Archive for May, 2021

FF: Revision Immersion Continues

May 28, 2021
Dandy Dandelion Reads

I’m quite happily working on my editor’s notes for Aurora Borealis Bridge.  Whenever I’m in my “editor brain” I read differently, often hyper-critically.  In this case, because I’m both editing and writing new material, I’m definitely in an odd space.

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:

Hummingbird Wizard by Meredith Blevins.  Despite the title, a mystery with light brushstrokes of magical realism rather than a fantasy.

Poirot Abroad by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  A new combination of short stories in which the setting is supposed to be “abroad,” but they really stretched the justification, since most stories are still set in England.

The Golden Ball and Other Stories by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Another compilation collection.  The first part are mostly Wodehousian romps, often with a ne’er do well young man as protagonist.  The second part was taken from her supernatural verging on horror collection The Hound of Death and other stories. 

In Progress:

Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers.  Picks up with the characters from Powers’ Alternate Routes whose experiences in that novel have reshaped them so that, whether they want to be or not, they are now linked to a world where the supernatural is now part of their nature.  (So is it “super” natural anymore?)

Bloodline by Dick Francis.  Audiobook.  A FF Reader recommended author!!!

Also:

Reading in the newly created DreamForge Anvil.  This format combines “writer tips and examination of process” with stories.  I’ll admit, I’m not reading anything but the stories. 

Talk to Me!

May 26, 2021
Mei-Ling!

The other day, someone asked me what was the most difficult thing I’d written.  The answer came easily…  These Wednesday Wanderings.

Why?  After over ten years, they’re starting to feel far too much like shouting down a well.  Sometimes I get a faint echo, but most of the time my words vanish into the depth.  Have I bored you or are my cats simply not cute enough?  <grin>

I very much appreciate those of you who react in some way, especially those who comment, but even those who take the time to hit a reaction button on Facebook or Twitter, where these are also posted.

I’m not looking for praise or evidence of devotion or anything.  Actually, I’d simply like to know what you’d like to hear about.  From time to time, I think about addressing one of the trendy topics of the moment, but that seems like inviting argument.

I’m very good at arguing, but I don’t particularly enjoy it.   Especially on social media, most of the time, those who want to argue have already made up their minds, so it’s a waste of energy, energy I’d rather spend writing.

Speaking of writing, last Friday I finished the editor’s notes for Library of the Sapphire Wind, which will be coming out Spring 2022, the first part of the “Over Where” duology.  It was a good process, and I think the book is a lot stronger for the revision—and I’m arrogant enough to say I thought it was pretty darn good before that!

This week, I’ll be diving into revising Aurora Borealis Bridge, which is the second part of the story.  The revised manuscript is due in by July 4th.  I want to get started at once because, as the death of my good friend Jan Stirling reminded me yet again, a tomorrow we can plan for is not promised to us, only hoped for.

So, talk to me…  I’d like to feel like I’m talking to at least one interested person, not just shouting down a well.

FF: Sinking Back Into

May 21, 2021
Persephone Is Sourcerous

This week I’ve managed to sink back into my writing, but still finding time to 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.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Winter-themed short story collection.  Material includes a bit where Agatha Christie talks about the Christmas banquets she remembers from her childhood (and which were the setting for her novel, The Affair of the Christmas Pudding).

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett.  Set relatively early in the Discworld, all the wizards except for the Librarian and Rincewind have very little individuality, which weakens the impact of a story in which the wizards are offered power beyond their wildest dreams. 

In Progress:

Hummingbird Wizard by Meredith Blevins.  Despite the title, a mystery with light brushstrokes of magical realism rather than a fantasy.

Poirot Abroad by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  A new combination of short stories in which the setting is supposed to be “abroad,” but they really stretched the justification, since most stories are still set in England.

Also:

Finishing up various magazines.

A Roaring Year

May 19, 2021
Roary Celebrates One Year Here

On May 13th, we celebrated a full year since Roary came into our lives as a seven-week-old medical foster.  (See here for when he first arrived.)

The term “foster fail” is very popular right now, so I want to make clear—this wasn’t a “foster fail.”  We intended to keep Roary from the start.  The only things that would have stopped our plans were if he turned out to be unhappy in our home, or our home (which includes other cats, as well as guinea pigs) was unhappy with him.  This didn’t happen. 

To our great delight, Roary not only proved to be everything we wanted—most especially a friend for shy Mei-Ling—but he also exceeded expectations.  He was a gentle companion to our elderly Kwahe’e, bringing a lot of joy to Kwahe’e’s final four months.  Even better, Roary convinced temperamentally-chaotic Persephone that he would make a great playmate. 

