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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 Is Your Blank Book to Write

The beginning of a new year feels fresh, full of opportunity, presenting a wide expanse for exploration and accomplishments. 

May the coming year treat you gently.  Throughout 2012 may you accomplish what you set out to do and enjoy the time spent in the effort.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Random Quote about Writing

"I can let a sentence go as a good and serviceable sentence without requiring it to wear a little saddle and win the Kentucky Derby. Books, in my world, are made primarily of good and serviceable sentences, surrounding a few polished jewels of prose–if you insist on polishing every single one, I suspect you get a book that appears to have been Bedazzled, or possibly Vajazzled if you’re writing that kind of book, and the glare becomes blinding, to say nothing of the smell of hot glue. Excuse me, my metaphor got out of hand, terribly sorry, will pay for all the damages…"  ---  Ursula Vernon (author of Dragonbreath, Digger, and more) on her blog

There's a lot to be said for "good and serviceable sentences."  Those Derby winners show to better effect in a field of good and serviceable, at least in my opinion.  They can nail the thought to the page, to the reader's imagination.  But I don't think any one sentence should stand out so much from those around it (for either good or bad reasons) that it throws the reader out of the story and gets them thinking about that one sentence.  

It's a balancing act, this writing gig. 

thanks for reading; comments welcome

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Saddle for Layla

Daughter is off to the tack store to officially buy the saddle she tried out yesterday.

Buying saddles is complicated and can be incredibly frustrating.  You need to fit both horse and rider.  The rider can sit in the saddle at the shop (they have a wooden ‘fake horse’ to set the saddles on).  Then you give them your credit card info and take the saddle off to the barn to try it on the horse.  Our tack shop gives you three days to return the saddle.  If you don’t, they put through the purchase.  The last time we bought a saddle, well, I bought a saddle, I made at least four trips to the barn with anywhere from one to three saddles on the back seat of my car.  Then hauled them back the next day or so to repeat the process.  The saddle I finally bought, a used Stubben all-purpose, was in the first trip!  Daughter was hoping for a new saddle, however, and so the many trips.  They’d fit her, not horse Rudy, or we thought they fit her but once on the horse trainer said, no, seat’s too long.  And then the size she needed was not in stock and by then there was a show in less than a week.  I made the executive decision to buy the Stubben.  It was $800; bought new at that time it would have been around $1500.  It looks something like this, in a deep burgundy color:

All-purpose means it can be used for many riding disciplines.  Daughter used it for hunter/jumper.  It fit both of them well and was in perfect condition - looked like it had never been used because there were no marks from stirrup leathers.  She loves that saddle; has been riding in it for around seven years now.  It fit Rudy the quarter horse perfectly.  Unfortunately it doesn’t fit Layla the thoroughbred.  She’ll keep it, though.  Riders always have extensive collections of tack they aren’t currently using but they might need later or can be loaned to a friend in need. 

The saddle Daughter is buying today is a smooth black leather Amerigo dressage saddle, similar to this:
It was a demo, so she’s getting it at the bargain price of $2000.  It was $3625, but even that was a mark-down because that store won’t be carrying this brand any more.  The place I found this picture is selling them for around $5000.  She’s been drooling over this brand of saddle for years and is so happy she can actually have one.  She had been looking at a $1600 saddle (full price, different brand); it fit Layla but wasn’t a good fit for daughter.  So for just a bit more she’s getting a much nicer one.

Layla used to jump, but due to an injury shouldn't do it any more.  Previous owner(s) rode her in eventing.  That's arena jumping, dressage and cross-country jumping.  Daughter will be learning dressage to catch up to what her horse already knows. 

I am glad I don’t have to buy the tack any more!  And when I finally get to take some pictures of Layla and Daughter strutting their stuff, they’ll be using the new saddle.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on NaNo 2011

Another National Novel Writing Month has come to a close. 

It was a good year for me.  I reached a personal best word count of 53,454.  I completed the first draft of my novel, meaning I wrote to an ending.  Knowing how editing works, this might not stay the ending, but it is there and it works for me at the moment.  This is the first time I’ve had an ending for one of my novels. 

Many of my friends reached 50K.  (Special shout out to Matt, who’s the only other person among all the folks in the two writing groups I attend who also did NaNo this year.  He reached 50K as well.) 

I’m in withdrawal  We had a rousing virtual TGIO party last night on line in a place called The Smoking Pen Bar and Grill, a thread in the NaNo forums as well as a newly formed FB group.  As an indication of how much I am into this:  I have avoided FB completely up to now.  I joined just to be a part of the Pen FB group. 

{Aside #1:  TGIO = Thank Goodness It’s Over.  There are many local TGIO parties celebrating the end of NaNo, usually held the first weekend of December.  Although one of my NaNo buddies said in her region they held it LAST weekend, on Nov 27!  Seems a travesty.}

{Aside #2:  The Smoking Pen was created by NaNoer Kopiluwak a number of years ago.  The name comes from the rapid pace writing of NaNo, so fast the pen smokes...)

