FF: Moving Along

October 15, 2021
Mei-Ling with Her Nose in a Book

I’ve turned in the proofs of Library of the Sapphire Wind.  Two thumbs up to Libby O’Brien, production manager and coach on how to amend a PDF, who answered so very many questions…  However, between the proofs and losing Sally, this hasn’t been my biggest reading week.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters.  Despite the biblical-sounding title, this was actually one of Peter’s contemporary (then) novels, set in the years following WWII.  A dark, gritty tale of ambition, environmental concerns, social change, and racism that speaks to today as much as it surely did at the time it came out.

Saiyuki manga, new translation.  I enjoyed, and was very happy to see in the translator’s notes that my longtime guess as to which was the only mah-jong hand by which Genjo Sanzo could have won the game was correct.  In case you wonder, it was the one Americans call “Thirteen Orphans.”  Yep.  The same one that I used as a book title.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Into the section on medieval science, primary focus, medicine.

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt.  A non-fiction look at the hassles involved in moving twenty-five dogs from California to Maine.  I’m impressed.  The most I ever moved was six cats, in a small sedan, and that was only from Virginia to New Mexico.

Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher.  The newest of the “Saint of Steel” books—about what happens to a small group of paladins (in a fantasy world, not historical) when their god dies, and they try to rebuild their lives and sense of identity—came out at a perfect time for me.

  Also:

Smithsonian from a couple months back that I’d mislaid.  Some great articles including some of the best coverage of September 11th and its aftermath that I’ve read.

I’ve Lost Another Friend

October 13, 2021
Sally at the Bubonicon Tea

Last Friday, one of my best friends, Sally Gwylan, was hit by a car and killed.

Many of you know Sally’s work, even if you didn’t realize it.  If you’ve read one of my novels in the last ten or more years, Sally was quite likely one of the beta readers.  If you read my new Firekeeper books, Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, Sally was the copy editor.

Copy editing is one of those jobs that can ruin a friendship.  Last week, I explained that the job of a copy editor is.  Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain that how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.

Sally was amazing.  She liked the quirks of punctuation rules.  She was patient with my inability to hyphenate consistently.  We had great chats about optional comas.  She loved looking up obscure data points.  I always felt my books were secure in her hands.

Sally was such a talented copy editor that she did copy editing for other writers, including Carrie Vaughn.  So, if you’ve read some of Carrie’s small press works, you’ve also read Sally’s work.  She also work-shopped over the years with many of New Mexico’s writers, and you’ll find her listed in their acknowledgements, too.  One of the things Sally planned to pursue after retirement (she worked for a law firm doing data control) was copy editing and proofreading.  Now she’ll never have the chance.

Oh, and Sally was a writer in her own right.  The same perfectionism that made her a perfect copy editor made her quite possibly the slowest writer in creation.  Nonetheless, she completed and sold several works of short fiction: “Salt” in Infinite Matrix (2002), “In the Icehouse” in Asimov’s (2003), “Rapture, Parts 1 & 2” in Strange Horizons (2004), and “Fleeing Olsyge” in Clarkesworld (2018). 

She also indie pubbed a Depression era alternate history novel called A Wind Out of Canaan, about a runaway from an abusive home coming to the realization that she’s gay.  In her journey, Philippa joins a group of hobos and, while with them, accidentally stumbles onto the fact that there are people from another world on Earth, and that their activities may have a great deal to do with the severe changes in the weather, and some of the political movements of the time.  It stands alone, more or less, but Sally was working on a sequel.

I’m talking about all these dry things because I’m hiding from a grief so huge that, if I admit to it, it’s going to swallow me whole.

Sally and I met over twenty years ago at a party at Walter Jon Williams’ house, sometime in the late 1990’s.  I’d moved to Albuquerque in late 1996.  In 1997, I started my first garden.  I had a lot of questions, and whenever I’d ask one, the one asked would inevitably end with, “I think that’s what I’d do, but Sally Gwylan would know.” 

