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 ( 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. Dj’l Clark ( Publishing)
This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water, Vylar Kaftan ( 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 ( 7/10/19)
“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light”, Mimi Mondal ( 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 or Uncanny magazine. 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.


Jan 13 2020

Well into the new year already


Two weeks into the new year, with too many projects (writing and not) wanting my attention.  They’re sort of having a little wrestling match in my brain.

This might be more interesting if they wore cool outfits with sequins and capes, and had fancy monikers, and muscles out to here, and yelled insults before smashing metal chairs over each other’s heads.  Instead, it’s more like a high-school wrestling match: everybody has the same uniform, wears proper head protection, and they basically grab and pin each other down —  and then wait for the judge to make the call.  Some of them have to take of their glasses to hand to a teammate before getting in the ring.

Ah, but I promised that one story that I would give it my all, so that’s at the top of the list.  That and all the non-writing life chores that can’t be avoided, of course.

Meanwhile, the first full moon of the year certainly was a pretty thing.

Wolf Moon of January, seen from my office window.

Christmas Eve was a fun gathering in the home of some nearby, especially-beloved friends; and then Christmas Day was just me and my sister and our little potted tree, with a few presents.

Herschel the Snail was hoping for a replacement for his missing antenna for Xmas, but was disappointed.

New Year’s even quieter, as I spent it in my office.  Hey, that’s prime creative time for me, around midnight!  I had to set an alarm so I could watch the live-stream of the Times Square ball-drop.

One lovely Xmas/ New-Years treat was a broadcast by the BBC, Playing in the Dark :  Neil Gaiman reading from some excerpts of his works, with musical interludes by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Aside from writing well, Gaiman reads his work beautifully.  Plus, David Tennant read a bit too: from Gamain and Pratchett’s Good Omens, which you really don’t want to miss hearing. So delightful.  The link above is good until January 20th, I believe, after which it will vanish.

There was a second BBC broadcast of  Gaiman’s work, this one a dramatic reading of his story “Chivalry.”  Glenda Jackson and Kit Harrington did the main roles.  But I have to say — it didn’t really appeal to me.  I wasn’t fond of the story in its original story form, and the dramatic reading didn’t change my mind.  Hey, just because I like most of what Neil Gaiman does, it doesn’t mean I love everything he does.  Of course, your mileage may vary, and this one is available until the 23.  Check it out for yourself.

And of course, a New Year does mean adding books to your To Be Read pile!  I do want to recommend some — but I have to say that, inexplicably, most of the books I’ve read in the last few months were… less than satisfying, shall I say?  Well, disappointing, really.  I seem to have hit some doldrums.  I’m not going to name names here — it’s not as if reviewing books was my job or something!  I see no reason to express my dislike of some books that obviously other people really enjoyed a lot.

But in general, I do not like:

  • clunky prose.
  • lazy prose
  • stories where the author thinks they are writing rich and beautiful prose, but they actually have the literary equivalent of a tin ear, and are making a fool of themselves, really, someone should stop them for their own good
  • clunky prose and lazy prose and overly-rich prose jammed together sloppily and passed off as “experimental.”
  • characters that are largely indistinguishable from each other
  • stories where people spend the entire time analyzing their own reactions
  • stories that just go along aimlessly until something reasonably interesting happens and the author decides it would make a nice dramatic ending, ignoring the fact that nothing else in the book integrates with it at all

Well, that’s just my recent reading. Things are looking up.

Thankfully, I seem to have broken that streak by picking up (finally!) Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars.

The Calculating Stars: A Lady Astronaut Novel by [Kowal, Mary Robinette]

I’m quite late to the party on this one, as often happens.  I haven’t got very far into it yet — but Kowal won the 2019 Hugo and Nebula for this book, and hey: subject matter close to my heart. Yes, I was a space-program nut back in the day. Plus, I’ve actually been at the controls of a Cessna!  (I started studying piloting in my teens, but did not end up getting a license.)  I’m enjoying the book so far — including some sly little turnarounds that made writer-me smile.

