May 26 2016

It’s that time of year again…

Rosemary

Once again, Con or Bust is holding its fundraiser auction; and once again, I’ve donated some items to be auctioned off.

Con or Bust is a non-profit organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend science fiction and fantasy conventions.   You can read more about them here.

I submitted three items to the auction.   To bid, you have to go to the Con or Bust site, and post your bid as a comment on that item’s post.

Here’s what I submitted:

First:  A copy of the paperback British edition of The Steerswoman

Kirstein Steersw

Sure, we love our e-readers — but we love physical books even better.  But alas, the Steerswoman series only exists as a ebooks.

But wait — that was not always true!   Once they were all real objects existing in the real world — books you could hold, handle, page through at will.   Oh, if only you could have one of those…

Well, you can. And I’ll autograph it.

When the Brit publisher let the book go out of print, they offered to sell me a bunch of copies for a good price; and so I do have a number of these mass-market paperbacks of the first book.

Click here to head over to the Con or Bust auction site to bid.

Second item: a trade paperback of The Lost Steersman

Kirstein Steersman

 

A similar thing happened with Del Rey Books and The Lost Steersman :  “Do you want these copies that we are going to throw out?   If so, give us some money,” they said.  “Yes, I do,” I replied.  “And here’s some money.”

So I have a whole bunch of these… alas, they did not do the same with the other books in the series.  I don’t know why.

But here it is.  It can be yours. Autographed.  Existing in actual physical reality

Click here to go to the auction site to bid on this book.

 

Okay, now: Item Three is special.

“Lost Steersman” handmade blank journal

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

Back when I was writing The Lost Steersman,” I generated a lot of printouts.  My writer’s group, the Fabulous Genrettes, was in full swing, and I needed to give the ladies actual manuscripts to read and comment on, and scribble on, and return to me…

But I felt odd just throwing the manuscripts away afterwards.  That was my book!

Now, at that time I was also experimenting with paper-making, and it occurred to me that it might be especially cool to recycle the manuscripts into new paper.  So, I shredded the printouts, re-shredded them even finer, and did exactly that.

I like the way the paper came out.   And as a decorative effect, I included some less-shredded shreds, so that random words from the story would appear within the paper itself.

kirstein inner paper

closer view, if you click

I had been making hand-bound blank books as a hobby for years.  Having handmade paper brought it to a whole other level.

The journal measures 6.5 x 4.75 inches (16.51 x 12.06cm).   The endpaper is bark-paper,

KirsteinEndpaper

and the cover is marble paper (hand-marbled, although not by me).   It closes with an old silk ribbon (Alemeth being a center of silk-making, of course).

And the front is decorated with a little snail, in honor of the little snails in the book…

Little Snail

Little snail guaranteed not to eat the book.

The internal paper does not work well with ball-point pen, but is good with ink, felt-tip, and colored pencils. I provide one loose sheet of the same paper, so you can test your art materials beforehand.

 

Kirstein cover

click for more detail

Oh, and I include a paperback copy of The Lost Steersman, too.

If you’re interested, head over to Con or Bust to bid on this.

And be sure to look through the entire Con or Bust auction site for some really amazing things you can get.    Such as: naming rights to a character in a novel by John Scalzi, and a copy of a real Farscape script with an actual piece of the spaceship Moya.

 

I like the whole idea of Con or Bust, and here’s why I support it:

a) Everyone should read science fiction and fantasy.  SF/F is actually good for you!   It increases your intellectual and imaginative skills, deepens your understanding of the world, and can be a great source of joy.

b) Everyone who likes SF/F should go to a convention at some point in their life, multiple times if possible.  At conventions, you meet other like-minded people, people who take delight in the same things you do — and you learn that you are not weird, are not a misfit, and are not alone.  There are lots of us.  And we want you.

c) People of color, and especially African-Americans, are very often actively discouraged by educators and American society in general from pursuing intellectual goals, or seeking intellectual values.  Which also means that many potential readers — and potential writers — of SF/F are directed away from our field, away from all its delights and benefits.   But by helping people of color get to conventions, Con or Bust is acting directly against those negative messages.  It says, explicitly: you belong here.

