Friday, February 24, 2012

Boskone 49 or "How I Spent My Winter Vacation"

I'm back from Boston (with a side trip to NYC) and catching up, finally!  Boskone 49 was fun and, as usual, a very worthwhile trip for me as a writer, a SF fan, and someone with lots of friends in Northeast fandom.  It was great catching up with people, and the weather cooperated this year.  In fact, it was so lovely when I got off the train at South Station that I walked to the Westin, rolling my bag behind me.

Let me start by saying congratulations to the Program staff for once again pulling together a great mix of people and ideas.  I wish I'd had a chance to attend more of the other panels.

My first program item was Friday night, "Dressing the Parties--Regalia and Symbolism" on rank, attire, clothing colors, sumptuary laws and more.  I was moderating, and the other panelists were Leonid Korogodski, Walter H. Hunt, Ellen Asher and Elizabeth Bear.  We each brought a unique background and perspective, which always makes for the most interesting discussions. In my case, I could talk a bit about pirate lore, and at one point veered off to mention the attempts by the US Navy to keep the Revenue Marine (now the US Coast Guard) in ugly uniforms to undercut their morale and appearance.  You can read more about that in Smuggler's Bride.

Then I dashed off to "A Study of the Humours--Medieval Medicine" with Laurie Mann moderating, and Elaine Isaak, Kenneth Schneyer and James D. Macdonald as the panelists.  I was there because of Sea Change and the upcoming Castaway Dreams, novels about surgeons in the early 19th C.  It was an opportunity to share information about how medicine has changed, and a little bit about how it hasn't.  It was also fun to mention how the "humours" that were once believed to control health still color our conversation, as when one is said to "vent her spleen" or "he is full of bile".

Friday night continued with a quick bite with longtime fan and friend Laurie Mann, who with her husband Jim was part of the well-organized program staff.  Later that evening was the Art Show Reception with a dessert spread that had fans lined up and drooling well ahead of the event.  I snagged a piece of Ben Yalow's chocolate-and-more-chocolate birthday cake but made an early evening of it.  I've learned over the years to pace myself at conventions.

Saturday morning I had a reading, sharing a scene from Castaway Dreams.  I remembered my friend Janice's advice and refrained from reading about amputations, focusing instead on humor. I also attended a panel on "Medical Myths and Errors in SF/F" with some medical professionals who've written on the subject and who likely spend a lot of time screaming at their television sets when people get stuff wrong.

On Saturday afternoon I moderated "Trends in Young Adult Literature".  The other panelists were Jack M. Haringa, Susan MacDonald and Jordan Hamessley.  Even though I don't write YA, I read it for pleasure--Sharon Shinn and Maggie Stiefvater are two of my favorite authors--and we had a lively discussion about the roots and causes of dystopian lit for teens, Twilight, Harry Potter and coming trends.  We can't predict the future, but the YA paranormals do not yet seem to have run their course.

Saturday night was supper with friends, then some of the parties promoting various future conventions, topped off by Maltcon, a gathering for fans of Scotland's finest export.  It was educational, and tasty.

My last panel was Sunday morning, "Romantic Comedy in Science Fiction and Fantasy" with Ellen Asher, Paula Lieberman, Toni L.P. Kellner and me moderating. We talked about Connie Willis, Jayne Anne Krentz, Lois McMaster Bujold (A Civil Campaign) and a few other authors, but mostly came away with the thought that while there's plenty of SF romance and SF comedy, there aren't a whole lot of authors combining the two in a classic romance novel format where the relationship is the central plot point.

I had to leave Boskone 49 a little early to catch a train to NY, but I'm already planning and looking forward to Boskone 50 next year.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On the Road

I'm passing through NYC on my way to Boston, taking advantage of the wifi in my eldest son's apartment.  I say "apartment".  His living space is the size of my screen porch back in Florida.  But it's in a great location, and he loves living by himself for the first time.

