Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book review: Hopeless, Maine: Victims by Tom and Nimue Brown

It makes me really happy when people think this much about something I have made. A great many hours go into creating any book, so it’s massively cheering to have this kind of feedback and to feel that it was time well spent…

Meredith Debonnaire

I promised to talk about something other than Tales From Tantamount, so here is my review of Hopeless, Maine: Victims. The latest dark delight from Tom and Nimue Brown. My reviews of the previous two books can be found here and here. Disclaimer: I do personally know these folks!

BEWARE SPOILERS! I have tried to keep this review free of spoilers for Victims, but it will definitely have spoilers for the previous two books.

Salamandra dramatically uses her magic powers to make tea

Welcome to my island.

My friends, my dears, my delightful squidlings, you need to read this series. Partly because it’s excellent, but partly because I desperately need to be able to talk about it with other people. Reading Victims is an exercise in realising just how much Tom and Nimue Brown snuck past me in the previous two books. There are all these amazing plot things happening and I’m there going…

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Review: Mapping the Contours by Nimue Brown

I love Lorna’s work, so her response to mine means a great deal to me…

Fruits of Annwn

mapping the contours by nimue brownThere’s something old about the poems in this book, a bone-deep knowing, a merging of self and land which is reflected in the cover image. It speaks of a time when the hills were the contours of giantesses, the curves of beautiful goddesses, a time that still is and is not with us now.

‘Walking myself into the landscape, and walking the landscape into myself’ is the way bard and druid author Nimue Brown describes the process behind her new poetry collection Mapping the Contours. In the poem that provides the title she says ‘Human bodies are much like landscapes.’

In ‘Raised upon these hills’, one of the most beautiful hymns to a landscape I have ever read, Nimue evokes her lifelong relationship with the Cotswold Edge:

I was raised upon these hills,
My bones are made of limestone,
Sweet Jurassic limestone,
Grown from ancient seas.
I was raised…

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Salamandra’s Key

An exciting development from Hopeless Maine.

For those of you not familiar with this side of my life, it started out as a graphic novel, and is rapidly becoming a world in it’s own right, with songs, artifacts, a roleplay game, puppets, cosplay….

The Hopeless Vendetta

Hello, again people! (and others)

It is the new year, and I hope it brings you many good things.

I have spoken before, I think about how, at the beginning, when we first imagined how things might go with Hopeless, Maine, that we thought one day we would work with artisans and craftspeople if there were to be any HM related artifacts. No factory made things or plastic tatt that would one day end up in a landfill. Well, it’s dream come true time. Matt Inkel (who I introduced to you, here) has begun working with us and the first fruit of this collaboration is Salamandra’s Key.

Here is my drawing of Sal’s Key and Matt’s finished prototype.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get seeing something from our story made real in the waking world. It’s a bit uncanny and utterly wonderful. For those of you who…

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Review: ‘Darkest Part’, by Madeleine Harwood

I love this album, great to see it getting attention…

The Catbox

‘Darkest Part’ is the first album by Madeleine Harwood, an a-cappella folk singer from Gloucestershire.

I’ve been seeing a lot of Madeleine lately on social media, from friends in the Folk and Pagan scene, as well as on Folk radio programmes. I was therefore thrilled to receive a copy of her CD to review.

The art was the first thing to grab me. By Tom Brown, co-creator of ‘Hopeless, Maine‘, it hints at the musical tone within, but doesn’t give too much away.

This was an album unlike any I’d heard in a long time. I pressed Play, only to hear a deep intake of breath… before a beautiful voice soared from the speakers, like a bird’s first song breaking the silence of the morning. Madeleine’s vocals are absolutely breathtaking; her words rise and fall as a lone instrument, clear and strong. It’s easy to image these songs…

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Survival Manual for the Human Race

I’ll be posting a proper review soon for the book this relates to, but let me say now that it is brilliant and please do hop over and read the post. The stories we share are such an important part of how we make the present and shape the future. We need better stories, and this is one such.

