I can see a new horizon, underneath a blazing sky

So, that was 2020.

Moving on. . .

Here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory on this snowy second day of January 2021, we’re settling down to work.  The cats have taken up their work stations — Trooper in the ustabe manuscript box on my desk, Sprite in the copilot’s chair next to me; Steve’s back in his office, Belle on lap.

Winter has officially arrived.  We expect to see about 7 inches of (thankfully fluffy) new snow on the ground today, then more snow Monday and Tuesday.  This will catch us up to the Proper Seasonal Look — after a modest start, the weather had turned warm, a nor’easter dropped a couple inches of rain, instead of snow, and there was grass and mud and downed sticks for as far as the eye could see.  Snow is prettier, especially if you don’t have to shovel it.

In and around Everything, I lost 20 pounds last year (per doctors’ orders; the theory is that less thick people have a reduced chance of cancer recurrence).  I guess I ought to lose another 10, just to show the doctors that I’m in the game, but I really don’t think I want to go any lower than 160 lbs/11 stone, and maybe not that low.

As previously mentioned, I’m working on an Archers Beach story.  I hope that today will reveal if it’s a novel or something shorter.  If it’s a novel, I’m about to be in hot water, but — we’ll see.

I did have a Bad Moment yesterday, when I discovered that I had thrown away my maps and other notes for the first three Carousel books, in a Fit of Despond.  I do try not to throw stuff away when I’m in the grips of a Fit, but it doesn’t always work.  Happily, I did NOT throw out the year 2000 edition of the Arrow Street Atlas of 133 Maine Cities and Towns, including!  Old Orchard Beach.  Also the OOB Chamber of Commerce has one of those silly little promotional maps on the web, pinpointing the location of various “attractions.”  Work!  can go forward with many less FIND THIS’s in the text.  Also, in Balance for the Bad Moment, an Exhilarating One, when I found via the map that the street name I had pulled out of my head (at random) — Burdette Street — was actually the correct street, and yes, there was a small wood at the bottom of the street, where it intersects with Foote Street.

I have not forgotten about the Authors’ Spoiler Discussion of Trader’s Leap.  This will not be a daily thing, but I’m shooting for once a week.  In the meantime, if you have questions, you can ask them here.

Hope every one of you is having a reasonably pleasant day.

Stay safe.

Today’s blog title brought to you by John Parr, “St. Elmo’s Fire.”

Personally speaking

On the personal side of things, I’ve been (still and much more slowly than I’d like) recuperating from the adventures of the last six months (actually, this Run of Adventure started in early December 2018, so, yanno, no wonder I’m exhausted, never mind the world-spanning trash fire that is 2020).  My most recent project has been to learn how to write again (yeah, but at least I didn’t forget how to read), since there are projects in-queue and Steve can’t write them all.

For my “practice” story, I thought I’d do something easy — yes, yes, laugh — and write a story I’d already written from the POV of the second protagonist.  For those who’d like to have a second big laugh:  I thought this would be easy because I already knew the plot.  Anyhow, I committed to this endeavor, and spent a couple hours a day for, oh, four or five days, staring at the screen and playing lots of solitaire, which was actually promising.  Eventually, I got bored with losing against the House, and started to write.  Mind you, I never have known “how” I write — I just sit down at the keyboard and make words until I have a story.  Not an efficient method, but mine own.  In times of depression, I can reason my way through a story and get a reasonable result, though that’s harder and not as much fun.  Still the method was available to me, and that’s how I started in.

After all, I knew my character and her situation, I knew the reason she was in the pickle she was in.  So I began write the sentences that explained those details, and was feeling pleased to hit 100, 250 words per session.

At some point, as I was mooching along at this snail’s pace, something. . .clicked.  My fingers started moving, and I let them, and the next time I took a breath, I’d written 1,000 words and the story was moving along.  I hope to finish it, eh, tomorrow, in first draft, and will ask Steve to go over it.  If it is indeed a story, I’ll consider myself in working condition, open a new file and start on the story that’s due in December.

So, that.

In other news, Steve and I took and electron-free day to celebrate my birthday.  We went to Pemaquid Point, and I can report that the Light is still there.  We also hit Robbins Hill Nature Area in Solon, to look at the vista, which means that I can also report that Bigelow Mountain, Mount Abraham, and Sugarloaf are likewise still there.

. . .and that’s what’s been doing around the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.

Everybody stay safe.

Well, we know where we’re going, but we don’t know where we’ve been

I just made a Project To-Do List

Well.  It’s good to be busy.

