dawn_felagund: Bread and Puppet print reading, Resistance of the Heart Against Business as Usual (bread and puppet)
This was not my first rodeo. I went to my first rally in DC when I was twelve years old. While I've never been intensely active politically, I've marched and rallied across the years for the causes most near and dear to my heart.

When I bought my bus ticket for the Women's March on Washington, I expected it to be more of the same. It would be fun, uplifting, and energizing to spend the day elbow to elbow with people who find meaningful the same things I do. It would certainly be the most adventurous march I've attended but only because, this time, I would be coming from eleven hours away, from Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, rather than less than an hour outside of DC.

It wasn't more of the same. This was an experience like no other I've ever had before. Read more... )
dawn_felagund: Illustration of a river from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." (Hobbit river)
Fandom Snowflake Day 5 asked participants to "post recs for at least three fanworks that you did not create." I went *ahem* a little above and beyond. I did ten. I've been reading a lot of Tolkienfic lately--it is one of my goals for the year to make time for reading, as it is often one of the fandom pleasures that falls first to the obligations of running a website--and I wanted to share some of my favorites from among what I've read. I feel like I need to make up for a few years of rarely reading and commenting while I was in grad school. Most of these stories are Silmarillion-based, but there are a few that are from The Lord of the Rings.

Please check them out and, if you like them, consider leaving the author a note letting them know.

The Choice by Keiliss. Thank goodness the prompt that inspired this story gives away the ending or I don't think I would have been able to take it. I still teared up at multiple points in this tenderly written and beautifully human story about Elladan and his daughter making their choice about whether or not to sail for Aman. Few of Tolkien's unanswered question have inspired the speculation, angst, and fanfic as the question of whether the sons of Elrond sailed, and Kei's story deserves a place at the top of the heap. Her characterization, too, of characters who only appear in passing speak of why she is one of the giants of Tolkienfic. This story is simply wonderful.

Elendili by hadastheunseelie. I picked up this story for the Fandom Snowflake challenge that asked participants to reach out to someone new. I'll admit that I hesitated. It mentions a teenage girl and glitter in the summary, and while I totally support teenagers writing fanfic--a lot of my students do and I think it's awesome!--I also reserve the right not to read said fanfic when it's not one of my students! And the story was long. But, in the Snowflake spirit, I gave it a go and OMG. OMG, y'all. It is probably the strangest story I will rec here--which anyone who knows me will know I mean as a compliment--but Hadas is one of those writers with a gift for wielding words like a knife between my bones where they actually hurt. The imagery is stunning: sometimes gritty and very anchored in Modern-earth (where this story is set) and sometimes ethereal and otherworldly, making that familiar world of colleges and coffee shops Elvish somehow.

Eyes Bright with Honor by heget. Heget is working on telling the tales of the ten companions who died in the dungeon with Finrod in defense of Beren. The Beren and Luthien story has never particularly entranced me (Finrod's on the other hand ... *ahem*), but I walked away from this story getting it: getting some of the magic that people (including Tolkien) see in that story and in the character of Beren in particular. The story meanders through time, mostly looking back to the life of the OC Consael whose story Heget tells in this piece, and it is a story where the pieces all coalesce and make beautiful sense in the end. This is one of the most horrifying episodes in The Silmarillion to me, yet I could walk away from this story with a rare sense of feeling uplifted and hopeful instead of imagining those eyes kindling in the dark ... Heget plans to write about all ten companions, and I will be checking out the other pieces in the series on the strength of this one.

Galadriel: There and Back Again by Himring. If someone were to task me with writing the life of Galadriel, I would sweat over it for a year and turn out a sprawling, half-million word epic. And I still don't think I could top this story. Himring is perhaps one of the most underappreciated masters of Silmfic, and this story shows why. Her Galadriel manages to be stubborn, strong, and vulnerable with a no-nonsense wisdom that probably explains her survival alone (almost) of her family. And in well under 2000 words! Every wrenching, poignant word counts in this piece that stitches together the Galadriel who competed with (and feared) Fëanor and she who gave Frodo the light of Eärendil that saved him.

Home for Midwinter by Tallulah Red. I will echo Tal's several reviews on the LotRGenFic community--this was written for their annual Yule Exchange--who praised the world-building in this story. The story was written for Indy, who wanted to see Maglor adopt a family from among the Avari. Although a short piece, it sparkles with believable characters and culture, taking a different take on the Avari than most writers do. And in a fandom that has a Maglor-walks-by-the-shore-and-laments trope, it was refreshing to read a story that allows him happiness in the future while also not shying from his history.

Journeys by Independence1776. This story was written for me, for the MPTT/LotRGen Yule Exchange. I remember writing a story once for a friend that she described fitting like a pair of gloves that could only be selected by someone who knew her well. This is such a story. It is Maedhros and Maglor and a conversation in a cave, yet the dialogue simmers with much more than can be seen on the surface, and Indy achieves an easy camaraderie between the brothers that is delightful to read. It is simply wonderful, like Indy dove into my mind and extracted a story I would have loved to have written for my own verse. I'm officially adopting this one into the Felakverse.

The Purple Dress by Avon. This story gave me chills. Set in Númenor, a young woman flouts convention in her choice of dress color ... but this story is so much more than that. It is one of those pieces that unspools in slow revelations so that, as a reader, you're never entirely on steady ground. And once you realize what is going on, you're not there yet; the ending simmers with delicious double entendre. There's A LOT going on in this short piece, and every word and image count.

Though the Road Darkens by Marta. Marta's story tells the tale of Gorlim the Unhappy through the eyes of his companion Gildor. The voice in this story is simply magnificent; you feel like you are sitting at the fireside, hearing Gildor tell his tale. A complicated story, it brings in folklore, myth (Middle- and Modern-earth), and questions the historical tradition, offering different look at Gorlim's story. Oh, and it's beautifully written, the kind of words you want to lean back and savor like wine. If you're thinking--like I probably would have if Marta hadn't asked me to read this story--that you'd never be interested in a story about Gorlim, take a chance and prove yourself wrong. (I'm happy to admit that I was! :)

Winter Came Earlier by Oshun. She calls this "just a bit of fluff" in the summary, but saying this is "just" fluff is like saying the Grand Canyon is "just" a sidewalk crack. This is a layered and thought-provoking story in which Elladan faces, through Arwen and Aragorn, his own worries about mortality and what it means to be Peredhil. But don't let my summary scare you into thinking that this is a deep, heavy story that one can only read in a bright-lit room. This is Oshun, after all, and her work is as ever sweetened with romance and humor that balance perfectly with the deeper themes of this short, lovely work.