Interestingly, after spending the first two months of his life restricted to our spare guinea pig hutch (unless we could supervise him), Roary seems to have a lot of family feeling for Dandelion and Coco, our two guinea pigs. 

Roary and Mei-Ling: Great Pals

As a pandemic adoption, Roary’s new challenge is getting used to the idea that humans other than me and Jim can come into the house.  He was definitely spooky the first few times visitors came by, but to our great delight, Sunday night, when our gamers came over, he made a point of looking them over.  After they left, I saw him methodically sniffing where they had been sitting. 

Jim’s theory—and I agree—is that Roary got used to our gamers’ voices during the months we gamed via Zoom.  Therefore, even though they add four lively people to the household, they are less threatening than those humans who he didn’t get a chance to familiarize himself with, at least as sounds. 

We hope that once he learns that the gamers are actually potential admirers and friends, he’ll decide other guests are fine as well.  Certainly, the fact that Persephone likes guests should help. 

And who knows? Maybe Roary will even convince Mei-Ling to show her delightful bossy side to someone other than me and Jim.

FF: Death and Memory

May 14, 2021
Roary Approves

Last week, my very good friend, Jan Stirling died.  I met her and Steve (aka S.M.) when they moved to Santa Fe, shortly after Roger died.  For some weird reason, they decided to befriend  solidly depressed me.  In addition to repeatedly inviting me over for meals and to watch mini-series (during which I was certain to start crying), they loaned me their entire collection of Terry Pratchett novels.  Even in 1994, this was a lot of books to trust to a near stranger, but Jan went out to their not-yet-completely unpacked library and handed over an entire box.

Trying to cope with losing Jan (who was one of the sweetest, smartest, most dryly funny people you’d ever have the good fortune to know), I decided to once again enlist Terry Pratchett, especially his take on Death (which is also a take on living well), so you’ll see his Reaper Man in the list below.

Featured in the picture with Roary is a new edition of Roger’s A Night in the Lonesome October.  This one has Gahan Wilson’s art on the front and back covers.  Roger always wanted Gahan Wilson to do the cover art (he did the interior art), so I’m very happy to see this and wanted to share.

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:

Juniper Wiles by Charles deLint.  DeLint’s first novel set in Newford for a long time.  New POV character helps make this a gateway book into a complex setting, while pursuing a story of her own.  I enjoyed, and can reassure readers that this book, while not without heart, is not as dark as some of the later Newford books.

In Progress:

Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Winter-themed short story collection.  Material includes a bit where Agatha Christie talks about the Christmas banquets she remembers from her childhood (and which were the setting for her novel, The Affair of the Christmas Pudding).

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett.

Also:

A companion to the anime Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, more aligned with the manga than the anime, which I am currently re-watching.

Loving The Process

May 12, 2021

Last week, I wrote about how it doesn’t surprise me that many writers are also gardeners, because the two have a lot in common.  At that time, because I was mostly focused on getting the ground ready to put plants in, I was thinking about the work that goes into “preparing the soil,” which, in the case of writing, often involves research of some sort.

Hollyhock

Later that same week, as we began to put seeds in, I realized there was another similarity between writers and gardeners: both find gratification in what many people would perceive as delayed gratification.

Over the years, Jim and I have learned that many of our plants will do better if we start them from seed, directly in the ground.  The reason we do this has to do with our climate, which goes from cold and windy; to warmer and really, really windy; to broiling hot, sometimes all in the same day.  Plants from a greenhouse, especially those that have been trucked in from elsewhere, experience these conditions and protest: wilting, collapsing, sometimes up and dying.

(Yes.  I know about “hardening off” plants.  This reaction happens despite hardening off.  I’ve had it happen with plants I’ve started from seed myself.)

So, now, some twenty-five years into our gardening adventure in this location, peppers and eggplant are the only two types of vegetable plants we don’t start ourselves, usually directly in the location where they will establish.

(Why not eggplant and peppers?  Because they take too long to start from seed directly in the ground.  Unlike tomatoes, their close cousin, they grow much more slowly from seed, need a warmer ambient temperature, and yet don’t handle heat spikes well.)

Anyhow, this means delayed gratification, right?  We’re weeks behind where we’d be if we’d bought plants that are already weeks, even months, into their growth cycle.  How could it be otherwise?

Actually, for us, starting plants from seed means a different sort of gratification.  We’ve found we love the whole process.  Each morning, we wander around the yard, inspecting each bed, each pot, each corner.

