Verification: where to find the real me online

Twitter will be taking away blue-check verification from those, like me, who won’t pay $8 a month for what will become a useless tool.

This post exists to

  • verify that, yes, I’m who I say I am
  • list where else you can find me online

So, hello! This is me, Nicola Griffith, writer and queer crip (see About for more). Here’s where you can find me:

  • My blog and website—where you are now, reading this. Starting in 1995 I began Ask Nicola, a subsite of a website run by friend Dave Slusher. In 2001 I launched, and in 2008 started a blog, also Ask Nicola. In 2014 I consolidated everything into this site. I post whenever I feel like it—sometimes often, sometimes rarely. Take a look at the Top 15 posts of the last year and you’ll get a sense of my range of interests. If you like what you see, sign up to get new posts sent directly to your inbox.
  • Twitter—the place I’m most likely to see what other people say and interact online. I mostly work through curated lists of early medieval history, disability, life sciences, and books. Over the last few years I’ve become less politically engaged.
  • Facebook—both a personal profile and an official page, though my page is sadly neglected (right now it mirrors posts from my research blog,
  • Research, which I started in 2008 to have a place to put ruminations on the research I do for my sequence of novels about the seventh-century figure, Hild of Whitby. This goes through phases. I can go a year with no post, then when a book approaches publication, or when I’m in the initial, intense phase of research for a new book, post in a hurry and flurry.
  • Instagram—where I post pictures of books, and drinks, and cats, and Kelley on an irregular schedule.
  • YouTube—where I’ve posted a miscellany of videos, mostly to Blow Shit Up!, my playlist of FX vids, and Readings, which is, well, me reading from and talking about my books. There are also a few music videos—of Janes Plane, the band I fronted in the Long Ago.
  • LinkedIn—which just mirrors my blog.
  • Tumblr—ditto.
  • Muckrack—where I sometimes remember to add portfolio links to Op-Eds, newspaper reviews, and essays I’ve written.
  • Author pages on Amazon and Goodreads—but I rarely do anything with them.
  • I also have placeholder accounts on Mastodon, Spoutible, TikTok, Post, Medium and many others—whenever a new thing comes along I sign up, just in case, but rarely bother to establish any kind of presence there. As and when that changes I’ll link the accounts.

Orlando on Friday: Menewood wake-up call!

If you’re going to be at ICFA this Friday, come listen to me read from Menewood! Yes, it’s early, 8:30 am, but trust me, the opening scene is lively. It. Will. Wake. You. Up!

Friday, March 17, 2023 — Orlando, FL — International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts

  • Reading: 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM, Vista A | Group reading. I’ll be reading from Menewood!
  • Signing immediately afterwards in the hall opposite registration

I’ll be reading with three other fine folk. What better way to face the morning?

And then later that afternoon, 2:30 pm, Kelley will be reading something special. She’s a fabulous reader. Do come listen.

More about the cover of Menewood

Cover of Menewood: A Novel by Nicola Griffith (MCDxFSG, 3 October, 2023). Cover art by Anna and Elena Balbusso. Cover design by Na Kim.

Image description: Richly coloured cover of a novel, Menewood, by Nicola Griffith, painted predominatly in blue, gold, black, and red. The image is of a young woman—Hild, the protagonist of the novel—standing tall against an ominous backdrop of medieval warfare. Behind her in the upper left, the top corner is golden, with white-hot tipped yellow arrows arcing overhead against what might be dark mountains or forbidding trees. The arrows are, perhaps, on fire. Crows are dodging them. Below the arrows and crows a mounted warrior charges from left to right, shield glinting silver, sword raised, face hidden behind a helmet. Behind Hild to the right, against a sky full of dark cloud and smoke, the arrows fall towards a host of spears and banners. The pale blue banner in the foreground shows a stylised boar with garnet eyes. The banner behind that displays a raven. In the centre of the image, and taking up more than half of the total image area, is Hild. She looks directly at the observer with blue-green eyes filled with a weight of experience beyond her years. Her expression, partially obscured by windblown hair—pale chestnut with a slight wave—is clear and farseeing: this is a woman who makes decisions that decide lives. She wears what appears to be fishmail armour beneath a richly textured but torn and worn cloak. The cloak is mostly sky blue and held together at the breast by a great, early medieval equal-armed cross brooch of gold and garnet inlay. The belt beneath the cloak is styled somewhere between Celtic and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ interlace. In her right hand she hold a wooden quarterstaff, bound with blood-spattered iron. The cloak is overlain with other images: a red fern, a black war horse, a crow, black leaves, cloud and smoke, and bare, blood-red branches. Lettering, of textured gold in early-medieval style, is superimposed on the image. “Menewood,” centred below the cross brooch in large type. Below that, in smaller type, on the left “Author of Hild” and, on the right, “A Novel.” Below that, in large type, “Nicola Griffith.”

About the cover

Yesterday I talked a bit about the wonderful cover for Menewood by the Balbusso twins. Here’s a bit more on the process.

Long-time readers might remember that when I first talked to my editor about illustrating Hild I was adamant: no representation of Hild on the cover! And you saw how that turned out :) And though my editor was right—this time—and I was wrong, for Menewood I decided I wanted to get my dibs in early and try influence the process from the beginning.

So this time I started the conversation early—which was easy: I simply responded at length to a very useful questionnaire. Here it is (with a couple of redactions to prevent spoilers).

1. Please describe your ideal jacket for this book

An illustration by the Balbusso twins. The Hild jacket was gorgeous, and showed Hild as a child—well-fed, healthy, unscarred by life, but carrying the kind of weight and responsibility for herself and her family no child should have to. The Menewood jacket should show Hild as an adult—a young one, yes, but very much grown up—again carrying great weight and responsibility, but this time a wider, deeper, heavier and more immediate responsibility: for an entire region, and then the fate of the whole of the north of Britain. She should look honed, fierce and focused, but also, still, a visionary. 

The perfect illustration for Menewood would, like that for Hild, be textured, vivid, luxurious and atmospheric. I see her standing in a high place—top of a hill, edge of a cliff, prow of a ship—and looking out. She should be carrying her fighting staff, wearing her slaughter seax and either her warrior jacket (a kind of gambeson) or her mantle of lynx furs. There should be indications of war—banners? blood? smoke?—and the suggestion that she herself is not unmarked by war. And depending on what part of the book we’re referencing, she could be [redacted] and/or [redacted].

I want the colours to be rich and gorgeous, as for Hild, but perhaps in a slightly darker key. So the foiling, for example, instead of being gold could be bronze. Any birds should be flying/fleeing rather than nesting or singing. The light perhaps could be late afternoon.

But definitely Hild, marked by war, standing in a high place, in the natural landscape. And if I had my way, the Balbusso twins would illustrate every single Hild novel, ageing and complicating Hild as she grows.

