Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Twenty-Six!

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.

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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: https://janelindskold.wordpress.com/2022/11/03/shop-and-help-in-one/

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.

Clubbing

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:

https://www.baen.com/podcast/index/view/id/582

and Part Two here:

https://www.baen.com/podcast/index/view/id/584

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.

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.