Thursday, October 31, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (conclusion)


It's Halloween--the day when pumpkins go bad. The two above were exemplary jack-o-lanterns a day ago.. Firm, solid, even cheerful. And now look at them! Their insides are black with mold, their expressions gothic with malign intent. Nobody dares reach inside them to recover what remains of the candles they've been eating night after night. We tell ourselves that it's--yuk!--the liquescence within. But honestly? Look at those mouths. Look at those grins. Life's too short to take such chances.

On Halloween all bad pumpkins are sent to the back yard so they won't scare away trick-or-treaters. They linger there, among the dead ferns for a day or three... and then they're gone!

Gone where? Nobody knows. To do what? We can only guess.

Do they grow bodies and stride off into the darkness? Do they turn to a black miasmic mist and float away in search of innocent lungs? I haven't looked into the question.

Nor should you.

And the conclusion to "The North Wind Speaks" . . .


Above: "The North Wind Speaks" is now complete. The full text will be posted here tomorrow.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Halloween in Old Winooski


Tomorrow is Halloween and that brings to mind what the holiday was like in Winooski, Vermont, when I was young.

Back then, Halloween wasn't a day but more of a short season. It began with Bean Day, when boys (never girls; the gender lines were rigidly patrolled back then) smuggled pea shooters and boxes of dried beans into school to see how much chaos could be created before the shooters and ammo were spotted and confiscated by our teachers, the long-suffering nuns of St. Francis Xavier Elementary School.

That night was Clothesline Night. This must have been a very localized thing because you could always tell what families had come to Winooski within the past year--they were the only ones who didn't know to take in their clotheslines before sunset. Because after dark, young vandals went looking for clotheslines to cut into pieces so short they could never be tied together and used again. Even people who had come from other parts of Vermont were caught unaware.

Then came Gate Night. Originally, it was the night when mischief-makers stole gates off their hinges, tied them to flagpole ropes, hoisted them to the tops of flagpoles and then cut the ropes to make their recovery difficult. Easily-removable small town gates being a thing of the past by then, however, Gate Night had become Bicycle Night. There being only so many flagpoles in Winooski, you didn't see many bicycles hoisted into the sky the next day. But those you did see were memorably surreal.

The recreational vandalism reached a peak on Mischief Night, the only one of the lot that seems to be celebrated by all of America. The gold standard of mischief night was tipping over an outhouse. However, there was only one outhouse remaining in Winooski and it seemed to be retained out of nostalgia rather than for use. It was never, so far as I knew, tipped over. But I believe that one night a year its owners kept a watchful eye on it.

Mischief Night was a celebration of minor vandalism--soaped windows, hit-and-run doorbell ringing, egging, and the like. I heard of toilet-papering houses, of course, but it was only when I moved to Virginia that I actually saw a TP'd house. Winooski was not a rich town.

Then came Halloween. Back then, it was the children's holiday. We dressed up in costumes, went house to house demanding candy, and then ate ourselves sick. It was great.

Those kids who hadn't yet had their fill of destruction took the admonition of "trick or treat" to heart and kept track of which houses didn't fork over the goodies. Later that night they would return to reprise Mischief Night on the villains.

The day after Halloween was All Saints Day and marked the end of the short, destructive season. No tricks were scheduled for that day, of course. But if you left your jack-o-lanterns out after Halloween was over, come morning you'd find them smashed to pieces on the front walk.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 30)

And in her wake --

(concluded tomorrow)

Above, top: Jack-of-the-Porch, currently residing not far from our front door.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 29)


and moves on.

(continued tomorrow)

And I must apologize . . .

Other than my Autumn story, there hasn't been much new content on my blog this week. Mea culpa. I've been as busy as  busy. But I hope to have new material soon. And announcements! As they mature.


Monday, October 28, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 28)


smiles sadly,

(continued tomorrow)


Sunday, October 27, 2019

"The North Wind Speaks" (part 27)


She shakes her head,

(continued tomorrow)


Saturday, October 26, 2019

"The North Wind Speaks" (part 26)


does not answer.

(Continued tomorrow)


Friday, October 25, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 25 & to date)


                                                                   our sister

(continued tomorrow)

And because we're closing in on the end . . .

