Oct 21 2016

Grand central station, apparently.


I’m still wrestling with some intermittent fried-brain syndrome,  and thought that a touch of back-to-nature and solitude would be just the thing.

Obviously, a walk in the woods was called for.  Soothe my spirit! Clear my mind!  Plus, whenever I go for walks in the woods, I just naturally start thinking about scenes from the next Steerswoman books.   Because of the walking.  And the woods.   And the solitude.  Three things that often go together in a Steerswoman’s life.

I figured that if I wanted to take a walk in the woods, I’d better do it today (Thursday), since it’s going to rain Friday.

And it turned out that everybody else in town and all the surrounding towns had exactly the same idea at exactly the same time.

Again.   This keeps happening to me!

I had forgotten to change into my real hiking boots, so I took the flattest trail available — possibly that was a factor, too.

Well, I did have some moments alone.

Between waves of hikers, including little old ladies and dogs.

Between waves of hikers, including young couples, college students, retirees and dogs.

You know, back in my serious backpacking days, walking in the rain was just a thing that happened.   You didn’t stop hiking for a little rain.  Rain ponchos were invented for a reason!

That might solve my solitude problem.  I’ll have to give that some consideration.

In other news:  everyone keeps telling me that Scrivener is the best word processing software for creative writers.   I keep digging in my heels, due to being perfectly comfortable with MS Word, which has seen me through a lot of writing…

But I’m currently juggling multiple versions of multiple scenes, with multiple possibilities for sequencing, as well.   I thought I’d see if the Scrivener interface was better for sorting things out, as everyone claims it is.   So far, I’m just importing my current work into it, so I won’t have a verdict for a while, but I’ll keep you posted.

Let’s see, what else?

Ha!  How about a random passage from Book 5?

      Mascha met him at the mud-room door, exactly as if she had known he would step outside, and known when he would return.   Artos never understood how she managed that; the visit to the stables had been a whim.  She stood aside while Gaff took his coat and the boy knelt to brush off his boots.  
     As they headed toward the dining hall, Artos asked, “Are our guests already there, and do they have any idea how to conduct themselves?”
    “The Baron has acquired the notion that they mustn’t seat themselves until you arrive, and the others are taking their cues from him.  All our guests are simply standing about, entirely ill-at-ease.”  Mascha went on: “The daughter seems pleased at something.”
    “She’s just met me.  I should have been a boor to her.  I seem to manage that well enough when it’s not useful to me, you’d think at least it would rise to the occasion when I need it.”
    “Unfortunately, it would likely do no good.  Your occasional clumsiness is a significant part of your native charm.”
    “Wonderful. It seems I can do no wrong.”
    She made a small sound of amusement.  “A useful trait, my lord, all told.  Many people have to bludgeon themselves to do what’s right.”

Okay, let’s call it a night. 

Oh, it’s morning?  Well, let’s still call it a night.



Oct 19 2016

A quick note to my insomniac friends


I know you’re out there.

The other day, NPR’s Hear and Now had a brief interview (too brief!) with Drew Ackerman, creator and promulgator of the “Sleep with Me” podcast.  Sabine had introduced me to this show some time ago, and I keep meaning to mention it here.

Remember when you were a kid, and someone would read you a bedtime story?  Remember how sometimes you’d fall asleep before the story was over?  But it mattered that the story was happening, right?  It was soothing, it made you feel safe, let your mind be free to wander off to dreamland…

Possibly you’re trying to use audiobooks to achieve the same effect, now that you’re an adult and no one reads to you. But audiobooks have a slight problem: they’re interesting!  Sometimes exciting! They are good books!  You wouldn’t have bought them if you weren’t interested, right?  You don’t want to sleep through the story.  Plus, you might suddenly jolt awake when the characters start arguing with each other, or cussing each other out.  Don’t they know you’re trying to get some rest?  Well, no.  They don’t.

Books are diverting, and enlightening, but not always soothing.

Enter Scooter, the narrator of “Sleep with Me.”   His slightly droney voice, his meandering digressions, his gently odd stories that wander from nowhere in particular to — well, you’re asleep before the end, so who knows where they wind up?  Somewhere.

Each episode of the podcast is carefully crafted, specifically designed to be … there’s no other way to say it: boring. 