2. What are some visual themes/key points/motifs in your book?

Nature. Hild is always outside: under the trees, by the water, climbing a hill, wading in a marsh, etc. She prefers high places and wild country. So: trees, birds, water vole, horses, sky, pond, mere, marsh, moor, mountain, swans, herons 

  • most important fauna: 
    • hedgehog
    • horse
    • water vole
  • most important flora/landscape: 
    • ancient oak pollard
    • Menewood beck and its valley
    • high moor

War. There is a lot of war in this book and Hild is always in the thick of it. So: blood, banners, bodies, seaxes, swords, shields, smoke. And Hild is physically scarred.

  • most important banners: 
    • Yffing (purple with boar with red eye)
    • Cath Llew (lynx)
    • Baedd Coch (red boar)
    • Butcherbird (crude picture in red of a man impaled like a shrike’s prey on a white background)
    • Iding (raven, purple on gold)
    • Gwynedd (red dragon)
3. How did the title come about? Does it relate to a passage in the book?

Menewood is the name of Hild’s valley, her personal possession, her safe place and heart-of-home; a secret, wooded valley with a system of becks and ponds, guarded at its mouth by an ancient oak pollard. Menewood is Hild’s last redoubt, her final bolthole, green and quiet and safe—for a while. 

4. Do you have any images or reference material that you would like us to consider?

For a sense of colour see anything from the Sutton Hoo ship burial or Staffordshire Hoard: gold, garnet, sapphire/blue enamel, etc. But if there’s anything in particular you’re interested in I could draw them for you

5. Is there anything you’d prefer not to see on the cover? Least favorite color? Preference for photography over illustration or vice versa? 
  • The only person I want to see on the cover of Menewood is Hild.
  • She must not look demure or sweet in any way
  • I dislike dull and muddy colours: mustard, beige, olive, etc
  • I’d like a richly-coloured illustration, preferably by the Balbusso twins so that the figure of Hild herself looks like a sharper, more experienced, and honed version of the child on the cover of Hild

On balance, I think I got what I wanted—only better, because now the Hild of my imagination has a shape and colour in the real world. The art’s gorgeousness seemed to galvanise the publishing team—and now we’re finalising the rich interior design. It is delicious! But I’ll talk more about that another time.

Meanwhile, if you’re so inclined you can pre-order the book anywhere books are sold, or see the enormous list of independent booksellers worldwide I put together a while ago, or get from your favourite store or platform.

Pre-order | | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Phinney Books | Target

Menewood cover reveal!

Cover of Menewood: A Novel by Nicola Griffith (MCDxFSG 3 October, 2023). Cover art by Anna and Elena Balbusso. Cover design by Na Kim.

Image description: Richly coloured cover of a novel, Menewood, by Nicola Griffith, painted predominatly in blue, gold, black, and red. The image is of a young woman—Hild, the protagonist of the novel—standing tall against an ominous backdrop of medieval warfare. Behind her in the upper left, the top corner is golden, with white-hot tipped yellow arrows arcing overhead against what might be dark mountains or forbidding trees. The arrows are, perhaps, on fire. Crows are dodging them. Below the arrows and crows a mounted warrior charges from left to right, shield glinting silver, sword raised, face hidden behind a helmet. Behind Hild to the right, against a sky full of dark cloud and smoke, the arrows fall towards a host of spears and banners. The pale blue banner in the foreground shows a stylised boar with garnet eyes. The banner behind that displays a raven. In the centre of the image, and taking up more than half of the total image area, is Hild. She looks directly at the observer with blue-green eyes filled with a weight of experience beyond her years. Her expression, partially obscured by windblown hair—pale chestnut with a slight wave—is clear and farseeing: this is a woman who makes decisions that decide lives. She wears what appears to be fishmail armour beneath a richly textured but torn and worn cloak. The cloak is mostly sky blue and held together at the breast by a great, early medieval equal-armed cross brooch of gold and garnet inlay. The belt beneath the cloak is styled somewhere between Celtic and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ interlace. In her right hand she hold a wooden quarterstaff, bound with blood-spattered iron. The cloak is overlain with other images: a red fern, a black war horse, a crow, black leaves, cloud and smoke, and bare, blood-red branches. Lettering, of textured gold in early-medieval style, is superimposed on the image. “Menewood,” centred below the cross brooch in large type. Below that, in smaller type, on the left “Author of Hild” and, on the right, “A Novel.” Below that, in large type, “Nicola Griffith.”

About Menewood

Menewood has been a long time coming—over a decade from beginning to end. I was eager to write it but it would not be hurried. It’s a big book, epic and intense—rage, love, lust, loss, fierce joy, grief, triumph, delight—but it’s also full of gentler emotions, those stolen moments of contentment and peace, basking a moment in sunlight, or enjoying a quiet conversation over a bowl of soup. It’s a book about life: how it feels, what it means, why it changes. And its beating heart is its protagonist, Hild: becoming herself, learning to live on her own terms, to build and wield power—exploring and really inhabiting who she is.

It’s set 1400 years ago in seventh-century Britain and it takes up where its predecessor, Hild, left off. It covers fewer years of Hild’s life than the first book yet it’s longer, and deeper and richer—a bigger book in every way. (Imagine it as a trilogy in one volume and you’ll have a sense of what to expect.) It has, though, the same mix of heroic scale and human intimacy, the same soaring exhilaration in the high, wild places of the Long Ago.

Hild when it came out ten years ago was a different kind of book—full of the awe and magic of life, only with no actual magic. It was about a different kind of protagonist: a bright girl then young woman who stayed one step ahead of the murderous whims of a volatile king using acute observations of nature and human behaviour to work out what might happen next.

How do you portray that on a cover? You find a different kind of artist—in this case an artistic team, Anna and Elena Balbusso—who play with time, perception and colour to create clean visions that are somehow infused with layers of wonder. For Hild, they captured Hild’s frank and open gaze perfectly. We wanted to refresh the cover of Hild to coincide with the publication of Menewood—and we’ve adjusted the type—but the image didn’t need a single change. (See below.)

Now, for Menewood, the Balbusso twins again perfectly capture who Hild has become: Against a backdrop of violence and regime change stands a young adult marked by war, honed by the responsibility of power—and vivid with life.

I loved writing this book—Hild and her world are a joy to me. I can’t wait for you to read it.

I love this cover. Later this week I’ll write more about the process to come up with it. Meanwhile, here’s the new cover for Hild.

Refreshed Hild cover

The new cover of Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith. Cover art by Anna and Elena Balbusso.

