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mrissa July 10 2014, 22:22

The Causal Angel, by Hannu Rajaniemi

Review copy provided by Tor.


This is the sequel to The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince, and I recommend that you start with them. You might be able to pick up what qupting is and what the gogols are and all the other elements of Rajaniemi’s world from context, but I think it would be pretty rough going, honestly; these are pretty idea-dense books to begin with, and it’s probably better to start with Jean le Flambeur at his own beginning.


I do find that sometimes I pick up a book and am reminded immediately of what was initially charming in the series, and this was one of those. Jean’s early interactions, trying to keep juggling a great many flaming torches to find Mieli and fix everything and keep a young Matjek happy, made me smile, went very quickly, made me want very much to keep reading. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the ending, and there was a Moomin along the way. (I can be bribed with Moomins. I can even be coaxed past a very brief and virtual zombie appearance with Moomins. Especially NOT SIMULTANEOUSLY.) But it was the beginning of the book that made me say: ah, yes. This is why I was happy to pick this series up and dive into it.


So: there is zooming around the solar system, there is forming and reforming oneself and one’s environment, there is working around what one thought one knew. There are reversals and betrayals and coming back for people and lots and lots of zoku jewels. There are iterations and considerations of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It has, in short, the things that one has been looking for in one of these books. And if you haven’t been looking for one of these books, go back and start. They’re nerdy good fun, and they’re not very long. And now there are three of them.




Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux

mizkit July 10 2014, 21:08

stolen phone

My phone was just stolen. And it turns out that although I had it insured, I did not, apparently, have it insured against theft or loss. I could have sworn I did, but it’s not in the policy I’ve got, so…fuck.

So, guys! Support my crowdfund! You get fudge and I get a new phone… :}

It had been such a nice day up until then, too. The worst part is I don’t have the photos on the phone set to automatically upload to the cloud and I’d been thinking literally yesterday that I needed to upload them and now, well. Fuck.

(eta: I called my local garda, who suggested I hie myself over to the station in the area it was stolen and report it, because they only keep CCTV for 48-72 hours. I had not thought of CCTV at all. Guess I know where I’m going tonight.

eta2: went to the garda, did everything we could, odds are poor that i’ll get the phone back, but we’ve tried.)

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(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

scalzifeed July 10 2014, 19:41

Relevant to Recent Discussions

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/07/10/relevant-to-recent-discussions/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=24831

FTC alleges Amazon unlawfully billed parents for millions of dollars in children’s unauthorized In-App charges.

To quote myself: “[B]usinesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing).”

Note that Amazon can and may fight this in court. Alternately, it may choose to settle out of court, admitting no wrong, and change its in-app policies consistent to what the FTC wants from them. Which will it choose? I expect whichever one is (all together now) consistent with its current set of business goals.

 


mckitterick July 10 2014, 17:54

Updatery!

Forgive me, religious-patriarchal figure, it's been more than a month since my last update. What have I been up to since my last confession?
  • Spent the first two weeks of June teaching the Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop at KU's Center for the Study of SF, a residential program that consumes pretty much every waking hour.

  • Did my thing at the Campbell Conference, which this year honored Frederik Pohl and discussed "Science fiction in the real world." We also presented the Campbell (best SF novel) and Sturgeon (best SF story) Memorial Awards.

  • Taught the Intensive SF Institute during the second two weeks of June, also residential (except for a few locals). Final projects should be piling in today. To all of you wonderful scholars and workshoppers who spent your June with us and are home now: I miss everyone so much!

  • Wrote another few thousand words on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella:

    It's ALMOST DONE - and Book 2 has reached 4000 words.

  • My essay on "Frederik Pohl: Mr Science Fiction (A Love Story)" just came out in the current issue of Foundation - The International Review of Science Fiction.

  • I'm hard at work on a new Jupiter story (the follow-up to "Jupiter Whispers") for an upcoming anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Including this one, I plan to finish (or revise) at least three stories this month and send them out for consideration.

  • I'll be quoted in the next issue of Popular Mechanics magazine (!) about the top SF novels.

  • Oh, and I gave a bunch of talks and interviews for NPR's Up to Date show, the Lawrence Free State Festival, KU Endowment, the Lawrence Journal-World, SciFi4Me (part of their livestream of the Campbell Conference), and one (plus the usual stuff) at the Campbell Conference.

So I've been way out of touch with the world. Took most of last week as a sort of stay-cation. MUCH NEEDED.

How's your summer going?

Chris
sfwa_admin posted to sfwa July 10 2014, 17:48

Overcoming Self-Doubt as a Writer

by Matthew Kressel

mattIt’s become a cliché, the tortured writer beset by periods of crippling self-doubt. But things become clichés simply because they have been true for so many. Writing, for most people I know, is an experience of few victories and many small defeats. The little victories can make all those defeats worthwhile, but when you’re in the writing mode, staring at the screen or paper, slogging away day after day, without feedback, you can often feel like you’ve wandered deep into the woods without a guide and now you’re lost and it’s getting dark and there are strange sounds coming from that grove of trees, and at this far out no one can hear you scream.

Eventually, though, you’ll find your way back to civilization. You send out that story that you worked on for months, only to get rejection after rejection. You submit your magnum opus to agents and editors expecting high praise only to be met with…crushing silence. The waiting sometimes can be the worst of all.

And it’s in these interstitial periods that the most crippling feelings of self-doubt can occur. We ask ourselves, Am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Did they like what I wrote? Does it suck? Am I a hack? What the hell am I doing all this for? All those things we do to escape our uncomfortable feelings become super tempting: binge television watching, drinking, drugs, sex, anything to escape the Great Uncertainty.

And then your story sells, maybe even to a pro market, and the reviews come in, and everyone loves it, and praises it. And people talk about how it moved them, some cried and read it to their grandmothers, and maybe your story even gets nominated for an award. Maybe you even win that award. And you feel like a million dollars, and you’ll never doubt yourself again.

Yeah right.

A few weeks go by, maybe a few months, and the doubts creep back. We say to ourselves, Maybe I was lucky. Maybe the awards system is rigged. Maybe it was only a popularity contest. Maybe that’s the best I’ll ever do.

It’s a vicious cycle, this self-doubt, and it’s been my experience that most writers experience these crippling neuroses in one form or another. A few lucky people I know seem to lack all such self-doubts, but I suspect they’re well hidden, that under their confident exterior they too doubt themselves from time to time. Hell, even Stephen King has been known to express doubts about his work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from SFWA | Comment at SFWA

scalzifeed July 10 2014, 17:11

My First Job and What it Paid

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/07/10/my-first-job-and-what-it-paid/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=24829

Via Jim Romenesko, a question from The Billfold Web site about what people’s first jobs were and what they paid, and what that particular job pays now. Romenesko’s spin on the question involves journalism (because his site is focused on that field) and as it happens, that’s where my first post-college job was.

My first job as an adult, as many of you know, was as the movie critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper, a job I started in September of 1991 and left in February 1996. I got the job directly out of college (I was 22, making me the youngest full-time professional film critic in the United States at the time), and it’s not a knock on me to suggest that I was hired not only for my writing skills but also the fact that I could be gotten for super-cheap: My first year salary was something along the lines of $22,400 dollars, or about $430 a week, before taxes, etc.

And how did I live on $22.4k a year? Pretty well, actually. For one thing, I was a movie critic, which meant that a lot of my entertainment cost — i.e., going to movies — was taken care of. Likewise, working at a newspaper meant one could pick over the scads of entertainment product sent for review (books, CDs and so on), so the cost of those was also reduced. Also, I lived in Fresno, which is the butt of many jokes in California, but if you’re a 22-year-old making not a lot, also contained a lot of amenities of a large town (its population was 350,000 then and about 500,000 now) for a substantially lower cost of living than other large cities in the Golden State. Add it all up (plus the fact that I did not have expensive habits, like smoking or heroin), and I did okay for myself on not a lot of cash.

I don’t know how much the position is worth now — currently the Bee has one person, Rick Bentley, as both the film and television critic — but I certainly hope he’s making more than I was when I started. This survey suggests that journalists who enter into the field with a bachelor’s degree (which I did, although not in a journalism-related field) see a media salary of about $28,500 (or did in 2012, anyway). Adjusted for inflation, that’s quite a bit lower than what my $22.4k in 1991 was. Which sucks, but then: Welcome to journalism in the second decade of the 21st Century.

I’m happy to say that these days I make more than $22.4k a year.

(PS: My very first first job was working at Del Taco in Glendora when I was 16, for minimum wage. I came home every night smelling of lard and refried beans. I lasted about six weeks. That experience as much as anything else in the world convinced me to get an education beyond high school, because, seriously, lard smell, man.)

So: Your first job? Talk about it in the comments, if you like.


swan_tower July 10 2014, 14:59

A Year in Pictures – Koliba Violin

Koliba Violin
Creative Commons License
This work by http://www.swantower.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The old-style house/museum we visited in Zakopane was decorated with a variety of rustic but well-crafted things, including these carved chairs and the violin that was, for some random reason, hanging off a strap in the corner.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/667880.html. Comment here or there.
jpsorrow July 10 2014, 14:56

Signal Boost: "Plunder of Souls" by D.B. Jackson

This book came out this week and I highly recommend it and the series. Here's the cover and cover copy to pique your interest. You should go order it, along with Shattering the Ley, of course.





Boston, 1769: Ethan Kaille, a Boston thieftaker who uses his conjuring to catch criminals, has snared villains and defeated magic that would have daunted a lesser man. What starts out as a mysterious phenomenon that has local ministers confused becomes something far more serious.

A ruthless, extremely powerful conjurer seeks to wake the souls of the dead to wreak a terrible revenge on all who oppose him. Kaille’s minister friends have been helpless to stop crimes against their church. Graves have been desecrated in a bizarre, ritualistic way. Equally disturbing are reports of recently deceased citizens of Boston reappearing as grotesquely disfigured shades, seemingly having been disturbed from their eternal rest, and now frightening those who had been nearest to them in life. But most personally troubling to Kaille is a terrible waning of his ability to conjure. He knows all these are related . . . but how?

When Ethan discovers the source of this trouble, he realizes that his conjure powers and those of his friends will not be enough to stop a madman from becoming all-powerful. But somehow, using his wits, his powers, and every other resource he can muster, Ethan must thwart the monster’s terrible plan and restore the restless souls of the dead to the peace of the grave. Let the battle for souls begin in Plunder of Souls, the third, stand-alone novel in Jackson’s acclaimed Thieftaker series.
scalzifeed July 10 2014, 13:41

The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/07/10/the-big-idea-d-b-jackson-2/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/?p=24827

There’s a system to things — especially magic. Why is there a system, and what is its function in telling a story? D.B. Jackson has a few thoughts on the matter, and how it matters to his latest colonial-era fantasy novel, A Plunder of Souls.

D.B. JACKSON:

Creating magic systems is to writing fantasy what learning scales is to playing guitar or piano. It’s a fundamental, a basic skill that fantasy writers learn early on. Of course every magic system is at least somewhat unique — we all strive for originality when building our worlds and imbuing them with the powers that will become vital tools for our characters as our narratives unfold. But there are certain elemental principles of creating a magic system to which just about every author adheres: make sure the act of using magic carries some cost; place some limits on what magic and those who wield it can do; and above all, keep the magic consistent. Just as we cannot escape the natural laws that govern life in our real world — gravity, conservation of mass, Newtonian laws of motion, etc. — there should be no escaping the laws that govern our imagined systems of magic.

Except . . .

One doesn’t have to read much fantasy to realize that trying to escape the limits we place on our magic systems is just about the only thing our characters do, particularly the villainous (read “interesting”) ones. They seek more power than they ought to have, or they try to escape the costs we’ve so carefully built into the systems, or they seek to create new rules that apply only to themselves. Our heroes are then forced to find innovative ways to stop them, and invariably those heroes wind up bending the rules as well.

Notice I said “bending” and not “breaking.” Because more often than not the ultimate act of heroism lies not in sheer power, but in ingenuity, in finding some unexpected way to overcome the villain within the very constraints of the magic system that the antagonist hopes to evade. It’s a tried and true plot device that one can find not only in books, but also in movies and television, not only in fantasy, but also in science fiction. (Think of Data’s Moriarty on Star Trek: TNG, plying Doctor Pulaski with crumpets and extending his reach beyond the confines of the Holodeck to very nearly take command of the Enterprise.)

In A Plunder of Souls, the third novel in my historical urban fantasy series, the Thieftaker Chronicles, my conjuring, thieftaking hero, Ethan Kaille, takes on a villain who seeks to gather more power for himself than any conjurer ought to have. “Magick” in my version of pre-Revolutionary Boston, exists at the boundary between the living world and the realm of the dead. Every conjurer has a guide — the ghost of an ancestor who was also a conjurer — who helps him or her access that source of power. And so my villain, Nate Ramsey, has desecrated the graves of the recently deceased, placed his mark upon the corpses, and claimed them as soldiers in a ghostly army. With this force, he seeks to prevent others from casting spells, leaving himself as not merely the most powerful conjurer the world has known, but as the one person in the world who can cast spells.

It’s both a familiar idea and a big one. Familiar because it works: authors in our genre have used a thousand variations on this theme to create gripping and compelling narratives. Big because it taps into something central to human nature: the corrupting influence that can emanate from any sort of power. Ramsey is already a skilled conjurer, but in addition to being brilliant, he’s also cruel, a bit mad, and bent on avenging the death of his father.

More, he hopes to bend the laws of nature just as he does the laws of magic, so that his mastery of the realm of the dead will allow him to return his father to the world of the living. He refuses to accept that his reanimated father would be an abomination, something neither living nor dead and certainly nothing like the man who raised him. He seeks to master death, and is so drunk with the notion of doing so that he can’t see beyond the realization of his twisted aims.

It was no accident that I sought to have Ramsey violate both natural and magical law. As I’ve said already, in creating my magic systems I seek to make them elemental, so that they are as constant and inviable as nature itself. Equating Ramsey’s magical ambitions with his desire to resurrect his father reinforces not only the dark elements of his character, but also the worldbuilding I have done to make Colonial Boston into a setting that is both historically convincing and fantastical. I should add here that all of this is happening within the context of a growing movement for liberty within the colonies, and a smallpox epidemic spreading through Boston. It also bears mentioning that Ramsey’s attempts to enhance his power, and the magical battles in which he engages with Ethan are pretty frickin’ cool, if I do say so myself. “Familiar,” certainly isn’t meant to imply “humdrum.”

But the greater point is this: in order to thwart Ramsey’s scheme, Ethan must venture down a path that is nearly as dark as the one Ramsey has followed. He, too, must disturb the graves of the dead and attempt spells that, while still conforming to the established rules of my magic system, test the boundaries of that system in ways that would have been unthinkable to him only a short while before. Even if he succeeds (and you’ll have to read the book to find out if he does), and even if the integrity of the magic system is reaffirmed, there is bound to be a cost. Already, Ramsey’s actions have exposed unexpected vulnerabilities; other conjurers of comparable skill, harboring similar ambitions, might test it further, requiring my hero to be even more creative next time around.

As I say, this stretching of the magic system is a plot device that is at once familiar and effective. It tests our worldbuilding, forces our characters to innovate and grow, and challenges us to take our narratives in directions we might not have anticipated. And that’s why it’s not only a big idea, but also a fun one.

—-

A Plunder of Souls: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Read the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.


mizkit July 10 2014, 09:13

DB Jackson returns! Again!

I’m delighted to once more have my friend and fellow writer DB Jackson on the blog for a series of not-terribly-serious interview questions!

1. Let’s start with the obvious. Give me the ten-cent shake-down on A PLUNDER OF SOULS.

PlunderofSouls_hi_comp150 The Thieftaker Chronicles are historical urban fantasy, and the books tell the story of Ethan Kaille, a conjurer and thieftaker (the eighteenth century equivalent of a private detective) living in pre-Revolutionary Boston. Each book is a stand-alone mystery set against the backdrop of a particular historical event leading to the American Revolution. The historical events are real, as are many of the characters; I’ve inserted fictional murders into the historical narrative, along with a cast of characters who comprise Ethan’s social circle and clientele.

In A PLUNDER OF SOULS, the third book in the series, I bring back a character who is to Ethan something like what Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes. Nate Ramsey, first appeared in “A Spell of Vengeance,” a short story I published at Tor.Com in June 2012. Ramsey is a fun character, in kind of the way that Hannibal Lecter is a fun character. Like Ethan, he’s a powerful conjurer. He’s also brilliant, cruel, vengeful, and a bit mad. In the original short story, Ethan is hired to protect two merchants who have been threatened by Ramsey. Ethan does his best, but Ramsey gets the better of him, with tragic results, and then escapes Boston.

Now Ramsey is back. It’s the summer of 1769, and Boston is in the midst of an outbreak of smallpox (as it really was that summer). Ethan is hired to investigate a series of grave robberies, and soon discovers that corpses have been mutilated in grotesque ways, and that at least some of what has been done to them seems to be meant as a personal warning to him. What results is a little bit mystery, a little bit ghost story, and a whole lot of epic magical warfare. I won’t reveal more, except to say that Ramsey is an even more formidable foe for Ethan now than he was in 1763, when the short story took place.

2. I personally claim to never ‘cast’ my novels with actors, although there are instances where that is untrue. Do you ‘cast’ people for your characters? Anybody you want to confess to?

I’ll admit that there are times when I do this. I don’t like to because, as you have said to me in the past, it’s sometimes counterproductive to put such a specific image in the minds of our readers. But there have been characters who just lend themselves to this sort of thing. And the truth is, it can also be fun to imagine the movie versions of our books. So, that said, I can definitely see Sephira Pryce, Ethan’s beautiful and deadly rival in thieftaking, being played by Olivia Wilde. Wilde is gorgeous and alluring, but there is also something a bit edgy about her beauty. Hers is not a soft look, and with the right costuming and makeup she could totally make the role of Sephira come to life as I’ve written it.

For Nate Ramsey, I think that Michael Pitt would be a really good choice. He totally looks the part as I envision it, and the kid’s got chops.

Ethan is a much harder call. I would want a slightly older actor — Ethan is supposed to be in his early forties by this point in the series, and he has lived a hard life. Maybe Ewan McGregor or Clive Owen. Or Mark Wahlberg. I need to think about this one a bit more.

3. If you had one shot with a time machine, what one historical event, place, or person would you want to visit?

Wow. I’m not just saying this because of the Thieftaker books. Really. But I would have to choose the period right around the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence. I have a Ph.D. in U.S. History, and while my doctoral dissertation dealt with twentieth century issues, I found the Revolutionary period fascinating. I guess that’s why, when I finally got around to blending my love of fantasy with my passion for history, this was the period in which I set my books.

It’s not just the events themselves that are so fraught with drama and intrigue. It’s also the personalities: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Brilliant minds; engaging speakers; willful, ego-driven politicians. And they were bandying about ideas from so many sources — Cato, Locke, Hobbes, Pitt, Hume, and others. It was a heady time intellectually as well as politically and militarily. That’s where I’d want to go.

4. I know you like jazz. Who’s one of your favourite artists, or what is a favourite album?

Yeah, I’m a huge jazz fan, and I listen to a lot of instrumental jazz when I work. I know that some authors can’t have any music at all going when they write, but I find that the improvisational quality of the music actually fuels my creativity. In particular, I’m a fan of “cool” jazz from the late 1950s. My favorite artist from this time — no surprise here — is Miles Davis, and my favorite albums of his are KIND OF BLUE, ‘ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT, and MILESTONES.

Among more recent jazz artists, I love the work of Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and a relatively obscure, but truly excellent group called Sphere. All of them remain true to the spirit of that older jazz sound, placing a premium on melody, virtuosity, and improv. It’s great stuff, and as I say, listening to it actually helps me write.

5. When are you going to finish reading The Walker Papers so we can get started on that collaboration? (WHAT?! Nobody said my questions couldn’t be self-serving!)

[Laughing] Well, if you’d slow down with the writing a bit I could at least catch up with the series!! I’ve read the first two books in the series and am now reading COYOTE DREAMS, and loving it so far. My reading time these days is eaten up by books that I read as a beta reader for friends, or so that I might give a cover blurb. Time for pleasure reading is not always so easy to come by. It also didn’t help that I got totally sucked in to your Negotiator trilogy, which also took up some time. (I know that there are more Negotiator books now, but I have my fingers in my ears and I’m saying “la, la, la, la . . .” really loudly so that they don’t distract me.) In all seriousness, I am totally psyched to read the rest of The Walker Papers and get working on our story. It’s going to be a blast.

And by the way, HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second book in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson (forthcoming from Baen Books — book I, SPELL BLIND, comes out in January) is finished and turned in. So I’ll be sending a copy of the manuscript your way so that you can read it!

Ed: 1. Olivia Wilde & Clive Owen totally work for me for those characters. Or Sean Bean 10 years ago, for that matter.
2. I don’t know much jazz–far less than I should, because I love it–but my god, KIND OF BLUE. What an album.
What an album!
3. Technically there are only Old Races short story collections out now, not Negotiator books, but that’s being fussy. :)
4. For the readers: David’s got a new urban fantasy series coming out, I’ve already read book 1, we’re gonna be doing a Walker Papers/Fearsson Files crossover story, it’s gonna ROCK!

DBJacksonPubPhoto800 D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award­winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first two books as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasies, Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, volumes I and II of the Thieftaker Chronicles, are both available from Tor Books in hardcover and paperback. The third volume, A Plunder of Souls, has recently been released in hardcover. The fourth Thieftaker novel, Dead Man’s Reach, is in production and will be out in the summer of 2015. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

Find DB at:
his website
his blog
facebook
twitter
goodreads
amazon.com

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(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

swan_tower July 10 2014, 07:11

Achievement Unlocked: World Fantasy Nominee

So I’d been having a less than stellar day, mostly on account of the fact that I’m leaving for Okinawa next week and don’t feel remotely ready and this fact is making me stressed. I was out getting take-out and running Okinawa-related errands this evening when I checked my phone and saw that hey, Mike mentioned me in a TwHOLY CRAP I’VE BEEN NOMINATED FOR A WORLD FANTASY AWARD.

You guys.

I am on a shortlist with Neil Gaiman, Gene Wolfe, Sofia Samatar, Helene Wecker, and Richard Bowes.

I . . . have still not wrapped my brain around this fact.

For crying out loud, it’s the World Fantasy Award. It’s one of the biggest awards in SF/F, alongside the Hugo and the Nebula — and if I’m being honest, it’s the one I have lusted after the most since I started publishing. The Hugos and the Nebulas cover speculative fiction as a whole, but the World Fantasy Award is for fantasy, and although stories of mine have been published as horror, fantasy is fundamentally My Genre. To see A Natural History of Dragons on the list of nominees is nothing short of gobsmacking. Like, I’m half-afraid to hit “publish” on this post because what if I’ve imagined the whole thing? (The couple dozen congratulatory tweets and emails and such argue otherwise, but y’know, paranoia knoweth few boundaries.)

I was already planning to go to World Fantasy this fall; now I guess I should plan on going to the banquet, too? And get something interesting to wear to it. Not that I expect to win — and that isn’t just modesty talking; it’s my admiration for my fellow nominees. But hey, let the record show I have promised my husband that, should I win, he has my permission to get me drunk. Which is a thing that hasn’t happened in the nearly thirty-four years of my life, so the promise is a non-trivial thing.

And what will I do between now and the con? I will write another book. Because being an author is like enlightmentment: Before nomination, chop wood, write book. After nomination, chop wood, write book. I don’t have any wood or an axe, so I guess I need to focus on the writing.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/667610.html. Comment here or there.
markgritter July 10 2014, 05:26

"Prohibition"

Marissa and I watched Ken Burns' "Prohibition" on Netflix. We were not impressed.

Some good bits: Carrie Nation, immigrant communities, and footage of Al Smith and FDR.

Things I did not know: there wasn't a congressional reapportionment after the 1920 Census, in part so dries (drys?) could maintain their hold on political power against the growing urban population.

Less good: pretending World War One didn't happen, or the influenza epidemic. No mention of heroin. Generally facile treatment and historical tone-deafness. Too many long, loving shots of drinks being poured.

(Every generation thinks it has invented debauchery, if not trying to live down the debauchery of the previous generation. It's amazing what a good job the Victorians did of convincing everybody that the Georgians didn't exist.)
lenora_rose July 10 2014, 04:03

No subject

Progress notes for July 9, 2014

Total words new or revised : + 60, -86. Or thereabouts; A purely editing day, on a stretch of story needing minimal editing.
Reason for stopping: The hour...
Tea: homemade milk chai.
Music: none
There's Always one more Quirk in the character: Of course Gerald would be a Michael Jackson fan. He last saw or heard Michael Jackson about a year after Thriller came out, and while it was still a top selling album.
Mean Things: Bugs laying eggs inside one.
Research: Top hits of 1983...
Books I'm Reading: Oriole A. Vane-Veldhuis - For Elise, Pratchett - Raising Steam
To-Read Pile toppers: S. Clarke - Gregor the Overlander, KAtherine Addison - The Goblin Emperor.
Inevitable Asides:

Obviously didn't go to the Folk Fest mainstage tonight. However, minimal novel progress can mostly be attributed to Joseph's complete lack of a nap this afternoon.

While I enjoyed Chadwick Ginther's Thunder Road and will likely read the sequel, because Norse Gods in Manitoba just works, it's definitely a man's book written by a guy. If I had to summarize it in one word, as I said on Goodreads, it would be "Muscular". Note, none of that is criticism, merely description.

OTOH, I'm bothered by Bechdel-failure and the only major female character being the Girlfriend (Even though she's a darn powerful Norn - the only other women I remember at all are her mother and great-great-grandmother. There might be a waitress), even as I liked most of the rest, and I'm pretty sure it would have been feasible to have another woman or two onstage and still have the same mood and attitude.

Everything is crossposted to DW and LJ until further notice. Post comments here or there. (Comments at DW: comment count unavailable)
tightropegirl July 10 2014, 02:05

visit to a small country

I have returned from a visit to the country of pain, a place where all of us stop from time to time, and some of us live. It is a small country, to hold so many of us; small enough to crawl over, to learn each stone and shard of glass in the road with a sickening familiarity.

My own sojourn began without any real warning -- just a sharp ache in my hip which soon spread east and west. Friends had advice: "Try lying on the floor with your legs on a chair." "Try ice." "Try heat." "You know, it's okay to take four Advil at once. My doctor told me once." Nothing worked. I saw a doctor, who suggested that I might have bursitis, or the beginnings of arthritis, and declined to prescribe any medication. I asked about an injection of painkiller, or possibly an anti-inflammatory. He waved such ideas away. "Let's see how it goes," he said.

This was the beginning of my rough education in pain management. Two days later I was on the phone begging for medication, which was granted (albeit slowly through the layers of bureaucracy); three days later I'd received two separate injections, each of which was wonderful... for several hours. And four days later I was a screaming, crying wreck who was taken to the emergency room. Not by sitting in a car seat; that was impossible. I crawled into the back and lay there on my stomach, knees bent.

I'd never gone to an ER for myself before -- I'd only brought other people -- and I'd always considered it a sort of waiting room for Hell. Avoiding hospitals in general had been a priority. My regular provider, however, was perfectly clear on the phone: "We can't help you. Go to the ER."

And here is the first lesson: that pain scale from one to ten? Don't be conservative. Be communicative instead. The scale suggests that ten is the worst pain you can imagine; well, I don't know about you, but I can imagine quite a lot. So fuck that. Here is my new standard:

(1) If the pain seems unendurable, and you don't know how you're going to get through the next five minutes, though you also know you have no choice; and
(2) If you were told you would have to live this way the rest of your life, you would kill yourself --

--That's a 10. Really, it doesn't have to mean burning alive while demons eat your entrails. Your doctor isn't going to understand you grade on a curve. If you desperately need help, let them know you desperately need help.

A few hours later I was discharged from the ER, having had two shots of morphine that just took the edge off. "Get a referral for an orthopedist," they told me. Also, "A hot shower will help." My friend explained, "She tried that this morning. It didn't do anything." The doctor repeated slowly and firmly, as though no one had spoken: "A hot shower."

They did offer me a walker: "If you're willing to have one."

"Why wouldn't I have one?"

"Some people associate it with the elderly..."

I suddenly recalled a time, years previously, when I'd been in Chicago to visit the set of Early Edition. I was hit for the first time by a burning case of plantar fasciitis, and needed to keep weight off the soles of my feet. I'd been offered a walker by a man in a pharmacy, and had been appalled. "I am not using a walker," I'd said firmly. Instead I opted for two canes, which I managed in tandem like crutches.

This time my attitude was different: give me the fucking walker. As I made my way slowly down the hallway toward the exit, I passed through a small group of paramedics, who, seeing my pain, offered to help me get back to my room. "She's been discharged," explained the friend who'd driven me here, blackly amused at their taken-aback looks. I crawled into the back of the car again -- lying on my stomach provided some relief -- and we returned home.

I spent the next five weeks lying on my stomach in my living room, alternating between pain and a pain-nausea pas de deux. It was hard to tell whether the vomiting was caused by the pain or the medication, which was heavy on acetaminophen. ("Am I destroying my liver, or am I just paranoid?")

My friend/assistant moved in and slept on the floor beside me in the living room, with a Doberman and a Bichon curled around her. She (or sometimes, other friends) got me what little food I could eat and brought it to a table by my bed; I ate lying down, or stood up with the walker for a brief period in an attempt to soothe my digestion. Sitting was out of the question.

Here is what I learned: pain is a box. A light, bright trash compactor that takes your life and squeezes it into about a foot square. Anything outside that box has no interest for you, and soon begins to seem unreal. I'd been negotiating to buy a small place in the country -- a place for the future, a place to write those novels that have been stacked up like planes waiting to land; a place with trees and acreage, where I could walk my dogs off-leash. Suddenly it was hard to imagine that I would ever have a life outside the bright white box; this talk of colorful future days seemed like some sort of fever dream. I put it aside. Besides, who could deal with the complexities of buying a farmhouse? I could barely make it to the bathroom and back.

I remember turning my head one afternoon, and glancing from my mattress in the living room straight back through the dining room and kitchen and out the window to the yard, where dappled sunlight gleamed on the waving leaves of a ficus-fig tree. It seemed as though I were looking at an alien planet.

The next lesson: illness begets illness, as other things happened that I could not account for. I got a sore throat and my voice changed. I saw flashing images in the periphery of my vision -- not, as it turned out, a sign my retina was detaching, but that the blood flow to my head had been affected; better see a neurologist. Spasms would descend on me suddenly, usually in the evening, getting worse as the hours progressed. I recall one particular night, at about two in the morning, as my friend desperately massaged me in an effort to lessen the pain. I'd mentioned the ER as the pain wall climbed, but she tried to talk me out of it -- I know she felt, Been there, done that; let me go back to bed. I couldn't blame her. "What can they do for you at this point?" But after another hour of screaming I crawled into the car again, and off we went. There was black humor in it; as I paced with the walker, crying, the patient who was ahead of me in line said to the admissions woman, who was asking about his address, "Um, maybe you should talk to that person first."

They added a muscle relaxant to the morphine injection this time, and it was a blessing from heaven.

Through all this, I would think blankly, "Two weeks ago I was fine." "Three weeks ago I was fine." "A month ago, I was fine." How was this possible?

The hip specialist, when I finally saw him, took one look at me and said, "I've never seen a hip patient lying on their stomach. And I've never seen bursitis cause this much pain." He said that he believed the cause was actually in my lower back (which felt fine). "We'll get you an MRI. I'm betting it'll show herniated disks."

So I was scheduled for an MRI... about a week to ten days later. And here is the other great lesson I learned from my sojourn in pain country: I'd always assumed that if someone was in great pain, the wheels of the bureaucracy would turn quickly. In fact, they turn at exactly the same pace as before. You'll get an MRI in a week or so, unless, as we did, my friend called the MRI place and asked if they had any cancellations sooner. They did -- but we had to be active about it, and then beg. So, victory at getting the MRI that Friday... but then, someone has to write up the report. Heavens, you wouldn't expect that to happen on a weekend. Hopefully he'll get to it on Monday or Tuesday... if you call and push. But then you'll need another appointment with the orthopedist (this time, the spine specialist). With luck, maybe you'll get that another week or ten days after the MRI.

By then, you've heard that magical word, "Epidural." You crawl into the car to see the spine specialist, expecting that now, with the MRI information, he can perform such a procedure. But he doesn't do that; no, you need to make an appointment with the pain management specialist. By now you're a few weeks into this, and it's the first time anybody's suggested that pain management specialists exist.

"And don't think you'll get the epidural then, either," the orthopedist warned, having heard the somewhat unhinged hysterical laughter made by the two friends who'd brought me in. "That'll just be the consult." Which will be in another week to ten days. And unfortunately, nobody can call the office of a pain management specialist and ask to get you in quickly "because she's suffering"; everybody who sees him is suffering.

And so on and so on. Accompanied, of course, by the requisite bureaucratic torment beloved of my health insurer. Scramble, scramble for those referrals. The first orthopedist's referral, we found out as we were leaving, was for the brother of the doctor we saw (they share the office, and of course, the same last name). Insurance won't honor it. Call back the primary doctor and get a new one for his brother, quick, because they won't honor retroactive referrals either. Then you're returning to the same office to see the spine specialist? New referral. Pain management? "You'll need a new referral. His office won't even book you till they get it." What about the epidural? "We'll need to put in for authorization." "How long will that take?" "Sometimes two or three weeks."

