FF: Fitting Reading in Around Work

September 17, 2021
Persephone Poses

All of a sudden, I have a lot on my to-do list, but I’m still squeezing in time to read.

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:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Again Tey makes some odd stylistic choices, but the distant, narrative heavy voice of The Man in the Queue has been replaced with lively narrative voice.  I wonder if her writing plays influenced this?

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie.  A serial killer challenges Poroit, but is there more to the problem than that?

In Progress:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  A very warm book, thus far, and I like all the characters I’m supposed to like very much.  Structure is so utterly predictable, I’m getting nervous in anticipation of the next part which should be “crisis occurs, forcing protagonist to make unsettling choices.”  Does this mean I don’t like the book?  Absolutely not! I won’t know if I like it or not until I’m done.

DreamForge Anvil issue three.  Two stories read.

xxxHolic by Clamp.  Manga.  “xxx” here stands for “fill in the blank” not super-porny.  “Holic” means an addiction of any sort.  I’ve read part of the manga before, seen the anime, which ends short of the end of the story.  This time, thanks to Jim’s birthday present to me, I have the entire run to read!

Also:

Not much room for “also” since the copy-edited manuscript of Library of the Sapphire Wind landed on my desk on Wednesday. 

Fair Fair

September 15, 2021
Mini Horse Makes Friends

Every year but one since the mid-1990’s I’ve gone to the New Mexico State Fair.  (The exception, of course, was 2020, when the Fair didn’t happen.)  It’s changed a lot over the years, but most of the things I enjoy have continued to thrive.  This year saw more changes than most, but we still had fun.

Even though we went on a Saturday, mid-day, crowds were definitely reduced, and a lot of our favorites, such as the School Arts building and many of the livestock events, were either closed or very sparsely attended.  However, our long-time favorite Sheep to Shawl was present, demonstrating every step from shearing to weaving (with carding, dying, spinning in the middle) all represented.  Their gift shop was well-stocked.

Although the critters were fewer, there were still some—such as the adorable miniature horse in the photo—to see.  And elsewhere there was still a lot to see and do.  The walls in the Fine Arts, Indian Arts, and Hispanic Arts buildings were covered with an incredible variety of beautiful paintings, mosaics, and mixed media arts.

Floral Arts was in a new location, directly off the Lujan Building, and was, as usual, a delight.

In the hobby building (officially known as the Creative Arts Building) there were fewer displays and demonstrations than in past years, but the coin collectors, beaders, quilters, knitters, wood workers, and all the rest had definitely done their part.  Oddly enough, the photo show, which normally has almost more submissions than one can usually take in, was one of the few areas that was visibly under-represented.

We had a great time watching Chef Ray demonstrate how half a potato can be transformed into a very convincing rose bud­—complete with scent.

There were fewer food vendors than in many years, but all the classic “Fair foods” were well-represented: funnel cake, fried cheese curds, turkey legs, and corndogs could all be found.  Asbury Pies was open and doing brisk business.  If you’re into unique foods, be sure to pick up the free full-color magazine which lists (on page 27) the winners of various competitions, including where you can try a Cotton Candy Ice Cream Cone or a Green Chile Pancake Burger.

The Manuel Lujan building had many fewer vendors but, as a bonus, especially given the heat and wildfire smoke, there was a terrific indoor play area for the kids.

Main Street featured an amazing array of automobiles, from the outlandish to the expensive to a nice array of firetrucks.

Due to the higher than usual temperatures and our companions tuckering out, we didn’t make it down to the Indian Village but, from the program, it looks as if they’re really expanding their offerings under the guidance of the folks who run the Gathering of Nations Powwow every year.  We also didn’t make it Villa Hispana, Midway, or many of the other shows, so I can’t report on those.

Overall, much as I enjoyed myself, I need to be honest and say this was only a “fair” State Fair.  Nonetheless, it was certainly worth a visit and maybe, depending on your interests, two or three.

I came away feeling inspired to pursue my own creative endeavors, though, and, in fact, that’s what I’m going to do right now…

FF: Tey-day and Tey-morrow

September 10, 2021
Catnapping Roary

I finished The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  I could write a nice long academic paper on this one, but suffice to say she made some very odd choices, choices that she is not making in the later work I’m now reading.  This doesn’t mean it was bad.  It was just odd.

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:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  Thoughtful, mystical story.  I’d say the reader did a good job, especially with the challenge of a very large cast.

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  See above.

In Progress:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune.  Audiobook.  Just a few chapters in.  So far, jury is out.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Again Tey makes some odd stylistic choices, but the distant, narrative heavy voice of The Man in the Queue has been replaced with lively narrative voice.  I wonder if her writing plays influenced this?

Also:

I’m starting to scribble my way into a new novel, which means a certain amount of world-building, which means a certain amount of odd reading material.

Hint of What’s to Come

September 8, 2021
Scrub Jay Spreads the News

Last week, while looking up something for another project, I discovered that my forthcoming novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, are now available for pre-order at several on-line booksellers, including Amazon (here and here) and Barnes and Noble (here and here).

Since the news is out, I thought I’d share the jacket copy for Library of the Sapphire Wind, which will be available February of 2022.

