Wish I had something exciting to report -- on Clean Sheets, the gallery has been delayed 'til Saturday (Kirstin got slammed with unexpected evening work at the office, poor munchkin), but we've now got a music reviewer, which is exciting. I think y'all will like his first column, on Bolero. Now I need to figure out how copyright law relates to music -- what constitutes fair use? Can I snag the first minute of some recording of Bolero without infringing the performers' copyright? It would be great to have that accompany the review. Anyone know?
Well, another issue of Clean Sheets went up fairly smoothly, all things considered. Kirstin and I had both forgotten that humor was scheduled for this week, so I scrambled a bit putting something together, and I'm not even sure it's funny. Stop by and let us know! I'm very happy with the fiction piece this week, by Bob Vickery ("Driving"), and it's something of a coup to have an erotic poem, "model of perfection" by Joe Haldeman (yup, for you sf fans out there, *that* Joe Haldeman). He's a total sweetie. We also have a review of the Celtic Phallus, which I admit to having an unreasonable fondness for, despite its outrageous price -- it's just so purty, especially the one in cinnabar. And hopefully later today we'll have a new artist as well (these are tending to lag a bit behind, but they *are* getting up).
We've also got Bob and Shmuel busy at work on the bookstore, so hopefully by the weekend it'll be much more updated. And Kirstin and I have started putting the archive together, which is pretty exciting too.
And, of course, there's the tech writing day job. It's a little hard to get excited about writing a user manual, but it *is* nice to do work that I know I'll be paid for (eventually -- I still haven't gotten my first check from them -- problems with the mail). And there's something virtuous in writing a clear user manual; people get so stressed when trying to understand computer stuff...it's nice to think my chapters may ease that somewhat. We hope.
Not sure there's much other news. Now in the midst of _The Night Watch_, which has gotten quite compelling and hard-to-put-down, as expected. I knew my faith would be rewarded. Sean is a *harsh* writer at times. Making curry for lunch. Hoping Kevin will come home soon and help with some computer problems. That's all, folks!
It's good to be working again, honestly.
Well, it's rather a grey day today. I think that's mostly 'cause I slept badly (well, and 'cause it's been grey outside, with snow falling intermittently and heavy skies otherwise) last night, and haven't been able to start work, and stayed up late reading (and writing a little, though I didn't finish the story, which is probably part of the frustration) and haven't been out yet today. Okay that's probably not just mostly, that's probably all of it. Sorry -- I don't mean to whine. It's not that anything's really wrong..just a tired feeling, y'know? I also exercised for the first time in forever -- Kevin picked up some weights and a jumprope yesterday -- which is good, but probably contributing to my tiredness.
There *is* a good side. I finished the _Sirens and other Daemon Lovers_ anthology which had a higher percentage of excellent stories than I've found in an anthology in quite a while. I *wish* I'd been invited to contribute!!! Lots of big names, as well as authors I've vaguely heard of but never read. Many of the stories were so compelling that they drew me into that author's personal world, and made me not want to leave. I want to find books by these people! My favorite stories in this anthology were probably the ones by: Tanith Lee, Edward Bryant, Elizabeth Wein, Pat Murphy, Dave Smeds, Doris Egan, Kelley Eskridge, Mark W. Tiedemann and Ellen Kushner. This is more than half of the anthology, I think. And on another day, I might tell you different authors. Nothing in here was bad.
I also read Sean Stewart's _Passion Play_ this morning. A tiny little book, but very intense. I recommend this one highly to anyone who was an English major in college -- or anyone who has read or seen Faust -- or anyone raised as a Fundamentalist -- or anyone who has worried about what a Fundamentalist America would be like. I'm reading his _The Night Watch_ now.
It's very odd being here in some ways. I see so many people when I'm in the Bay Area -- there isn't time to see everyone (there wasn't even before I started spending so much time away). Here, I only know Kevin. It's odd. Peaceful, though. And I'm certainly catching up on my reading.
