Archive for August, 2019

FF: Extinction, Distinction, and Cloud Herders

August 30, 2019

Dandy Contemplates Sabertooths With Trepidation

Many thanks to those of you who came to my reading from the newest Firekeeper novel, Wolf’s Search, last Friday at Bubonicon.  I hope you enjoyed as much as I did!  Sorry about where I finished.  I promise, it wasn’t intentional. I really thought I’d finish the scene…

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:

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher (which is a pen name for Ursula Vernon).  If we don’t get rain soon, I’m going to follow this young mage’s example and go hunting for the Cloud Shepherds!

In Progress:

End of the Megafauna by Ross. D. E. MacPhee, with glorious illustrations by Peter Schouten.  Although intended for a general audience, the author relies on a glossary, rather than over-simplifying his topic.  So far well-organized and fascinating.

While Gods Sleep by L.D. Coulter.  I met the author (who also wrote “The Weight of Mountain” in DreamForge, issue two, at Bubonicon.  Decided to try a longer work.  So far, quite mythic!

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Still on the Philosopher Emperors.  I didn’t get a lot of listening time last week.

Also:

The expansion of some scenes in Wolf’s Soul also showed me a need for some new scenes.  I’m feeling pretty good about this so far.

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Weirdest Thing I Heard

August 28, 2019

The DreamForge Panel At Bubonicon

The weirdest thing I heard at Bubonicon this weekend weren’t Ursula Vernon’s tales of potatoes and her of exploration of the Dog Skull Patch.  It wasn’t even Alan Steele’s heart-stopping account of the fearsome Psycho Chicken, although that one (complete with sound effects) was pretty strange.

No, the weirdest thing I heard this weekend was this: “There’s a new Firekeeper novel?  I hadn’t heard!”

Now, before you think I’m a mad egoist who thinks that everyone spends all their time talking about me and my books, let me clarify.  Bubonicon is my hometown con.  Most of the people I heard this from were fans who regularly show up each year to buy my latest.  Many of them even are friends with people I know have bought Wolf’s Search.

So, set to the tune Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs,” “Here I go again!”

There’s a new Firekeeper novel out.  It’s called Wolf’s Search.  Yes.  It’s somewhat shorter than the Firekeeper novels of yore, but I explain the reasons why this is so hereWolf’s Search does have its own story arc, and if seeking to find one thing led to finding another thing, well, the way I see it, that’s how life works.  If you’d like to know more about where you can get Wolf’s Search, here’s a link to my post of about a month ago.  And here are a few of the FAQ that have come up since.

I’d really appreciate your help in pushing out the word that Wolf’s Search exists.  The help of Firekeeper’s Pack will keep me jazzed as I work on getting Wolf’s Soul ready to put in your hands.  Here’s how even the shyest of you can be part of the effort.

Weirdness aside, it was a fun Bubonicon.  Our friends Scot and Jane Noel, of DreamForge magazine, came out from Pennsylvania.   Our Saturday morning panel on DreamForge (which in addition to us included Emily Mah Tippetts, Sarena Ulibari, Lauren Teffeau, and Elizabeth Leggett) was amazingly well attended.   Someone told me we had sixty or so people in the audience!

I lucked into a programming schedule that, while busy, gave me time to wander around, chat with people, visit the art show, and tour the Dealer’s Room.  A special bonus event was when Jim and I were interviewed by Kevin Sonney for his highly popular “Productivity Alchemy Live” podcast.  I’ll let you know when that’s available.  It’s a rare interview in that both Jim and I are featured.

This weekend we also let our new kitten, Mei-Ling, have the entire spare room to herself while we were gone.  Monday night, we let her join the household.  She promptly discovered the cat tree on the porch and after valiantly battling the toys hanging from it (including hanging from her teeth in mid-air after biting into the felted fish Rowan made for our cats, then losing her balance), she tucked herself into the little cubicle where she could watch both indoors and out, while feeling secure.  To our amusement, two of our other cats, Persephone and Keladry, took turns babysitting Mei-Ling through the night.

However, this morning, Mei-Ling has apparently wandered off to another dimension.  Before I get back to work, I’m going to go see if I can find the secret portal so I can call her back for lunch.

