Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Floodtide of Ideas

December 12, 2018

The Soda Dam: Jemez River, New Mexico

Just a couple of weeks ago, limbering up my imagination so I could write even a few sentences was a time-consuming and not very rewarding task.  Last week was the first since Jim’s knee replacement surgery (which was on Halloween, for those of you who haven’t been around) that I managed to write every day.  As I’ve mentioned, the problem wasn’t so much lack of time as that my imagination was busy with other things.

One of the exercises I assist Jim with involves stretching out his quads.  A side benefit is that it helps keep scar tissue from constricting the knee.  We do this exercise at least five times a day, and the benefits – while not dramatic – have been visible.

Apparently, pushing myself to write at least some Monday through Friday of last week stretched out my healing imagination.   Where early in the week I had to push to write even a few pages – Tuesday was particularly tough – by Friday even a late start didn’t keep me from completing four pages.  Even better, while I didn’t write over the weekend, all sorts of little connections began to fall into place.

As I turned on my computer on Sunday to take just a few notes, I felt very cheerful.  I’ve always been a character-driven writer.  Now my character were expressing their opinions as to what they wanted to do next – as well as revealing certain things they had been hiding from the other characters.   (And from me!)

There’s just one problem about this new flood of creativity. It’s not restricting itself to the novel.  Instead, it’s popping out in some very unusual areas.  The last session of the RPG I’ve been running triggered some interesting thoughts that I really should write down.  Then there’s a niggling feeling that I’d really enjoy writing a short story or two.

Professional writers often have people come up to them with the following suggestion: “Hey!  I have a great idea for a story.  Here’s what I think we should do.  I’ll tell you my idea.  You write it.  Then we’ll split the money.”  Writers tend to think this suggestion is very funny since lack of ideas is very rarely the problem: the problem is lack of time.

So, what does one do when this embarrassment of creative riches occurs?

In my case, I try to prioritize.  Working on the Firekeeper novel is my current “homework assignment,” so I try to write on that every day.  This helps keep me from losing touch not only with the flow of the story, but with my enthusiasm for it.  Then I consider the other ideas that are clamoring for attention.

Game notes?  Those don’t need to be in my best prose, so I can knock those off pretty quickly.   An added benefit is that when I have enough game notes, I can pretty much ignore game prep as a writing project for a while, at least until my players do something I didn’t anticipate and I need to consider the ramifications.

Short stories?  This depends on how much the idea is obsessing me.  Sometimes I’ll start a short story so I don’t lose touch with it.  If it “catches fire,” then I try and write it side by side with my novel.  Sometimes, I even put the novel on side for a day or so to finish the short story.  This is not as detrimental to the novel as it might seem.  If part of my subconscious is occupied with a competing story, the novel will inevitably begin to slow down.  Getting the other story out of the way re-opens the floodgates.

However, if the short story doesn’t catch fire, then I keep the part I’ve written, but I put it on side until I have more time to think about it.  Maybe what I have is the seed of a story idea, not a full-blown story.  The time I spend “planting” the seed isn’t usually wasted.  At the very least, there isn’t a little voice in my head saying “Don’t forget that cool idea!  Don’t forget that cool idea!”

Sometimes I just scribble a note to myself on a scrap of paper and toss it into a box on my desk.  It’s full of similar scraps, and when time permits I pull them out and review them.

It feels good to have the ideas flooding through my head.  I have about twenty minutes before I’m needed anywhere.  I think I’ll use them writing out some of those game notes, so I can write more of my novel this afternoon.

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FF: Emotional Commitment

December 7, 2018

Variety Rules!

My reading this week has been intruded upon by my spending more time writing, but audiobooks are coming to the rescue.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, 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:

Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Set in ancient Egypt with lots of period material.  Very enjoyable, although the POV character might strike some as too vague and dreamy.

In Progress:

Always Look On the Bright Side by Eric Idle.  Audiobook.  Read by the author.  Alternately funny and thoughtful, brilliantly presented.  I’m enjoying.  This one was recommended by my friend, Alan Robson, in his book review column.

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold.  Not really a re-read.  I haven’t read this since it was in proofs, which is a very different experience indeed.

Also:

Although I’ve found short fiction tough to read unless in one sitting, I find magazine articles easy to read when exhausted before bed, so I’m plowing through the accumulated issues.

