Archive for September, 2021

Ambling Into Autumn

September 29, 2021
The View From my Office Window

There are a tremendous number of misunderstandings about New Mexico, from the common (Q: Is it really a state?  A: Yes. Since 1912.) to when the weather is the best­­—not spring or summer, as in so many places, but autumn, when the landscape is awash with purple (asters) and gold (sunflowers, chamisa, snakeweed, four-wing saltbush, and more).  The temperatures are short-sleeve comfortable during the day, and snuggly cool at night.

I’m looking out my office window right now at a yard that no longer is heat tortured, but full of color.

I’m glad for that view because the last week or so has been very busy, and I’ve spent a lot of time at my desk.  Not bad, just busy.  I’ve turned in the copy-edited manuscript for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind, which comes out February of 2022.  If you’re curious, you can read a bit more about it here.

My website bookshop now includes the hardcovers of the two books, Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  They join most of my other out of print works, including all but one of the Firekeeper novels, books going back to my earliest days as a professional writer, as well as some of my indie pub novels, which range from the experimental Asphodel to two Firekeeper sequels, to my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing.

Works in progress are new e-book editions of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  I’ll let you know when they’re ready.

I’m also writing another novel set in the same universe as Library of the Sapphire Wind because I like being there, and spending time with the people who live there. 

That’s about it for now…  Any questions?

Internet Down

September 24, 2021
Roary Contemplates Asking for Advice

This past week, my internet connection was out for about thirty-six hours.  Although I could (and did) write, my inability to do e-mail, check in on social media, work on updates to my website bookstore, and other such on-line work gave me more time to read.  It also made me reflect how the expectations as to what a working writer’s life will include has changed in the last several decades.

But that’s a subject for another time, I think.

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. 

Completed:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  I liked it a lot.  However, don’t read it and expect anything earth shatteringly new, just charming and well-written.  That can be enough.

DreamForge Anvil, issues three and four.

xxxHolic by Clamp.  Manga.  Full series (which encompasses nineteen volumes or seven in the omnibus).  Important note: “xxx” here stands for “fill in the blank” not super-porny.  “Holic” means an addiction of any sort.  I’ve read part of the manga before, seen the anime, which ends short of the end of the manga.  This time, thanks to Jim’s birthday present to me, I had the entire run to read!  Full of numerous plot twists and turns, and that’s without the crossover with another Clamp title, Tsubasa.  Not a title I’d recommend to someone unfamiliar with manga.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes.  I’m back to this.  In the section about medieval Catholicism.

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.  The novel that introduced Miss Jane Marple.  Yes.  I’ve read it before… 

Also:

New issues of American Archeology and Vogue just came in.

Wildlife West

September 22, 2021
Bob the Bobcat

This year, Jim and I did something different for my birthday.  Having missed the animals at the State Fair, we drove out to Wildlife West Nature Park & Rescued Wildlife Zoo, a place we’d long meant to visit, but hadn’t gotten around to.

Wildlife West specializes in giving homes to animals that, for one reason or another, cannot be released into the wild.  In some cases, this was due to injury.  In others, the animals were too acclimated to humans to be safe in the wild.  These fell into two general categories: animals who had been illegally removed from the wild and kept as pets, and animals that had been found abandoned when still very young and had been raised by humans.

The final category was the smallest: animals that had decided that it was easier to scavenge from humans than to follow their more natural lifeways.  Our favorite of these was the black bear who had been a “three-time offender” at Navajo Lake.  He specialized in raiding coolers on boats!  Now he has a spacious enclosure, and when we were there, was contentedly napping in the shade.

Although all the resident animals belonged to our local ecosystem, there was a wide variety in residence, both avians and mammals.  Although carnivores and omnivores dominated the selection, there were several herbivores, including a pair of elk and a mule deer.  The bull elk came right down to the edge of the enclosure, showed us how he could scratch his magnificent antlers on one of the junipers, and then stayed to visit.

