Bright blessings to everyone for the Winter Solstice and Yule!
As I write, there’s thick snow outside, three of my children are
feeling ill and two other family members are worried they may not
make it to our place for Yule. But it is beautiful and all the children
around here have been sledging every day in the park. How I wish
I’d had the foresight to buy a sledge! But it seemed so unlikely that
we’d have proper snow in the south of England for two years running.
Mr B and I spent a lovely day at the Poole Literary Festival, which was
beautifully organised and well attended. I gave a talk about
Stonewylde to a room full of people, and we manned the Stonewylde
stall in the foyer and ate a lot of Dorset Apple Cake - great fun.
Then we drove up to Glastonbury for the Avalon Faerie Ball - a fancy-
dress party in the Town Hall. As it was the night before Samhain I felt
a little dark and went dressed as a bad faerie. We met up with a huge
crowd of Stonewylders there, including the infamous Northern Tarts
chapter, and had the most wonderful time. We heard Wendy Rule
play, and then the Dolmen came on and we danced our socks off for
the rest of the evening. It really was an excellent night.
The next day, Mr B and I climbed the Tor (pure magic) and then visited
the Faerie Ball again to take a look at the stalls. We were delighted to
meet up with our old friends (from the Elf Fantasy Fairs in the
Netherlands) - Linda Ravenscroft and Josephine Wall.
A few days later I spent four days in London at one of Robert McKee’s
famous Story Seminars. This was an amazing experience and I
learned so much from it - I thoroughly recommend his book “Story” to
any writers of fiction.
December saw us back in Glastonbury again for a Stonewylde get-
together with members of the Stonewylde Community. Many thanks
to Taz and Sujee for organising this. We met in The Gallery (which I’m
sure is haunted upstairs) and had great fun. We went into town to see
the Frost Fayre, but the best part was meeting up with and chatting to
other Stonewylders. Our thanks to Cake Girl too!
We were invited to another Gollancz party in London, at the Phoenix
Club, for a farewell to Jo Fletcher. She’s a much-loved and respected
senior editor, and is moving across to another publisher, Quercus, in
the new year to start her own list. Jo was at my initial meeting with
Gollancz back in the spring, and is so enthusiastic about Stonewylde.
The party was great and it was lovely to see all the team again,
including the boss, Malcolm Edwards, my super agent Piers Russell-
Cobb, and of course Gillian Redfearn my editor.
I’m delighted about the small feature on Stonewylde in the prestigious
SFX magazine (February Issue 204), in the Red Alert section. I spent
a great afternoon with the journalist who loves Stonewylde, and hopes
to do a bigger feature in the future when Gollancz have republished
(more about this below).
I hope you all have a beautiful Winter Solstice (coinciding with the
Frost Moon, just like in Book Three!!) and a fabulous Yule, with much
fun, feasting and family. That’s what we’re planning anyway, weather
Bright blessings to all, and a magical 2011 to everyone!
I’m sorry to announce that Gollancz have
delayed the publication dates for the first three
books in the Stonewylde Series. This is
because we all weren’t completely happy with
the new cover designs, which didn’t quite
capture the essence of Stonewylde. Rather
than publish something not right, it was
decided to delay publication.
However this now does mean a rather strange phenomenon will take place in the summer of 2011. The four
books - and the good news is that the date of Shadow of Stonewylde remains the same as always planned - will
be published in four consecutive months!
Magus in May 2011, Moondance in June 2011, Solstice in July 2011 and Shadows in August 2011.
Waterstones won’t know what’s hit ‘em! Apparently this will make the marketing strategy that much stronger and
more effective. I’ll keep you all updated on progress, and fingers crossed that the next covers are right.
December 31st is the final date for ordering your original editions of the Stonewylde trilogy. After this date, we
can no longer sell copies and other outlets will use up their existing stock and then be unable to replenish.
There’ll then be a gap until May when Magus is republished. If you do want these original editions, please place
your order before Dec 31st. All orders will be dispatched once the post offices are open in the New Year.
The Stonewylde Store will still be selling T-shirts, greetings cards and eco-bags, and we hope to expand this
range of Stonewylde goods in 2011.
Mr B is working hard at present creating a new-look Stonewylde
website - hopefully this will be up and running by Imbolc. The
Stonewylde Community continues to thrive with new members joining
all the time, and everyone enjoying discussions on a wide variety of
topics. Do come and join us and receive a warm Stonewylde welcome.
So many cultures celebrate
a mid-winter festival, in both
ancient and modern times.
The Winter Solstice is one of
the four fire festivals, the time
when in the Northern
Hemisphere, the night is at its
longest and the day at its shortest.
To our ancestors it was a crucial time, when the sun
reached the point in the calendar where it
apparently "stood still" in the sky (the literal
meaning of the word solstice) before beginning the
return to longer days and shorter nights - something
very significant for people whose survival centred
on growing enough food and keeping warm.
If you watch the sunrise and sunset from the same
spot you'll be able to mentally mark your own
solstice alignments - the point where the sun rises
and sets on its shortest day. Stand in the same
place on June 21st and compare these winter
points to where it appears and disappears at the
Summer Solstice. You'll realise the huge difference
the Earth's tilt and orbit makes, although to our
ancestors of course it was the sun which appeared
Corn Dollies in Winter © Cornmother
So many of our modern Christmas customs date
from pagan times. Evergreens have long been part
of the decorations for this festival – holly, ivy and fir.
Mistletoe was sacred to the Druids and a venerated
plant. Light, candles and wreaths have always been
important for Yule, and the word yule comes from
Old Norse “jul”.
Christingles, St Lucia, St Stephen – all have their
roots in ancient customs celebrated at this mid-
winter festival. Even Father Christmas is said to
perhaps have morphed from the shaman who would
play a vital role in the proceedings in the Northern
Hemisphere. Some early art depicting this mid-
winter benefactor portrays him in green robes –
maybe a version of the Green Man?
Herne the Hunter was a horned deity sacred to this
time of year – a man with antlers sprouting from his
head. Wassailing, when the orchards would be
visited by bands of singers performing rituals
around the trees, singing and drinking from a
Wassail Cup to toast the trees and ensure their well-
being for the year ahead – perhaps a forerunner of the
bands of carol-singers who
once traipsed around the
village. What a mixture of
cultures, beliefs and customs!
At Stonewylde, the festival of
the Winter Solstice and Yule is
celebrated with fire and light.
Candles are lit everywhere, a
massive Yule log is decorated
and lit in the Great Barn,
which smoulders throughout
the twelve days of the festival.
The ashes of this are
ploughed into the fields at
Imbolc, along with the
remains of Lammas’ corn dollies, to ensure fertility for
the coming year. Evergreens are brought into the
cottages and the Barn, particularly holly to represent
the Holly King, who traditionally dies at this time to be
replaced by the
Mistletoe is the
full of ancient
As a traditional,
doesn't indulge in a shopping frenzy and no gifts are
exchanged. But children hang a green woollen sock by
the hearth and the Yule Elves come out of the
woodlands at midnight to fill the stockings with nuts,
fudge and little hand-made gifts.
Every cottage hangs an evergreen wreath made from
woven holly, ivy and mistletoe on the front door to
symbolise the never-ending wheel of the calendar. A
candle in a lantern shines from every cottage parlour
window to welcome back the sun and the Oak King. In
the Great Barn there's feasting, dancing and party
games every night during the Yule festival, which
begins with a huge bonfire ceremony at the Solstice in
the Stone Circle. All celebrations at Stonewylde begin
here - the heart of the community.