And also late to the party on this one:

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

I love this book.  It is rich and lush, and crazy — and at the same time one of the most tightly-knit stories I’ve seen.  You really have to keep your eye on the ball, but the payoff is worth it.


Delia Sherman’s The Porcelain Dove just got re-released — and the ebook is only $2.99, so that’s very good news.  If you missed this one first time around, now’s your chance.

The Porcelain Dove by [Sherman, Delia]


In other news: SF author, pal and all-around good guy Jeffrey A.  Carver was in Puerto Rico during the various earthquakes.  He is well, the family is well, the house is standing… others, of course, were not so fortunate.  You can read about the events in his blog (and check out his books while you’re at it).


In other other news:


It’s Connecticut.  It’s the middle of January.

Dec 16 2019

December commenting on November’s plan


Remember my plan to use November to retreat from the world in general, and take a break from Books 5 and 6?  Because I had been banging my head against the various snags, problems and writerly issues in those stories for such a very long time, and I needed to think about something else for a change?  Like, say, a short(-ish) story?

Yes, well.  I did do that.  Took November (more or less).

But no, did not finish that story. I discovered, to my surprise, that the story in question was rather more complex than I had assumed.

Going in, I knew that the story had A Problem — but in fact, the problem that I thought it had was not the actual problem.  As it turned out, the original problem was an illusion, based on my unfamiliarity with the type of story that is was.

Hurrah, no problem, said I!  I merely have to become more familiar with that type of story, and I’ll know what to do.  Right?

You’d think so.  But, no. Because my new view of the nature of the story revealed that it actually still had problems — just not the one originally I thought it had.  It had, instead, hitherto unrecognized problems!  Brand new and rather interesting ones!  Esoteric problems!  None of which I knew how to solve yet, being still unfamiliar with that type of story…

But further along in the reading/learning/analyzing process,  I also realized that the narrative thread I was following was not even the actual story at all.  There was another story inside it.  And that was the story. The whole thing was, in  fact, something akin to what’s known as a “frame story.”

Well… okay. The outer story, the frame, was of the type that I don’t know well… but the inner story was of a very familiar form.

So, hey! I should be able to do this! And those problems with the outer story?  I don’t have to worry about them after all. Right?

But meanwhile, all that analysis and cogitation had sunk in… and primed my subconscious.  And it decided to step up, as it sometimes will.

We had a little conversation.

Subconscious: Yo, those problems you were worried about?  Here’s the solution.
Me: But, I don’t need them solved anymore! Because it’s a frame, it’s just the “frame”  part of a frame story —
S: Solution.  Here. This.
Me: But, but —
S:  One solution. For all the problems.
Me: But…
S: Just look at it.
Me: So…  this secondary character —
S: Yup. Him.
Me: And everything I thought I knew —
S: All wrong.
Me: Um…
S: This solves the problems.
S: Say “thank you.”
Me: Thank you.

You should always thank your subconscious.  It’s down there working in the mines, slopping in the sewers, filing things away in big dusty file-card catalogs in the basement, all for your benefit. It likes to be appreciated.

So, now that I have all these solutions, now that I have a design and a structure, I just have to, you know, execute everything.

But this story has become way more ambitious than I had originally planned.  More interesting, yes; but more difficult…

If I can manage to pull it off — well, it would be so cool.  Really.  But it’s also entirely possible that this is just beyond my current level of skill…  I could easily crash and burn.

But you know what?  You gotta crash and burn.  Be willing to, that is.

I could utterly fail in the execution of this, but — so what?  If the story stinks, I just won’t sell it and it will never see the light of day.  You’ll all be none the wiser.

So, I’ll catch my breath, and give this thing another go.

But you know, one of these days, at some point, I’d like to just write a story where a bunch of people get into a rocket ship, go somewhere, have an adventure, meet some interesting aliens, and then come back home. Frankly, I could use the rest.

In other news: Hey, tip jar. Some writers have ’em; now I do, too.



Nov 17 2019

Not so much NaNoWriMo but more sort of NaNoWhyNoMo


Still hunkering down and mostly staying away from humanity as much as possible, in an attempt to slam some useful words out of my brain.

I’m even offline!  Mostly. I currently have no Internet access at the office at all.  And this feels very odd, I can tell you.

I’m still checking my email, on my phone, but if a matter does not require immediate action — say, for legal or safety reasons —  I’ll probably set it aside until December.

So… if you haven’t heard from me, that’s probably why.

Meanwhile, enjoy your November! And Thanksgiving.  Damn, that’s only two weeks away.  Half the month is gone!


The mighty Quinnipiac, seen from the footbridge of the local Linear Trail.



Oct 31 2019

Somehow still trying to catch up


Summer and Autumn have been unusually busy for me — a lot more chunks of travel than I generally do in so short a time.  I seem to be having a lot of trouble getting my feet back under me…

I’m one of those introverts who can happily operate as an extrovert — for a limited period of time.   But after a certain point, I need to go off, be alone, and sort reassemble my personality.  But by stacking up my social interactions this closely, it looks like the down-times between events just aren’t enough.  I’ve basically overloaded my central processor and am operating at a decidedly sub-0ptimal clock speed.

But everything I was doing was so very interesting!  Couldn’t miss out on any of it, right?

Well.  One more spate of socializing, and I’ll basically hunker down for the rest of November.

November is National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo), and no, I’m not planning to sign up for that.   But what I will do is take the month of November off from working on Book 5 (and/or Book 6, and/or the linked &YA novel), and work on a completely unrelated short-ish story.  Because I need to think about something else for a while!   Something with a definite endpoint.  I’ve been banging my head against the issues in Books 5 and 6, I seem to be going in circles.  Clearly, I need to step away for a bit.  November sounds good for that.  Plus: hey, short story!  Well, short-ish.

I generally forego big Thanksgiving holiday trips and extended visits, so November is my traditional time to shut out the world and let it eat turkey without me.  Although, I will show up for leftovers.  If it doesn’t involve an overnight.

Some of what’s been keeping me busy:

This was my second year attending Scintillation in Montreal–  actually, it was only the second year of Scintillation’s existence.

This is a lovely small convention, with an excellent  collection of  guests.  The hotel is a Holiday Inn right at the edge of Montreal’s Chinatown, with fascinating walking areas, and great food and sights. Although, this time I didn’t do as much walking around town as last year.   I do think I want to make sure that I don’t skip that next year.

Hotel lobby with convenient restaurant and koi pond. Plus: labyrinthine paths over the water.


Friendly fishies.

Some standout moments:

I attended a reading by A.E. Prevost, who is also one of the proprietors of Argo Bookshop. I had never read anything by Prevost, and came to their reading completely cold, and was absolutely delighted.  I do wish I could recall the name of the story, however; it’s a work in progress, and I do not want to miss it when it’s published.

I was on a panel about designing aliens, with Alison Sinclair, Diane Kelly, Jim Cambias and Ferret Steinmetz, which was a lot of fun — and later had an especially interesting conversation with Diane, who is a biologist at UMass Amherst, and Jim, who it turns out is her husband.  (I nabbed one of Jim’s books, but I’m so incredibly behind in my reading!  So I cannot speak knowledgeably about A Darkling Sea yet, but I do possess a copy!)

Jo Walton‘s reading was especially wonderful.  She read from the start of Or What You Will, a book certain to break the heart (in a good way) of any writer who reads it.   The excerpt certainly did that for me.  And she also read some of her best poems, so… I was blown away on two entirely separate fronts.


Or What You Will by [Walton, Jo]


Ruthanna Emrys had a reading as well, from an upcoming work (whose title escapes me, darn it!).  It’s the second time I heard her read from this book, and I keep liking it better and better.  You know, it just makes sense: when you’re meeting the aliens, if your baby’s diaper happens to need changing, you just stop and change the damn diaper.  That’s life.

Su J. Sokol read from the sequel to Cycling to Asylum.   The section she read was compelling enough that I instantly bought the Kindle version of  Cycling to Asylum so I could get up to speed!

Cycling to Asylum

Su and I were also on a program item together, which was, um, an interview of me.

This is the third time in my life that I’ve been in the spotlight in some way, and it felt a bit unlikely, a bit unreal… until it actually started.  Su and I just basically had a conversation; she made the whole process quite simple and enjoyable.  And the audience was full of wonderful people, and I was amazed, and touched by their attention and appreciation.   I want to say more about this, but — later.  I need to mull this over a bit.

For my own reading, I read from the beginning of Book 5 — and then did a change-up and also read from the beginning of Book 6.   Alas, I had forgotten that when reading the start of Book 6, it’s a good idea to practice it out loud first; there’s a specific rhythm to the way people in The Crags speak, and when I don’t prepare, my delivery can falter.  Which it did.  But it was still fun

I’m going to have to pause here, since (as usual; will I never learn?) I’ve left blogging to the end of the day and the end of the day has come and gone, and the beginning of the day already looming.  Must sleep, and then prep to leave again, and then leave, and then come back.

So, more later.  (Unless that short story is going really well, in which case I will be busy!)


View from the footbridge just outside my office building.


Sep 19 2019

The Steerswoman panel at Readercon


Now, this is the second time that there’s been a panel discussing my books; and yes, there were significant differences between the two.

The panel at Scintillation (you can read about it here) was, in essence, celebratory; the panelists, and the audience, focused on sharing the things that they liked about the books.  It was wonderful to hear, and so heartwarming.

The Readercon panel, on the other hand, was more analytical.  The panelists (Yves Meynard, Kate Nepveu, Victoria Janssen, Cecilia Tan, Elaine Isaak AKA E.C. Ambrose) are writers themselves, and they they came at the discussion from that direction.

And of course, the biggest difference: I was not on the panel myself this time.

Nope, I was in the audience.  Just a fly on the wall, don’t mind me, nothing to see here, la, la, la —

Of course everybody did see me right there. Heh.  And the very first thing Kate Nepveu, the moderator, did was address me directly and say that I was absolutely forbidden to speak — until the very end of the panel, when I would be given five minutes for follow-up and/or rebuttal.  She wanted the panelists to speak freely,  as if I were not there, and discuss the things that they wanted to discuss, good, bad, or whatever.

Excellent, thought I.  Should be fun.

Because, as it happens, I have what I can only describe as a very clear-eyed view of my own work.

I know this isn’t true of all writers, or of artists in general, actually.  We creative types are notoriously sensitive — or contrariwise, absolutely convinced of our inherent superiority!   Some of us will spin into  abject misery, binge-eating rocky road ice cream, if you say that our story is not quite perfect; and certain others (naming no names here!) will go into paroxysms of outrage and spout prodigies of vitriol if you happen to disagree about the Oxford comma.

Me? Not so much.  Why?  Beats me.

Possibly it’s really just a variation on the egotistical end of the axis.   But generally, my reaction to criticism falls in three categories:

  1. You’re wrong, and here’s why.
  2. You’re right!  Wow, did I ever screw up on that one!
  3. Your complaint actually reflects merely a matter of personal preference; and we could have a very interesting discussion about why we differ on the issue.

But the most interesting thing about all kinds of critical analysis — positive and negative — is this: someone cared enough about your work to give it deep, careful thought and come up with real opinions.  That’s always a compliment, really, and always gratifying.

And they did say many things: compliments, speculations, and yes, a few complaints.

I tried not to react when they brought up the speculations about what was what, and where the story might be going.   But I found it fascinating to watch them go back and forth about the possibilities.  I loved hearing their reasoning, seeing them pick up cues and clues, turn them over, subject them to scrutiny, and even surprise each other.

I can’t put down everything that was said, but for highlights:

Yves Meynard paid me one of the loveliest compliments ever, as he explained to the audience how much he loved my prose.   Not the sort of thing you generally find in fantasy, he said; beautiful but not flowery,  each word well chosen, and flowing like music.  And also many other complmentary things, which my humility (yes, I do have some) make it impossible for me to quote in detail.

But the one that got me most was luminous: he said that my prose was luminous –  and frankly, when you bury me please use that as my epitaph.  Her prose was luminous.  In fact, feel free to leave my name off the tombstone entirely.  Her prose was luminous would be enough.

Victoria Janssen pointed out that within the overall plot, the books also hit a lot of the fantasy-trope plot lines. I was particularly pleased by that she caught that, as it was absolutely intentional on my part.

They all appreciated how the books present logic, reason, and discovery as joyful acts; and again, exactly what I was trying to do, and what I’m most glad of when people relate to  it.

Kate Nepveu noted that the meetings between cultures were not simplistic, and included some actual friction.

Cecilia Tan connected my books to other works that were SF with a fantasy feel — Bradley’s Darkover and McCaffrey’s Pern  books, for example.  And she noted that this was an approach that women sometimes turned to in the past because SF had more respect than fantasy did.

Elaine Isaak pointed out that having the reader know more than the characters of the story do puts the reader in an interesting position.  The readers themselves participate in the worldbuilding, providing  information about the world that the characters might not notice.  And it creates an interesting tension: the reader sees it — will Rowan?

And one of the audience members pointed out the inherent, matter-of-fact equality in the background of the books.  Any role, any job, might be held by a man or a woman.

And as for some complaints…

Kate pointed out  that the books depicted PTSD with both Fletcher and Janus, but that Zenna seemed unaffected by her own experience.

Victoria Janssen noted that ASL (or something like it) appears, but there seemed to be no Deaf Community.

And Kate says that she makes it a point to warn people about the torture scene in the first book… and that Janus’ name is just too “spot on.”

And eventually I did get to my 5 minutes of reply and rebuttal.  The very first thing I did was thank them all because: wow, that really was fun.  Five really sharp people turning their brilliant brains on my books?  What’s not to love?

As for rebuttal:

I had to point out to Kate that, strictly speaking, there is no actual torture scene.  There’s torture, but no scene.  It all takes place out of sight, off-stage.  Still, one can see why it would be disturbing that the story refers to it, and Rowan can hear what’s happening, for part of it.

And Janus’ name?

Absolutely correct.  Worst name ever!  I explained what happened:

I was writing first the draft of  The Steerswoman, and I came to the point where I had to plant a reference to that steersman who had quit the order.   He had to be referred to now, in Book One, in order to pay off in Book Three.

However, I hadn’t decided on a name for him yet.

No problem, I told myself.  I’ll just stick something in here, a sort of placeholder, so can move on and finish the rest of the book.   Pick a letter –  how about “J”?  Sure.  What starts with J?  I dunno — Janus?  Right, good enough,  I’ll go back and fix it later.

And… I did not go back and fix it later.  I basically forgot, until it was just too late, and the book was in print.

Yeah, I was kicking myself when I realized… Not only is the name too “on point,” as Kate said, it was also  too similar  to the name of the wizard Jannik.  Thus breaking my own rule to never have character names that resemble each other closely, as it is very unkind to  the reader.

Well.  At least Janus and Jannik never appear in a scene together, or get mentioned in the same breath.   And this is also why I always pronounce Janus with a long “a,” just for my own peace of mind.

(By the way, I since learned that the correct thing to do when you need a placeholder is to insert TK — which stands for “To Come.”   Then you can do global search for TK when you want to fix the placeholder; and if you forget the editor and typesetter know what TK means, and will know to ask you to fix it before going to press.)

What I did not have time to address:

There was no Deaf Community, because… well, you have to have more than one Deaf person around, for there to be a community.  Deafness isn’t common, and travel is not easy.  There might not be even a single other deaf person within a hundred miles.  You can’t just hop a bus and go hang out together. For a Deaf community to exist, you’d first have to locate all the deaf people, and gather them together in one place.   This just doesn’t happen in Rowan’s world.

And Zenna being apparently unaffected by her trauma?  Hm.  I think if you look closely, you might see her veneer cracking a bit, in the scene in Brewer’s tavern.  It’s one of those things where there’s just no room to fully tell everyone’s back story — so I put the cues in there, for the reader to find, or not.  (There are a couple other places in the books where Someone Has a Story, which I intentionally do not tell.)

Okay: wrap up.

In conclusion: What can I say?  So much fun.  These are some really sharp minds, and it was so gratifying that they chose to talk about my books.

I’d like to suggest that you go buy their books!


Sep 16 2019

Quick attempt to catch up



Rather than opening out, my fall seems to be filling up even more than I had originally thought it would.  I find myself in crunches of various types, on more than one project… and it’s become  clear that at least one thing I had planned to do This Month For Sure has to be pushed to Next Month For Really Sure.

The new item on my schedule is the Acadia Night Sky Festival, an event I’ve wanted to attend for years.   My sister has gone to it in the past, but I’ve never been able to make it, for various reasons.  But Sabine is going to hit the road to live the truck-camper life next year, and the prospect of not actually seeing her for many months on end has convinced me that we must do at least one extremely cool sisters-thing before then.  Other sisters do spa days, or go on shopping sprees; the Kirsteins camp out in the woods, attend lectures and presentations on astronomy, go boating under the stars, and look through telescopes.

Meanwhile, all the recent events that I intended to cover here, but have not yet caught up on, have fallen into that liminal state between  stale news and something resembling fond reminiscence…

As in: you heard about the Hugo Awards, right?  Of course you did.  But just in case you didn’t, here’s the list of nominees and winners, courtesy of Tor.Com (my personal go-to for the edifying side SF/F news; for the nuts-and-bolts, all-the-details, down-and-dirty-when-necessary stuff, I turn to File 770).

And Readercon!  I did mention it  a couple of posts ago, largely to say that I very much enjoyed it, and that the panel discussion of my own books was especially interesting to me.  Because, of course: how could it not be?

But I want to discuss that in more detail, so I’ll save it for the next post (probably Wednesday).

In other  (short) news:

My latest distraction while dutifully doing my daily walking has been Catherynne M. Valente’s Space Opera. 

This was, you will note, a nominee for the Hugo this year.

It might be described as Eurovision meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — but this does not communicate its true virtues.  The thing is, it’s  Catherynne Valente’s own characteristic brand of weird, but cranked up to eleven –  and with the addition of humor.  And emotional depth as well (which Valente never does skimp on).

I have to especially urge you to get the audiobook version.  Sabine got me hooked on it by playing the beginning for me in the car while we were driving somewhere, and the narrator, Heath Miller, is simply a genius.  He’s got all the voices, all the accents, all the characters.  And his deep artistic comprehension of this work is possibly aided by the fact that  he is  (as Sabine found out during the Q&A of Valente’s reading at Readercon) Catherynne Valente’s actual husband.

Well.  More later, as it is now more late than I intended.  (Why do I always start my blog posts at the end of my night?)




Aug 28 2019

Still flailing…


… Catching up on some things, whilst other things fall through the cracks, even as new items are added to the top of the stack —

Just came here to say that, basically.

Now: must go do some of those things…  more later.



Embroidered dog at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, NB





Aug 17 2019

I admit it, I’ve been back for a while now….


For over a week, actually.  But  I seemed to be unable to get myself together enough to write all the blog posts that need to be written.

Such as: the Readercon report!  That feels very far away now, but I do want to say more about it.

And: more about the trip, which was in various proportions: interesting, frustrating, lovely, exhausting, annoying and enlightening.


Famous Bill Thorpe footbridge over the St John, in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

(And hot.  Did I mention hot?  I did not know it got that hot in Fredericton.  Apparently, neither did the locals, who complained about it even more than we did.)


Pleasantly puzzling municipal art.

Also: some more essay-like posts on Topics of Interest (to me, at least).

Plus: updates on various things and/or projects

And: general complaints that I can’t be at Worldcon in Dublin, which is in progress as we speak.

It just seems to have taken me a bit longer than usual to get my feet back under my, after the trip.  Possibly because it took place on the very heels of another different trip.

On the summit of Wildcat Mountain, in New Hampshire, looking across at Mount Washington.

Which had followed rather soon after Readercon itself…

So.  Back in the saddle now, and more posts Real Soon.