Thursday, August 17, 2017

Breakfast, With Blackberries and Grapefruit

In the midst of all the political upheaval, trolls going sideways, and general upsetness, it's a good thing to take a deep breath and savor a meal. 

The grapefruit (about the size of an orange) is from our tree, which for some reason has decided to ripen the fruit several months early this year. The blackberries are from our neighborhood. Under the steel-cut oats are chopped pears from our trees, and this is the right season for them. 

The tea is Trader Joe's Mango Black tea.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tuesday Cat Blog: On the Scratching of Yoga Mats

Gayatri, the One-Eyed Pirate Wonder Queen here:

I wish to lodge a formal complaint about my owners on the subject of suitable scratching materials. Yes, I know this environment has been amply supplied with scratching posts. As a thoroughly civilized feline, I am acquainted with their appearance and use. I do use them, and my svelte figure at the august age of a decade is ample proof of my dedication to such exercise. However, they lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Such quoi was sadly lacking in my life until...

...the yoga mats appeared. O heavenly plushy stickiness, of the perfection for the sinking-in of claws and the ripping-forth with great satisfaction.

Needless to say, my monkeyswere Not Amused by the exercise of my natural rights. They rolled the mats up. I found them. They put the rolled up mats into the compartment of a cabinet. I found it, crawled in, and indulged myself.

I must admit that never once did my monkeys shriek, roll up newspaper, or throw their feces in my general direction. They are civilized monkeys.

And inventive. Recently when I searched out the cubby containing my now-favorite scratching material I found it was covered -- draped -- with a fleece blanket.

I present, therefore, my protest portrait.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Cover Reveal: Lace and Blade 4

Here's the cover for my latest anthology editing project, the fourth volume of Lace and Blade, a series of elegant, witty, romantic fantasy short fiction, with occasional swashbuckling, derring-do, and duels with words and swords.

It won't be released until next Valentine's Day. Dave Smeds did the cover design. The table of contents is here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Anthology of Persistent Women

My story, "Unmasking the Ancient Light," about Jewish Renaissance pioneer and visionary Dona Gracia Nasi, appears in the newly-released anthology, Nevertheless, She Persisted, from Book View Cafe, edited by Mindy Klasky. You can also find the ebooks and print edition at and Barnes & Noble.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate.
In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View Café authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph–in the past, present, future, and other worlds.
From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges–from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.
From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.
Table of Contents:
“Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
“Sisters” by Leah Cutter
“Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
“Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
“How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
“After Eden” by Gillian Polack
“Reset” by Sara Stamey
“A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
“Making Love” by Brenda Clough
“Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
“Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
“Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
“The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
“If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
“Chatauqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
“Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
“In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
“Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
“Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

Lift Your Eyes to the Clouds

While we on Earth have been agonizing over politics (from both sides), spacecraft Juno has been sending back amazing, awe-inspiring images from Jupiter. I think it's a good reminder of what human beings are capable of: our gift for technology, our ability to work together, and our insatiable curiosity about the universe. The space race of the 1960s, was spurred by anti-Communist fears of the Soviet Union launching missiles from orbit, but it had the consequence of boosting our engineering, mathematical, and scientific prowess that could then be focused on peacetime exploration.

After seeing (and loving) the movie Hidden Figures, I picked up the book on which it was based, by Margot Lee Shetterly. As usual, the book is deeper and more detailed -- and wider-ranging -- than the film, but both remind me of the fervor of the time. (I remember when the Soviets launched Sputnik -- my homemade Halloween costume that year was the satellite.) While I don't hold out much hope that the current strain of antipathy towards science will inspire everyone to cheer on the exploration of our solar system and beyond, I firmly believe that the upcoming generation will find the prospect thrilling. (And will want to grab on to all the math, science, and engineering courses they can!)  The awe and wonder of images like that transcends gender, race, national origin, and political affiliation. At lease I hope it does.

About 8,000 kilometers in diameter, the anticyclonic storm system was spotted in Jupiter's North North Temperate Zone in the 1990s. That makes it about half the size of an older and better known Jovian anticyclone, the Great Red Spot, but only a little smaller than planet Earth. At times taking on reddish hues, the enormous storm system is fondly known as a North North Temperate Zone Little Red Spot.

Monday, August 7, 2017

[political rant] Trump Adviser Spews Stalinist Antisemitic Insults

A few days ago, the news featured an exchange between Trump adviser Stephen Miller* and CNN White House reporter James Acosta, in which Miller dismissed Acosta's questions as evidence of "cosmopolitan bias." (Cosmopolitan, by the way, means "familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures," as opposed to provincial or nationalist.) For much of America, the story came and went. Neo-Nazis and the alt-right erupted with glee. Those of us with somewhat longer memories, especially those whose families perished or narrowly escaped either the Holocaust or the pogroms of the early 20th Century, or Stalin's persecution of Jews (among others), we were horrified.

"Cosmopolitan" is a coded insult, aimed at Jews (and others), in much the same way veiled references to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (a document now proven to be forged, used to drum up animosity against Jews in pre-Revolutionary Russia and then Nazi Germany and still circulated in alt-right circles today) or white hoods and burning crosses are.

Jeff Greenfield of Politico provides some historical background:
One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.

Greenfield focuses on the way the term has been used to target anyone suspected of not putting nationalistic loyalty above all. The word "cosmopolitan" implies citizenship and loyalty not to any one nation but to a global community. In Trump's highly divisive world-view, anything that detracts from lock-step patriotism (and personal loyalty to him, has he has demanded of his nominees) amounts to treason. But let us not forget that this was yet another tactic in the underlying persecution of Jews. The "canary in the mine" warning of impending crackdown on anyone who dares to think, speak, or belief in ways that threaten the tyranny of the administration may be Jews this time. Or blacks or transgender people. Or immigrants or Muslims. Make no mistake, an attack against one is an attack against us all.

Terms like "cosmopolitan" serve as a surrogate identity test, separating "us" from "them," the "us-we-can-count-on" who are "just-like-us" versus the "them-who-don't-conform." In the way Miller used the term, it was also an ad hominem argument. That's the "you're only saying this because you are/believe x" method of invalidating another's opinion. It doesn't address the issue itself, it discredits the speaker instead. Even without the history of the term "cosmopolitan," such a response from a government official would be outrageous. It is a mark of the breakdown of civil discourse that a reporter's question be negated by such tactics.