During November I was writing on my breaks at work.  Today was my first day back after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I wrote on my break!  Had an idea for a better description of something in the novel, and wrote it out.  Came home, pulled that sheet of paper from my purse and typed it in.  The same process I’d followed all through November. 

I have had a tab permanently open for the NaNoWriMo website since September.  I can’t yet bring myself to close it, even though I have a bookmark for the site.  Not ready to call it quits on this one yet! 

Oh, that final line of my novel? 

“Wherever this cruise is headed, sailor, count me in.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shameless Promotion

My writing friend Jeff has put up a story at wattpad:

J A Segal, Tanzania

Please take a look.  You can read (and it counts as a hit for him) even if you're not a member.  Have to join to leave a comment, though.  The cover art for the story is by our writing/artist friend Carol.

If you have comments and don't want to sign up over there, you could leave them here and I'll forward them to him.  :-)  Or go to his blog and leave them there!

(The links to both Jeff and Carol's blogs are on the right there, under friends.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

NaNo 2011, 50K day

I have made 50K in the wonderful craziness that is NaNoWriMo for the sixth time.

There is still a bit of my story to write to get to the actual ending.  I plan on doing that before the 30th, so I can add that milestone:  having an end to the story in November.  Never achieved that before, and this year is my best shot at it ever.  My characters have been very cooperative, even though there were many times I couldn't see farther ahead than the scene I was writing.  I'm at one of those spots now.  Although I know only one or two more scenes are needed, I can't see what they'll be. 

Best of luck to those of you still striving for the goal. 

Thanks for reading; comments welcome.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

That NaNoWriMo Thing I'm Doing

I'm in the home stretch.  I've got less than 5K to go.  I just might finish before the 29th this year, which has been my finish date for the past four NaNo's. 

For the first time in my NaNo history, I may actually write to the end of the story!

Best of luck to everyone along for this crazy ride. 

Thanks for reading; comments welcome. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Here, have a BIG WAVE

This past week a new world record was set for the largest wave ever surfed (tow-surfing) - a 90 foot (27 meter) monster off the coast of Nazare, Portugal. 

The topography of the area is fascinating.  There is a deep (5000 meters) undersea canyon that runs close to the shore.  This canyon aids in the creation of unusually large rogue waves when swells from the right direction are heading to the coast.  On  Tuesday, November 8, there was an 8 meter swell running from that direction.  Three large waves of over 18 meters (60 feet) formed.  Garrett McNamara caught the largest.

That wave was about the height of a 9 story building.

I’ve experienced 10 meter seas (that’s not a story for today) and 8 meter swells are nothing to sneeze at.  But 90 feet??  The power of the ocean is mind-boggling.

Thanks for reading.  Comments welcome as always.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NaNo 2011, Day Five

I'm a bit behind, but not so much that I can't catch up before bedtime. I wrote a thousand words this morning and only need another 1300 or so to be on target.  I'm happy with the way my story is developing and haven't yet written through my beginning ideas.  The two main characters haven't even met yet!  I haven't had to resort to ramblings to get the word count.  (Around the middle of the month last year I wrote a committee meeting that went on for several days' worth of word count!  Haven't edited that yet, but it will be surprising if even 1/6 of it stays.)  The characters have provided some possible directions, and it will be fun finding out which the story follows. 

Now I'm heading out to enjoy the beautiful day! Best of luck to everyone!

Thanks for reading, and comments are always welcome. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Only two days before November first and the start of this year's NaNoWriMo.  It will be my seventh time participating in this crazy endeavor. 

The first time I did it, in 2002, there were about 14,000 participants.  That number, 14K, was about my word count as well!

In 2003 I managed to get 50K.  I remember I was in the middle of a sentence, not sure which way to take it.  I already had the habit of running a word count whenever I paused to think, and that particular word count came out slightly above 50,000.  My brain shut off!  I couldn't finish the sentence!  Job done!  I think it took me more than two months before I wrote fiction again.  Brain empty.

I took a few years off; came back in 2007 with a new screen name (my current one).  It only took me a month to write again after getting my 50K; 2008 was about the same.

In 2009, the number of participants was around 119,000.  No, my word count did not keep up!  51,667 was my word count that year.  I didn't STOP writing until around the end of April, 2010, though!

In November 2010, I had a grand time writing my first dragon.  Opinionated and stubborn (one afternoon he refused to cooperate and told me to go take a nap!), he remains one of the most fun characters I’ve written.

This year, like always, I have no outline.  I'm a 'pantser' = write by the seat of my pants, letting the characters tell me the story.  I do have my main characters, a couple of auxillary ones, and ideas that I hope will carry me through at least the first three days.  I know that once the writing starts, options for the story line will pop into my head.  They'll go into a file to draw on when the story isn't flowing well.  Somehow it works. 

