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Longest gym session in ages.

My wind is completely shot, so rather than running properly, I did one 0.6km jog on the treadmill and a couple of 0.2-0.3km stretches in between lifting the weights. It's excellent to have a gym that isn't stuffed to the gills, since all the undergrads are deep in exam-panic.

13 minutes on the exercise bike, resistance 8, 4.5km.

3x5 assisted pull-up, 30kg assist.

1x5 bench, 50kg
1x5 bench, 55kg
1x5 bench, 57.5kg
3x5 bench, 60kg.

3x15 bicep curl, 6kg.

3x8 standing chest fly, 8kg.

2x10 leg press, 73kg.
1x10 leg press, 80kg.

3x8 incline sit-ups

Brief stretches.

This entry was originally posted at There are comment count unavailable comments there. Comment where you like.

She spoke his name outloud again...

Originally published at Jaime Lee Moyer. You can comment here or there.

Not to bury the lead...

The trade paper of Delia's Shadow will be out May 20th. Two weeks after that, June 3rd to be exact, A Barricade In Hell will be released.

Two books in two weeks, ladies and gents. I have no words for how crazed that is. I should probably start shamelessly self promoting.

Cats must be fed, after all.

In that spirit, I have two signings scheduled in Houston right after Barricade comes out. Friday, June 13th, I will be signing at Katy Budget Books from 6-8 p.m.

And on Saturday, June 14th, I'll be back at Murder By The Book from 4:30 to 6-ish. I had a ton of fun there last fall, and I can't wait to go back.

I will remind the world a few times between now and then. I'd really love to see people turn out for both signings.

Months back my external hard-drive decided to wipe almost all the music off my computer during the weekly backup.

As in ::poof:: gone. Bye-bye.

All the music was still on my old computer, and on the external drive, and it would play if that drive was connected, but the cpu never stopped running and nothing else worked correctly. The extra added bonus was that none of the music would go BACK on to the computer.

I was not a happy woman. I ended up ripping cds to the drive (again) and other fun things to get some of that music back. I write to music, so that was important.

This week the ranch was saved by a 16g thumbdrive. I got all my music--over 3000 mp3s, all of which I paid money for--off the old computer and back on the one I use.

Music makes me happy. Getting it back makes me happy. It's all about the happy stuff. And if some people in the world think that's silly, I really don't care.

Awaken, aka the twisted fairytale, continues to grow. It's creeping up on 10k, which as you know, Roberta, makes it a real book. My brain is giving me the story in chunks, and jumping around in time, and I can see I need to go back and layer in details. But on the whole, I get words when I sit down to write.

Time to write is the issue. I do need to sleep once in a while.

Changes passed down from the corporate level have made the dayjob a stress fest of epic proportions. Which is all I'm going to say about that.

Insert a primal scream here for the rest of real life. Interesting times, ladies and gents. I'd like a little boredom now.

Time to be productive before I leave for a night shift. Day 1 of 7 in a row.


sastruga or zastruga (SAS-truh-guh, sa-STROO-guh) - n., a sharp, irregular ridge in snow formed by wind.

Usually seen only in the plural form, sastrugi, and according to some sources, the Russian origin (zastrugi, grooves) is a collective without a singular form, but others give -ga as the singular form in Russian as well. (No doubt someone here knows enough of the language to shed some insight.) The initial s- comes from transmission through German.


Interesting thoughts on random bloggery

I've been bombarding my poor LJ readers with a ton of posts about other blogging I do...  But, in my defense, it's been a truly interesting learning curve which I find entertaining to share with you all.

The fun part of this week is that one of my posts got selected for the "Freshly Pressed" Wordpress showcase, and was published there on Monday, which led to a flood of new readers, comments and unusual activity.  I think it's critical for Wordpress to do this, since it gives bloggers an exposure that goes well beyond the few readers they would otherwise have, and give them more incentive to be active on the site (with the associated upsells to paid versions of the platform).  It looks like a smart business move by WP.

Not so smart are other things that companies do, and today's Classically Educated post deals exactly with the more boneheaded side of corporate life - anyone who's ever been at a large (or even not-so-large) company will definitely enjoy this one!

As a GM, I’m not sure whether my pop culture references are a strength or not.

References make things more vivid for me – if I say, “You shoot, but he slides under your bullets Matrix-style, trenchcoat flapping,” then to me that’s a great visual shorthand that lets players know what’s happening.  Likewise, if I tell my players, “This robot talks like the Iron Giant” or “It’s a vast and curved space station, like the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey,” then that provides a lot of info. So I do that a lot.

The issue is, if my players don’t get the reference, then the whole image dissolves – making it a risky technique.  As they’re not likely to tell me they didn’t get it in the heat of things, leaving them out in the cold.

So I have to ponder how to do that.  Because on one level, a good pop culture reference can tell you exactly what mood I’m trying to go for – saying, “He totally Jackie Chans out from under your punches, flipping across the table and then kicking it in your direction” lets the players know that this is a fast-paced kung-fu fight.  But maybe I’m overusing it, and not allowing my own game to breathe in the process, giving players an impression that’s more pastiche than essential creation.

And certainly if I’m going to do it, I need to provide alternate explanations, because “This robot talks like the Iron Giant” is pretty bad description in isolation.  There’s no context for the culturally-bereft (though honestly, I’m not sure I’d want to play with someone who hadn’t seen The Iron Giant).  If I said, “This robot talks deep and metallic, like the Iron Giant,” then that’d be better – but when I’m GMing and trying to juggle so many things at once, I tend to shorthand.

I’m unsure whether it’s a weakness or a strength, or how to leverage that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

I had an interesting discussion about prologues yesterday.

Some folks seemed to feel very strongly that readers universally skip (or skim to the point of skipping) a prologue.  Which isn’t actually a bad approach, since as Raymond Arnold accurately pointed out, “The opening prologue either gives backstory, or shows teaser scene of who the Big Bad is without introducing why our character cares about them.”  (For more info on why authors do this, check out Dan Wells’ thoughts on The Ice Monster Prologue.)  And the anti-prologue people were vociferous in insisting that most folks flat-out ignored the prologue, and maaaaybe went back to read it later when they got better context.

Whereas I’m of the opinion that most people read straight through.  I believe this because I was shocked to discover that most people read anthologies straight through, in order.  (I’m a “read my favorite authors, then read the shortest stories, then read the ones with the interesting titles, then read the rest” kinda guy.)  So the idea that people are skipping the prologue in a book intended to be read sequentially seems crazy to me…

…but what do I know?

Well, what I know is that for purposes of being a better writer, agents and book companies do read the prologue first, and you’ll get your ass rejected if it’s not good, so you’d better treat your prologue like it’s the first thing people will read, or they won’t ever get the chance to read it.  (Unless you self-publish, of course.)

But leaving all thoughts of manuscript salability aside, when you are presented with a prologue, what do you do as a reader?  I personally read lightly – it’s foolish to get attached to anyone in a prologue, to the point where I’m considering titling the prologue to my new book “Don’t Worry, Dude Dies At The End Of The Chapter” – but I do read it.  And if I’m skimming through books at the bookstore, if the prologue’s uninteresting, I won’t get to the first official chapter.

Yet that’s me.  I could be mapping my preferences onto the world at large.

How do you read prologues?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

Apr. 23rd, 2014

M left to go back to the city. The Great Gats and little Meow went with her. Gats gets his boy parts removed today. Poor guy. He really is a lovely dog but a little rambunctious for a dog that size. He head butted me the other day by accident and man that hurt. He is still basically a pup though so he will settle.

Cold, raining and windy yesterday but it appears the grey is finally parting– and the green is starting to spread through all that brown pasture. And ninety percent of the snow is gone… just a few patches here and there. We’ll soon shake off the last of this winter.
I made a list today. So hopefully I can check off several things and still have a few hours to write later on.  I had a wonderful time with M but we didn’t get a lot done. J Except yesterday I taught her how to parallel park.  She still needs some practice but she got the gist of it down.
I am a little out of sorts today. I am hoping some outdoor work shakes it from me. Off I go. J

What’s a “zarzuela” in Spanish?


