Happy Burns Night Day!
Who's enjoying haggis, neeps, and tatties? I've been reading Robert Burns' poems and thinking of beautiful Scotland and its National Bard.
Also known as Rabbie Burns, he was born to a farming family in Ayrshire, 1759. Surprisingly well-educated, he was a naturalist, anti-slavery, and a true romantic. He was also very proud of his country.
He married Jean Armour in 1788. He wasn't always true to her, but they were married for the rest of his life.
He was only 37 when he died in 1796. He was laid to rest in Dumfries, Scotland
The first Burns Supper was in 1801, when some of his friends gathered together to remember the fifth anniversary of his death.
Both poet and lyricist, he wrote in Broad Scots and Scottish English.
Ye Flowery Banks (Bonie Doon)
Ye banks and braes o' bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu' o' care!
Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro' the flowering thorn!
Thou minds me o' departed joys,
Departed never to return.
Aft hae I rov'd by bonie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine,
And ilka bird sang o' its luve,
And fondly sae did I o' mine.
Wi' lightsome heart I pu'd a rose,
Fu' sweet upon its thorny tree!
And my fause luver staw my rose --
But ah! he left the thorn wi' me.
(Standard English translation)
You banks and sides of bonny Doon,
How can you bloom so fresh and fair?
How can you chant, you little birds,
And I so weary full of care!
You will break my heart, you warbling bird,
That flies through the flowering thorn!
You remind me of departed joys,
Departed never to return.
Often have I roved by bonny Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine,
And every bird sang of its love,
And fondly so did I of mine.
With lightsome heart I plucked a rose,
Full sweet upon its thorny tree!
And my false lover stole my rose -
But ah! he left the thorn with me.
Kerry Blaisdell's latest book Burying the Dead launches in just a few days. I am SO looking forward to this party! Lots of great authors will be celebrating with her. Readers, too. There will be games, giveaways, and more! Join her FB readers group Kerry's Kindred Spirits asap so that you don't miss a thing. In the meantime, I've scored a great interview with Kerry. I thought it would be the perfect time to learn more about her writerly ways and literary background.
But first, CONGRATULATIONS, KERRY! This is so exciting!
1) What sort of books did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you have a favorite book or series?
Oh, man – too many to list. 😊 I of course started with picture books (is that too far back? LOL!), of which The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf was my absolute favorite. Looking back, I can see that may have been because Ferdinand did the unexpected – he didn’t cave to stereotypes, and just did his own thing. Today, my books are filled with “surprising” characters, who may seem one way at first, but turn out to be something entirely different by the end.
I also had an early love of scary stories, especially The Monster at the End of This Book, starring Grover from Sesame Street. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must-read. 😊 And mysteries – I read Nancy Drew books by the time I was in Kindergarten or First Grade, then moved to Trixie Belden, and very soon, Agatha Christie, Michael Bond, Ngaio Marsh – the list goes on.
And, when I was about four years old, I demanded that my parents read The Hobbit to me. I thought it was going to be about a frog 😊, and my mother was convinced I’d get bored in a few pages, but instead I *loved* it, and we ended up reading all the way through the LOTR books.
I also had an early love of historical stories, which were contemporary when they were published, such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series. Both of those started my love of romance in stories, as well, and by junior high school, I’d started reading full on romances, as well as fantasy, sci-fi, classics (especially anything by Jane Austen!), and mysteries.
I enjoyed many of the same series as a child. But not Lord of the Rings! WOW! I didn't read those books until high school! But my grandchildren and I totally agree about The Monster at the End of the Book.
2) What sort of books do you enjoy reading nowadays?
Oh, man – too many to list. 😊 Really, I still read in all the above genres, but… I have very little time to read anymore. Wah!!! Teaching full-time while also managing a writing business/career doesn’t leave room for much else, especially during the school year. But I try to read fiction that’s new to me at least 3-4 nights per week, and right now, I’m on a YA Urban Fantasy kick. I have an idea for a series in that genre, and am reacquainting myself with it after a few years away.
3) Around what age did you realize that you liked to write? And when did you know that you wanted to write books?
Too young to remember. Seriously – I used to dictate stories to my dad from a really early age. He would write them down for me on coloring paper, and then I would illustrate the stories.
4) What’s the first thing you wrote that you remember being proud of?
