Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bright the Morning

It's one of those beautiful days that we get sometimes in Seattle, where the morning air is clear and the sun is bright and even in the little courtyard that my windows look out on, you can see the light. We live in a little apartment building, twelve units curled around that courtyard that's got a little cafe table in it, and a tiny fountain, and a wall of stones that are covered in greenery. It's actually a really lovely view, but because it's sunken, and because there are buildings around, it doesn't get much light. So a morning like this is precious, and wonderful. It won't last; the clouds are coming in, or thickening up, or whatever you want to say, but there's light right now and it's good.

I'm drinking coffee from the coffeemaker we just got, the very most basic thing that could exist, but I'm happy to have it. We've been using a Kuerig clone, K Cups of single serve coffee, and that was really convenient, but it was also expensive, and the machine was kind of erratic. Sometimes a full cup of coffee, sometimes a third of a cup of coffee. I got very tired of it, and decided it was time to just get a Mr. Coffee, and so I did. Adam doesn't much care for it, I think: he likes his single cups, either from the Kuerig machine (but we're getting rid of that) or the espresso machine or Starbucks Via, which he adores. I'm satisfied with anything, myself, and just the regular, crappy Folgers in my cup just now is fine.

There's a book beside me, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which I'm about two thirds of the way through, and which is incredible. The story of a woman, Henrietta Lacks, who in 1951 goes in for cancer treatment and has some of her cancerous cells taken without her knowledge (standard procedure at the time, and still somewhat even today) which turned out to be the most viable and vibrant cells ever cultured: quickly reproducing, dominant over other cells, hardy, versatile. They've been used in thousands of experiments; they helped cure polio and helped discover how genes work; they're invaluable but, if one is honest, worth billions. Her family never knew about them until 20 years later, and then spent decades still not knowing much of anything about what they were, or what they meant, or how they came to be. The book is the story of Henrietta, of her family, of the HeLa cells that came from this perfectly ordinary yet completely remarkable woman, and of all the science and legal battles and medical mischief that surrounded the whole saga. It's spectacular, and you should read it.

The sun's faded away rather a bit, though it's still bright outside. I need to get some more coffee. I need to write up some answers for questions for my paperback edition. I need to spend time with the husband. So I think I'm done with this entry. I will be back soon, though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I should write more

I'm not going to pretend that I will be back here all the time. I'm not going to claim that I'll post three times a week. I'm going to say I will try to post here, though it doesn't matter, since I'm the only one who reads this thing.

Anyway. Winter is a slow and sluggish time for me. I drift into almost complete inactivity given the chance. And that's where I've been at for a great long time. I mean to be better. One always does, though, doesn't one?

I've got a few rereads to post about. I've got some old books I've caught up on to discuss. I've got some thoughts on writing. I've got a few shows I've liked.

We'll see. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe the weekend? Who knows.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Not Actually Rereads: Ladies of Mandrigyn

When I was a youth, 99% of what I read was fantasy and science fiction. We didn't have the most money, so any such book that came into the house, I'd read over and over for years. In this occasional series, I take up some of those old and treasured titles and give them a read after fifteen or twenty years to see how I feel about them now.
It's weird the way you remember things.

The mid eighties were a good time to be a Barbara Hambly fan. She still writes, I think: mysteries now, though, not the fantasy that I devoured. She had maybe three series of books going on, and some stand alone novels, but I think eventually everything became a series. I read pretty much anything with her name on it, and I loved it all.

Or, I thought I read anything with her name on it. Turns out, I missed  one.

Yes, this is my first reread that wasn't actually a reread at all. I just assumed I had read Ladies of Mandrigyn, for several reasons that seem good. First, as noted, I thought I read everything Hambly put out. Second, I have most certainly read the other, later books in this series, The Witches of Wenshar and The Dark Hand of Magic. So you'd think I would have read the first one, right?

Wrong, as it turns out. I never read this thing in my life, or if I did, it failed to make enough of an impression to even seem vaguely familiar, and that isn't likely to be the case. I can't really evaluate it accurately for this purpose, then: it's not a reread. Is it a bad book? No, but it's kind of loose and slowish and the plot is thin on the ground. It's a set up novel, and I think (from my dim recollections) that works well enough that the other two books do pretty well. It wasn't hard to get through or anything, and though there's the vague sexism that permeates almost all fantasy before the very modern era (and is still not banished completely by any means), it's subverted in many ways by a variety of strong female characters who have interesting stories. There are lesbians, too, without much judging or even comment (and implications that gay men are around too, just being dudes, but we don't see them), and that's nice.