Image description: Richly textured cover of a novel, Hild, by Nicola Griffith, painted predominantly in green, with green-black, black, indigo, red, gold and white. The image is of an adolescent girl—Hild, the protagonist of the novel—standing straight against a backdrop of the natural world at night. Behind her and to the left, the full mon is bright and silhouetted against it are bare tree branches and four roosting birds. White specks and faint shades of indigo hint at a starry night with gauzy drifts of cloud.  The pattern of trees and sky without birds, is repeated to the right. In the centre of the image is Hild, standing with her hands behind her back and her head slightly turned but nonetheless gazing directly at the observer with clear blue-green eyes. Her head and shoulders are protected by a chanmail coif but enough strands of hair escape to show it is dark chestnut. This is a girl-woman with the thousand-yard stare of someone who has faced death and made terrible decisions since the age of eight, who looks out with the clarity of one who knows life is an undiscovered country full of joy and patterns to be understood. She survives because she has an extraordinary mind and a will of adamant. Her longsleeved overdress is the same colour as the sky and blends into the background. This blending is furthered by and overlay of the same bare black tree branches. A gold and garnet equal-armed cross is fastned at her breast and she wear a belt decorated in interlace from which hangs a seax. Lettering, of textured gold in early-medieval style, is superimposed on the image. Above Hild, across the top, in small type, “Extraordinary…[Hild] resonated to many of the same chords as Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, the Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones. — Neal Stephenson” to Hild’s left, “One of the best novels, period. — Dorothy Allsion” and to the right “Truly, truly remarkable. — Karen Joy Fowler” Just below the centre of the image, immediately beneath Hild’s cross, in giant type, and all-caps, is “HILD” Immediately below that, again in small type is, to the left “Picador” and, to the right, “A Novel” Below that in large type, “Nicola Griffith.”

Spear is a Nebula Finalist!

Spear is a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel. I am DELIGHTED!! I mean it—really thrilled. Really pleased to be in this company, too, a terrific set of books; all very different in mood and tone.

Nebula Award for Novel

  • Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree (Cryptid; Tor)
  • Spear, Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom)
  • Nettle and Bone, T. Kingfisher (Tor; Titan UK)
  • Babel, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
  • Nona the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
  • The Mountain in the Sea, Ray Nayler (MCD; Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

I was convinced that this slim book would fall firmly between the cracks, lost between novel and novella, and not get nominated for anything. Yet now it has three nominations: the Nebula Best Novel Award, the Los Angeles Book Prize Ray Bradbury Prize (Ray Nayler is up for that, too), and the Subjective Chaos Kind of Award (Ray is nominated for this one, too—though in SF rather than Fantasy, and, hey, so is T. Kingfisher!). It really is turning into the Little Book That Could.

Here’s the full list of Nebula Finalists in all the other categories.

Winners will be announced at the 2023 Nebula Conference, held May 12–14, 2023, this year at the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort, Anaheim, CA. There is also an option to attend virtually. But this year I’m going to be there in person—even though I will have been in Los Angeles just three weeks earlier. It seems I’ll be racking up the frequent flier points this year. Hey, maybe I can use some of them to buy a new jacket. I mean, if this isn’t an excuse to dress up and go to town, what is?

Woo hoo!

And because there can never, ever be too much excitement, come back here first thing tomorrow for the Menewood cover reveal—and some juicy tidbits about what to expect from the book—because it’s fucking *gorgeous*!

Coming tomorrow: Menewood cover reveal!

Tomorrow you finally get to see the splendid, amazing, and fabulous Menewood cover—but also a bonus reveal! I’m hugging myself with delight at the thought. Stay tuned…

Today and tomorrow: ECCC

This afternoon I’ll be at Seattle Center for Emerald City Comic Con where I’ll be doing a panel followed by a book signing. Sunday morning I’ll be doing another panel followed, again, by a signing. Details below:

Saturday March 4, 2023 — Seattle, WA — Emerald City Comic Con

  • Panel:5:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Room 340-341 | Something Old, Something New: The Art Is in the Retelling — Exploring myths from cultures around the world, retelling well-known fairytales, new takes on old stories.
  • Signing: 6:15 – 7 PM, Literary Signing Table #2

Sun, March 5, 2023 — Seattle, WA — Emerald City Comic Con

  • Panel: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Room 340-341 | Writing in Apocalyptic Times — Pandemics, unraveling climate, political upheaval… the world is seeming more and more like a post apocalyptic novel. How the world today impacts writing about tomorrow.
  • Signing: 12:15 – 1:15 PM, Literary Signing Table #1

It’ll be my first ComiCon of any kind. Come and say hello!

In 5 days: Menewood cover reveal!

On Wednesday next week you will see the glorious (fabulous, delicious, rich, dramatic…) cover of Menewood! It will blow you right out of your slippers 😎

Hieme Horribilis

I wrote a version of this, Aestas Horribilis, less than four months ago, but as dozens of you have totally ignored it I’m doing it again. For those with limited time, the tl;dr = Don’t ask me for anything right now. Unless I’ve already offered, the answer is no. If you truly believe what you’re asking/offering is special (for example I *am* going to go to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and Book Prize ceremony), then talk to my agent or publicist and she’ll decide if it’s worth passing on.

The last half of last year was terrible (see the link above), The first quarter of this one has, with two exceptions, been worse. On top of the parental situation mentioned previously—which is continuing to devolve, though, as we now have some systems in place, the physical exhaustion factor is not much worse (emotional toll? different story)—we have a whole host of other things to deal with.

We now have three family situations. One you already know about. One is not my news to discuss. One involves my family in the UK—which adds another layer of difficulty.

This is something I’ve been through three times before. Each time, my sister comes perilously close to dying before we can get her detained under the UK Mental Health Act and given ECT—with or without her permission. Emotionally it’s very hard. Physically, too, because it can involve flying to Leeds and bullying healthcare providers into doing the only thing that works.

All I can say is I am thankful twice a day that my other sister is right there and able to do this. I literally could not right now because of my own health. As you can imagine, this multiple family stress is not restful. And stress and lack of rest are very, very bad for inflammatory immune system issues—of which I have a Santa’s sackful.

Mostly I don’t talk about them because there’s no need. When most people look at me they see an energetic—sharp, happy, healthy, in-control of a zesty life—wheelchair user who loves doing new things, meeting new people, and getting out and about. And most of the time what you see is absolutely what you’re getting. But not right now. Stress does terrible things to the body.

As well as MS I have undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy, ocular rosacea, odd heart issues2, probable MCAS3, allergies, and a really bizarre set of reactions to medications that just don’t affect most other people. Most of the time, when life is stable, all this stuff is just background noise—not to be treated lightly, obviously, but nothing too terrible. Most of the time, I tend to forget everything but MS exists.

Most of the time but not now.

Right now my MS symptoms are the worst they’ve ever been. In addition, my spondyloarthropy is acting up, and MCAS is making me vomit and start to go into shock at the drop of a hat—or even a whiff of high-histamine food. I’m in massive, endless, grinding pain despite physical therapy, ultrasound massage, painkillers, and muscle relaxants. I look terrible (which always hurts my pride). I can’t focus, I can’t sleep, and I’m getting nothing done. My entire system is on a hair trigger. In the last seven days alone I’ve had to cancel without warning two separate events, which also hurts my pride—I hate to be seen as unreliable.

So, right now I don’t want to speak to your class, give you an interview, sign your books, be on your panel, ‘just take a look’ at your book’ or any other damn thing. Unless, as I’ve said, I’ve already told you I will.4

One good thing—beyond good, fabulous—Kelley got a brilliant new job. The hours are reasonable, the pay is fantastic, the health benefits good, and—best of all—she not only enjoys the work but her coworkers and managers (and the firm as a whole—a global, enterprise-level company) are wonderful.

