Monday, April 30, 2007

Darn Car!

The Story So Far:

  • Thursday, April 12th: my 1994 Eagle Vision, which heretofore had no problems at all in the two years I've owned it, stalled out at several red lights and didn't want to start again. Eventually someone pushed it into a gas station, and I had it towed to my mechanic. The tow truck guy noticed a leak under my car, which I mentioned to the mechanic.
  • Friday, April 13th: I got the car back a little after 5 PM. $585.64 bought me new battery terminals, fuel filter, fuel pump and tow.
  • Sunday, April 22nd: the car started doing the same darn thing again. A cop pushed the stalled car into a (different) gas station. When evening came, we tried to drive it to the garage, but their lot was blocked off for a fresh surfacing with tar.
  • Monday, April 23rd: I dropped off the car in the cool of the morning, and took the bus to work.
  • Tuesday, April 24th: got the car back. It had been overheating, in part because a regulator had failed on one of the engine's fans so that it wasn't turning on. They plugged one coolant leak and filled it up, but warned me that more leaks would follow, and they didn't like all that "play" on the steering wheel. The bill this time: another $135. I had Worldwide Travel (my former employer) rent me a car for my drive to Phoenix on Monday the 30th.
  • Friday, April 27th: the car did not stall out, but it was on the edge of overheating in the stop and go traffic on Speedway as I drove back from making John's car payment. I changed the car reservation from an airport pickup and one day rental to an in-town pickup and a two-day rental. The engine later got hot even on a brief drive to Safeway after dark.
  • Sunday, April 29th: the car overheated yet again, but did not stall out, as I drove back from church. I pulled into Hanson's for gas, opened the hood, and saw lots of green fluid pooling on the engine block and the ground below.
Now, here's my plan:

  • I'm scheduled to work until noon and then take the rest of the day off for my trip to Phoenix (technically, Scottsdale). So I'll drive to work and hope the car makes it. Or maybe I'll just drop the car off and take the bus. I'll have to see whether the car is willing to go the three milees to work!
  • When I leave work I'll go directly to the garage and drop off the car, unless I've done that already. Then I'll eat lunch, and go to Enterprise and get the rental.
  • Once I have the rental I'll go home, check my email, goof off for a bit, and drive to Scottsdale. On the way I'll probably dig up an In-N-Out Burger, because

  • ...my next stop is the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, where John Scalzi is doing a reading and a signing.
  • To my mild shame, I haven't actually read any of his novels yet, just a short story, some Ficlets and lots and lots of his online non-fiction, some of it in book form. But the way my schedule for Monday is set up, I'll probably put a dent in Old Man's War while I'm waiting. Military sf really isn't my subgenre, but I sampled the first page of The Android's Dream once, and that appealed to me even less. I know from his other work that he's a darn good writer, though, so perhaps it's time to give his novels a chance.
I guess my Doctor Who musings will have to wait for another night. I got a nice long nap today on the couch while John tore out more of the moldy bathroom - but I still need to go the heck to bed!


Karen

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Emergency Temporal Shift

The Doctor faces death by Dalek

I'm having one of my periodic crashes when the brain and body refuse to be taken for granted any longer, and there's nothing I can do except go to bed. I should have gone an hour ago, but I was listening to the streaming commentary for Evolution of the Daleks, the Doctor Who episode that aired in the U.K. today. It was excellent. I've watched it several times, the last time with the sound turned down a bit and my eyes closed half the time. I'm that tired.

After my usual Friday night all-nighter, you see, John woke me several hours earlier than the schedule I'd counted on. He was pulling broken tiles off the master bathroom wall, over by the shower, so as not to lose too much time waiting for me to get up. Along the way he found damaged plaster and lots of newly-exposed mold. That and the wind outside today sent my allergies into the red zone, another reason I'm dragging. I pulled a towel over my nose as a filter and took a nap this evening, but it wasn't enough. So for tonight I'm shifting my bedtime back to, oh, about five minutes from now.

"Do it!" The Doctor asks to be exterminated

I did do some minimal work on Revolutions, though, on the beginning of the scene in which Temet approach the burning village. I should be able to get more done tomorrow, after I've slept. Maybe I'll also be ready by then to write coherently about Evolution of the Daleks - particularly the Doctor's despairing apparently suicidal behavior.

Karen

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Make Him Talk!

King JorI posted the next bit of the King Jor and Fayubi scene on the fiction blog tonight. It's a reasonably long chunk, about two pages from the first chapter of The Mâvarin Revolutions. There remains less than a page before we get to the end of what I've typed to this point. It's not the end of the sequence, but it's probably end of the scene. Well, maybe not. I've got another two handwritten pages I can put in. But there are two problems with that. For one thing, I wanted to use those pages to seed another whole scene, break up this important bit of setup into two or three sections with other stuff in between. For another, well, I must say that dear old King Jor is being rather uncooperative at the moment. So is his wife, the evil Queen Lormarte. (This is the otherworld King Jor, remember, not the one we see in Heirs and Mages.)

