Here we are at the end of another year, one in which I've been particularly remiss in getting out these newsletters. It's not through lack of intent, nor a lack of appreciation. MaryAnn and I are very grateful that you've signed up to receive it. We appreciate your continued support and love meeting you at the few cons we attend, or the rare times when one of you makes a trek to Patty's Pub of a Thursday evening.
The reason for the deafening silence was that this year seemed to have been particularly overwhelming in terms of everything. It wasn't just my writing, or trying to keep up with newsletters and email (which I haven't been able to respond to and my apologies for that, too). There was just lots going on. I write a haiku every day. A couple of weeks ago this one showed up:
The year is counting
down, days speeding
by; I can't
seem to catch my breath
Sad, but true. But enough complaining. Here we are now, meeting in this newsletter that feels suspiciously like one of those sheets of paper that fall out of Christmas cards and no one really reads.
Medicine Road (Subterranean Press) is now out and has garnered some very nice reviews. Here are a couple you can read online:
The Blue Girl (Viking) is also out and here are a couple of reviews of it:
We were hoping to have the 20th Anniversary Edition of Moonheart (Subterranean Press, illustrated by Charles Vess) out in time for the World Fantasy Convention. Then we were hoping for it to be out before the end of the year. Now it looks like it will have a January release. This is not Bill Schafer's fault, as both Charles and I were late on parts of the project. Rest assured that Bill has been doing his utmost to get it out as soon as possible and will ship it to those who've ordered it as soon as it comes off the presses. Charles Vess once again outdid himself with spectacular artwork. You can view the cover and see some black and white sketches at the Sub Press site:
Also due very soon from Sub Press is Quicksilver & Shadow the second of the early story collections (but not really soon as I just received the signature pages and haven't started putting my little tornados on them yet). This one will have a cover by MaryAnn. Next up will be a small Newford collection (as yet untitled) that will have one new story in it plus two previously published but as yet uncollected stories. Lastly, Bill plans to publish a second edition of this year's Christmas chapbook (called "The World in a Box") in a very affordable format. Details for the latter will be forthcoming on the Sub Press site and through my next newsletter.
I'm also hard at work on a new novel for Tor tentatively called Widdershins. I like the title, but I'm just not sure it suits how the book's turning out, so it may well change. For those of you who've been following the Newford stories over the years, this book focuses on Geordie and Jilly.
I had so much fun doing the picture book A Circle of Cats for Sharyn November at Viking, that I'm working on another one about boys and dogs and the desert. And no, it won't be called A Hectagon of Hounds or anything similar.
Coming up next year is a major trip that will take us to a part of the world where I've always wanted to visit. We're going to Australia in March to attend SwanCon in Perth, Western Australia. We'll likely stop off in Brisbane first, staying with author Paul Brandon and the inimitable Julie (you've read Paul's wonderful novel The Wild Reel, of course?), so for those of you live on the east side, there's a good chance that I'll do a signing in Brisbane. I'll send details when they're firmed up. Meanwhile, here's a link to Swancon:
Later in 2005, October 6-10th we'll finally make an appearance in the
Northeastern part of the U.S. (Salem, MA) for a conference called The Witching Hour. I was happy to note that Nancy Farmer and Holly Black will also be in attendance. You can read about the event here:
* * *
MaryAnn's been busier than ever. She had a challenging year health-wise, but finally got back into the swing of things in October, when she
(briefly) relaunched her eBay auctions. (She only squeezes eBay in when she can manage it.) For those of you who aren't familiar with her wares, she sells all sorts of rare books, jewellery, clothing, and marvelous objets d'art to beautify your life. Anyone who's interested in knowing when new auctions come up can subscribe to MaryAnn's private mailing list by sending her a note at:
She doesn't have anything listed on eBay just now, but expects to get some auctions going early in January. Her auctions can be viewed at:
Or at least they could be in October, before we headed off to Mile-High Con in Denver and the World Fantasy Convention in Tempe. On her return, she jumped right into preparations for the annual Vintage Clothing Sale held here in Ottawa on November 14th at the Chateau Laurier Hotel beside Parliament Hill. In 2003 she shared a booth with friends, but evidently impressed the organizers enough to be granted her very own corner booth this year. Needless to say, she got busybusy (as the crow girls might say) and put together a most elegant booth design for displaying her vintage clothing and jewellery.