Practice is good.  NaNoWriMo is a marathon of a writing practice.  Every year my writing has improved from October to December.  I feel that every writer should try it at least once.  You push the boundaries of what you view as possible.  Prior to NaNo I wrote short stories.  I had no idea that I could write 5000 words in one day.  (My personal best is 6K; necessity and all that.)  In November, I usually write 4K each Saturday and Sunday.  I would never have learned that without NaNo.

No matter what the word count on that first morning of December, you’ll have a story that didn’t exist on Halloween and the thrill of writing along with so many others.  I think they are expecting over 200,000 people to participate this year, from all over the world.

Many of the people who read my blog are WriMo veterans.  If you're one of the folks who isn't and have considered writing a novel "some day," perhaps this is the year you try. Come join us!

Thanks for reading; comments always welcome.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"I've got the pen in my hand ..."

Okay, I'm gonna try a video here for the first time.  This is the amazing Steven Brust (SF/F author) performing Andy Breckman's version of "Railroad Bill," which will resonate with all authors with recalcitrant or strongly opinionated characters.  The quality of the video isn't great, but the performance and lyrics make up for that.  (There is profanity in this, in case that's an issue for you.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cat Valente is Brilliant

I just finished reading one of Cat Valente's short stories that was published more than a year ago:

 "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time" by Catherynne M. Valente

Serious geeky writer envy!  O. M. G. This story interweaves science and myth and life in ways that made me laugh and cry and feel that I should just hang up the keyboard 'cause I can't imagine writing like this!  As a follow-up to my blog on opening lines, here's the opener for this story:  "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a high-density pre-baryogenesis singularity."

Also I am eager to read more of her work.

Thanks for stopping by; comments welcome.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writing - Opening Lines

I try to learn from the authors I read.  While struggling with the opening to my novel, I pulled about a dozen books off the shelf and read the first page or two of each, focusing on how the sentences and paragraphs were constructed as well as the information imparted.  I'd read all of those books more than once and so could recognize how ideas presented were developed later.  The process helped me finally get a beginning for my story.  Here are some examples of opening lines I like: 


"The buckskin horse walked up Allen Street just before dawn."  Territory, by Emma Bull.  The narrator doesn't interpret anything in this sentence.  The lack of opinionated adjectives or adverbs enhances the sense that *you* are seeing this horse, and "just before dawn" there probably aren't many other people to see it.  (The cover lets you know this is a Western, so the fact of a horse walking up the street isn't remarkable in itself.)

"The first rays of the sun silhouetted Rifkind as she sat her war-horse and gazed on the ruin of her clan."  Daughter of the Bright Moon, by Lynn Abbey.  Unlike Bull's very tightly focused sentence, this gives a panoramic view.  The camera/narrator is viewing the scene from an angle where Rifkind is silhouetted, and pans to what she sees.  "Ruins of her clan" is interpretive, and it immediately presents a problem! 


"The little boy was frightened."  Dream Snake, by Vonda N. McIntyre.  We are pulled toward his POV; we don't know if we would be scared in the same situation.  And it engages us through our natural desire to protect a child. 

"Katie saw him first."  "Cryptic Coloration," by Elizabeth Bear.  This also opens in the middle of things without setting a scene.  We're with Katie, who is probably not alone as she was "first."  We have yet to discover who was seen. 


"They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that, in the morning, it will be in a body that is going to be hanged."  Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett.  This immediately introduces us to a strong, story telling narrative voice, not an invisible omniscient narrator.  The sentence feels balanced; the second half almost restates the first half but with an added twist.  It's funny, and we know that someone is in trouble!

"Matthew the Magician leaned against a wrought iron lamppost on Forty-second Street, idly picking at the edges of his ten iron rings and listening to his city breathe into the warm September night."  Blood and Iron, by Elizabeth Bear.  I love this sentence for its density, for the volume of information presented along with the image.  The identification of Matthew as "the Magician" makes this a fairy tale beginning.  The juxtaposition of 42nd Street and the iron rings sets up a contrast between two worlds.  And Matthew idly picking at those rings in "his city" shows he's comfortable in both.

Do you agree with my assessment of these openings?  Please share opening lines from works you admire and let us know why you like them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anak Krakatau

I guess we all know the story of the massive explosive eruption of Krakatau.  Not as many may know she has a daughter - Anak Krakatau. 

From the Borneo Post this morning:

"JAKARTA: The drastic increase in volcanic earthquake activities at Anak Krakatau has forced authorities to warn of a possible eruption.

"All quarters have been asked not to approach within a two-kilometre radius of the volcano, located in the Sunda Strait. Normal activities are still allowed outside the radius.

"Anak Krakatau is 40km from the coast of Lampong, Sumatera, and the coast of Anyer-Carita coast, Jawa.

"Local media quoted Head of Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Centre, Surono, yesterday that the seismograph recorded between 6,000 and 7,000 volcanic earthquakes a day.