One of the stories my dad wrote down for me was about a princess who got bored with the prince and ran off with the dragon instead. He made a little book with the coloring paper, and bound it with twine, and I illustrated the pages. I found it a few years ago, and then lost it. I’m hoping it’s somewhere in the house, because my dad died twenty years ago, and it was a beautiful memory of what a wonderful person he was. ☹ As for the story itself, it explains a LOT about my twisted, quirky writing style now! LOL
That's so beautiful. Oh, I hope you find it. But what a wonderful memory.
5) Tell us about the creative force within you. What inspires you to write, to create?
Anything, everything, nothing. I just write. I’ve always written, and not-writing is impossible. My father-in-law, who owned a used bookstore, said to me shortly after we met, “You’re either a writer or you aren’t.” I believe that wholeheartedly, and quietly think it to myself whenever someone says to me, “I want to write a book…someday.”
That said, it’s hard sometimes (most of the time…), especially when I’m working on a new book, and trying to launch/promote the previous book, and those are two separate parts of my brain. I’m better at hyper-focusing on one or the other, so sometimes I have to make myself sit down and hammer out at least a few words, before reverting to “business” mode.
6) What’s your writing space like?
I carved out a corner of my bedroom. I have a tiny desk, and I write on my iPad. I started doing that as an experiment during NaNo 2021 (National Novel Writing Month, where you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days). I really hate doing most things on the iPad, so I thought it would be less distracting, and I was mostly right! But I also discovered that I like the page-like view of the Word-for-iPad document, and it’s harder to constantly self-edit.
I also put my writing Kanban board on the wall above my desk, and I have plotting boards on the wall next to me. I’m a very tactile and visual person (and a kinesthetic learner), and I discovered I like having physical sticky notes that I can touch and see and move around. It also helps me keep track of the myriad of details associated with an increasingly complex five-book series. And if I’m trying to get new words written, but have an idea for a future scene, or something I need to research, I can quickly sticky-note it, and then get back to actual writing, instead of going down an internet hole immediately. 😊
7) Do you have a favorite time of day to write? Any habits or little rituals that put you in a writing mindset?
I’m more of a morning person, so I get up early. During NaNo 2021, I got up diligently at 4:00 a.m. every day and wrote for 2-3 hours before work. Now, without that pressure deadline, I still set my alarm early, but usually only get about an hour of writing in, due to the aforementioned promo/business stuff, and also my day job interfering with my writing goals. 😉
8) Time to talk about your latest release (rubbing hands together). But first, I confess to being really curious about the name of the series – The Dead – and the titles that follow. Can you tell us a little about that? How did you come up with the idea for the series?
I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural, especially ghosts and magical or mystical beings, psychic abilities, tarot cards, palm-reading – all the “woo” stuff. (But weirdly, I’m more of a practical/logical person on the surface – I just trust my intuition/gut, and believe there’s more to the universe than we really know!) My bachelor’s degree focused on early-early Arthurian literature, which introduced me to the Celtic concept of The Otherworld, and the veil between us and it.
Then, my father-in-law died somewhat unexpectedly, and we took the kids (in 4th and 1st grade at the time) down to clear out his apartment and his bookstore. I had had this idea for a book about the assistant to the Angel of Death, Michael the Archangel, whose job it is to deliver souls up to St. Peter in Heaven, or down to Hell, as appropriate. So my heroine was going to be the gatekeeper to the gatekeeper of the Afterlife, so to speak, and would be “debriefing” the dead, before passing them on to her boss. So that’s where the first book’s title came from, and since I envisioned it as a series from the start, I thought “the Dead” should be the series connector in all the titles.
But other than that, I had no idea what the actual story would be. As we were dealing with my father-in-law’s death, I set up a chair in his backyard and started typing, and somehow, Hyacinth and her adventures came out. I’d say that first book in the series was almost 100% an unconscious expression of what Jennifer Crusie calls “the girls downstairs.” 😊 Book two was also pretty much pantsed (not plotted), but by book three, I had so many plotlines and important details in the mix, I had to at least do some rough planning, to make sure I didn’t screw anything up!
9) Now let’s hear about Burying the Dead!
Where to start? 😊 This was my NaNo 2021 book (see above). Between WAKING THE DEAD (book two) and DAMNING THE DEAD (book three), I struggled to write. I had a lot of things in my personal life just completely blow up and explode and shatter, and then the world imploded. WTD was released in summer 2019, and my life fell apart in November 2019, then Australia burned up in January 2020, and we all know what happened next. ☹
It was a rough time, but I managed to finally finish DaTD and get it to my editor mid-2021 (basically, it took me two years to finish it ☹), then floundered when starting BTD. So, NaNo was a way for me to get out of my own head and just write-write-write. And surprisingly (or not! 😊) what came out feels, to me at least, like the best in the series so far. I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but let’s just say Hyacinth makes some big decisions and comes to some important realizations. And we find out some stuff about Eric’s past finally!
