Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

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.

Rats, But No Rain

August 31, 2022
Me and Sheila Finch on “Worlds Apart” Panel

Bubonicon weekend went very well but, except for a few sprinkles, we didn’t get our hoped-for rain.  This meant that we’d come home from a really busy day and needed to spot-water the suffering greenery. Then in the morning, before we set off for another really busy day, we’d be out there watering, or harvesting, or simply being amazed at what had happened while we were gone. 

It’s that time of year in New Mexico.

The mood at Bubonicon this year was one of merriment and hilarity, with an undercurrent of melancholy as we had to face that Roslee would not be there behind the table in the art show (but Kathy Kubica did a great job) or fans who’d become friends like Wanda June Alexander and Kevin Zander wouldn’t come wandering over to catch up.  And, oh my, were the panels sadder for Sally and John and Jan and others not being there to offer comments.

So, we were blessed beyond all hope by having as our featured stars four people who seemed determined to make us laugh, as they took on a ton of panels.  I had the pleasure of being on one panel with co-writer GOH Rae Carson, who managed to be thoughtful and very silly at the same time.  I didn’t get to be on a panel with our other writer GOH, Keith R.A. DeCandido, but I did get to let him know I’d discovered we just missed each other as students at Fordham.

Artist GOH, Chaz Kemp was stylish, cool, wise, and funny, whether when on a panel or hosting his table in the Dealer’s room.  And Toastmaster A. Lee Martinez, who I’d met a long while back when he published his first novel (Gil’s All Fright Diner) which both Jim and I loved, reminded me of that meeting and credited me with a lot more wisdom than I ever knew I had.  Thanks, Lee.

I was thrilled to hear from the con’s official booksellers, Who Else Books, that they’d sold out of Library of the Sapphire Wind, and were rapidly running out of Aurora Borealis Bridge.  Please, folks!  Give them and all the other booksellers an excuse to order a lot more.  The future of Over Where isn’t in the hands of Meg, Peg, and Teg—it’s in yours.

And you’ll do yourself a favor, too.  As I discovered when I did my reading and none of those who’d heard me read the same bit before at ASFS walked out, these are books that are not only worth reading, they’re fun to re-read, too.

My panels seemed to be focused this year on the nuts and bolts of writing: world building; the complexities of writing epic fantasy; the ups and downs of the writer/editor relationship.  Putting all this to the test, I joined SnackWrites once again.  I might even share some of my five-minute stories one of these days, if anyone reads far enough in the WW to make a request.

We went without meals to go to various readings, ate too many meals to hang out with friends.  Pity the scale didn’t average this out.  But seriously, I have a whole new appreciation of how readings may be the secret pleasure of a convention.

Now we’re back home, riding herd on the burgeoning tomato army, and finally able to settle in and write for a bit.  I finished a very rough draft of the next Over Where novel, House of Rough Diamonds, just a couple hours before departing for Bubonicon.  Now to go back and start polishing the words.  The diamonds will stay rough.  Wonder why?  You’ll get your chance to learn that in just a bit!

FF: Lord of the Road

August 26, 2022
Roary Contemplates the Singularity

During several long drives this year, Jim and I decided to re-listen to The Lord of the Rings.  The version we have is read by Rob Inglis, produced by Recorded Books.  We’ve listened to it before, and enjoy it very much.  This last drive to Dallas and back, was also across Middle Earth.

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. 


The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Audiobook.  We started The Return of the King, and left off with Pippin seeing Faramir brought in seriously wounded.  Definitely need time to finish, and no road trips planned.

In Progress:

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  Audiobook.  Maybe halfway.  Had to stop on this one while we were away, so still around halfway.  Things are definitely getting serious.

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.  This one is long and dense, but fascinating.  Expect to see it on my list for a while.


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

Season of Rat and Rain

August 24, 2022
Me Emoting

I’m back from Texas and a very nice book event at the Half Price Books flagship store.  If you’re looking for signed books, but can’t make it to one of my events, both Half Price Books and Poisoned Pen have signed copies of my most recent titles (complete with bookmarks) available.

Or you can come to Bubonicon this coming weekend (August 26-28) and get me to sign your copies in person.  I still have bookmarks, postcards, and buttons, as well as stickers signed by David Weber to go in our most recent collaboration, A New Clan.  I’ll definitely have these with me at the Mass Autographing on Saturday, and may have a few with me at other times.

So…  What is the season of Rain and Rat?  Let me back up a bit…  Marry an anthropologist (which is what an archeologist is) and a writer.  Have them live together for twenty-five years.  It really should come as no surprise if they start creating their own names for various seasons.

August is defined by two things.  One of these Bubonicon, which has as its mascots two rats, Perry and Terri Rodent.  The other important event is that it almost always rains on Bubonicon weekend, the last hoorah of the summer monsoon season. 

Other seasons include various holidays, and the ever-popular period in late Spring and again in late Autumn that we have dubbed “the Seasons When Jane Leaves Shoes All Over.” 

Hope to see some of you this weekend! 

Zinnias! Book Event!

