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Susan McNerney
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There’s been many attempts to put down the “rules of magic” as they manifest in various fantasy novels. As I finish up my MFA, I’m also finishing up the last revisions of my own book, a contemporary fantasy set in the redwood empire of California. As part of this effort I wrote down how the rules of magic work in my world. I have two more contemporary fantasies in the works as well, and I want to maintain some consistency in my work, so setting this down was a useful exercise for me. See my post on Northernword.com for the full list.

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Went to the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis yesterday. http://tmora.org/ This was my second visit, and I've pretty much decided it's the best museum in the Twin Cities in terms of quality of exhibits and interpretation. Not huge, but both exhibits I've seen have blown me away. This time they had a stunning collection of Ukranian antiquities. You want bling? They have solid gold bling. Some of it came from treasure hoards, buried all over the Ukraine and abandoned during times of catastrophe. The interpretive signs walk you through the major eras of settlement around the Urkaine and the Black Sea and made the history of that part of the world far clearer to me. And I seriously want that solid gold crown of delicate leaves. WANT.

Finally finished The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern...that book took a heck of a long time to start its engine, but delivers in the end. The detailed and lavish world of an exploratory circus - where you wander through tents, rather than sit down to one big show - is fascinating.

Now I've moved on to The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht, a post-communist magical realist story of the former Yugoslavia. Though the prose is a bit dense (perhaps made to seem more so by the highbrown narrator on my audiobook) I'm beginning to realize this is textbook magical realism, and a good example of the genre for those who are curious as to how it differs from fantasy. The wartime mood, the presence of magic as an integral part of this world, and a realistic setting in real geographical places are all contrast to most fantasy - but I think the key difference between the two genres is the localized, personal nature of magic in a magical realism story. In other words, magic on a human scale, not as part of a high profile fight to save the whole world.

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Backroad in Custer State Park, South Dakota. Full travelogue is up today at http://northernword.com. Granite outcroppings and idyllic meadows abound in the more remote corners of the park - and even at the height of tourist season, the Custer State Park dirt roads are a great way to get away from the holiday hordes.
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Custer State Park in South Dakota earlier this year. In those hills you'll find prairie dogs and bison and pronghorn as well as a few tourists. But here we had a glimpse of the way things probably looked a thousand years ago.
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As I revise and build more Caribbean sections on Northernword, I'm digging up some of the more interesting photos from that trip. This one is of a much-loved cactus on a hill overlooking St. Thomas and St. John, US Virgin Islands.
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New episode of the Black Hills Travelogue is up on http://Northernword.com: side trip to Badlands National Park. Below, wild roses bloom on the Notch Canyon trail.
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Fall winds down in Minnesota. Last week at Interstate State Park, near Taylor's Falls on the St. Croix river. We're going to get two more days in the 60's, and then it's the long slide into winter. This spot is popular with kayakers and canoeists as well as the paddle boats which provide a nice view of fall color. I sat in this spot for quite a while, imagining how it will look in January - the river stark white, frozen over, the trees bare, the people gone and the boats tucked away.
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From the Franconia Sculpture Park (http://Franconia.org) in Minnesota this month. The sculpture park, north of the Twin Cities, features artists from around the world and offers fellowships for artists who find your average canvas, er, limiting. The art ranges from campy to corporate to avant garde, and changes every year. But of course I decided to get a close-up of the snack stand.
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Remembering fall color past at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum...this was from 2008, a fantastic year for color. This year, Minnesota entered a minor drought at exactly the wrong time, and fall color has been much more muted.
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