"Prior to this, the seismograph only recorded between 100 and 300 volcanic events a day, said Surono to Indopos, as quoted by news portal Jawa Post National Network.

"Antara news agency quoted Andi Arief, Special Presidential Staff Disaster Areas Social Disaster Assistant, that, in theory, anything more than 1,000 earthquake activities could cause Anak Krakatau to erupt.

"He said the type of eruption has yet to be ascertained because developments are still at the intensive monitoring level.

"Since Anak Krakatau appeared on the surface of the sea on June 11, 1927, the volcano has erupted more than 100 times, with a dormant period of between one to six years.

"The explosive eruption of Anak Krakatau last July 10 hurled hot ash into the sky to a radius of 700 to 1,000 metres from the centre of the eruption, causing damage to seismic equipment placed at the volcano.

"The explosive eruptions which took place in the last four years were the magmatic type, throwing volcanic material and dust for 1,000 to 1,500 metres around Anak Krakatau.

"How wide the volcanic dust was spread, however, depended on the strength and direction of the wind. – Bernama"

I hope it doesn't have a massive eruption, but the number of quakes indicates serious magma motion.  We'll have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading; comments welcome.  >^.^<

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moar Bookkeeping

I certainly have read more books this year than last, even if I don’t read another one until January! Making the list and publishing it to keep myself accountable has worked for me.

(22) Elizabeth Bear, Bone and Jewel Creatures. Short fantasy of wonderfulness.
(23) Phil and Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius. On-line steam punk graphic novels. I started re-reading In May from the very first entry of November 4, 2002, and read it all, right up to the current entry. They have won two Hugo Awards for this. [EDIT: As of August, make that THREE Hugos!!] It updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Here’s a link to the beginning of the story:
Girl Genius starts here
(24) Emma Bull, Territory. Fantasy set in the American West. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and magic for the win.

(25) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. Fantasy. Another good one.

(26) Irene Radford, Thistle Down. Fantasy. Fun, fluffy; good summer read.
(27) N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Fantasy. Very good.
(28) N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms. Fantasy. Another really good one.
(29) Tiffany Trent & Phyllis Irene Radford, eds. Breaking Waves. A collection of short pieces to benefit The Gulf Oil Spill Relief Fund. There are some marvelous stories in here, including "After the Dragon" by Sarah Monette.

I highly recommend the N.K. Jemisin books.  These are her first published novels, and the stories are complex with well-realized characters.  I couldn't put them down.

Of course I will read more books before the end of this year. Terry Pratchett’s newest Discworld book, Snuff, will be available October 11, so that’s one for sure. And the TBR piles are still here...

On the other hand, ideas for my November NaNoNovel are popping up and there’s some editing to finish before I start on that!

Thanks for reading; comments welcome.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Digital books are all the rage.  Cries of paper books are dead are heard across the land.  I don’t have an eReader and don’t have plans to buy one any time soon.  I like paper books.  I spend much of my work day on a computer and don’t want to spend even more time in front of a lighted screen when I get home.  I spend some, of course, catching up on the news and blogs, but I certainly don’t want all my reading to be on a light box.  I understand eBooks are marvelous and are especially helpful for people who don't have the strength or endurance to hold a paper book.  Useful they are, but not the solution for everyone.

Please read this marvelous essay by Seanan McGuire (who writes urban fantasy, horror, and is also a professional musician), where she very articulately explains why paper books and libraries and bookstores you can walk into are so important. 

seanan-mcguire on why paper books are important

A quote from her essay:  "...every time a discussion of ebooks turns, seemingly inevitably, to "Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier," what I hear, however unintentionally, is "Poor people don't deserve to read.""

A summary of what she says so marvelously is that there is already a digital divide.  Many people are poor and can not afford computers and internet.  Libraries and used book stores are essential for poor kids to have access to books.  Many poor kids live in areas where if they had an eReader (say, a donated one) it would be stolen.  Now, if your paper book gets stolen, well, it’s one book.  Your eReader?  That could be your entire collection! 

All you need to read a paper book is the ability to read and enough light to see the page.  No electricity need be involved, because sunlight is free.

Please keep this in mind if there’s talk in your community of reducing library services.  Please donate books whenever you can - Toys for Tots, for example. 

Help keep the world of books available for everybody.

Thanks for reading; comments are welcome.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The TBR Pile

TBR = To Be Read and is a stack of books, well, actually, several stacks of books, that are awaiting my attention.  As a way of figuring out just what it is I have here, I decided to make a list!  I am a list-type person, but this is a list I’ve never put together before.  So here goes. 

