I can’t wait to experience Damh’s (pronounced Dave’s) musical retelling of the Mabinogion tales. These eleven tales were composed in the eleventh century or earlier and form the basis of Celtic mythological lore in Britain. The stories were preserved in two Welsh manuscript collections: the White Book of Rhydderch (1300-25AD) and the Red Book of Hergest (1375-1425AD) but their tales are old as time…Celtic time. And now Damh brings them to life once again with his musical genius.
This timely article just popped up in an email from The Vancouver Writers Fest Book News. I say timely because I’ve spent the last few days rereading and revising my latest novel, To Sleep with Stones. The Swear Jar in my head is full.
Who knew I was part of a trend? One of my characters, a “raunchy” Irish archaeologist named Sorcha O’Hallorhan uses the C (rhymes with blunt) word frequently. It’s just part of her vocabulary. Her sidekick, Magus Dubh, a blue-tattooed half-fey dwarf raised in the schemes of Glasgow, also employs colourful vocabulary. When I wrote these two characters, I let them be genuine and authentic. Characters come to me fully fledged and this is just how these two appeared and expressed themselves.
Let’s be clear: they are not me (although they do converse in my imagination).
Sorcha’s favourite word is used with more frequency and less cringing in Ireland and the UK. In fact, I was just in Ireland, and heard it used during polite conversation at the lunch table. Other friends there, tell me how much they enjoy using this word. One friend, moved to Ireland for a year and came back using it constantly. And, my beta-reader, a young woman in London, mentioned several things that bothered her during her read, but never the language. This is not to say that everyone in the UK and Ireland is walking the streets spitting out this word; it just seems more acceptable there.
So, why did I just delete it from my book? One Canadian reader told me she didn’t want to read the rest of the book because she was offended by the use of that word. That made me sad. She loved my first book and I want her to love this one too. Two others admitted that they didn’t like that word, but they loved the story. The bottom line is: I want people to enjoy my book, talk about it, and not be afraid to pass it on to their friends or admit they’ve read it. I don’t want them to cringe every few pages and get thrown by a word that triggers something (whatever that might be). And though I’m writing characters from across the pond, I’m a Canadian that writes for Canadian readers with Canadian sensibilities, as well as the rest of the world.
I’ve by no means bleached it (just deleted that one word) and I enjoyed coming up with alternate expressions. This murder mystery is still intended for adults and still contains sex, raw talk, and adult themes. It’s as real as urban fantasy can be.
On the subject of raw talk, I was enlightened by another article that separated and defined it. Who knew there were so many different categories?
- profanity (God words)
- curses (calling upon a deity)
- swearing (actually proclaiming an oath like in court)
- obscenity (anything to do with body parts or actions)
- vulgarisms (the b-words)
The newest version of To Sleep with Stones will be available soon. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the original, I have several copies hidden in a cardboard box.
A message from Damh the Bard, a musician and bard, and wonderful writer. And I must say, I agree with him.
If you’re intrigued by the total eclipse of the sun forecast for August 21, you might enjoy the following article. Maria Popova brings us the poetic observations of Mabel Loomis Todd (1894) who travelled and experienced several eclipses. Some brilliant illustrations accompany the post.
This feels like the day after…
The day after the smoke from B.C’s forest fires finally cleared Metro Vancouver. Crouching over the coast like an apocalpytic dragon for the past two weeks, the heat and smoke kept us hiding in our caves. This is the worst fire season since 1958 when 8,560 square km of forest burned; which means, ironically, that this might be “normal” and not a consequence of global warming (though it probably is). Almost 5,000 square km of forest have burned and continue to burn as 148 fires rage throughout the province.
But for the moment, where I stand, the smoke has cleared. White clouds dapple blue skies and I can breathe clean air. I can open my doors and windows, sit outside, and wander the forest and beach. And, for this, I am grateful.
It also feels like the day after an illness dissipates that’s had you curled and crawling. Like the day after a really bad hangover or a rampaging flu. The day when you feel a sense of hope and everything is just that much sweeter and brighter and richer.
This is the first day in over a week that I’ve felt like myself. I’m still trying to sort out what happened. Was it the final purging of an overwrought nervous system taxed from travel? Fish poisoning from dodgy tuna at Montreal airport? Severe anxiety coupled with a sensitive sensory system? Or all of it combined? All I know is that I feel like I’ve been through an Initiation, like I’ve walked through burning coals and emerged on the other side.
The smoke in my brain is lifting. I can eat and sleep and my anxiety level is dropping. I feel calm and comforted.
And, for this, I am grateful.