So, I went up to her, introduced myself, and thus started a discussion about gardens, and weather (especially wind and rainfall).  She did know a lot, having been a market gardener for a while. She also gave me the tubers for my Jerusalem artichokes, known to some as “sunchokes.”  Our garden chats only stopped this week, because she wasn’t here on Monday for our usual call.

We talked about other things, too, of course.  Books and movies.  Gender identity.  Animals, wild and domestic.  Hobby activities.  Each week we blocked out an hour and a quarter for our call.  It was rarely enough.

I also helped Sally build her house, quite literally.  Usually when people talk about building a house, they mean they’ve hired contractors to do so.  Not Sally.  She built hers with adobe mud and straw.  She took living off the grid seriously, but managed a very tidy lifestyle with a solar panel for electricity, water she hauled from town, a composting toilet, and propane for cooking and to run her fridge.

Sally loved figuring out how things worked.  Unlike me, she did her own formatting and cover design for her e-books.  She sewed or retailored (on a treadle machine) clothes for herself.  She built her solar oven.  And the toilet.  And a water-wicking system for her plants.  Many of our conversations were about her building projects.  The most recent was figuring out the most efficient way to do laundry by hand.  (Why?  Because she hated how the machines at the laundromat left her clothes smelling.)  She was delighted to report that a standard salad spinner worked pretty well as a “spin cycle.”

Even in her late sixties, Sally was energetic.  She rescued her cat, Horace, in the middle of rush hour traffic out on I-40.  Horace had been hit, and she got him to the vet.  Later, when one leg failed to heal properly, she sewed him booties to protect his paw.

The picture above is from the Tea at Bubonicon, where she always worked backstage, helping Pati Nagel make tea.  At some point, she’d excuse herself to go participate in one of her other passions, “shape note” or Sacred Heart singing.

Okay…  That’s about all I can manage without breaking down.  Again.  Thanks for listening.

This Year’s Jerusalem Artichokes

FF: When My Homework is Done

October 8, 2021
Mei-Ling Contemplates the Costs

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I’m reading the page proofs for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  However, since I can’t work on proofs for more than about an hour at a time without the danger of starting to skim, which would rather defeat the purpose, I’ve been reading other things, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Chobits by Clamp.  Manga.  Re-read.  This starts off as a Pygmalion story and, takes the question of created companions much farther.  As is often the case with Clamp, the elaborate, frilly art conceals a dark and thoughtful story, in this case about what it is to be human, what it is to really love.  And what you must be ready to give up to be the one and have the other.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes. In the section about the developments of conflict between philosophy and theology, which led to the development of scholastic philosophy, which attempted to reconcile the two.

Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters.  Despite the biblical-sounding title, this was actually one of Peter’s contemporary (then) novels, set in the years following WWII.  A dark, gritty tale of ambition, environmental concerns, social change, and racism that speaks to today as much as it surely did at the time it came out.

Also:

A new edition of my favorite manga, Saiyuki came out, and I splurged.  I know the story very well, so there are no big surprises, but I find it interesting how a different translator’s word choices and idioms slightly shifts what the story is about.  At some point, I’ll probably go all scholarly and do some side-by-side comparisons, but not until my homework is done.

What’s The Difference Between?

October 6, 2021
Dandy and Coco Discuss

The other day I mentioned to a non-writer friend that this week’s work schedule would likely revolve around reviewing the page proofs for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind

Here, for your amusement, is a more or less accurate dramatization of our conversation.

Me: “This week I’ll be doing page proofs for Library of the Sapphire Wind.”

Her: “But I thought you did that the other week, right before your internet crashed.  I remember your saying how happy you were that you’d turned them in right before that happened.”

Me: “No.  That was the copy edit.  These are the page proofs.”

Her: “What’s the difference?”

Me: “Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.”

Her: “Isn’t that what the editor does?  I remember you said you’d addressed your editor’s notes a few months ago.”

Me: “I did.  For this book, the editor­ made some suggestions as to how I might expand certain scenes, and add in some back history for characters.  The editor is more concerned with content.  The copy editor is more concerned with how that content is presented.”

Her: “Oh.  I think I get that, but go on…  What are page proofs?”

