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Newsletter, May 2017 [05 May 2017|05:03pm]
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...)
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Free books! [05 May 2017|10:14am]
People, it's a giveaway. Up to a dozen titles from Book View Cafe, all free to download to the device of your choice. Help yourselves, and please don't trample each other in the rush. (Why yes, my own "Rotten Row" is included. Since you ask.)

This would be the link, right here. Free books!
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LJ 18th anniversary [14 Apr 2017|11:25pm]

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

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"I know other people's dreams are boring, but": a continuing series [12 Apr 2017|07:15am]
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...
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Are we here, on the other side of everywhere? [09 Apr 2017|07:20pm]
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...
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News: that's what we call it when people tell people things [23 Jan 2017|12:40pm]
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.
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Don't mind me, I'm just working things out on my fingers [15 Sep 2016|09:35am]
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.
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Just when I thought I might be sleeping [14 Sep 2016|08:15am]
"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.)
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Cheese garlic basil bread [05 Sep 2016|06:36pm]
[There are many pretty photos of the process, over on my original Facebook post - https://www.facebook.com/chaz.brenchley/posts/10154494256046323 - 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.
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The drilling in the wall kept up, but no one seemed to pay it any mind [29 Aug 2016|10:21am]
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.
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Really, when I'm not cooking, all I wanna do is garden [14 Aug 2016|12:56pm]
Compost: it's like the home-made stock of the gardening world. Needs time and ingredients, and it pretty much does the work itself.

In other words, I moved and turned my compost bin this morning. And found a couple of cubic feet of lovely lovely compost at the bottom, as I always do, though I never think I will when I start in at the top. Back home in England, my back yard was essentially a machine for making compost; I had three binsful, and almost no soil to use it in. Here I still feel like I haven't entirely cracked the way of composting in a semi-desert, but I do always surprise myself in the end. With the help of the woodlice, that is. Lots of woodlice, munching away on my behalf. I hope they all remember to migrate next door, to where the bin is now.
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Thursday is a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort [04 Aug 2016|04:33pm]
Back ago in the olden times, a friend was having a party. "Chaz," she said, "can you make dessert for thirty?" Sure, I could. So I invented my creme brulee double surprise [spoiler: the custard is chocolate, and underneath are the world's most perfect preserved cherries, which I used to buy loose from a giant jar in the Italian deli across town].

It became a signature dish of sorts, but I haven't been able to make it since I came to the US, because (a) no blowtorch and (b) no access to the world's most perfect cherries.

Last week, Sur La Table opened a new store perilously close to us, and I had a gift card. Didn't know what I wanted, when we went in - but almost the first thing I saw was a little jar of the world's most perfect preserved cherries (Amarena Fabbri griottes au sirop, since you ask). So of course I bought those and a blowtorch, and the chocolate cremes brulees are now in the oven, baking slowly in a bain marie. It's only a first step, because I cannot remember my old recipe, but little by little, trial by error, I'll get it right again.

And in another experiment there's a pork loin rubbed with smoked paprika and garlic, sitting on a bed of rosemary in John's old electric smoker in the yard. And as soon as the oven's free I'll bake some sesame buns, and...
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Ben's back. Again. [12 Jul 2016|09:31am]
People, you won't believe this, but it's been twenty-one years since the first publication of Dead of Light. (My baby's old enough to drink legally in America! Snf!)

In due celebration of which, we have published new anniversary editions of both Dead of Light and his nineteen-year-old baby brother Light Errant. Here is the Kindle edition of Dead of Light, and here is the Kindle edition of Light Errant. Please to observe lovely new covers by Layla Lawlor.

At the moment these are technically Amazon-only, because reasons. However, I do have epub and pdf editions available also, directly from me; just drop $2.99 into my PayPal account (chaz at chazbrenchley dot co dot uk), and say which you want.

And in more of the same news, because these are such thoroughly new editions, they've been scrubbed clean of all previous reviews. As we all know, reviews really really help to sell books, or at least to bring them to other readers' attention. They don't have to be long, they don't even have to be positive; Amazon's algorithm only looks at the number of reviews, not the content. If you felt like obliging, at either or both of the links above, that would be incredibly welcome.

Also of course if you could share this announcement far and wide, because word of mouse, hullo. Thank you!
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A number of things make a Sunday post [10 Jul 2016|04:39pm]
Sunday: it's not really a placeholder, neither a bookmark. We are not marching on the spot here.

