Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

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?

Wanna Guess?

March 2, 2022
Persephone Prepares to Inscribe Her Guess

Want to guess what’s my least favorite part about being a professional writer?

I’ll wait.  Write your guess down.  Now read on…

Basically, I love my writer’s life.  I love telling stories.  I don’t even mind doing edits or proofs.  You can’t beat the dress code or the commute. 

What does make me curl my toes is self-promotion.  I don’t mind chatting with readers.  Actually, that can be a lot of fun.  I don’t mind signing books.  Or doing panels and readings at conventions.  What I do mind is talking into a vacuum about my work.

That’s why it’s incredibly nice when other people step in and help me with the process.

This week, I have links for you to three different interviews, in three different formats.

For those of you who like watching podcasts, here’s a link to a chat I had with David Butler about my new release, Library of the Sapphire Wind.  This is one of the best interviews I’ve done recently, because David Butler not only read the book in advance (you don’t know how rare that is), but he came up with thoughtful and intelligent questions that I could answer while providing the minimum of spoilers.

For those of you who like audio, here’s a link to the same podcast, audio only.  You don’t get a glimpse of Goliath, the carousel horse who resides in my living room, but you can listen even if you don’t have screen time.

Finally, for those of you who like print interviews, a few weeks ago, I did one with the lively Angelique Fawns for the website Horror Tree.  The emphasis on this interview was how I manage my work day.  Hidden in the answers is some personal stuff about what has shaped my priorities over the years.

In a few weeks, David Butler and I will be talking again about the forthcoming sequel to Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge.  I’ll make sure to post the links to that as well.

If you’re the sort of person who likes interviews, I have a list of links on my website.  Not all interviews are included, but those that are there were chosen because in some way I found them fun. 

Now my question for you…  How many of you guessed right?

Silver That’s Gold

January 26, 2022
Mei-Ling Laughs

The last thing I expected to receive as a 25th wedding anniversary gift was a new folklorish tidbit.  It happened this way.  Sunday night, I mentioned to my gamers that Tuesday would be Jim and my 25th wedding anniversary.

“Twenty-fifth on the twenty-fifth,” said Melissa cheerfully.  “That makes it gold.”

I was confused.  “Gold is fifty.  I’m not sure we’ll get there, given we’re not exactly young.  That’s why I’m unreasonably excited about this one.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Melissa replied with a slight shake of her head, speaking with a quiet confidence that I’m sure her patients (she’s a dentist) find very reassuring.  “Gold is when the number of years matches the date on the calendar.  So your ‘gold’ only happens once.  I’ve heard of it for birthdays, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t fit for anniversaries, too.”

Jim and I decided we liked that, so yesterday we celebrated our Silver-Gold anniversary.  Good thing, too, since he would have been one for his “gold” birthday, and I would have been fifteen for mine, so we couldn’t have taken advantage of this rather nifty tradition anytime in the future.

Silver and gold.  Not bad.  Not bad at all…

FF: Mythic in Many Forms

January 21, 2022
Mei-Ling Sticks Her Tongue Out at a Good Book

This week I see that all my reading choices deal with the mythic, both the overshadowing power of myth, and the myths that grow out of the stories we believe about ourselves.

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’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Fourth in this series of novellas.  Combined with five, it would make a decent novel.  Since I read out of order, I had a few spoilers, but that didn’t quench my reading pleasure.

Stolen Skies by Tim Powers.  Third of his Castine and Vickerybooks.  This one takes on UFOs.  Some great visual images, as well as crop circles, cults, and cuisine.

In Progress:

The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold, Audiobook.  Set in the World of the Five Gods, but in a completely different area.

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch.  Fourth book in his “Rivers of London” series.  This is the first I’ve read as print, rather than audio.  I miss the reader’s sardonic tones, but unlike some series where I’ve both read and listened, this one does not need the reader to compensate for weak writing.

Also:

“Bridges” a short story by Tony Greyfox in the anthology A Swordmaster’s Tale.  I liked the unexpected twists this story took.  It’s certainly not the straight out cyberpunk tale it seems at the start!