Here's the text of "The North Wind Speaks" to date:

 My sister comes rustling through the birch woods.  Gentle she is, but restless, aloof, and intent on her search.

What is the East Wind looking for?  If only      
she’d tell us! She has a thousand brothers   and we are all devoted to her welfare. 
 Is it a faithless lover?  We’ll track the bastard down and kill him.  A lost child?  As good as  found and returned.  The answer to a cunning riddle posed her by a sphinx?  We know everythingthere is to know.
 But when we ask, our sister... 

The story-or-prose-poem will be concluded on (of course) the 31st of October.

The North Wind Speaks (part 24)


But when we ask

(continued tomorrow)

And mea culpa . . .

I lost my phone yesterday. The leaf-story pictures were on it, so I was not able to upload them to my blog in a timely manner. I apologize for that. Today's (Fridaay's) blog will be posted this afternoon.

And today's diagrams . . .

These are the last of the lot. After this, I know where the plot is going and don't need to scry into the future with diagrams.

The top diagram shows the relationship between Aerth, Faerie, and the Empyrean. Souls move from Aerth to Faerie, dragons from the Empyrean to Faerie, and trains connect the three worlds. It didn't occur to me until just now that the three worlds are engaged in their version of the triangular trade that is the chief cause of America's original sin--slavery. But the past extends its roots deep into the present.

The middle diagram shows a simplified relationship of Earth, Air, and Sea. Though, as my notation says, in actuality The relationship goes beyond complex.

The bottom diagram plots Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.  As the notation says:

One spews
 One chews
     One mops up

All three diagrams are probably simply aspects of the One True Diagram. But I'd be lying if I said I could map the elements against the worlds against the fates. So that will have to remain unexplained.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Tales of Old Earth -- E-Book Sale Saturday!

Image result for tales of old earth

I've just been told that the e-book of Tales of Old Earth will go on sale this Saturday for one day only.

So on Saturday, October 25, you can buy it for only $2.99.

This is a great opportunity for ebook readers who are not familiar with my short fiction but would like to be. You know who you are.

Here's the table of contents:
The Very Pulse of the Machine

The Dead       

Scherzo with Tyrannosaur   
Ancient Engines         

North of Diddy-Wah-Diddy 

The Mask      

Mother Grasshopper 

Riding the Giganotosaur  
Wild Minds  
The Raggle Taggle Gypsy-O 

Microcosmic Dog

In Concert   
Radiant Doors

Ice Age         
Walking Out   

The Changeling's Tale

Midnight Express    
The Wisdom of Old Earth     

Radio Waves

Which I feel, and I hope you agree, is a lot of fiction for the money.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 23) . . .

there is

to know.

And today's diagram . . .

This is a simple diagram showing Cat's and Raven's jaunt into the past. It starts and ends at the Witch House,  descends into Brocielande Station, proceeds to the Great River, crosses the Bridge and finally comes to the Village, there to encounter both Enna and the elders. You can tell I have a good idea of what is to come by how tidy it all looks.

Various thoughts are thrown off by the diagram and at teh bottom of the page is a rather rudimentary sketch of the Ruins of Ys. I had not yet a clear idea of what Cat would find when she gained her goal.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 22)


We know everything

(continued tomorrow0

And today's diagram . . .

Here, scrawled because the writing is coming fast, is a quick diagram of the Bombing of Bocielande Station section, which is, as I wrote inside the red circle, the atrocity at the heart of the novels. It begins with The last Esso station , its back-lit [sign] sinking below the trees like the setting moon. (Extra points to anyone who recognizes that pop-art icon.) Then it goes Into the Fairy Tale Woods and into the past to Brocielande Station. From there, the action goes into the Debatable Hills and then makes a return to the Fairy Tale Woods, of course.

Not that I call them that in the novel.

All of which is in order to introduce Will to Blind Enna.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Home from Capclave


I'm home from Capclave and can report that I had a very pleasant time. Some of my seven panels were better than others but impartial witnesses told me that they were all good. (This is not bragging on my part; it takes all the panelists working together to make one of these things fly.)

