Where Did You Learn What?

June 10, 2020

Roary and Fordham Ram

I have several absolutely charming younger relatives who are in college right now.  Covid-19 sent them back from attending college away from home—or in one case, may keep him from going away to college next year.  They’re all smart.  All academically gifted.  They are definitely equipped to learn remotely.

But I find myself thinking about all the lessons I learned that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t gone away to college.  One of the most important was learning how to deal with difficult people.  While I had many terrific roommates (shout out to Sue Koss, Kathy Curran, Rosemarie Connors, and Gloria Gonzalez, among others), I also had some ugly experiences as well.  These included three older girls coming into my room one night and trying to intimidate me into moving out.

Yes, Old Debbie, New Debbie, and Chris, I haven’t forgotten how you came to my bedroom doorway (we were in an apartment-style dorm) when you knew Sue was away and told me I should move out, ending with, “Do you really want to live with people who HATE you?”

I hope you remember this incident, too, and burn with shame that you could do that to an eighteen-year-old away from home for the first time, right after her parents had just split.  Why?  Because you wanted my space for one of your pals.

While that was the worst and most dramatic incident, it wasn’t the only such nasty event.

But I learned from it and, to this day, I know I can deal with bullies.

I learned to manage my time, a skill which remains incredibly valuable.  I learned to manage my money.  Ditto.  I learned how to interact with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of posts, because if I didn’t, there was no one I could turn to.

I realize in this day and age of cellphones and helicopter parenting, your average college students aren’t as thrust upon their own resources as I was, but still, I’d like to think that most college students want to try to solve their own problems before scurrying off to the folks.

There are other things I learned.  I was exposed to books and music that had nothing to do with my lessons, but which certainly shaped who I have become.  I learned that there are a lot of different sorts of family dynamics.  I heard wonderful anecdotes.  I played a lot of AD&D and Traveller.  I made decisions about drinking and drugs that had nothing to do with whether or not I’d get “caught.”

I learned a lot in college, both in the classroom and out.  Where did you learn your most valuable lessons?  I’d love to hear from the commuters, too!

FF: Where I Turn

June 5, 2020

Tricky Furball in My Sink

It’s been an insane week, one in which I’ve been grateful for the chance to escape into a good book.

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.

Recently Completed:

Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham.  A locked strong room mystery tied to a disappearance many years before.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Excellent and compelling—and surprisingly on-target in some of its elements, especially when addressing the current state of affairs.  A trickster with an agenda certainly would explain a lot.

In Progress:

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham.  Musical theater and country house combine to make an interesting setting for this tale of not-so-accidental death.

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  I’ve been waiting for this one since it was first announced.  Features the Ronan and his brothers from her “Raven Boys” series with, so far, only cameos from the other characters.

Also:

Preparing packages containing Wolf’s Soul, signed and personalized, to go out in the mail.

Wolf’s Soul Copies Have Arrived!

June 3, 2020

Roary Romps With the Wolves

After storm and flood and wild, windy weather, my copies of Wolf’s Soul have arrived.  This means that those of you who wanted to order copies directly from me can now do so via my website bookshop.

I offer signing and personalization at no additional charge.  Prices include shipping via Media Mail.

While you’re there, you can take a look at other books I have available.  Especially as some of my earlier novels are becoming harder and harder to find, if you’re looking for a not-previously read copy, my bookshop may provide you with a most reasonably priced option.  Many of the books offered are first edition, first printing, and in excellent condition considering how many years have gone by since they were first published.

(There are advantages to living in a dry climate!)

I’m slowly updating other elements of my website as well, but my first priority is writing.  The fourth book in the Star Kingdom series is moving along nicely, so administrative chores come second to writing more about Stephanie and Lionheart, in the early days of contact between humans and treecats on Sphinx.

So, off to write!  Catch you later…

Attack Kitten

May 30, 2020

So, Roary is nine weeks old now.  He’s made friends with our other cats, include temperamental Persephone who was actually caught washing his head…  For your dose of cuteness, here are a few pictures.

 

Roary in Mid-Leap!

Roary Sticks the Landing. Note Mei-Ling in Tunnel.

 Roary does sleep occasionally.

Roary on Cat Post

FF: Next Year, I Guess

May 29, 2020

Nothing Frightens Persephone

Just learned that Bubonicon, New Mexico’s largest SF/F con, will not be being held this year.  This will be the first time I won’t be there, I think, since 1994.  I might have missed one year in there, but I don’t think so.  I’ll really miss seeing those of you I usually get to chat with there.

