Saturday, October 16, 2021

Men's things and Women's Things in the Medieval World

While this below is probably most interesting to those exploring the Medieval world, I think it has larger interest.

This is how these folks saw the world. This is the men's sphere and the woman's sphere.
Notice how the 16th Century woman got to keep the "books that women tend to read".


We still have this today. Imagine the moveable goods of your own household taken out into the yard and neatly sorted as to what belongs to who.

(Yes. I know this "whom" of which you speak, but I do not choose to acknowledge him.)


 Anyhow, from

From Brill & The Hague Academy of International Law


According to Magdeburg Law (Magdeburgisches Weichbild), a deceased husband’s wife was to pass on to his male descendants his sword, his best saddled horse and best armour, as well as his pulvinar bellicale “military bed,” which included a bed, two pillows, two sheets, a tablecloth, two bowls and a towel. The hereditary property of a wife that was to be received by her daughter, and otherwise by her closest female relative, was much more extensive. Although in Łaski’s Statutes these were defined as being only her sheep, dishes and the food in her home, in the judgments of Magdeburg Law, translated into Polish in 1501, these were described with much more precision as: the woman’s silver and gold jewellery, cups, chalices, spoons, cupboards (in Latin armarium), wash-basins, cushions, sheets, pillows, tapestries, carpets for covering benches (In Latin bancalis) and beds and hanging on walls, tablecloths, towels, quilts, clothing, headscarves, chests, candlesticks, yarn, beer brewing kettles and books ‘that women tend to read,’ as well as a pot for melting wax, a mirror, scissors and other items commonly used by women. In 1567, Bartłomiej Groicki, a notary at the High Court of Magdeburg Law in Krakow, described the Weichbild as follows:

These things belong to the woman’s movables [gerada] according to Magdeburg Law: all the woman’s clothing, gowns and cloth cut for the clothing the woman typically wears and has power over; all gold and silver that is woven for the woman’s clothing; all rings, buttons and pins, buckled belts, silk cloth, bracelets and necklaces, bed coverings, sheets, bath towels, curtains, lace curtains, beds, head-rests, pillows, table-cloths, bowls, brewery vessels to be leased, a wash-boiler, crates with lids, linen, washed and raw wool; books that women usually read; geese, ducks, sheep that are herded out to pasture.

                                Jakub Wysmułek
                                History of Wills, Testators and Their Families in Late Medieval Krakow

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Carbon Paper

 It occurs to me that some folks have never seen carbon paper in action. 

The first couple minutes of this program show somebody using it.
So I share.

My first book was typed on a manual typewriter like this, an Underwood, and I used carbon paper.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Ingredients of Character

I was thinking the other day about how we create characters, since I'm trying to do some of that.  

What are the ingredients we knead and stir and bake into characters? How do these people end up knocking around inside our brains, anyway? Where do they come from?

Some of the sparks that grew into Marguerite in Forbidden Rose were real spies.

Consider Marie-Madeleine Bridou. (She ended up Marguerite in the book instead of Madeleine as a nod to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Jo waves. Hello, Scarlet Pimpernel.)

Read about Bridou here, here, and here.

She chose the code name Hedgehog because, as one of her colleagues put it, “it’s a tough little animal that even a lion would hesitate to bite.”


You will be pleased to know Bridou worked for a publishing company.  Heroic people, those who work in publishing.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Celebrating Language Change

I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm a language fuddyduddy, clinging to past-pull-date English. Language is a living thing. I don't expect it to freeze solid in 1969*.

Language chases after change in the real world. Names are born for the new stuff: wiki, tweet, google, go cup, podcast, bitcoin, DNA, penicillin, page view, Peace Rose, moonwalk, on brand, quark. 
Bright, shiny new things, these words.

Words let us look at familiar things in new ways:
right-size,  single-use, metrosexual, non-binary, slipstream,  catfishing, mansplaining, fail as a suffix (skateboard fail,) salty, to "ghost" on somebody, Black Lives Matter, geek, I can't even, slut-shaming, binge watch, photobomb, throw shade, because reasons, because awesome, nerd, gender fluid, double down, rewilding, first world problem, singular they . . .  
We play with language.
I adore that**.