I wonder if it’s the fact that short non-fiction of this sort lacks the need for an emotional commitment on the part of the reader?

Thinking About Thanking

November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Bounty

Rattle, rattle, rattle, rumble, scrape, scratch…

Jim just trundled across the room.  He’s still using his walker, but he’s pretty much moving at his usual pace.  We’re hoping to see him graduate to a cane pretty soon, and to be able to dispense with pain meds even sooner.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.  My dad died from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When Dad stopped being able to walk, he knew he’d never walk again.  For a man whose idea of fun was to go hiking through his forested property, locate a downed tree, then carry it back to where he could cut it up for firewood, this was hell.  Painkillers couldn’t touch what was hurting him.  He was dying by inches, and all too aware what was happening.  That broke his heart long before the disease had finished breaking his body.

Somehow Thanksgiving has come to be about wanting more, not being thankful for what you have.  The Black Friday promotions for pre-Christmas shopping have a lot to do with this, because, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the emphasis is on the sales to Get More, not on reflecting on everything you have.

Did you walk to your computer?  Can you pick up your tablet or phone?  Instead of feeling sorry that you can’t get the latest model, think about the wonder that are those fingers that you can move, the legs you can walk on.

If you’re reading this post, you have something to be thankful for.  You can see.  You can read.  You can process information.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in caregiver mode and, I’ll admit, sometimes I’ve been too tired to think straight. Nonetheless, I’ve also known how lucky I am to be taking care of someone I can expect to get well.  That hasn’t always been the case.  The bulk of caregiving for my dad fell on my sister and brother, though I did what I could.  But, when I was in my early thirties, I cared for my then-partner, Roger Zelazny, through the cancer that killed him.  I was with him when he breathed his last.

But, you know, I’m thankful for that, too, because I was there and Roger was wonderful.  We lost against the cancer.  But we won, too, because we held on to each other til death did us part.  There are worse things.

Things to be thankful for are all around you if you bother to look for them.  The picture with this Wandering features ghost pumpkins that were a gift from our friend, Patricia Rogers.  The turkey pot was made by another friend, Mary Weahkee.  Jim made the wreaths…

Thanksgiving is not about Black Friday, folks.  It’s not about Turkey Day and football games.  Thanksgiving is about taking one day out of the 365 we’re gifted with each year to stop wanting more and take a look at what we have.

I hope you can find things to be thankful about – and if you’re caught in the dark, I hope you can find a way to reach for the light.

FF: Two For One

November 9, 2018

Keladry Contemplates Fafhrd and the Mouser

With Jim recovering from knee replacement surgery, my reading time has been seriously crimped, but I usually manage a little here and there.  Here’s what I’ve been reading these past couple of weeks.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, 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:

Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber.  I’d forgotten how smart Fafhrd is.  Definitely not the dumb barbarian muscle in this pair.

The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen.  Audiobook.   Quite good, although somewhat unevenly paced.  The opening parts seem to repeat a great deal of information, leading up to an ending that’s an emotional rollercoaster.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.  Darker than many of her novels, but good.  The ending felt rushed, and left a few details out I would have liked to know.

In Progress:

Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Lieber.  Much more coherent than the prior volume.

Also:

Some catalogs.  The items that people will buy and sell are endlessly fascinating.

What the Cats Think

November 7, 2018

Kel and Ruby: Supervisors of PT

Many thanks to all who sent Jim good wishes for his knee replacement surgery.  I’m happy to report that overall things have gone well.  He’s up and walking again (with a walker) and diligently applying himself to his PT.  Sure, there have been rough times, and there are certain to be more rough times, but he’s doing as well as could be expected.

Before the surgery, Jim and I did everything we could to prepare our household for the disruption that was certain to follow.  We stocked up on groceries.  We did lots of laundry.  We made up the bed in the guest room, just in case one or more of us would need it.  (We have.)  But there was one important issue we couldn’t deal with in advance: We couldn’t prepare the cats for all the changes to come.

(This is not to slight the guinea pigs but, although they interact with us, as long as someone shows up with treats and rotates them through their various domiciles, they’re not too picky as to which of their humans it is.)

Halloween night, when I staggered in from more than twelve hours at the hospital, the immediate question of “Where’s dinner?  In fact, now that we’re on the topic, where was lunch?” rapidly changed to “What did you do with Jim?”

