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In which I hold forth about process, mine, other writers not for the use of... [20 Jun 2016|10:29am]
Tony Ballantyne invited me to contribute to his monthly "How Writers Write" feature, and I seem to have gone on at length, a bit...
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A man elsewhere [12 Jun 2016|08:31am]
Reposted, as it happens, from elseweb:

St Helens, I am in you. (Antiphon: "And also in you.") This is the St Helens that used to be called Plymouth, until the clouds cleared and they realised they could see Mount St Helens from here on a good day.

I am not here very much longer. I have spent two days hangin' with Ken Scholes, and we have had an awesome time. Yesterday we road-tripped the region and saw Fort Catsup [nb: not Fort Catsup, Fort Clatsop] where Lewis and Clark overwintered in their loggy encampment. (They would not have run short of logs; there are an awful lot of trees in Oregon. I thought I had seen them all from the train, but we found more.) Also we bought books (one about Lewis and Clark, because I need to know this stuff; one by, ahem, me, because Ken needs to know where I've been; and I bought him a lovely Folio edition of Bruce Chatwin's "The Songlines" on much the same principle.)

Today Ken is due to hand me off to Shannon Page and that Mark Joseph Ferrari fellow, on the principle of "leave them wanting more", because he and I are not half done with each other yet, but hey. There will be more time; it's what stops everything happening all at once, right?
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Dear Daybook: [05 Jun 2016|04:55pm]
Today I have polished and sent away the first 10K of my space opera attack novel, now indeed to be known as OVERSIGHT; and also "Ashes to Ashes", the short story for the David Bowie memorial anthology (which is also a bar story, a space-bar story, despite its own denials: "It's not a bar, though you can certainly get a drink. And pay for it. Parry likes to call it the rest between bars. That's probably by way of being a joke, though you'll never see him crack a smile.").

Also, I have committed gardening, in the sense of bringing home new herbs, and therefore having to hack back the overbearing oregano and root out the accursed bermudagrass before I could plant new French tarragon and a couple of different thymes in the herb bed. Which-all led to a blinding revelation, as reported elseweb, that I am only ever any good in the garden when I have new things to plant. Therefore - and purely in the interests of an ongoing maintenance programme, which is what any and every garden needs above all else - I should buy new plants and plant new seeds on a rolling weekly basis, oh yes. And thus have the full busy garden that I pine for, and keep it tolerably cared for too. [/epiphany]

Now: what should we have for dinner? I am clueless.
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I may be a genius of cocktails [31 May 2016|05:53pm]
It's a hot day hereabouts, and I was mixing myself a standard Dark & Stormy, according to the Jeannie recipe - rum, lime juice, ginger beer over ice - when it occurred to me that I would shortly be gathering mint from the garden for dinner; and I thought, "Oh, wait a minute..."

In case you've ever wondered? Yes. A sprig of mint, muddled in the bottom of a Dark & Stormy, is a really attractive addition, if that's the sort of thing you like.

And in other news, speaking of dinner, yesterday's dinner: big shrimp peeled [sidebar: I have never understood this fetish for leaving on the tail of the shell. If it's going to be fingerfood, leave the whole damn shell on to contain the juicy flavours; if you're going to be using silverware for everything else on the plate, peel the damn thing properly, for the love of napkins] and marinated in olive oil and chilli flakes, then broiled [UK grilled] on a baking sheet under a hot flame for not very long at all; asparagus poached in barely-simmering water for a couple of minutes until tender-crisp, then tossed into a pan of mushrooms and garlic sizzling in butter; potato salad half-and-half lemon dressed and mustard dressed. Summer cooking, people. I am learning it.
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It's Chaz all the way down, alas... [30 May 2016|03:26pm]
Apparently - who knew? - I can be driven to a con, do a panel, have lengthy in-depth conversations with friends alongside a lot of casual interactions, have lunch with m'wife and dinner with herself and a crew of friends, browse the dealers' room and art show, yadda yadda, all that stuff one does at cons - and still write 2K+ of current SF space-opera attack novel.

Which would totally be cause for celebration and grand plans to do so on a daily basis, thus reviving dormant career and rebooting old-Chaz for good measure - if it weren't for the fact that this stellar wordcount was achieved by means of beer and no internet, in the hotel bar for hours on end. Which, on a daily basis, can only be replicated by long sessions in the wine bar downtown. Which would not be a good idea, for all the obvious reasons. Sigh. It would be nice if I could be passionately fond of things that were not intoxicants, expensive and unhealthy.
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Review! [30 May 2016|10:26am]
I am just sayin', but Charles de Lint reviewed last year's "Year's Best" antho edited by Gardner Dozois (vol 32) in F&SF, and inter alia he said this:

Chaz Brenchley's "The Burial of Sir John Mawe." Boy, does Brenchley pack in a wealth of worldbuilding in such little space with his tale of the aftermath of a hero's death on an inhabitable Mars that is under British Colonial Rule. I've no doubt there'll be more stories in this setting, and I hope they're half as good.
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Owie! [23 May 2016|10:03am]
I have, as they say, done myself a mischief. No idea how.

Saturday, I thought I had a bug. By Sunday it was clearly an injury. Something abdominal: if I had a left-handed appendix, somewhere around there. I'm okay as long as I keep reasonably still, and I'm okay walking around; but standing up, sitting down, leaning forward, bending over, lifting - these are all horribly ouchie.

Obviously I am going to live with it another day or two before I even pretend that I'm thinking about going to see a doctor.
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An Omnium Gatherum [21 May 2016|07:39pm]
From the book description sent by Abebooks, with the volume that arrived today:

Contents include:

Pogonotrophy in Serendip; Of Antick Beards; Of Barbers and Barbarians; Beards versus Bayeux; Radat and Filioque; Beards and Bigots; Of Prayers for Shaving and of Other Matters, including False Beards; Mambrino's Helmet and the Beard of Bessanon; The Augustan Age of the Philopogon; The Beard Romantic and the Scandal of Whiskers; The Nineteenth Century; Hail and Farewell.

Or, in other words, yes: after four years and more of being five thousand miles from my favourite book, I have finally obtained my own copy of Beards: an Omnium Gatherum by Reginald Reynolds, rather than being dependent on the now-far-distant copy in the Lit & Phil.

If I never told you the story of how this in fact became my favourite book, I might do that. Later. Meantime, I'm just going to sit and stroke it, 'k? For that it is mine, I tell you, mine to me...
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Seriously, does no one proofread any more? [20 May 2016|12:35pm]
So I am browsing the library's copy of The NoMad Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara. You could pay a hundred dollars for this book, people. And look! For your money, you could get a typo never before perpetrated, unique to this splendid publication! (Possibly)

Unless "Pureews" is a word that I don't know and neither does the internet, that is.

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I love the smell of curry in the morning [20 May 2016|11:40am]
So yesterday, as happens at least once a month and sometimes more, Thursday dinner turned into Curry Club. See this?


No, you're completely wrong. This is not dinner. This is leftovers. (I have always had a problem judging volume, will-this-fit-into-that. So I overcater. Besides, we only had five people yesterday including ourselves. Standard Thursdays run to twice that. Obviously people hate my curry or something.)

Anyway: lamb (and beef, because I ran out of lamb) kofta in a tomato coconut sauce; pork bhuna; chicken with turmeric and cilantro that I totally made up; tadka dhal; sugar snap peas with ginger; lemon-rice-without-the-lemon. (Oh, and my own chilli pickle in the jar. My own chilli pickle which has nearly run out. I should totally do something about that.) I could eat this all week. Just as well, really. I may have to.
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No one speaks English and everything's broken [14 May 2016|07:01pm]
So here I am with a brand new installation of the very latest iteration of Ubuntu - and even this is fucking broken. The graphics driver that makes ATI Radeon cards play nicely with Ubuntu has been deprecated, and notions of a replacement are apparently somewhere in the foggy foggy future; and meanwhile the generic substitute makes it almost, almost unusably ugly. (Seriously, people: I don't demand clever effects or stunning pictures, but a maximum resolution of 1280 by 1024 on a 24" screen is just horrible to behold.)

And all my brilliant notions for saving previous installations have come to naught, so I may just be stuck with this. Or looking for a new machine that doesn't have a Radeon card. Or working in Windows, gasp shock horror misery. Or just working on the laptop. but I'm old-fashioned enough that I like a big solid desktop to come home to. The laptop is flimsy and vulnerable and Not Serious.