I enjoyed the first story, by Storm Constantine, and am looking forward to the next one, by Delia Sherman (she's the partner of Ellen Kushner, who is the cousin of my friend from college, James Kushner. I met Delia and Ellen years ago at PhilCon, and they remembered me! They even asked me what ever happened to that Indian fantasy novel I was writing. Meep. I've loved Ellen's novel _Swordspoint_ for years, and she and Delia are currently collaborating on another novel in that same world. Delia's also written a novel of her own, _The Porcelain Dove_, which I bought from her and have at home. Plan to read it when I get back). Okay, that's probably enough book talk for the moment.
I'm very excited that we'll be getting occasional columns from David Steinberg for Clean Sheets. He's an excellent writer, and you can check out his work where it's archived at the Society for Human Sexuality home page. He writes a column called "Comes Naturally", which is intelligent, interesting, thorough, and often witty. We'll be running his Lolita review in the last week of November.
Doing a lot of cooking too -- last night made a cauliflower/zucchini dish, which was fine, if not exciting, and a sesame green bean dish which was pretty dang yummy. We have lots of the beans left, so tonight I'll be combining it with curried tomatoes and rice. The dishes are originally from the Madhur Jaffrey _World of the East: Vegetarian Cooking_ book; I'd reproduce them here, but pretty much the only change I made was to halve the salt (Kevin *really* is not fond of salt) and double the pepper. I probably could have increased the pepper more, actually -- the beans hardly had any bite at all. David, you might like this book. Indian and Chinese and Japenese and Thai, mostly.
I'm in Kevin's study -- it's around 10-ish, and I haven't been up that long. Drinking my first cup of tea. We were up very late talking last night, and I'm still tired. He's asleep (poor munchkin is sick, and I feel bad for keeping him up last night). I'm trying to get used to typing on his little laptop again (itty-bitty keyboard), and waking up, and trying to concentrate on the screen instead of just getting up and staring out the window.
The window faces towards the mountains. The Wasatch Mountains, I think they're called. A little of the city spreads out, fairly flat, and then the mountains rise, so close, like the edges of a bowl, crisp and blue and white, with banks of white cloud behind them and the light shining through, so that everything glows -- the sky, the snow on the mountains, the trees with golden leaves still clinging. If I could paint!
There is snow everywhere. It was warm yesterday when I arrived -- no need for a coat -- but the cab driver told me that storms were a-coming. A little one today, a bigger one on Saturday, and a big one Monday. Kevin didn't think it was that certain, but dang if the cab driver wasn't spot on for this one. Snow about half a foot deep blankets the neighbor's yard, the quiet cars, the street. Kev lives in a quiet part of town, and when I woke up the sidewalk hadn't been cleared yet -- I'm not sure, but there may still have been snow on the road.
I love the way trees look, branches heavy with snow. They all look different. Some bear their snow lightly -- traceries accenting their angles and joints -- young women in winter finery, not dressed warmly enough, but refusing to admit it, and beautiful in their defiance. Some bow with the weight of it, branches bending, curving, almost touching the ground -- old women who are too tired to resist, and perhaps too wise. The snow will eventually melt, and they know it. As long as they don't break in the meantime...
There's no ice right now. Ice on the branches is best of all, at night, with the moonlight shining down and encasing every individual branch and twig in glittering light.
Heather, Karina, I wish you were here. We'd have such fun in the snow! I was never very good at winter activities -- building snowmen and throwing snowballs -- I'm a terrible shot, but it doesn't really matter, does it? (I *am* good at sneaking up on people and stuffing snow down the back of their shirts, but that is not the sort of thing that endears you to your friends).
I am still incredulous at the snow. I am sure that in a few days I will be complaining of it, but for now -- I've adapted to California, you see. I expect rain in the winter, weeks and months of incessant rain. And I like rain, I'm very fond of rain, I can take a lot more rain than I can take snow, but still... it is so very lovely here right now.
It was definitely a bummer taking down "How to Suck" and "To Lola, with Love" and Eric Albert's poem and that Carol Queen book review. Weird, too. Good thing we'll be able to move a lot to archive soon.