I heard that part of the reason the panels worked so well was that the Program committee removed one track of programming, resulting in larger audiences at all the panels. And there is nothing that will make a panel work half so well as an engaged audience. Except when two of the panelists get so angry with each other that they threaten to begin slamming each other with the folding chairs. But I haven't been involved in that kind of melee for years.

For my money, the best panels were the two dinosaur panels featuring paleontologists Tom Holtz and Michael Brett-Surman. Partly because they're both engaging speakers but mostly because their knowledge of the subject was encyclopedic. I was on one panel and Robert Sawyer (who, remember, originally intended to become a paleontologist himself) was on both. Before the one we both sat on, we agreed that our role was mostly to keep our mouths shut and ask respectful questions.

Not easy for either of us, but we managed.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 21) . . .

posed by a sphinx?

(continued tomorrow)

And today's diagram . . .

In this diagram I show all the major influences on Cat (and Helen) at the point shortly before she journeys to Ys. Esme and Raven, of course. Barquentine and Saoirse, regrettably. The Baldwynn and the Goddess inevitably. Remarkably, Fingolfinrhod and Dahut merc'h Gradlon haven't been factored in. Even more surprisingly, I seem to have been toying with the possibility of dangling a romance between Cat (at that time Kate Gallowglass) and Barquentine before the reader. Anybody who's read the The Iron Dragon's Mother knows how implausible that would be. (Though I was playing with the tropes of the Romance genre there.)

And the purpose of the diagram? To make certain I wasn't overlooking anybody. There were a lot of characters in play by then.

Above (l-r) Tom Holtz, dodo, Michael Brett-Surman.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 20)


a cunning riddle

(continued tomorrow)

And today . . .

There is no diagram today.  Consider this a day of rest.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 19)


The answer to

And today's diagram . . .

This one's easy. It's an organization cart for the Conspiracy.  If you haven't read the novel, you should avoid reading the chart because it does give away some of the plot.

At the top is an absentee Chief Conspiratorial Officer. Under whom are two co-equals, the Chief Acting Head and the Temporary Chief Officer.  (They became the Acting Chief Conspirator and Temporary Head Conspirator in the novel.)  Beneath them are Shipping and REceiving, Employee resources (Lord Pleiades) , the Department of Corruption (A. Frowst) and the Department of Persecution (J. Squarefoot) The departments of Research and Blackmail are under the Department of Corruption. Clerical & Data Entry (Missy Argent) answers to both Corruption and Persecution and thus can play one off against he other. At the very bottom are Clerical Services (Lolly Underpol) and Computers.

Back when I worked for the National Solar Heating and Cooling Information Center, I was answerable to two dotted-line bosses and, let me tell you, it was a strange situation to be in.


Friday, October 18, 2019

"Cloud" in Asimov's Science Fiction


I'm in print again! This time, it's "Cloud" in the November/December issue of Asimov's Science Fiction.

I'm afraid the cover is a little misleading. "Cloud" is not a hard-science tale of survival featuring an astronaut descending through the atmosphere of a gas giant, reliant only on quick wits and a vacuum suit. Alas. After seeing the artwork, I can't help feeling a little guilty about that. Maybe I should write that cover story someday.

Nevertheless, I am proud of the story. It wasn't easy creating a world that exists on the surface of an enormous cloud with New York City at its apex. In fact, it took me a couple of years to write--or, rather, to discover exactly why I was writing a tale of World-as-Cloud. But it came out well, I think, and now readers have the opportunity to make up their own minds about it.

And today's diagram . . .

I've mentioned before that a common development in recent-ish literature is the fantasy novel where the hero/heroine one by one acquires a surrogate family. If you doubt this is a real thing, just take a look at Phil and Kaja Foglio's ongoing online graphic novel Girl Genius (you can find it here) and count the number of allies currently surrounding her.

I did something similar with The Iron Dragon's Mother. (I could hardly avoid it, given that it has a substrate of commentary on what fantasy is and should be.) But I flipped it by using the myth of Inanna as a structural model for the second half of the novel. When the goddess Inanna descended to the underworld, she had to lose, one by one, her armor, her sources of power, her clothing, and, ultimately, her life. Only then could she rise again.