A zarzuela is a blackberry.

Zarzuela is the name of a small river north of Madrid where there are a lot of blackberry brambles.

Zarzuela Palace, the residence of the royal family of Spain, is located in that area. Originally a hunting lodge built for King Felipe IV in the early 1600s, it was later expanded into a palace.

Starting in the 1600s, Spanish playwrights created a kind of musical theater popular with the royal family. Because they were originally performed at the royal palace, they were called zarzuelas.

These musicals became all the rage in the mid-1800s, and Zarzuela Theater in central Madrid was inaugurated in 1856 to represent them. They were often comedies reflecting working-class Madrid of the day. Since then, the genre has continued to develop and is currently enjoying a revival.

“La verbena de la paloma,” is a classic Madrid zarzuela written by Ricardo de la Vega and Tomás Bretón, first performed in 1894. It is set in the La Paloma Fiesta held every August in Madrid, and the zarzuela has now become part of the fiesta celebrations. You can see a 1995 production of it here:

There is also a recipe from Catalonia, a region in northeastern Spain, called seafood zarzuela, a mixture of fish and shellfish with sauce named after the musical form, which over the years has become a Catalan lyric theater distinct from the Madrid variety.

— Sue Burke
Originally posted by rose_lemberg at On the pitfalls of “merit”


As I see it, there is currently a split in the fandom. I tentatively think of it as a split between Golden Age fans and Diversity Age fans. This is not about age, as I’ve written before, but about storylines: who gets to write stories, who gets to be a protagonist of stories, who gets to consume stories and express their opinions as authoritative. There is a certain correlation between demographic variables, and the Golden Age vs Diversity Age split in fandom, but it is far from absolute, and this imperfect mapping often creates dissonance in the way we speak about fandom, the works within it, and personalities who generate and consume these works.

It is not surprising that there is a demographic correlation wrt these fandoms, as many people like to see protagonists who are like themselves. It is also no big secret that Golden Age works often tend to other, exclude, and dismiss Diversity Age Fans. Nevertheless, there is an overlap between these fandoms. Perhaps instead of talking about a binary split, we can talk about a continuum between these two axes; a continuum of values and interests that maps loosely but not precisely onto demographics. Some people can hold positions that overlap with both axes. A white, cisgendered, heterosexual man can certainly be a Diversity Age fan.

However, the position of a white, cisgendered, heterosexual man is a demographic position of privilege and power both in fandom and without it. Within the Golden Age umbrella, this demographic has been the one primarily fronted through narratives, power structures, promotion through mainstream presses, and other venues of power. This demographic position of power is not automatically dismantled or disappears within Diversity Age fandom – on the contrary, we see a flow of social capital from fans, in form of sales, praise, and support, towards such powerful fans who side with Diversity Age positions.

Such powerful fans are, not surprisingly, in a position to powerfully promote Diversity Age voices, which are, in many cases, still building their influence and earning social power and fanbase. While speaking out, up and coming diverse writers and fans often become targets of ridicule and scorn due to their demographic and social positioning – when they get any attention at all. In that way, white, cisgendered, heterosexual men (and often women, though there is a notable social and power difference) who are power brokers in our communities can – and get- to do a lot of good for Diversity Age fandom.

However, the temptation is strong to use this power not just to do ally work, but to self-build through the struggle of marginalized Diversity Age writers and fans – through campaining for Diversity positions which incurs increased social capital, as well as increased financial capital. Few are the voices that rise to openly criticize such powerful fans if their work happens to be less than clueful, because they are in power positions to grant and withdraw favors, as well as grant and withdraw considerable social capital in our communities. It is exactly the risk that I am taking here.

Now I will speak about conciliatory voices. Some of the people on Hugo ballot this year – regardless of how they got there – spoke openly and vociferously against personhood and agency of Diversity Age authors and fans, to an extent that many Diversity Age authors and fans felt and continue to feel threatened emotionally and at times physically. At the same time, certain conciliatory voices of prominent fandom people have been raised to ask fandom to judge Hugo-nominated works on their literary merit.

The suggestion that we read solely for “merit” fronts the idea of “objectivity,” i.e. that a view which considers a given work in a vacuum, without social context in whcih the work has been created and disseminated, is somehow desirable and superior to other ways of reading. Fronting “objectivity” has a long and problematic history within academia and beyond. The fallacy is that what gets to be objective gets to be again defined by power brokers, thus effectively silencing and disenfranchising the marginalized.

This suggestion also carries within it a value judgment: “objectivity good, anger bad” – which slides yet again into the old and tired tone argument.

It is my opinion that such conciliatory voices from prominent personae who are 1) power brokers in our communities and 2) considerably less marginalized than the diverse fans and authors they are championing – are not helping the cause of marginalized and othered Diversity Age authors and fans. In these statements there is often an embedded tone argument, an entreaty to Diversity Age fans to play nice with people who explicitly or implicitly dehumanize and more yet, threaten violence against them. Such conciliatory language from power brokers suggests story lines for the whole community to align with – storylines whose buzzwords are “reason,” “respectability,” and “merit.”

But these “voices of reason” may not speak fully for Diversity Age fans, because the very notion of such reason and its objectivity is a Western ideal (and by extent white, male, and historically entrenched ideal within the power structures of the West) which we are thereby encouraged to adopt. The ideal of objective merit might seem desirable at first glance, because we are socialized to desire it. In fact, the adoption of this ideal is dangerous: it suppresses non-Western, non-cisgendered-male modes of thinking and communicating, and imposes a mainstream, power paradigm upon the marginalized – it often has, in short, a silencing effect.

Also, conciliatory statements often have the effect of diverting the attention yet again (along with the accompanying social praise and support) from the marginalized voices to the power brokers, thus increasing the social capital of those who already have it, while marginalized voices go unpromoted and unsupported – unsupported often in context of vicious attacks from those who deny Diversity Age fans their personhood.

This is not about Golden Age vs Diversity Age split, but about lending one’s ear to white supremacists and their allies. For many of us, who are well-versed in surviving violence of various kinds, knowing the context is crucial for survival. This is why we cannot divorce the work from its author, or from the social context within which these authors operate. A context in which a given author is actively dangerous – emotionally, physically – is crucial.

It is within this context that many of us will judge such works, and many of us may feel angry, uncomfortable, disenfranchised, dismissed, and silenced when the paradigm of “merit” is suggested by power brokers – even when they are powerful allies in other contexts.

Special thanks to Saira Ali, Amal El-Mohtar, SL Huang, and Alex Dally MacFarlane for their critical reading, suggestions, and support.

I am closing comments because I have no spoons for trolls in this space. Please feel free to discuss this in your own spaces. If you’d like a discussion with me specifically, please find me through @roselemberg on twitter. I will do my best to engage, though I will not be engaging with trolls.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

I know you've been here before: You're talking to a friend about her long-term, borderline abusive relationship. He hasn't really done anything illegal, but he just has this tendency to be hurtful, controlling, making himself out to be the victim in any argument, making her into the bad guy with the kids and otherwise being manipulative, mendacious, etc., etc... You believe he's cheating on her and you don't want to say so because it would just add one more thing to her long list of worries about him. So you let her talk and get it off her chest, and give some advice about setting boundaries, and eventually, she goes back home feeling a little better, a little more confident and assertive...

...until the next week when she's back on your couch again doing the same thing. This goes on and on for years, until it finally dawns on you that... YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you weren't there to let her blow steam and talk it out and have a bit of a cry and so on... She would have dumped that asshole years ago. You're just enabling her to maintain a crappy relationship, and not only is it wasting her life, but she's wasting yours with this codependency bullshit.

After a while, you even start to tally the hours and the pots of tea and the going out to the pub that you've been doing to make her feel better, and you see that it's costing you money, not just time. And there's all those lost opportunities that you have because you were at home on the weekend consoling her rather than getting to know people and do interesting things. And all this builds up into a huge festering pile of resentment. Eventually, you stop seeing this friend of yours, you cut her off, you let her sleep in the bed she made.

