Archive for November, 2021

FF: Jacket Copy

November 26, 2021
Persephone Fancies Herself an Elegant ‘Tec

Beverly, a frequent FF Commenter, repeatedly mentioned enjoying James White’s “Sector General” novels.  Alan Robson, with whom I wrote the Thursday Tangents for seven years, had also recommended them, so when I had a chance to try one, I did. 

I chose Star Surgeon because the jacket copy got me: “Trying to solve the baffling medical problem of the comatose, immortal, and possibly homicidal demigod Levelin would have been trouble enough…”

Who could pass that up?

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:

Lord Peter by Dorothy L. Sayer.  A collection of the short stories featuring Peter Wimsey.  I came across this collection and, although I probably “read” most of the stories in various audiobook collections.  Her prose does just fine without a narrator!

In Progress:

Paladin of Soul by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Not really a sequel to The Curse of Chalion, except in the sense that it takes place three years after the other novel.  The plot has taken some excellent twists!

Star Surgeon by James White.  Just started.

Also:

About half-way through my re-read of Child of a Nameless Year, one of my standalone novels, the first step in a new e-book edition.

Changing of the Birds

November 24, 2021
Flicker Samples This Year’s Vintage

Temperatures are dropping, leaves on the trees are turning yellow, and it’s time to dig the Jerusalem artichokes.  Last summer’s garden has, except for scattered hardy herbs, moved into the custody of memory.

However, this does not mean that the yard ceases to hold fascination for us.  One of the things Jim and I enjoy the most is the changing selection of birds that show up at our feeders.  The quail have gone wherever it is that quail go for the colder months.  (We’ve never figured out where, but we rarely see any after late summer until the next spring.)  However, new co-residents show up every year.

Among the most flamboyant are the flickers.  These birds are in the woodpecker family, but lack the crest usually associate with woodpeckers.  They’re good-sized birds, larger than the North American robin.

We usually have a pair who settle in, taking advantage of our bird bath and tiny pond more than the feeders, although I expect they’ll appreciate the new (as of last Christmas) suet feeder.

Other cold weather visitors include various juncos, a towhee or two, and always short-term visitors moving through on their way to warmer climates.

The year-round residents: doves, sparrows, finches, and, of course, our small clan of thrashers, headed by Skinny, don’t seem to mind the newcomers.

Who knows?  Maybe, like the humans, they enjoy having new people to talk with.

By the way, we wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!  May you enjoy the change of seasons.

Happy Thanksgiving!

FF: There Is Balance

November 19, 2021
Mei-Ling Balances

For some reason, I’m reading a lot of shorter works right now, which is not all bad.  Since my current audiobooks is a very long novel, there is balance.

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 Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  One of the FF regulars mentioned Bujold’s fantasy, and my library had this, and here I am.  Court intrigue on an intricate scale.  The “different realty” elements enter in more in the latter portion, but far from making life easier for the characters, they make it harder.

Liavek: Players of Luck edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  I’m liking this collection even more than the first.  More variety in types of stories, as well as more inter-play between characters and plotlines.  A more ambitious collection.

Liavek: Wizard’s Row edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  Quite sound, although the first collection where I felt that having read the earlier volumes was beginning to be necessary.

In Progress:

Paladin of Soul by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Not really a sequel to The Curse of Chalion, except in the sense that it takes place three years after the other novel.  This one focuses on “Mad” Ista, and her attempt to find an identity that is not defined by her relationships to other people: mother, wife, sister, niece.

Lord Peter by Dorothy L. Sayer.  A collection of the short stories featuring Peter Wimsey.  I came across this collection and, although I probably “read” most of the stories in various audiobook collections, I decided to see how they held up without Ian Carmichael’s excellent narration.

Also:

My work on getting my backlist up in new e-book editions is progressing, with the two “Artemis Awakening” novels (Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded) now available (in the case of the former) or almost available (in the case of the latter).  I’m starting a re-read of Child of a Nameless Year, one of my standalone novels.

My Quiet Week

November 17, 2021
Roary Rests For Both of Us!

This was supposed to be my quiet week.  Last week was “Crazy Week Catching Up” after writing the Over Where short story, “Fire-Bright Rain.”  The previous week and a bit was taken up with getting the short story written.

