On the last day of the year

So, there are the tasks that one does at Year-End — filing away the old year, opening the accounting for the new year.  To the best of my ability, these things have been done for the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.  Which gives a nice feeling of accomplishment, without, yanno, actually having accomplished anything.

Peering forward into the first week of the new month and new year, I see that Tuesday is!

Book Day!

I, for one, am looking forward to receiving my copy of Emergence by CJ Cherryh, as I know many who read here are.

I am also looking forward to the release of the hardcover, ebook, and audio editions of Neogenesis by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.  It’s a well-known fact that time runs oddly around writers, and so it simultaneously feels like it’s been a long time since we handed in Neogenesis and hardly any time at all.

Sometime next week — possibly Monday — I’ll be putting Degrees of Separation: Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 27 up for pre-order at various online outlets.  Official publication date is January 15.  I anticipate no problems with hung releases, as Degrees is an all-original, never-before-published, never-posted-ANYwhere-else-even-for-a-day, story.  It will also be available as a paper book from Amazon on January 15.

Let’s see…Steve and I will be doing a podcast interview for the Baen Free Radio Hour on Wednesday; those are always fun…

On Thursday, Sprite has an appointment with her vet, for the ever-popular annual check-up.  Unfortunately, it’s also supposed to snow 3-5/4-6 inches on Thursday, so we may have to swap that out.  Honestly, if it’s really bad, I may have to swap out my doctor’s appointment on Friday.  Winter in Maine, ayuh.

Looking backward for a moment, we have finished and turned in “Revolutionist” to the Razor’s Edge anthology to be published in August by Zombies Need Brains.  And I had an epiphany recording Fifth of Five, which, in the way of epiphanies everywhere, meant the manuscript got busted back under 60,000 words again.

Today, I will write, and do laundry, skritch cats, spend time with Steve.  Possibly, we will see the New Year in — we’re often up that late, just as a usual thing — but if we don’t, it will arrive just fine without us.

Everybody stay safe; see you in the new year.

Out of the blizzard, into the deep freeze

So, yesterday, Maine hosted a blizzard, our first of the season.  Here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, we got about 11 inches of snow.  Temps didn’t get above 12F/-11C all day, so the snow was fluffy, but there were still 11 inches of it.  I managed to clear the steps and get the car dug out about 10 minutes before the plowguy showed up to clear the driveway, once again proving that Timing is Everything.

The rest of the day was fairly laid back.  Steve and I had planned to take a half-day and watch a movie, but the uncertainty introduced by the weather meant that, instead, we spent the morning baking — mince tarts, chocolate chip cookies, crab cakes (eventually) — and the afternoon working.

This morning, we slept late, in celebration of the certainty that we would not have an early visit from the plowguy, ate a leisurely breakfast, and went back to work.  I managed to trash my left hand during yesterday’s snow removal, which meant I took aspirin to get the pain down to a dull roar, which meant that I was a bit duller than I wanted to be on the manuscript correx.  On the other hand, I manged to rewrite a scene in order to, yanno, show, not tell, and fix a bunch of little this ‘n thats, so I’m not Utterly Unhappy with today’s production.

Tomorrow, I fear that one or both of us will need to Venture Out — this adventure  made somewhat parlous, as the high temperature on the day is supposed to be 10F/-12C, with a low tomorrow night of -12F/-24C, marking the start of ten days of single-digit highs in the daytime, and minus double-digits for nighttime lows.

And people ask us why we keep coon cats.

I don’t if I mentioned here that the cable company, in its infinite wisdom decided that we needed a new modem. It is easily twice as big as the modem it is replacing, and has many bright blue eyes glowing with no-doubt malicious plans to take over the world.  In any case, we decided to swap it in on Sunday evening — because what could possibly go wrong? — and were without access to the internet for 12! hours!  Steve figured out that we were one phone call short of an implementation yesterday morning, made the call and got us back online.

So, that.

Today’s mail brought us the income tax worksheets from our accountant, so when I get bored of writing, I’ll have something to keep me occupied. Accountants are thoughtful that way.

I hope everyone who celebrates had a pleasant holiday; and those who don’t celebrate had a pleasant Monday.

And now I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine, curl up on the sofa with my book and a possible coon cat or two and ignore my hand.

Here’s a picture of Sprite, being adorable.


In which work goes forth and the snowstorm cometh

I have one more section of Fifth of Five to read, but, having read two-thirds of what’s there to read, I can say with confidence that it is Not Awful, it’s merely Not Done.

