Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

Escape Into the Dream

January 23, 2019

Rowan, Dominique, Jim, Melissa, Cale (me up front)

What do escape rooms and a new magazine have in common?  Keep reading and I’ll tell you!

Last Sunday, as our Christmas present, Jim and my gamers (Cale, Dominique, Melissa, and Rowan) took us to our very first escape room.  This one was called Nefertari’s Tomb, and it was both visually and intellectually very, very satisfying.

Escape rooms are basically complex puzzles built around a plotline.  For Nefertari’s Tomb, the story was that we had been hired by a definitely shady individual who claimed to have found access to a hidden tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses.  Our job was to blast our way in, solve the various puzzles, and get out with as much loot as possible.  We had one hour in which to do this.  The timer started running the second our introductory briefing had ended.

(In the interests of not providing spoilers for those who may want to enjoy Nefertari’s Tomb themselves, that’s all I’ll say about this particular escape room.)

Our group has been gaming together for something like six years now, so we’re very used to working as a team.  This was an advantage when two years ago we all went to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe and solved the imbedded puzzle.  It was even more of an advantage this time because, with the timer running, we had to split up and hit different puzzles simultaneously.

How did we do?  Well, our game master told us that if we didn’t have the highest score ever for the room, we were definitely in the top three.  He looked both pleased and a little awed when he said this.  We were rather pleased ourselves.

So, what does this have to do with a new magazine?  Last week, I talked about DreamForge: Tales of Hope in the Universe.  The Kickstarter for this lushly illustrated magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy hit its base goal this Monday.  They’re now working toward the stretch goals.  DreamForge is the brainchild of Scot Noel, but the team working on it includes Scot’s wife, Jane, who is putting her artistic talents into layout, design, and illustration; artist, Mark Zingarelli, who is art director; Leah Segal on research and support, and Jamie D. Munro who is the Editorial  Assistant.  Oh, and me.  Scot calls me “Senior Advisor and Creative Consultant,” which basically means I believe in the value of this project enough to donate my time to helping out.

As with my gamers in the escape room, those of us on the DreamForge team are working toward our goal both separately and together.  It’s a very 21st Century team.  I’ve only met Scot and Jane.  As for now, Mark and Leah are sparkles in my e-mail or voices on the phone during conference calls.  Jaimie’s in Australia…  I mostly interact with him on Twitter.

The Kickstarter remains live for another sixteen days.  Some of the incentives are really great.  One that’s easy to overlook is the Founder’s Bonus.  This includes personal feedback on up to five story submissions.  Feedback of this type is the sort of thing writers dream about getting, instead of the form: “Thank you very much, but your story doesn’t suit our needs this time.”  Now you can assure personalized feedback for five stories – and get a cool magazine as well.

Aren’t a writer but know one?  Consider giving a Founder’s Bonus subscription.  Help your favorite writers achieve their dream.

Now, speaking of dreams, I have a couple of novels that I’m working on, and dream of someday actually finishing.   I’m off run with the wolves…


Hard Right Turn

October 31, 2018

Jim’s Halloween Diorama: Beaded Spiders By Jane

So, today is Halloween, and with singularly poetical timing, Jim is having knee replacement surgery on the one day of the American calendar when it is considered perfectly appropriate to wear a mask.  The surgeons should be very happy.  This event is the next hard right turn in our lives, which I hinted about at the end of last week’s Wednesday Wandering.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either getting ready to go to the hospital, am at the hospital, or maybe even am home from the hospital and racing around taking care of all the chores that I didn’t do because I spent the day at the hospital.

For the next few weeks, my social media presence may be limited.  Unlike some people who would doubtless be posting updates every half-hour or so, that’s just not my thing.  And, hey, I don’t even own a smartphone, so even if it was, I couldn’t.  I will check and respond to e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook as I can, but taking care of Jim and our home are going to be my first priorities.

Jim is a good candidate for knee replacement, being more or less in shape (other than having a knee that doesn’t work right), relatively young, and supremely determined.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that these days almost everyone either knows someone who has had knee replacement surgery or has had some joint replaced, that doesn’t change that this is a major surgical procedure with a long recovery period.  (As in several months, minimum, perhaps a year before full strength and flexibility returns.)

Yes.  We know that Jim needs to do his PT.  Yes.  We do know pain control is important.   Yes.  We do know he’s going to hurt like hell but, in the end, be so glad that he did this.  Thank you.  Please don’t share your horror stories about what went wrong for you or for a friend of a friend.  We’ve heard those stories.  They don’t help.

