Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Footprints in the Air

February 12, 2020

Dripping Wet Polar Bear

On some levels, I feel as if I’ve been running on a hamster wheel these last several weeks—working really hard, but going nowhere.

Of course, that’s an illusion.   The new “Breaking the Wall” e-books are polished, formatted, and being uploaded as you read this.  Wolf’s Soul is still with my meticulous copy editor, but I’ve been writing the cover copy.  And I’ve been working on background for the fourth “Star Kingdom” novel.

Thing is, all of these projects have lots of steps that—if done right—leave no footprints.  Next week, I’ll tell you about some of those for the new “Breaking the Wall” e-books, including why there’s such a big change in the cover art, and about the extra content.

Especially at times like these, I need to do something that reminds me there’s a world outside of my office.  Although New Mexico has four seasons, including winter temperatures cold enough for snow, for a week or so in February, we get a warm spell.  This lasts just long enough to let us hope we’re done with freezing and below.  Last Saturday was clear, sunny, with temperatures in the low 70’s, so Jim and I went to the zoo.

Like us, the animals were really enjoying the weather.  For the first time in “real life” I saw a gorilla stand up and pound his chest.  The siamang family was putting on an arboreal exhibition so dramatic that we stood and watched for quite a long while.  The black and white lemur tribe was sunbathing (completely adorable, with arms outspread) and so cheerful that they entertained us with a loud chorus during which each member very seriously concentrated on his or her own part.

Jasmine, the elder of our two young elephants, was playing with the ducks in the elephant pond.  The ducks seemed amused and, rather than flying away, just paddled slowly out of reach.  Jazzy’s little brother, Thorn, sucked water up his trunk, then squirted it onto some of the plants—and his own head.

Most of the cats were napping, but the jaguar was roaming his new, quite large, enclosure, going up and over his cat bridge.  One of the polar bear twins was swimming and diving, quite evidently showing off.  Three of the Mexican wolves were trotting around their enclosure, including leaping over and around the many downed trees that provide interest to their home.

One thing I really like about our zoo is that all the animals have the option of taking themselves off-exhibit.  This means that if they’re out and about, they’re more likely to be active and seem unphased by their human audience.  It’s really much nicer for all of us.

As if encouraging me to get back to work, this week is supposed to be overcast and maybe snowy.  So I’ll get back to striding along, getting things done, even if no mark of my labors remains.

Y’know “walking on air” is often used as a metaphor for feeling really good.  Think of me there, walking on air, leaving no footprints, but making progress nonetheless!

Bookends and Bookmarks

January 22, 2020

900 Year-Old Hearth Piece, Notebooks, and Resources

I have a little challenge for you.  What’s the oddest thing you use as a bookend or bookmark?  Here’s why I’m asking…

Last week, I bought a new bookcase for behind my desk.  It’s the same size, more or less, as the bookcase that was there before.  However, this one has glass doors over the shelves.  This not only looks great, but has another tremendous advantage.  You see, Persephone cat likes to knock things off that particular bookshelf.  Sometimes she likes to shelve herself, which is often to the detriment of the books, since she also likes to bite books, especially paperback books.

Acquiring this new bookcase meant taking all the books off the shelf unit that was there, moving it, then moving books hither and yon.  Admirable as this new bookshelf is in many ways, the glass doors take up a little room, so the shelves are less deep.  They’re also fixed, so I needed to consider height, as well as depth, when re-shelving.

(In case you wonder, the former bookshelf was moved into our office closet and is serving as a new home and sorting area for some of the books and journals Jim brought home from his office when he retired a bit over a year ago.  My archeologist is also a scholar.)

In the course of doing this, I found myself looking at the various things I use as bookends.  There are several very attractive actual bookends, including several made from slices of stone that show off the crystals very nicely.  There’s a carved horsehead in Mexican onyx.  There’s a nice set of metal bookends, shaped like gates into Chinese gardens.  These have the added bonus of not taking up much space themselves.

