Archive for July, 2018

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.

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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!

FF: Reading the Thirteenth

July 13, 2018

Kel: Divine, Never Wicked!

Superstitions are a lot of fun…  What’s your favorite?

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 Wicked + The Divine, graphic novel, by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles.  Vol 5.  First part of “The Imperial Arc.”  Interesting.  Relying on a bunch of people under twenty-five to save the world – super powers or not – is being presented as problematic.

Growing Food in a Hotter, Dryer Land by Gary Paul Nabhan.  Very interesting.  I’ve been pleased about how many of the tricks he suggests I’m already aware of and use to my best capacity.

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  Fourth in The Expanse series.  Excellent.

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.  Wow!  The bit about the immigrants in “Little Syria” shows how today’s issues are part of a long, long trend.

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.  Audiobook.  A comment from one of the FF readers reminded me of this old favorite.

Also:

Re-reading Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold.  Finishing up on this trip.

Crazy Busy, Busy Crazy

July 11, 2018

Kwahe’e Inspects the Laundry

The popular image of writers is doubtless created by high school and college literature classes.  These often present the lives of the writers only when those lives have some connection to their literary output.  Even when the personal is touched upon, there’s always an element of the dramatic to it.   They drink too much or have tempestuous affairs or eventually commit suicide.

Authors don’t do the laundry.  They don’t have sick pets.  They don’t worry about in-laws who are in and out of the hospital.  They don’t need to get to the grocery store.  And none of these things eat time and mental energy the author would rather spend writing.

Today, as I gear up to leave tomorrow for Congregate in Greenville North Carolina, I have all of those things going on.  At least I’m looking forward to Congregate.

Cons are always fun.  They’re one of the few times I get to talk to readers.  Unlike writers who live in more heavily populated areas, and so often hit a different convention every weekend, out here in the Wild West, our choices are more limited.  But Congregate is going to be extra special for a couple of reasons.

One is that by purest chance, the other Writer Guest of Honor is someone I’ve known since I was a college undergraduate.  Charles E. “Chuck” Gannon and I started hanging out when he was newly graduated from college.  Once a week, he and a couple other friends would make the trip from Upstate New York to my dorm at Fordham University for our weekly RPG.  Chuck and I gamed together steadily for about six years – through my last years as an undergrad, and through my grad work.  And we’ve stayed in touch since.  At Congregate, we’re not only going to be present as Author Guests, we’re donning our gaming hats for a two-hour live RPG session.

I’m going to play a paladin devoted to Freya.  If the technical challenges can be handled (as our group’s bard assures us they can be), the game should be available as a podcast.  I’ll let you know.

Another great thing is that one of my best buddies and, just as an aside, co-authors – David Weber – is dropping by Congregate on Friday.  We’ll do a couple panels, including one about writing in the Honorverse, something I’ve done for several novellas and two novels (Fire Season and Treecat Wars).

A bunch of other friends are coming as well, so although this is probably not the best time for me to travel, I’m really looking forward to this con.  I hope some of you will be there, and I hope you’ll come by when I’m signing and introduce yourselves.

A friend said I should remind people who won’t be able to be at Congregate about a few of my 2018 writerly news items.  I’ll do that.

First of all, January saw the release of a new original novel: AsphodelAsphodel stretches the limits of traditional narrative – but what’s speculative fiction for, if not that?  Asphodel is short, so I hope you’ll take a chance on it.  I’m confident you won’t regret it.  Of Asphodel, Publisher’s Weekly said: “This curious blend of fanciful vignettes, real danger, and existential mystery wends a twisting, pleasurable way through the powers of imagination.”

Asphodel can be found as an e-book from all major retailers (Amazon, Nook, i-Tunes, Kobo, GooglePlay) and as a print version from Amazon.com.

There are also new e-book editions of all six Firekeeper novels.  In addition to the original novels, each e-book contains a short essay in which I chat about some aspect of the series.  Spoiler alerts are provided where necessary!

The early part of this year also saw the release of two new short stories: “Unexpected Flowers” in the May/June edition of Asimov’s and “A Green Moon Problem” in Lightspeed Magazine.

Coming up, hopefully soon, will be a new e-book edition of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls.  The cover art is by Patrick Arrasmith, who did the art for the Tor Orb edition, but features a surprise element.  This edition will also include an essay about the writing of this – my first published –novel.

Don’t worry.  I’m still immersed in writing Wolf’s Search (Firekeeper 7) and its yet-untitled sequel.  The stories are closely intertwined, so I’m writing both.  Then I’ll polish the first part and get it to you.  We’re still talking months down the road, but it’s definitely going to be faster than if I used the traditional publishing route.

Speaking of traditional publishing, October 2018 will see the paperback release of my 2015 novel, Artemis Invaded.  This is the sequel to the 2014 release, Artemis Awakening.

So, there you are…  Crazy Busy.  I’m hoping that the bad stuff dials back a bit, but this is a Real Writer’s Life.  Now, off to change that load of laundry, then go pack my Hawaiian shirt for Congregate.  Hope to see some of you there!

