New Gear Geekout: Part one, new skates

Black Reidell 695 redlines, size 6.5, shearling tongue, open toe box, leather uppers

Black Reidell 695 redlines, size 6.5, shearling tongue, open toe box, leather uppers

This is my first new pair of skates in four years, which makes me pretty stodgy.

Most speed skaters have new skates every two and a half years, and new components oftener than that. Derby skaters might buy new skates three times in three years, because the first two sets of skates a derby girl buys are always too big. Speed skaters expect pain in the feet; they’re a bit like ballerinas that way. Derby girls of course expect pain everywhere else, but it doesn’t occur to them that for a good fit, the pain must start with the feet. Continue reading

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I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 7, “Teenage Days”


I Was a Middle Aged Barn Rat, Part 7, “Teenage Days.” This is a ten part blog series about the year I decided to pursue my lifelong interest in horses, based on an article that appeared in Equus, March 2015.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I was promised a horse when I was eleven. For the next four years it remained nothing more than promise, then when I was fifteen it stopped being even that much and I had to face the fact that I was never going to have a horse. During that time I was allowed to be around them, and the constant refrain from the parental units was that horses were expensive, horses were dangerous, and horses were a lot of work.

Once when I was eleven I was taught to groom one, but not allowed to ride. That didn’t matter, because it was heaven to be privileged to brush him. I breathed in the smell of him and of the barn, the hay, the leather, and I wished with all my heart I could stay there forever. All the way home from that trip it was explained to me that I couldn’t possibly still want one now that I knew how much work they are. I cried. I wanted that horse more than anything. Often during those years I was told how much I didn’t know about horses, and how lacking I was in all skills. That didn’t matter to me, because I knew I would learn those things once I had one of my own. I still believed in the promise.

When I was fourteen, for about a year I went riding on rental horses about every two weeks. At first I was permitted to ride only the “gentle” horses. Those are the ones who won’t hurt you because they refuse to move faster than a walk. At first, that was enough for me. I was happy just to be in the saddle, and it didn’t matter where or how fast we went. An hour of plodding along a trail was, to me, an hour well spent.

But after a few months of making my way up the risk hierarchy, I was deemed skilled enough to ride the horses rated “spirited.” That was the best. Not only did I love the work of taking care of a horse, it turns out the most fun I had that year was the one time I fell off. Continue reading

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Questions for Ursula K. Le Guin Are Now Closed

Due to the overwhelming response to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Navigation project, we have had to shut down the question form. Once she goes through the more than one hundred questions received so far and picks some to answer, we may reopen the form for more submissions. But right now there is more than enough material!

The next installment will go up on August 10. Stay tuned.

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Punching Down

PunchUpI saw something the other day that made me really angry, in that “what, were you raised in a woodshed or something?” sort of way. Prolonged, self-involved, privileged rudeness makes me on-beyond-cranky. And as I watched this behavior continue I realized that the perpetrator really had no idea of what he was doing.

I was at a cafe, writing (I have said elsewhere that getting out of the house and away from its distractions is a must for me). There were others there, also working diligently, drinking coffee or nibbling on pastries. I work here frequently enough to know the staff by name; it’s a comfortable little joint.

About half an hour after I get there a man comes in and takes a seat. He’s older than some of the customers, younger than me; wearing a suit, carrying a briefcase (the other occupants are more the beanie-jeans-and-backpack sort). He plugs in his laptop and phone and gets to work. Has a couple of phone calls which he carries on a little too loudly, but that happens.

When he ends a call our waitress goes over to see what he’d like to order. She’s a middle-aged Korean woman, deceptively young looking, petite. Her English is fluent but accented, and her voice is soft. When she asks him what he’d like to order he doesn’t look up, just says “Nothing right now.” A look flashes across the waitress’s face: I think she recognizes that he’s going to be trouble. She asks if perhaps he’s waiting for someone. “No, I just don’t want anything right now,” he snaps. She is barely on his radar, an intrusion. Continue reading

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Navigation Q1: How do you make something good?

Ursula K. Le Guin“How do you make something good?” —Nancy Jane Moore

Well, you could start with butter and fresh farm eggs, it’s hard to go wrong from there, unless you’re a vegan. All right, I’ll try to be serious — it’s a serious question. But an awfully big one. I hope to get some smaller ones, such as, “Do I have to outline my plot first?” or “How often can I split an infinitive?”

I guess the way to make something good is to make it well.

If the ingredients are extra good (truffles, vivid prose, fascinating characters) that’s a help. But it’s what you do with them that counts. With the most ordinary ingredients (potatoes, everyday language, commonplace characters) — and care and skill in using them — you can make something extremely good. A lot of memorable novels have been made that way. Even with undistinguished language and predictable characters, if a story has interesting, convincing ideas or events, good pacing, a narrative that carries the reader to a conclusion that in one way or another satisfies — it’s a good story. A lot of memorable sf has been made that way. Continue reading

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Navigating the Ocean of Story

Ursula K. Le Guin, photo by Marian Wood KolischNavigating the Ocean of Story

Ursula K. Le Guin

An Experiment

I have enough vigor and stamina these days to write poems, for which I am very thankful. It takes quite a lot of vigor and stamina to write a story, and a huge amount to write a novel. I don’t have those any more, and I miss writing fiction.