And, yeah, fuckadoodle. That's where I am. I ought to be geek enough to enjoy this kind of challenge, but I'm really not. I am stressed and unhappy and the whole day is wasted now, and I see precious little hope for tomorrow. (And yes, I know that others of my friends have much greater problems; and weirdly, that is really no comfort at all.)
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Ah, catastrophe [14 May 2016|01:21pm]
So I woke up this morning to an Ubuntu installation so badly broken it won't connect to the internet at all. And I had an earlier installation that was working, so I have been sourly upgrading that - and the upgrade has just stalled out halfway through, in a way that I think means that this installation too will be broken if I try to reboot it. And I am not geek enough to know what to do about this, because "just never reboot" is not exactly an option hereabouts.

This is where I think about invoking my long-term survival plan, in the form of a Whole New Machine. Starting fresh, starting clean is always so attractive when things get muddy and messy and tangled-up as badly as this one is. (It has four separate iterations of Linux on it, three of which don't work. Three about to become four, that is.) This one's four years old, after all, which used to be a decent lifespan for a PC back in the day. That day was twenty years ago, but hey: it's all about mindset, and mine is kinda calcified. But when I did upgrade I'd been meaning to buy a machine optimised for Ubuntu, rather than constantly fighting incompatible hardware; and that would mean delay, where I could just wander into Fry's this afternoon and buy something on the instant.

And, and, and. And I did not want to spend my weekend doing this, soddit. Any of this.

And now I am going to reboot this stalled install, and learn just how bad things are. I may be some time. This may be farewell. It's been fun, mostly...

[EtA: yup, totally fucked. I seem now to have no functional Linux on my desktop, or anywhere in my life. This update brought to you from Windows on the laptop. And the yard guys have just started up their machinery outside the windows, and I am in fact more miserable at this moment than it is actually possible to be, I am just sayin'.]
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A local habitation and a name [13 May 2016|11:45am]
So for a little while now I have had a book on the back burner, which means in the back of my head for the most part; up front there is really only half a chapter, a twist and a feeling. Also it is quite blatantly Iain (M) Banks fanfic. I do not apologise for this, neither resile from it; I don't believe that Iain would have cared, and I just wanna. Sometime, I'll just take some time and write the thing and show it to people and see.

Not right now, I have other stuff to do and this is not the time. Except that it dawned on me this morning when I was doing entirely other things that I really want to call it OVERSIGHT. Which, again, because I wanna and at this stage I can. It's not punchy, as titles go; but I always did like puns and double meanings, and when those two familiar meanings address two major themes within the work (and possibly three: I did say there's a twist), then hell yes.

Besides which, I really dislike writing without a title in situ - or you could put that the other way and say I always do like writing to a title, so that it gets embedded in the text, like words running all the way through the rock. Makes it much more likely that a thing will actually get written, once I know what to call it.
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A question! Of science, and navigation! [10 May 2016|11:19am]
So Mars no longer has an internal dynamo or a global magnetic field, though certainly it used to. I am taking it as read that the mere residue, the surface-scatter of magnetised rock is not enough to make a magnetic compass viable. So how would you navigate, on Old Mars in amongst all the canals and without benefit of satellites or GPS? By sun and stars and landmarks, sure - but what am I missing?

[EtA: assuming a 1920s British-Imperial level of tech and understanding...]

[EtA2; I suppose it's too much to hope that Mars' north pole also (currently) points towards Polaris...? *asks internet* Yup: much too much to hope. Sigh.]
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You say potato, I say nothing at all. Apparently. [09 May 2016|11:07pm]
Is it bitterly ironic, or just inordinately depressing, when your work doesn't even make the lists of the undeservedly disregarded?

Ach, whatevs. I finished the new Crater School quarter-day story, and it's a whole damn novella (which I am hoping will prove some compensation for the delay). It just needs a quick polish, and then we'll get it out to my Patreon subscribers as soon as possible. It's called "The Crater Girls in Camp", and features schoolgirls - of course! - and aliens (by special request) and a little bit more of the Mars that no one's seen yet. And Rowany de Vere, because she's awesome.
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Pareidolia [07 May 2016|11:49pm]
M'wife says I should post this here. I was tolerably certain that actually I did at the time, but hey.

M'friend the herbalist Paula Grainger took this fabulous photo of a cloud that looked like a bear; I wrote a poem about the way we see stuff and what we call things and yadda yadda.

You'll find it here.
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In which I am scheduled for Adventure [06 May 2016|11:17am]
The second week in June, I will be heading up to Portland, to hang out with various other writerly types: that Ken Scholes fellow, and Shannon Page, and, y'know. Mark Ferrari. We are in hopes that some actual workstuff might arise from this. Also, legendary debauchery.

