May 5 2016

Worldcon wants me!



I was worried that I’d waited too long sending in my request to be a program participant — but nope, I just got confirmation that they want me.  So happy!  It’s been a few years since I’ve been on the program at a Worldcon.

Do you not know what Worldcon is?  I know that my longtime readers do know, but I think I acquired a slew of new readers in the last year  — at least, that’s what my sales figures suggest.  (Unless some of you are buying multiple copies of the books, which would be nice, but odd…)

It’s the World Science Fiction Convention, science fiction and fantasy’s annual meet & schmooze & learn-new-stuff-about-SF&F & party & shop & greet event.  It’s a blast.  It’s also the event at which the Hugo Awards are given out, always exciting.  Well, to me.   Some people skip the awards ceremony and just party instead.

This year it’s being held in Kansas City, Missouri, a place I have never been.   An awful lot of my travels have been centered around Worldcon.   I’ve been to Boston, Chicago, San Antonio.   Toronto, Winnipeg!   Atlanta, San Jose, Orlando, Philadelphia, Denver.  And Glasgow!  I missed London, alas, couldn’t be helped.  Last year in Spokane, I didn’t get on the program, so I was there purely as an attendee (which did serve to remind me that it’s especially enjoyable to be at Worldcon when you have no responsibilities).

If you’ve never been, you should really try it.   And if you’re local to Kansas City, Missouri, you can pop in for a day (easier on the budget).   At least once in your lifetime, go to a Worldcon.  And if it turns out that you like it — there’s one every year.

Also, people who have signed up as members get to vote on the Hugo Awards.   The finalists have been selected, and the voting starts May 15th.

You can check out the list of finalists at the Worldcon website here.

(Last year there was a certain amount of — how shall I put it — fuss and bother about the Hugo voting.   And some of that has spilled over into this year.   But the simple thing to do is read the nominated works and vote for the ones you think actually deserve an award. )

In other news:  This weekend there’s a reunion of my former writer’s group, The Fabulous Genrettes.   Can’t wait!



Apr 27 2016



My sister and I currently visiting pals in New Hampshire for a few days.  You know: that couple with the great house on a lake, with Blue Herons nesting, and Canada geese raising their babies.   And Ming, the famous Birman cat.  It’s lovely and restful here… I’ve basically just been chilling and reading and chatting.   Very little blogging or writing this week!

But one doesn’t stop thinking.   And one thing I’ve been considering about the upcoming book is the matter of how new steerswomen are made.  That is: the Steerswomen’s Academy.

And in light of that, I find myself circling ideas about how we see, and how we interpret what we see; and how a steerswoman has to approach what she observes without the usual built-in biases.

And drawing: a steerswoman will be sketching and drawing a lot in her travels.  She needn’t be artistic, but she must be accurate.

Of course, artistry is permissible if it doesn’t compromise accuracy!  And there’s nothing to prevent a steerswoman with an artistic bent choosing to also do artistic, evocative and imaginative images unrelated to her work as a steerswoman (as long as she doesn’t pass them off as being entirely factual!).

Of course I’ll be revisting Betty Edwards’ Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain.  Of course.

But sometime in the last couple of weeks, I was directed — I can’t now recall by whom — to this set of images:




Part of the Milky Way. From a study made during the years 1874, 1875 and 1876.

These are drawings by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, a french artist and astronomer working  in the 19th century,  at a time when astrophotography had not yet hit its stride, and science depended more on images drawn from observation.

great comet of 1881

The great great comet of 1881

They’re from the New York Public Library’s Digital collection.   (Click on any image to go to their website and see the rest.)


November meteors, 1868

November meteors, 1868

I find them lovely and inspiring.


Jupiter, Nov 1, 1880

But I do wonder here, how much was seen, and how much assumed?


aurora borealis, march 1 1872

aurora borealis, march 1 1872


For, example:

The planet Mars. Observed September 3, 1877

The planet Mars. Observed September 3, 1877

Notice the canals?  They’re right there.

Except… there never were any canals on Mars.

Starting with the observations by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877, people saw canals on Mars.  And drew them.  Even mapped and named them.

And they were never there.

Once photography improved, and its use in astronomy became common… people began to notice that no photograph ever showed a canal on Mars.

We are human beings, and we are pattern-seeking creatures.   We’ll  piece together fragments and glimpses into arrays that make sense to our eyes and our brains… and we can be fooled.

But when you discover that you’ve been wrong — that is itself a discovery.  And then the knowledge that replaces the error slots into position: a very satisfying feeling.

New knowledge: what could be cooler?

It’s all about discovery.

Apr 16 2016

Back in the saddle, in case you were wondering.


Just an update — letting you know that I’m back on task,  digging in, knuckling down, all those useful metaphors.

I shall persevere, and overcome the inherent recalcitrance of a book that thought it was one thing, but which turned out to be quite wrong about itself!

There, there: nobody likes change, but you’re just going to have to admit it and… Come on… Oof.  Okay, now… turn in this direction, please…

Hah.  Whew.

Right, there we go.

Meanwhile, here’s view of the little creek by my office, with what seems to be a permanent resident turtle.   There are also two ducks (not pictured) who have decided they like living here.

Yo, better hunker down, buddy. Freeze warning tonight.

Yo, better hunker down, buddy. Freeze warning tonight.


Apr 7 2016

The dreaded chores of officialdom, federal edition. Plus: Night Vale!


Yep, finished my taxes.   I had assumed it was going to be insane and overwhelming and stress-inducing, and had scheduled extra time to be freaked out about it all.

I had eight different 1099’s for writing income, and another one for unemployment income, and W-2’s for both the day job and about a month of disability pay that I got at the beginning of the year.  And I had started an HSA account.   And I had to do the Schedule C for my business, and self-employment tax, and all the deductions relating to having an office dedicated entirely to my writing work, thus office expenses, not to mention (she mentions, as she mentions it) travel and hotels for business-related events.

Amazingly, it was actually pretty easy.

I had saved most of my receipts.  Good habits win!   Plus, I ran almost everything through my Amex, so my year-end statement helped.   Also, some stuff was bought on Amazon for my business, and for each of those I could reprint all the receipts I hadn’t saved at the time.

Then I ran it all through TurboTax.    Twenty-first century, I love you.

I do remember the Dark Ages, when I (and most people, for that matter) did not even possess a computer.  I was a self-employed programmer consultant, and aspiring singer/songwriter.  Tax time was a nightmare!   Lordy, not even Excel spreadsheets to help me calculate.   And I did not make enough to afford an accountant to do it all for me.   Just me and the forms and sheets of paper and a calculator, and sweat and anguish.

This time, just a few hours on two separate days to sort it all, enter it all, print it out .  I owed the government slightly less than I thought I was going to.   All is well.

In other news: Yes! Sabine and I saw the latest Welcome to Night Vale live show, Ghost Stories.  I did love it.  It went by much too quickly.

No spoilers here.  I’ll just say that Cecil Baldwin (as the Voice of Night Vale, Cecil Palmer) is a treasure.   There were moments when I was completely enthralled, just by this  guy  all alone on a stage, saying words.  I’m still amazed that that can happen.  A lovely script (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of Night Vale), all eerie and funny and heartbreakingly poignant.

Their live shows change a bit from city to city, traditionally.  They usually have alternate versions so that the different cast members from the podcast can step in for a show or two, and not have to be present for the entire tour.   This time we had Hal Lublin doing his usual great delivery as the much-maligned Steve Carlsberg.   And Meg Bashwiner as Deb the Sentient Patch of Haze.   Meg also does the intro and credits, and is a delight.   The two other walk-on roles were handled by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink themselves, and they were really quite good.   You don’t expect writers to be good actors too, but these guys are pros.

This was only the third time the show had been performed… so, maybe a little rough in spots?  I did not mind.  Also, the Academy of Music, while a lovely venue, is also a small venue.   Sabine and I later wondered if seeing it in a big city at a bigger theater might allow the show to have more guests.  Because, bigger theater=more income?  More $$ to spread around?   Maybe.

