Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Looking for something else to read?

There's no way I can write fast enough for my readers, so I want to recommend a series I ran into while looking for anything else that might be in the same odd niche as Combined Operations. It's just as tactical, and just as much tangled into the personal and the realpolitik, though despite what you'd expect from the covers, there's almost no romance in it. In fact, it's best if you just ignore the covers, and enjoy the stories. (Seriously. Ignore the covers. I hope he sells enough to fund new covers!)

Thomas Doscher's The Vixen War Bride series is set well after the galactic battles, the human colonies wiped from the face of their planet, and the fleets of starships fighting an alien menace. Instead, this is a human-scale military series, about the war for hearts and minds both of Captain Ben Gibson's human Rangers, left high and dry with orders to occupy a rural backwater in the conquered enemy's homeworld because they have nowhere else to go...

And the vulpine enemy, whose culture they never knew. Armed with only their weapons, their ability to adapt, improvise, and overcome, and an interpreter who's grasp on the local language is at best on a three year old's level, Gibson is setting out to make the best of a bad situation.

He isn't the only one. The local priestess has decided that in order to save her people from the vengeance of the conquerors, she need to be the token sacrifice. Armed with courage and inspiration, she demands he marry her, and succeeds... Only to realize that now she has to figure out how to tell him what he's done. 

Cross-cultural communications and the nature of people at their best, and their worst, are handled with a deft touch and light humor in this series, with both viewpoints shown so the reader can delight in the attempts at two very different people with limited communication to forge a path toward true peace.

You'll also enjoy the hijinks of bored enlisted, and the tense moments of dealing with the problems of repatriating guerillas, as well as the many small incidents, day after day, full of  unfounded assumptions, revelations, laughter, and tears as they work together and at cross-purposes to establish trust... despite the latest dictates from the far-away army headquarters, and the deep-seated prejudices on both sides.

A surprisingly heart-warming set of military scifi tales; highly recommended.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Introvert's Paradise

I found introvert paradise! 

Okay, besides used bookstores with miles of shelf space and a coffee shop attached.

And besides the ridgeline of a subarctic mountain chain, above the treeline and the mosquitoes, with a break in the weather so the sun is pouring down and you can see 150 miles in almost every direction, from the mountains near and far to the sun sparkling off the sea, with only the faintest hint of civilization.

And besides a scratch strip up near the glaciers, where summer has already faded to fall and the air is full of the scent of fireweed blooming, along with the airplane's hot oil and exhaust, and the ting of an engine cooling off chimes in with the birds to accent the sound of the wind, and other than the tundra tire tracks at your feet, there's no evidence that man was ever here.

Now that I'm in Texas, I have to work harder, and lower my standards to find my paradise where I can.
It can be done! 

This morning, for reasons, I was later to the pool than normal... and found I was the only one there

It's a adults-only, use-at-own-risk pool, so there wasn't even a lifeguard breathing my air. 


Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Something New to Read - Dust of the Ocean

So, I wrote another book, "Dust Of The Ocean"

It was a homage to Andre Norton, and to Michael Whelan's art, especially the subterranean and Passages series. I intended it to be horror, but none of my characters cooperated.

Which... is awfully like Andre Norton's stories, to be honest. 

What's it about?

In the ruins of an ancient alien city, a half-alien slave's act of mercy will change the course of a cold war.

When Mika saves Arkady, a wounded enemy soldier, he offers her a path to freedom. All it will take is finding a hidden artifact that may alter the course of an interstellar conflict…

But the path there will plunge their team into the depths of inhuman nightmares, battling ancient bioweapons and outwitting her former owners. It's going to take everything they have just to survive, much less escape with their prize!

It's much longer than my usual, at over 100,000 words. It is a stand-alone novel, but is set in the same universe as "Shattered Under Midnight"... 

And for those of you who've seen the anthology of incompetent evil, "Your Honor, I Can Explain" by Raconteur press, yes, Deputy Director Spurgle makes an appearance in this, too.   

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Strange New Smells and Strange Old Males

So, I have started swimming again, and learned to wear a skirt to the pool. (It's far easier to get dressed with damp skin compared to pulling on pants.)

Unfortunately, Ashbutt McDieselthroat loves my recycled-sari skirts. He's fascinated by them in a way that no other clothing attracts cat. 