Since Jim has always done his share of chores around our house – up to and including cooking, laundry, and pet care – I’m going to have a lot of extra work, above and beyond being the only driver and the main caregiver.  If and when I have any extra energy, I hope to put it into writing.  That may be a fantasy.  I won’t know until I get there.

So, Happy Halloween.  Wish us more treats than tricks…  I’ll catch you when I can!

Toby the Frog

August 29, 2018

I Read Aloud While Matt and Bob Listen

For those of you who didn’t get enough of me talking this weekend at Bubonicon, this Saturday, September 1, I will be giving a presentation for Southwest Writers.  My topic is “Work Habits for Successful Writers.”  It will be followed by a Q&A.  Bring your questions, the more difficult the better!

Some of my books, including my non-fiction Wanderings on Writing (which talks about writing the art, craft, and lifestyle) will be available for purchase.  I will also have copies of Asphodel, which sold out early in Bubonicon’s Dealer’s Room.

My talk is open to the public, and you can get details as to location here.  A small note: The meeting starts at 10:00 a.m., but I will not go on until sometime closer to 11:00.  There is a business meeting before.  You might enjoy attending the meeting as a window into an active writer’s group whose offerings include, among other things, lectures and conferences.

As I mentioned above, this past weekend I attended Bubonicon.  For the second year in a row, Bob Vardeman, Matt Reiten, and I offered ourselves as victims – oops, I meant “participating authors” – in the Snack Writes writing exercises panel, hosted by Josh Gentry.

How it works is like this.  Josh provides a short prompt, then we have five minutes to write what we can in that time.  Audience members are encouraged to do the same.  Then, after time is called, the panelists are required to read what they have managed to write in that time.  (That’s why we’re the victims.  We don’t get to bow out.)  Then audience members are given the choice to read what they have come up with.  Usually, several bravely take the option.

What amazes me about this exercise is how different the responses are.  Let me give one example.  For this one, Josh asked the audience to come up with a genre, a character, a setting, a prop, and a line that had to be used in the course of the story.

The audience gave us the following: medical mystery, Toby the Frog, library, candlestick, and “What the…”

When I started writing, my thought was that surely everyone’s pieces would be very similar.  Weren’t the choices obvious?  Well, about the only thing that recurred was that the library was dark, thereby requiring the use of a candle.  Otherwise, the little pieces were wildly different.

I’ve met a lot of would-be writers over the years who defeat themselves before they get started because they fear they have nothing unique to offer.  A group exercise like this one is very encouraging, since it shows just how different people’s life experiences shape how they will approach the same creative stimulus.

Here’s what I wrote:

“What the…”  Joe’s voice trailed off in barely concealed shock and disbelief.

The library was dark except for the light from a single candlestick that illuminated the body of Asby, the young and overly-eager medical student.  Toby the Frog stood over her, a long needle in one webbed foot, a scalpel in the other.  His wide mouth hung open and he was laughing maniacally.

“Toby!  What have you done?”

“Huh!  See how she likes being pithed!  Wait until I slash her open and examine each of her organs, commenting snidely on her dietary habits and the health of her liver.”  [Time called]

For me, the combination of medical mystery and Toby the Frog came together with a traumatic moment from high school biology.  Even as I was writing my piece, I’m thinking: “Everyone is going to do pithing a frog or dissection.  I mean, it’s the obvious link between ‘medical’ and a ‘frog.’”  Guess what.  No one else even came close.

So, just remember.  You’re a unique voice.  That’s becoming harder to value in this day and age when it’s considered smart to pitch your work by comparing it to someone else’s work.  If that’s what you want, fine.  But feel free to feel to present yourself as original, too.  After all, you are!

Hold Music

August 22, 2018

Ziggy Relaxes

The last week has been too full, so that right now I don’t have the mental energy to come up with a tidy little essay.

I hope that by next week things will have quieted down.

For those of you who will be attending Bubonicon, I hope to be there on Friday and Saturday.  Friday, I’ll be reading my latest Prudence Bledsloe story: “Dost Make Thee Mad.”  I’m also on a panel right after Opening Ceremonies.  Saturday, I have a couple of panels, and will be there for the mass signing.  Sunday I may or may not attend, so if you want anything signed, be sure to come to the mass signing.

For now, I leave you with a picture of Ziggy O’Piggy, relaxed and enjoying her personal armchair.

