Part Three of “The Guild of Swordsmen”

Part 3 of “The Guild of Swordsmen” is up at Silver Blade.  Featuring a tavern brawl and a sex scene!

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Imaginarium 2012

I finally had a chance to read the other stories in the Imaginarium 2012 anthology, the one that reprinted my story “The Kiss of the Blood-Red Pomegranate” from Aoife’s Kiss.  There are a lot of great stories in here!  I think my favorite was Madeline Ashby’s “The Education of Junior Number 12”, about androids who fall in love with humans (although that simple description fails to convey the wonderful characterizations, and the thoughtful portrayal of the sort of effect this might have on human relationships).

I also loved Geoffrey W. Cole’s “On the Many Uses of Cedar”, a story reminiscent of Groundhog Day in which the reader’s sense of who the villain is shifts from the easy assumption implied by the opening; Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s “Laikas 1”, about a woman inexplicably followed by a growing pack of feral dogs; Gemma Files’s “Signal to Noise”, about an ex-CIA agent who seems to be sending messages to his former boss from beyond the grave; Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “A Puddle of Blood”, a very unusual vampire romance; Derek Kunsken’s “To Live and Die in Gibbontown”, with its intelligent macaques, bonobos, and gibbons in an apparently post-human world; and Ada Hoffmann’s creepy “Centipede Girl”.

Imaginarium also includes poetry, and while I don’t know poetry well enough to feel I can speak intelligently about it, I especially liked Peter Chiykowski’s “The Cinder Girl” and Carolyn Clink’s “10 Things to Know About Staplers” (although I’m not sure the latter is actually a poem; I’m not sure what to call it, really).

Imaginarium 2012 is the first installment in what is expected to be an annual anthology of the best Canadian speculative fiction and poetry (“speculative” being an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, and horror).  For those of you who, like me, grew up in Canada, don’t worry:   it isn’t all slow, meditative work about the bleakness of the vast Canadian landscape.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  There are stories in the anthology set in the Canadian wilderness, while others take place in South America, Africa, Europe, or the Middle East.  According to the anthology editors, Canadian speculative fiction simply means “speculative fiction written by Canadians”; if there was any other measure of “Canadian-ness” used to select stories, I couldn’t see evidence of it here.

Imaginarium is still available, either directly from the publisher, or from any of the major online retailers.

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“Clear Skies in Pixieland” now available in Kindle edition

I just released my story “Clear Skies in Pixieland”, originally published earlier this year in the first issue of Nine, as a Kindle e-book for $1.29.  I’ve been charging 99 cents for the other individual short stories, but this one’s longer.  I noticed that someone already bought a copy, even though it’s been up less than a week–thank you, whoever you are!

Here’s a description, lifted from the Amazon page (I wrote it myself, so I’m allowed to do that):

It didn’t take Chris long to learn the dark side of his summer job: trapping pixies, fairies and other small creatures in a magical forest for sale to wealthy collectors.  He’d have quit if he didn’t need the money.  Now, after a disastrous expedition, only Chris can rescue the man who hired him.  But does his boss deserve to be rescued?  And how can Chris ever pay the terrible price the pixies have demanded?

I enjoy writing fiction more than I enjoy writing promotional blurbs.

Unfortunately, the editors of Nine decided to stop publishing the magazine after the 3rd issue.  I was sad to hear this, but I’m glad that they gave it a try and helped some great stories find a good home.

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The Curious Case of the Shoemaker’s Daughter

About a year ago, I started making my previously published short stories available on Amazon as individual Kindle e-books.  I’ve already written about my reasons for trying to get my stories published in magazines before self-publishing them, and I still feel the same way.  But, after a story has been published in a print or online magazine, it doesn’t always remain easy for readers to find.  I wanted to ensure that anyone looking for a particular story of mine would be able to purchase and read it for a minimum of effort.

I haven’t done much to promote these stories beyond occasionally mentioning them on my blog or in my newsletter.  I didn’t even design (or pay someone else to design) covers, instead allowing Amazon to display them with their generic green and black placeholder image.  I felt that the time I would have to spend learning how to design covers would be better spent writing, and that I was unlikely to recoup what it would cost to pay someone else to do them (probably $10 per cover, according to various sources including Dean Wesley Smith’s blog post on traditional vs. self-publishing of short fiction (some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t)).

