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Cover Girls

It’s cover art time! The first one is surprisingly restrained for a 1950s paperback about adultery.

Here we have a cover that’s just a head shot but it works for me. It’s a Gothic romance so I’m guessing the handsome Baron isn’t a vampire, but I don’t know for sure.

One I first posted last year. The cover makes it look like a Gothic romance when it’s actually contemporary horror.

Bob Pepper does this eerie cover for a terrific book.

This one always fascinates me for the “you know what you’re getting, folks” cover copy.

Finally this cover for Jirel of Joiry perfectly captures a scene from the story Black God’s Kiss. I don’t know the artist.

#SFWApro. Art is uncredited except where noted otherwise.

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A poisoner, a dragon, a witch: books read

THE POISONER: The Life and Times of Victorian England’s Most Notorious Doctor by Stephen Bates recounts the story of the once infamous William Palmer, a Victorian medic put on trial for poisoning his best friend with strychnine and suspected of dozens more cases. Although Arthur Conan Doyle name-drops Palmer as a brilliant doctor and criminal in The Adventure of the Speckled Band, Bates shows that he was neither — more a desperate man, under water on his gambling debts, who resorted to poisoning a friend (and possibly a couple more people) to get money. Part of the public’s morbid fascination with the story was the use of strychnine, a new and hard to trace poison (up until the early 20th century, poison was close to undetectable), partly that Palmer was precisely the kind of dignified middle-class chap who ought to be above such behavior (as Black Swine in the Sewers of Hampstead discusses). Its cultural impact aside, like the shooting of Stanford White this former Crime of the Century isn’t that startling by today’s standards; Bates does a good job making it interesting even so, but the trial really bogs down in detail (as usual, I don’t blame him for getting into more detail than I was interested in).

I had the same reaction to the third volume of SAVAGE DRAGON ARCHIVES as I did to Savage Dragon: A New Beginning, that auteur Erik Larsen’s way too fond of recycling Jack Kirby to no purpose. This wastes a lot of space on New Gods/Thor-style deities engaging in Kirby-style conflicts and it all felt canned, with none of the passion Kirby showed for that kind of storytelling. On top of which, the sheer number of dramatic moments — Dragon’s dead! No, he’s alive in a new body! Now his Great Love is dead! Now someone else he loves is dead! OMG, he has a son! — and the lengthy exposition about past continuity made the whole thing feel like a parody, except parodies are actually funny (and if Larsen was trying for ironic meta-commentary, Astro City does that a lot better)

IT TAKES A WITCH: A Wishcraft Mystery by Heather Blake didn’t work for me at all, but I guess that’s not surprising: I’m not particularly a cozy mystery fan and I’m not a fan of complicated magic systems. And this book is full of multiple magical paths, each with its own elaborate rules (it feels very much like D&D specialists or subclasses); the protagonist is a “wishcrafter” who can grant wishes but only if they meet a variety of rules (no killing people, the wish must be sincere, you can’t grant another mage’s wishes — and you can’t tell anyone you’re a witch or you lose your powers). The first couple of chapters are very info-dumpy and the protagonist’s attraction to a studly cop felt canned (I will discuss this more in a later post). That said, this has become a successful cozy series so obviously a lot of people who are not me like it.

Finally, if anyone wants to click over to Atomic Junkshop, I reviewed the Joker’s 1975 solo series, recently TPB-ed as JOKER: Clown Prince of Crime.

#SFWApro. Top cover by Erik Larsen, bottom by Dick Giordano.

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This was a chaotic week

So I’ll mark it with these images from Michael Moorcock’s Swords trilogy with its themes of Order vs. Chaos. Details of the personal chaos in this afternoon’s post.

Bob Haberfield did the art. I found these on a visit to England in my tweens and was instantly captivated by the weirdly alien imagery. I still am (if I didn’t have so much to read, I’d whip them out right now).

#SFWApro. All rights to cover images remains with current holders.

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Before And After

We took the pups to Petropolitan for grooming this week.

Here’s Trixie before—

And Trixie after getting her spring/summer cut

Here’s Plushie, before

And the Plush one afterwards

Had we known when we booked (well in advance) that temperatures would drop back below freezing this week, we might have held off. Then again, Plushie had so much matted hair, with one mat inside his ear, it’s probably just as well.

#SFWApro. Images are mine, not for commercial use, please credit if you use.