The Bardic Academic

Friday, 13 April 2018

2013-09-21-bigeuropa002

Things may seem pretty bleak out there at the moment – geopolitical unrest, climate chaos, displaced populations – and threats are real not only to the peace and security of our families and communities but to the very existence of humankind as the dominant species upon this planet. It all feels like The Eighties: the sequel. It was back then, living in the shadow of the Cold War as a teenager, that I first started to get seriously interested in science fiction as a way of speculating about the future. Alternative versions of now. For SF holds a dark mirror up to the present day. It has done this since its inception, in Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, published 200 years ago, but haunting us still about the perils of playing god, of science running amok. In the 30s Aldous Huxley explored the spectre…

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Hopeless, Maine comes to Time Quake

Things we’ve been up to recently, and some insights into Hopeless Maine, my steampunk enthusiasms, and so forth. Somehow, Tom managed not to get his photo into this, but there’s a bit of me and also my very grown up offspring!

The Hopeless Vendetta

Last weekend, we had a bit of an adventure and brought Hopeless, Maine to Manchester (UK) We are basically hobbits (Eldritch Hobbits, naturally) and can only be lured away from our shire for the most excellent adventures. This was one such. Time Quake was a bold experiment put together by the same people who bring you The Asylum Steampunk Festival.  (Which is the largest, and my opinion, best steampunk event in the world) Thier involvement meant that this experiment was bound to be a success (Spoiler- it was)

We set up as the Hopeless, Maine tourist information stand and prepared to educate the unwary about life on our strange little island off the coast of Maine. We were armed with creatures, books, strange bunting, oddities, and the lovely tourist info posters drawn by the esteemed Cliff Cumber. Also- we had leaflets on island history and a piece by the mysterious Eldrich…

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Life with a donate button

There are a number of ways of putting a donate button onto a blog. I’ve looked at two – if you upgrade your paypal account to a business account, you can have a paypal donate button. There’s also this – ko-fi.com which is free, and I’ve chosen to go with it. I can recommend it as an easy thing to set up, although it does require you to have paypal.

So, what happens when you donate to me, or to any other creative person, be it via this platform, paypal, patreon etc?

First up, donations are a huge validation. We live in a culture where money has a massive role, and is linked, whether we like it or not, to sense of worth. Most creators don’t earn much for their creativity, and small donations can be very powerful as a consequence.

Secondly, that thing about creators often being relatively poor. You may be helping buy a person time when they don’t have to work on other jobs. You may help them pay their bills or buy food for that week. If enough people donate, you may be moving them from their former employment towards doing the thing you love them doing, full time – Patreon is an especially good platform for this. If you want more of what a person does, this can be a way of helping make that possible.

Donations can help a person save up to cover costs – that might be studio time for recording, new equipment, courses, research materials, print runs and so forth. It might mean under-writing the cost of going to events – its hard to get seen and build an audience if you don’t do events but transport and accommodation aren’t provided for free if you aren’t already a big name.

Donations help a creator take risks. If you have to make every creative venture pay for itself quickly, and for your time on it, and cover your rent, then its hard to take risks. Getting a big, original project moving takes time, and involves risk. You can help make magic things happen.

The idea that creativity should happen for love has serious implications. It means creativity is for the independently wealthy, those who are financially supported by a partner, the already successful, and those well enough and with the energy to work a job and work on their thing in their spare time. The idea of creativity just for the love of it is an idea that excludes a lot of people from creative options and keeps creativity for the rich and privileged and I am not cool with that. It might be different if supermarkets gave away food for the love of feeding people and landlords made homes available for the love of sheltering people, but that doesn’t happen.

Donating to me, specifically will help me with study and research. It means I can keep Tom from having to take on paying gigs for illustration so that he can put his time into our projects instead. It helps me afford the time for unpaid work – which most often means supporting the creativity of people who can’t afford to hire a publicist.