*1969 is the first use of "pull date" according to Webster's
 ** Careless errors of grammar, OTOH are not useful nor clever nor beautiful. I stomp along the transition boundary where these usages ooze into general acceptance, sneering at them and fluffing out my feathers.

Interesting punctuation

Came across this in Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs, in the heroine's viewpoint. A private detective is guarding a  client. He says on the phone:

"I'm kinda hoping her soon-to-be-ex shows up," he said softly; I thought so she wouldn't hear him.

Semicolons always seem a bit academic and formal to me. Most times when I see one in popular fiction I feel it could be advantageously replaced by two sentences.

"I'm kinda hoping her soon-to-be-ex shows up." He said it softly, probably so this client wouldn't hear him.

But .  .  . though my editorial alternative might be slightly clearer,  Briggs' choice — or her editor's choice . . . this 'feels' like an editorial correction — is maybe the better writing. It uses POV so neatly.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Cursing in ASL

For those of you who want to be obscene but not heard.
Or let your time travelling characters curse effectively while moving silently in a dangerous place.
Or exchange rude comments at a Regency ball.

How To Curse in ASL.

Words are cool.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Perfect words

Sometimes in the midst of a beautifully written story ⁠— in this case Coraline by Neil Gaiman — you find a little vibrating diamond of a sentence.

"Terribly slowly, stiffly, heavily, a hinged square of the floor lifted: it was a trapdoor."

. . . which is a Japanese meal of a sentence, perfect in its simplicity. A square of sunlight on the walls of a museum. One wild strawberry growing in the tangle beside the path.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Violence: Deep Country Version

 So. Here's what we get up to in this neck of the woods. Happened a few weeks ago.

"Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office processed the victim’s vehicle and located evidence related to this incident. Investigators were able to identify the suspect and obtained several charges.

Wyant, a 31-year-old white male from Buena Vista, Virginia, was wanted for attempted malicious wounding, abduction, use of a firearm in commission of a felony, shooting from a vehicle and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon."

 As you can see, authorities threw the book at him.

I bet you didn't know that shooting from a vehicle is a separate charge all on its lonesome.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Random Comments on the Day

photocredit: veronika_andrews

 More and more hummingbirds are coming to sip my sugar water. More and more butterflies nestle in my butterfly bush.

 Listening to some mellow jazz .

 This time next week, I'll be in New York City.

 Life is good.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Rurouni Kenshin

Netflix is showing two Rurouni Kenshin flicks. The first, Ruroumi Kenshin: The Beginning, gives us interesting plotting, subtle acting, complex reveals, unexpected assumptions.

Always nice to see a new cultural take on familiar material. Lovely photography. Fairy tale level of realism. Glacially slow in places. Full of folks getting killed.

Glad I saw this.

Monday, August 02, 2021


Rives Park -- local here -- has a nest of copperheads. Some poor dog got bit and they're worried whether he'll make it or not.

Animal Control collected 3 baby copperheads, (Doesn't that sound endearing? Little baby copperheads.) but warned that there may be others. Animal Control is not for sissies.

Anyway,  I won't be walking Mandy there for the nonce.

Back in Saudi Arabia,
(relatively few  countries are named after people. America, Bolivia, Columbia, Monrovia, but not, y'know, Chad,)
we had a viper under one of the bushes in the housing next door. Very poisonous. It was the compound with all the kids, of course. One of the dogs spotted it and did the hysterical barking thing so nobody got bit.
Though, for all I know it was a peaceful committed pacifist snake minding its own business.

The gardeners had to go kill it, that being in the job description. Being a gardener in West Africa is one of those jobs with a lot of side benefits.

I'll be cowriting with friends in a bit so I will warn the one who lives next to Rives Park to be cautious.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Movies: The Irregulars and Gunpowder Milkshake

Both these movies have multi-racial casts and pass the Bechdel test.
For me, that's icing on the cake rather than a requirement.
— iced cake.

