Monday, September 4, 2017

Autumn in San Francisco

It's September and I'm pretty much finished with the pre-orders for Sword and Sorceress 32. When it's published on November 2, 2017, it will be available in trade paperback and possibly a few more eBook formats, but at the moment it's available for iBook, Kindle, Kobo, and Nook.

I actually haven't accomplished much in the past week because we had an unusual heat wave. Apparently we hit 106 F (about 41 C). I was too miserable to care. I grew up in New England, and my idea of a fun sport is ice skating. I do not handle heat well. And, because "San Francisco never gets this hot," most homes do not have air conditioning. You know your weather is bad when you get an e-mail about it from someone who just went through Hurricane Harvey saying, "I thought nothing compared to horrible Houston weather."

I still have more work to do, but I think I'm going to wait until my body has recovered before I try anything that requires serious thought. I need more sleep before my brain will function reliably. I can't imagine why some people don't believe in climate change; we're living it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Read the Book!

During my first quarter in college, I had a teacher who frequently used two acronyms: RTB (Read The Book) and RTQ (Read The Question). If you do both of these, your grades will be much better. Reading the question carefully also helps with games like Trivia Crack. Conversely, playing Trivia Crack will help you do better on multiple choice tests, because it helps you develop strategies for making better guesses when you don't know the answer.

Of course, RTQ is not a new idea. It was written, in different words, about three thousand years ago in Proverbs 18:13. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame to him." That verse came up in my daily Bible reading the day after I had answered a test question before reading the whole question, thus giving the wrong answer, and I found it very apropos.

RTB recently came to me in a different medium: film. My youngest sister sent me a link to the trailer of a new movie they are making of Madeleine L'Engle's book A Wrinkle in Time. First the trailer crashed my browser. After I watched it in a different browser, I was flabbergasted.

Seriously? "The only thing faster than the Darkness"? Knowing Madeleine - and I was lucky enough to have her as a friend - I'm pretty sure she would have finished that sentence differently. My best guess as to what she would have said is "The only thing faster than Love." I went back and re-read the book, and nowhere does it suggest that Darkness is faster than Light. And Love is what saves Meg and her family, so I'm going with that version.

I may or may not go see the movie, but I'm definitely keeping my autographed copy of the book, in which Madeline wrote: "Lisa-- tesser with joy."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dark Speech

This is the eleventh of the Treasures of Albion stories, and it begins with April, the first assistant registrar at the University of Albion, having such a bad day that when local law enforcement shows up, it's actually a nice change:
"Is black magic customarily set to music?"
It said something about April’s morning that this question was actually refreshing as well as bizarre.
Of course, April now has to explain that what they have is not a death threat:
"'I will incline mine ear to the parable, and shew my dark speech upon the harp.' Psalm 49, verse 4. It's not a death threat. The Psalms are sung as part of worship, and the 'dark speech' is something obscure, hidden, like a mystery or a riddle."
It's not a death threat; it's the reaction of a student who has been cutting chapel. If he hadn't, he would have recognized the quote.

I collect strange-sounding Bible verses to use as story titles for this series, and Michael Spence and I had a lot of fun with this one. It appeared in Sword and Sorceress 30, which was published in November 2015.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Wake of Vultures

"A Wake of Vultures" is the fourth story in my mini-series of stories in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar anthologies about people with Animal Mindspeech. Lena, the protagonist of this story, first appeared in "A Charm of Finches" (published in 2010) as a ten-year-old orphan being fostered at the Temple of Thenoth, Lord of the Beasts. The next year I wrote "A Leash of Greyhounds" where Lena is sent off to spend the summer with a friend of her late mother.

The way I start my Valdemar stories is to take a list of collective animal names, read it to Misty, and ask her which one she wants next, so the title is my starting point. I had the title and was all set to start writing the story when a real-life death, followed by some sort of legal snafu intervened, and for the next two years we did Elemental Master anthologies instead. So it wasn't until 2014 that my story about the wake of vultures guarding a body that would kill anyone who touched it was finally published in NO TRUE WAY.