Nevertheless. Yesterday we drove up to the city for a fabulous Ellen-Klages'-birthday dinner with Ellen and Madeleine Robins and Pat Murphy. We watched boats on the water at Golden Gate while the sun went down beyond the Bay; we ate fishes and shellfishes and steak and creme brulee; we spoke of almost everything but shoes and sealing-wax, and also cabbages. (I don't believe I mentioned kimchi once.)

Tomorrow, K has an interview and I have a dentist.

Meanwhile, it's today. I have made and jarred jam; I have baked bread. I have watered the garden, which is hot as loveliness this baking July day. We had dim sum for lunch, and then went shopping after; and now I am mostly reorganising the kitchen, transferring all my pulses and dried fruits and other pantry staples into mason jars rather than the mix of tupperware and plastic bags that has sufficed hitherto. Things are getting labelled, also. Think of that.

Barry-cat is scheduled to be radioactivated in August, for his hyperthyroid. He spends three days sealed in lead, and when he comes home even his poo will be nuclear waste for a while. If it saves him from the dreaded pink pill for pale pussycats, I am in hopes that he will think it all worthwhile.

I suppose I ought to do some work. but it's always hard at weekends. And I suppose I ought to give some thought to dinner, but I have cooked already this day and I'd rather go on pouring things into jars and feeling useful. Hey-ho.

The bread is my new sandwich loaf. I'm still working it over, but at the moment it looks like this:



That's 300g water, 30g olive oil, 25g diastatic malt powder, 8g instant yeast, 6g salt, 300g all-purpose flour, 125g wholewheat flour (actually I used emmer, but hey), 100g semolina; mixed and then kneaded six minutes in the stand mixer. It's a sticky dough; slick it with olive oil and leave it a couple of hours, then knock it back and set it in a loaf tin to rise a second time. I painted the crust with buttermilk to get that golden glow. And then slashed it and baked it for thirty-five minutes at four hundred F. And then photographed it in the California sunlight, obviously, for further golden-glowishness.
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If I medicine you, you'll know that you've been medicin'd... [02 Jul 2016|03:02pm]
Unaccountably, we are having a big party on Monday (for my half-birthday, oh, and America). There will be 1776 and Paint Your Wagon, there will be foods and alcohols and friends and fun of all kinds. All of them.

Inevitably, therefore, we had a rotten night - twice woken by false smoke alarms (*shakes tiny fist at Nest, which was supposed to be our friend*), not counting singing cats and other disturbances - and I am sick as a dog today. Actually, I am sick most unlike a dog; I never knew a dog with manflu. 'Tis only a cold, of course (read lurgi, plague, contagion, as you will) and if history is reliable I'll be better by tomorrow; California gives me weird little mini-colds, twenty-four hours and done.

Today, though, I am mostly spending on the sofa. Happily, I have two books that I am loving: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, a biography of Meriwether Lewis and the whole Lewis/Clark expedition; and, for light relief, Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, the history of a romance with recipes. Between them, they make my tenure of the sofa almost comfortable, and certainly comforting.

This morning, Karen drove me to the farmers' market for party essentials: three hummuses (hummii?) and two packs of pita chips (lemon and garlic) from the Hummus Guy; berries and rhubarb (is rhubarb technically a fruit, I wonder, in my feverish state?) in case I'm better enough to make a pie, now that I'm all cocky about my pie-making which I did not tell you about because bad Chaz, neglectful of his journalling, but yes, I made a pie this week which did not suck. I'm hoping to bake some bread and do something with a huge hunk o' pork, but that's all dependent.

I am totally not telling you the kinds of medicine Lewis forces on his men, their companion squaw, and himself - this is no country for kind men - but if you've read Patrick O'Brian you're more or less in the right area, barring only his willingness to experiment copiously with plants he's never seen before. Will he survive? Will any of them survive? I have no idea; I'm only halfway through. The tension is electric, I tell you. Electric.

Also, Paris. An American girl, a French boy, a shared willingness to eat anything. It's a joy. (Oh, and speaking of food - new Netflix series, Chef's Table. We saw the first last night, and I loved it with a love universal. I want more foodie programmes like this, dammit, not the endless competitive last-cook-standing reality-TV stuff.)

This has been a brief hiatus in my ongoingly bewildering absence from these pages; I must now return myself to my regularly-scheduled sofa.
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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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