I've been looking at Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal books for a while now. Lately I've expanded to movies and TV series.
Endless delights delivered to my computer screen.
We live with such splendid technology.

First, consider the tongue-in-cheek, cynical, and bloody romp that is The Irregulars.

It's "a British mystery adventure crime drama television series" created by Tom Bidwell for Netflix."*

Some paths in the Magical Wood  are well trampled. Beer bottles and McDonald wrappers litter the roadside.
I'll admit to being jaded about powerful lost heirs, schools for angsty teenage wizards**,  colorful squaddies on the battlefield of clashing magical empires, and other staples of the genre.

One could make the case that The Irregulars is wuxia
which is trope and utterly predictable,
but it's a story I like.
Finding such a story with good tropework is sweet. 

Irregulars is a nugget of gold in the spoils pile of the Sherlock fictive universe.

Gunpowder Milkshak
e also pleased me.
This one glows with subtle, intelligent acting from everybody on the set.

Now, there are long sequences of car chases and kung fu fighting and extras dying bloodily ***.
Presumably the intended audience likes car chases, martial arts, and gore.
Me, I fast forward through that stuff and it does not interfere with my enjoyment of the movie.****
Ain't technology grand?

A study of Jackie Chan's corpus of work might have kept the frenetic action scenes from being so boring.
I dunnoh.
Maybe it would have subverted the spirit of the story . . .
I have no wisdom in critiquing movies and my taste is not especially commercial.

Final thoughts on Milkshake is that it worked for me and I recommend it.  


I pulled the description from the wiki so it must be true.

** I wasn't much interested in teenagers even when I was one.

*** Some of the violence is disturbing. Most of it is like those old Westerns where cowboys have 37 bullets in their handguns and spin and fall dramatically when hit,

**** Some Romance readers flip past pages of the explicit and go on with the story. It's a skill.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormals: A List

These books are full of good storytelling, fine characterization, lyrical language, and intelligent world building.
Eminently readable.

Some are legit free online.
Most all are in the online section of major libraries.
Many are relatively cheap to buy.

Buying books supports authors.
So does checking them out of your library.


Ben Aaronovitch. Midnight Riot, Rivers of London.

Douglas Adams. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Hitchhikers Guide series.

Ilona Andrews.  Magic Bites. Kate Daniels series. 

Peter S. Beagle. The Folk of the Air.

Patricia Briggs. Moon Called. Mercy Thompson series.

Lois McMaster Bujold. The Curse of Chalion. World of Five Gods series. 

Emma Bull. War for the Oaks.

Jim Butcher. Storm Front. The Dresden Files. 

Gail Carriger. Soulless. Parasol Protectorate series.

Susan Cooper. The Dark is Rising. Dark is Rising Series.

David Eddings. Pawn of Prophesy. The Belgariad.

Jasper Fforde. The Eyre Affair. Thursday Next series.

Jeaniene Frost. Halfway to the Grave. Night Huntress series.

Neil Gaiman. Good Omens.

Lev Grossman. The Magicians.  Magicians trilogy.

Charlaine Harris. Midnight Crossroad. Midnight Texas.
This Charlaine Harris is not to be confused with the most excellent C. S. Harris who writes Sebastian St Cyr books.  

Robin Hobb. Assassin's Apprentice. Farseer trilogy.

N. K. Jemisin.  The Killing Moon. Dreamblood series.

Diana Wynne Jones. Deep Secret.  

Mercedes Lackey. Burning Water. Diana Tregarde Investigations series.
Also Born to Run. Serrated Edge series.

Ursula Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea. Earthsea series.

Fritz Leiber. Our Lady of Darkness.
He's better known for his short stories. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time. Wrinkle in Time Series.

C. S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Narnia series.

R. A. MacAvoy. Tea with the Black Dragon. Black Dragon series.

Anne McCaffrey. Dragonflight. Dragonriders of Pern series.

Seanan McGuire. Rosemary and Rue. October Daye series.