Is that being a friend? I don't think so.

But what can you do?

I realize, perhaps while thinking about the period twenty to ten years ago, that I've spent the decade between ten years ago and now doing this social networking thing. I've been both the woman with the abusive relationship and the longsuffering friend through all this time, and I'm thinking.... This is not working. Not for either of us.

What kind of brought it to a head is YET ONE MORE BULLSHIT EVENT FROM THE SFWA.

It's not a particularly bad one. Some bigots rallied around a bigot and got him some votes. Happens every election in every European democracy. There's always the token skinhead member of parliament, and most everyone seethes to see him there, and the minority rejoice to get one up on the system.

But here's the thing: I've begun to notice how much time I devote to this codependency. I'm beginning to see how there's this one country, and this one country has these serious problems with equality. Race, gender, and economic equality. And this broken relationship it has with equality manages to inveigle itself into every. single. online. issue. ever.

I'm also noticing this because someone (I won't say who, because she'd resent me for bringing her into this petty argument) said that one thing you need to know about Americans is that "we assume everyone is just like us." And it's true. I know because I was raised American and it took twenty years of marriage to a non-American for me to get a full grasp of the enormity of how this is true. We Americans (and possibly all humans, but being raised American biases me) try to put all things into our own context rather than try to understand someone else's.

To the point where we actually have the fucking gall to tell other people how to run their societies, when we're so abysmally bad at running our own. The hypocricy is STAGGERING. [But that's my own bugbear. Being raised as a Foreign Service brat makes me put everything into the context of international relations. See? AMERICAN!]

So I am going to try (AGAIN, because I've tried before, and even closed down an earier LJ account to prevent myself from sucking at this bilious teat) to stop enabling this relationship. Now... back to pretty flowers.

My tweets


Galactic Suburbia Episode 98 Shownotes

Heads up: there’s a bonus Hugo edition episode incoming.

In which we approach Fringe from multiple sides, rant about Game of Thrones, muse about cake lit and Alisa is a PhD student again! Bonus supplemental awards chat (but not in depth about the Hugos because we recorded before the shortlist went public) and an invitation to CAKE OUT for our 100th. See you there…

Culture Consumed:

Alex: Fringe s1; A Million Suns, Beth Revis; The Crooked Letter, Sean Williams

Tansy: Game of Thrones rant, Jenny Colgan novels, Jago & Litefoot 7, Yonderland!

Alisa: Game of Thrones; Generation Cryo; The Cuckoo by Sean Williams, Clarkesworld Issue 91; the PhD Report

Aurealis Awards were awarded.

(sidetracked: Before the Internet from XKCD)

Hugo nomination

CAKE COMPETITION! For our 100th episode, we would like to have a new logo. On a cake. Designed by you. Send a picture of your creation and you could win… something… and you can eat the cake, too. (This is episode 98, so you’ve got 4 or 5 weeks to plan your creation.)

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!


Recent Word Counts

My usual daily quota right now is around 2,000 words. I budgeted zero words on the two driving days up and near-zero words on the three driving days back on this trip. Nor did I expect normal word counts while I’m up here.

Here’s how many words I wrote on each day of the trip, by day:

  1. 0 (as budgeted)
  2. 0 (as budgeted)
  3. 185 (disappointing)
  4. 298 (disappointing)
  5. 1,160 (a fucking miracle, given we found out the house was a writeoff this day)
  6. 343 (a fucking miracle, having gotten access to the house this day)

Overall, still less than I hoped for, but I’m glad I didn’t let life completely kick me in the ass.

Tomorrow is our first day driving back.

I’m really hoping that one of the childhood heirlooms of mine that still hasn’t been produced can be found and obtained before we leave. It’s an absolutely stupid thing of no commercial value, but it’s such a unique memorabilia piece from my life and so appropriate to this trip, I can’t imagine not having it.

It’s from the trip we took to San Clemente Island one year, when the military mixed up the schedule and accidentally authorized us anchorage at Pyramid Cove at the same time they were shelling the island from a destroyer five miles out. They weren’t missing by much, not even when they went ten or fifteen miles out, so we felt pretty safe exploring the island well away from the target range. So we did. I also remember snorkeling through the kelp beds to get bait for fishing.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

Facebook interrupts your feed to stick in ads these days. There was a howler from Microsoft. It didn't actually say Windows 8, no doubt because they're embarrassed by it, but they did show an XP desktop and claimed you could keep it all, followed by the hashtag #GoodbyeXP.

As I went to comment, I didn't see a single atta-boy, way to go, Microsoft. No, it was all give me my XP.

Epic. Fail.

With a new Windows PC, keep the Desktop you love and run the Office you know. ‪#‎GoodbyeXP‬

  • Philip Edward Kaldon So, just like Windows XP I can install Office 95 and use Norton Utilities and Special Edition 4.5 in a cmd.exe MS-DOS box and run WordStar 3.30 in the DOS box? I Don't Think So. Microsoft -- you keep forgetting that it's MY machine and I use it to do WORK. You keep putting out crap like Me, Vista and 8 which keep breaking things. You don't get it. Dr. Phil

I keep telling my students I need fifteen minutes in a dead end alley with Bill Gates or his designated Prince, and with an aluminum baseball bat I'll 'splain a few things to them.

Dr. Phil

Design Your Own Dragon: final week!

Just a reminder that the Design Your Own Dragon contest will be ending in a little more than a week, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 30th. This is your chance not only to win an ARC of Voyage of the Basilisk (once we have some on hand), but to have your very own creation included in the Memoirs of Lady Trent. I may choose up to three winners, depending partly on how many entries I get — so in a sense, the more of you that enter, the better your chances are!

(Okay, really I’m just selfish. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of reading the entries thus far, and am eager to see what else people come up with.)

E-mail your submissions to dragons.of.trent {at} You’ve got about one week left!

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

This entry was also posted at Comment here or there.

In the mid-80s, my mom and my late stepfather moved up to Vancouver Island. They lived in Port Alberni for a time, then built a house on almost 13 acres of land in Courtenay.

Her former partner’s been living in it as the caretaker. He hasn’t mentioned any maintenance issues. He hasn’t mentioned no running water in the kitchen.

That may be, in part, because this is the kitchen….
Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )

Originally published at You can comment here or there.

At last, I fulfill the pledge I made last June.

Paul Roberts, Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Oxford University Press in conjunction with The British Museum Press, Oxford and London, 2013.

The first thing that strikes you about Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum (hereafter Life and Death) is how very large, and how very glossy, it is. It's a hardback volume, approximately 30cm tall and more than 20cm wide. It stretches over 300 pages, with more than 400 full-colour interior illustrations, and it's a heavy, unwieldy book to try to read anywhere but at a desk or table. (Don't try to read it in bed or on your lap: it'll wreck your wrists. I speak from experience.) It is a book built around the exhibit Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum in the British Museum, and part of its mandate is clearly to be the kind of visually gorgeous coffee-table book that wealthy visitors to museums buy in the giftshop - without, necessarily, any prior knowledge of the thing exhibited - and take home to display, or to show their friends, or to bone up with later. (The dustjacket offers a RRP of USD$45.00.)

And it is visually gorgeous. It's also a rather well-thought-out and useful book for the student of the Roman world, whether serious academic or interested dabbler, in many ways because of its visual component: it isn't often, outside of a museum catalogue, that so many different types of things - everyday items, tools, wall-painting, graffiti, sculpture, plans and interiors of houses, etc - are pictured in this quantity and quality. And museum catalogues rarely give quite so much contextual information.

A brief note on where I'm coming from in relation to this book: my research focus has never been primarily with Roman things - although my undergraduate education and the fact that I research things to do the ancient Mediterranean means I have a reasonable degree of competency with the matter of Rome. I can see if something is largely accurate or inaccurate, is what I'm saying, but details are likely to escape me one way or the other.

That said, Life and Death is decidedly on the largely accurate side, as well it should be: it's written by one of the British Museum's Roman art and archaeology curators, Paul Roberts, who has a fine track record in other publications.

