Archive for October, 2021

FF: Diving Deep

October 22, 2021
Paladin Roary

This week I did a lot of diving deep into books, and am very happy to have done so!

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:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Done!  With Dante as a finale.  Nice choice, since, especially as presented by Durant, Dante’s life and work is a fit summation of the 1,000 year period covered by this monumental historical tome.

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt.  A non-fiction look at the hassles involved in moving twenty-five dogs from California to Maine.  Bittersweet, but wherever you’re dealing with animal rescue, there’s going to be sad.

Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon).  The newest of the “Saint of Steel” books.  I really enjoyed.  First part is good.  Second part is even better.

The Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher.  Reread, because I found myself wondering if some of the details here might be seen in a new light shed by recent reading.  And, well, I like the books.  Despite the title, this is not steampunk, but sword and sorcery with a unique twist or three.

In Progress:

The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher.  Sequel to The Clockwork Boys.  Also not steampunk. 

Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  

Also:

Most recent Archeology.  Some good articles in this one.

Reviewing the Bullet Journal

October 20, 2021
Keeping Track

Earlier this week, for reasons that probably will not be mysterious if you read my WW last week, I was thinking about the past, and so decided to take a look at the bullet journal I started back in 2017.

As I mentioned at the time, I was inspired by an article I read by Amanda Hackwith about how a bullet journal, which is designed for flexibility, could be adapted to help a writer keep track not only of day-to-day chores, but also help establish a sense that something was actually being achieved.

I’m going to quote the passage in Amanda Hackwith’s essay that inspired me to give a bullet journal a try:

“The life of a writer means I have a hundred things to keep track of at once, but not always on a precise day by day itinerary. If I stuck to the traditional appointments + daily to dos format, my days would be a constant repeat of something like ‘Write word count, Edit X, read, check email anxiously.”

So, how has a bullet journal worked for me?  Has it helped me feel I’m getting something done, or is it just another chore in addition to the daily journal and weekly “to do” list I already keep?

Overall, if I remember to look back to past events, I think the bullet journal has really helped me to feel I’m doing more than the “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle of “write, edit, read, check e-mail.  Don’t forget social media check ins.”

When I looked at the “Dream Future” page, where I listed things I needed to deal with sometime down the road, I saw that several potential projects, mostly unsold novels, still hadn’t been dealt with.

However, when I looked at the “Future Log” I’d created in 2017, when I began the journal, I was happy to see that not only had I gotten everything on the list done, I had continued in the general trend I’d established.  I’d used—and continue to use—indie pub options to get more of my backlist out.  I’d written new Firekeeper novels.  I’d written not only the “rough draft” of “Sapphire Wind” mentioned on the list; I’d also finished it, polished it, broken it into two books, and sold it to a traditional publisher (Baen Books), where it will appear as the “Over Where” novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge early in 2022.

Yes.  Sometimes keeping a bullet journal does feel more as if I have given myself an extra chore.  Lately, I realized I was not adding pages for new projects, which, in turn, was leading to me losing a sense of accomplishing anything.  Instead, the bullet journal was becoming merely a condensed version of my daily journal: somewhat useful, but not great for my feeling I’m getting anything done.

And I was definitely becoming inclined to forget to pat myself on the back for accomplishments that didn’t fit into the write word count, do that edit or review routine.

Therefore, this week, I’m recapturing my resolve.  I’ve created a page for my current backlist project: new e-books of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  I’ve created a page for Star Kingdom 4, now titled A New Clan, for which I was astonished to see I hadn’t created a page.  I’ve created a page for the short story set in the “Over Where” universe that I’ve been asked to write.

In other words, I’m going back to my early resolution to not make the bullet journal a glorified “to do” list encased in hard covers.  I’m going to make it something that will remind me that my working steadily, constantly, actually gets me somewhere, and the fact that I keep doing variations on the same thing, doesn’t mean I’m not getting anything done!

As I said back in 2017, sometimes it’s easy to feel like Sisyphus, never making it to the top of that hill.  I’m glad to say that the bullet journal, even if it is another rock to push, reminds me that time and again I’ve made it to the top of that hill.

FF: Moving Along

October 15, 2021
Mei-Ling with Her Nose in a Book

I’ve turned in the proofs of Library of the Sapphire Wind.  Two thumbs up to Libby O’Brien, production manager and coach on how to amend a PDF, who answered so very many questions…  However, between the proofs and losing Sally, this hasn’t been my biggest reading week.

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:

Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters.  Despite the biblical-sounding title, this was actually one of Peter’s contemporary (then) novels, set in the years following WWII.  A dark, gritty tale of ambition, environmental concerns, social change, and racism that speaks to today as much as it surely did at the time it came out.

Saiyuki manga, new translation.  I enjoyed, and was very happy to see in the translator’s notes that my longtime guess as to which was the only mah-jong hand by which Genjo Sanzo could have won the game was correct.  In case you wonder, it was the one Americans call “Thirteen Orphans.”  Yep.  The same one that I used as a book title.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Into the section on medieval science, primary focus, medicine.