As a reread, it's a failure, though.


I can still highly recommend rereading Hambly's Those Who Hunt The Night, which is an excellent vampire novel; and also her Darwath books, which have a kind of weak ending to my mind, but which are great overall. I've reread both since I became an adult person, and they hold up well; because I'd done that, I didn't want to use them for this series of posts, but having failed at the purpose, I'll fall back on my other knowledge.
(As a note: I tend to use original cover art for these, or at least, the cover that I grew up with, which might be different, but Hambly's books are seemingly all available in some sort of new edition, with covers that match up, and I think they're very pretty, so I'm using that edition for the Darwath books.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Time is already here



I haven't posted in a couple of weeks; novel writing doesn't take up that much time, really, but it takes up enough, and when you're using your words for one thing you get stingy with others. Two weeks is plenty long for silence though.

These are my inlaw dachshunds, running around on their little legs in the frost like bosses.
(Photo Credit: Troy Turner)
We went away for Thanksgiving as we do each year, over to Eastern Washington to a nice, friendly house outside of a little town called Davenport. My husband's family get together, with a lot of food and wine and snacks and cold, in this case represented by hoarfrost all over everything, turning the world pale and white and slightly frightening.

But because it's December 1st and we're home, today is the day Christmas starts to appear in our house. We haven't got a tree yet, and won't for a couple weeks probably, but decorations have seeped out of the closet and into the apartment: lights and reindeer, stockings and cheer of all sorts. Adam watched his favorite Christmas movie, and I'm about to have some soy nog, and we're listening off and on to holiday music. Pretty much festive pretty much all the time.

I don't mind, because Christmas is my favorite holiday, and having it stretch out in bits and pieces over a month is delightful.

If you're getting your house ready about this time, I hope you have fun with it. I've got to get back to the writing, but I'll try to stay away less long.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Write In

Yesterday was Seattle's halfway point for Nanowrimo (said point being either the 15th or the 16th of the month as one prefers, though there is some contention as to the day; it's like a much less important version of the debate about Easter.) As per every year, there's a big get together in some place with a lot of space and some coffee, and a bunch of people show up with their laptops and peck away at the novels while being surrounded by their fellows, occasionally engaging in sprints (type as much as you can in a short period) or word wars (challenge a neighbor to write more in a generally slightly longer period than a sprint). There are prize drawings that you usually enter by achieving some number of words, for instance, one ticket per thousand words written.
I've never actually gone to a write in at all; most of them are smaller versions of the halfway get-together, with six or eight people in a cafe somewhere on Wednesday night for two hours. But the atmosphere was incredibly conducive to writing, and even though I was only on site for an hour, and some of that was spent getting set up and buying a beer and so on, I put up 2000 words on the WiP. (A caveat to that: I thought I wrote 2500 words; I'm writing the book on Google Drive, but had to port it to Open Office, and they count words so differently that I ended up with an extra 500 in Open Office. So that's what I wrote down, that I'd done 2500, but the extra 500 were scattered throughout my 35000 word document, so they didn't actually count. I felt bad about faking my honor system number unintentionally, even though I claimed no raffle tickets at all, so it didn't matter. I am built for guilt.)
The point being, it was pretty fun, and I think I might trek out and find more of them in the next couple of weeks, see if the feeling stands, and if I can crank out such big numbers so quickly which I'm not often able to do on my own.
(I was also able to donate a couple copies of Engines to serve as prizes, which were well received, and which was a relief, as I'm looking at the box full of them and wondering what will happen with them all, and coming up blank.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

NaNoWriMo

As seemingly every year, I am doing National Novel Writing Month. This year, it's a rewrite: I had a novel that went over somewhat like a lead balloon, and I'm fixing it (by which I mean: burning it to the ground and rebuilding by memory of the original plans, with sudden inspirations that have no basis in the first version; all to the good.) Progress is good, very good indeed, and I'm feeling like the story is so much improved that it's amazing. Though, it's not quite the same story, and I'm not even sure it will end up the same genre when it's done. But it's a better thing overall, so that's good.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reading success!

It went very well. And as it turns out, there was book cake. Which is it's own success.