It's divided into nine chapters, not including the introduction, and includes notes, bibliography, list of exhibits, and a decent but by no means entirely comprehensive index. (But I'm of the school that believes indices should include absolutely everything humanly possible.) Those chapters are structured in such a way as to move from the urban environment of the town and the streets deeper into the house, so that it is as though one starts out walking around the towns and proceeds to tour more intimate spaces - that is, until the final chapter, which is about the death of the cities rather than the ways of dying and dealing with death of the cities' inhabitants prior to the catastrophe of the 79CE eruption.

Although there is, I suppose, a case to be made for death as the most intimate space of all.

"I: The Urban Context" deals with the world in which the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum moved: the shape of their streets, the history of their towns, the structure of their civic offices, whose voices can be reconstructed as having a public presence, the images that lined their streets, social mobility and the role of women. As we move from "The Urban Context" to "II: Living Above The Shop," with its discussions of trade and industry, production and domesticity, and the relationship of both to the wider civic landscape, and from there deeper into the house with "III: Atrium," "IV: Cubiculum," "V: Garden," "VI: Living Rooms and Interior Design," "VII: Dining," and "VIII: Kitchens, Toilets and Baths," it becomes clear that Roberts is engaged as much in writing a social history of the cities as he is in presenting the archaeological remains. Pompeii and Herculaneum lend themselves well to social history, due to the much more comprehensive than usual nature of what was preserved by the disaster, but Roberts' social focus has odd gaps.

This is, I suspect, due as much to the focus of the British Museum exhibit (with which, we recall, the book is directly associated) as it is to Roberts' own lack of broad academic engagement with a cross-section of ancient Campanian society: the exhibit, and thus the book, focuses on the houses of the wealthier sort - the kind with extensive decoration, atria, gardens and so forth - so that, unlike in Andrew Wallace-Hadrill's Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum, there's no real discussion of the smaller sort of houses and the people who must have lived in them. But within the limits of the exhibition's focus, Roberts does a solid job of reconstructing a broad cross-section of the kind of people, and the kind of activities, that took place inside those houses. He is especially good at pointing out the variety of statuses of people who moved inside those houses, slaves and freedman as well as freeborn citizens, and the various uses to which spaces in the houses were put; and also at drawing attention to, and complicating the reader's understanding of, the position and the roles of women within the society of the cities, and within and outside their houses. He reminds us that it might be fruitful to consider the Roman women of the first centuries BC and CE in light of what we know about the women of the much-better-documented 16th-18th centuries CE, as their legal statuses are comparable.

The chapter on "Kitchens, Toilets, and Baths," is particularly interesting to me for how Roberts draws attention to the close colocation of food storage, cooking, and waste disposal. In houses from Pompeii and Herculaneum, the privy is often located near the hearth.

The final chapter discusses the death of the cities, and the people inside them. In this chapter are two large glossy pictures of dead people: one carbonised skull, and one preserved in clear resin. It is a very interesting discussion of the volcanic eruptions and how we know what we know about the cities because of the state of preservation and so forth, but do not read this chapter over dinner if you are disposed towards a tender stomach.

The tone of the volume is, on the whole, conversational and enthusiastically informative; the information is well-structured (though damn do I get bored easily hearing about August Mau and the Four Styles of Wall-Painting: I didn't love that part of my coursework as an undergraduate and it turns out I still don't find it fascinating) and the illustrations well-laid-out. The images are never crowded or difficult to follow, which is excellent in a book with this many of them.

If you're interested in the history and archaeology of the ancient Roman world, or even just in how premodern cities worked? This is a damn fine volume to have on your shelves, I think.

This entry was originally posted at There are comment count unavailable comments there. Comment where you like.

Whew -- Made It This Time

A year ago tomorrow I gave my second Final Exam for Spring 2013. Or mostly did. I had gotten what I thought was the late flu from my students, the one that the Fall 2012 flu shot didn't really protect against. I was running a fever and felt totally wasted. "Weak as a kitten," was a phrase I repeated to people.

I called in from the road, explaining that I was running late and had to use the bathroom as soon as I got in -- I had been pushing fluids -- and could someone start the exam for me.

When I finally got there, my department chair and the secretary were proctoring the exam. My boss took one look at me and told me to go home. I told him that I needed to do about an hour's work so that someone could handle the Check-Out form duties -- I always do a Check-Out before they leave to make sure that a missing paper really is a missing paper, while there is time to print up a new copy, etc. No surprises.

So after an hour, I trudged up out of the lecture hall in 1110 Rood, barely, and made it to my office where I puttered a few more hours. Who knew it would be 237 days until I was back in my office on campus?

And now we're starting up the long line of one year anniversaries.

Today the weather was pleasant, heading up to a high of like 54°F, but the sunny drive was in the forties. I made it to campus by 9:30, picked up my exams, came to my office, put my HP Mini 1000 in its little case, loaded up the cookies -- it's Finals so we get name brand cookies *** -- and was over to open up 1110 Rood in plenty of time for the 10:15 start time. 91 students, everyone done by 12:15, one way or the other. ****

Back to my office. All without thinking I would pass out. (grin)

What a difference a year makes.

Now it's all over for the semester. Except for the grading. Except for the screaming.

Okay, so one week to go before grades submitted Tuesday 29 April 2014 -- and then I am free until September.

I am going to make up for that dastardly Year Without A Summer, I assure you. Even with two canes and a walker and a foot brace!

Dr. Phil

*** For the record there were real Oreos, Peanut Butter Oreos, Triple Double Oreos -- three cookies, two fillings, one of white and one of chocolate -- we never did find the Megastuf Oreos with twice the filling of a Doublestuf -- and a rerun of this year's most popular cookies, the almond Windmill cookies.

**** Meanwhile, despite all the work I have to do and the story I've been working on, naturally yesterday I came up with a nearly fully fledged story idea, so I started writing that while the students worked on their final exam.

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

Two big things! My awesome friend Barry Deutsch did mock-up covers for The House, my Erotic Choose Your Own Adventure Novel — and they’re all too gorgeous! Help me choose which one to use!!! :D

cassie-cover-optionsAnd secondly…Charlaine Harris liked Nightshifted! She said it was “was an unexpectedly appealing book. It sounded interesting, and I bought it on a whim. Paid off in spades!”

I’m swooning over here. Because stuff like that DOES NOT HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. Where people whose stuff you admire — whose stuff made you write your stuff — say nice things about your books?! No-effing-way!


I’m at Blue Heaven, and I finished up The Haunted (my next erotic title) yesterday. 58,000 words in 28 days, my friends. I was a writing MACHINE. Now I’m back to editing my YA, Electricity, for a little break, before I go back into The Haunted at the end of this week.

Getting so much work done, surrounded by such cool people, and the weather’s lovely — this week’s been amazing!

Why my music is only available in CD form.

This question has been coming up a lot recently, so I thought I'd take a moment to address it in a central place that people could be pointed to. Specifically:

"Why can't I buy your music on iTunes/Band Camp/Amazon MP3/whatever?"

Sometimes the question takes the form of "I have gone all-digital, why do I have to buy a physical CD?", but those are basically the same thing, since "Why can't I buy..." is the flip side of "Why do I have to buy...". And here is my answer:

I will never, barring the closure of all the CD manufacturing companies, be selling my music digitally. If you want to own my music, you will need to either buy and rip a physical CD, or pirate it. I would obviously prefer the former, but since some of my CDs are out of print, I'll understand if you go for the latter.


Two big reasons. These are...

It's a hobby.

I am not a professional musician. Even if I sell every single copy of every single CD at full "retail price," never selling through filk dealers or sites like CD Baby, I won't turn a profit. Breaking even is the most that I can hope for. Because all CDs are nothing but red ink, they don't further complicate my already incredibly complicated taxes. If I started doing digital sales, which many people view as "money for nothing," I might pass that magical line where I make a profit, and then I would have to figure out how to deal with things.

