Archive for June, 2020

FF: Growing Up

June 26, 2020

Roary: Still Growing Up

Sometimes I mention that I’m reading a book not yet in print, and that I’ll tell you when it’s available.  That’s the case with Growing Up Meathead by James B. Zimmerman.  See under “Also” for more about this thoughtful not-just-for-kids book.

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.

Recently Completed:

Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Sequel to Trickster’s Choice.  Not a lightweight read, despite an overload of cute monsters.  I cried several times…

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Also published as The Dawson Pedigree.

In Progress:

The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan.  Audiobook.  Trials of Apollo, four.

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers.  As with her prior novel, a story in which timing is a key element.

Also:

Growing Up Meathead is a series of interconnected short stories based on the author’s own experiences as a boy figuring out what sort of person he wants to be.  “Meathead” is a well-earned nickname because, if there’s a dumb choice to make, Jimmy will make it.

Jimmy’s not a bad kid, a mad kid, nor is this one of those “problem” books that turned me off to so much in the “kids’ book” category, since every kid seemed to be dealing with Big Issues like drug abuse, gangs, or sexual abuse.  This is a book about being a kid: about dealing with peer pressure, about having a logic system with priorities completely alien to an adult mind.

The illustrations are by the author and, as the cover shows, don’t glamorize either Jimmy nor his life.  A bonus for me was that Jimmy is growing up in the same part of Maryland where I spent my summers!  (No, I didn’t know him then.)

Once Again, I Was Reminded

June 24, 2020

Supported By Portulaca

Once again, this past week, I was reminded that the best way for me to write is to set the bar very low and see what happens.   On Friday, smoke from fires in Arizona were making me very headachy.  That, combined with having to make numerous phone calls and other distractions, meant that by the time I was able to settle into writing, I thought I was too tired to get anything done.

Nonetheless, I kept a promise made to myself  long ago to try to write at least twelve sentences every work day.  Within an hour and a half, I had written an astonishing ten pages on SK4.

How I came up with twelve sentences as my personal “low bar,” was something I evolved back when I had had a fulltime job as a college English professor.  Something  Roger Zelazny said about his own work habits got me thinking and…   Well, I’ve wandered on about this before, so rather than repeating myself, I’ll just suggest you look here.

I don’t typically write ten pages a day, so I was completely astonished.  I was also reminded that being upset with myself because I don’t think I can make a “good day’s work” is the best way to keep myself from getting anything done at all.

On that note, after a public service announcement, I’ll be off to write some more.

It’s been a while since I reminded you and, knowing that many people don’t read these posts every week, I’d like to note that Wolf’s Soul, the eighth book in the Firekeeper Saga, is now available.  Wolf’s Soul winds up the story begun in last July’s Wolf Search.  I’ve been getting e-mails and messages from readers, as they finish reading the book.  I appreciate the overwhelming enthusiasm readers are showing for the direction in which Firekeeper and Blind Seer (with me as scribe) took their story.

If you are so inclined, we’d all appreciate spoiler-free reader reviews on the bookseller’s website of your choice.  Word of mouth is the best publicity a book can ask for.  In these days of isolation, word-of-electron is even more important.

Now…  Off to write!

FF: When Do You Read?

June 19, 2020

Mei-Ling and Roary Battle For the Throne!

Most of my reading these days takes place during a half-hour coffee break in the afternoon, and a little reading before bed.  Audiobooks are getting their major workout over the weekend when I’m doing crafts.  When do you 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.

Recently Completed:

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  While marketed as the first book in a new series, really one needs to have read the four volume Raven Cycle to get the full impact of this novel.  That caveat aside, I enjoyed it.

The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers with Robert Eustace.  A collaboration in which the collaborator provided the science behind the intricate mystery plot.

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers.   Complex plot with lashings of melodrama for flavor.

In Progress:

Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Sequel to Trickster’s Choice.  Not a lightweight read, despite an overload of cute monsters.

Also:

New magazines have come in, but I can’t figure out which one I want to read…

Thursday Triva

June 18, 2020

Summer Squash in Bloom

This is a picture of one of our summer squash in bloom.  We quite admire them, and appreciate that soon we’ll have the basis for a delicious stir-fry or curry!

There’s a common southwestern jewelry pattern called a “squash blossom” that, in fact, doesn’t depict a squash blossom at all.

Do you know what flower it actually is depicted on a squash blossom necklace?

Microcosmic Drama

June 17, 2020

Teeny-Tiny Toad (actual size 1/4 inch)

Jim and I have a very small pond in our yard: 125 gallons empty, a lot less water when one accounts for displacement from plants (blue pickerel weed, aquatic plantain, underwater grass) and the dirt they hold, creating a little marshy section at one end.

Nonetheless, it has become the key element in the miniature ecosystem that is our yard.  One of the many native creatures that benefits from it are New Mexico Spadefoot toads.  This year, we have an ebullient population of tadpoles that are in the process of turning into toads.

The toadlings are super tiny (less than a quarter inch) and easily mistaken for insects.  Until we started watching them go through the various stages from black dots to “Hey, I have legs!”, I never realized all the hazards they face.

Monday morning, I saw a teeny-tiny toad hopping from boulder to boulder that is the small gravel around our pond.  I scooped it up, intending to either to either place it back into the water or into shelter under one of the spreading squash leaves.  To my horror and astonishment, I discovered that it was being attacked by ants.

Not big ants either.  Two really little ones.  One ant each had grabbed each hair-sized hind leg (actually, hair-sized is probably too large) and was holding fast.  Being on the side of the toads, I dropped the toadling into the pond, where it succeeded in kicking loose the ants and diving under a lily leaf.