Instead of Mentors, They Got Monsters…

That’s what Xerak, Vereez, and Grunwold think when three strange creatures shimmer into being within the circle of Hettua Shrine.  Their conclusion is reasonable enough.  After all, they’ve never seen humans before.

As for Margaret Blake, Peg Gallegos, and Tessa Brown—more usually known as Meg, Peg, and Teg—they’re equally astonished but, oddly enough, better prepared.  Age and experience have accustomed them to surprises.  A widely varied course of reading material has intellectually prepared them for the idea that other worlds, even worlds where people with traits more commonly ascribed to “animals,” may exist.

Then there is the mysterious verse that Teg speaks as they arrive, words that seem to indicate that the Shrine must have been at least partially responding to the request made of it.

Despite doubts on all sides, the three unlikely mentors join forces with the three young “inquisitors” and venture out into the world Peg dubs “Over Where.”  First they must find the Library of the Sapphire Wind, destroyed years before.

Will they find answers there or is this only the first stage in their search?

The second book, Aurora Borealis Bridge, comes out April of 2022.  Since a sequel, by definition, can contain spoilers, skip below, but as jacket copy goes, this is relatively spoiler free.

Can It Get Any Stranger?

Absolutely!

When Peg, Meg, and Teg were first summoned Over Where, vast and varied life experience (along with wide reading choices) helped them to adjust to a world where they were the only humans, magic was real, ships could fly, and reincarnation was a confirmed fact.

In the company of the “inquisitors,” Xerak, Grunwold, and Vereez, the three newly appointed mentors rediscovered the Library of the Sapphire Wind, and, within it, revelations that transformed the young people’s pasts into a vast tangle of lies and half-truths.

But there are still questions to be answered.  Before they are done, Meg the retired librarian, Teg the archeologist turned mage, and the multi-talented, ever surprising Peg will deal with kidnappings, betrayal, arcane artifacts, romantic intrigues, and the inescapable reality that past lives cast long shadows.

Together, the three mentors and their young allies will uncover the startling truth about what lies on the other side of the Aurora Borealis Bridge—a truth that holds the secret of Over Where, and that will change all their lives forever.

These books were a terrific amount of fun for me to write. I love the characters and setting ridiculously much, and I’m very excited about them finally becoming available.  Cover art is by Tom Kidd, and I’ll show it off somewhere closer to release.

And what’s that other project?  I’ve been working on new e-books for my novels Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  As with all my reissues of my own work, these will include extra content in the form of essays about the work.  Artemis Awakening is nearly ready, and we’re working hard on Artemis Invaded.  I also plan to add the hard covers of these to the Bookshop that’s part of my website. 

Additionally, I’m messing around with some new story ideas, but nothing has quite jelled as of yet.  That’s the way with stories, or so I find.

FF: It’s Been a Bit Insane

September 3, 2021
Mei-Ling Redux

Mei-Ling seems to be discovering the joys of being a supermodel.

The last couple of weeks have been insane, and so I turned back to my old favorite, Agatha Christie, for relief.  From her, I drifted to Josephine Tey, the one of the four great English mystery writers who has fallen by the wayside.

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:

The White Goddess by Robert Graves.  Although I’ll admit to skimming some chapters.  When the conjecture of one chapter becomes the received fact of a later chapter, my scholar-self starts protesting.  That said, the final two chapters were remarkably current in many ways.

The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie.  Any book featuring a cameo by Ariadne Oliver is going to delight, but this one shows Christie’s knowledge of human nature, as well as of…  Well, to say more would be a spoiler!

At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie.  The book that taught my younger self that for the English “Tea” can mean a meal, not merely a drink.  What a revelation!

In Progress:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  It’s working out fairly well.  I’m almost done but, as I said, it’s been a bit insane.

The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.  Re-read, but it’s been a while.

Also:

Archeology magazine. Just finished reading about the Samaritans.

Serendipitous Sunflower

September 1, 2021
Serendipity Realized

Serendipity is a great thing, and one that, as a writer, I’m always open to.

The sunflower featured in today’s photo is a volunteer that came up in the vicinity of where we’d planted the domestic variety featured a few weeks ago.  For the longest time, we weren’t even sure it was a different variety or simply the result of a seed that had gotten dropped.

This plant has smaller flowers than the domestic version, but even more.  It’s taller by about two feet (so roughly twelve feet tall), and started flowering just as the others were going to seed, so we have had continual bright and sunny color for at least a month.  Like the domestic sunflowers, it’s been drafted into work as a trellis for our tepary beans.

However, even though this sunflower is a fairly tough variety, it wouldn’t be what it is without a certain amount of loving care on our part.

The same is true of writing and stories.  You hear a lot about the cool ideas that come out of nowhere: from dreams, from a chance conversation.  You don’t hear as much about the multiple drafts it takes to make those cool ideas into cooler stories, nor the careful editing it takes to make sure the story grows tall and lovely and is there to add a little bit of beauty to life.

Be open to serendipity, but don’t fault yourself if you need to do some work to make your vision come through.

FF: What’s Behind the Cover?

