Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Clubbing

September 14, 2022
Persephone Chairs

It’s sort of funny how the noun “club” can mean a gathering of people who share an interest, or a blunt object used as a weapon.  As a verb, it can mean (very informally) to create such a group, or to use a blunt object to wallop someone.

Taking that one step further, book clubs… 

(Stop giggling.  Yes.  You could use a book as a club.  Certainly, my five-and-a-half-pound Riverside Shakespeare could qualify as a blunt weapon.)

More seriously, book clubs as discussion groups about books (often themed) can be as lively and dangerous as any battlefield.  Readers can have very strong opinions about what makes a good book, a weak book, or a book that just makes the reader go “meh.”

Three of the main characters in my recent novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, meet because they belong to the same book club.  At the opening of the novel, they’re engaged in a discussion of the relative merits of romance novels.  And, when they are drawn into an adventure right out of the wildest sort of adventure fantasy, they often draw on what they’ve vicariously experienced as readers to find solutions to various dilemmas.

It’s been a long time since I belonged to a formal book club, although my Friday Fragments blog does have something of the flavor of one, as readers list what books they’re reading.  I’ve discovered several books this way, and been reminded of those I’ve always meant to read.

A fascinating development in the world of book clubs is the use of a reader’s guide to provide structure to the discussion.  I can certainly see the appeal, since discussions that stop at, “Well, yeah, I liked it kinda, but I’m not sure,” tend to stall really quickly.

Do you belong to a book club, formal or informal?  Does your group use reader’s guides?  If so, what sort of things do you look for in a guide?

Or does a reader’s guide make you feel as if you’ve been clubbed?

Let me know, either in the Comments or, if you’re shy, you can use the contact e-mail listed on my website.

Oh!  Just occurred to me, “to club” can also mean to go to a club, especially a nightclub, as in “to go clubbing.”  What a versatile term indeed!

Bookstores, Podcasts: the Wild Life of a Writer

July 13, 2022
Postcards, Bookmarks, Buttons

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Part One here:

https://www.baen.com/podcast/index/view/id/582

and Part Two here:

https://www.baen.com/podcast/index/view/id/584

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

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

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

Hummers and Hoppers

July 6, 2022

Quick update on local wildlife, garden, and… Oh, yeah!  Writing stuff.

Hummingbird Over Zinnia

We have another really, really tiny cottontail rabbit that’s found its way into our backyard.   While we hope to relocate it, as we did the one who squeezed its way through some mystery crevice in our fence (probably the south one, which has some vine-covered areas), it’s not as great a threat to our garden as was its predecessor.

The plants are a lot bigger now, and so it’s unlikely that one rabbit, much less a very tiny bunny, could take out the garden.  Probably the greatest “at threat” area is the bed in which we’re growing Swiss chard, arugula, and radishes.  Stay tuned…

Cooler temperatures over the last several weeks have really helped our garden.  We’ve only gone over a hundred a couple of days, and even that was only to about 102F.  While we haven’t had rain, there have been clouds, and that has given us a break.  We are hoping for rain, since the monsoon pattern hasn’t left.

We’ve now harvested radishes, eggplant, Swiss chard, and zucchini, as well as a variety of herbs.

While we’ve lost a few plants, so far, so good.  Next hoped for crop is tomatoes.  We have some set, but none yet ripe.

As for writing…  I’m working on a third “Over Where” novel, and it now has a title: House of Rough Diamonds.  The editor who bought Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge has asked to see a proposal, and one went off to her this past week.

I also did a few more interviews, and will post links to them as they go live.

On that note…  I’m off to wander the yard and see if I can spot Little Bunny, or at least where it’s getting in.  Then to write!

Yard Outside My Office Window

Cooler, Wetter, Writing More

June 29, 2022
Caged Catnip

I’m happy to report that the cool, wet weather continued all through last week and, maybe because I felt as if we were having a party, my writing went very well.

What am I writing?  Well, since I really like the Over Where setting of my books Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, I started another book with those characters.

Since I don’t want to provide spoilers, all I’ll say is that I’m having a really good time with it. 

I think we’re going to have our first squash and eggplant, if not this week, then soon to come.  We’re already picking radishes, arugula, and Swiss chard to embellish our salads.

However, as far as our guinea pigs are concerned, the most important development is that we have fresh grass to pick for them.

The cats are keeping an eye on the baby catnip plant, which resides in a cage so the local outdoor felines can’t love it to death.

On that note, time to climb aboard Slicewind and sail in pursuit of…  Well, I’ll just need to see.

Later!