I've got a train ride up to Boston for Boskone 49, and I expect to spend the time productively working on Castaway Dreams edits.  On the other hand, the clack of the train wheels has a soporific effect, so I may end up napping in the quiet car.  One of the things I love about work and travel now compared to 10 years ago is the availability of wifi and cloud storage for my work.  I used to have to take copies of my work on flash drives, and then make sure I transferred everything back to my machine at home.  Now I know when I finish here, and open my machine at home, it'll show the updated manuscript.  I love life in the 21st century.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

            “Do you not want to cut a dash in society?  Never mind, I do not know why I even bother.  If I said I needed a new hat you would say ‘You only have one head, why do you need more than one hat?’”
            “I am perfectly willing to acknowledge you need a warm hat for winter wear and a straw hat for summer.  Miss Farnham, this conversation is nonsense.  I do not need to change my ways to catch a wife.  I have money saved, and all of my limbs, and my teeth.  I am a man of abstemious habits.  I cannot imagine how having a waistcoat of daffodil satin would make a bit of difference in my prospects.”
            Daphne perked up. 
            “Now you are putting your brain to work, Dr. Murray!”  She pointed her finger at him. “With your coloring daffodil satin would be a handsome choice.  Not for a coat though, that would be a bit much.  As you say, for a waistcoat.  Really, Doctor, I had no idea you were taking fashion so seriously.”
            “I am not taking this seriously, for a very good reason.  That statement about my wearing something as ridiculous as daffodil satin was meant to illustrate why this conversation is waste of time.  I have no intention of drawing attention to myself that way.
            “All I need is someone who can tend house, cook a meal, will not frighten the horses with her looks, and who will care for her children.  The more I think about it, the more I agree with you that I could use a wife, Miss Farnham.  If I had a wife, I would not need to pay for a housekeeper or a cook, an economy I approve of.”
--Castaway Dreams, coming in May, 2012

Ah, Valentine's Day!  A day to celebrate love in all its forms.  Whether the love you get is from your human companion or wet doggy kisses from your furry best friend or your cat politely ignoring you until suppertime, I hope your day of love's celebration is everything you want it to be.  Those of us in the business know that Happily Ever After takes a lot of hard work and commitment, and it never hurts to take a moment to say, "I love you."

Off to Boston!

I'll be leaving for Boskone 49 this week, and as always the fun part is trying to figure out what to pack.  Snow or no snow?  Cold? Rain? Sun?  I know I'll do lots of walking, so good shoes and boots are a must, but if I want to take my smaller bag (and put copies of Sea Change in there for friends), some judicious packing is called for.

In the meantime, I'm doing some edits on Castaway Dreams before sending it off to my editor.  I'm working on cover and ad copy also, and submitted my art proposal for the cover. I even got a little work done on my novel after Castaway Dreams, so things are coming along.

Monday, February 06, 2012

New Novel Coming, Spring 2012!


I've been waiting until I had my paperwork finished to make the announcement, but my next historical romance, Castaway Dreams, is sold to Amber Quill Press.  I anticipate an ebook and print release in late spring, and naturally there will be more on this as it gets closer.

Castaway Dreams is the story of dour surgeon Alexander Murray from Sea Change, the guy who didn't get the girl.  At first I thought Alexander would be the hero, then I realized that while he and Charley would have bonded happily over dissecting cadavers, she really needed a pirate.  Alexander thinks he knows what he needs, but his life is about to get complicated by "Daffy" Daphne Farnham, a young lady aboard the vessel returning him to England. Here's a glimpse from the first few pages of the manuscript:

c. 2012

            “Useful,” she said in a low voice.  “Is that how you evaluate people, Doctor?”
            He looked at her with greater interest.  Perhaps she was not as dim as he thought.
            “Yes, Miss Farnham, that is how I evaluate people.  In the natural world everything serves a purpose and is useful, from the animals we hunt and the plants we harvest to the maggots that eat dead flesh.”
            “But what of young ladies, Doctor?  Must they be as useful as,” she swallowed, “maggots?”
            He stepped closer to her, intrigued now.  She smelled of lavender, and the part of his brain connected to certain anatomical functions registered this and woke up.  It had been a long time since he’d relaxed in port with hired companionship.  Then he remembered that young ladies were not in a class of women where one could dally without consequences, even young ladies of questionable reputation.
            But he was still intrigued.
            “I do not deal much with young ladies, Miss Farnham. I can tell you though that all the women I do know have been, in one fashion or another, useful.”  He thought back to a certain young woman who had run off with an American and added, “Some are extremely useful, and competent in a crisis, and yes, that is how I judge people.”
            Her eyelashes lowered, shading her thoughts from him. She was wearing something ruffled and pink, of course, and he noted that women’s gowns were now so high-waisted that it brought their bosoms into pronounced prominence.  She had a shawl of flowered silk wrapped about her against the evening breeze and the light wind whipped strands of hair out from under the frilly and completely non-utilitarian bit of lace atop her head.
            “Dr. Murray!  Such a harsh assessment of the ladies!  La, sir, you would find yourself shunned from the most entertaining drawing rooms for such a puritanical outlook.”
            “Since it has never been my desire to be a success in entertaining, I will not fret over it, Miss Farnham.”
            She seemed to be mulling over his words, then her face brightened.
            “I do have a useful skill, Dr. Murray.”
            He looked at her.
            “I am quite talented at picking out just the right hat or gloves to complement an ensemble.”
            She smiled, waiting for his praise. 
            “Miss Farnham, I would hardly term that a useful skill.”
            “Oh, but I beg to differ, sir.  Knowing which accessories make an outfit complete is what separates us from the animals.”
            He found his mouth opening to argue this and then shut it.  What was the point?  But now, with her mind engaged, she was prepared to defend her claim.  She came closer then and lightly laid her lilac-gloved hand on his arm. 
            “What is life without some color, some entertainment, Doctor?  Should our days only be filled with work and useful functions?  What of...” she thought for a moment, and since he suspected this was a rare event, he did not interrupt her.  “Butterflies!  Butterflies spend their days flitting from flower to flower, Doctor.  They live to entertain.”
            “You are mistaken, Miss Farnham.  Butterflies are useful creatures, as are other members of the Lepidoptera family.  Butterflies and moths spread pollen amongst plants.  Even the ugliest and plainest moth can do that job, just as a butterfly does.  And they make a meal for birds.”
            “My dear Dr. Murray!  Do you see butterflies floating through a meadow on a summer morning and only think of them as food for larger creatures?”
            He would have told her how long it had been since he’d seen a summer meadow, with or without butterflies adorning it, but he was too aware of the feel of her hand on his arm.  She was not applying any pressure at all, but it drew his senses.  That butterfly touch, even muted by her gloves and his coat, made him aware of how alien she truly was, how soft and clean and fragrant, so different from the men with whom he spent his days and his nights. 
            “Miss Daphne Farnham!”
            Mrs. Cowper’s grating voice broke his concentration, and he looked up from the soft lips of his interlocutor to see her chaperone bearing down on them like a ship of the line. Even in the near dark he could see how pale the older woman’s face was.  She was also short of breath, but given her size that was to be expected.  One could not haul that much weight up and down between decks without strain.
            “Mrs. Cowper, are you well?”
            She looked at him disdainfully.
            “I am well enough, Mr. Murray!  I just need to sit down and drink my cordial to feel tip-top again.  As for you, miss, you should not be out here.  What would your father say?”
            Bertha Cowper’s jowly cheeks were aquiver with indignation, and small wisps of hair that had dared to escape her tightly pulled bun were sticking to the sweat pouring down her forehead.  He started to speak again, but she was still going on.
            “...and if I need medical attention, I will wait until we are in England and I will consult a proper physician.”  She punctuated this by grabbing Miss Farnham by the arm in a grip that made Alexander wince for the young woman’s sake, and pulled her charge behind her, still talking.
            “ should not be speaking to the likes of Mr. Murray, Miss Farnham.  He’s only a ship’s surgeon.  You are in enough trouble, young lady, you do not need to be looking for more...”
            “But the sailors call him doctor, Mrs. Cowper.”
            “They are common, and ignorant.  You are above him in station and it will not help your reputation to be seen spending time with him or with the other riff-raff aboard this vessel!”
            But then an odd thing happened.  Even as she was being hauled away Miss Farnham turned.  She smiled at Alexander, a smile of such surpassing sweetness he was struck dumb by the gesture. He could see all too clearly now how even a reasonable man could lose his composure over a cloth-headed young lady.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Herding sheep

He sighed, but trooped off and Daphne and Pompom followed. At the rocks Daphne put Pompom in the shade with a command to “Stay!” Dr. Murray was impressed when the dog obeyed her.

“Pompom is the world’s cleverest puppy, Dr. Murray.”

“I would not go that far, Miss Farnham. I daresay you never saw a collie herding sheep.”

“Pompom could herd sheep if he wanted to,” she said loyally.

He turned and cocked an eyebrow at her.

“Maybe one small sheep.” She paused. “Why is there one sheep and two sheep? Why aren’t there flocks of sheeps?”

“I will not be able to sleep tonight for pondering that question, Miss Farnham.”
--Castaway Dreams, WIP

I was tickled today to see a link to a video from Sweden of a rabbit that herds sheep.  If a little bunny can herd sheep (and why aren't they sheeps?) then clearly Daphne's darling bichon could do it.  Here's the link to the herding bunny: