FF: Exhausted Slumber

November 16, 2018

Our Signed Copy of Snow Queen

Reading time is still being seriously crimped, but I manage a few lines before collapsing into exhausted slumber.

I’ve tried to read some short fiction but find that, oddly enough, interrupting my reading of something short does more to harm my impression of the story than picking up and putting down a novel.  Anyone else had this problem?

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.

Recently Completed:

Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Lieber.   Good tales, vivid imagry.

In Progress:

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King.  Audiobook.  This book would have been great even without the brilliant performances by the ensemble cast, but with them…  Wow!

The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge.  I read this years after it was winning awards.  Came away feeling the awards were well deserved.  Re-reading.

Also:

A few catalogs.  See above for my reaction to the short fiction I’ve attempted.

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My Current Story (Life AND Fiction)

November 14, 2018

Thinking Wolf Thoughts

Yesterday, Jim had the staples removed from his knee.  Today the work begins on having the tub in the front bathroom converted into a walk-in shower.  In case you were wondering, life here has not settled down.  And that means I’m not doing much in the way of writing.

Since Jim’s knee replacement was to his right knee, he won’t be driving for at least another month.  This means that, for the next month, I’ll be not only running routine errands, but also taking him to his various out-patient appointments.  Definitely a change from my preferred hermit lifestyle.

Still, as the unpredictable elements diminish one by one, I find that my “writer brain” is slowly coming back into play.  A long time ago, I learned that it isn’t being busy that gets in the way of my writing, it’s when my imagination is occupied solving other problems.  As someone who solidly shoulders personal responsibility, I tend to address each problem as if it’s a logic tree: If this, then that.  If not that, then this.  And so on, often out to several branches.

That’s sort of how I write, too.  Not logic trees, but immersing myself in my characters and living the story with them – including weighing various choices as they would.  So, right now, I guess you could say that the story I’m writing is that of how Jim and I coped with having his right knee replaced.  As that story moves closer to being completed, I have more room in my imagination for other stories.

That includes the new Firekeeper novel.  A few weeks back, I left Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and some folks you don’t know newly arrived in the ruins of the original university in Azure Towers.  Why?

Well, that’s a bit too complicated to go into here.  But maybe, just maybe, I have time to go write a few more sentences about what they encounter before Jim’s physical therapist arrives.  Shall we see?

FF: Two For One

November 9, 2018

Keladry Contemplates Fafhrd and the Mouser

With Jim recovering from knee replacement surgery, my reading time has been seriously crimped, but I usually manage a little here and there.  Here’s what I’ve been reading these past couple of weeks.

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.

Recently Completed:

Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber.  I’d forgotten how smart Fafhrd is.  Definitely not the dumb barbarian muscle in this pair.

The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen.  Audiobook.   Quite good, although somewhat unevenly paced.  The opening parts seem to repeat a great deal of information, leading up to an ending that’s an emotional rollercoaster.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.  Darker than many of her novels, but good.  The ending felt rushed, and left a few details out I would have liked to know.

In Progress:

Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Lieber.  Much more coherent than the prior volume.

Also:

Some catalogs.  The items that people will buy and sell are endlessly fascinating.

What the Cats Think

November 7, 2018

Kel and Ruby: Supervisors of PT

Many thanks to all who sent Jim good wishes for his knee replacement surgery.  I’m happy to report that overall things have gone well.  He’s up and walking again (with a walker) and diligently applying himself to his PT.  Sure, there have been rough times, and there are certain to be more rough times, but he’s doing as well as could be expected.

Before the surgery, Jim and I did everything we could to prepare our household for the disruption that was certain to follow.  We stocked up on groceries.  We did lots of laundry.  We made up the bed in the guest room, just in case one or more of us would need it.  (We have.)  But there was one important issue we couldn’t deal with in advance: We couldn’t prepare the cats for all the changes to come.

(This is not to slight the guinea pigs but, although they interact with us, as long as someone shows up with treats and rotates them through their various domiciles, they’re not too picky as to which of their humans it is.)

Halloween night, when I staggered in from more than twelve hours at the hospital, the immediate question of “Where’s dinner?  In fact, now that we’re on the topic, where was lunch?” rapidly changed to “What did you do with Jim?”