I don't take enough of a loss for my music to be a tax write-off (yet), but I also don't make any money, and that keeps things simple. If I started needing to religiously track receipts and who paid what where to who, I don't know that the carrot would remain worth the stick for me.

The digital divide exists.

I feel as strongly about physical CDs as I do about physical books. The ability to release things digitally is amazing for people who can't afford a print run, or are doing something incredibly focused, or just want to get themselves out there. I can afford a print run; I have an audience; I am as out there as I need to be. And people like my mother, who doesn't own an MP3 player, and who listens to all music via her CD player, still exist.

Because of the costs of production, I can only afford to produce physical CDs when I'm sure that I'll be able to sell them. If 50% of my audience went to digital downloads, I'd wind up with a lot of unsold CDs, and again, would not be able to justify producing more. And for me, that would be the end of it. I'm not going to pay for recording and mixing and mastering and not have something in my hands when I'm done. I can't afford to produce CDs in units of less than 1,000—and with full "to get this, you must buy physical" buy-in, it still took four years for Stars Fall Home to sell out.

Cover songs.

None of my cover song licenses include digital rights. All my albums would be missing pieces if I put them up for digital download.

And so...

I know that this can create bottlenecks. I know that physical disks come with shipping costs, and that sometimes vendors run out. I know that I'm losing business. These are choices that I made, for the reasons listed above, and while they may be wrong choices, they are mine, and I'm sticking with them.

Thank you.

Hugo Award Nominations!

I was nominated for two Hugo Awards!


Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)

Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas

Lynne is also nominated for:

Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Finally, Rachel Swirsky's Apex Magazine story "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" was nominated for the Best Short Story Hugo Award and Nebula Award! This is the first time a story that I co-edited has been nominated for a major award. I am SO HAPPY for Rachel!

I'm absolutely honored and overwhelmed.

We are extremely proud of QDTL & our run at Apex Magazine. We worked with phenomenal people. We couldn't have done it without such amazing contributors and co-editors.

Lynne and I were finally at a live Hugo Awards announcement at Minicon. It was fun hearing it with our friends. We were also able to celebrate with a nice dinner  that became wonderfully raucous.

It's been a rough year, so this really means a lot to us. Now all we have to do is figure out how to be in London for the ceremony. :)

What's that sound I hear?.........

I'm sitting in my living room, listening to the golden sound of ...... silence.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Easter was rough for me this year.  Due to several things, I think -- finally getting my well feet back under me (not being sick for the first time all year), the hubby off his feet and unable to help, and Easter vacation (or, spring break as the politically correct call it now).  While I only had the Grandboys all day 2 days last week, I did pick them up in the early afternoon 2 other days.  And the one day I didn't, I was out of the house and busy all day until 4 pm.  So since I was so busy with them, or taking the hubby to the doctor, or Master Gardener training, or errands, I didn't sit much all week at all, and had to do all the house-cleaning on Sat.  That was going fine, until I glanced out the window and saw a bunch of old daffodil tops splatting across the sidewalk, and decided to go outside and either cut of pull them -- just in ONE small area.  Which of course led to tying up several tomato plants that were already threatening to flop over, and cutting some dead branches out of the Japanese maples and then deciding that since I'd already done all that, I might as well finish by getting out in the front and getting rid of the Spanish bluebell greens that were flopped on the ground and already turning to slime (I do love their flowers, but the greens turn slimy and mushy if you don't pull them before they're yellow.  And yes, I do know you're supposed to leave the tops down until they do yellow, but truly, I have so many bulbs from the years of division, that if some of them don't flower/grow next year because of this, well, it's all for the better anyway).  So I ended up spending a couple hours out there, after not exercising much all year so far, and boy was I sore the next day because of it.  By Sat. evening, I was exhausted, and in bed and asleep at 9 pm, which is totally unlike my night-owl ways.

And then Easter was up and at 'em and start cooking at 8:30 until everyone was gone and things somewhat cleaned up around 4:30.  And then I flashed at Liberty Hall.  Which was fun and good.  But yesterday, the grandboys were still out of school, so they were here all day and I was quite grumpy and out of sorts.  This morning, the grandboys both came over and then I drove them to school and stayed to help in the older boy's classroom, went by and got gas, and then a huge coffee.  I drove home, praying as I drove down my street that when I opened the garage door, I'd see an empty garage (meaning the hubby had gone out to work), and it was!  Now I'm sitting here catching up with emails and whatnot and don't even have the tv on.  And the silence, it was music to my ears.  I should go to the gym.  I will go to the gym, but for now, ahhhhhhhhhhh.  I'm going to enjoy a couple hours all to myself.  Then it will be the gym, a haircut, and pick up the grandboys after school.  And tomorrow, Master Gardener training again and then we're going to the coast for a couple days, and I will do absolutely nothing at all.  Except I'll have to drive there, which I haven't done in forever (seriously), because the hubby still cannot use his right foot for 3 more weeks and I'm not going to let him drive all the way there left-footed.  Besides, I seriously need the practice.  I'm getting rusty on driving distances.

Ghosts of the Places We Live Update #11 Plus Minicon Thoughts

I had a pretty good Minicon this year. The two panels I was on were well attended and had both excellent panelists and thoughtful audiences. I played music three nights in a row, which was a little tough on my hands, but worth it. My reading was reasonably well attended and I sold a few books and signed a few more.

*Photo courtesy of Baron Dave Romm

The three panels I attended were pretty good as well, though I had to sit on my hands and bit my tongue a couple times at the first one. I only made it to one reading this year, Cat Valente's, but I loved her story and reading-style. Made friends with some visiting musicians and got to help take them out for Malaysian food. On Saturday, three different people gave me three different types of cupcakes. It is a mystery as to why this happened, but I am not complaining. I mean, cupcakes!

But mostly what made it a great convention was hanging out with people--too many to name here--but Minicon felt more like a family reunion this year, maybe because I learned how to make my own fun at conventions. I am planning to return next year for the 50th Minicon celebration.

I didn't hardly work at all at the convention, which says something about how engaged I was, but I did work a little and even a little more yesterday.

1. Completed the first draft of the 1979 section
2. Added small scenes to the 1979 section to seed other sections
3. Made notes and started outlining 1929 section
4. Search for and added 1920s music to playlist.

Ghosts Of the Places We Live

Originally posted at You can comment here or there.

My tweets


Various things from Minicon weekend

First, I am pleased to say that my essay, “The Apple and the Castle,” will be appearing as one of the supplemental materials in the book, The Reader: The War for the Oaks. Get yours through the Kickstarter if you’re interested in gorgeous photos or me talking about what makes for a lasting fantasy classic, especially in the handling of setting.

Other good stuff happened besides me selling an essay. I was on a map panel that went pretty well, I thought, despite everyone on the panel being pro-map. (Panels often have a little extra frisson if the panelists disagree a bit more.) I want to particularly point out that while three of us writer panelists were traditionally published at one length or another, the two who were self-published-only were models of how self-published authors should conduct themselves on convention panels. They confined their remarks about their own books to the relevant and interesting, and they talked about other people’s work in on-topic ways, just as a good panelist ought. Later in the convention I encountered both of them, and one didn’t try to sell his book to me at all, while the other did–at a launch party I attended of my own free will, knowing that it was a launch party. Going to a launch party expecting someone not to be trying to talk up their book would just be dumb; that’s what they’re for. So as a result, I came away from it with warm positive feelings about both self-published authors, while I have no idea about the contents of their books, and I’m going to link them both here: Ozgur Sahin and Blake Hausladen. Well done, guys; that’s how to do it right. If this is what the rise of the self-published author brings programming at future cons, it’s going to be awesome. (I expect that this is not actually the case and self-published authors are as much a mixed bag as traditionally published authors. Ah well; at least I had a good panel.)

The middle-grade panel was less focused than the map panel, but several good names got discussed–Mer, everybody likes you–and our surprise last panelist got through her first panel ever without too much difficulty. (She was 14. First panels ever are hard.)

Alec’s and my reading went beautifully–not a huge crowd, but not a tiny one either, especially given that it was scheduled over the dinner hour. Timprov was a hero of the revolution in bringing us hot soup so that we were fortified before the reading.

A question came up in conversation at the book launch party, and I wanted to address it here, and that was: why don’t I post reviews of the books I get sent for review but do not finish? The dual entity known as James S. A. Corey was on Twitter just yesterday saying, “Writers: if people are bashing your work online, rejoice. It means someone has noticed it exists,” and I think that was the basic premise of the writer asking why I don’t post negative reviews: that negative press is still better for the smaller writer than no press. This is probably true. An individual post saying, “I stopped reading this on page one due to clunky prose,” or, “Rape scene chapter one, quit reading,” would still bring at least some attention to the book, and not everybody has the same taste in prose or the same distaste for chapter one rape scenes that I do.

However. I do not get paid for my reviews. My time is valuable, and my time is my own. Any time that I spend on writing reviews is my choice, and I don’t choose to spend that on books that didn’t hold my attention to the end. I am not long on time and energy. I would rather spend that time on my own writing, or on reading something else, or on staring at the birch tree outside my office window and willing the leaves on it to bud out, or on making my godson brownies, or…yeah. Things. “How long could it take?” Oh trust me. I bounce off a lot of books. It could take quite some time. Adding in discussion with people in the comments section, especially if those people want to try to talk me into reading a little further? It could really take quite some time.

Reviewers are good for writers, but reviewers do not exist to be good for writers. Reviewers are good for readers, but reviewers do not even exist to be good for readers. It is awfully nice that people send me free books to review. I am grateful. But what they are buying with the free book is the chance at my attention, and if they can’t hold my attention, they don’t get my time in the form of my reading or in the form of my review. Even if it would be useful to someone else.

A Year in Pictures – Notre Dame Tympanum

Notre Dame Tympanum
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This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This is another one I dropped a filter on, in this case because doing so made the sculptural details more distinct. It’s one of the tympana over the entrances to Notre Dame, and reminds me oddly of the temples we visited India, which is the only other place I’ve ever seen that density and intricacy of carving over a large surface. (Though if this had been an Indian temple instead of a French cathedral, the whole building would have been carved like that.)

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

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The White Trap (1959)

An obscure UK B-movie is the subject of my latest Noirish entry, but it's a far more interesting piece than its obscurity would suggest. For one thing, it's directed by Sidney Hayers -- only his second movie, in fact (his first, Violent Moment vt Rebound, is the subject of an upcoming Noirish post) -- and for another two it has chunky roles for Ewen Solon (Rupert Davies' Lucas in the old TV Maigret series) and Yvette Wyatt (Emergency--Ward 10). Throw in Michael Goodliffe and Conrad Phillips for good measure and you have quite a lineup!

Screengrabs (the one at the foot might especially amuse UK readers):

White Trap - 1 Joan in hospital, 'Promise me I'll be all right'

White Trap - 2 Inspector Walters gives his subordinate, Sgt Morrison, some pithy advice

White Trap - 3 Recaptured after a struggle, Paul has earned the respect of Insp W

White Trap - 4 Nurse Ann Fisher watches wistfully as Paul's led away

White Trap - 5 UK readers may be inrigued by the shop sign on the left

Today’s attempt to analyze what makes for a compelling opening chapter is a classic of the steampunk genre – one where gas-crazed zombies chase desperate scavengers through the underground of a collapsed alt-history Seattle.

And yet the story opens in a vastly different, and dare I say audacious, way.

For I have theorized that a good opening chapter will will not just introduce you to the main character at some point in the first three paragraphs, it will actually tell you what that character’s emotional dilemma is.  You’ll not just know who they are quickly, but be rooted in whatever it is they’re trying to do.

And yet Cherie Priest, wisely, said “Fuck you and your silly theories, Ferrett,” and went a different route.

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (Feel free to download the sample to your Kindle, if you’d like to play along.)

Opening Sentence: “Unpaved, uneven trails pretended to be roads; they tied the nation’s coasts together like laces holding a boot, binding it with crossed strings and crossed fingers.”

When Do We Find Out What Motivates Our Protagonist? …we don’t. 

The protagonist doesn’t show up at all until Chapter One.

In fact, there’s no protagonist at all in this introduction.

(A side note: Some may complain that the “intro” isn’t “the first chapter.”  But it is the first thing we read, and if it’s a bad intro or prologue or foreword, we will never actually get to the so-called start of your book.  So for analytical purposes, I’m sticking with my definition: this is the opening chapter, even if it’s not the first chapter.)

What Cherie starts out with is, essentially, a nonfiction summary of her alternate history.  Here’s why people were incentivized to build big fucking steampunk mining-drills just before the Civil War,  here’s why they tried the drill in Seattle, here’s the disaster that occurred when the drill went awry and destroyed downtown Seattle, and here’s the mysterious gas that seeped up from the ground after the nefarious Dr. Blue and his Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine bored a hole straight to Hell.

Now, one of the cardinal rules of worldbuilding is that you do not infodump.  You string the reader along, giving them only what they need to know just before they know it,  because a big clunky chunk of “Here’s how my technology works” is going to stand in front of your plot and characters and bore the crap out of people.  It’s considered kind of amateurish to just go, “All right, here’s what happened” and blather on for a thousand words to get your backstory across.

And Cherie pokes that rule right in the face.

She’s doing the audacious bit of telling a story without a hero – there’s no one person we’re following here.  And that’s hard to pull off, but she does it with lots of clever and visually dazzling phrasings to keep you going, such as:

In California, there were nuggets the size of walnuts lying on the ground – or so it was said, and truth travels slowly when rumors have wings of gold.

And, discussing the disappointing hauls the miners found:

Gold came out of the ground in dust so fine that the men who mined it could’ve inhaled it.


On the afternoon of January 2, 1863, something appalling burst out of the basement and tore a trail of havoc from the house on Denny Hill to the central business district, and then back home again.

Cherie gets away with it because she’s continually creating interesting images to grab and pull you along, which keeps us interested until we get to the devastation about 750 words in – and frankly, if a rogue steampowered drill collapsing downtown Seattle isn’t enough to keep your attention, I don’t know what will.  Yes, it’s a block of infodump that’s unrelated to the emotional struggles of the characters who will be introduced shortly, but it’s a really interesting block of infodump, and so we read without complaint.  It slides by on pure, compacted prose.

And it breaks the so-called rules, but also breaks them for a damn good reason.  Because honestly?  Trying to quietly intersperse this complex alt-history and chronicle of events while introducing characters you actually cared about?  Would be hell.  You’d have to keep ping-ponging back between character development and “Oh, here’s what you need to know about Seattle and its zombie-creating gas pockets now,” and I don’t think you could do both effectively in parallel.

Yet what I really have to applaud is the way Cherie quietly transplants another genre into fiction.  Because this opener is not, actually, fiction.  What it is is straight-up RPG Supplement material – this could have been cut-and-copied from some parallel universe’s reference sourcebook for THE CLOCKWORK CENTURY’S GUIDEBOOK: SEATTLE.  And Cherie melding the world of roleplaying games and science fiction so effortlessly, remolding them together without a care in the world, is quietly genius.

Yeah, in the next chapter we meet crazy Dr. Blue’s poor abandoned wife and son, and the son runs off, and damn if the wife doesn’t have to chase him all over Seattle.  And that’s compelling, too.  But the start is a different kind of technique, and a welcome reminder that really, in fiction, there’s no one way to make a sandwich.

Past analyses:

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.


sciamachy or sciomachy or skiamachy (say-AM-uh-kee, which sounds really odd as I'd expect skee-uh-MAH-kee, or possibly stress the first syllable) - n., fighting with imaginary foes.

Or literally, with shadows. This can be deliberate make-believe, as in shadow boxing, or futile delusion -- battling enemies you believe exist but do not. Adopted around 1602 from ancient Greek skiamachía, a mock fight.


WARNING: This post is rife with Game of Thrones spoilers.  You now have three presses of my “Return” key to get the heck out.



