Christmas Eve

ARTWORK OF THE MONTH: Selected drawings available on Ebay. A different selection every month! ** DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay

NEW SHEET MUSIC: Huete Dances vol. 3

NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards

TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes

Also available: Music CDs * Sheet music * Greeting cards * New Zealand photography

In this newsletter:
 
*** Christmas Eve 2014
*** News and Current Projects
*** Cool Things Friends Do: The big Christmas Feature

Christmas Eve 2014

It is my considered opinion that 2014 must have been an unusually short year. I have asked several friends, who all agree with me! I've been running on empty rather a bit these last few weeks: to the point of having another opportunity to test out the New Zealand health care system, where I was reassured that there really wasn't anything seriously wrong except that I'm not getting younger, and the doctor sternly recommended to take things a bit slower. Unfortunately, this is a little difficult to reconcile with also getting stuff done, keeping the house in a just-below-chaos state, looking after the garden, and coming up with a plan for the future!

In any case, I am really very much looking forward to getting a break: I feel I have thoroughly deserved it, and I plan to not embark on any major new projects until about the middle of February.

I look forward to having a bit of time on my hands to look after the house and garden. These last few days I've started on an epic house clean, which I plan to continue after Christmas, until it is all shiny clean and tidy. I am really rather tired of living in a perpetual mess!

There is wallpaper to be pasted on living room walls, and shelves to be sorted, and many a weed to be tamed. I'll be painting in the garden, and read a good book, and revisit the Stieg Larsson essay which I've proposed to edit down for publication on Amazing Stories. I'll lie on the beach, and go for swims, and ride my bike which is finally operational again: I had a flat tyre in September, and it's taken me all this time to get it sorted out! Sigh. I'll also keep this newsletter short and sweet.

My dear cherished readers, I wish you a very happy holiday season – whatever it is that you celebrate – and all the best for the new year 2015! Which, I hope, will be a bit longer.

Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa Midsummer in the Wairarapa

Midsummer in the Wairarapa



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Harestory: Party time

News & Current Projects

These last few weeks, I have been putting my nose to the grindstone and chained myself to my desk: I handed in the last of my horticulture certificate assignments a week or so ago, and I now have all the hares done for all the pages of my picture book-to-be.

Putting the hairs on several dozens of hares ends up being a bit of a routine task – but getting the light and the trees and the flowers right is the creative aspect I have been looking forward to the most. There is still some work to do on backgrounds, colour schemes, and general fine-tuning, but I think it will serve the purpose best if I take some downtime and come back to it with fresher eyes after the holidays. Or I might just potter with it over the next couple of weeks.

I haven't done my garden paintings yet this month: but it seems to me the perfect thing to do this coming week! Between lilies, roses and waterlilies, I am spoilt for choice this month. I did do one small painting of my rugosa rose – catching the very last blossom for the year – but this painting is not for sale.

On Amazing Stories, I have continued my mini series on Ursula Le Guin by looking at paintings of Earthsea on DeviantArt: by and large, these artists seem to do a much better job at depicting the characters in the way they are described in the books, than the official cover artists have done. Moving beyond Earthsea, the second blog this month features some illustrations for Le Guin's science fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

Asni's Garden: Rosa rugosa

If I was hoping to send you a new Christmas carol this year, I've had to put it in the "too many things" bin. But one thing I really mean to do over the next couple of weeks is dust off my keyboard, and maybe even tune up my harp. I have an arrangement in the works which I was hoping to make available on CD Baby this year, perhaps I will find time over Christmas to play with it. I'll notify you if and when it will be available!

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other tracks available on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and CD Baby. And of course music CDs and harp sheet music, which are available on my website (and also on CD Baby).

There is also my Etsy store full of goodies: posters, art prints, and a small selection of one-off, original artwork. If you're running late with your Christmas mail (I always do!), there are also some fine seasonal themed greeting cards. Or you could start thinking about Valentine's: I have the perfect card for you. :D Prints, CDs and cards are also available on Trademe if you live in New Zealand – or on Ebay, if you prefer to buy there.

