May 22 2015

Alas, I cannot be at Wiscon…


Gosh, all the cool kids are going…

There’s Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman.

Charlie Jane Anders, whose posts I enjoy over at io9.  Suzy McKee Charnas.

 Karen Joy Fowler.  Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press (who publish Laurie J. Marks and Delia, among others).

Oh, lots of writers, and editors, and publishers, and related personages.   If you’re not already there —  well, there’s still time to get there.   It’s in Madison, Wisconsin; maybe that’s a day-trip for you.

I’ve been to Wiscon  a couple of times, and had thoroughly enjoyed myself there — but not this year.  My travel budget’s kind of used up with Readercon (July 9-12) in Burlington MA, the Schrodinger Sessions (July 30-August 1) in Maryland, and the big one: Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention (August 19-23 ), all the way on the other side of the North American continent in Spokane, WA.

Also, I seem to have acquired tickets to three events in the World Science Festival on May 30th and 31st, which, while merely a train ride away in New York City, cost some bucks, to be sure.

Add in some non-SF related travel and hotel in December, and that’s basically it for expensive places to go this year.

Actually, looking at that list, it seems rather daunting…

I’m still working on getting my strength up to full power, so it’s good I have some time to work up to the bigger trips.

Speaking of which, I must get home and get a good night’s sleep, as I’m hopping the train for a day-trip to the big city tomorrow.

Meanwhile, just because it’s cool,  here’s a link to the Dawn spacecraft’s animated views of those mysterious bright spots on the surface of Ceres….

Click ‘n’ go.




May 17 2015

How many random things does it take to make a post?


Still at loose ends, trying to plow through a collection of largely disconnected chores and tasks and stuff that otherwise need action or decisions on my part…

But!  Need to blog… So, here are some random things I’ve done, read or noticed:

Over at Chad Orzel’s science blog at Forbes online from a couple of weeks ago,  Chad explains why a particle’s momentum will increase when you confine it (contrary to what intuition tells us), by relating it to strings on a guitar, which was THE critical analogy for this finger-pickin’ gal (Emmy the dog’s contributions aside).   When he said that, I went from “WTF?” to “Of course! Makes perfect sense.  Could not be otherwise.”

When you shorten a guitar string, you limit the number of frequencies at which it can vibrate.   Some wavelengths just won’t fit on that string anymore.  The longer wavelengths go away.

On a guitar string, frequency relates to pitch.  You shorten the useable length of the string by putting your finger down on it, pressing it against the fret.  Only the part of the string between your finger and the bridge can now vibrate.  And it’s shorter.  So: you get a higher note.

Obviously —  and absolutely according to my natural intuition as a guitarist.  Makes perfect sense.

And for a quantum particle, wavelength relates to momentum.  Confine it, and the range of possible wavelengths becomes limited — to shorter wavelengths.  So the damn thing is moving faster.

Could not be otherwise, right?  That’s lovely.

Then Chad gives us a video of guitarist Richard Thompson (ALIAS GOD!), so, that’s  a bonus.

Also, speaking of guitars:

Once the crazy chemo finger-pain was gone, and my post-chemo peripheral neuropathy diminished (probably as much as it’s going to), I had wanted to get my playing chops back.  I’m spending tons of time at my new office, and for a lot of the time I’m the only one in the building.  So, why not play guitar there?  But I  didn’t want to be hauling my guitar back and forth every day…

I already owned a “backpacking” guitar: a sturdy guitar with a small body.  I figured I’d just bring that to the office one day and leave it there, handy to grab at odd moments.  Sure, it didn’t sound particularly good, but as long as it stayed in tune, it would keep my fingers exercised.

Except: it was the crappiest instrument ever!   The strings were a mile above the fret board!  The intonation wandered away to the hinterlands by, like, the third fret.  The neck was fat enough to double as a baseball bat!

There are some guitars where you’re just doing yourself damage to play them, and that is definitely one.  I’d forgotten how evil a device it was.   I think it was made by LL Bean.

I’m trying to get myself back to performing level, but playing a guitar that PUNISHES me was not going to encourage me in any way.

So I did a bunch of research and settled on this lovely:

Washburn Rover

Washburn Rover


The Washburn Rover is a  “travel” guitar – essentially a higher-end backpacking guitar.  Absolutely playable,  quality materials, great workmanship.

