Jul 13 2020

Sighting NEOWISE


Yesterday I managed a lovely sighting of everybody’s favorite new comet, NEOWISE, which has been gracing our morning sky for the last few days.

Well.  Gracing the sky of those with no cloud cover!  It’s been cloudy and rainy and even thunderstorming for a full week here in southern New England.  But yesterday, as I was coming home from the office, I saw that we had, miraculously, a perfect, clear sky.  And since I tend to leave my office around 2:30, 3:00 AM, all I had to do was stay up for about another hour to reach the best pre-dawn sighting time.

Unlike most comets that amble through our skies, it can actually be seen with the naked eye.  And if you’re an old hand at star-watching, like me, it’s not hard to find.

However, if you’re not an old hand at star-watching and backyard astronomy — it can be next to impossible to spot!   So, here are some tips.


Space, as Douglas Adams famously said, is Big.  The comet is little.   It’s a teeny-tiny thing in the great big sky.

All those great photos you’ve seen on the internet, with the big comet and flashy tail filling the image?  Yeah, they were made with big fat lenses on the camera.  Telephoto, and such.  Or made with digital cameras with super-high resolution, creating an image that you can later expand the hell out of and crop down to something big and dramatic.

But up there in the sky — it’s little.  Still absolutely worth seeing!   It’s like a beautiful, eerie little ghost…



Binoculars are sadly underrated as aids to star-gazing.  But really, your average modern binoculars are about as good as the very first telescope that Galileo peered through.   That pair you have in the back of your closet will do just fine.  (Be sure you know how to focus them.)

Once you’ve spotted the comet with binoculars, you’ll find you can also see it without them — just, you know, smaller.

But you might not be able to see the tail very well with the naked eye, because its light is fighting horizon haze, light pollution, and the approaching sunrise.  Those things can (and probably will) drown out the dim tail entirely…   But with binoculars, you will see the tail.

All this, of course, assuming that you:


It’s currently in the morning sky, northeast, an hour or so before dawn. But as instructions go, that’s a little vague.

Try looking for Venus, currently crazily brilliant in  our morning sky, in the east.  It’ll be the brightest thing you can see.   Start there, and then scan along to the left, with a little bit of up and down as you go.  You should encounter the comet along the way.

Or, use a chart!  This article in Sky & Telescope online has some excellent charts.  Scroll down past the big dramatic photos to reach them.

Comet NEOWISE Delights at Dawn


The comet is a morning object in the northeast until the 15th,  and becomes an early evening object in the northwest from the 14th onward.   Yes, there’s an overlap when you can see it in the morning, and in the evening.  This is not as weird as you might think.  Because it’s scooting along in the north part of our sky.

Once it’s an evening object, you can use the Big Dipper to find it… but it will get dimmer.  Because, sadly, it is going away….

Meanwhile, it’s now past 4AM, which is prime viewing time — but now it’s gone all cloudy here!  Alas.

Well, time to pack it in, and go home… maybe there will be a crack in the clouds in the northeast?


Jul 8 2020

Well, hello there.


It’s been (oh, wow) about three months since I last posted here.   But fear not: I have not abandoned my blog.   I’ve just been… occupied.

I had some personal stuff that needed attention (nothing dire; don’t worry); and simultaneously some unavoidable other tasks (think:DMV in the age of pandemic);  and then minor things that became hard because of being simultaneous with everything else —

— All on top of THE STATE OF THE WORLD, especially the United States.  Which state itself consists of three huge things going on simultaneously.

So, with everything all together, I’ve been kind of exhausted and not much inclined to blog…

But it’s been too long!  So, here I am.

I still have things to say… and I will, in the coming weeks, also say some stuff about the Great Big Things going on in the world — largely because silence is open to misinterpretation.

But… not today!  Today all I can handle is just stepping out of the general chaos and exhaustion, looking around, and basically being okay with my plans.

Oh, and I really did not want to miss the opportunity to make you aware of Jo Walton’s new book:


Or What You Will by [Jo Walton]

I’m so excited about this.   I was at her reading at Scintillation last year, where she read the first chapter, and I just fell in love with it.

Now, the first chapter is all that I have read so far — it just arrived on my Kindle today — But rereading that chapter just confirmed my previous delight.

For a taste, here’s the very first paragraph:

She won’t let me tell all the stories. She says it’ll make them all sound the same. She’s had too much of my tricks and artfulness, she says. I have been inspiration, but now she is done with me. So I am trapped inside this cave of bone, this hollow of skull, this narrow and limited point of view that is all I am allowed, like a single shaft from a dark lantern. She has all the power. But sometimes she needs me. Sometimes I get out.