1  Finish collecting and collating the tyops.  End September 9

2  Proof The Wrong Lance ebook, collate it, and get it up for pre-order

2a  Take The Wrong Lance down from Patreon and Splinter Universe. September 12

3  Complete interview.  November 1

4  Write short story for DERELICT anthology.  December 1

5  Write short story to make the pair with “Galaxy Ballroom” for Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number, um…31? (eek!)  November 15

6  Decide if I’m Actually Going to Write another Archers Beach novel, or if I can scratch that itch by writing two novellas, instead.  Realsoonnow

7  Assist Steve as needed on the (two) Liaden books he’s lead on.  July 2021, July 2022

8  Plot and write the next Liaden book, but one.  Um.  July 2023?

The really annoying thing is?  I feel like I’m missing something.

Well.  It’ll come to me.

Today’s blog title brought to you by The Talking Heads: The Road to Nowhere

Quiet Times at the Cat Farm

So, no sooner had I handed in the copy edits for Trader’s Leap than the page proofs arrived.  It took awhile, but I’m finished with those, and will be putting the corrected pages into the FedEx box this afternoon, for whenever FedEx picks up.  Yes, there are still corrected pages to go back to the publisher, and if they sent me another batch of page proofs in another two weeks, I’d bet there’d still be more corrections.

Truly is it said that there are no perfect books.

Despite this, if you’d like to help Trader’s Leap inch just a little further toward perfect, the Tyop Hunt is open until September 9.  Follow this link to the rules and the rewards of Tyop Hunting.

Aside the Thrill of the Hunt, things have been pretty quiet here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.  Steve’s writing.  The cat’s are napping.  I’ve been reading proofs, and today will sit down with the guidelines for a story we’re contracted to write for Derelict, and see how well it matches the story I started to sketch in before It All Went South, as they say.

Steve has built us a walking trail in our commodious heated basement, so we’ve each been able to get our mile or two of walking in every day, and continue with this plan even when winter is upon us.  Steve’s getting in more miles than I am at the moment, my story being that some steps are better than no steps.  I note that Sprite has appointed herself my walking coach, taking up an observation point a few steps down, where she can reach out and smack me on the shoulder as I go by.  I choose to think that this is encouragement.

And that’s basically it.  Peaceful, unhurried times at the Cat Farm, settling back into normal, insofar as anything can be normal in these Interesting Times.

And so it goes…

It’s been a while since we last talked, and rightly may you ask “What on earth has the woman been doing?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

I finished with the Trader’s Leap copy edits, and returned them to M’sieur the Editor, who has passed them on to the typesetter.  Which, yes, means that there is possibly an eArc in your Nearish Future.

The serialization of The Wrong Lance has finished.  It will remain on Splinter Universe and Patreon through September 11 — coincidentally, my birthday.  On September 12 all chapters and authors notes will be removed and compiled into a chapbook, Splinter Universe Presents:  The Wrong Lance, for those folks who have requested a souvenir.  Here’s the cover art:

We expect to release this concurrently with the mass market edition of Accepting the Lance, on October 22.

Oh, what else?  Ah!  I moderated a panel at reCONvene on August 15, marking my first time as a moderator and a panelist at a virtual convention.  I had fun!  My panelists — Steven Barnes, Jenn Brissett, Br Guy Consolmagno, and Adrian Tchaikovsky — were brilliant and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, which!

Happens to be a good thing, because Steve and I will be participating in AlbaCon in the Afternoon on Sunday, August 30 — which is coming right up!  Other attendees are the writing team of Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.  Steve and I will be reading — a bit from Trader’s Leap and another bit from a recent chapbook to be named later.  More information will be forthcoming as we have it.

Other than those two events, we’re staying pretty quiet, and healing from the Compleat Disruption of Everything which has been the last 19 months of our lives.  We’ve been reading a lot, as you can see from the lists I’ve been posting; taking advantage of the local Farm Pick Up for fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses, taking long country rides and visiting some of the little parks with which Maine is liberally sprinkled.  We depend on InstaCart for our grocery shopping, and I’m kind of pleased at the fall-off in necessary doctor visits.

On that front, I have do still have one more medical appointment — this Wednesday — before taking up the new aromatase inhibitor (the first having, um, invoked Unwanted Side Effects), and Seeing What Happens.  In the meanwhile, I have two pounds more to lose to hit the first 10 pounds my oncologist wants me to lose.  This is a two-part process:  first hit and maintain at 178 pounds, then move on to maintaining 170.

Yes, I have changed my diet, and it wasn’t really a hardship, since the “plant based” diet isn’t so very much different from what we’d been doing, anyway.  Basically, it’s less bacon, more fish, and lots more veggies, but — I like veggies.

