Monday, March 27, 2017

Raccoon Adventures

Last Saturday I was peacefully meditating on my writing progress ... oh, all right, I was taking a nap, when suddenly I was awakened by the insistent yowling of my cat.

"OMG! Wake up right meow!!
 I reluctantly woke up, then noticed my neighbor was knocking on the front door. "Hey Charon, there's a huge raccoon on your fire escape!"

So I (very cautiously) opened the door that leads to the fire escape and found, as promised, a huge raccoon.

As you may have guessed from the fact that I have a fire escape, I'm strictly a city type. No lawn, no trees, no hedges, no wildlife. I enjoy nature, that's why I live within walking distance of it.

The raccoon looked right at me, fearless. It was trembling ... with exhaustion? Rabies? Poison? It wrapped one weary paw around the top of the stairs, seeming very disappointed with what it had found. No food or water, just uncomfortable slats. And some ancient linoleum, which will probably stay dusty now that the cat won't be spending any time catching breeze there this summer. Now that I know raccoons can get up there.

Raccoons are fierce fighters. My cat may be huge, but he has no warrior instinct whatsoever. Raccoons are loaded with warrior instinct.

I have heard many tales of woe from co-workers and acquaintances about raccoons mixing it up with their pets, resulting in vet bills and sometimes disfigurement and death.

I had a prior encounter with a raccoon once. I was picnicking with some friends on Angel Island, which is an island in the San Francisco Bay, like Alcatraz, except more nature-y. So I'm sitting there peeling an orange when I suddenly notice everybody is quiet and is giving me odd looks. I glance down at my lap and there, in it, is a raccoon.

It had two little raccoon feet on my thigh, and as I held extremely still, it advanced further, until all four little raccoon feet were resting on my legs.

Since I happened to have an orange in my hand I gave it a slice. It raised one front paw and delicately accepted it, and fortunately it was a nice sweet orange, since the raccoon waited patiently for me to feed it slice after slice instead of mauling me. My friends, meanwhile, had retreated to a safe distance to take photos and/or call the medics to airlift me out should the raccoon decide to eat my face.

But it didn't. It accepted many orange slices and then it wandered off, leaving sticky handprints on my jeans. Animals can usually sense that I'm a big softy that is more interested in watching them than harming them, and they take full advantage.

Even so, there is no way I'm going to approach a raccoon nutty enough to climb all the way up to my fire escape, and I'm not inclined to feed it either. Or touch it. Or get within airborne disease vector distance of it.

I did speak to it soothingly, telling it to chill for as long as it wanted and that I'd call animal control, and they finally caught up with it today, reporting that it had a runny nose and seemed very tired but otherwise looked okay. It's going to be released back in its own raccoon neighborhood. I am happy for it.

And I really hope it doesn't come back.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pixel Scroll and Hugo Noms

ZOMG, I made the Pixel Scroll!! 

For writing a book of science fiction. Wow. I may not be a famous one or a rich one or even a good one (yet), but I am in fact a science fiction novelist, which is something I was born to be. Achievement unlocked!

I must say, I am really enjoying the science fiction community these days. I approached a couple years ago with extreme trepidation, expecting a vicious roiling cauldron of mean culture warriors, and while there's a bit of that, there is also a lot of book-bonding, which is a rare and magical experience that can overcome most political impasses and blood feuds.

I submitted my Hugo noms last night (below). I threw up my hands at short story, because there are so many of them, and I skipped plenty of categories, but I did manage to find plenty of excellent novels.

Below is a summary of your current nominating ballot:

- Arabella of Mars; David Levine; Tor
- The Raven and the Reindeer; T. Kingfisher; Red Wombat Tea Co.
- Spiderlight;  Adrian Tchaikovsky; Tor
- The Fireman; Joe Hill; William Morrow Paperbacks
- Lovecraft Country; Matt Ruff; Harper

- The Ballad of Black Tom; Victor LaValle; Tor

Dramatic Long:
- Moana; Disney
- Rogue One; Disney

Dramatic Short:
- Contrapasso; Westworld
- The Door; Game of Thrones

Fan Writer:
- Chuck Tingle; His website

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: Arabella of Mars by David Levine

Jury duty update: I was briefly juror number five until I got kicked out on a defense peremptory basically for hanging out with lawyers too much. Even though I can talk about the case now I won't, because the crime had a weird parallel to the end of my work in progress, and I've been struggling with it. The whole experience was completely awesome, however, because I spent the breaks reading one of the best books I have read this year:

Arabella of Mars

This book is sort of like what you'd get if you took one cup of Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars, one cup of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories, steeped them in a cask of Patrick O'Brien for a fortnight and blended them with some pure imagination.

Yes, this is a book lovers' book. If you like books -- such as the books I linked, or similar ones -- you'll adore this one. It's got everything!  Old fashioned retro adventure! Regency romance! Diversity and progressive gender roles! A strong female character who is nevertheless quite feminine despite impersonating a boy for a while, and who lacks superhuman powers, although she's very clever and at one point wins a fight due to a combination of luck and greater familiarity with gravitational adjustments. A swoony love interest from India. An amazing steampunk sailing ship that can travel to Mars, with a crew of weightless sailors floating around wearing ankle tethers.

The author gets Arabella's colonial childhood just right. Your parents came here thinking they were going to exploit the natives and live like kings, but then they gave birth to their very own native-born child, forever floating on the cusp between local and hostile invasive species. The Martians in the tale are a female-dominant proud warrior species (with a strong personal responsibility code) relegated to working for the English colonists as maids and nannies, and at one point there is a fearsome uprising.

I'm glad I was able to squeeze one more book into my eyeballs before making my Hugo nominations, as this one is going right to the top of the list.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

One Sunny Night – Now in Amazing New Paperback Edition!!!


So Amazon came up with an even better way to do paperbacks than the previous version from last year, as I found out when publishing Sieging Manganela earlier this year.

Even better – I corrected that pesky typo!  It now says “May” instead of “June” and everything is now chronologically correct and presumably perfect.

I’m sorry it costs so much. I set my prices at less than ten cents over cost for the paperback edition, but the fatter the book, the more dead trees are involved. It works just as good on an e-reader, in case you’ve been thinking about trying e-books.

Here’s what it says on the back cover (and I see Amazon's webpage has mutilated my formatting while the book cover wizard presumably kept it intact):

On March 20, 3748, terrorist clones in submarines made of bioengineered jellyfish attacked the stadium where fifteen-year-old Sonny Knight was watching the clashball championship game, kidnapping his family and his two best friends.

In volume one of his tale, One Sunny Night, he teams up with an international cast of characters and he makes his way home across the treacherous, volcano-strewn Caribbean Sea, over what’s left of North America, by way of some splendid futuristic cities and rustic villages and pliosaurs and tsunamis and cattle stampedes and train wrecks. While being pursued by more terrorist clones, and outwitting megalodons, and suffering a knee injury requiring surgery and physical therapy, and asking girls to rock concerts, and bouncing from one stressor to the next.

The Adventures of Sonny Knight series takes place in a post-dystopian future full of thrills, chills and marvels of bioengineering. It deliberately meddles with various classical storytelling systems and tropes while being highly saturated with esoteric symbology too.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pending Adventures

I’ve moved on to the next phase of jury duty, which is called “can’t talk about it” (*waves mutely at any paralegals tasked with reading this blog as part of an actual work assignment*). And I never did get that dang Big Love Rocket in World of Warcraft despite 13x14 attempts. And I’m listlessly eyeballing my way through novels that I haven’t felt like reviewing, and I’m being too much of a wuss to assertively promote my novel that came out last month, because I feel it's only about an eight of ten, and the one coming out next month is much better. It’s like I’m wallowing in the swamps of entropy.

There is a bright and shining future, however, and here’s what I plan to do with it:

One Sunny Night: the new paperback edition.
Amazon has gifted us self-pubbies with the ability to make even better paperbacks, as I discovered when publishing Sieging Manganela. I plan to give One Sunny Night the same treatment, maybe even this weekend.

Coming Very Soon: Retrograde Horizon
This is one that I’m going to assertively promote. Master artist Brian Allen is making the cover right now, while I’m typing away at that pesky last chapter with maybe 40 pages left before I stitch everything together and apply that final coat of primer and buff out the plot holes. RH is about how sometimes the faster you go forward, the farther behind you get. I am very proud of this book, which is the middle of the Sonny Knight trilogy, and I promise to tell you more about it soon.

Chilling at Conventions
I’ve already mentioned aiming towards San Diego Comic Con, and we’ll see if I pull it off. I’m also probably going to show up at SiliconValley Comic Con in April, Baycon in May and San Francisco Comic Con in September. Maybe more!  I’m not doing anything as formal and organized as getting a booth since first I need to write a bunch of books so as to have something to occupy all that booth space.  I’ll mainly be chilling, and throwing promo bookmarks and business cards around, and fangirling, and maybe doing some low impact cosplay … hmm, there’s gotta be a character somewhere that wears jeans and converses and a plain black t-shirt.  I won’t be attending Worldcon this year, since Helsinki is farther than I feel like going, but I’m definitely going next year in San Jose.

Coming Next Year: A Dark and Stormy Day
The last of the trilogy, in which all outstanding plot threads are resolved.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: The Final Reconciliation by Todd Keisling

Lately I've read a few good novels inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. I've mentioned a couple already, and today I finished The Final Reconciliation, which is a Lovecraftian take on rock and roll.

It's about Aidan, guitar player in a band called the Yellow Kings.  The kind of music they play isn't described in detail but I imagined it as being somewhere between metal and punk and art rock, maybe like Motorhead meets Blue Oyster Cult. The band is originally from hardscrabble Kentucky. They hit enough of the big time to record in Los Angeles, where they meet a mysterious and scary groupie who talks them into playing a mysterious gig, and Lovecraftian highjinks ensue.

As you know from reading my review of Wylding Hall last year, I'm a sucker for a rock and roll book, and this one is definitely enjoyable. I also seem to be a sucker for Lovecraft-inspired books lately, or maybe they're just fashionable. I have funny associations with Lovecraft. My first interest was acquired from a boyfriend, so I tend to associate Lovecraft with bucolic boat rides and bedtime stories as we smugly giggled over crazy pretend-uncle Howard, ranting at the clouds in isolated New England. Sure he's racist and nihilistic and bleak, he's also as comforting as a warm bath. It's nice to see the bath has grown big enough to encompass rock bands and black people and it seems like it just keeps getting bigger.

This is some particularly nice Lovecraftiana, very visual, with lots of implied-sexy as opposed to graphic-and-gross.  You can find the Amazon link via this link from the very awesome Speculative Fiction Showcase (which coincidentally also has a little love for Sieging Manganela).

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

San Diego Comic Con

I'm going to try to get a ticket to San Diego Comic Con this year.  It'll be my first time, and I understand there's only about a 6% change of getting through, but there's a zero percent chance if you don't try, so I might as well.