Odder things have been drafted into bookend duty.  There’s a mah-jong set, one of several I acquired when researching the “Breaking the Wall” books.  There’s a pair of cast resin “jade” fu-dogs.  There are several wooden boxes, which do double duty by holding other things.

However, my personal “winner” for the oddest thing to be used as a bookend is a segment from a 900-year-old Ancestral Puebloan (aka Anasazi) hearth curb made from adobe.  When Jim and I were dating, he was co-directing a dig near Taos.  I went to visit him and fell in love with the simple grace and beauty of this hearth.  Since it was due to be destroyed, Jim brought me home a segment, and it has been a prized furnishing in my office ever since.

Moving books also turned up any number off interesting bookmarks.  In addition to the usual freebee bookmarks for forgotten bookstores and long-ago book releases, there were plane tickets (from the days when such existed), file cards, scraps of paper (including those with research notes scribbled on them), and envelopes.

Librarians and used-bookstore staff often have wonderful stories of things they find used as bookmarks, including, memorably, in one case, a $50.00 bill in a used book.  My most interesting find was a file card on which Roger Zelazny made some notations for a long-ago project.  Based on the topic, I’d guess it may go back as long ago as This Immortal (aka “And Call Me Conrad”) but I can’t be sure.

How about you?  What’s the most interesting thing you have used as a bookend or found as a bookmark?  There’s no prize except bragging rights, but I’d love to hear!

Wandering For Ten Years

January 15, 2020

That Was The Year That Was

January 13th of 2010 saw my first Wednesday Wanderings post.

A decade.  Ten years.  Fifty-two weeks a year.  And I haven’t missed once.  I think that makes for 520 essays, plus this one today.

Sometimes, like today, the post has been relatively short.

Other times, the posts have been long essays, often on writing. Some of these became Wanderings on Writing, one of the few books on writing that focuses on the unique concerns encountered by a working writer of science fiction and fantasy.

Other times these Wanderings have been about life, or new releases, or trips.

There was that time we saw a camel in someone’s yard…

For seven years, I also wrote the Thursday Tangents, which my friend, Alan Robson of New Zealand.  You can download some of these as a free e-book here.

A bit over five years ago, I started the Friday Fragments, which gives you a glimpse into my reading habits and provides you with the opportunity to influence them.

I’m always open to suggestions as to possible topics for these Wanderings.  Please feel free to make suggestions for the year to come.

Lots of things have changed in these last ten years.  One thing hasn’t.  I’m still a writer.  And now I’m off to write.

Christmas, Mah-Jongg, and More

December 27, 2019

Mei-Ling Wonders If She Could Be a Movie Star

More non-fiction than not right now.  I’m not sure where folk and fairytales fall in that.  Sometimes they’re more real than reality.

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 I really enjoy hearing about what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders.  A fascinating look at how Christmas has been celebrated from its inception to the early 21st century.  Although the emphasis of the middle chapters is on European and American customs, the author does keep a global touch.  Fascinating anthropological/sociological approach, well-documented, with additional material available on a dedicated website.

Mah-Jongg: From Shanghei to Miami Beach by Christian Cavallaro and Anita Luu.  Beautiful illustrations.  Some very sweeping, unsubstantiated statements, but still a nice book.

In Progress:

The Making of The African Queen or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and almost lost my mind by Katharine Hepburn.  Extremely chatty, reads as if it was narrated rather than written, with numerous asides.    I wish this was available as an audiobook with the same reader who read Me.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World compiled by Kathleen Ragan.  I’ve been reading more than a few stories a day.  Just moved into Hawaii.  (The book is arranged roughly geographically, which is rather fascinating.)

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Part Four of “The Story of Civilization.”  Audiobook.  Solidly into the Dark Ages.  Justinian has died.

Also:

Archeology magazine.  As often, I have some definite bones to pick with how they present some material.  I realize this is for a general audience, but still…

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2019

A Christmas Sampler

Hi Folks,

Today is Christmas.  Wishing all of you the best.  I’m spending the day quietly.  More noise next week.