Robin McKinley. Sunshine

Barbara Michaels. Ammie, Come Home.
She's also Elizabeth Peters.

Naomi Novik. His Majesty's Dragon. Temeraire series.  

Terry Pratchett. The Color of Magic.

Phillip Pullman. The Golden Compass. His Dark Materials series.

Spider Robinson. Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. Callahan's Place series.

Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind. Kingkiller chronicles.  

Brandon Sanderson. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Evil Librarian series.

Lisa Shearin. The Grendel Affair. SPI files.

Mary Stewart. The Crystal Cave. Arthurian saga.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The Fellowship of the Ring. Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Carrie Vaughn. Kitty and the Midnight Hour, Kitty Norville series.

Manly Wade Wellman. John the Balladeer. Silver John books.

Connie Willis. To Say Nothing of the Dog. Oxford Time Travel series.

Roger Zelazny. This Immortal.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Library Book Titles That Stick to Your Kindle

Here’s how to get rid of those old library book titles that ghost in your Mac computer’s Kindle list.


1) Caveats.

Are you willing to empty your computer's Trash can? If not, you can't get rid of your ghosts in this way.

This is a Mac computer fix. I don't know if it works on other Kindle devices. 

If you have .pdf files, personal documents, or books from non-Amazon sources stored in your computer's Kindle, you should copy them elsewhere. They may die a horrible death if you do not.

In this fix you will lose the date of acquisition of your Kindle books in your Kindle. Accurate date of acquisition will remain at Amazon but your Kindle acquisition date will revert to the date of the fix.

2) At the end of Step 8 the list of books in your Amazon Content & Devices library will match the library in your Kindle. Your currently borrowed library books will be in both places. The dozens or hundreds of borrowed-and-returned ghost library books will appear in neither place.

3) Directions:

At Amazon go Content & Devices / Library.

You can take screen shots of the Amazon book list as a backup in case anything goes wrong.

4) In your computer,  go to the Kindle app program.
(In my machine that's Finder/Go/Applications/Kindle app.)
Uninstall Kindle by moving it to Trash.

Now go to the Trash icon and empty Trash. I had to do this twice before it took.

5) At Amazon, go to Content & Devices / Devices. Deregister your Kindle App for Mac.
If you have other Mac devices you do not need to deregister them.

Now  re-register your Kindle App for Mac.

6) On Amazon search for and buy Kindle for Mac.
It’s a freebie.
Download it to your computer and install it. 

7) On your computer the Kindle library should show as empty. 

8) Back at Amazon, go to the Content & Devices library. Send everything into your new Kindle. This may take a while. There will be no ghosts.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Lovely cursing


Sometimes there's lovely cursing:

“Who the fuck are they?” I asked. 

“That’s the gentry and their servants,” said blond Bev. “All the liars, hypocrites, exploiters, dog-bastards, wankers, janissaries, Monday men, cat-ranchers and people who fly-tip in protected waterways.”

Ben Aaronovitch,  Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London)

That's how it's done

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Another Contemporary Fantasy

I recently reread Peter S. Beagle's The Folk of the Air,  contemporary fantasy, one of my favorite books. It's also set in Berkeley, (always a plus.) This Beagle, sadly, is not available in kindle, which is enough to make one doubt the inherent benevolence of the universe. 

Quote: "He did recall being instantly certain that he had just met either an old friend or a very patient, important enemy."

Lovely. lyrical, unforgettable prose.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Adding Backstory

Since I took time off from all extraneous pursuits a month or so ago I've not only been getting my head together, I've found time to do some of that reading.
(That's part of getting my head back together.)
It's been TBR-bookshelf time.
A self-indulgent immersion in story.

I'm looking at how to fold in complicated backstory in First Person.  Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London,  Jim Butcher's Storm Front, and Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue  

Backstory be like (1) lay out the backstory on the bones of the plot, (2) take your time. 

I'm mentally highlighting my way through the books in three or four different colors and see how they're woven together.

Interesting that the three authors who immediately come to mind for introduction of backstory are all writing First Person.