And now you have three presses of my “Return” key as a trigger warning:



Let’s begin, shall we?

Hey! Dreamwidth has actual spoiler cuts!Collapse )

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

This entry has also been posted at You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.

Robert Sarazin Blake in New London


Some weeks ago, my buddy Victor Chiburis of The Friendly Ghost invited a bunch of us to a show at New London's Bean and Leaf coffee shop, where the Ghost would be opening for singer-songwriter Robert Sarazin Blake.

He evinced enough enthusiasm for his headliner that I wrote the date on my calendar right away. I'd seen Victor and the Ghost's banjo man Joe Attwater perform before at Dickson's Tavern in New London, at some kind of Hootenanny - which I wrote about here - and I'd heard some of his solo stuff, and been gifted his CD.

But I'd never heard the Ghost with three of its four voices. This time Kelsey Alexander sang with them. And played the bongos. And the tambourine. And the egg.

And though their song "Falling off the Earth" had powerfully affected me the first time I heard it, this time it made me cry.

I wished I'd heard this song in my early twenties, when I probably needed it most. It would have saved me the writing of many hysterical emails and bleeding-out midnight letter writings.

I am glad though that it was written for someone; that this sort of loyalty-with-detachment, this oath-swearing of continuing friendship and simultaneous withdrawal, can be and was articulated. So many years spent puzzling over this phenomenon of sudden silences from the other side of it...

The Bean and Leaf setting was informal, with coffee grinders blazing up in the distance, and a dispersed, coffee-drinking, casual audience. I sat right up in front with Patty and Moosher, and had, in my opinion, the least distractible position for enjoying the music.

The Friendly Ghost explained that their headliner was stuck on the 95 South, going 10 miles an hour in a jam. They'd check their messages throughout their set and keep their audience updated. Unfortunately, by the time Sarazin Blake arrived, the Bean and Leaf was closing.

Did I say unfortunately?


Victor and Kelsey, in the greatest roommate coup since Burke and Hare (only not involving cadavers in ANY WAY) (Kelsey's a vegetarian) (actually, they're probably more like the boys of Baker Street) (but they're BOTH Sherlock!), recently moved into the prettiest second floor apartment in New London. It's just a few blocks from the Bean and Leaf. They filled the rooms with instruments and cushy places to sit, and then lit it just for company.

From the red rugs on the floor to the soft white fairy lights, if any home is the place for a house show, this is that home.

And that's where we headed when the Bean and Leaf closed its doors. About half of the audience went on their way, but the rest of us crowded into whatever vehicle we could purloin and joined the parade.

"Anyone want to ride with me?" Sarazin Blake asked, looking a bit road-weary and wry.

I grabbed my actor pal Eric, who'd been standing on the sidewalk, explaining to me the virtues of a "Grown-Up Yoohoo," which is basically chocolate milk with vodka, something of a New London specialty.

"Let's go with The Headliner!" I said.

"Just as long as you never call me that again," said The Headliner, who was adorable in an early Cat Stevens, dark-eyed, dark-bearded, crinkly-eyed, looks-at-you-and-you-feel-REALLY-LOOKED-AT way. (Not that Cat Stevens ever looked at me. Only, I like to imagine it sometimes.)

"What's your name again?"


"I'm Claire."

We shook on it, and piled in the car with the guitars, then Eric navigated him to that Wonderful Place on B--- Street, where the more beers you remove from the fridge, the more beers appear in the fridge.

That's just one of the magic things about Victor and Kelsey's house. I find it fascinating - and I hardly ever drink the stuff myself!

Within a few minutes, chairs and couches and lounges had been arranged in a pleasing manner, and we launched into a mini-salon as a few of the crowd went out to pick up pizzas. Michael Hinton sang a folk song he'd written in England. I recited "Little Sally and the Bull Fiddle God" ("Is that Shel Silverstein?" "Ha! Yes, it's Shel Silverstein." "No, is it?" "No!" "Who is it?" "She wrote it!"), which Sarazin Blake immediately followed with a cowboy-drawled rendition of "The Cremation of Sam McGee."

(I think I first heard that poem on a road trip with Gene Wolfe. Those first lines..."There are strange things done in the midnight sun / By the men who moil for gold..." Did some friends and I once have a whole conversation about the word "moil"? Or was that in a book I read? I have a memory specifically about "moil" but I don't know where it belongs.)

When the pizza arrived.
When we were all settled.
When the moment was right.

...Then Robert Sarazin Blake began to play.

"Thanks for coming out," he told us. "We didn't need the rest of the audience anyway."

"Those would be our parents," Kelsey said.

"Who might have paid for the pizza," quipped Victor.

Sarazin Blake is one of those conversational baritones who can make his guitar burr and buzz like a beehive transmogrified to look like a Gibson.

(I don't know actually if his guitar was a Gibson. I don't know the names of guitars. I only know that it was heavy. It was an instrument of substance. I know. I carried it up the stairs.)

In the best lyrical tradition of Bob Dylan and Greg Brown, he can take a personal experience and parse it into such exquisite specificity that it becomes entirely universal.

I don't know how that is; anybody can write a vague lyric and call it a love song. But it is the details, the observation and focus and reflection, the athanor of self-analysis, the compulsion to process a life through song, and then be further compelled to hit the road and show it off to the world - the joy of that - that makes a song of a singular event become the listener's event as well.

And you find yourself nodding along and thinking, "Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. That happened to me too. Just the color of the sneakers changed..."

Or - as in the case of The Friendly Ghost's "Falling Off the Earth," or Sarazin Blake's incredibly sexy song, "Tattoos," you can suddenly re-envision a familiar scene or memory, but from the other person's point of view. It's incredibly useful. And moving.

I only had a fiver in my wallet. I threw it into his guitar case at the end of the night, and apologized for not being able to buy his CD.

"Well, take one anyway," he said. "Do you want A Crowd of Drunken Lovers?" (He'd played several songs from this album, in our honor, including "Tattoos.") "Or do you want the new one?"

"Which one do you think I should have?" I asked. "Whatever you give me, I'll blog about it."

He gave me the new one, the self-titled Robt Sarazin Blake. I haven't had the chance to listen to it yet, but I can already vouch for "ok ok ok."

I was about to ask Victor if I could borrow "Drunken Lovers," and Sarazin Blake must have caught the look on my face, because he laughed and said, "Buy the mp3 online. Don't talk about burning CDs in the kitchen. You want to talk about burning CDs, go into the other room!"

"I was just going to ask about borrowing it!"

"Maybe a listening party?" he suggested.

"I do those! I did that with Hadestown! Do you know Hadestown?"

"Anais is one of my best friends," he said gently. "I got to play Hades when she toured in Seattle."


"I wore a red shirt. Look at your CD."

I did. Anaïs Mitchell's one of the singers.

"Jeez," I said, totally dreamy-eyed. "Is Greg Brown one of your best friends too?"

"No," he said. "Greg Brown's my hero."

And that, friends, was my night last night.

My tweets


Apr. 22nd, 2014

The weekend turned out nice. And G got some much-needed rest, which I was glad to see.  At one point I went looking for him and was sure I would find him in his office busy with something and was happy when I found him, instead, reading a novel on the back deck.   Work is very stressful for him right now – so it was nice to see him  lost in a book.
However, he is off to Europe again this coming weekend and since there are only so many weekends in a month and I need his help for a few of the bigger chores – I am getting behind here. I have to face facts that G is a) way too busy b) not a farm lad c)  nor a gardener d) or a handy man....

