Archive for the ‘My Stories’ Category

FF: One Great Reason

December 3, 2021
Mei-Ling Catches a Whiff of a Good Story

One great reason for re-reading is to sooth a stressed soul.  With lots going on, I am deliberately choosing audiobooks that I know I can relax to while I do various and sundry holiday preparation jobs. 

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:

Paladin of Soul by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Not really a sequel to The Curse of Chalion, except in the sense that it takes place three years after the other novel.  Strong enough that I’ll be listening to other books in this setting.

Star Surgeon by James White.  Quite good, and I’ll certainly read others.  However, this is from 1965, and more modern readers may find it anything from unsettling to solidly off-putting that the attitude toward human females is far more denigrating than toward any of the varied and wonderful aliens.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow.  Novella.  An interesting twist on “Sleeping Beauty.” Those unfamiliar with folklore will have some surprises coming their way.  However, even for someone who, like me, knew all the information, this story had a warmth of its own that made it well worth reading.

Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.  Old favorite.

In Progress:

Written in Stone by Christopher Stevens.  Non-fiction.  Chatting anecdotal look at the origins of modern language.  Short chapters make for easy reading.

And the Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout. Audiobook.

Also:

I’ve been reading a heck of a lot of Jane Lindskold’s work.  I finished a re-read of Child of a Rainless Year this week in preparation for a new e-book edition in early 2022.  Now I’m reading the page proofs of Aurora Borealis Bridge, due out April 2022.

FF: Jacket Copy

November 26, 2021
Persephone Fancies Herself an Elegant ‘Tec

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

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

Who could pass that up?

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

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

In Progress:

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

Star Surgeon by James White.  Just started.

Also:

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

FF: There Is Balance

November 19, 2021
Mei-Ling Balances

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

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

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

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

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

In Progress:

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

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

Also:

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

My Quiet Week

November 17, 2021
Roary Rests For Both of Us!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviewing the Bullet Journal

October 20, 2021
Keeping Track

Earlier this week, for reasons that probably will not be mysterious if you read my WW last week, I was thinking about the past, and so decided to take a look at the bullet journal I started back in 2017.

As I mentioned at the time, I was inspired by an article I read by Amanda Hackwith about how a bullet journal, which is designed for flexibility, could be adapted to help a writer keep track not only of day-to-day chores, but also help establish a sense that something was actually being achieved.

I’m going to quote the passage in Amanda Hackwith’s essay that inspired me to give a bullet journal a try:

“The life of a writer means I have a hundred things to keep track of at once, but not always on a precise day by day itinerary. If I stuck to the traditional appointments + daily to dos format, my days would be a constant repeat of something like ‘Write word count, Edit X, read, check email anxiously.”

So, how has a bullet journal worked for me?  Has it helped me feel I’m getting something done, or is it just another chore in addition to the daily journal and weekly “to do” list I already keep?

Overall, if I remember to look back to past events, I think the bullet journal has really helped me to feel I’m doing more than the “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle of “write, edit, read, check e-mail.  Don’t forget social media check ins.”

When I looked at the “Dream Future” page, where I listed things I needed to deal with sometime down the road, I saw that several potential projects, mostly unsold novels, still hadn’t been dealt with.

However, when I looked at the “Future Log” I’d created in 2017, when I began the journal, I was happy to see that not only had I gotten everything on the list done, I had continued in the general trend I’d established.  I’d used—and continue to use—indie pub options to get more of my backlist out.  I’d written new Firekeeper novels.  I’d written not only the “rough draft” of “Sapphire Wind” mentioned on the list; I’d also finished it, polished it, broken it into two books, and sold it to a traditional publisher (Baen Books), where it will appear as the “Over Where” novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge early in 2022.

Yes.  Sometimes keeping a bullet journal does feel more as if I have given myself an extra chore.  Lately, I realized I was not adding pages for new projects, which, in turn, was leading to me losing a sense of accomplishing anything.  Instead, the bullet journal was becoming merely a condensed version of my daily journal: somewhat useful, but not great for my feeling I’m getting anything done.