Visiting the Wild Spirit Pack

May 2, 2018

Welcoming Wolf

A while back, our friend Melissa Jackson suggested that we plan a road trip out to Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, New Mexico.  Jim and I had been out a couple times before, but we hadn’t visited for several years, so we were eager to go.  But one thing led to another, and we never quite got around to making plans.

However, as I started working on the newest Firekeeper novel (working title, Wolf’s Search), the urge to see some wolves up close and personal became very strong.  I spoke with Melissa and we firmed up plans.   Last weekend – in company with Rowan Derrick and Cale Mims – we made the two-plus-hour  drive out from Albuquerque.  (For those of you who might want to visit from out-of-town, estimate a drive of two and a half hours from the Albuquerque Airport.)

Wild Spirit has a spiffy new website that explains its mission in detail, but it can be summed up by their slogan: Wild Animals Are Not Pets.  This is a message I’ve tried to share via essays prominently displayed on my website.  I’m fully aware that lots of us – me included – would love to have the sort of relationship Firekeeper and Blind Seer share, but I’m also very aware that what I’m writing is Fantasy fiction, and that such relationships are more likely to end up in tragedy – and often with the wolf or wolf-dog dead.

That’s what makes going to Wild Spirit so special.  The wild canines there are not expected to perform for humans.  Even those on the tour trail have places where they can retreat if they don’t feel like company.

Jessica’s Pal Flicker

The basic tour is very affordable and includes a slow ramble with a knowledgeable guide.  On this trip, our guide was a relatively new volunteer named Jessica.  Jessica had only been at Wild Spirit for a month and a half, but she knew every one of the many wild canines on the tour trail by name, as well as some tidbit of personal history.  It was evident that the wild canines knew her, too, and considered her a friend.  Several came over to say “hello” with no other incentive than a chance to greet Jessica.

All the pictures featured here were taken by my husband, Jim.  He has a nifty new telephoto lens that enabled him to focus past the chain link fence, so you’re actually seeing the wolves without the impediment of the barrier.

Although every enclosure was a delight, there were a couple encounters that will stick with me for a long time.  One was when we stopped to see wolf hybrid, Koda.  Koda is a magnificent creature whose great size actually comes from his dog heritage, not his wolf.  He was up close to the fence (which is why Jim couldn’t eliminate it from the photo) and seemed to be posing.  At one point, he did something incredibly cute that caused all the humans in the group to coo “aww…”  Immediately, he snarled.  Apparently, Koda doesn’t like “baby talk” one bit.

Koda: Don’t Babytalk Me!

Another encounter was more personal.  Any of you who have gone to my website have seen the picture of me with a very large wolf puppy named Dakota in my lap.  I’ve retained a fondness for Dakota all these years.  In fact, I’ve been one of his sponsors for most of his life.  I didn’t expect Dakota to remember me, but I did hope we could see him, since I hadn’t for a good many years.  As Jessica brought us to the enclosure where Dakota lives with two of his childhood buddies, she said, “This is where Dakota lives.  He doesn’t usually come down when I do a tour but…”

She trailed off because Dakota was making a beeline for the fence, his nostrils flared, intently sniffing.  Maybe I’m just indulging in a sentimental moment, but it seemed to me that he remembered me and Jim perfectly well, and was coming over to say “Hi.”  Yeah.  Melt…

(I don’t have a picture of Dakota here because he was so close to the fence and so active, we couldn’t get a really good shot, but you can see him on the Wild Spirit website.  He’s grown up to be a very good-looking fellow.)

At the end of the tour, as we were viewing the Nola Pack – a group of very wolf-like dogs, Wild Spirit’s director, Leyton Cougar, came wandering out with a tub of a new, very green, health food he’d been making up for some of their residents.  He offered me and Jim a taste, and we took the dare.  It was actually quite good – like dense scrambled eggs with a dandelion tang.

After our trail tour, we had arranged to have an “extra” – a private educational lecture.  This was conducted by the Assistant Director, Crystal Castellanos, and her husband, Research and Development director, Ramon Castellanos.  Crystal and Ramon told us they had a new presentation on the Canine Continuum they’d like to try, and asked if we would be their first audience.  Needless to say, we were thrilled.

Me and Leia at the Educational Talk

The focus of this talk was about the connections between different types of wild canines.  We began with three of the resident New Guinea Singing Dogs, moved to the wolf/ wolf-dog, then moved to the dingo.  For each part of the presentation, Crystal brought out a leashed representative.  The educational encounters are “hands off” with the caveat that if the canines are interested in looking at the humans, and the humans welcome the chance connection, then this may happen.

