Thursday, May 23, 2013
Please understand, I am very grateful to all the readers who have taken a chance on an unknown author and tried him, whether they finished the book or not, much less left a review or told a friend about it. The willingness to try and unknown first-book author is a gift I do not hold lightly! I am also fascinated by how they see it; after going 'round and 'round with revisions and reviews, watching my Calmer Half learning techniques and trying them out, I have long since become unable to see the story for the ghosts of the past five versions between the words on the page and myself. To watch people seeing the final product with fresh eyes is like playing tourist with visiting friends; it makes the old home city exciting and new again.
I've also found myself laughing at the disconnect between information addiction and reality. We all know reality doesn't move at internet speed (except when it does), and the volume of information out there doesn't mean that things are happening quickly. There is no useful data to be gained by checking sales more than once a day, because sales happen at the rate they happen, and in books, you're dealing with a product that will take consumers anywhere from a night to two weeks to find the time to read and react to (longer, if they're busy and there's another book ahead in the queue. Perhaps we shouldn't have released so close to Larry Correia's release of Warbound, but Take The Star Road was ready to launch.) I can't hurry reality, no matter how much I want to know if this bird will dive or fly. The smartest thing to do, all authors agree, is to not read reviews (as they're for readers by readers, not for authors by readers), not check sales, and concentrate on the next book. I know this. I react to this sage advice about as well as I do to a low-carb diet; by sneaking emergency chocolate out of the chocolate cache after dinner, and peeking at sales and reviews anyway.
Ah, well. Due to waiting too long and then not doing well at emergency planting when I was still in a brace, (the plants were getting rootbound,) everything but the eggplant, asparagus, and mint has died or failed to thrive, and the eggplant is iffy. On the other hand, the basil, thyme, dill, and rosemary indoors are leaning toward the sun from the window and doing just fine. That will have to do for things growing this year, and at least we'll have herbs and a book. The time I save gardening,(other than contemplating whether I should mow the mint with the yard as a precautionary measure; it's the mad scientist of herbs, out for world domination) I can spend lining up words with all the care of a Rube Goldberg contraption. The description of the next book won't write itself, and I still need to choose cover art and buckle down on getting the print version of the first out. It's going to be an adventure, both across the stars in the story and from day to day in the writer's household.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Solution: for every room I sweep, and every room I mop, I get a glass of mead and some internet time. This encourages me to finish each room, and to take a rest break afterward. On the downside, this means after a few rooms, I've really lost all motivation to get up out of this chair and go do another. On the other hand, I think the injured limb is about done for the day anyway.
Now for a very weird fact: did you know down here in the south, land of 8 inch long pine needles, they bundle those pine needles together and sell them as "pine straw bales"? My mind, it is well and truly blown. According to the gent who showed them to me, as well as gave me prices for renting a tiller, "They're mostly used on flowerbeds, ma'am. The birds will also steal more of the wheat straw for building their nests."
It's a whole different world down here. I'll think I've got a handle on the culture, and then I stumble onto something like that, where "everybody knows" but a transplanted Alaskan.
P.S. J. R. Shirley - Lydia Bailey is on the way. Thanks for the recommendation!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
The doc released me from the splint, provisionally, dependent on good behavior and progress in physical therapy.
A Ladies Love Taildraggers volunteer called, reminding me of their annual fly-in coming up.
After work, I found a bag of chocolates waiting all gooshy-warm in the car from a day in the sunshine. (I love my husband.)
It's a good day.
Hope you're all having a good day, too!
Friday, April 5, 2013
If John Ringo's March Upcountry was a retelling of Xenophon's Anabasis, then this? This is America, 1774-1778... From the initial inevitable (now that we look back) first clashes to the troops on the move. We don't get all the way to the end of the revolution. Although, given it starts with a jailbreak, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the French Revolution there for a few chapters - pretty dicey on which way it'd fall on human nature versus human planning and reaching for something better. (I'll have to ask Jenny, of Cradle of Liberty, what she thinks - because the more of our revolution I learn, the more messy it becomes, full of humans and political pressures and cultures of the day, and the more nods to it I see in this book.)
This is a book that takes the idea that "the one right farm boy turned hero will automatically rule the kingdom well", and blows it into flaming chunks. It centers around a tyrant's son who stumbles out of solitary as an almost unintended aside to someone else's jailbreak, to find his father dead, his brother recently assassinated, and himself now the heir to a city-state. His household, the only people he can trust not to want him dead, needs him to take the reigns of power to keep the place from being carved up by the ruling cabal. Even they, though, aren't what they seem; they're riddled with rebels who are looking for a time and place to start a glorious new republic.
Luce's inability to be the tyrant his father was creates a power vacuum, and there are many, many forces and factions rushing to break the stasis and the status quo to seize it. Even his allies may prove as dangerous as his enemies... and his enemies are very dangerous indeed.
That only covers the first few chapters, and doesn't even start to get to the pig in a dress. You'll have to figure that one out yourself, by reading it. But beware - woven in with all the action, there are a couple places where she should have put Class IV beverage alerts in there!
Saturday, March 23, 2013
In Alaska, death is like the bad weather - always potent, always possible, leaving traces all around you. Death is the remains of an airplane you fly over in a marsh, the warnings of bear activity, the history of a used car you're looking to buy. ("It was his car, when he went up the mountain and didn't come back." The woman said, facing north toward a spot unseen but known by heart. Her arms, folded across her chest, tightening for a moment until her knuckles stood taut against the skin. "I haven't started it... it hasn't been run in three years.") It's in the smoke you breath from the forest fires in July, in the hair-raising powdery dry and sulfurous scent of volcanic ash pelting on your windscreen as you coast the last hundred feet toward the shelter of home, too late to outrun the blast wave by two blocks. It's in the friends who were there, and are no longer, the stories that try so hard to fill in the holes left by the people now gone. The flat tone a man uses when he says "That pass is aluminum coated."