Winter Sons of Gondor by Elwen. It was my turn this month on MPTT to archive the challenge stories. This necessitates skimming each piece so that I can add the meta-data to it about character, genre, et cetera. Most of the time I do just that--skim--and I started to do so with this story but got hooked in despite my intentions to make quick work of posting it. Young Boromir and Faramir are coping with the pressures of their father's growing madness when they decide to escape for a morning to enjoy a rare snowfall. But their journey takes an unexpected turn. This story is a page-turner, and I could not have left off reading it and gone back to skimming if I'd wanted to.
dawn_felagund: Ainulindale--star photo from hubblesite.org. (ainulindale)
I'm doing these suckers all out of order and late and stuff, but it's totally cool because it's Fandom Snowflake! (Seriously, I have had such universally positive experiences in the years I've participated in this. It's such a low-stress, joy-inducing challenge. I'm so glad they managed to continue it this year. Thank you, volunteers, for stepping up!)

Day 8 asked us to:

In your own space, make a list of at least 3 things that you like about yourself. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I think they do a version of this challenge every year, and I'm glad they do. Not because I like singing my own praises--it's as difficult and awkward for me as it is for anyone--but because I think it is so important to become comfortable with honesty about one's strengths and skills. Especially in fandom, which is mostly women, who are explicitly and implicitly taught not to "brag" about what we do well and to deflect praise by downplaying our success or scrambling to explain who else should share our credit.

(I do these things too. But I find that being aware of them and the differences in how men and women talk about their accomplishments often helps me to stop them between my brain and my mouth.)

  1. I'm a hard worker. I give my all to everything that I do (and care about): teaching, research and writing, my fandom projects. It's a family trait. You know how people will say about dogs like Border Collies that they're happiest when working? Wallses are that way too. But it's allowed me to accomplish things I'm really proud of, and so I'm happy to be that way.


  2. I'm pretty resourceful, and I'm not afraid to learn new things. Well, I sometimes am (I'm terrified of PHP!), but I suck it up and learn it anyway. (I still haven't learned PHP yet, but I've been looking more often in the direction of those books on my shelf, and I will learn it someday!)


  3. I'm really proud of how I've grown during my years in fandom. I started as a quivering mass of nerves that got sick on posting days of my novel Another Man's Cage because I was convinced that every chapter would be the one where someone would expose me as a fraud. (What does that even mean? It sounds so silly in retrospect, but I remember very clearly worrying in that particular language.) I remember the first time I was criticized publicly as a moderator and losing sleep over it. I've gained a lot of confidence, and fandom has been a huge part of that. It doesn't mean that I don't worry sometimes if a story is up to my usual standards or that it doesn't hurt to see my work or the SWG criticized in ways that are unfair (or sometimes in ways that are fair but I'd rather people not notice!), but I'm much more able now to work on moving forward rather than dwelling on the fact that a reviewer didn't like my story or someone doesn't like this year's B2MeM event or thinks my site is annoying to use or whatever.


Day 9 asked for tropes, clichés, kinks, motifs, or themes:

In your own space, share your love for a trope, cliché, kink, motif, or theme. (More than one is okay, too.) Tell us about it, tell us why you love it, give us some examples and recs. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


What drives my writing a lot of the time is an adoration for complex characters, especially trying to understand characters who make bad or destructive choices. I wrote a blog post about this about two years ago, about why the Fëanorians appealed to me in the context of my work at the time with troubled young men. My goal is not to excuse these characters but to understand the complexity of the human mind that allows a person to commit horrible acts and still sleep at night.

I'm a sucker for stories that draw Tolkien's women out of the shadows and empower them with roles where they are allowed to influence the story. I very much believe that the dearth of women is a flaw of the legendarium that's in need of repair in a way that only creators of fanworks can accomplish.

Both of these point to probably my favorite notion in Silmfic: that of The Silmarillion as a historical text and subject to all the complexities and biases posed by historical texts. This idea results in stories that don't take the texts at their word--as "canon," that inviolable concept that sometimes constrains our creativity--but look critically at how in-universe writers would have depicted the history of the early ages of Arda and considered what they would have left out, gotten wrong, or straight-up lied about. And then writes those stories. This is what I try to do in my work and love to read in the work of others.
dawn_felagund: (silmarils)
I am still working on my rec list (Day 5) and my fanwork (thanks to Himring's thorny prompts from the Silmfic prompt generator!), but so as not to fall too far behind, I'm going to work a bit out of order for the Fandom Snowflake. I had intentions of doing three days in one post, but Day 9 got away from me a bit. It's no wonder. As I started to write, I realized how much I rely on my comoderators and how little recognition they get for what they do, most of which occurs behind the scenes. So I wanted to give this small gesture of recognition to the people without whom the SWG would not exist.

Day 9 asked us to leave feedback.

Send feedback to two fannish people — they can be anyone you want: a writer who’s made you happy, a moderator of your favorite exchange (not us!), a fanartist you avidly follow… There are so many possibilities. Just let someone know you appreciate their work.


I've left two comments on stories between yesterday and today; I'm trying to read more (and therefore comment more, since I try to say something about everything I read). But I also want to shout out to the admins and moderators who keep the Tolkien fanfic community so lively and vibrant.

We are one of the few fandoms that has created its own websites, archives, and institutions over the years. Some of these groups, sites, and events have been around for a decade or more. None of this happens without a lot of dedication and effort, often from a tiny fraction of the people who participate in fandom.

I work a lot behind the scenes and know how much goes into it. And because I'm the owner of the Silmarillion Writers' Guild and usually its public face, I get a lot of recognition for my work. But my comoderators do not because most of what they do is never seen outside of our circle of moderators.

Uli (ford_of_bruinen) has been on hiatus for a few years now. But without her the SWG would not exist. She was one of the first people to join, and she pushed me to promote and grow the group rather than sitting in huddled terror, wondering what I'd done and half-hoping no one noticed. In the SWG's early years, she was a friend and a mentor, when I was young and very new to fandom, and she kept me from doing a lot of stupid things and helped us as a group achieve a lot of great things.

Jenni (just_jenni) was our second moderator. She stepped down as a moderator to care for her son many years ago. She did a lot for the SWG in the years she was with us, and she was one of my best fandom friends, always able to make me laugh when I needed it the most and always there when I needed her.

Rhapsody. Oh, Rhapsody. Where do I begin?? She is probably the person who does the most for Tolkien fandom with the least recognition. I don't think most people know half of what she does. Rhapsody has had a hand in so many things: not just the SWG but Many Paths to Tread, working to keep Naice a Nilme alive, helping to run Quills and Ink for years, a major player on Open Scrolls Archive, a volunteer for the MEFAs for years, and a moderator for many years on Back to Middle-earth Month. She has been my right hand on the SWG. She fixed the site the time I accidentally deleted all of the challenges. She takes on the boring, monotonous jobs (like mucking the spam from our moderator email!) without being asked. She responded to emails with diplomacy and kindness when my patience was frayed to a thread. She is one of the kindest people I know, always urging me and our comods to give the benefit of the doubt. She is one of the people I turn to when I need to rant or cry, and she always has a wise word and a virtual hug for me. She's probably going to throw tomatoes at me for writing all of this! But I want people to know how much of our fandom is built on the efforts of this one extraordinary woman. If anyone wants to say thanks to her? Here are her stories; she manages to be a gifted writer in addition to a cornerstone of our fandom. Go review one or ten of them.

