Monday, January 29, 2018

Boskone 55, or "In what universe does traveling from Florida to Boston in February make sense???"

Yes, it's that time again. Time to dig out the snowboots, retrieve the down coat and keep a weather eye open for blizzards. Boskone 55 (February 16-18, 2018) in Boston, MA is New England's longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. I've been attending since 2003 when I sent a son up north to school and thought it would be nice to pop in on him and have a fun weekend filled with discussions of books, film, art, music, games, and more. 

Naturally, there was a blizzard that weekend and we were snowed in at our hotel. That particular Boskone is remembered as "Snokone", but we still gather each President's Day weekend and I have to admit, it's a lot of fun.

Kudos to the Program Committee for putting together a great range of activities and panels.  Here's my schedule, and I'm humbled to be surrounded by such talented panelists.

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Format: Panel
16 Feb 2018, Friday 17:00 - 18:00, Marina 4 (Westin)
Fifty years ago, Anne McCaffrey released Dragonflight, the first novel in her Dragon Riders of Pern series. This epic fantasy series captured the hearts and minds of generations of readers. What is it about this book and this series that is so compelling?
Rob Greene, Jen Gunnels, Mary Kay Kare, Darlene Marshall, Bob Kuhn (M)

It's Not Always About Sex

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 12:00 - 13:00, Harbor III (Westin)
Speculative fiction is filled with friendships that turn into romantic entanglements. Is that all there is? Can’t our characters just have friends, of whatever gender, without hookups and/or heartbreaks? How about we rescue the world from the odd apocalypse or alien invasion, and forget about the sex for a change?
Juliana Spink Mills, Darlene Marshall (M), E.J. Stevens, Tamora Pierce, Steven Popkes

Reading by Darlene Marshall

Format: Reading
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 13:30 - 14:00, Independence (Westin)
Darlene Marshall

The Magic of Historical Fantasies

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 15:00 - 16:00, Harbor III (Westin)
Fantasies set in the past are growing ever more popular. Why do we love stepping back in time and sprinkling a little magic into the past? Could these same stories be told in modern times, or would some of that magic be lost? And when changing the workings of the known world by adding magic, is it still important to keep historical details correct?
Darlene Marshall (M), Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Lynch, Beth Meacham, Walter Jon Williams

Religious Characters in Fiction

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, Harbor III (Westin)
What challenges are involved in authentically depicting characters — perhaps like Russell's Emilio Sandoz, Pratchett's Brutha, Addison's Maia, or Wilson’s Alif — for whom religious belief is important? Are SF/F/H audiences accepting of these figures, or resistant? Is it easier to write characters who share your own beliefs, or more difficult (at least to do it well)?

Stephen P. Kelner Jr. (M), Max Gladstone, Darlene Marshall, James D. Macdonald
For more information about Boskone, visit The Boskone Blog, Twitter, and Facebook as well as by going to the Boskone website to register at

See you in Boston!

Review: Michael's Wings

Michael's Wings Michael's Wings by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another winner from erotica author Reisz, but as the author points out in the beginning, this collection of short stories is best appreciated by readers who're familiar with her The Original Sinners series, especially ones who've read The Siren.

Michael and Griffin are lovers but as with the best love stories, it's complicated. This collection follows them on part of their journey and Reisz brings her usual heat, sensitivity and humor to the writing. One laugh-out-loud moment was a discussion regarding the card game Cards Against Humanity:

"Remember he won the game on the 'How did I lose my virginity?' card."
"Answer: The Make-A-Wish Foundation."

If you like heated BDSM scenes, snark and romance then the Original Sinners may be for you. On the other hand, if you're turned off by relationships with multiple partners and sexual hookups that get so complicated you practically need a flow-chart, it may not be your cup of tea. I happen to love the series and look forward to Reisz's next work.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why I Love Research

I'm re-reading one of my favorite Florida histories, James Branch Cabell's The St. Johns; A Parade of Diversities and enjoying it all over again. This is one of my favorite quotes, and it seems timely: "Andrew Jackson, that idolized heckler for the unshaved frontier, who was now beginning to dominate the United States as an epitome of their national failings...."

It really is an entertaining history, well worth tracking down in a used bookstore.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a cracking good tale! Half the fun was identifying the 19th C. tales of the fantastic that are referenced: Rappaccini’s Daughter, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Cornish Giant, The Prisoner of Zenda and The Island of Dr. Moreau are some of the stories mentioned as wonderful plot points.

But at its heart, The Alchemist’s Daughter is The League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen (along with a token male, one Mr. Holmes), sisters brought together by circumstances. They’re not all exactly human, but they share a common need to be accepted, part of a family.

Mary Jekyll, a conventional London spinster, uncovers a mystery following her mother’s death, a near feral young woman named Diana Hyde who claims to be her sister. From there the mysteries grow and expand as they meet others connected to Mary and Diana by a mysterious scientific society.