The most immediately upset was Ogapoge, who thinks Jim is his personal property.  However, when I crawled into bed, I felt every cat take a turn walking up the bed and inspecting where Jim should be.  When they didn’t find him, they came and poked me, as if I might be hiding him.  However, they weren’t overly upset.  The last few months, Jim has had to be away for several days at a time, and they figured that this was more of the same.

They were more indignant when I vanished again on Thursday to spend most of the day at the hospital with Jim.  I work at home, you see, so I am supposed to be available at all times.  It probably didn’t help matters that I came home with Jim’s scent on me.  I found myself imagining the cats conferring, wondering if I might be keeping Jim imprisoned somewhere.

When on Friday I brought Jim home, the cats’ initial jubilation changed to consternation.  Jim smelled wrong.  He was walking funny – and never without this horrible rattling thing in front of him.  Again, Ogapoge was the most upset.  His pet was back but changed.  Kwahe’e was fairly mellow about matters but, at sixteen, he’s seen the world.  He came over, buffed Jim’s shoes, then went back to his basket.  Keladry was watchful, while Persephone – who is the most social – was mostly concerned because Jim would not let her jump up to sit on his lap from the right (the surgical side), only the left.

By this writing, the cats have all adjusted to the change.  Keladry has appointed herself Supervisor of PT.  Ogapoge forgave Jim when he learned Jim could still play with him and feed him – and that the rattling monster didn’t seem inclined to do anything without Jim’s supervision.  Kwahe’e figured out he could get up on the guest bed to check on Jim, so that was fine.  Persephone decided that the amount of time Jim spends sitting means there is more lap time available.

So we’re settling into a new normal here.  I’m not back to writing yet, and I probably won’t be for a while more, since my creative energy is going into finding new ways to do old tricks.  However, like the critters, I’m relieved to have Jim home again – and I appreciate how the rattling of the walker lets me know when he’s up and about and might need my help.

I hear it now.  Later!

 

FF: Pending…

November 2, 2018

Hi Folks…

Jim’s doing okay, but by the time I get home from the hospital, I’m too tired to do much on the computer.

Friday Fragments will resume, probably next week.  For now, tell me what you’re reading!

Kwahe’e: My Guardian!

Hard Right Turn

October 31, 2018

Jim’s Halloween Diorama: Beaded Spiders By Jane

So, today is Halloween, and with singularly poetical timing, Jim is having knee replacement surgery on the one day of the American calendar when it is considered perfectly appropriate to wear a mask.  The surgeons should be very happy.  This event is the next hard right turn in our lives, which I hinted about at the end of last week’s Wednesday Wandering.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either getting ready to go to the hospital, am at the hospital, or maybe even am home from the hospital and racing around taking care of all the chores that I didn’t do because I spent the day at the hospital.

For the next few weeks, my social media presence may be limited.  Unlike some people who would doubtless be posting updates every half-hour or so, that’s just not my thing.  And, hey, I don’t even own a smartphone, so even if it was, I couldn’t.  I will check and respond to e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook as I can, but taking care of Jim and our home are going to be my first priorities.

Jim is a good candidate for knee replacement, being more or less in shape (other than having a knee that doesn’t work right), relatively young, and supremely determined.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that these days almost everyone either knows someone who has had knee replacement surgery or has had some joint replaced, that doesn’t change that this is a major surgical procedure with a long recovery period.  (As in several months, minimum, perhaps a year before full strength and flexibility returns.)

Yes.  We know that Jim needs to do his PT.  Yes.  We do know pain control is important.   Yes.  We do know he’s going to hurt like hell but, in the end, be so glad that he did this.  Thank you.  Please don’t share your horror stories about what went wrong for you or for a friend of a friend.  We’ve heard those stories.  They don’t help.

Since Jim has always done his share of chores around our house – up to and including cooking, laundry, and pet care – I’m going to have a lot of extra work, above and beyond being the only driver and the main caregiver.  If and when I have any extra energy, I hope to put it into writing.  That may be a fantasy.  I won’t know until I get there.

