Dec 31 2018

Plunged into darkness!




Real candle plus fake candle.

Gosh, thought I, I have a great idea.  I’ll clean my office!

It was starting to get sort of random, with books and papers in places that books and papers should not be hanging out, largely because those particular books and papers have not been assigned proper homes, so they are loitering in random corners, muttering to each other, and generally wasting their time.   I knew that if I didn’t take care of them, they’d soon be pitching pennies, sassing passers-by and smoking cigarettes.

No one wants to see books and papers go bad.  Get this in hand before it’s too late!

Fortunately  I had a couple of hours free before settling down to my night’s work.  And what better day to do it?  I would come back on New Year’s Day with my office already in order, and be ready to attack my work with vigor and alacrity, with nothing else hanging over my head, and only pleasing vistas and comfort all around.

Also, I could make some tea.  My fave Lapsang Souchong, which I haven’t had lately, as I’ve been trying to do more green tea instead.  Also, hey!  Susan Forbes Hansen’s show, Sunday Night Folk Festival,  on the radio — I can’t tune it in, because we’re in sort of a reception sinkhole, but live streaming on the computer works just fine!  Just the thing to keep me entertained while sorting and cleaning.

Excellent plan.

Step one: take all those recalcitrant books and papers, and put them out into stacks in the corridor. Done.

Step two: take every object off every surface and put them in corridor, too, so I can dust every surface. Done.

Step three: What’s that beeping noise?

And why is it so dark?

The beeping noise my computer’s emergency UPS, doing its job and keeping that computer running so I could save any files and shut it down properly.   Because we suddenly had no power.

It took some doing to find out that it was only this office/business/warehouse complex that had no power, and that the rest of the town was fine. I had to climb on the roof, to look around.

But this is very a big old collection of former mills and factories, and it wasn’t just my building. The whole vast thing was dark.  Nothing here had power.

I saw a police car cruising along, doing a full circle of the whole complex, which was reassuring.  Probably an emergency alarm went off because of the power being out.  Glad they were on the job.

But I had no electricity.

There were emergency floodlights in the stairwells, where they were doing me no good at all — all my stuff, as you may recall, being now out in the corridor.   In the dark.

So I contemplated my situation, found it inexpressibly amusing, threw up my hands, turned on the flashlight function on my phone, and hauled it all back into my office.  I couldn’t listen to Sunday Night Folk Festival while I worked, so I whistled some tunes instead.

I put my tea in a thermos, and then threw everything out of the mini-fridge that I thought might go bad in three days — because, hey, with New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and New Year’s Day the next day, who the heck would be working to fix this?  Could I even try to contact the building owners?  The management office was certainly closed, but would they even check their messages until after the holiday?

With that all settled, I gathered my laptop, some books, the tea, the trash, and hauled it all down to my car, and headed out.  Plans gang agly, as the poet says.

But… just in case, I thought I’d circumnavigate the whole complex.

And around the back, I came across these guys:

“Ah,”  I said to the dudes at work, “this explains it!”

“What, didn’t anyone tell you?” they asked.

“Tell me… what?”

This had been planned for months. They could not believe that no one had bothered to tell me about it!  They were making repairs, had to turn off the power to do it, all scheduled ahead of time!  How could I not have been told?

Well.  I believe they assumed I was an employee of some business there, and that my bosses would have been told, and they ought to have told me.  I didn’t correct them, and allowed them to be outraged on my behalf, which I feel was very kind of them.

But in fact, it’s pretty easy for the building owners to forget that I exist, and that I work on the weekends.  And that Sunday night 9PM, just before a major holiday would be a time and day that I would be in my office, at work, in need of electricity.

With a bit of trepidation, I asked the dudes how long the repairs would take — would they be done, say, by Wednesday?

The were amused.  “Five AM tomorrow.”

So, all is well after all.  I’ll pop back tomorrow and take care of everything.  I’ll probably see the turn of the year at my desk, in my office, watching the countdown and toasting with some Laphraoig.