...at least he's stopped trying to pull them off me? 

However, when I come home from the pool, something about the scent on my feet, flip-flops, and the skirt hem where it's touched the locker room floor is utterly entrancing to this cat.

This makes life interesting when I'm trying to make coffee and breakfast.

After the third time I had to gently shove him out of the way with my foot because he got so wrapped up in smelling the cloth he forgot to watch out for me trying to move around the kitchen...

I grumbled to my husband, "Love, there's a strange male sniffing around my skirts!"

My love just grinned, and sipped his cuppa. "I'm not worried. He's too hairy for you." 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Artists like challenges, right?

So, my cover artist and I went to the range recently. On the way back, we found the time to tackle things even more difficult than shot placement and proper grip: cover art. She'd sent a mockup of what would be a great cover for someone else's book, and I had to think for a few days about why I didn't like it before I had an answer. 

Me: "The problem with the cover is that it clearly conveys military scifi, but this book isn't modern MilSF; it's an homage to Andre Norton, Leigh Brackett, Lovecraft and Jack Vance and Scientifiction. Back before the genres were near as split as they are today, and you could have psychic powers and fantastic alien ruins of unknown races and remnants of the eldritch... If modern readers pick it up expecting a MilSF full of modern tropes, they're going to be unhappy. But how do we signal a pulpy retro Astounding and Weird Tales vibe?"

My cover artist: "Challenge. Accepted."

Friday, April 21, 2023

My friends are helpful

Me: "Hey, Alma. I flop over and be dead at you now. After 7 years since this story first bit me, on the fifth? sixth? try... You remember how I started this sucker from when it wouldn't leave me alone while I was trying to finish another book? That was back in November 2021, and I've been trying to finish it since? Is finally done!"

Alma: "Congratulations!"

Me: "The next time I pull out an old unfinished story and tell you I'm going to salvage it and finish it, shoot me." 

Alma: "Nerf or water?"

Me: "Taser."

Alma: "OK!"

Friday, April 7, 2023

Want something amusing to read?

The requirement was: "take a well-known trope and twist it."
Jim Curtis also said something to me about my never having written a trope straight in my life before, so he didn't see why this one should be a challenge.

Which means, of course, that I couldn't come up with anything... until cold meds, insomnia, and a horrible yet hilarious meme collided, and this came out. I sent it to Jim figuring he'd look at in the sober light of day and recommend Peter take my butt back to the doctor. Instead, he thought it was hilarious. So...

Come to to the dark side, where demons do dishes, and we have cookies...

Available on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C1L3K82Q

Friday, March 17, 2023

Because Dinosaurs!

Calmer Half and I have some interests in which we both can geek out happily, and some areas of interest where the other half of the couple has no joy and even less interest in the subject. 

Sometimes he humours me, and despite his "get from Point A to Point B as directly as possible with no stops unless critical to health or logistics" attitude, he'll exude restraint at me while detouring to see a giant meteor crater. (Wheee!)

Sometimes, he doesn't. 

That's where friends come in. This morning, after rack pulling 208 pounds (2 reps, 3 sets), I eyed the lat pulldown machine and decided I'd had enough of being adult for the day. So I texted CV Walter. "Wanna run away with me and see dinosaurs?"

She texted very sleepily back that she needed to find the shower, and then her clothes, in that order. So give her 45 minutes. I texted her the equivalent of happy noises, and then gritted my teeth and did my lat pulldown exercises.

I then went over to her place, kidnapped her from all her intentions, and took her to...
coffee first.

What, do I look like a monster? I'm not going to inflict random road trip on people without coffee!

We may have had coffee and gelato for breakfast at The Duck (it'll always be Odd Duck Coffee to me), but we did at least have breakfast bagels with egg and salmon and capers and cream cheese so it wasn't all caffeine and sugar. 

Then we drove off to Seymour, TX, to see all the dinosaurs! And the dimetrodons, which are, just read the sign NOT DINOSAURS. (Yes, it's in all caps. Posted right next to "Rules To Be A Dinosaur".) Just ask any six year old boy, That's Important.

Some museums are full of themselves and think they're there to "raise the public consciousness" and you're gonna get lectures on cause of the moment and fashionable crises while you're just trying to have fun. Not the Whiteside Museum of Natural History: this place is rich in artifacts and feels like it was made by a bunch of scientists letting out their inner six-year-olds. 