M is staying until Wednesday, which is very nice.  I went driving with her yesterday. I am not a good instructor because I get so anxious  (and well M has always listened to her own internal set of drums – which is probably a good thing when your mother is constantly repeating – put your blinker on now, put your blinker on now…. )  She is a good driver – perhaps I am too cautious?  I think she is almost ready to take her driving test – I didn’t get much done yesterday. I had started the day by doing the Easter meal dishes*  --then I sat down for a bit– I then put a load of laundry in – sat down – let Banon out in the field,cleaned her stall,  came back in and sat down – went for a walk around the back pasture once with dogs – came back in and sat down – fed dogs – sat down –and kept this pattern up most of the day until it was 430 and I plunked myself onto the sofa and worked on the novel for a couple of hours (you guessed it – I didn’t make it past the first chapter again – I  again tinkered with every second line.   I keep falling into this repetitive first chapter twilight zone where it sucks me in to make changes– never letting me move on.  I also have the opening few paragraphs of a new short I am calling The Sweeper.
April is just flying by.  I see the tips of the daffodils that I had planted in the fall coming up in the front.  I don’t see much else so I don’t think she had much in the way of spring bulbs around the place.  Still early though.  Okay, off to haul the garbage to the curb. I am hoping I am more productive today J
Have a great week.

*Which I left piled near the sink because by the time we were finished supper and I said my good-byes to E  -- -G of T was starting -


Trip, Day 2: Eugene to Courtenay, BC

I woke up early. Neither of us slept well, in fact. Why is it always like that?

I love Hilton Garden Inn breakfasts. This one was particularly nice, for the record. Also: if you have your choice of Hilton Garden Inn or a Hampton Inn, the Hilton Garden Inn has the significantly superior breakfasts. I kept wondering why my breakfast experience at the lower-tier Hiltons was random, but it was simply because I kept alternating property types. These days, I won’t go for a Hampton Inn unless there’s no other good alternative. In short: Hilton Garden Inns have the ability to cook their food, where Hampton Inns just heat what’s brought in. Hilton Garden Inns have a bigger variety for breakfast. Go for the actual cooked food. If, you know, you get free breakfast, aren’t sticking around, aren’t in the mood for hunting, etc.

I took the first stretch of the wheel because it was raining (and we were driving my car, thus my increased familiarity with it was a good thing). We switched off in Vancouver, Washington, where my mom called one of her friends (local to there), but we wanted to press on.

I’d forgotten the exact way to get to Renton, where I’d had excellent gluten-free pizza at Smoking Monkey Pizza in the past. So we missed that. Oops. Found another place with Yelp, Amante Pizza & Pasta. The pizza was good save for being overcooked. (This can be a problem with GF pizza because cook times are different.)

We hit some bad traffic in and north of Seattle, but it pretty much cleared up well before the border. It took about ten minutes to cross. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that many questions crossing a border, not even when I went to Vancouver for dinner last year. Not even in Bermuda or Liverpool. Kind of annoying, but okay.

Finally let us in, then we found the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. Checked in on 4sq and got a funny response from BC Ferries. Our ferry to Nanaimo (home of the famous Nanaimo bar) took two hours.

From there, it’s about 100km (60 miles) north to Courtenay. We arrived there just before midnight.

I’d done some internet surfing and found the Holiday Inn Express in Courtenay, which is a pretty sweet place with decent breakfast, though of the Hampton Inn style. It also has free wifi, which is even more awesome.

Originally published at You can comment here or there.


What does a good con look like?

One of my favourite greetings at a convention is “How is your con going?” I love the implication that everyone is experiencing the same event differently, from their own perspective. I love that it’s implied that one person can be having a terrible time and that be completely unrelated to someone else’s ie a great convention is one that offers a diverse group of people that which they each need to have a good time. Not such an easy task to complete when you run a con and a very easy thing to attack when you attend. It also means that you can be hearing a lot of complaints about a con being boring or disorganised yet be having the best time yourself.

We just came off of Swancon 2014 (39 for those who talk SwanconGeek). It was the first con I’ve attended with my child in tow. That had its drawbacks – I didn’t manage to get to the Art Show for example, which I really wanted to (I think there was some work there I might have wanted to buy.) I couldn’t have done the con at all without Terri and Shani who did a lot (most) of the baby wrangling. The baby didn’t really want to nap too much, what with all the people and things to look at and process. So we had quite a grumpy baby by the end of each day and yesterday was painful trying to get her back into her routine. My favourite grumpy baby moment was when she just gave up on Friday night and sat in her highchair at a restaurant and squealed over and over and over like she was on total overboard (her daddy removed her from the situation and we went home).

But for me, a good con starts and ends with a good dealers room – decent size space for the traders who will be there, nice mix of traders offering different things, enough chairs for each table, access to power, aircon (that can be adjusted) and a good steady flow of people coming in to see us! This year Margaret was the dealers liaison and she was hands down the best liaison I’ve ever dealt with. She sent out regular but not too often emails ahead of the event with relevant information (and information gathering about our needs). She organised traders to bump in at 15 min intervals allowing only one of us to be unloading and using the hotel trolley at a time. She was hanging around and available to assist us when we arrived. She organised menus and took lunch orders, our money and then sent up the waiters with lunch for us at lunchtime. We DID NOT STARVE. And she did it in a calm, take charge authoritative manner. She made it an enjoyable breeze. The room was a good size and overall pretty pleasant.

Being a trader, my con basically looks like the inside of the dealers room. Hopefully trade is brisk and constant so I have things to do (and I sell my books to enthusiastic readers!). But also, hopefully everyone eventually comes past and says hello. I definitely feel like I got to have good chats with lots of people – new friends I’ve made in the last year on Facebook and old friends too. It’s also a good chance for writers to come past and talk about stuff, pitch projects or touch base on work we’re working on and so on.

We had a small Twelfth Planet Press event. I was quite worried I’d overcatered and that noone would come. Terri spent hours and hours conceiving, making and icing 450 macarons. I helped a bit with some oven management but basically that was all her. She made 9 kinds to match the covers of the Twelve Planets published so far and flavoured them according to themes within. (I’ll be posting more on that over on Pinterest). Shani kindly looked after the baby during this. As usual at Swancon, some lovely people popped in early to help me set up – thank you to all those people, I greatly appreciate your help. And I had Cat there who made sure all the champagne was served and drunk (I definitely was worried I’d overcatered). So many people came along and it turned out to be a really lovely event to celebrate the books we’ve done so far and the four more to come (yep – FOUR!).

And finally, for me, a good con has attracted some of my friends along so I get to catch up and hang out with people I love. That definitely happened this year and I can tell because I got given homework by Stefen, Nick and Jonathan as well as Cat and Bec. Should keep me busy for a while!

When you leave a good con you feel inspired to do something, be it consume or create. I came away with some ideas to mull over and a lot of reading to do. And I think we managed to feed everyone some Twelve Planets coloured and flavoured macarons thanks to Terri’s creativity! So I’m calling it a Good Con.









Photos taken by Cat Sparks


Brandon Sanderson has a post up about the Hugo Awards as a whole and the Wheel of Time nomination in particular.

In the spirit of his final paragraph, allow me to say that right now, the major reason I am unable to read all the works in the novelette and novella category has nothing to do with the nominated authors, their politics, their ability to write Latin, or the stories themselves, and EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT WINDOWS 8.1 SUCKS. MIGHTILY SUCKS.

Specifically, it does not like Adobe Digital Editions, a program I have used for YEARS to organize, open and read epubs and pdfs. Windows 8.1 allows the program to open, kinda, but then has FEELINGS about whether or not you can actually read the file. Microsoft will helpfully point out the other reading apps available, but a: most of my ebooks are NOT from Amazon/Kindle, Barnes and Noble/Nook, or Kobo Books, so shut up Microsoft; b: the Kindle app on Windows 8.1 didn't open up the epub file either (however otherwise it is a very nice app and does not crash my system, so kudos Amazon); and c: I don't want to have to jump through a lot of different and competing reader apps just to open up a 36 page book.

As it turns out, if you restart the computer several times Windows 8.1 will grudgingly admit that just maybe Adobe Digital Editions has a right to exist and be used, and hopefully - hopefully - I will manage to get the rest of my books to open up in it. (That particular epub was DRM free.) HOWEVER.

This is only the start of many issues that I have with Windows 8.1. Auugh. I will adjust, I know, and at least this time Windows hasn't added that terrifying paperclip thing, but seriously, Microsoft, can you try checking with users to find out what they actually want and need before launching Windows 9.0? Thanks muchly.

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