Pile Number One (so designated because it’s closest to the computer):
Vonda N. McIntyre, Metaphase
A.S. Byatt, Possession
Elizabeth Bear, By the Mountain Bound
Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress
John Scalzi, Zoe’s Tale
Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood
Margot Edmonds & Ella Clark, Voices in the Winds, Native American Legends
Robert Bresloff, The Wee Musketeers (a middle school book by a friend of mine)
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
Caitlin Brennan, Song of Unmaking

Pile Number Two (on the living room couch):
N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms

Vonda N. McIntyre, Transition
Genevieve Valentine, Mechanique
Sarah Monette, The Virtu
Sarah Monette, The Mirador
Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

eBooks (no, I don’t have a ‘reader,’ I get PDF files from Book View Cafe; this pile is IN the computer!)
Phyllis Irene Radford & Tiffany Trent, eds, Breaking Waves (in progress, I’m about 3/4 through it)
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff & Pati Nagle, eds, Brewing Fine Fiction
Phyllis Irene Radford, ed, Ways to Trash Your Writing Career
Vonda N. McIntyre, Superluminal (need to read this before Transition and Metaphase)

Want to read but don’t have yet:
Catherynne M. Valente, Myths of Origin (due out Nov 2011)
Terry Pratchett, Snuff (the 39th Discworld novel, due out Oct 2011)
Camille Alexa, Push of the Sky (she has a story in Breaking Waves that I love, so need to read one of her books)
M.H. Bonham, Serpent Singer and Other Stories (the title story is in Breaking Waves & I loved it, so ...)

Oh, my, there are only four guys on this list (John, Bob, Neil and Terry). Think I need to add more books by men!?!? 

AND that’s 25 books!  So far this year I’ve read 26 books.  Yikes!  I know I won’t read much in November (NaNo will be happening), so looks like this list will last into the new year even without any additions.  And of course there will be additions!

What books do you have in your TBR pile(s)?

Thanks for reading; comments are welcome.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

100 Years of Style

One of my daughter's friends sent her this link.  A couple dances their way through the styles of the early 1900's until now.

The clothes they picked are wonderful, and they dance in the style of the times as well.  
Great fun!

Thanks for reading; comments are welcome. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

A few things

Thing 1:  I haven't had much to say recently, blogwise.  No adventures, no excitements.  Which is fine by me.  Those things tend to cost money.

Thing 2:  There's a short story I'm excited about - "Orchid."  It needs a re-write or two, but the antagonist finally showed up and he's on the page.  This took about a year and a half of working on him, ignoring him, trying to entice him, lambasting him ... and just about giving up.  Then one day he started talking.  Not a lot, but enough to complete the first draft.  Crit group said it felt like it could be a novel, but I want a short story!

Thing 3:  I plan to spend some time reworking the plot of my 2010 NaNo, and edit /rewrite that one.  Probably won't have that done by October, though. 

Thing 4:  If I do NaNo this year I want to have a plot, story arcs, STUFF, to work with, and will need October for that.

Thing 5:  I'm about half-way through a long book of short pieces (stories, essays, poems), Breaking Waves.  It's a special collection put together to raise money for Katrina survivors (oops - for The Gulf Oil Spill Relief Fund), available through Book View Cafe.  I did finish one book in August, The Curse of Chalion, by Lois Bujold.  Good fantasy.  And I finished a book yesterday, Thistle Down, by Irene Radford, an easy bit of fluff that was fun.  The To Read Pile isn't getting any smaller, though.  I find books, my daughter finds books, and I'm just not reading fast enough!

Thing 6:  Today it feels like fall.  Temperature's in the 60s and the winds blowing around 15 mph with gusts up to 25.  Blustery, it is!  Have I mentioned that Fall is my favorite time of year?

Thanks for reading; comments are welcome. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Science Fiction - What to Read

A while back, NPR requested listeners to recommend science fiction and fantasy books.  A blog I follow (Book View Cafe) did a similar thing, but separated SF and F into two lists.  Today BVC put up the SF list, along with a link to the NPR list: 
 Book View Cafe's recommendations for SF

The BVC list is marvelous!  It has many of my favorite authors as well as some I've never heard of.  And I'm ashamed of how little of it I've read.  Gotta get to work on that.  Soonish.  I have two of the Vonda McIntyre Starfarer books sitting right here ...

Catch you later.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July Books

I read three 'books' in July: 

(22) Elizabeth Bear, Bone and Jewel Creatures.  Short fantasy of wonderfulness.

(23) Phil and Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius.  On-line steam punk graphic novels.  I started re-reading In May from the very first entry of November 4, 2002, and read it all, right up to the current entry.  They have won two Hugo Awards for this.  It updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  Here’s the link to the beginning of the story:   Girl Genius starts here

(24) Emma Bull, Territory.  Fantasy set in the American West.  Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and magic for the win.

Picnic Day in Winter

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Here, Have a Guanaco! Have Four!

These are the wild version of llama.  They are agile, intelligent, fast, and have a marvelous wool-like coat.  Found in South America, they live in dry habitats from mountains to coastlines, surviving on grasses and other plants.

