Archive for January, 2021

FF: Mysteries of Content

January 29, 2021
The Mysterious Roary

Tomorrow (1-30-21, at 7:00 PM Central Time), I’ll be chatting with The Royal Manticoran Navy via Zoom.  My hosts have let me know that anyone is welcome.  Although we’ll certainly talk about my work with David Weber and in the Honorverse, I’ve been told there will be questions about Firekeeper, my other works, as well as about writing in general.

Time is 7:00 PM Central Time, and here’s the link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87522728998?pwd=VVhoVEFKVndVRVpUazR4ZTV6SU1mZz09

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.

Recently Completed:

There Is A Tide by Agatha Christie.  An Hercule Poirot. 

Thirteen At Dinner by Agatha Christie.  An Hercule Poirot.  (I prefer the original title: Lord Edgeware Dies since the “thirteen” element is very minor.)

Cards On The Table by Agatha Christie.  Features Hercule Poirot, Ariadne Oliver, and Inspector Battle.  I think this is the book that introduced Mrs. Oliver, a character I love.

In Progress:

The Realm of the Gods: Immortals Book Four by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.   This one is long as Daine and Numair get stranded, then trudge through the Immortals Realm, trying to get home to their war-torn nation.

A not yet in print T. Kingfisher!!!

Also:

Back issues of Vogue.  I started getting this magazine because some high fashion is remarkably SF or Fantasy in feel, and because they feature a wide range of types of people in their photos.  I was pleased to discover that there’s some thoughtful reporting, too.  I like to stretch my brain by reading about things that aren’t part of my lifestyle.

Anniversary Cranes

January 27, 2021
Sandhill Cranes Reflecting

This past Monday was Jim and my twenty-fourth wedding anniversary, which really isn’t too bad for a late-in-life marriage.  (He was forty-four, I was ten years younger.)

We decided to spend the day together, doing something off our usual routine.  I’d read a nice article by Jon Knudsen about the Ladd S. Gordon Complex, about an hour’s drive south of Albuquerque, and we decided to give that a try, especially since there was a driving tour trail.

Since I have asthma, and Jim is recovering from knee replacement surgery, we’ve been very careful about social distancing, so an outdoor outing in winter, when we were not likely to run into crowds, seemed about perfect.

The weather was cool and overcast as we bundled ourselves, a picnic lunch, and a thermos of coffee into Jim’s SUV.  On the way down, we chatted and looked at the landscape, which was beautiful in the bleak and barren way of winter in the southwest, where you see the bones of the earth barely covered by vegetation.  On this particular day, when clouds from an impending snowstorm were scuttling back and forth, the sky provided a vivid and lively contrast.

When we arrived, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  I think we saw a total of five other vehicles as we slowly drove the three mile the touring loop.  At first it seemed as if the birds had all gone away as well.  Then we found out where they were hanging out, and Jim’s camera went to work.

Sandhill Cranes Among the Trees

I enjoyed seeing how the cranes used the different elements in their environment, especially how well they blended into the trees, which is something I’d never really considered before.

At the final end of the loop, hundreds of cranes were busy foraging in the cropped fields.  Most faced one direction, but in every group there would be one—I presume a look-out—facing the other way.  As we left, I suppressed an urge to wave and say “We’ll be back!” but I feel very sure that we will.

Sandhill Crane in Flight

Keeping Unmuddled

January 22, 2021
Persephone Dreams Leopard Dreams

One of the perennial questions writers are asked is “Do you read when you’re writing?”  My answer is “Yes.  I must read to write.”  However, what I read varies according to what I’m writing and what stage of writing I’m in.  Right now, I’m about to immerse myself in deep editing of the expanded draft of my Library of the Sapphire Wind.  Therefore, most of my reading will be shifting to re-reading, as well as not Fantasy or SF, to keep my mind unmuddled.

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.

Recently Completed:

Emperor Mage: Immortals Book Three by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Stronger than the prior, dealing with consequences of the abuse of power.  Daine get another new magical trick, but she also has to consider the consequences of using it.

DreamForge Magazine, Issue Seven.  The last of this format of the magazine.  Very strong throughout, with an excellent mixture of stories and themes.

Murder With Mirrors by Agatha Christie.  I prefer the original British title: They Do It With Mirrors, as it actually makes sense.  A Miss Marple.

