Empty Pantry about to get refilled.As usual a project that shouldn’t have been so complicated turned out to be bigger than I thought. And, I started it just as we getting the zines ready to go live on August 1st. And, there’s more, Paul and I are making all the arrangements to drive to Denver for Denvention 3 (the World Science Fiction Convention August 7-10th).

What’s the project, you ask? Well, thanks for asking. I decided I’m sick of tripping over all the stuff in the pantry area and it needed to be organized and stored so that most of it is corralled and controlled in the space we have.

The pantry runs along a wall making a short hallway between the kitchen, dining room, and the laundry area. There’s also a half-bath back at near the washer. Part of the impetus for the cleaning and neatening of this area is that we’re planning to get a new washer and dryer soon (once these die, and they are not healthy). Before I started this project the hallway was overrun with stuff that didn’t fit on the shelves because they were a smidgen too big to fit. After barking/banging/stubbing my toe one to many times, I just started pulling things off the shelf and figured it was also time to flip the shelves over (they were bowing a bit) too.

All the stuff spread on the livng room floorSo, the living room floor is covered with all the stuff from the pantry. I’ve pulled all the nice little cloth covers from the baskets we bought last year and washed them and refitted them into the baskets. I grouped the pantry food, bottles, packages, etc, into like type groups — not all the piles even show in this picture.

We also have a nice IKEA cabinet in the kitchen next to the stove that we recently found out can’t be used to store canned goods, only dry goods, since the heat from the stove causes problems. So, I moved all the dry stuff like cereal, spaghetti, macaroni, etc to that cabinet.

You’ll notice that lots of our stuff is in plastic containers as well as the original container. We live on 5 acres. I don’t care what you do or how often you clean — you get bugs. This year is our best year — it’s mostly ants. Last year it was some sort of wood beetle (or so they told me when I asked for it’s identity). We also have a cricket down in the basement which I hear but can’t find but since they eat bugs, and I don’t see it, I don’t care.

So, I’m betwixt and between in the project and going full-bore editing, proofing, writing, herding cats (aka reviewers), and aiming at the August 1st deadline. I’m really looking forward to Denvention and if any of you readers are going please look for us there (we’ll sign in on the Voodoo Board). Now, I’m off to get a few hours sleep before I dive in again tomorrow. (Oh, yeah I actually spun for 15 minutes again today.)

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Tour de Fleece LogoWell, it was a gallant try but I didn’t make it. I had two goals:

  1. Spin every day
  2. Spin up one pound of green variegated top

I spent most of one evening getting the wheel set up and ready to spin. Had several problems getting the tension right. I managed to spin up a full bobbin and then navajo ply it. It came out really nice. I put pictures in a previous post — but here it is again.

But, I fell down on the spin everyday goal. I missed three days while at Readercon and another when I got home. I guess I’m just getting a bit old for those late nights and early morning combos — especially the ones where they expect you to think when you get up in the morning.Skein of green yarn

Then I was back in the spinning rhythm when all of a sudden the bobbin had no pull at all. Everything spun and turned and twisted and nothing pulled in and if I loosed my grip nothing happened. After a lot of googlng and printing the Schacht pamphlet the light dawned. The drive string had stretched and even though the tension knob was a tight as I could get it nothing worked. So, it was cut the string. Retie the string. And then I spent what seemed like hours trying to get the tension right again. It’s still a bit wonky because I was so used to it before it changed but I’m now spinning okay again.

Alas, the tour has ended and I barely spun up 8 ounces of the original pound of top. So, no yellow for me. No, red either because I feel that I didn’t really give it my best effort. I let things pull me away that didn’t need to but just to keep me from feeling just how out of practice and rusty I’d become. So, maybe next year I’ll do better.

I do know that I’ll be reorganizing some of my priorities to spin more. I found that when I was in the groove, spinning became a way to just pause my brain and let the creative thing/open side of my brain work unfettered. It helped me deal with migraine pain when I was trying to reduce pain medication. It was also freeing to get back to doing something that I’d forgotten just how much I loved. Somehow, I hope over this coming year to make spinning and knitting share my creative time.

Since I really have some plans to jump full force into writing for a while that spinning/knitting brain space where your mind just coasts and dreams could become very valuable and if it doesn’t happen the restfulness I feel after a half-hour of spinning will be a welcome respite in a chaotic household.