Did you know that you can also order prints of a range of my artwork on DeviantArt? Their art prints are really nice, good quality – I've ordered a couple myself from different artists on occasion – and they ship from the US, so if you live there, you can save some postage and shipping time. Have a look at my print store on DeviantArt.

Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily Asni's garden in December: Lilys, roses, and the first waterlily

Asni's garden in December: Lilies, roses, and the first waterlily

After the constant winds of November, December has been mostly rainy – and fairly cold for the season. But this served me just fine: less temptation to sit in the sunshine with a book, instead of slaving away at the computer. It also meant that I could leave my garden to its own devices: the daily rounds of watering can turn into quite a time-consuming task at this time of year, so it was a good thing that they weren't needed just yet. I haven't been quite as much on top of my weeds and my vegetables as I might have liked, but there will be time to look after the garden over the next several weeks.

If I need a bit of cheering up, all I need to do is take a walk to my pond: I've started to put in a variety of water plants to help with the water quality and the natural look, and I took a trip to the local wetlands to get some nice pond muck with nice healthy pond bacteria, which seems to be doing the trick: the water is still quite murky, but more in a floating-particles-that-haven't-quite-settled sort of way, rather than the thick yellow pea soup of algae I had last month – and it is now getting clearer by the day. Perhaps next month I can try some fish again, without killing them this time, I hope!

The waterlilies are thriving: the first flower opened yesterday, though I am a bit worried that there has been a mix-up with the varieties: it is certainly not the pink fluffy extravaganza that is Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot – which was what it said on the label – and it doesn't seem quite pink enough to be the Marliacea carnea, which would mean that I mixed them up while planting, or the shop mixed them up while packaging. I would be rather disappointed if it turns out to be vanilla after all! Well – whatever it is, it is pretty, and it definitely makes my Christmas brighter.

Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens

Hunting roses at the Wellington botanical gardens

The last assignment for my horticulture certificate was on "Pests and Diseases", with a compulsory workshop at the Lady Norwood Rose Garden which is part of the Wellington Botanical Gardens. We spent an hour or so being told about integrated pest management, and chasing up instances of blackspot, rust, powdery mildew, mosaic virus, scale insect, thrips, and aphids – as well as signs of malnutrition, wind damage, and water stress. Which took a bit of doing, because these roses are really very well kept, and generally quite healthy!

Afterwards, I took the opportunity to shop around a bit for rose varieties I might like to add to my garden at some point. There were two I fell in love with on the spot: one, an old-fashioned English rose variety called "Windermere", the other a brand new New Zealand creation called "Lemon and Lime". When I paid a visit to my local garden centre a few days later, I found they had both varieties in stock – and for substantially cheaper than it would have cost me to order them online. So I decided to make short process: I think they are an entirely appropriate reward for completing my horticulture certificate!

Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious Asni's garden in December: glorious

Asni's garden in December: glorious



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Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach Christmastime in the Wairarapa: time to hit the beach

Time to hit the beach! Castlepoint and Riversdale

Cool Things Friends Do: The Big Christmas Feature

It's been a couple of years since I've had the time to have a proper good look around at all the cool things my friends have been doing – a number of whom have been featured here before. This year, I made my life easy by putting a call out on Facebook for people to send me links to their latest cool stuff. So let's have a look!

Iris Compiet has just won the Hebban Fantasy Award for her two books, Heksenwaan and Heksenkind, which she has developed together with writer Martijn Adelmund – collectively, they call themselves The Grim Collective. Hebban is a web portal for all things Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Netherlands. So far, the books are only available in Dutch – so here is to hoping that someone will be interested in publishing an English translation! Or a German one. Or both.