Then it’s off to writing.  I did manage to get back into the flow of Wolf’s Soul last week before the con took over my life.  I’m looking forward to getting back to it today.

FF: I’ll Be Reading From Wolf’s Search!

August 23, 2019

Persephone Traps The Kindle!

Today begins Bubonicon!  Programming for me starts at 5:00.  You all voted, so I’ll be reading from Wolf’s Search!  I’ll also be taking questions and telling you about some future projects.  If you don’t get there in time, I hope you’ll drop by and say “hi” during the Mass Signing on Saturday.  As long as I’m not actively putting graffiti on people’s books, I enjoy chatting.

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:

Theater of Spies by S.M. Stirling.  Book Two in his series set in an Alternate World War I.  The first, in case you’re interested, is The Black Chamber.

In Progress:

Minor Mage by T. Kingfisher (which is a secret identity of one of Bubonicon’s Guests of Honor, Ursula Vernon).  After reading several novels focusing on the Big Picture of war and destruction, the adventure of a twelve year-old mage with only three spells (none of which are terribly devastating) is proof that the microcosm works as well as the macro for creating an absorbing story.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’re now to the Philosopher Emperors.  I admire how Durant has used the first portion of the book, which is focused on Rome in her various incarnations from the founding now into empire to show why, when Christianity began to spread, Rome was such a fertile field for it the new religion’s spread.

Also:

Wolf’s Soul is now moving along.  After re-reading what I’d written before I took my hiatus to get Wolf’s Search through production, I realized there was a lot in my head that hadn’t gotten into the text.  Now I’m actually writing it, rather than just imagining it!

Carrots, Tree Rings, And A Question

August 21, 2019

Kuroda and Black Nebula

I want to ask your opinion on something but, before I do so, there’s a horticultural experiment I forgot to report on last week.

This involves carrots.  The Black Nebula variety have proven magnificent.  They carry their dark purplish-black color right to the core.  Sometimes even the “greens” should be called “purple-blacks” instead.  The first time I noticed this, I was very startled.  For one worried moment, I thought we’d discovered a strange new virus.

Even when the Black Nebula greens stay green, they’re purple at the base, which definitely makes distinguishing which carrots are which a lot easier.   The guinea pigs fully approve of “purple-blacks,” which is a good thing, since we grow the carrots partly to share with them.

Our other new (to us) carrot was the Kuroda, which we tried because it’s supposed to be very good at handling heat.  So far, that’s proven true, and the carrot itself is quite tasty.  The greens (which are green) are more delicate than those of the Black Nebula.  Ziggy O’Piggy shows a slight preference for these, while Dandy likes those “purple-blacks.”

One thing I definitely learned this year is that what most catalogs mean when they say “handles heat well” is not the sort of heat we’ve been getting in New Mexico lately.  We’re still routinely hitting between 99 and 100 daily in our yard, dropping to 59 to 61 at night.  Forty degree temperatures shifts are confusing our plants to no end.

We tried four types of beans that were all supposed to be good with heat: Purple Queen (bush), Dragon Tongue (bush), Rattlesnake (pole), and Red Noodle (pole).  Only the Red Noodle, which are a liana variety, have thrived.  The rest have either refused to grow at all or have given up.  I think next year we’ll go with the Red Noodle or another liana variety, and skip bush beans entirely other than the tepparies.

This week we had to take down most of a catalpa tree I planted soon after I moved into the house.  Even with us watering it regularly, the stress of the increasing duration of hot days was too much for it.  It is trying to come back from the base, so we took it down in the hope that, without the rest of the trunk to support, it will make a comeback.  There are types of trees that do this and, as this is not a graft, we’d get the same variety, not the rootstock.

Although taking down a tree that we’d had for over twenty years was hard, doing so provided an interesting data point.  The tree rings showed conclusively the results of the hotter, dryer summers we’ve had lately.  Given that some of the inner rings (which are from further back in time) reflect before we were routinely watering the tree, this proves how much less useful rainfall we’ve experienced the last ten years or so.  By “useful,” I mean rain that the tree could draw upon.  Our soil is very sandy so, while a gully washer may give us a lot of moisture, much of it runs off or drains away before the plants can use it.