I’m also slowly getting back to something resembling exercise, though — I never thought I’d say this — I miss the gym.  There you have it, though, I do miss the gym — almost as much as I miss going to the ocean.

Fans of the cats will wish to know that Belle has been feeling a little poorly.  The cause appears to be her calcium levels, and she is now on a weekly, very low dose of Fosamax, of all things.  She’ll have another blood draw in three to four weeks to see if this therapy is succeeding.

. . .I think that catches us up.  I will try to do better about updates, now that life has settled somewhat, if not exactly returned to normal.  Mostly, we’ll be writing, reading and cat herding here in Central Maine — which, come to think of it, is our normal.

Here’s a picture of Steve and me at Swan Lake State Park, in Swanville Maine.

To send a wagon for thy minstrel

So, it’s been a while since we’ve chatted.  My excuse is — page proofs arrived for the mass market edition of Accepting the Lance (to be published on October 27), and needed to be proofread.  No sooner than had we sent them back, then the copy edits for Trader’s Leap (to be published on December 1) landed, and that’s what I’m occupying myself with at the moment.

In-between All That, Steve and I have had several, err, creative meetings — to dignify a process that involves a lot of hand-waving, staring out of windows, pitching random scenes and sentences, and refilling the wine glasses — regarding the next book under contract.

Those of you who have been following along will perhaps recall that The Original Plan had Steve as lead on the next book, while I had needed surgery on my left foot, and held myself ready to consult, taking up the duties of Staff once I was fit, and also working on a side book.  I may not have said that outloud, about the side book, but that was part of The Original Plan.

It is here that we insert:  The best laid schemes o’mice an’ men gang aft agley.

We started well enough.  Then, in January, there was a funky mammogram, which meant biopsies of both breasts, only one of which had been invaded by cancer; followed by a mastectomy in mid-March, and a course of radiation therapy, which ended in mid-June, when I started taking a prescribed aromatase inhibitor, which produced crippling side effects. We’re now in the phase of letting that med leave my system before we try another one.

Otherwise, I’m pretty much recovered, absent the fact that I’m having some memory and cognitive issues, which I’m told will improve, in good time.

And then of course, there are the on-going shared threats to health, liberty, and life that we are all dealing with.

During all of this, Steve was Front, whose expanded duties included driving me to radiation therapy — a 266 mile round trip — every weekday, making sure we were fed, laundered, and up-to-date.

The book languished.  We missed one deadline, and were on track to missing the second, extended, deadline.

Thus, the creative meeting.  Which led to the realization that we needed to start again.

We spoke to Madame the Agent, who spoke to Madame the Publisher.  Between us all, we worked out a new delivery date, in 2021.  So, this is your Distant Early Warning: There will likely not be a new Liaden book published in 2021.  A Miracle may occur — it would not be the first time that Madame the Publisher has pulled a rabbit out of her hat, but that’s not the way the smart money ought to bet.

Today’s blog title is brought to you by Hildegard von Blingen, covering Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know.”  Here’s your link.

The Journey to Normal

So, there’s this Thing that happens when you start to get better after having been, oh, pretty sick from the flu, say.  You start to feel better, and you say, “Hey!  I’m better!”  and then a couple weeks later, you look back at that point and say to yourself, “Oh, boy, who was I kidding?  But, hey!  I’m really better now!”  And a couple weeks further along, you look back at that point, and shake your head, because, man, you didn’t know what better even was — and so on until you stop thinking about it and eventually, you’re back to 100 percent, or whatever passes for 100 percent in your country, and life goes on.

That’s kind of where I am, now. I’m definitely better than I was four weeks ago, on my radiation graduation day, and really better than three weeks ago, and noticeably better than even two weeks ago, but — still not 100 percent.  Maybe 80 percent.  Maybe not that much.

One of the most frustrating parts of this continuing journey is the hitting a Wall of exhaustion, when, just five minutes earlier, I was feeling just fine.  Really, it’s like 80 to zero in two heartbeats, and suddenly I’m tearing up because I can’t remember how to hard boil eggs.  Disconcerting.  My particular Wall seems to manifest in the afternoon, anywhere from ten minutes to three hours after the midday meal, so, naturally I’ve been trying to cram all the Stuff I feel I need to do in the hours before the midday meal. Which may or may not be exacerbating the situation, but we play with the tiles we’ve drawn.

In any case, I am not back to a place where I can write fiction yet (argh), but I can do other writing related things, like read page proofs, which is what I’ve been doing, slowly, with the proofs for the mass market edition of Accepting the Lance, which has been its own small journey into surrealism.