Key points: A full-length fingerboard, instead of a shortened one.  I’m going to be establishing habits, and I want them to translate directly over to my full-sized instrument.  Of the travel guitars available, this one had the full-sized fingerboard.   Strings not too high off the fingerboard.  Spruce top, mahogany body.   Compensated bridge, which I did not expect! And very, very affordable.

It feels way better in my hands that I’d thought possible for a guitar at that price.   And the tone does not suck!   It doesn’t sound like a full-size guitar, by any means — but it has its own characteristic tone, which I actually like.  I’m thinking that for certain very roots-style songs, I might even prefer the sound.

Last random thing: over at xkcd, Randall Munroe has an Emojic 8-Ball that has to be seen (and used) to be believed.

If you believe in that sort of thing…


May 12 2015

Post in which I am too busy to post.


Too many things needing my attention right exactly now, as in:  now.

So, here’s a fish:



Found in the brook next to my office.   There’s a little branch-off from the mighty Quinnipiac River that wends its way mostly underground beneath the big old factory/warehouse complex where my office is located.  Just before it dives under, there’s a footbridge right outside my office door where I can pause and muse.  This time I saw a fish.  Not a generic carp.  Not a decorative koi.  A honking great all-caps FISH!

Seriously.  Like, a foot and a half (46cm).  And muscular.  A major fish.

May 8 2015

And then this happened…


Last Thursday night, just before turning in, I thought I’d check how my ebook sales were doing on Amazon…

Hm, said I.  I just looked around lunchtime, but now there’s, like… three times as many units sold.  That’s a puzzle.

And I went to bed.

The next day I did a Google search for the previous 24 hours, and this came up on Twitter:

Completely unexpected.

Completely unexpected.


@femfreq is the Feminist Frequency web series, founded by Anita Sarkeesian.  The series examines how women are represented in popular literature, media, and especially (as –let’s say — you just possibly have heard) gaming.

I had no idea that Sarkeesian and Feminist Frequency knew of my work at all…  This is quite a nice endorsement.  I immediately tweeted back my thanks.

It’s really encouraging how many people have said nice things about my books (including, by the way, most of you!).   It helped boost me when I was ill, and helps sustain me now.

So,to  all of you (not just Anita, and Jo and Chad…) — my thanks.


Apr 30 2015

More about the Con or Bust items


The Con or Bust auction ends on Sunday May 3 at 4PM (I put my items up a little late…), so if you want to bid on any of the cool things over there, you have until then.

(And I forgot to mention — any of these can be autographed, if you like…)

First up:

steerswoman solo small

A copy of the Brit edition of The Steerswoman.

The series now only exists in ebook form, but I have in my possession a number of hard copies from its print days.  This is the British edition of the first book.


Next up:

steerswoman with map small

A nother copy of the Brit edition of The Steerswoman, but with a map of Rowan’s world, printed on handmade paper personally made by me and my personal hands.  I used to make paper by hand… it was fun but messy.  I haven’t done it in a while, but I still have some left from my previous production.  I find that the map looks cool on the rough-surfaced, deckle-edged white paper.  It’s printed on, not drawn by hand, but still looks nice.  It’s the map from Volume 4, The Language of Power, so contains some spoilers!



lost steersman solo small2

A copy of The Lost Steersman.

Again, hard copies of the books are hard to find, so if you want tangible non-e books, here’s your chance.



lost steersman with blank book small

A copy of The Lost Steersman but with a little hand-bound blank journal.

It was while I was writing The Lost Steersman that I was also experimenting with paper-making.    I recycled printed drafts of the book into handmade paper, and  I intentionally left fragments of text visible in the finished pages, as random decorative inclusions.

lost steersman inside2 small

There’s a little snail on the cover, edged in gold, in honor of the Little Snails, and the ribbon tie is old silk, in honor of Alemeth.