So, there you are.  Some steerswoman-related objects for you, if you want them. Plus, a multitude of other items available, at all price ranges.

In other, unrelated news: Dammit, my printer died.

 


May 16 2016

Not a time warp.

Rosemary

But it feels like one.

I'm not still here. I'm just back here.

I’m not still here. I’m just back here.

I lost a lot of time this week to various household responsibilities, and preparations for this and that.  I feel like I got little done, when in fact I got plenty done — just with a lesser proportion of writing in the mix.   So, I rather feel like I’m back where I started… I’ll make up for the lack of prose this week; if possible I’m going to do all my larger non-writing tasks on Monday, giving me the rest of the week for the real work.

Meanwhile, in the grand tradition of “Let’s put the band back together!”, my writer’s group, The Fabulous Genrettes, is reactivating!  It’s been, what — four years?   We agreed that we missed us and wanted us back.   Happy days!   I volunteered to be first in the hot seat, and I have to decide what is presentable enough to be presented for feedback.

I did manage to get my walks and/or gym time in this week.  The gym is much more strenuous, and gives me a better overall workout — but I absolutely cannot work on anything creative while exercising.  It’s largely the environment: noisy, busy, filled with other human beings, dozens of screens with different moving images, and idiotic repetitive music piped in at high volume.  I can read a book on the treadmill or stationary bike, but not for very long before the surroundings overwhelm me, and earbuds can’t sufficiently block the music.   I can do an audiobook, but that doesn’t help with the visual chaos.

What works, alas, is TV on my iPad.

Yep.  A couple of TV shows, and I’m  an hour, sometimes two hours, working up a sweat.   I get all grumpy when the gym’s wifi is on the fritz, as it sometimes is.    And when I use the machines, I switch to an audiobook  (currently finishing up Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, which I’m enjoying a lot).

However, when I’m just walking in the woods, I can think about the story — or stories in general, or other artistic ideas.  So,  I’m going to put more woods into the mix.

Mysterious ruins in the forest...

Mysterious ruins in the forest…

In other news: live music!  Sabine and I went to a performance by the Mendelssohn Choir of Connecticut, one member of which is a pal of ours.   The program included two excerpts from James Whitbourn’s Luminosity: “Lux in tenebris” and “Silence”.  It was a bit of a departure for this choir,  but I’m so glad they did it.   They introduced me to a new work, and a new composer.

Thanks to YouTube, you can hear it, too (performed by a different choir, that is).   (If you don’t have great speakers, use headphones for this.)  I haven’t yet listened to Luminosity in its entirety yet, but I will, soon —  and I love “Lux in tenebris” and “Silence.”

And lastly: Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer’s debut novel, is out and on my Kindle.  I won’t go into detail, as I haven’t finished it yet, but I will say that so far, it’s definitely living up to its advance press.   It is remarkable.  I really think you should read it.

In fact, there are free excerpts on Tor.com.   There you go.  Take it out for a test drive.  First four chapters, no commitments.

But here’s the Amazon link, because I think you’ll want it.

 


May 8 2016

Ambling along…

Rosemary

Hard at it.   Not much else to say…

Most days, I either hit the gym, or take a good walk.   Preferably in the woods…  and preferably alone, so I can emote freely, according to whatever scene I’m working on.

This from today’s walk:

 

Where the red trail and the horse trail and the cross-country skiing tral meet.

Where the red trail and the horse trail and the cross-country skiing trail meet.

 

Robin's egg. Possibly the most beautiful color in the world.

Robin’s egg. Possibly the most beautiful color in the world.

 

IMG_1054

And one of the loveliest sounds…

 

 


May 5 2016

Worldcon wants me!

Rosemary

Hooray!

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

Seeing

Rosemary

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:

 

 

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47dd-e81e-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w

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.

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47dd-e821-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w(1)

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.

Rosemary

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!

Rosemary

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

Rosemary

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.

CeV1N6iWQAEK3R3

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.

Rosemary

Please.

Seriously.

Dude!

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 Forbes.com 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…

Rosemary

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.