We five humans sat in a row on the bottom of the bleachers, ears, eyes, and hearts open.  We were very lucky and had a chance to get closer to our canine hosts than we had dared hope.  The most out-going was Leia, the wolf-dog, who at two is still young enough that she is inclined to trust.  Ramon and Crystal’s talk was very informative – even for me, who is something of a wild canine junky – which is a high recommendation, indeed.  I’d happily listen to the same talk again, just to soak in more.

As you probably can tell, we had a wonderful time.  Many thanks to Josh who helped me with reservations; to Tina in the gift shop, who helped us in many ways; as well as to Jessica, Leyton, Crystal, and Ramon.  We’ll definitely be coming back, and we hope to encourage many of those who are reading this to visit as well.

Come and See Us!

Zoos: Changing Faces

April 25, 2018

Tiny Teacher

I’ve almost always lived near a good zoo.  I grew up in Washington, D.C.  which hosts the National Zoo.  My dad took us there frequently when we were small.  These were the days when you were still encouraged to feed the elephants peanuts, so my first memories of those magnificent creatures includes looking up into questing trunks while my feet crunched on peanut shells.  We also always made a point to go visit Smokey the Bear.  My dad would hoot at the howler monkeys and they would hoot back at him.

For the longest time, I treasured a memory of patting a white tiger kitten that had been let run around in an enclosure that was little more than a chain-link fence surrounding a grassy area.  I squeezed through the towering adults, hunkered down, and pushed my hand through to pat the big kitten.

As I grew older, I decided that I had probably imagined that incident.  Then, when I was a freshman at Fordham University, I went to the Bronx Zoo, which was an easy walk from campus.  There, in the building that housed the big cats, I read on a sign how the magnificent white tiger lounging on the other side of the bars had been born at that National Zoo at just the right time to match my memory.

What do you know?  I probably did pat that tiger.

As much as I treasure those memories, one of the things I am happiest about zoos is how I’ve seen them change.  When I was a child, many animals were kept in iron-barred, concrete-floored cages.  The exception to this were hoof stock.  They at least had dirt-surfaced or grassy holding areas.

The change started when I was a kid.  Signs began to include the little antelope head emblem that indicated an endangered or threatened species.  Holding areas began to include toys or play areas.   The message that the older style “zoological garden” had sent was “Here are animals for you to look at, just as you might go to a flower garden to look at flowers.”  Now the message was, “Here are rare creatures.  Treasure them.  They might not be around much longer.”

Change was a slow process and one that didn’t happen overnight.  My first visit to the Bronx Zoo was definitely a mixed experience.  While I delighted in finding my childhood dream had been a childhood reality, I also teared up when I saw that many of the big cats were being held in cages of the sort that had long vanished from the National Zoo.   However, during my eight years in the area (I stayed for graduate school), I saw exhibits change.  By the time I left, the concrete-floored cages were either empty – their occupants moved to much nicer areas – or the cages were being used to house much smaller creatures.  Enclosures had also been adapted so that vertical as well as horizontal space was useable.

Jim tells me that the Rio Grande Zoo – now part of the Albuquerque BioPark – has undergone a similar transformation during the years he’s been going there.  I’ve certainly seen changes during my twenty or so years as a visitor.  Many of the larger animals are housed in exhibits that are lower than the walkway, giving the animal room and privacy, freeing them from being encased within four walls and a ceiling.  Even those animals that live in more traditional “cages” often have access to more than one exhibit area.  Best of all, they can take themselves off exhibit if necessary.

I’ve heard some older people complain about how these changes make it harder for “the kids” to see the animals.  Funny, but I don’t see “the kids” doing much complaining.  In fact, they seem delighted with the need to search for the animals.  What used to be a shuffle from cage to cage is now closer to a treasure hunt.

During our visit to the building that housed reptiles and amphibians, we were right behind a trio of energetic kids – probably eight or nine years old.   They paused at every exhibit, no matter how small, searching for the snake or lizard or turtle or frog.  Every discovery was crowed over, the cleverness of the creature’s natural camouflage a never-ending delight.  Often they paused to read the sign, exclaiming over what the creature ate or some other neat fact.

There’s also a greater emphasis on preservation and breeding programs.  No longer are we just warned that a creature is endangered, we’re given a chance to be part of saving that species.  Recently, the Albuquerque BioPark has hosted events encouraging responsible purchasing, recycling, providing education about renewable resources, and similar topics.