A second good thing: MENEWOOD is still on track for October 3 publication and the publisher is solidly behind it. With luck, I’ll be fighting fit by mid-summer and ready to take the world by storm!

Meanwhile, watch for more news tomorrow about MENEWOOD…

1 The search for a bed has widened from Leeds, to Yorkshire, to the whole North, and now south and central England—and still nothing.

2 By odd I mean variable. Since I first passed out spectacularly in a club at age 20 I’ve been diagnosed with both ventricular and atrial issues, mitral valve prolapse, various electrical issues, plus stenosis and sclerosis of other valves—only for all those things to have vanished by the next echocardiogram and/or stress test. Whenever one of my providers retires the next one simply doesn’t believe my story until he (and it’s always been a he) sees for himself and is confused. I’m used to it. I also believe that my heart is essentially very healthy and just prone to…misbehaviour. My blood work always shows stellar results. As one neurologist once told me: You have a Harvard Chart. In other words, even as a wheelchair user my biomarkers are pretty much green down the line.

3 Getting a definite diagnosis can involve inconvenient, time-sensitive, and often painful invasive tests. So I’m fine with ‘probable’ for now. There are no decent treatments anyway.

4 And even then, honestly, it really depends on the vagaries of a seriously out-of-whack immune system. For example, I truly hope to be at Emerald City Comic Con at the weekend—but if I feel then how I feel today, well, I’m not sure.

Spear a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist

Image description: The covers of the five books on the shortlist and underneath text reading “The Ray Bradbury Prize for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction, sponsored by the Ray Bradbury Foundation, honors and extends Bradbury’s literary legacy by celebrating and elevating the writers working in his field today. Bradbury always made his own rules, writing across specific genre boundaries throughout his career.” And below that, the logo of the Ray Bradbury Foundation.

Today I woke up to snow (boo!) and the news that Spear is one of five finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Ray Bradbury Prize (yay!). Here’s the shortlist:

  • Sara Gran, “The Book of the Most Precious Substance”
  • Nicola Griffith, “Spear”
  • Alex Jennings, “The Ballad of Perilous Graves”
  • Ray Nayler, “The Mountain in the Sea: A Novel”
  • George Saunders, “Liberation Day: Stories”

I love being nominated for awards—and this is especially cool because it’s a new one for me. So I’m delighted!

It also means I’ll be in Los Angeles for a couple of days during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books April 21-23. I’ll be at the ceremony on Friday, of course, but also doing a panel and/or reading over the weekend. More details when I have them.

For now I’m going to go drink more coffee and watch the snow fall…

2023: A Big Year

2023 is a year of Big Anniversaries—those ending in 0 or 5—marking significant life events for me and Kelley. Here are some of them:

  • January
    • 40th anniversary of the television debut of the band I fronted, Janes Plane, late one Monday night in January (I don’t have the exact date—I always forget and, yep, I forgot this year too) on Channel 4’s Whatever You Want
  • February
    • 30th anniversary of Ammonite. Yes, the copyright page says 1992, but the book did not hit shelves in the US until the end of January/beginning of February and, in the UK, later in February/beginning of March.
  • Early March
    • 30th anniversary of my MS diagnosis, which I got the day after I got off the plane from London where I’d been launching Ammonite.
  • June
    • 45th anniversary of Kelley’s high school graduation. Kelley loved her HS, remembers it fondly, and attends reunions when she can.
    • 45th anniversary of my last day suffering the stifling strictures of Catholic Grammar School education—but for me it’s the escape from the experience that’s worth celebrating, not the experience itself.
  • June 26th
    • 35th anniversary of meeting Kelley at Clarion and falling indelibly in love.
    • 35th anniversary also, of course, of us both going through the life-altering experience that is Clarion where we met so many people who are part of our lives.
  • September 4
    • 30th anniversary of our no-legal-force wedding at our house in Atlanta, GA.
    • 10th anniversary of our extremely-legally-binding wedding overlooking Puget Sound right here in Seattle, WA.
  • October 3
    • 0 anniversary of the publication of Menewood.
  • November 13
    • 10th anniversary of the publication of Hild
    • …and, four days later, the 1409th anniversary of Hild’s birth—though that’s cheating because a) it’s not about me and b) it doesn’t end in zero or five But, hey, this is my list so I make the rules.

In other words, it’s going to be a big year. At this point I’ve no idea how and when we’ll be celebrating but you can bet we will.


Self portrait

Image description: Sketch outline in muted colours (pale brown, mahogany, pink, ochre) of head, three-quarter profile, of a short-haired white woman

Until now I’d never tried to draw a human portrait of any kind, but about 10 years ago I took a selfie, with an old iPhone 4 in low light, that bleached out much of my skin and left the rest in oddly pink/brown tones. I’ve always liked it. (For two reasons. One, pure vanity! The bleaching makes me look much younger than I really did. And two, I was fascinated by the fact that although what was left because of the over-exposure were just a few dabs and streaks of colour, it still suggested a whole face. So today when I got tired of working on the Dramatis Personae for MENEWOOD, and then when I switched to working on maps got tired of that, I thought, Well, let’s see what happens if I noodle around with a few dabs of pink and brown…

Perhaps this happens to a lot of people, but when I first pick up something—an instrument or paintbrush or fencing foil, or boxing or aikido or gymnastics—I often do surprisingly well. It’s a powerful kind of Beginner’s Luck, a First-timer’s Fluke. And it really is a fluke: it can take me a hundred more attempts to get back to the unselfconscious ease and fluency of that first time—if I bother to stick with it. It makes me wonder just how instinctively amazing we could all be at many things if we just got out of our own way…

Working on this portrait was an extremely strange experience. If I’d thought about it at all beforehand I might have guessed it would feel like the visual-art equivalent of writing a memoir. It wasn’t like that at all. It felt…oddly embarrassing, even furtive, like something to be done in the dark.

For any artists reading this—amateur or professional—is that your experience of self-portraits? Or is this more of a non-artist’s thing? Or just a beginner’s thing?

Suzy McKee Charnas

Suzy McKee Charnas 1939- 2023

Image description: Black and white photo of a middle-aged white woman with short grey hair looking directly at the camera in a way that tells the viewer quite dispassionately that she sees you, and she understands

Suzy McKee Charnas died last night. I found out this morning and have been weeping since. I have a lot to say about her—without her work, my work would not exist—but can’t right now.

If you want to honour her, go read one of her books. Start with the first two Holdfast Chronicles, Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines. Be warned, though: when you read the first one you will want to flinch and look away. Don’t. She didn’t.

Spear—Award Eligibility

Image description: A book, Spear by Nicola Griffith. On the cover, the background is charcoal, shading to black at the bottom, with the author’s name at the top is orange-red and the title, at the bottom, and ‘from the author Hild’ in white. The main image is of a great hanging bowl of black iron with inlaid figures and great bronze escutcheons for the hanging hooks. It is wreathed about by smoke and flame and steam, and the steam forms images: in white, woods with a woman and a stone and a sword; about the trees, shading to orange, is an figure with a spear on a horse; a fort gate and box palisade, and over all, flying up in the smoke towards the author’s name, two birds.