Reliable vigor and stamina is also required to teach a class or run a workshop, and so I had to give up teaching several years ago. But I miss being in touch with serious prentice writers.

So in in hope of regaining some of the pleasures of teaching and talking about writing fiction with people who do, I’m going to try an experiment: a kind of open consultation or informal ongoing workshop in Fictional Navigation, here on Book View Café.

I hope it will work its own process out as we go along, but here’s how I plan to start:

I invite questions about writing fiction from people who are working seriously at writing fiction.


Note: Due to enthusiastic response, the question submission form has been disabled for now. Once the current round of questions has been dealt with, it may be reactivated.


DO NOT send manuscripts or samples of your work.

Send me one question, of 200 words or less. (Getting your question down to under 200 words may be part of the learning process. The more specific and exact it is, the better.) Continue reading

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Story Excerpt Sunday: From Raiding the Hoard of Enchantment by Dave Smeds

Raiding the Hoard of EnchantmentRaiding the Hoard of Enchantment

Seven Tales of High Fantasy

by Dave Smeds

from “The Beheaded Queen”

[Editor’s note: When posted a few weeks ago, this excerpt was inadvertently truncated. It was meant to contain the entire opening scene of the story. And now it does!]

Ten months had passed since my lord king had deigned to liberate me from my niche. Over the years, as his fury had dimmed, I had become little more to him than an ornament—akin perhaps to the portrait of his great-grandfather, the Reaver, that hung in his council chamber. In some ways the indifference was not unlike his treatment of me during our marriage.

The yeoman set me down on the pedestal beside the throne, where once my lesser chair had stood. He and a palace maid plucked the cobwebs from my eyebrows, brushed my hair, and dabbed oil of rose behind my ears.

“Regal Lady. By your leave, I will lift you from your tray,” the yeoman said.

“Do as you will,” I replied. My voice sounded peculiar to my ears. The enchantment did not permit me to speak when consigned to my niche. These were the first words I had uttered in three seasons.

He grasped me around the jaw and raised me. The maid removed the cloth that had lain beneath me. It was stained with a few drops of the blood that still brimmed at the end of my neck, fresh as the day the axeman had parted my head from my shoulders. The poor girl shuddered as she slipped the new linen into place. Continue reading

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The Rambling Writer Hikes to Lake Ann on Mt. Shuksan

LakeAnnS&WorfTime for another mountain hike with Thor and Bear dog. As I’ve mentioned before, this year in the Pacific Northwest is presenting us with some weather patterns I’ve never seen before, and I was born and raised here. We’re in a bad drought, with extreme forest fire danger, but this week the heat wave eased and the hiking wasn’t nearly as hot and sweaty as the last few weeks. Upside: No mosquitos or biting flies! Downside: By the time we’d climbed the 4 miles to the rocky and glacier-clad flanks of Mt. Shuksan, cold clouds and drizzle had closed in, and the anticipated swim was not happening. But used to rapid weather changes in this neck of the woods, we did have our fleece and rain gear, so no harm.

lakeAnnValley2015Lake Ann is a favorite destination of locals and visitors, with easy access to the trailhead via the Mt. Baker Highway from Bellingham, WA, about an hour and a half drive. The trail dips into a serene forested valley in the wilderness area of the Cascade Mountains close to Canada, then climbs over rocky talus slopes to the foot of the glacier on Mt. Shuksan and the lovely alpine lake nestled close. Continue reading

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Write Hacks 3 : Worldbuilding Hack


by Sherwood Smith

Okay, you’ve got this grand idea for an epic fantasy, and you’ve outlined your story, listed your cast of thousands, and you’ve got all these cool maps of your kingdoms, empires, territories, free cities, and so on.

You start writing, and as your cast gets split up all over the place, you find yourself trying to keep track of who is where when, and above all what time it is where. “Oh, calculating that is easy,” says your math friend. “You simply plug your numbers into an easy equation, beginning with yadda-blither-garble-goo.”

You nod and smile and go away whimpering, because if you’d ever managed to get anything above a D- in simple math you probably would be earning megabucks in some math related industry, not living on ramen as you try to follow your writing dream.

So what do you do? Simple, sez I. Buy a beach ball.

Continue reading

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BVC Announces The Thrones of Kronos by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge

The Thrones of Kronos by Sherwood Smith and Dave TrowbridgeThe Thrones of Kronos
Exordium: Book Five
by Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge

The conclusion to the space opera series Exordium.

The desperate fight to recover the Panarchy of the Thousand Suns is about to commence. Brandon hai-Arkad has been crowned Emperor, but his throne remains in the hands of his enemy, Jerrod Eusabian of Dol’jhar. The fleet has been gathered, the order of battle drawn. Brandon will reclaim his father’s empire, or face annihilation. Continue reading

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