Jo Walton, Or What You Will, Tor Books, 2020

In other news: the New Decameron is continuing, in a slightly different form.   After 100 days of stories and excerpts to delight us during our pandemic isolation, they are moving forward by reposting the original 100 offerings.  So, if you missed them the first time around, you can still get to see them all.

In other other news: A friend bought himself a Tesla.  And sold me his previous car.  2009 Toyota Venza.

Apr 13 2020

Quick reminder about the Decameron Project


Popping in to remind you that the New Decameron is still going on, giving you a work of fiction or poetry every single day — and today’s offering is by my pal, and fellow member of the Fabulous Genrettes writer’s group, Laurie J Marks.

Laurie is the author of the famous Elemental Logics Series, which recently came to a conclusion.  For the Decameron Project, she’s giving us a peek at her current work-in-progress, The Cunning Men.

Remember: you can read the Project Decameron selections  on Patreon  for free; but you’re also perfectly free, if you so desire, to make a contribution.  Your choice.  The money is split between the authors and a charity called   Cittadini del Mondo, which runs a library and clinic for refugees in Rome.  All good causes!

In unrelated news:  Did my taxes.  Even though we’ve been gifted with extra time.  I just like to get it off my mind.

Apr 6 2020

The parks are busier, but nature has its own ideas…


Having such a sedentary profession, I try very hard to take a good walk at least five days a week.  The local linear trail is a good choice, especially if I’m short on time.  It’s right here, it’s a measurable and predictable distance, portable restrooms are nearby, and if you pick your time you can get the whole trail pretty much to yourself.  And with no difficult terrain, it’s perfect for audiobooks and podcasts (my current listen: The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  So far… Hm.  I’m ambivalent, but I’ll give it a few more chapters before settling on an opinion).

And if I miss the quieter hours at the linear trail, there’s Sleeping Giant State Park also nearby, with more demanding terrain.  Less compatible with audiobooks, but better suited for basking in nature and thinking deep thoughts…

Assuming, that is, that one can be alone.

Alas.  It’s an ironic fact of these pandemic days that requiring people to work from home if they possibly can, the better to maintain social distance, has actually resulted in all my favorite places of solitude being filled with people.

Today: there’s no place to park at the linear trail at all, unless you wait out a family loading up their collapsible baby-buggy, and nab their spot as they leave.  Sleeping Giant shut down its main entrance, with a ranger waving cars away and a big sign reading “PARK IS AT CAPACITY.”  And all the other trailheads leading into the park (of which there are about 10, some barely known to the general public) — all had cars right there!  Three, four, and in one case about 9, five of which were parked on the shoulder of the road.

Yes, everybody — good citizens all – -have heeded the warning and are staying away from the office.  They’ve also heeded the other warning and are staying away from the gym.  And they’ve looked up how to best conduct their new at-home working life, and read about how very important it is to move around and not sit still all day.  Obvious solution: Let’s all go for a walk!  And we’ll take the now-home-schooled kids, and the dog, and load up the stroller so baby makes five.

Well.  It is, of course Sunday today, so it’s at its worst.  Weekdays are bearable, if you can hit the 2:30 sweet spot.

But today I was itching to walk!  Even before the pandemic, I just always wanted to walk as alone as possible.  And  now — Well, I gave up, and just went to the office, as usual.

Social distancing made easy.

But when I got there, I looked around and went: Hey, wait a minute…

The parks were crowded… but this whole complex of warehouses and converted factories was completely empty.

So I just locked the car and started walking.   Over the little creek bridge,  up past the gun-range…

Creek ahead, gun range behind me.

Back past the climbing school, the HVAC installation company.  Around the movers, with their many big moving trucks now sitting idle; past the sky-high mounds of rotting skids and pallets way in the back, past the archery range and out through a driveway paralleling the Quinnipiac River.

Two kingfishers zipped past me along the creek.


And when I got to the street — usually pretty busy — barely a car in sight.  So I crossed, and stood on the bridge over the Quinnipiac for a bit.  Here was the solitude I was looking for…

Well, except for the adjacent Dog Park, filled with dogs and people.  But still, pretty good!  A lot of water-sounds, bird-calls.

All along my walk, I had been noticing that particular scree, scree which is the sound of either a raptor, or some other bird who has spotted a raptor and wants to warn everybody by imitating the sound –  blue jays are generally good at that kind of warning call.  So I was already on the look-out.  Hawk, or something, right?  Love to catch sight of that…

And what should sail into view but two freakin’ bald eagles.