Do we introduce backstory and infodumps more easily in First Person?
More to think about.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Adventuring In My Own Way

I have a little machine called a Eufy that glides around my floors and picks up dog hair and cat hair from underneath the chairs and the bed. It's like a roomba but cheaper. *
I am a creature of the cheaper alternative, always.

The cat and dog eye the Eufy with grave suspicion but it does not terrify them which is a good way to live one's life.

Today my little machine friend managed to pull out one of the wires essential for the operation of my internet.
The possibilities being manifold it was not immediately obvious which of many potential problems was now mine.
Even after I decided there must be a physical lacunae in the system ., . well, I have lots of cords running around behind the desk.

By dint of** some dusty scrambling about and muttering I finally managed to lay my hand on the cord that had been pulled from its proper mooring. ***
Yeah me.

While I was on my hands and knees doing this I noticed a UBS port on the side of the offboard hard drive I recently added to my collection of mysterious black box sitting about.
It appeared to connect the external hard drive to what may be the router.
I didn't even know I could connect the backup to the router though I had rather wanted to.

So now I have wireless access to my Time Machine.
I am doing backups automatically.
Even though I am not adventuring with the Doctor
my life is bright and shiny and I feel very clever.

I have signed up for pottery wheel access. It starts tomorrow. I will now be both artistic and clever.




 * Here's a video of a cat on a roomba. It is not my cat. My cat is smarter than that.

** The dint in "by dint of," you will be pleased to know, is from Old English dynt "blow dealt in fighting" (especially by a sword), from Proto-Germanic duntiz (related to Old Norse dyntr blow, kick.)
This dint is probably not directly from the co-existing dialected dint of C15 that comes to us from PIE "dent" meaning tooth but doubtless they lived on the same street.

"By dint of" as a phrase for "by force of, by means of," is early C14 so it is a fine, strong, ancient little set of words.

*** This picture is a slight exaggeration of the number of cords I have around my desk.
But not by much.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Music Playing

Listening to Clifford Brown in this collection  because it is so mellow.

I put this in the background of re-reading. Aaronovitch's Moon Over Soho. 
Aaronovitch is so good with deep POV. He uses sophisticated elements to build it -- language, special knowledge,  scene reaction, philosophy. Just splendid stuff.

As to the music:

Trumpet – Clifford Brown
Bass – George Morrow
Drums – Max Roach
Piano – Richie Powell
Tenor Saxophone – Harold Land 

Parisian Thoroughfare
Blues Walk

Joy Spring


Brown only lived to be 25

Monday, May 24, 2021

Computer Stuff

An exciting weekend in which I set up my external hard drive.

On a Mac this means buying a black plastic box the size of a good novel, fiddling through my barely finite collection of twiddly wires, and then blindly following the directions of Some Guy on the Internet.

The problem with getting advice from YouTube videos is that they're all for systems five or seven years old. Every two minutes the nice geek with the oddly untrained voice tells you to, for instance, "Click on Options" and you discover there is no Options key because they threw that out in the 2015 OS.

Once again, the world betrays you.

You prove inadequate to a task that is completed handily by 16-year-olds.
(Don't ask me about my cell phone.)

You lose.

So you go to Google to figure out where Mac has hidden the action you wish to undertake. And you

have to decide whether you want your GUID (whatever that is) to be a table or a map.

Half an hour later you close your eyes and pick at random
because the hell with it anyway.

This is like ordering in an Azerbaijani taverna far, far off the beaten path where nobody speaks any language with which you have a nodding acquaintance,
except less prone to moments of delightful surprise.

Or like when your car has an extra bobble on the PRSNL to put the stick in and you have no idea what it does but the car seems to run okay either way so you ignore it.

I now have an operating back up and a Time Machine
or I don't
and I am back to limping along with my severely crippled version of Word except for (probably) backup.

This is not exactly adulting, but I muddle along.

Saturday, May 22, 2021


I came across, "He’d lost an exponential amount of blood," in a book recently.

The weakening of the word "exponential" from meaning
number that gets multiplied by itself"
to just meaning
"a big hulking, scary number"
is very sad.