This chart (a timeline reading from top to bottom) catalogs everything that Cat has lost and gained, in order to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. Because it's only when she's lost everything, including her new name, that she can find a proper resolution to the novel.

Mind you, when that resolution arrived it came as a surprise to me. But given all that Caitlin had paid for it, it was the only one that made sense.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. If you're going to be at Capclave this weekend, be sure o say hello.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 17)


As good as found

And today's diagram . . .

This diagram covers the Death watch chapter. Read for top down, Cat interacts with Fata Narcisse, G (Grimalka), and Queenie. All three relationships come together at Fata Narcisse's death. Spun off to the side are notes to myself not to forget: Claustrophobia and There must be a sense of  many servants.

The sunlike symbol after the death represents transcendence, accompanied by collapse of glamour and revenge. Following which, Cat will escape via Greyhound. 

Thoughts spun off by the diagram include: (hatred of the Fey) "I like her personally, but I hate her kind." and a list of Servants by Profession, including cooks, waiters, janitors, window washers, florists, yard workers. There are many more, of course, but that's a start. Also: Half the compound was given over to servants who kept it running (& those areas the gentry were not encouraged to enter.)

Most importantly, off to the left-hand side, I wrote (desire for a sister) and an arrow leading to (desire for an heir). At this point, I knew Fata Narcisse's intentions and could begin writing the chapter.

Interestingly enough, it was only when drawing this diagram that I realized how much of the novel was about Caitlin's search for a sister. And yet, it was in there from almost the beginning. 

And . . .

I came home from vacation and immediately took off to New England to teach a couple of classes at the University of Connecticut. I got home last night, and now I'm packing to go to Disclave. So... as always, I'm on the road again.

If you see me at the con, be sure to say hi.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

At the Lima Bean Festival


Marianne and I topped off our week down the Shore with a visit to the Lima Bean Festival in Cape May.

You may think that Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose is pretty damned American but there's nothing as authentically American as a Lima Bean Festival.  Cape May is a resort town but in October, most of the attendees are local. There are tents where people sell clothing, handmade jewelry, and clever art. Tables where the vendors are selling second-hand stuff less for the money than the conversation. And there are lima beans: Lima Bean Soup, Lima Bean Hummus, Lima Bean Chile, Lima Bean Empanadas... and some Lima Bean Pastries that I didn't dare look too closely at.

I thought that they'd given up on the Lima Bean Earrings but a jewelry lady told me they'd sold out early.

And The North Wind Speaks (part 16) . . .

A lost child?

(continued tomorrow)

And today's diagram . . .

The clearer the novel becomes in my head, the simpler the diagrams. Here, Caitlin's journey is boiled down into three seps:

1. Kill Dragon.

2. Recognize Guilt

3. Recognize Responsibility

Which was far too after-school special for what I had in mind. Kind of a failure in perception, this diagram.

Ths diagram is better. Cat slices through Avernus. At the center are her relationships with Narcisse, Grimalke, the pilots and the haints. The city is divided into the Ruling Class, the Elite, the Blue Collar and the Underlass. The people Cat interacts with include revenants, friends, at least one revolutinary, and servants.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 15)


and kill him.

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. So it's possible tomorrow's post will be a little late. I'll do my darnedest, though.

And today's diagram . . .

At the top is a line spoken by Caitlin to Esme when they dine in La Ghoulerie: "You can have anything on the vegan menu." To which, of course, Esme's response would be a disappointed, "Awww."

Today's diagram shows all the major characters as they enter and leave the novel. Note how many are female. Only Fingolfinrhod, Ederkopp, and Rabbit are male. Rabbit is still being held out as a possible love interest. Little does he (or did I) know that he was about to get his ass resolved straight out of the plot.


Monday, October 14, 2019

"The North Wind Speaks" (episode 14)


the cad down

And today's diagram . . .

This diagram is labeled In the Ancient City, which means I had not yet determined the city was Avernus nort hat it was built inside the crater of a (probably) dormant volcano.