In addition to giving humans a chance to see living representatives of exotic animals (as opposed to the taxidermy displays that were common in museums when I was young), zoos also provide homes for representatives of the local ecosystem.  On our last visit, Jim and I had a very nice visit with a Western screech owl who – because of a damaged eye that meant she couldn’t be safely released into the wild – is now a member of the education staff.  Several avian exhibits housed injured roadrunners along with the more exotic birds.  On another visit, we met the education team’s porcupine.

Zoos are no longer gardens for viewing animals; they’re places that seek to educate humans about the vast biosphere in which we live.  It’s a change I really enjoy, and one reason that – even though I usually don’t have time to visit the zoo more than a couple times a year – I have a membership that costs me more than the price of admission would.  It’s my way of saying I appreciate what they’re trying to do.

Shining Legacy

December 13, 2017

On Saturday, Jim and I drove up to Santa Fe to have dinner at the invitation of Warren Lapine who, along with Trent Zelazny, co-edited the tribute anthology to Roger Zelazny, Shadows and Reflections.  Jim and I arrived early enough to walk around the plaza and enjoy the glittering lights.  As we were turning to head toward the restaurant, we encountered our dear friends, Steve (S.M.) and Jan Stirling, and learned they were going our way.

The Santa Fe Plaza

Several other contributors to the anthology were part of Warren’s dinner party.  These included  Trent Zelazny, Gerry Hausman (and his wife, Lorry), and Shannon Zelazny.  Rounding out the festive board were Warren’s wife (and frequent partner in things editorial), Angela Kessler, and the aforementioned bonus guests: Steve and Jan Stirling.

We met at the San Francisco Street Bar and Grill, which, in an earlier incarnation, was a place that Roger very much enjoyed, so this seemed like a nicely appropriate setting.

Chat was lively and general, one of those lovely occasions where everyone – even people who hadn’t met before – quickly arrived at the conclusion that we were all friends.

A few words about the Shadows and Reflections anthology, for those of you who are curious.  It includes both fiction and non-fiction.  The introduction by George R.R. Martin is a reprint of a piece he wrote in 2009.  The final piece, by Shannon Zelazny, who was in high school when her father died, is probably my favorite bit in the entire book.  Of all the many biographical remembrances of Roger that I have read, Shannon’s comes closest to capturing the man I knew, loved, and lived with.

There’s also a little known short story by Roger, “There Shall Be No Moon!”

The other fiction draws on a wide variety of Roger’s universes, from the science fiction Isle of the Dead (Steve Brust’s “Playing God”) to the sword and sorcery Jack of Shadows (Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “The Lady of Shadow Guard”).  Gerry Hausman (who co-wrote the novel Wilderness with Roger) contributed “Nights in the Garden of Blue Harbor,” based on a story idea Roger gave him.  One thing that’s nice about the collection is that both Roger’s short and long fiction are represented as sources of inspiration.

My own piece, “The Headless Flute Player” is set in the same universe as Lord Demon, one of the two novels that, at Roger’s request, I completed for him after his death.  It’s a prequel to the novel, and incorporates a few ideas Roger casually mentioned that someday he’d like to use in a story.

Full disclosure.  I haven’t read the entire anthology yet, so I can’t tell you much about the stories.  What I hope is that this anthology inspires readers to go back and read the original works that have inspired such devotion and enthusiasm over twenty years after their author’s death – and in many cases, several decades after they were originally written.

One wonderful thing about Roger’s writing is how well it has held up to the test of time and how it can still stir the heart and imagination.  Not a bad legacy at all…

Antelope, Wookie, Buffalo?

November 1, 2017

Last Friday, Jim and I drove up to Denver for MileHiCon.  The weather was lovely and the route over mountains and plains was a festival of wildlife.  I kept singing “Home on the Range” because we saw deer and antelope, and kept hoping for buffalo.

Jason, Me, Carrie, and Eric

We also saw numerous hawks, ravens, magpies, and what I could swear was a black swan.  This last was in flight, but I can’t think what else could have had that profile.

Because I hadn’t been able to promise I would be there early (departure time was predicated on when we would finish giving fluids to our two senior cats), my first official item of programming was the Opening Ceremonies.

I tidied up from travel and came down to find programming coordinator Rose Beetem and her assistant Meg Ward lurking with evil intent.  You see, for its theme the convention was celebrating Star Wars (in honor of the film’s fortieth anniversary), and Rose wanted the toastmaster and guests of honor to help out.

Toastmaster Jason Heller got a quilted vest so he could be Han Solo.  Artist Guest of Honor Carrie Ann Baade was a perfect Princess Leia – even without the hairpiece.  Author Guest of Honor Eric Flint was asked to step in as Yoda – which he did by stretching a Yoda stocking cap over his pork pie hat.  And I was asked to represent Chewbacca – “Because of the wolves” as Rose kept explaining.  I accepted the embroidered stocking cap with slight trepidation, but what the heck…

I actually really like Chewbacca, so why not?  I then channeled Chewie during my opening comments, apparently badly startling the first several rows of attendees.

After opening ceremonies, I had a chance to chat with Carrie Ann Baade.  During a quick preliminary pass through the art show, I’d already decided I liked her art.  By the end of our chat, I was certain I liked her as well.  Her students (she’s a university professor) are very lucky to have her guiding them through the early stages of their creative journey.

Then it was off to the Friday night mixer, during which guests of honor, past and present, are available to sign and chat.  I had some great discussions with various people and finally had a chance to talk with Eric Flint.

Eric Flint had come with very high recommendations from a wide variety of people.  He not only lived up to, he exceeded, those recommendations.  After the signing had ebbed, we ended up staying on to chat with Eric and author Dave Boop about westerns, romances, and the works of James Joyce.  Then, after a quick pass through the con suite, where Bubonicon was hosting  a pizza party, Jim and I toddled off to bed.

The next morning, I was scheduled to be one of the hosts of the morning Kaffeeklatch along with Eric Flint and Carrie Vaughn.  We had a lovely, lively discussion that set the tone for the rest of a very active day.

My next panel was Animal Attraction.  The other panelists shared my enthusiasm for and appreciation of animals, and we had a great discussion.  I learned things about elephants I’d never imagined.  I then took off for a couple of hours to visit with my late father’s best friend, which was simply lovely.

My afternoon (by my own choice) was packed.  I attended the Mass Autographing, during which I continued the patchwork quilt chat I’d been having with Jason Heller about the works of David Bowie.  From there I went to my Hour With.

I gave the audience a choice of me talking, me reading a short story, or me reading from my forthcoming novel, Asphodel.  The audience was split, so I did twenty-five minutes of reading from Asphodel and twenty-five minutes of answering questions.  Again, the questions were great, and I could have spent a lot more time with those folks, but I was off to “Iron Hack.”  I’m going to talk about this panel as part of a blog later on, so I’ll just say I had a lovely time.

From there, we got ourselves some dinner, then opted to get some quiet time so I could prepare for the next day.

Sunday morning we awoke refreshed and, because we’d enjoyed the Kaffeeklatch on Saturday, decided to go back down.  This time the topic began with anime (an enthusiasm of mine and, so it soon became clear, of many people present) and circled around to discussing aspects of writing.  After that, we went down to tour the art show and dealer’s room.  Both were high quality and very nicely run.

Eleven o’clock brought me back in company with Jason, Carrie, and Eric for the Guest of Honor remarks and the announcement of various awards.  The ninety minutes raced by.  Then, after chatting a little with a few participants, Jim and I grabbed a salad from the coffee shop and went to our room to regroup.

At 2:00, I gave a talk about writing endings to a packed room.  From there, I went straight to a panel on comedic fantasy.  This last was really neat because the participants were two fans (who were obviously avid readers) and two writers.  Although all the comments were excellent, I learned a great deal from listening to Laurence McNaughton talk about how he sets up his humorous fantasy novels.

After the panel, Jim and I found ourselves comfortable chairs in the lobby.  There we were lucky enough to be joined by Toastmaster Jason Heller.  All weekend, we’d been having a fragmented chat about the works of David Bowie – triggered, I admit, by my desire to make up for a panel we didn’t get to do at the 2015 Bubonicon.  Now we were able to really get into details. This included me asking Jason about his approach for organizing his forthcoming non-fiction work Strange Stars, which is about the intersection of pop music and science fiction.

From there, we went off to Closing Ceremonies.  Eric Flint had already left to catch his plane, so our little band of stalwart rebels had lost its Yoda.  Nonetheless, we forged on.  The Force was definitely with us.

Later, Jim and I attended the Dead Dog party, during which I found a fellow audiobook enthusiast named Meaghan to chat with.  Monday morning we were back on the road, heading south.  On the way out, we’d seen antelope and deer.  This time we added a very large herd of buffalo to our tally.