In the bit I haven't typed yet, Jor's son Prince Carmi arrives in Jor's apartment, and mentions having seen his sister go out to the royal stable. Jor then says something that is rather intriguing, but basically unhelpful:

"So Cathla has fled the Palace. That complicates things. Hmm. There's an idea."

Two people ask Jor to state what the idea is, but the King wants to wait for more witnesses arrive first. Fayubi doesn't like the feverish light in the dying king's eyes. The next paragraph starts with the name of the second in command among the Palace Guard -and that's all. Aside from what's already typed up, that's all I've written of the sequence.

I have no memory whatsoever of what King Jor's idea is. It's even possible that I never knew at all. I don't really know why Lieutenant Govan has suddenly turned up, and have no immediate thoughts on where to take those two characters from there, especially in the short turn.

Worse, I don't know yet what Lormarte is going to do about this impromptu gathering at Jor's deathbed. Sara and I have been discussing the possibility of a raven attack, but I'm not sure that's where the sequence needs to go.

Well, maybe I'll figure it out tomorrow, after I've slept the morning away. Good night!

Karen

Friday, April 27, 2007

Not Settling for a Puppy or a Kitty

Weekend Assignment #162: Reincarnation is a fact and you are going to come back as some type of animal. What kind would you prefer and why?

Extra Credit: Do you think you have good Karma or bad? Do you believe in Karma?

Let's start by defining the premise a bit further. To my way of thinking, any world in which reincarnation of humans into animals is a "fact" is clearly not the one in which I sit tonight, typing these words. So. Let's make this theoretical world of reincarnation an interesting one, with animals worth being reincarnated into. No cat or dog is gonna cut it, or even the tiger of my childhood thought experiment. The whole point of a person is what goes on in the mind and soul, and our household pets simply haven't the capacity. No. If you are going to cram the salient parts of Karen into the brain of another species, I'm holding out for one that's big enough and complex enough to let me be me - more or less. That pretty much requires a species that doesn't exist on this version of this planet. Yeah. if I can't be human, I'd just as soon be a tengrem.


A tengrem. Art by Sherlock.

Of course, in a way I've already been a tengrem. I've spent a good bit of time inside the heads of Rani Fost and other tengremen, exploring what it's like to be rational part of the time, and operating on instinct at other times. Really, it's about the most fun part of writing these books.


If you disallow a tengrem for reincarnation, then I'll settle for a dragon, preferably a benign one, like a luck dragon or a gold dragon or one of Sara's dragons or a McCaffrey dragon. And if you disallow even that, and limit me to the species of this world, then I've got to go with a dolphin - preferably an Adamsian one.

As for karma, I believe that actions have consequences. I have a karma bill building up from my bad habits - too much bad food, not enough exercise, not enough sleep. But in other ways I suppose I do all right.

Anyway, it's late, and I should have been in bed hours ago. For tonight, so long, and thanks....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back Burners


I'm backed up tonight. I owe emails to several of you, an overdue birthday gift to my own brother, and another one to a friend whose birthday started a couple of hours ago. I have new fiction files from two friends to read, and I must, must, must sleep, and I mean in the next five minutes if possible.

A friend mentioned in an email today (one of the ones to whom I owe replies!) that logging in to comment here hasn't been working for her this week. Is anyone else having trouble with this? If you do, please feel free to email me. Then you, too, can be on my list of people to whom I owe emails! Seriously, though, I suspect it has something to do with the changeover to Google accounts (with for example @aol.com or @gmail.com at the end rather than a naked login name), but I'm just guessing. If you're still using the old style login, that may be the problem.

I did write a little piece of the follow-up to the fire scene tonight, and read another scene from my friend's novel, and did a little work on chapters Two and Eight of An Adept in Mâvarin, the first volume of Mages. I'll get to the emails tomorrow, I hope, and if Scalzi picked something good, I'll have a nice Weekend Assignment entry for you. But for tonight, here's some photo or other, and enough words so I can say that I posted. Good night!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Too Much Blogging, or Not Enough?

Journals Editor Joe asks, "How Many Blog Entries Do You Have?" Bea asks the question, too. Joe has 821 of them in his main blog since May 3, 2005. Bea has 424 since August 2, 2005.


Well, of course I had to find out how I stack up against those numbers, but for me it's not as simple as opening up the AOL page that gives the total, or even the Blogger dashboard. From March 2004 to November 2005, my main blog was Musings from Mâvarin; after that I moved over here to Outpost Mâvarin. And almost from the beginning I've had other blogs, too: Messages from Mâvarin for fiction, and my LiveJournal for memes and writing about writing. There's also a church news blog, a church arts blog, my test blog, my contributions to the Round Robin blog, and lesser things called blogs on social networking sites.


