FF: Here and There

August 17, 2018

Persephone Reigns!

It’s been more than insane here, and books have been such a welcome diversion.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

The Burning Maze, “Trials of Apollo” Book Three by Rick Riordan.  Audiobook.  This series continues to remain strong through numerous expansions.  I’m impressed and glad that my youngest niece is getting close to the age when I can give her The Lightning Thief and start her on the journey.

In Progress:

To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust.  I’d forgotten that much of this narrative is told via dialogue.  Not an easy thing to pull off, at all.

Dead Man’s Ransom by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  Re-read.

Also:

My own stuff as I review the first portion of the increasingly long new Firekeeper opus in preparation for launching into writing the second part.

And various magazines, here and there.

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Thinning Pomegranates

August 15, 2018

Pomegranates — After Thinning!

Last week, I removed at least twenty pomegranates from the shrub that grows near the southwest corner of my house.   This was very difficult for me to do.  Three years ago, my entire harvest from that same shrub was about seven pomegranates.  Most of them set late enough in the season that they didn’t ripen.  Even those that did ripen only sort of did.  Turns out that while an unripe apple is edible if tart, an unripe pomegranate is pretty much inedible.

Then, summer of 2017, the shrub not only set fruit but early enough that the fruit ripened.  We had a delirious month or so when we had almost too many pomegranates.  I say “almost” because, by shelling them and keeping the edible portions carefully stored, we managed to eat every single fruit.  If I had been Persephone in Hades, I would have not only been doomed to spend all year in Hades realm, I would have had to travel backwards in time several millennia to make up for time owed.

So, this year when the shrub flowered heavily, I was delighted, but flowers do not mean fruit, especially in New Mexico where springtime features high winds that strip flowers from the boughs.  When lots of fruit set, I was delighted, but I didn’t do much in the way of thinning because last year quite a number dropped off on their own when temperatures mounted.

But this year, the shrub seemed determined to keep every single fruit it could.  Reluctantly, I thinned where clusters of three fruit had set and were all competing for nutrients not only on the same branch, but on the same node.  Then, last week I took a deep breath and removed one fruit from any doubles.  There are still a lot of pomegranates on that shrub.  It may be that I’ll need to thin again, but, right now, I’m making sure the plant gets enough water and hoping that I won’t need to thin further to achieve an excellent final harvest.

Thinning fruit isn’t a metaphor for one of the stages of writing, but it could be.  I’m sure those of you who write know exactly what I’m talking about…

FF: A Wise Reminder

August 10, 2018

Kel Between Light and Dark

Some months ago, I promised that I would let you know when the collection The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop came out.  I read these four novellas a few months ago when I was asked if I would blurb the collection.  Here’s what I said:

“Where else but in a Michael Bishop story would Central American guerillas make an uneasy alliance with ancient gods, or a reluctant Dalai Lama come of age on an interstellar transport, or a half-mad visionary reanimate the dead to perform in plays that hint at secret history, or a leftover alien messiah descend from the stars to proselytize humanity?  Michael Bishop has the gift for creating realms where the landscape of body and spirit are firmly intertwined, each supporting and enhancing the other, so that the resulting tale resonates with the reader through cascading levels of wonder.”

Needless to say, I recommend, especially for readers who enjoy stories that are just a bit different.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase, Quandary Phase, Quintessential Phase  by Douglas Adams.  Audiobooks.   BBC production.  Just bizarre enough, with a real plot and even some character development hiding in there.

A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison.  Lived up to my good memories.

In Progress:

To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust.  Another book I read over twenty years ago, and have now decided to re-read.  Just started.

The Burning Maze, “Trials of Apollo” Book Three by Rick Riordan.  Audiobook.

Also:

Scattered works of short fiction and short non-fiction.

Dragon on My Floor

August 8, 2018

Shadow Dragon

Monday afternoon, I had the delightful experience of looking down at a tile on my floor and seeing a dragon there.  I’ve looked at that tile hundreds, maybe thousands of times before, but this was the first time the light was just right to reveal the head and neck of a distinctly serpentine dragon.

Being a perfectly sensible person, I went and found a couple of pencils, then sat on the floor so I could quickly trace the outline.  Once that was defined, I thickened the lines, and generally enjoyed myself.

As I was doing this, Jim wandered in.  I’d been very sick earlier in the day, so the first words out of his mouth were, “Are you feeling okay?”  When I replied that I was doing much better, Jim looked down at the floor and said, “That’s a really cool dragon.”