Tarion Anarore has also been on hiatus for a while. She helped us tag our LJ community back in the early years of the SWG, and we asked her to be a mod, and she stuck with us for years. Tarion was instrumental in shaping the group in its early years. There are few people whose opinions and judgment I trusted more, and she is one of those people who seems able to do everything: graphic design, HTML coding, proofreading reams of documents and policies.

Angelica has also been with us a long time and has done so many diverse things for us that it's hard to list them all. I admire Angelica for her willingness to always step forward and learn. So many times, I've said that something needs to be done, and Angelica will say, "Teach me to do it, and I will." She's also really good at catching my typos and mistakes (one English teacher to another!) and always pushing me to do better in what I write for the group.

Russandol has been a lifesaver so many times. She's the only one of us that codes well, so when we need something done, guess who we turn to? And she steps to the challenge every time, without complaint. She puts the newsletter together every month, which is a task that takes a lot longer than anyone probably realizes it does and that frees me up to do other things. I also trust her judgment so much.

Elleth is our newest mod. Even when she was our Tumblr mod, she still gave us great ideas and feedback about all aspects of running the SWG. She was a full mod a long time before she had the title. Elleth is one of the most talented people I know--a gifted writer and artist and a thoughtful scholar--and I am so grateful always that she has chosen to share those talents with us.

Oshun is not a moderator on the SWG. I have asked her multiple times, and she always says no. But I want to recognize her nonetheless. She has, to date, written eighty biographies about Silmarillion characters for the SWG. I think sometimes about how the newsletter always seems to arrive at the worst possible time, and how it is hard to carve out the hours needed to put together, and I wonder how Oshun comes up with such thoughtful and thorough biographies month in and month out. I know it is not any more convenient for her, yet she works through just about everything to meet a deadline. Her biographies are one of the favorite part of the SWG site and not without reason. They're an amazing resource, and when I get to copyedit them monthly, I often come away with the itch to write about that character, which is the epitome of skill and inspiration, in my mind. I also learn so much from them.

For a long time, I believed that collaboration didn't--couldn't--work for me. I thought I was too willful and opinionated to work with others. I thought that collaboration tended to end up with me doing most of the work while having to share the credit--that was what "groupwork" in school taught me collaboration was. My SWG comods restored my belief in the synergy of a good team. Because of every person I just shouted out, we have accomplished something on the SWG or done something better than we would have otherwise. They are the people who hustle to fix bugs or delete spam in the small hours of the morning. They are the ones who respond when I say, "OMG I don't know what to do." They are there whenever it is not convenient, but needed. They have to listen to me chatter at them, often every day, for years at a time! They put aside their lives and things they'd rather do to serve this group we've built together.

I am so grateful to all of you.
dawn_felagund: (silmarils)
Today's Fandom Snowflake challenge is to make a fandom wish list. I have skipped Day 5, not because I'm not doing it but because I'm reading a lot of stuff that has been posted recently in an attempt to create a rec list that includes both friends and writers new to me.

Here is today's challenge:

In your own space, create a list of at least three fannish things you'd love to receive, something you've wanted but were afraid to ask for - a fannish wish-list of sorts. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your wish-list if you feel comfortable doing so. Maybe someone will grant a wish. Check out other people's posts. Maybe you will grant a wish. If any wishes are granted, we'd love it if you link them to this post.


Wish lists are hard for me because I'm very well treated in fandom in terms of feedback on my work, in the form of comments, recs, and people wanting to do stuff with my stories like draw or translate them. So to ask for more of those things when I already feel like I'm treated so well seems greedy and wrong.

So once again I have to think outside the box a little.

I'd like people who write Silmfic to post it on the SWG and to comment on stories there. Here are the twenty-five most recent stories posted on the SWG. Go comment on one of them! I haven't read them all, but some are superb! There are a dozen different authors represented there and stories about all aspects of the canon.

If you don't write Silmfic? Post to another Tolkien-specific archive and comment there every now and then. Here's a list. I don't know why I have such a sense of urgency about this now, but I do. Perhaps it was the demise of the MEFAs and HASA, one right after the other: those inviolable giants from my early fandom days.

Be brave once this year (it doesn't have to be right now) and say hi to someone new or tell someone whose work you've admired from afar how much you appreciate what they do.

And finally--a little more fun, perhaps--roll a prompt with at least four elements on the Random Silmfic Prompt Generator and either write that prompt or post it here and I will write it (or both).
dawn_felagund: (out of the light star)
In true Fandom Snowflake tradition, I have fallen behind. Fandom is, appropriately enough, the reason I have fallen behind. The beginning of the month is filled with posting challenges and compiling newsletters. My free time at home for the past two nights has been entirely consumed by fandom chores. I'm still not 100% finished and have a beta to do, but I'm taking a break to get at least a little caught up.

Day 3's challenge:

In your own space, set some goals for the coming year. They can be fannish or not, public or private. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Man oh man *rubs hands together* I love setting goals! I'm going to set three in different areas of fannish participation.

  1. Start writing the prequel to Another Man's Cage. I've actually started writing it twice now. Once, I got four chapters in and the files corrupted. (This was pre-Dropbox, which tells you how long I've been promising this prequel.) The second time, the magic just wasn't there. Three's a charm, right? I've been promising this story for years, so it will be my next long work, just as soon as I can wrap up Tamlin.


  2. Solve the eFiction problem. This feels so super ambitious that I'm kinda scared just writing it. But I am hoping that it will also focus me and allow me to make this work a priority.

    The "eFiction problem" is that we do not currently have a good option for fanfic archives. eFiction was a gift that was probably too good to last. It's beginning to show its age. Yeah yeah yeah, eFiction 5 is in the works, but I'm not encouraged by how long it's taking and also reluctant to go to the work of changing to something that would also become obsolete if the developer also abandoned it. Once bitten, twice shy.

    What I'm trying to do is to figure out how to make a fiction archive using a CMS. I've been studying Drupal and have looked into Wordpress as well. (I have to admit that I am in love with Drupal like whoa. I think I've been a casual Wordpress user for so long that I don't really recognize its full potential, so I need to give it a fair chance too before committing to Drupal.) Whatever I figure out--because I will figure this out, y'all--I will share what I learn so that as other archives want to transition from eFiction, they hopefully can do so. We need to keep our small archives alive.


  3. Finish and send out that historical bias paper. Attainable Vistas was initially almost twice as long because it contained quite a bit of original research demonstrating historical bias in The Silmarillion. The editors advised that I cut most of that and submit it as a separate paper to JTR or elsewhere. I'd already felt it was two papers and so was glad to accept this advice; I had worried that the paper might be rejected for lack of evidence and so thought to cover my bases many times over. Probably a rookie mistake.