August 17, 2022
Just Add Water…

Possibly the only thing that can compete for colorfulness with the zinnias growing alongside our front sidewalk are Tom Kidd’s cover art for my new books, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.

I’ll be doing a book event this coming Saturday, August 20, 2022, at Noon, at Half Price Books Flagship store in Dallas, Texas.  (5803 E. NW Highway Dallas, Texas, 7532).  Copies of Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge, and A New Clan (the fourth Star Kingdom book, with David Weber) will be available.

The schedule for the event includes my giving a brief talk and reading, followed by a question-and-answer session.  Then I’ll sign books.  I’m always happy to sign my older works as well, but you might want to check with the bookstore in advance, as policies regarding books not purchased at the store do vary.

I’ll also have goodies to give away, including bookmarks, post cards, and some very cool buttons featuring the cover art for A New Clan.  Even though David Weber won’t be there, I have stickers that he has signed, so that those of you purchasing A New Clan can have it signed by both authors.

Hope to see some of you there!


Toadaly True Encounter

July 27, 2022
Signing at Poisoned Pen… (but first, toad encounter)

On my way out to pick liana beans, I went into the garage for a bag.  As I paused in the laundry room (right off the garage) to do a few things, I heard a very gentle thump from the door into the garage.  I opened it, looked down, and discovered a medium-sized toad sitting on the doorsill, waiting to be let in.

During the hottest part of the day, we often open the garage door just a few inches, so air will circulate and some of the heat will bleed off.  Obviously, the toad had come in then, and had spent the night in the garage.  Now that the garage door was closed, it wanted to leave and had politely knocked—probably because it was too short to reach the controls.

Mildly astonished (this happened once before, years ago), I gathered up the toad and carried it to our backyard, which offers much living better conditions for a toad. For the duration of the summer, we have resolved to leave the garage door open just a little during the day, so any venturesome toads don’t cook when the temperatures rise.

(We’ve been pretty routinely hitting a high of 105.  Since this is cooler than the high of 112 we hit in July the last couple of years, we’re not complaining.)

The bunny continues to reside in the yard.  It is getting bigger.  It also has a friend, a much smaller bunny who probably came through the same mysterious gap in the fence.  We will do our best to relocate them but, for now, thanks to the monsoon rains, there is more than enough natural forage for them, and they’re not dining on our veggies.

The first bunny has become, if not tame, at least less inclined to immediately run for cover when it sees us.  Hopefully we’ll be able to eventually herd it out through the gate.

As mentioned in the caption, the picture above is from my recent book event at Poisoned Pen.  Much praise to Patrick King, who put in a lot of advanced work on his interview questions, so that we had a lively and non-generic chat.  You can view the interview here.

I’m reaching the final stages of my current rough draft (set in the world of Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge), and am eager to find out exactly how the story will resolve itself.  The characters have dropped a few hints, but one of the things I really like about writing is watching exactly how the resolution ends up happening.

Helping Writing Thrive

July 20, 2022
Mostly Squash and Sunflowers

Last week I learned that A New Clan will be released as an audiobook from Audible.  This is the fourth Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington novel by me and David Weber.  Release timetable is not yet set, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s out.

We have some interest from Recorded Books in the two Over Where novels (Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge).  If you’re hoping for these to come out in audio, let them know!

Last week, our temperatures rose back into the low hundreds.  However, the monsoon rains circled around again, giving us some fresh moisture, including one storm that dropped seven tenths of an inch.  All of you dealing with floods, don’t laugh.  Here in our part of New Mexico, that’s a significant amount of rainfall.

As a result, our yard and garden are doing the best they have in the last three or four years.  We’re actually having a bit of trouble picking our way between some of the rows, which was not an issue in hot and droughty 2020 or 2021.  As anticipated, we’ve harvested our first tomatoes.  The new contribution are lianas, often called yard long beans or, sometimes, asparagus beans.

So, what’s the equivalent of a good soaking rain for a writer?  Obviously, it differs from writer to writer.  Although I’ve written in plenty of public places (classrooms, meetings, airplanes), I would no more seek out a coffee shop as an ideal place to go write than I would roast my bare feet over white-hot coals.  But there are plenty of writers (including some whose work I love) who go out of their way to write in coffee shops or in group writing sessions.

For me, my internal landscape matters more than the exterior.  If I’m too busy to read, my writing really suffers.  Re-reading definitely counts.  It’s a bit like listening to a familiar piece of music, with the bonus of being able to concentrate on what elements make me love it, rather than what happens next.

Hobby activity counts, since while my hands are busy, my subconscious feels free to wander.  Even my gaming time, which is a sort of storytelling, can stimulate my writing.  This is not because I reuse game elements, more because the freedom to be part of an evolving story with no pressure to produce a saleable piece reminds me why I love to share stories.

We’re just back from a trip, and I need to go out and crawl between the plants and see what might have ripened while we were away.  Then I think I’ll see what my subconscious came up with while the many hundreds of miles between Albuquerque and Phoenix spun out under the tires.