Dear Air Transat,
I am so annoyed with you. Not only did you put my health at risk, you blatantly lied to me and other passengers. You would not listen. You would not help us. You put passengers last. There is no excuse for what you did and an apology won’t cut it. I feel betrayed and I will never book a flight with you again. Ever.
Our flight was scheduled to depart Thursday at 1pm. We all arrived and cued in Dublin. While we were in the cue, word went around that the flight was delayed 9.5 hours. It didn’t come from you. The plane was broken. Better to be broken on the ground than in the air! When we finally got our moment with the poor harried girl taking bags, she gave us alternatives: you can take a taxi into town and we’ll pay for it, or you can have lunch at the airport. We’ll give you 12 Euro each. For nine hours? From someone else, we heard that other passengers were told they could go to a hotel and hang out in the lobby.
By the time we got back to the shuttle, the hotel manager was stopping people from boarding. Their lobby was already full. We had stayed in this hotel the night before so I appealed to him and he let us go back. At the desk, I was told they were not to give out rooms. I offered to pay. I was sick. Thankfully, we were given a room but had to pay for the whole night. This turned out to be a blessing. Before I left at 8:30pm, I had a bad feeling, returned our keys, and told the hotel we were going to the airport but not to give away our room.
On the shuttle back to the airport, the driver told us that our flight was cancelled. Sure enough, when we arrived our bags stood there (thank God) with one man standing guard. We took our bags and were instructed to come back the next morning at 8:00am for an 11am departure. At that point, your rep called our hotel and instructed them to refund the cost of the night’s room. They would comp it. They also threw in dinner. OK. Fair enough. (Other passengers were taken by bus to a hotel, given dinner in a banquet room and a room for the night. The next morning the bus brought them back to the airport).
This is when things went downhill.
We had a connecting flight. Dublin to Montreal and then Montreal to Vancouver. I called Air Transat twice (offices in Ireland and in Canada). Both reps told us that they had no idea when or how we’d get home. Our bags would go with us to Montreal and we were to sort it out there.
We cued for almost two hours. You had two people handling all the economy passengers. In this photo, you can see where we are in zone 8. We had to get to zone 5. Before we left Dublin that morning, a rep at the airport showed me an email on his phone that said: we will do everything to ensure customers flying on from Montreal to Vancouver and Toronto will be on the earliest possible flight. They will most likely fly with West Jet or Air Canada. Good, I thought, we’ll be home soon. West Jet and Air Canada fly all day long. Hurray!
As we were landing in Montreal at 1pm, it was announced that passengers flying to Vancouver would be on Air Canada flight 311 at 8:25pm! Another wait time of 7.5 hours! Surely, there were flights to Vancouver before that. Passengers needing to take the one hour flight from Montreal to Toronto were also booked on an evening flight.
I talked to the rep and explained that I was sick and had to get home as soon as possible. She said, that Air Transat had done their very best to get us on the first possible flight, but it was Friday of a long weekend and all the flights were booked. On appeal, she checked her screen and said that Air Transat had a flight to Vancouver at 7:30pm and there were two seats available. It was an hour less. She sent us upstairs to talk to the supervisor. The rep there spent a lot of time on the phone and even went away to talk to someone else. She came back and said, “No, there are no seats on that flight. There are no earlier flights. Everyone is booked up.” This was the “official” lie.
Then I went to West Jet. They had a 7:30 flight to Vancouver with seats available.
Then I went to Air Canada. First of all, she couldn’t find us in the computer for their 8:35 flight. Air Transat spelled our name wrong. When she eventually found us, she said that they had a 6:30 flight with lots of seats available–26 in fact. But she couldn’t change the ticket, even if I paid the $75 per person fee to change it. Air Transat had booked the ticket and not us, so it couldn’t be changed. She talked to her supervisor. Finally, I begged, and yes, by then, I was crying. “Can I talk to your supervisor? I’m sick and we’ve been two days now trying to get home.” She went away again, and with kind regard, Air Canada booked us standby on the 6:30 flight She took our bags and gave us a boarding pass. Thank you, Air Canada!
So, you see Air Transat, you lied to us. At the gate, we realized that you’d booked all the Vancouver people on the 8:35 flight. We were asked: “Are you a party of seven?” I don’t know what happened to the other five people. You lied to us to save yourself time, and perhaps, money? You created your lies, and then you washed your hands of us.
I finally arrived home at 11pm on Friday–24 hours late. It could have been worse, and I know that other travellers have experienced the horrors of travel. Yesterday, I threw up twice. I can’t sleep. Post-traumatic stress? Perhaps.
But your lies and blatant disregard for passenger comfort are what has ruined you in my eyes. Never again, Air Transat. We are over.