Tag Archives: book

How to Unpeel a Monster

I’ve finally got How to Unpeel a Monster up as a print version in case anyone wants a hard copy.

I gave away a fair few ecopies of this poetry collection earlier in the year. It is available for kindle should you prefer to buy it, but I’m always happy to send out free ebooks. Leave a comment if you want one of those, and I’ll pick up your email address from there.

Amazon.co.uk – https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown/dp/B08DBZDDBL

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/How-Unpeel-Monster-Nimue-Brown-ebook/dp/B08D6RX7Z7


All hands to the decks

This song is a collaboration with Penny Blake, who you can find on Patreon –  https://www.patreon.com/blakeandwight or over here – https://blakeandwight.com/ 

The song lyrics come from  Penny’s fabulous novel – The Curious Adventures of Smith and Skarry, Book 1, which you can find on Amazon.  I reviewed it here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/the-curious-adventures-of-smith-and-skarry-a-review/  

The whole thing is rather steampunk, with tea, pirates, and so forth so we decided to dress up for the occasion. Tom is frequently a tea pirate.

Tune by me, with singing in by Tom Brown and James Weaselgrease.

I don’t do much cosplay, but this is also me having a go at being Max – a gender complicated being from the same book. I need to buy a wig.


New adventures in Druidry

I’ve got a new project on the move that I thought may be of interest to blog followers…

I’ve just started a new Patreon level at $5 a month specifically for Druid content. I’m going to be working on a book, and in the short term what this level gives you is access to the work in progress and the scope to make suggestions about where I go, should you feel so moved! Like most authors, I find my hourly rate (once books start selling) isn’t ever going to pay me enough to justify the time spent.

For those of you new to this, the average book sells 3000 copies, the typical author gets less than £1 per copy, you can be quite successful in terms of number of books sold and still make a pittance in relation to the work put in.

I started doing Patreon a couple of years ago because I was struggling so much with creative work. Having that space, and the confidence that there are at least a few people who like what I do has kept me creating. I was close to giving up.

At time of writing, this blog has some 4,600 subscribers. Now, I know many of you are strapped for cash, or already supporting other things. However, allow me imagine a moment that everyone who followed this blog thought that $1 a month was fair and feasible thing to give in response to daily content from me. What would happen?

I could give up the paid work that takes up so much time and energy. I would be able to go much deeper and further with the Druidry. I could take whole days for deep reflection and engagement and the quest for inspiration and I could bring you back the fruits of that. I’d have a lot more time and energy to create.

I could also afford better living and working arrangements. I’m in a small flat, without the space to do any physically large project. My computer is on the dining table, in the one room of living space we have. It’s not ideal. There’s no garden here. I can’t really afford time off. I can’t dig in economically and also be a volunteer, and spend hours of my week giving my work away – it’s not possible. I’ve chosen a path that makes it difficult to be anything other than poor. It’s tricky, because I’m aware of the good I could do if I was better off – who else I could take care of, scope to lower my carbon footprint further, room to take better care of my health.

My poor mental health makes conventional employment difficult and I can’t work all the hours and do all the creative and Druid things on top of it. It’s been a difficult juggling act for years. I can’t really afford the time off I need to improve my mental health. Like many other people, I’m stuck in cycles of things that it is difficult to break out of, making the best choices I can based on the options I have.

My situation is totally normal for a part time creative person. Most full time creative and professionally Pagan people have some other way of paying the bills. If you are able to support anyone, then please be aware that it makes a massive difference, and just a few dollars a month can swing it from defeated, to able to keep going. I know of creators who can keep going because Patreon support pays a few key bills each month or allows them to buy art supplies. This is an industry in which success still means poverty, so when people who work creatively talk about not having any money, it doesn’t mean they aren’t good at what they do. There is no money worth mentioning in being a full time professional Pagan, either.

I’ll keep giving my work away for free. But, if you are able to put something in the hat in return, it would be greatly appreciated and it will help me keep going.

https://www.patreon.com/NimueB


Applied Druidry

Back in April, I spoke at the Pagan Federation Wakefield conference and it was a striking experience for me. I had a lot of conversations with people about climate change, about what we do and how to keep going and say sane. It shaped how I talked at the Scottish Pagan Federation conference a few weeks later, and after that I realised I needed to write about what I know. I’ll be at Druid Camp this summer in the Forest of Dean talking about ways of working your Druidry for the sake of the future.