I would love to read more tales of these women and their adventures (chronicled for profit by one of their little band) and it’s fun to see a new take on classic tales of English literature.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

These Boots Were Made for Walking

There's something poignant about retiring your hiking boots. These Mephistos have served me well over more than 25 years. They've trekked from the winding streets of Edinburgh to the ramparts of Masada, from the heights of Hawaii's Big Island to the depths of a North Florida cave, from the California coast to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Australian Outback.

These Nubuck beauties were re-soled three times, got new laces more than once, and are still in good shape. However, technology has advanced over the decades and it's time to replace them with 21st century hiking boots, boots that are waterproof, boots that weigh less.

Sure, I could still wear them on weekends and for casual walks, but there are people who need them more than I do. That's why I'm donating these boots and some of the hiking socks to our local homeless program.

Shoes and warm socks, as well as packages of unworn underwear, are some of the greatest needs for people on the street. When the seasons change and you finally get around to that long deferred closet clean-out, check with your local shelter agencies and see if they can use your running shoes, low-heeled boots, or other items you're no longer wearing. You'll have the memories, but someone else will have the benefit of warm, dry feet.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Review: A Taste of Honey

A Taste of Honey A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the more common tropes in historical romance is the aristos leaving tradesmen's bills unpaid because a gentleman always pays gambling debts to another gentlemen, but hoi polloi have to wait their turn.

But if you're one of those tradesmen you could be one bad debt away from bankruptcy or debtor's prison yourself. You had to put up the capital to fund your venture, unpaid bills mean you can't pay your creditors.

I hadn't planned on this being a screed on market economics, but part of what I enjoyed most about A Taste of Honey was its focus on ordinary people with businesses to run and bills to pay rather than the ton, bakers and shopgirls instead of dukes and countesses. We met Robert Moon earlier in the Lively St. Lemeston saga, but now he gets his own story, and it's as hot and sweet as cakes fresh from the oven. Be warned, if you're dieting this book will make you moan in frustration because while the sex between Robert and his assistant Betsy is hot, the pastry and confection descriptions are even hotter.

Lerner has earned a reputation not only for writing excellent romance but for her ability to bring in local color and ordinary people to her stories. It's a nice change from the glittering ballrooms and Almack's, just as a good loaf of rye makes a nice change from fluffy white breads.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Review: A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book

A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book A Queen from the North: A Royal Roses Book by Erin McRae
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this alternate history spin on The War of the Roses very much, as it combined the best of The Crown with some intriguing characters in a world similar to ours, but not exactly the same. In the Unified Kingdom of Britain the Lancasters hold sway, and have since Richard III was defeated. York is a backwater with a huge chip on its shoulder, Ireland is an independent kingdom and the Commonwealth is pushing back at edicts from London. America as a nation does get mentioned, so one presumes there was a revolution.

Enter Lady Amelia, staunch daughter of Yorkists, who catches the eye of the Prince of Wales. Their relationship has all the earmarks of a marriage of convenience uniting North and South, and there's a paranormal element as well.

I wanted to give it 4.5 stars. While I understood the circumstances preventing the protagonists from talking to one another, too many Big Misunderstandings could have been cleared up with a conversation or two. However, I'm already looking forward to another Royal Roses book and hope to see more of this universe.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Beach time

One of my few regrets about living in Gainesville for my adult life is its distance from the ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Granted, it's the place to be during hurricane season (or as I told more than one concerned friend during Irma, "We're the place Floridians evacuate to, not from"), but I miss being close to the sand and the sea, especially the Gulf.

I grew up in SW Florida and spent many days at Naples, Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers beaches. When our children were small we often vacationed at Clearwater beach or with the grandparents in Fort Myers. Now, though, I don't get over there as much as I'd like. However, since my son married into a Yankee family that likes to come south in the winter, we're spending the end of the year at Siesta Key.

This was our third visit to the son's in-laws and we opted to stay for a week and really make a vacation of it. We had a charming, rustic Old Florida cottage on the Intracoastal Waterway and every morning I'd eat breakfast on our veranda and watch the dolphins jump and the boats cruise by.

Between that and the long walks on the beach, I realized something about myself as a writer. It dawned on me that maybe I should stay in my comfort zone and keep setting my books mostly in Florida and the West Indies. I like it here. I can describe the land and the history and best of all, I get to take research trips to places I love, like St. Augustine, Fernandina, Key West, Siesta Key and other sites. I can share my joy in Florida with people who only know of Disneyworld and South Beach.

This makes me happy, so I'm going to set aside the 10,000 words of the manuscript that had been frustrating me (the as yet untitled Book 9) and start a new story in the land I love. Believe me, you'll hear more on this as it develops.