Jan 31 2016

Map Work


Today, in the middle of working on The Current Work, alias Book 5, I was seized by the absolute certainty that I could not take another step without having a physical version of the map of Rowan’s world.   Something on paper, upon which I could actually draw by hand.

When the map was originally created, it was pen-and-ink on Bristol board, which the possessed the lovely attribute of being an object: a thing I could hold and draw directly upon.  Amendments and experiments went in pencil until finalized, then finished in ink.  It was …  satisfying.

Since then, of course, I’ve migrated it over to a digital version.   This has the advantage of being clean and easy to reproduce.   And I can scan handwritten labels, arrange them as needed, and generate a nice crisp copy to put in the ebooks — not to mention a cool zoomable online version.

But one of the features of the series is the way that Rowan’s view of her world expands, so the maps change from book to book.   It’s time to add more:  new areas, and some finer-grained details for existing areas.  But drawing stuff in with a mouse is too clumsy and weird-looking.  But worse: the on-screen, digital map is just too small.

It’s the size of my monitor.  That’s it.  That’s not enough.  I’m mapping a world.  But even with my big monitor, it has no sense of scope, and what I want to add is too tiny to see well…

I can zoom (and so can you, if you go to the digital versions online, Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4), but then I see only the up-close area, and lose sense of where that portion fits in the great sweep of geography.  Things outside the frame effect things inside the frame, and I have to be able to know what’s there in order to decide what should be here.

And, in the grand tradition of life imitating art, I just now realized that everything I said above is absolutely analogous to issues of actually writing the book.   That is, in order to know what’s right to put in this book, I have to remain aware of what’s outside the frame.

Well. Our pal, the metaphor.  Heh.

Anyway, I spent an annoying amount of time getting the current Master Chart to print out physically, since I want the chart to be BIG.  And my printer only prints on standard paper.  So I have to print it out in pieces, and then stick the pieces together.

Now, I did already have a biggish version of the current map, laboriously segmented by hand, printed out a page at a time, and stuck together.  I actually covered it with clear contact laminate-on-a-roll, and put it up on my wall.  I can, to a certain extent, use dry-erase to draw on it… although erasing requires the use of rubbing alcohol.  And dry-erase doesn’t do detail well.  Plus: it was hell to produce!

But I wanted a fresh new copy, an even bigger one, to add fine detail, and I did not want to go through that fuss again.    I’m using GIMP, which is a free image manipulation program, and it just has no command that says “print this out and if it doesn’t fit on one piece of paper, just keep going onto the next piece of paper until you’re done.”

After much fuss and research, I have learned that Excel — that spreadsheet software, the number-cruncher’s friend — can do exactly that. How odd.

Not an ad for Diet Coke.

Not an ad for Diet Coke.

So.  All printed out, ready for trimming and taping.  Plus, now I can print out sections at even closer scale, as often as needed.    For my own purposes, I’ll have to get down to street level in some places..

In other news:   Over on Twitter, Zack Weinberg sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic, with images from a geostationary satellite as it looks down on our world… which he pointed out was rather like [SPOILER DELETED — BUT YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT].  Lovely images, and a link to a video which caused my computer to crash repeatedly because my internet connection in my writing office is a sad little trickle of bandwidth.  But I can watch it at home–  you can watch it now.

Also: There’s this.  A weirdly lovely video, which I forget who brought to my attention…

Jan 25 2016

Blizzard? Not so much.


We had one day of totally blizzard weather, with about a foot of snow, but then it was all over.  Nothing at all like the hit New York City or the Connecticut shoreline took (south of us).

I handled it by staying at home and doing all my household chores for the week.

The following day, all the roads were plowed, and the trip to my writing office (all two miles of it) presented no problem at all.

I would have gone during the blizzard, if not for an unavoidable treacherously steep hill.    No matter which route you take, you have to go down a steep, twisty road that ices over really quickly, and leads directly into a busy intersection.  Saturday was a good day to not do that.

Upside: I could observe all the birdie-pal action at home!  Our restaurant is very popular in winter, being the only one in the neighborhood with a heated birdbath.   Not that they’re bathing — it’s drinking water, and it saves them from having to eat snow and spend precious calories heating it up with their tiny birdie bodies.

We always get the cardinals and sparrows and chickadees, with some juncos tossed in the mix.  Downy woodpeckers, and red-bellied woodpeckers.   The mockingbird comes by once in a while.  But Saturday, we were also mobbed by the starlings.  Good move on their part: we had liquid water, birdseed, a hanging block of suet, and a cedar tree whose branches are loaded down with a good crop of cedar berries.   A well-balanced diet, no foraging in the blizzard required.

In other news:  I totally skipped Arisia, and will probably skip Boskone, as well, due entirely to my dropping the ball during the job-loss officialdom scrambling.  Except, I might possibly drop by for a day, as audience, not panel participants.   Readercon, however: I responded to their request to let them know if I was interested in participating, with a definite Yes!  Last year I got lost in the shuffle, and didn’t make it on the program; this year I want to stay on top of things.

Also: Worldcon is coming up in the middle of August (didn’t it always used to be over Labor Day?  When did that change?), and I really do want to be on the program!   As does every other writer in the universe.  Plenty of competition, there.  Well, I’ll attend either way, but I really want to get back into the swing of panel-participating and fan-meeting, and writerly professional schmoozing.

Okay, enough of this  blogging stuff… I have some actual work to dig into!

— Oh, all right, one more thing: Walk Off the Earth.


The dancers are guest stars, and I bet you didn’t know that your fly could double as a percussion instrument.

One of these days I’m going to have to see those guys in concert.

Jan 23 2016

Time. Plus: tea.


I finally got clear of that whatever-it-was.   I cough only occasionally now, and sometimes feel worn out — but basically: better.

I find myself vastly frustrated that I lost an entire week. I had  plans for that time, and I won’t get it back.  And I do feel that clock ticking these days…

It doesn’t help that people still keep passing away.   Sabine and I discussed it and came to the conclusion that it’s a January thing.  People hang on through the holidays… And then: January.

Our latest loss: Editor David Hartwell.   I did not know him well, but he was a presence in our field, and we chatted a couple of times at convention parties, years ago.  Any time he was in a room, you knew he was there!  The ties helped, and the jackets.   He was well-loved by many, well-respected by most, and someone to whom I was certain I’d one day submit a story, or book or something… won’t have the chance, now.

Here’s a poem Jo Walton wrote in his honor.

I’ve decided that, instead of being sad at all this passing-away, I shall be defiant.

In aid of that, here’s Alan Rickman making a cup of tea, in a video that neatly encapsulates my reaction to all of this.

You know, I think I should view that regularly.

Back to work.




Jan 14 2016

More of the same. Plus: meanwhile, back in the real world…


My thanks to all who wished me a get-well-soon for this cough/cold thingie.

Alas — Still got it!  Yow.

My plans for this week went by the wayside.  My big accomplishment: dragging myself to the doc on Tuesday, where I was afforded much sympathy, and a perscription for antibiotics (normally not given for colds or flu, but she’s concerned that I had it last month, and it came back worse, just in case), and one for cough syrup with codeine (use only ONCE a day, only AT NIGHT, she stressed).  Also a suggestion that I pick up some Robitussin DM for the day, since Dayquil/Nyquil has zero effect.

I did manage to water the houseplants and feed the birds, so that’s something.

Also, watched some TV, much of it astonishingly bad — which is not a problem, as I was unable to give it anything like intelligent attention.   And had I any intelligent attention on hand, I would have found  better uses for it.  Like, oh writing.  Or, alternatively, reading!

Short reviews of some things I saw:

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride: Seriously, WTF?  I feel cheated.

Legend of Korra:  Nice to catch up on the ones I missed, and all in order, thank you Amazon Prime membership — wait, season 4 not included?  I HATE YOU.

Final seasons of Falling Skies: Please be good; Please be passable; Please be not horrible, Please be not unwatchable, Please explain why I keep doing this to myself.

