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Dec. 9th, 2016

10:36 am - my work in 2016

Man, 2016. It’s been such a . . . thing . . . that when I sat down to write this post, I thought, “should I bother? I mean, I didn’t have much out in 2016.”

Uh. This was actually one of my busier years, in terms of publications. But the first half of this year might as well be the Neolithic, it feels so long ago. Thank god I have a website to remind me what I’ve done! Courtesy of my own bibliography page, I give you the list of the things I published that came out this calendar year:

So that’s two novels, a novella, and three short stories, not counting the three backlist ebooks I put out (Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and the omnibus In London’s Shadow). All in all, I’d call that a pretty good pile.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/784239.html. Comment here or there.

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Dec. 8th, 2016

01:42 pm - cooking chicken

A question for the culinary types.

I recently made a meal (chicken vesuvio, though not quite the version described there) that turned out pretty well, except the texture of the chicken breasts was less than ideal. The outer portion was great, but the core was kind of tough, and I’m wondering what the reason for that is.

The recipe calls for the breasts to be lightly browned and then put into the pan with potatoes, broth, and cooking wine and simmered for about 12-18 minutes. My impression is that the browning part went great (which is why the exterior of the meat was in good shape), but the simmering is where things went wrong. Could it be that the meat simmered too fast, or reached too hot a temperature? I’m supposed to get it up to 160 degrees; after 12 minutes it had already shot past that. My stove tends to run hot, so I feel like maybe it would turn out better if I reduced the heat (it calls for medium-low, so I could go to low) and let it cook a bit more slowly. But I don’t actually know the dynamics of how these things work, so I could use either confirmation of my theory, or an explanation of what’s more likely to have been the problem.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/783992.html. Comment here or there.

09:37 am - How do we improve the news?

One of the issues I keep chewing on is the fundamental weakness of journalism today. A combination of factors ranging from the ability of fake news to spread via social media to the economic pressures that encourage our formal outlets to pursue sensationalism and fence-sitting have made it such that misinformation rules the day right now.

I want to work on fixing that, but I don’t know how.

I’ve seen people say “we need to subscribe to paid outlets so they can afford to do proper investigative journalism.” Is that the answer? I’m not sure. I have no guarantee that’s what they’ll spend my subscription dollars on, and no certainty that even if they do, it will have a noticeable effect. So I put it to you all: what’s the best place to apply leverage to improve the state of journalism today? Is it a newspaper subscription? Some organization? Does anybody out there have a real, practical solution to this problem — or at least a convincing argument for one — and if so, where?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/783699.html. Comment here or there.

Dec. 7th, 2016

12:11 pm - A Trip Down Juvenilia Lane, Vol. 2

My journey through my high school notebooks continues!

I wasn’t organized about filling one notebook completely before starting another, so the chronology here is a vague one. You may recall that volume one included notes from my senior year English class; this one starts with a short-lived attempt to keep a journal while I was in England the summer between my junior or senior years. Obviously there is a great deal of overlap going on.

This notebook contains a great deal more in the way of actual story. It falls primarily into three boxes:

1) Notes and plans from some online RPGs I had completely forgotten ever playing in — largely because (like so many games) they didn’t last for very long.

2) Highlander fanfic about a character of my own creation, a two-thousand-year-old Irish immortal named Eithne. There are surprisingly large chunks of this; most of the fiction in Vol. 1 was just short snippets, a paragraph or two, but this has several bits that run on for two pages or more. I will give my high-school self credit for at least trying to be sensible about why my European immortals were traipsing about Japan during the Tokugawa era; the real answer, of course, is “because Highlander taught us all that Japan Is Kewl,” but I had enough awareness of the history to say my characters got thrown overboard by a ship captain who realized there was something weird about them, and then they were trying to sneak overland to Dejima (and relative safety) without being caught and beheaded.

3) Material from the idea mentioned previously, the one that started off as fanfic but later I tried to file the serial numbers off it. (I’m not mentioning what the original source of the idea was because there’s an outside chance I’ll revive it someday, and I’d prefer not to pre-program people’s expectations of it.)

A few bits of this are fiction, but most of it is notes, and oh, does it ever look like my work. Faced with the realization that I couldn’t do much with the idea unless I de-fanficced it first, my immediate reaction was to worldbuild the shit out of the setting. 😀 I organized the society into Clans — each with its own name and iconic color and sigil — which were part lineage (you inherit your Clan from your mother) and part quasi-social class; each Clan has a traditional sphere of responsibility, like healing or hunting or whatever. But it’s a semi-flexible system, because if you have a particular gift for some activity or just really suck at what your Clan does, you can be adopted into a different one. Laid across this are the Rings (no, I’d never heard of L5R at this point), which are basically hunting bands/war-groups, inspired by the Fianna, and those usually don’t follow Clan lines.