One had a fish; the other wanted that fish.  Hijinks ensued.

They weren’t technically bald, as neither had their adult plumage yet; but one was clearly on the way, with great splotches of white on his head and tail.  And they were just up there in the sky, not all that high, and swooping lower.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to pull out my camera; I just soaked it all in.

The one with the fish was heavily burdened; that thing must have been a good 10 inches long, and wriggling like mad in the bird’s talons.   The eagle had to work had to keep in the air –which it was strongly motivated to do, as the other eagle (probably a sibling), kept zooming in, flipping nearly upside down at the last moment, to make its snatches at the prize.

Eventually, the pair moved away from the river and went down the street — and I mean: down the street, lower than the tops of the trees on each side, just sailing along above the empty road.  And left at the fork.  And then gone.

Now, I did already know there were bald eagles around here, and I’ve spotted them before, back when I first got this office.  But I hadn’t seen the eagles  for a couple of years, actually. And I’ve even seen this fish-stealing behavior before (between two adults), but at a much greater distance,  with them mere specks, and me squinting up at the sky.

This was amazing.

I do not live in the wilderness — this is a town.  Just now… a bit  quieter.

I think I’ll skip the parks and  just stroll the streets from now on.   They’ll get busy again, noisy again.  But for now: me and the birds.

Mar 21 2020

The new Decameron continues


I just read Max Gladstone’s short story, “Stop Motion,” on the Decameron Project’s Patreon page.   What a neat, eerie little tale!

The only other thing I’ve read of his is This is How You Lose the Time War, written in collaboration with Amal el-Mohtar — which of course, I loved (as I’ve mentioned previously).  And I see that a couple of his ebooks are on sale for 2.99, so I’m grabbing one of those.

I’m a little behind in my New Decameron reading; Heather Rose Jones‘ contribution, “All is Silence”  is already up; and at some point today the next tale will pop up– By Robert Silverberg!  And it’s one I’ve never read before: “The Trouble With Sempoanga.”

Honestly, aren’t you tired of looking at Netflix?  Read something!

(Contribute if you choose to; but if not, it’s free to read.)



Mar 18 2020

My excerpt now up on the Decameron Project site


Yep; here it is: from Volume 6, The City in the Crags, Chapter One

Why from Volume 6 instead of Volume 5, you ask?

Because my Decameron contribution needed to be something never previously published — and that also applies to excerpts posted on blogs.  And while there are bits from Volume 5 that make good excerpts, and are reasonably comprehensible without the full story, and do not contain too many spoilers — well, I’ve posted most of ’em here.  It’s my habit, when I do a live reading, to later share what I’ve read with people who were not able to attend the reading; and I do that by putting it here.

But although I have read the opening  of The City in the Crags live before, I somehow never posted it.  Therefore: technically unpublished.

So, there it is, for your self-isolation diversion.

Oh, and don’t forget that Jo Walton has created lead-ins for each of the Decameron tales; and that the lead-in  is located at the end of the previous tale. So, you should read Leah Bobet’s story to hear the lead-in to mine; and read Jo Walton’s piece of Or As You Will to hear how she moves into Leah’s story, as well as the opening of the whole frame-story.  And a the end of my bit today, you’ll find a lead-in for tomorrow’s tale: Max Gladstone’s “Stop Motion”…

Oh, just read ’em all.  You know you want to.

The Decameron Project.



Mar 17 2020

More about the New Decameron


If some of you are hesitant about checking out the diverting stories and exerpts avalable on the Decameron Project’s Patreon site… here’s a thing you should know…

You can read them for free.

Yes, FREE, I said.

Even though it’s set up as subscriber-based, the stories are actually being made available to all.

Because, hey: we need it!  Hanging around at home, responsibly social-distancing — we all deserve a reward for that, right?

If you don’t have the bucks, you’re not excluded.  (If you do, please consider contributing.)

So, what you do:

Go to the Decameron Project.

Scroll on down to the bottom of the page.

Read each entry.  Ta-da!

You need to start at the bottom, because entries are posted blog-style, with the newest at the top.

Jo Walton is writing the frame story, which introduces each tale; followed by her own tale, the first up.  (It’s one that I heard her read live, and it had me misty-eyed…) That went up yesterday.

Today’s entry is Leah Bobet’s “One Hundred Tasks for Bones.” ( Which I’ll be reading as soon as I finish this blog post, and um, do some chores.   Yeah, that’ll be my reward.)

