New Worlds: Childhood Education

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

From the moment we’re born, we begin learning.

When we speak of “education,” we usually mean formalized instruction, but in fact our education begins long before that. Compared to other animals, we’re born incredibly helpless, with very little wired into us as instinct and even less capacity to perform basic tasks. But one of our superpowers as a species is our ability to learn, and from our every earliest moments, we begin doing just that. (I recall a study which showed that when babies have their most vacant expressions on, their neurons are lighting up like a fireworks show: it’s as if they can’t spare any attention for their faces, because all their processing power is working overtime to understand what they’re seeing and hearing.)

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Island Life: Sometimes It’s Just About Writing

Photo by Infralist.com on Unsplash

As I searched my mind (and my phone’s camera roll) for an interesting story to tell you about “island life” from these past few weeks…I came up kind of empty.

And that is because these last few weeks have been almost entirely about staying in.

I had not one but two book deadlines, and four article prompts for a contest I’d decided to enter, not to mention the usual amount (at least) of freelance work, and, well, I basically hardly went outside.

I am delighted to report to you, though, that I handed off one of the books to its editor last week (although even now I can hear him in the next room, type-type-typing changes and corrections that will have to be made), and that I have just this afternoon sent off the second book to its editor. Whew!

(Why yes, yes I am sipping a little single-malt scotch in celebration of these astonishing achievements.)

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Artist in Residence 32: Literary Snacking (or, Food for Thought)

 

I just saw someone do this for a collection of stories and so I wanted to play. If you have ideas, or different ideas, I would LOVE to hear about them in comments.

What snack or drink should you pair with every story in a collection? Let’s use my Fractured Fairy Tales. (the link’ll take you to the BVC store where you can grab a copy, if you want to follow along with the stories…)

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BVC Announces Fledglings by Sherwood Smith

Fledglings by Sherwood Smith
Fledglings
The Phoenix Feather Book
1
by Sherwood Smith

This started out as a sanity-saver novelette when the pandemic began. Sherwood remembers thinking, this pandemic will last a couple months, just long enough to write a novelette . . . er, a novella . . . okay, a novel . . .

Eighteen months later, the pandemic is still on, and she’s still writing what started out to be “all the fun stuff tropes I love in Asian historical/magical stories and dramas.”

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State of the Farm: End of Summer, 2021

(Picture from our little paw paw tree.)

It started out promising.

The weather was just awful. Hot May. Dry June. Record breaking rain July. Normal August—oh, yeah. Hurricanes.  There is black rot on my Concord grapes and even the pears have cedar apple rust—something I usually only have to worry about for the apples.

It doesn’t help that we lost our previous two cats to coyotes. We’ve been keeping our new cat indoors which gives the bunnies, chipmunks, and voles free reign.

One last impediment: we’ve been redoing our kitchen and building a new front porch. I had no idea how projects like that could take over my life. Continue reading

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Crossword Puzzlements and How Did I Get Jam on my iPad?

I have a number of thing to say today. One, before I lay out my crossword frustrations, I want to do a modified “Six Degrees …” of my background films (that is, films and TV series I run while I am working on various written word-related projects.)

It started with Black Narcissus, Michael Powell’s luscious adaptation of Rumer Godden’s book, because I was browsing Criterion Channel looking for amusement. Then I started thinking about classic movies featuring nuns, and graduated to The Song of Bernadette, starring the luminous, innocent face of Jennifer Jones, which led me to Portrait of Jennie, the bizarre ghost story featuring Jones and favorites of mine like Ethyl Barrymore (love her voice!) and a very young David Wayne (he might be rather obscure in his supporting roles in romantic comedies, a fabulous pianist and singer.) Something about William Dieterle’s dreamy direction of Portrait of Jennie (and the appearance of Lillian Gish as a nun), led me to think about Charles Laughton’s direction of Night of the Hunter, with Robert Mitchum’s portrayal of a frighteningly sociopathic preacher and also, there is Lillian Gish again—not a nun but a widow who takes in starving Depression-era orphans. This led to more favorite Robert Mitchum films—there are scads of them, but today the “Six Degrees” series has led me to Heaven Knows, Mr Allison—Deborah Kerr in habit again as Sister Angela. So series runs its full circle.

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The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 17: Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

Your virtual Italy vacation continues as Thor and I take the train from Florence and settle in among the villages clinging to the cliffs of Cinque Terre.

NOTE: Since European travel is still a no-go with the pandemic continuing, I’m continuing my blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! After starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll now resume every week (after some blogging detours in real time to Hawaii and the mountains). Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

Right now I’m sublimating because Thor and I had to cancel our scheduled September trip to our beloved Greek islands (for the second year in a row), due to the Covid-19 surges and my doc’s advice. So I’ll swim those magical clear blue seas in my dreams, while enjoying these trips down memory lane. I hope they help scratch some of your itches, too! So.. we last checked in on our final day among the amazing artwork of Florence. We navigated the confusions of the train station (no real route numbers) to get on the correct train to Cinque Terre in the Ligurian region of northwest Italy. Along the way, we passed mountains where the famous Carrara marble is still being mined. Continue reading

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New Worlds: Women in War

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

Since we’ve been talking about different types of soldier and warrior, it seems appropriate to take a moment to discuss a particular group: women in war.

This is a contentious topic in part because our evidence is a mess. When it comes to analyzing the role of women in combat and combat-adjacent positions, in addition to wrestling with people’s conceptions of sex and gender and the appropriate places for each, you’re looking at a tangle of legends, historically attested women treated as exceptions, lacunae in the records, and evidence colored by the assumptions of the people looking at it.

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Making a Spectacle of Yourself

I am, alas, blind as a bat. I’ve worn glasses since fourth grade (and probably needed them in third), and just can’t imagine what I would do without them, aside from bang into things all the time. I’ve often wondered what I would have done if I’d been born in the 19th century instead of the 20th.

The answer? Pretty much the same thing: worn glasses, if not the nice high-tech polycarbonate- lensed ones that I have now.

Eyeglasses, or spectacles as they were called, have been around since at least the 13th century and seem to have been invented in Italy; there are frescoes and portraits of saints and churchmen with rather endearing early forms of spectacles perched on their noses dating to the mid-14th century. Their use spread quickly across Europe, and by 1629 a Spectacle Makers Company had been established in London. Continue reading

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Don’t Crush That Writer (Hand Me the Duct Tape) – Three
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hhgg_buttonLast time I talked about some of the responsibilities the members of a critique group or writers’ workshop had to the writer whose work they were critiquing. This time, I’d like to address the responsibilities of the writer, which go beyond the helpful “Don’t panic!” and “There’s no crying in writing!”

At a panel on critique groups at a recent science fiction convention, some of our audience members (aspiring writers, all)  were surprised when the panelists unanimously agreed that the writer whose work was being critiqued also had responsibilities to the group and to her work. They’re important duties, too, because they can make the difference between whether the critique group is ultimately a beneficial experience that makes a writer’s work better, a torturous experience from which she learns nothing (except “critique groups: just say no”), or a ruinous experience that destroys both the story and the writer. Continue reading

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