We take these delicate, specific, useful adjectives and empty them by the slop-bucketful till they're just one more of the thousand bland, lank, meaningless synonyms for common concepts.
Our word shelves become full of Twinkies and Wonderbread.

Thank god for slang, that's what I say.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Music Hath


Haven't though about this one in a bit, but it cheered me up today.

Lyrics in translation here.


x 2
Jerusalem, my home.
Rescue me,
Join me,
Don't leave me here!
x 2
My place is not here,
My kingdom is not here,
Rescue me!
Come with me!
Save me, save me, save me,
Don't leave me here,
Save me, save me, save me,
Don't leave me here!
My place is not here,
My kingdom is not here,
Rescue me!
Come with me!
Save me, save me, save me,
Don't leave me here,
Save me, save me, save me,
Don't leave me here!
thanked 1143 times

Precizați site-ul sursă, dacă preluați traducerile mele. Merci!
Share music and kindness! :)

Submitted by Super GirlSuper Girl on Tue, 29/09/2020 - 10:50

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Whatever gods there be

I'm thinking tonight about how characters deal with the acquisition and use of immense magical power.

How do you write this?

Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh, and Charlaine Harris handle this by giving other characters lesser but still important powers. The mucho powerful character is part of a continuum. There's shared experience and a knowledge base. There are systems in place.

Often their power arises from discipline, work, study, diligent effort. The character's attitude toward power is signalled by a history of deliberately building that power. They're not so much conflicted. The character gets a magic sword because they've
trained in swordfighting since childhood.

This is Iron Man's power arc or Batman's. Not Spiderman's. You may still get reconsideration of motive and responsibility in use of power, but it's late in the arc.

Often characters develop new abilities in immediate response to threat. The action separates acquisition of new power from a later intellectual exploration and emotional response to it. The emotional response may be explored in scenes of relative quiet with a trusted advisor.

But the internal response is explored. In an earlier posting I looked at a book where the two protagonists are destined to in some way become an abstract universal constant.
Like becoming Pi or E=MC2.
This sounds uncomfortable and destructive to a sense of self,
but we don't see the emotional and intellectual internal fallout in the characters as they grow and change.

The author leaves the story before the characters get more than a taste of their universal constant-hood. The author is not looking at that aspect of the story. We don't take step into the apotheosis because is simply not the author's intent.

How is this handled? How well does this work?

I feel as if  the author deliberately moves the story slightly into mythos mode. Into traditional storytelling. Eastern European Folk tales and American Indian Folk tales show surreal illogic of character motivation. There's virtually no internals and self examination.

I'll have to reread Zelazny's Lord of Light and see how he handles this.

How else?

Well, there's a magical child growing up to be a more-than-human avatar in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. Two of them, in fact.

We got Bran who is the Pendragon, son of King Arthur. He's a minor character with magic. 
How does he feel about all this?
We don't see deeply into his POV so we're not sure.

This works okaybecause this is a tertiary character. And the author responsibly tidies his story neatly away in the end. In the series farewell scene, we see Bran renounce his potential for magical power. He will be a vanilla human to do human work in the world. 

In a couple hundred words Cooper shows us what's been going on in Bran's mind the whole time. It makes an emotionally satisfying wrap up and we didn't have to overbuild a minor character to look at this.

Will Stanton is the more interesting character problem.

Eleven-year-old Will learns he's one of the Old Ones human incarnations of magic, born to save the world from a rising evil. In four books we see him sweat and suffer and fear his way to agency and power. His internal growth from boy to a powerful adult in a kid's body is convincing and, in many ways, tragic.

The author shows Will knowing and regretting the distance that opens between him and his family and friends. At what point does he cease to become a human boy? Some good internals there.


Romance genre studies human emotion. What do the protagonists feel? Authors flay it out on the dissecting table for all to see. They build the plot structure to reveal those feelings. They stud the page with internals and emotional conflict.

Mostly Romance explores the love relationship and at least one emotional conflict. It's interesting to look at magical power as the emotional conflict
Lots to think on.