The short of it is that there’s a great deal within Druidry that lends itself to helping us live sustainably and cope with both environmental and social chaos.

I’m currently thinking about how best to put that out there. Much of it draws on things I’ve already said here on the blog and also in my Pagan Dawn column and at those talks – but, I’ve written it as a single, coherent piece rather than a drip feed of fragments. As new things occur to me I’ll keep doing that drip feed here. In the meantime, the question is – how I do I most effectively put this out? I’m planning on doing a small print run so I have copies for events. I’m thinking about doing an ebook for ease of access, and keeping the cost there very low.

Part of me feels that I should just give this away to make it as widely available as possible – but that means I can’t do a print run because I can’t afford to buy everyone a copy of my book. Charging a small amount for an ebook would help offset the cost of a print version, potentially. There’s also the question of the amount of time I’ve put into this and my own economic sustainability. If I give everything away, the time I have to put in is much reduced. It’s a dilemma I face all the time, as a self employed worker also doing a lot of voluntary work.

If I could get patreon up to a level that supported me sufficiently, giving away ebooks would be easy. I could afford to do that and afford the time to keep writing. (Patreon account here – https://www.patreon.com/NimueB )

I feel very strongly that poverty should not be a barrier to inclusion, so I need to figure out an answer to that as well.

If you’ve any ideas about sites you’d like to see the ebook on, do leave me a comment. I don’t really want to use amazon because there’s so much I don’t like about how they do business.


Gods and Goddesses of Wales – a review

June 2019 sees the release of Halo Quin’s Gods and Goddesses of Wales. This is a Pagan Portal – meaning it’s a short, introductory book. I read it a while ago – one of the many perks of my working life.

I very much like Halo as a human being. I’ve spent time with her at Druid Camp, she’s a warm, lovely person full of inspiration. She’s not identifying as a Druid – but honestly what she writes is just the sort of thing for a Druid starting out on their path. Welsh mythology has a central role in modern Druidry, but getting into it can be a bit of a struggle. This is an ideal beginner’s book, giving you very readable and relevant takes on those key myths and figures.

This is a relevant book for anyone interested in Welsh mythology or deities associated with the British Isles. It’s worth remembering that the Welsh border hasn’t always been in the same place, and if you are in the west of England, these influences are highly pertinent!

You can buy this book from anywhere that does books, here’s the Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/Pagan-Portals-Goddesses-practical-introduction-ebook


The ritual of writing

There are a great many small joys and privileges that come from working at a Pagan publishing house. I get to read all sorts of books ahead of release. I get to help new authors break in, and more established authors reach further. I get to help. There’s an immense joy in seeing a writer winning – a first time author with a breakthrough title, an author whose been slogging away at it for years finally getting the attention they deserve. This is not always the work I am paid to do, this is sometimes stuff I do in my own time, because I can.

A few years ago, Andrew Anderson submitted a manuscript to Moon Books. It wasn’t something we could publish – it was simply too short. I liked his ideas and his writing style, so I dropped him an email with some pointers about what might work and get picked up – I’m not the person making those decisions, but I know how publishers operate. To my immense joy, he came back with a new book, and it clearly was one that we could put out. This month it is released.

The ritual of writing is a book for bards, and for anyone else using the written word as part of their creative spiritual life. Anyone inclined to write rituals, spells, prayers or meditations will find something they can use in this book. For anyone who wants to use writing as a focus for their spiritual journey, this book is resplendent with tools and ideas. It’s an ideal read for anyone on the Druid path and a natural companion book if you’re doing the OBOD Bardic grade. That Andrew is studying in the Ovate grade with OBOD should come as no surprise!

I’m personally delighted to see a book exploring creativity as ritual process in this way. I’m excited to see a new and innovative addition to contemporary Druid thinking. I’m looking forward to seeing what Andrew does next. I feel honoured to have had the chance to be part of his story.