I’ve been asked several times by readers who are drawing up their award-nomination lists whether Spear should be categorised as a novel or novella.

Simple Answer

The book is 45,000 words (excluding the Author’s Note). So if the award you’re nominating for has word-length categories for novella (and most SFF awards specify 25,000 – 39,999 words), then it’s a novel. ETA Having said that, the Hugo apparently allows 20% leeway—so in Hugo terms it could, in fact, be a novella because it’s under 48,000!

More Complicated

If the award does not specify such word-length categories, then it gets a bit more complicated. When I started writing Spear I was aiming for a novelette of 12,000 – 14,000 words. By the end of the first day, though, it was perfectly obvious it would be longer than that, and I switched gears. I treated it as a novella. Which means it’s structured as a novella, with no chapter breaks and a single through-line.

Having said that, the narrative timeline covers years, which usually spells ‘novel’ territory in Fantasy (though not necessarily in SF). There’s enough Arthurian touchstones/tropes—Percival’s story, the Grail, Excalibur, Arthur-Lancelot-Guinevere, Merlin-Nimuë (plus one nifty Arthurian-historiography easter egg that no one’s spotted yet, chortle)—for half a trilogy. And then there’s the historical feel, coming of age story, love story, and the folding in of Irish myth.


Spear is a short novel or a long novella with a lot packed in. I’m truly delighted that so many people like it well enough to want to nominate it for something. The book was a joy to write and it thrills me that some of you found it a joy to read. Thank you.


Happy 2023!

Here at the Team Nickel headquarters, team members began the day with utter overindulgence, involving (for two-legs) a big chunk of fried cod for breakfast, with Irish breakfast tea and the New York Times (digital) and Seattle Times (paper), followed almost immediately by delicious double-shot Americano and a judicious selection of Fran’s truffles. The four-foots, meanwhile, broke their fast on a moving feast of thrown freeze-dried raw-food treats that scampered under sofas and between chairs, followed by a real workout involving chasing Feather uphill and downdale, ending only with a tragic tangle in the Christmas tree. At which point their assumed their sentry positions boxing us into the kitchen-breakfast room area, alert to further entertainment possibilities.

Image description: George, a 3-year old tabby in his prime, sits upright, tail just so, looking down at his staff from the pinnacle of his cat tree
Charlie, a 3-year old tabby whose description as a ‘fit young cat’ by his personal physician has gone to his head, sitting in an upright position exactly mirroring his brother’s, tail just so, watching his staff from the family room while also keeping the Christmas tree in his peripheral vision in case that frisky Feather should make another appearance.

After a while they got distracted and wandered outside to harass the hummingbirds, leaving Kelley free to chat with her folks in Florida and me to gloat over my lovely clean desktop and started pondering the various files and lists in that To Do folder.

Image description: Mac desktriop showing moonlit sand dunes, with four icons—different drives and an alias of the Settings app—on the lower left and a single folder, labelled To Do, in the upper right.

I have Many Plans, but don’t intend to start in on any of them until Jan 8, at which time I’ll take down my email away message and re-engage with the world.

For now, though, I think I’ll spend the day alternately painting the background of a topographical map of Northern Britain in the Early Seventh Century (I’ll show you that soon) and doing research that will serve both Peretur and Hild this year.

In other words, 2023 is off to a shining start—even the sun is out—and I have high hopes for the year. May yours have begun equally well and just keep getting better.

2022 Blog Stats

Image description: Map of the world showing density of visitors by country. The USA is coloured dark pink, the UK medium pink, and the rest of the world pale pink—with some countries (mainly in Africa) showing blank.

Like last year, the number of people who came to read something increased—but not by much. I posted slightly more often—68 posts—but many of them were brief and informational, notices of appearances and so on.

The Top 5 countries from where my readers log on haven’t changed at all from last year, but the next five were a bit different, with China appearing for the first time, displacing Sweden:

  • US
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • France
  • China
  • India
  • Netherlands
  • Ireland

Of the Top 10 New Posts, seven were about my books, and one each about my horrible summer, war in Europe, and realistic Covid death tolls. For some reason, no one seemed to want to read about bright and lovely things like flowers, Kelley, love, or cats. (I’m curious about whether other bloggers had the same experience.)

The Top 15 Overall were mostly perennial favourites—though for the first time since they were written Huge News: Multiple Sclerosis is a metabolic disorder (2011), Books about women don’t win awards (2015) and Lame is so gay (2011) fell off the list—with just three new ones* sneaking in:

What lies ahead for this site? I don’t know. I do know that this blog isn’t going anywhere. I enjoy writing the posts and people seem to enjoy reading them. It ticks along nicely. Plus, this year’s Twitter debacle is just another confirmation that we all need to own our own platforms. Even if I thought all those other social platforms really were being run as public utilities for the greater good (ha ha ha), I like being able to say things too long for Twitter and not pretty enough for Instagram. This is the best place to do that.

Do I want to start a newsletter? No. For the simple reason that this blog functions as a newsletter. All you have to do is subscribe (in desktop view just look at the top of the right hand sidebar; in mobile platforms, scroll right to the end of an individual post), and every new post will be delivered directly to your mailbox the minute it’s published. No muss, no fuss—just like any other newsletter, except that a) you don’t have to pay a dime, and b) I’ll never share your data with anyone for anything. Plus, on a blog you can talk back if you like.

I would like to get back to posting longer and more interesting things. When I last checked I had well over 300 posts partially drafted. Many are from years ago and so will no longer be relevant, but I’m guessing a few others might be worth revisiting. But even if I deleted them all tomorrow, I have a list as long as my arm of things I’d love to talk about. It’s just a question of whether I have the heart—that mix of hope, health, energy, time, and sheer bloody-mindedness that long-term blogging requires to be successful. But I like this blog; I’ve been doing this or something like this for nearly 30 years. So stay tuned for another blog post soon—tomorrow? Monday?—about what to look forward to in 2023.

See you on the other side…

Happy Hedgepig Disco Season to All!

Via Roisín Astell on Twitter (from Verdun bibliothèque municipale MS 107, f.8r)

Signed personalised books for the holidays—including my memoir!

White background, blue letters spelling "Phinney Books" with an image of a Big Wheel in gold at lower leftImage description: White background, blue lettering spelling “Phinney Books,” in all caps. And, in gold, an image of a Big Wheel lower left and “Seattle,” again all caps, lower right.

I’m teaming up again with Phinney Books, on Greenwood Avenue, Seattle, to bring you signed, personalised books for the holidays. Why Phinney Books? Well, because it’s my idea of a perfectly-sized bookshop with just the right stock. Also, it’s level-entry with a light front door so very easy for me to get in and out of. And of course before and after pandemic restrictions it’s wonderfully convenient because it’s right next door to the 74th St Alehouse, which sells an excellent pint of Guinness.

Here’s how it works.