So, working on that.

It snowed Friday night, and Saturday it rained.  The plowguy called early to say that, unless we needed to go out, he was going to defer plowing until the rain stopped, so that he could remove crusty snow, leaving a walkable surface on the drive (as opposed to remove the snow, and letting the rain create a driveway skating rink).  I retired to my office to work, and went out this morning to remove crusty snow from the steps.

The only flaw in this plan was that the car was frozen shut, and no suasions of mine would budge any of the doors.  Steve mixed up an alcohol and warm water brew that did get past the ice seal, but it was a frustrating several minutes.  My last car had a remote starter.  May see if we can get an aftermarket remote installed in this car.

Going forward, the weatherbeans are calling for a snowstorm starting 2:00 am-ish, and continuing until early evening, leaving from 6-9 inches (locally up to 11 inches) of snow behind it.  The plowguy, when he came by this morning, wanted to know if we had to “get out” tomorrow.

No, I said; we’re working tomorrow.  He sighed and produced a sort-of grin.  Yeah, he said; me too.

So, that.

Partly as by-product of the on-going effort to write sell-copy for “Degrees of Separation,” I’ve been thinking about what “makes” a story.

Certainly, a story has a beginning, middle, and an end.

A story shows growth, or change.

A story illuminates action.

. . .all the stuff you learn in Writer School, sure.  But — what “makes” a story?  Certainly, I — and I am not alone in this — have received reader reviews, and reader letters, indicating that in Story A “nothing happens.”  What they mean by that varies widely, from “there were no gun fights in this story,” to “I had to read description and dialog,” to “we already KNEW how this was going to end, so writing down the middle was pointless,” to “I didn’t like this.”

So, what “makes” a story?

The answer, for me, is that the characters make the story — long story, short story, middling story.  People, what they do, why they do it, how they feel about it, are intensely interesting to me.  So, those are the kinds of stories that I tend to write.  This does not, note, preclude gun fights, or space battles, or car chases, but I maintain that a story without a car chase…can still be a story.


Peripherally on topic:  In case you missed it, “Block Party,” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller is available, free to read! starting on the Baen.com front page (you need to scroll down past the new books section).  Share it with a friend.

Here’s a picture of the author, working at home, something I am now going to go do more of.

photo by Steve Miller


Gang agley

So, I did jinx my free time, a little.  Wednesday did not take the shape I had envisioned, and I devoted the remaining time to writing (attempting to write, more like) sell copy for “Degrees of Separation”

Thursday morning, having carried my second cup of tea to my office so I could start reading Fifth of Five, and stopping at my desk to check the mail queue — I changed my day-plans on the spot, because UPS was pleased to tell me that the 200 copies of Neogenesis ordered by Uncle Hugo, long delayed at the warehouse for reasons the warehouse chooses not to share, were abruptly arriving THIS AFTERNOON.

Which they did.

Our challenge at that point became getting the personalized/signed books to the Uncle by the middle of next week, so there would be sufficient time to pack them and put them in the mail before the January 2 pub-date.  Normally we would have taken the weekend to do the signing-and-personalizing, but! Monday is Christmas Day, and there is neither mail delivery nor FedEx pickups on Christmas Day.

That meant that all the books needed to be signed last night, and shipped out today, arriving in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Which we did; and the books got onto Fast Eddie’s FedEx truck barely a half-hour ago, bundled up in racoon coats; some of them waving Minneapolis! pennants.

This morning, I went to town to run the Last Errands BC (Before Christmas), and this afternoon, after lunch, I am, byerlady, reading this damn’ manuscript and getting on with doing Work.

In other news, with the outdoor thermometer reporting a brisk 14F-Feels Like-12F (aka -10C-feels-like-minus 11C) it is snowing in Beautiful Central Maine.  It’s a rather determined looking little snow, and the weatherbeans are calling 1-3 inches this afternoon, with an additional 1-3 inches to fall overnight.

So, among the weird habits I’m trying to adopt so as to make the next fall into the Slough of Despond less. . .all-consuming, is keeping a Grateful Book, as one friend styles it, or a White Stones Book, as I think of it.  The idea is that every evening, you write down one thing that you were grateful for during the day.

Last evening’s entry was the arrival of those 200 books and the necessity to sign them, and turn them around fast.  Why? you ask, when it disrupted your whole schedule?

Well, because very few writers get to the point of having a shipment of books to sign for their fans, arriving to disrupt best-laid plans.  It’s rare, and it’s a blessing.

And, thank you.


