Friday, December 15, 2017

“You ain’t from around here, I can tell that from how you talk.”
“No, ma’am, I’m from England.”
“Hmph. Only good thing that ever came from England was tea.”
Julia didn’t think it necessary to explain that tea came from China, for Ma Ivey was still talking.
--Smuggler's Bride

Today is #InternationalTeaDay and I'm celebrating at lunch with a pot of gunpowder green. Of course, that's what I do every day when I'm home for lunch. Tea drinking is as much a part of my daily routine as my love of coffee, with a pot of green in the afternoon and a cuppa black in the early evening.

I'm very particular about my tea drinking, which is why I almost never order it when I'm out. Unless it's brewed properly, loose-leaf in a warmed pot, I'd rather have coffee. I do take bagged tea when I'm traveling, but I also have a tea press if I have the opportunity to bring water to a near boil in my hotel room.

There's nothing quite like a soothing cup of tea in the middle of the afternoon. Even the ritual of making the tea helps me relax, gather my thoughts, and get back into whatever I'm working on that day. So if you're a fan, whether it's Jasmine Pearl or English Breakfast or Assam or even Rooibos, today's your day! Take a tea break and enjoy life one sip at a time.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Artemis

Artemis Artemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to give this a higher rating. I loved the "gee whiz!" aspect of solving problems in a closed space environment, I liked the idea of an Arab woman protagonist with a sketchy personal life, and I loved that it passed the Bechdel Test--women were talking with other capable women about science, politics and economics.

But it could have been so much better. Jazz struck me as a Heinleinesque heroine, and not in a good way. She could do amazing things in crisis situations, she was smart and capable, but when she mused on her own life, her sexuality and her choices it was like being in the head of a 17-year-old boy writing about girl stuff. Trust me, women do not focus on their own boobs unless they've got a mammogram scheduled or the darn things are getting in the way again.

I've heard this is already optioned for movie, not surprising given the success of The Martian, and I hope it will get a female director and lead actress who'll bring more sensibility to the role of Jazz and the surrounding characters from Artemis.

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Bringing science to life (and to Micanopy)

“Do you have everything you need?”
Daphne looked at the items in front of her and ticked them off on her fingers.
“I gathered the driest wood and plant shreds I could find. Here is your piece of char cloth. I have my twigs ready and more dry wood. I prepared the firepit.”
“Then stop humming and listen, Miss Farnham.”
She couldn’t help it. She was so excited at learning how to make a fire that the humming was springing out of her like the water burbling up to the pool. Why had no one ever realized how much she loved learning new things? Why had she never realized it? She vowed when she returned to England, she would make it her goal to learn one new thing each day.
--Castaway Dreams

Yesterday I learned about gender differences in identifying colors, training cats, preserving flavor in salsa, and earworms. I was a guest judge at the Micanopy Academy Science Fair, and it was fabulous. Students presented entertaining and unusual research and I had a glimpse into where some of these young men and women could be in 10 years.

I'm a liberal arts major, but when I'm researching my novels I love learning new things: how to remove bullets, hiding pirate treasure, surviving a shipwreck--these are just a few of the tidbits I've used in my work. Seeing the student projects in the fields of behavioral science, physics, environmental science and other fields was inspiring. Even more, the school is on a dirt road in a tiny hamlet where the teachers and staff struggle to find the resources to help their students reach out and achieve their goals. Kudos Miss Andrea and the others for all their hard work! I appreciate being a part of it and I learned stuff, just like Daphne.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Review: Provenance

Provenance Provenance by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Ann Leckie, set in the same universe as her previous works, but with a different race/set of characters. Part of what Leckie does so well is gender-bend characters, making the reader see them and their interactions in an entirely new way.

However, the protagonist of Provenance is clearly a young woman, dealing with so many of the same issues young women deal with every day: her job, her friends, her siblings, and, most of all, her mother. Ingray needs her powerful mother's approval to secure her place in their political fiefdom and she risks all on a mission to recover revered artifacts.

Part of what I loved about Ingray was that she's not superwoman. She makes mistakes, she can't manage her hair, she gets upset, and she cries. Just like some real women do.

I was concerned about whether I would enjoy Leckie's writing after the Ancillary series, but now I know she can be added to my autobuy list and I'll get an entertaining story with memorable characters and settings that help restore the "sensawonder" I first received from reading science fiction.

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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Review: Don't Let Go

Don't Let Go Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gripping mystery involving black helicopters, secret government agencies and a mystery surrounding a night of tragedy for a group of high school students. I read it in one afternoon--a real page turner.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

“Please keep an eye on them. I’m going down to the beach for more water.”
“What if they try to escape?”
He handed her his stick.
“Bash their little heads, Miss Farnham. They’ll behave.”
She looked at him skeptically, but took the stick. Pompom sniffed all around the valise, then flopped down next to her, eyeing the pot with his head on his paws.
Alex returned and added water to the pot, careful not to let it fall below a boil. Eventually, after some whining (the dog) and grumbling (Miss Farnham), he pronounced the crabs ready for consumption. He extracted the crabs by using his stick to flip them into the air.
“Catch them, Daphne! Quick, before the dog grabs them!”
Holding the valise open, Miss Farnham dashed about, catching the manna as it fell from the heavens. The dog barked, and she laughed, and Alexander felt almost lighthearted.
He put it down to hunger.

--Castaway Dreams

I've always felt it's important to count your blessings as often as possible, but Thanksgiving gives us a special focus on being grateful for the little things--food, shelter, puppies, and people who love us.

I'm especially grateful for each and every one of my readers. When you take time to drop me a note saying you enjoyed my stories, it recharges my batteries and gets me back to the keyboard. Thank you. I couldn't do this without you.

As you celebrate today, remember those who do not have the blessings we all too often take for granted. Donate a book to a program for children living in a "literacy desert" (there are more than you suspect), volunteer to read to a youngster or an invalid, help your local public library when it has fundraising efforts. You're reading this because you love books (I only have the finest fans
!), so share that with those who do not have the blessings we enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Goodbye, CompuServe

It's the end of an era, and for some of us, a very personal loss. CompuServe is closing.

Yes, I know, you're probably scratching your head and saying, "Didn't they shut down years ago? My granny used CompuServe!"

Your granny wasn't the only one. Back in 1992 friends in science fiction fandom started asking me, "What's your email?" I looked at them blankly, and a kind soul explained to me how it worked.

"You mean I can send a message to anyone, anywhere?"
"Sure, as long as they have an email address."

I needed email for my responsibilities as event coordinator for the first night of ConFrancisco, the 1993 World Science Fiction Convention in San Francisco. When I asked which service was best, I was told GEnie, Prodigy and CompuServe were all good choices, but many preferred CompuServe because of its civility--moderators kept forums from erupting into flame wars. This appealed to me, so I became 71702,3077 at I also had a couple other accounts at free sites and I immediately saw the difference. I described it as "...the difference between a toll road and the Interstate. I'll pay a little extra for clean rest stops."

My two forums were the SF forum and the LitForum, but I soon gravitated almost exclusively to LitForum. They were talking about books! Authors hung out there! One day I tried my hand at a writing exercise and after I posted it, people asked "What happens next?"

That was how my writing career began, and about that time I was invited to be on the Litforum staff. While I was working on my first novel CompuServe evolved. I remember its heyday when it branched off into the Romance Forum (where I was librarian in Erotic Writing) and that helped lead to the founding of RWAOnline, still my "local" chapter. We would staff the forum on Christmas day to help newbies navigate their way onto their new computers (some of which were preloaded with CompuServe accounts) and we encouraged writing and discussion and shared stories of our children, our jobs, and our losses.

Around 1997 AOL bought CompuServe and I recall turning to a friend and saying, "It's like an honors fraternity being taken over by Animal House." Things began to change, and not for the better. We pulled back from our expansions, cut back on some forums, began to see massive changes as the world moved from dial up to free wifi where you could access anything.

And yet, CompuServe endured. Now our forum was Books and Writers Community and I was still on staff, as Section Leader for Erotic Writing. Over the last 10 years I would tell people I was at CompuServe and they'd look at me strangely and say, "They're still around?" But for those of us who hung in there, it was a valuable site to talk, to share what was new in our lives, to discuss books and writing.

It seems odd to say that CompuServe's closing is like the loss of a friend, but that's how it feels. The staff is working to move all of us who want to stay in the Books and Writers Community to a new site, but it will be different.

So thank you, to all those who made CompuServe a site for civil discussion for all those years. I will miss the clean restrooms.

Review: Someone to Wed

Someone to Wed Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two of my favorite tropes--Beauty and the Beast and Marriage of Convenience are combined in a moving, warm story that's "adult" in the best meaning of the word. Best of all, this is a reverse B&tB--the heroine, Wren, has a massive port wine birthmark covering her face. Her perceived disfigurement is so severe that the very few times she goes out in public, she goes out heavily veiled.

She has no friends. Now that her aunt and uncle are dead, she has no family. She has no social contacts at all, but Wren is a successful businesswoman, so she decides to fill at least one void in her life--she's going to buy a husband.

Alexander Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has responsibilities he never wanted and not enough money to make things right on his inherited estates. To Wren's dismay, he may be cash-strapped, but he's also drop-dead gorgeous. Westcott knows his looks contribute to his being an asset on the marriage mart, just as it makes a difference for young debutantes. I love the role-reversal here!

Best of all, in finest Balogh fashion, Alexander and Wren act like grown-ups in their decision making, in their conversations, in their interaction with others. Their choices make sense and are made with a real feel for how they affect others in their sphere--family, friends, employees.

All of Balogh's books are an autobuy for me, and she's an author I always recommend to budding Regency romance writers as someone to study. Her writing is masterful and evocative, and this latest installment in the Westcott series is sure to please her legion of fans.

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Review: Secrets in Death

Secrets in Death Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a talented author who keeps me reading a series where we're now up to book #45. Yes, it featured many of our favorite characters, but part of the fun is seeing the interaction of all of them--much like a family reunion.

The question wasn't who had a motive to murder Larinda Mars but rather, who didn't? The gossip show hostess had a sideline as a blackmailer and her files contained intel on nearly all the rich-and-famous in NYC, including Nadine, Mavis, and, of course, Roarke and Eve Dallas.

While I had suspicions about the murderer, the "whodunnit?" part was well crafted and kept me turning pages in satisfaction up until the very end. I'd never recommend someone dive into the "In Death" series with book #45, but for fans it will be a must-read.

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Review: Mischief

Mischief Mischief by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun Halloween treat for fans of Reisz' Original Sinners series, as Nora offers her lover Nico a traditional American Halloween celebration. Naturally, in addition to bobbing for apples there's bobbing for other treats involving a friendly waitress who's up for a threesome.

There's a great twist at the end, and I enjoyed this little seasonal offering very much.

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