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.

Recently Completed:

The Black Dudley Murder by Margery Allingham.  This is the book that introduced Albert Campion as a Bertie Woosterish twit, who might actually not be so twittish.  Allingham had no idea he would become the protagonist of so many future works.

Death On the Air and other Stories by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Also includes some non-fiction by her about her own work, and the script for a play.  The final essay of advice to a young writer is still about 90% valid, only aspects of the business had changed.

The Fear Sign by Margery Allingham.  I had to skip several because they’re not in my collection, but this is a good one with a treasure hunts and it introduces Amanda.

In Progress:

Flowers for the Judge by Margery Allingham.  A locked strong room mystery tied to a disappearance many years before.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  I read this when I came out and haven’t since, so, again a re-read with a new read feel.

Also:

Writing.  Beading.  Sneezing.

Is It Okay If?

May 27, 2020

Cactus Flowers and Bee

Is it okay if I admit that the one thing I’d like to do right now is go write fiction?

I’ve been out of my house and yard only rarely.  One of these jaunts was to visit a greenhouse and help choose a few items for our garden.  Another, was to pick up Roary, the kitten.  This has left me little opportunity to come across oddities to stimulate the writing of lively essays.

However, in that time, I have released Wolf’s Soul, the eighth Firekeeper novel, available now as a Kindle (mobi) e-book , and as an e-pub e-book from Barnes and Noble, Google Play, i-Tunes, and Kobo.

If you prefer print, Wolf’s Soul is a trade paperback from Amazon.

But that’s hardly new news, although very exciting for me.

Even if I may be short of essay-stimulating material, my imagination is working fine.  So, is it okay if I go write more of the yet-untitled fourth novel in the Star Kingdom series?  That way, one of these days, you can join me on the planet Sphinx where almost-sixteen year-old Stephanie Harrington is discovering what David Weber playfully termed “skullduggery in the bush.”

Saturday Snuggles

May 23, 2020

Mei-Ling and Roary

Some folks have wondered how shy-girl Mei-Ling and her new kitten pal, Romping Roary, are doing.

A picture speaks a thousand words….

FF: Pounce on a Good Book

May 22, 2020

Roary Pounces a Good Book!

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.

Recently Completed:

Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham.  My library is woefully short on her works in audio, but I own a bunch in print.  This is a mid-late book in the Albert Campion sequence, when WWII has taken the shine off of the Edwardian age.  That transition is the underlying theme of this novel, far more the theme than the ostensible whodunit.

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Audiobook.  Although less well-known than Sherlock Holmes, this is one of those books that keeps getting referenced by other authors.  Great fun and some truly excellent prose.

In Progress:

The Black Dudley Murder by Margery Allingham.  This is the book that introduced Albert Campion as a Bertie Woosterish twit, who might actually not be so twittish.  Allingham had no idea he would become the protagonist of so many future works.

Death On the Air and other Stories by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Also includes some non-fiction by her about her own work, and the script for a play.

Also:

Still writing on SK4 and enjoying watching Roary make friends with Mei-Ling.

Romping and Roaring

May 20, 2020

Roary 3

As those of you who have read the Acknowledgements to my new release, Wolf’s Soul (Firekeeper Saga 8, for more details go here), you know that a few months ago, my much, much beloved cat Keladry died without warning, probably from a stroke or aneurysm.

Kel had self-appointed herself my assistant, so her loss left a particularly big hole.  I still expect her to come running when she hears my computer go on or to be able to reach over and pat her when I pause to consider what next.

But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the losses in my life, it’s that choosing not to love as a protection against the pain of loss is a soul-destructive course of action.

And so, meet Roary.

After we lost Kel at the end of February, we wanted to get a new feline as soon as possible. Kwahe’e (who is now over eighteen and increasingly fragile) has always liked newcomers, but we weren’t sure how either Persephone or Mei-Ling would react.   Persephone is sweet but can be aggressive, while Mei-Ling is very shy.  Right now, Kwahe’e provides the balance between them.

Kwahe’e: Roary’s Calming Influence

However, there simply weren’t kittens available at the shelter until recently.  At the end of April, the shelter started posting kittens to the website (the site provides individual listings for adoptable animals).  However, with the Covid-19 shutdown, the shelter is closed except by appointment.  Therefore, once the site started showing more than an occasional kitten, I made us an appointment.  The closest date I could get was a week out and…

Yep, you got it, by that date (which was a week ago) there were no kittens listed at the shelter.