Here are the Blogger stats, excluding the test blog:

Outpost Mâvarin View Blog
574 Posts, last published on Apr 24, 2007

Messages from Mâvarin View Blog
140 Posts, last published on Apr 20, 2007

The Round Robin Photo Challenges View Blog
37 Posts, last published on Apr 18, 2007

Life at St. Michael and All Angels View Blog
191 Posts, last published on Apr 17, 2007

St. Michael & All Angels Arts View Blog
27 Posts, last published on Jul 25, 2006

But even that's not the whole story. The earliest Outpost entries are dupes of Musings ones, laboriously copied over when I thought I might quit AOL. The post-exodus Musings entries are mostly (but not all) cross-postings of what's on the Outpost. And there are cross-postings to Messages as well, of the 2004-2005 fiction that appeared elsewhere. Still, let's look at the stats I foolishly compiled for a couple of hours tonight:

DateMusings (AOL)Messages (Blogger)Outpost (Blogger)Inspirations (LiveJ)All

Mar-04

13

0

3

0

16

Apr-04

19

0

8

0

27

May-04

15

0

0

0

15

Jun-04

14

12

0

7

33

Jul-04

26

2

1

5

34

Aug-04

46

3

1

9

59

Sep-04

42

6

0

14

62

Oct-04

36

5

1

12

54

Nov-04

39

5

1

4

49

Dec-04

58

4

4

5

71

2004 ttl

308

37

19

56

420







Jan-05

39

5

0

11

55

Feb-05

35

4

0

10

49

Mar-05

36

4

0

13

53

Apr-05

36

5

0

4

45

May-05

35

4

0

5

44

Jun-05

30

5

0

4

39

Jul-05

31

5

1

7

44

Aug-05

32

4

2

5

43

Sep-05

30

4

2

7

43

Oct-05

34

5

1

6

46

Nov-05

25

11

28

5

69

Dec-05

1

5

40

3

49

2005 ttl

364

61

74

80

579







Jan-06

0

4

32

3

39

Feb-06

0

4

27

4

35

Mar-06

0

4

32

5

41

Apr-06

0

5

30

2

37

May-06

0

4

31

3

38

Jun-06

0

4

30

3

37

Jul-06

0

2

31

2

35

Aug-06

3

1

31

3

38

Sep-06

6

5

30

1

42

Oct-06

6

3

31

1

41

Nov-06

0

0

31

1

32

Dec-06

0

0

30

1

31

2006 ttl

15

36

366

29

446







Jan-07

0

2

32

3

37

Feb-07

0

1

28

1

30

Mar-07

1

0

31

1

33

Apr-07

0

2

25

1

28

2007 ttl

1

5

116

6

128






0
Grand ttls

688

139

575

171

1573


And yes, I also generated a line graph:

So what's the answer? In the time Joe has posted his 821 entries (I think some of them were posted by Editor Jeff, but no matter), I've done about 951 of them, including dupes, on my four main blogs. Since Bea started, I've done about 824.

If you check the chart, you'll see that I've actually slacked off in my blogging since my peak in November 2005. The decline is especially noticeable since I registered with Wikipedia in April 2006, but we'll skip lightly over that non-coincidence. The drop is mostly in my LJ, which is getting about one entry a month, and in Messages, in which I posted weekly for quite a while only to slack off in the middle of some of the later serials. I don't really care that much about the LiveJournal, but I hope to do better with Messages, as part of my overall commitment to getting more fiction writing in.

Meanwhile, I really need to finish up this numbers game, wash my hair and go to bed!

Karen

Monday Blues

Your Monday Shoot: Picture some blue, blue skies. Wide stretches of blue are the goal here. Fluffy clouds are great, too -- but try to get the skies mostly blue. Interesting stuff in the foreground is groovy, too.

Okay, sure. I've got some photos with different shades of blue and different levels of cloudage, all illustrating this "day in the life." Let's have a look, shall we?


This was the scene this morning as I waited to take a city bus for the first time since moving to Tucson 21 years ago. I had just driven the car to One Stop without stalling once in the cool of the morning. The bus stop was just a little north of the garage, and the wait for the bus itself was maybe 20 minutes.

I had the sense to call for the relevant info before leaving the house. The fare on Sun Tran was $1.00, and it didn't need to be in coin, a problem I used to have in Syracuse and maybe in Columbus. One bus would take me the two miles and a bit up Craycroft, and a free transfer would get me on another bus going the rest of the way.

So I got off at 5th Ave., and contemplated the rest of the journey to work. It was only another mile or so. No bus was in sight, and the bus kiosk was a little back from the road, so that I wouldn't see the bus until it was fairly close. After a minute or so, I started walking. I didn't get far before a co-worker, coming in late, spotted me and gave me a ride the rest of the way. I was at work by 10 AM - not bad at all.

At lunchtime I shot another sky picture for you before hoofing it to one of about three or four restaurants within walking distance. I had the special, which wasn't very.

The rest of these shots are from the end of the work day, as I waited for John to pick me up. I love the way the windows on this building reflect the sky fairly accurately, but perhaps a tinge grayer, with maybe a smidge of green.

A dove did a brief impression of a flagpole eagle ornament, but skipped the part about open wings.

Wind feathered the trees, and the sky, while blue, was a little on the pale side.