The other exciting news is that the new Bookstore Managers are up and running! Shmuel and Bob have kindly taken that over, and matters are proceeding apace. We should soon have a beautifully up-to-date bookstore...and perhaps by January we can manage a search engine.
Hmm...maybe I can persuade someone to take over our links page too. We haven't even started that... Not sure it's as much fun as a bookstore, though, even a virtual one.
In other news (what! you mean there's something in her life OTHER than Clean Sheets??!), I'm busy packing and cleaning today, 'cause I'm leaving town again tomorrow. Yup, it's another hop over to Salt Lake City. I'll be there until November 20th this time (a nice long visit), and I hope to get lots of work done. It's mighty peaceful there. The tech writing project is finally starting up again (tomorrow, in fact), so I ought to be busy.
And *then* I'll be back for just a few days before leaving again -- on the evening of the 23rd, to go visit the folks for Thanksgiving. Spend a week there, and then a few days in New York, hopefully seeing Manny and Naomi (newly engaged), Elissa and Bryan, and Alex and the new chick (who isn't so new anymore, but whose name I am sadly forgetting). Who else do I know in New York? I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. I hope I'll be able to work in these places -- I'll bring the laptop, of course, but I'm not sure how easy the net connection thing will be. I only have a local ISP, and I don't think they have an east coast dial-in. Still, I'm sure I'll figure something out.
Craziness. I'm not sure I'm cut out for this jet-setting life. But it seems to be my main mode of operation these days, so perhaps I'd best get used to it.
Hey, Todd. You reading this? You and Debby want to come up to New York for a day?
Lessee, where did we leave off? At our last meeting, our heroine was about to brave the wilds of sunny Monterey, to participate in a fantasy convention. (sound effect: da dum!) She met up with two hardy compatriots (Zed, introduced previously, and Mike v. W. (innocent bystander, or sinister man-about-town? you decide!)) and drove down the coast on the ever-popular Route 1. A few hours of sunlight on ocean waves, intense conversation about books they liked and disliked, craggy cliffs, and sleepiness combined to quite daze our heroine. However, she did manage to finish a children's book in the process, Lloyd Alexander's _The Jedera Adventure_ (and she *wished* that there'd been some indication on the books what order they were meant to be read in).
When the trio finally staggered into Monterey (after missing the exit and fumbling around a bit), the air was far chillier than expected (south, yes? You'd think it would be warmer than Oakland. But coastal! Didn't pack appropriately! Cold all weekend!), but they bravely parked the car, registered at the hotel and con, and ventured forth for dinner. Epsilon, a Greek restaurant on the 400 block of Tyler, is most highly recommended. Delicious, and reasonably priced for very good food.
Then a stroll back to the hotel, a bit of puttering around (the cruel security guard, his face harsh-visaged, barred them from the art show until morning!) and attendance at a Celtic/Tolkien music concert by _Avalon Rising_ wound up the day. A little lounging at the Doubletree bar (lounging at bars appears to be an integral part of con behavior, if you're a writer. obscure mating ritual? surreptitious information exchange? no one knows...) and then our heroine stumbled back to her room and collapsed in a stupor until morning.
Okay, if I do any more of that, I'll start *talking* like a melodrama. Enough. The rest of the con was pretty interesting (especially getting to talk to such favorite writers as Pat Murphy, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Sean Stewart and, briefly, Patricia McKillip. Did I forget anyone, Jed?), but really exhausting. The usual panels during the day and parties in the evening, but somehow far more exhausting than I usually find a con.
I think it must have been because this was such a writerly con -- everyone I met seemed to be either a publisher, editor or writer (if not all three), and so I think I felt that I was *on*, performing in a sense, the whole time. Trying to be my brightest, smartest, wittiest and most interesting self, if that makes sense. Exhausting. Jed came up Friday afternoon, and it was such a relief. We spent hours just hiding and talking to each other (no strangers!), and that definitely helped.