    Anyway, because of this, I have an academic paper basically written. I need to finish that and send it somewhere. I have no idea where. My current plan is my usual plan of aiming as high as I can and being prepared to cheerfully aim lower if my hopes are thwarted.
dawn_felagund: (feanorians)
Here is today's prompt for the Snowflake Challenge:

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


I would, of course, choose The Silmarillion. It is not my favorite book, but it is absolutely the book that has had the most outsized influence on my life.

 photo silmarillion_zpspycpzqog.jpg

I came to The Silmarillion as a newly minted Tolkien fan, having gotten hooked by the LotR movies, an interest that was only galvanized by reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. My first copy of the Silm was the one to the right, with the weird cover that has Fëanor with graceful hands, flowing leopard-print scarves, and what appears to be an owl eating his head. The back of this particular edition, which is of course sitting right on my desk in front of me because I need to look something up in it at least weekly, reads:

The Silmarillion is Tolkien's first book and his last. Long preceding in its origins The Lord of the Rings [sic], it is the story of the First Age of Tolkien's world, the ancient drama to which characters in The Lord of the Rings [sic] look back, and in which some of them, such as Elrond and Galadriel, took part.


Now to a new fan such as myself, ravenous for more of LotR, this sounded promising! Elrond and Galadriel! I knew them!! I had no idea, of course, that the book wasn't about Elrond and Galadriel, who more or less have walk-on roles in The Silmarillion, but about a cast of dozens, everyone's name of which seems to begin with Fin-. I was also very new to the fantasy genre and really had no idea how to read a book like The Silmarillion. I went into it with my brain relaxed, expecting a frivolous sword-and-sorcery worthy of a beach read, instead of honing on every detail and storing away every name. I failed miserably in my first reading of it. I was about halfway through when Fëanor was mentioned, I looked him up in the Index of Names (the very fact that there is an Index of Names in the book should have been my first clue, no?), and realized he was someone important whom I should have remembered.

It was only because I was stubborn and embarrassed by my failure that I decided to give it another go, this time knowing better what I was getting into and more prepared to read the book as it needed to be read. And I fell in love with my second reading.

It sounds trite to say that Tolkien's world is rich but it is, and I am far from the first to become ensnared in Middle-earth via LotR. LotR, however, did not offer me the complexity of character that I had learned to appreciate in modern literature. I found that much more in The Silmarillion, where few characters are cut-and-dried good or evil but pretty much everyone is floundering around, trying to make the best of a shitty situation. That really appealed to me. The fact that the characters are barely sketched in made it possible to interpret them in myriad ways, drawing on my knowledge of human psychology. (I was a psych undergrad at the time.) When I discovered fan fiction, The Silmarillion practically begged for it: all of these complex characters only skeletally drawn. I found ample raw material for my own creativity.

And I found that The Silmarillion was only the surface of a very deep pool. LotR is a gateway drug that, if you're not careful, you'll find yourself before long flopped on a couch in a dim room arguing with a stranger on the Internet about how to interpret Laws and Customs among the Eldar. In addition to my creative side, The Silmarillion appealed to my intellectual side because there was not only a whole literary history underlying the creation of that particular book--meticulously documented in The History of Middle-earth series that I began to acquire despite my poverty at the time--but an entire pseudohistoriography. The result was a mashup of creativity and scholarship where the borders blurred. I was in love.

The Silmarillion and what it inspired of my creative and intellectual work has had reverberations through most of my life. When I picked it up, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was terrified to imagine that my love of writing and creativity should be a major part of my adult life. Becoming involved in the Tolkien fandom through my love of The Silmarillion empowered me to embrace my love of language as a core of who I am. I went back to graduate school. I became a teacher. I eventually earned my MA in the Humanities and have had my scholarly work published. All because of The Silmarillion.

Through the Tolkien fandom, I have gained confidence in my skill as an artist, my voice, and the importance of my work. I have met amazing, lifelong friends whom I cannot imagine my life without. I have done things (like present at conferences) and learned things (like web design) that I never would have imagined as the young undergrad picking up The Silmarillion for the first time.

It's hard to imagine such a tiny action as picking up a book to read as having such far-ranging consequences. I still remember standing in the Barnes & Noble on The Avenue at White Marsh and holding my now-battered Silmarillion in my hands, deciding to spend my meager money to have more of this world, clueless that I had just decided to change my life. It's humbling and scary to realize that one's life is very rarely shaped by huge forces or in moments that one recognizes as turning points but in the tiniest of decisions that, looking back, set off a cascade of forces so that nothing was ever the same again. It is both frightening and hopeful to step daily into a world where that is possible.
dawn_felagund: (silmarils)
I am going to try to do the Fandom Snowflake challenge this year. Like all of it. I usually do a day here or there, but I've liked journaling daily as part of the photo-of-the-day (although if my performance on that is any indication, then I'll miss a few days of Snowflake as well).

Day One's challenge is:

In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


So *rubs hands together* ... let's dive in!

I've self-recced stories for Fandom Snowflake and other challenges before, and my stories are the first place my brain tends to go when asked for self-recs. But I'm going to mix things up a little bit and also, in the spirit of the Snowflake Challenge, break the rules a little by only reccing two things. But they are two big things! So maybe that counts for something.

I am reccing the two sites that I built and that I currently help moderate: the Silmarillion Writers' Guild (which I also founded and own) and Many Paths to Tread.

Really, as far as fanworks that define me as a creator, here you have it. Yes yes, I've spent many hundreds of hours writing stories, and I'm not going to play coy and pretend that some of those stories haven't been important to the Silmarillion fandom, but deciding to turn my energies to learning web design now more than ten years ago was life-changing and--I like to hope--something that shaped the Tolkien fandom in positive directions.

For anyone who doesn't know the story, I decided to found the SWG after a night of insomnia in which I decided that the Internet needed a Silmarillion-only group and I should be the one to build it. I chickened out immediately upon setting up the SWG on Yahoo! Groups (remember that?!) and LiveJournal, but thankfully I was found by Uli/ford_of_bruinen, who would become my first comod, and pushed me to follow through on my dream. When SWG members wanted an archive, I set about learning to do what I'd need to do to build one. I taught myself HTML and CSS from books and started working with eFiction. This led the LotRGen moderators to approach me about building a site for them. I was impressed with the fact that, as a genfic group in an anti-slash point in fandom history, they were open to allowing any stories at an R-rating on below on the site, regardless of the orientation of the couple(s) in the story. So I agreed to help them build their site, and that brought me to MPTT.

I say all this because I've been in the Tolkien fandom for a long time now, and I'm seeing things start to change in ways that I don't like, namely that Tolkien fandom is becoming increasingly comfortable with centralization, and many fans are losing their self-sufficiency in the process. Back in the day, there were dozens of homegrown groups owned by people in the Tolkien fandom, and it wasn't particularly extraordinary to do what I did and learn specialized skills in order to run fandom projects. Plenty of people who couldn't do much more than switch on the computer when they started in fandom learned to write HTML, design graphics, and manage online communities.