FF: One Read Leads

December 20, 2019

Persephone Contemplates the Holiday Scene

Christmas prep led me to remember that I’d bought a book about the origins of various Christmas traditions, so I dug that from the to-be-read pile.  And reading Me led to another Hepburn.  All lovely.

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 I really enjoy hearing about what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn.  I read this many years ago, and am enjoying again.  Kudos to reader Bernadette Dunne who does such a phenomenal “Katharine Hepburn” voice that Jim went and picked up the box to make certain Hepburn herself wasn’t reading it.

In Progress:

Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders.  A fascinating look at how Christmas has been celebrated from its inception to the 21st century.  Although the emphasis of the middle chapters is on European and American customs, the author does keep a global touch.  Fascinating anthropological/sociological approach, well-documented, with additional material available on a dedicated website.

The Making of The African Queen or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and almost lost my mind by Katharine Hepburn.  Extremely chatty, reads as if it was narrated rather than written, with numerous asides.    I wish this was available as an audiobook with the same reader who read Me.

Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World compiled by Kathleen Ragan.  I’ve been reading more than a few stories a day.  We’re into China now.  (The book is arranged roughly geographically, which is rather fascinating.)

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Part Four of “The Story of Civilization.”  Audiobook.  Solidly into the Dark Ages.

Also:

Read a few more issues of Grimjack, just because.

The Quest For The Unholey Grail

December 4, 2019

Behold The Ominous Text!

A couple of weeks ago, I exploded my favorite covered casserole dish, thereby discovering that it could not be used under a broiler.  That was the first surprise.   The second was that, apparently, glass microwaveable/oven-safe covered casserole dishes have gone out of fashion–especially in my chosen color of cobalt blue.

Jim and decided to go questing for a new one.  Because a grail is a cup or chalice, and we were looking for a base (or liquid-holding portion) that was unbroken, I decided to dub this “The Quest For The Unholey Grail.”

We began our quest at a local thrift store.  Despite being able to answer what was our name, what was our quest and, most importantly, “What is Your Favorite Color?,” we did not succeed.  We expanded our search to an antique/collectible mall of the decidedly not upscale sort.

There we made our way past the booths of “Vinyl Records Are Now Trendy Again,” beyond the numerous cases of sparkling jewelry, beneath the sound of Angels Hark Heralding, deeper and deeper into darkening caverns celebrating the glories of the Material World.

A “Pyrex 15% Off” booth gave us reason to hope but, as when Arthur and his Knights face the denizens of Castle Anthrax, the beacon was deceptive.

Then, in the very back of the mall, in a booth that had various and sundry bits of kitchenware, on the bottommost shelf, at the base of a stack of no less than three different casserole dishes, we found what we were seeking.

Well, almost…  This dish was clear, not shining blue, but the diameter and manufacturer were the same.  We had retained the lid of our shattered dream dish.  Therefore, when a lady, small and elfin, who even offered to get me coffee from her car when I admired the scent of the brew she held in one hand, popped up and offered to take our new find up to the register, we decided to take the gamble.

At home, we were delighted to discover that lid and base fit each other as if created for that very purpose!  Sentimentally, we were happy that our bereft lid could be repurposed.  The price was very satisfactory as well.

Interestingly, the new dish has “DO NOT USE UNDER BROILER OR ON STOVETOP” in much larger letters than did the old.  I guess this means that I’m not the only one to make this mistake.

This quest resolved, I can move forth to my next task: reviewing Jim’s comments on Wolf’s Soul, which he finished reviewing Monday morning.  There is always another quest!

Healed Is The Shattered One!

FF: Onna

November 29, 2019

Mei-Ling Stayed Up Late Reading

Last weekend we took off to Texas to see Jim’s family, so I had some reading time while in the airport and onna jet plane.

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.