So, Happy Halloween.  Wish us more treats than tricks…  I’ll catch you when I can!

FF: Rolling Along

October 26, 2018

Ziggy Wants to Be Harriet for Halloween

One thing I like about travel is having more time to read.  On road trips, audiobooks come into their own.

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.

Recently Completed:

Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers.  Good and creative, although – my personal opinion – the characterization is not as strong as in the prior two novels.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  Audiobook.  To my surprise, I really enjoyed.  Almost despite herself, Catherine is blessed with a solid dose of common sense.

Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber.  A Friday Fragments reader mentioned the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser tales, and I couldn’t resist re-reading at least some.

Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich.   Audiobook.  We find these books good for road trips since the reader is brilliant, and the plots not overly demanding.

Little Red Rodent Hood by Ursula Vernon.  Harriet the Hamster Princess is appealed to by a child in distress… but is everything as it seems?

In Progress:

Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber.

The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen.  Audiobook.

Also:

I almost never get a chance to read the convention program when I’m at a con, but I often read it after.  I’m currently dipping into the gorgeous one from MileHiCon.

Wild West Weekend: MileHiCon 50

October 24, 2018

Just Part Of The MIleHiCon 50 GOH Line-up

Where do I start?  Cool panels?  Meeting up with friends too long not seen in person?  Getting a chance to chat with writers and artists whose work I’ve long admired?  Learning I was a key member of the archer team defending Gondor?

I guess I’ll be boring and go chronologically…

But first I’d like to thank two people who helped make the con special for me: readers and Firekeeper fans, Jason and Christine.  These hard-working people separately found time during their very busy weekends to travel to MileHiCon to meet me.  You can’t possibly understand how honored I am.  I hope you had fun.

So…  This weekend’s adventure in more or less chronological order…

Jim and I had a good drive up from Albuquerque to Denver, arriving just about an hour before Opening Ceremonies for MileHiCon 50.  For this landmark occasion, MileHiCon had invited back all past Guests of Honor.  An astonishing twenty-five or so were able to return, making for a showcase to rival most major conventions – and with everyone a whole lot more accessible.

Thanks to a suggestion by Jim Van Pelt, each author had a special Guest of Honor sash to wear.  After putting these on, we quickly scurried into alphabetical order.  Then one by one, we paraded down the red carpet and took our seats on the stage.  I think it was Jeanne Stine who, looking at the stage burdened with lines of chairs, said: “I hope that doesn’t collapse!”

Opening ceremonies were followed by a meet and greet combined with a Guest of Honor signing event.  By chance, I ended up sitting next to Lawrence Watt-Evans.  I’d never met this gentleman before, but he has a special place in my writing life.  He sent me my very first rejection letter.  While he didn’t take my story, he also didn’t crush my hopes and dreams, for which I will always be grateful.

Later, when Jim and I wandered into the bar to find out what the Author’s Networking event was about, we ended up bumping into Steve Brust and accompanying him to his “office” (the outdoor smoking area) where we spent a very happy half-hour or so while Steve quizzed Jim about various archeological theories, and Jim happily dove in to give what answers he could.  (Yes.  I am sensitive to cigarette smoke, but chatting with Brust was worth it!  Besides, he sat upwind from my lungs.)

Saturday morning, we rose early enough to attend the KaffeKlatch in the con suite.  When I was a MileHiCon GOH last year, I’d been assigned this event and immediately became hooked on it as a laid back way to chat with fans and guests.  This year we scored big, because both Jack McDevitt and Barbara Hambly were on deck.  We settled into a side room and enjoyed a free-form chat loosely organized around various media influences on SF and F, going all the way back to radio serials.  I was grateful that my pen pal Paul Dellinger had long ago educated me both in classic SF film and TV, and in those great radio dramas.