“Look!  The purple alyssum are starting!  Wow!  That was fast!”

“Over here…  Those two pots were planted at the same time, with seeds from the same packet, but the one on the right is germinating earlier.  I wonder if a foot of so difference in orientation could make such a big difference, or if there’s another factor.”

“Those tomatoes you transplanted from the starter bed are doing much better than last night.”

“Hey!  Zukes!  And what the heck is that?  I didn’t plant anything there…”

Most evenings we do another tour, comparing morning to evening.  Sure, we’re not eating tomatoes or zucchini or even clipping basil for our salads, but we’re having a wonderful time.

The same goes for writing.  Over and over, I’ve expressed my concern about the current fad for measuring word count, then sharing this ostensible “progress,” as if getting  a lot of words on the page is the same as writing well.  Worse, any day that you can’t brag about how much more you’ve written is a day wasted.

I’m not saying that tracking word count isn’t useful, but it’s only one measure.  Loving the process of writing, watching the story take shape, even realizing that you’ve made a wrong turn and need to go back and write something else, all of those are part of loving the process of writing.  Each step provides a gratification of its own sort.

I’ll also say that learning to love the process prepares a writer far better for the world of publishing, where self-editing, responding to editor’s notes, dealing with copyedits, reviewing page proofs are all part of the job.  Sadly, these stages are rarely accompanied by the immediate gratification of “I wrote a thousand words today!”  They may often mean getting rid of words.  Or being told you used the wrong words.  Or…

Hmm…  Now that I think about it, that’s a stage of writing that’s also a lot like gardening: the weeding, pruning, culling, deadheading part…

Gardening and writing really do have a lot in common!

FF: But That’s Okay!

May 7, 2021
Mei-Ling Sniffs Out A Good Book

Squeezing in reading between a lot of other demands on my time, but it’s always there.

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:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Re-read. 

The Labors of Hercules by Agatha Christie.  A short story collection, with the “frame story” of Hercule Poirot doing his version of the mythical labors

In Progress:

Juniper Wiles by Charles de Lint.  De Lint’s first novel set in Newford for many years.  New POV character helps make this a gateway book into a complex setting, while pursuing a story of her own.

Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Winter-themed short story collection.  Material includes a bit where Agatha Christie talks about the Christmas banquets she remembers from her childhood (and which were the setting for her novel, The Affair of the Christmas Pudding).

Also:

Putting in the garden is cutting a bit into my reading time, but that’s okay!

It’s That Time Again!

May 5, 2021
Alyssum Among Hollyhocks and Baby’s Breath

Putting in the garden always reminds me how similar writing and gardening are.  It’s really no surprise how many writers are also gardeners.

Over the last few weeks, Jim and I have been doing a lot of gardening, none of which involved going to plant nurseries and picking up flats of plants.  Nor, until this past weekend, did we do much with the seeds we purchased earlier this year and set by.

Instead, what we’ve been doing is getting the soil ready for those plants.  This has involved trips to get horse manure, doing so early enough that it would age before we dug it in.  We’ve been emptying compost bins.  Digging compost trenches.  Emptying containers of the old potting soil and replacing with fresh.

Note: We live in a part of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where “soil” is a misnomer.  We have pretty much pure sand.  If we don’t “amend” (to use gardening  jargon), our plants don’t have a chance.  Even native plants struggle.

As of this past weekend, we’re finally putting seeds in (radish, carrot, squash).   Eventually, as nighttime temperatures warm, we’ll put in bean seeds.  And we’ll see what the plant nurseries have to offer by way of starter plants.

So, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, writers also need to prepare their “soil,” and I’m not certain that any genre is as demanding in this way as Science Fiction and Fantasy, because in order to “just make it up,” it’s necessary to know how things happen, why things happen, and a lot more.

For that, you need to do a lot of solid research.  One thing that concerns me is how many of budding writers who came to the genre through visual media (movies, television, computer games) don’t understand that these are not great sources for how the universe—or even our own single planet—works.

Spaceships do not “swoosh” when in flight through the void.  Horses cannot be left saddled, bridled, ready to go, as if they are organic cars.  And some of the armor and weapons, especially those in computer games, may look fantastic, but they wouldn’t be functional, much less practical or protective.

I spent much of the last week and a half reading and researching so that I can make a relatively small point in the manuscript I’m revising not only cool, but plausible.  As with my garden, I do my best to make sure my creative “soil” is amended, so my that story can grow stronger and flower forth.