A Visit to CANDLES Holocaust Museum — and Today

Last Friday I had the privilege of briefly meeting a Holocaust survivor, hearing an extended recorded conversation with another Holocaust survivor, and hearing an hour-long talk from a German Jew who fled to the US shortly before war broke out.

It was, of course, sobering. And terrifying, when we consider where we are right now.

Eva Mozes and her twin Miriam were taken into Dr. Mengele’s experimental lab. Three thousand twins went in. Two hundred came out. Continue reading

Conferences, Cons, and Solar Eclipse 2017, Or What I Did On My Summer Vacation

It’s been a busy month!

First I went to Realm Makers, which has become one of my favorite writing conferences, and then to a small local writing conference at Taylor University, my first time visiting there. In a couple of weeks I’ll head west again to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference. It’s like I’m trying to get my annual allowance of writing conference in just a few weeks!

Little girl (face obscured) in pink unicorn helmet with pink feathered wings

This little girl was so excited about the fairy unicorn wings she made herself.

Sign: Gen Con badges are now sold out.

Gen Con sold out completely. Not a badge to be had.

Then I had Gen Con, an awesome gathering of 65,000 or so (final attendance not yet released for this year) of your geekiest friends to talk about games, books, history, film, anime, and pretty much everything related. Gen Con is always super-busy for me, because I teach sessions (this year I presented twice on Japanese Folklore & Mythology and once on Norse mythology, as well as teaching costuming workshops from Featherweight Armor to Moldmaking to a make-and-take for simple, hallway-safe wings) and because we compete in the costume contest, which because of Gen Con’s process is mostly a whole-day affair. Continue reading

Dún Aonghasa and Inis Mór

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Writing in Ireland

Dún Aonghasa is an ancient circle fort built on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands. It was probably a complete enclosure at one point, but the cliffs have eroded and collapsed with part of the fort into the sea.

Aerial view of Dún Aonghasa's present structure.

Aerial view of Dún Aonghasa’s present structure.

The cliffs are about 280-300 feet high above the sea and look upon the Irish coast on a clear day, which may have contributed to the choice of location. The site was first enclosed with a more primitive stone wall about 1100 BC, and ultimately it had four concentric stone walls of startling engineering, encompassing about 14 acres of protected area. It also featured a cheval de frise between the third and fourth walls, a field of deliberately placed upright stones meant to seriously impede any charge by an enemy force. Continue reading

Writing in Ireland!

This entry is part 1 of 8 in the series Writing in Ireland

Guess where I am right now? (Or just look at the post title for an easy cheat.) That’s right, I’m back in Ireland! And there’s a contest in this post!

So let’s start with the embarrassing part. I was supposed to leave on Thursday. I drove a leisurely three hours to pick up my friend Kate (K.T. Ivanrest), drove another two hours to the airport, parked, took a shuttle, walked into the terminal, and immediately remembered that my passport was in my kitchen.

That’s right. It’s not that I only discovered my passport was missing when I was asked for it and couldn’t find it, no, my brain was fully aware that I wasn’t carrying it and just neglected to inform me of this important fact at any time prior to entering the actual terminal. Continue reading

Ireland Is For Writers #4: Perfume & Portal Tomb

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Writing in Ireland

After a full day of writing instruction and discussion with Susan Spann and Heather Webb, we went out for dinner and a pub crawl. I don’t drink much at all, but I figured when in Ireland, do as the Irish do, and so I did have my first whiskey that night, a Bushmills 21 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey. “It’s like butter that’s on fire” was my impression.

weathered stone castle looking over water

Dunguaire Castle

The next day we went out again, stopping briefly to photograph Dunguaire Castle (Caisleáin Dhún Guaire) en route to The Burren. This is a region, now a national park, formed of weathered limestone and the resulting treacherous and sparse landscape. The Burren (Boireann, or “great rock”) is an ancient place, both geologically and anthropologically; there are multiple remnants of ring forts and more than 90 paleolithic tombs. Continue reading

Ireland Is For Writers #3: Ashford Castle & Cong

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Writing in Ireland
stone wolfhound chained at the front door

wolfhound chained at front door

We went on to Ashford Castle, which you’ve probably seen without knowing it. Ashford was founded in 1228 as the principle stronghold for the de Burgo family, and throughout the centuries the new owners (Bingham, Browne, Guinness) extended in contemporary style. In 1939 it was purchased and converted to a classy hotel. How classy, you ask? Well, there’s a heliport beside the front drive, and the rooms are the kind that start at about $350 US per night and continue to the range where you have to have your people call for a quote. It’s a favorite site for society and celebrity weddings, as well as for television and film locations (I hear Reign is shot there now). Continue reading

Ireland Is For Writers #2: Headford & Stone Circle

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Writing in Ireland

(I’m talking about my writing week with Ireland Writer Tours in August 2015. Catch up with part #1.)

We arrived at the village of Headford and settled at the Angler’s Rest, which secretly pleased me because The Scarlet Pimpernel’s secret way-stop was the Fisherman’s Rest, and it was close enough. (I’m such a nerd.) The pub was downstairs, our rooms above. I was on the top floor.

Then we set off past stone walls keeping flocks of sheep for the Ross Errily Friary, the best-preserved Franciscan ruins in Ireland. Founded in 1351, the friary was once one of the larger Franciscan establishments in the country. The monastery is a fantastic view into a self-sufficient medieval life. There was even a tank for keeping live fish in the kitchen! Continue reading