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A not so productive week

First, for various reasons, I wasn’t working the whole week. And when I did work, it was another case of being nibbled to death. Enough distractions, spaced the right amount apart, that I couldn’t focus very much.

Tuesday morning, for example, I’d figured out a new approach to Only the Lonely Can Slay and was about to try it when the electrician arrived to fix our side-of-the-house floodlights. When he was gone the pups were freaking out (human! We wanted him to pet us! Why weren’t we petted?) and by the time they’d calmed down I had to call our alarm company with a couple of questions. By the time that was resolved, it was time to walk the dogs. And in the afternoon, I worked on my Leaf articles. So the new draft remains unwritten.

Tuesday night, I went out to the writers’ group and got thwarted there: instead of going out to eat afterwards, there was sleet in some parts of the area, so I thought it safer to go home. Initially I told myself I was probably worrying over nothing, then I saw there was ice on the car windshield. Not so nothing. Happily the trip home went fine.

So not much to blog about. But most of the current contractor stuff is done so next week should go a lot better.


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Because it’s Thursday, let’s link to sexism!

Women talk about seeing their lovers turn misogynyist and racist under the influence of right-wing videos. The Outline looks at how believers in the far right’s extremism convince themselves they’re completely logical. Which is not a new thing; I remember an article by one sexist years ago explaining that since his critique of feminism was perfectly logical and feminists disagreed, that proved feminists weren’t logical!

Patriarchal Christian masculinity is a powerful drug. It makes many church men believe that the world desperately needs their perspective on everything. It makes their followers believe that asking such men to step aside from leadership is somehow tantamount to cruelty.Stephanie Krehbiel.

Bilgrimage on the argument churches simply can’t rein in sexual abusers effectively: “let a church leader or congregation make a statement proposing ordination of women or acceptance and respect of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ people, and watch how quickly the supposedly ‘loose’ and ‘disorganized’ church structures act.” (hat tip slacktivist)

I’ve heard how reluctant doctors are to say yes when a woman wants her tubes tied, but the article at the link really puts everything in perspective.

Neomi Rao, Trump’s nominee to replace Kavanaugh’s appellate court position, wrote in college that a woman who gets drunk is partially to blame if she’s raped.

Fred Clark points out that when people talk about #metoo and how we didn’t know how bad it was before, “A third of all women worldwide were the victims of sexual assault and harassment. Those women all knew. Billions of them.” It’s more accurate to say we didn’t acknowledge what we knew. Case in point, despite lots of accusations against Jon Reese, a Georgia journalism teacher, he’s still teaching.

A judge blames a pair of tween girls in a Kansas case for being sexual aggressors in a case involving a 67-year-old who paid them for sex.

Pro-choice terrorism hardly exists, but the FBI’s very worried about it.

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Specifically a chocolate zucchini cake with semisweet chocolate chips for the topping. I made it for last weekend’s vegan potluck from a recipe in The Good Breakfast Book, but replacing the carob powder with cocoa.

Very chocolatey and most satisfactory. I had barely a handful of crumbs to take home, which is always flattering.


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A Man With a Camera Rides a Wonder Wheel: Movies Viewed

Reading Documentary led me to watch THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929) in which Russian director/cameraman Dziga Vertov chronicles a day in the life of the USSR: trolley rides, industrial workers, sports competitions, a magician at a kids’ party, young women with parasols and crowds rushing two and from work. Vertov hoped to create an international language of pure visuals, without the use of intertitles; an impressive job, though constantly filming his camera crews at work undercuts the realism.

Given Woody Allen’s nostalgic streak I’m surprised the 1950s-set WONDER WHEEL (2018) isn’t a Radio Days-style tribute to Coney Island’s past. Instead, it’s a Tennessee Williams-style psychodrama in which lifeguard Justin Timberlake narrates how he came to have an affair with Kate Winslett, only to have the arrival of her stepdaughter Juno Temple (fleeing her mobster spouse) throw everything into chaos. Not only does Timberlake fall for Temple, Winslett’s husband Jim Belushi finds himself siding with his estranged child over his wife, all of which culminates in tragedy and heartbreak. A hamfisted drama with characters who are way too self-aware and dialog too self-consciously theatrical (Timberlake explains that away as his fallible memory but it still doesn’t work. And like Blue Jasmine this has echoes of Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter and not in a good way (once again everything would have been fine if the Mom wasn’t such a bitch).“What power — to tell a tragic story about the human condition and how we have to lie to ourselves to live!”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Did I soar like an eagle this week? A small hawk, maybe

So last Friday I said I was on the brink of finishing Southern Discomfort. I was wrong. Things got slightly crazy that weekend starting on the Friday; nothing cataclysmic, but enough little distractions that I decided I’d do a better job postponing until Monday.