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt.  A non-fiction look at the hassles involved in moving twenty-five dogs from California to Maine.  I’m impressed.  The most I ever moved was six cats, in a small sedan, and that was only from Virginia to New Mexico.

Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher.  The newest of the “Saint of Steel” books—about what happens to a small group of paladins (in a fantasy world, not historical) when their god dies, and they try to rebuild their lives and sense of identity—came out at a perfect time for me.

  Also:

Smithsonian from a couple months back that I’d mislaid.  Some great articles including some of the best coverage of September 11th and its aftermath that I’ve read.

I’ve Lost Another Friend

October 13, 2021
Sally at the Bubonicon Tea

Last Friday, one of my best friends, Sally Gwylan, was hit by a car and killed.

Many of you know Sally’s work, even if you didn’t realize it.  If you’ve read one of my novels in the last ten or more years, Sally was quite likely one of the beta readers.  If you read my new Firekeeper books, Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, Sally was the copy editor.

Copy editing is one of those jobs that can ruin a friendship.  Last week, I explained that the job of a copy editor is.  Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain that how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.

Sally was amazing.  She liked the quirks of punctuation rules.  She was patient with my inability to hyphenate consistently.  We had great chats about optional commas.  She loved looking up obscure data points.  I always felt my books were secure in her hands.

Sally was such a talented copy editor that she did copy editing for other writers, including Carrie Vaughn.  So, if you’ve read some of Carrie’s small press works, you’ve also read Sally’s work.  She also work-shopped over the years with many of New Mexico’s writers, and you’ll find her listed in their acknowledgements, too.  One of the things Sally planned to pursue after retirement (she worked for a law firm doing data control) was copy editing and proofreading.  Now she’ll never have the chance.

Oh, and Sally was a writer in her own right.  The same perfectionism that made her a perfect copy editor made her quite possibly the slowest writer in creation.  Nonetheless, she completed and sold several works of short fiction: “Salt” in Infinite Matrix (2002), “In the Icehouse” in Asimov’s (2003), “Rapture, Parts 1 & 2” in Strange Horizons (2004), and “Fleeing Olsyge” in Clarkesworld (2018). 

She also indie pubbed a Depression era alternate history novel called A Wind Out of Canaan, about a runaway from an abusive home coming to the realization that she’s gay.  In her journey, Philippa joins a group of hobos and, while with them, accidentally stumbles onto the fact that there are people from another world on Earth, and that their activities may have a great deal to do with the severe changes in the weather, and some of the political movements of the time.  It stands alone, more or less, but Sally was working on a sequel.

I’m talking about all these dry things because I’m hiding from a grief so huge that, if I admit to it, it’s going to swallow me whole.

Sally and I met over twenty years ago at a party at Walter Jon Williams’ house, sometime in the late 1990’s.  I’d moved to Albuquerque in late 1996.  In 1997, I started my first garden.  I had a lot of questions, and whenever I’d ask one, the one asked would inevitably end with, “I think that’s what I’d do, but Sally Gwylan would know.” 

So, I went up to her, introduced myself, and thus started a discussion about gardens, and weather (especially wind and rainfall).  She did know a lot, having been a market gardener for a while. She also gave me the tubers for my Jerusalem artichokes, known to some as “sunchokes.”  Our garden chats only stopped this week, because she wasn’t here on Monday for our usual call.

We talked about other things, too, of course.  Books and movies.  Gender identity.  Animals, wild and domestic.  Hobby activities.  Each week we blocked out an hour and a quarter for our call.  It was rarely enough.

I also helped Sally build her house, quite literally.  Usually when people talk about building a house, they mean they’ve hired contractors to do so.  Not Sally.  She built hers with adobe mud and straw.  She took living off the grid seriously, but managed a very tidy lifestyle with a solar panel for electricity, water she hauled from town, a composting toilet, and propane for cooking and to run her fridge.

Sally loved figuring out how things worked.  Unlike me, she did her own formatting and cover design for her e-books.  She sewed or retailored (on a treadle machine) clothes for herself.  She built her solar oven.  And the toilet.  And a water-wicking system for her plants.  Many of our conversations were about her building projects.  The most recent was figuring out the most efficient way to do laundry by hand.  (Why?  Because she hated how the machines at the laundromat left her clothes smelling.)  She was delighted to report that a standard salad spinner worked pretty well as a “spin cycle.”

Even in her late sixties, Sally was energetic.  She rescued her cat, Horace, in the middle of rush hour traffic out on I-40.  Horace had been hit, and she got him to the vet.  Later, when one leg failed to heal properly, she sewed him booties to protect his paw.

The picture above is from the Tea at Bubonicon, where she always worked backstage, helping Pati Nagel make tea.  At some point, she’d excuse herself to go participate in one of her other passions, “shape note” or Sacred Heart singing.