I talked up Clean Sheets a lot, my panel went well, my friends mobbed my reading (huzzah for friends!), someone bought one of my books, and I got some cool Christmas presents (and some stuff for myself, though I was *very* restrained about buying books). All in all, a success, and worth the price of admission.
Sunday, Jed and I went to the Monterey Aquarium before heading home. This, I swear, deserves an entry to itself, but I'm going to smoosh it in here because otherwise I might forget to describe it at all. This place is quite simply the best aquarium I've ever been to -- quite possibly one of the best museums I've been to. Intelligently laid out, pleasant to walk through, well-lighted to best showcase the little critters (and big ones) -- just terrific design all around.
And the contents! I could rave for hours about the sea otters (adorable, if obnoxious), the jellyfish (stunningly beautiful. Just incredible), the bat rays (Jed's favorite...you get to touch them because their stingers have been removed, soft and wet and silky), the giant sea turtle, the sunfish (one of the largest, most grotesque and compelling fish I've ever seen), the room of sardines swimming in a ring of light around the ceiling, the giant octopus (my personal, frightening, favorite) and much, much more. If you can possibly go, go. It's about 2.5 hours south of San Francisco -- well worth a day trip.
Not much else to report -- got some free books at the con, including the new Robin McKinley, _Rose Daughter_, another retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story (she did _Beauty_ twenty years ago, which I believe the Disney version was based off of -- they're very similar). I really liked this version, and I recommend it highly. Classic fairy tale, intricately woven. Also finished off another Lloyd Alexander, _The Illyrian Adventure_ (children's books are fast reads! :-). Have I talked to you about this series? They consist of:
- The Illyrian Adventure
- The El Dorado Adventure
- The Jedera Adventure
- The Philadelphia Adventure
- The Drackenburg Adventure
This series is quite different, featuring Vesper Holly, a young Philadelphian of the late 1900s, orphaned at sixteen but left quite wealthy, who is bright, plucky, and virtuous. This female Indiana Jones travels with her uncle Brinnie (who narrates the stories in an inimitably Philadelphian manner, and with great regularity is quite dismayed by Vesper) on all sorts of adventures. Great reads, and a wonderful role model for young girls. Recommended! Hunt them out in your local used book stores.
Okay, that's it for now. Off to start dealing with Clean Sheets for the week! The new art got up (a bit late) -- check it out if you haven't already. And by tomorrow, there should be a new story, poem, how-to article, book review, and perhaps even an editorial. Have a good week, munchkins!
3:35 - Gosh, y'all are getting a lot from me today. Guess I missed you...
It's oddly sad taking pieces down. I just took down Heather's how-to column, and it felt weird, even though it'll be moving to archive as soon as I get that set up. Strange, huh? That one was I think the most popular piece last issue -- it got the most comments to me, anyway.
We've got two volunteers for the bookstore, Shmuel and Bob, and I suspect I'll be asking for a few more in the future. But for right now, this is great! We're really getting going on this! It amazes me sometimes, how well it has come together. I'll have to remember that tonight, when something is refusing to format and I'm tearing out my hair...(luckily I have a lot of it).
Hmm...lots of errands and puttering today. The main project is to finish Chris's vest before I leave town tomorrow (which may be as early as 10 a.m., which means it would really make sense to finish it today, if I can. I *can* get up early tomorrow, but attending a con usually means staying up late...well, we'll see). That's really it for now -- I'm waiting for some tech writing work, so in the interim, I'm mostly just getting little things done. Tonight we're going to make Middle Eastern food, yumyum. Hopefully we can persuade Chris to join me and Heather and David. Hummus and tabouleh and pita for sure, probably an eggplant tomato stew over rice, and perhaps another entree.
- Avi - he works in virtual worlds, I think -- a tall, thin programmer who does funny impressions and writes science fiction. He's working on a novel I'm really enjoying, about -- well, it's actually really hard to pinpoint what it's about. His call to rec.arts.sf.written, for a Bay Area writing group, is what got us all together a few months ago.