10) I comprehend that you’ve just recently published a book. Still, I can’t help but ask – do you have anything waiting in the wings?
You betcha! Lots!! LOL! I am working on the *next* Dead Series book, RAISING THE DEAD. But I’ve also got a completed Historical Mystery I’m contemplating self-pubbing, and the aforementioned idea for a YA Urban Fantasy novel/series. And I have a completed Romantic Suspense novel that I planned to revise and publish in 2019, shortly after releasing PUBLISH OR PERISH (August 2019), but then… see “life/world exploding/imploding” above.
Oh – and I’m starting to record The Dead books into audio! So, I’m super excited about that, but… “the time, it is lacking,” as Claude Rousseau says in book one. 😉 I really need someone to pay me my full-time teaching salary, so I can stay home and write with my dogs. LOL!
Audiobooks! That's exciting! I love listening to a great book while I take care of mundane tasks.
That cute little face!
11) Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Nope! Pretty sure I’ve “talked” your ear off (written your eyes off??) already. 😊 Thanks so much for having me!
Congratulations again! Kerry, thank you again for sharing your time and talent. Wishing you all the best!
Thanks! You, too! 😊 Cheers!
And now for Burying the Dead!
Sometimes, to stop the world from going to Hell, you have to work with Demons.
Hyacinth Finch has one goal: Save her nephew Geordi from the Hell Demon who kidnapped him. But to succeed, she’ll have to work with his demon Mafia relatives, which she swore she’d never do. Worse, she’ll have to make another deal with the High Demons who murdered her. But Geordi’s life is worth it, even if she loses her own humanity in the process.
Meanwhile, Hyacinth’s ghost boyfriend Eric is wasting away, after being ejected from his “borrowed” body. While digging in his past for something to make him fight for survival, she uncovers secrets that could destroy their relationship. Moreover, her feelings for Geordi’s demon cousin Jason are stronger than ever, though every morally impossible choice she makes drives him farther away. Can she save Eric and Geordi, without losing herself—and Jason—forever?
EXCERPT from BURYING THE DEAD
Now, as we approached the cemetery, I had to shift focus. We’d stopped at the hospital and found Bala much improved. Dito was embarrassed by his behavior, but she was so happy to see him that he managed an apology and they kissed and made up. Figuratively, but still.
Jason didn’t act any different in front of her. After what we’d shared, I’d expected him to hem and haw a bit, but nope—nada. So maybe he’d told the truth about there being nothing between them. On his part, anyway. I couldn’t help noticing that Bala’s eyes cut to him often, but she always looked away before he caught her.
Prior to the fight with Marchosias, she’d been a smartass, pressing my buttons and flirting with Jason at every opportunity. Now, she’d sobered. Her injuries were serious—the doctors had used the phrase “life-threatening” many times. So maybe the experience rearranged her priorities, making her realize what—or rather who—she really wanted.
I didn’t know how I felt about that. My own feelings were confusing enough. But I was grateful for everything she’d done, trying to save Geordi, so if she loved Jason, maybe they should get a shot at making it work. She couldn’t be more messed up than me, and he deserved a chance at real happiness.
Dito gave her hand a squeeze, then Jason leaned close and said something low in her ear that I didn’t catch. Her eyes widened, and she faced me. “Are you nuts?”
Guess he’d told her the plan. “Maybe. If you have a better idea, I’d love to hear it.”
“Nope.” Her gaze shifted to Jason and softened. “Be careful. Sharing your blood—your powers--with the Rousseaux’s in you—who knows what that could do.”
“True,” he admitted. “But even I can’t see another way at this point.”
She turned to me again. “He’s only doing this because you asked him to.”
Jason cut in, “No, she didn’t. I offered.”
Bala snorted. “Same difference. You’re doing it for her. Why?”
The directness of the question showed she already knew the answer, and Jason reddened. “It’s…complicated.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “It is. Have you told her the risks—like what could happen if you drain too much of your powers? Either into Stefan, or just from the process itself?”
I frowned. “What does that mean?”
“Nothing,” Jason said levelly, his focus on Bala. Something passed between them, and her eyes flickered black. Then her shoulders slumped and her irises faded back to blue.