Phone call after phone call. And I know from experience that my insurer will deny receiving referrals about half the time anyway. I could understand why I'd heard that the mother of a boy with a degenerative disease, who shared my insurer, was reduced to tears at least once a month simply from trying to deal with this.

And then there's the dearly won knowledge that one must ever keep track of how many pain pills you have, and whether they will get you through the weekend, or rather, whether they will get you through the next four days, as it's late on a Friday and your orthopedist won't get the message till Monday and his office is adamant that it's a 48-hour turnaround. And the many phone calls that go with this, and the constant fear that your request will be declined -- not that the doctor's office will ever call and tell you this; you'll only find out as you continuously check the pharmacy.

I told the pain management specialist that I didn't care whether the epidural was insurance-approved or not; I just wanted it, and I'd pay whatever it turned out wasn't covered. He agreed to set a date three days later. There are people in the world who can't make that kind of offer. And there are people in the world who'd lose their jobs (and possibly their apartments or their cars) if they were absent from work for a month or more. I am fortunate.

I am fortunate. I have had three epidurals, and physical therapy will soon begin. My dog was able to sit in my lap, briefly, for the first time in seven weeks. The sounds I make have dwindled to the occasional yelp. I am on the tarmac, my plane accelerating, ready to take off from the country of pain and show me the curve of the globe beneath my window. I was only a tourist after all.

Some of us live there.
msisolak July 9 2014, 19:28

Distractions

Mirrored from Marsha Sisolak.

Those work well, and keep my mind off everything else.

The photo albums I brought home? A gold mine of mysteries. Some have names on the back, which is helpful, I suppose when I find time to do the family research. But mostly? Total mystery. Like this one with the information on the back.

2014-07-09 11.32.292014-07-09 11.33.14

I haven’t decided if he’s a curiosity that whoever began the album couldn’t give up or somehow related to the family. Banister and West Circus operated during Victorian England and toured Scotland mostly. That’s all I’ve found so far.

I’ve tinkered with a short story, thinking I will send it to Charlie when the F&SF window opens. I can’t quite bring myself to work on the novel, as much as I want. I’m pretty distracted and it’s easier to hold my attention with research. And work around the house. Heaven knows that needs doing.

My kids’ dogs are keeping us on our toes, too. I walked Shasta first this morning (because the two little monsters together tie themselves up) and she was so worried about Baxter not being with us that she slipped out of her collar as I bent to scoop her present for me, and I had to chase her home.

It’s really annoying when the fur baby stops to make sure you’re still following and then takes off again when you’ve made it within arms’ reach.

I’m still having trouble when people who haven’t heard ask how Mom is, and I don’t know if I’ll get over that any time soon.

mizkit July 9 2014, 17:21

I love you guys.

I really, really do. You’re crazy-wonderful. Crunderful. No, that doesn’t sound nice. Anyway, I love you.

The Fantasy Fudge project funded in about five hours. I have since received several emails from readers and friends laughing at me for being surprised, but honestly, it was a lark, it IS a lark, I figured I should give myself FORTY-FIVE DAYS to make it work, when, jeez, I don’t know, maybe a week would have been enough. So I love you guys.

At this moment, there are (technically) 7 kinds of fudge funded chocolate(walnut), peanut butter, maple(ginger), dairy-free and diabetic, and there’s one more in the works if the next stretch goal is reached.

I have a funny idea for a high-end stretch goal, one that will go out to everybody no matter what level they pledge at. It involves Joanne. I shall say no more. :)

Share this:

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

mrissa July 9 2014, 16:29

Wednesday assortment

1. I am in SF Signal’s Mind Meld this time around. It’s about the Suck Fairy and avoiding same. I think one of the things I thought of after, reading the other answers, is that you’re bringing different things when you’re at different ages. Sometimes you’re bringing your innocence or naivete. You shouldn’t feel bad about that–but you also shouldn’t feel bad about bringing greater judgment and experience later.


2. DDB is having a print sale at The Online Photographer, a very different kind of photo than the ones I usually link with Tim’s work. Check it out here.


3. I made a Sooper Sekrit Short Story Sale. It is both Sooper and Sekrit. I will let you know the details when I can, but suffice it to say: I am pleased.


4. The electric company is performing shenanigans in our vicinity. This is what I get for saying things about how I value infrastructure, isn’t it? Sigh.


5. If I have a fifth thing, this will remind me of Rise. And being reminded of Rise is a good thing, because there are still those of you out there who miss her and her “five things make a post” posts, too. Cancer: it stinks. Hearing news from another friend reminds me of the stinkingness of cancer and of how the little things that remind us with a smile of fallen friends are not to be neglected.




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