And Monday, I did it. Southern Discomfort is now done!!!!! And formatted, which is tougher; as Apple’s stupid Pages software can’t seem to set up a standard manuscript I had to save in Word, open my old laptop (old enough it still supports Word, unlike the current model) and format it there. As the old laptop’s touchpad is getting a little wonky that took a while (it might be worth paying to get it fixed, just so I can convert things easier).

Tuesday I plunged into short stories. I finished up an old flash fiction, Rabbits Indignateonem, and finally ironed out the plot problems with No One Can Slay Her (I’ll give it a final review next week).

Wednesday I switched to novels (as I mentioned New Year’s Day, my novel-writing plans for the year are absurdly ambitious). My initial replotting of Let No Man Put Asunder became more complicated than expected. I’m a much better writer than the last time I worked on it, and the plot and character arcs need a lot more work. But the ideas I threw in look promising.

Thursday I started the rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This went really slowly. Partly the changes I’ve decided on are more significant than expected, so that means more thought in the rewriting. And partly, I just didn’t have as much time as I expected. It took a lot of time to finish Southern Discomfort Monday, more than expected. That threw everything else off. And even though I worked out how much time to spend on different projects, I didn’t really stick to the breakdown. That’s a weakness of mine. So I put in much less time on Impossible than anticipated.

The week’s schedule has generally been a little weird. TYG’s been working from home and taking some time off, which is good (I wouldn’t have finished on Monday if she hadn’t been handling the dogs), but throws my usual rhythms off a little. Yesterday she left for an alumni event and won’t be back to Sunday. As I’ll be spending much of today and Saturday at Illogicon, we boarded the pups rather than have Plushie spend most of the weekend in a cage.

As a result, I spent yesterday completely by myself, today too. Much as I love my family, it’s very nice to occasionally enjoy a solitude staycation.

Anyway, because I had the car and didn’t have to worry about penning the Plush dog, I wound up working on a nunber of errands yesterday, which cut further into writing time (though I still made my quota for the week). I took a ton of stuff to Goodwill, bought food for next week, did some extra cleaning. Today I just took the day off and did more errands (taking my bike in for a tune-up for instance) and more cleaning. I also slept late, which I rarely do, and read a little extra.

(Trixie checks Wisp out through the blinds).

Next week I’ll be back to a regular writing schedule, with Leaf article returning to boot. Fortunately I’d already factored them into the amount of work I can potentially get done in a month.

And this weekend, Illogicon. My panels include:

5PM today: The Past was a Different Country. How do we convey the strange customs and oddball perceptions of the past to modern readers when we’re setting fiction in historical times?

6PM: Author dating game. A twist on the old TV Dating Game where each author comes on as a character from one of their books.

8PM Curses! Coming up with profanity for fantasy settings.


10AM: Panel on the worst SF movies. I suspect mine will involve Time Travel.

Noon: How What we Read for Fun Sculpts Us. How does our reading influence our attitudes?

1PM: Networking for Introverts

4PM: I give a reading (from Atoms for Peace).

Sunday 1pm: Get Your Facts Straight. Making sure historical/scientific/whatever information is accurate.

And Sunday TYG comes home. We hope to pick up the pups but we’ve paid through Monday morning just in case.

Here’s a better picture of Trixie to finish with.

#SFWApro. Images are mine, please credit if you use them.

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A traitor to humanity’s god: W.E.B. DuBois on Robert E. Lee

“It is the punishment of the South that its Robert Lees and Jefferson Davises will always be tall, handsome and well-born. That their courage will be physical and not moral. That their leadership will be weak compliance with public opinion and never costly and unswerving revolt for justice and right. it is ridiculous to seek to excuse Robert Lee as the most formidable agency this nation ever raised to make 4 million human beings goods instead of men. Either he knew what slavery meant when he helped maim and murder thousands in its defense, or he did not. If he did not he was a fool. If he did, Robert Lee was a traitor and a rebel–not indeed to his country, but to humanity and humanity’s God.” — WEB DuBois



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