And I was definitely becoming inclined to forget to pat myself on the back for accomplishments that didn’t fit into the write word count, do that edit or review routine.

Therefore, this week, I’m recapturing my resolve.  I’ve created a page for my current backlist project: new e-books of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  I’ve created a page for Star Kingdom 4, now titled A New Clan, for which I was astonished to see I hadn’t created a page.  I’ve created a page for the short story set in the “Over Where” universe that I’ve been asked to write.

In other words, I’m going back to my early resolution to not make the bullet journal a glorified “to do” list encased in hard covers.  I’m going to make it something that will remind me that my working steadily, constantly, actually gets me somewhere, and the fact that I keep doing variations on the same thing, doesn’t mean I’m not getting anything done!

As I said back in 2017, sometimes it’s easy to feel like Sisyphus, never making it to the top of that hill.  I’m glad to say that the bullet journal, even if it is another rock to push, reminds me that time and again I’ve made it to the top of that hill.

FF: Moving Along

October 15, 2021
Mei-Ling with Her Nose in a Book

I’ve turned in the proofs of Library of the Sapphire Wind.  Two thumbs up to Libby O’Brien, production manager and coach on how to amend a PDF, who answered so very many questions…  However, between the proofs and losing Sally, this hasn’t been my biggest reading week.

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:

Fallen Into the Pit by Ellis Peters.  Despite the biblical-sounding title, this was actually one of Peter’s contemporary (then) novels, set in the years following WWII.  A dark, gritty tale of ambition, environmental concerns, social change, and racism that speaks to today as much as it surely did at the time it came out.

Saiyuki manga, new translation.  I enjoyed, and was very happy to see in the translator’s notes that my longtime guess as to which was the only mah-jong hand by which Genjo Sanzo could have won the game was correct.  In case you wonder, it was the one Americans call “Thirteen Orphans.”  Yep.  The same one that I used as a book title.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Into the section on medieval science, primary focus, medicine.

Dogtripping by David Rosenfelt.  A non-fiction look at the hassles involved in moving twenty-five dogs from California to Maine.  I’m impressed.  The most I ever moved was six cats, in a small sedan, and that was only from Virginia to New Mexico.

Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher.  The newest of the “Saint of Steel” books—about what happens to a small group of paladins (in a fantasy world, not historical) when their god dies, and they try to rebuild their lives and sense of identity—came out at a perfect time for me.

  Also:

Smithsonian from a couple months back that I’d mislaid.  Some great articles including some of the best coverage of September 11th and its aftermath that I’ve read.

FF: Elsewheres

August 6, 2021
Roary Refuses to Hide

This week, all my reading material is set in places far away, whether in time or in space or in imagination. 

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. 

Recently Completed:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  The “secret history’ in this novel comes from a combination of events in the lives of several of the most prominent figures in English literature, including Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Read this, and you’ll never read their poetry and fiction quite the same way…

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Uses some of the same themes as Akata Witch (the outcast who makes a virtue of her difference), but in a very different manner.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Again, similar themes and plot elements: outcast finds a high-tech artifact, but uses it (and other super abilities) for kind reasons, even if given ample reason for using it otherwise.

A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Realizing I got these out of order, I went backwards.

The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Thomas Warburton.  I don’t like Moominpapa nearly as much as Moomintroll (his son).  He has traits of ego and self-aggrandizement that make him much less appealing.

In Progress:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  Then, when Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson.  Translated by David McDuff.

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor. Audiobook. Just started.

Also:

As part of getting new e-book versions of my backlist up, I have finished re-reading Artemis Awakening and am now immersed in Artemis Invaded

FF: Still Rather Mythic

July 30, 2021
Persephone’s Stressful Regard

Looking at this list, I see my reading is quite mythic still.  The Moomin books may not be anyone’s official mythology, but they have that feelings nonetheless.  They’ve been my before bedtime reading because The Stress of Her Regard (which is excellent) was giving me nightmares! 

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. 