The most immediately upset was Ogapoge, who thinks Jim is his personal property.  However, when I crawled into bed, I felt every cat take a turn walking up the bed and inspecting where Jim should be.  When they didn’t find him, they came and poked me, as if I might be hiding him.  However, they weren’t overly upset.  The last few months, Jim has had to be away for several days at a time, and they figured that this was more of the same.

They were more indignant when I vanished again on Thursday to spend most of the day at the hospital with Jim.  I work at home, you see, so I am supposed to be available at all times.  It probably didn’t help matters that I came home with Jim’s scent on me.  I found myself imagining the cats conferring, wondering if I might be keeping Jim imprisoned somewhere.

When on Friday I brought Jim home, the cats’ initial jubilation changed to consternation.  Jim smelled wrong.  He was walking funny – and never without this horrible rattling thing in front of him.  Again, Ogapoge was the most upset.  His pet was back but changed.  Kwahe’e was fairly mellow about matters but, at sixteen, he’s seen the world.  He came over, buffed Jim’s shoes, then went back to his basket.  Keladry was watchful, while Persephone – who is the most social – was mostly concerned because Jim would not let her jump up to sit on his lap from the right (the surgical side), only the left.

By this writing, the cats have all adjusted to the change.  Keladry has appointed herself Supervisor of PT.  Ogapoge forgave Jim when he learned Jim could still play with him and feed him – and that the rattling monster didn’t seem inclined to do anything without Jim’s supervision.  Kwahe’e figured out he could get up on the guest bed to check on Jim, so that was fine.  Persephone decided that the amount of time Jim spends sitting means there is more lap time available.

So we’re settling into a new normal here.  I’m not back to writing yet, and I probably won’t be for a while more, since my creative energy is going into finding new ways to do old tricks.  However, like the critters, I’m relieved to have Jim home again – and I appreciate how the rattling of the walker lets me know when he’s up and about and might need my help.

I hear it now.  Later!

 

FF: Pending…

November 2, 2018

Hi Folks…

Jim’s doing okay, but by the time I get home from the hospital, I’m too tired to do much on the computer.

Friday Fragments will resume, probably next week.  For now, tell me what you’re reading!

Kwahe’e: My Guardian!

Hard Right Turn

October 31, 2018

Jim’s Halloween Diorama: Beaded Spiders By Jane

So, today is Halloween, and with singularly poetical timing, Jim is having knee replacement surgery on the one day of the American calendar when it is considered perfectly appropriate to wear a mask.  The surgeons should be very happy.  This event is the next hard right turn in our lives, which I hinted about at the end of last week’s Wednesday Wandering.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either getting ready to go to the hospital, am at the hospital, or maybe even am home from the hospital and racing around taking care of all the chores that I didn’t do because I spent the day at the hospital.

For the next few weeks, my social media presence may be limited.  Unlike some people who would doubtless be posting updates every half-hour or so, that’s just not my thing.  And, hey, I don’t even own a smartphone, so even if it was, I couldn’t.  I will check and respond to e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook as I can, but taking care of Jim and our home are going to be my first priorities.

Jim is a good candidate for knee replacement, being more or less in shape (other than having a knee that doesn’t work right), relatively young, and supremely determined.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that these days almost everyone either knows someone who has had knee replacement surgery or has had some joint replaced, that doesn’t change that this is a major surgical procedure with a long recovery period.  (As in several months, minimum, perhaps a year before full strength and flexibility returns.)

Yes.  We know that Jim needs to do his PT.  Yes.  We do know pain control is important.   Yes.  We do know he’s going to hurt like hell but, in the end, be so glad that he did this.  Thank you.  Please don’t share your horror stories about what went wrong for you or for a friend of a friend.  We’ve heard those stories.  They don’t help.

Since Jim has always done his share of chores around our house – up to and including cooking, laundry, and pet care – I’m going to have a lot of extra work, above and beyond being the only driver and the main caregiver.  If and when I have any extra energy, I hope to put it into writing.  That may be a fantasy.  I won’t know until I get there.

So, Happy Halloween.  Wish us more treats than tricks…  I’ll catch you when I can!

Wild West Weekend: MileHiCon 50

October 24, 2018

Just Part Of The MIleHiCon 50 GOH Line-up

Where do I start?  Cool panels?  Meeting up with friends too long not seen in person?  Getting a chance to chat with writers and artists whose work I’ve long admired?  Learning I was a key member of the archer team defending Gondor?