FF: Innocence

July 6, 2018

Good Bedtime Reading

Innocence is definitely related to what you need to worry about, or so seems to be the subtext of the stories I’m reading now.

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 Wicked + The Divine, graphic novel, by Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles.  Rereading at this point, volumes 1-4.  Waiting on five and six, which I think will take me beyond what I’ve already read.  Still intense and very good, although oddly innocent in light of current events.  I look forward to continuing.

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.

Growing Food in a Hotter, Dryer Land by Gary Paul Nabhan.  Very interesting.  I’ve been pleased about how many of the tricks he suggests I’m already aware of and use to my best capacity. Almost done.

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  Fourth in The Expanse series.  Enjoying to this point – although I’ve worried a lot about a couple newer characters.

Also:

Re-reading Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold.  Still.  Because I’ve been writing a lot.

So, Harlan Ellison Died, And…

July 4, 2018

Meeting with Readers

As most of you probably know, writer Harlan Ellison died last week.  This Wandering isn’t going to be about Harlan Ellison.  However, to talk about what I want to talk about, I need to tell you a story, so bear with me.

My first meeting with Harlan Ellison happened like this.  Roger Zelazny and I had gone to a party at World Fantasy Convention being hosted by friends of our agents, Kirby and Kay McCauley, who couldn’t be there themselves.  The party was not one of those back to back, belly to belly, things, but relatively small – probably a couple dozen people.

The room was set up with a long table around which a bunch of people were gathered talking.  There was also a sofa and a group of chairs arranged in a conversation group.  Roger and I came in and went to greet our hosts.  Then Roger grabbed a soft drink and slouched down on the couch to chat quietly.  By then, I’d recognized several of those at the table including some members of First Fandom, Julius Schwartz, and Harlan Ellison.

The conversation was about influential people in SF/F publishing, past and present.  I realized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear stories, so I knelt on the sofa, and turned around so I could both watch and listen.  Eventually, someone mentioned editor Cele Goldsmith, especially how many authors who would later go on to become prominent in the field had made one of their early sales to her.

A quiet young man who, like me, had just been soaking it all in, said softly, “She published Roger early, too.”  This was accompanied by a jerk of his head to where Roger had vanished into the sofa.  (The man could not sit up straight.)

Several people nodded agreement, but Harlan Ellison, whose back had been to the door, so he hadn’t seen Roger come in, said “Roger?  Roger who?” accompanying this with perfect mimicry of that jerk of the head.

The young man, his voice even softer, said, “Roger.  Roger Zelazny.”

With perfect showman’s timing, Roger unfolded himself and got to his feet, grinning.  Beaming in turn, Harlan Ellison jumped to his feet so fast his chair nearly went over.  He ran over to Roger, saying as he went, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are about to see a short fat man hug a tall thin one.”

Whereupon he gave Roger a bear hug and the party resumed.  That’s how I met Harlan Ellison.  In less than a minute, I saw both the acerbic, well, sort of a jerk, and the truly kind and genuine man about whose generosity of spirit I would hear tales for years to come.

But, as I said, this isn’t about Harlan Ellison.  It’s about meeting writers.  Imagine the impression Roger might have made if his presence hadn’t been noted.  Those who saw him enter but not join the general conversation might have thought him standoffish or obnoxious, when he was neither.  He was just a person who preferred to chat in small groups to large.

And me?  My reaction to Harlan Ellison stories would always be colored by that first encounter.   Because of that, I realized that both Harlan Ellisons – the jerk and the gentleman – were part of one complex human being.

Some writers are very easy to meet.  Some aren’t.

Unlike actors, writers aren’t trained to be someone personable.  Some writers are very good at putting on a show.  Often, if you look into their backgrounds, you’ll often find something that explains the skill.  They have acted.  Or – like David Weber – they had a job that taught them from an early age how to work with the public.  Some are simply more extroverted.  They write in shop windows or coffee houses, stimulated by the chatter around them.

That actor who cracks a joke with you while scribbling the signature you paid for probably won’t remember you five minutes later.  I will, or at least I will try.  If you become a regular, I’ll definitely try to learn about you.  Why?  Honestly, I prefer knowing people to impressing fans.

Impressing is hard.  As Steven R. Donaldson once commented while he and I and Walter Jon Williams were waiting to go on-stage for an  author event in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, the problem with author events is that most of the time, people don’t really want to meet you.  They want to meet your characters – and in some cases, they expect you to be your characters.

But I’m not Firekeeper or Blind Seer.  I don’t have a secret “identity character” who is “really me” hidden in my books.  (As, for example, James Joyce represented Steven Daedalus as “him” or Maud Hart Lovelace admitted that “Betsy” was based on her.)  I’m a writer who loves to write and enjoys sharing the stories.

When Harlan Ellison died, people started trotting out their favorite “Harlan stories.”  Many revealed the kindnesses he kept hidden because being perceived as “an angry young man” (even after he wasn’t very young) was very profitable for him.  It may even have protected the more vulnerable him.

I don’t have a persona.  I’m just me.  I write stories.  I try to be friendly, but I’m also, a human with opinions – some of which you might not agree with at all.  But at least I’ll remember that you are a person, too – not just a prop in my personal stage show.