But! There's nothing so inherently mind-boggling about this; I have done it before, and it's barely worth announcing. Except that this time I'm not flying, because there is nothing fun about flying any more. I'm going up by train.

By Amtrak, indeed, with all its notorious delays. If all runs to schedule, it's a nineteen-hour journey through some tolerably awesome country. I expect to read and drink and watch the world unreel, and very possibly not sleep at all, because hullo.

[And in other news, as far as I can see this did not crosspost from DreamWidth, which is why I am manually doing that. Grr. If it shows up twice, then double-grr. Pull yourselves together, platforms. Take your time from me: one, two. In, out. Get it? Good...]
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A garden is a movable feast, God wot [02 May 2016|09:47am]
My fitness app tells me that I exercised for six and a half hours yesterday, though that doesn't seem enough; that I walked 30,000 steps; that I only covered twelve miles of ground.

Nothing really adds up, until you take another perspective on the day: that I worked - with breaks - from ten in the morning to ten-thirty in the evening, and those steps were entirely back-and-forth and up and down.

People, we moved a garden.

Happily, it was a garden already in pots; and happily we'd done an afternoon's groundwork the day before, clearing the alley beside the house and putting shelves and such into the truck. Still: it was a big truck, and a crowded garden. Between the shelves and the racks and the hanging rods, we filled that truck from floor to ceiling with biomass, and drove it half an hour and emptied it again (that's where the up-and-down came in, for there were fifteen steps down to the sunside patio, and half the garden loves the sun). Then we went back to the point of origin, and filled the truck again. Just at the point where a British party would have said "I could murder a curry," Karen came through with dim sum; and then we went back to the new house and unloaded the second half of the garden. In the dark.

I am tired today, and a little bit achey.
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Calves of the corn [15 Apr 2016|03:52pm]
Corned beef, people: it is two different things, depending. To the British, it comes in cans and is a kind of disintegratory beefy spam, also occasionally sliced and battered and fried into fritters. None of this is any good at all, but this was my only experience of corned beef prior to California.

Over here, it's a salted slow-cooked brisket, sliced at deli counters for sandwiches (of which the highest achievement may be the Reuben - corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and dressing) or else served hot, generally with cabbage, generally on St Patrick's day. Leftovers in a hash, thanks, topped with a fried egg, because what isn't better topped with a fried egg?*

Anyway: I mention this because I cooked corned beef yesterday for Thursday dinner (which was also our fourth anniversary, as it happens, which it was nice to have a gang of friends around to share). And contrary to my usual habit, I actually wrote down how I cooked it, which is kind of a prerequisite to posting a recipe, because I'll never remember else.

Typically, I then forgot to take any photos, which is the other prerequisite for anything that claims to be any kind of a food blog, hey-ho.

But just in case, this is a dead simple way to make a tableful of friends very happy:

Peel a couple of onions, divide them into six wedges each, and lay those on the bottom of a slow cooker (or a casserole dish/Dutch oven if you don't have a slow cooker, but this is what I did, because I do).

Rinse the corned beef, and set it atop the onions.

Whisk half a cup of ketchup (or a little more - I just used what was left in the bottle, which would be more than half a cup but less than a whole one, by US measurements) with a bottle of dark beer (I used Maltopia Wee Heavy Scotch, because that's what I had in the spare beer bacon fridge) and pour over the meat.

Add lots of pepper. You won't need salt.

Cook on low for ten hours (or in the bottom of a low oven for probably four or five, but I haven't tested that).

Slice, and pour over a little of the cooking-liquid. Serve with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage; completely forget to offer house-made kimchi alongside, although it's really not bad at all for a first attempt. Sigh.

*The question is rhetorical, except not really.
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Single spies [13 Apr 2016|09:56am]
So I'm reading Ken Liu's collection "The Paper Menagerie" over First Coffee in the morning. At first I thought there was something unexpectedly old-fashioned about the stories; they invoke memories of reading Bradbury or Sturgeon in the '70s. I think that's an expression of craft, a shared understanding of the shape a story takes. Another voice joining in the conversation.

I like this; but I think I need something else to read with Second Coffee. I really only want to read one Liu at a time, and then dwell upon it for a while. And I want something robust, something rambunctious, to set against that perfect crystalline quality, the stillness of the rose. I want battalions.
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