Newsletter, May 2017

So I have this newsletter, this very occasional newsletter. You can sign up for it on the front page of my website (just scroll down to "Join the mailing list" and fill in the terribly easy form, trying not to chuckle too hard where it speaks of "regular mailings"; I promise, they are anything but regular).

But it struck me suddenly, there is no reason not to share their contents here also (unless someone out there can provide me a reason? I certainly can't think of one). And so, without further ado, here's the text of the newsletter that went out today:

Urgent and immediate news: free books! Help yourselves! Those splendid people at Book View Cafe have put their heads together with InstaFreebie to construct a giveaway (which, yes, includes my own “Rotten Row” - actual science fiction, and a sort of meditation on art and identity). Just follow this link and help yourselves, to up to a dozen titles.

In news of ongoing excitements, my Patreon page is bigger, broader and more all-encompassing than it used to be. It started as a fairly specialised niche project, to enable me to write English boarding-school stories on Old Mars. Those of course are ongoing - the first novel, “Three Twins at the Crater School”, is completed, and the second, “Dust-Up at the Crater School”, is begun - but it was gently suggested to me that I could use this also as a vehicle to bring old books of mine back into print. So I’m posting my first epic fantasy series, The Books of Outremer, at the rate of a couple of chapters a month, as I clean up the text, and will make them available as e-books as soon as each is done.

I’ve a story - oh, all right, I have the lead story - in a forthcoming science fiction anthology, “Adam’s Ladder”, co-edited by Darren Speegle and Michael Bailey, published by Dark Regions Press. You can see the full Table of Contents here.

I also have a story coming in Strange California, edited by Jaym Gates and J Daniel Batt, published by Falstaff Books. This may have the prettiest website of any book I’ve ever been involved with. (Also it's my first California-based story, after five years of living here.)

Aaaand I've a story in “Clockwork Cairo”, an anthology of steampunk Egyptian tales, edited by Matthew Bright and published by Twopenny Books. That's coming out on May 28th, which is real soon now.

What else? I am writing more stories, of course more stories, there are always stories; and I am trying to finish some half-done things, if only to have the decks clear for more things to get started, because there is always new stuff. Actually there is always more stuff than a man can manage to write in one mere lifetime, even if he didn’t spend half his time in the kitchen. (Oh, that reminds me - something else that happens on the Patreon page. Recipes! Technically from the Crater School cook, Mrs Bailey. It seems not at all unlikely that my first published cookbook will be from Mars...)

"I know other people's dreams are boring, but": a continuing series

I dreamed that a playwright of renown - Peter Shaffer or a close analogue - was writing a serial drama about Franz Liszt effectively in real time, every ten years producing a new play covering the next decade of the composer's life. To research this, he spent most of his time listening to the works he'd first heard, including a tuba solo.

I did not believe that Franz Liszt ever wrote a tuba solo, so I woke disappointed, for I had dreamed it and it was beautiful. But of course I checked, because hullo internet - and I see that he did write at least two tuba quartets, an Ave Maria and a Pater Noster. This rather delights me, actually.

EtA: and then of course there's this...

Are we here, on the other side of everywhere?

In this time of strange shifts in polarity (still crossposting to LiveJournal, but apparently the party's over here in Dreamwidth now; I will diminish, and go into the 'Width, and remain Desperance), I think it's worth mentioning that my Patreon project has also had a thorough makeover. I am still writing and posting Crater School stories (English boarding-school girls! on Mars!), but I'm just adding the Books of Outremer (Crusader States fantasy! with djinn and 'ifrit and all sorts!) chapter by chapter as I clean up a scan of twenty-year-old texts. There will be other stuff appearing also, as and when. It's all fun, and you can subscribe for three dollars a month, if you'd like to...

News: that's what we call it when people tell people things

I know, I haven't posted here for ages. I do still read friends' posts on a daily basis, but my own social-media engagement seems to have shifted almost entirely to Facebook. I think that just became a better way to stay in touch with more people in the UK and elsewhere, and I don't seem to have made space for more than one active social medium.

Anyway and however, I am trying to be better at all these staying-in-touch kind of things, along with telling-people-stuff. In pursuit of which, I have written an actual newsletter! Which will be sent out within a day or two to all my mailing-list subscribers!

If you'd like to be among that number, I'm just sayin', it's terribly easy. Just go to my webpage, here and scroll down to the bottom of the very first page, and there's a box for signing up to the mailing list. That's all. Please do, if you would like to. You won't get bothered much; I think this may be my second newsletter in five years. As I say, I am trying to get better, but nobody should expect miracles.

Don't mind me, I'm just working things out on my fingers

It's Thursday (which is now what's-the-opposite-of-abbreviated in my head to "Might as well be Monday when it's Thursday if it's Thursday without you"). Karen's up in the city, doing her grand jury thing in her courtroom (it is actually her courtroom; I love this).