August 27, 2021
A Rare Mei-Ling Sighting

Mei-Ling wonders if you can guess what she’s been reading on my Kindle.  Cover art below…

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:

This Broken World by Charles E. Gannon.  Advanced Review Copy.  Due for November release.  Epic Fantasy.  I’ve been waiting to read this book for decades, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I blurbed it, and I only do that when I honestly like something about a book.

Here’s what I said: “A vibrant new direction for Gannon, an epic fantasy built around the sort of complex, multi-layered intrigues that inform his SF, while featuring a more eclectic cast of characters, and delving into the mysteries of a marvel-filled world at odds with its own internal logic.  This new series is certain to add to Gannon’s legion of fans.” 

And, why not?  Here’s the cover art Mei-Ling wouldn’t let me show lest it distract from you admiring her.

In Progress:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  It’s working out fairly well.

The White Goddess by Robert Graves.  There’s something of the same enthusiasm shown by conspiracy theorists in this that keeps me reading, even though the underlying premises have about as much stability as the foundations of the Tower of Babel.

Also:

Archeology magazine.  I’m finally up to the current issue.

Surreal Real

August 25, 2021
Real Fish

Social media is notorious for reducing everything to lists and absolutisms.  You’ve probably noticed I don’t tend to contribute to lists of “bests” or “worsts” or “favorites.”  Nothing against them, but basically, this is not how my brain works.

Even when I was small, I was called out for not seeing the world according to the prescribed patterns.  For me the sky wasn’t “up there,” but something I knew came all the way down to the horizon.  Water wasn’t clear or blue, it could be green or, especially at sunset, red and purple.

Maybe this is why I gravitated first to mythology and folklore, then to SF/F.

Take the picture of the fish I’ve included above.  That’s as “real” a view of a fish as any, but many people would immediately see it as “out of focus” or “blurred.”  But living water is rarely still, and so I could validly argue that its more real, not less, to see fish in less than crisp focus.

I guess my reality is accepting the surreality is part of reality.

That dogs and cats can get along just fine, and if they fight like cats and dogs, there’s probably a good reason.

That the cat sleeping on my pillow is really there, not standoffish, aloof, uncaring, waiting upon servants, as I am repeatedly told cats “are.”

That a “dry heat” is still darned hot when temperatures reach above 100.

All that and more…  I like my surreal reality.

FF: Charleses

August 20, 2021
Persephone and a Much Read Copy of Moonheart

This week, I’m reading two books by authors with the first name of Charles.  Of course, I’ve known one of them as “Chuck” for decades, and I had to be told by the other that I didn’t need to call him “Mr. de Lint.” Ah, memory…

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:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  When Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Hamlet meets The Incredible Hulk in the person of a twelve-year-old boy whose police chief father is murdered.  If you stick with it, the final chapters are probably the best part.

In Progress:

This Broken World by Charles E. Gannon.  Advanced Review Copy.  Due for November release.  Epic Fantasy.  I’ve been waiting to read this book for decades.  Literally.  I’ve known Chuck since I was an undergrad and he was a newly graduated friend-of-a-friend.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  I’ll let you know if it works.

Also:

Catching up with Vogue.  Not only the magazine’s staff, but a number of the advertisers are really working to expand the definition of “beauty.”  Particularly great are an on-going campaign by Oil of Olay and a new one by Dick’s Sporting Goods. I am reminded of a sign I saw a few weeks ago and loved: Fashion is what you buy.  Style is how you wear it.

Official Title, Reading, Panel

August 18, 2021
Datura By Daylight

Amazing all that can happen in a week…

Star Kingdom novel four now has an official title: A New Clan.  The Star Kingdom series are collaborations between me and David Weber.  They are Honorverse prequels, set in those days of yore when the planet Sphinx was newly being colonized, and a young human named Stephanie Harrington makes first contact with the indigenous treecats.

David Weber wrote the first novel, A Beautiful Friendship, solo, although I did contribute from off-stage, as friends are wont to do.  The next two novels are Fire Season and Treecat Wars.  Unlike the mainline Honorverse novels, these are not military SF, but instead take a look at the developing Star Kingdom from the point of view of a very intelligent young woman and her treecat companion.  The shift in emphasis allows for a much more in-depth look at human/treecat relations from the point of view of the treecats.

A New Clan does not have a scheduled release date, but I’ll let you know when it does.

This coming weekend, I’ll be participating in Bubonicon, which is, once again, going to be virtual.  I have pre-recorded a reading from my forthcoming release, Library of the Sapphire Wind (February 2022) and am scheduled to be on the live panel “Draw A Card: Pump Up Your Plot with Tarot.”

Bubonicon is not charging this year, but is accepting donation to help with their expenses.  Any extra will doubtless be donated to a local charity, as is the convention’s usual custom.  The schedule is available here, so take a look and see what might amuse you! See the link here for more information.

Otherwise, we’ve had a tiny bit more rain.  The photo of the datura was taken on a cloudy morning, before the flowers had closed.  As you may know, they bloom at dusk and shut when daylight gets strong.

At least for now, we’re getting less smoke from the numerous wildfires that are plaguing the west. However, it may be swirling back around, and that won’t be fun.

Keep a good thought for us!