This administration has become notorious for its scorn and animosity for the press. It is by far not the first to be the object of scathing editorials and even more devastating investigative journalism. But always before there has been a recognition of the essential role of journalism in a thriving democracy. In 1954, President  Dwight D. Eisenhower declared that "no institution is more necessary to our way of life than a free press." Trump, through his surrogate, has placed his own vanity above the health of the nation's political life. Now journalists' questions are not only an affront to his self-image, they are at risk of becoming the brands of treason. Not to the United States or its people, but to a petty child aspiring to be Stalin's pale echo.

In summation -- Do we really want the representative of the President of the United States using the same hate speech that Stalin did?

*Stephen Miller is now also under consideration for White House communications director.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Short Book Reviews: A Life in Four Parts

The Argus Deceit, by Chuck Grossart (47 North) reads like a long, repetitive episode of The Twilight Zone. In four different time periods, four differently-aged versions of the same character, Brody Quail. In one version, he is an embittered and suicidal middle-aged widower; in another, a teenager in the throes of his first serious crush; in yet another, a disabled and possibly alcoholic veteran; and finally a happy 10-year old with friends and an adoring younger brother. Each of these vignettes leads to tragedy that Brody attempts to avoid as the scene re-plays itself, and as these replays lead to even more complications, the time lines merge. It’s a nifty Twilight Zone-ish conceit that is unfortunately marred by excessive repetition (I skimmed long passages that remained the same from one go-round to the next) and an overly late rabbit-out-of-the-hat denouement. Too slight for its current length, the story would have made a more successful novella.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Short Book Reviews: If You Could Live Forever

One Day in the Life of Alexa, by Lisa Mason (Bast Books, 2017) incorporates lively prose,
past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology. Kosovo refugee Alexa enrolls in a secret pilot program designed to extend her life span. Her best friend, Marya, is not accepted, but Marya’s infant aka “Little Monster” is. As the decades roll by, Alexa adapts to a life of constant measurement and surveillance. And youth, for she ages only very slowly (and Little Monster takes years to achieve what normal babies do in months) and in her mid-fifties still appears as a very young adult. Every so often, disaster strikes, whether the Moon fracturing into “lunettes” or a supervolcano eruption or a terrorist bombing, but Alexa always manages to survive. Although the Testers are carefully separated from one another, she manages to connect with one, the only man who can understand what her life is like; after a period of pastel, childless marital bliss, he falls over dead due to a “lethal gene.”

In reflection, the book is as much about the enduring trauma of war as it is about longevity technology, and in this it feels more like mainstream than science fiction. . Mason’s skill as a writer sustains what might be better executed as a novella into a short novel. Still, it’s a quick, absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms (like the repeated refrain, “No matter how long I live, I will always remember this”). 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Short Book Reviews: A Postapocalyptic Genderqueer Story

The Book of Etta, by Meg Elison (47 North, 2017). This novel is the sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winning The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, but can be easily read on its own. Generations ago, a plague swept the world, killing most of the women and leaving the survivors at grave risk in childbirth. The expected chaos resulted, social disintegration, and enslavement of the few remaining fertile women. 

Now various communities have evolved their own cultures with varying roles for the women, often in isolation and ignorance of one another. Etta lives in Nowhere, a fortified community in which women hold power as Mothers and Midwives. She frets against her mother’s expectations, keeps her lesbian love affair secret, and flees to the outside world under the guise of a scavenger of old technology and rescuer of enslaved women. In this role, she becomes Eddy, but the switch is not mere disguise for safety. The prose shifts to the male pronoun to emphasize the transformation in identity. As the story unfolds, it becomes more and more clear that Etta/Eddy flips back and forth from one persona to the other, and clues emerge as to the origin of the personality split. In his adventures, Eddy encounters underground havens, trading centers where transgender “horsewomen” live openly as women, and a vicious tyrant bent on conquest. 

Elison weaves together elements of dystopia and hope, tense action and inner anguish, into a compelling tale of survival and self-revelation. Highly recommended, although with a caution for younger readers.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Short Book Reviews: The Nigerian Space Program Saves the Day

After the Flare, by Deji Bryce Olukotun (Unnamed Press, 2017).  Non-Western-centered science fiction has found an eager audience in recent years, and this novel is a worthy addition. In the not-too-distant future, a gigantic solar flare paralyzes the electrical grid across the world. Among the many unfolding catastrophes are the marooning of a single astronaut on the International Space Station.  Because nations near the Equator are relatively spared, it’s up to the Nigerian space program to rescue her. From this remarkable premise, Olukotun spins a tale that is part thriller (will the astronaut be rescued in time? Will the terrorists drawing ever closer to the base take over before the rescue rocket can be launched? What ancient, possibly magical artifact have the desert women discovered?), part science fictional examination of the endless ingenuity of human beings, and part cultural drama. The richness of the African backdrop, from local customs to corrupt politics to wildlife to a vanished civilization, colors every aspect of Nigeria’s fast-paced space race. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Seichi Journals - Epilog

A short while ago, we adopted a shelter dog, a young female German Shepherd Dog, named Sage (Seichi). Although she was a wonderful dog in many respects, her intensity and high prey drive didn't work out for us. We believed our cats to be at risk, and my own mental health, in a fragile state because of the recent parole hearing of the man who'd raped and murdered my mother, showed worrisome signs. So we returned her to the (no-kill) shelter, along with a detailed report of our experience and progress with her.

Seichi is a lovely, affectionate, highly intelligent dog. She has a very high prey drive and is eager to please, but needs a home without cats or small children, and an owner who is experienced in training GSDs with positive, non-force methods.

Even so, I experienced second thoughts. Had I given up on her too soon? What if no one else adopts her -- or the wrong person does, and attempts to overpower her with force? Should we give her another try? And each time, I had to talk myself down from those doubts, reminding myself of my own limitations. My husband kept reminding me, too.