Iris also sells various fine and wonderful things in her online shop at Society6. I absolutely plan to get myself the Oracle shower curtain, one of these days. Or maybe a set of throw pillows for my sofa?

Sue Bradley is currently working on the illustrations for a book of poetry by Peter Kenny, titled Dreams of Another Land. The poems and stories are Tolkien-inspired. The book will be published by Oloris Publishing and the proceeds are going to a children's charity. It is not quite published yet, but you can follow the project's progress on Sue's Facebook page.

Sunila Sen Gupta is taking a Pay What You Want approach to selling her original art: She states the cost of material and shipping, and the time investment for each piece, and lets the buyer decide how much they think a piece is worth. Why does she do this? "It's very hard to price anything hand made", she writes. "The age old problem that you can't ask for an hourly fee when something takes so long to make, it's just paper, paint and time after all. Some people will find it overpriced, others will find it underpriced. As such I let people decide how much they think it's worth to them. All I ask for is to have my expenses covered and a little something to pay my bills." Have a look at the pieces she has on offer.

Milivoj Ceran is having a Christmas art sale, offering substantial discounts on selected original artwork. If you are tired of sweet little Christmas angels on sweet pink candy clouds, of quaint snowed in villages and cozy family scenes around the Christmas tree with lots of well behaved children, of huggable Santa Clauses and cute reindeer, try this as an antidote! Guaranteed to cure any Christmas nausea. The sale ends on Christmas Day (December 25), so best check it out right away!

Misfortuneteller, by Iris Compiet Dreams of Another Land title illustration, by Sue Bradley Dragon eye studies, by Sunila Sen Gupta Kuo Toa, by Milivoj Ceran

Christmas art without the sugar: Misfortuneteller * Book title illustration * Dragon Eye studies * Guarding the brood

Diane Severson is not only an old friend from my music school days, but also a fellow blogger on Amazing Stories, where she writes the authoritative blog on all things Science Fiction Poetry. She is also a client of my web design and development business. Accordingly, I get to know first hand whenever she is up to anything. Last month, she asked me to update her website so she could add a list of recorded poetry. There is also an ample selection of narrated podcasts, and of course music recordings.

Another friend and client, Margaret Hiley, has been posting some personal reflections on her blog, Post from Pudding Bag Lane, which is usually devoted to the ins and outs of running a freelance translation business in the English countryside. I found her latest post quite moving: she tells the story of her grandfather, whose decision to study German in school eventually led to his granddaughter's chosen profession. It's nice to read of someone, for a change, who was able to separate Germany and her people, from Hitler and his war.

Julie Comparini is having a busy Christmas season – as befits a professional singer! When I asked her if she had something she wanted me to link to from this blog, she said she was in the middle of rehearsals for a "somewhat different" performance of Bach's Christmas Oratorio (which is an essential part of Christmas in Germany much as Handel's Messiah is in Anglosaxon countries). The performance will be in the past by the time I'll be sending this – but it definitely qualifies as a "cool thing a friend does". She also has a range of music recordings available on her website.

Further in musicians, Scottish fellow harper Corinna Hewatt is offering a CD and sheet music bundle of Scottish harp music – traditional tunes, as well as her own compositions: Scottish music with a jazz-inspired twist! :)

And just by way of proving the utter coolness of the things my friends do: Jennifer Lane, whom I worked with rather a long while ago when we recorded Monteverdi's Orfeo with ARTEK in New York, and who is still friends with me on Facebook, recently found her name on the list of Grammy nominations. That's her there, under item 75: Best Opera Recording, the Milhaud. Right under the Charpentier, conducted by two former teachers of mine, Stephen Stubbs and Paul O' Dette. Oh, and if you scroll down a bit further to item 76: Best Choral Performance, you will find the Akademie für Alte Musik, an ensemble I have worked with a couple of times back in the old days. Not that I'm namedropping, or anything.

