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2018 wasn't a lot of fun, for reasons given at length in a locked post, but which can be summarised as I spent it being not well. I'm still not well, but things are slowly getting better.

On the writing front, Loose Id closed its doors after 14 years, leaving many of my titles without a home. My titles at NineStar Press are fine and I'm not having any problems writing new material, but I have to stay off the computer as much as possible for now, which means self-publishing the out of print works won't be practical for a while.

In summary: 2018 sucked, and I am grateful to my immediate management at my day job who did their best to make it suck a little less.

Hello World

Dec. 8th, 2018 03:31 pm
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 Hello World. I am not dead. I do have a new and exciting medical problem, details in a locked post. I am still failing to keep up with Dreamwidth, although for slightly less unpleasant reasons than "looking at a screen bigger than my phone hurts my brain". Ditto doing something about my profic website, ditto any of my WiP that were progressing on electrons rather than dead tree. Even dead tree has been not happening over the last month, which is annoying because The Words Want Out; but some of that is because as has previously been mentioned I get a bit shy about writing the smutty bits when there are small children sitting next to me on the bus and I have run out of not-smutty bits to write, or at least lost track of which not-smutty bits are left to write.

"Screen hurts my brain" is actually still a bit of an issue in that my capacity for looking at a full size screen doesn't greatly exceed my working hours at the day job, but it's slowly getting better and there are workarounds. Unfortunately it's chewing up all the bandwidth I have, which means I have read lots of interesting books and they are not going to get reviewed or logged, not even to my usual lackadaisical standards.

I gather Tumblr has gone the "thanks for building our readership, now take your dirty, dirty porn away from our advertisers" route. This does not affect me because I never managed to wrap my elderly brain around the concept of Tumblr anyway - probably because I'm not a terribly visual person. I suppose my erotica alter ego ought to dig out their Tumblr password for the first time in several months and see if the account still exists. Not quite sure why I grok Twitter but not Tumblr, but there you go.

As anyone who follows my Twitter account has probably realised, I'm still spending too much of my limited screen time on the Cult Pens website. The "but I need it for professional writing purposes!" excuse is wearing a bit thin now, even if there's genuinely a lot of truth in it. I'd better get on and justify it...
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It is possible that I have too many fountain pens. I did not, however, until very recently own a pocket fountain pen; and that one is sufficiently expensive that I'm a little reluctant to take it out of the house. So when I was browsing the clearance section at Cult Pens and saw an Ohto pocket pen at £6 I decided that I Wanted That.

Ohto Rook fountain pen in green and black colorway, capped

Read more... )
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I haven't posted since mid-May. Apparently I haven't read Dreamwidth since shortly after that, since I missed the news about a friend's new job. (Congratulations to that friend. :-)

There are a number of factors in this, not least the ongoing migraine issues which chew up quite a lot of bandwidth and don't leave much for things other than day job. Also, at one point one of the side-effects of the meds and/or migraine was a bout of something close to hypergraphia, which is how I come to have a completed short story, a large chunk of a different short story draft, a bunch of random jottings on story ideas, and an outline and substantial chunk of something that is probably going to be at least novella length, all as a result of the #cockygate nonsense. This lot was mostly written by hand, with fountain pen and ink, and needed/will need to be transcribed onto electrons.

And that was before my Firefox install fell over multiple times, on one occasion taking Edge with it. Those things that require the big screen on the laptop plus a proper keyboard were not happening, and that includes Dreamwidth, both reading and writing. Actually fixing [expletive deleted] Firefox seems to involve removing every trace of it and then doing a fresh install, then waiting for the next time it falls over, so the only two reasons I use it at this point are Containers and NoScript. It makes Edge look stable by comparison.

And at some point I have to face the task of updating my website, so that will consume such spare clock cycles as I have. I shall endeavour to post slightly more frequently than I have of late, but am not making any promises.
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Occasionally a silly idea seizes my brain and won't go away. If you aren't familiar with the #cockygate nonsense, this may not make a lot of sense.

Kevin the Knap: Volume 1 of the TrollBane Chronicles

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My primary publisher, Loose Id, has alas closed as of 7 May. My books published through them are now out of print, although you may see them on third party distributors for a short period while the out of print notices work through the system.

I do intend to make the books available again, but that takes a lot of time, which is a resource I'm rather short of at the moment. I'm also waiting on Loose Id to finish working on the rights releases for the cover art I'd like to re-use. I'm focusing on writing new material for now.

If you're still looking for something of mine to read, I do have books at NineStar Press under the name Storm Duffy, which are still available and will be for the foreseeable future.