But the distance is an illusion, and no amount of distance can protect from the way you hear the wobble in a tightly-controlled voice when they say "I don't know if you heard..." And then reality, no longer protected by your ignorance, cuts all the cross-connections, the complex web of community and friendship, the possibilities and the we'll-talk-later, the email not yet answered, the might have been, should have done, and the sheer brutal finality that steals your breath away and leaves you falling, stunned, sitting down like a dropped marionette.
Damn, I miss Ted. I miss them all, gone before me now. Too many friends lost, too many wakes held and ashes spread, too many searches ending in an accident report, and worse the ones where it was a sudden illness, a driver who didn't look before turning. (Damnit Ook, who's going to make the waitresses at Sushi Sushi laugh until they're leaking tears at your wasabi face now?)
Worse, still, with the way that death seems to be ignored right out of the culture here, is the lack of a that time and space to grieve, and to be able to share the person, to make them come alive in memories. It's like we should never mention them, for fear that death could come alive. Let me share with you some of the amazing beauty, the wildness, the breath-stealing beauty of a land that will kill you, taken by a man who I barely got to know before he, too, was gone.
Because you should know such men lived, that they may live on after their death.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Rainy Pass, Mystic Pass, and Lake Clark Pass always scared me, somewhere deep in my backbrain. Lark Clark, especially, as I'd seen the weather go from severe clear when we decided to turn around to packed solid with cloud before we made the turn north. And now Rainy Pass has one more patch on her aluminum coat, and three more lives to her tally. Because sometimes, even the best, brightest, most skilled, and luckiest men can't make it out.
And Ted Smith was among the best, filled with love and laughter, mischief and wisdom, in a giant teddy bear of a man with a feral grin. He requested assignment as a patrol officer to the worst part of town, because he loved to be down where he could make a difference. If he wasn't volunteering for the Department of Natural Resources' gun quals (he loved driving the four-wheeler towing the bear target. What, you thought you got to shoot a stationary bullseye when the reason you carry guns is for a kill-defending grizzly or mad momma moose?) or teaching anyone and everyone with the slightest interest how to defend themselves, he was working on his plane or a motorcycle, sharing long breakfasts with the airport, military, and police communities (he knew everyone, it seemed, and never met someone who wasn't immediately either a friend or sent off with their oversize ego quite deflated), and plotting how to get back into a helicopter. (He loved airplanes, but his heart really belonged to rotaries, not seized-wing.)
My IA has never been a man to settle for "good enough for government work", and when Ted brought his plane in for wind damage, it turned into one of those annuals that goes on and on, disassembling and inspecting until all evidence of shoddy prior repairs by others were removed and all was repaired to better than factory for structural and safety standards (with an upgrade or two as long as we're in there.) So in the background of my photos, as my plane came together piece by piece, so too did his plane. He used to tell me that I needed to update more often, and gave the most hilarious send up of an innocent expression, claiming "It's so I can check on my plane, you know."
In the meantime, he'd show up with a motorcycle and a second helmet, and an infectious grin. "Could you help me by testing the back seat, to see if it's comfortable enough for my wife?" And off we'd go. (The first motorcycle seat made me hobble after getting off 50-odd miles later; that one was promptly rejected as no-good for the love of his life.) As the snow fell, he'd insist on giving me a ride home from the shop, and on the way, we'd chat about life, the universe, his hopes and dreams for his kids, the adventures he and his wife had gone through, and the way they had coped with deployments and different shifts, raising kids and surviving hardships.
Not that we could get away with much; my personal torturer, ahem, physical therapist, worked with his wife. Which led to the occasional description of hilarity we'd been up to (punctuated with grunts of pain), followed by a crack of laughter and knowing looks between women, and sometimes valuable advice I could carry back. "No, no, we really ought to skedaddle this weekend, and stay clear; she wants to contemplate remodeling..."
When my fiance came up to see me, I promptly introduced him to the two most important men in Alaska - Ted and my IA were like surrogate fathers, greeting my Calmer Half with friendly grins and a thoughtful, weighing eye as to whether we'd be a good fit. I was highly amused that, through the gun community, they'd already corresponded... and they were highly amused, in that way of men who see a delightful irony coming long before I did, that after all the years of growing up to be a civilian, I was going to marry a vet.
When I headed down, Ted would not stand to see me go on the long journey without a gun (neither could my fiance, but he wasn't there to give me looks over a coffee mug), and ganged up with my IA to make it gentle, persuasive, thoughtful, and utterly unable to refuse... and so we ended up at the range, test-firing his M6 to make sure I could fire it well should I need to use it.
The last time I saw him, was a hug after he and J had escorted me up the Alcan to just shy of the border. He waggled his wings and called godspeed on the radio, as they headed back to Anchorage and I to Canada, headed to the Lower 48. We kept in touch, but the emails were sparser - he was always busy, always finding something to fill his days with more laughter, mischief, delight, and adventure, and I was learning to settle into married life, a new job, a new state, and put into practice advice on marriage he'd given.
Blue skies and tailwinds, Ted, and may we yet meet again when I head west...
Friday, February 22, 2013
I, on the other hand, after pulling it out of the box, handled it a bit, examined the fasteners of much sturdiness, and finally summed up my initial impression as follows:
"This thing has more leather than my last miniskirt!"