My entry is being posted tomorrow.  It’s the beginning of Volume 6, The City in the Crags.

If you do decide to become a patron of the project (that being what Patreon is all about, really), here’s something else: you can limit your contribution.  We encourage you  subscribe per-entry, but if that’s too much, you can set a cap on what you pay and you still can access all the stories.

So, there you go.

Here’s the link again: The Decameron Project.



Mar 16 2020

The New Decameron


You’ve heard of The Decameron, right?  Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron? 

The Decameron (Penguin Classics)

You know, the classic.

Wherein a group of friends have basically self-quarantined, and decide to pass the time by telling each other stories?  That Decameron?

Yeah, okay.  I didn’t read it, either.  But hey, I’m erudite!  I’ve read about it.   And I also read part of it.  And it’s still sitting in my Kindle library, waiting for me to come back to it…

But here’s the thing:  Maya Chhabra (poet, author, reviewer) decided that we need something like that now.  Stories!  Diversions!  as we hunker down and wait for things to settle.  So she connected with Jo Walton (author)  and Lauren Schiller (librarian, singer, famed in SF/F circles)…

And thus: The Decameron Project.

It’s being run on Patreon.  Sign up, and you get a story or novel excerpt every day.   For how long?  As long as the stories last, is what I’ve been told.

And… Yep, one of those excerpts will be from me. 

And who else?

Well, Jo Walton… and Daniel Abraham (aka 1/2 of James S.A. Corey), Mike Allen, Leah Bobet, Pamela Dean, Max Gladstone, Naomi Kritzer, Marissa Lingen, Usman Malik, Ada Palmer, Laurie Penny, Ellen Kushner, and…

Well, that’s all I know about so far.  More on the way, or so I’ve heard.

Surely, surely you need diversion these days, don’t you?

Take a look; check it out.

Income from the project goes to the authors AND to Cittadini del Mondo, a charity that runs a library and clinic for refugees in Rome.

Mar 14 2020

Social Distance


Apparently certain persons in authority (who shall remain nameless here, lest I burst into a spittle-flinging hissy-fit) have finally realized that it might actually be a good idea to pay attention to science.  Because, you know, pandemic.  And now a national emergency is in effect.

Well, excellent.  Wash your hands (soap works on viruses for extra-cool chemical reasons).  And use hand sanitizer if you’ve got it (60% alcohol at least).

And, you know, stay away from crowds…  Well, that part is easy for me.

Sure, I go to the office five days a week, and sometimes more.  But my office staff consists entirely of Me.

As a writer, I don’t get walk-in business.  It’s not a storefront. All the people who need to communicate with me are already on the other side of a big fat wall of technology: phones, email, internet, Skype.

And if you buy my paperbacks, those books never even touched my hands, at least — unless you want an autographed copy. Maybe you should wait a bit on that…  And should you choose to buy an ebook, well, that hasn’t touched anybody’s hands, ever, and actually never will!

As for the building where my office is located: I’m on the top floor, where there are 14 offices, of which only 4 currently have any occupants.  And we’re not chummy, we don’t hang out with each other. Plus, the staircase that I use accesses only the third floor, neatly bypassing the entirely legitimate and completely therapeutic massage business located on the second floor.

And on top of all that: my hours here tend to be from 3PM to 3AM.  So… not a lot of overlap with the other 3rd floor residents.

Well, except for the artist who moved in right across the hall from me.  His hours are inexplicable, and sometimes he’s here even later than I am — but again, we never visit each other, and I’ve actually only seen him twice.  On a daily basis, he basically consists of a door that slams, and occasionally the sound of a radio.  We’re off in our own worlds, really.

So… I figure I’m in good shape, here.

It might be less easy for you — but just be sensible, do the things, stay safe.

And should you desperately need some communal activity, try following the example of these folks on lockdown in Siena:


Feb 23 2020



No, not a new snack food — it’s the 2019 Nebula Award finalists, the list of which was recently released.

I’m sure you follow all sorts of SF/F websites or social media accounts, so you’ve certainly seen this list already, right?

Well.  Just in case you missed it, here it is:


Marque of Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Orbit UK)
A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine (Tor)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey; Jo Fletcher)
Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)
A Song for a New Day, Sarah Pinsker (Berkley)


“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”, Ted Chiang (Exhalation)
The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing)
This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, Vylar Kaftan (Tor.com Publishing)
The Deep, Rivers Solomon, with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson & Jonathan Snipes (Saga)
Catfish Lullaby, A.C. Wise (Broken Eye)


“A Strange Uncertain Light”, G.V. Anderson (F&SF 7-8/19)
“For He Can Creep”, Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com 7/10/19)
“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light”, Mimi Mondal (Tor.com 1/23/19)
“The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye”, Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 7-8/19)
Carpe Glitter, Cat Rambo (Meerkat)
“The Archronology of Love”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed 4/19)

Short Story

“Give the Family My Love”, A.T. Greenblatt (Clarkesworld 2/19)
“The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power”, Karen Osborne (Uncanny 3-4/19)
“And Now His Lordship Is Laughing”, Shiv Ramdas (Strange Horizons 9/9/19)
“Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island”, Nibedita Sen (Nightmare 5/19)
“A Catalog of Storms”, Fran Wilde (Uncanny 1-2/19)
“How the Trick Is Done”, A.C. Wise (Uncanny 7-8/19)

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, Carlos Hernandez (Disney Hyperion)
Catfishing on CatNet, Naomi Kritzer (Tor Teen)
Dragon Pearl, Yoon Ha Lee (Disney Hyperion)
Peasprout Chen: Battle of Champions, Henry Lien (Holt)
Cog, Greg van Eekhout (Harper)
Riverland, Fran Wilde (Amulet)

Game Writing

Outer Wilds, Kelsey Beachum (Mobius Digital)
The Outer Worlds, Leonard Boyarsky, Megan Starks, Kate Dollarhyde, Chris L’Etoile (Obsidian Entertainment)
The Magician’s Workshop, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
Disco Elysium, Robert Kurvitz (ZA/UM)
Fate Accessibility Toolkit, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (Evil Hat Productions)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Avengers: Endgame, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Marvel Studios)
Captain Marvel, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck & Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Marvel Studios)
Good Omens: “Hard Times”, Neil Gaiman (Amazon Studios/BBC Studios)
The Mandalorian: “The Child”, Jon Favreau (Disney+)
Russian Doll: “The Way Out”, Allison Silverman and Leslye Headland (Netflix)
Watchmen: “A God Walks into Abar”, Jeff Jensen & Damon Lindelof (HBO)


I have, alas, read very view of the fiction entries.   One reason: when I’m trying intensively to write something of my own, it’s very difficult for me to immerse myself in someone else’s imagined world… And I’ve been trying pretty damn hard for most of this year.

On and off, that is.  So I have managed to read at least a couple of the items on the list.  Specifically:


This Is How You Lose the Time War by [El-Mohtar, Amal, Gladstone, Max]

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar, which I dearly loved (as I mentioned previously), and


Exhalation: Stories by [Chiang, Ted]

“Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom”,  from Ted Chiang’s collection, Exhalation. Chiang is a favorite of mine, and I generally root for him in any list.   But this time he’s right up against Gladstone and El-Mohtar in the novella category –  so I’m torn.

Of course, as a card-carrying SFWA member, I get to vote for the award, and there’s plenty of opportunity for me to catch up on (at least)  the shorter fiction before the deadline.  Quite possibly one of the other finalists for novella will impress me even more!

But, looking through this list, I do notice an interesting trend: an outsized proportion of the nominees were published in either Tor.com or Uncanny magazine.

Tor.com is a website.  You can read their fiction for free.

Uncanny has no physical existence, and is an ebook magazine subscription — but you can also read it for free on their website (if partly delayed so that subscribers see it all first).

That is such a very interesting phenomenon.

I gotta say: the first thing I did on realizing this was to hop over and subscribe to Uncanny.  Obviously, it’s where the cool kids are hanging out these days.

Speaking of cool kids hanging out:

The winsome Geary Gravel.

I had a lovely evening in Northampton MA, sharing dinner with fellow author Geary Gravel, at our favorite Indian restaurant.  Geary is himself neck-deep in projects, both enjoyable and frustrating…  I’ll say no more about which ones are which!  Anyway, time spent with Geary is always delightful — in the way that talking with another writer who knows exactly what you’re going through and can offer a) insight, b) commiseration and/or c) righteous indignation can only be.   We writers spend an awful lot of time hunched over desks, gazing at glowing screens and punching keyboards.  Actual conversation with another human being, and eating food well-prepared by persons other than oneself can certainly put things in perspective.

Also — this, guy in particular?  Especially great to hang out with.  Just sayin’.

Final note: Have you been watching The Expanse?  You should be watching The Expanse.  Also reading the books.