It’s really quite an achievement.  Ackerman (aka Scooter) has given great and careful thought to how to design each episode so that it lulls you, becomes progressively more and more boring, less and less involving, soothing you and encouraging your own mind wander as you half-listen to a harmless half-sensible tale, or a possibly pointless digression…

Makes me sleepy even thinking about it.

I admit to being quite fond of Scooter and his tales,  even though I have absolutely never heard an entire episode from beginning to end.   Which is kind of the point.

The Hear and Now NPR interview didn’t say much… here’s a link to an article in the New Yorker that tells you more.

I’ve noticed that falling asleep to audiobooks can backfire; my sleep isn’t as deep as it would be otherwise, and it seems to fragment my dreams.   It does shut up my brain when my brain won’t stop chattering, but it manages that by overlaying some other thing to think about, and doesn’t really let my mind wander away when it needs to.

“Sleep with Me” does a better job.   Put it on your smartphone, start it up (don’t forget to plug in the charger!), and set your podcast app’s sleep function to “stop at the end of current episode”.

That’s over an hour of Scooter.

But you won’t hear the full hour. Trust me.

Drifting away

Drifting away

Oct 15 2016

Well, that’s starting to bite, isn’t it?


Generally, I don’t closely follow global economics — as well as distracting me from my actual work at hand, it tends to interfere with my mystique as an unworldly artist-type…

But I do watch my sales figures pretty closely, because a) I can, now that I don’t have to wait for my publisher to impart the data at their leisure, usually six months down the line; and b) I am now responsible for my own sales, and it’s actually possible to relate increase in sales to something that happens in the outside world (like a review, or even a tweet); and c) forewarned is forearmed, and if things start trailing, it’s best to know about it.

So, I watch my sales. And dammit, the British pound has lost 25 cents against the dollar since June! 

A certain portion of my ebook sales come from Amazon.co.uk, and I’ve always enjoyed doing the conversion, because it makes my income projections look pretty.  79.99 GPB of British book sales in June?  Heck, that’s a whole $117.59 in real American money!

Except, not now.  It’s $97.59.  I feel very hard done by, I must say.

Well.  Can’t do much about it, can I?  If an entire nation wants to mess with my bottom line, that’s their prerogative, I suppose.

In other news:


My mighty steed.

My mighty steed.

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman had their 20th wedding anniversary party last weekend, held at the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round to the delight of young and old.  Except, there seemed to be no actual “old,” since once you climb on to a carousel horse, you immediately become nine years old for the duration of the ride.  This I have discovered to be true.

Delia herself, in a flowing silken dress. Don't you wish you could ride a carousel hose in an flowing silken dress?

Delia herself, in motion, in a flowing silken dress. Don’t you wish you could ride a carousel horse in a flowing silken dress?

The merry-go-round was authentic, lovingly restored, dating from (I seem to remember) 1927.   As well as being open to the public, you can book it for private parties, as Ellen and Delia did.


The lovely couple, twenty years in.

The lovely couple, twenty years in.

And the party itself was wonderful, filled with wonderful people, many of whom I actually knew (including Genrettes!).  (If you were there, and I didn’t say hi, I do apologize — there was so much to see, and so many to talk to.   I’m sure you had as great a time as I did.)

And meanwhile, back at the ranch: Kitchen painting.  Those of you who have painted kitchens know what this entails.  Those of you who haven’t, you’ll find out.  It seems to be one of life’s milestones.  Sometime in your life, you will paint a kitchen.  No, having painted the living room does not give you a free pass.

It helps to have help.  In this case, I’m the help.

And in other news: I’m still hunkered down in the times that are available for hunkering.   More than that cannot be said without spoilers, I suppose.

This whiteboard needed to be much longer, so I split it.

This whiteboard needed to be much longer, so I split it longitudinally.


Oct 6 2016

Back but sort of not because still sequestered…



Home sweet home.

Home sweet home.

My too-brief time away is over, but I’m still in hunker-down mode, working on That Thing, some Other Things, and unrelated but necessary writerly real-time chores.   I had unexpectedly lost a whole bunch of time, and now I’m making up for it by being completely anti-social.

Except for Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman’s wedding anniversary coming up!  That should be wonderful.   I might be ready to talk to people by then.