The ritual of writing is available anywhere that sells books. here’s the Amazon link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ritual-Writing-Spiritual-Practice/dp/1789041538 


The Pre-Programming – a review

I read and reviewed The Automation – part one of the Circo del Herrero series back in the summer. Volume 2 is now out and honestly it blows the first novel out of the water. I really enjoyed the first book, but volume 2 achieves whole new levels. It’s also nigh on impossible to talk about the plot without spoilers for the first book.

This is a modern set fantasy in which Vulcan (the God) has automata running around in the human world causing trouble and adventure. You do not need to know your Greek or Roman Gods to get in here and enjoy the tale. You can’t start with volume 2 though. You really have to begin and the beginning with this series or you will be utterly lost. This is a complicated reality with a lot of ideas in it, and you need to get in and appreciate some of those ideas before you have them taken apart for you.

Volume 2 picks up the plot threads from volume one, laughs at you, and runs off in a whole selection of new directions. Nothing makes me happier as a reader than a well crafted story that I cannot predict. This is one of those. Twisty doesn’t begin to describe it. I was entirely surprised, repeatedly. Plot shapes suggested by volume 1 crumbled. Characters died. Agendas were revealed to be other than expected. No one was quite who I thought they were. By the end of book 2 it looks like the real plot has emerged, and now we know what’s going on. I expect we’re being set up for even more massive rug pulls when volume 3 comes out.

There was one line in the FAQs at the start that stuck out for me “Because the author of this series grew up in the Bible Belt, is of indigenous descent and has a lot to say (sub-textually) in response to colonialism and literature like American Gods, for instance.” It struck me that this series (at the moment) is well worth considering as a response to American Gods and that looking back at American Gods with this in mind, I now feel quite uneasy. And also happy to feel uneasy in retrospect.

I heartily recommend this series, it is knowing, funny, provocative, full of surprises. I wait impatiently for the next instalment. Find out more at circodelherreroseries.com


Practical Magic

 

Like many people with witchy sympathies, I have seen the film Practical Magic, more than once. I own a copy, even. It’s charming if a bit overblown. I only found out recently and by accident that there is a book. And a prequel. This is not exactly a review.

 

 

I am so glad I saw the film before I read the book, because I’ve enjoyed the film for what it is. Had I read the book first I suspect I’d have hated the film for being so far off the mark. Much of the magic in the book is subtle. There’s more of it in the background than there is deliberately enacted by the characters. The book is a complex, subtle, fascinating thing, and the youngest generation are teenagers and people in their own right and it makes a world of difference. The backstory with the curse and the accused ancestor is a good deal more complicated as well.

 

 

The prequel is called The Rules of Magic, and is lovely, and sad and thoughtful. What author Alice Hoffman does in both these books is to square up to how love and grief and relationship play out across a lifetime. It’s powerful stuff. And of course when you tell the longer story, inevitably, everyone dies. What you love, you lose, because that’s the essence of life. The understanding that the answer to this is to love more, is deeply affecting.

There are two things I particularly loved about these books. Firstly is that magic is ever present; a permeating force that creates possibility. It’s just there, around and between people, and creatures, and places and stories. I’d much rather have more of this kind of magic, and less of the spellworking we see in the film.

Thing number two is technical. The book Practical Magic is pretty much all ‘tell’ and little ‘show’. There’s a bit more ‘show’ in the prequel, but still not as much as is fashionable. This makes me really happy. This is a story told in its own way, on its own terms and as it has a lot of ground to cover, just telling you what happened is much more efficient and effective. We don’t have to play out every key scene with dialogue and let the reader come to their own conclusions. The narrator will tell you what to think. Sometimes the narrator will turn out to be wrong, or misleading and that adds to the charm.

You can’t tell multi-generational stories about love and relationship if you have to show every key scene, and that makes certain kinds of stories impossible. Writing in a way that supports the kinds of stories you want to tell, is essential.


Gatherer of Souls – a review

Gatherer of Souls, by Lorna Smithers, is a collection of poetry and short stories about Gwyn ap Nudd that offers a radical re-think of Arthurian mythology. Physically speaking, this is a small book – 114 pages – but what it covers is both vast and important.

Lorna has been studying Arthurian mythology for some time, going into older texts, and reading in more detail than most of us do. What she’s unearthed – and followers of her blog will already know about this – is the questionable nature of Arthur’s activities. We’re been sold Arthur as chivalric hero, protector of Britain, once and future king… but get into his stories and it’s all slaughter and theft. He’s a personification of patriarchy, and a killer of old mysteries and magics.

This is a book that assumes its readers have probably read some of the Arthurian material and aren’t basing all their knowledge on modern, pop-culture representations. I suspect that without at least an awareness of the older material, this would be a challenging read.

The Gatherer of Souls referred to in the title is Gwyn ap Nudd – a character whose story is interlaced with Arthur’s in legends. It seems likely that he is a far older figure. He is the ruler of Annwn – the realm Arthur plunders for treasures. He’s associate with faery, with otherworlds, underworlds and the dead. He is the enigma at the centre of the book, and even though Lorna gives us some pieces in his voice, he remains beyond us, essentially unknowable.

The use of voices in this collection is fascinating – across time, they speak of experiences and encounters that connect with Arthurian versions but recast them from different perspectives. The voices of those who have no voices in the usual versions of the tales. Often these are figures whose deaths are a brief interlude on the way to some victory or another. In telling these other tales, Lorna deconstructs the way Arthur as patriarch abuses wildlife, women, and anything magical or other.

It’s a very intense book, and I found I had to read it slowly and make time for digesting before I tried to move on. I’m confident it’s a book that will reward re-reading because there’s so much going on here that one read doesn’t do it justice. I find these are stories I needed. Arthur has been in my life as long as I can remember. I first became uneasy about him as a figure when failing to plough through Le Morte D’Arthur, struggling with the absence of real enchantment. It came into focus for me while working on a graphic novel of the same book and seeing again how empty and uneasy I find this supposedly chivalric dream.

I’ve been following Lorna’s blogs for some time, and I’ve learned a great deal from her work on Arthurian myths. I find the creative responses she’s shared in this book answer a need in me. A hunger I didn’t know I had for some other, wilder, and not-kingly take on things.

I heartily recommend this book. You can buy it here – https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/publications/gatherer-of-souls/ 


In SatNav We Trust – a review

One of the great things about being a reviewer is when authors come back to share their new adventures in life and publishing. Back in 2013 I reviewed Jack Barrow’s The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. Now he’s back, with something completely different!

Over a period of six weeks, Jack toured every county in England – the historic ones, not the modern metropolitan areas because he was camping and no one in their right mind wants to camp in a metropolitan area. This is an adventure that from my perspective, involves alarming amounts of driving, but, there’s a lot of good in it, so, I’m going to focus on that.

Taking in a county a day is of course just a ruse. It allows the author to have experiences and reflect on life, landscape, free will, identity, and rationality. It is the philosophical process that really engaged me, more than the often surreal exploration of England. For anyone who enjoys some non-academic philosophy, this is a great read – it’s all totally accessible and highly relevant to how we live and think.  Ideas about rationality and the place of the irrational in our lives are probably going to stay with me in perpetuity.

All too often, adventure writing is about the antics of privilege – it’s usually for the well off and well resourced. Adventure is usually portrayed as ‘away’ in some distant, exotic place. Adventurers so often go looking for pristine landscapes to adventure in, away from other humans – In SatNav We Trust is a glorious rejection of all of that. Jack goes to camp sites. He camps in places that anyone could camp in, and while his adventure format isn’t for everyone, he signposts the scope for much more affordable adventuring. The book demonstrates that a person can have interesting experiences without having to sleep on the side of a mountain, or having to dig holes to poo in!

I can probably forgive Jack for the miles he clocks up on this tour, simply because he demonstrates how we can have adventures where we live. Every county has plenty to offer. There’s history, landscape and fascinating people to be found everywhere and anywhere. It’s ok to be a small scale adventurer, finding joy and excitement in the little discoveries along the way.

The book is written with wit and self awareness. It’s entertaining, and thoughtful, and easy to dip in and out of. It may well be the sort of book people end up buying as a gift for Father’s Day. It’s also an invitation to plan your own mad tour on whatever terms you like. A tour of places that have given their names to cheese rather appeals to me.

One of the things I love about the reviewing process is I often get to see books that aren’t out there or otherwise available – to give feedback, and comments that help authors pitch to agents and publishers, and to give advance reviews. This was one of those.

And there’s more information about the book over here – http://jack-barrow.com/travelogue-in-satnav-we-trust/