Current Me looks at this and sees that it doesn’t hang together all that well: the Clan responsibilities are too narrow, my decision to cap Ring membership at eight means that the social dynamics of how people find a Ring to join would be a disaster, and there are a lot of other questions I didn’t even think to address. But it’s still an interesting foundation, and if any version of this ever becomes an actual thing, you may see those elements still included in some form.

You may also see my one serious attempt to date at conlanging. The phonology is thoroughly Irish, complete with lenition and eclipsis (though I did change the pronunciation somewhat); the grammar is more Latin than anything else, with a system of inflection — six declensions but only three cases, nominative, genitive, and objective — and so on. It’s apostrophe-tastic, but that’s because, as a matter of orthography, I decided to use apostrophes as the means by which enclitics got attached, and I had a lot of enclitics. (Some of those probably aren’t enclitics in the technical sense, but I’d picked up the term from Latin and ran with it.) Samples:

Fifth declension
Nom. sing.- ends in “e”, “i”, “o”, or “u”. e.g. re (the moon)
Gen. sing.- accents the final vowel. e.g. ré (of the moon)
Obj. sing.- adds “dh” to the stem. e.g. redh (the moon)
Nom. pl.- drops the final vowel and adds “ith”. e.g. rith (the moons)
Gen. pl.- drops the final vowel and adds “ithí”. e.g. rithí (of the moons)
Obj. pl.- drops the final vowel and adds “idh”. e.g. ridh (the moons) For stems ending in “i”, add “ídh”.

Verbs in the present tense are simply the infinitive form with the pronoun apostrophized on the end.

Ex:
ta’fe [I . . . am? Posterity does not record the meaning of this verb, but that’s probably it]
ta’sa [You (fam) are]
ta’te [You (form) are]
ta’se/si/sei [He/she/it is]
ta’mair [We are]
ta’sibh [You (fam pl) are]
ta’teir [You (form pl are]
ta’siad [They are]

Other tenses add a tense marker between the verb and the pronoun.

Imperfect: abh
Future: idh
Perfect: ath
Pluperfect: eth
Future perfect: ith

Ex: ta’fe, ta’abh’fe, ta’idh’fe, ta’ath’fe, ta’eth’fe, ta’ith’fe.

It is entirely unclear what effect if any an accent has on pronunciation, I created words haphazardly, and even a casual glance tells me I was wildly inconsistent about how far I got away from the Irish originals; this would need a lot of cleanup and rebuilding before I tried to do anything with it. But still: for a seventeen-year-old, that ain’t bad. My unfinished grammar covers the progressive, the conditional, the gerund, and obligation. I had notes to myself that I still needed to figure out the comparative and superlative of adjectives, indirect statements, indirect questions, and possibly the subjunctive.

And the best part is: back 2000 I realized that these notebooks were not a good way to hold into information, so I typed all the useful bits up. Which means I don’t have to do that typing now, and can send these off to Cushing with a clear conscience — because this info is worth keeping, even if it never sees print.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/783561.html. Comment here or there.

Dec. 5th, 2016

04:20 pm - Photos over at Dreamstime

I have a favor to ask of y’all!

I recently began posting some of my photography at Dreamstime, one of those stock image sites. I’ve put up a decent-sized batch as my test case — but I suspect their visibility in searches is influenced by how many views each of them already has. Ergo, I’d love it if those of you with a moment to spare could check out my gallery and click through to some (or all!) of the pictures there.

(And if you happen to go “wow, that’s perfect for X purpose of mine!,” they are of course available for licensing!)

Also, don’t forget, my winter black-and-white sets are for sale through my site, in any print medium or size you might want.

Two black and white photos side by side, one of arches, the other of a gondola ferro.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/783146.html. Comment here or there.

11:17 am - Dice Tales enters the home stretch

The Dice Tales series is nearly done, but still has a little way to go. The most recent two installments are “A Story in Song” and “Other Relics,” both discussing the kinds of narrative artifacts left behind by this ephemeral mode of storytelling.

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/782921.html. Comment here or there.

Dec. 3rd, 2016

10:14 am - A Trip Down Juvenilia Lane, Vol. 1

I’ve been archiving my papers with the Cushing Library at Texas A&M for several years now, but mostly that’s just meant copy-edited manuscripts and page proofs. I’m reluctant to let go of the boxes in which I keep the papers from each of my novels, because I’m never quite sure when I might need to consult them for some reason; mostly I don’t, but then a random occasion will crop up (e.g. “I need to scan that fight map I drew for Doppelganger so I can include it in Writing Fight Scenes“) and I’ll think, maybe I should hang onto these.

Then it occurred to me that I have about half a shelf of spiral-bound notebooks that I haven’t looked at in . . . more than a decade, certainly. Fifteen years, quite possibly. And those, I decided, are fair game.

But of course I can’t just ship those off to College Station without looking through them first.