Meanwhile, tonight I’ve set up here in my kitchen, and am about to have some popcorn and watch Bandersnatch on Netflix to see if it’s as fun as I’ve been hearing.

Tea, fleurs, laptop

I sure hope 2019 is an improvement on 2018, because damn.

However, I have to say 2018 is ending rather well because — remember that mention by James Davis Nicoll?

Well, I got a nice bump in my sales as a result.  A very nice bump.   I won’t get the royalties until the end of February, but this is by far my best sales month in years.  I’ve sold, well, let me check… yep.  As of now, just over 500 books this month.

So, that’s a nice way to end the year!

Possibly your year is ending as positively as mine is!  And possibly, though we might not actually believe in omens, we can pretend to, and view it all as a good omen for the possibilities of 2019.

Yeah, let’s do that.


Dec 24 2018

Found among my mother’s papers


My sister came across this, while sorting through old files.

Christmas long ago.

The Evening before was always the big time, Weihnachtsabend in Germany.  Santa did not bring our presents, but “das Christkindl,” the Christ Child.  It would slip into your house or apartment, left all the gifts under the Tree, lighted the Candles, and when it flew out the window a little bell would jingle.  Then you could come in and be surprised by the beautiful tree and the many presents.

I remember waiting out in the staircase of our Apartmenthaus with the Neighbor’s children for the little bell to ring.  We tried to guess what we  would get, if our gentle hints had brought results.  Sometimes it worked, but mostly it was a surprise. But we were happy about every little thing we received  Oh, the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.

I’ve corrected some spelling from the handwritten version, to prevent confusion, but I left the odd capitals — in German, all nouns are capitalized, and some of that impulse still moved my mother’s hand.

I have  no idea what year my she wrote this down.  Ingeborg Hilbig was born in 1927, so her childhood memories of Christmas in Germany probably refer to 1930 through about 1938.  Her command of English is fairly good here, but other notes in the same file, from later in her life, show a much more sophisticated command of vocabulary and idiom.  This might have been written as early a 1963, more than ten years after she and her husband and baby Sabine immigrated to the United States.

One thing that unexpectedly moved me — and it’s particularly a writer’s thing, I believe.  It’s in that very last line.

It says, “Oh the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.”  But look closely:  that “I” is squeezed in there, between “and” and “wonder.”

It’s so clear to me that she originally wrote: “Oh the days of Childhood and wonder, where did they go to.”  It’s a much better line.

But she didn’t trust her command of her new language, wasn’t certain about the turn of phrase, and she put that “I” in there to be safe.  Mom, your first impulse was better!  Don’t overthink your prose!

Sadly, she’s been gone many years now.  So many stories she never told us…

And now it’s 2018, the actual, hardly-dreamed-of 21st Century.   I’m hoping your holidays are as sweet and memorable as my mother’s were.

As for me, I’m cooking up some turkey stew — always a happy event in our house!  The little Christmas tree (incognito as a mere house plant the rest of the year) has new tiny LED lights that do not weigh its  branches down.


Our best to you and everyone you love.






Dec 17 2018

And speaking of…


Quick note: reviewer James Davis Nicoll  mentioned the series in an article on today!  “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction that Bypass the Gatekeepers.”

“Of course, the best example of hard science fiction to date is Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series (The Steerswoman, The Outskirters’ Secret, The Lost Steerman, and The Language of Power). What at first appears to be a straightforward fantasy setting, in which wise-woman Rowan finds herself pitted against a community of (generally quite disagreeable) wizards, is soon revealed to be nothing of the sort. In fact, Rowan’s world is far more alien and interesting than most secondary-world fantasies. Rather than a Tolkienian struggle between good and evil as such, the heart of the series is science itself, the process of unravelling the true nature of the world despite all the barriers placed in our way.”

I could not ask for a better recommendation than that.   And including me with Mary Robinette Kowal, Linda Nagata, Maureen McHugh, and Lee Killough — that’s some good company.