I’m lucky to live with someone who thinks that drawing on the floor is a perfectly normal pastime.  Writers do any number of odd things that constitute normal activities, including staring into space, paging through magazines without noticing what they’re looking at, and worrying about the demise of serial commas.  Most importantly, they become passionately involved with the lives of people who don’t exist but, on some level, are far more real to them than most of the “real” people they encounter.

Eventually, I really should wash that tile off but, at the moment, I feel a far stronger inclination to go looking to see what other things light and shadow might reveal hiding on my floor.

FF: Looking for a Change of Mind

August 3, 2018

Ogapoge Has An Opinion to Share

Life has offered a lot of stress lately, so in my reading I’m seeking the familiar and funny.  As a treatment option, it’s working nicely.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.  Audiobook.  I’d forgotten what rogues these guys are and how horribly manipulative Lady de Winter is.

The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove.  Don’t read this unless you can take puns.  If you can, this is a work in which Turtledove turns his skills at alternate history to an alternate more peculiar than most.  Good strong ending,

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Secondary Phase by Douglas Adams.  Audiobook.  BBC production, rather than a reading from the novel.  Bizarre.  Well-performed.  Bonus interview with Douglas Adams at the end proved very interesting.

In Progress:

A Rebel in Time by Harry Harrison.  I read this soon after it first came out, re-read thereafter.  When I mentioned at Congregate that I’d like to see how it held up, my pal, Paul Dellinger found me a copy.  I’m very much enjoying.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Tertiary Phase by Douglas Adams.  Audiobook.   BBC production.

Also:

DreamForge: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  Mockup issue.  I’m slow on this not because I’m not liking, but because I’m handling this probable collectible with great care.

Unexpected Voyage

August 1, 2018

Ziggy’s Unexpected Voyage

I just learned that my college Art History professor died back in January.  Her name was Irma R. Jaffe, PhD, and I doubt she knew who I was.  To her, I was just one of hundreds, probably thousands, of undergraduates who took her introductory Art History class.  To be fair, if you’d asked me about a class I took in college that had a major impact on me, this wouldn’t have been one that would have come to mind.

But when I saw the listing in Fordham’s alumni magazine that Dr. Jaffe had died at age 101, memories came flooding back.  Her class was where I first saw Etruscan art.  I remember Dr. Jaffe’s enthusiasm as she talked about the power of the “archaic smile.”    Her class was where I first became aware of the works of the Dutch master Jan van Eyck.  Her enthusiasm for his use of reflection was contagious.  No matter what time period she was talking about, she had the gift of making it seem special.

She encouraged her students – heck, it probably was an assignment – to go into Manhattan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I wasn’t an art major, but I fell in love with the place and went back repeatedly.  Even among the permanent exhibitions, there was always something new to discover.

I’ve been surprised how often over the last few days I’ve thought about something from those visits.  Survey courses are meant to provide a jumping-off point for further exploration.  This one was certainly successful.

I’ve also been thinking about how often we’re not aware of what will have an influence on us in the future.  It’s always wonderful and delightful when I realize that something like a long ago, almost forgotten, college course set me on an unexpected voyage of exploration, not only into an appreciation of art, but of the peoples and cultures who created it.

FF: Breathing Between the Lines

July 27, 2018

Persephone Overcome By Toxic Spells

In Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, there’s a line “No one sings hymns to breath.”  (I think I have that right.)  Anyhow, with smoke from fires distant and not so interfering with my breathing, I am definitely grateful for living in an age of modern medicine.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

The Betsy-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace.  In many ways, stories of a world as alien as that of The Expanse, but the dreams and ambitions of Betsy and her friends remain a link through time.

Odin: The Viking AllFather by Steven S. Long.  I very much enjoyed.  Excellent illustrations, in-depth examination of a complex mythological figure.  Recommended.

In Progress:

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.  Audiobook.  I’d forgotten what rogues these guys are…

DreamForge: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  Mockup issue.

The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump by Harry Turtledove.  Don’t read this unless you can take puns.  If you can, this is a work in which Turtledove turns his skills at alternate history to an alternate more peculiar than most.

Also:

A magazine article here and there, but mostly trying to finish off various smaller writing projects while not losing sight of the larger ones.

Rough Writer Up San Story Hill

July 25, 2018

This last week was an interesting one for writing.  Tuesday was pretty much devoted to catching up from being away.  Wednesday, Jim went to his office in Santa Fe, and I settled in to write.

