Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Monsoons!

August 4, 2021
Drenched Sunfower

When the rainfall started last Saturday, Jim and I were sitting down to dinner (stir fry, made largely with zucchini, peppers, and eggplant from our garden).  We traded guarded looks, but said nothing, just in case we might scare the rain away.

Then the rainfall picked up, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  We slid the porch door closed, and went on with our meal.  As I was finishing off my second helping, I slid open the porch door long enough to confirm that the rain was easing off.  So was the electrical storm.

I pushed my plate back, got my umbrella (which dates back to when I still lived in Virginia, over twenty-five years ago; umbrellas don’t get worn out very fast here), and went out to check.  All of the thirty-gallon trash barrels under the downspouts, bone dry an hour before, were overflowing.  I got a bucket, and started transferring water from barrel under the most wildly gushing downspout (the one on the northeast side), and started shifting it to the overflow containers.

Once I adjusted to the temperature and damp, I put the umbrella aside so I could work faster.  Who cared if I got wet?  This was rain!

I was into my rhythm—scoop, turn, dump—when Jim came out and got to work lowering the level of the southeast barrel.  By then, I’d more or less caught up with the torrent from the downspout and, bucket in hand, darted around to the west side of the house.

Once I’d filled the overflow container on that side, I started running buckets of water to our younger trees.  Yes.  It was still raining, but I knew that even just a few inches below the surface our sandy soil would be dry.  Best to replenish the area.

Eventually, we’d filled every container we could spare, storing roughly 200 gallons of rainwater. Then, dripping wet and ridiculously pleased, we came inside.  Later, when the rain had stopped, Jim went out and checked the rain gauge: six-tenths of an inch of rain.

Six-tenths of an inch of rain may not sound very exciting to you, but where I live, that’s a major event.  This was by far the most we’ve had at one time this year.  The runner up was back in late June when, for four very odd days, we apparently traded climates with the Pacific Northwest.  Then our cumulative rainfall for four days was a quarter of an inch.

As I type this, it’s drizzling again.  I find myself wondering if I can find a spare bucket somewhere…  Maybe it’s time to go get rained on again.

I think I will…  And I’ll leave you with a question.  How is this also about an aspect of the craft of writing?

Mixed Impressions

July 28, 2021

“So, this is where the magic happens,” said a guest upon seeing my office for the first time.

I agreed, because I knew this was meant as a compliment about my writing.  Even then, though, I was thinking how, weirdly enough, my office is where the least magical part of my story creation is likely to happen.  My office, my desk, my computer, are just where the stories get written down.

Well, most of the time.  Actually, a lot of my stories start out handwritten because, as I’ve mentioned before, there seems to be a more direct channel between my imagination and a form of transcription when pen and paper is involved.

Where does the magic happen?

On the edge of falling asleep.  In the shower.  When weeding the garden.  Cooking.  Washing dishes.  Folding clothes.  Doing something crafty.  In the middle of a conversation, when something said sparks an idea…

I rarely have a magical creative moment when staring at the computer screen, willing myself to write.  On the other hand, I do set myself goals when working on a project.  An artistically poised dilletante is definitely not how I see myself.  I’m proud of the fact that I make deadlines, and that I work hard to make sure that I do.

Does this give you a mixed impression of what it’s like to be the writer that’s me?  If so, perfect!  I am nothing if not a suite of contradictions that come together to create stories.

I’m curious.  Where do your “magical moments” happen?  I’m definitely not restricting this to writing.  They might be related to some other art.  Or even something to do with your job or the classes you’re taking.  Inspiration belongs to all of us.

Oh!  The associated photo is of a goldfinch among the Russian Sage in our yard.  I thought the mingling of tiny bird and even more minute flowers had a definite impressionist feel.

Here Come the Sunflowers

July 21, 2021
Can You Find the Bee?

I really like sunflowers.  For one, they grow two crops: first flowers and then birds (when our avian co-residents come for the seeds).  Jim and I like the flowers, and the cats like watching the birds.  Actually, we humans enjoy watching the birds, too.  Good all around.

If you look closely at this picture, you can see that the bees also enjoy the sunflowers.

This year, we discovered another reason to appreciate sunflowers.  Almost by chance, we planted some at the far western end of one of our raised beds.  Once they got started, we realized that, with their large leaves and thick stems, the sunflowers were providing a sun screen that ameliorated the temperature in what had been, to that point, one of the hottest of our beds.  As an added bonus, the stems are providing a natural trellis for the tepary beans.

I’m already making plans for expanding this natural sunbreak to another bed next year.

But for now, we’re quite happy just to enjoy what we have.

(P.S.  For the gardeners among us, the variety in the photo is called Candy Mountain Hybrid.)

FF: Powering Up

July 16, 2021
Roary Says: “I Declare!”

This week I’m immersing myself in the weird worldview promulgated in the fiction of Tim Powers.

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. 