Recent seasons of Teen Wolf: I can no longer remember why I once liked this show.

Brit murder mysteries: Place of Execution, Collision, and Amnesia.   Grim, but I seem to remember they were good.  Of course, I dozed through a lot of it. So.  Bonus John Hannah in Amnesia.

Sliding Doors movie:  Heard a lot about it, finally saw it, and quite enjoyed myself.  Plus: bonus John Hannah.   Opposite John Hannah from the one in Amnesia.

Mozart in the Jungle: saved this for today, when I knew that codeine-induced rest would have me feeling somewhat better, because I already knew it was excellent, and I wanted to be able to appreciate it.  Good move.

Enough about me.  In the real world:

I woke up today to learn that Alan Rickman had left us.   Sad about that… I never knew much about him until Harry Potter, but his brilliance as Snape told me I had been missing something. He’ll always have a place in my heart for that…   Sabine and I saw him live in New York in Seminar, and I thought he was wonderful in the role.

And on January 10, it was David Bowie who departed.  This guy had such a huge effect on popular music, and on so many creative people… and I missed most of it, first time around, since I was a died-in-the-wool folkie during the years of his greatest influence.  I knew him by the echoes of what he did, because those echoes were everywhere.  They still continue, and I’m so amazed.

As a former singer/songwriter myself, and one who as a kid wished to be an astronaut, this video hits me in both places:

Bowie himself once said that he thought this was the most poignant version of the song…

Also — was it really a week ago? — we lost poet and illustrator Claudia Carlson.

I never met Claudia.  But when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, the SF grapevine directed me to many comrades-in-arms.  She was one, and I quickly Facebook-friended her.  I was so amazed at her constant creativity, her depth and humor, and astonishing grace.   While I hunkered down to get through my chemo, she got through hers writing poems, drawing endlessly, finishing an illustrated children’s book and yet another book of poetry.  Gone now, and I’m so sad.

Here’s a review of her last book of poetry, My Chocolate Sarcophagus.

Here’s the Amazon link, to pre-order.

All three, lost to cancer, in one week.

Here are three who lived:

Pat Cadigan, SF author, cyberpunker  — first told she had only two years left to live, recently told that they have no idea when she’ll die.  Could be a while; could be years; might be more than a decade.   Her cancer went from something you die from to something you live with.

Mary Anne Mohanraj, author (including SF!), teacher at Clarion and professor at the University of Illinois — finished her chemotherapy on December 21.  The chemo shrunk her tumor, and like me, she ended up with a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.

And there’s me.



Jan 11 2016

Well, heck.


What’s the good of having the whole house to yourself for the whole week, if you’re  going to be sick for half of it?

That whatever-it-was that hit me last month has come roaring  back, and I just spent the last two days watching TV, sleeping, and coughing.  Today looks to be much the same…


Buy stock in Kleenex. Sales will be strong.

Buy stock in Kleenex. Sales will be strong.


I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so there’s that.

I’m doin’ nothin’ for a while.

More later, when I wake up.



Jan 7 2016

Meanwhile, over on Twitter…


… Emma Watson (tweeting as @EmWatson) is starting up a book club.

A feminist book club.

Well, yes, of course I sent a tweet her way.

Including this amazon link.  Just, you know, in case.

(I tweet as @rkirstein.)

In other news: into the second week of January, and there are decisions to be made… I’ll know more shortly.

Also:  I now have insurance!  This is good.

Plus: a lot of plot that made no sense is being replaced with plot that makes sense.   It seems to be working.

Best news yet.

The cover. Just in case you happened to need the cover...

The cover.   No particular reason (walks off,  whistling innocently).

Jan 1 2016

The snows of 2015

Yep. That was them.

Yep. That was them.

Noticed on my evening’s walk around the condo complex.   Good thing I took that walk — I would have missed 2015’s snows entirely.

There was another bit clustered by a fire hydrant, and one more in the shadow of our front steps.

And… that’s it for winter 2015.