Island Life: Oprah Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

West Beach at sunset. Not Oprah’s place.

Well, technically, Oprah never lived here; but she did buy a pretty nice house on the island three years ago. It was big news at the time, and we islanders enjoyed speculating about running into Ms. O on the ferry, or at the grocery store…even though we knew we never would.

Then there was a pandemic, and nobody ran into anybody, anywhere, for over a year.

And now we’ve just learned that she’s sold the place. She made a tidy profit on the deal, though–bought for $8.3 million, sold for $14 million. (That second article did mention some remodeling, so I guess it wasn’t all profit.)

Even so. I thought I was a savvy real estate investor, when my Portland house appreciated enough in seven years for us to make the move here. But the word “million” didn’t enter into either of those equations.

Not that I’m complaining. I like our house.

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Artist in Residence 30: The Aging of Words

so how do you count novel years? Does a novel get born and then age like fine wine, and only gets better with age…. or is it lucky if it still holds its own a year after its publication date? Do novels age in our years, in Great Dane years (where an 8-year-old dog is starting to fade from old age) or new tech (where everything is obsolete within a handful of years), or Galapagos tortoise years where you’re still meeting individuals going strong in their 150’s…?

I ask for a reason – my first solid high fantasy novel (there are stories here, and I will likely tell them, but not necessarily here and now…) was written [mumble] years ago, back when I was still technically a “scientist”, and originally published at the dawn of this millennium. It weighed in at a quarter-million words, and the original publisher squealed “split that puppy!” when faced with this mammoth manuscript and thus the novel – written as a single volume and always meant to stand as one – got published as a duology, and released in two volumes. In New Zealand, where it first appeared, those two books were entitled “Changer of Days Vol 1” and “Changer of Days Vol 2”, which made sense. When time came to re-release them in the states, they decided they wanted different titles. I vividly remember a lunch I had with my editor at the time where we noodled titles for the first volume (hte second would stay “changer of days”) and in the end coming up with a title-by-committee which neither of us loved but which would have to do for the circumstances, “The Hidden Queen”. So that (“The Hidden Queen”/”Changer of Days”) were their USA identities (still two books).

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BVC Announces Billabong Flats 4 by Ria Loader

Billabong Flats 4 by Ria LoaderBillabong Flats 4
Australian animal adventures 4
by Ria Loader

All are welcome at Billabong Flats in the Australian Bush. Can wild horses find safety from the fires? Will the Lyrebird find a new sound? How does a pelican take a journey far from home? Join Australian animal friends in adventures, friendship, and fun.

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Consideration of Works Past: Some Like It Hot

(Picture from here.)

Television was different when I was a kid growing up in California.

It was early days. There wasn’t the vast backlog of material available that there is now. But there was the same need to fill dead air. Without reruns, reality shows, and made-for-TV or licensed-for-TV movies, the stations filled that dead air with old movies. Movies from the 30s or 40s—movies from the 50s were still too valuable to waste on mere television.

I watched a lot of television.

Plan 9 from Outer Space and Death Takes a Holiday were fun. His Girl Friday was terrific—what’s not to like about Rosalind Russell standing up and winning against Cary Grant? But Some Like It Hot was something very different.

If you haven’t seen SLIH, skip this entry and go watch it. This is one of those films that you don’t want spoilers. Continue reading


Working (and Playing) from Home

You can’t tell me that the smoke from our Oregon fires that spread to New York City didn’t circumnavigate the globe and return to Oregon! Sunset last night was the color of a neon tomato. A melange of smoke, marine air and inversion smog covers our skies this morning and the air is as thick as that in the Yucatan.