“Whatever. But she’s not one of us. Keep that in mind, while you’re doing her favors.”
That stung, but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already thought about myself, and until I put out all the current bonfires in my life, I couldn’t focus on figuring out where I did fit in, so we said our good-byes and left.
We found an unlocked supply closet, and I stood outside the door, while Dito went around a corner to stand watch there. Jason slipped inside to grab what he’d need for the blood draw, coming out again moments later, before anyone happened by.
Something about it—the fact that he was stealing, from a hospital—gave me an attack of conscience, and I said, “You really don’t have to do this. Bala’s right. It’s too risky, and—”
He took my hand, squeezing it. “Bala’s a worrier. It has nothing to do with you.”
“Tell me what happens if you drain your powers.”
“I won’t. I’ll be fine. I want to help you, so will you just let me, for once?”
I glared at him. “Stop being so damn—”
He put a finger on my lips. “I swear to God, I’m not being nice. Niceness might be the last thing on my mind right now.”
His thumb caressed the side of my mouth, and I fought to maintain control, to not lean into him and take what he so blatantly offered. “We have to go…”
He blew out a breath and stepped back. “Fine. I said I wouldn’t press you. I just…I can’t help it, sometimes. I need you to know this isn’t a fling for me, and it scares the shit out of me. You scare the shit out of me.”
Kerry Blaisdell is the bestselling and award-winning author of the acclaimed Dead Series, including DEBRIEFING THE DEAD and its sequels, which InD’tale Magazine recommends for “fans of shows like ‘Constantine’ or ‘Supernatural.’” She also writes award-winning Romantic Suspense (PUBLISH OR PERISH, a Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize Quarterfinalist) and Historical Mystery. She has a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Comparative Literature (French/Medieval English), and a Master’s in Teaching English and Advanced Mathematics from University of Portland. Kerry lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with her family, assorted animals, and more hot pepper plants than anyone could reasonably consume.
To connect with Kerry online, join her Facebook Reader Group (http://bit.ly/kerryskin), or subscribe to her Very Occasional Mailing List (https://www.subscribepage.com/kerrysvoml) and get TWO free downloads!
Don't forget to join the RELEASE DAY CELEBRATION for Burying the Dead! January 16!
Happy 2023! Honestly? December did a number on me. In less than a month, my elder brother passed away, two family members were hospitalized, and we welcomed three beautiful babies into our midst. We celebrated the marriage of a lovely young couple.
It’s not that each of those life events kept me personally super busy, but my emotions? All over the place.
And now it’s 2023. It just goes to show how little control we have, lest we forget. It also reminds me of what we can control – our own behaviors, thoughts, reactions (at least up to a point). And guess what! I’m not here to preach right now. I just don’t have it in me.
I’d rather share something funny that happened. It was actually awful when it happened and yet still funny. Saturday, New Year’s Eve, Joseph and I were busy during the day tidying up and preparing for a New Year’s Day family breakfast at our house. The last thing he did meal-prep-wise was to set the pressure cooker to cook fava beans so that we could have ful mdammas the next day. They could steam while we were getting ready for the party, and he would remove the pot from the heat on our way out.
Well… when the time came and we were about to leave our bedroom -- he was already in suit and tie and I was in my cocktail dress -- we heard a strange sound, like a train coming through the house. It was very loud and I’m pretty sure that the house shook, although possibly it just felt that way... Anyway, we couldn’t imagine what it was. We ran from our room to see steam shooting straight up to the kitchen ceiling and mushrooming out. We couldn’t even see most of the kitchen, there was so much steam.
We both gasped. “The pressure cooker!”
I grabbed his arm, knowing one of us had to turn it off and not wanting either of us to get anywhere near it.
Joseph took off his jacket and forged ahead. Feeling braver, I rushed to open the back door.
What a mess. The kitchen ceiling and walls and counters and cabinets and floor and everything in between were all covered with fava bean water! At first, we weren’t sure if the ceiling had been burned. But nope, bean stuff. Good thing, but EWWWW! He changed clothes, I put on my slippers, and we worked for over an hour, cleaning up the worst of it.
Then he changed clothes again, I changed footwear, and we left to welcome the new year with family, friends, and community.
The next morning we still found “bean stuff” here, there, everywhere. Breakfast was a little late. But we raised our mimosas to the New Year.
Oh, and we ate ful mdammas.
Wishing you a year of love, laughter, and joy!
A Little of This, a Little of That
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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