You can support me on Patreon if you’re inclined to make a regular donation – https://www.patreon.com/NimueB

Or I now have this for one-off donations (there’s a permanent button on the right hand side of the blog)

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

 

If you’re wondering whether to donate or not, let me add that I’m debt free, and can afford a social life. I don’t have to choose between heating and eating. But train fares for events terrify me. If that suggests you are more marginal than me, please don’t donate, look after yourself and enjoy what I’m giving away.


Poem: Sometimes by Meredith Debonnaire

I’m a big fan of Merry’s poetry.

Meredith Debonnaire

This is relatively new – a few months I think. I really like reading this one out loud – it’s got an urgency that sort of builds (I think).

Sometimes
In the night I can hear the echoes
of a river that never ran through this street
and the creaks of the not-boats drifting like leaves along it.
Sometimes
in the night I can  hear the pigeons
squabbling and doing magical mundane pigeon things
six feet above me on the roof
and
I don’t sleep,
sometimes,
because to sleep would be to admit another day is coming.
The river is full of secret nighttime commerce,
happening quietly around and beneath the loudmouthed drugdealers
and
I heard from beneath the sounds of my neighbours’ party
mingling with the deep voice of some beast
who stalks me, curious, and is interrupted by Basshunter again.
I try to keep moving
like a shark

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Of dustcats, lullabys and singing snails

Here’s something I’ve been working on recently, which Tom has blogged about over on the blog that deals with all things Hopeless Maine. It’s not so Pagan, more cute and silly, but I suspect some of you of being susceptible to cute and silly, so, here we go…

The Hopeless Vendetta

Hello people! (and others)

We have begun a thing.  We are making and publishing tiny books. Our first one (Lullaby for a Dustcat) took about two months from concept to having it out there among you. This is *Very* exciting for us because it creates a more immediate relationship with the book, as an act of creativity, and with all of you. (Yes, we love our publisher, Sloth, who brings out the graphic novels, but one a year is the limit there) So, Nimue and I will be making more of these. Probably three annually.

They really are tiny books. A6 size, which means that they can be sent instead of greeting cards in the same sort of envelope. They are very young-human friendly too.

This has also been made possible by Nimue’s Patreon people.  One level is that of Dustcat and she writes letters to them. (as though they…

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Resolution time!

I like the end of year opportunity to check in with my previous year’s resolutions, see how I did and set some intentions about how I wanted to move forward. So, this time last year my goals were as follows:

Improve my stamina so that 2 hours of fun stuff (walking, dancing) does not challenge me at all.

Remove the mute button, and be as I am with more people more of the time.

Ceilidh

Write songs. Even if I only sing them twice in public, before I go off them, I want to do more of this.

Cause more fun stuff to happen.

Pick up some new skills (maybe craft skills, I don’t know, we’ll see what comes along).

How did I do? I can’t count on being active for two hours, but the likelihood of being able to be more active without taking a pasting has greatly improved, so good enough, and more of that in the future.

I don’t know that I’ve got very far with removing the mute button, although I’ve successfully cut down on the time I spend with people I feel obliged to mute around. So that moves things the right way.

Ceilidh – total fail. That’s not my fault, the local dances keep happening on nights when I’m already doing something else!

Write songs – win. I’ve written a couple of songs I really like this year. I feel more confident in my song writing.

Cause more fun stuff to happen. Win. And also, I’m spending time with people who cause fun stuff to happen so it isn’t all coming from me.

Pick up some new skills – well, I’m learning things about making small films and I went to a couple of writing workshops, so, good enough there. I also learned a fair bit about ecolinguistics.

What’s next?

High quality sloth – not just down time, but really good quality downtime with better sleep, better soul nurturing stuff, more happy stuff, more good. Not being so tired that I can’t have good down time.

More local events. Because travelling to do events is a lot of work and the trains are silly.

Making more time for my creativity, more time for creative collaborations and more time for spaces where I can happily share creative stuff in an un-pressured sort of way.

Being much more guarded about my time, energy and resources and being willing to be more selfish about what I need for me, and more willing to say no to people. Saving my energy so that I get more opportunities to say yes to good things that I actually want.