Catalpa Tree-Rings

Hmm…  I’ve gotten carried away here and nearly forgot to ask my question.  This week is Bubonicon, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  My first item of programming is Friday at 5:00 p.m., and it’s my reading slot.  I was thinking about reading from Wolf’s Search.  It will have been out only about six weeks by then, and I’m hoping that those in the audience who have read it wouldn’t mind.

Does that seem like a good plan?  I have a few short stories I could read, but I’m so immersed in Firekeeper and her world right now, that I’m eager to share this novel.  Copies will be available at the convention, so you won’t be left hanging.

Bubonicon’s schedule is now available on the web.  I hope I’ll see many of you there!

FF: Kitten Reveal!

August 16, 2019

Meet Mei-Ling!

Meet Mei-Ling, the newest member of our household.  She’s somewhere between two and three months old.  (She’s actually smaller than she looks in this photo.)  We adopted her from the Albuquerque Animal Shelter on Tuesday.  She’s a little shy yet, but very cuddly.  We hope she’ll eventually be a good playmate for Persephone, who has been missing Ogapoge, who we lost in late April.

Mei-Ling wants me to remind you about the other baby in our household.  This week marks one month from the official release of Wolf’s Search!  I am now sliding deeper and deeper into Wolf’s Soul.  I’ve also been spending some of my evenings working in the garden, and that’s cut into my reading time.

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:

Best Plants for New Mexico Gardens and Landscapes by Baker H. Morrow.   Microclimates are fascinating.  I started reading this for my garden and continued with my writing in mind.

In Progress:

Theater of Spies by S.M. Stirling.  Book Two in his series set in an Alternate World War I.  The first, in case you’re interested, is The Black Chamber.  About half-way in.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’re done with the “big name” emperors and taking a look at art, science, etc.  Just finishing art and architecture.

Also:

Re-reading and tinkering with bits of Wolf’s Soul as I move toward writing the final chapters.

Wolves, Gardens, And Cool Stuff!

August 14, 2019

Zinnias Uncaged!

This week, in addition to getting back into the storyline for Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to July’s new Firekeeper novel, Wolf’s Search, I did some work on another project (which I will tell you more about when the contracts are signed), saw a new depiction of Firekeeper (sneak peek below!), and assessed my garden.

As you may recall, Jim and I did a variety of experiments in our garden this year.  Now that it’s August, I’m trying to decide what worked and what didn’t.  Complicating matters were the depredations of a baby rabbit we dubbed Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt.

For those of you who have been in suspense, we did save the zinnias out front, and they are now looking marvelous.  As I suspected, once the leaves were large enough to get coarse and prickly, Frippery lost interest.   A greater availability of the wild plants that are a more usual part of his diet doubtlessly helped.  We’ve seen both him and PF “weeding” our front area’s gravel for us.  Nice to have helpful wild bunnies.

We tried several new varieties of beans this year.  Most didn’t really do well.  I think when catalogs say “good in heat,” they don’t mean New Mexico heat, and especially my yard.  However, a new variety of liana did great and we’ll definitely repeat.  Not surprisingly, given that they were originally bred by the indigenous peoples of Arizona, all three varieties of teppary bean have done fine and are beginning to set pods.

Well, except for those Frippery got to.  Those are a bit behind, and part of one row never did recover.

Our eggplant is doing pretty well.  Our squash (mostly zucchini) is thriving, so we’re giving up on what “everyone” told us to do, and will go back to planting in the early spring and simply praying the squash bugs don’t bother us.  Our peppers have been very slow.  I blame cooler than usual nights early in the spring.  However, some are finally coming on.

Tomatoes are mixed.  We’ve lost quite a number to curly top virus, but have enough to begin to decorate our salads.  And give the guinea pigs.  Ziggy’s new favorite food is tomato.

I’ll replant chard and arugula when daytime temperatures settle in the mid-nineties, rather than spiking over a hundred.  That should be coming soon, and hopefully we’ll have autumn greens.  The herbs are doing very well.  I have made the cats happy with lots and lots of catnip.  Soon I’ll be clipping basil to freeze for later pesto.

Speaking of growing projects of another sort (how’s that for a clever transition?), my friends at DreamForge magazine have announced a really cool new contest.

