Swan Tower

Apr. 7th, 2015

01:44 am - looking for a deck-type-thing

Every so often I get stuck on a story, in a way that involves my brain going around and around in the same rut without exploring different possibilities. Sometimes when this happens, I turn to external tools to help me brainstorm new options — most often cards of one kind or another. Which kind depends on the story in question: I have at my disposal tarot (two different decks), Brian Froud’s Faerie Oracle, Edward Gorey’s Fantod Pack, that Once Upon a Time storytelling game, another thing of that type for B-movie horror tropes that I’ve never actually used because I don’t generally write that kind of story . . . .

But it works best if the cards I’m using have at least some aesthetic/conceptual connection to the kind of story I’m working on. Which brings me to my question:

Does anybody know of something like that which is East Asian in flavor?

Doesn’t have to be some kind of traditional thing (I have a hanafuda deck, but it ain’t much use for story ideas, unless I really need to brainstorm flowers). Could be a game — though please, something where I can buy the entire deck in one go; I do not want to wander down the primrose path of a collectible card game like Yu-Gi-Oh! or whatever. Doesn’t even technically have to be cards, though I like cards, so that’s what I’d most like to get.

Any suggestions?

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Mar. 11th, 2015

07:09 pm - seeking a hat

Some of you may recall that for my book tour last year, I had a Victorian dress made (in dark red, black, and grey). Well, I need a hat to go with it — and while I could have one made custom, it seems a bit silly to drop that much money on a piece of headgear I will almost never wear.

So: please recommend to me your favorite Victorian-style milliners! My requirements are:

Any suggestions?

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Jan. 25th, 2015

05:49 pm - Help me recreate a drink!

When my husband and I were in England a couple of years ago, we had lunch in Highgate at a place that also served a drink I found absolutely delicious. We have recently found the list of ingredients again, so now our challenge is: what should the proportions be?

The drink contained:

Hendricks gin
apple juice
elderflower juice

We have a different brand of gin and elderflower syrup, so we may need to adjust slightly for that. Ideal result is for it to not taste very alcoholic — since I don’t like drinks that are terribly strong. Any suggestions for proportions?

Edited to add: It was served in a martini glass, to give you an idea of final volume.

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Jan. 14th, 2015

01:18 pm - icon needed

One very thin silver lining to the Amazon UK issue I posted about yesterday: it made me realize I don't have an icon yet for Voyage of the Basilisk.


Needed: one (1) icon made from this book cover
Requirements: no larger than 100x100 pixels
If possible: match well with the previous two icons.
Reward: one (1) Advance Reader Copy of Voyage of the Basilisk

I'll give it a few days for people to send in their pics, and then pick a winner. Happy icon-ing!

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Oct. 17th, 2014

10:31 am - shoe shopping for the podiatrically challenged

I have bought a new dress for the World Fantasy banquet. I am sitting here trying to remember the last time I bought a dress that wasn’t a historical costume I paid somebody to sew for me.

I am failing.

As long as I’m on a roll of doing things I haven’t done in hmmmm let’s be conservative and say ten years?, I think I should also get new black heels. And this is where I turn to you, O internets, because I don’t like high heels (but I recognize their uses), and if there is any maker of heels who makes some I would actually like, I want to know about them.

My criteria are as follows. Each one should be footnoted with the caveat that I know I may not be able to get what I want, or at least may not be able to get all these things in one shoe. But I might as well try.

  1. Not too high of a heel. You may recall I had ankle surgery less than three months ago. My ideal would be maybe 1-1.5″; anything above 2″ is Right Out at present. And in general I prefer lower heels, because . . .
  2. Padding beneath the ball of the foot. I can and do use inserts to help with this, but it annoys me that we have an industry built around providing something I think the shoe ought to provide in the first place. I end up with a lot of foot pain if too much of my weight is on the ball of my foot for too long; it’s like my body is saying “we stopped doing this shit when you quit ballet at the age of eighteen, and aren’t going to put up with it anymore.”
  3. Arch support. Does this even exist in high-heeled shoes? If so, tell me, because my god do I need it. I have stupidly high arches, and wearing shoes that don’t support them gets painful quite fast.
  4. Allowance for a high instep. A lot of those strappy shoes put straps right across the top of my arches, which, as mentioned before, are quite high. Result: I feel like my foot’s being cut in half by my shoe. This one’s more of a stylistic thing than a characteristic I’m likely to find in a specific shoe manufacturer, but as long as I’m describing what I want, I ought to include everything.

Is there anybody who consistently makes shoes that match this description? Or even parts of this description? I could go to the store and try on shoes randomly until I find something that works, but I’d like to be more targeted in my shopping if possible. Seven years of dancing on pointe left me with an absolute lack of tolerance for badly-made or ill-fitting shoes, and a desire to avoid spending hours trying things on if at all possible.

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Oct. 13th, 2014

02:09 pm - Housing hunt (on behalf of a friend)

EDIT: Sadly, it turns out the timeline was even shorter than I thought. Thanks to everyone who offered help.

Some of you have seen this already, but I’m trying to cast my net as widely as possible, and that means canvassing all my available outlets.

A friend of mine is looking for a place to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and if this is going to happen, it needs to happen fast. Her main requirements are that rent be less than $1200 a month, and that the place allows cats. It doesn’t have to be close to public transit (she has a car), and it doesn’t have to be centrally located — she’s even looked as far afield as Santa Cruz. She’s willing to share with a roommate, though an individual living situation would be preferable. Craigslist etc have already been tried; this is a hunt for options that aren’t on the usual radar. So if you happen to know of any leads, please do let me know ASAP: like I said, this has to happen fast if it’s going to happen at all. (I don’t have an actual deadline, but I’d guess that if there isn’t at least a strong lead by Friday, it’ll be a moot point.)