FF: In Honor of McKillip

May 13, 2022
Roary Poses

In honor of the recently late Patricia A. McKillip, I’m re-reading one of her lesser-known works, the SF novel Moon Flash.  I read it years ago and learned she brought to SF the same lyric beauty and sense of wonder that is hallmark in her fantasy.  It’s also relatively rare in her canon in that it has a sequel.

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:

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chamber.  Audiobook. At this point, structure is two intertwined novellas, each of which is interesting in its own right.  This one has more of a middle grade/coming of Age vibe than A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

The Sound of Murder by Rex Stout.  Third person narration featuring Alphabet Hicks in the role of detective.  At the time of publication, it was centered around relatively cutting-edge technology.  Plastics, for one, sound recording for another.

The Red Box by Rex Stout.  Even without looking this one up, I could tell it’s clearly early in the series.  Archie is more of a thug.  Cramer actually lights a cigar.  Wolfe’s bookmark is ebony…  Oh, if you wonder, it’s the fourth in the series.

In Progress:

Moon Flash by Patricia A. McKillip.  Many people are surprised to find she wrote SF as well as Fantasy.  In memory of her recent demise, I decided to re-read this.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan Maguire.  Audiobook.  Re-listen.  Plot and characterization take second place to description in this tour of the compass points.   Fourth in her Wayward Children series.

Also:

Overall, the new Archeology magazine has some good articles, but the one of Egyptian “demons” had me wondering if the illustrations had been pulled from the wrong file, since in at least two places they not only fail to illustrate the text, they undermine it.

Gardener: ’Tain’t Whatcha Think

May 11, 2022
Chocolate Flowers

Monday morning, as I was out in our yard, preparing various containers for seeds while on stand-by in case Jim needed help as he set up our swamp cooler, I found myself thinking about the term “gardener,” as applied to writers.

As you may know, in this context, “gardener” is used as a synonym for what I prefer to call an “intuitive plotter,” but is often referred to by the inelegant term “pantser,” which in turn is short for “seat of the pants plotter,” (a term that in my opinion is only slightly better).

Whatever you call it, a gardener is a writer who does not outline in advance of writing, and may not seem to plan much in advance at all.

So, it was when I worked out my novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, which have been praised by award-winning reviewer Alan Robson, who noted that the story elements “have very significant roles to play in advancing the plot, and every time the plot advances the story exposes another intricate layer and we learn more and more about the way that the world of Over Where works. I’m astonished that Jane Lindskold managed to hold a structure as complicated as this one in her head while she was writing it, and I’m impressed at the skilful way in which the twists and turns reveal themselves so gradually and yet so inexorably.”  (Phoenixzine, May 2022)

By contrast, when I worked with David Weber on the forthcoming A New Clan, my natural tendency to not plan in advance had to be moderated by the need to work with another author.  In turn, Weber moderated his own desire to brainstorm in exhaustive detail to accommodate the fact that if I have it all figured out in advance, I feel the story is told, and am less enthusiastic.

Well, as I knelt there in my yard, stirring up dry soil, adding additional potting soil, soaking the planting medium in stages to make sure it was uniformly damp, and only then adding in the seeds—these spaced according to their specific needs, and those needs dictated by where that particular planter was going to be placed—I found myself thinking for the hundredth time how inappropriate the term “gardener” is for an intuitive plotter.

I wandered on at greater length about this subject here, so I’ll point you that way, and summarize.  (The first part of this other post is about our garden that particular year, but I suggest you read it, especially if you don’t garden yourself.)

Just as a gardener does not plant without acquiring a lot of advanced knowledge, so an intuitive plotter does not get ideas from some abstract ether.  A lot of work goes into preparing the “soil,” to learning about what the seeds need, to learning about the environment in which the plant or the story will grow.

A great example are the chocolate flowers featured in the photo above.  Jim and I like flowers, but we also like to work within the needs of our environment, which is hot, dry, and fairly brutal.  Chocolate flowers thrive in poor soil, without need for additional watering once they are established.  A bonus is that local birds love the seeds, so we not only get to watch the birds, they help spread the plants in our yard.

(The name “chocolate flower” comes from the scent of the flowers, which is not unlike bittersweet chocolate.)

So, for all you folks who think you can just zen your way into a story, without any foundation at all, remember, the planning goes in, whether before, after, or along the way, but one way or another, you’re going to need to do the work.

Speaking of which, I’m off to pull out scrap paper and work on one of my least favorite jobs…  Maybe I’ll talk about what that is next time.

FF: Still Looking

April 15, 2022
Roary Contemplates Meat Loaf

I finished the two books I was reading late this week, and I’m still looking for the next one.  Maybe I’ll catch up on short fiction and my heap of magazines.

As I mentioned in the WW this week, I’m talking via Zoom to Parsec, the Pittsburgh area SF/F club on Saturday the 16th.  If you’re interested, here’s a link where you can register.  The event is, as far as I know, free and open to non-club members.