That Wednesday morning, I had a phone call checking if we were still coming in.  I explained that we were specifically looking for a kitten, and asked if they had any who weren’t listed on the site.  The lady (Cassie) said, no, the only available kitten was at the other shelter and appointments couldn’t be switched.

Very reasonably, Cassie tried to interest me in several young adults. I explained why we needed a kitten, explaining that we’d adopted Mei-Ling from the shelter last August as an excruciatingly shy kitten and, although we’d done a lot to help her be brave, we felt she’d be intimidated by someone bigger than her.

Roary and Mei-Ling

I asked, “Do you have any kittens who aren’t ready for adoption, but who we could reserve?”  Cassie replied, “We’re not doing reservations, but I could talk to our foster-care coordinator and explain your need.”  About twenty minutes later, I heard from a very enthusiastic lady named Carolyn.

Apparently, a kitten who had been brought into the shelter as an injured stray–something had attacked him and sliced through the leg muscles on his left leg so that they literally peeled off the bone (this is called “gloving”)–was now recovered from surgery.  He was doing well, but needed to go to a foster home while he finished healing.  The city shelter has a “foster-to-adopt” program, as long as the household does not exceed the limit for number of cats.  We don’t.

I gave Carolyn my references, including our vet clinic, who we’ve been using for over twenty years, through some remarkable pet adventures.  Then I got off the phone and bounced off the walls in excitement until Jim got home from running errands.

I valiantly withheld my news until Jim had a chance to wash his hands and mask, although I’ll admit, this was a struggle.  As I expected, Jim was as thrilled as I was, so I phoned Carolyn back asked when we could come get our new foster.  She said, “Come any time,” and we were out the door with Jim’s mask still slightly damp.

Our new foster was seven weeks old, white with random black spots.  The shelter had called him “ItsyBitsy,” but we’re going to call him Rorschach, Rory (or as Jim wants to spell it “Roary” because he can be very loud) since his blots form different pictures when he moves or bends.

Roary spends his unsupervised time in our spare guinea pig hutch to keep him from climbing and jumping, but he’s very playful and active.  He still has a little trouble with the left leg, but he’s certainly doing his P.T. to rebuild the damaged connections. If you look at the first photo, you can see the healing incision.  It’s pretty impressive.

Roary and Persephone

Best of all, unlike when we brought Mei-Ling home and Persephone completely panicked, our excitable girl seems to really like her new “little brother.”  We guess that this is because kittens are no longer a new concept.  She hisses at him a little, but isn’t terrified or hostile—more like “Keep your distance, squirt.”

 Mei-Ling is also interested in Roary.  Rather than going to hide, she loves to watch him and even lets him play within a few inches of her, as long as she doesn’t get pounced.  Apparently, her great fear is unfamiliar humans, which makes me think she must have had some bad experiences before she ended up in the shelter.

So, we’re optimistic.

Look forward to more pictures of Roary.  My guess is that he’s going to be a really big cat, because in just a week he’s visibly grown.

No matter how big he gets, Roary will never fill the hole that Kel left, but that’s not how love works.  You never stop loving those you’ve lost.  You don’t try to replace them.  You just open up to new love, new experiences, new challenges.

Which Is Good

May 15, 2020

Dandy asks: “How About ‘Pearls Before Guinea Pigs?'”

First a reminder…  Wolf’s Soul, Firekeeper book 8, is now available as e-book from any major vendor or trade paperback from Amazon.com.

I just finished reading a proof of a forthcoming novel by a friend.  I’ll try to remember to mention it when it comes out, but for now I am sworn to secrecy.

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.

Recently Completed:

The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham.  Audiobook.  Yep.  Another re-listen.  I enjoyed immensely and thought the reader was excellent.

In Progress:

 Pearls Before Swine by Margery Allingham.  My library is woefully short on her works in audio, but I own a bunch in print.  I haven’t read this is so long it’s going to be like reading a new book.

The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Audiobook.  Although less well-known than Sherlock Holmes, this is one of those books that keeps getting referenced by other authors.  I’ve never read it, so am going to give it a try.

Also:

Writing a lot means less reading time, but it does mean writing, which is good.