Fantasy and science fiction writers spend a lot* of time world building.  Because of my background, I think about how the biology of a place would be different from our own world.  I have not-guanaco in one of my fantasy stories (Shadows).  Killing one brings honor and prestige to the hunter, far beyond bringing down a deer or bison, because they are so wary and hard to catch.

(I’m primarily a biologist, but science of any kind is likely to appear in my blog.  Just sayin'.)

*Do you know about the Alot?  No?  Hyperbole and a Half on Alots

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where to get writing ideas

I love online generators.  I have just spent an inordinate amount of time playing here:  serendipity by Manon   Name Generators, Place Generators, even an Online Handle Generator!  Many, many generators, all in one handy place.  This is a Cat Waxing Site Extraordinaire!  You have been warned!

Yes, it will name French boys:  Joseph Leclerc, Bernard Marais, Roland Lefevre.  And French girls, too:  Anne-Elisabeth Feuillette, Coralie Danis, Jeanne Jacqueme.  Also Japanese names, Trendy names, Gnome names, and more.

Need a new online handle?  SunsetGurl, EbbingMuffin, MeanGothChicken.  Maybe you need to name that town your main character is from (or going to):  Forest Chase, Belmont Grange, Peach Towers.  Need a fantasy place?  Highfay, Oldwood, Lightmeadow Forest.

The Chinese Restaurant Generator is one of my favorites, for that little takeout place around the corner:  Beijing Pearl, China Pine, Golden Mandarin Garden, and The Happy Pagoda Tea House!

This isn’t just a play around kind site.  Many of the names sound real, and there are generators that result in useful information.  For example:

A Character:  This man is a honest carpenter who is usually businesslike. He has long, straight dark brown hair, grey eyes, and tawny skin. He is fragile with a thin, high-cheekboned face.  Hmmm.  Fragile.  Could be Roland Lefevre!

A City:  This large city stands astride a river and is mainly constructed of red brick. It is defended by arcane spells and its most noteworthy feature is the colorful elven quarter.  Is this Highfay? 

A Room:  It's an ample room, but quite dreary. The walls are obscured entirely by floor to ceiling bookshelves, broken up by sheer, hospitalish green-beige curtains on the windows. 

Those last three could easily be jumping off points for stories.  That elven quarter, for example, sounds fascinating or scary as all get-out, depending on the type of elves that live there.  This site generates writing seeds.  A few things it 'built' for me are now incubating.  Hopefully a story or two will result.

Try it out and let me know if it works for you. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ahhh, I am one Satisfied Reader

Books!  I read a lot this month, including a 4-book saga by Lois Bujold, an author I ‘discovered’ just this year (see #5 in the list). 

A recap at this half-way point in the year.  My target was to average two books per month, because last year not even one book per month was read and that's just pathetic.  So far, so good.  A total of 21, even with no books read in May.

The math  --->  21 divided by 6 = 3.5 books per month.  WooHoo!


(1) Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay.  Satirical fantasy/mystery set in Discworld’s largest city, Ankh-Morpork.
(2) John Scalzi, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded.  A collection of selected blog entries covering a decade by an award-winning science fiction writer.


(3) Neil Gaiman, fragile things, short fictions and wonders.
(4) Elizabeth Bear, The White City.  Book 3 in the New Amsterdam series, about a woman forensic sorcerer and man amateur detective who happens to be a vampire, set in a turn of the century contrafactual history.
(5) Lois McMaster Bujold, Shards of Honor. Science fiction (SF) adventure romance.
(6) Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar. SF adventure romance, continuation of Shards of Honor.  This one won a Hugo Award.  Note:  (5) + (6) = Cordelia’s Honor


(7) Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times.  Satirical fantasy set in the Discworld’s Aurient.


(8) Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors.  Short pieces by a master.  Finished on April First.  So many potential overtones and undertones to that!
(9) Louise Erdrich, shadow tag.  Well done literary story of the breakup of a marriage.
(10) Damon Knight, Creating Short Fiction.  An old stand-by of writing advice;  my copy was published in 1981.  It was good to be reminded of some of the basic mechanics.
(11) Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, Eds, Wizards.  A collection of short stories about this fantasy archetype by some of the best fantasists (Peter S. Beagle, Kage Baker, Elizabeth Hand, Orson Scott Card, and others).
(12) Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth.  Truly short; a two and a half hour read including note taking!
(13) Vonda N. McIntyre, Dreamsnake.  SF classic.  It’s been years since I read this, and it feels good to know I still love it.  Came away with good structural examples to help with my novels, too.  Lagniappe.
(14) Lois McMaster Bujold, Young Miles.  SF space opera; won Hugo and Nebula awards.  Miles is Cordelia’s son (Aral’s son, too, but he didn’t get his name in any of the titles) (see books 5 & 6 above).