The topic is whether the current wealth of data that surrounds us is a good thing or not.  You can find more details at the link, but I’ll tell you right off: there is a cash prize, and the winning story will be published in the on-line edition of DreamForge Magazine.  Don’t forget, this means it will be accompanied by a full-color illustration, something increasingly rare these days.

This is also a good time to remind you that the first ever Firekeeper short story, “A Question of Truth,” will appear in the new issue of DreamForge.  The story is set before Wolf’s Search, so there won’t be any spoilers, but if you read it, you’ll know something that only Firekeeper and Blind Seer know!  It’s illustrated by Elizabeth Leggett, who gives her own twist to how the now early twenties, slightly more civilized, Firekeeper might look…

Elizabeth Leggett’s Illustration in DreamForge 3

DreamForge is only available by subscription.  They offer a variety of options including their lush print version, a combined print/digital version (for those of you who can’t bear to get fingerprints on your beloved magazines), and a quite affordable digital version.  Details are available here.

Now I’m off to pull out my colored pens and continue working on the reverse outline for Wolf’s Soul.  I got a bit worried last week that I wasn’t speeding along fast enough.  Then I realized I was tinkering and tightening along the way.  I can’t wait to start writing the thrilling concluding chapters.  Tune in next week and I’ll tell you if I managed!

FF: Mixed and Mingled

August 9, 2019

Dandy Goes To The Theater

This week my reading has been all over the place, which isn’t bad at all.  I’m enjoying hearing 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:

Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt.   A good mystery because the resolution doesn’t solve everything neatly, but instead offers some interesting moral ramifications.

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartolomew.  Sometimes it’s frustrating that writers about gardening automatically assume that anyone reading the book is in the same climate zone as them.  Still, I gleaned a few helpful bits from this, while feeling rather smug that the wheel the author seemed to think he’d invented has been in use here for centuries.

In Progress:

Theater of Spies by S.M. Stirling.  Book Two in his series set in an Alternate World War I.  The first, in case you’re interested, is The Black Chamber.  Just started.

Best Plants for New Mexico Gardens and Landscapes by Baker H. Morrow.   Microclimates are fascinating.  I started reading this for my garden and continued with my writing in mind.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’re done with the “big name” emperors and taking a look at art, science, etc.  It’s fascinating that, with so much to build on, the Romans didn’t make all that many advances.

Also:

I’ve been immersed in a lot of work toward future projects.  Stay tuned for official announcements…

Bopping From Topic To Topic

August 7, 2019

Goliath

This week’s Wandering is going dedicated to chaos.  First a public service announcement, then we’ll hop on the carousel and spin off to where Jane Gets Her Plots.  Warning…  To be permitted on this ride, you need to be able to handle illogical logic!

A recent piece of fan mail lifted my spirits by saying this about Wolf’s Search: “It’s been a long time since I read a Firekeeper book. In fact, I was fascinated at how you worked in things so I didn’t feel I was in too strange a world.”  Big grin!  I guess I achieved my nearly impossible goal of writing the seventh book in a series that doesn’t require a year of re-reading the six prior volumes before a reader can enjoy the new tale!

I’d like to thank those of you who have shared your enthusiasm for Wolf’s Search with me on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail.  Special thanks to those who have taken the time to share their thoughts on Amazon or other bookseller sites.  To a reader, my enthusiasm for my books is potentially suspect, so yours is very important!

Now for that carousel ride…

Late last week, I asked for suggestions as to what I might wander on about this week.  Nan Silvernail asked me to talk about carousels.  Later, Jack McDevitt said he’d like to hear something about how I come up with plots.  Today I’m going to do both…

Some of you might be wondering “Why did she ask about carousels?  I could see wolves or gardens or even guinea pigs, but carousels?”

Well, although I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that features a carousel in a major role, I’ve been a huge fan of carousels, quite possibly since I was pre-verbal.  I grew up in Washington, D.C., and was lucky enough to have parents who thought that taking the kids to the Smithsonian was a good thing to do.  On the Mall was an antique carousel.  Although we rarely got to ride it, we were allowed to stand and watch as it went around and around.

My enthusiasm for carousels was further fed by the collection of figures in what was then called something like the Museum of History and Technology.  For that reason, this was my second favorite of the Smithsonian museums.  (My first favorite was Natural History.)