This is arelationship diagram not a plot one. At top are Cat, Narcisse and Attercop ("Counselor"). Esme is off by herself because... well, because she's Esme. Cat has a relationship with two pilots (Ysault and Sibyl) without Fata Narcisse knowing about it. Narcisse has a relationship with the Conspiracy as do the pilots.

In the ideas part of the page, I ask Carnival?  which is a good notion. I also suggest bringing in the witches who almost catch Will on the train to Babel in The Dragons of Babel. Which, while not actually a bad idea isn't a very interesting one. So I didn't use it.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

The North Wind Speaks (part 13)


We'll track

(continued tomorrow)

And today's diagram . . .

This is the diagram where I finally realized Helen V.'s importance to the plot. I drew diverging lines for what happens to all the characters (I've finally reached the point where all those who have come together begin to fly apart), and I realized that I hadn't included Helen. So I wrote her name large. Then circled it. Then saw.

Much as I'm trying to de-mystify the process of writing in this series, there are moments in the process that cannot be put into words.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Texas Tommy's Wonderful Tornado


Pictured above is Texas Tommy who sells a variety of stuffed hot dogs from a hole-in-the-wall place in Cape May, NJ. He is, as you can guess, an eccentric guy with a good sense of humor. The kind of fellow you meet now and then who makes you feel cheerful for the rest of the day.

He is also a culture hero. For Mr. Tommy has created an entirely new and completely wonderful fast food--the Tornado.There's one pictured below:

And it tastes even better than it looks! What Texas Tommy did was to repurpose a soft ice cream machine to serve hot mashed potatoes. To which he added cheese, chili, hot peppers, salsa, and sour cream. The Five Basic Food Groups of Deliciousness.

It's a meal, it's a self-indulgence, and if the Catholic Church ever notices it, it will probably be declared a sin. That's how good it is.

Only in Cape May. And now that the tourist season is over, only on weekends.

And "The North Wind Speaks" (part 12) . . .

 Is it a faithless lover?

(continued tomorrow)

And today's diagram . . . 

This is kind of a mess, but have patience. The plot moves from top to middle, where it says CRASH. I'm trying to work out the implications of Olympia giving birth. Of Olympia herself, I write: A face of unconcern. A single un-winking eye. Hair like flaming oil. Olympia must be aloof, scornful, uncaring. "If I die, then so much the worse for you who were inadequate protectors.

Of the crone Grimka I write: The  crone is a brick of certainty & worth [therefore] se is a haint. Which, in the actual fact, is a false syllogism

Swooping lines represent the crone (Grimka) and Fata Narcisse. Of Narcisse, I ask: Does she die or live? Which is a much less interesting question than the one The Iron Dragon's Mother ultimately answers.


Friday, October 11, 2019

The American Phoenix


Here's a piece of American history that I wish everyone knew. George Henry White was the last African-American congressman of the Reconstruction era. The forces of racism and oppression systematically redrew legislative districts and enacted poll taxes, "literacy tests," and other laws to suppress black voters and one by one shut down politicians of color. On his last day in Congress, White delivered a speech in which he declared, "This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding but God-fearing people, faithful, industrious, loyal rising people--full of potential force."

Then he rolled up his sleeves and set to work building up the economic, social, and political power of his race. Whitesboro, NJ, where this marker stands, is part of his legacy.

Over a hundred years later, White's words proved prophetic when Barack Obama quoted them in his second inaugural address. What had been a sad tale of what America is capable of doing to its best and finest became one of vindication and triumph.

And today's episode of "The North Wind Speaks" . . .

. . . was accidentally posted with yesterday's. My bad. The series will continue tomorrow.

And today's diagram . . .

C is for Caitlin and Helen is H. The Heart stands for Romantic Lead who, in the end, never showed up. It turns out that there's no time for romance when you're running for your life. R is for Raven and of course Esme is E.

At this point, I know that Raven and Esme must eventually leave and I'm trying to figure out when Up top it says:

"I'll forget you," Esme promised. "Does that make it better?"
"Hush, monster," Raven said.

And below that, but written before:

Do they leave before the crisis? Of course they do.

Because Esme is Esme and Raven has things to do and a living to earn.