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I've been intending to post this for the last two months... Never mind.

I have neck problems and instructions from the physiotherapist to remember to use a good posture, so went in search of a writing slope to use at home. It needed to be relatively light, big enough to hold an A4 page in both portrait and landscape orientation, sturdy enough for an adult to use, not require me to lean hard on the paper with my non-writing hand to pin it down, and have a lip to catch any escaping paper sliding down. This ticks almost all the boxes, for a reasonable price as such things go. The one thing it misses is "portrait A4". The surface is big enough, but there is a pen rest groove cut into the slope 2 to 3 cm below the top, and the top edge of an A4 sheet resting on the bottom lip will lie over this -- something to note if you want to write/colour to the very edge of the page.

It's made of a sturdy sheet of acrylic folded into shape, with a nonslip silicon strip on both surfaces in contact with the table, and another along the bottom edge of the writing service as a lip, thick enough to hold a colouring book in place but thin enough not to press too hard into my arm. I'm mostly using it to write on A5 paper, and finding it much better for my neck than writing with the paper flat on the table. It will also take the weight of an iPad 2, which is handy when I'm playing with electronic jigsaws. The only fault I found is that the gloss surface reflects overhead lights. Mine's black but it's also available in white, which may or may not be better for the glare problem. For me it's worth every penny of the 20 pounds I paid. Oh, and you get an email with a link to a downloadable colouring book. :-)

Amazon UK
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First thing on the packing list I've forgotten is to post to DreamWidth... Here Friday lunchtime to Monday late afternoon. No panels, not least because I'm still having occasional problems with my speech. In case anyone doesn't already know, I'm @bookfetishist on Twitter.
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In the never ending quest to tidy my room, I decided to have a cull of the pen herd. I have many, many pens of various types accumulated over the years, some dating back to when I was at university [mumble] years ago. I can tell, because they're in the biscuit tin I used as a pen case.

I was going to be ruthless about throwing out the ones that didn't work anymore, but some of the ancient and venerable have sentimental value, or are promo pens in a barrel style that I find very comfortable to use, so I set about investigating the availability of refills.

First port of call was the Cult Pens website, a wondrous cavern of everything pen. It turned out they were having a three for two special deal on Schneider products, and Schneider make All the Refills, or pretty close to it. I already had a Schneider disposable courtesy of a sample in a previous order, so I knew they made decent cheap pens. Cue buying bingeā€¦

I needed a selection of refills, and I haven't had a chance to do much with most of them yet, but so far -- nice refills. They write smoothly and don't need much pressure to get them started. I really like the Slider 755, which is a Parker style G2 filled with Schneider's ViscoGlide hybrid ink. It writes very smoothly with no skipping and almost no pressure once it gets going, but can write on gloss paper without smearing even if it gets wet. It's described as combining the best features of ballpoint and gel pens. It's moderately expensive but I think well worth it if it continues to perform like this. I do love my fountain pens for not needing any pressure to write, but this refill comes close and is waterproof to boot.

The refills are all clearly labelled with brand, model number, colour and tip size, even the tiny D1 format multipen refills. This might not sound important, but when you've just opened an envelope full of miscellaneous loose refills, it's very useful for matching refill to pen. Definitely for my "buy again" list.

You can find the Schneider range in lots of pen shops, and as of the time of writing there is still a three for two offer at Cult Pens for the entire range.
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"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of fountain pens and sealing wax
of binding combs and rings."

I've been on a bit of a binge on stationery and office supplies of late for a number of reasons. Chief amongst these is the latest medical reason for staying away from a computer, but it doesn't help that the WIP features a hero with a passion for pens beyond even that seen in racsf's collective obsession with writing paraphernalia. I can't type, but I can put ink on paper and dictate the results into Dragon, and only look at the screen to set the transcription running and then error-correct the result. I have a genuine justification for having acquired a breeding herd of fountain pens over the last few months, inasmuch as a good fountain pen needs no pressure at all to glide over the page, and this is an important consideration for those with RSI. All of this is to explain why there may be stationery-related wibble in lieu of anything else I can focus on for long enough to write a blog post. You have been warned.
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And a festive Gauda Prime Day greeting to my fellow members of the Church of Boucher. :-)
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My primary publisher Loose Id has announced they're closing, with the current timescale being final closure in early May 2018.

That means all of my books still with them will be out of print by then at the latest, as will all the other titles in their catalogue. The LI contract is a periodic one generally renewed every year or two years, and any contracts which expire before May will not be renewed and the title will go out of print at that point. I can't remember off-hand which of my contracts might expire before then, so no guarantees that all of my books will still be available after the end of the year. Skimming last year's contract renewal emails suggests that they'll start to fall out of print around February/March.

