The News From 2Dits Farm: Time To Spray the Apples

No spray signAt just past 4 a.m., my gray friend starts whistling outside my bedroom window. Gracie hears him and raises her head, then looks at me. “Pavarotti’s singing for us. Isn’t it pretty?” I say drowsily. My cat, no connoisseur of music, yawns and stretches, then goes out to the screened porch off the bedroom to do her duty and protect our home against invasion by feathered ruffians. Undeterred by her stink-eye, the catbird sings on, giving us his entire repertoire of mimicry, from the alarmed cheeps of a robin to a faint but dead-on shrill of an osprey which is probably meant to scare the cat, but doesn’t. It’s just as well that I’m awake early. The day is predicted to warm up quickly, so it’s best if I get about my major chore for today while it’s still cool. I have apple tree spraying on the docket today.

Everything loves apple trees, and I mean everything, from the human who loves her cider and applesauce, to the occasional deer, to the birds that nest in the branches, to the plum curculios, European apple sawflies, and apple maggot flies. Never heard of those last three? Organic apple growers here in the northeast have them on “Wanted Dead Not Alive” posters. These three pests are the reason most commercial orchards cannot raise a strictly organic crop. Continue reading

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Brexit and Bold as Love

Bold as LoveSome years back, I stumbled across Gwyneth Jones’s Bold as Love, an amazing novel that begins with the break-up of the UK and ends up replacing the royal family with rockstars while merging science fiction with fantasy.

I quickly became obsessed with the book and its world. I recall begging Gwyneth (whom I know slightly) to bring me a copy of the second book in the series, Castles Made of Sand, when she came to WisCon. I paid hardback prices to get a mass market paperback of the third book, Midnight Lamp, from AmazonUK, and bought the fourth and fifth – Band of Gypsies and Rainbow Bridge – that way as well.

I read these books and re-read them. Despite the fact that the world of these books is a dystopia – complete with ongoing climate change and governmental collapses – I wanted to live in them, which is always the mark of great books for me. It fascinates me that Jones was able to use the Camelot story so effectively – Ax, Fiorinda, and Sage, the triumvirate that ends up replacing the royal family, are Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot – while still incorporating the modern world.

As I followed the news about Brexit, I kept coming back to Bold as Love. Although the books are about the dissolution of the UK, not the EU, into its component parts, the similarities are obvious: There is major conflict with Islamic groups within in England (resolved in a brilliant way by Ax) and there are immigration pressures. And that’s just in the first book. Continue reading

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Finding Meh (A Late Review)

Steven Harper PiziksDarwin and I went to see FINDING DORY on our Mackinaw Trip.

Our reaction: Meh.

It wasn’t =bad=.  But neither was it =good.=

Hank the septopus (an octopus with a missing arm) was awesome, and stole the show.  The camouflage and disguises he uses are screamingly funny, and his propensity for escape is realistic, if everything I’ve read about aquarium octopi (septopi?) is true. Continue reading

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Saying goodbye to hardware

I’m sitting writing this in the dark behind the wheel of my 1996 Rav4, parked outside Runge Auto and Tire, waiting for my friend Angel to come by and take me home. Tim Runge will know what to think when he sees it outside his door tomorrow morning, long before I can call to explain.

It’s a perfect, quiet moment when there is nothing else to do but say goodbye. Just in case.

My faithful steed has carried me and many derby girls the leagues between Chicago’s North Side and Fleetwood Speed Team practice. She has parked on top of snow-piles created by people who cleared the snow off their own space in front of their own house and piled it up in front of their neighbors’ house. She has negotiated streets slick with ice, lugged the contents of bookstores-in-transit. She helped me rescue a very muddy and shaggy old collie mix who had run away from home, having shifted houses and decided to return to the old house on her own.

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Overview of Judith Tarr’s Work on Strange Horizons

Judith Tarr with Albert EinsteinOver on Strange Horizons, author and historian Kari Sperring has a great piece on all the things that make Judith Tarr’s historical fantasy so worthwhile. Here’s an excerpt:

This is history with its eyes open, complex, realistic, difficult, uncomfortable, powerful, strange. She does not seek to conform to reader expectations of the past, she does not comfort, and she is never, ever sentimental. …  She is a true master of our genre, and it is long past time that she was recognised and respected for the huge contribution she has made.

Read the essay and then check out some of Judith’s books here at BVC.