Saturday, May 08, 2021

Godlike Powers and the Young Protagonist

I read Middlegame by Seanan McGuire over these last few days and enjoyed it. An intricate book with good and interesting worldbuilding. Fantasy action adventure -- is that a thing? Mythos roadtrip?
Interesting, anyway. It's set partly in Berkeley.

Further thoughts:
The protagonists are enduring and brave. Appealing. I like them and want to read them.
Tunnelling down into the book in an analytic manner, though, the two protagonists feel lacking in agency. In part this is because they are children for some of the book.
But I find them oddly incurious about the magic they work.
Other people bestow magic upon them. Others give or withhold knowledge, lie to them, manipulate them emotionally, menace them, rescue them and tell them where to go and what to do. 

There is a flavor of  European folk tale about the storytelling. The simplified motivation and characterization that is the oral tradition.
When I'm in this
traditional storytelling mode I accept those ancient and honorable story conventions, and do not ask myself if illiterate woodcutter's sons and naive goose girls make good and wise kings and queens at the end.

But in contemporary urban fantasy . . .  the real world setting and conventions make me ask myself how the young adult protagonists will deal with the mantle of absolute power that's been thrust upon them.

The kindle edition of Middlegame seems pricey to me, so you might suggest your library buy it. McGuire writes several series. Rosemary and Rue is the start of the October Daye books.

Checking out library books supports funding for the library and it encourages them to buy more of your favorite authors. If you drop favorable mentions and reviews on the internet that will also support your bestie authors.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Technology and the Blog

I had a little problem with the comment aspect of my blog.

I pursued research on the net. Then I did stuff that will probably make it worse.

My actions are in the spirit of the village shaman trying a new varietal of sage in his cleansing ritual. Ya gotta have faith.

Somewhere in the middle of the Twentieth Century technology moved beyond the ability of the human mind to comprehend as a whole. Outside our tiny area of specialization we're no more than chimps with socket wrenches. We bang on the metaphorical carburetor and try pumping the gas a couple times and once in a while the thing starts.

Technology is smarter than we are.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Turn and Live With the Anmals

I'm drinking a cup of coffee before dawn and listening to my recently-booted furnace wheeze into life. 

When I get up in these transition days of spring and crawl out from under the warm covers of my bed and find myself shivering, sometimes I go close the window and turn on the furnace. 

Right now I'm thinking about that one small choice. First choice of the day.

It's not that I mind shivering as a matter of principle. There's no moral imperative to stay at 70° plus or minus 4. Discomfort usefully reminds us we're living beings, not enameled birds sitting on a golden bough.

hank greely

Speaking as a responsible citizen of the commonwealth of the world, it makes a lot more sense to put on a sweater and warm up the 1.76 cubic feet (on average) of a human body than to heat the 17,000 cubic feet of the main floor and basement of a house. 

I like leaving the windows open because it makes me feel part of the natural world, at least that world as expressed by this well-groomed and almost-painfully-cozy small town neighborhood.
It's not precisely "Nature is red in tooth and claw" here -- unless you count the battle of the political yard signage -- but there's sky and bird song and green stuff growing. I can close my eyes and feel a little connected to the oncoming dawn.

I heat the place for the dog. 

She's getting old. She sleeps most of the time now, sitting on the sofa, tucked up close to me. The fur of her muzzle is white. When I take her to the dog park, she mostly sits and watches the other dogs chasing back and forth. When the house cools down over the night she curls up close and circular on her dog bed. 

I turn on the heat because I want to keep her warm.
Taking care of the dog is also part of the natural world.
Humans have been doing this a long time. 

Shepherdess me, six thousand years ago, would have crunched through the new snow to check out the spring lambs in the early dawn after a chilly night. My dog would be at my heels,or leading me to any particularly vulnerable creature who'd had problems in the dark hours.

When we sat down to share breakfast I'd check her paws and pick cockleburs out of her fur. Scratch her back and fluff her fur and comb her with my fingers. Talk to her as the sun comes up.