Beans, Sunflowers, Tomatoes

Bookstores, Podcasts: the Wild Life of a Writer

July 13, 2022
Postcards, Bookmarks, Buttons

This week I have lots of cool things to tell you about, much of it related to my life as a writer, but not forgetting bunnies and veggies.

First, I’m doing an in-person event at Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona on Sunday, July 17th, at 2:00 pm.  We’ll have all three of my new books: Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge, and A New Clan (a Star Kingdom novel, in collaboration with David Weber).  For those of you who can’t make the trip to Arizona, Poisoned Pen does do signed books by mail order.  My understanding is that there may be a live simulcast of the interview.  Check Poisoned Pen’s website for details.

Oh…  At the signing, I’ll have with me the cool bookmarks, post cards, and other swag shown above.  I even have a limited number of stickers signed by David Weber, so you can have your copy of A New Clan signed by both authors.  The stickers are reserved for copies of A New Clan, but I should have enough bookmarks and postcards for everyone.

Second, if you’re wondering about Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, this past weekend a new review came out that meets the remarkable challenge of being accurate, detailed, and spoiler free.  You can read H.P. Holo’s take on Library of the Sapphire Wind here.

I will be putting links to other reviews on my website as time permits.

Third, if you’ve ever wondered how David Weber and I work together on our collaborations, we did a very long interview with David Butler for Baen Free Radio. 

You can find Part One here:

and Part Two here:

As for the really important stuff…  The baby bunny is still in the yard, still leaving the veggies alone, although it is no longer running away quite as fast when we go out into the yard.  This may be a good thing (enable us to move it out of the yard) or a bad thing (if it starts deciding to augment its natural diet with our produce).  Jim has decided to fence the bed that has Swiss chard and arugula, as this would be the bed most likely to suffer if the bunny gets too brave.

 We’ve added a few string beans to our harvest, and I think we might get a few ripe tomatoes by the end of this week. 

On that note, I’m off to have some coffee, then get on to writing and other fun things.

Pretties and Interviews

June 15, 2022
Pretties for You

Last week saw the release of A New Clan, the fourth Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington novel, written by me and David Weber.  I’ve been asked a few times if I’ll be doing any book events, since I’ve had three books out in the last six months.

(The other two are Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, two books in my new “Over Where” series.)

I’m happy to report that I will have a couple of book events out here in the wild west.  On July 17, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. I’ll be at  Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ.

August 20, 2022 at Noon will see me in Dallas, Texas, at Half Price Books (5803 E. NW Highway Dallas, TX 75321). 

August 26-28, 2022 will see me at Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In addition to the books, there will be some nifty swag, including bookmarks, postcards, and buttons.

If you’re interested in hearing me talk about these new projects, I’ve done a few interviews.  The most recent is with Paul Semel, and you can read it here.  I’ve also done a few with the Baen Free Radio Hour.  Weber and I did a really long one, that should be posted any day now, although quite possibly in installments.

In person, I’m happy to sign books not specifically related to the event.  However, you might want to check with the bookstore in advance, as different stores have different policies related to bringing in material.

If you can’t make any of these events, feel free to post questions to the Comments.  There’s also Contact information on my website:  I do my best to answer promptly, but I’m sure you know what gets priority…

Yep.  That’s it.  Writing the next story! 

New Releases! Rocky Insights!

April 13, 2022
Two New Releases!

Several bits of news, then my insight from the past week.  (There’s also an extra photo!)

As you probably guessed from the image above, I have Book Release News!

Aurora Borealis Bridge, sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind, is now officially released as both an e-book and a trade paperback.

My friend, award-winning reviewer, Alan Robson, who has permission to not like the same sorts of books as me or even my books (or else we could never have written a column together for seven years), had this to say about the series:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I even stayed up past my bedtime just so I could finish the first book!  It’s an amazingly complex story, quite different from what I expected at the start…. I think it’s very clever, very witty, often funny and really rather subversive in the way in which it turns so many cliches on their heads. Well done, very well done.”

I’ve been writing about the two Over Where books on and off for a while now.  If you’d like to know more, you can read about Library of the Sapphire Wind here.

As for Aurora Borealis Bridge, here’s a longer version of the cover copy that doesn’t have too many spoilers!

Can It Get Any Stranger?


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.

As for the other image there with Aurora Borealis Bridge, I’m happy to announce that at long last, there is a new e-book edition of my novel Child of a Rainless Year available at several popular e-tailers.  Since this WW has wandered on almost long enough, I’ll stop here and save talking about this novel for next week’s WW.

If you can’t wait or have any questions about any of my books, I’m doing a Zoom chat with Parsec, the Pittsburgh area SF/F club this coming Saturday, April 16, at 1:00 pm EST.  Here’s a link where you can sign up: Parsec meeting.   

Oh, and the insight?  It’s related to the picture below.

On Monday, Jim and I came back from Arizona, where we went for my aunt’s funeral.  This photo was taken at one of the rest stops along the way home from Tucson.  I guess it’s proof that no matter how sad the occasion, no matter how tough the road, you can find beauty along the way.

Beauty Along the Way