Yesterday, we got an email from Seichi's special volunteer handler at the shelter. Not only had she been adopted but she will be trained in search and rescue work, focusing on finding victims in collapsed buildings! I am relieved beyond words. Not only will she have the kind of work that will give her focus and joy (since German Shepherd Dogs are working dogs and need a job!) but she will have a better life than we could give her. And she'll be saving human lives.

Sometimes what looks like a bad situation turns out to be a blessing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Hidden Island of Beauty in the Heavens

This image, from Astronomy Picture of the Day, reminds me of the beauty all around us, throughout the cosmos, if only we can see it. The gorgeous spiral galaxy, IC 342, is usually not visible because it lies on the plane of the Milky Way, and all those stars and dust obscure the view. The pink areas mark regions of star formation, perhaps a fairly recent burst in activity. It's thought that IC 342, which really deserves a name fitting to its glory, may have gravitationally influenced the evolution of the local group of galaxies and the Milky Way.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Having Babies New Ways

Dreams Before the Start of Time, by Anne Charnock (47 North, 2017) examines the effect of evolving reproductive technology upon individual choice, relationship, and the meaning of family. It’s told as a series of vignettes beginning in 2034 and extending those same characters, both primary and secondary, as their lives unfold into 2084-85 and 2120. Charnock begins with current medical methods: in-vitro fertilization, donor sperm, and so forth, then spins the technology forward. 

What will it mean for family bonds if an adult of either sex can become a solo biological parent? How will marriages, families, parent-child relationships change – or will they? 

The consistent focus upon the daily lives of the characters and their emotions gives the book the feel of a mainstream or literary piece. Devoted science fiction fans may become impatient with the relative lack of emphasis on the technology, but at the same time, the thoughtful exploration of how we become parents interacts with who we are may well make this novel accessible to the general reader. Either way, the prose is strong, the scenes evocative, the questions worth asking.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tea, Earl Grey — Iced?

In the cooler months, I often drink tea throughout the days, beginning with a eye-opening cuppa English or Irish Breakfast and proceeding through lower-caffeine green or white teas. I like flavored teas, as well: Earl Grey, Lady Grey, tropical green tea, blackberry sage. Most summer mornings I begin in the same fashion, but once it’s hot enough to make a steaming drink unappealing, what to do?

Water is, of course, the default, and ours is delicious, even unfiltered. But sometimes I want a change. Lemonade is always an option, particularly when graced by the tree of a friend with fresh lemons. Often I’ll make hibiscus tea in a quart canning jar, sweeten it to taste, let it cool, and drink it right out of the jar. Today, however, I wanted something a bit classier.

How about a variation on Captain Picard’s iconic “Tea, Earl Grey, hot”?

I embarked upon the adventure by preparing a cup of Earl Grey, only using less water than usual, adding a bit more sweetness and milk* and then ice cubes. The result was both tasty and thirst-quenching. It came with the added benefit of that lingering, perfume-like bergamot aroma.

A second experiment might be to prepare it like Thai iced tea with cream instead of milk, although I am given to understand that sweetened condensed milk is often used, which is an abomination. My larder was devoid of cream, so I used 1% and my usual sweetener.

Notes: * What? You put milk in Earl Grey tea? And you think sweetened condensed milk is an abomination!

Well, yes. I put milk in all black teas. If your stomach lining was in the shape mine is, you’d want the added protection of milk protein. Not only that, I used to be meh about Earl Grey, considering it to be highly overrated, but once I put milk in it, tea-endophins flooded my mind. It might do the same for you.

Sweetened condensed milk is a perfectly acceptable dessert recipe ingredient. Never shall it be introduced into a teacup on my premises. Should you feel otherwise, I await your report on its effect upon otherwise decent tea.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Motorcycle Gangs on Dune

Hunger Makes the Wolf, by Alex Wells (Angry Robot, 2017). A colleague described this book as “Mad Max Meets Dune.” I’d amend that to “Mad Max: Fury Road Meets Dune,” because yes, there are wild motorcycle gangs, and yes, it’s set on a planet hauntingly reminiscent of Arrakis (spice mining and all), but what sets this apart is its heroine. Hob begins as one of many castaways who find their place in the mostly-lawless gangs. Like the gang’s leader, she has an ability that might be thought magical: she can generate fire from her fingertips. Not only that, she’s bold and just about fearless, and doesn’t take guff from anyone. She’s been slowly working her way back up the ranks after a near-disastrous lapse in judgment when the mining conglomerate that essentially rules the planet begins taking an unhealthy interest in its local inhabitants – and Hob. Working conditions for the miners and farmers become increasingly oppressive as the megacorp, TriRift, tightens its grip. Any attempt to emigrate to a more hospitable world leads to seizure and secret imprisonment, while TriRift scientists attempt to unravel the changes every inhabitant of the planet manifests. One of those being held and experimented on is Hob’s dearest friend. The plot moves briskly along, from one twist to the next, with nifty revelations at every turn and tension escalating to a satisfying climax. Once I got past the resemblance with other books I’d read, which took about two pages, I enjoyed this action adventure thoroughly.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Seichi Journals: Hitting a Wall

Seichi at the dog park
Sometimes we embark upon a new adventure with all the good will and skill in the world, and it just doesn't work out. The time may be wrong, or the clash of personalities may be overwhelming, or unforeseen, insurmountable problems may arise. This is as true for adopting a pet as for marriage, employment, or any of a host of other life changes.

When last I wrote, we had adopted Seichi, a 4 year old German Shepherd Dog, likely purebred, from a local shelter. She was young and bouncy, but intelligent and eager to please. She'd just been spayed, too. For the first few days, Seichi was subdued. Then both the delightful and exasperating aspects of her personality began to emerge. Playfulness, yes. Smarts by the bushel. House manners... not so much.

Very shortly, we realized she wasn't potty trained. Three accidents (all on carpets that now must be professionally cleaned) later, we embarked upon a puppy protocol. Seichi, to her credit, got with the program very fast and had no more accidents. Meanwhile, it was bare floors and gates all around.

