Archive for September, 2022

FF: Not Nix “No”: Garth Nix

September 30, 2022
Roary the Mysterious

This week, through a series of weird coincidences, I seem to be reading nothing other than works by Garth Nix.  This is not at all bad.  His works have variety, and almost all have at least some whimsy that doesn’t sacrifice depth.

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:

Monster Punk Horizon by H.P. Holo.  Fiction that should especially appeal to gamers of the less grimdark stamp.  Made me want to game in this world.

Frog Kisser by Garth Nix.  Audiobook.  A re-read, because I felt like something less serious but still with heart.  A quest story featuring a cranky princess, a frog, a very large newt, a transformed otter, and a Royal Dog. 

In Progress:

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix.  I waited to read this for a variety of reasons, and now I’m enjoying. 

Have Sword Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams.  Audiobook, relisten.  A magic sword, a reluctant knight, who would actually rather be a miller, not a knight.

Also:

Lots of random articles and bits from a variety of books, too numerous to mention.

Mental Stretch

September 28, 2022
Dancer at Aki Matsuri

This past weekend, Jim and I took a break from the on-going tumult that has been our lives and went to Aki Matsuri, the Fall Festival hosted by the New Mexico Japanese-American Citizens League.

In the course of our several hour visit we walked around a lot, and visited various displays.  We talked with the bonsai growers, and chatted with a young man who does both digital art and traditional ink brush painting.  We sampled matcha (a frothed green tea), served after eating a citrus candy (sort of like a fruit gummi) “because matcha is bitter.”  We admired the ikebana, and got into a discussion of how combining roses and chrysanthemums gives a very New Mexico twist to an autumn arrangement.

In one of the display areas, a potter paused in spinning clay to encourage me to give yet one more try to folding an origami crane, assuring me that the person doing the demonstration was very good.  I knelt down on the floor and did my best with a square of purple paper.  It’s certainly not the best crane ever, but what will stay with me is the memory of the kindness of my sensei, as well as of how the potter, and the woman demonstrating tea ceremony, cheered us through fold after fold.

We also sat down and watched first a display of taiko drumming, then four Okinawan dances, then, finally, a cosplay exhibition.  These three demonstrations, so different from each other, were not only fascinating in themselves, but a vivid reminder of how much there is not only to Japanese culture, but to any culture.

I also did something very important for me as a writer.  By going to the festival and doing things I don’t usually do (including trying to fold that darn crane), I kept my creative brain from stiffening up.  It felt good to mentally stretch.  Almost without my willing it, I could feel new ways of looking at things taking shape.

Some of these will show up on the page almost immediately.  Others may shift around and take months, even years, to find their way into print.

And, y’know, I even feel encouraged to try folding another crane.

FF: Less Distracting

September 23, 2022
Mei-Ling Distracts

In addition to reading my own manuscript of House of Rough Diamonds, I’ve switched over to some lighter works or re-reads that won’t distract me from my editorial duties.

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:

Dabare Snake Launcher by Joelle Presby.  ARC.  A near-future novel about the complexities of building a space elevator.  Set in Cameroon, where the author lived for many years, and full of lovely detail about the local cultures, clashes between traditional and modern, and differing expectations.  Very much enjoyed.

In Progress:

Monster Punk Horizon by H.P. Holo.  Just starting.

Frog Kisser by Garth Nix.  Audiobook.  A re-read, because I felt like something less serious but still with heart.  A quest story featuring a cranky princess, a frog, a very large newt, a transformed otter, and a Royal Dog. 

Also:

American Archeology the current issue.  This is not the same magazine as the last couple of weeks.  Also, the new issue of Vogue.

This Isn’t About Me

September 21, 2022
Roary With Dreams Underfoot

Just over a week ago, a friend of mine hit the sort of anniversary that no one should face: one year in the hospital, most of that time in ICU.  That friend is MaryAnn Harris.  You may know her as MaryAnn, the wife of author Charles de Lint.

MaryAnn was hit by a rare tickborne virus called Powassan.  It’s so rare, there are no treatment protocols.  In MaryAnn’s case, it’s meant spending months in what was probably a coma.  It’s meant being so physically incapacitated that her being able to move a toe is a major triumph.  She’s awake now, can talk a bit, still can’t really move or eat on her own or…

I’m going to stop detailing here, because MaryAnn is a woman who, for all her vibrant personality and occasional silliness, is also a woman of quiet dignity and intense strength.

So, why am I brining this up?  Two reasons.  First, there’s a certain amount of misinformation circulating and I’m one of those people who want the facts to be straight.

Second, a whole year is a long time, and there’s a lot more time to come before MaryAnn can be considered “well.”  She and Charles need help.  Wait!  Sure, financial is welcome, but there are other ways you can help.

Charles has long been the main wage earner in their household.  For the last year, he’s been spending as much time as he can with MaryAnn.  The rest of the time, he’s handling all the things MaryAnn did for them, because she was the one who made it possible for Charles to focus on writing.

And, as I writer, I can tell you…  If you’re lucky, writing can be an escape.  However, having a writer’s brain means that it’s harder to escape worrying.  The same mechanism that turns “What If” into wonderful stories, also stirs up “What if she…”  Fill in the blank.

So, Charles hasn’t had a new book out since MaryAnn became sick.  Any writer can tell you what this does to the income stream.  Since MaryAnn was his first reader, but also (for his indie pub works) did a lot of the proofing, formatting, and cover design, he’s also not likely to have another book out soon.

And that’s a pity, because Juniper Wiles and the Ghost Girls, the sequel to April 2021’s Juniper Wiles is terrific. I’ve read it, and I can assure you this is so.

So, when we say “help” here, we’re not saying, “need help to live an artist life,” we mean, to keep on going, so hopefully there will someday be a couple living together again, making stories and music, and all those great things.

Anyhow, there is now a gofundme.  If the link doesn’t work, look for Harris-deLint Recovery Fund.  Charles now has a Patreon as well.  (I’m going to keep links to a minimum, because some social media sites don’t like them.)

Can’t manage either of these?  Charles and MaryAnn would be the first to understand.  If you can handle postage, you can send a card to MaryAnn at MaryAnn Harris c/o Charles de Lint PO Box 9480 Station T Ottawa, ON, Canada K1G 3V2.

Can’t manage any of these?  Do you need to buy a gift for a friend or family member?  Consider buying one of Charles’s books or downloading some of his music.  Can’t manage that?  Can you leave a review of one of his many books?

You can get more details about MaryAnn’s illness from the gofundme page, so at the very least, I’ve pointed you to the facts.  I’ll stop here, and thank you so much for listening.

FF: A Little Less

September 15, 2022
Mine!

You may have noticed I seem to be reading less.  That’s not really true.  As I noted below, I don’t always mention if my reading is scattered, and right now it is.  I’ve also printed a copy of my own manuscript, House of Rough Diamonds, and some of my reading time is going to that.

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:

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  Audiobook.  I’d forgotten how many plotlines there were to resolve, but Vinge is hitting all the beats with elegant timing.

In Progress:

Dabare Snake Launcher by Joelle Presby.  ARC.  A near-future novel about the complexities of building a space elevator.  Set in Cameroon, where the author lived for many years, and full of lovely detail about the local cultures, clashes between traditional and modern, and differing expectations.  Very much enjoying.

Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. Audiobook.  A car trip, again, so a few more hours to listen!

Also:

Archeology the current issue.  Almost done.

Clubbing

September 14, 2022
Persephone Chairs

It’s sort of funny how the noun “club” can mean a gathering of people who share an interest, or a blunt object used as a weapon.  As a verb, it can mean (very informally) to create such a group, or to use a blunt object to wallop someone.

Taking that one step further, book clubs… 

(Stop giggling.  Yes.  You could use a book as a club.  Certainly, my five-and-a-half-pound Riverside Shakespeare could qualify as a blunt weapon.)

More seriously, book clubs as discussion groups about books (often themed) can be as lively and dangerous as any battlefield.  Readers can have very strong opinions about what makes a good book, a weak book, or a book that just makes the reader go “meh.”

Three of the main characters in my recent novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, meet because they belong to the same book club.  At the opening of the novel, they’re engaged in a discussion of the relative merits of romance novels.  And, when they are drawn into an adventure right out of the wildest sort of adventure fantasy, they often draw on what they’ve vicariously experienced as readers to find solutions to various dilemmas.

It’s been a long time since I belonged to a formal book club, although my Friday Fragments blog does have something of the flavor of one, as readers list what books they’re reading.  I’ve discovered several books this way, and been reminded of those I’ve always meant to read.

A fascinating development in the world of book clubs is the use of a reader’s guide to provide structure to the discussion.  I can certainly see the appeal, since discussions that stop at, “Well, yeah, I liked it kinda, but I’m not sure,” tend to stall really quickly.

Do you belong to a book club, formal or informal?  Does your group use reader’s guides?  If so, what sort of things do you look for in a guide?

Or does a reader’s guide make you feel as if you’ve been clubbed?

Let me know, either in the Comments or, if you’re shy, you can use the contact e-mail listed on my website.

Oh!  Just occurred to me, “to club” can also mean to go to a club, especially a nightclub, as in “to go clubbing.”  What a versatile term indeed!

FF: Closing In

September 9, 2022
Hawk Investigates Birdbath

I had to share this picture of a hawk visiting the bird bath right outside my office window.  No, we don’t live in the country, but open spaces less than half a mile from us do bring in the wildlife.

