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.

Splinter Universe Readers, Take Note!

I have embarked upon a Project.

Over the next few days, I will be taking down the older — pre-2020 — Splinters from Splinter Universe.  These will be collected in an ebook (possibly print) volume tentatively entitled: Splinter Universe Presents! — so that they will not be Lost Forever.

This redesign will give us room to start posting a Very Long Splinter, which we’ve been thinking about posting for A While Now.

So!  That’s what we’re doing today, Brain!

Honey, would you eat that snack cracker in your special outfit for me?

Lately here at the Cat Farm and Confusion Factory, we’ve been doing a lot of waiting for phone calls of all sorts, and trying to fit cat physicals and shots in-between trips to Bangor.

Yesterday, I took a break from waiting for phone calls (have I mentioned recently How Very Much I hate phones, talking on phones, and waiting for someone to call me so I can talk to them on the phone?), to do errands in town, and to drive  out to Skowhegan to the Maine Grain Alliance, aka, the Grist Mill, to pick up some flour.  It was a nice drive, in that it was a sunny, warm day, and Route 201 is in pretty good shape, surface-wise.  I had Sirius XM Classic Vinyl station on, and had a fine run of music as I zipped up the road.

Unfortunately, it’s either Mud Season or Pre-Mud and Maine is as ugly as it ever is, with black snow melting into black dirt, dead grass and broken trees all too easy to see, so I can’t say it was  a scenic drive, but, still, very nice to get out of the house.

At the Grist Mill I bought a sack of sifted wheat flour and another of Red Fife.  I’d hoped for white whole wheat, forgetting that the mill prides itself on its heritage flours.  I’m told that Red Fife is an excellent bread flour, and the sifted whole wheat the closest they had to white.  Since I was out of flour entirely (which Will Not Do), I took my sacks away with me, picked up a Maine Root root beer at the cafe next door, and drove back to Waterville, much refreshed in spirit, and singing along with the radio.

This morning, we have contractors coming to look at the deck.  Indeed, one has already been and gone, and we await — ahem — a phone call from a second, letting us know that he’s incoming.

The cats have settled down after the excitement of Contractor One’s visit.  Trooper is in his box on the edge of my desk, Sprite is lounging in the open area between my office and the dining room, and I believe Belle may be supervising Steve.

Steve continues his labors on the next Liaden book, featuring the on-going adventures of Jethri Gobelyn.  I’m working on more mundane projects — like having to make a phone call to the plumber about his overdue quote — while the back brain chews over some story stuff I need answers to. . .

. . .and that’s kinda what’s going on, hereabouts.

Today’s headline brought to you by Southern Culture on the Skids: “Camel Walk.”  Here’s your link.

Carpe Diem Book Day!

Y’all know what today is, right?


It’s Book Day! Carpe Diem by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller in an all-new paperback edition, with brand-new cover art by David Mattingly!

Carpe Diem was the third Liaden Universe® novel EVER published, appearing. . .

First! as a Del Rey mass market original in October 1989, cover art by Stephen Hickman.

Second! as part of the three-novel compilation, Partners in Necessity, in February 2000, cover art by Michael Herring.

Third! as a mass market from Ace Books, in February 2003, cover art by Michael Herring.

Fourth! as part of two-novel compilation, The Agent Gambit, from Baen Books, in January 2011, cover art by Alan Pollack.

Fifth! as a mass market paperback from Baen Books, today, February 25 2020, cover art by David Mattingly.

That’s 31 years of active publishing life, which is pretty dern amazing.

So! Let’s raise a glass to Carpe Diem!

On a related note — today’s publication of Carpe Diem means that the First Three Books, which is All The Liaden there was for seven-or-ten years (depending on if Steve’s counting or I am) are all in print in the same format, and in stores, now. So this is the perfect time to do needy friends a favor and introduce them to Val Con, Miri, Edger, Shan, Priscilla, Mrs. Trelu, Hakan, Kem, and all the rest of the people who live in: Agent of Change, Conflict of Honors, and Carpe Diem.

Eeeh-HAH, Book Day! Always exciting. Even after so many years.