I gather the usual Boxing Day sale will be going ahead.

I'd like to say that I'll self-publish to get them back in print, but realistically that's not likely to happen for quite a while, given my current health issues. OTOH, if I do self-publish I'll do so at a significantly lower cover price. In the unlikely event you'd like to buy any of my Loose Id titles and haven't got around to it yet, you'll need to weigh up those options.

I know some of the other authors aren't planning to do new editions of some of their titles, or have put it at the back of a very long "when I have time and energy" queue, so you might want to check out what any favourite authors are planning to do if there are any books you hadn't got to yet and would be sorry to miss out on.

Make sure you have copies of all your purchases downloaded, and that you have cashed in any Id Points, gift certificates etc and claimed any prizes before shutdown.
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I ended up with a new and exciting medical excuse for staying away from the computer and thus not posting anything online during NaNoWriMo. However, I have several fountain pens, a stack of paper, and an edition of Dragon Naturally Speaking that will do transcription from a digital recording. Last time I dumped a batch of text into the computer it was up to 20 kwords, and I've probably added another couple of thousand since then. I have also experimented with Scrivener, which was one of my goals, and decided that it is not the gift from the gods many of my peers believe it to be, but it does do most of the things I found I missed on moving from Lotus Word Pro to Microsoft Word. I have *also* done something else on my to-do list, which is to track down a free speech recording utility for Windows 10 (it's part of Windows and is called Sound Recorder for those who may want to know this) and try it with Dragon's transcription module, as it would be useful the next time I mangled my wrist tendons. I hadn't really anticipated finding myself *needing* to use it for PicoWriMo, but at least I now know this system works.
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Been keeping off the computer because of a new and exciting medical reason not to look at backlit screens, but I've been working on the fountain pen story anyway. Just dumped the last few days' worth of manuscript into Windows Sound Recorder and thence to Dragon's transcription function, and imported the resulting text files into Scrivener. I hit the 20 kword point in the manuscript today. :-) Still less than half the official Nano target, but so far I have achieved my personal target of writing something every day in November.

Er... This was supposed to be a short story. I had a bright idea while talking to [personal profile] jacey  and [livejournal.com profile] carl_allery  at Worldcon 75 in early August, and scribbled down the first 100 or so words then and there. I was writing on and off over the rest of Worldcon. I thought I'd get a draft finished and give it to Carl if I saw him over the August bank holiday. That... has not happened. :-)

It also provided a certain amount of amusement to the Lyst silver anniversary meet in London at the beginning of this month, because I was busy scribbling my daily word count at one point...
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And reporting a day late, because I got home very, very tired last night. Word counts will be guesstimates this year, because I am currently writing with fountain pen and ink on dead tree and not transcribing to electrons yet, for Reasons. Anyway, 3 notebook pages yesterday of the fountain pen story, or about 300-400 words.
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In lieu of actual content, I shall record what arrived in the post today. I carefully put in my order to Cult Pens in Thursday night, safe in the knowledge that it would appear in my letterbox on Saturday when I'd be in to receive it from the postie. The bubblepack duly arrived, containing the thing I was primarily ordering for, namely a bottle of Diamine Shimmer Golden Oasis fountain pen ink, plus a selection of other goodies on special offer that I do not need but they are so shiny. Literally, in the case of the Pental dual metallic gel pens. :-)

As always, there was something else in the envelope as a promo or general "thanks for ordering". This time it was a Uniball Signo erasable rollerball sample and a fun size pack of Haribo. The warehouse has obviously stocked up on the Halloween sweets...

The other thing that arrived was more of the fruits of a spending spree on Chinese fountain pens. This time it was a pair of Baoer 801s, which I was interested in after reading on one of the pen forums that they were basically a knock-off of my first and best beloved fountain pen, the Parker Vector. They do look suspiciously like a Vector, although I think they're a bit heavier. Alas, the really pretty one of the pair has the barrel jammed on the nib unit, to the point where I'm wondering if it's a fake of a knock-off. :-/
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Not posted since before Worldcon, in part because I came back from Worldcon happy but very tired, and then things went to hell in a handbasket at work in terms of work/workers ratio and I was doing a lot of extra flexitime, and then I paid for that healthwise... Also, computer was being Annoying again. I do have some book reviews written on dead trees which I have been meaning to transcribe. It may even happen before the end of the year. Anyay, I aintnet dead, and neither is my computer even if it did take me all weekend to crowbar the latest Windows update onto it.