So we went home, home across the range!  If I met you at MileHiCon, thanks for making me and Jim feel so welcome.  If not, well, maybe we can talk next year when we hope to be back to help MileHiCon celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Wolves at the Door

October 25, 2017

Outside, the wind is roaring.  Inside, my “to do” list of projects is also mightily gusting.  In fact, it’s longer than I can possibly get done before I depart for MiHiCon early Friday morning.  I’m looking forward to being one of MiHiCon’s author Guests of Honor, along with Eric Flint.  Although I’ve corresponded with Mr. Flint occasionally, I’ve never met him, and am quite looking forward to the opportunity.

Just Some of My Wolf Stuff

If I read the schedule correctly, you should be able to join me, Eric, and Carrie Vaughn for coffee on Saturday morning at the 9:00 a.m. Kaffeeklatch.

In addition to panels and interviews, I’ll be doing a reprise of my much-praised talk, “This is the End: Concluding Your Story or Novel.”  I came up with this topic after I noticed that there’s lots of material out there about getting started, but not nearly as much about finishing.  I’ve met many authors who have a book “almost” done, so I thought that talking about how to make the “almost” go away would be worthwhile.

Of course, I’ll end up talking about other things, too, because you can’t talk about the end without discussing other parts of the process.

During my “Hour With,” I will either read a short story or something from my forthcoming novel Asphodel, depending on my mood and whether the audience wants an ending or not…  I’ll also take questions about projects past, present, and future.  There are a lot of these!

I haven’t visited Colorado in a while and I’m hoping the weather will cooperate.  I used to drive to Colorado a couple of times a year when my dad was still alive, so the journey is certain to be very nostalgic.

My inside life has been full of wolves as I gear myself into beginning writing the seventh Firekeeper novel.   After a long break from Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest, I find myself really excited about spending time with them again.

A small warning to those of you who are hoping for a nice trip down memory lane, complete with a golf bag full of token appearances of any and all characters.  That’s not going to happen.  I waited to write a new Firekeeper novel until I had a fresh new story so, while you’ll definitely hear about many of your old friends, we’re off to see new places, meet new people, and face new challenges.

This means that those of you who aren’t familiar with the series don’t need to worry that you need to read thousands of pages just to try out a new book.  However, this is definitely going to be a new Firekeeper novel, not merely one set in the same universe.  It begins within a year or so of the events chronicled in Wolf’s Blood, and Firekeeper and Blind Seer will be at the heart of the action.

That’s about all I have to say about the book right now…  However, if you’re the sort of person who likes to re-read a series before starting the new book, you might want to get started.  Some of those earlier books are long.  Don’t have copies anymore?  I have copies of all the hard covers except for The Dragon of Despair for sale in my website bookshop.

If you prefer e-books, you might want to wait before buying copies.  New editions will be coming out – hopefully sometime early in 2018.  In addition to the text of the novel, the new editions will have an afterpiece dealing with about some aspect of the series.  These editions should also be free of the numerous typos/formatting errors that plagued the Tor editions.  Careful proofing is one reason they’re not ready yet!  It takes a while to carefully read something that long.  I can only do a few hours a day.

So…  Time’s a-wastin’!  Hope to see you this weekend!

Misty Mountains, Silver City

October 4, 2017

When Jim and I left Albuquerque for Silver City last Friday, the weather was overcast with occasional light rain, so we didn’t have much incentive to stop along the way.  Nonetheless, the mists and clouds made our drive through the mountains in the Gila Wilderness breathtakingly beautiful.

Silver City

In addition to lots of lovely mountain scenery we saw deer, wild turkeys, and — crowning glory — a grey fox!

Our hotel was the historical Murray Hotel in the old part of town.  This was definitely a great location to be staying both for the events related to the Southwest Festival of the Written Word itself and for general touring.   When we arrived we were surprised to find that the hotel didn’t have a parking lot, so we parked directly behind the hotel, on Yankie Street, then walked around to check in.

When we did this, I asked about parking.  Veronica, the very friendly clerk, confirmed that the hotel didn’t have any dedicated parking, but added that we were welcome to park in a small lot on the next street.  Because I was concerned about how narrow the street behind was, we did this…  Turns out this was a very, very good idea.

(In a story, the preceding sentence would be called foreshadowing.)

After we had checked in, we walked over to the Festival headquarters.  Despite this being Friday late afternoon in a college town, the streets were almost empty – not only of vehicles, but of pedestrian traffic as well.  Later, as we walked around, we discovered the reason.  Most of the shops closed at 5:00.