The real deal-breaker came when we had to admit she was not only not cat-safe, she wasn't cat-workable (the difference is whether the dog can learn to leave indoor cats alone). We set up our usual procedures for introducing her to the house and the cats (initially behind closed doors, then her in crate/cats loose, then baby gate barricades so they could gradually smell and see one another, then supervised cat-on-tree approaches. At first, all seemed to be going well. The various species sniffed where the other had been and regarded each other curiously from a distance. We put Shakir up on the cat tree, out of reach, and let Seichi approach. A little hissing ensued. Seichi's response -- to continue to stare, which is threatening in both cat-speak and dog-speak -- clued us that she had not had previous experience living with cats. We kept an eye on them to see if they'd work it out. Several things emerged: one was that Seichi continued predatory behavior even when Shakir was giving very clear "back-off" signals (growling, yowling, hissing, pupils dilated, ears flattened). If he swiped at her with claws extended, she'd jump away, but then come right back. Worse yet was that any movement on his part would engage her prey drive.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lace and Blade 4 Table of Contents

My editorial career began a decade ago when Vera Nazarian, having founded Norilana Books (in 2006) asked me if I'd ever considered editing. Like many other writers, I often wondered what it was like "on the other side of the desk," both in terms of the choice of stories and their evolution into final form. I have had the honor to work with many fine editors; I knew just how helpful a sympathetic and insightful editor can be in bringing out the best in a story. In other words, an editor is -- or can be, if allowed to edit and not simply push numbers around for a multinational conglomerate ‑‑ a story midwife. I also have strong ideas of what works for me in a story, what touches my heart and stirs my spirit. I want to read stories that expand my horizons, that enrich my experience of being human, that evoke a larger sense of community. Vera suggested several themes, including one she coined ("lace and blade," a type of romantic, elegant, swashbuckling sword and sorcery -- think Zorro with magic). She'd also begun working with Tanith Lee to bring out her backlist, and Tanith had agreed to send a story for the anthology

How could I let such an opportunity pass?

Norilana published 2 volumes of Lace and Blade, which not only received wonderful reviews but individual stories made the Nebula Final Ballot and inclusion in "Year's Best" anthologies. The third volume got re-titled something else. After many years and a series of complicated changes, the series found a new home with the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Trust (which had also inherited publication of the Sword and Sorceress series that Norilana had taken over after DAW decided not to continue it after Marion's death -- see what I mean about complicated changes!) Now we're back in action, with an amazing, breath-taking lineup. 

Here's what you can look forward to: 

 “At the Sign of the Crow and Quill,” by Marie Brennan
“On the Peacock Path,” by Judith Tarr
“Sunset Games,” by Robin Wayne Bailey
“Sorcery of the Heart,” by Lawrence Watt-Evans
“The Butcher’s Boy and the Piri Folk,” by Pat MacEwen
“Gifts Tell Truth,” by Heather Rose Jones
“A Sword for Liberty,” by Diana L. Paxson
“Hearts of Broken Glass,” by Rosemary Edghill
“The Game of Lions,” by Marella Sands
“The Sharpest Cut,” by Doranna Durgin
“Pawn’s Queen,” by India Edghill
“The Heart’s Coda,” by Carol Berg
“The Wind’s Kiss,” by Dave Smeds

The anthology will be released Valentine's Day (of course!) 2018.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Lessons from an Early Novel

The Seventh Canon of the title refers to a principle in the practice of law: that an attorney shall do his utmost to represent the best interests of his clients. In this case, that leads to attorney Peter Donley becoming a detective to solve the murder of which his client, Father Thomas Martin, is accused. There’s more to the murder than meets the eye, of course, and one plot twist leads to another. As a legal/detective thriller, the story moves right along, competent although not extraordinary.  What is fascinating and makes the book noteworthy beyond its intrinsic uncomplicated reading pleasure, is that it is an early work by an author who went on to become an award-winning bestseller. The author made the decision to leave the story as it is, set in the time in which he wrote it, and the setting reflects that era (late 1980s). More than that, I could see the glimmerings of a deeper talent within a well-executed but fairly conventional story. The author tried to give his characters internal conflict and depth of background, which was much less usual when it was written than today. If the characters and their motivation seem predictable (abusive alcoholic fathers seem to be the simplistic reason for nightmares, poor self-esteem, you name it), that’s a judgment made by today’s more sophisticated standards. Then, too, the author was laboring under fairly rigid genre restrictions. Given the expected length (or lack thereof) of this type of novel when it was written, there just isn’t much room for the kind of in-depth character development possible at longer lengths. Today, the same story might well be viewed as a psychological thriller, with the expectation and scope to delve more deeply. So the resulting story must be viewed in context: not only the effort of a fledgling author, but a product of its literary times. I found that understanding this context enriched my reading experience and recommend the book not only for the story itself but for insights into how genre types as well as individual authors mature and change.

Decades ago, a well-established science fiction author told me of a novel written in the late 1950s in which the plot hinged on the inability of the human body to withstand the gravitational forces of space flight. No matter how good the story was (and the author thought it very good), it would not longer fly, not after Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 flight. Around 1984 I wrote a science fiction novel that hinged on the “Star Wars” satellite defense system President Reagan promised to build; another learning experience on the dump heap. Dugoni managed to write a thriller that, while dated, is still enjoyable, and for that he gets my applause.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Seichi Journals: Welcoming a New Family Member

Back in 2014, we adopted a retired seeing eye dog, Tajji, and I began a series of blog posts about our life with her. She departed over the Rainbow Bridge  last December at age 12 ½, rather old for a German Shepherd Dog. We now welcome Seichi (or, as she might be called, Seiji Esmeralda McBoing-Boing for her bouncy energy). Her shelter name was Sage, but for various reasons we added on to it, keeping the S and long A.