I did fuss with lightening and darkening some of these, boosted the saturation of about two of them, and left the rest pretty much alone except for resizing and sharpening and cropping. There were a number of different shades of blue in the sky today, not all of thich I've captured here. But you get the general idea.

As for the car, they think it was overheating because of some little part that regulated one little fan. I'll know in the morning whether the mechanic decides that little $85 repair is all that I still needed, or whether there are further mechanical mysteries to be plumbed. Meanwhile, I'm going to bed. Good night!

Karen

Update: They also fixed a coolant leak, and filled it up with antifreeze/coolant. The head mechanic guy said it will probably spring more leaks soon, and he doesn't like the looseness of the steering wheel. So I've rented a car for the drive to Phoenix. Total repair bill, this time, $135 and change.

Oh, and last night I forgot to mention that I did a quick edit on one of the later chapters of Mages, mostly minor rewording, and started the second scene of "A Fire in Mâvarin" from the first chapter of The Mâvarin Revolutions. I worked on the latter a bit further this morning (in my head, not on paper) as I walked to One Stop to pick up the car. And last night I worked a little bit on what nastiness Lormarte is going to do in that same chapter of Revolutions. All I can tell you so far is that "a plague of frogs" is right out. - KFB

Monday, April 23, 2007

Detour

Last week, you may remember (actually a week ago Saturday), I reported that I got my car back early Friday evening after having to get it towed to my mechanics on Thursday afternoon. It was stalling out at traffic lights, and the starter wasn't getting enough power to make the engine turn over afterward. $585 later, I had new terminals attached to the battery, a new fuel filter and a new fuel pump; and the car was running again.

So guess what the car was doing on the way back from church today. Yeah, that: the same exact thing as before.

A police officer we met in traffic gave us a push into a nearby gas station, where my friend Kevin and I hung out for about an hour, waiting for one of my periodic phone calls home to get picked up by John. He was actually about a quarter mile from us at the time, working out at the gym. Eventually he got home, answered the phone, and came to get us. We dropped Kevin off and returned to the car, which started right up, having had plenty of time by then to recover power. Still, we didn't want me to stall out on a semi-hot day in semi-heavy traffic, so we left the car in the parking lot until nearly sunset. Then I drove it to the garage, mostly on back streets, with John following in case of trouble. We got there, no problem, but I couldn't pull in! They had put down fresh tar in front of the garage, and blocked the driveways for the weekend.

So I drove home, again without incident, but I'm taking no chances. Tomorrow morning it goes back to the shop, where I hope they'll be able to find and fix the intermittent problem(s) more effectively this time. As John reminded me today, I've got John Scalzi's appearance in Phoenix to get to a week from now. I certainly can't drive up there with an unreliable car! I don't know how, of even if, I'll get to work tomorrow. I've never taken a bus in Tucson, in the 21 years we've been here. I don't even know whether there's a good routing between the garage and the office, and I'm not sure I want to find out.

Thanks, Wil and Julie, for the virtual boots in the butt today, and to Sara for her ongoing support and inspiration. She's been working so hard on her novel revision recently that she absolutely shames me by her example. I didn't do anything about querying today, largely because I've done especially badly on the sleep front this weekend. But I did get the Jor and Fayubi scene typed up to a natural stopping point. There's more of it: another two handwritten pages, plus some action I haven't written at all because I haven't decided yet what the antagonist is going to do, or what exactly is about to happen to King Jor. But I think I've reached a scene break. The rest will continue after some other scene that I've also not written yet.

No photos tonight. The blog's been heavy with them recently, so it's time to have mercy, for a change, on my dial-up connection.

Karen

Update, Monday 11 AM: I got the car to the garage without incident, and the guys there have some ideas about what to check next. The Sun Tran bus trip up Craycroft was only minimally stressful, and a co-worker saw me walking between Craycroft and the office, and gave me a ride the rest of the way. So far, so good! - KFB

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Okay, here's my plan....

I'm up too late again. Why are you not surprised? There was a new Doctor Who episode today, but aside from offering that as my excuse, I won't be writing about that show yet again tonight.

I got an email from Wil today, pointing me toward a particular entry in the Writer Beware! blog. In it, A.C. Crispin counsels writers not to sit around waiting for a single query, or even a partial-and-outline, to get a response. Her advice is to query widely (but targeted to the right markets and agents) and non-exclusively. She writes:
Waiting months and months on tenterhooks, without a word, figuring "no news is good news" is probably a flawed strategy. Go back to querying. Then if the agent or editor comes back at a later date with a positive response, you'll be pleasantly surprised, not a raving lunatic.
Well, of course, that "flawed strategy" is pretty much exactly what I've been doing, lo these 14 months since sending my three chapters off to Tor. I've sent a follow-up letter, and J.S. was nice enough to ask them about my submission, but basically there's been no movement in all that time, and no response other than a verbal indication that PNH was familiar with my slush bunny. And what have I done in the meantime? I've queried one--count 'em, one--agent, and been all crushed when I got a rejection back within 24 hours. I've messed around with the Mages trilogy, but mostly just in the early chapters, making no structural changes in the later parts where the work is most needed. I've written one scene and most of another for The Mâvarin Revolutions, written and posted The Jace Letters, and, um, well, I've written for Wikipedia, which doesn't count for anything at all.

