Roaring Twenties

October 10, 2018

For reasons too complicated to go into now, I’ve published my story “Roaring Twenties” as its own ebook.  This is the one about a magical speakeasy and a couple of flappers who are more than they seem. It originally appeared a few years ago as part of the Martin and Dozois edited anthology Rogues. Now it’s a stand-alone.

Enjoy!

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iTunes should be up in a day or two. And here’s the iTunes link!

 

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birding victories

October 8, 2018

Saturday the Cornell Lab of Ornithology held a Big Day, and I managed to get out and get a few checklists to send them. Only about 30 species, but it is firmly, drearily autumn in my part of the world and many birds have migrated away.

But it’s been kind of exciting down at Walden Ponds east of Boulder. I’ve never seen as many birders there as I did on Saturday, with lots of spotting scopes and lots of copies of Sibley’s on hand. So, I’m really only a moderate birder. I don’t follow any forums, I’m not signed up for any alerts when rare birds show up in the area. But I can always, always tell when an alert has gone out because I’ll get to Walden Ponds and there’ll be a dozen birders with scopes all clustered together looking at a Thing.

This time, it was a Vermilion Flycatcher. We’re way north of its usual range so it’s a really cool sighting.

But that also meant I was around a lot of other birders, which always makes me self conscious because I’m pretty sure I’m not a very good birder. I’m either the Best Worst Birder or the Worst Best Birder. I haven’t decided which.  I’m usually the one in the clump of birders asking, “What’s that? What about that?” and being annoying.

So imagine the thrill when I got to school one of these hard-core birders on an ID.

“Oh look, Dowitchers!” he said confidently, gazing over his scope rather than through it.

Me:  “Are you sure those aren’t the flock of Snipes that have been hanging around the last few weeks?”

(Looks through scope.)  “You’re right! Those are Snipes!”

(Confession: I made this exact mistake the last time I was at the ponds a couple of weeks ago. So I was ready for it. I am a learning monkey.)

I tried to do some digiscoping with my scope and iPhone. I’m not sure I’ll ever take really good pictures this way — it’s a wonky set up, with an old scope, an adapter that throws off the scope’s balance, and a breeze that rattles the whole thing and gives the images a kind of hazy filter.  I could also probably learn some photo editing to fix some of these issues.

But for helping me with ID’s? It’s really cool. The scope gives me such a good look at them.

Here’s the Wilson’s Snipe:

And here’s the Long-billed Dowitcher:

It’s really easy to see the ultra-long bill from a distance and think one or the other. But the second look makes it all clear.

They’re all so cute!

 

book review

October 5, 2018

I just finished Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.  Read it in two days. Couldn’t leave my gravity well sofa. It was great, and horrifying. Like, I knew there was a certain amount of cargo cult thinking in Silicon Valley but this. . .

The short version:  this is the story of Theranos, a company that insisted it had developed a technology that would run hundreds of blood tests on small, finger prick samples of blood. Spoiler:  it had not successfully developed such a technology. But at one point enough people believed it that it was valued at 9 billion dollars. That’s billion with a B.

It is now worth nothing. The company was dissolved last month, the assets sold to pay debts. The CEO and COO are up on multiple Federal fraud charges.

And after reading the book, it’s hard not to believe the company’s founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, is an outright psychopath.  As a character study, it’s riveting. Near as I can figure she never had an actual real job with a paycheck that someone else signed before dropping out of Stanford to start Theranos. (Because that’s what you do in Silicon Valley apparently — drop out of Stanford and then make millions of dollars with your company.) And yet people gave her hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a decade to run this business. That’s amazing to me.  (I’m told that this is normal in Silicon Valley, which is its own pocket universe that has very little connection with reality.)

(Note to self, I don’t think I’ve read enough non fiction this year. Fix that!)

So I might have mentioned that I’m a fan of Daniel Abraham’s writing. Full disclosure: he’s also one of my oldest friends in the writing/publishing world. His fantasy series, The Dagger and the Coin, has an amazing villain, Geder.  Geder is paranoid. Geder will do anything he needs to to win. Geder absolutely believes he’s in the right and everyone who opposes him is wrong and evil and out to get him on a personal level. Geder burns cities to the ground when he gets angry enough and spends a lot of time talking about how it was the right thing to do.

I kept thinking about Geder while reading this book. People like that are real. They exist. I’m not sure I really understood that before.

 

Colette

October 1, 2018

Colette is a biopic of the early 20th century French writer, starring Keira Knightley. It’s long and leisurely and visually lush in the way of a lot of biopics, especially ones of artistic people. And like a lot of biopics of writers it says some true things about writing while also making the writing life look impossibly romantic.  I mean, writing is just a really slow process, so you gotta take cinematic short cuts. But mostly what the movie is interested in is Colette’s unconventional life and career, and that’s where it shines, in its positive portrayal of genderqueer and genderfluid characters.

I also learned that Colette was born exactly a hundred years before I was.

For all that I enjoyed the film, I left angry because that thing where a brilliant woman creator had an egotistical and overbearing husband who constrained, damaged, or took advantage of her apparently happened enough that there’s a whole genre about it. Big Eyes about Margaret and Walter Keane, Sylvia about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.  Colette’s early novels were published under her husband’s name. He would lock her in a room until she produced more. When she suggested maybe putting her names on the books too, he did not react well. Eventually she left him, and wrote plenty under her own name.

During the movie I thought about the Impressionist artist Marie Bracquemond, whose husband was also a painter, resentful of her talent to the point where she stopped painting at all.

It just… it’s infuriating. Once is a sad story. Two, three, four. . . that’s a pattern. And it sucks.

 

rough week

September 28, 2018

Been a rough week. The bullies keep on because they keep getting away with it.

The thing about finishing a big writing project is this moment of despair when I’m trying to figure out what to work on next and have five choices and can’t focus on any of them.

On the plus side, I’ve been invited to be an auntie to a baby horse due to be born in April. So there’s that to look forward to.

 

furnace weather

September 26, 2018

A sure sign of autumn in Colorado:  the furnace came on this morning. The house smells like heat. Time to get out sweaters, maybe.

In other news, yesterday I rather suddenly and unexpectedly finished the second of the 3/4 finished manuscripts from The Year of Stalled Projects. This feels a lot better than I was expecting. It means I have a novel draft. It’s no longer abandoned. I no longer have to worry about how I’m going to go back and piece together what I was trying to do, which gets harder the more time passes. Finishing this was an unexpected victory when I kind of needed one.

This one, I printed it off and read everything over, and much like the other one I could see exactly where I lost confidence in my entire career and started wandering around and not knowing what I was doing. I had 72,000 words, and it was so depressing to not have a complete thing out of all that. So. I cut about 12,000 words out of this one, and rewrote almost the whole second half, then took the voice/tone I had developed in that rewrite and went back over the first half, streamlining and pumping it up. I changed the title. I added chapter headers.

I sent it to my agent.

Now we wait, and now I figure out what to work on next.

Meanwhile, I’m beta reading something that would make lots of you jealous if I told you what it was, and Murphy’s Law of Library Holds means that my library holds all came in this week too. Which means maybe I should curl up with tea and books and just enjoy the fall weather.

 

This year, Emmy wants to be Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat.

I broke three needles on this. But now I can check “fur suit” off the skills list.

I’m seriously considering trying to talk her into being an Ewok next year. Just a few tweaks…