Here is her shelter beauty pose:

The way she came into our lives was this. While browsing through the German Shepherd Dog Rescue website, I saw a dog on the private party page that looked really good. Going on the supposition that perhaps the universe was presenting us with our new dog, we called his owner. It turned out (a) someone else was already seriously interested in the dog; (b) he had serious noise phobia issues. Having wrestled with Tajji’s dog reactivity, we had been hoping for a dog that we could take anywhere, but as it turned out, the other person adopted this dog. However, the owner notified us that a friend of hers who worked at an animal shelter said they had a female GSD that sounded lovely. So, although the shelter was 90 minutes away, we drove up to take a look. Sage/Seichi was more than we’d hoped for. Only 4 years old, loving and sweet, bouncy and eager to please. We said yes. They had to keep her another couple of days as she wasn’t spayed yet, but she soon came to her new home.

Here's Sarah's video of Seichi loading up to come home:

We’re now in the process of letting her settle and then for her and the cats to get a peek at one another through safe barriers. We’ll get a better sense of her previous training, if any, and what motivates her (so far, love trumps food, but that could change as she calms down). Seichi did beautifully on her first neighborhood walk. Although clearly excited, she stayed close to “her people,” glancing back (“checking in”) from time to time, and she didn’t freak out about anything – dogs, tree trimmers with noisy machinery, etc. So begin her adventures – stay tuned for more!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Another Marvel from Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is a marvel; she makes deep, complex, compelling stories read in an effortless fashion. And it doesn’t matter where in a series you pick up a book; they all read as if they are stand-alone novels, with the story being part of a larger world. I love that her characters have past histories and how those histories affect them – and how they either go on to be victims or manage to transcend what has happened to them to shape their own lives. 

Although I’d read Marillier’s early work, Den of Wolves was my first foray into the adventures of Blackthorn, wounded healer, and her friend Grim, her comrade during the darkest time of her life. Now, for the first time, she has the chance to bring the sadistic tyrant who tortured her and many others to justice. But her life has become entangled with others, including Cara, a lord’s daughter sent to court under mystifying circumstances. Together Grim and Blackthorn unfold Cara’s secret and learn her true identity. In the end, Blackthorn has to make a choice between old revenge and the new life she has created for herself. The two story lines are woven together seamlessly, with dramatic tension beautifully balanced with character development and the daily rhythms of a non-industrialized sort-of mythic Ireland. I enjoyed the sense of spaciousness within the tale; nothing seems hurried, even when the action is intense. There’s a great sense of a world beyond the pages, and even minor characters have their own lives, motives, and sorrows. If you have not yet had the pleasure of exploring Marillier’s worlds, come on in. Sit down, have a cup of brew and listen to a tale or two. You’ll want to stay for a long while.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BayCon 2017 Report

BayCon is my local science fiction convention, one I have attended regularly for quite a few years now. At first, the hotel venue was within commuting distance, so long as I did not indulge in too many late night events that left me driving twisty mountain roads when I was already fatigued. But as the convention moved to different hotels, as conventions sometimes do, each successive move took it farther away until I was faced with either driving over an hour in either direction or shelling out for a hotel room. Fortunately, a dear friend and writer colleague offered me a guest bedroom and the chance to carpool from her house. Her adolescent children attended the con, too, so my own experience was colored by becoming a temporary part of her family and also the rhythms and accommodations of young folks. Among other things, I heard about the teen track programs, the gaming room, and other aspects of conventions I otherwise would be oblivious to. The kids reminded me that although conventions are primarily work for me, they can and should be play, as well.

The other difference in this convention is that Book View Café had one of two tables in “author’s alley,” near guest registration (the other was Tachyon Books, featuring Peter S. Beagle). Although the various attending members were not particularly organized, it was a somewhat successful learning experience and some of us sold books, talked about BVC, and chatted with fans.

We arrived at the hotel Friday afternoon, in time to hear both Juliette Wade and Chaz Brenchley read. Listening to authors read their work, sometimes work in progress or yet unpublished, is a special treat. When I have a heavy schedule of panels, I regret not being able to attend, so this was a great beginning to a convention. Not only did I get to hear two very different but equally wonderful stories but sitting quietly in a convention atmosphere helped with the transition.

It seems the older I get and the longer I live in the redwoods, the more difficult it is for me to “shift gears” into convention mode. I’ve become accustomed to long, deep silences, not to mention a slower pace of conversation. I always feel as if I’m moving (and speaking) too fast, which of course increases the risk of mis-speaking or not listening carefully enough to what the other person is saying. Most of the time, no one seems to notice. Being so aware of my own limitations, however, does make it easier for me to respond with gratitude when I am called out on an error. I appreciate not getting backed into a defensive posture.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Short Book Reviews: The Life-Changing Power of Kittens

The Lost Cats & Lonely Hearts Club, by Nic Tatano is a sweet little story that definitely appealed to
the cat lover in me. The premise – how a litter of orphaned kittens transforms the life of a hardened news reporter – is right up my alley. By “little” I mean that the scope of the story is contained and domestic, rather than universe-shattering. The focus is on the heroine, her closest friends, her parade of potential, boyfriends, and of course the kittens. There’s a nice balance between romance, personal growth, and the notoriety that comes from blogging the lives of the kittens and becoming a spokesperson for adopting not only kittens but human children.

The one bobble for me almost knocked me out of the story at the outset, which was designating a tortoiseshell kitten as male. Although male tortoiseshell cats occur, they are extremely rare, as the coat color pattern requires two X chromosomes (females are XX, males are XY, so male tortoiseshells must be sterile XXY – if you want to read more about how that works, check here). I love this sort of genetics (not to mention tortoiseshell cats) and spotted the error right away, but determined to plow on with the story, albeit wincing (and casting aspersions at both the author who did not do the homework and the copy editor who did not catch it) every time that kitten was called “he.” Aside from that, it was a lovely, heartwarming story with a predictably uplifting, happy ending.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Baycon 2017 Schedule

I'll be appearing at BayCon in San Mateo this year. I hope you'll drop by to say hello (and enjoy a panel or two...or get an autograph). This year Book View Cafe will have a table in "Author's Alley" and I'll be there, at least part of the time. I'll have books to sell and gift bookplates to autograph.

Here's my schedule (I'll be moderating all of them)"

Sat. May 27, 11:30 am. Science Fiction (and/or Fantasy) as a Tool for Social Change. With A. E. Marling, Dirk Libbey, Carrie Sassarego, and Wanda Kurtcu.