  1. Go to Phinney Books’ online ordering page to buy any of my books, no muss no fuss, and get them shipped to any address in US. Everyone else, see the next step.
  2. Email (phone is okay: 206-297-2665) with billing info: all major credit cards accepted. They use Square, so they’ll also need the 3-digit code on the back and your billing postal code.
  3. Tell them what you’d like:
    • Spear (hardcover—audiobook and ebook available)
    • Hild (paperback or hardcover—audiobook and ebook available)
    • So Lucky (paperback—audiobook and ebook available)
    • Ammonite (paperback—audiobook and ebook available)
    • Slow River (paperback—ebook available)
    • With Her Body (paperback only)
    • Or my memoir, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party. SEE NOTE BELOW.*
    • Don’t forget, you can order ebooks and audiobooks via the store (I narrated So Lucky and Spear). Sadly I can’t personalise those, though—unless you buy a card from Tom and I sign that.
  4. Tell them whether you want the books personalised (to you, or to someone else; if so, who; and what short thing you’d like me to add). If you give this order by phone, please spell out even the most common names.
  5. Give them your mailing address and payment info.
  6. Beam, sit back and relax: you’ve done your holiday shopping!

Tom, the owner, tells me he is happy to ship multiple copies, to ship internationally, and to ship express/priority, but then there will be extra charges you will have to work out with him.

Deadlines: The sooner you get orders in the better. I won’t be signing anything after Dec 15. My advice? Order as fast as possible, especially if you want a copy of the memoir. Good luck!

  1. * There is a very limited supply of these. There were only 450 to start with and 15 years ago they were priced at $75. The most recent sales I’ve seen elsewhere (auction sites and the like) have been over $100, sometimes well over. And because they’re sealed in plastic—absolutely pristine—I can’t sign and personalise them. But each one is already signed and numbered inside the box. For this promotion only I’ll be selling a handful at $75 each. After that the price will go up. A lot.
  2. It takes time for Tom to order copies of With Her Body.
  3. The Aud novels are not currently available. I reverted the rights and sold everything I had lying about in an earlier promotion. But, woo-hoo!, they will be back on sale at some point in spiffy matching editions from Picador—and I’ll be doing the audio narration.
  4. Bending the Landscape is not currently available—though if you want to pay $750 you can find them online.
  5. And don’t forget, while you’re buying one of my books—or all of them! hey, it’s the holidays, splurge!—you can buy books by other people. Lots of books. Books make great gifts.

Treasure trove discovered: my memoir in a box!

Demon Jesus—a collage I made when I was five years old. Note the very careful nail holes. I’m not sure why the observer has only one leg; perhaps it fell off.

Kelley and I recently went through the house clearing out the accumulated clutter of 17 years. We found all sorts of interesting stuff1—including a stash of my limited edition, signed and numbered, memoir-in-a-box, And Now We Are Going to Have a Party: Liner notes to a writer’s early life. I’m delighted—I thought they were all truly, finally gone apart from my one working copy. I’m nor sure how many of them there are, maybe a dozen—Kelley opened the box long enough to see what it contained, then left it in the attic—but I’m going to part with a handful. The box is a lovely thing, a collector’s item, and there’s nothing I’d like more than to hoard them, gloat over them like a dragon with her gold, but I wrote it to be read.

This book is unique; there isn’t another like it in the world. And there were only 450 copies made. It is my early life in a box: the story of growing up queer, gender nonconforming, hungry (in all the ways) in a super-Catholic family in the north of England, from 1960 until I left for America in 1989. Stories of batty nuns and queer priests; sex and drugs and music; psychopathy and arson and nascent criminal master-mindery; desire, delinquency, and delight; violence, joy, and coalition-building. But above all it’s a love story: how my love of life led to love of words which led to meeting and falling in love with Kelley. Which changed everything—the story ends with me leaving the UK to come to the US to start our life together as writers.

In terms of original word count, Party is short—no more than 45,000 words—mostly short essays with titles such as “Limb of Satan” to “No-Pants Griffith” to “Whole Psychopath.” These are all true stories; some are funny, some are not. But words are only part of the story. Included in the box are scratch-n-sniff cards; a fold-out poster of one of my first artworks (a collage crucifixion of Jesus with demon-red eyes; I was four); a facsimile of my first book—written and drawn at age four with crayon; a CD of me performing with my band; a signed baby photo; diary excerpts; excerpts from my first handwritten novel; old poetry; a recipe for plastic omelette (I’m lucky no one died); quotes from my very first editorial letters (for that same unpublished handwritten novel), and lots and lots of stories, all true—building my first still (again, I’m lucky no one died); the grief of trying to save a sister who did not want to be saved; tales of loneliness and unexpected alliances; and always—always—being different. It’s the story of, well, the early life that made me me—a writer.

For a taste, here are two short readings from the book, stories of me at age four (No-Pants Griffith) and sixteen (Bird of the Fragile Spirit).2 Then tune in tomorrow for how to get hold of one of these beautiful objects.

No-Pants Griffith
Bird of the Fragile Spirit

1 Seriously. All kinds of stuff. So much cool stuff that I’m thinking of starting a Patreon next year and using some of it for Reward tiers.

2 The recording is not great quality—and weirdly I sound as though I have a lisp; I don’t. Also, the title of this piece if that of a poem I wrote at 17 that I later turned into a song.

Gorgeous Kelley

Kelley has a new photo, taken earlier this month. I love it—it looks exactly like her with the cool hair matching the fabulous opal, and the nifty tats going with the delicious muscles. Not to mention her lovely eyes.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good new photo. This one is by Ed Sozinho, of Sozinho Imagery who lives just around the corner from us. If you live in Seattle and need a corporate or author photo, drop him a line.

Hild, Menewood, and Meanwood

Today is the feast day of Hild of Whitby, aka St Hilda, who died 1408 years ago. It seems like a good time to announce that Menewood, the sequel to Hild, has finally entered copyediting—it’s in the production cycle. It will be published by FSG/MCD in October 2023.

I’ve seen a draft of the cover—it’s fantastic!—and here’s a first stab at the flap copy:

In the much anticipated sequel to Hild, Nicola Griffith’s Menewood transports readers back to seventh-century Britain, a land of rival kings and religions poised for epochal change. Hild is no longer the bright child who made a place in Edwin Overking’s court with her seemingly supernatural insight. She is eighteen, honed and tested, the formidable Lady of Elmet, now building her personal stronghold in the valley of Menewood.

But Edwin recalls his most trusted advisor. Old alliances are fraying. Younger rivals are snapping at his heels. War is brewing—bitter war, winter war. Not knowing who to trust he becomes volatile and unpredictable. Hild begins to understand the true extent of the chaos ahead, and now she must navigate the turbulence and fight to protect both the kingdom and her own people.

She will face the losses and devastation of total war, and then must find a new strength, the implacable determination to forge a radically different path for herself and her people. In the valley, her last redoubt, her community slowly takes root. She trains herself and her unexpected allies in new ways of thinking, and she prepares for one last wager: risking all on a single throw for a better future…

The copy will change, it always does, but I think it gives a sense of the sweep of the book: Menewood is epic. It begins four months after the end of Hild, and covers only four years of Hild’s life, but those years are intense: war and defeat, alliance and betrayal, birth and death, joy and forgiveness, violence and rage, love and lust, war and victory, grief and loss, learning and building, bravery and cowardice, growth and change, war and devastation, power and responsibility, and the making, breaking, and shaping of kings.

Menewood is also full of quieter moments: peace, pleasure, contentment, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, sorrow, laughter, warmth, friendship, and farewells. It is a book about life: how it feels, what it means, how it changes.

Menewood the book is big—30% longer than Hild. I have a lot to say about it—I could post three times a week from now until October and still not run out of things to talk about—but for now I want to touch briefly on Menewood the place.

The Old English pronunciation of Menewood would be something like MEN-eh-wood. But I pronounce it MEEN-wood because I have based it on a real place: Meanwood, in Leeds, Yorkshire. The fictional stream running through Menewood is the real Meanwood Beck; the fictional valley of Menewood is the real Meanwood Valley. You can go there today, walk under the trees alongside the beck in Hild’s footsteps and imagine her running, laughing, weeping, and deciding the fate of kings.

According to Wikipedia, the name derives from Meene wude — a boundary wood. But I can’t find meene in any Old English glossaries, and mene seems to mean necklace, so, well, your guess is as a good as mine.

I grew up in Headingley, a part northwest Leeds that borders Meanwood, and as a child and teenager ran wild in Meanwood Park, which at about 70 acres covers only a tiny part of the valley. For me, as for Hild, Meanwood is the heart of Elmet, the heart of home. I have a deep and abiding affection for the sound and scent of its trees and air and water. When I go back to the UK I always visit the park, and as soon as I’m under the trees the scent of the soil is a stab under my ribs; it’s part of me.

Here’s a photo of Meanwood Beck I took years ago with Crapcam.

In Hild’s time it would have been bigger and burlier. If you look at a map of Meanwood Valley you’ll see the shape the beck (from a Norse word for brook) carved from the hills on its way to the river Aire.

Above all, Menewood is about Hild. She is on every page, the burning heart around which events turn. And just as in the first book, Hild is most at home in nature, so the book is full of water, sky, and high wild places. I can’t wait for you to read it.

Holiday Bookfest—Live! In-person!—Saturday 19 November!

Come meet me and 27 other local authors next Saturday from 2-4 pm at the Phinney Center. We’ll be signing books, talking about books, reading from books and generally hanging out. I’ll be doing a 10-minute reading—I haven’t decided what, yet. Maybe Spear? Maybe Menewood? Maybe something entirely different? Come and find out!

The Phinneywood blog has all the details:

Discover new ways local authors can help you look at life through the world of books available at the  Holiday Bookfest, once again, finally, being held in person at the PNA on Saturday, November 19, 2-4 p.m. (Blue Building, 2nd floor).

Come to meet local authors, buy books, and get them signed.  Come for author readings, held every 15 minutes. Come to support our local bookseller Phinney Books, who is donating part of the proceeds to the tutoring center Bureau of Fearless Ideas and the PNA. And please bring your gently used children’s books for donation to the Pocket Libraries program!

Among the more twenty-eight authors will be bestselling crime novelist Elizabeth George, Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, first-time young adult novelist Zoe Hana Mikuta, and memoirist Jessica Gigot, a Skagit Valley farmer.

With the holidays at hand, how about a new cookbook? On hand will be four chef authors: Polina Chesnakova, Hsiao-Ching Chou, Jackie Freeman and Andrea Pons.

And in the gift-giving season, new children’s books will delight the kids in your life. Meet authors Rob Albanese, Lynne Brunelle, Ben Clanton, Andy Chou Musser and Walker Ranson, a young man who penned his first book with his mother, veteran novelist Suzanne Selfors.

A smorgasbord of great books awaits from authors Erica Bauermeister, Robert Dugoni, Laurie Frankel, Nicola Griffith, Thor Hanson, Molly Hashimoto, Priscilla Long, Sharon Mentyka, Boyd Morrison, Steve Olson, Putsata Reang, Steven Reddy, Neal Thompson, Tara Austen Weaver, David B. Williams and the students of BFI.

The building is fully accessible. It’s an airy space, the windows will be open, and mask-wearing is encouraged. Also, I know half the writers—we’re a friendly bunch. And, y’know, there’s a pub and a fine bookstore not too far away—just saying. So come on down and buy a bunch of signed books to give away as gifts—or keep for yourself.

See you there!

Aestas horribilis

I haven’t posted here for over a month. I had to cancel our trip to World Fantasy in New Orleans. I’ve been missing on social media. I have not read the books I promised and not written the blurbs I offered. I haven’t been commenting on politics or history or all things viral.1 I’ve been ignoring friends’ invitations and enquiries. Why? Late summer was horrible; I’ve been overwhelmed.

I’ve already mentioned events of July, when Kelley was laid off2, I broke the cuboid bone in my foot, and then had a bruising wheelchair crash. What I haven’t talked about before here is that Kelley’s mother has Alzheimer’s which has been rapidly increasing upon her. And two months ago she fell, broke her hip and arm, and got concussion.

It’s been difficult. Kelley and I are both exhausted and stressed and working hard on taking care of an old and fragile woman with dementia (and forgets she’s just had her hip replaced and is wearing a cast and tries to walk) and her old and confused husband. We have no time, we have no bandwidth, we don’t know how long this will last or what the future holds. Those of you who have had to manage this kind of thing don’t need telling; those of you who haven’t, well, I hope you never do.

One of the things that adds to the stress is having to renege on promises and cancel things. So let me be clear here: if you ask me a favour3 in the next three months you will not even get the courtesy of a no. Until late winter/early spring, my focus will be very close to home.

Not everything that I’ve been busy with the last couple of months has been bad. The good thing, the best thing—the thing that’s kept me sane—is MENEWOOD. I have a lot to say, and I’ll do that in a separate post, but for now here’s the headline: It’s done, it’s entering the publisher’s production cycle, and oh it will be worth the wait!

Also coming soon here news of a couple of events this month and next, plus the usual holiday books-as-gifts notice.

Meanwhile, it’s truly autumn here in Seattle, and amazingly we still have vivid yellow begonias in bloom, fuchsias brightening both decks and the front bed, and even a few salvia of various colours and shapes giving hummingbirds nectar. The cats are in fine fettle, I love my sweetie and she loves me, and I’m already chortling over the writing ideas I have for what comes next.

Here at Chez Nickel there will be a lot to be thankful for over turkey this year. I wish the same for you.

1 There is so very much to say about this. I could write ten fucking posts and still not get it off my chest.

2 Oh, I could write such a screed about this, and perhaps one day I will.

3 A favour, as opposed to paid opportunity, invitation to something seriously fun, or normal professional activities

This year’s flowers

Every summer we plant a bunch of annuals alongside our surviving perennials in containers on our kitchen and back decks, where I can more easily get to them to water, dead-head, fertilise, etc. I sometimes post pictures on Twitter and Instagram, and several people have asked if I’d do a post going into the planting in a bit more depth because they’re thinking about trying something similar next year.