While I work on various projects for BVC and others on my main computer, my laptop is open at my side playing various venerable BBC serials (only shows I have seen before multiple times and therefore entertainment that I don’t need to give my full attention to.) Anything with subtitles is out of the question. Having just finished “The Duchess of Duke Street” I am now blissfully rolling through the Tom Baker iterations of “Dr Who”. It’s a character flaw of mine—there are many known only to me, apparently—to be unable to get down to a work-task without some pleasing amusement on the side—on my previous day-job WFH (work from home) days I got through all seven “Mad Men” seasons. That was my third run-through.

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The Rambling Writer Visits Thailand, part 14: Khao Sok National Park

Continuing your virtual vacation with Thor and me, join us in a hike through the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world.

NOTE: Due to a lot of “Life” this week, This is a Rambling Writer Rerun. We’ll return to Florence, Italy, in next week’s post.

“And now for something completely different.” Thor and I made our first trip to Asia — the beautiful country of Thailand.  We were lucky to squeak through the pandemic flight closures in January/February of 2020 as we returned from our three-week trip. Since more travel has now become a distant prospect, we hope you’ll take a virtual vacation with us in the following weeks. (This blog series started on June 13, 2020.)

If you’ve been following this blog series, you know that Thor and I were staying in a treehouse in Our Jungle House on the edge of the Khao Sok National Park, and visited an elephant refuge nearby. The next day, we hopped onto a “taxi” — a pickup truck outfitted with wooden benches — for a short ride to the park entrance. The park covers 285 square miles and rises to a height of 3150 feet at limestone peaks. It shelters wild elephants, tigers, bears, boars, and monkeys, along with 188 species of birds and countless insects. (Surprisingly, we weren’t bothered by mosquitoes there.) Continue reading


New Worlds Theory Post: Language Variance on the Page

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Of all the types of linguistic variation an author might put on the page — foreign or invented languages, creoles, grammatical features not found in English — there’s one that’s relatively common, even outside of speculative fiction. And because it can so often be so badly handled, for this theory post, we’re going to stop to look more closely at the mechanics for how to do it.

In other words, we’s gonna talk ’bout dialects.

If you’ve ever read a romance set in the Scottish Highlands, you may well have run into lines of dialogue like “Och, noo, I dinna ken what the wee bairn is saying so loodly.” Or maybe it was a cockney in a Victorian-set novel, dropping ‘is aitches, guvnor. The character is still speaking English, but the author wants to communicate that they’re speaking a particular variety of English, something marked out from the norm. The variation may be based in a particular region, ethnicity, or class, but regardless of the source, it isn’t the standard acrolect.

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Remembering the Ladies

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” –Abigail Adams to her husband John on March 31, 1776

Alas. For women authors in much of the 19th century, the last thing they wanted to remember was that they were female. Because at that time, it was almost impossible to get published if you were a woman. Continue reading


Don’t Crush That Writer! (Hand Me the Duct Tape) – One

womanAt a recent science fiction convention, I was on a panel about critique groups. We started by sharing horror stories. I had the singular honor of having the most horrific in the room.

I once mentored a group of writers in Sacramento that called themselves the Space Cadets for reasons that should be obvious to readers of genre fiction. They had a critique group which I met with on occasion at their request. They were, generally speaking, a great group, though they had some issues that arose out of the differences between the SF and fantasy genres.

One of the young men—I’ll call him Andy—shared a story with the group that was a diamond in the rough. I critiqued it and told him that with just a bit of tightening and a bit more clarity around a particular plot element and timeline, it would be an exciting and salable story. What happened next was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen happen to a writer. Continue reading


A Stamp for Ursula

 A brilliant summer day in downtown Portland, OR was the perfect venue for unveiling the new USPS stamp honoring our own Ursula K. Le Guin. The SFWA Grandmaster and BVC member long made her home here. We in the field have known and loved her work for decades, but a postage stamp is more than a personal honor. It’s a cultural accolade, demonstrating that Le Guin’s work is a major influence in American letters. She is only the 33rd American writer in the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series of stamps, joining icons like Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and T.S. Eliot. More than movies, more than books – when you’re on a stamp you are an icon of national culture. Continue reading