There are disadvantages to local control, whether in government or fandom and I won't pretend this was always utopian, but one thing was certain: We did not depend on the blessing or existence of anyone but ourselves and our own minds and hands to have our communities. I will be blunt: I dislike how centralized Tolkien fandom has become. I dislike the snide way people look down their noses at websites like mine because we're not as advanced as AO3. I dislike how everything is on AO3 or Tumblr now. And let me be perfectly clear: I am on AO3 and Tumblr both myself. I have no problem with either site. I like both sites. I was an extremely early adopter and supporter of AO3 and continue to think that they are very much a needed part of the fan community. Notice I said "part." Because AO3 and Tumblr are not the Tolkien fandom, y'all. WE are the Tolkien fandom. These sites will not represent and defend our interests when they are different from Fandom as a whole. If you need proof, just look at the AO3 piped tag debacle, in which AO3 told Tolkien fandom to go fuck itself rather than listen to feedback about a usable system for tagging characters and pairings. And our fandom is weird. Tolkien-based fanfic is more than fifty years old; we have a history and a complex canon that is unlike any other fan community. Our needs are and will continue to differ from Fandom as a whole, and we deserve sites run by people from our own communities that listen to our needs and interests.

For my part, I plan to continue to fight to keep my sites alive and relevant. They are my proudest achievement in this fandom, and I continue to believe strongly that they are needed and important. I hope Tolkien fans reading here will make more of an effort in 2017 to support a Tolkien fandom site or project. Post your stories to a Tolkien archive; comment on something that isn't on AO3 or Tumblr; volunteer to help with an event or challenge. It doesn't have to be the SWG or MPTT, but do something to keep our Tolkien fandom institutions alive.
dawn_felagund: Lamppost in the winter snow. (winter lamppost)
I have been promising Bobby that I would learn to snowboard for a couple of years now. Of course, until last year, I was working on my MA as well as teaching full-time (and commuting two hours a day and trying to have a social life and taking care of multiple fandom projects ...) So it just wasn't in the cards.

But this year, I had no further excuses reasons not to learn. I have enough time, and since Bobby works at Jay Peak and I am his lawfully wedded wife, then I even get my season pass for free, so it's not like I'm even taking a financial risk in investing in a pass for a sport that I might hate or that might kill me or both.

Well, I had my first lesson today and 1) I did not die. 2) I did not hurt myself. 3) I actually had fun!

Bobby taught me himself, going through some basics on flat ground, then climbing about 20 feet up a tiny slight incline with me and running beside me holding my hands while I slid down. On my last run, I slid down entirely by myself, with no hand-holding needed (although he still jogged alongside me). I did not even fall (which I was a little worried about because I did not want to go back to work tomorrow injured in any way).

I have all of my equipment except for my own board, which I rented for this first outing, because Bobby gets super pro discounts on stuff now. Here I am with my first stick:

 photo 20170101_150134_zps7xpkolm0.jpg



We are at Burke Mountain, by the way, which is Jay Peak's sister mountain in the southern NEK. My next lesson will be at Jay Peak, in Bobby's familiar realm.

I've also written a story for this year's MPTT Yule Fic Exchange. I know that was a 180 there. The story is called "The Ship of Light" and was written for Talullah Red, who asked for, "Elwing and Eärendil's first Yule in Sirion. I'd like something light and dark, please. Given the circumstances they would be traumatized, but the people around them would be making efforts for them and the other children. If you're one of the Nimloth-survives type, it's fine by me."

Here is the Official Story SummaryTM:

Elwing is a troubled child, acting out to avoid facing the trauma of her past. During the survivors' first Yule at Sirion, mariners from Balar bring gifts to the refugees, and inspired by their benevolence, Elwing and Eärendil remake an old tradition into a new symbol of hope.


The story can be read on the SWG, MPTT, AO3, or LiveJournal.
dawn_felagund: (newgrange)
Last night we got quite a dumping of snow. There was about a foot (30 cm) piled up on the patio chairs this morning, although it's impossible to tell what of that was new and what was old--but most of it was new. The snow was also powder, that elusive substance so beloved by skiers and snowboarders.

The result of this was that schools were closed! Bobby and I both anticipated a delay, but an all-out closure?? The outcome of this: I got to sleep in, Bobby got a powder day, and I went snowshoeing for the first time this year.

I did not post my photo-a-day yesterday because I had an immensely productive day, which tend to look boring from the outside. I did not leave the house or take off my pajamas all day, most of which was spent in front of the computer. I got a bunch of fannish stuff done and worked through about half of a Drupal 8 course that I found on YouTube. (My Drupal textbook finally foiled me. It is for Drupal 7, so I was wasting so much time trying to find modules that were integrated into the core Drupal 8 software or that haven't been completed for Drupal 8 yet. I also didn't like that the book dived right into projects, thus presenting topics rather willy-nilly, to use the technical term for it. I like to see the big picture of how things are organized first; all that happens when I dive into things at random is that I can never find it again or figure out what exactly I did back when. I have a very taxonomic brain that likes a place for everything and everything in its place and to see how things relate and connect.) None of that stuff exactly provides inspiration for any photos that I think anyone wants to see. (Me in my pajamas staring zombie-like at a Drupal tutorial on YouTube?)

Anyway, I hope to make up for yesterday's lack of photo by posting lots from my snowshoeing jaunt today. It felt good to get my legs under me again. The Nordic Center wasn't really open but they told Bobby over the phone that they didn't care if I went out as long as I didn't mind if the trails weren't groomed. As it was, one of the staff showed me a brand-new not-even-on-the-map-yet trail that he isn't even finished blazing yet, so I did that one. It took about an hour--not a long walk at all given some of my past outings--but with a foot of fresh powder and ungroomed terrain, it was quite a workout!

Snowshoeing at Jay Peak )
dawn_felagund: From "Spirit of Gonzo" by Ralph Steadman (spirit of gonzo)
I took a photo for yesterday but didn't post it, so today I have two (okay, actually three) photos, plus a very annoying unsolved mystery.

Last night, we went out for dinner at the Thai restaurant in Newport. They also have sushi--and a phenomenal sushi chef--and I have been fiending for sushi something fierce. Twice, I have gone to places with great sushi, and they haven't had it at that particular moment for whatever reason. Thankfully, as the saying goes, three is a charm, and I succeeded in getting my sushi! At last!

Dusit Thai is a beautiful restaurant in addition to having incredible food. It's my favorite restaurant in Vermont, hands down, and there is some pretty steep competition for that title.

 photo 20161209_181337_zpsbcpgyzpx.jpg



Their portions are huge, so Bobby and I shared a spicy eggplant stirfry that we'd never tried before and will definitely have again. I've never tried anything off of their stirfry menu because I tend to hear "stirfry" and think "boring," but this was far from boring. Then we shared three sushi rolls.

Bobby had rented a movie for us for the night, and this is where the annoying unsolved mystery comes in. When he picked me up from school, he told me that he rented a DVD, and I saw it on the floor behind my feet, sitting on a pile of bungee cords. Somewhere between that time and our return from the Thai restaurant, the DVD disappeared.

In between, we went to the Thai restaurant and, after that, shopping at the natural market, so I got out of the car just once after he picked me up from school. All the same, given where it was placed--behind my feet--and how high off the ground our car is, it is unlikely that it fell out of the car. We tore apart the house and car--looking in and under things, including many places where it could not possibly be--and even drove back to Newport and checked where we parked the car, in case it had fallen out. NOTHING. We came up with multiple theories that were shot down one by one. It's so frustrating! Our house is small, and it's pretty impossible to lose things here. I am hoping that when we return to the video store to cop to losing the movie that the owner will tell us that someone found it in Newport and turned it in. But I highly doubt that it could have fallen out of the car.