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Screen Shot of NASA Imagery Library siteNASA has opened it’s Space Imagery Library to the general public. This screen shot (I clipped a lot of the middle of the image where there was no information for this photo) shows that there are collections of images of the Universe, the Solar System, Earth, and the Astronauts. There also some workspace and software that will help you put together some embed imagery for your site — I played around a bit but didn’t try it out. So, have at it and let me know how it works out for you.

An article on Australian PC Authority says:

The launch is the first step in a five-year partnership that will add millions of images and thousands of hours of video and audio content, with enhanced search and viewing capabilities and new user features.

That sounds terrific because I could spend hours looking at astronomical photos, videos, and other images because I find them all fascinating. As it is I love checking out the Astronomy Picture of the Day site. But, that’s beside the point here a couple of images from the NASA Imagery site that I thought were just gorgeous.

Sun and Earth Photo from NASA Imagery LibraryStellar Quake from NASA Imagery Library

…..Space may be the final frontier but we can enjoy exploration through NASA many wonderfully informative, useful, and entertaining websites about science, space exploration, and all things astronomical. Have fun visiting this new resource. I did and will continue to explore it further.

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Book cover Migriane in WomenYou know what I hate most about migraines?  No one can tell you’re having one.  Well there’s the lack of concentration, the misuse of words (Hyperion’s going to proof this for me), the fact that I can’t seem to keep one thought in my head for more than half-a-minute before it falls out the ear on the other side of my head.  But physically, I look okay.  I can sit here and listen to someone talk to me and when they end their monologue — truthfully, I have no idea what they just said.

We were watching Stargate: Atlantis and when Beckett died (It’s season three so I assume all the world has seen it except for me), I just burst into tears because I liked him.  He was so kind.  Okay, when I have a migraine I cry at commercials also… but the emotional upheaval is pretty rocky.

But since I can’t think straight and I can’t be trusted with sharp objects — I can at least spin.  So, I’m working on my Tour de Fleece challenge of trying to spin that pound of green roving.  I already blew the spinning every day thing because I’ve missed three days now (at Readercon).  I’m not going to get the full pound of roving spun up either but it feels nice to have the wheel out and ready so now that I’m sort of trying to be active and stay out of mischief, I can spin.

By the way, I haven’t read the book on Migraine in Women — I just really, really, liked the cover.   Tonight, there is supposed to be a thunderstorm and rain.  Maybe not, but the migraine is here, so maybe yes.  I hope not, we’ve still got to get that tree cut up and stacked to dry for this winter.  The garden needs to be weeded.  But, I was going to spin some more and I better do that now.

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Cover image of Me and Mr. DarcyEmily Albright seems to be having a bit of a problem finding her perfect mate. From the sample date the reader experiences with Emily, it would seem that either the barrel is nearly empty and these are the dregs, or New York City has very slim pickings indeed.

Running an independent bookstore, having a good income, living on her own, having friends — well, it seems Emily is still buying into the whole “a woman isn’t whole without her man thing”. Her secret is that she watches the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, the one with Colin Firth and the wet shirt, after every dating debacle, when she’s lonely, and when she just wants to believe love is out there somewhere.

She’s trying to come to grips with the fact that she may always be alone and when her friend and co-worker Stella tries to convince Emily to join her on an 18-30’s trip to Mexico. Emily makes the snap decision to instead take a Jane Austen tour of England. She figures that she will exorcise her Darcy fantasy, recover from her expectations of manly perfection, and get on with her life alone and happy to be so. Since she’s read all the books she believes it will be a great adventure and fun. Of course, once she arrives she finds that most of the women on the tour are closer in age to her mother and the only males are the bus driver and the young, obnoxious, news reporter covering the tour for his paper. (If you’ve read enough of these romances you know that obnoxiousness and dislike are a sure sign of true love developing — or maybe not, I mean this guy is really, really, obnoxious). Nevertheless, as the tour progresses Emily learns more about her companions on the tour and finds that all of them are women to be admired and reckoned with–all with talents, ambition, and full lives.

That’s the set up. What that doesn’t tell you is just what a great piece of work this novel is. I was about half way through before it dawned on me that Potter was retelling Pride and Prejudice. It’s very subtle but the story of Me and Mr. Darcy parallels the basic plot line. There is no line by line or plot point by plot point comparison but it’s there in feeling, situations, and actions. It’s also not a follow on to Pride and Prejudice either. Me and Mr. Darcy is a truly modern story of modern people with all the problems of living in this century. Flights of fancy and a bit of paranormal hand-waving aside, it’s a romance in the same vein of Austen.