It’s a pretty thing, 20 pages.   The pages are rough-surfaced, and rather stiff.   They work well with colored pencil, fountain pen, dip pen, and felt tip. (Ballpoint does NOT work well!)  I include a couple of loose squares of the paper, so you can experiment with your writing and drawing implements.

lost steersman blank book small

Note to those of you south of the equator:  on this one, I pay for shipping anywhere in the world.   I can’t afford to do that for all the items — it’s crazily expensive.  But I thought I could manage it for one item, and this one is my favorite. I’ll use the least expensive method I can find, and it might take a while to reach you, but it will in the end. (If you’re from Down Under and you want one of the other books, maybe you have a northern pal I can mail it to, with whom you can make further arrangements on your own?)

And finally:

cloud journal small

A hand-bound blank journal that I’ve decided to call “The Cloud Journal”.

None of this paper is handmade… but it’s just nice.

Cover is white and gray, reminiscent of clouds; end-papers are dark sliver-gray.  Darker than it looks in the photo — makes me think of starry nights.

cloud journal endpaper small

The internal paper is what they call “parchment” when you buy it in the art store.

The embellishment on the cover was rescued from an old earring… so old that I  can’t recall if it really is abalone, mother of pearl and silver.   I’m pretty sure it is, but can’t swear to it.

cloud journal charm small

So, that’s it, five items.

But don’t forget that Con or Bust has a lot of other offerings up for auction – books and handicrafts, and even manuscript critiques!   You should check them all out…



Apr 27 2015

Con or Bust auction items


I just now posted five items on the Con or Bust fundraising auction site.

I would put up some pictures here but — wow, I’m beat.  Spent the last couple of days doing this (which I do not regret, but: tired now).

So, just pop on over to Con or Bust to see, and possibly bid!

They are:

A copy of the Brit edition of The Steerswoman.

A nother copy of the Brit edition of The Steerswoman, but with a map of Rowan’s world, printed on handmade paper personally made by me and my personal hands.

A copy of The Lost Steersman.

A copy of The Lost Steersman but with a little hand-bound blank journal containing pages of handmade paper, which were recycled from old printout drafts of The Lost Steersman. I intentionally left some shreds of text visible, as decorative elements, and there’s a little snail on the cover, edged in gold, in honor of the Little Snails.

A hand-bound blank journal that I’ve decided to call “The Cloud Journal”.

I might add some enticing photos here later, but right now: Must. Sleep.

Apr 26 2015

Promoted from the comments.


In the comments, “Madscientistnz” responded to my perplexity at the people in the other office not acknowledging my helpful phone call…

I can think of a few reasons to not say anything:
1 – can’t remember your name (that would be my reason – I am so bad at remembering peoples names/faces)so don’t know it was you that left the voice mail)
2 – didn’t catch the name on the voice mail (I find voice mails are very hard to hear)
3 – didn’t know what to say, overthought the whole thing, panic!, pretend it never happened
4 – office is shared, only one person knew about the voice mail
5 – embarrassed to have not been perfect, pretend never happened

And that’s without getting into time-travel, spies, clones, identical twins etc…

I responded at such length that I thought I’d repost as a post.  Here’s what I said:

Ah, all possible. But you left out:

6. They think I’m weird and creepy.

It could be, and I would hardly blame them…

See, the other offices in this building are being used as offices. Make your phone calls, file your stuff, meet with clients, interact, present yourself to the business world. There’s a tendency for offices to be decorated with impressing the incoming client in mind, and doors (which are mostly glass) are habitually left open to the hallway. Business clothing is the norm — casual, but professional.

My office functions more as a studio. My desk is a big table, and it faces the windows with my back to the door, so I can look out while musing. I’ve got whiteboard-type dry-erase wallpaper on one wall with maps and notes and arrows drawn all over. Not only do I keep my door closed, I’ve put white paper over all the glass, so people walking by don’t see what’s on my immense computer monitor.

Not exactly an "office" office.

Not exactly an “office” office.

I arrive in jeans and change to yoga pants. I come at the end of the day, and stay who-knows-how-long.

I wear little, if any, makeup.

I have an inexplicable haircut. No one here knows I was treated for cancer last year, so the fact that when they first met me I was just this side of bald, probably had an effect.

Without judging them negatively, I do have to say they are deeply of the Mundane world (as we SFF fans call it). People who don’t fit their expectations probably give  them pause… I suspect that I just don’t make sense to them.