Dec 15 2018

Random mid-December musings.


I’m two weeks past my November internet fast and… I kind of miss it.  It was very peaceful.

It’s easy to say that you’re not going to waste time on unnecessary media browsing; and it’s even possible to stick to that goal.  But there’s something about being literally unable to cheat on your plan.  In a weird way, the pressure is off.  You don’t have to exert willpower to stay away, because there just is no access available.   And willpower is not an infinite resource, as so many self-help books will tell you nowadays.  You don’t want to spend it all on trivialities and have it depleted when you really need it!

So, I might repeat the regimen in January.  I’ll still have (as I had last month) the really necessary access available via my phone — email, mainly, in case something comes in that needs immediate urgent response.  I’ll just have to make sure that any research I need done for the work I have planned in January is located, accessed, printed and/or acquired, and if possible read and integrated ahead of time, before pulling the plug.  Or, declining to connect the plug, in my case.  I don’t have wired-in internet, and just buy a month’s access at a time through a nearby hotspot.

And should I really need access, and can’t wait until the end of the day — well, home is exactly two miles from my office, and the library just over one mile away.

News about people who are not me:

Physicist Chad Orzel’s latest science book is out:  Breakfast with Einstein.  It showed up on my Kindle a couple of days ago, because I wisely pre-ordered  it.  I haven’t had a chance to dig in to it yet, but Professor Orzel is a favorite of mine, and always illuminating, so I feel secure in recommending it.

Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects by [Orzel, Chad]

Apparently John Scalzi, who has read it, agrees with me.  He’s blurbed the book .  Right there on the cover.  And featured it with a guest-post by Chad himself, which you can read right now on Scalzi’s Whatever blog.

Another thing about our Mr. Scalzi: every December he generously allows writers, artists and other creators to talk about their own work in his Holiday Gift Guide series — and he has a very big readership.  This year I tried to be right on the spot to see if I could grab a position as near as possible to the beginning of the listing.  It’s first-come, first-serve, but I didn’t know what time the blog would open up for submissions.  And my sleeplessness paid off: I nabbed third place.  So… should you need an idea for a holiday gift, well, the books are out there.  And in paperback ,now, too!  I would be remiss not to remind you of this. For formality’s sake.


But here’s something I noticed:

The Lord of the Rings: One Volume

Inexplicably, the all-in-one Kindle version of Lord of the Rings is currently priced at $2.99.

I knew it was on sale a while back, and nabbed it for myself then, thinking the price would go back up very quickly.  But apparently it’s back down again.  I have no idea how long this will last.

I really do prefer reading on paper… but LOTR is a lot of paper!  It’s much easier to travel with the ebook edition.  And when cash is tight, and you love books — well, it’s a solution for the literature-greedy people like me.

Of course, there’s the library.  But you have to give those back!  Eventually.  (I currently owe $1.20 in overdue book fees.)

Oh, and one more not-me thing:


No, you can’t buy this, yet!  But Laurie J. Marks’ Air Logic has a cover and a publication date!  It’ll hit the stands, bookstores and online sites in July.

I’m so looking forward to having a copy of this.  As a member of Laurie’s writer’s group,  I got to watch it grow up!  And soon it will go out into the world all alone. (Brushes away a sentimental tear.)

Okay, I feel like I’ve been talking about things you can spend money on for long enough.  So here’s something completely free: is one of the absolutely best sources for new short fiction.  They put great new stories by great new writers on their website, and you can read them for free.  (Don’t worry; the writers themselves are well-paid.)

I can’t say enough good things about  They’re an outstanding source of information about new books, new SF/F ideas, reviews of books and films and TV, current and vintage.  And general SF/F news.  And interviews with authors.  And thoughtful essays… If any of these things are of any interest to you, really is the place to go.

Well.  Must call it a night.  I blogged straight through my guitar practice time!  No, I can’t do it now, I have to go home and get some sleep.  Okay, just one song…


Dec 1 2018

Back from the land of limited Internet access


Yes, December 1, and my self-imposed fast is over.  It was… interesting.