Right down to the little plastic dino toys hidden in some of the exhibits. And the way the T. Rex is positioned so she looks like she's looking at you no matter where you move.

And they even have the actual lab where the paleontologists are working on the actual fossils brought in from the dig with the cool toys at the end of the building, with large windows so you can see them. one of them may have caught me squealing over the miniaturized sandblaster the size of a ballpoint pen, and came out to geek out over the awesomeness. Next thing you know, we're crouched over a juvenile dimetrodon's clavicle, exclaiming over the amazing job of freeing from the stone, and the person who's put in all the work to make it look so good is showing off the nerve attach point, and a hole where something bit all the way through before it went from fresh meat to fossilized...

Utterly cool. 

I stopped on the way home and bought fresh raspberries and roses for my Calmer Half, and he seems just as happy that he missed all the excited female squeaking and squealing and gigglage. 

See the exhibit warning label:

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Futures Contract, Vegetable Edition

Yesterday I did something that I've wanted to do for years, but never felt stable or capable enough to manage: I got a futures contract in unspecified vegetables and berries filling a specified sized container, delivered in 21 installments over as many weeks. 

The marketing people call that a "Community Supported Agriculture Share." 

The difference being, instead of the jargon-heavy contract for a standardized commodity, I handed cash to the farmwife over a handshake, and the details were written on the margins of a flyer advertising last fall's corn maze. 

We both come out the better for the deal - the farmers get stabilized cash flow, up front, with no credit card vendor fee biting their profit margin, and they get a solid estimation of minimum demand for the crops they are planning. Even better from a risk-forecasting point of view, by not specifying the contents of the box beyond "grown on our farm (or the berry farm & vineyard across the road)", if they have a crop failure or an unexpectedly abundant harvest, (or on the demand end, an unexpected run on a particular vegetable / failure to sell a particular vegetable at all,) they can substitute the box composition, and normalize availability between CSA Share buyers and the farmer's market stall.

This isn't necessarily weighted in favor of the market stall, either; I know the early harvest of high-tunnel strawberries are going in the CSA boxes instead of available at the farmer's market... which makes solid sense, in rewarding high-volume customers willing to assume delivery risk first. 

The only reason it took me this long to do this?

I had to find a friend who likes to cook, in order to be willing to split the product with me. I don't actually eat that many vegetables, and wasting good food is a sin. Now that the North Texas Troublemakers have grown so much, I have not one but two friends who are willing to divvy up the box, and if I throw in eggs I get from a neighbor, they're willing to pay for what they want upon delivery. Their cash flow might not be able to handle the up-front cost of a CSA share right now, but they can manage weekly payments of same.  

Besides, they'll not only pay in cash, but in kitchen scraps. Those will go to the neighbor to feed the chickens, which will result in more tasty eggs...

Unfettered capitalism: everyone wins!

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Now for something completely different!

So there I was, standing on a corner, minding my own business, when suddenly these two bad dudes...

Actually, I think I was running around trying to clean the house, and make headway on far too many projects, and being
mildly sad that most of my friends went off to MarsCon while I'd made the adult choice to stay home. And it wasn't Sumdood of EMS fame, it was the Three Moms of the Apocalypse, who are good friends, that decided I needed to be in on the Postcards From Mars fun. 

Something about yanking my chain on my inability to write an 8,000 word short story, and how they mostly keep ending up as novels... so let's see if I could write a story in 50 words.

I didn't expect to make the cut, much less end up on the cover!


Sunday, February 12, 2023

How Did You Expect This To Go?

How do you expect this to go?

At the gym, and everyone present is lifting weights. One gent attempts to go up in weight on bench press, and fails the rep. His spotter quickly grabs the bar and assists in muscling it up onto the pegs before it can be unkind to the gent's chest. 

Another guy, who just deadlifted roughly 400 pounds, commiserates with him. "Hey, man, as Taylor Swift says, shake it off."

A brief silence descends on the gym. 

"You listen to Taylor Swift?"


How it actually went:

The guy who's deadlifting grins as he starts to unrack the plates off the bar. "I have a teenage daughter!"

"Oh, yeah, then you've heard it all! Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus..."

A third dude chimes in. "Hannah Montana! So much Hannah Montana!"

I love this gym.