Archive for the ‘Other People’s Stories’ Category

FF: Jumping Around

December 24, 2021
Ruby, Roary, and Argent Under the Tree

This week, because I’ve been going through audiobooks faster than usual, I did some jumping about in series.  This can be a disaster with poor writers, forcing a reader to endure huge amounts of infodump.  Both Bujold and Aaronvitch are skilled enough I have had no issues.

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.  Two of the series I’m trying right now are due to FF reader mentions.

Completed:

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Audiobook.

Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.

Mira’s Last Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  I couldn’t get the audio for novella four, so I jumped.  Good story, but I think I probably did need the prior for best effect.  Still, this worked and I want to listen to the previous more than ever.

In Progress:

Written in Stone by Christopher Stevens.  Non-fiction.  I am now up to “T.” 

The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick.  Sequel to The Mask of Mirrors.  A few chapters in.  Enjoying very much.

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch. Audiobook.  This series has been mentioned repeatedly, and I really wanted to try it, but since I wanted audio, because I have room in that queue, I am starting with the third book.  The author does a good job of supplying enough background while moving the plot ahead.  Several cheers for doing a tough job well!

Also:

Dipping into Christmas: A Biography, which takes a look at how various things we assume have “always” been part of Christmas evolved.

FF: You’ll Notice That

December 17, 2021
Roary Never Lies

You’ll notice that my reading is up this week.  This is because I use audiobooks as background when doing chores, and there have been a lot of chores in the last 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:

Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix.  A prequel to Sabriel, featuring her parents.  Good read, although suffering some from in jokes that only a reader of later books in the series would get.

Curtains For Three by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.

Plot It Yourself by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook. This novella is set in the “World of the Five Gods” featured in The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.  Very strong, with an engaging protagonist.  First of the “Penric and Desdemona” series.

In Progress:

Written in Stone by Christopher Stevens.  Non-fiction.  I am now up to “N.” 

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold. Audiobook.

The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick.  Sequel to The Mask of Mirrors.  Just started.

Also:

A scattering of magazine articles.

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.

FF: Dragons, Luck, Curses

November 12, 2021
Coco and the Dragons

I hope to have more time to read soon, but I’m still managing to squeeze a little in.

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:

Liavek: City of Luck edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  Enjoyed, although stories started to fall into a theme.  My favorite story was the final one, a longer piece by Barry Longyear, which tipped the balance and made me decide to go on to the next anthology.

Dragons by the Yard, Kymera Press.  Comic.  Issues one to five.  This would be a good one for kids to read with adults, as the story progresses slowly enough for thoughtful discussion.  No children as protagonists but no overtly “adult” themes.   Colorful art has a “disneysque” feel.  I’d definitely read issue six, because the story was getting more intriguing by that point.

In Progress:

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.

Also:

Smithsonian’s most recent issue is proving to be one of my favorites in quite a while.

FF: Writers Read Differently

November 5, 2021
Roary Finds an Excellent Read

This week I’ve been very aware that writers read differently than casual readers.  I’ll extend this reaction to habitually thoughtful readers who don’t write, as well.

While reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, I saw a certain plot point coming.  No.  This wasn’t because Bujold was boring or predictable but, as a writer, I saw where a particular element would become crucial.  Did this make me bored?  Not in the least…  I nearly collapsed in relief when the scene finally hit and was resolved (very much to my satisfaction). 

I think this awareness of the elements of story is something editors acquire as well.  As fiction “gatekeepers” this can become a danger point.  Editors read so much that, after a while, what would have once delighted now seems “meh.”  On the other hand, a new editor doesn’t know enough, and gets excited over something a longtime reader says “meh” about.

Interesting…

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:

Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  Re-read.  Memoir of the Burma campaign in WWII, British POV.  Read by David Case, who does accents amazingly.

Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison.  Nordic mythic underpinnings to a story that’s part fairytale, more magical realism.  Main character is more acted upon than acting.  Still feel mixed about this one.

Finder by Emma Bull.  Set in the “shared universe” of Bordertown, but fully standing on its own.  A very fine story, that sometimes hit a little too close to current events in ways I can’t mention without spoilers.

In Progress:

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.  Very limited magic, so should suit readers of historical fiction as much as of Fantasy.

Liavek edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  When looking to see if I have any of the Bordertown anthologies (I don’t, must amend), I came across this on my shelves.  The 1980s saw the growth of shared world anthologies, with a wide variety of settings.  I’m enjoying this quite a bit. 

Also:

Our local Biopark (combination of affiliated zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, and more) magazine came out.  I read with happiness about a new baby hippo, but was brought to tears by the news that three members of the siamang family died as a result of a disease—one of the gorillas, too, but the siamangs have long been particular favorites, and we’d watched the baby grow up.  He was such a showoff.

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.

I’ve Lost Another Friend

October 13, 2021
Sally at the Bubonicon Tea

Last Friday, one of my best friends, Sally Gwylan, was hit by a car and killed.

Many of you know Sally’s work, even if you didn’t realize it.  If you’ve read one of my novels in the last ten or more years, Sally was quite likely one of the beta readers.  If you read my new Firekeeper books, Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul, Sally was the copy editor.

Copy editing is one of those jobs that can ruin a friendship.  Last week, I explained that the job of a copy editor is.  Copy edit is when someone goes through the manuscript and nitpicks it to death.  A good copy editor catches little inconsistencies, asks weird questions, and makes certain that how you punctuate is consistent.  The copy editor also puts in notes for the people who will be formatting the book.

Sally was amazing.  She liked the quirks of punctuation rules.  She was patient with my inability to hyphenate consistently.  We had great chats about optional commas.  She loved looking up obscure data points.  I always felt my books were secure in her hands.

Sally was such a talented copy editor that she did copy editing for other writers, including Carrie Vaughn.  So, if you’ve read some of Carrie’s small press works, you’ve also read Sally’s work.  She also work-shopped over the years with many of New Mexico’s writers, and you’ll find her listed in their acknowledgements, too.  One of the things Sally planned to pursue after retirement (she worked for a law firm doing data control) was copy editing and proofreading.  Now she’ll never have the chance.

Oh, and Sally was a writer in her own right.  The same perfectionism that made her a perfect copy editor made her quite possibly the slowest writer in creation.  Nonetheless, she completed and sold several works of short fiction: “Salt” in Infinite Matrix (2002), “In the Icehouse” in Asimov’s (2003), “Rapture, Parts 1 & 2” in Strange Horizons (2004), and “Fleeing Olsyge” in Clarkesworld (2018). 

She also indie pubbed a Depression era alternate history novel called A Wind Out of Canaan, about a runaway from an abusive home coming to the realization that she’s gay.  In her journey, Philippa joins a group of hobos and, while with them, accidentally stumbles onto the fact that there are people from another world on Earth, and that their activities may have a great deal to do with the severe changes in the weather, and some of the political movements of the time.  It stands alone, more or less, but Sally was working on a sequel.

I’m talking about all these dry things because I’m hiding from a grief so huge that, if I admit to it, it’s going to swallow me whole.

Sally and I met over twenty years ago at a party at Walter Jon Williams’ house, sometime in the late 1990’s.  I’d moved to Albuquerque in late 1995.  In 1996, I started my first garden.  I had a lot of questions, and whenever I’d ask one, the one asked would inevitably end with, “I think that’s what I’d do, but Sally Gwylan would know.” 

So, I went up to her, introduced myself, and thus started a discussion about gardens, and weather (especially wind and rainfall).  She did know a lot, having been a market gardener for a while. She also gave me the tubers for my Jerusalem artichokes, known to some as “sunchokes.”  Our garden chats only stopped this week, because she wasn’t here on Monday for our usual call.

We talked about other things, too, of course.  Books and movies.  Gender identity.  Animals, wild and domestic.  Hobby activities.  Each week we blocked out an hour and a quarter for our call.  It was rarely enough.

I also helped Sally build her house, quite literally.  Usually when people talk about building a house, they mean they’ve hired contractors to do so.  Not Sally.  She built hers with adobe mud and straw.  She took living off the grid seriously, but managed a very tidy lifestyle with a solar panel for electricity, water she hauled from town, a composting toilet, and propane for cooking and to run her fridge.

Sally loved figuring out how things worked.  Unlike me, she did her own formatting and cover design for her e-books.  She sewed or retailored (on a treadle machine) clothes for herself.  She built her solar oven.  And the toilet.  And a water-wicking system for her plants.  Many of our conversations were about her building projects.  The most recent was figuring out the most efficient way to do laundry by hand.  (Why?  Because she hated how the machines at the laundromat left her clothes smelling.)  She was delighted to report that a standard salad spinner worked pretty well as a “spin cycle.”

Even in her late sixties, Sally was energetic.  She rescued her cat, Horace, in the middle of rush hour traffic out on I-40.  Horace had been hit, and she got him to the vet.  Later, when one leg failed to heal properly, she sewed him booties to protect his paw.

The picture above is from the Tea at Bubonicon, where she always worked backstage, helping Pati Nagel make tea.  At some point, she’d excuse herself to go participate in one of her other passions, “shape note” or Sacred Heart singing.

Okay…  That’s about all I can manage without breaking down.  Again.  Thanks for listening.

This Year’s Jerusalem Artichokes

FF: Influenced By

October 1, 2021
Persephone Is Contemplative

This week one of the pieces of fiction I read was influenced by the non-fiction I’m listening to.  I bet you can guess which one!

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:

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie.  The novel that introduced Miss Jane Marple.  Yes.  I’ve read it before… 

A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters.  A collection of three Cadfael stories, including a prequel in which Cadfael decides to consider monastic life.

In Progress:

Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Yes.  I’m back to this.  In the section about monasteries and nunneries.

Chobits by Clamp.  Manga.  Re-read.  This starts off as a Pygmalion story and, takes it much farther.  As is often the case with Clamp, the elaborate, frilly art conceals a dark and thoughtful story, in the case about what it is to be human, what it is to really love.  And what you must be ready to give up to be the one and have the other.

Also:

New magazines have been joined by Smithsonian.  Some great articles in this issue, including one about a prize-winning Japanese saki maker in…  Holbrook, Arizona.  (A location that is probably best known for not being Winslow, Arizona.)