If so, what we missed in spectacular-spectacular was made up for with intimacy.  Cecil was right there. He was also right here:

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yo, there , behind the pole. Tall guy with the blue wool cap.

Yeah, okay you can’t tell it’s him unless you saw him walk up to that intersection.

By the way, that snow on the ground?  Yes, it was the horrible snow/sleet/freezing rain event that we had on Monday.  And I was at the wheel.  White-knuckle driving all the way to Massachusetts!   Ten miles an hour, sometimes increasing to a terrifying thirty miles an hour! But I was not going to miss the show.  And once we hit Mass, it all calmed down, amazingly.   Past Springfield, it was a breeze.

And we had a lovely pre-show dinner with Geary Gravel, whom we see all too rarely.  Discussions of Life and writing.  Discussions about self-publication of works now out of print.   How to do it, etc.   And family!  And Life, did I mention that?   I love hanging with Geary.

Sabine was at the wheel on the way home.  When the weather was all done being weather.



Mar 31 2016

Random updates


Yep, still livin’ the dream.  No day-job.  Lots of time at my writing office.

About to call it a day.

About to call it a day.

Less fortunately, this book is not proving cooperative lately.  So, still a lot of flailing and cursing going on.

Never mind; I’ll get it sorted out.

I’m stepping back and reviewing some of my back-burner projects, just to give my overheated brain a rest.    I’ll give myself a few days of that.

I have three things cooking:

One is related to Book 5, but not in the main line of the series.   An interesting side-excursion…

The other is the fabled Secret Project, which was supposed to be a novella but grew legs and wings and a kick-ass attitude, and had to be set aside so I could go back to the Steerswomen…

The third is an epic poem, somewhat hindered by the fact that I am no kind of poet.  I just sort of shove the words around until I like them.   But it seems like that hasn’t stopped lots of other people who commit poetry, so what the heck.

… And that’s all I’ll say here, because (as I’ve said before) I don’t like to over-talk a project.  It drains all the juice out!  Plus: spoilers.

In other news:

Something hit Jupiter!   Probably a comet or an asteroid.   Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy blog has a nice round-up.

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted some Wrong Science recently, but the difference between him and Bill Nye was that the statements in question were one-liners (not lengthy explanatory videos), not in his field of expertise, and  posted off the cuff.   In fact, I can’t help wondering if he even posted them himself at all.   Some famous people outsource their tweets.

And: Monday is the day!  We have tickets to Welcome to Night Vale’s live performance in Northampton MA.  SO excited!   Also, looking forward to a pre-show dinner with pal and fellow writer Geary Gravel.   He’s not a Night Vale fan, but we like him anyway.


Click the poster above to go to their live show tickets website. They might be coming to your town.  You’d hate to miss them, right?


Mar 24 2016

Bill, we love you, but please stop saying that.





This is actually painful.

Bill Nye is a great guy, and a great science communicator, and has been for so many years.   I love him, you (probably) love him — of course we do.  That’s what makes this hurt!

Fortunately, physicist Chad Orzel (benevolent fellow that he is) views this as a teachable moment, and thanks to he can get the word out to a wide audience.  Excellent.

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, on the other hand, is just mad. With good reason.  

Orzel and Hossenfelder each break down the misconceptions point-by-point, and I urge you to click on the links above for the real scoop from people who know what they’re talking about.

Want a really short version?  How about this:

Bill: “…If this turns out to be a real thing…” Entanglement is a real thing, no “if” about it.  But you can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.  It doesn’t work out like that.

Bill: “…it carries, for me, the belief that we’ll be able to go back in time…”  No.  If we could use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light, then we could send information back in time, yes…  But that won’t actually happen since we can’t use it to communicate faster than the speed of light.

Bill: “…we’ll be able to harness energy somehow from black holes …”  What? Where is this coming from? What has one thing to do with the other?    I see no connection… unless — wait!  That’s right!  If it’s possible  to send information back in time, then our future selves in their future advanced civilization will send back instructions to us, on how to harness energy from black holes!  Brilliant!  Wait, why haven’t they done that yet?  Oh, right: we can’t use entanglement to communicate faster than the speed of light. Because it doesn’t work that way.  Darn it.