Recently Completed:

Legion by Brandon Sanderson.  Audiobook.  This is a compilation of three novellas that are so interdependent that I don’t think the third would have the same impact if you hadn’t read the first two.  First is good, often funny.  Second has more complex plot, quite good.  Third is much darker, but has a fairly satisfactory conclusion.

In Progress:

Declare by Tim Powers.  I’ve only read this one once, and I know a lot more now about the time period in which it is set.  The problem with secret history/alternate history as a form, is if you don’t know what’s being played with, you miss some of the fun.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.  Audiobook.  I don’t usually read two books by the same author at the same time, but someone failed to return my print copy of this one, and finding that there was an audio was tempting.  One complaint.  Accents are important in this, as if voice pitch, and, while the reader is good, he rarely gets these right.

Also:

Finished the most recent issue of Smithsonian

Help Jim Decide!

July 7, 2021
Quail Family

Jim is considering entering a photo in a little contest for bird photos. He’s narrowed down to four choices, but isn’t sure which might have the most appeal.

Can you take a look at the four I’ve posted and put your vote in the Comments? If you want to say why you chose it, I’m sure he’d enjoy hearing that, too.

Meanwhile, I’m busy catching up and all the things I let lie fallow while I finished up work on my two “Over Where” novels: Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge. Enjoy the pictures!

Cedar Waxwings
After the Dustbath
Sandhill Cranes Reflecting

FF: Dare I Hope?

June 25, 2021
Roary Contemplates

I dare hope that I am finally done with setting up computers, printers, and the like.  It’s been really quite a bit more stressful than I ever would have imagined.  Stress makes me an unambitious reader, I will admit.

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. 

Recently Completed:

Fool’s War by Sarah Zettel.  Future SF with intelligent AI characters.  Would be done, but my reading time this last week got traded for other things a couple of times.  It still holds up very well.  Recommended.

Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Audiobook.  I could probably recite parts of this one along with the reader, but that’s okay.  Ian Carmichael does a brilliant job.

Uncovering Pylos a publication of the Archeological Institute of America.  More a pamphlet than otherwise, I picked it up thinking that a great deal more must have been learned about the Minoan/Mycenaen civilizations since my last delving into this topic.  I was astonished to find how little new there was, although the Griffon Warrior stuff is very cool.

In Progress:

Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayer.  My library doesn’t have this as an audio, so I pulled this one off my reading shelf.  Many people dislike because it’s “mystery light,” but I love the language, and the focus on the characters.

Also:

I’ve been reviewing supplements, compendiums, and the like for the GURPS RPG system.  With advent of vaccinations, my group is back to more or less regular meetings.  Yay!

For Various and Sundry Reasons

June 16, 2021

This last week was one of those weeks when I’m glad that my work schedule includes scheduling time for the unexpected.

For various and sundry reasons that I will not bore you with, I had to get a new computer.  Let me reassure you that I lost no files that I can’t live without.  This situation qualifies as a major expense, as well as a major hassle that meant I didn’t have time, energy, or clarity of mind to write, even when most of my writing now is addressing editor’s notes for Aurora Borealis Bridge, the second of my two “Over Where” novels, which will be coming out Spring of 2022.

(The first of the two novels is Library of the Sapphire Wind.)

Throughout this process, I’ve had excellent IT support from my local ISP, which has once again earned my loyal support.

Last week I told you about the interview I’d be doing with David Barr Kirtley of Wired magazine’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast.  I’m happy to report it went very well, and I think was a lot of fun for us both.  It should be out later this week, and I’ll post the link here next week, as well as to the Friday Fragments, if I have it by then.

One thing the pandemic transformed was how science fiction and fantasy conventions reach their audience.  In 2020, several went virtual.  In 2021, several, including Bubonicon, New Mexico’s longest running (and often only) convention, will be virtual again.

However, one aspect of this change that can be beneficial for someone like me, for whom going to any convention other than Bubonicon entails a great deal of expense and travel time (even relatively “local” conventions like those in Arizona and Colorado involve hundreds of miles of driving), is that I’ve found myself invited to participate in conventions I otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend.

Earlier this year, I did a panel and reading for Flight of Foundry, and this weekend I participated in the pre-recording of a panel about the forthcoming Space Western anthology, Gunfight on Europa Station, in which my story “Claim Jumped” appears, for LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m also hoping to do a reading, and it’s possible another panel, all of which would have been out of my reach a year ago. That said, as with in-person conventions, I’ll need to budget my time and energy, because virtual or not, panels take a lot of time and energy, and if I’m thinking about space westerns, I’m not thinking about whatever I’m writing. So, for various and sundry reasons, I didn’t do as much work on Aurora Borealis Bridge as I hoped to going into the week, but here’s hoping that this week is less filled with the unexpected, and more with the writing I love and find so very stimulating and inspirational.

FF: Wise Fools

June 11, 2021

In addition to the books below, I also have been re-reading my own Curiosities (a short story collection) and Wanderings on Writing as preparation for the interview with Geeks Guide to the Galaxy that I did yesterday.  Interesting, re-reading both, as I’m distant enough from the material to almost read it as a stranger might.

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. 

Recently Completed:

Bloodline by Dick Francis, actually by Felix  Francis, his son.  Audiobook.  A FF Reader recommended author!!!  He did a pretty good job, but his protagonist was too clueless for my taste.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issues 18-28.  An ambitious if not completely successful story.  I’m familiar with the first part of the story, because I just re-watched the anime, but it ended before the story did, and I felt drawn to finish it.  I’ve read it before, so I guess they were successful in that I wanted to read it again.

In Progress:

Fool’s War by Sarah ZettelI read this when it first came out and very much enjoyed.  Despite the title, SF, not Fantasy.

In the Frame by Dick Francis (Really by him, not by his son, Felix).  Audiobook.  I’m a sucker for stories that feature art, and the author’s note about how he came to write this one was fascinating.  Enjoying very much.

Also:

Still dipping into various sadly neglected magazines. 

Behind the Interview

June 9, 2021

Most of the time, when I talk about my life as a writer, I talk about the writing.  This week, here’s a behind the scenes glimpse at what goes into another aspect of my life: doing interviews.

There are many sorts of interviews.  By now I think I’ve done them all, most often as the one being interviewed, but sometimes as the interviewer.  Print interviews, especially these days, are often done, not with give and take, but with the “interviewed” being sent a list of questions and being asked to answer some or all.

Print interviews done this way definitely have pros and cons.  On the positive side, the “interviewed” has a great deal of control of the finished interview.  On the negative side, the “interviewer” often uses the same very generic questions over and over. This tends to lead to interviews with a flat sameness.  This sameness is probably useful if someone wants to do an article on “Twenty Authors Answer ‘Where Do You Get Your Ideas?’” but isn’t my idea of fun to either do or to read.

When I interview someone, especially if via e-mail, I only send a few questions in the first round, so that I can then respond to the answers and ask new questions that are direct responses to what the person being interviewed has said.  In this way, we avoid falling into rote.

Another sort of interview is the in-person interview.  With the growing popularity of podcasts, these are becoming more common.  There are two forms of this interview: the live and the pre-recorded.  Each has advantages.

Live interviews are a bit like roller coaster rides.  You get the pauses, the ums and ahs.  The unexpected laughter.  The occasional blooper.  If the speakers are good, live interviews are terrific.  If the speakers are inarticulate or under-prepared, then they’re deadly.

Pre-recorded interviews tend to be smoother because the dead air time has been taken out. Rambling answers can be trimmed, complete disasters removed entirely.  What pre-recorded interviews lack in unpredictability, they gain in polish.  If the editor (who is often the same person who does the interview) is good, a pre-recorded interview still maintains the sense of spontaneity.

As with print interviews, a great deal rests on the interviewer.  Some simply ask the same questions.  I’ve done interviews where I quickly become aware that not only hasn’t the interviewer read any more of the book in question than the jacket copy (interviews are frequently tied to new releases), but also the interviewer hasn’t read anything of mine at all.  In those cases, I’ll speak at greater length, filling in the elements that the interviewer should have covered.

Usually, I prefer not to see the questions for in-person interviews in advance, because then my responses won’t be as from the heart.  However, this doesn’t mean I don’t prepare.  I try to anticipate general questions, and think of examples.  For example, “Where do you get your ideas?” can be tightened to become “Where did you get the idea for The Firekeeper Saga or the Overwhere books?” by how I answer it. 

Tomorrow (Thursday), I’ll be recording an interview for the podcast “The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” with David Barr Kirtley, which appears on Wired.com.  He’s picked an interesting topic: my short story collection Curiosities, as well as my book on writing, Wanderings on Writing.  I haven’t dealt with these very often in interviews, so it should be fresh and exciting.

I’ll let you know when the interview airs.  In the meantime, there are links to some older interviews I’ve done at my website: www.janelindskold.com.  You might enjoy.

Any questions?

FF: Selections From…

June 4, 2021
Persephone Revels

Featured in the picture is the new anthology, Worlds of Light and Darkness, which combines a selection of stories taken from DreamForge and Space and Time magazines.  I wrote the introduction in which I discuss why I feel writing stories with hope as a theme is far harder than writing grimdark.  Oh, and my story “Born From Memory” is one of the selections

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. 

Recently Completed:

Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers.  Picks up with the characters from Powers’ Alternate Routes.  Full of chase scenes and daring escapes, paranoia, and a secret history that is a crazy-quilt from various sources.

In Progress:

Bloodline by Dick Francis, actually by Felix  Francis, his son.  Audiobook.  A FF Reader recommended author!!!

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issue 18.  An ambitious if not completely successful story.  I’m familiar with the first part of the story, because I just re-watched the anime, but it ended before the story did, and I felt drawn to finish it.  I’ve read it before, so I guess they were successful in that I wanted to read it again.

Also:

A few magazine articles, mostly in Smithsonian.