Typing that scene from Revolutions

Y'know, if I want to be taken seriously as a writer and, more important, if I want to succeed and get the novels published, then I need to do much better than that. I need to be writing or revising some piece of fiction every night, as I was doing before I got sidetracked by school in 2002. I need to get over the fear of rejection, and send out lots of queries: send them, and then do my best to forget them. In short, I need to behave like a professional writer, even though I know I'm unlikely ever to make a living at it.

So I will. I can't point to much progress tonight, but I did type about 600 words of that Jor and Fayubi scene, and consider my options about how it ends. Friday night I typed up the previous bit of the same scene, and posted it on the fiction blog. I just forgot to mention it here. It's not much, but it's a step in the right direction.

Someone give me a shove, will you?

Karen

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Deconstructing the Doctor (and Rani, and Fayubi...)


"He is ancient and forever. He burns at the center of Time,
and he can see the turn of the Universe."
- voiceover, Doctor Who 2007 series trailer

"I am not the Doctor" - Dr. John Smith(?), same trailer

There's a British trailer for the new season of Doctor Who that I've been watching and rewatching for the last couple of days, mostly because of the two snippets referenced above. I don't know for sure which upcoming episode that first quote is from, or even what it means, but it certainly sounds impressive. The second quote is in complete contrast to the first. I'm reasonably certain that it's from the episode "Human Nature," which will air in the U.K. on John's and my 28th anniversary, May 19th. Based on what I've read, the Doctor will transform himself into a human being temporarily in that story, giving up his Time Lord abilities and sensibilities, and probably all or most of his memories. The writer of the episode, Paul Cornell, previously wrote a Doctor Who novel with the same title and basic premise. Unable to understand his companion's grief at the death of a friend, the Seventh Doctor spends part of the novel as a human teacher named Dr John Smith. I've got the book in a box around here somewhere, but I haven't read it since it came out over a decade ago.

Now, I'm not sure I quite like the idea that the series is going to do this to the Doctor even for one episode, especially if it is taken as far as the novel did. But there's no denying that the concept fascinates me, and not just because of my current Doctor Who binge. Start with a well-established character, find a way to take away half of his or her defining traits, and what have you got? Does some essential personality remain, or is the person someone else entirely? If the character then regains what was lost, is he or she the same person as before, or forever changed? The answers to those questions will determine whether I like or hate "Human Nature," the episode.

The last time I was this trepidatious about a tv episode was when the revival of Doctor Who premiered in 2005, and I was worried that the Doctor as depicted would be too different from the established character to be the same person. The last time before that was when Sam Beckett had a shock treatment at the leap-out to the Quantum Leap episode "Shock Theater." If Sam didn't remember or acknowledge being the time traveling physicist, even to Al, could he really be Sam at all? It turned out that he was, to a degree, but the mixing up of Sam Beckett with personalities from his past leaps was pretty compelling to watch, and said a lot about the character that we might never have discovered otherwise. Similarly, in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Anne," Buffy without her home, family, friends or real name is still the Slayer, no matter how much she tries to hide from her identity. In another episode, "Tabula Rasa," the Scoobies all forget who they are, and yet very quickly reestablish their basic characters and relationships.

This concept of what makes a person who he or she is, and what changes the person into someone else, has been knocking around in my head for a very long time. As a young child, I wondered how I would communicate to the world if I were transformed into a tiger with human intelligence. If I changed that much outside, and was treated like a wild animal, could I truly be human inside? I'm not claiming that I thought it through in depth at the age of six, beyond the communication angle; but the germ of the idea was there. About a decade later, I started a novel about a man who becomes an ape - and when that didn't work out, I wrote a scene in which a boy becomes a monster, and is subsequently hunted as his own murderer. The boy's name was Rani Fost, and I've been constructing and deconstructing him ever since. I can't even leave his picture alone:


Rani Fost, smilingWelcome to Mâvarin, where circumstance, choices and magic can turn a person into someone else entirely. Human to tengrem, villager to royalty, friend to foe, daughter to mother, magician to trader… the one thing you can count on in Mâvarin is that people change, one way or another. - introduction, Welcome to Mâvarin web page

As a tengrem, Rani worries almost constantly about his feral side, about losing control and possibly killing his best friend. In some ways he has lost his humanity, but his struggle to cope with his animal side helps to make him a hero, further defining the character's moral sense. Once he gets all that sorted out at the end of Heirs, I give him magic and then strip away even more of his humanity in Mages. Is he the same person by the time it's all over? Not quite, but his journey is an interesting one.

Fayubi has a similar odyssey in Mages. I don't want to give away too much here, but his temporary loss of magic in Heirs is nothing compared to what he goes through in Mages. He very definitely becomes a different person in the process. About halfway through the trilogy, two versions of the character have a series of encounters in a chapter called "The Forty-Year Conversation":

Just for a moment, Fabi felt the Infinite around him, all of time and space as seen by the eye of Thâle. Then the focus sharpened on a boy with dark hair that needed a trim, sitting on a stool by himself at a little family table. The boy was writing and humming to himself, but he looked up at Fabi’s approach. “Hello. Who are you?”

“I’m not quite sure who I am,” Fabi said. “Just think of me as a friend.” He had not expected the boy to see him. If the boy was Fabi himself, then this was a scene from the past, over forty years ago.

The boy cocked his head. “You look kind of like my father. Are you here about my parents?”


“Tell me about your parents,” Fabi suggested quietly. From the next room he heard the sound of coughing, the horrible racking cough that kills.


“They’re going to die today,” the boy said matter-of-factly. “I dreamed about it, weeks ago, and told them before they even got sick. They didn’t believe that my dream was real. They just got mad at me. They thought I wanted them to die, but I don’t.” Fabi could see tears in the boy’s eyes. “I don’t,” he repeated.


“Of course you don’t,” Fabi said. “What will happen to you if your parents die?”


“My Uncle Arti is going to try to take me south with him, and make me pick cotton in his fields. I’m not going to do it, though. I’m going to run away to Mâton instead. I’ll be a mage someday.”


“Are you sure that’s what you want to do? Wouldn’t you rather do something else with your life, something better?”

“There’s nothing better than being a mage,” the boy said fervently.


Considering my tendency to pick apart my characters with spells and transformations, and watch them change as a result, it's not surprising that I'm similarly fascinated with the Doctor, whose personality changes slightly with each new face. But this "Human Nature" story sounds much more drastic than that, for all that it's temporary. The show's writers and producers had better not mess it up!

Karen

Art by Sherlock, with photographic elements added by Karen. Digital photos or screen shots by KFB.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Six Weeks in 1977, Double That in 1986

Weekend Assignment #161: What's the longest amount of time you've been away from home on a trip? By "trip" I mean things like a journey taken for pleasure (a vacation, cruise) or for business (business training, conventions, workshops, facilities tours) and things of that nature. Things that I would not classify as a "trip" for this assignment would be something like a military assignment or a long-term work posting, or going away for college. All of those will certainly keep you from home for a while, but they're of a different nature than when you're living out of a suitcase (or backpack, or whatever).

Here I am in July, 1977, at the Clarion Writer's Workshop, Michigan State University. My six weeks in East Lansing, Michigan are, I figure, right on the edge of qualifying as a long trip by Scalzi's definition, as opposed to going off to college. This was half a summer between my sophomore and junior years at Syracuse University. I spend part of May and all of June as an enumerator, asking questions door to door for R.L. Polk. (I pretty much hated that job, except for all the weight I lost walking around.) Then I was off by bus and by train to East Lansing, there to study with some of the best science fiction and fantasy writers of the era - Algis J. Budrys, Damon Knight, Kate Wilhelm, Peter S. Beagle - and of course, Harlan Ellison. Before the six weeks were over, I was at least half in love with one of my fellow Clarionites, a fellow named John Blocher. I've told that story, though, so here' are the links, and then we'll move on.

Clarion Auction - and a Hint of My Clarion Courtship
Harlan Ellison, Matchmaker
Surviving the "Failed" Clarion

If that doesn't count as a trip, then we...oh, wait a minute. I forgot THE trip. I must have had workshops and writerly trips on the brain not to think of the 1986 trip before the 1977 one. Heck, six weeks in a dorm is nothing compared to over three months in a van.

Jenny Dog in the van, 1986

John drove us around from the end of January through the beginning of May, 1986 in a 1984 Dodge van, with fake milk crates in the back, a mattress on the crates and Jenny Dog on the mattress. We went as far north and east as Montreal, as far south as Key West, Florida, as far west as Los Angeles and I think San Diego. And in between all those places, we spent a lot of time on Route 66, which didn't officially exist at the time. Part of the purpose of the trip was writing; I was working on a Route 66 book, which never saw the light of day.

Right in the middle of it all, in mid-March, I saw Tucson for the first time. There was a freak hail storm as we walked around the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, but it didn't faze us. A week later, John was negotiating the purchase of our first house over the pay phone at Gilbert Ray campground, near ASDM, on the other side of Gates Pass from Tucson itself.

Yes, of course I've written about the 1986 trip as well:

Had Dog, Did Travel
Route 66 in 1986
Winter Wonderlands, 1966, 1976, 1986
Martin Milner and Other M Words

Extra Credit: What's the furthest you've been away from home?

Which is further: Tucson to Oahu, or Tucson to London? Probably the Hawaii trip. It was only three nights, at a grass-roofed hotel that was in decline and no longer exists: the Waikikian. We spent almost as much time getting there and back as we did on the ground, and while we were there we did everything but stay put. We drove all around the island, to a waterfall and other beauty spots, an art gallery that was all about the whales and the Dole Plantation with its garden of world pineapple species, to Sea Life Park, Hanuama Bay and the Polynesian Cultural Center. We never got to Pearl Harbor or up Diamond Head, and never got to any of the other islands. Shame, that, but the airfare was free and the trip was very much on the cheap. Someday we'll go back to Hawaii - the Big Island and Maui and probably Kauai. But for a three-day whirlwind tour, I think we did pretty well. No pictures of that trip tonight, but if they ever turn up I'll post a few.

Karen

The Ten Doctors and Other Distractions

The Tenth Doctor and the First Doctor

As you may have guessed, I've been watching way too much Doctor Who lately. I've seen all of the 2005-2007 episodes at least once in the last couple of weeks, some of them five times or more. I've pretty much reached saturation point on most of them now. Does that mean I'll stop watching? That would be nice, but no. I'm branching out, into classic episodes. I've seen the first Sarah Jane story with the Third Doctor, The Time Warrior; and parts of the last Sarah Jane story before 2006, including the bit in which the Fourth Doctor drops her off. Of course I then had to watch the story after that, The Deadly Assassin. Tonight I've seen the first episode ("An Unearthly Child") of the first story ever, and now I'm watching a reconstruction of the First Doctor's swan song, the fourth episode of The Tenth Planet. That serial introduced two extremely important innovations: the Cybermen and the Doctor's ability to regenerate, taking on a new physical appearance (with a new actor to play him). This process wasn't actually called regeneration until much later, but even as a "renewal" it was a brilliant idea, the single thing that made it possible to keep the show going for decades.

I mentioned that the story I'm watching at the moment is a reconstruction. They have the audio of Part Four, and a large number of still photos, and little bits and pieces of 8mm and 16mm footage from fans and other BBC shows. The rest is long gone. In 1976, with space in the BBC archives at a premium, someone at the Beeb scrapped quite a few older episodes of Doctor Who. At the time there was no home video industry, and very little by way of reruns in Britain. It was therefore thought that old science fiction shows were of little or no value. So they kept footage of Elizabeth II's coronation and other significant news events, but scrapped science historian-journalist James Burke's coverage of the NASA moon shots (after all, that was America's accomplishment!), and got rid of a bunch of old Doctor Who. The guy making the decisions seems to have particularly targeted some of the more violent stories.

As a result, some of the most important serials between 1963 and 1970 are either completely missing on film or video, or exist only in part, on inferior media. Others, fortunately, have been recovered in odd places around the world, copies that for one reason or another ended up in tv studios or garages and were never returned to the BBC. Still others, like The Tenth Planet Part 4, have been reconstructed from "telecines" and audio recordings. A lot of this work has been done in the years since Doctor Who last aired on our local PBS station, so I've never seen some of these stories, only read the novelizations back in the early 1990s, during the same era in which I wrote the trading cards. It should be fun to watch some of these formerly missing stories.

The Tenth Planet (Who) and A Severed Wasp (L'Engle)

Really, though, some of the early adventures are kind of boring, almost unwatchable, quite aside from the technical limitations. The acting, writing and effects are all much better now, by almost anyone's yardstick. So I'm unlikely to watch my way through the whole series any time soon - and a darn good thing, too! More Doctor Who episodes have now aired than all the Star Trek series combined.

Besides, I have other distractions. I'm coming down toward the end of a L'Engle novel that I haven't read all that many times, and don't actually remember the ending. I also made my way through half of the Robins on last night's linking list, read a friend's partial chapter in her novel, edited out one word of Revolutions, and washed no dishes no speak of.

Oh, yeah. Good times.

Karen

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Round Robin Themes and Variants

Flower Power / Signs

The Round Robin Photo Challenges are two years old this month, so we thought we'd have an Anniversary Challenge: "Best of Round Robin Photo Challenges". The idea is to pick a past challenge and do it for this time.

I almost never plan these things ahead of time, so it was yesterday, or maybe this morning, that I had my first idea for this challenge - a totally insane idea. As the co-founder of the RRPC, I didn't want to pick just one of the 48 previous challenges, every one of which I did the first time around. No, I wanted to make a grand gesture. I wanted to do all of them again, all in one night!

Well, okay. I'm not quite that obsessive. I'm not going to stay up all night and post 48 photos in this entry. But on the other hand, there is quite a bit of overlap in the Challenge topics, with a number of recurring themes, and enough room for interpretation that a single photo may well be suitable for several topics. Still not quite sure what I was going to do with the results, I pushed around the Challenge topics for an hour or two, reorganizing and reformatting as I went, until I ended up with the following (only without the pictures):

Nature:

Silly Animals/ The Animal Inside:
Tuffy just buried yet another dog biscuit

Self-Examination
Who I am In Black & White, Secrets, Past Vs. Present,
Holy, Free, Personal Challenge

Who I am In Black & White / Secrets / Past Vs. Present / Holy
Ash Wednesday, thinking of what happened long ago

Man-Made
Construction, Mysterious Doorways,
Signs, Transportation, Dream Homes

Mysterious Doorways / Dream Homes:
Even my front door can be dreamy and

mysterious if I put it through enough filters


Visual Arts
Reflections, Red, Obstruction, Wabi-Sabi,
The Creative Side Of You!, Macro

Red / Reflections (also In the Kitchen)
The little vintage barbecue tray reflects the large one

Seasonal
Summer, Halloween Happenings, Summer Gardens,
ABCs of Autumn, Lights Of The Holidays

Summer / Summer Gardens
Palm tree near my office


People
Clichés, Labor, Heroes, Super Model,
The Hand...Untouched!