Recently Completed:

Firebrandt’s Legacy by David Lee Summers.  Space opera of the swashbuckling sort.  A fix-up novel built around stories featuring the privateer Legacy and her crew.  The characterization is not static, as if often the case with “fix-ups,” and several secondary characters have repeat appearances, giving the universe more depth than is often seen in such novels.  Recommended for those who don’t mind SF where action and adventure comes first.

In Progress:

Angel Mage by Garth Nix.  Just started.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk.  Started on the plane.

Grimjack created by John Ostrander and Tim Truman.  Comic books.  Past the “Trade Wars” storyline and into Kalibos.  Grimjack is definitely an anti-hero, but one who tries to be more “hero” than “anti.”  Ever since “Requiem” he’s been trying harder.  Didn’t get to read much in this last week because of travel.

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Part Four of “The Story of Civilization.”  Audiobook.  At a massive sixty-one and a half hours, I’ll be back and forth with this one for a while!

Also:

Read a bunch of articles in the “in-flight” magazine.  Was particularly taken by one about Picasso’s “Blue Period,” when he was a young man, just developing  his own style.

Mysterious Picture

November 27, 2019

Beautiful Dream

So, what’s with the weird picture?  Read on, and you’ll find out!

As those of you who have been reading these wanderings for a few years have probably figured out, one of my pet peeves is how the “thanks” and the “giving” seem to have vanished from what is increasingly transforming into “Turkey Day,” or “Watch Sports Day,” or “Pre-Black Friday Shopping Event Day.”

If you’re reading this, you have so much to be thankful for.  You have access to some electronic device.  You have electricity.  You can see.  Or hear.  You can probably talk, maybe even walk.  It’s likely you can read.

I won’t keep on going, because by this time you’re either nodding or rolling your eyes.

So, as promised, here’s what’s with the weird picture.  Depicted are part of Jim and my harvest this year.  Predominantly featured are heritage Pima beige and brown tepary beans we grew from seeds gifted to us by Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) (aka the writer/artist who wrote Digger and a bunch of other great stories).  Thanksgiving has its roots as a harvest festival, which is why I decided to feature the beans.

Ursula sent us the beans because she couldn’t grow them in her wet North Carolina climate, but didn’t think such rare beans should go to waste.  Despite the best pruning attempts of Frippery Scamperpaws Wigglebutt, our resident baby bunny this year, as well as a brutally hot mid-to-late summer, we managed a harvest that increased what we planted by at least six times, possibly as much as ten.

The majority of said harvest ended up in my soup kettle, part of a multi-bean soup that will provide many meals in the weeks to come.  Since Thanksgiving has its roots in harvest festivals, featuring these beans seemed very appropriate.

May your personal harvest of things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving multiply.  Please remember that what we so often take for granted (like walking, talking, breathing) are all very wonderful things!

Frippery Stalled At the Fence

FF: Decided

November 15, 2019

Mei-Ling Pounces Grimjack

Last week I mentioned that I was considering re-reading something.  I decided to see what I thought of Grimjack, a comic book that Roger Zelazny introduced me to over two decades ago.  Roger liked Grimjack so much that he gave the eponymous protagonist a cameo in one of the later Amber novels.

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.

Recently Completed:

My second read-through of Wolf’s Soul.  I hope to finish making corrections  by today.

In Progress:

Grimjack created by John Ostrander and Tim Truman. Comic books.  Early in the series, this reads very much a short story collection.  There have been a couple of hints about how a character named Dancer (a sort of Spartucus-like figure) may be playing a behind the scenes role.  Grimjack is definitely an anti-hero, but one who tries to be more “hero” than “anti.”

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire.  Audiobook.  About a third in.  I hope to have time to listen to more this weekend.

The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbojornsen & Moe, translated by Tiina Nunnally.  I’m reading a few of these before bed each night.  They can make for some very odd dreams!

Also:

Various articles, especially in the latest Smithsonian and Archeology.