The show was a roaring success and she would have gotten back to her auctions afterward, except the opportunity arose for her to open a little shop in the Ottawa Antique Market a multi-vendor antique mall across the street from Patty's Pub. I suppose we should never have moved from our old neighbourhood. She could've walked to work and we both could've walked over to the pub for our Thursday night gigs (albeit pulling along some sort of cart to haul all the instruments and gear). Ah well, we're just a short drive away now.
Her shop, as you might guess, is beautiful and eclectic, featuring mainly vintage clothes, jewellery, art and collectibles. My pal Ian from Compact Music (a fav' local CD shop) told me that when he walked into MaryAnn's shop, it was like stepping into a moment of warmth and peace from all the craziness that this season can bring especially in the retail sector. And it's certainly that, warm and peaceful, I mean. You can see images of her shop here (scroll down to Reclectica):
I'm not sure how this all applies to her doctor's orders to relax more, but try as I might, I have little sway when it comes to getting MaryAnn to slow down.
It's getting impossible to keep up with everything that's coming out these days and that's just the stuff we think we'd like. And even if one could, there'd never be time to listen to it all. And then there's playing music at the pub...
The last few months at the pub have been particularly fun. Besides the usual crowd that comes to listen bless 'em all Brock Zeman (whom I've raved about to you in earlier newsletters) dropped by a couple of times, playing sets in between ours. The first time we left him on his own, just so we could listen, but the next time, Don and I couldn't resist and played the set with him. What was especially fun is that since Brock's such a prolific songwriter, almost all his material was new stuff that's not yet been recorded.
We also had our old friend Greg Brown drop by one night. Greg's a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and singer (not the Iowa singer/songwriter) who sat in with us one winter (a year or so ago) when Don had a shoulder injury. Greg's putting a new band together at the moment, but he was a member for Glen Road on their last recording. Our Greg played the Ottawa Folk festival a few years ago when the Iowa Greg Brown was also on the bill and confused a lot of people who, reading his nametag, came up with CDs for him to sign that he'd never recorded.
We really do get great players dropping in at the pub. One night Rob Menzies, a piper and whistle player who lives on the West Coast, came by to play a few tunes. He talked about this group of teen musicians he plays with called the Coquitlam Celtic Ensemble, particularly one of the fiddlers, a young woman named Caitlan Read. She writes some great tunes, one of which (a collaboration with her brother Aaron) appears on the group's first CD, Dusty Windowsill. I've been playing the disc non-stop since Rob sent me a copy and recommend it to any of you who like a big sound with your Celtic music. For a touchstone, you might think of that big group feel that the Chieftains get sometimes, although there are also many pieces with smaller combinations of instruments. You can find out more and order copies at:
In the pictures on the slide show you get when you first reach the site, Caitlan's the redhead with the longish pageboy and Rob's the older guy playing whistle, pipes and bodhran. (Sorry if you're reading this Rob, but hey, you are twice the age of any of the rest of the band members...)
But I started out talking about recorded music. High on our list of new favourites is Xavier Rudd. You really have to see this fellow to believe him. He performed twice at the Bluesfest here in Ottawa over the summer, and once again last fall in a local club, and he's brilliant. Sort of Harry Manx-ish, but with an Australian rather than an East Indian slant. He looks like a surfer (well, he is a surfer) and plays both high energy and quieter evocative music on voice, slide guitar, didgeridoo, harmonica, stomp box & percussion often two or three at the same time. He sounds like a full band and is one of those folks with so much charisma you're riveted to the stage for the vibe he gives off as much as for the music.
A long-time favourite of ours is Kevin Welch, and there's been a wealth of new material from him, but mostly we were happy to catch him this summer in Perth, Ontario, where he played a concert that also featured Kieran Kane, David Francey, and Fats Kaplan.