Sat. May 27, 1:00 pm. Stand-Alone or Series? Pros and Cons. With Chaz Brenchley and R. L. King.

Sat. May 27, 4:00. Writing in Someone Else's World. With  Kathleen Bartholomew, A. E. Marling and R. L. King.

Sun. May 28. The Care and Feeding of Your Creative Muse. With Skye Allen, Jennifer Nestojko, Mark Gelineau, and R. L. King.

Monday, May 22, 2017

"Nevertheless, She Persisted" Anthology Table of Contents

Book View Cafe's Mindy Klasky has edited an anthology, Nevertheless, She Persisted. Here's the Table of Contents (with my historical fantasy story about Dona Gracia Nasi). Release date is August 8, 2017.

What an amazing lineup!

“Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
“Sisters” by Leah Cutter
“Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
“Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
“How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
“After Eden” by Gillian Polack
“Reset” by Sara Stamey
“A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
“Making Love” by Brenda Clough
“Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
“Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
“Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
“The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
“If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
“Chataqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
“Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
“In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
“Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
“Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Glory in the Skies

Today's "Astronomy Picture of the Day" is so beautiful, so uplifting to my spirits, I cannot resist posting it here. For all the troubles on our small globe, the universe is an awesome place. Often I need reminding of the scale of things, "this too shall pass," and that there is always beauty and wonder to be found if we but lift our eyes.

About 170,000 light-years across, this galaxy is enormous, almost twice the size of our own Milky Way galaxy. ... Its core is dominated by light from cool yellowish stars. Along its grand spiral arms are the blue colors of hotter, young stars mixed with obscuring dust lanes and pinkish star forming regions.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Urban Fantasy Circa 1991

Street Magic, by Michael Reaves, Tor 1991. This isn’t a new book, as you can see by the date. In fact,
I believe it’s the first urban fantasy I read, along the lines of “elves in Manhattan.” In this case, the city is San Francisco, but it could be any big, grimy, noisy city that draws runaways, abandoned kids, and the disillusioned. It’s a fairly short book, and by today’s standards quite simple, but in its time, the tropes were sufficiently new to stand on their own without an overly elaborate plot. I tried to step aside from the urban fantasy of the last 15 years and re-read it with fresh eyes. The characters and elements that appealed to me then still do. The ones that didn’t (like the street kid to whom magical creatures are drawn) still don’t; however, what was once annoying I now see as a not-so-successful exploration of a literary shorthand we now take for granted and that has not weathered the years well.

My favorite characters included an elderly woman bookstore owner (of course!) and the photographer who once glimpsed a door into Faerie (at Muir Woods, of all places – where I visited many times as a teen and college age student, hiking in the “back way” from my parents’ house – well, redwood grove and magic do go together, or so I have always thought), botched his chance to step through that door, and now has descended into a haze of alcohol and regret. He’s not a major character and doesn’t drive the plot, but the way he grapples with his yearning to find Faerie again (and this time, seize the chance he missed before) in conflict with living an ordinary, mortal life in an ordinary, mortal world touched me deeply. Isn’t that what we all do – try to balance and integrate the unrealistic, idealistic dreaming and the humdrum, hoping to forge lives that in some way connect and nurture the miraculous?

The verdict: If you haven’t read it, do take a look. It’s a short book and moves right along, and even after all these years has something to offer, especially in the secondary characters. If you missed it and you love urban fantasy, I commend this historical perspective on the genre.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Short Fiction Sales News

I've just sold two pieces of short fiction to exciting projects.

The first, "Unmasking the Ancient Light," is to Nevertheless, She Persisted, an anthology edited by Mindy Klasky, to be released from Book View Cafe on August 8, 2017. It's a reprint from Ancient Enchantresses, (ed. Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch and Martin H. Greenberg, 1995), and is based on the life of Dona Gracia Nasi, whose family fled Spain after the expulsion, ran one of the largest spice trading firms in Europe, set up a Jewish "underground railroad" from Venice, and eventually established one of the first attempts at a Jewish homeland at Tiberias.

The second is an original story, "The Girl from Black Point Rock," to Sword and Sorceress 32, ed. Elisabeth Waters. More about it later.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Short Book Review: A Post-Apocalyptic Midwife

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, Book 1) by Meg Elison, 47North. Just as I finished reading this book, I listened to a radio program on the role of dystopic literature in today’s political landscape. The books referenced were generally those so well known they had been made into films ( The Hunger Games, Divergence, The Handmaid’s Tale). The context was one of social commentary and political warning. Meg Elison’s Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, although depicting a future as grim as the others, focuses instead of a human story. There’s no explanation for the plague that wipes out most of humankind, or why most men turn into rapists bent on enslaving women; that’s not the heart of the story. Via alternating journal entries and narrative sections, an unnamed woman – a nurse midwife working in a hospital -- chronicles her own personal journey through a landscape of dead people and dying cities, caught between the desolation of being utterly alone and the peril posed by the few other survivors. As she survives one crisis after another, she gains in wisdom and insight. No matter how lonely she is, she refuses to sacrifice her hard-won independence – both of body and of spirit. The writing is clear and lucid, its simplicity a perfect vehicle for the power of the emotional arc. In the end, the seeds of trust and kindness only partly glimpsed at the beginning of her harrowing tale come to fruition in a thoroughly satisfying way.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Cat Blog

This is Gayatri, She Who Sings. Also known as The Pirate Queen because one of my eyes was severely damaged when I was young. I don't see why Shakir should have all the fun. Don't get me wrong, he's a fine fellow, especially when he isn't smacking me. Here we are in our salad days (before my surgery to remove my eye).

Having only one eye has never slowed me down. Even at the august age of 10, I zoom around the house and up the climbing tree. I am also a Fearsome Hunter. Some years ago, my humans allowed me out in the garden. I rewarded them by depositing a reptile or small mammal (killed, of course) on the back porch. The ungrateful monkeys wouldn't let me out after that.

And here I am on Mom's shoulder, checking out the new dog. This was a couple of years ago and, after a period of suitably abject worship, the dog went over the rainbow bridge. You would think that made my life perfect, purrrfect, but oh no...