I’m happy to do that—but to be clear, I am not an expert, far from it. Half the time I dn’t even know the names of the stuff I plant—I pick them because I like the colour, and from the care labels I can guess how much sun/shade and water/not they need, and how high (if vines) how wide (if shrubs) and how long If trailing plants) they’ll grow.

Today I’ll just post pretty pictures of different parts of the garden/decks taken at different times of year, with the names of the plants (at lest the ones I remember) bascially the results. Then sometime in the next couple of weeks I’ll do a more detailed, how-I-decided-and-what-I-did-and-why post, that is, the initial choices. Backwards, I know, but right now the plants are blooming, and it’s pointless planning for next year yet, so it makes sense to me.

The Results

This year we changed the colour of our house exterior, so we had to tear out the climbing roses at the front of in order to paint. This broke my heart (well, okay, made me sigh a bit) because I’d spent years training those fucking roses to look perfect. Here’s how it used to be, from the inside of the front picture window and then from the outside:

A garden of flowers and lawn viewed from inside a house and framed by a window
Seeing the roses around the porch trellis from inside the house
The front garden with roses all around the front porch

Sadly, because the timbers on the front bed had rotted, we also had to tear out everything in the front bed. So we made a new flower bed with a couple of trellises, and planted a mix of vines, shrubs and flowers, both perennial and annual.

Midday sun, August

The vines at the front—on either side of the porch—are a mix of evergreen jasmine (glossy green leaves, for colour during the winter, white flowers for a lovely scent all summer) and deciduous trumpet vines, which (once they flower—not this year, sadly) will have gorgeous flame/salmon flowers that hummingbirds love.

You can see from the picture that I went with lots of warm colours to offset the indigo house—mostly petunias at the front (which being annuals never last past the end of September), with some geranium, hyssop, yellow snapdragon, and a ground cover with white flowers that I can never remember the name of, and at the back some hardy fuchsia plus a shrub with wine-coloured foliage that I frankly have no idea what it is but seem to remember thinking, Hey, that’ll work!

We had such a terrible spring and such a slow start to summer that the front bed looks a bit sparse. Hopefully this time next year will be marvellous.

If you look carefully at the front window you can see through to the back deck and a peekaboo view of the flowers there. And here’s a closeup:

Taken in early evening light in late August

From the top, centre: flame-coloured snapdragon (I hope the vines at the front will flower that colour); just below that pink geranium, to the right of that, red geranium, below the geranium little pink million bells below that red petunia, to the left of the petunia orange marigold, moving clockwise and up a bit, more marigold, next to that variable-pink petunia, above that red/purple salvia, above that hyssop, and at the top blue/purple salvia.

And here’s a wider shot taken a month earlier—before those gorgeous snapdragons really got going, and showing some dark red salvia—in early morning light:

Early July morning

The back deck is where Kelley and I sit in the evenings to talk, drink wine, and grill while bees and hummingbirds zuzz at us and the cats completely ignore us. Here’s a wider shot, showing some other flowers and fruits: some bright pink petunias, behind that a small blueberry shrub—we didn’t get many this year, but are hopeful for next—and some strawberries planted around some kind of daisy.

Early evening on a hazy day

The side deck, just off the kitchen, is where I spend time during the day—usually for an hour or so after lunch—with a cup of tea, some chocolate, and a book. This year that deck has been a haven and balm.

Kitchen deck early afternoon

Here, from lower left, we have pale salmon-pink petunia; above that, Flaming Lips, a kind of Salvia—with some vivid red petunia planted at its base; on the ground, fuchsia; next to that the three jasmine vines we’ve had for years now, entwined to make a small tree; behind the jasmine, though you can’t see it, is rosemary with a few marigolds for colour; at the base of the blue pot that hold the jasmine is something I’m really pleased with this year: bright yellow begonia. (We tried begonias last year on the back deck and they did not do well.) You can see things more clearly here—though it was early in the summer before things really got going adn before we decided where things would end up. Those blue and yellow flowers in front of the begonia (er, the name will come to me…) got moved somewhere else, as did the small purple things to the left of the jasmine—to the front garden I think:

Early summer, when things are just getting started

And this is the deck from the opposite angle. You can see we have a variety of herbs in the coir baskets, along with flowers for colour (petunias in various colours are my standby). We also have herbs in pots on the deck itself—some sage and some oregano I think—stuff like chives and basil and thyme and marjoram:

End of September

From a slightly wider angle you can see the hanging basket behind the herbs, again with Flaming Lips salvia—hummingbirds adore salvia, and I love watching them, so we try to plant different varieties in different places.

Those orange things are million bells I think, and on the table there a basket of petunia and marigolds—but I’d just dead-headed a batch in this photo (marigolds, like petunias, are super-sensitive to moisture of lack thereof; miss a day of watering when the sun is shining and, oof, sadness ensues) so they’re not visible—and behind that some lavender (it didn’t do well this year, I’m not sure why) and then behind the table another coir basket full of fuchsia an little blue flowers that have some woman’s name I always forget—lobelia? veronica?

End of September

So the above photo is from September, and this one is what the table and basket behind it looked like in June (and before we add the petunia to the pot with marigolds):

Early days—lavender, marigold, fuchsia in June

To whet you appetite for a future, How To post, here’s another photo, taken the same day in June, this time of the back deck, while we were still figuring out where things would go and whether we’d bought enough. You can see still still in their starter pots—with the strawberries looking particularly delicious.

Wine o’clock in June

Me at 62

When it comes to special occasions, I mostly talk here about Kelley’s birthdays and our various when-we-met, when-we-married, when-I-moved-here anniversaries, and only bring up my own birthday when it’s one of those end-in-zero-or-5 milestones.

Posts usually come with photos but frankly I’m crap at taking selfies—I usually look something between bored and homicidal. Case in point, my most recent selfie, taken one afternoon in late July about an hour after the third bad-thing-in-one-day event.

Okay, technically still 61 here, but close enough

In my defence, they were pretty bad things: Kelley got laid off with no warning, I found out I had a fractured cuboid bone (and it fucking hurt), and then on the way out of the MRI suite (because of cuboid bone) I had my first-ever wheelchair crash, in which I hit a misaligned paving stone at speed, went flying into the road headfirst, and was landed on by my 40kg wheelchair. I was *grumpy*.

So here’s a better one, a screen cap I took a couple of hours ago during a Zoom meeting. I hadn’t been up very long (do you get up early on your birthday?) so I’m a bit blank, but like all Zoom pix it’s flattering—I always use the ‘touch up my appearance’ setting at about 25% strength, and the direct light smoothes out my skin. But, hey, it’s my birthday. I get to cheat a bit if I want.

Early morning Zoom—too early, really, for one’s birthday

The rest of my day will be spent working on Menewood (I finally have editorial notes, yay!) followed by more video chats, business and personal, then a lovely evening of Champagne and caviar on the deck with Kelley. The weather looks absolutely gorgeous for the end of September and we intend to take every advantage of our pretty flowers and ice-cold wine.

May you have an equally lovely day.