So this morning, that was how I communed with the Natural World even in my muffled-up, still and quiet, house.
Me and the dog, man. Me and the dog.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Good Deed for the Day

 Did my good deed for the day.

I saw on my local Next Door loop that somebody had spotted a lost rabbit near me.
White bunny with b ears.

"Ah. Poor Lost Bunny" thinks I to myself.

Then I saw a rabbit in my back yard that afternoon -- white with brown ears -- and I figured I had found the bunny.

It came to my attention as it ran in and out and around and under the storage shed at the bottom of the garden,
dodging  a pack of little kids who were trying to catch it with lettuce and carrots and what turned out upon closer examination to be a parsnip.

There were eight kids,
from age nine downward,
contributed by the neighbors on both sides.

By the time I got my shoes on and collected the cat carrier and went out
there were also two fathers, two mothers, and an abuela.

So I let everybody discuss the matter at length for forty minutes or so
while the rabbit hid in the gopher holes under the storage shed

Then it was time for dinner
and everybody got dragged home
promising to come catch the rabbit tomorrow
and I was left alone with the logomorph.

I  went to sit in the grass near the storage shed and wartched the trees.
After a bit,  the bunny came out.
It was really a tame little rabbit.

The bunny ate violets
and I sang Ella Fitzgerald songs to it
(Someone to Watch Over Me and Cry Me a River mostly..

Slooowly I inched  my butt closer
song by song.
The sun began to set.

SNAP! I grabbed it
and put it in the cat carrier.

I took it to the SPCA. I was messing about in the dark and trying to figure out how to get the little bunny transferred from the cat carrier to one of the cages they have there to receive lost animals after business hours ...
one last employee saw me and came to help and took the bunny off my hands.

I hope the owners come find it.

If not, it is so beautiful and friendly I just know someone will adopt it as soon as the six day waiting period is up.

It was a good day.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Latter Stages of Editing

I was talking to a friend who is looking at the final stages of her Southern Gothic manuscript. She says, kinda doubtful, "What do I do next?"

I thought about what I do in the later production stages.
"Well," says I, which gives me a moment to organize my thoughts, "I pick out the five or six Emotional High Points of the story and then I look back to see how I have prepared the reader for them."

I expand on that, since we're neither of us in a great rush with something burning on the stove and she is willing to be patient with me.

I says -

You got a few couple places in the manuscript where you want the reader to FEELTM .  

-- Not solve a problem or enjoy the sunset or ponder the mysteries of the universe, but get angry or jealous or guilty or sad or ashamed or lustful or horrified
or something. 

FEELSTM ya know. Words with emotion attached to them. 

Because the reader is there for the FEELSTM, this being fiction.

These five or six scenes of important Feels are almost always going on in the protagonist's POV, btw,
because why would you want to waste this storytelling emotional charge on a minor character's subplot anyhow?
Unless you do want to, in which case that is also cool.

Look at Annique when she discovers her mother has been lying to her about everything important for years and years and years. 

The actual scene attempts to tug the emotions. Yes.

But it does that by having a foundation made of solid blocks of Feels,
rather than just blocks of information. 

It's built on scene after scene of Annique missing her mother and hearing her mother's wisdom in her head.

We see Maman again and again through Annique's eyes, with all of Annique's Feels firmly attached.

-- Now Maman was dead in a stupid accident that should not have killed a dog. Maman. Maman, how I miss you. -- p. 5

--The mindless optimism of the English. Who could comprehend it? Had not her own mother told her they were all mad? --
p. 6

-- She laughed, a deep, throaty sound copied exactly from Maman. -- p. 55.

And so on and so on.

The reader's emotional belief in Annique's pain and shock at Maman's betrayal comes not from explanations and reasons, not information or backstory or assumptions about a mother and daughter relationship.
It's dozens of little Feels scattered everywhere.


TL:DR version: When you want to punch up a late stage manuscript, consider looking at the big-ticket Emo scenes. Track back to make sure the emotion of that scene is supported by previous Feels.


photocredits Deedee86, Sarah Richter, press 👍 and ⭐, Peter H