The plan going, insofar as there is a plan…

So, it’s been a scrambled couple weeks, what with doctor appointments, call-back doctor appointments, visits to the emergency room, and assorted Real Life Whatnot, which would not have been nearly as annoying, except that they took up the time left over from the various health thingies, leaving Very Limited Amounts of Time to do, yanno, work.

The spaces of time we did have lent themselves well to small projects, which is why Degrees of Separation is ready to be published, absent possible cover quotes from a colleague or two — oh, and sell copy.  Because of the above time constraints, I went with a pre-made cover this time (plug here for SelfPubBookCovers.com), which looks very well, indeed.

Today, I have done various chores, including cleaning the bathroom, and looked at the Calendar That Rules Us All.  January is already starting to fill up with Good Things, like Book Day (January 2) and book signing (January 13) and Chaotic Neutral things like taking Sprite to the vet’s for her annual checkup, but also with doctor’s appointments, which. . .Honest, our doctors are perfectly nice people, but I could do with seeing them a deal less.

However — and I hesitate to say this, lest I jinx it — it looks like I don’t have One Blessed Thing on the calendar until Book Day, January 2.

So!  The Plan is, after the Generator Guy is done doing the Generator’s Annual Exam, I will read the 60,000-ish words that now exist in the file labeled Fifth of Five, and (1) determine if it really is as awful as I think it is (note: occasionally, the current project is exactly that awful, but usually not. This is only the 60,000 word slump — that unique point in the narrative where the Critic in Your Head can point out that Everything You’ve Written on the WIP so far is Crap and that there’s not enough room left to finish the story.  It’s a Special Place, indeed.), and (2) come up with a Plan for moving forward.

And so that’s what’s going on here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory.  Business as usual, really

O, here’s the cover for Degrees. . .

And a snippet:

“No, no, having taken the decision to defend yourself–you did well. A man of peace, surprised at your lawful business, and, I make no doubt, exhausted from your labors this evening. Our friend, here, he had expected an easy strike, and now he will wake in the Watch House, with a headache, a fine to pay–and an account of himself to be made to his mistress that will, I expect, be very painful for him.”

In which we enter another countdown

Aren’t countdowns fun?  Let’s do another one!

Asyouknowbob, December 15 is Trooper’s birthday.  We here at the Cat Farm usually Celebrate this Occasion in the Traditional Manner with the Great Round of Sleeping in the Sun, and the Flying Mouse Competition high on the list of Festivities.

This year, in addition to All That,  we’re also throwing a Block Party.

“Block Party,” a Liaden Universe® story will be published to Baen.com on Friday, December 15, around noonish, Eastern time, in honor of Trooper’s birthday, to ramp up for the publication of Neogenesis, and to celebrate our readers, who have been with us for many years.

So!  Countdown to “Block Party” and Trooper’s eighth birthday! Four-and-a-half days — and counting.

Today’s To-Do List is a bit challenging.  I quote:

1. Read “Revolutionists” and prepare comments, if any
2. Continue edits on “Degrees of Separation”
3. 1,000 (or more) on Fifth of Five
4. Train Dragon
5. Meditate
6. Clean something in this house

So, it looks like I’d better get to work — see y’all on the flip side.

Waiting for the Snowstorm

Before we get started today, Management has asked me to make four announcements. Here they are:

One!  If you have been planning on ordering a personalized copy of Liaden Universe® novel Neogenesis, by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, you have until tomorrow, Sunday, December 10 to make your order.  Here’s your link.

Two! “Block Party,” by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will go live on Baen.com on Friday, December 15.  Mark your calendars.

Three!  You may now pre-order the ebook edition of Neogenesis from the Nook Store and the Kindle Store

Four!  You may now acquire from Baen ebooks the eARC of Star Destroyers, edited by Tony Daniel and Christopher Ruocchio, including all! new! stories by: David Drake, Michael Z. Williamson, Mark L. Van Name, Steve White, Jody Lynn Nye, Brendan DuBois, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Susan R. Matthews, Mike Kupari, J.R. Dunn, Robert Buettner, Christopher Ruocchio, Dave Bara, Joelle Presby, Gray Rinehart.  Here’s your link.

Adventures in Chemistry
We ran out of bread here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, so this morning’s first priority was baking.  Sadly, it seems this batch ain’t gonna rise.  Not enough moisture, I think; I added more than called for in order to get the ingredients to the “sticky ball” stage of the thing, but it might not have been enough.

We shall see.