In Progress:

 The Realm of the Gods: Immortals Book Four by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  

There Is A Tide by Agatha Christie.  An Hercule Poriot. 

Also:

Lots of magazines came in with January, both those lost in the December mail, and January’s own. 

Eleven Years Wandering

January 20, 2021
Skinny the Thrasher Getting Ready to Dive In

Eleven years ago saw a different inauguration: the official start of my Wednesday Wanderings column.   In that time I’ve introduced you to little snippets of my world, including folks like Skinny the Thrasher, PF the Rabbit, and various of the co-residents of my house.  These include, always present, usually off-stage, my husband of almost twenty-four years, archeologist, Jim Moore.

Jim is responsible for just about all the photos you’ve enjoyed.  If you’ve liked my writing, he’s there, too, as my first reader, and patient sounding board.  Why patient?  Well, unlike some writers, who will tell you everything about their book, the universe, and all the rest, I don’t like talking about a book before it’s done and as good as I can make it.

This means that Jim gets sentences read to him with a minimum amount of context, or asked really weird things, like “Which [made up] name sounds cooler to you?”  Or “Do you think it’s okay if I skip to… Oh, never mind.  It would take too much for me to explain it.   Thanks!”

In this year of pandemic, where Jim and I have been shut down and in with each other, I’ve been more grateful than ever to have him as my partner in life and creativity.  Even more fun, Jim’s picked up the manuscript of a novel he wrote before I ever met him, and is working on it again, so we’re having a good time talking writing as art and craft as it applies to him, too.

In these eleven years I’ve talked to you all about writing quite a lot.  Some of these wanderings about writing are collected in my book, Wanderings on Writing, available as both a print and e-book.  The last year has seen my website bookshop much updated, and I’m happy to remind you that you can get many of my books, especially the older, almost impossible to find, ones, directly from me.

On Fridays, you can tune in for the Friday Fragments, tell me what you’re reading and see what I’m reading.  Some people think they can get ideas as to what I might be working on from my reading list.

For seven of these eleven years, Alan Robson and I collaborated on the Thursday Tangents, in which brought our cross-cultural perspectives to a wide variety of topics.  You can download some of these, for free, here as e-books in mobi and epub formats.

Now I’m off to write…  Next week, quite possibly more birds and a look at recent projects.

FF: Myriad

January 15, 2021
The Mysterious Mei-Ling

Lots of reading this week, mostly shorter works.  I’m also writing.

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.  I’ve discovered a lot of good books that way.

Recently Completed:

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon).  Mona is a minor mage with a gift for working with dough.  Lovely imagery and a gripping, if sometimes a bit improbable, plot.

Nine Goblins: A Novella by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursual Vernon). Quirky characters which is good, given that this is an extremely character-driven plot, and an antagonist who is terrifyingly amoral.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin by Agatha Christie.  A re-read of one of my favorite Agatha Christie works.  This series of interconnected short stories are based on the idea that we see events more clearly after time has passed.  Added bonus: the belief that age has value in giving perspective.

In Progress:

Emperor Mage: Immortals Book Three by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  By odd coincidence, a book about dealing with the aftermath of violence altercation that was never quite a declared war.

DreamForge Magazine, issue seven.  One of the missing magazines!

Also:

All but one of our missing magazines has shown up!

Return of Skinny the Thrasher

January 13, 2021
Skinny Among the Chocolate Flower

A while back, when I asked for suggestions as to what I should put in upcoming Wednesday Wandering posts, I had several requests for an update on Skinny the Thrasher.

Who’s Skinny?  You can read about him here and here, as well as in other posts about our local wildlife.

Upon being requested, Skinny, in the way of wild creatures who are not being paid modeling fees, promptly vanished. (Actually, it probably had more to do with our taking a hiatus from putting out a birdseed block after a squirrel ate almost all of the last one in just over a week.)

However, Skinny’s been around lately, enjoying both the birdseed and suet from the new suet feeder the cats gave to Jim for Christmas.  He’s been joined by some of our winter residents, including two (sometimes as many as six) scrub jays.

Scrub Jay At the Suet Feeder

We’d been concerned that they’d get competitive with each other, but we’ve seen them sitting on the same tree limb, although Skinny often goes to check out where the jays have been perched after they move along.