Okay…  That’s about all I can manage without breaking down.  Again.  Thanks for listening.

This Year’s Jerusalem Artichokes

FF: When My Homework is Done

October 8, 2021
Mei-Ling Contemplates the Costs

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I’m reading the page proofs for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  However, since I can’t work on proofs for more than about an hour at a time without the danger of starting to skim, which would rather defeat the purpose, I’ve been reading other things, too.

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:

Chobits by Clamp.  Manga.  Re-read.  This starts off as a Pygmalion story and, takes the question of created companions much farther.  As is often the case with Clamp, the elaborate, frilly art conceals a dark and thoughtful story, in this case about what it is to be human, what it is to really love.  And what you must be ready to give up to be the one and have the other.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes. In the section about the developments of conflict between philosophy and theology, which led to the development of scholastic philosophy, which attempted to reconcile the two.

Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters.  Despite the biblical-sounding title, this was actually one of Peter’s contemporary (then) novels, set in the years following WWII.  A dark, gritty tale of ambition, environmental concerns, social change, and racism that speaks to today as much as it surely did at the time it came out.

Also:

A new edition of my favorite manga, Saiyuki came out, and I splurged.  I know the story very well, so there are no big surprises, but I find it interesting how a different translator’s word choices and idioms slightly shifts what the story is about.  At some point, I’ll probably go all scholarly and do some side-by-side comparisons, but not until my homework is done.

What’s The Difference Between?

October 6, 2021
Dandy and Coco Discuss

The other day I mentioned to a non-writer friend that this week’s work schedule would likely revolve around reviewing the page proofs for my forthcoming novel, Library of the Sapphire Wind

Here, for your amusement, is a more or less accurate dramatization of our conversation.

Me: “This week I’ll be doing page proofs for Library of the Sapphire Wind.”

Her: “But I thought you did that the other week, right before your internet crashed.  I remember your saying how happy you were that you’d turned them in right before that happened.”

Me: “No.  That was the copy edit.  These are the page proofs.”

Her: “What’s the difference?”

Me: “Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.”

Her: “Isn’t that what the editor does?  I remember you said you’d addressed your editor’s notes a few months ago.”

Me: “I did.  For this book, the editor­ made some suggestions as to how I might expand certain scenes, and add in some back history for characters.  The editor is more concerned with content.  The copy editor is more concerned with how that content is presented.”

Her: “Oh.  I think I get that, but go on…  What are page proofs?”

Me: “Page proofs are, more or less, what the book will look like when it’s in print­.  There’s no cover, just the interior.  Page proofs are my last chance to take a look at the text, make sure no oddities have crept in.”

Her: “Oddities?”

Me: “Like weird formatting glitches.  One of the major settings in Through Wolf’s Eyes is a town called Eagle’s Nest.  However, when the book was set in print, it was changed in some places to ‘eagle’s nest,’ and in others to “Eagle’s nest.” 

Her: “That is odd.  Doesn’t the publisher have someone who is supposed to check the manuscript for things like that?”

Me: “Absolutely.  However, for something like a town name that is also a phrase that would usually be in lower case, even an attentive proofreader might miss an error.  That’s why I like to go through the page proofs, so I’ll catch anything they might miss.”

Her: “Wait!  I know you’re really careful about going over your manuscripts before you turn them in.  Jim reads them, too, and you usually mention some other readers in your acknowledgements.   I’d think there wouldn’t be much to catch.”

Me: (laughing) “You’d be amazed.  I’ve had reader notes that, after reading them, you’d assume they’d read completely different books, the comments are that different.  And remember what I said about editor’s notes?  Places where material is added—and sometimes even more, when material has been removed—errors creep in.”

Her: “That’s amazing.  Putting a book together takes a lot more stages than I realized.”

Me: “And the terms edit, editing, editor, draft, drafting, proof, proofing, they do overlap, don’t they?  But they’re all crucial stages.  Which is why, this week, even though I’ve gone over Library of the Sapphire Wind before, I’m going over it again.”

Curtain falls…  And I pick up my red pencil and get back to work!

FF: Influenced By

October 1, 2021
Persephone Is Contemplative

This week one of the pieces of fiction I read was influenced by the non-fiction I’m listening to.  I bet you can guess which one!

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:

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

A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters.  A collection of three Cadfael stories, including a prequel in which Cadfael decides to consider monastic life.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes.  I’m back to this.  In the section about monasteries and nunneries.

Chobits by Clamp.  Manga.  Re-read.  This starts off as a Pygmalion story and, takes it much farther.  As is often the case with Clamp, the elaborate, frilly art conceals a dark and thoughtful story, in the case about what it is to be human, what it is to really love.  And what you must be ready to give up to be the one and have the other.

Also:

New magazines have been joined by Smithsonian.  Some great articles in this issue, including one about a prize-winning Japanese saki maker in…  Holbrook, Arizona.  (A location that is probably best known for not being Winslow, Arizona.)