Sales are about what I expected.  I have 6 stories available, selling at 99 cents each (this page has a list of all my published stories, and shows which are available in Kindle editions).  Most have sold around 5 copies.  Amazon pays 35% royalties for 99 cent books, so that’s around $1.75 that I’ve made on each one.  Better than nothing, but since I was paid anywhere from $15 to $500 per story by the magazines that originally published them, I’m not about to switch to exclusive self-publishing for my short fiction anytime soon.

One story is an outlier.  For some reason, “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”, which I published on Amazon on October 30th, has sold 50 copies in just under 2 months, and is still selling 5-10 copies a week.  I don’t know why.  I haven’t seen any reviews of it, and I’ve done practically nothing to promote it.  I mentioned it on a Canadian writers’ mailing list to which I belong, and in my newsletter (which has something like 30 subscribers), but only after it had started selling well.  This is the first time I’ve mentioned it on my blog.  I’m happy that it’s sold so much better than expected, and grateful to everyone who’s purchased a copy.  But I can’t explain it.

Except.  If you look more closely at the Amazon page for “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”, you’ll see that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” a novel called The Shoemaker’s Wife, written by Adriana Trigiani and published by HarperCollins.  The Kindle version is, as I write this, #563 on the Kindle bestsellers list (“The Shoemaker’s Daughter” is #80,528, but the rankings are widely variable from hour to hour, even minute to minute, once you get this far down the list).

Is that the answer?  My short story is selling moderately well (for a short story by an unknown author) because it happens to have a similar title to that of the latest novel from a bestselling author?  Do people go to Amazon planning to buy Trigiani’s book, start typing the title into the Search field, and one of the other titles that comes up is mine, and they decide to give it a chance because, hey, it’s only 99 cents?  If that’s what’s happening, most if not all of these people seem to also be buying The Shoemaker’s Wife, so I can’t feel too badly about it.  I only hope they realize when purchasing it that my story has absolutely nothing to do with Trigiani’s novel (which I’d never heard of before trying to figure out why my story was selling, since it’s not in one of the genres I follow).

I don’t plan to start picking titles like “Harry Potted” or “Fifty Shades of Blue”.  It’s nice that some new readers might have decided to buy one of my stories (assuming my hypothesis is correct), and I hope they enjoy it.  (If you read and liked “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”, “The Year of the Bear”, also available on Kindle, is set in the same secondary world, so you might like that one too.)

But … I guess I should work on getting all my old stories up on Kindle, once the rights have reverted to me.  Just in case.

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Part Two of “The Guild of Swordsmen”

In which our heroes attend a festival, and discuss excessive government regulation of food production and how dead rats make things taste better.

Click here to read it.

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Part One of “The Guild of Swordsmen” now up at Silver Blade

The first part of my novella “The Guild of Swordsmen” is up now at Silver Blade.  Click here to read it for free!  They’ll be publishing it as a serial over the next several weeks, so I’ll be sure to announce when each new part comes out.

“The Guild of Swordsmen” is a secondary world fantasy without magic.  I guess you could call it sword-and-no-sorcery.  It’s also obviously inspired by Alexandre Dumas’s classic novel The Three Musketeers.  I hope you like it!

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Don Quixote: Worldbuilding and self-publishing

I recently participated in a panel at the World Fantasy Convention on the importance of getting real-world details correct when writing fantasy fiction.  One suggestion that came up for authors writing in a historically-based setting was to read fiction written by authors living in that time period, because they often make throwaway comments that can give us terrific insights into how their contemporaries lived and thought.  I mentioned that I had been reading Don Quixote, and at one point there are these women who’ve supposedly been cursed to grow beards (actually, they’re men pretending to be women as a joke on Don Quixote, but that’s beside the point).  Don Quixote’s squire Sancho Panza says, “I’ll wager they don’t have enough money to pay for somebody to shave them.”  And I realized, which I never had before, that if your fantasy world doesn’t have safety razors and good mirrors, you can’t have all the men walking around clean-shaven unless there are a lot of inexpensive barbers.