It’s witty, funny (hilariously so in some scenes), sad, poignant, and in some places too close to my heart. I can’t believe I read it so fast that I read it in a day, considering that I went back to reread the beginning once I realized what the author was doing. The time with Me and Mr. Darcy just flew by.

I’m a romantic at heart. It’s probably why I enjoy the Jane Austen books so much. The heroines are strong women (even for her time) and the close family and sibling relationships are ones that most of us in our far-flung living arrangements probably wish we had. I know that I often wish I had a Jane to talk to when I have problems in my life. But families are smaller now and no one (at least no one I know my age) stays put for life as they used to do.

But, in spite of how much the world has changed and how much has changed for women over the last hundred years or so — we want romance in our lives. There’s also a big difference between fairy tale romance, love, and hormones. Sometimes, we even find that what we thought we wanted is not what we really want. We want the dream but with caveats and addendums, riders, and codicils. We want a Mr. Darcy, but one who can live in this century and be a man of this time but with the honor and integrity of the ideal from the book. Jane Austen once wrote,

“There are such beings in the world — perhaps one in a thousand — as the creature you and I should think perfection; where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding; but such a person may not come in your way, or, if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend, and belonging to your own county.” (Letter to Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight).

Maybe some of us will be lucky enough to find that man: but just as surely he’ll be missing some of these criteria and yet he may still be our perfect Mr. Darcy (with or without a wet shirt). So, if you’re also in love with the writings of Jane Austen and her very real characters, give Me and Mr. Darcy a try.

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Cause of the loud cracking sound
This morning I was reading during the rain storm and heard a loud crack sound–didn’t think anything more about it because after I got up and started moving around, I didn’t see anything.

The poison ivy never really went away and so today I had another Dr.’s appointment. Paul came home to pick me up and off we went. Got another course of prednisone Hopefully, this time it will take care of it. I’m really, really sensitive to poison ivy and it went systemic so the first time I was on prednisone is got lighter and faded but after I finished it was back a few days later.

Extent and placement of treefall
We just got back from Dr.’s and CVS and found that a tree we’ve been concerned about fell over while we were gone. It’s a big tree, a huge tree. Last summer we went out and looked at it and tried to figure out where it would fall when it did. We figured it would miss the carport (it did miss it) and the shed (it missed that too). We thought it might hit one or two trees on the way down and it sort of did, skimming off some branches.

Damage to other trees photo 1 Damage to other trees photo 2

Guess now our weekend is taken. We’ll be out there with the chainsaw getting it cut up and ready for this winter and our wood stove. That’s the plus side of this event. The downside is, it’s going to be one heck of a lot of work to get this all cleared up and cut for firewood. The work is mostly going to fall on Paul since I can’t do much lifting but I can move the smaller branches and toss (well drag and heave) them onto the compost piles.

Tree fall took off the end of one of the wood piles
As you can see the tree is about 100 feet high and fairly big around — I’m really glad we were gone when it came down. I’ve been home for some smaller trees coming down in our yard. I was here when two very big ones came down in a storm on a neighbor’s land. Those were a bit scary — they made lots of noise and then fragments would explode off them or crack and slide into the gully. I could see the whole thing happening from my desk chair out the dining room window. Then there was the time a huge branch fell down onto the access road blocking it after Paul left for work. Luckily the man that lives just further in the woods hadn’t left for work yet and he cut it up and I moved the smaller pieces.

Living in the woods is an adventure, every day nature is your partner and there is no getting away from it. We try our best to live lightly on the land. But, when something like this happens it’s a reminder to not take anything for granted.

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear/see/feel it — should you still be worried?

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[Note: We didn’t get in until 3:30 am Monday morning so things were a bit strange today catching up and getting our mail from the post office, unpacking, and not having anywhere near enough spoons to last the day–so this post is a bit late.]

We need to check out today before the convention ends so we’re up and getting packed. I’m going to enter the panels that I will be at this morning and afternoon and then add the detail later. After the convention we intend to drive to Providence, RI to visit my son Geoff for an hour or so before heading out for Maryland and home. Today is going to be a long day for us. So far, we’ve packed most of the room and I’m writing this while getting my first cup of coffee.

The Aesthetics of Online Magazines Panel
10:00 am The Aesthetics of Online Magazines. Leah Bobet, Ellen Datlow, Ernest Lilley, Nick Mamatas (L), Sean Wallace. Online magazines are a growing section of the speculative fiction marketplace. But is there more to an online magazine than simply publishing in pixels stories that would otherwise be printed on pulp? How have online magazines adapted to the new medium in terms of story subjects, story length, design, and the attraction and maintenance of audiences? How do these choices differ from those made by print magazines producers? If the medium is the message, then what is the message of Internet-based magazines?