Velcro the Mule Deer

In fact, all the resident animals seemed to view the humans as being there for their amusement, rather than the other way around.  Since feeding the animals is expressly forbidden, this was not begging behavior, just curiosity.

Did I have a favorite?  Not really.  In addition to the aforementioned elk, there was a bobcat who was happily hunting (or pretending to hunt) something small among the shrubs in his enclosure.  There was the little grey fox who decided to show us just how easily his kind can climb trees.  (Several of his enclosure-mates were drowsing up among the branches.)

There were the pair of the caracara (a type of raptor) who came over to the window of their enclosure and made a sound rather like a muted jackhammer, while doing what looked rather like calisthenics.  There were the two mountain lions who studied us, one from her “cave,” the other from the treehouse the local Lion’s Club had built for them.  There was the coyote who came out of her comfortable bed in the shade to trot around her enclosure before settling down again.

Background to our visit was a large flock of ravens who were riding the breezes, quorking and calling, and in general seeming to agree with us that this was a very nice place to be. 

Wildlife West is located in Edgewood, New Mexico, about twenty minutes east of Albuquerque.  Once you leave the city, the drive through Tijeras Canyon and into the mountains is lovely in itself.  (Side note: The directions on the park’s website need updating, because the gas station they use as a landmark is no longer a Conoco.)  In addition to the animals, there’s a selfie-friendly fake “western town” they use for events, such as their summer-time chuckwagon cookout.  There are rest facilities, but (other than for specific events) no food.  However, there is also a nice little giftshop, where a limited selection of snacks and chilled drinks can be purchased.

We already plan to go back in a month or so, when it’s cooler, for another visit.  There’s a walking trail we haven’t done yet, and a portion of the facility is set aside as a resting place for migrating birds.  Who knows who might have stopped by next time we’re there?

Red Fox Resting in the Shade

FF: Fitting Reading in Around Work

September 17, 2021
Persephone Poses

All of a sudden, I have a lot on my to-do list, but I’m still squeezing in 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. 

Completed:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Again Tey makes some odd stylistic choices, but the distant, narrative heavy voice of The Man in the Queue has been replaced with lively narrative voice.  I wonder if her writing plays influenced this?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie.  A serial killer challenges Poroit, but is there more to the problem than that?

In Progress:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  A very warm book, thus far, and I like all the characters I’m supposed to like very much.  Structure is so utterly predictable, I’m getting nervous in anticipation of the next part which should be “crisis occurs, forcing protagonist to make unsettling choices.”  Does this mean I don’t like the book?  Absolutely not! I won’t know if I like it or not until I’m done.

DreamForge Anvil issue three.  Two stories read.

xxxHolic by Clamp.  Manga.  “xxx” here stands for “fill in the blank” not super-porny.  “Holic” means an addiction of any sort.  I’ve read part of the manga before, seen the anime, which ends short of the end of the story.  This time, thanks to Jim’s birthday present to me, I have the entire run to read!

Also:

Not much room for “also” since the copy-edited manuscript of Library of the Sapphire Wind landed on my desk on Wednesday. 

Fair Fair

September 15, 2021
Mini Horse Makes Friends

Every year but one since the mid-1990’s I’ve gone to the New Mexico State Fair.  (The exception, of course, was 2020, when the Fair didn’t happen.)  It’s changed a lot over the years, but most of the things I enjoy have continued to thrive.  This year saw more changes than most, but we still had fun.

Even though we went on a Saturday, mid-day, crowds were definitely reduced, and a lot of our favorites, such as the School Arts building and many of the livestock events, were either closed or very sparsely attended.  However, our long-time favorite Sheep to Shawl was present, demonstrating every step from shearing to weaving (with carding, dying, spinning in the middle) all represented.  Their gift shop was well-stocked.

Although the critters were fewer, there were still some—such as the adorable miniature horse in the photo—to see.  And elsewhere there was still a lot to see and do.  The walls in the Fine Arts, Indian Arts, and Hispanic Arts buildings were covered with an incredible variety of beautiful paintings, mosaics, and mixed media arts.

