This Week/Last Week

Posted: March 28th, 2014 under artwork, Life beyond writing, the writing life.
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This post would have gone up last week, except for a power outage, a stubborn computer, and two speaking gigs for which prep had to be done.


Yes!  The cover of Shattered Shields in which I have a story, “First Blood.”  Those of  you who haunt have already seen it, no doubt, but last week was my first sight of it, when the editor sent it out to all of us.  

The outage occurred at night, when I was about to publish the image and some comments, and I finally went to bed (because sitting in the dark makes me sleepy.)   The next morning, the old computer announced that it couldn’t find things, and I had to wait until it did…only I had other work to do.   And by the time it perked up and admitted that it knew where all the stuff in the inbox was, and was ready to cooperate,  its daily full system scan had started.  And the phone rang, and this happened and that happened and…I never got back to posting this post.

Meanwhile, the speaking gigs.  The first was with a “lifelong learning” program at the University of Texas in Austin, called LAMP.   They were having a series of writers.   Since the people who should have answered whether or not I could take swords on campus never did, the person in charge of me said “Oh, please bring them!”  So yes, I trundled my sword case down from the parking lot and into the building, along with my knitting bag.  Because I was early and knitting is a soothing activity for waiting, and in case I got stopped and had to put the swords back in the car.    I did not have the exciting toy “blaster” that a friend owns and I’ve borrowed before (to be the science fiction part of a presentation…I also had, and lost somewhere, a fat foam rocket-ship) because my friend was down with a bad case of  gut trouble caught at an SCA event.

Swords and socks, it turns out, are a good combination.    Socks are a useful metaphor for storytelling;  I even wrote a blog post for one of my publishers about that (can’t recall which, this morning.)   They all seemed to have a good time.   And with an adult audience, which this was, all the people who wanted to fondle swords had the sense not to snatch them up and wave them around.

Speaking gig number two was with a book club way the heck up a winding road on one of the taller hills in west Austin.  I didn’t take swords to this one, because they’d been reading The Speed of Dark, and though Lou does fencing, the meeting was in a private home.  One does not truck the sword case into someone’s home when one does not know a) how all the people feel about swords and b) the size of the room and the vulnerability of things in the room, especially overhead.   A couple of them wished I’d brought swords, but…no.

I took the socks instead, and when it came to story structure and writing process, those were my show-and-tell.    Again, they seemed to enjoy the evening and I certainly did.

Meanwhile,  I’ve done more massaging of the blog-published stories, tinkering with a variety of things.  Lots of back and forth with the friend I’ve hired to help me arrange and proofread.


  • Comment by Just an Australian — March 28, 2014 @ 1:53 pm


    No kindle version for shattered shields?

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 28, 2014 @ 2:04 pm


    On Kindle-version of Shattered Shields. I don’t know. Just to be clear, I’m not the editor and do not hold the contract on the book–I contributed just one story. Since the publisher is Baen Books, they will probably have an e-edition available through their site, as usual, and there will be a Kindle-compatible download, but I have not dealt with them on this, and they haven’t been my current publisher since 2000 (they still have the license on the Paks books and the Serrano/Suiza books, of course), so I do not know what their current marketing plan is.

  • Comment by Mike D — March 28, 2014 @ 2:48 pm


    Yes there will be an ebook of Shattered Shields on the baenEbooks site and in the Kindle store and many places where good ebooks are sold on 16th October 2014 (Baen don’t do Kindle preorders though you can buy the $18 November bundle from July)

  • Comment by Linda — March 28, 2014 @ 9:07 pm


    I was hoping nothing dire was going on … computer headaches rate about a five in my book. Usually not dire, but making for misery. Although trying to get a web site up asap today has done me in … brain dead! Sometimes it seems as if computers are the made to prevent us from getting things done.

    Admitted though, there are other things which keep us from getting the computer work done. An Eastern Cottontail hopped up to my French doors this afternoon and spent about five minutes looking at me. As there is a roof over the deck there, I was wondering if he/she was trying to get out of the sleet for a bit. The snow is still quite deep, and said bunny has been “pruning” my rose bushes.

  • Comment by Fred — March 28, 2014 @ 10:00 pm



    I may be showing my age, but one of my favorite lines when talking about such headaches is, “Remember when computers were going to make everyone’s life easier?”

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — March 28, 2014 @ 11:35 pm


    And the corollary, “computers will save us so much time!” The latter was often muttered by a grad school buddy of mine while he was rebooting for the umpteenth time.

    I have data supporting the hypothesis that computer minutes, as in “this will ony take a minute…”‘ are actually longer than clock minutes. One minute of computering takes about fifteen clock minutes.

  • Comment by pjm — March 29, 2014 @ 7:48 am


    Sooo easy to vent about computers! It might save you half an hour, and take two hours to work out how to do it.

  • Comment by Mike D — March 29, 2014 @ 9:27 am


    I used to complain that I had colleagues who would rather work for two hours than spend 30 minutes in thought or even reading the manual.

    They were insufficiently lazy in fact.

  • Comment by GinnyW — March 29, 2014 @ 4:34 pm


    I used to complain about manuals, but that was before all the information needed to unfreeze whatever is frozen was only available in the manual locked in the computer. It is the same mentality that has my internet provider inform me that I can go to their website to find out why I can’t get on-line.

    I am looking forward to Shattered Shields.

  • Comment by Linda — March 29, 2014 @ 6:48 pm


    Right … yesterday’s headache was that the instructional video presentation went so fast that I couldn’t see what was being clicked on, even with multiple viewings.

    Today I went to the text version and printed the directions out.