Me, I am planning to keep busy. Thuswise:

Finish typing up copy-edits on the gay-superheroes MS for Lethe. [345 comments typed so far, plus uncounted corrections; I reckon a hundred more to go. Probably. It's a good book; it needs care.]

Do laundry, because clean clothes are important.

Load, run and empty dishwasher, because clean dishes are useful.

In the way of making dishes dirty again, make dinner -

Herby saffron jewelled rice, with the butter basil chicken left from Tuesday
Lamby meatballs, with the buttermilk herby sauce also left from Tuesday (might as well put more cilantro in the sauce, as it has some already and there's not going to be any anywhere else, because hullo other people)
Vegetable. People believe they need to eat vegetables. Today I choose to believe that nobody actually likes them, but I'll do them anyway. Can't decide what; will go to store and consider the greenstuff.
Figs! (possibly baked or steamed as a starter, w/cheese and prosciutto - or possibly not; these are the sort of plans that end up abandoned by the side of the road)

Drink heavily and type some more, because the typing never ends. Period.

Just when I thought I might be sleeping

"How can you not like story? Narrative, in science as well as art, allows us to root ideas in the matrix of time. Indeed, it offers us a working definition of what time is. Without it, everything really does happen all at once, we all look in all the boxes, the question of cats is resolved once and for all, and the whole quantum universe collapses."

(I was dream-slicing bread for toast, making a mess of the heel and apparently wanting not to blame the knife.)

Cheese garlic basil bread

[There are many pretty photos of the process, over on my original Facebook post - - which I will try to remember to port across to make this pretty too, but for the moment I'm just slamming the words up here so's I'll know where to find them next time FB rejiggers.]

Chaz'z new cheese garlic basil bread, fit for all occasions:

360g bread flour
8g instant yeast
5g salt
112g lukewarm milk
75g lukewarm water
1 egg

Mix that all together and kneady-beat it for five minutes. Be aware, it makes a very sticky dough that's horrible to handle; I use a stand mixer with the dough hook, and end up with something clinging tight to the floor of the bowl, halfway between a batter and a dough.

Work it into a ball with your fingers, splash a little olive oil into the bowl, roll it around till the ball is coated. Cover and leave for an hour or so. It'll rise into the airiest of doughs. Deflate it gently, and spread it out on a board. At this stage, it's suddenly lovely to work with; you can stretch it almost to translucence, and it'll stay coherent and peel off anything. Shape it into an oblong about two foot long and ten inches wide. Give or take.

Pulp some garlic with a little olive oil, and spread that over the dough. Grate 200g of cheese [your call: I'm using Gruyere because I have a great block of it, but cheddar or parmesan would work fine, or half a hundred others] and scatter that over. Chop half a bunch of basil from the farmers' market (or, y'know, the supermarket, or the garden, or...) and scatter that.

Roll it up like a long sausage, and pinch the seam and the ends closed. Put parchment paper on a baking tray, and lay the sausage thereon in an S-shape. Take kitchen scissors, and cut an inch deep, from one end to the other.

Now tuck the ends underneath to make a figure-8 or an infinity coil. Pinch things together a bit, cover and leave for an hour to rise.

Preheat an oven to 350F, and bake on a centre shelf for thirty-five or forty minutes. You might want to cover it with foil halfway through, to stop it overbrowning. (I have cooked it twice, covered it once; things vary, even in the best-regulated of ovens.)

Cool on a cooling thing, and eat warm or room temp.

The drilling in the wall kept up, but no one seemed to pay it any mind

I have the brain weasels quite badly, as it seems. The more I have to do, the less I'm able. A week ago I was all, "Right, then. Crater School it is, until I'm done. Forth Eorlingas!"

Only I have this copy-edit to wrap up for Lethe, that I had a month to finish and now that's two weeks, and it's a long book. So okay, Crater School and that. Writing and editing, two different processes, I can mix-and-match between 'em. Onward and upward!

Only I have a short story to write for an antho, due in a month. I've been poking at it - it's a companion-piece to "Ashes to Ashes", the space station pilots'-bar story I wrote for a David Bowie tribute charity antho; apparently I'm not done with that bar yet - but it needs a lot of thinking. Yesterday's thought was "Oh look, two stories make a series: obviously they must all take their titles from Bowie. 'Changes' is thematically good, but dull; do I dare risk 'Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes'?"

So okay, Crater school and copy-edit and short story. Excelsior!

Only today I received the scanned-and-OCR'd text of the first of the Outremer books: for yes, my long-lost Crusader fantasy will be coming into e-book form at last. And in the way of scans and OCR, the text is a hot mess as we speak, so I need to pick my way through that with tweezers and a cold eye. Also I need to read it, because I haven't done that in twenty years.

So yeah. Crater School and copy-edit and short story and a proof job that's probably a revision. In a month.

And this morning I was standing before the open freezer muttering, "Where are my brains? I swear I had some brains..."

Happily, Karen didn't hear me.