When Jennifer isn't winning Grammys, she's saving the world: she's been very active in a political campaign to ban fracking in her hometown of Denton (Texas), which has been setting an example of municipalities asserting their right to govern themselves, and apparently she once told George W Bush that he'd better get into the practise of Buddhist chanting, for the sake of his, you know, soul. Yeah. She's that kind of person.

Defining the term "friend" a little more broadly, I am following Jordi Savall on Facebook, and a short while ago a post popped up promising several hour's worth of recordings of Montserrat Figueras free to listen to on Spotify. We may not have her around any more, but we can still listen to her singing. And if that isn't enough goodness, here is a rather more upbeat playlist of baroque Villancicos – appropriate for the season.

Fancy bird, by Laura Young Wichtel, by Monika Baum Diadem and spear, by Inkibus Vikings in Berlin, by Christian Schlierkamp

More art: Fancy bird * Wichtel * Diadem and spear props * Vikings in Berlin

Back to the visual arts: Laura Young continues to be busy painting and exhibiting in Colorado, and on the internet – you can follow her ongoing projects on her blog, and view (and buy) her work on her website.

Monika Baum has recently taken the plunge to go professional as an illustrator. She has a day job as an accountant, which means that she is a lot smarter than I was at that time of my life. But she has been able to reduce her hours to leave her more time to paint. Given the quality of her work, and her really very remarkable drawing skills, it would surprise me if she didn't "make it". Have a look at her lovely series of Christmas Wichteln, and a variety of other work, on her blog.

Inkibus is now running a proper props workshop from her home in Green Forest, Arkansas – which compliments nicely with her twin sister Frocktarts, who does costumes. Have a look at Inki's DeviantArt gallery, or follow her on Facebook.

I don't think I have featured Christian Schlierkamp here before: like Monika, he is an Urban Sketcher, and he lives in Berlin – which means that I recognize a lot of the places he sketches. :) He also works as an animator, having trained as a "Mediengestalter Bild und Ton", which is the official German job designation! Christian publishes his sketches and varied musings on his blog, Alles Zeichnen (Sketching Everything) – a title which neatly sums up the Urban Sketcher philosophy.

Arianna Banfi is a brand new cool friend – I've met her online here and there, and eventually Facebook friended her. She invites you to check out her Facebook page which focuses on fantasy art.

Fashion shoot with Tiffany Little Fashion shoot with Tiffany Little Fashion shoot with Tiffany Little Earthword: Chaos, by Harold Rhenish

Fashion shoot with Tiffany Little * Earthword: Chaos

Tiffany Little is definitely the only London based fashion model I have on my friends list, which has a special cool factor all on its own. That's not the only thing she does – she is quite an inspired photographer herself – but on her blog, you'll mainly find her fashion shoots. Needless to say, those aren't your average glamour haute couture fashion shoots. I mean, you know: my friends do *cool* things.

Then there are the writers: I met Sean Williams at Au Contraire! some years ago, and have since been following his work on and off. He writes Science Fiction, and his Twinmaker series seems to be rather good – I should really make the time to read it myself. :cough: Judging from what he posts on Facebook, I think I would enjoy it: how about I make this my new year's resolution.

Harold Rhenish is rather more experimental in his writing – or one should say, writing-and-photography-interfacing-with-ecology-and-food-growing-and-culture, and using digital media to bring it across. His latest project is a dictionary in blog form: Earthwords. Beware – it's quite easy to get lost in his unconventional musings on the meaning of words.

Lastly, another musician: Alina Rotaru is a friend of friends, and a harpsichord player. She shares her music and her thoughts on her blog: and that's some mighty fine harpsichord playing there!

To all of you, my cool friends featured and not featured here, and you my cherished readers – keep rocking on in the new year 2015! And remember – I always love to hear from you, be it with a new cool project, or just to say hello.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Onward - wishing you a very happy new year 2015 Onward - wishing you a very happy new year 2015 Onward - wishing you a very happy new year 2015

Onward - wishing you a very happy new year 2015