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 Life and Times of Chaucer by John Gardner.  The author of Grendel (which blew me away when I first read it at sixteen) turns his fluid and graceful writing style to examining the man who wrote The Canterbury Tales and other influential words.  I definitely enjoyed.

In Progress:

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  Audiobook.  I might even finish this one tonight.  I’d forgotten how many plotlines there were to resolve, but Vinge is hitting all the beats with elegant timing.

The Dabare Snake Launcher by Joelle Presby.  ARC.  A near-future novel about the complexities of building a space elevator.  Set in Cameroon, where the author lived for many years, and full of lovely detail about the local cultures, clashes between traditional and modern, and differing expectations

Also:

Archeology the current issue.  The cover article had little new, for me, but then I’ve done a lot of research into that time period in Egypt.  I still enjoyed the synthesis.

Five Minute Stories

September 7, 2022
Snackwriters!

Over the years, one of my favorite Bubonicon panels has become the “Snack Writes” panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.  Josh is fascinated by the question of how to fit reading and writing into days increasingly packed with work, various entertainment options, and the always important distraction of spending time with friends and family.

His “Snack Reads” website (on which he published my short story “Hamlet Revisited”) was part of the still-growing flash fiction trend.  Later, he produced “Snack Writes,” which provided short story prompts.  The panel has outlasted the website, and while the featured authors are required to read what they wrote, the audience has the choice whether or not to participate.

This year the participants were me, David Lee Summers, and the very brave Diana Rowland, who filled in for regular Robert E. Vardeman at the last minute.  Diana did great, and I hope she’ll join us again next time, even if Bob is back.

In our fifty minutes, Josh offered four prompts, two of which were single phrases (the others were a bit more detailed).  I’ll offer my end results, starting with the prompt.  I did not improve my prose, although I will not make you suffer my handwriting.

First Prompt: I am the squeaky toy of god.

Kibeth was filthy, and so her human had to take her to the groomer, thus missing part of Bubonicon.

How to explain?  Kibs had had to dig.  Something had been under the cherry tree.  At first, Kibs had thought it was a bird.  But it didn’t move.  A dead bird!  Even better!

Kibs went digging after it, deeper and deeper, driven by an impulse beyond sanity.  It chirped over and over: “I am the squeaky toy of god!”

Who could resist such a call?  Certainly not the Disreputable Dog.

But as the suds foamed around her, Kibeth heard the second part of the dead bird’s refrain: “I am the squeaky toy of God, and for me you will be washed clean!”

By my great good luck, right before the panel, I’d been told that my friend, Melissa Jackson, would be late because her dog had gotten into something and really needed a bath.  This combined with the dog in question being named for a character from Garth Nix’s novels Lirael and Abhorson, is why she is referred to as the Disreputable Dog.  Write what you know!

Second Prompt: Put them in the mixing bowl.

Take faith (in what?), take hope (not despair), take love (of one, of all, of that which is unique).  Put them in the mixing bowl.  Stir.  Agitate.  Subject to heat, to pressure.  What will you have made?  The great contradiction, even to itself, the great on-going project of every individual life: the immortal soul.

My ingredients here are the three things that remain: faith, hope, and love.  (Corinthians, 13:13.)  Back in my earliest writing days, I made a lot of “cold” submissions to theme anthologies.  I knew to have a chance, I had to avoid the usual takes on dragons or wizards or whatever.  That impulse hit me again with this prompt, and I set out to come up with an unusual recipe.

Many of the other contributions were creative variations on magical spells, which were certainly more amusing than my philosophical offering.  Nonetheless, I quite like it.

On that note, I’m off to do the sort of writing work that takes a lot more time than five minutes.  I’ve finished a rough draft of House of Rough Diamonds, the sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.  Note: I’m using the term “sequel” in the sense of being subsequent, not in the sense that between them Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge leave you hanging. 

Take care!

FF: Almost

September 2, 2022
Where’s the Book?

My reading time was serious impinged upon this week by Bubonicon, then all manner of unexpected distractions.   So “almost done” is the best I can do.

If you’re wondering where the book is in this lovely portrait of our shy girl, Mei-Ling, she’s sitting on it.  It turned out to be a great way to get her to sit still!

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:

Sorry.  Nothing.

In Progress:

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  Audiobook.  It’s good, but I’m not making much progress at about 20 minutes a night.

The Life and Times of Chaucer by John Gardner.  The author of Grendel, which blew me away when I first read it at sixteen, turns his fluid and graceful writing style to examining the man who wrote The Canterbury Tales and other influential words.  On the final chapter.

Also:

Vogue’s latest.  Also, American Archeology’s latest.  Fashion magazine and anthropology combine to make a great view of human values.  Almost done with both.