My Faithful Assistant: Kel

My intention before I left had been to take Wolf’s Search (aka Firekeeper 7) to the end of a key scene, then switch over to working on my Weird Western short story, which I had been encouraged to expand.  Pre-trip planning had taken more time than I’d anticipated, and I’d left that scene in Wolf’s Search uncompleted.  Happily, upon our return, it remained very vivid in my imagination, so I was able to slide in and write what I needed.  The scene is rough.  The prose will definitely need polishing, but it’s there.

Thursday’s plan to get back into my short story was going well until, literally between one breath and the next, my throat prickled and became extremely sore.  Within an hour, I was sniffling, sneezing, and coughing.   My head became very, very cloudy.

(Aside: In case you wonder, the problem turned out to be smoke from myriad wildfires in the area.  I have asthma that’s managed most of the time, but sometimes air quality becomes an issue.)

One of the problems with being a writer is that it requires having a clear head.  Okay.  I’ll clarify that. (Pun intended.)  I need a clear head.  I’ve never understood accounts of writers who function when drunk, stoned, or whatever.  I don’t even like to function too hyped-up on caffeine.

But one thing I will say for me: I’m determined.  After making sure I hadn’t forgotten to take my asthma meds (I hadn’t), I made a pot of lemon-ginger tea.  While it was getting good and strong, I drank a cup of coffee (caffeine is a bronchial dilator) and went back to work.  At the very least, I figured I could refamiliarize myself with the short story and work on lesser points that would lead into the expanded portion.

It was a battle, but I managed.  Eventually, I did retire to the sofa to stare at the ceiling and think, but at least I hadn’t given up.

By Friday, my throat was no longer as sore, but my voice had dropped into deeper octaves and was distinctly croaky.  Although my head was not as clear as I would have liked, I decided I could think, so I returned to my story.  I had the expanded plot arc firmly in mind and was concerned that I might lose it if I waited.  I did a lot of backing and forthing, but when I shut down, I had all the main points written.  Even better, I felt very enthusiastic about the story’s new shape.  Now I was to the point where taking a break was the best thing for the story.

Thinking back over the experience, I’m glad I’ve trained myself to write rough when I must.  This doesn’t mean that I’m not picky about my prose.  I am very picky.  As I said on one panel at Congregate, even when I’m writing a long novel, I write lean.  Some writers delight in having their effort show on the page.  I’m the reverse.  I want to vanish from my stories.  I don’t want readers to say, “Oh, nice phrase, Jane!”  I want them to feel the story has taken them somewhere else, where I don’t exist except as a the doorway that took them there.

So, this week one of my jobs is reviewing what I wrote, smoothing and grooming.  I’ll read extra carefully.  If my still-croaky throat will let me, I’ll read my final draft aloud, because that’s the best way to catch any lingering problems or limping prose.  Is this a lot of work?  Sure.  Might I have written faster if I’d just waited?  Maybe.  I also might have lost the inspiration, and finding it again might have taken a lot longer – if it happened at all.

FF: Reading On A Jet Plane

July 20, 2018

Ogapoge Reads

One of the things I really enjoy about traveling is having time to read.  This time, I experimented with only taking my Kindle (well, and a notebook and pens) and it worked out pretty well.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory.  Multiperson POV works very well in this novel and is crucial for the character of Buddy.

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren.  A time travel tale that’s a whole lot more than an excuse for alternate history or for explaining why we are the way we are today.

In Progress:

The Betsy-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace.  I’ve re-read the first couple of volumes and am now reading Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill.  I didn’t take this omnibus volume with me, but I’ve started Downtown.

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.  Audiobook.  The race to get the message to England is underway.  Porthos, Aramis, and Athos are down for the count.

Odin: The Viking AllFather by Steven S. Long.  Steve and I discovered a shared love of mythology when I insisted that I needed to know who my paladin’s deity was – even though we were only playing for two hours. (In case you wondered, I chose Freya.)  Good read so far, with great illustrations chosen from depictions ancient through modern.

DreamForge: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  Mockup issue.

Also:

Catching up on magazines.  Still.

Interlocking Bits of Cool Stuff

July 18, 2018

Chuck, Me, and Weber

It took me forever to figure out how to organize a Wandering about all the cool things that happened this weekend at Congregate, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to organize it.

Why was organization an issue?  Because so many of the things I want to tell you about interlock in all sorts of intricate ways.  I took a break to exercise and, while doing so, decided that the only possible organization was to set up a bunch of subheadings and leave it up to you to bounce around between them in whatever order you want.

So…  Here goes.