Quoting Chad here:

“There’s no way to determine the outcome of a quantum measurement in advance, so the physicists on either end of an entanglement experiment end up with a set of random numbers that convey no information. Those numbers are perfectly correlated with each other, but they need to compare the two lists in order to learn that, and the comparison can only be done via communication channels at light-speed or below.”

Seriously, check out the links above.

I’m going to lie down and put a wet cloth on my forehead.  This is giving me the fantods.

Mar 21 2016

Not seein’ it yet…


They say more big snow is on the way for our area, but here it is midnight and nothing much is going on.

Just me and the story,  rattling along in the night.

Tomorrow’s my at-home day, so if we get the six inches they predict, I won’t have to worry about driving.  Of course, I’m exactly two miles from the office, so you wouldn’t think I’d worry — but as I’ve said before, there’s this hill that, when it gets icy, can either slam you into the side of an overpass where you’ll sit while the cars behind slam in to you; or deliver you into four-way intersection after possibly careening off the side of an overpass.  Depending on which route you take.

Well. Stayin’ home and cooking a turkey, which was on sale for .99 a pound, the point at which it’s just silly not to buy it.   Also laundry and general chores.

Thanks to all who recommended reading for my chill-out days, by the way.  Alas, I had no chill-out days.

Because my computer arrived, needed to be loaded up, tweaked into submission, told what’s what and who’s boss.   It was recalcitrant at first, but conceded in the end.  I have that skill.

Simultaneously, the cheesy internet connection in my office proved it was even cheesier than I had previously assumed.   We’ll be parting ways Real Soon Now, and I have my solution on hand, so all is well.  But I did need to drag my new computer home, so that I could use the excellent internet we have at home for all the downloading and installation of software that I needed.

Sigh.  Frustration over!  All is well.

After several days in a row spent at home dealing with computer stuff, I was absolutely itching to get back to my lovely office.  And here I am.

And actually, it’s about time to go home.

A few random items of interest:

Sabine Hossenfelder is a physicist whose blog I check in on periodically.  This week she has an interesting post on the so-called myth of the lonely scientist, and how it’s not necessarily as mythical as some say.   I’m not a scientist (I just pretend to be one for literary purposes), but I recognized a lot of myself in what she said.

Jeffrey A. Carver (Schrodinger Cats class of 2015) has dropped the price on the ebook version of From a Changeling Star.  I’m not sure how long the sale is going to last, so here’s your chance to snap it up for peanuts.  Here’s what David Brin said about it: “Starts with a bang and keeps getting better. Carver handles not one, but two hot topics, and presents both vividly.”   Here’s what Roger Zelazny said about it: “[A] fast-paced puzzler, rich in invention, and Jeffrey A. Carver’s most ambitious book to date.”  Here’s what Rosemary Kirstein says about it: “I haven’t finished reading it yet!  I’m only up to Chapter Five!  Get off my back already!  Sheesh.”

Oh, and pal Ann Zeddies has a Kindle Single, which escaped my notice for the longest time.  “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Swamp Thing” is a non-SF, Young Adult, gay romance, and might be exactly what you or a young person you know are looking for.   I found it charming.

Oh, and happy Equinox.  Which isn’t, actually… There’s a video from It’s Okay to Be Smart to explain it.




Mar 14 2016

What’s all the fuss about Pi Day?


Yes, it’s pi day.  Not too late to celebrate.

In fact, it’s a better pi day than last year’s pi day, which was said by many to be the best.  But they were wrong.

Let my favorite mathematical ranter explain why:

I love Vi Hart.

In other news: I’m going to chill for a few days… I seem to be stressing myself out a little, hitting Book 5 a bit too hard for too long.

Time to breathe.   Muse.  Go for walks.  Read a book!

Any suggestions on that?