The one exception: The free-lance computer programmer in one of the littlest rooms. Despite the fact that he’s in his twenties, cute as a bug, dresses modern-professional-metro cool — a sort of mutual recognition passed between us. We say hi, chat occasionally.

He’s a nerd, I’m a nerd. We get it.


Apr 19 2015

Seventeen things


I was feeling completely overwhelmed by everything that needed my attention, and harked back to my productivity training, deciding to make a list.

I discovered that there were seventeen discrete things, each of which was waiting for a decision before any actual action could be taken.

Upside: I now have a list of seventeen decisions to make.   Lists can be ranked by priority, and assigned time frames; amorphous clouds of responsibilities and expectations and duties and desires are much harder to tackle.

In other news: Hey, if you got a voice mail saying that someone whose office was on the same floor as yours passed by your office door and saw that you had left the window open, and that papers were blowing around everywhere, and that on top of that it’s going to rain after midnight tonight, so they hoped you would get this message before all the rain blows in and ruins your papers and furniture; and you then got the message and went to your office and closed the window, thus saving papers and furniture from ruin —

If, all that… wouldn’t you then, say, knock on the door of the helpful person who was nice enough to alert you to the problem, and oh, I don’t know, say “Thanks!”

Because the first part happened, but the last, oddly, didn’t.  I was right there. They walked in, walked by, walked out, not a word.


Apr 14 2015

Wait, what? Forbes?


(Quick post during my lunch hour…)

So, remember Chad Orzel?   Author, physicist, blogger, one of the organizers of the Schrodinger Sessions — you know, that guy.

Well, he also does a science blog for Forbes online…

And yesterday he posted an article on good examples of science in science fiction…

Yep.  There I am.

(If you click through to the second page, there’s even a cover shot!)


This is lovely.   The general readership of Forbes might not run in to my books in the usual course of their day — and now they’ve had me brought to their attention by a genuine scientist.   It absolutely made my day.

Oh, and bragging rights?   Just the sort of thing to make those of my acquaintances who are not heavily into SF/F fandom sit up and notice.    They know I write “that stuff” — but a mention in Forbes?  Heh.

(Must get back to the Day Job.  More later.)



Apr 6 2015

She scores!


I made it into the Schrodinger Sessions after all!  So pleased.

It turns out that they were unavoidably delayed in finalizing their selections, and just sent out notifications today.

I have some prep to do between now and then… mainly, to review what I actually do know (or think I know) about quantum physics, so that it’s all fresh in my mind, preparatory to adding actual knowledge from actual scientists whilst being disabused of previous erroneous notions.

Also, I want to identify my areas of least understanding, so that I can formulate coherent questions.   I’m pretty sure that “WTF???”, while accurately expressing one’s internal state, would not be the most useful starting point.

On the application form, one of the questions was: What is your interest in attending this workshop? How do you hope it will affect your writing?

They didn’t put a word-count limit on the answer (ha!) so this is what I said:

There are three reasons any science fiction writer would want to attend this workshop — and it’s the third reason that most interests me.

First reason: To get it right. When we mention quantum physics — even if it merely serves as background to a story — it would be good if we knew what we were talking about. There’s already enough bad science fiction in the world, and we don’t need to make more. For this, we need to get the facts right.

Second reason: To generate story ideas. Science fiction is famous for the idea-driven story. If we want to write stories inspired by quantum physics, then we have to become familiar with both its facts and its underlying principles. And more: we need to know where the edges are, where the limit lies between what is known so far, and what remains to be discovered. Within what’s known, we’ll find ideas to drive our stories; at the edges, we’ll find scope for intelligent speculation.

And the third reason: To understand how discovery happens. What type of thinking brought physicists to our current understanding of quantum physics? Why do we think what we think about it, and how do we know what we know? What were the steps, what guided the explorations? To what degree are we sure of our knowledge, to what degree uncertain? In what frame of mind were the researchers operating? How did we figure this out? These are all questions that help reveal how humans go about learning the nature of the universe… which, actually, is the biggest adventure of them all.

So, all three reasons (accuracy, inspiration, and understanding) are important, and each will help me be a better writer. But I feel that the third reason — understanding the nature of discovery — is one that particularly needs to be communicated. And possibly because quantum physics is so famously weird, it seems to me that it might be especially illuminating on the subject.

I can’t wait to hear more about it.