Worldcon

Aug. 8th, 2017 02:26 pm
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Planning to arrive in Helsinki late Wednesday afternoon, and leave late Sunday afternoon. I don't have any panels. I'm also not officially signed up for any gophering, but depending on spoon balance I'll probably head over to Access and/or Green Room at some point to see if they need another warm-if-not-very-mobile body.

In theory I have portable net access. In practice this is on a new phone, and I am not sure I have got everything set up yet. Best bet if you're looking for me is probably Twitter, where I am bookfetishist and where I can actually remember my password should I need to go in via the website. My primary mobile phone number hasn't changed and is on a tiny and ancient Nokia from before the dawn of time, so even if the smartphone is stolen or runs out of battery I should be contactable on that.
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Release day for my new book. :-) This is a collection of short stories, some reprints and some new to publication. It's available now from all good ebook sellers (and you would not believe how long I spent at the weekend tracking down All The Amazons). Full details including all those buy links are on the page for Stormy Nights on the Storm Duffy site, and you can see the cover below. I don't have an approved-by-publisher excerpt as yet, but will endeavour to provide some snippets over the next few days.

Sex and love, lies and truth, shades in between. Happy endings and might-have-beens. Nine tales of these things between men.

Stormy Nights contemporary gay romance
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I wrote some notes as I went along with the Hugo short story nominees, which I then failed to post soon enough to be of any help to anyone else. Never mind. Here they are anyway...

Given in the order in which I read them. I'd be happy to vote for any of these, and picking an order is going to be difficult.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong

Two sisters, both weather workers, both capable of bending time back on itself and trying another timeline. It starts with one burning up in her own flame; it ends with the other still searching for a timeline in which her sister can live. In between we learn much about them and the different paths they have taken. It's raw emotion delivered in skillful prose, and not only supports but demands a second reading to understand the layers. The idea of a fan or network of timelines spreading out and being able to step from one strand to another is not new; but this use of the concept is an emotionally wrenching read.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US


Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar

One woman is required to wear out seven pairs of iron shoes. Another sits atop a glass hill too slippery to climb. El-Mohtar considers what might happen when the woman of one fairy tale walks into the other story, and subverts the subtext of both. "Subverts" is rather too weak a word here - it dances on the subtext with hobnailed boots. Possibly too much so, but then there's a lot of subtext in fairy stories that needs to be dragged into the light and examined. This particular happy ending is one that I can believe has a chance at being happy ever after. It's sweet but not saccharine.

There's a lot to like in this story, but I was especially taken with the short scene in which the women run a scientific experiment with the golden apples meant to be a reward for the Hero who manages to climb the mountain. It left me wanting to buy the anthology it was originally published in.

First published in the anthology "The Starlit Wood" . Reprinted in Uncanny Tales (available free online). There's an interesting discussion of it at Short Story Squee and Snark.


Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies by Brooke Bolander

A short tale of a harpy's sweet revenge. Too short to review without giving away too much, but fabulous use of language that brings the narrator to vivid life in a commentary on modern media's portrayal of women.

Published in Uncanny Tales (available free online)


That Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn

"The people of Gaant are telepaths. The people of Enith are not. The two countries have been at war for decades, but now peace has fallen, and Calla of Enith seeks to renew an unlikely friendship with Gaantish officer Valk over an even more unlikely game of chess."

A short story that explores some of the ramifications of full telepathy, and does so through a pair of fascinating characters and their unfolding friendship. The chess game is indeed a metaphor for the war, and gives some idea of how a non-telepathic nation could have held its own against an army of telepaths, but it's the characterisation that makes this story shine. Calla and and Valk have each been a prisoner under the control of the other as fortunes have shifted over the war; Calla working as a nurse in her own side's military hospital treating prisoners of war that include Valk, and then as a trustee prisoner in a Gaantish hospital desperately in need of nursing staff. The chess game starts as a way to pass time, a way to take their minds off the situation they're in, and becomes much more.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US


The City Born Great by NK Jemesin

Great cities come alive, and in this short story they do so in a most literal fashion. But there are things out there that feed on new life, and a city needs a midwife to guard it as it struggles to birth itself. Our protaganist is a young black man in New York who half believes, half disbelieves a new friend's tales of living cities and his role in New York's story - right up until the monsters try to come for him. Stunning fantasy story deeply rooted in a deftly depicted metropolis.

Published by Tor.com and available free online, or for purchase as a DRM-free ebook. Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

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