We needed dinner, so we reluctantly skipped the Opening Ceremonies and keynote speaker, Stella Pope Duarte’s, talk.  After a nice meal, we walked around so Jim could take pictures and we could get a sense of our surroundings.  A few galleries were open.  When we popped in, we found everyone universally friendly and happy to chat.

That night we were awakened by a thunder and hail storm.  The next day, we learned that –depending on where in town you were – between two and a half and three inches of rain had fallen in about an hour.

Remember the street we’d originally parked on?  The one directly behind the hotel?  Over breakfast, one of the people we were chatting with told us that the street had been at least fifteen inches deep in water.  Veronica’s kind recommendation saved us almost certain damage to our vehicle.

After breakfast – during which we had the chance to make up for missing the keynote speaker’s talk by talking to her over bagels and coffee – Jim and I set out to see more of the historic district.  Jim particularly wanted to take advantage of the soft light for photos.  The destruction from the storm was evident everywhere, including pavement that had buckled under the strain and mud heaped against the curbs.  It was probably a good thing that many of the curbs were well over a foot high, because otherwise the sidewalks would have been buried.  As it was, more than one shop was being mopped out by diligent owners.

Jim and I discovered the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, where we bought fresh pineapple quinces that were touted by the farmer’s young daughter as “full of tropical goodness” and assorted apples from a farmer who gave God full credit for the quality of his wares.

Once stores opened around 10:00 a.m., we popped into a few of the quirkier ones.  Then, just before 11:30, I availed myself of the Tranquil Buzz Coffee Shop’s kind promise to give free coffee to speakers, and so fortified headed off to the El Sol Theater for my first program item, a chat with local writer, Frost McGahey.

Unlike far too many “interviewers” I’ve dealt with, Frost had really done her homework.  This raised the level of our chat above the sameness that often makes so many “meet the author” type events rather bland.  Perhaps inspired by Frost, the audience also came up with a number of really interesting questions.  We chatted right up to the wire, then I went out and signed books.

After that, Jim and I went to have lunch at the Little Toad Creek Brewery.   Over lunch, we chatted with two other participants: Peter Riva and Sharman Apt Russell.  While Jim and Peter discussed recent archeological discoveries, Sharman and I delved into why writing about the natural world fascinates us both.

Following lunch, since I didn’t have another program item until 4:30, Jim and I set out to continue our exploration of historic Silver City.  By now the sun had come out, changing the quality of the light, so Jim was busy with his camera.  The streets were less flooded now, but Yankie Street behind our hotel still had a creek running down the middle – and this with a storm sewer audibly roaring beneath.

Once again, before my program item, I availed myself of the Tranquil Buzz’s coffee, and then went to the Seedboat Gallery to take part in a seven-author round-table discussion.  Our moderator was J.J. Amaworo Wilson, who – despite having arrived from a book tour in Australia only a few nights before – was well-prepared and very, very funny.  The participants were lively and interesting.   I’ve made a note of several whose works I want to look up in the future.

Every so often, J.J. would halt the flow of questions so that he could quiz the audience.  Many of the quiz questions were built around scathing Goodreads reviews of the works of famous authors, with the prize going to the first person to identify which author had been publicly humiliated.  What amazed me was how fast people in the audience were to catch on.  I’ll admit most cheerfully that, except for some of the most obvious, I was completely lost.

Following the round table discussion, Jim and I retired to our room to rest, then headed off to a potluck dinner at J.J.’s house.  There we linked up with Adrienne Celt, a talented young writer who also does the weekly web comic loveamongthelampreys.  I’ve long been curious as to what it takes to produce a web comic, as well as what sort of person might write one.  Adrienne was extremely patient about my numerous questions.  I hope she enjoyed our chat as much as Jim and I did.

After this very full Saturday, Jim and I were happy to retire to the Murray Hotel to unwind, and finally sleep, this time without a thunderstorm breaking up the quiet of the night.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear.  After a chance conversation with a newly arrived guest, we learned that the road through the Gila Wilderness was now clear of storm debris, so we decided to take the opportunity to see the Black Range again, this time in sunlight.  We stopped numerous times along the way, including the tiny town of Kingston, and the only slightly larger town of Hillsboro.

We made it home in time to get some groceries, reassure that cats and guinea pigs that we were back, check the garden, and then… Well, it was Sunday night, so we hosted our weekly role-playing game.

Now I’m back behind the desk with my head full of stories.  Time to put some of them into written form.