Floral Arts was in a new location, directly off the Lujan Building, and was, as usual, a delight.

In the hobby building (officially known as the Creative Arts Building) there were fewer displays and demonstrations than in past years, but the coin collectors, beaders, quilters, knitters, wood workers, and all the rest had definitely done their part.  Oddly enough, the photo show, which normally has almost more submissions than one can usually take in, was one of the few areas that was visibly under-represented.

We had a great time watching Chef Ray demonstrate how half a potato can be transformed into a very convincing rose bud­—complete with scent.

There were fewer food vendors than in many years, but all the classic “Fair foods” were well-represented: funnel cake, fried cheese curds, turkey legs, and corndogs could all be found.  Asbury Pies was open and doing brisk business.  If you’re into unique foods, be sure to pick up the free full-color magazine which lists (on page 27) the winners of various competitions, including where you can try a Cotton Candy Ice Cream Cone or a Green Chile Pancake Burger.

The Manuel Lujan building had many fewer vendors but, as a bonus, especially given the heat and wildfire smoke, there was a terrific indoor play area for the kids.

Main Street featured an amazing array of automobiles, from the outlandish to the expensive to a nice array of firetrucks.

Due to the higher than usual temperatures and our companions tuckering out, we didn’t make it down to the Indian Village but, from the program, it looks as if they’re really expanding their offerings under the guidance of the folks who run the Gathering of Nations Powwow every year.  We also didn’t make it Villa Hispana, Midway, or many of the other shows, so I can’t report on those.

Overall, much as I enjoyed myself, I need to be honest and say this was only a “fair” State Fair.  Nonetheless, it was certainly worth a visit and maybe, depending on your interests, two or three.

I came away feeling inspired to pursue my own creative endeavors, though, and, in fact, that’s what I’m going to do right now…

FF: Tey-day and Tey-morrow

September 10, 2021
Catnapping Roary

I finished The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  I could write a nice long academic paper on this one, but suffice to say she made some very odd choices, choices that she is not making in the later work I’m now reading.  This doesn’t mean it was bad.  It was just odd.

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. 

Completed:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  Thoughtful, mystical story.  I’d say the reader did a good job, especially with the challenge of a very large cast.

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  See above.

In Progress:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  Just a few chapters in.  So far, jury is out.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Again Tey makes some odd stylistic choices, but the distant, narrative heavy voice of The Man in the Queue has been replaced with lively narrative voice.  I wonder if her writing plays influenced this?

Also:

I’m starting to scribble my way into a new novel, which means a certain amount of world-building, which means a certain amount of odd reading material.

Hint of What’s to Come

September 8, 2021
Scrub Jay Spreads the News

Last week, while looking up something for another project, I discovered that my forthcoming novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, are now available for pre-order at several on-line booksellers, including Amazon (here and here) and Barnes and Noble (here and here).

Since the news is out, I thought I’d share the jacket copy for Library of the Sapphire Wind, which will be available February of 2022.

Instead of Mentors, They Got Monsters…

That’s what Xerak, Vereez, and Grunwold think when three strange creatures shimmer into being within the circle of Hettua Shrine.  Their conclusion is reasonable enough.  After all, they’ve never seen humans before.

As for Margaret Blake, Peg Gallegos, and Tessa Brown—more usually known as Meg, Peg, and Teg—they’re equally astonished but, oddly enough, better prepared.  Age and experience have accustomed them to surprises.  A widely varied course of reading material has intellectually prepared them for the idea that other worlds, even worlds where people with traits more commonly ascribed to “animals,” may exist.

Then there is the mysterious verse that Teg speaks as they arrive, words that seem to indicate that the Shrine must have been at least partially responding to the request made of it.

Despite doubts on all sides, the three unlikely mentors join forces with the three young “inquisitors” and venture out into the world Peg dubs “Over Where.”  First they must find the Library of the Sapphire Wind, destroyed years before.

Will they find answers there or is this only the first stage in their search?

The second book, Aurora Borealis Bridge, comes out April of 2022.  Since a sequel, by definition, can contain spoilers, skip below, but as jacket copy goes, this is relatively spoiler free.

Can It Get Any Stranger?

Absolutely!

When Peg, Meg, and Teg were first summoned Over Where, vast and varied life experience (along with wide reading choices) helped them to adjust to a world where they were the only humans, magic was real, ships could fly, and reincarnation was a confirmed fact.

In the company of the “inquisitors,” Xerak, Grunwold, and Vereez, the three newly appointed mentors rediscovered the Library of the Sapphire Wind, and, within it, revelations that transformed the young people’s pasts into a vast tangle of lies and half-truths.

But there are still questions to be answered.  Before they are done, Meg the retired librarian, Teg the archeologist turned mage, and the multi-talented, ever surprising Peg will deal with kidnappings, betrayal, arcane artifacts, romantic intrigues, and the inescapable reality that past lives cast long shadows.

Together, the three mentors and their young allies will uncover the startling truth about what lies on the other side of the Aurora Borealis Bridge—a truth that holds the secret of Over Where, and that will change all their lives forever.

These books were a terrific amount of fun for me to write. I love the characters and setting ridiculously much, and I’m very excited about them finally becoming available.  Cover art is by Tom Kidd, and I’ll show it off somewhere closer to release.

And what’s that other project?  I’ve been working on new e-books for my novels Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  As with all my reissues of my own work, these will include extra content in the form of essays about the work.  Artemis Awakening is nearly ready, and we’re working hard on Artemis Invaded.  I also plan to add the hard covers of these to the Bookshop that’s part of my website. 

Additionally, I’m messing around with some new story ideas, but nothing has quite jelled as of yet.  That’s the way with stories, or so I find.

FF: It’s Been a Bit Insane

September 3, 2021
Mei-Ling Redux

Mei-Ling seems to be discovering the joys of being a supermodel.

The last couple of weeks have been insane, and so I turned back to my old favorite, Agatha Christie, for relief.  From her, I drifted to Josephine Tey, the one of the four great English mystery writers who has fallen by the wayside.

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. 

Completed:

The White Goddess by Robert Graves.  Although I’ll admit to skimming some chapters.  When the conjecture of one chapter becomes the received fact of a later chapter, my scholar-self starts protesting.  That said, the final two chapters were remarkably current in many ways.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie.  Any book featuring a cameo by Ariadne Oliver is going to delight, but this one shows Christie’s knowledge of human nature, as well as of…  Well, to say more would be a spoiler!

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie.  The book that taught my younger self that for the English “Tea” can mean a meal, not merely a drink.  What a revelation!

In Progress:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  It’s working out fairly well.  I’m almost done but, as I said, it’s been a bit insane.

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  Re-read, but it’s been a while.

Also:

Archeology magazine. Just finished reading about the Samaritans.

Serendipitous Sunflower

September 1, 2021
Serendipity Realized

Serendipity is a great thing, and one that, as a writer, I’m always open to.

The sunflower featured in today’s photo is a volunteer that came up in the vicinity of where we’d planted the domestic variety featured a few weeks ago.  For the longest time, we weren’t even sure it was a different variety or simply the result of a seed that had gotten dropped.

This plant has smaller flowers than the domestic version, but even more.  It’s taller by about two feet (so roughly twelve feet tall), and started flowering just as the others were going to seed, so we have had continual bright and sunny color for at least a month.  Like the domestic sunflowers, it’s been drafted into work as a trellis for our tepary beans.

However, even though this sunflower is a fairly tough variety, it wouldn’t be what it is without a certain amount of loving care on our part.

The same is true of writing and stories.  You hear a lot about the cool ideas that come out of nowhere: from dreams, from a chance conversation.  You don’t hear as much about the multiple drafts it takes to make those cool ideas into cooler stories, nor the careful editing it takes to make sure the story grows tall and lovely and is there to add a little bit of beauty to life.

Be open to serendipity, but don’t fault yourself if you need to do some work to make your vision come through.