(15) Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight.   Latest book in the YA Tiffany series.
(16) Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest.  SF classic, one of her earlier published works.
(17) Emma Bull, War for the Oaks.  Urban fantasy classic.  Wonderful.  I’ve been running across references to this book for several years, and finally read it.
(18) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume One: Beguilement.  Fantasy adventure romance
(19) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Two: Legacy. Fantasy adventure romance.
(20) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Three: Passage.  Fantasy adventure romance.
(21) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife, Volume Four: Horizon. Fantasy adventure romance.

There's a summer NaNoWriMo this year.  Camp NaNoWriMo    It started today.  I'm not ready to do another novel draft, so I'm going to edit one I already have.  At least that's the plan at the moment.  I haven't explored the Camp website yet.  I may get infected with the drive to 50K.  Multiple exposures make me more susceptible.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Weather - we'd better do something about it

Here’s a link to a very complete overview of the weather during 2010:

Dr. Jeff Masters' blog of June 24, 2011

He says, “It is quite possible that 2010 was the most extreme weather year globally since 1816.”  That year, following the massive eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, was called the Year Without Summer. 

2010 has the distinction of  (1) being the hottest year on record since the late 1800s, (2) having the lowest volume of Arctic sea ice on record (3) being the third year in a row in which the fabled Northwest Passage was actually open (the other two years were 2009 and 2008), (4) record ice melting in Greenland, (5) second worse coral bleaching year, (6) wettest over land since 1900, (7)  the Amazon basin experienced it’s second 100 year drought in 5 years, (8) Tennessee had a 1 in 1000 year flood.  There’s more, too, that Dr. Masters discusses in this blog post.

He concludes, “The pace of extreme weather events has remained remarkably high during 2011, giving rise to the question--is the "Global Weirding" of 2010 and 2011 the new normal? Has human-caused climate change destabilized the climate, bringing these extreme, unprecedented weather events? Any one of the extreme weather events of 2010 or 2011 could have occurred naturally sometime during the past 1,000 years. But it is highly improbable that the remarkable extreme weather events of 2010 and 2011 could have all happened in such a short period of time without some powerful climate-altering force at work. The best science we have right now maintains that human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like CO2 are the most likely cause of such a climate-altering force.” (emphasis his)

It’s real.  It’s not going away.  It’s very scary because too many people won’t accept this reality and they put convenience and profit ahead of saving the only world we have to live in. 

Feeling kinda down today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Character Wrangling

Stumbling around the internets I came across this marvelous illustrated piece on the struggles authors sometimes have getting characters to behave:

Author, Author with A Tiger and Free Beer

I have a character or two like this - opinionated and determined to run the story.  Now, when they take it interesting places, it's wonderful to just follow along.  When they decide they're on holiday or that it's time to take a nap (yes, dragon o' mine, I'm looking at you), well ... not so good. 

Do you have any characters like that?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Books? Not in May

Old habits are hard to break.  A cliché, but true.  I didn't read any books in May, even though I have more than half a dozen sitting here tempting me.

I did read.  I made significant progress on the pile of magazines.  There were a few New Yorkers in there, which was a surprise.  I thought I'd gotten all of them.  Maybe that never happens?  Once you've subscribed there will always be an unread New Yorker in the house?  Even two years after you stopped getting them...  Many issues of Science News were read and moved on to the recycle bin. 

I used to cut out the articles that really grabbed me and keep them in a file drawer.  After years of doing that I finally realized I no longer go to that drawer for information.  I google.  Keeping the hard copy is so last century.

That said, I still keep the hard copies of things that could or will be used for writing!  Perhaps because the information is something I may not remember to tie in, especially for the novels.  Sometimes it's because that little scientific article feels like a seed for a story.  And, yeah, it could be that old habits are hard to break. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Clean Towels, Anyone? Or How I Spent TOO MUCH of My Week ...

A week ago Thursday (May 19), I came home from work to find a small flood in my laundry room. As I stood there perplexed, water oozed up out of the central drain and forced the leading edge toward my toes. I grabbed some towels to block the flow from reaching the doorway and my hallway carpet. Anyone who has tried this can tell you: towels do not make good dams. Or levees. Several minutes of outflow were followed by statis, then water slowly receding back into the drain.

This is the point where any lingering construction worker who poured the cement floor in there would have been dead meat. The drain is the high point of the room! There is sat, a small island. About an inch of water covered the room to the walls. I changed into some old sneakers, grabbed the broom and started slowly sweeping the water toward the drain. Eventually the floor was close to dry. I called the Association President so he could start finding a plumber, then tossed the towels into the washer.

Before I could start the machine, water erupted out the drain again, this time faster and longer. Before it was done I heard the toilet in the next room overflow. My daughter grabbed the rugs off the floor just in time. More towels down to form soggy levees. The bathroom slopes toward the tub, so water there didn’t reach the hallway. But the towels in the laundry room doorway were too wet to stop anything. Water seeped out from under the wall as well. More towels down, to blot the carpet. Set the washer for a Drain and Spin cycle to wring out that first batch of towels.