I was raised in the canebreak by an ol’ momma lion

So, suddenly and with only a little bit of warning — we’re busy.

Well.  I’m busy.

Steve was already busy.  Being lead on a novel comes with an “I’m busy” card.  Plus, he’s already recorded a short story for Patreon.  Here’s the link.

Me, though, I had a couple things on my plate — getting the taxes ready for the accountant, a short story that may come under contract a little further down the line, that Archers Beach universe story I’ve been thinking about, the next novel after Steve’s got done with his two.  Also, I’d been thinking about another Liaden story or two, for inclusion in a new chapbook.  So — work, but not a lot of work.

And then?  I started going through the “cope with this after you’ve healed” folder on my desk, and I discovered that I had some splinters for eventual posting on Splinter Universe (there’s one up now, with author commentary, at this link).

The rest of the splinters in hand are Liaden in nature, and the plan is to get them up in a more-or-less leisurely manner.  First, I have to do something about the color scheme at Splinter Universe.

Then, Steve had finished drafting a story that Would Not Be Quiet just before my foot got rebuilt, and I put it aside to read until I was back on both feet.  That story — “The Gate that Locks the Tree In: A Minor Melant’i Play for Snow Season” — is destined to become a chapbook, Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 30.

So, this is what’s lined up, so far:

1  Do the taxes
2  Edit, format, put on sale “The Gate That Locks the Tree In”
3  Write short story
4  Fix Splinter Universe template
5  Plot  and write Archers Beach story
6  Type in Liaden snippets/write author commentary for each
7 Plot and write story(ies) for Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 31
8  Post Liaden snippets
9  Plot and write Liaden novel
10 Confer with Steve over producing possible “outtake” chapbook

So, that’ll keep me busy for a while, I guess.

And now you’re up to date.

Today’s blog title brought to you by Tennessee Ernie Ford, “Sixteen Tons.”

The Thursday blog post, with footnotes

So, recovery is a strange country.  I’m not in the habit of thinking that I actually do very much of an ordinary day, so it’s a little — no, make that considerably — annoying when I can’t complete what I consider to be a normal day’s to-do list.

Yesterday being a case in point.  I went to the gym, did my strength training, pushing a little, because you’re supposed to challenge yourself, amirite? — walked 1.11 miles in 21 minutes (this includes the cool down), and tried to feel that this was a success*.  Then I went to the grocery store, came home, and — smashed right into a wall. I was exhausted.  Steve made lunch, and after I still couldn’t keep my head up, so I jettisoned the rest of the to-do list and spent the afternoon under a shifting blanket of cats, reading.

Man, I hate hitting walls.

Today, it’s snowing (the Weatherbeans are calling 4-9 inches), and is any way a non-gym day, and here we have the to-do list:

1  Keep front steps accessible

2  Make refrigerator soup for lunch

3  Get with the accountant’s tax packet: at least print it out and get the letter in the mail

4  Strip bed and wash sheets — already in process

5  Hit the Command Chair with the Mead 5-star notebook** and a pen and organize the short story I’ve been working up scenes for while I should be thinking about something else

. . .It seems a very slight list, but the idea is to Hit No Walls, and if that means vacuuming tomorrow, then — the cats get an extra day of peace and quiet.


*(This was after the first treadmill I was on spontaneously leapt from 3 mpg to 14 — I hit the STOP realfast, youbetcha, but wow, what a rush.  The scary part being that the Planet Fitness associate on the spot couldn’t figure out Why It Had Done That.  I hope it doesn’t catch somebody else.)

**Apropos of Nothing Much, I’ve been chewing through the Mead notebook, which is lovely to write on with the fountain pens. Anticipating its final page, I bought a six-pack of Smart Campus “subject notebooks” by Kokuyo, offered by JetPens, which are supposed to be the bee’s knees for fountain pen use. We’ll see, eventually, I guess. Maybe even soon, given the fact that there’s this OTHER short story I really want to write, too, and have been putting it off because its a Maine Coast story, in the Archers Beach universe, but not set in Archers Beach, which no one will want to read, but sometimes you gotta just get stuff out of the way.