Recently Completed:

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.  Audiobook.  I don’t usually read two books by the same author at the same time, but someone failed to return my print copy of this one, and finding that there was an audio was tempting.  One complaint.  Accents are important in this, as if voice pitch, and, while the reader is good, he rarely gets these right.

The Valkyrie by Richard Wagner, translated and annotated by Frederick Paul Walter.  This new translation is lively and accessible.  Although I know the basic story, I found myself having trouble putting this down.  Illustrated both with modern line drawings and a host of archival material.

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Probably my favorite.  There’s a magical realism feeling I quite like.

In Progress:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  The “secret history’ in this novel comes from a combination of events in the lives of several of the most prominent figures in English literature, including Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Read this, and you’ll never read their poetry and fiction quite the same way…

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  So far, I’m liking…  Uses some of the same themes as Akata Witch (the outcast who makes a virtue of her difference), but in a very different manner.

A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Realizing I got these out of order, I went backwards.

Also:

I’m back to working on getting new e-book versions of my backlist up, and so re-reading Artemis Awakening

Mixed Impressions

July 28, 2021

“So, this is where the magic happens,” said a guest upon seeing my office for the first time.

I agreed, because I knew this was meant as a compliment about my writing.  Even then, though, I was thinking how, weirdly enough, my office is where the least magical part of my story creation is likely to happen.  My office, my desk, my computer, are just where the stories get written down.

Well, most of the time.  Actually, a lot of my stories start out handwritten because, as I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be a more direct channel between my imagination and a form of transcription when pen and paper is involved.

Where does the magic happen?

On the edge of falling asleep.  In the shower.  When weeding the garden.  Cooking.  Washing dishes.  Folding clothes.  Doing something crafty.  In the middle of a conversation, when something said sparks an idea…

I rarely have a magical creative moment when staring at the computer screen, willing myself to write.  On the other hand, I do set myself goals when working on a project.  An artistically poised dilletante is definitely not how I see myself.  I’m proud of the fact that I make deadlines, and that I work hard to make sure that I do.

Does this give you a mixed impression of what it’s like to be the writer that’s me?  If so, perfect!  I am nothing if not a suite of contradictions that come together to create stories.

I’m curious.  Where do your “magical moments” happen?  I’m definitely not restricting this to writing.  They might be related to some other art.  Or even something to do with your job or the classes you’re taking.  Inspiration belongs to all of us.

Oh!  The associated photo is of a goldfinch among the Russian Sage in our yard.  I thought the mingling of tiny bird and even more minute flowers had a definite impressionist feel.

FF: And Now

July 2, 2021
Baby Quail

In this photo, a baby quail marches happily across the gravel in our front area. You may need to look carefully, as he is not much bigger than the gravel!

This is one of the about a dozen chicks (featured with their dad in this week’s WW) who have been delighting me and Jim.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve finished the revisions to Aurora Borealis Bridge, the second of my forthcoming “Over Where,” series.  While I catch up on various and sundry jobs, I’m feeling a bit more ambitious about my reading.

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. 

Recently Completed:

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayer.  My library doesn’t have this as an audio, so I pulled this one off my reading shelf.  Many people dislike because it’s “mystery light,” but I love the language, and the focus on the characters.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Poirot doesn’t appear until toward the end, making me wonder if Christie was encouraged to change a “stand alone” into a series book.  Either way, he does a good job.

In Progress:

Legion by Brandon Sanderson.  Audiobook.  Just started.  I rather like Sanderson’s opening author’s note.

The Quest for Theseus by A.G. Ward (editor and author).  A heavily illustrated (with photos of art, coins, etc.) look at how the myth/legend Theseus of Theseus evolved, and how different time periods seized on different aspects of the story.  Five authors contribute material, with Anne G. Ward contributing the bulk.  I’ve dipped into this, but never read cover to cover, and am looking forward to it.

Also:

Back issues of Smithsonian.  I’ve reached the current one, and enjoying, despite a very annoying misrepresentation of Albuquerque that implies it owed its relative stability to the arrival of the railroad, when it had been in place long before.