Thanks in advance for any help you can give.

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Sep. 18th, 2014

10:00 am - Camera Hunting

Warning: camera neepery ahead. Or, depending on your temperament: yay, camera neepery ahead! :-)

I’m looking to replace my Leica V-Lux 2, which is a hand-me-down from my mother, ergo more than a few years old. Searching for a replacement has been educational, because it’s illustrating for me the extent to which the niche occupied by this model appears to be, well, disappearing.

There are DSLRs. There are point-and-shoot cameras. What there doesn’t appear to be is a point-and-shoot with specs that are equal to or better than what I have right now. Nikon’s Coolpix line is right out; they don’t seem to have any model with an aperture range bigger than f/3 to f/6.5. (My Leica goes f/2.8 to f/8.) The Leica website still lists the V-Lux 4, but given that I can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s been discontinued. My best bet so far is Canon’s PowerShot G1 X Mark II . . . but, and I admit this is a trivial concern, its LCD is embedded in the back of the camera. My Leica has the screen on a swivel arm, which has come massively in handy when I’m trying to take photos at weird angles, like from over my head or around a corner.

The Nikon D5200 has the swivel screen — but it’s a DSLR. (Or, to be more precise, it’s a system camera/ILC.) I’ve kind of wanted to move to interchangeable lenses for years now, so I should leap at the prospect, right? Well, not quite. Because that means carrying lenses with me, and I’m not keen to have the added weight, given how many of my trips involve being on my feet all day. Not to mention that switching out lenses will slow me down, and my husband is already wonderfully tolerant for putting up with the amount of time I spend taking photos. (Not to mention carrying our backpack part of the time, so he’d be dealing with the added weight, too.) I’ve worked hard on being as quick as I can, but swapping out for a wide-angle lens or whatever is going to inevitably take time.

Sure, I could get the Nikon and then just never buy any other lenses. But at that point it seems stupid to have a system camera in the first place.

Except that I’m not sure I can get what I want otherwise. The Canon comes closest, if I’m willing to give up the swivel screen; it’s gotten some excellent reviews. But the point-and-shoot market is being cannibalized by smartphones: they may not be as good at taking photos as a dedicated camera, but for most people’s purposes they’re good enough, and much more convenient. If you actually care about the finer points of photography, it seems like you’re increasingly looking at the higher end of the market, just because of the way the lower end is vanishing.

All of which is extended background leading up to a question: is there another camera I should consider? The swivel screen is negotiable, but I definitely need f/2.8-f/8 or better, decent zoom, and ISO up to 1600 (bonus points if the levels above 400 are actually usable). Right now it’s a race between the Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II and the Nikon D5200, but I’d love to know if there are any alternatives.

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Aug. 24th, 2014

12:17 am - tonight’s random train of thought

Faffing around, putting off actually getting started again on work like I should, browsing the web, come across a mention of Wendy and Richard Pini, spend a moment imagining what I would say to them if I met them.

Remember that way back in the day, I bought the Elfquest RPG and made a bunch of characters, but never actually played the game; just sat around making up stories that more or less amounted to OC fanfic.

Probably a good thing we never actually played it. I think the game was Chaosium, and I don’t recall the system being really all that well-suited to the setting — not that I would have known the difference at the time.

Hmmm. What would be a good system for running an Elfquest game?

. . . no, I’m not actually planning on running such a thing. File this under “fun things to fiddle with,” like my hack of Cinematic Unisystem for Harry Potter or Mage: The Awakening for the Wheel of Time. (Or, um, Pathfinder for Dragon Age. Except I actually ran that one for a while.) But I open the floor to suggestions: what would you use for Elfquest? I personally have no idea, but I’m curious what other people might suggest.

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May. 28th, 2014

01:45 pm - Recommend things to me!

As many of you may have noticed, I am a fan of historical fantasy and historical-adjacent fantasy — by which I mean, stories taking place in settings clearly modeled on a real period and place, but technically a secondary world. (In other words, the kind of thing the Memoirs are.) I like this sort of novel a great deal.


I find myself craving stuff that isn’t quite so tied to reality. Secondary-world fantasy in which invention can fly more freely. I don’t mean that it has to be so wacky and out there that it bears no resemblance to anything we know; things like Elizabeth Bear’s Eternal Sky books are fine, because while the cultures are clearly inspired by Central Asian sources, they also have lots of imaginative details unrelated to real history. But further out is also good. I want worlds where humans rub shoulders with sentient non-human creatures. I want cosmologies that don’t obey our rules. I also — and this is a more specific and directed part of the current craving — want settings where the tech level isn’t generically medievalish, but has printing presses and guns or things that are like printing presses or guns but operate in different ways and occupy not quite the same role and are powered by magic or whatever instead. (Because this notion that high fantasy and technology are antithetical is bollocks.)

Things I do not want: grimdark epic fantasy. China Mieville (I’ve bounced off too much of his work.) Brandon Sanderson (ditto.) Anything else is good, though: adult, YA, comic books, humorous, dramatic, stand-alone novels, series, etc. I feel like I need to feed my brain with some stranger stuff than it’s been getting lately.

Recommend things to me?

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Apr. 12th, 2014

11:48 am - sound effect

There’s a particular . . . sound effect? I don’t even know if that’s the right word to apply. It’s a quality sometimes heard in the background beat of techno songs. I have a hard time describing it in words (and can’t think of any examples to link to, since I hate the songs that do this and therefore always turn them off) — it’s kind of this muffled effect at the end of the beat that then slides into the sharp beginning of the next one — but the easiest way for me to summarize it is, it makes me feel like I’m being punched in the eardrums. Repeatedly. Ad nauseam.

I don’t suppose anybody a) knows what I’m talking about and b) can tell me whether it has a specific name?

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