Me: “Page proofs are, more or less, what the book will look like when it’s in print­.  There’s no cover, just the interior.  Page proofs are my last chance to take a look at the text, make sure no oddities have crept in.”

Her: “Oddities?”

Me: “Like weird formatting glitches.  One of the major settings in Through Wolf’s Eyes is a town called Eagle’s Nest.  However, when the book was set in print, it was changed in some places to ‘eagle’s nest,’ and in others to “Eagle’s nest.” 

Her: “That is odd.  Doesn’t the publisher have someone who is supposed to check the manuscript for things like that?”

Me: “Absolutely.  However, for something like a town name that is also a phrase that would usually be in lower case, even an attentive proofreader might miss an error.  That’s why I like to go through the page proofs, so I’ll catch anything they might miss.”

Her: “Wait!  I know you’re really careful about going over your manuscripts before you turn them in.  Jim reads them, too, and you usually mention some other readers in your acknowledgements.   I’d think there wouldn’t be much to catch.”

Me: (laughing) “You’d be amazed.  I’ve had reader notes that, after reading them, you’d assume they’d read completely different books, the comments are that different.  And remember what I said about editor’s notes?  Places where material is added—and sometimes even more, when material has been removed—errors creep in.”

Her: “That’s amazing.  Putting a book together takes a lot more stages than I realized.”

Me: “And the terms edit, editing, editor, draft, drafting, proof, proofing, they do overlap, don’t they?  But they’re all crucial stages.  Which is why, this week, even though I’ve gone over Library of the Sapphire Wind before, I’m going over it again.”

Curtain falls…  And I pick up my red pencil and get back to work!

FF: Influenced By

October 1, 2021
Persephone Is Contemplative

This week one of the pieces of fiction I read was influenced by the non-fiction I’m listening to.  I bet you can guess which one!

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.  The novel that introduced Miss Jane Marple.  Yes.  I’ve read it before… 

A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters.  A collection of three Cadfael stories, including a prequel in which Cadfael decides to consider monastic life.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes.  I’m back to this.  In the section about monasteries and nunneries.

Chobits by Clamp.  Manga.  Re-read.  This starts off as a Pygmalion story and, takes it much farther.  As is often the case with Clamp, the elaborate, frilly art conceals a dark and thoughtful story, in the case about what it is to be human, what it is to really love.  And what you must be ready to give up to be the one and have the other.

Also:

New magazines have been joined by Smithsonian.  Some great articles in this issue, including one about a prize-winning Japanese saki maker in…  Holbrook, Arizona.  (A location that is probably best known for not being Winslow, Arizona.)

Ambling Into Autumn

September 29, 2021
The View From my Office Window

There are a tremendous number of misunderstandings about New Mexico, from the common (Q: Is it really a state?  A: Yes. Since 1912.) to when the weather is the best­­—not spring or summer, as in so many places, but autumn, when the landscape is awash with purple (asters) and gold (sunflowers, chamisa, snakeweed, four-wing saltbush, and more).  The temperatures are short-sleeve comfortable during the day, and snuggly cool at night.

I’m looking out my office window right now at a yard that no longer is heat tortured, but full of color.

I’m glad for that view because the last week or so has been very busy, and I’ve spent a lot of time at my desk.  Not bad, just busy.  I’ve turned in the copy-edited manuscript for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind, which comes out February of 2022.  If you’re curious, you can read a bit more about it here.

My website bookshop now includes the hardcovers of the two books, Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  They join most of my other out of print works, including all but one of the Firekeeper novels, books going back to my earliest days as a professional writer, as well as some of my indie pub novels, which range from the experimental Asphodel to two Firekeeper sequels, to my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing.

Works in progress are new e-book editions of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  I’ll let you know when they’re ready.

I’m also writing another novel set in the same universe as Library of the Sapphire Wind because I like being there, and spending time with the people who live there. 

That’s about it for now…  Any questions?

Internet Down

September 24, 2021
Roary Contemplates Asking for Advice

This past week, my internet connection was out for about thirty-six hours.  Although I could (and did) write, my inability to do e-mail, check in on social media, work on updates to my website bookstore, and other such on-line work gave me more time to read.  It also made me reflect how the expectations as to what a working writer’s life will include has changed in the last several decades.