Follow me, oh friends, down Juvenilia Lane!

This is like literary archaeology, trying to piece together from clues when the first of these notebooks dates to. Apparently at one point I went through and numbered them, and the early pages contain notes from a class on Native American mythology I took my freshman year of college — or do they? Did I do something else involving Native American mythology? Because that notebook also contains random spates of computer code, and I haven’t taken computer science since my junior year of high school; was I trying to write a program for something writing-related? I seem to recall having done that at one point, though I can’t remember what it was for (and the code itself is not enlightening me). The various snippets of story and notes thereon are no help; I was working on basically the same stuff my freshman year of college as at the end of high school.

Possible clue: I was apparently on a kick wherein I wrote some of those story notes in Spanish or Latin, which were the languages I studied in high school. It isn’t definitive; I might well have been trying to keep my hand in during my freshman year. But more significant is the fact that I don’t have any notes written in Japanese, which is what I studied when I got to college. (I even, god help me, have some bad English-language poetry written in dactylic hexameter. It’s clearly for a story, but the context has long since flown my head.) There are also random bits of Irish Gaelic, but most of those are clearly recognizable as song lyrics: I didn’t take Irish until my sophomore year of college, but prior to that was trying to translate lyrics using a dictionary and no comprehension of Irish grammar whatsoever.

I can watch myself working through the challenges of trying to file the serial numbers off a beloved fanfic idea, which definitely occupied a lot of my time in later high school; it was some time during my freshman year that I shelved it in the hopes that absence would make the heart grow more able to hack it apart as needed. But apparently at one point I decided to set one of the sub-stories from that idea in a Tarot-based world. I have no recollection of this. But it seems it was a thing!

. . . waitasecond. I’ve got half a page here of text from Lies and Prophecy. Half a page of text so old, Liesel is still called Lisa.

(Despite that, some of the sentences are unchanged from this notebook scribble to the finished product.)

IT’S A HIGH SCHOOL NOTEBOOK. I have found the smoking gun, and it comes in the form of my Beowulf notes. My senior year English teacher permitted us to annotate our copies of Beowulf with any information we thought might be useful to us on the test; I have a whole two page here where I was collating line citations for references to fighting, gift-giving, loyalty, Christian/pagan blending, the heroic ideal of excellence, and more. (I inherited three annotated copies of the text from my brother and other previous students to get me started; I still own my copy, and it is the most thoroughly annotated thing I think that teacher ever saw.)

Still don’t know why I was writing computer code in it, though. The early pages might be from my junior year (did we do a Native American mythology section in Theory of Knowledge? We must have), but there’s code in the middle of my Chaucer notes, which is definitely senior year.

And with one and a half lines that might have been me trying to conlang for one of my stories (it’s a cryptic description of the perfect passive participle, and then I didn’t get around to detailing the present participle), we finish out the first of my notebooks. Thank you all for accompanying me down Memory Lane. Stay tuned for further installments, probably, as I wade into notebooks from later in my pre-career!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/782831.html. Comment here or there.

Dec. 1st, 2016

10:24 am - Kicking at the darkness until it bleeds light

The title of this month’s tikkun olam post comes from something Marissa Lingen once said years ago, about the symbolism of the darkest time of the year (and the making of difficult but lovely cookies in that season). Seems apropos.

As promised, I’m posting an open thread on the first day of each month where people can talk about the things they’re doing to repair the world. Any good deed you have done recently, any charitable donation or volunteering of your time, any change you’ve made in your life so that you will be a better citizen of your society, please share it here. Anything you are intending to do in the coming months, tell us about it.

Nothing is too small. Don’t hold back on mentioning something because you’re embarrassed to mention something so trivial. We need every bit of light.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/782442.html. Comment here or there.

Nov. 28th, 2016

08:05 am - Dice Tales nears its end

Last week’s Dice Tales post and this week’s: “The Magic of Wikis,” on the ability of a private wiki to serve as a record and organizing tool for a game, and “A Story in Song,” on game soundtracks.

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/782322.html. Comment here or there.

Nov. 25th, 2016

08:00 am - It’s Black-and-White Friday!

No power on the ‘verse could compel me out into the Hunger Games maelstrom of Black Friday shopping, but the nice thing about the internet is that I can set this particular thing up from the comfort of my laptop. 🙂

I’ve got two new limited-time galleries up on my site: Black-and-White Architecture and Black-and-White Objects. (That counts as a winter theme, right?)

Two black and white photos side by side, one of arches, the other of a gondola ferro.

These will be on sale from now until January 1st. If you would like to order a print (they make lovely holiday gifts!), contact me. I can arrange pretty much any size you want, and possible media include paper, acrylic, metal, glass, canvas, and wood. The photos are also available for digital licensing.

Happy Holidays to you all, whichever aspect of them you choose to celebrate!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/782063.html. Comment here or there.

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