Meanwhile, here’s something they brought to my attention, which apparently was on the competition TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.”  That’s generally the sort of TV show I avoid, but this is just lovely.


And in SF world news, John Scalzi (not that he needs my help promoting his work!) has written a novella for Audible.com, which is being narrated by Zachary Quinto (pardon me: squee! Okay, done now), and is available for free.

Why is it free?  Good marketing, actually.  Audible are not dopes.  If you do audiobooks at all, you should grab it.  I heard Scalzi read the opening of this in Spokane last year, and it was very interesting.  I’m looking forward to listening to Quinto doing it — but not right now because (have I mentioned?) too busy.   From the part that Scalzi read, I think it should be of especial interest to, say, any actuaries who might be out there.  Just sayin’ (as the saying goes).

Okay, enough for now.  Must pretend the real world doesn’t exist for a bit…


Sep 28 2016

Undisclosed location


Longtime followers of my blog will realize that “undisclosed location” means that I’m on some sort of retreat, and won’t be posting for the duration.   I also will only answer emergency or super-important emails, resist all temptation to look at my ebook sales reports, will not check Facebook or Twitter, will not go to my favorite blogs, and will stay away from the TV.  (Except, I did watch the debate last night.)  I’ve been in stuck in fried-brain mode since, basically, Worldcon in August, and I have got to  get my actual brain back, and get some work done!

This retreat is sadly very short, because I had determined that I must go away Now! Instantly! This very moment if possible!  Also, I had no money.  So a kind friend with a house going unused for five days graciously permitted me to camp out here until Saturday morning.

It’s not very far away, but it’s far-ish.  It’s not entirely isolated, but I can isolate myself by staying put.  I know no one in this town, and so I have no social obligations.   And there’s less light pollution here, so I can see more stars than at home, including (very dimly) the Andromeda galaxy (my unofficial guage of starry-sky quality).  Starry skies are especially uplifting.

It’s also my tradition during retreats to blog only photos, no words.   Yet, here I am chatting away Okay, time to shut up, now.  Catch you on the flip-side.

Look closely to the right of that trunk in the center...

There was a deer here, just before I snapped this picture.


step one: just put it all on the board.

step one: just put it all on the board.



Sep 23 2016

Because Mars.


Yep.  They can do this now.  A panning 360-degree panorama.  Of Mars.

Go full screen, and use your mouse to look around.  And if your mouse has a wheel, you can also zoom in and out!


Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover: Martian solar day 1451


Oh, look, here’s another!

Mars Panorama – Curiosity rover

They actually have a whole bunch of these over at 360pano.eu.  (They allow you to post them for non-commercial purposes.)

I love seeing Mars as an actual place, and the pannable panoramas do give you that sense of being there.

But, want to see my favorite section the panorama?   It’s this:



Here we’re looking down at the ground, and you can see parts of the rover, and its shadow on the Martian sand.  And its very own name-tag.   On Mars.

That’s a thing that human beings made, that is now sitting right there on a planet that is not Earth.

We made it, we sent it there, it got there, it’s doing its job.    So lovely.

More later — I’ve got ton’s o’ chores to do in the next two days.   Still catching up from fighting-snakes mode.




Sep 16 2016

Meanwhile, in the wilds of Connecticut


Here’s a link to an excellent discussion of Cyberpunk, recently broadcast on my local radio station.

I’ve stopped being surprised by how cool Colin McEnroe’s show is.   I first knew of him as a Dave-Barry-esque humor columnist in the Hartford Courant in the Eighties.  But somehow, while I wasn’t looking (i.e. off living in Boston and New Hampshire)  he transformed into this crazily intelligent, erudite, nerdily-witty but deep-thinking radio talk-show host.     Who knew?

The guests on the Cyberpunk episode were Paul Di Filippo, John Shirley, Leigh Grossman, and  Willa Paskin (Slate’s TV critic).   (Bonus mention of Pat Cadigan, around 46:00.)

Thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can browse through McEnroe’s previous episodes, and zero in on whatever amuses, inspires, or sets  you off on therapeutically cathartic rant.  Also, there’s the podcast.

Okay, I’m off — must reread & analyze for the next meeting of the Fabulous Genrettes…


UPDATE:  Here’s that video that was mentioned in the show: Keiichi Masuda’s “Hyper-reality.”  You’ll want to go full-screen.




Sep 15 2016

News about people who are not me.


When we last left Our Intrepid Heroine, she had just got back from weeks away from home (including a cross-country drive accomplished while she and her stalwart Big Sister were both sick as dogs), and had endured an extra, post-trip week of massive cold/flu/whatever, and was finally attempting to get back in the groove by locking herself away from the entire rest of the world…

This lasted about two days, as the entire rest of the world had different plans.

Stuff had to be dealt with! Stuff that could be neither ignored nor postponed.  They existed on their own timelines.   They overlapped timelines!   They wrapped their timelines around each other into mutual strangleholds and battled each other like snakes!  It would have been exciting if it wasn’t exhausting.   Wait, no it wouldn’t.

I’d tell you more, but while I’m free to natter about my own life, I’m reluctant to provide details of other people’s lives.  So, we stay metaphorical and hypothetical.   More fun that way, anyway.  Feel free to insert assumptions of your own imagining, as a creative exercise.

Anyway, I have, like, a day and a half to catch my breath before diving into the cleanup and recovery phase of the events in question.

I could recap my trip, and Worldcon, and the wonderfulness of that (before the cross-country-plaguemobile part); but I only have a little bit of time available to write this blog post, so… I’ll eke that out over a few posts in a week or so from now.

But in the meantime, fortunately, I know cool people, who do cool things that I can tell you about.  Which helps both you and them.


Eternity's End (Star Rigger Universe) by [Carver, Jeffrey A.]

The ebook version of Jeff Carver’s Eternity’s End is currently on sale for 99 cents.   This is a great way to step into Jeff’s Starrigger Universe, and there’s plenty more where that came from.  Seriously, if you love SF that roams the wild space-ways, this is for you.  It’s available pretty much everywhere: Amazon,  NookiBooks,  Kobo,  and Google Play.

Also, there’s this delightful thing:

The trailer only mentions Downpour, but the audiobook also available from Audible (free with trial membership, too) and iTunes.  The guy doing the narration, Stephan Rudnicki, is actually one of my favorite narrators.  I know his voice so well — it’s nice to see his face.

Other non-me news:

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by [Sherman, Delia]

Delia Sherman’s new Young Adult book The Evil Wizard Smallbone is out!  My sister has the hardcover, which has this brilliant wrap-around cover, and I got the Kindle version (for convenience, plus instant gratification)  and I do love it.  Come on, you know you read YA.  Admit it.  Okay, pretend you’re getting it for your nephew or niece or whatever.  But I see through you.

And finally:

The Sirens literary conference (October 20-23) has Laurie J. Marks as a Guest of Honor this year.   Laurie is the author of the acclaimed Elemental Logics series (among other works), and like Delia, is a member of my writing group.  The Sirens website has even  posted an interview with Laurie, which you can read here.

Must go now.   I have all day tomorrow free from snake-battling events.  Must grab it while I can.


UPDATED to include link to two battling snakes.

Sep 2 2016

Some things


Still on the home version of a writing retreat. Sort of like house arrest, but with writing.  Plus, at my office instead of at home.

Planning board. Post-it notes to come. Bonus writing advice.

Planning board. Post-it notes in waiting. Bonus writing advice. (Click to embiggen.)

No blogging, I am hard at work! But as consolation, here are Some Things possibly of interest:

1. Cool video! You should go full-screen.


2. Articles by Jo Walton on Tor.com about her Thessaly Series.

The Baroque Inspiration

The Platonic Inspiration

The Original Inspiration

3. Couldn’t make it to WorldCon?  You can watch the entire Hugo Awards Ceremony on UStream.
Live Streaming Api (The Campbell award, with first bonus astronaut, is at 34:00.  Best Dramatic Presentation, long form, with second bonus astronaut, is at about 1:08.  Hey, I like astronauts. Fiction awards start at about 1:24.)

That’s it for now.  Must put post-its on whiteboard, draw connecting lines, and muse further.


Sep 1 2016

In contemplative mode…


I still owe a convention report — but I find that right now I must set all else aside to engage in deep thoughts.

Meanwhile, feel free to feed the fish in this koi pond, which I find soothing, and very conducive to useful musing.

Click to feed.
(Does not work on iPhones and iPads)

(aBowman’s website has more widgets like this.)