But that’s a subject for another time, I think.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  I liked it a lot.  However, don’t read it and expect anything earth shatteringly new, just charming and well-written.  That can be enough.

DreamForge Anvil, issues three and four.

xxxHolic by Clamp.  Manga.  Full series (which encompasses nineteen volumes or seven in the omnibus).  Important note: “xxx” here stands for “fill in the blank” not super-porny.  “Holic” means an addiction of any sort.  I’ve read part of the manga before, seen the anime, which ends short of the end of the manga.  This time, thanks to Jim’s birthday present to me, I had the entire run to read!  Full of numerous plot twists and turns, and that’s without the crossover with another Clamp title, Tsubasa.  Not a title I’d recommend to someone unfamiliar with manga.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes.  I’m back to this.  In the section about medieval Catholicism.

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.  The novel that introduced Miss Jane Marple.  Yes.  I’ve read it before… 

Also:

New issues of American Archeology and Vogue just came in.

Wildlife West

September 22, 2021
Bob the Bobcat

This year, Jim and I did something different for my birthday.  Having missed the animals at the State Fair, we drove out to Wildlife West Nature Park & Rescued Wildlife Zoo, a place we’d long meant to visit, but hadn’t gotten around to.

Wildlife West specializes in giving homes to animals that, for one reason or another, cannot be released into the wild.  In some cases, this was due to injury.  In others, the animals were too acclimated to humans to be safe in the wild.  These fell into two general categories: animals who had been illegally removed from the wild and kept as pets, and animals that had been found abandoned when still very young and had been raised by humans.

The final category was the smallest: animals that had decided that it was easier to scavenge from humans than to follow their more natural lifeways.  Our favorite of these was the black bear who had been a “three-time offender” at Navajo Lake.  He specialized in raiding coolers on boats!  Now he has a spacious enclosure, and when we were there, was contentedly napping in the shade.

Although all the resident animals belonged to our local ecosystem, there was a wide variety in residence, both avians and mammals.  Although carnivores and omnivores dominated the selection, there were several herbivores, including a pair of elk and a mule deer.  The bull elk came right down to the edge of the enclosure, showed us how he could scratch his magnificent antlers on one of the junipers, and then stayed to visit.

Velcro the Mule Deer

In fact, all the resident animals seemed to view the humans as being there for their amusement, rather than the other way around.  Since feeding the animals is expressly forbidden, this was not begging behavior, just curiosity.

Did I have a favorite?  Not really.  In addition to the aforementioned elk, there was a bobcat who was happily hunting (or pretending to hunt) something small among the shrubs in his enclosure.  There was the little grey fox who decided to show us just how easily his kind can climb trees.  (Several of his enclosure-mates were drowsing up among the branches.)

There were the pair of the caracara (a type of raptor) who came over to the window of their enclosure and made a sound rather like a muted jackhammer, while doing what looked rather like calisthenics.  There were the two mountain lions who studied us, one from her “cave,” the other from the treehouse the local Lion’s Club had built for them.  There was the coyote who came out of her comfortable bed in the shade to trot around her enclosure before settling down again.

Background to our visit was a large flock of ravens who were riding the breezes, quorking and calling, and in general seeming to agree with us that this was a very nice place to be. 

Wildlife West is located in Edgewood, New Mexico, about twenty minutes east of Albuquerque.  Once you leave the city, the drive through Tijeras Canyon and into the mountains is lovely in itself.  (Side note: The directions on the park’s website need updating, because the gas station they use as a landmark is no longer a Conoco.)  In addition to the animals, there’s a selfie-friendly fake “western town” they use for events, such as their summer-time chuckwagon cookout.  There are rest facilities, but (other than for specific events) no food.  However, there is also a nice little giftshop, where a limited selection of snacks and chilled drinks can be purchased.

We already plan to go back in a month or so, when it’s cooler, for another visit.  There’s a walking trail we haven’t done yet, and a portion of the facility is set aside as a resting place for migrating birds.  Who knows who might have stopped by next time we’re there?