It’s not that I don’t remember the story — not exactly that.  I do remember the — the hanger points, which is to say, the scenes that had to be there in order for the story to continue in a forwarder direction.  What I don’t remember are things like Val Con having lunch with his daughter, or the Miri’s meeting with the snow removal crew, or any other of a bunch of the small scenes that give the story depth and Truth.

So, I’m about 87 pages short of a complete read of the proofs, and hope to finish them tomorrow.  Then, I’ll see what other trouble I can get into — in a good way, as the journey toward normal continues.

Everybody be safe.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day

Today, as I am reminded by Lawrence M. Schoen, is Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day. I am responsible for this day* — which is, coincidentally, the day that Cyrano de Bergerac made his first flight to the moon.
The Suggested Celebration of the Day was that people would publicly recall the authors whose work had made a difference to them, and perhaps to write a thank-you note to that author.  Here’s the original post.
Gizmodo did an article about this, back in 2009. Most of the links are broken, since I no longer have a Live Journal account, and this whole scheme was thrown together there. Still, worth reading, at this link.
As the day is worth celebrating!
Share news of the holiday with your friends, and!
By all means, celebrate to the fullest.
*The June 23 iteration, anyhow, since I believe there is now Another SF Writers Day created by Someone Else.

The Game of Zorch and Barrels

This is a story about how stories become, and about how words are adopted, and adapted, into private lexicons.

I was this morning talking with Lawrence M. Schoen about the possibility of including a piece I’d written for his Eating Authors blog in a new project he’s planning.  I agreed to the use, asking that a word that had been “corrected” for publication be put back to the original word provided by the author.  The “corrected’ word is “torches.”

The original word was “zorches.”

Lawrence agreed to the change, commenting that he had never heard the word — nor would it have done him any good if he had, as Websters defines “zorches” as moving at a velocity approaching lightspeed.

So much for Websters.

The real authority here is the late Gardner Dozois.  I’ll tell you why.

Back — ‘way back, when we were all Much Younger — Gardner was traveling to a con (aka, Science Fiction Convention), by car, late at night.  He had company in the car, in the form of some Clarion students.  It being late at night, the group was trying to stay awake — or at least to keep the driver awake — but conversation had flagged over the miles.

Just about then, the headlights picked up a line of orange cones in the left lane, ranged along the side of some sort of earth-moving project.  On the other side of the gap was a line of orange barrels.

The car passed on, but here were more cones, more barrels, always standing against each other, never with.  As the miles rolled away, it became clear that the carload of fans had come upon a major dispute between two opposing armies, who were each laying claim to the highway.

Mile after mile, the fans watch the drama unfold, narrating the events to each other.  It was discovered — somehow — that the cones — the Zorches, as they had come to be known — were the invaders, the Barrels the protectors of the highway.

Matters looked bad for the Barrels; though larger, they were outnumbered by the Zorch army.

Then, as the sky lightened, and the turnoff for the convention city loomed, the fans could see, just ahead, a long line of Barrels, and a scattering of orange impinging on the tarmac — the Zorches were down!  The Barrels had won!  The highway was safe!

Cheering, the fans were away, off the highway and into the city.  At the con, the story of the brave battle was recounted, and embellished, and was recounted at Clarion (so I’m told) as an example of how stories evolve from Real Life.

Steve and I, having heard the story separately, and then together, adopted the words “zorch” and “zorches.”  To this day, you can sometimes see the descendants of the survivors of this initial battle, now converted to the cause of the Barrels, guarding the edges of the highways.

And that’s what “zorches” means to me.

Saturday ketchup

The Big News around here is that I have completed seven — SEVEN! — sessions of Ray Gun Therapy.  Only 18 more to go.

I had hoped to get some work done this weekend, and may actually get there yet, but first — the Command Chair, because, despite having gone to bed early and gotten up late — I could use a nap.  Trooper is promoting this heavily, having pushed into my lap as I was typing this short correspondence, and banging my chin repeatedly with the top of his head.

In more interesting news, I recorded three chapters from Mouse and Dragon that constitute one of my favorite scenes in the Liaden Universe® and they are being posted on Patreon, first for patrons, then, when the next chapter posts, the previous one is made available for All the World.

This means that Chapter Thirty is free for you — yes, you! — to listen to, right now, right here

Chapter Thirty-Two will be posted for patrons on May 18, whereupon Chapter Thirty-One will become public.

As reported earlier, I DARE t-shirts are being mailed, so — watch the skies!

I’ve been working, very slowly, on an Archers Beach story.  Steve is working on the next Liaden novel, the deadline for which has been put back to mid-summer.

I do think that’s all the news that’s fit to print.  I hope y’all are keeping safe and healthy.