    As a librarian for most of my life I am a great believer in throwing a book (or a manual) at the problem. When service folks come to work on things at my house they are astonished to find that I have the manuals, paper work and so forth. I have also gotten ridiculous thanks from folks for pointing out that most contemporary manuals are to be had online, and that for software the Missing Manual Series can be stored in an e-book format up in the cloud so you can access it anywhere.

    Isn’t it great to have books to look forward to? Much less stressful than events, travels, garden blooms etc.

  • Comment by Sharidann — March 31, 2014 @ 6:56 am


    oh sweet cover!

    A story from Elizabeth and one from Larry Correia in the same book… yummy!

  • Comment by patrick — March 31, 2014 @ 3:24 pm


    Another solution to the “manual is online but the computer is offline” is to have two (or more) computers. Whenever I upgrade to a new box, I keep the old box and discard the old, old box. My current old box is 10+ years old but still works well enough.

    I wonder if the metaphor of new technology could work in a Paksworld story. I get the sense that people resist technology driven change in a big way, but with mage skills coming back, maybe change may come in spite of what people find comfortable.

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 31, 2014 @ 3:47 pm


    patrick: I think the return of magery will have the opposite effect. The reason technology is lagging has been the existence of even some effective magic. More magic = less need for technological solutions. What technology there is either existed in the north before the magelords invaded, or developed as they began to lose their magery. Water-mills for grinding grain, for instance: the Old Humans had not progressed past stone querns when the magelords arrived and had no need to do so when the magelords could (for a price) turn millstones with magery.

  • Comment by Iphinome — March 31, 2014 @ 6:24 pm


    Water mills quickly progress to water powered hammers and water powered bellows and at the point the blast furnace is more or less inevitable. Is paksworld there yet?

  • Comment by elizabeth — March 31, 2014 @ 7:40 pm


    Iphinome: They’ve got water powered sawmills and grist-mills, but I don’t know about water powered bellows. Here again, having various forms of magery and certain crafts in the hands of specific groups (like dwarves) suggests that some work gets done by only the people with the right credentials. Who aren’t telling any of the characters who live in my head exactly how they do it.

    Which is the long way of saying “I don’t think so, because so far refined metal ores are provided almost entirely by earthfolk, mostly dwarves.”

  • Comment by GinnyW — April 1, 2014 @ 8:25 pm


    A lot of our technological change is driven by a consumer economy. We have a big investment in the idea that newer is better, and that people should invest in newer technology to increase productivity. There have been periods of rapid “technological” change before in human history or prehistory, but probably not the ideology that seems to have made technological change an end in itself. It is expensive, in human cost and in the amount of resources that are turned into “trash”. Paksworld does not seem to have enough wealth to afford to throw the old tools out and buy new ones. And as Elizabeth pointed out above, perhaps the elder folk can put the brakes on those who would consume mineral or forest resources at accelerating rates.

  • Comment by GinnyW — April 1, 2014 @ 8:27 pm


    I should mention that the last comment is largely driven by the need to adapt my XP computer to something else.

  • Comment by Iphinome — April 1, 2014 @ 10:40 pm


    @GinnyW A lot of technical change is driven by attempt to save labor. A watermill saves your arms with a hand mill or a horse to push a larger stone–and it’s faster. Once one innovation is made adapting it to other uses is near inevitable.

    If you can use water to turn a wheel and grind flour why not use it to turn a winch as well. And thus the sacks of grain need not be carried to the top of the mill. If you can turn a winch you can turn a lathe. You can create an up and down motion with a cam or if paksworld has treadles…

    And thus you can power a bellows, or a hammer.

    I suggest you take a look through Theatrum Machinarum Novum by Georg Andreas Böckler, it was written in 1661 so its in the public domain. If you can’t read German–and I’m rather bad with it myself–click the link labeled part 2 and look at all the different mills;cc=kmoddl;view=toc;subview=short;idno=kmod003

  • Comment by Fred — April 1, 2014 @ 11:15 pm


    Iphinome & GinnyW,

    The real motivation at the start of industrialization is that it reduces the amount of human labor to feed people.

    Threshing and grinding grain is one of the first areas to be powered (animal power, wind power, or water power) because manual threshing and grinding of flour is expensive in terms of human hours. With less labor going to food, one or both of two things happens: people use their time for other pursuits, or they have more children – more mouths to feed, true, but also more hands and more “social security” for the parents and extended family.

    Magic as it shows up in the steel with a malice that Arcolin has to deal with puts a different spin on the reduction of human effort for the handling of material, though…

    And thanks for the book reference!!

  • Comment by GinnyW — April 2, 2014 @ 8:29 pm


    Iphinome: Great pictures! thanks for the reference.

    I just meant that it is expensive to keep replacing tools that work, and attitude toward change and technology can make a big difference.

  • Comment by Eowyn — April 3, 2014 @ 7:49 am


    I have a note in my calendar to look for the collection. I can just picture you using socks and swords to demonstrate things, I think it is brilliant.

  • Comment by patrick — April 5, 2014 @ 9:57 pm


    GinnyW: I share your frustration with XP’s end of life. I’ve spent most of my free time this week selecting, going to the store, selecting some more, going to the store, hooking up, finding I’m missing one odd kind of cable adapter, going to the store, and finally have booted the new machine, but still have lots of SW to install to restore my previous productivity. I can easily see how one bad experience with new stuff could cement an anti-new attitude in a pre-tech society.

    My thought was that the competition from mage powers outside of Girdish areas might force them to adapt to non-mage solutions if they drive all the mages out of their lands. But that was driven our interconnected experiences. In pre-rapid transport days, non-local competition was perhaps more limited or at least less rapid in effect.

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