Hanging Out With Old Pals

The illustration for this piece shows me and two long-time friends, Charles  E. “Chuck” Gannon and David Weber.  Chuck and I were co-guests of honor, but we have also known each other since I was a junior in college.  Often reconnecting with old friends becomes awkward once the reminiscing is over.  Happily, Chuck and I immediately reconnected, touched on the past, and blasted into the future.

Weber and I have been buddies since he had one-and-a-half-published novels, and I had one published short story.  Yes.  We’ve collaborated with each other on many projects, but those are secondary to the fact that we’re sympatico.  His arrival with his wife, Sharon, and their son, Michael (who Jim taught to crawl, long story), was a great treat.  We did several panels on Friday before they had to depart to take Michael off to a summer internship.

Since this was the first time Jim and I had been at an East Coast con in a while, many friends came to the con.  Phyllis White, who was a consultant on my second novel, Marks of Our Brothers and provided many coyote stories for Changer, came with mutual friend, Chris Cowan.  Paul Dellinger, who has been my pen pal for something like twenty-five years, came – and ended up on so many panels we kept passing in the halls, but we did find time for some good visiting.

Yvonne Coats and Mike Collins, pals from New Mexico, now relocated to Virginia,came down.  Ursula Vernon and Kevin Sonney couldn’t do the con, but they came up and joined us for dinner Saturday night.

Scot and Jane Noel, with whom I did the Chronomaster computer game in 1995, came from Pittsburgh.  We discussed a new project that…  Well, look for the heading below.  Speaking of games, John Cocking, who I met as the son of one of my colleagues at Lynchburg College, materialized briefly at my signing, bought a copy of Asphodel, presented me with copies of his very cool-looking role-playing game Beyond the Wall, then vanished like the Cheshire Cat, leaving only his smile.

The Live D&D Game

This was a blast.  Chuck proved that his luck with dice has not improved in the decades since our weekly games.  Yes, folks.  He really did fumble twice in a row.  Thanks to Steve Long for organizing the adventure and for being patient with the barely-organized chaos that ensued.  I’ll keep you posted as to whether John Harkness (aka Funyons the Bard) did capture enough audio for a podcast.

Weber’s Long-Held Secret

Guess what?  There’s going to be a new Star Kingdom aka Stephanie Harrington aka Treecat book.  Weber has known for three months and kept the news to himself so he could tell me in person.  I’ll keep you posted.

Yes, Reader.  I did hug him.

A New Magazine

The project that Scot and Jane Noel brainstormed with me is called DreamForge the Magazine.  They brought with them the 2018 mockup issue and it looks fantastic.  I’m on the masthead as Senior Advisor and Creative Consultant.  You can see a little about it at www.DreamForgeMagazine.com.  You’ll hear more about it from me as we get closer to taking subscriptions.  One thing I can say for certain: It’s going to be fantastic.

Why Congregate Was Particularly Terrific

Other than the fact that they had good coffee available all day?  Well…

So often, an out-of-region guest at a con ends up feeling like an outsider.  This isn’t because the locals aren’t welcoming.  Often it’s the exact opposite.  They’re so determined to be welcoming in the most formal sense of the word that the GOH is left feeling like Great Aunt Mildred at the family reunion.  Everyone is glad you came, but no one knows exactly what to say to you.

I mean after “I really love your books” and “What are you writing now?” what really is there to talk about?

What was special about Congregate was how much effort the staff and attendees put into making me and Jim feel we were not only welcome, but also worth getting to know.   Chuck Rizzo met us at the airport with not only a polite smile but with a chatty history of the High Point area where to con was being held.  (Who ever knew that there was a fashion week for furniture?)

Tera Fulbright, who was my contact person and the programming coordinator, met me at the registration desk in company with her daughter, Hannah, who had taken responsibility for presenting us with our special Guest of Honor swag bag.  Hannah (age eleven) was delightful, and I was so happy that Tera felt we could be greeted with such familial friendliness.

It just got better from there.  A person met once became an on-going source of smiles and friendly greetings that made me feel like I was welcome as more than a sort of performing animal.

But the best thing was that no one was intrusive.  As I mentioned above in “Hanging Out With Old Pals,” numerous friends made the trip to the con.  We often gathered in the comfy chairs in the lobby to visit, but although many people waved as they went by, no one tried to crash old home week.  That meant we could stay part of the con, but still catch up.  Such courtesy is a rare thing, and it meant I was much more willing to take time when I wasn’t occupied to chat with attendees.

This is getting long, so I won’t keep listing people…  I’ll just say “thank you” and I sincerely hope we meet again!

Conclusion of Utter Lack of Organization

Hope you enjoyed this sampler platter!  Now, off to catch up on my writing!