I think I’ll lower the water level a few inches to keep ambitious toadlings from hopping out until they’re a wee bit larger.

Yeah.  I can’t save them all or the world.  I know ants need to eat, too, but there’s plenty for the ants to eat without eating toads.

Silly?  Sure.  But then, I write books for a living.  Do you expect me not to be silly?

Saturday Snuggle

June 13, 2020

Roary and Dawg

Many, many years ago, when David Weber and Sharon Rice-Weber were visiting, they brought us a goody basket.  The goodies are long consumed, but the basket has been a favorite snuggle spot for many generations of cats.  Roary discovered it last week. Mei-Ling used it as a bed when she first came to us at about fourteen weeks old, so it likely smells like his best pal.

Mei-Ling in Basket

FF: Less Famous

June 12, 2020

Princess Persephone (See Below for Which Princess)

I’m as guilty as the next reader of trending toward one element of a writer’s work.  As a writer, I’m often saddened that readers who loved Changer won’t touch the Firekeeper Saga or those who came to me from Firekeeper only want more Firekeeper.

But I can be just as contrary.  What I’ve learned though is that often a writer’s atypical books are some of that writer’s best, precisely because they’re outside of the grove.  Patricia McKillip’s Science Fictional Fool’s Run is phenomenal.  David Weber’s early Path of the Fury remains one of my favorites of his.  (Hmm…  Maybe a re-read is in order?)

So this week I’m giving Peter Wimsey and Albert Campion a break, and am reading one of Dorothy L. Sayer’s less well-known works.

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.

Recently Completed:

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham.  Musical theater and country house combine to make an interesting setting for this tale of not-so-accidental death.

Whose Body by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Her first featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.

In Progress:

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  So far interesting…

The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers with Robert Eustace.  A collaboration in which the collaborator provided the science behind the intricate mystery plot.

Also:

Mostly immersed in writing on SK4.

Persephone Enacts “The Princess and the Pea”

Where Did You Learn What?

June 10, 2020

Roary and Fordham Ram

I have several absolutely charming younger relatives who are in college right now.  Covid-19 sent them back from attending college away from home—or in one case, may keep him from going away to college next year.  They’re all smart.  All academically gifted.  They are definitely equipped to learn remotely.

But I find myself thinking about all the lessons I learned that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t gone away to college.  One of the most important was learning how to deal with difficult people.  While I had many terrific roommates (shout out to Sue Koss, Kathy Curran, Rosemarie Connors, and Gloria Gonzalez, among others), I also had some ugly experiences as well.  These included three older girls coming into my room one night and trying to intimidate me into moving out.

Yes, Old Debbie, New Debbie, and Chris, I haven’t forgotten how you came to my bedroom doorway (we were in an apartment-style dorm) when you knew Sue was away and told me I should move out, ending with, “Do you really want to live with people who HATE you?”

I hope you remember this incident, too, and burn with shame that you could do that to an eighteen-year-old away from home for the first time, right after her parents had just split.  Why?  Because you wanted my space for one of your pals.

While that was the worst and most dramatic incident, it wasn’t the only such nasty event.

But I learned from it and, to this day, I know I can deal with bullies.

I learned to manage my time, a skill which remains incredibly valuable.  I learned to manage my money.  Ditto.  I learned how to interact with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of posts, because if I didn’t, there was no one I could turn to.

I realize in this day and age of cellphones and helicopter parenting, your average college students aren’t as thrust upon their own resources as I was, but still, I’d like to think that most college students want to try to solve their own problems before scurrying off to the folks.

There are other things I learned.  I was exposed to books and music that had nothing to do with my lessons, but which certainly shaped who I have become.  I learned that there are a lot of different sorts of family dynamics.  I heard wonderful anecdotes.  I played a lot of AD&D and Traveller.  I made decisions about drinking and drugs that had nothing to do with whether or not I’d get “caught.”

I learned a lot in college, both in the classroom and out.  Where did you learn your most valuable lessons?  I’d love to hear from the commuters, too!

FF: Where I Turn

June 5, 2020

Tricky Furball in My Sink

It’s been an insane week, one in which I’ve been grateful for the chance to escape into a good book.

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.

Recently Completed:

Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham.  A locked strong room mystery tied to a disappearance many years before.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Excellent and compelling—and surprisingly on-target in some of its elements, especially when addressing the current state of affairs.  A trickster with an agenda certainly would explain a lot.

In Progress:

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham.  Musical theater and country house combine to make an interesting setting for this tale of not-so-accidental death.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  I’ve been waiting for this one since it was first announced.  Features the Ronan and his brothers from her “Raven Boys” series with, so far, only cameos from the other characters.

Also:

Preparing packages containing Wolf’s Soul, signed and personalized, to go out in the mail.

Wolf’s Soul Copies Have Arrived!

June 3, 2020

Roary Romps With the Wolves

After storm and flood and wild, windy weather, my copies of Wolf’s Soul have arrived.  This means that those of you who wanted to order copies directly from me can now do so via my website bookshop.

I offer signing and personalization at no additional charge.  Prices include shipping via Media Mail.

While you’re there, you can take a look at other books I have available.  Especially as some of my earlier novels are becoming harder and harder to find, if you’re looking for a not-previously read copy, my bookshop may provide you with a most reasonably priced option.  Many of the books offered are first edition, first printing, and in excellent condition considering how many years have gone by since they were first published.

(There are advantages to living in a dry climate!)

I’m slowly updating other elements of my website as well, but my first priority is writing.  The fourth book in the Star Kingdom series is moving along nicely, so administrative chores come second to writing more about Stephanie and Lionheart, in the early days of contact between humans and treecats on Sphinx.

So, off to write!  Catch you later…