Snow Party
In other news, the roofers have finished doing their thing.  The house now has an awesome metal roof, and, in celebration, Central Maine is throwing a snowstorm this afternoon through tomorrow morning.

Do we know how to party or what?

Work Going Forward
Steve and I have three projects underway at the moment.

One is, of course, Fifth of Five aka Monkey Business.

The second is a short story destined for Insurgency, an anthology coming from ZNB in 2018.

The third project is editing Degrees of Separation: Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 27, an all-new, all-original novella (unless it hits the lower eaves of novel by the time the edits are done).  Degrees, it says here, is a story about Paris, about love, and about bread.  Our intention is to have it available as a widely-distributed echapbook,  and as a paper chapbook (though Amazon only) in mid to late January.

Now that the roofers are gone. . .
I can hang up my framed Letter of Nobility, certifying that Baroness Sharon Lee is a noble citizen of the sovereign micro-nation of Ladonia.  I had achieved my noble citizenship a few months back, to honor the memory of the late Dave Romm, himself a Baron of Ladonia, but had been behind in acquiring a proper frame.  Steve did this for me (you see how things work around here) and now the Letter may be put on display.

I think that catches us all up.

Speaking of catching up, here’s Scrabble, catching up on her comfy.


On running out of time

So, a new writer wrote to me on Goodreads, back, I dunno, a month or more ago, perfectly polite, asking how to emulate our success, because he wished, not unreasonably, to rise from selling dozens of books to hundreds, or even thousands. My reply was to give him the Short Forty Year History Of My Career, which I felt was fair, because That’s How We Did It, and he might not *actually* want to emulate our process, because, honestly, it was Pretty Damn Scary sometimes.

I mention this because apparently this fellow is the tip of an iceberg of young-in-age writers who are freaking out because they’re Running Out Of Time! To Publish All The Things! Win All the Awards! Achieve All the Fame AND All the Riches!

There are. . .oh, so Many Problems with this.  Allow me to sum up.

Beyond the fact that living in a State of Constant Freak-Out is No Good At All for your creative flow — a Very Small number of writers ever win any awards, much less the Really Important To Your Career Awards, whichever ones those happen to be this week.  It’s not because the game is fixed; it’s because there are Many Many MANY more writers than awards.  Do the math, and you’ll figure out that not everybody can have one.  Just like not everybody in your office can get Employee of the Year?  And, yes, that’s an apt simile.  Most of us just show up every day and do the job, year after year.  Writing as a job really suffers from the Perceived! Glamour! of the work in a way bookkeeping never will.

In much the same way, no one can Achieve All the Fame.  Steve and I have been showing up every day for forty years or so, and we still meet people at conventions or online, who say, But, Why Have I Never Heard Of You? To which the answer I most often give is, Damned If I Know.  The Real Answer, though, is, There Are A Lot of Books Out There, and A Lot of Authors.  Even if you just stick to one genre (hah!), nobody can keep up.

I’m not even going to address Achieving All The Riches.  If you see being a writer as an Instant Path to Riches — you’re in the wrong business, my child.

Now, the Running Out Of Time thing. . .Yes, it’s very true that no one knows how long their thread is.  We have the time we have, no longer.  Statistically, though, most of us in First World Countries have more than 30 years.  So, you’re not Running Out of Time at 24.  It may feel like it because at 24 you’re still running hot, but honest — statistically, you’ve got time.

People start writing and publishing at many ages.  At the extremes:  Some wait til they retire from the day-job; some start writing in high school.  It’s part of the sickness of our culture that we tend to value the 14-year-old over the 65-year-old debut novelist.

Being a writer is, on a certain level, about being unique, so when you start writing is unique to you.  There is no Have to Have Published To Acclaim by 24.5 Years or You’ll Never Make It Rule.  Really, there’s not.

There’s also no rule about when you Should Quit and Make Room for New Writers.  Ideally, you start writing when you have a story worth telling, and you stop writing the day you put your pen down and say, I’ve Said Everything I Wanted To Say.  That can be at the end of a short story, or at the end of three dozen novels.  That’s unique to you, too.

So, wrapping this up, because I need to go open a story file and get the heck to work for the day —

My name is Sharon Lee.  I published my first short story when I was 26 years old.  I published my first novel at 36.  I will see my thirtieth novel, Neogenesis, and my one hundred fourteenth short story, “Block Party,” published during my 65th year.

Not king yet.  Not done yet, either.

Well the first days are the hardest days; don’t you worry anymore

So, the Chromebook, which still lacks a name. . .

