Archive for the ‘Going Places’ Category

Twenty-Six!

January 25, 2023
Roary Guards the Years

Today is Jim and my twenty-sixth wedding anniversary.  Not too bad for what was for both of us a later-in-life marriage.

Depending on the weather, we’ll either go wander around the zoo, or go out somewhere indoors and look at things.  Jim has a very associational memory, and the best way to get him telling stories is go somewhere and see what we can see, then discover what it brings up out of the depths.

And we’ll probably eat out.  Japanese, I think.  A few years ago, Jim asked a friend who’d lived in Japan where we could go to get authentic, rather than Americanized, Japanese food here in Albuquerque.  Turns out there are a couple of good places, and so a repeat performance seems in order.

Just the other day, someone asked how Jim and I met.  The answer is simultaneously very simple, and somewhat complicated.

We met through the shared hobby of role-playing games.  That’s the simple.

The complex is as follows…  When I moved to New Mexico to live with Roger Zelazny, I told Roger that the one thing I really missed from my old life was gaming.  He said, “George has a group.  I’ll ask him if he knows if anyone is looking for players.”  And that’s how we came to join the group that Jim played with.  (Which, in case you wonder, is also the group that spawned Wild Cards.)

After Roger died, the members of that group were amazingly supportive, up to and including helping me move from Santa Fe to Albuquerque.  In the course of that move, the door of the cabinet in which I kept the TV swung wild and got broken.  Jim felt bad about that, because he’d failed to stop the accident in time, and offered to come over to fix it.

He did, and I offered to make him dinner as a thank you.  When Jim left, I realized that his was the first visit since Roger’s death where I didn’t suddenly get overwhelmed.  We almost more drifted into dating than making a deliberate choice.  I’ll admit, as much as I liked Jim, I had a lot of healing to do, so it was good that he had a field project that took him out of town most of the week.

But one thing was certain, he remained, and remains, the only person who has become part of my privacy.  I’m glad, and I am incredibly grateful as well.

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Autumnal Wanderings

October 12, 2022
Maximillian Sunflowers

Thanks to all the kind souls who came out in the rain, dealt with nearly impossible parking, and joined me at Beastly Books this last Saturday for my book event.  I enjoyed the chance to spend time with you all.  A reminder: Beastly Books specializes in autographed books.  They also do mail order.

In addition to an amazing collection of works by the store’s owner, George R.R. Martin, there is an increasing selection of works by other authors.  Consider Beastly Books this holiday season, when you’re stuck on a unique gift for the readers on your list.  And, yes, I signed stock, and so several of my titles will be available, as soon as they can get them on their website.

Rain isn’t really usual here in north-central New Mexico at this time of year.  We often get just enough to annoy the people visiting for Balloon Fiesta, but not enough to shut things down.  Jim and I didn’t have a lot overall, but probably all the little rain showers added up to about eight-tenths of an inch.

Temperatures are now dropping into the low-forties, mid-fifties at night, with daytime highs in the seventies and eighties.  Basically, this is one of the best times of the year.  However, the rain is really ramping up the allergens, so Jim and I are doing a lot of sneezing.

Our garden has slowed way down, but we still have enough to accent our meals.  The arugula, which had gotten very, very spicy during the hottest part of the year, is now mellowing—although the older leaves can pack a real bite.  The rain helped our late planting of radishes to develop, and I have some hope for the languishing carrots.

We have some flowers, too.  Featured in the photo are Maximillian sunflowers.  This plant produces a rhizome, not unlike that of a Jerusalem artichoke.  They tend to handle our hot, dry climate fairly well, as long as they get some extra water at the hottest time of the year.  A bonus is that they tend to start flowering in late summer, early autumn, when many other plants are fading.

It’s a nice time of the year…  Very inspirational.  I think I’ll go see what inspiration may bring!

Beastly Effort

October 5, 2022
Lots of Effort!

My continued efforts to get the hang of folding an origami crane continue to produce more “effort” than “crane,” but at least I have something else cheerful to report.

This coming Saturday, October 8, I’m doing a book event from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Beastly Books in Santa Fe.  Featured titles will be my new Over Where novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, as well as A New Clan, the newest Star Kingdom, Stephanie Harrington novel, written in collaboration with David Weber—and I have stickers signed by David Weber, so you’ll be able to have the book signed by both of us!

There will be a short talk, a reading, and a question-and-answer period.  I have lots of neat bookmarks, postcards, and buttons.

The store is located at 418 Montezuma Avenue.  For those of you concerned about parking, the bookstore is very close to the Santa Fe Railyard.  It looks as if the Rail Runner is up and (pardon the unavoidable pun), running with a full Saturday schedule.

This is my first book event in New Mexico for these three titles, unconnected with a convention.

Hope to see some of you there!

Oh!  If the bit about folding cranes is confusing, see last week’s Wandering!

Now, off to the writerly side of my writer’s life!

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. 

Completed:

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.

Also:

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!

Goodies!

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