Fox Sparrow: Close up

We also are delighted to have a plethora of smaller birds, including fox sparrows and two types of juncos (dark-eyed and gray-headed).  Since we leave those plants, we’ve seen the birds foraging from in place for much of the winter, our avian co-residents don’t just use the feeders, but also continue their natural eating habits.

Female Junco By the Yarrow

Jim’s responsible for all the pictures featured here (as well as on my blog in general), so he and the birds get the credit for this week’s bit of brightness.  Take care!

FF: Yep! Still Reading.

January 8, 2021
Roary: Now Nine Months Old

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.  I’ve discovered a lot of good books that way.

Recently Completed:

Armenian Folk-tales and Fables retold by Charles Downing.  I enjoyed the translator’s note at the beginning.  Bonus: At the end of the book is a list of short proverbs.  Great windows into a society’s values.

Wolf Speaker: Immortals Book Two by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Daine is a year and a half older, and racking up the magical abilities as fast as she can concentrate.  Warning for wolf purists: the wolves are more like dogs in their body language, with a culture built more around human idealizations of wolves than “real” wolves. 

In Progress:

Emperor Mage: Immortals Book Three by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  By odd coincidence, a book about dealing with the aftermath of violence altercation that was never quite a declared war.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon).  Mona is a minor mage with a gift for working with dough.  Lovely imagery and a gripping, if sometimes a bit improbable, plot. 

Also:

We discovered that three of our December magazines did not arrive in December when January issues started showing up. 

Worth Taking Time To Think

January 6, 2021
The Scrub Jay Of Happiness

I’m coming back from taking off most of the last couple of weeks from writing, but that doesn’t mean I took that time off from creating.  Giving myself permission not to write gave me a chance to meditate on various elements in the novel that I’m currently revising and expanding.

For a while there, my creative zone felt as if it had been packed with solidified honey.  Good stuff.  Sweet stuff.  But too much stuff.  Even after I eliminated various projects—getting the fourth Star Kingdom novel (with David Weber) turned in to Baen; writing an introduction to a forthcoming anthology; doing final edits on a forthcoming short story—I still felt stuck.  I couldn’t even do much with organizing elements for my current roleplaying game scenario, which is usually my “play” writing.

A week into my “break,” I started feeling the words loosening up.  I took out my new fountain pen and worked on a short but essential element for the novel.  Staying away from my computer preserved the sense of freedom, and consequently I found my creativity loosening up.

Over Christmas week, I used the occasional idle moment to mentally continue a debate I’d been having with myself over an aspect of world-building, and finally resolved it.  Then I moved on to another element, which I resolved last Monday.

Now I’m slowly easing myself back onto my computer and into the text.  As an encouraging indication that my creativity is no longer gummed up, I also found ideas for my game coming more rapidly.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it.  In a day and age when “productivity” is too often measured by word count, it’s worth remembering that those words only “count” if they’re good words, the right words, the best words.  And that may mean taking time away from words, back into dreams, into ideas, into ideals, to where your stories come from so you can write your best.

One Won Twenty-one

January 1, 2021
Mei-Ling Is Ecstatic Over My Christmas Book

Happy New Year!  Featured above is the Christmas book I curled up with last week.   I hope you managed to chill from the holiday rush as well.

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.  I’ve discovered a lot of good books that way.

Recently Completed:

The White Cottage Mystery by Marjorie Allingham.  This was a Christmas gift from Jim, an early, pre-Campion novel.  It’s a good story in its own right, with the extra bonus of seeing how it’s first life as a magazine series influenced the style, and even things like paragraph length.

Wild Magic: Immortals Book One by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  It’s funny, but I like Alana a lot better in these books than I do in her own series. 

In Progress:

Armenian Folk-tales and Fables retold by Charles Downing.  I enjoyed the translator’s note at the beginning.  I’m about a third in.  Armenian heroes definitely have the best horses.

Wolf Speaker Immortals Book Two by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Daine is a year and a half older, now facing the consequences of a dark time in her past.  Warning for wolf purists: the wolves are more like dogs in their body language, with a culture built more around human idealizations of wolves than “real” wolves. 

Also:

I’ve been doing a lot of unstructured writing, testing out my new pens and loosening up my writing.  Feels good.