When I went to Fordham University in New York for college, I had a chance to meet a whole new slew of carousels.  A perfect weekend jaunt was to go to Manhattan to the Complete Strategist gaming store, then for a ride on the carousel in Central Park.  One time I even went to an auction of a carousel collection.  They were impossibly expensive, but it was a once in a lifetime chance to see those figures.  I still have the catalog.

When I was in grad school, I purchased a fiberglass “carousel horse” on Canal Street.  The quotes are because this figure was never meant to be on a working carousel, but to be used as a store display piece.  Originally, my horse was just grey fiberglass but, after I moved to Virginia, I painted it with house paint.  Goliath—yes, named for the horse in the movie Ladyhawke—has been with me since.  In my yard, surrounded by Datura and Russian sage, resides Jerome Girard Giraffe.  He’s aluminum, and probably came off a decommissioned Mexican carousel.

Jerome Gerard Giraffe Among the Datura

Perhaps it’s not surprising that someone who loves carousels, which go round and round and up and down all at once, does not write in a linear fashion.  This definitely applies to how I come up with plots.  Basically, I don’t, at least not in advance.  Instead, I come up with a problem or several problems, then set out to find out how my characters will deal with them.  I don’t know the end of a story until shortly before I write it.  If I did, I’d get seriously bored and probably never finish it.

Character point of view is very important to how a story unfolds for me.  Firekeeper will see events one way, Laria or Ranz another.  None of these points of view are necessarily wrong.  I really enjoy immersing myself in different people, their values, priorities, and even shortcomings.

Organization comes both as I write and after.  As I am writing, I keep what I call a reverse outline that helps me keep track of the flow of time, and makes sure I don’t leave any point-of-view character out of the action for too long.  After I’m done writing a rough draft, I clean up stray bits that didn’t go anywhere and tighten my prose.

About the closest I come to outlining is to pull out crayons or colored pens and do freewriting exercises.  For these, I scrawl random elements from the novel on a blank sheet of paper, then draw lines between them, just to see if there are any links I’ve forgotten or overlooked.

Sometimes I have a revelation.  Other times the end result is just pretty, but at least I’ve had an excuse to play with my crayons.

Maybe I’d work differently if I wrote mysteries like Jack McDevitt’s Alex and Chase novels (I’m really enjoying Octavia Gone), and I needed to know the solution before my characters do.  However, working up an outline, even a very detailed proposal, doesn’t stimulate my creativity. It stops it.

This reminds me that I need to update the reverse outline for Wolf’s Soul, then maybe pull out those crayons and a stack of scrap paper and explore what’s going to happen when…  No.  I’m not teasing!  I really don’t know how the story is going to work out, and I’m very eager to learn.

FF: Baby Dove Inspiration

August 2, 2019

Keladry Critically Contemplates the Dog on the Cover

I just discovered that I’d missed a new book by Jack McDevitt, which makes me think getting the word out is harder than I ever imagined. So, if you missed my announcement about Wolf’s Search being out, I offer you a link.

Jim and I have had a lot of baby doves in our yard this year.  They only try to waddle away after we nearly step on them.  They prefer to look up at us hopefully from really enormous eyes, seeming to ask: “Are you my mother?”  This reminded me of a book I loved long, long ago.  So we took from the library and I gave Jim a dramatic reading.

I think this book might have been among those that inspired Terry Pratchett’s Where Is My Cow?  It has a similar progression of question and answer, although it does get weirder when the Snort appears.

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 your summer reads?

Recently Completed:

Alpha and Omega by Harry Turtledove.  A thoughtful book, less about the end of the world than about the more subtle question: “What would you do if what you do if…?”  To say more would involve spoilers!

Are You My Mother? by P.D Eastman.  See above for why I decided to re-read this.

In Progress:

Octavia Gone by Jack McDevitt.  Just started!

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.

Best Plants for New Mexico Gardens and Landscapes by Baker H. Morrow.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’ve gone through Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero,  Now we’re taking a look at poetry: epic, political, sacred, and profane.

Also:

The last Smithsonian I read was very oddly balanced.  Not that I didn’t find things to enjoy, but who would have expected two very quiet pieces on literary figures and landscape side by side with two on car culture?  With one about invasion Burmese snakes…