Polaris Office has stooped to renting itself monthly, and — just no.  I therefore downloaded and rejected about a dozen other word processors from the Play Store, and was starting to suspect that Google was trying to quash all of the competition and force the unhappy author into Google Drive.

My last try was AndrOpenOffice, which I was warned might not be optimized for my device, and indeed it was a slow load.  Once down, however, it seems to be working just fine.  I’ll give it a thorough test drive, and if it continues to perform well, will upgrade to the pro version.

The other thing I did was download Eset for Mobile, which I figured would install itself and get to work, as it has on both my tablet and my phone — and there I was surprised.  Eset and Chrome seem to have some serious differences.  Who knew?

In other news, I’ve been going great guns on the short story which is not Fifth of Five.  At this point, I’m hoping that the novel will Grow Jealous of my involvement with Another Narrative and start Throwing Out Lures.  It’s happened before…

This morning, I went with Steve to the cardiologist, where we received the sad news that the doctor he’s been seeing for a while, who we both liked, personally and professionally, will be leaving on December 31.  Next appointment — new doctor.

After the cardiologist, we went to breakfast at Governor’s, and then came home.  I cleaned the cats’ water fountain, wrote 1,000 words on that side story, ate lunch and zipped off to yoga.

I’m taking Gentle Yoga, which I took before, at a different location and with a different teacher, and I must say, the two courses could not be more different.  This instructor focuses on keeping track of what your body is telling you, and on breath.  The former instructor scarcely spoke of breath, save an occasional reminder to the class to remember to breathe, and not to stretch too far.

I am tending to find the present course’s pacing a little slow; on the other hand, I’ve worked up a sweat by the end of it, so maybe I’ll do fast later.

. . .and I think that’s everything I’ve got right now, as I try to not keep too close an eye on the elections. . .


Today’s blog post title brought to you by The Grateful Dead, “Uncle John’s Band,” which has been my constant earworm for the last two days.  Here’s your link.  You’re welcome.

If it’s raining, it must be Thursday

So, the Monday house hunt was kind of a bust.  The house I was pretty sure we were going to make an offer on revealed a Fatal Flaw; the second-most-likely house has now fallen under contract.  Of the remaining three houses on our carefully curated list, one needed a bulldozer, one needed a match, and one had lied in order to get a date.

There is one more house we had identified as possible, if not probable, and it’s on the calendar for our* inspection today.  . . .Actually, that’s a misleading statement.  There are several houses in the Waterville/Winslow megaplex that are (or say they are) one-floor, and/or have a master suite on the first floor. These houses are all priced in excess of $190,000 and — no.

*It may be that Steve will be performing this afternoon’s house inspection solo, as I have been and continue to be stupidly ill.  Tuesday I finally caved and went to the doctor, who sent me to the lab, and here I am, awaiting the results of cultures and whatnot, so that a treatment plan can be made.  Apparently, it’s hard to treat something if you don’t know what it is.

In Fountain Pen News, the Jaipur medium nip demonstrator pen and I have failed to reach An Accommodation, and it will be seeking a new position.  The Jaipur bold nib is a perfectly convenable pen, though the bold nib may be a Bit Much.  And the nameless little eyedropper pen that came with the two Jaipurs to keep them calm during shipping is undemanding, and quite pleasing to write with.  It’s currently filled with red ink because I was going to be doing some editing (see “stupidly ill” above), which, um, hasn’t quite happened yet.

Now, the pens I really REALLY like are the Pilot Metropolitans (I have two — purple leopard and white tiger.  A Theme!), but they take cartridges or a convertor, but the convertor that came with is, for this hopeful user, Impossible.  In a word, what I want are Pilot Metropolitans that I can fill with All The Colors of Ink!

So, last night, I ordered in my third Metropolitan (bronze lizard; we depart from the Theme) and a C-40 piston convertor, to be my Test Pen.  If all goes well, then I can order in a couple more convertors for the pens I already have and free myself from the tyranny of the plastic ink cartridge.

What with one thing and another (see “stupidly ill” above), progress has not been progressing on Fifth of Five.  Yesterday, I did sit in the comfy office chair with a pen and a pad of paper and wrote out some future scenes, so there’s at least some motion, even if it’s not exactly forward.

Oh!  I don’t believe I mentioned here that there is a new reading posted on Patreon, for subscribers only.  Here’s the link.

And, I think that’s all I’ve got, aside the news that it’s still raining.  The weatherbeans are claiming that we’ll get a couple day respite before the nor’easter hits, this weekend.