As I also mentioned, we drove out to Phoenix for a funeral last weekend, so my usual reading was interrupted.  We did listen to part of an excellent audiobook of The Fellowship of the Rings on the road, getting up to where they’re about to enter Moria.  The plan is to resume next trip.

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:

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. 

Meatloaf: To Hell and Back by the eponymous performer and David Dalton.  Ultimately, I found this a sad book.  More “to hell” than “back.”

In Progress:

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.  Audiobook.  Plot light, so far, but lively, quirky characters more than make up for it.  Well-done aliens always a plus for me.  Non-military space opera setting.

Also:

Smithsonian, the latest issue.  Finished and found some very interesting articles. 

Live Studio Audience

April 6, 2022
Me Reading at ASFS

When I was a kid, television shows routinely had laugh tracks, a holdover, I guess, from the days when there were live studio audiences.  Being the sort of person who likes to lose herself in a show or story, I always found these disconcerting.  I mean, this was supposed to be a “real” situation, not a stage show, so who was laughing, and why didn’t the characters react?

Last week, I gave my first live reading since 2019, for the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society.   Since I’d read from the opening of Library of the Sapphire Wind for several virtual cons, including last year’s Bubonicon, I decided to read from a later section: the stealing of Slicewind.

Suddenly, I have a whole new appreciation for that live audience experience.  I’ve done a lot of live readings in my life, going back to when I taught college English, and even before that to when I read to younger siblings or kids I was babysitting.

Readings via Zoom were my first experience with reading to an audience I couldn’t hear.  It was, to say the least, disconcerting, because I couldn’t tell if they were “with” me or not.

Getting a feel for audience reaction doesn’t just involve the obvious things, like someone laughing at what I hoped would be a funny line.  It’s something more.  Even a reading of a serious passage gets a reaction from the audience, even if—maybe especially if—no one makes a sound.

I recently read a mystery novel titled The Broken Vase that featured a violinist “losing” his audience.  The author, Rex Stout, captured how little things—shuffling feet, turning of pages in a program book, restless motion—indicated that the audience (which politely kept its silence, as would be expected for such a performance at that date) was confused and underwhelmed.  These days, I suppose, we’d add peering into the omnipresent phone.

My pleasure at reading for ASFS gave me a whole new appreciation for the readers of audiobooks.  Many of these are actors, and would be accustomed to some interaction with an audience.  Sitting in a soundproofed studio must be as disconcerting for them as reading to a muted Zoom group was for me.

So, let’s hear it for the live studio audience!

Slowdown at the Aurora Borealis Bridge

March 16, 2022
Dandy Thinks This is Dandy

The dog did not eat my book.

Late last week I was informed that the trade paperback of my forthcoming novel, Aurora Borealis Bridge, the sequel to February’s new release, Library of the Sapphire Wind, has been delayed to April 12, 2022.

The e-book version will be available on April 5, 2022.

The reason for the delay of the trade paperback edition is supply chain issues at the printer. 

Really….  I did my homework!  So did the editor, the production team, and the great folks who weighed in along the way.  Tom Kidd did a terrific job with the cover art.

No dogs were injured in the course of this delay, and we will do our very best to get physical books into the hands of any and all who would like them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, there are always electrons.

Consider this a great opportunity, if you have not already indulged yourself, to read Library of the Sapphire Wind, to meet Meg, Peg, and Teg.  To set sail on the Slicewind, with Grunwold at the helm, and Vereez and Xerak handling the lines.

Now I shall go back to my usual scheduled writing…  I’d like to thank all of you who weighed in last week with information about rose water in cooking.  I haven’t had a chance to give it a try, but you can bet I’ll let you know how it goes once I do!

Questions Looking for Answers

March 9, 2022
Robin Bathing

This week, the things I am wondering about include:

Would rose water (the type you cook with, not perfume) taste good in tea?  Or how about in frosting?  Or maybe in butter cookie or sugar cookie dough?

Is the first robin a sign of spring when a couple usually winter over in your yard?

(The answer to that one is “No.”  The sign of spring is when the migrating robins come through in sufficient numbers that they empty the bird bath daily.)

When will the flickers vanish and the quail start showing up again?

When did I get used to fifty-degree temperature shifts?  Like nighttime temps in the low-mid-twenties and daytime touching seventy?

I’m also thinking a lot about a book I’m writing, but I’m not one of those writers who enjoys talking about works-in-progress.

Take care.  Be well.  Any questions?  Even more importantly, any answers to my questions about rose water?  I’d love to be pointed to recipes, although I can’t make any that require liquids to actually reach the boiling point.

Do you know why?