Archive for August, 2018

FF: Between Books

August 31, 2018

Kel in the Tub with Jherg and Teckla

I just finished my current read and have been busy editing, so I haven’t started a new one…  So, tell me what you’re reading!

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:

The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  Yes.  I did get them out of order!

Jherg by Steven Brust.  Re-read, but it’s been a long time.  Fast-paced, wise-cracking adventure tale.

Teckla by Steven Brust.  Re-read.  Introspective.  Vlad’s wife makes a choice that may destroy both her and their marriage.  I found it gripping, but it’s about as different from Jherg as possible.

In Progress:

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  Just starting.

Also:

Not too much.  A variety of articles in Smithsonian and elsewhere.

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Toby the Frog

August 29, 2018

I Read Aloud While Matt and Bob Listen

For those of you who didn’t get enough of me talking this weekend at Bubonicon, this Saturday, September 1, I will be giving a presentation for Southwest Writers.  My topic is “Work Habits for Successful Writers.”  It will be followed by a Q&A.  Bring your questions, the more difficult the better!

Some of my books, including my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing (which talks about writing the art, craft, and lifestyle) will be available for purchase.  I will also have copies of Asphodel, which sold out early in Bubonicon’s Dealer’s Room.

My talk is open to the public, and you can get details as to location here.  A small note: The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m., but I will not go on until sometime closer to 11:00.  There is a business meeting before.  You might enjoy attending the meeting as a window into an active writer’s group whose offerings include, among other things, lectures and conferences.

As I mentioned above, this past weekend I attended Bubonicon.  For the second year in a row, Bob Vardeman, Matt Reiten, and I offered ourselves as victims – oops, I meant “participating authors” – in the Snack Writes writing exercises panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.

How it works is like this.  Josh provides a short prompt, then we have five minutes to write what we can in that time.  Audience members are encouraged to do the same.  Then, after time is called, the panelists are required to read what they have managed to write in that time.  (That’s why we’re the victims.  We don’t get to bow out.)  Then audience members are given the choice to read what they have come up with.  Usually, several bravely take the option.

What amazes me about this exercise is how different the responses are.  Let me give one example.  For this one, Josh asked the audience to come up with a genre, a character, a setting, a prop, and a line that had to be used in the course of the story.

The audience gave us the following: medical mystery, Toby the Frog, library, candlestick, and “What the…”

When I started writing, my thought was that surely everyone’s pieces would be very similar.  Weren’t the choices obvious?  Well, about the only thing that recurred was that the library was dark, thereby requiring the use of a candle.  Otherwise, the little pieces were wildly different.

I’ve met a lot of would-be writers over the years who defeat themselves before they get started because they fear they have nothing unique to offer.  A group exercise like this one is very encouraging, since it shows just how different people’s life experiences shape how they will approach the same creative stimulus.

Here’s what I wrote:

“What the…”  Joe’s voice trailed off in barely concealed shock and disbelief.

The library was dark except for the light from a single candlestick that illuminated the body of Asby, the young and overly-eager medical student.  Toby the Frog stood over her, a long needle in one webbed foot, a scalpel in the other.  His wide mouth hung open and he was laughing maniacally.

“Toby!  What have you done?”

“Huh!  See how she likes being pithed!  Wait until I slash her open and examine each of her organs, commenting snidely on her dietary habits and the health of her liver.”  [Time called]

For me, the combination of medical mystery and Toby the Frog came together with a traumatic moment from high school biology.  Even as I was writing my piece, I’m thinking: “Everyone is going to do pithing a frog or dissection.  I mean, it’s the obvious link between ‘medical’ and a ‘frog.’”  Guess what.  No one else even came close.

So, just remember.  You’re a unique voice.  That’s becoming harder to value in this day and age when it’s considered smart to pitch your work by comparing it to someone else’s work.  If that’s what you want, fine.  But feel free to feel to present yourself as original, too.  After all, you are!

FF: Pumas, Rats, and Jheregs

August 24, 2018

Sand Shadow by Rhari

Breaking with the usual illustration format for this post, I just had to share this picture of Sand Shadow (from Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded) by Canadian artist, Rhari.  (Take note of the thumb!)  It makes me grin every time I look at it.  I hope it makes you grin, too!

This weekend is Bubonicon (whose mascot is the rat, Perry Rodent).  I’ll be there at least Friday and Saturday.  I hope to see you.

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.

I’ve enjoyed hearing what people are reading.  So varied and eclectic!

Recently Completed:

To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust.  The writing style is a complex mingling of sword and sorcery tropes heavily seasoned with Milton.  The plot contains only one “bad guy,” and he’s not the one you’d expect going in.

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

An Excellent Mystery by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  A personal favorite.

In Progress:

The Pilgrim of Hate by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  Re-read.  Yes.  I did get them out of order!

Jhereg by Steven Brust.  Re-read, but it’s been a long time.  I’m not usually into novels about assassins, but Vlad is a bit different from the more usual coldhearted, brooding, emotionally tormented stereotype.

Also:

Not too much.  A few articles in the latest SFWA Bulletin.

Hold Music

August 22, 2018

Ziggy Relaxes

The last week has been too full, so that right now I don’t have the mental energy to come up with a tidy little essay.

I hope that by next week things will have quieted down.

For those of you who will be attending Bubonicon, I hope to be there on Friday and Saturday.  Friday, I’ll be reading my latest Prudence Bledsloe story: “Dost Make Thee Mad.”  I’m also on a panel right after Opening Ceremonies.  Saturday, I have a couple of panels, and will be there for the mass signing.  Sunday I may or may not attend, so if you want anything signed, be sure to come to the mass signing.

For now, I leave you with a picture of Ziggy O’Piggy, relaxed and enjoying her personal armchair.

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.

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.