My most recent adventure was both painful and humiliating. I developed an abscess of my anal glands. Sooo embarrassing. The vet, who is otherwise a perfectly civilized human, did Terrible Things to my rear end. Now there is a draining hole, which my humans squirt with betadine and smear with honey (medicinal, they insist) a couple of times a day. That's all right because they also dose me with nice pain meds. Here I am in the Cone of Shame (to prevent me from licking, which is the Obvious Thing to do with wounds). At least I can sit on my bottom again!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rebecca Fox on "Where You're Planted " in MASQUES OF DARKOVER

In the spirit of a masqued revel, here is a gala presentation of tales set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s beloved world of the Bloody Sun. Some of these stories are humorous, others dark, some gritty, and others whimsical or romantic, but all reflect the richness and breadth of adventures to be found on Darkover.

Here I chat with the marvelous authors who have enriched the world of Darkover with their creative vision.

Masques of Darkover was released May 2, 2017 and is now available for at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble and Kobo.

Rebecca (“Becky”) started writing stories when she was seven years old and hasn’t stopped since. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with three parrots, a chestnut mare, and a Jack Russell terrier who is not-so-secretly an evil canine genius, but no flamingos, pink or otherwise. In her other life, she’s a professional biologist with an interest in bird behavior. 

Deborah J. Ross: What was your introduction to Darkover?

Rebecca Fox: I was somewhere around fourteen years old, and away at a science camp
aimed at aspiring astronomers. I was roommates with a girl with whom I’d become pretty much instant friends, and one of the things she’d brought with her was an entire pile of books (see above: nerdy teenagers). She was kind enough to loan me two of them, since I’d been a little short-sighted in the reading material department, and hadn’t brought along any of my own. One of the books was Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey; the other was Hawkmistress! I devoured both within a couple of days, since I apparently didn’t believe in sleeping at that time in my life. The loan of those two books must have been some sort of omen, because while I didn’t in fact become an astronomer (having been seduced by biology instead), I have since written stories for both Valdemar and Darkover anthologies. 

DJR: What about the world drew you in?

RF: Honestly, I’ve always been a sucker for animal stories and for plucky teenage heroines with a penchant for giving the finger to the established social order. Hawkmistress! was essentially the perfect gateway drug. As a teenager in the early ‘90s, I came for Romilly and her hawks and stayed for the magic (well, matrix sciences; same difference) and adventure. These days, as a professional academic with a taste for Le Carre, I’m in it for the politics, the culture clash between Terra and Darkover, and the tales of peripatetic scholars. Funny how tastes change over the years. Books in the vein of The Bloody Sun, which bored me to tears as a teenager, are now some of my favorites.

DJR: What do you see as the future of Darkover? How has its readership changed over the decades? What book would you recommend for someone new to Darkover?

RF: I think there are still lots of stories to be told about Darkover, since it’s not as though we’ve really dispensed with any of the issues Marion dealt with so eloquently in her novels. We’ve admittedly made progress in some areas, like women’s rights, but these days we humans here on Earth have the ability to make some pretty terrifying changes in the natural world, via techniques like gene drive, that put me rather in mind of some of the weapons from the Ages of Chaos.

As far as readership goes, of course new readers are going to keep finding the series just as my friends and I did as teenagers twenty-odd years ago. I teach at the college level, and I can tell you that despite all the dire talk about smartphones ruining the world, my students still love to read and have an appreciation for actual books. If anything, they’re more sf-mad than my generation was in the ‘90s, thanks to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and all the Marvel movies.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Short Book Reviews: A Richly Depicted World

The Unquiet Land, by Sharon Shinn, (Ace)

Although I had heard the author’s name, I had not read any of her work. It’s always a risk picking up a book in the middle of a series; much of the time, you get either huge chunks of expository backstory or you are lost by references to the same. Shinn skillfully draws the reader into her rich, intricate world, filled with marvelously depicted characters and even more nuanced relationships. This world is one of small island states, each with its own unique and sometimes bizarre culture. Although there is definitely a story “off the pages,” it’s not at all necessary to have started at the beginning to fully enjoy this one.

Leah has returned to the city of her birth after a period of exile, political intrigue, and a relationship that might develop into a romance. In between getting to know the young daughter she left behind, figuring out her place and what she wants for her future, she crosses paths with travelers from another island state, strangers whose political ambitions and utter amorality threaten everyone she holds dear. Although the story has plenty of suspense and dramatic movement, what stood out for me was the emphasis on relationships – new ones, old ones, those laden with regret and those inspiring hope. The sheer number of characters and the system of magic, the religious blessings and traditions, all these elements might have seemed overwhelming in the hands of a less competent writer, but Shinn weaves them all together to bring dimensionality and emotional resonance to every aspect of Leah’s world. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Special Sale Price on JAYDIUM

This month's specials at Book View Cafe include Jaydium for just $0.95. DRM-free, multiple formats (there's an audiobook, too, but it's not on special.)
Here's the newsletter for more offerings.

Hungry for “a wild and woolly journey through time and space,” some really cool aliens, and a touch of romance?
Far in the future, an interplanetary civil conflict has ground to an uneasy halt, leaving its human victims bitter and desperate: Kithri, the daughter of a scientist, abandoned on a desolate mining planet with no hope to use her talents, and Eril, shell-shocked pilot, finding adapting to peace more difficult than he dreamed. A freak accident sends them back to a time when their desert world was lush and green, when an alien civilization stands on the brink of a war of total destruction. Unexpectedly linked with Lennart, a spaceman from an earlier era in galactic history, and Brianna, an anthropologist from an alternate universe, they must choose to remain outside the conflict or to stand up for what they believe, even at the cost of never getting home again?

“A wild and woolly journey through time and space that contains enough imagination and plotting for an entire shelf of books.”
“Beautifully executed . . . marks Wheeler as a stellar new talent.”
— Catherine Asaro in MINDSPARKS
“There is an emphasis on the quest for peace that is unusual when so many novels focus on the quest for dominance and victory.”
— Tom Easton in ANALOG
“JAYDIUM sweeps the reader into a well-designed world populated with realistic people . . . a fast-paced and fun read.”
— Mary Rosenblum
“Excellent hard science-fiction!”
— Marion Zimmer Bradley

Monday, May 1, 2017

Robin Wayne Bailey on "The Mountains of Light" in MASQUES OF DARKOVER

In the spirit of a masqued revel, here is a gala presentation of tales set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s beloved world of the Bloody Sun. Some of these stories are humorous, others dark, some gritty, and others whimsical or romantic, but all reflect the richness and breadth of adventures to be found on Darkover.

Masques of Darkover was released May 2, 2017 and is now available  at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble and Kobo. 

Robin Wayne Bailey is the author of numerous novels, including the Dragonkin trilogy and the Frost
series, as well as Shadowdance and the Fritz Leiber-inspired Swords Against the Shadowland. His short fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies with numerous appearances in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword And Sorceress series and Deborah J. Ross's Lace And Blade volumes. Some of his stories have been collected in two volumes, Turn Left to Tomorrow and The Fantastikon, from Yard Dog Books. He's a former two-term president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and a founder of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He's the co-editor, along with Bryan Thomas Schmidt, of Little Green Men--Attack!

Deborah J. Ross: Tell us about your introduction to Darkover. What about the world drew you in?

Robin Wayne Bailey: I first encountered Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover world when I was a teen and, I think, working in a bookstore. I found a DAW publication of Darkover Landfall, read it and loved it. The idea of a spaceship of humans flying off the known star charts and crash-landing on another world, of surviving and building their own culture excited me. I read the next three or four books as quickly as I could get them. Unfortunately, after the publication of Stormqueen, I drifted away from the series. Yet I never parted with those early Darkover books. Later, when I met Marion, she signed them for me, and they have honored places on my bookshelves to this day.

DJR: What do you see as the future of Darkover?

RWB: I see the future of Darkover as wide-open. Marion wrote the world as dynamic, constantly undergoing conflict and change. Nor was she slavish about continuity. I’m deeply enamored of this new anthology series under Deborah Ross’s editorship, not just because I’m a regular contributor, but because she’s allowed me to fuck with some of the concepts. To me, that’s where the fun and the challenge lies. If Marion was alive and still writing Darkover novels, that world would not look the same now as it looked when she left us. She would have changed it in ways we can’t know. On the surface, it might look similar, but it would be different. That certainty informs my entire approach to writing in her world.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Short Book Reviews: Two Great Novellas

Readers often give the novella short shrift as a literary form. It’s too long to read easily in one sitting and not long enough to make a satisfying novel-variety reading experience. It’s also hard to write. You need a single plot line that’s rich enough to sustain the length but doesn’t meander off into the subplots and so forth that give a novel its complexity.

Penric and the Shaman, by Lois McMaster Bujold. 
The short review: A new Bujold novella set in the world of The Curse of Chalion! (Everyone jumps up and down for joy and runs out to buy it!) 

The longer review: To say Bujold is a master of her craft is an understatement, also that she has the ability to take what seems to be a simple enough proposition (in this case, tracking down a murder suspect) and imbuing it with emotional resonance. Her work rarely leaves me unmoved, and this one is no different. She manages to bring the reader into her world of five gods, shamans and sorcerers and spirit animals (as a dog lover, I adored what she did with more-dog and Great Beast dog) and ordinary folk without ever inflicting massive backstory or infodump. The richness of this world and its potential for powerful human stories never fails to amaze me. The alternative viewpoint characters (Penric, a sorcerer-divine who is host to demon Desdemona, who carries the memories of all her previous partners; Locator Oswyl, beset by his own rigid sense of honor and his limited abilities; and Inglis, a shaman now bereft of his powers, struggling to keep the ghost of his best friend from being eternally sundered from grace, at the cost of his own blood) provide both close-up emotional intimacy and a wider perspective of events. Did I say I loved the dogs. And the ghosts. And the demon. And the dogs.

In Calabria, by Peter S. Beagle, Tachyon. The short review: A new Peter S. Beagle novella-- with unicorns! (Everyone jumps up and down for joy and runs out to buy it!) 

The longer review: Claudio Bianchi, a crusty not-so-old hermit, farms an
aging plot of land in rural  Southern Italy. At first glance, he is not very prepossessing; he’s crotchety, battered, and solitary. He also has a secret: he writes poetry. One day a unicorn appears on his land, and she too has a secret, one that will forever transform their lives. Like everything else by Peter S. Beagle I’ve ever read, this short work brims with earthy magic and tenderness. He has the ability to take a character who at first glance is not particularly appealing (middle-aged, grouchy hermit with dubious social skills and personal hygiene) and draw us into that character’s world, weaving the threads of our own disappointments, humdrum lives, deferred dreams. Claudio has all but given up on his dreams, so much so that he no longer knows what they once were until the impossibly magical creature touches the dreamer within him. In Calabria is not The Last Unicorn, but they share that sense of longing and transcendence, and offer the same thoughtful, immensely satisfying reading experience.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

In Troubled Times: Quaker Wisdom

No clear impressions, either from above or from without, can be received by a mind turbid with excitement and agitated by a crowd of distractions. The stillness needed for the clear shining of light within is incompatible with hurry.
~ Caroline Stephen, 1834-1909

I believe there is something in the mind, or in the heart, that shows its approbation when we do right. I give myself this advice: Do not fear truth, let it be so contrary to inclination and feeling. Never give up the search after it: and let me take courage, and try from the bottom of my heart to do that which I believe truth dictates, if it leads me to be a Quaker or not.

~ Elizabeth Fry, 1780-1845

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Anthology Special Price

Two anthologies I've participated in are on sale at a reduced price right now. Across the Spectrum, which I edited with Pati Nagle (and which celebrates Book View Cafe's 5th anniversary and includes stories by Ursula K. LeGuin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Sherwood Smith, Judith Tarr, Katharine Kerr, and Madeleine E. Robins). The Shadow Conspiracy III: Clockwork Souls (also from Book View Cafe) contains my story "Among Friends," pertaining to Quakers, the Underground Railroad, and a slave-catching automaton. They're $2.99 each.

The sale ends May 1, so grab 'em while you can! (And the others look great, too!)