The Drain and Spin cycle takes ten minutes. It took about a minute and a half to get a batch of towels soaking wet. Soon almost every towel in the house was in the rotation. No plumber available until 7:30 AM.

Sweep, spin, sigh, watch the water emerge again. Repeat until about 1 AM, when the eruptions ceased.

Friday morning the cycle started again about 6 AM. Any water use by anyone in the building seemed to cause the backup into my unit. Not fun. The plumber showed at 7:35! Huzzah!!

Tree roots had blocked up the main sewer line from the building. I’m on the far side of the building from there. While the plumber worked several residents came out to watch and told him they’d been having problems for weeks. NO ONE CALLED IT IN!!!

Flood under control, I went to The Day Job. When I returned about 7 PM, I went back to work on the laundry room and bathroom. Still blotting up water from the carpet, but at least now I could wash the towels, not just spin them. Three bucketsfull of 15% Bleach water went down on the laundry room floor, under the working premise that the bleach water would go all the places the sewer water went. It did, including coming out from under the wall onto the hallway carpet. Joy. I let it sit for a half hour, then I swept it down the drain. More loads of towels into the washer, into the dryer. Bleached the bathroom floor, too. Blotted carpet. Washed and dried towels. Went to bed about 1 AM. Again.

Saturday I bleached the floors again. Towels in the washer, in the dryer. Blotted the carpet, then pried open the metal sealer things that hold the edge of the carpet down in the doorways. Pulled that sucker up, rolled it toward the living room. The pad was soaked, of course, with sewer water or bleach water I couldn’t tell. My nose was in bleach overload and would register nothing by then. Anyway, the pad went into garbage bags and out. I blotted up the water from the cement with towels, of course. More wash, dry cycles. The carpet was unrolled and propped up against the wall so it could dry from both sides. I set up a fan. About 4 PM I spread bleach on the cement, laid the carpet down on it, spread more bleach on top of the carpet, and went out to dinner with my daughter.

(Daughter wasn’t helping me because she was at her Day Job. She works 10 hour shifts, currently from 6 AM until 4:30 PM with a 45 minute commute on each end.)

After dinner, guess what we did? Blotted the bleach out of the carpet with those nice clean, dry towels! More washing and drying. Stood the carpet up again and went to bed. Maybe by midnight, I’m not sure.

Sunday afternoon I thought the cement would be dry enough to lay the carpet back down so I could run my steam cleaner over it, but it wasn’t. There were several stubborn spots that kept forming puddles. I was no where near being the brightest bulb in the chandelier at that point, so it took me way too long to figure out why.

The water heater was leaking.

And of course it wasn’t leaking to the DRAIN, but under the wall into the hallway.

Have I ever told you how much I love the Internet? If not, I’m telling you now. Checked out places online for water heaters, called the one with the best deal, and set up an appointment for Monday to have the new one installed.

He didn’t come until about 3 PM, but by 5 PM the real drying was underway. I steam cleaned the carpet about 8 PM and went to bed.

Tuesday morning (May 24, in case you're keeping track) when I got up I felt the carpet was still too damp, so I stood it back up against the wall. Went into the laundry room and took the last load of towels from the washer and put them in the dryer. Headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Before I got there I heard that telltale gurgling from the laundry room drain.

Yep. The sewer backed up again. More s**t in my house.

This time the toilets in both bathrooms overflowed. I was nearly hysterical as I tossed down the clean towels again so they could pretend to be levees. Called the Association President and was pretty much yelling at him to get the plumber out here NOW! I don’t think I swore, but I might have. The plumber from Friday didn’t answer the phone. Eventually they contacted another firm and they could be there in an hour and a half. That would be 11:30.

I had a really important meeting at work for 10:30. Had to go. So I went. At 11 my cell phone rang. The plumber was there. As our General Manager listened and tried to look serious, I explained to Plumber 2 where the main sewer outlet was. (I’d visited on Friday with Plumber 1.) I headed home about 11:15.

Plumber 2 had a camera, so the Association President saw that Plumber 1 only cut a small opening in the tree roots, didn’t clear out the mess. Plumber 2 cleared it; took about 45 minutes. But meanwhile no more flooding happened. WooHoo!

It was a breezy, low humidity day and I could practically watch the cement dry. So I didn’t go back to The Day Job. Instead I bleached the laundry room and both bathrooms. Twice. Washed a s**tload of towels. Drank a lot of lemonade; wished it were something stronger.

I was so glad I’d propped the carpet up when I did that morning, because it didn’t get wet. If it had been hit a second time I wouldn’t have bothered bleaching again, would have just tossed it.

I am grateful I have a house to bleach.

The carpet’s back down, sans pad. My house smells normal again. The heat we’re going to get in the next few days will be a test of my working premise of the bleach going wherever the sewer water went. If it didn’t, mold will grow in the drywall and then that will have to be replaced. The Association will pay for it, but I’ll have to clean the mess.

I’ve got lots of clean towels.