So, as I said, this was supposed to be my quiet week.  Not a week doing nothing, but a week where I could focus on resolving the various and sundry leftover jobs, maybe even venture back into working on the novel I’d been writing.

But Monday started with the copy-edited manuscript of the Over Where novel Aurora Borealis Bridge, the sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind, showing up in my in-box.  Mind you, I’d more or less expected this to happen sometime soon, because mid-September was when the copy-edited manuscript of Library of the Sapphire Wind made its appearance.

Library of the Sapphire Wind is a February 2022 release, and Aurora Borealis Bridge comes out in April 2022.  Two months apart… and that means the production stuff is also going to happen two months apart.

So, it’s not going to be a quiet week, but it will be an interesting one as I re-immerse myself in a book featuring characters and settings I like quite a lot.

Is this the final stage?  No.  There will still be page proofs to do.  Given how the production schedule has been working out, I’ll probably be doing those in the middle of the holiday season.

Do I mind?  Not really.  Having been a professional writer since 1994, I mind a lot more when something gets dropped on me without warning with the request that I return it by the end of the week.  Production scheduling is being handled well.  I’ll just need to set my other plans around getting the job done.

And, who knows?  Maybe somewhere in there, I’ll actually find time to write something new.

Oh… and if you’re curious about these books, they’re already posted for pre-order at various e-tailer sites, so you can get a sneak peek.  I’m going to save babbling about them in greater detail for January, when you and I both will be relaxing after the holidays.

FF: Dragons, Luck, Curses

November 12, 2021
Coco and the Dragons

I hope to have more time to read soon, but I’m still managing to squeeze a little in.

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:

Liavek: City of Luck edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  Enjoyed, although stories started to fall into a theme.  My favorite story was the final one, a longer piece by Barry Longyear, which tipped the balance and made me decide to go on to the next anthology.

Dragons by the Yard, Kymera Press.  Comic.  Issues one to five.  This would be a good one for kids to read with adults, as the story progresses slowly enough for thoughtful discussion.  No children as protagonists but no overtly “adult” themes.   Colorful art has a “disneysque” feel.  I’d definitely read issue six, because the story was getting more intriguing by that point.

In Progress:

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  One of the FF regulars mentioned Bujold’s fantasy, and my library had this, and here I am.  Court intrigue on an intricate scale.  The “different realty” elements enter in more in the latter portion, but far from making life easier for the characters, they make it harder.

Liavek: Players of Luck edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  I’m liking this collection even more than the first.  More variety in types of stories, as well as more inter-play between characters and plotlines.  A more ambitious collection.

Also:

Smithsonian’s most recent issue is proving to be one of my favorites in quite a while.

I’m Not the Me of Then or That

November 10, 2021
Dandy Looks Eagerly Ahead

Recently, I’ve noticed an increased trend toward quoting people completely out of context.

(Please note, in this I’m not talking about politics or politicians.  That’s a completely different issue and one I am not addressing.)

There was the list of inspirational quotes credited to various people.  In several cases, lines from books were quoted, the quote credited not to the character, but to the author.

To me, there’s a big difference.  Certainly, some of my characters have said things that I would really hate to have credited as my opinion on a certain subject.

However, even when the quote was spoken by the person, speaking as the person (not as a character, a song lyric, a line in a play), time, situation, and a lot of other things can influence the opinion expressed, the thought being shaped.

The same person speaking completely differently on the same topic is not necessarily hypocrisy or lack of conviction; it may simply be that some life experience has changed them.

When Roger Zelazny died—for those of you new to my biographical details, I was living with Roger when he died, was there when he died—I was hit hard on a lot of levels.  One of the things that bothered me the most was that if through some miracle Roger would suddenly return from the dead, he wouldn’t know me, because I’d changed, and what had changed me was being there and watching him stop breathing and realizing that no matter how much he and I had worked for another resolution, we’d lost.

So, me before June of 1995, me after June of 1995.  Different person.  Me a year later, different again.

This past weekend, in the midst of a lively chat with a good friend, the subject of a certain celebrity interview came up.  Said celebrity is quite young, barely a legal adult.  We both agreed that some of the cocky, over-confident statements made should be taken with an awareness that this was an eighteen year-old singer being interviewed.

