Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category


May 24, 2023
Our Hail Bombarded Yard

This past weekend, we had hail on both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday’s hail pummeled our garden.  Sunday…  Well, the pictures are from Sunday.  We’re still waiting to find out whether certain plants made it.  It might take at least a week to be sure.

We were lucky this happened early enough in the season that most of the plants are on the small side.  The ones that were hit hardest were eight pepper plants, and as these came from a greenhouse, they may also be the most difficult to replace.

The second hardest hit were some alyssum I’d put in along one side of our patio.  However, I have extra of those, so if we lose them, I can replace.  I hope.  If temperatures spike, that adds in a whole new factor.

This is yet another way that gardening and writing are similar.  The writerly version of hail takes many forms: from illness, to family crisis, to catastrophic events that get between the writer and the ability to write.

Whether writerly hail crushes the writer (or the work in process) has absolutely nothing to do with how good the writer is, or how committed, or anything else.  As with what we’re going to be doing with our bruised and battered yard, the only thing a writer can do is look at the damage, decide what can be saved, what needs replanting, and what needs to be abandoned in favor a new approach or a new work entirely.

Probably my worst writerly “hail storm,” occurred after the death of Roger Zelazny, with whom I was living at the time, and who I loved very much.  I was only 32 and the idea that this would be the end of our story hadn’t really been on my mind.  I’d been too busy dealing with the day to day.  And that included writing a book that was then called Raven/Changer.

Roger’s death irrevocably battered that book out of the form it was then in.  However, after the passage of some time, and writing some other work (including the computer game Chronomaster and related works, as well as completing one of Roger’s works, Donnerjack, and doing a fair amount of short work), I went back to Raven/Changer.

Two hundred pages were discarded in favor of a fresh start entirely.  It became what is now out in the world as Changer.  I’m happy to say, it was very well-received and, to this day, remains for many people their favorite of my works. 

But the destruction was real.  So was being crushed.  But my choice to abandon my former work in favor of a new approach is not one I have ever regretted.

Next week, I’ll let you know how the peppers did, whether we got more hail, or wind or extreme heat, and how the writing (currently working on finishing off my parts of SK5) is going!

Windowboxes With Snapdragons and Hail


FF: Genre and Community

March 24, 2023
Persphone and a Tasty Book

On March 28th, I’ll be on a panel being hosted by my alma mater, Fordham University.  The topic is Science Fiction and Fantasy: Genre and Community.  The gimmick is that all of the panelists are associated with Fordham.  The panel is free, but you do need to get a “ticket” to attend.  I’ll put a link at the bottom of this post.

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. 


Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Very good.

Digger by Ursula Vernon.  A massive graphic novel.  Will make you laugh and cry and think.

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon).  Still excellent.  

In Progress:

Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Audiobook.  Not focused on Miles, which is a nice change, although I do like Miles.

Lots of reading toward the Nebula awards.


Smithsonian.  Some very good articles in this issue. 

And here’s the promised link:


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.

Odd Decorations

December 14, 2022
Dandy and Coco with Holiday Pals

Every family that decorates for the holidays has it: the odd decoration that may raise the eyebrows of visitors, but is much beloved by the household.

Maybe it’s something made by a kid at school.  Maybe it’s a gift from a loved friend.  Maybe it’s a family heirloom.  Whatever it might be, it belongs.

For me and Jim, even in a household with more than its share of odd decorations, probably the oddest is the ensemble known as The Twelve Guinea Pigs of Christmas.

I don’t remember what year we got them, but it was one of those when Jim had a field project, so I was handling a lot of our holiday shopping.  One day, I came upon a display of little stuffy toys with Santa hats.  Among them were guinea pigs!  I bought a couple (because guinea pigs get lonely, so just one wouldn’t do), and surprised Jim with them when he got home that week.

For a fellow who, when we started dating, couldn’t understand why I had guinea pigs, Jim was pretty rapidly converted.  He started offering to give them their treats, then check their food and water, and even to clean them.  He has built them several hutches, including one on wheels.

But I didn’t think Jim was so thoroughly converted that he would decide we needed not the two or three little stuffy guinea pigs I’d gotten for us, but twelve.  He searched until he found enough, and now, every holiday season, The Twelve Guinea Pigs of Christmas take up their place atop one of the tall bookcases in our office, where I can see them from my desk and smile.

What is your odd holiday decoration?  If you don’t have one, well, I encourage you to indulge. Even if the budget is tight, you can upcycle something.  Just remember to smile.

The Twelve Guinea Pigs of Christmas

Creative Chaos

November 30, 2022
Colorful Discussion

It’s been one of those weeks.  David Weber and I are busily brainstorming the details for our next Star Kingdom novel. (The most recent one, A New Clan, was released in June of this year.)

We started with e-mails, moved to a phone chat that went for two hours, bounced back to e-mails, interspersed with Facebook messages, then another phone chat.  Our initial write-up based on that first telephone exchange is now several pages longer and looks like a patchwork quilt would if done in text.

To my initial write-up in black, Weber commented in dark blue.  I replied in green.  He replied in orange—and purple, when he had an afterthought, as one does.  I replied in light blue.  He replied again in red.

We backed and forthed, capped each other’s ideas.  Figured out who would write which bits.  It’s been ridiculous fun.

I don’t collaborate often.  Honestly, I’m really very content as a soloist.  Collaboration, as I’ve said before, is more work, not less, at least if each of the collaborators has honest respect for the other.

Pretty soon, the creative chaos will need to become creative order, but for now the wildness is rather fun.

And very colorful.

Last Days for Tamson House

November 28, 2022

Hi All…

Wanted to remind you that the Tamson House Auction ends on November 30.

What am I talking about? See here:

Since I wrote this piece, there have been some fantastic donations, including several chances to have Zoom chats with authors and editors, one on one, for far less than you’d spend to chat in passing at a convention.

Take a look. Enjoy. Do interesting holiday shopping.

Most important, help Mary Ann Harris and Charles de Lint.


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:

and Part Two here:

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.