Discussion covered screen sizes, whether people would read stories longer than 5,000 words (studies show they don’t but studies also show they don’t read longer stories in print magazines either), the problem of moving from print to screen, whether it was time to change from straight narrative to hyper-stack stories, and so on and so on.  Basically, all the problems and possibilities were discussed but no set of recommendations were formed only more issues to consider.

You Got Spec Fic in My Romance Panel
12:00 (noon) You Got Spec Fic in My Romance! (And Vice Versa!) Victoria Janssen (L), Nina Harper, Mary Kay Kare, Terry McGarry, Gayle Surrette, Nancy Werlin) Discussion. One of the hottest romance sub-genres at the moment is paranormal, which encompasses everything from vampires to valkyries, werewolves to gargoyles, men who are cursed and women who carry demons on their skin. Many of the more recent paranormals, such as those by Patricia Briggs and Eileen Wilks, arguably have more fantasy then romance. Is paranormal “true” speculative fiction? How often do readers cross genres? Are Paranormal romances and speculative fiction showing cross-genre pollination in their content?

What is paranormal romance? How does it differ from Romance? How does it differ from fantasy or science fiction? What makes a paranormal romance (romance, fantasy/sf/horror, story, strong characters, good writing)? Lots of lively discussion about what the panel and the audience liked.  I was on this panel but there was just so much to talk about — it’s a big area and still doesn’t yet have its parameters carved in stone.  What is paranormal romance to you? I’d love to hear about it.

Magic and Myth in Human Culture and Fantastic Fiction Panel
2:00 Magic and Myth in Human Culture and Fantastic Fiction. Judith Berman & Sarah Micklem with discussion by Andrea Hairston, Elaine Isaak, Michaela Roessner, Sarah Smith, Gayle Surrette, Sonya Taaffe, Ann Tonsor Zeddies, et al. Talk/Discussion. Within our cultures, humans create consensus views of what is real and what is not, and these views are both explanations and operational (curses, oracles, germs, electricity). The modern scientific model of reality excludes the beliefs and experiences of many people around the world, not to mention in most of human history. How do we, as writers, step outside our own worldview to create imaginary cultures in which magic is a fact of life? Berman will talk about anthropological understandings of magic and myth, and issues of authenticity and appropriation, while Micklem will share some sources, primary and anthropological, that influenced her own fiction.

Micklem and Berman discussed culture, folk tales, charlatans, pragmatism, magic/reality, mind/body, and other issue.  How to make a consistent, working system for world-building — it’s more than saying magic exists.  You have to deal with magic as an intricate part of the lives, beliefs, and culture of the people of your world.  Lots of audience participation and discussion. This could have been a lot longer session and still it would have just skimmed the surface.  I really learned a lot from this one.

After this panel, we hopped in the car and started for Providence.  Paul and Ern had packed the car while I was in the last panel session since the Dealers’ Room closed at 2pm.  [Hyperion here:  Just closed the back hatch when it started to rain.  So I got wet, but none of the book boxes did.]  We spent about 2 hours in Providence — took my son out to supper and caught up on what he’s doing and the family.  Then it was back in the car for the drive to Maryland.  We managed to drive all the way in one go (with stops for bathroom, coffee, and stretches).  We’d planned to swap off the driving among the three of us but forgot to leave room to move the driver’s seat back so that Ern could do his share of the driving (his knees hit the dashboard (what were we thinking– it was a long weekend).  But we managed to get into MD about 3:30 am.  We simply crashed and slept and Ern headed home after helping Paul unload the car.

We declared Readercon lots of fun.  Had a great time talking to friends new and old.  We’re already looking forward to next year.

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A great way to start the day, we overslept. We didn’t manage to get down to the Dealers’ Room until almost 11am. It opened at 10am. I missed a panel that I was really looking forward to at 10 also. Oh, well it happens and we really, really, needed the sleep. (My poison ivy is back–and that’s another story.)

Fantasists as Modern Philologists Panel
12 (noon) Fantasists as Modern Philologists. Faye Ringel (L), Greer Gilman, Sonya Taaffe, Debra Doyle. Philologists believe that the study of an ancient language is inseparable from the study of its classic texts in their historical and cultural contexts–that understanding a language, the people who spoke it, and the stories they told in it are ultimately the same thing; there is no doing one without the others. It strikes us that this fascination with the interplay between language, culture, and story, is reflected in the works of some of the best writers of fantasy, beginning of course with Tolkien, himself a philologist of renown. Who are these writers? How do their works reflect this attitude even when they’re not actually inventing the languages of their imagined societies?

All the panelists had an amazing array of information to share. The topic ranged over how Tolkien actually went back to basics to discover (not create) the languages as they would have been if they existed. A slightly different distinction than having invented a language — he rediscovered the languages instead.

We speak words and words have power and thus create images in our mind — we “bespell” the world, creating it with words. There was a wonderful bit quoted from one of Ursula K. LeGuin’s books between Ged and his magician teacher about how an object can be changed by changing its true name, but that such a change would radically change the nature of the world itself and should never be done.

There was a lot more — language in a story should be consistent with the character, the world, and the story. My brain was full after this one.

Are you writing a sequel Panel
1:00 pm “Are You Writing a Sequel?” Walter H. Hunt, Beth Bernobich, Suzy McKee Charnas, Michael J. Daley (L), Ellen Kushner, Judith Moffett, Sarah Beth Durst, Paul Haggerty. Readers love them. Editors want them–sometimes. What do writers think about them? When do they think of them: before during, or after work on the first book? How do they think of them: all planned out or a grope in the dark? What’s the difference between a sequel and a series? Our panelists will answer these and the questions that naturally follow them.

I really wanted to sit on this as it’s only the second panel Paul’s been on. He was the only non-published author. As a reviewer, he more or less represented the reader on the panel.

The panelists discussed their books, the first and succeeding ones. Whether they knew from book one that there would be a second or not. The problem is that once the first one is written and published the second has to deal with what happened in the first book (while some authors have done a ‘do over’ it’s not advised). So, if you know there will be a sequel, you can write accordingly, making a follow-on book a bit easier to write.

There was some disagreement on whether there was a difference between sequels and series. Moving on, the audience and most of the panel agreed that the most successful follow-ons are those in which the characters grow and change based on what has happened to them before in the book(s).

Hyperion AvatarWell, it’s sort of granted that I should break in here. I was honored to be asked to sit in on this panel, and it was a great deal of fun, despite the rather large number of participants. When Michael Daley was pitching the idea to me during the summer, we thought there would just be three of us. Then when we arrived the other day, we find that there will be eight. Oops! Slight change in plans. But I think it went really well. The conversation zipped back and forth across the table, with no single person hogging the spot light. And with the experience of the authors from seasoned professionals to relative newcomers, to one lone, non-published (but with 10 chapters written!) reviewer, I think a solid array of opinions were espoused. And, I think I managed not to embarrass myself. Okay, back to Gayle …

Then back to the table to help out. Met a lot of folks and talked about SFRevu, the convention, and books.

Gatekeepers to the World of Letters Panel
3:00 pm Gatekeepers to the World of Letters. Michael J. Daley, Nancy Werlin, Charles Oberndorf (M), Sarah Beth Durst, Cassandra Clare, Judith Berman. “[The book is] the oldest and the first mass medium. And it’s the one that requires the most training to access. Novels, particularly, require serious cultural training…I make black marks on a white surface and someone else in another location looks at them and interprets them and sees a spaceship or whatever. It’s magic.”–William Gibson. We know that YA writers take very seriously their responsibility to tell young readers stories that reflect what they feel is true of life. How aware are they of their responsibility for training young readers in the magic Gibson speaks of? What kinds of stories cultivate lifelong readers?

The authors said they write the stories they want to write and the publisher supplies the labels of lower YA, middle YA, upper YA, or whatever. Mostly the labels have to do with the age of the protagonist.

All agreed that the writer needs to, at the beginning of the book, give the reader the clues as to how to read the story and that goes for all books whether for younger readers or adults. That good writing is good writing and that most bad YA is written by those “writing for children” as opposed to those writing to tell a story. That an agenda does not make a good book if you start with the moral or the agenda. That the story is what drives everything even though you may have a theme running through the book.

Never write down to the readers and never forget the stories are key to keeping anyone reading.

Then it was back to the Dealer’s Room until it closed at 6pm. Finally, food. We drove to the mall and its food court — good solid food at reasonable prices. Then we walked through the mall top floor and bottom after eating to walk out the kinks. Finally, back to our room for an early night. We’re across the hall from the con suite and it’s not too noisy but it does mean there is the siren call of munchies and drinks all evening.

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