Clichés, Heroes, Super Model, The Hand...Untouched!
My hero, the Doctor ("Doctor who?" Jackie asks) and my untouched hand


Community
A Special Part Of Your Hometown, Tacky Hometown Souvenirs,
Oasis, Village, Laisser le Bon Temps Rouler (Let The Good Times Roll),
Americana, Ye Ole Watering Hole, In the Kitchen!

A Special Part Of Your Hometown / Tacky Hometown Souvenirs
Souvenirs of the late, great Toros

Psychology
Moods, Emotions, Very Scary, Nostalgia,
What You Are Thankful For, Magic

Magic / Nostalgia / Emotions
Dragon, college texts, childhood snowman, fantasy novels

Okay, I didn't cover all 48, but at almost 3 AM, I think I've given the topic pretty good coverage! Happy Anniversary, Robins!

Karen

Now check out everyone else:


Linking List

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin
http://outmavarin.blogspot.com

Carly - Posted!
Ellipsis... Suddenly Carly
http://ellipsissuddenlycarly.blogspot.com

Kat - Posted!
In My Dreams I Can Fly
http://inmydreamssfk.blogspot.com

Steven - Posted!
(sometimes photoblog)
http://sepintx.blogspot.com

Suzanne R - Posted!
New Suzanne R's Life
http://newsuzannerslife.blogspot.com

Annie
Pictures of Craziness (New Photo Blog)
http://krspkrmmom.blogspot.com

Nancy - Posted!
Nancy Luvs Pics
http://journals.aol.com/nhd106/Nancyluvspix

Valorie - Posted!
Retrospect USA
http://journals.aol.com/redbird914/RetrospectUSA

Janet
Fond of Photography
http://fondofphotography.blogspot.com

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures
http://gattina-keyholepictures.blogspot.com

Marie - Posted!
Photographs & Memories Too &
http://journals.aol.co.uk/mariebm56/PhotographsMemoriesToo

Marie - Posted!
Photographs & Memories Blog Too
http://photographsmemoriestoo.blogspot.com

Gina - Posted!
Gina's Space
http://journals.aol.com/rbrown6172/Ginasspace/

rRose - Posted!
WAIT-NOT YET
http://journals.aol.com/rrveh1/WAIT-NOTYET-/

Tammy - Posted!
The Daily Warrior
http://mylifeasawarrior.blogspot.com

Kerrin - Posted!
Macro Capture
http://macrocapture.blogspot.com

Tammie Jean ***Welcome New Member*** - Posted!
Long Drives To Nowhere
http://tammiejean.blogspot.com

Julie - Posted!
Julie's Web Journal
http://www.barrettmanor.com/julie/journal.aspx

No Dust Devils, Darn It!

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Snap a picture of wind. Naturally, it's difficult to get a picture of the wind itself, being that air is generally transparent. however, it's easier to get a picture of how the wind is affecting other things: hair, flags, kites, so on and so forth.

I have no blowing hair pictures for you, no kites, and I choose not to go with flags. I actually did take a flag picture tonight, just as the wind dropped; but really, even though it was a bit windy after work there were no good photographic opportunities. So this is a survey of what's currently on my hard drive, cross-checked against past blog entries to avoid reruns. You won't be seeing the windblown Niagara Falls icicles again tonight unless you Google for them. Nothing I'm posting is less than 10 months old, nor more than 20 months old.

This first shot is pretty much a typical parking lot monsoon storm picture. Check out the palm trees in the middle; they'll tell you the wind's direction that afternoon.

And this one, obviously, is after a storm. It was wind, and not so much the rain, that brought down these palm branches and bits of bark.


This is from my favorite sequence of monsoon pictures ever, and the only halfway decent one in the series that I haven't posted at least once before. Check out the whitewater rapids in the street! St. Michael's, August, 2005.

This wash next to Fuddrucker's on Speedway is full of water, which is fairly unusual in itself. But what makes it interesting is the way the wind is blowing ripples on its surface.

And this is as close as I found to the traditional evidence of wind in Arizona: a dust devil. A dust devil is basically a mini whirlwind of dust or dirt, spiraling into the air. They turn up fairly often on the freeway between Tucson and Phoenix, but not usually close enough to be easily photographed. Here instead is a more generalized dust storm, covering a huge part of the north side of Tucson. June, 2006.

Best I can do for tonight. Tomorrow: my Round Robin Photo Challenges 2nd Anniversary entry! And no, I haven't a clue yet what I'll be posting for it. More fun for me that way!

Karen