Later, I had a panel on “Whatever Happened to… Questions Definitively Not Answered in Your Books.”  This rapidly segued into what might have been called “Who Is Your Audience? And What Mistakes Are You Most Embarrassed By?”  It became very lively…

After that, we snagged lunch, did a quick tour of the excellent art show and dealers’ room, then went off for the oddest GOH presentation I have ever been part of.  Each GOH had been asked to send seven images that would be turned into slides.  We each then had four minutes to make our presentation.  It went astonishingly smoothly, except for when the slides stuck at Jack McDevitt who did a brilliant job of adlibbing while the show was unstuck.  Kudos also to Carrie Vaughn and Rob Sawyer, who each did impromptu presentations for a GOH who wasn’t able to be there for their slides.

The PackaGOHcha was immediately followed by a mass signing, during which I had a chance to briefly catch up with long-time friend, artist Liz Danforth.  After the mass signing, I had my shared GOH presentation with Jack McDevitt.  We had a great time discussing why we love SF, assisted by some very thoughtful questions and comments from the audience.

That was the end of my programming for the day but, after we’d had some dinner, we decided to try something new, so we went off to listen to the Artist Roundtable discussion.  The topic of discussion was how to handle mailing art to convention shows.  Even though neither Jim nor I are artists nor do we have any plans to become such, we very much enjoyed this chance to see another aspect of the convention scene.  An added bonus was a chance to chat after with artist Chaz Kemp and his writer wife, Carolyn.

Sunday began again with the KaffeeKlatsch, for which this time I was an official host along with the aforementioned Chaz Kemp.  Attendance was lighter than Saturday (doubtless because so many people had been up way too late), but it was a great way to get ready for the day.

Later that day, we were back in the con suite to help Carrie Vaughn celebrate the release of her new novella Paranormal Bromance.  It’s set in the same universe as her “Kitty” books and features three “Millennial” generation vampires.  If the sample she read is any indication, Paranormal Bromance is going to be both funny and thoughtful.  As a bonus, Carrie explained to me what the term “Bromance” means…

Then we raced down to attend the GOH presentation by artists Lubov, Teresa Mather, and Liz Danforth.  Despite difficulties with the visuals, these three talented artists gave a great presentation.  I was especially delighted when Teresa Mather devoted her presentation to the work she has done on carousels throughout the country, but all of it was fascinating.

My Sunday panel was titled “Creating Fictional But Meaningful Religions.”   Since I love mythology and anthropology, I’ve been on quite a few similar panels.  This was, by far, the best.  The panelists were well-informed and actually stuck to the topic – using examples from their own work and those of other authors to illustrate both the complexities and rewards involved in creating meaningful religions.

That was it until closing ceremonies.  Once again, the format had been cleverly adapted to allow all the Guests of Honor their moment in the spotlight without ever becoming repetitious.  However, not one of us knew what would be expected until we entered the room and took a seat at the front of the room: each of us would be responsible for introducing the person on our right.  Given that we’d grabbed chairs at random, this was quite a challenge.  Happily for me, I was to introduce Lawrence Watt-Evans with whom, as noted above, I have a bit of personal history.  Barbara Hambly introduced me with true panache, given that until this weekend we hadn’t spoken for more than a few minutes.  She ended by revealing my key role as a defender of Gondor.  Now I understand all those curious dreams…

Even when the con had ended, the fun wasn’t over.  Author/editor David Boop took me, Jim, Steve Brust, and John Forrest out for a wonderful traditional Japanese dinner followed by a jaunt to The Inventing Room for ice cream desserts made on the spot with (among other ingredients) liquid nitrogen.

The drive home from Denver included great wildlife viewing including herds of antelope, scattered deer, red tailed hawks, ravens, and what we’re pretty sure was a beefalo.  I know this last isn’t a wild creature, but, hey, seeing one was pretty wild!

Now it’s back to writing before life does its next hard right turn.  Stay tuned next week for an update as to what that will be…

FF: Murder, Heresy, and Earthquakes

October 19, 2018

“Dandy” Dandelion Reads

I’ll be at MileHiCon this weekend.  I hope to see some of you there!

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.

Recently Completed:

Murder at the Bar by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.

The Heretic’s Apprentice by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  More thoughtful than many Cadfael novels because of the frank discussion of heresy and free will.

In Progress:

Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers.  Almost done, but this is a long novel.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  Audiobook.  When I was assigned this book in high school, I didn’t have the background to catch all of Austen’s tart social critiques.