I had considered the possibility of extending it through December, but it’s really become too inconvenient.  Since I spend most of my time at my office,  the things that one must do but can only do online started piling up.  I was able to take care of the urgent tasks for the duration, by doing them at home instead of here; but that had its own extra inconvenience, because all my supporting documents and paperwork and notes are here, too.

I’m very glad I did it, however, and I’ll certainly do it again.  For shorter periods, perhaps.  A month was pushing it; as soon as I logged on again, it was with a great flurry of bill-paying and finance tracking.

The experience helped me get a better perspective on how one’s day can be used to best effect.  I did some good stuff, and I’m rather pleased with myself!

I allowed myself to become bored, as well, and saw again how very useful that is.  A lot of what one perceives as the frantic pace of modern life is actually self-imposed.  Good to know…

I found that did a lot more reading than I had been doing lately, from feeling too stressed and time-pressed to give it the attention it takes. That was a great relief — I became a writer because I love the whole amazing mystery of words on a page turning into worlds in the mind.

And in aid of that, I checked out from the library (but have not yet got very far into) Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain.



I was inspired to get it in the first place, from hearing about Wolf’s latest book, Reader Come Home.


I had nabbed this because of its title and description — it seemed on-topic with my internet-fast experiment.  But once I started it, I realized that it would be a good idea to do Proust and the Squid first, since that one was more nuts-and-bolts.  Reader, Come Home seemed a more personal exploration and expansion of the repercussions of the information in the previous book.  So, I paused and backed up.  I’ll report back when I’ve read more.

As for fiction: the other day I decided I needed a breather (it’s sometimes very distracting to read fiction while I’m writing other fiction), and wanted something that I knew I could blast through — but would still have some real grace and strength.  YA, I thought, I want some YA — But good YA…

I have two reliable choices when it comes to that: Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series; and anything by Scott Westerfeld.


I confess that I had originally avoided reading this, because I knew that it involved a teenage girl who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo, sold it to a big-league publisher, and got vaulted into the publishing world and New York City, and the idea just made me jealous.  I freely admit this!  They didn’t have NaNoWriMo when I was in my teens — they didn’t even have the Internet. My buried seventeen-year-old me was grumpy and envious of the publishing career of a fictional character.

Well, but I could not leave it unread for long, because: hey, Scott Westerfeld.  I don’t think he’s ever disappointed me. So, this seemed a good time to give it a go.

Well worth the wait.  I swallowed it in two big gulps.  It has everything I could ask for in a YA.  And I even did not mind that it had a romance — two, actually.  I generally can’t stand books that center on romances, but one thing my favorite authors are able to do is make me like a book of categories that I generally do not like at all.

But I must say… if the protagonist’s first-novel advance is typical for YA writers, then I definitely am in the wrong genre! Ouch.

One interesting thing about reading YA is the meta-view, the overview.  It’s easier to see the bones, and appreciate the skill going into the twists of plot an turns of phrase.  In Afterworlds, Westerfeld alternates chapters of his protagonist’s real life as she enters the publishing world with chapters of the YA supernatural romance that the protagonist is completing.  It sounds like a cute gimmick, but its execution is not gimmicky at all, and he keeps both stories rolling along.  It’s a book that’s very intelligently written, while remaining as involving as a YA needs to be.  I’m sorry I waited so long  — and I learned a lot from reading it, I must say.

Plus: It has one of my all-time favorite sentences ever written by a human being.  When it showed up on the page, I was stunned.  I had to put the book down, and just sat there, saying the sentence over and over to myself.

Okay, it won’t hit everyone the way it hit me; but it perfectly articulates a thing that I knew, a thing that matters to me, but that I never articulated.  It is so true, and so simply said, that I cannot help but love it.

It’s a line said by the protagonist’s little sister — just a quip, just a tossed-off half-joke, as she casually explained her love of math:


Westerfeld just tossed that off, and went back to the story.

See, this is what the writers I love do.