Friday, April 7, 2017


The idea for this story, which appeared in Stars of Darkover, the first of the Darkover anthologies edited by Deborah J. Ross, wasn't really mine. Ann Sharp, my collaborator, had been threatening to write this back when MZB was still editing Darkover anthologies, but she had never quite gotten around to it. So the idea was hers. I agreed that it was a good gimmick, and we sat down to write it together. That was when we discovered that Ann's decades writing reports for her job in an engineering department gave her a very different writing style from the one I acquired in my decades of working for MZB. Ann came up with character names and a synopsis, and I did a lot of the actual writing. We had fun with it, and I think it turned out pretty well.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Drink of Deadly Wine

This is the tenth story in the Treasures of Albion series that Michael Spence and I write together, and it originally appeared in Sword and Sorceress 28. The inspiration for this story was a combination of two things: (1) Psalm 60, verse 3 "Thou hast showed thy people heavy things; * thou hast given us a drink of deadly wine"; and (2) a museum exhibit.

The exhibit was called China's Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor's Legacy, and it was on display in San Francisco in 2013. I volunteer at the Asian Art Museum, and I nearly had heart failure when I walked past a newspaper vending machine a month before the exhibit was due to open and saw a headline about a "lost" terracotta warrior. China may have thousands of them, but each one is unique, and I don't think the Chinese government would take it well if we misplaced one. I grabbed the paper and read the start of the article: "On January 23, 2013, a terracotta figure became separated from his cohorts as they were en route from China to San Francisco." At that point I relaxed, because I knew that Michael had just seen them at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where they had been until January 27, 2013. It was therefore impossible that any of them had been lost between China and San Francisco on the 23rd. It turned out that the "Lost Warrior" was a publicity campaign for the exhibit.

But the idea of a terracotta warrior (or warriors) wandering around a city did give Michael and me a plot thread for the story. It's the second of our Treasures of Albion stories to come from a museum exhibit we both saw; the first was "Daughter of Heaven."

Friday, February 24, 2017

They That Watch

As I mentioned in my last post, I am going back and filling in the answers to "where did you get the idea for this story?" that I missed during my hiatus from blog writing. "They That Watch" is the 9th story in the Treasures of Albion series that Michael Spence and I have been collaborating on since 1999. Most of them have been published in various volumes of Sword and Sorceress; this one was in Sword and Sorceress 27.

In the introduction to our Treasures story the previous year we had mentioned that Michael and his wife lived with a "canine Guardian." We looked at that phrase and said, "Hmm, now what can we do with a Guardian who is a canine?" So in this story we introduced Mika, who arrived to watch over Melisande and her unborn daughter, who is going to be born as the Guardian of the Paten, a Treasure whose previous Guardian had the misfortune to be killed in the 7th Treasure story.

Reckoning this up, I realize that it really is time for poor Melisande to have the baby--she's been pregnant since 2010. Maybe we can manage that for this year.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Trip of Goats

I originally started this blog to answer the question "where do you get your ideas?" Since the answer tends to be different for each story, I did an entry for each one I wrote. Then life interfered, and I pretty much stopped writing this blog. I'm picking it up again with my most recently published story, "A Trip of Goats," which was published December 6, 2016 in Misty Lackey's Valdemar anthology, Tempest.

The story starts with two Novices from the temple of Thenoth, Lord of the Beasts, out walking the goats. Goat walking is something I actually have some experience with, as I am an Associate of the Community of St. Mary, which raises award-winning cashmere goats (see their Facebook page: St. Mary's on-the-Hill Cashmere). At I write this, Sister Mary Elizabeth's Instagram video of what happens when you throw a Christmas tree into the goats' pen is still visible on the page. So I started writing knowing that you could walk a trip of goats and that goats love evergreens, and went on from there.

Misty wants me to do peacocks for next year, so I am starting work on my next Valdemar story, "An Ostentation of Peacocks."