Certainly, the me of now when compared to the me of eighteen are very different people.  The me of eighteen, for example, really didn’t like little kids very much.  The me of now has grown up enough to realize it wasn’t the kids I disliked; it was the behavior their parents permitted.

These days, I’m quite likely to find talking to the kids, playing a board game, whatever, a lot more interesting than watching the adults posture and pontificate.

English professor me, who still lurks in the background, even though I haven’t taught college since 1994, would very much like for all quotes to be presented in context, neatly dated, and sourced.

Not likely, but me of once upon a time can dream!

FF: Writers Read Differently

November 5, 2021
Roary Finds an Excellent Read

This week I’ve been very aware that writers read differently than casual readers.  I’ll extend this reaction to habitually thoughtful readers who don’t write, as well.

While reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, I saw a certain plot point coming.  No.  This wasn’t because Bujold was boring or predictable but, as a writer, I saw where a particular element would become crucial.  Did this make me bored?  Not in the least…  I nearly collapsed in relief when the scene finally hit and was resolved (very much to my satisfaction). 

I think this awareness of the elements of story is something editors acquire as well.  As fiction “gatekeepers” this can become a danger point.  Editors read so much that, after a while, what would have once delighted now seems “meh.”  On the other hand, a new editor doesn’t know enough, and gets excited over something a longtime reader says “meh” about.

Interesting…

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:

Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  Re-read.  Memoir of the Burma campaign in WWII, British POV.  Read by David Case, who does accents amazingly.

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison.  Nordic mythic underpinnings to a story that’s part fairytale, more magical realism.  Main character is more acted upon than acting.  Still feel mixed about this one.

Finder by Emma Bull.  Set in the “shared universe” of Bordertown, but fully standing on its own.  A very fine story, that sometimes hit a little too close to current events in ways I can’t mention without spoilers.

In Progress:

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  One of the FF regulars mentioned Bujold’s fantasy, and my library had this, and here I am.  Court intrigue on an intricate scale.  Very limited magic, so should suit readers of historical fiction as much as of Fantasy.

Liavek edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  When looking to see if I have any of the Bordertown anthologies (I don’t, must amend), I came across this on my shelves.  The 1980s saw the growth of shared world anthologies, with a wide variety of settings.  I’m enjoying this quite a bit. 

Also:

Our local Biopark (combination of affiliated zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, and more) magazine came out.  I read with happiness about a new baby hippo, but was brought to tears by the news that three members of the siamang family died as a result of a disease—one of the gorillas, too, but the siamangs have long been particular favorites, and we’d watched the baby grow up.  He was such a showoff.

Don’t Let Anyone Fool You

November 3, 2021
It Really Is a Bird!

I’m still working on the short story I mentioned last week.  It’s taken a few interesting curves along the way…

Someone asked me recently which was easier: writing a short story or writing a novel.

Don’t let anyone fool you.  Writing a short story is shorter, so hopefully you’ll finish in a lot less time than you would if you wrote a novel.  However, having fewer words to work with doesn’t automatically make writing a short story easier.

In fact, in some ways, writing a short story can be harder because you have fewer words in which to make your setting and characters three-dimensional and interesting while still keeping your plot lively and engaging.

Writers of fiction set in the consensual reality we share have it a lot easier.  They don’t need to explain what a car or pickup or semi is…  Context helps a lot.  In the previous sentence, our shared consensual reality filled in that the pickup in question was a type of truck, not a type of social encounter, and that the “semi” was yet another, still larger, type of truck. 

Or, if you’re not up on your U.S. slang, maybe you were confused.

However, in a science fiction or fantasy short story, the writer must find a way to slip in what a “kubran” or “vikrew” is, hopefully somewhat gracefully or else resort to the dreaded (to me at least) infodump or “as you know, Bob” moment.  Even in novels, this can be a challenge.  In a short story, where every word counts against the limit, it’s even harder.

Sub-plots are often the best way to make characters three-dimensional but, in a short story, the writer has a lot fewer opportunities to work these in.  So, again, how to slip in little clues to relationships, especially relationships that aren’t easily defined by family relationship terminology or familiar hierarchical titles (whether those indicating rank, social status, or whatever), becomes another challenge.

Okay.  Any questions?

And I’ll go back to writing on my short story…  Catch you later!