Welch and Kane have a new CD out called You Can't Save Everybody, recorded live off the floor and it's fabulous. Welch also has a pair of DVD concerts available now: Plenty of Time, recorded with an Australian band called the Flood at a concert in Sydney, and A Reunion & Tribute to Pat Long, recorded with his old band Blue Rose Café.
And speaking of Australia (twice now), Kasey Chambers has a new CD out called Wayward Angel, which kind of describes her to a T. She's got the voice of a (country) angel, but like the best artists, her music can't be pigeonholed in just one genre.
Regular readers of these newsletters will already know how enamoured I am with the Tucson-based band Calexico. Well, if you've never had the chance to see them live (which I highly recommend), they now have a DVD available. It was recorded in London, England, and features a full mariachi band for most of the concert. Great extras, too. I normally don't watch the extras on DVDs, but these are wonderful.
As I mentioned above, there's just so much great music out there it's hard to keep up with it all, never mind try to remember it all at the end of the year. But Cat Eldridge (he'd be Mr. Green Man Review) asked me for a year's end list of music and books, so I'm going to share it with you first. These are not the top ten in either case, just ten I really enjoyed in the past year. They're not in any particular order either, and a few didn't even come out this year, but 2004 is when I experienced them and I stand behind each and every one of them all, the quiet, the rocking and the weird.
Unspeakable - Bill Frisell;
Angel Of The Morning - Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez;
Gold Medal - The Donnas;
Hopetown - Jenny Whiteley;
Sunday Shoes - Nels Andrews;
Legs To Make Us Longer - Kaki King;
Air Dancing - Kathryn Tickell;
Music From A Farther Room - Lucia Micarelli;
Jimson Weed - Nathan;
Nina Amor Y Respeto - Mala Rodríguez THE ORIGINAL - Sarai
Oh, this is too hard. I'm missing stuff like Tom Russell's Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs and Gretchen Wilson's Here For The Party, or Dave Alvin's Ashgrove and Lúnasa's The Kinnitty Sessions, and I didn't include any of the CDs mentioned in the paragraphs above the list, and then there are those CDs that only have one or two brilliant songs on them, and while you don't necessarily care much for the rest of the album, you play those to death (like Estelle's "1980" no, wait; I like that album), and...oh, I'm switching over to the books because they'll be easier. But that's only because I didn't have as much time to read as I would've liked...
The Lost Girls - Laurie Fox (Simon & Schuster);
The Autumn Castle - Kim Wilkins (Warner Books);
Fire Logic & Earth Logic - Laurie J. Marks (Tor, 2002 & 2004);
The Charnel Prince - Greg Keyes (Del Rey);
Reflex - Steven Gould (Tor);
Hawkes Harbor - S.E. Hinton (Tor);
The Spirit Catchers - Kathleen Kudlinski (Watson-Guptill);
Blackbird House - Alice Hoffman (Doubleday);
Down Here - Andrew Vachss (Knopf);
Good Girl Wants It Bad - Scott Bradfield (Carroll & Graf)
Hmm. Now where do I fit Neil Gaiman's spoken word CD, Speaking In Tongues:
Three Stories & Two Poems? Or as-yet-unpublished novels like The Bear's Daughter by Judith Berman or Nikki M. Pill's Chaotic Water (both of which I enjoyed as much as any published book I read this year)? And what about comics, like Bill Willingham's Fables, Terry Moore's Strangers In Paradise (now coming out in handy regular-sized trade paperbacks), or pretty much anything by Brian Bendis?
I give up. Cat, if you're reading this, sorry, but I can't narrow it down enough. As for the rest of you, if you do try any of the material mentioned above, I hope you get even half as much pleasure from them as I did.
If I may make yet another side trip here, MaryAnn and I have been riveted by the new TV series Lost. And the departure of Buffy from the small screen on Tuesdays has been assuaged by my current favourite show, Veronica Mars.
Have a safe and happy holiday, folks, and best wishes for the new year from both MaryAnn and myself.
And if you haven't already done so, please spare a moment to send positive thoughts and (if possible) financial aid to the unfortunate people in Asia whose lives and homes were decimated by earthquakes and deadly waves.
Stay strong. Dream true.