Also:

Getting ready for MileHiCon has taken some  of my reading time, but I’ll make up for it with audiobooks on the road.

Growing Research

October 17, 2018

Blue Speckled Tepary Beans

Last year, I was doing research into desert ecosystems for a story project.  Among the books I read was a short one produced by the Arizona Desert Museum about how various plants and animals adapt to an environment that not only gets very little water, but which also experiences extremes of heat and cold.  The plants mentioned included those that had been domesticated by the indigenous populations.  One of these was a type of bean I’d never heard of before: the tepary bean.

Tepary beans were said to grow in high temperatures, need very little water, and produce beans that are flavorful and very high in protein.  What wasn’t there to like?

Love at first sight is an irrational reaction, so I’m not going to attempt to explain why, but I fell madly in love with the idea of adding tepary beans to our garden.   Oh, I can give logical arguments, such as in recent years we’ve been dealing with temperatures peaking in the low 100 degree range for weeks at a time during the summer, but such logic would diminish my irrational obsession with the idea.

Plants of the Southwest here in Albuquerque carried seeds for a couple different tepary varieties. I chose the one that had a shortest growing time.  That the “blue speckled tepary bean” also sounded rather pretty was an added incentive.

For the next few months, I mulled over where to plant the seeds.  Although we are enthusiastic gardeners, we’re also practitioners of what has sometimes been called the “oasis watering” strategy.  In this, only limited areas (the “oasis”) receive regular watering.  The rest are watered more irregularly.  In our case, we often water by hand using “grey water.”

My research showed that even though tepary beans were listed as needing very little water, they did benefit from being planted in flood plains or other areas that experienced at least limited deep soaking.  I recalled that, in the long bed on the southwest side of our house, there was one row where anything we planted died.  We’d come to the conclusion that its orientation combined with the closeness to the side of the house (which soaks up heat) made this area too hot.

(For those of you who garden, yes, we did make sure the area was getting water.  Yes, we did rotate crops.  Yes, we did amend the soil, including regular trench composting to add slow-releasing nutrients.  Yes, we dug over the soil to assure salts hadn’t built up in that area.)

Since this row had become more or less waste space, we decided to put the tepary seeds in there.  After all, part of the appeal was that they were supposed to thrive on heat and low water.

The seeds germinated rapidly – far more quickly than the bush beans and lianas that we put in around the same time.  The plants leafed out quickly as well.  We observed that during the heat of the day, the leaves would re-orient, almost folding so as to receive less direct sunlight.  Fascinating!

Although the tepary bean plants leafed out quickly, they didn’t flower.  I did some research and decided that maybe – even in that hot, brutal zone – they were getting too much water.  Since we use soaker hoses, it was easy to move these to one side so that the bean plants received less water.  Soon we began to see flowers, tiny pale pink blossoms that shared the tendency of the leaves to hide during the heat of the day.

Later, these produced small pods holding (on average) three to five seeds.  For quite a while, we thought we might only get back what we had planted.  The minute seeds took forever to fill a baby food jar.  Then, late summer, when the bush beans had long ceased to produce, we began to discover more and more tepary pods.  Soon we filled the baby food jar and moved to a larger jar that held about a cup.  We filled that, and moved to a two cup jar.

We quickly learned we needed to pick the pods as soon as they were dry because – unlike most beans (where you can just pick the entire plants and the beans will stay in the pods for later harvest), when a tepary bean pod dried, it twisted in on itself, releasing the beans, sometimes at a distance from the original plant.  We learned that a pop and rattle from the cupboard where we stored the unshelled beans meant that the beans were shelling themselves.

As of this writing, that jar is full and we’ll probably get at least a quarter cup more.  That may not sound like much, but that’s many, many times more than we initially planted.

We plan to save some seeds for next year’s planting, and intend to try some even less hospitable parts of the garden, just to see how much the tepary beans can take.  We might even try a second variety.  There’s one called Santa Rosa that isn’t as pretty, but produces a larger seed.

So, from research for a story came a very interesting gardening project.  We have yet to cook any of the beans, but I’ve heard that tepary bean humus is very tasty.  I’ll let you know!