My best theory at this point? That there was some kind of anomaly in the universe and it simply disappeared!

Today, Bobby went to Jay Peak to snowboard. Since the Yaris isn't appropriate for driving in the snow--we intend to replace it as soon as we can sell our house in Maryland--then we are sharing the Subaru, so I went with him, had breakfast with him, then drove back to Newport to run errands. One of which was getting my library card at the Newport Library! An actual library that is open every day except Sunday and has a lot of books for all audiences! Maybe because I look like someone who would avail herself of this or maybe because she tells everyone, the young woman who helped me informed me without my asking that I would be able to use interlibrary loan after three months in good standing.

I of course visited the fantasy section and was delighted to find a pretty nice selection. I was amused by the arrangement of genres, however.

 photo 20161210_115225_zpsopdbfowb.jpg


It seems like this would be controversial in a lot of places in the U.S. to have these two side by side! I imagine little church ladies glowering at ... well, people like me!

Then I went back to Jay Peak to meet Bobby for lunch and wait for him to go home. Jay Peak has received four feet of snow so far this year. It has received more snow than Breckenridge in Colorado and Jackson Hole in Wyoming. According to Bobby, "The goods are in the woods," and it was a very good day. The mountain will be all open very soon; the only reason it is not already (with four feet of snow!) is that the famed tramway needed a special part for a repair, which has arrived and was being done this weekend. Parts of the mountain are only accessible via the tramway, so they have been unable to get all open because of that.

 photo 20161210_145058_zpsbchdyjgb.jpg



All of this snow is much needed. Jay Peak (and Burke Mountain in the southern NEK) became embroiled last year in a financial scandal due to the crooked dealings of their owner, who is now under federal investigation. It's a long and convoluted story, but the gist was that major expansions at Jay Peak that were done using local labor and businesses went unpaid-for. And this is not, as anyone who reads here knows, a wealthy area. The Northeast Kingdom is very low-income. These were contractors and workers who did work on the resort and were never paid for it. The threat that the resort would close (or be temporarily shut down) added an element of distress because so many people depend on the resort for their employment. And again, this is not an area that can weather a lot of economic distress.

To add insult to injury, last year, the snowfall in Vermont was exceedingly low--the NEK didn't even have a white Christmas--and the resort suffered even further from that. So the snowfall this year--among the best the resort has ever had--could not come at a better, more-needed time.
dawn_felagund: (alex say what)
The Goldens have always been also named The Wilds. Alex and Lance were The Wilds, and now Lance and Gwen are also The Wilds.

People often speculate, "I wonder what my dog does when I'm not home?" I'm fairly certain I know what The Wilds do when we're not home. Spending both weekend days home with them revealed that all they do? Is sleep.

This was The Wilds over the weekend, both knocked out cold on the floor of my study while I worked.

 photo 20161203_144945_zps9joym3zn.jpg


Guinevere has taken to not wanting to get out of bed in the morning and installing herself on the guest room bed. Bobby's staff holiday party for Jay Peak was tonight, and when we got home, we had to call her about five times before she finally deigned to come see us. And this was after a full day of doing what you see in the picture above.
dawn_felagund: (art not war)
2016 NaNoWriMo WinnerI officially reached the 50K mark on Tamlin last night, just in time to claim an official NaNoWriMo win today. The novel itself is not finished, but it actually is getting close. I am in the part of the story that I think of as the Let's All Go to the Underworld! part. It has maybe 10K left in it? (Which probably means more like 15-20K because it's me and I am a champ at underestimating things.)

What is really amazing to me is that I still want to write this story. I think about it all the time. I wish I was writing it now! (I need to decide if I want to go there when I still have Thanksgiving preparation chores to do. Sometimes writing spoils me for anything productive!) When I finish this, it will be the first NaNovel that I actually do finish, sadly enough. The Midhavens novel I was writing needs a complete rewrite (much like Tamlin did) because I've changed my mind so much, and I was writing another fantasy novel that I need to decide if I want to finish or not.

But next up is the prequel to AMC, which was going to be my NaNo project until Tamlin spiraled beyond being a Haunted October story and into firm novel-length territory and demanded two months to write.

I'm going to keep entering my word count till the end of the month so that I can have the data and will ramble at some point in the near future about what I learned from this experience. Because that's what NaNo is to me: a reason to prioritize working on a big project for one full month and the opportunity to learn what works for me and doesn't as a writer. Interestingly, based on word count data, my habits as a writer have changed since the last time I did NaNo, which I suspect is the result of disciplining myself through a humanities MA and Master's thesis. But more on that later.

This is cool too: A couple of weeks ago, I posted offhand to Twitter about doing NaNo and mentioned the writer's club I was starting at my school. A few days later, I was contacted by a journalist from the education website The 74, wanting to interview me for an article she was writing about teachers using NaNoWriMo with students. I checked in with my principal to make sure it was okay to talk to her, and he was thrilled and gave me the green light. Well, the article is online! I'm about halfway through, rambling about tea and the culture of persistence and the importance of giving opportunities to write to kids in disadvantaged communities.

NaNoData

Nov. 12th, 2016 09:16 pm
dawn_felagund: (art not war)
I am power-walking my way through NaNoWriMo. Not quite running! I'm not done yet, and I know there are people who are. But I'm bookin' like an octogenarian mall walker who heard they're giving away free cups of decaf in the food court! (Seriously, I used to work in a mall--those people would run you over!)

Today has been my best day so far with just under 7500 words written. I like the new NaNoWriMo site; it graphs your progress for you, so I do not have to make an Excel graph as in years past.

 photo nanowrimo11122016_zpspiaxlgjk.png

You can tell this was a long weekend: I had two strong days in a row. (My goal for each day this weekend is 5000 words.) You can also see Election Day: The one day I made no progress at all. I was too nervous to write.

The NaNo site estimates me finishing by Friday. I don't need to finish that soon, but I did want to have the bulk of the project finished before my family arrives for Thanksgiving since I can't count on any writing time from that Tuesday through Saturday.

What is interesting is that, in past years, I would have a strong day with a high word count followed by two or three days with more modest progress. This year, my progress much more closely follows my work week. Capping 2000 words is REALLY hard on a school night. In addition to my writing time competing with the work I sometimes bring home, I'm generally exhausted by the time I get to finally sit at my desk. I fell asleep while writing my novel this past Wednesday (because I hadn't slept much or well on Election Day and then had a long workday and resisted taking a nap). So you can see I barely made any progress that day.

It seems now that I can have two days in a row with a high word count: yesterday and today! Will I be able to to 5000 again tomorrow? It will be interesting to see. Based on past study of my NaNo progress, I would have doubted my ability to do over 5000 today. And indeed, I did put off getting started by working on some SWG stuff that has needed doing for a while. But once I began, I was off to the races.

In any case, "Tamlin" definitely has 15,000 more words in it, though probably not much beyond that, which will put it at 75,000 words total, much longer than I expected it to be (but that's always the way with me). I should probably call it Tamlin now; it will definitely be a novel, though on the shorter side of that classification.
dawn_felagund: Lamppost in the winter snow. (winter lamppost)
I am presently sitting in a rather rigid chair, listening to moldy oldies and bubblegum pop being broadcast over a loudspeaker. My feet are cold. I can smell chili and it's making me hungry, but not that hungry since I just finished off a bottled tea that cost me five dollars.

In other words: The Season has begun! I am in a ski resort!

Killington Resort in central Vermont generally aims to be the first resort open each year in the continental U.S. For the past few years, they made it; this year, A-Basin in Colorado beat them to it by a few days. It looks like a pretty ukky day from my vantage point by a picture window in the lodge: gray, overcast, the tops of the mountains swathed in fog. But Killington has five expert-level trails open today so--hot dog!--here I am, getting work done on my computer while Bobby crams as many runs in on those five trails as humanly possible! At least it appears to have stopped raining.

It took a lot longer to get here than I expected: more than two hours. Meh. But we are stopping on the way home at what's supposed to be a good restaurant here in Killington. And, as I have found to be true of most ski resorts and the round of ice rinks I attended before them, I find it's really easy to concentrate and get work done. At home, I have more distractions and things I'd rather be doing. I am hoping that by the time I'm home, all of my work is done. (I'm actually mostly planned for the week at this point, which is pretty excellent, especially since tomorrow is Halloween and we will observe Samhain on Tuesday, so I won't want to be stuck with hours of at-home work on those nights.)

Jay Peak has been getting nonstop snow all week (as we've been getting nonstop rain down in the valley, which we need since we were in the early stages of drought), so hopefully they will be open soon too and we won't have to drive two hours for Bobby to have the opportunity to stand sideways.
dawn_felagund: Lamppost in the winter snow. (winter lamppost)
We had our first snowfall last night. Around nine o'clock, we began to spot the first fat snowflakes among the rain, and by eleven o'clock, it had changed over to all wet snow. It was sticking a little on the ground by the time we went to bed around 1 AM, but when I eagerly peeked out the window this morning, I was disappointed because it had all melted already.

In the mountains, however, there is quite a bit on the ground. Bobby is currently pacing around the house waiting to be picked up by a friend to go up to Jay Peak, where it's estimated they got about 6 to 7 inches (15 to 17 cm). They'll "earn their turns" by hiking the mountain and snowboarding down. Power to them! That sounds like a lot of work, but Bobby is over the moon.

At his colleague's house about 15 minutes north of us, she posted a picture on Facespace with about two inches (5 cm) on the ground, so it seems we just missed it being cold enough to stick, which isn't particularly surprising, since we tend to be a couple degrees warmer here in the valley than in the surrounding areas.

Yesterday, we went to the matinee show of Vermont Vaudeville. We loved it. The show was held in the beautiful still-undergoing-restoration Hardwick Town House. It was hilarious. I think they cross-pollinate a lot with Bread and Puppet; I recognized some of the actors from B&P shows.

It was a really miserable day yesterday: in the mid-40s F (about 4C) and this constant, omnipresent, drizzly rain. We decided to pack it in for the evening. We'd had a stupendous and large lunch at Positive Pie in Hardwick, so we grabbed some Chinese food at the Wok 'N' Roll in Newport and rented three movies from the video store.

We moved up here for a variety of big reasons related to lifestyle, ideals, and emotional health, but we constantly discover little things that we love and never expected. Having a video store is one of them. An old-school, locally owned video store, not a Blockbuster, certainly not a RedBox. Bobby and I love movies, and one of our favorite ways to spend an evening is seeing a movie in a theater or renting one at home. Yet neither of us are particularly wild about streaming movies. The reality is that we live in the middle of nowhere and have satellite Internet, and the nights when you most want to watch a movie at home--when it is raining or snowing--are the nights when the satellite Internet is least reliable or, during storms, may not work at all. We also like having the cases to hold in hand, to read the reviews and the blurbs, look at the cover and the stills that have been chosen, see if the movie was presented at any festivals or won any awards, etc. Discovering we had a video store up here was an amazing find for us.

During October, we rent mostly-to-all "scary" movies. New England Video has a special where you can rent three non-new releases on Saturday night for three bucks and keep them for three days. Since we're expecting poor weather this weekend and three bucks for three movies is an amazing deal, then we rented three scary movies. Last night, we watched one called Frozen--no, not THAT Frozen--about a trio of college kids who get stuck on a high ski lift after hours. It was the stupidest thing ever! It appeared they were citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (I will avoid using the term that Vermonters use for this particular type of tourist from that particular state), skiing/riding at a fictional resort in Massachusetts, but there managed to be man-eating wolves? It was awful! But of course, the awfulness is part of the fun for scary movies a lot of the time. All the same, this wasn't the kind of awful that I recommend watching.

We've rented a few this month that I've really liked. Dawn's 2016 Haunted October Movie Recommendations )

So speaking of Haunted October, my own Haunted October is going well and so not-so-well at the same time. It's going well because I am still hooked on the story and write at least a little of it every day. I don't think I've had a 5000+-word day, but I've had a handful of occasions where I manage a few thousand in a sitting, which is good. But it's nowhere near being done, which looks like it won't be ready to post even part of on Halloween (since I don't like to post unfinished work), and at this point, it also threatens my NaNoWriMo aspirations, since I'm not going to put it on hold to start something new. So at this point, I probably need to just call it "Tamlin" and forget about the Haunted October piece. I can't bring myself to be disappointed in myself, however, for missing a self-imposed deadline because of my enthusiasm for a story that has been in my head for years.

Last night, I finally got to some sinister supernatural monkey business. Yes, JUST LAST NIGHT. I still have a lot of story to tell.
dawn_felagund: (yavanna earth)
Earlier this week, we took a walk down my road, in the valley along the Barton River. These pictures, which we taken the day after the walk down my road, couldn't be more different. Instead of the valley, this walk was along the ridgeline of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Instead of soft meadows, a gently coursing river, and a palette of colored trees in the distance, the landscape here is ragged rock and plants tough and strange enough to survive in such an unforgiving climate.

The only similarity was the weather: It was borderline unpleasant on both days. This was the weather on the drive down to Stowe. It was supposed to clear up but really didn't.

 photo 20161009_114211_zpshm5jc5z3.jpg

(As always, click for full-size!)

We ostensibly opted to do the Mansfield hike because of the views, but there weren't many views to be had: We were above the clouds for most of the walk, which only added to the strangeness of the scenery. The temperature on the ridgeline hovered right around freezing with wind chills dipping to the mid-20s F when the wind would kick up. Those were moments of ambivalence: They often swept away enough of the clouds to get a glimpse of the view, but they also tended to occur at moments when I was making crossings on rocks where I was not fully comfortable. I felt like the Fellowship on Caradhras, with the sense that the mountain was mocking me!

The ecosystem is alpine tundra, which exists in isolated pockets atop the highest peaks in New England. The linked Times article describes the alpine tundra as such:

Such is the weird world of alpine tundra, where life adapts to cold stone and thin soil, and snow, ice, wind, water and sunlight mix in rare and intense proportions to mimic conditions not widely seen since the end of the last ice age. Hike uphill high enough in parts of New England and you might as well be trekking in far northern Canada. Save for polar bears and permafrost, the look and feel of places like Mount Mansfield’s summit — a bald schist knob at 4,393 feet — mimic the arctic no-man’s land east of Hudson Bay.


We had originally planned to take the gondola from the resort and hike the Cliff Trail to the summit (called the Chin because the profile of Mansfield looks like a face in repose), but the poor weather made this unwise, so we took the Auto Toll Road to the end and hiked out from there instead. Take a walk above the clouds )
dawn_felagund: (funky pumpkin)
The weekend before last was peak leaf weekend in the Northeast Kingdom. Unfortunately, because things usually work this way, after weeks of perfect weather, it was rather cloudy and gray, which didn't make for the best conditions for photography. But I went out despite and took a walk down the road I live off of to photograph the leaves.

I live in a rather unusual place, as far as what one thinks of as stereotypical Vermont. Coventry is situated in a valley, with the Green Mountains to the west and the so-called Eastern Highlands (the mountains enclosing Lake Willoughby) to the east. The road I live off runs alongside the Barton River, so the ecosystem is largely wetlands rather than the mountains and forests that come to mind as Vermont's typical landscape. However, it is exceptionally beautiful: The river is calm and a near-perfect mirror of the surrounding landscape and sky, winding through tall grass with the occasional tree. I've been wanting to photograph the river for a while, and peak weekend seemed the ideal time to do it.

Come take a walk with me! )

Oh Poop

Oct. 17th, 2016 07:51 pm
dawn_felagund: (alex eek)
I never thought I could use an icon with that poop emoji that people have a bizarre attachment to.

Friday night at about 1 AM, Bobby and I were rudely awakened by a screeching-blaring sound coming from the direction of our storage freezer and washer/dryer, which are tucked behind a curtain in the kitchen. We initially thought the sound was coming from the freezer, but after dragging the freezer out into the kitchen, we discovered it was the septic tank alarm. Uh oh! It was screaming its little head off and the warning light was lit up red.

I've lived in a home with a septic tank for all of my life except for the three years that I lived in an apartment in Ellicott City and had sewer like normal people. But we were both at a loss as to what the alarm means. Bobby got it shut off and we returned to bed, where he perused his iPad to discover the myriad things both silly and serious it could be, and first thing in the morning, he called the septic guy who did the inspection. He came out for an emergency call but couldn't tell us much on the spot except that we weren't in immediate danger of coming home to a bathtub full of poop.

The septic guy came back today, and we have a better idea of what is wrong without having a full notion yet of what it will cost to fix. The electrical box was foolishly placed in the tank itself--apparently a common practice when our house was built ... erm, delivered (since we live in a single-wide! *banjos!*)--and not surprisingly got wet and all the wires burned up. Which is scary but also kind of cool: We likely had an underground poop fire in our yard! If there was a way to make the concept of Silent Hill more horrifying, there it is. Anyway, since there is no wiring, then the pump is not working. What we're still not sure about is if and how damaged the pump is and what it will cost to fix/replace if it is. If the pump is fine, the repair will be a few hundred dollars. If the pump needs to be replaced, it will be a few thousand. Eep.

It stinks (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE) but it could have been worse. It could have happened over Thanksgiving weekend when we had a house full of people. It could have happened in the middle of winter. The alarm might not have worked and we would have literally had poop coming out in our backyard, which is full of poop enough thanks to the Goldens. (More good news from Brian the Poop Guy: If our tank were to overflow, it would go into the backyard before it backed up into the house. Yay?) We can weather the cost, even if it means we'll be eating home a lot more in the weeks to come. Until everything is sorted, we have to be careful with our water usage. The septic guy is coming back tomorrow with the plumber and electrician: a whole poop-tank team! Now let's hope we don't get any crappy news ...
dawn_felagund: (halloween dawn)
Our primary source of heating in our new house is a wood pellet stove. Back in Maryland, we had a woodstove in the basement and electric baseboard heat upstairs that we resisted turning on as long as possible because it was so expensive. The woodstove, on the other hand, was wonderful, and we used it as much as we could. However, it took a while to start it, and it was messy, producing a lot of brown ash that would cover everything in the house.

The pellet stove, on the other hand, starts with the push of a button and does not seem to be nearly as messy. We've had it on three times now--temperatures were in the upper 20sF/-3C a couple nights this week--and it made the house a little TOO hot! But since we live in an area where it is not uncommon to have temperatures as low as -30F/-34C, then we will be grateful for it in short order, I suspect!

Midway through the summer, Tractor Supply Company had a great pre-sale on wood pellets, so based on the usage of the previous owners (who used the pellet stove as their primary heating source as we intend to do; we have a kerosene backup), we ordered three tons (2.7 metric tons). This weekend, they were delivered, and the entire weekend was blocked off on our calendar for transporting them from the TSC in Derby--which is about twenty minutes away--to our house.

We have a little cart for our Subaru, and using that, it took three trips and about three hours to move all three tons of wood pellets. We put about 2.5 tons in our new barn and about a half ton in the log cabin shed alongside our house. Let me tell you, moving three tons of wood pellets is hard work! They come in 40 lb/18 kg bags. A 40-lb bag is not difficult for me to lift and carry, but repeated 150 times with much bending and lifting was rough! By the end of the third round, my poor little forearms were DONE. Bobby drove the Subaru down to the barn and was carrying the bags from the cart to the barn, where I waited with outstretched arms for him to dump the bag onto them, which I would carry into the barn and add to the pile. One of the last ones he plopped entirely on my forearms, and I barely made it! He was complaining of fatigue, and I wanted to say, "Imagine how I feel!" I have above average upper-body strength for a woman, but really.

Well, it's done now. My upper arms and shoulders ached something fierce this morning, so we went hiking on Mount Hor to keep me from stiffening up and so I could enjoy a dose of pain-fighting endorphins. Also because the views were going to be amazingly gorgeous.

I have a ton of photos to post from a stroll along River Road last week for the peak leaf weekend, and a hike along the ridge at Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain. Honestly, I have been completely lost in this story I am writing based on the Scottish folk song "Tamlin." I am hoping to have it done in time to post it for Halloween at this point; it is much longer than I expected, in a large part because my first attempt at it was not as character-based as I like my writing to be, and characterization eats a lot of pages, at least how I do it. But when I'm on the computer, I don't want to be doing anything but working on this story. I stayed up till 1:30 last night with it.

I'll try to get those other pictures posted soon, but Mount Hor is going to jump to the head of the line. It was a gorgeous day: sunny and mild. Last weekend was the peak for the leaves, but as you will see, the leaves are still pretty spectacular!

Willoughby Gap Just after Peak Weekend )

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