Mar 12 2016

It had to happen sometime…


Yeah, my computer died.

It’s been limping along for a while now.   It’s an old Dell Studio 15 (they don’t make ’em anymore), and it’s  been going  bluescreen restart-me periodically for  the last couple of years, so it’s not like I had no warning.   The screen regularly goes all scrambled, which I’ve diagnosed as a dying video card, and there are some dead arrow-keys.   It’s a laptop, but I’ve mainly used it as a desktop, attached to a 23-inch monitor and ergonomic keyboard, so the dead keys didn’t present that much of a problem.

Until it stopped working altogether, of course.

I’ve had an HP SimpleSave terabyte automatic backup hooked up for ages now.  Which meant that  I didn’t lose any actual work…

Still, I lost a day of my time!  A day for which I had many plans!  All of which included writing, and none of which included fussing around with a computer to determine if it really wasn’t going to come back this time.   Nor did those plans include going online at the Dell site (using my iPad,), and spending hours waffling between options.

Luckily, since I knew this day was coming, I had already done tons of research.  I had  narrowed my choices down to a) an excellent, super-light laptop with lots of power and a great screen, or b) a small but lively desktop for which I already possessed a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Really wanted the laptop.  Went with the desktop.

Because I needed to be up and running as quickly as possible, as economically as possible.  And I have another little laptop (oh-so-crappy but perfectly usable) that I  drag around when I travel.

And Dell had a sale going on, how nice of them!

And then.. my computer came back to life.  But really, it must go.  Just as well I made the purchase.

I think that in September I’ll review my status, and see if I can swing the fancier laptop.   But right now, economy rules.

In other news:

I’ve seen two total eclipses: one in February 1979 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the other in August  of 1999, viewed from the deck of an old cruise ship in the middle of the Black Sea.  Both were astonishing, moving experiences, and I’d hoped to possibly get to see the one on March 8 this year, too.  But getting to the location was just too expensive this time.  (For the one in Winnipeg, I took a bus cross-country, and stayed at the YWCA.)

But this is a great video!  Alaska Airlines changed the departure time of their flight 870, so that the passengers could get to see the eclipse from the air.  (And they’re boasting about it, as well they might: here’s their blog post.)

And guess what?  Next year, there’s going to be a total eclipse visible from right here in the USA!

It’s going to be great.  I just have to make sure I’ll be back from Worldcon in Helsinki in time to see it.

Other other news: my office internet connection died.  It’s a cellular hotspot, through the Sprint network, which has had outages all over the country today.   Hoping it will come back tomorrow.  Meanwhile: good ol’ iPhone to the rescue.



Mar 3 2016

Schrödinger Sessions II now open for applications


Just a quick post, in case this is the only blog you read: The Schrödinger Sessions 2016 quantum physics workshop for Science Fiction writers is now accepting applications.  Here’s your chance!

This workshop will help your writing by:

  1. giving you the real scoop on quantum physics, so you won’t make dope mistakes in your stories
  2. giving you the chance to meet real scientists.  Surprise!  They are not smart-but-laughable misfits (looking at you, Big Bang Theory), but are actually amazingly cool people who love the same stuff you love, and get to do it for a living.
  3. connecting you with fellow writers who actually care about the science in science fiction.

And did I mention that it’s free?  They house you in the dorms, feed you breakfast and lunch.  You have to arrange your own travel, pay for your parking (if you have a car on hand), and get yourself dinner (great excuse to hang with those other writers I mentioned).

I can’t say enough good things about my experience last year.   I’d try for it again this year, but my time for the summer is pretty much booked; and I think it would be good to spread this experience around to new people, instead of me trying to repeat it for myself.  Much as I’d love to.

Here are some inspirational images from last year:

bonus purple lasers

quantum teleportation


The Cats, class of 2015

The Cats, class of 2015

Bonus track:  Chad Orzel is one of the organizers and teachers at the Schrödinger Sessions, and last month he gave a presentation for the general public at the Jefferson Lab, on quantum physics as presented to his dog Emmy (as is his wont).   He graciously provided a link to the video: