More

Besides sitting with a nasty head cold while writing this (oh the joy of the changing season — hello there, autumn, my second-favourite season who’s not being very friendly this year), the past two weeks have not been too bad.

The one highlight (oh, and what a highlight!) was finally seeing a-ha live on stage after waiting a whopping 26 years. But more about that in a next blog post.

I’ve been Busy with an uppercase ‘B’ trying to get everything done that I want to get done by the end of February. Like outlining the whole of Ruon Chronicles. Methinks I need another month o_O

Anyway, here’s an update of the stuff I’ve been reading and listening to that I really enjoyed. Most of it is for research purposes and that which isn’t is basically my mind going “squirrel!” as soon as I spot something remotely interesting or helpful to read.

Books — Bits and Pieces of Everything

Because I’ve been so busy I’ve been book-hopping like mad. And, while a New Year’s resolution had been to not buy any more books until my TBR pile is smaller, I ended up grabbing a free book by Darla DeMorrow. (Takes deep breath to read the title.)

The Upbeat, Organizes Home Office: Five Simple Steps to Sort and Succeed for an Organized Mind, Better Time Management Skills & an Office That Makes You Smile by Darla DeMorrow

Basically I’m busy — okay, slowly — busy revamping a space for my home office. This includes my standing desk (it’s this one from Deskstand) which I haven’t been using for most the summer because I’ve been flaring quite a bit thanks to all our heat waves. Luckily now that the weather is changing I can move back into my room properly (it’s an oven in the summer) and redo the Writing Closet.

So this volume came by just in time for me to make the most of my space, yay!

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass

Yes, I’m still busy with this one, but that’s because I’m doing the exercises as I go. It’s really a helpful book — and I think this may become my favourite craft book.

It really delves into the emotional hooks and really thinking about characters so they don’t become cardboard cutouts. And I’ve already changed part of Knowledge Stones based on the advice in this book. It’s definitely better now!

I know it’s a pricey book (she says, keeping the Rand/Dollar exchange rate in mind), but it’s definitely worth it.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny (Photos by Lisa Rinzler)

I’m reading this book about the Willard Suitcases again as research for an article I’m planning to write. It really is a heartbreaking book (I think more so because I have a mental illness and would probably have found myself in a similar place if it wasn’t for modern psychiatric medicine…), but I think it’s one everyone should read because it shows the people behind the suitcases in so much colour. You come to understand them so much better and really see them as people and not “just” another patient number.

Here’s an Instagram account about the Willard suitcases that is fascinating to follow as well.

Magazines — Needlework, Gemstones, and Craftiness

I’ve also been reading quite a lot of magazine articles. I usually get my international magazines from Pocketmags and, while I still prefer physical magazines, the digital ones do just make more sense price-wise. Plus I get to have magazines on my phone for those moments when I’m in a queue for instance and I don’t have my knitting with me. Because, let’s be honest, nobody likes queues.

I’m still absolutely addicted to PieceWork Magazine — their Spring 2020 issue is now out, by the way. Plus they now have all their back issues online for subscribers to read!

On the website there are also fascinating articles, for example these two:

A Brief History of Harvesting Spider Silk

Deep-Seated Associations: Textile Threads in Language, Myths, Fairy Tales, and Novels”.

 Other interesting magazines I got on the back issue sale includes a few Rock&Gemissues (which is also for research for, among other things, The Ruon Chronicles), some BBC History issues, Writers’ Forum issues I’d had my eyes on, the 200th issue of Knitting Magazine and a couple of Cardmaking & Papercraft issues. Did I get enough mags to keep me busy for a while? Definitely! 

Some of the interesting articles on the Rock&Gem website include:

Earth Science In the News: A Hum Foretells a New Volcano?

How Do Super-Sized Geodes Get So Big?

Podcasts, lectures, and lectures in podcast form

I’m quite a “slow listener” when it comes to podcasts — no listening as one and a half or double speed for me, thank you! — but I also seem to listen the longer episodes and lectures in about 1-hour intervals. One of my favourite podcasts is the Mythgard Academy lectures.

I’m currently busy with the lecture series about Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and even though it comprises 36 two-hour lectures I really don’t want it to end!

If you’re a fan of Arthuriana, or even just medieval romances and literature and would like to know more, I can highly recommend it. They also use the Middle English text, which is awesome!

Here is a link to the page of lectures (there’s video lectures available as well): Mythgard Academy’s Le Morte d’Arthur lectures

Some of the other podcasts which I enjoyed over the past few weeks, include:

The Folklore Podcast: Episode 67 — Celtic and Western European Fairies

Mark Norman’s podcast never fails to entertain and to educate at the same time. Though I know more about these fairies than those in the rest of the world, there were still much to learn and a lot of Story Fodder to get stuck into.

The episode of The Folklore Podcast which I listened to before episode 67, was episode 60 (Magical House Protection) which was just as fascinating. 

Become a patron of The Folklore Podcast over here — the perks are many; not least of all having all the episodes ad-free.*

Courtesy of The Folklore Podcast website

Lore: Episode 136 – The Third Time

I’ve been a fan of Lore for a few years now and found it quite by happy accident (or did I…) when searching for something completely different. Needless to say, I’ve been listening since and still look forward to the new episodes.

Episode 136’s description is as follows:

Folklore is our legacy. We humans have carried it with us everywhere we’ve gone in the world, and it anchors us to our roots and our community. But it also does something else: it gives us a place to hide our fear, to put it on a leash and control it. And there’s one story in particular that does that better than most.

Now, if that doesn’t make you want to listen, nothing will.

I Should Be Writing: Episodes 478 “War of Art”, 473 “Character Names (1)”, and 472 “Trust the People in the Basement”

I love Mur Lafferty’s podcasts I Should Be Writing and Ditch Diggers. Her honesty about her writing and struggles with mental health really hits home.

Thanks to the episode about character names, though, I realised that I have three (yup, 3) characters with very similar sounding names in the first part of The Knowledge Stones. So I need to work on changing some names…

The podcast about War of Art actually needs a whole post as it was something which I have also been thinking about when it comes to self-help-ish-like books and craft books.

*Yes, I know I work in advertising, but some of the podcasts really do go overboard with the amount of ads that they have. I quite like the way Lore does ads; leaving them until almost at the end of the episode. However, if a podcast’s creator(s) are able to get revenue without advertising, I’m also really happy because it shows me that people are still willing to pay for the content they enjoy. But let me stop before I start a whole marketing lecture!

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.

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