Red Fox Resting in the Shade

FF: Fitting Reading in Around Work

September 17, 2021
Persephone Poses

All of a sudden, I have a lot on my to-do list, but I’m still squeezing in time to read.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Again Tey makes some odd stylistic choices, but the distant, narrative heavy voice of The Man in the Queue has been replaced with lively narrative voice.  I wonder if her writing plays influenced this?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie.  A serial killer challenges Poroit, but is there more to the problem than that?

In Progress:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  A very warm book, thus far, and I like all the characters I’m supposed to like very much.  Structure is so utterly predictable, I’m getting nervous in anticipation of the next part which should be “crisis occurs, forcing protagonist to make unsettling choices.”  Does this mean I don’t like the book?  Absolutely not! I won’t know if I like it or not until I’m done.

DreamForge Anvil issue three.  Two stories read.

xxxHolic by Clamp.  Manga.  “xxx” here stands for “fill in the blank” not super-porny.  “Holic” means an addiction of any sort.  I’ve read part of the manga before, seen the anime, which ends short of the end of the story.  This time, thanks to Jim’s birthday present to me, I have the entire run to read!

Also:

Not much room for “also” since the copy-edited manuscript of Library of the Sapphire Wind landed on my desk on Wednesday. 

Fair Fair

September 15, 2021
Mini Horse Makes Friends

Every year but one since the mid-1990’s I’ve gone to the New Mexico State Fair.  (The exception, of course, was 2020, when the Fair didn’t happen.)  It’s changed a lot over the years, but most of the things I enjoy have continued to thrive.  This year saw more changes than most, but we still had fun.

Even though we went on a Saturday, mid-day, crowds were definitely reduced, and a lot of our favorites, such as the School Arts building and many of the livestock events, were either closed or very sparsely attended.  However, our long-time favorite Sheep to Shawl was present, demonstrating every step from shearing to weaving (with carding, dying, spinning in the middle) all represented.  Their gift shop was well-stocked.

Although the critters were fewer, there were still some—such as the adorable miniature horse in the photo—to see.  And elsewhere there was still a lot to see and do.  The walls in the Fine Arts, Indian Arts, and Hispanic Arts buildings were covered with an incredible variety of beautiful paintings, mosaics, and mixed media arts.

Floral Arts was in a new location, directly off the Lujan Building, and was, as usual, a delight.

In the hobby building (officially known as the Creative Arts Building) there were fewer displays and demonstrations than in past years, but the coin collectors, beaders, quilters, knitters, wood workers, and all the rest had definitely done their part.  Oddly enough, the photo show, which normally has almost more submissions than one can usually take in, was one of the few areas that was visibly under-represented.

We had a great time watching Chef Ray demonstrate how half a potato can be transformed into a very convincing rose bud­—complete with scent.

There were fewer food vendors than in many years, but all the classic “Fair foods” were well-represented: funnel cake, fried cheese curds, turkey legs, and corndogs could all be found.  Asbury Pies was open and doing brisk business.  If you’re into unique foods, be sure to pick up the free full-color magazine which lists (on page 27) the winners of various competitions, including where you can try a Cotton Candy Ice Cream Cone or a Green Chile Pancake Burger.

The Manuel Lujan building had many fewer vendors but, as a bonus, especially given the heat and wildfire smoke, there was a terrific indoor play area for the kids.

Main Street featured an amazing array of automobiles, from the outlandish to the expensive to a nice array of firetrucks.

Due to the higher than usual temperatures and our companions tuckering out, we didn’t make it down to the Indian Village but, from the program, it looks as if they’re really expanding their offerings under the guidance of the folks who run the Gathering of Nations Powwow every year.  We also didn’t make it Villa Hispana, Midway, or many of the other shows, so I can’t report on those.

Overall, much as I enjoyed myself, I need to be honest and say this was only a “fair” State Fair.  Nonetheless, it was certainly worth a visit and maybe, depending on your interests, two or three.

I came away feeling inspired to pursue my own creative endeavors, though, and, in fact, that’s what I’m going to do right now…