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Orlando Heavy on My Heart

Weeping closeup (1)“Where were you when you heard?” In my life, that question has referred to so many terrible events. The earliest one I remember was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I was in high school and was old enough to have vivid memories of walking down the corridor, not yet knowing what had happened but knowing it was something dreadful, the hushed voices, and most of all, the expression on the face of my favorite teacher as he told us the news. I recalled this while driving my younger daughter to her own high school and turning on the radio to hear, “The second tower is down!” To each generation, I thought. Columbine, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, the Oklahoma City bombing, the list goes on.

My older daughter and I were returning from our college reunion when we stopped for lunch and I glanced at the newspaper rack and saw the news about the Orlando shooting. That same sense of surreal horror swept over me. Both of us had the thought that the world, our world anyway, would never be the same. In trying to grapple with events like this one or the others mentioned above, I find myself looking for events in my own life. That’s a thing we primates do, we put things into personal context.

I am intimately familiar with my own journey through the brutal murder of my mother, but that is not a good analogy. Her death, as devastating as it was, was an individual, one-on-one act of violence. Nobody blamed her or in any way implied she was somehow responsible for what happened to her. Closer emotionally are the stories my father used to tell of his boyhood in a small village in the Ukraine just after the Russian Revolution, when Cossacks would ride into town, line up all the Jewish boys, and shoot them. Today we find such acts heinous; nobody says the Jews deserved what they got at Auschwitz.

Yet that is exactly what some public figures have been saying about the young men and women who were having a night of dancing off the stress of their lives at Pulse. That is one of the ways in which this shooting stands apart from the others. Continue reading

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BVC Announces The Shadow Conspiracy Vol. III ed. Phyllis Irene Radford & Brenda W. Clough

RadfordClough-ClockworkSouls133x200The Shadow Conspiracy III
Clockwork Souls
by Phyllis Irene Radford & Brenda W. Clough

In the world of the Shadow Conspiracy, where the human soul has proven to be measurable and transferable to an automaton, the question arises: is the robot a person? Continue reading

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Q is for Query

Q is for Query.

Once upon a time, nearly every published author had mastered the art of the query letter. Most authors sent query letters to agents, tracking down a representative to serve as a middleman to an editor.  Even authors who worked without agents had mastered querying those editors directly, reaching out to seek publication of their book. (Yes, a tiny fraction of authors attended a conference or knew an editor personally and pitched work verbally, without a formal query letter. But those circumstances were relatively rare.)

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Dice Tales: A Matter of Leverage

Roman twenty-sided die(This is the twenty-fifth installment of Dice Tales, an ongoing series of posts about RPGs as storytelling.)

***

No, not the heist/caper/etc TV show. 🙂

One of the things I like about gaming is that it makes me think about story in ways that are both similar to and different from writing. As a result, I find myself carrying lessons in both directions — and one example of RPGs teaching me something useful in writing is the concept I think of as leverage.

What do I mean by this? Years ago, when I was writing A Star Shall Fall, I made a comment about Galen, one of the book’s two protagonists, showing up in my head with (metaphorical) handles sticking out of him, onto which he was helpfully tying identifying labels. That was my way of trying to articulate the fact that Galen, from his very first conception, offered me a lot of leverage. His family, though of good name, was having financial problems, requiring him to marry for money: there’s one lever. He was in love with the Queen he served: that’s another lever. He was desperately trying to find a way to save the faerie court he helped rule, but feared he couldn’t live up to the example of his predecessors: lever number three. Basically, leverage is any aspect of a character I can use to propel them through the story. If I needed Galen to do something, to get into trouble, to have some kind of conflict or crisis, all I had to do was look at those handles sticking out of him and decide which one was the best to push on for that to happen.

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The Rambling Writer Goes Early Summer Hiking, Part 2

GoatMt2016LushLeaves

Here in the far corner of the Pacific Northwest, we’re still in the traditionally-unsettled transition from spring to summer. This year, while the Southwest literally blazes, we’re having one of those cool, wet Junes (after a very unusual heat wave in April and May, likely thanks to climate change making our weather even more wonky). So most of the high-mountain hikes are still socked in with snow, but the lower trails are showing off lush greenery and a wealth of wildflowers. This week Thor, Bear dog, and I chose Goat Mountain for our midweek outing, as the ranger station reported the route was mostly snow-free to the viewpoint 2900 feet and a lot of switchbacks above the trailhead on Hannegan Creek Road off the Mount Baker Highway. Continue reading

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