- Chiara - I know her least well actually, of the group. Clarion West 98. Her husband is Indian, I met her first at WorldCon, and she's visiting Susan for a bit before going down to World Fantasy. She's from the East coast, and yesterday a bunch of us from SFY, one of my writing groups, took her around San Francisco.
- Karen - our most recently-joined member of the group. Don't know her too well yet, but when I recently did a small call for erotica submissions, she wrote me a story within a few days, even though she'd never written erotica before. I suspect we'll get along just fine. :-)
- Par - Karen's husband, who is big, blond and Swedish (imagine umlauts over the 'a' in his name) and was quite quiet. They actually met over the internet, on a mud, and are one of the happiest couples I know. Nice to watch.
- Susan - another Clarion West '98'er, who I met at WorldCon, and whose work I really love. She'll be published very soon, and her chilling little stories will be very much enjoyed. Another tall blond one, generally somewhat restrained but capable of great goofiness.
- Zed - I actually knew him before SFY formed, which makes it harder to give a capsule description of him. Zed is a guy you want on your side when the revolution comes. Nuts, but in a good way.
We ate at Sweet Heat, in the Marina, an exceedingly delicious Mexican place, reasonably-priced. There's one in the Haight as well, as it turns out. I'll probably be going there again. Then off to the closed Exploratorium, a bit of wandering around the Palace of Fine Arts, and then Plan B, Golden Gate Park.
I'd been meaning to go to the park properly for a while. It's huge -- we walked for four or five hours and covered perhaps a tenth of it. In that time, we visited several gardens -- the sun was shining, it wasn't too hot -- a perfect day for garden-strolling. There are definitely times when I think it might not have been so bad to be a lady of leisure, able to spend my days strolling it gardens. It would probably drive me nuts over time.
The first place we went (and my favorite) was the Japanese tea garden. It was much larger than I'd expected, with pagodas and many stone paths and bridges (one very sharply arched, so that it took some debate before we agreed that it really was meant to be a bridge, and crossed it) and pools and carp (immense goldfish. Longer than my entire arm) and twisty trees and stone statues. It was just stunningly beautiful -- if I'd had a camera, I'd have been taking pictures every few minutes. I'm glad I didn't have one, in a way. Sometimes you are just overwhelmed by beauty. I wished I wrote by hand -- it would be glorious to take pen and paper and come for a day to sit on the stone benches and write in a quiet contemplation. They serve tea and fortune cookies near the entrance, so you could pause for a snack, and then go back to writing poetry. Somehow, a laptop would have felt terribly incongruous there.
Next was the Botanical Gardens, where we chose to explore the prehistoric section, the Biblical garden, and the fragrance garden. All very cool in their own ways, with everything neatly labelled. The fragrances were sharp and unusual -- my favorite was perhaps the society garlic -- tall stalks with tiny purple flowers and an intense garlicky scent. All of the different thymes were also wonderful (if you've read Edward Eager's _The Time Garden_, you'll know why).
Finally we stopped at the Shakespeare garden, which was back in the park proper, and thus had nothing labelled, which was a shame. Still, a lovely layout, very formal and British, and the teenagers at the far end smoking pot really only added to the ambience. Change the clothes and the drug of choice, and it really might have been a scene out of _Romeo and Juliet_, two bands of Montagues and Capulets, tense and nervous around each other.
Then a wander up and down Haight, quick grabbing of coffee to sustain us, a stop at _Forever Books_, where I found a lovely stash of Lloyd Alexander that I'd been missing, and then our fair party split slightly, with Susan and Chiara heading home. The rest of us ended up at Plearn Thai cuisine in Berkeley, where the food was delicious and non-staining (I managed to spill quite a bit on my white shirt, but it washed out almost entirely in their bathroom. I shivered a bit afterwards).
Altogether wonderful. If only one didn't need to work. :-)
Nose to the grindstone time, my darlings. Have a good day -- and take some time to walk in a garden sometime, if you can.