Don Quixote is full of surprises.  Another thing I never realized was that the Monty Python cheese shop sketch is pretty much cribbed from Cervantes.  Here’s the Don Quixote version, from Edith Grossman’s recent (2003) English translation (no, I’m not nearly so literate as to be able to read Don Quixote in the original 17th century Spanish):

Sancho asked the landlord what he had for supper.  The landlord responded that he could have anything and could ask for whatever he wanted:  the inn was stocked with the birds of the air, the fowl of the earth, and the fish of the sea.

“There’s no need for so much,” responded Sancho.  “If you roast a couple of chickens for us, we’ll have enough, because my master is delicate and doesn’t eat a lot, and I’m not much of a glutton.”

The landlord responded that he did not have any chickens because the hawks had devoured them all.

“Well, Senor Landlord,” said Sancho, “have them roast a pullet, if it’s tender.”

“A pullet?  Good Lord!” responded the landlord.  “The truth of the matter is that yesterday I sent fifty to be sold in the city; but except for pullets, your grace can order whatever you want.”

“Then that means,” said Sancho, “that you have plenty of veal or goat.”

“For the moment, there’s none in the house,” responded the landlord, “because it’s all gone, but next week there’ll be plenty.”

“That does us a lot of good!” responded Sancho.  “I’ll wager that everything you don’t have can be made up for by all the eggs and bacon you do have.”

“By God,” responded the landlord, “that’s a nice sense of humor my guest has.  I already told you I don’t have pullets or chickens, and now you want me to have eggs?  Talk about some other delicacies, if you like, and stop asking for chickens.”

There’s also a scene where Don Quixote and an author discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing, an exchange eerily similar to those I hear among fellow writers today.  Plus ca change….

“Is this book being printed at your expense or have the rights already been sold to a bookseller?”

“I am printing it at my own expense,” responded the translator, “and expect to earn at least a thousand ducados with this first printing, which will consist of two thousand copies that can easily be sold for six reales each.”

“Your grace is certainly good at calculations!” responded Don Quixote.  “But it seems you do not know how printers collude or the favors they do for one another.”

“And?” said the translator.  “Would your grace prefer that I give it to a bookseller, who’ll pay me three maravedis for the rights and think he’s doing me a favor?  I don’t print my books to achieve fame in the world, because I’m already well-known for my work; I want profit:  without it, fame isn’t worth a thing.”

The famous tilting at windmills scene happens very early in the novel; so early that I have to wonder if it’s so famous because a lot of people through the centuries didn’t bother to read much farther.  They should have, of course.  Cervantes published Don Quixote in two volumes, ten years apart.  If you only read the first bit of Part One, you’ll miss all the scenes in Part Two where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are trying to explain away the inconsistencies and plot holes in the first volume.  And running into people who know who they are from having read Part One.  And dissing the unauthorized sequel that some other author wrote to cash in on the success of Cervantes’ work.  (There really was an unauthorized sequel.)  Not only that, the entire novel, in true epic fantasy style, purports to be not the original work of Cervantes, but merely his translation of some lost manuscripts written in Arabic by a Moorish chronicler named Mr. Eggplant.

The only reason to not read Don Quixote is that it’s over 900 pages long.  But if you like epic fantasy, that shouldn’t stop you.  Imagine, it’s like reading one of the Wheel of Time books … and only having to read one.  With much less description of the embroidery on women’s dresses (though not, by any means, none at all).

You can find more interesting facts about Don Quixote here.  Then go read the novel!

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World Fantasy 2012 Report and Crochet Update

I think at this point I should just accept that I’m not going to get around to blogging about Readercon back in July or the World Science Fiction Convention in September.

So … World Fantasy!  This was the first weekend in November plus a bit on either end.  Donald and I drove up to Toronto for the convention with Max Gladstone, a member of my writers group BRAWL.  (None of us remember what BRAWL stands for anymore, so don’t ask.)  It took us about 11 1/2 hours.  An hour and a half of that was us sitting in Toronto rush hour traffic, hardly moving.  We weren’t even going through the city, we were driving on a highway around the perimeter, but the traffic was still insane.  Much worse than anything I’ve ever seen in Boston.  Although I’ve never commuted regularly in Boston via car.  Apparently that time there was an afternoon snowstorm here and the plows couldn’t clear the highways fast enough because of all the traffic and people were stuck on the road for 4 hours and ran out of gas, that was pretty bad.

The convention was at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North, which isn’t really in Toronto but in Richmond Hill, half an hour away (without traffic), because it’s cheaper out there.  We stayed at the adjoining Best Western, because it was even cheaper but still connected to the Sheraton so we didn’t have to go outside in the cold to get to the convention happenings.  I definitely had the sense that we were in the budget hotel.  The lights in our bathroom flickered for several seconds whenever I turned them on, and the decor seemed chosen with the aim of convincing the hotel guests that they should have stayed at the Sheraton.  Or maybe it was supposed to make us feel virtuous, reminding us how much we were saving.  Everything was clean and comfortable, though, and you could charge meals in the restaurant at the Sheraton to your Best Western room.

Here’s a list of the panels I attended:

Faith and Fantasy
My friend Matt Kressel was supposed to be on this panel, but he was delayed getting out of New York due to the aftermath of the storm and his original flight being cancelled. I’m still glad I went, as it turned out to be my favorite panel of the con. I hope it’s not just because two of the five panelists were Christians, like me, but honestly, most of the various faith and speculative fiction panels I’ve attended at past cons didn’t have any panelists who self-identified as Christian. (The other three panelists here identified themselves as agnostic.) The panel was ostensibly about how the religious beliefs of writers “inform their treatment of supernatural matters”. But the panelists also touched some on how people’s religious beliefs inform their responses to fantasy fiction and gaming, such as the silly (IMO) paranoia that many Christians used to have about Dungeons & Dragons. “Any kid who developed an interest in the occult through playing D&D would have been quickly disappointed the first time they tried casting a spell. ‘I rolled a 2d6 and nothing happened!'” And it was one of the agnostic panelists who complained about the common fantasy trope of the evil patriarchal religious people oppressing the good, peaceful, matriarchal people who all live in harmony with nature and have completely safe and reliable birth control based on drinking herbal teas. Or secondary world fantasy with pre-Industrial technology where no one is particularly religious at all, which the aforementioned agnostic panelist, who has a background as a historian, doesn’t find very believable.

The discussion of faith informing fiction probably did have kind of a Christian slant, so it’s really too bad that Matt, who’s Jewish, couldn’t make it, as he might have helped broaden the discussion. It was still a good, entertaining panel.

They Call Me the Wanderer
My friend Rajan Khanna was on this panel. They talked about the wanderer archetype in fiction, distinguing it from the traveler archetype. A wanderer was defined as someone who either doesn’t have a home or can’t get to it, whereas a traveler is a character who’s temporarily away from their home. So, Odysseus would be a wanderer, because the gods are preventing him from returning home. I can’t remember whether Gandalf is supposed to be a wanderer or a traveler.

Oh Brave New (E-Publishing) World
Publishing is changing faster than anyone can keep up. Earlier this year, I attended a panel, I think it was at Arisia, where most of the panelists pretty much agreed that self-publishing was the dumbest thing anyone could ever conceive of doing, and if your first self-published novel isn’t a success no traditional publisher will ever consider working with you. But it’s getting harder to pretend that initially self-published authors aren’t getting picked up by major houses. Or that more people aren’t experimenting with self-publishing in some way. No one on this panel was overtly negative about self-publishing, they just encouraged authors considering it to do a professional job and hire people to do the parts of publishing that they aren’t good at (such as cover design, for most authors).

The panel wasn’t just about self-publishing. Panelists talked about how, at small presses, ebooks are outselling print books 10 to 1, but it’s still important to make a professional-looking print book so that you look like a legitimate publishing house. And small presses were suggested as a more author-friendly alternative to the big New York publishers, one where the author doesn’t have to do all the work and front all the money (any of the money, for that matter; if you want to self-publish and do a good job, it behooves you to hire people for cover design and copyediting, but if a publisher ever asks for upront money to publish your novel, you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction).

The Real World in Fantastic Fiction
Donald and I were on this panel, so of course it was good. Actually, I can’t judge whether it was good or bad. I wasn’t as nervous as I was on my first panel at last year’s World Fantasy, and I felt like maybe I actually knew what I was talking about. But I think I probably talked more than my fair share, unfortunately. Donald and I met someone later at a party at the convention who said she really liked the panel, so that’s encouraging. I wondered if maybe we (all the people on the panel, not just Donald and I) sounded a little too much like we considered ourselves experts trying to give advice to the audience members on how to do good worldbuilding. I know that I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on worldbuilding, even though I’m fascinated by the subject. Most of my worldbuilding effort goes towards trying to cover up or explain away things about my fictional worlds that I made up a long time ago and have now realized don’t make any sense. I’m hoping that if I avoid mixing Old World and New World flora and fauna in the same imaginary setting, people won’t notice that my imaginary country is sort of rectangular looking with unusually straight rivers. I’ll wow them with impressive facts about ancient Roman cooking so they don’t ask me about the plate tectonics of my world.

Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy
My friend Eugene Myers was on this panel. I don’t actually read much YA fantasy (though I probably should, so I can recommend books to my nieces and nephews as they get older). But much of the discussion was relevant to writing adult fantasy as well. I know that when I’m starting a new story, it’s easy for me to default to choosing characters that are like me (white, straight, female), and it’s good to try to think more broadly about the protagonists I choose. One aspect of diversity that I don’t think the panelists mentioned was religious diversity, and that’s something I’d like to see more of in fiction and hear more discussion about.

I also went to hear Max Gladstone from my writers group read from his new book Three Parts Dead, and he didn’t just read exactly the same parts he’d read at the Harvard Book Store reading I attended a month before, so it didn’t feel like I was only there for moral support. I’m very much looking forward to reading the novel, but right now I’m still trying to finish Don Quixote, and I really should read the Imaginarium anthology that has my story in it…. Too many books, too little time. I went to the SF Canada business meeting, too. It wasn’t very business-y, which I consider a good thing. Mostly cake and champagne, and chatting with people.

As always, at a convention, I got to have a lot of great conversations with a lot of interesting people. I hung out with members of the NYC writers group Altered Fluid–Rajan Khanna, Matthew Kressel, Mercurio D. Rivera, Eugene Myers, and Alaya Dawn Johnson. Ken Schneyer, one of Donald’s and my co-panelists, turned out to be very friendly and interesting. I also talked with Scott Andrews (the editor of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a really cool–and free!–online fantasy magazine that you should absolutely check out if you like fantasy stories set in imaginary worlds), Ted Chiang, Tina Connolly, Neile Graham and Leslie Howle from Clarion West, Liz Argall, Robert Runte, Colleen Anderson, Al Bogdan, and many, many others.

While at the convention, I went to the worst Chinese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in a large North American city.  The caveats are important because (a) I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, and if I’d eaten this meal in, say, Truro, I wouldn’t feel so betrayed, and (b) the worst Chinese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at was actually in Beijing, but that’s another story.  The bok choy was okay, if unremarkable and oily, but the “Kung Bo beef” consisted of beef, green peppers, onions and almonds in generic brown sauce.  No chili peppers, no Szechuan pepper.  Donald is really tired of hearing me complain about this meal, but I’m still indignant.  The restaurant, Golden Hoy, was listed in the World Fantasy Convention restaurant guide as “the best Chinese & Szechuan foods in Richmond Hill”.  It was a 15-minute drive from the hotel, and the hotel was across the street from a Chinese shopping mall and surrounded on all sides by Chinese restaurants.  So I figured this restaurant must be good, if it was so inconvenient and they recommended it anyway!  Moral of the story:  never trust a science fiction convention’s restaurant recommendations.  After we got back to the hotel, we saw that Golden Hoy had a 2-star rating on Yelp.

Other restaurant meals during the trip were very good.  We tried two of the Chinese places near the hotel, one large place with an extensive menu including sushi and dim sum (yes, I know sushi isn’t Chinese), and one small dumpling place.  Max, who has lived in China, said the dumplings were the best he’s had in North America.  Donald and I went to the dumpling place with him and Tina Connolly, and we all just let him order for us, since he knows dumplings and speaks Chinese.  We went to the other Chinese place with Ken Schneyer, and two other cool people named Christian and Tiffany, whose last names I don’t remember.

Donald and I also went to a good Japanese place within walking distance of the hotel.  Donald had steak, which he said was good but rarer than he’d expected (he ordered medium rare, and there wasn’t anything medium about it), and it came with rice and miso soup.  I had an assortment of smaller things:  grilled skewers of chicken and leek, beef tongue, and gingko nuts; and some sushi and sashimi.  I thought the restaurant was better than most if not all of the Japanese places I’ve been to in Boston.

The hotel restaurant at the Sheraton had decent food.  The first night we were there, I had a steak with roasted potatoes, mushrooms and green beans, and Donald had ribs.  The steak was good, and they let me substitute the roasted potatoes for the mashed on the menu.  But they said the steak came with wild mushrooms, and while I eventually found a couple of mushrooms in the mix that weren’t either white button or crimini, they were few and far between.  Another day I had the seafood chowder, which had very fresh seafood that wasn’t at all overcooked, but the base was a bit lackluster.  Not terrible, just not very exciting.  The breakfast buffet was one of the best I’ve seen at these sorts of hotels.  They had all the usual fried potatoes, bacon, sausages, eggs, etc., with an omelet bar and an adjoining stand where someone could make you a fresh waffle.  But they also had broiled tomatoes, tofu, sauteed mushrooms, and congee available in the hot dishes section, and a nice selection of smoked fish and cold cuts, and more variety of fresh fruit than you usually see (plums!  mandarin oranges!).  And their coffee was good.  My one breakfast annoyance was that when I ordered off the menu instead of getting the buffet, I ordered something described as smoked salmon with bagel chips, daikon, sprouts, and Greek yogurt.  What I got instead was smoked salmon on bagel chips, sliced tomato, a big pile of chopped hardboiled egg, and a small bowl of vanilla yogurt with no spoon.  When I pointed out that what I got didn’t match the menu description, the wait staff acted like I was being difficult and tried to tell me that this was exactly what the menu had promised.  Which makes me wonder if I somehow had an old, outdated version of the menu?  Anyway, when I explained that I hate eggs and wouldn’t have ordered this if the menu had warned me about the eggs, they grudgingly took it back into the kitchen and then brought me what they pretended was a new plate.  But really, they’d just scraped the eggs off, because I could still see bits of yolk sticking to the salmon and tomatoes.

The bar wasn’t that great.  They did have Rickards Red on tap, a good, reliable Canadian beer.  But their “cocktail list” was all vodka cocktails with melon liqueur and crap like that.  And they didn’t have enough staff working, so it took forever to get a drink.  One night I just gave up.  That same night, a lot of other people were sneaking their own whiskey into the bar and drinking it at the tables, and I think they would have happily ordered from the bar instead, but they didn’t have the patience to wait 45 minutes and stand at the end of the bar next to the cash register that whole time.  It wasn’t at all the fault of the bar staff.  They were wonderful and friendly, and doing all they could (with harried, desperate looks on their faces).  Entirely the fault of whomever decided how many people to have working at the bar during a convention of several hundred people.  Fantasy writers aren’t quite the lushes that chemists are, but we do like to drink.

I’m sure that what you really want to hear about is my latest crochet project.  I started a green scarf at Readercon and finished it during a visit with my parents in Nova Scotia.

Here’s a close-up, so you can see the pretty scalloped border.

A picture of me wearing it.

My, what frizzy hair I have. Note the intent look of concentration as I try to hold my iPhone just right.

The scarf still needs to be blocked and the ends trimmed and woven in. Blocking is where you wash the item and let it dry flat. This will make it less “curly”.  Although double crochet, the stitch I used for this scarf, makes fabric that isn’t as curly and twisty as single crochet, which I used for my last scarf.  I’m not entirely happy with this one.  It’s skinnier than it should be.  This is because I’m a very uptight person, and tend to hold the hook and yarn with a much firmer grasp than I should, which makes my stitches too short.  Theoretically, you’re supposed to switch to a larger hook until you can achieve the stitch length and height that the pattern calls for.  But, even if I use a larger hook and get the length of the stitches right, they’re still too short.  My sister, a much more experienced crocheter, said that she has the same problem.  She told me just to add extra rows.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to ask her about this until I’d finished the skinny green scarf.

My latest project has been a black shawl. I started that during the Nova Scotia visit, continuing at Worldcon, a visit to Donald’s parents, and World Fantasy. It’s almost finished now. I just need to add pompom ties to the front.

The picture is blurry, isn’t it? I was too lazy to get my camera out, and the iPhone camera isn’t as good. Here’s a better picture, of me wearing the shawl.

I had to throw out most of the work I did at Worldcon on this shawl. It’s a good thing I bought four skeins of yarn instead of the three called for by the pattern, because it’s a largely mohair blend, and the yarn strands stick together, so it’s hard to pick apart your work if you’ve made a mistake. I was following my sister’s suggestion of adding extra rows, but there are two rows in the shawl where you need to add a certain number of extra stitches to expand the width gradually so it fits over your shoulders. Because I’m so uptight, I needed to make 3 rows of double crochet for every 2 rows in the pattern. But I initially made the mistake of expanding all 3 rows instead of just 2, and instead of a nice flare, I got a ruffle. Fortunately, I was starting at the neckline and hadn’t gone too far. I re-did it, and now it looks fine.

I should also mention as part of this post (and this is the very last thing, I promise!) that we stopped at Niagara Falls on the drive back to Boston, because neither Donald nor I, nor our passenger Max, had ever been.

It’s hard to convey how impressive the Falls actually are just from still photographs.

Niagara Falls used to be Canada’s top honeymoon destination, so I feel I should include a romantic shot of me and Donald. It may not have ever been a popular destination in early November during snow flurries, which is when we visited.

And that’s it! Join me again this winter, when I hope to report on my experiences at Arisia and Boskone, and on my next crochet project, a flower scarf.

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At World Fantasy this weekend

Donald and I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto this weekend.  This is like a science fiction convention, only for fantasy.  It focuses on the writing and art of the genre, whereas many other conventions have a broader scope, including movies, gaming, costuming, and other aspects of the fantasy and science fiction world.  Because of this narrower focus, it tends to have a higher concentration of writers and editors, so it’s a good place to meet and catch up with other people who write and publish fantasy fiction.

Donald and I will be co-panelists, discussing “The Real World in Fantastic Fiction” at noon on Saturday,  along with Ian Drury, Geoff Hart, Christopher Kovacs, and Kenneth Schneyer.  I’m not sure whether the people in charge of programming realized Donald and I were married when they decided to put us on the same panel.  Seeing as how we don’t have the same last name.  We haven’t decided whether to argue with each other, or gang up on the other panelists.

Here’s the description of the panel, from the program book:

Just because a story is set in a secondary world doesn’t mean its medical/legal/political/military systems cannot be grounded in some kind of reality.  Inaccuracies can abound when authors try to incorporate procedures and systems that exist in the real world into their created worlds without paying proper attention to details.  The panel examines why and how reality is all important, even in a fantastic world.

I think the description puts reality in fiction on a higher pedestal than I would, and that it’s possible to obsess a bit too much over details.  On the other hand, even in an imagined world, most authors are positing that certain facts (how the human body responds to physical trauma, for instance) would not be different, and if things happen in your story that you’re not an expert on (someone gets hit in the head), it’s easy to get details wrong (they are immediately knocked unconscious, and recover 15-30 minutes later with no lingering effects), and it’s hard for someone who does know more than you about the subject (any medical professional, or anyone who’s been to a panel at a science fiction convention where a medical professional was speaking on this subject–I fall  into the latter category) to continue to suspend disbelief sufficiently to enjoy your story.

Several of my friends are also scheduled to be on panels or do readings.  Matthew Kressel is on “Faith and Fantasy” at 9 am on Friday, Rajan Khanna is on “They Call Me the Wanderer” at noon on Friday, Eugene Myers is on “Diversity and Difference in YA Fantasy” at 3 pm on Saturday, and Max Gladstone is doing a reading at 5:30 pm on Saturday.  Matt and Raj both live in New York, so hopefully they’ll both be able to make it, but apparently airports in New York are still closed.

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Donald’s story in Black Gate

The first part of my husband Donald’s short novel “A Phoenix in Darkness” is up at Black Gate now.  Black Gate used to be a print magazine, but like so many others these days, it recently switched to an online format, publishing short fiction on its website.  They specialize in “adventure-oriented fantasy fiction”–exactly the sort of thing that Donald and I most enjoy reading.

“A Phoenix in Darkness” has the perhaps dubious honor of being the longest piece of fiction Black Gate has ever published.  Being married to the author, I’ve read the story before, but it’s been a pleasure re-reading it.

Since it’s so long, Black Gate is releasing it in three parts.  Part two will appear next Sunday, part three a week after that.  If you enjoy epic fantasy with swords and magic (and zombies!), check it out!

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