I guess I’ll be boring and go chronologically…

But first I’d like to thank two people who helped make the con special for me: readers and Firekeeper fans, Jason and Christine.  These hard-working people separately found time during their very busy weekends to travel to MileHiCon to meet me.  You can’t possibly understand how honored I am.  I hope you had fun.

So…  This weekend’s adventure in more or less chronological order…

Jim and I had a good drive up from Albuquerque to Denver, arriving just about an hour before Opening Ceremonies for MileHiCon 50.  For this landmark occasion, MileHiCon had invited back all past Guests of Honor.  An astonishing twenty-five or so were able to return, making for a showcase to rival most major conventions – and with everyone a whole lot more accessible.

Thanks to a suggestion by Jim Van Pelt, each author had a special Guest of Honor sash to wear.  After putting these on, we quickly scurried into alphabetical order.  Then one by one, we paraded down the red carpet and took our seats on the stage.  I think it was Jeanne Stine who, looking at the stage burdened with lines of chairs, said: “I hope that doesn’t collapse!”

Opening ceremonies were followed by a meet and greet combined with a Guest of Honor signing event.  By chance, I ended up sitting next to Lawrence Watt-Evans.  I’d never met this gentleman before, but he has a special place in my writing life.  He sent me my very first rejection letter.  While he didn’t take my story, he also didn’t crush my hopes and dreams, for which I will always be grateful.

Later, when Jim and I wandered into the bar to find out what the Author’s Networking event was about, we ended up bumping into Steve Brust and accompanying him to his “office” (the outdoor smoking area) where we spent a very happy half-hour or so while Steve quizzed Jim about various archeological theories, and Jim happily dove in to give what answers he could.  (Yes.  I am sensitive to cigarette smoke, but chatting with Brust was worth it!  Besides, he sat upwind from my lungs.)

Saturday morning, we rose early enough to attend the KaffeKlatch in the con suite.  When I was a MileHiCon GOH last year, I’d been assigned this event and immediately became hooked on it as a laid back way to chat with fans and guests.  This year we scored big, because both Jack McDevitt and Barbara Hambly were on deck.  We settled into a side room and enjoyed a free-form chat loosely organized around various media influences on SF and F, going all the way back to radio serials.  I was grateful that my pen pal Paul Dellinger had long ago educated me both in classic SF film and TV, and in those great radio dramas.

Later, I had a panel on “Whatever Happened to… Questions Definitively Not Answered in Your Books.”  This rapidly segued into what might have been called “Who Is Your Audience? And What Mistakes Are You Most Embarrassed By?”  It became very lively…

After that, we snagged lunch, did a quick tour of the excellent art show and dealers’ room, then went off for the oddest GOH presentation I have ever been part of.  Each GOH had been asked to send seven images that would be turned into slides.  We each then had four minutes to make our presentation.  It went astonishingly smoothly, except for when the slides stuck at Jack McDevitt who did a brilliant job of adlibbing while the show was unstuck.  Kudos also to Carrie Vaughn and Rob Sawyer, who each did impromptu presentations for a GOH who wasn’t able to be there for their slides.

The PackaGOHcha was immediately followed by a mass signing, during which I had a chance to briefly catch up with long-time friend, artist Liz Danforth.  After the mass signing, I had my shared GOH presentation with Jack McDevitt.  We had a great time discussing why we love SF, assisted by some very thoughtful questions and comments from the audience.

That was the end of my programming for the day but, after we’d had some dinner, we decided to try something new, so we went off to listen to the Artist Roundtable discussion.  The topic of discussion was how to handle mailing art to convention shows.  Even though neither Jim nor I are artists nor do we have any plans to become such, we very much enjoyed this chance to see another aspect of the convention scene.  An added bonus was a chance to chat after with artist Chaz Kemp and his writer wife, Carolyn.

Sunday began again with the KaffeeKlatsch, for which this time I was an official host along with the aforementioned Chaz Kemp.  Attendance was lighter than Saturday (doubtless because so many people had been up way too late), but it was a great way to get ready for the day.

Later that day, we were back in the con suite to help Carrie Vaughn celebrate the release of her new novella Paranormal Bromance.  It’s set in the same universe as her “Kitty” books and features three “Millennial” generation vampires.  If the sample she read is any indication, Paranormal Bromance is going to be both funny and thoughtful.  As a bonus, Carrie explained to me what the term “Bromance” means…

Then we raced down to attend the GOH presentation by artists Lubov, Teresa Mather, and Liz Danforth.  Despite difficulties with the visuals, these three talented artists gave a great presentation.  I was especially delighted when Teresa Mather devoted her presentation to the work she has done on carousels throughout the country, but all of it was fascinating.

My Sunday panel was titled “Creating Fictional But Meaningful Religions.”   Since I love mythology and anthropology, I’ve been on quite a few similar panels.  This was, by far, the best.  The panelists were well-informed and actually stuck to the topic – using examples from their own work and those of other authors to illustrate both the complexities and rewards involved in creating meaningful religions.

That was it until closing ceremonies.  Once again, the format had been cleverly adapted to allow all the Guests of Honor their moment in the spotlight without ever becoming repetitious.  However, not one of us knew what would be expected until we entered the room and took a seat at the front of the room: each of us would be responsible for introducing the person on our right.  Given that we’d grabbed chairs at random, this was quite a challenge.  Happily for me, I was to introduce Lawrence Watt-Evans with whom, as noted above, I have a bit of personal history.  Barbara Hambly introduced me with true panache, given that until this weekend we hadn’t spoken for more than a few minutes.  She ended by revealing my key role as a defender of Gondor.  Now I understand all those curious dreams…

Even when the con had ended, the fun wasn’t over.  Author/editor David Boop took me, Jim, Steve Brust, and John Forrest out for a wonderful traditional Japanese dinner followed by a jaunt to The Inventing Room for ice cream desserts made on the spot with (among other ingredients) liquid nitrogen.

The drive home from Denver included great wildlife viewing including herds of antelope, scattered deer, red tailed hawks, ravens, and what we’re pretty sure was a beefalo.  I know this last isn’t a wild creature, but, hey, seeing one was pretty wild!

Now it’s back to writing before life does its next hard right turn.  Stay tuned next week for an update as to what that will be…

Hold Music

August 22, 2018

Ziggy Relaxes

The last week has been too full, so that right now I don’t have the mental energy to come up with a tidy little essay.

I hope that by next week things will have quieted down.

For those of you who will be attending Bubonicon, I hope to be there on Friday and Saturday.  Friday, I’ll be reading my latest Prudence Bledsloe story: “Dost Make Thee Mad.”  I’m also on a panel right after Opening Ceremonies.  Saturday, I have a couple of panels, and will be there for the mass signing.  Sunday I may or may not attend, so if you want anything signed, be sure to come to the mass signing.

For now, I leave you with a picture of Ziggy O’Piggy, relaxed and enjoying her personal armchair.

Thinning Pomegranates

August 15, 2018

Pomegranates — After Thinning!

Last week, I removed at least twenty pomegranates from the shrub that grows near the southwest corner of my house.   This was very difficult for me to do.  Three years ago, my entire harvest from that same shrub was about seven pomegranates.  Most of them set late enough in the season that they didn’t ripen.  Even those that did ripen only sort of did.  Turns out that while an unripe apple is edible if tart, an unripe pomegranate is pretty much inedible.

Then, summer of 2017, the shrub not only set fruit but early enough that the fruit ripened.  We had a delirious month or so when we had almost too many pomegranates.  I say “almost” because, by shelling them and keeping the edible portions carefully stored, we managed to eat every single fruit.  If I had been Persephone in Hades, I would have not only been doomed to spend all year in Hades realm, I would have had to travel backwards in time several millennia to make up for time owed.

So, this year when the shrub flowered heavily, I was delighted, but flowers do not mean fruit, especially in New Mexico where springtime features high winds that strip flowers from the boughs.  When lots of fruit set, I was delighted, but I didn’t do much in the way of thinning because last year quite a number dropped off on their own when temperatures mounted.

But this year, the shrub seemed determined to keep every single fruit it could.  Reluctantly, I thinned where clusters of three fruit had set and were all competing for nutrients not only on the same branch, but on the same node.  Then, last week I took a deep breath and removed one fruit from any doubles.  There are still a lot of pomegranates on that shrub.  It may be that I’ll need to thin again, but, right now, I’m making sure the plant gets enough water and hoping that I won’t need to thin further to achieve an excellent final harvest.

Thinning fruit isn’t a metaphor for one of the stages of writing, but it could be.  I’m sure those of you who write know exactly what I’m talking about…