Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews

My present to you is two reviews:

 5 star review of Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens

This was one of my favorite stories in the Unladylike series, possibly because Hazel is coming into her own as a detective.

Staying at Daisy’s aunt and uncle in London, she and Daisy have joined a theatrical production of Romeo and Juliet to ‘keep 

them out of danger’. But death finds them there when a member of the cast is found drowned in a well at the lowest level of 

the theater. When Daisy comes down with the flu that earlier struck other members of the cast, and the girls are forbidden to 

go back to the theater, Hazel must detect in other ways, with help from Alexander and George. Of course, in the end, they

both find the murderer.

Danger's Vice by Amanda  Carlson

5 star review of Danger’s Vice by Amanda Carlson

This book follows directly on Danger’s Halo. Holly and her friends thought they could go back to normal after they got rid 

of Tandor and company and they could find the pico computer so they could find out what’s on the quantum drive Daze 

stole. But part of Tandor’s crew remain in the city and have a new plan to control it. Holly’s still not sure whether or not to

trust Chase, and as usual she works alone. But she’s taking her responsibility as Daze’s sustainer seriously. Carlson continues

to build this world and the characters in it.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Knitting Blog

Knitting blog – getting started

The easiest projects to start with are a scaft or hat; the result will come in handy when it’s cold outside. But shopping in a yarn or craft store with so many different yarns in different colors could be overwhelming.
Learning to knit is easier than ever. There are tutorials on YouTube, lessons on Ravelry and Craftsy and your local yarn shop will offer knitting classes too.
One of my favorite yarns is Cascade. It’s made from 100% Peruvian wool and comes in a medium 220 weight and an extra chunky yarn. One skein will be enough for many projects. The store will wind the oblong coil shape of the skein into a ball for you.
Blended wools like Plymouth Encore are inexpensive and great to use when you’re still learning. The acrylic-wool blend is soft and washable.

Best knitting needles for beginners

Bamboo or wooden needles like Clover Takumi 9-Inch Single Point aren’t as slippery as metal or carbon needles. Size ten needles let you produce items quickly.
After a few projects, you can graduate to circular, double pointed, and cable needles.

Best knitting accessories for beginners

To confirm the size of needles, a plastic card, called a needle gauge, is great to have. You might as well get one shaped like a fuzzy sheep.
A little scissor that’s sharp is important for cutting your yarn. Embroidery scissors work well.
To finish your scarf, hat or neck warmer, you’ll have to weave in the dangling ends of the yarn. A tapestry needle or plastic yarn needle is useful.
Other notions that are useful include a crochet hook, stitch markers, and highlighter tapes. You’ll also want books and a bag to hold your project.

If you start now, you should have a number of items to give as gifts next December, and maybe something for yourself.

Wishing you all a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

Five star review of Danger's Halo by Amanda Carlson

Danger's Halo (Holly Danger #1)High action postapocalyptic adventure

Scavenger Holly Danger knows her postapocalyptic city, but when she's asked to find an urchin and he's about to jump off a cliff, she decides to sustain him. We follow her through a series of fast paced adventures and meet the others in her "family" and a stranger with skills and equipment they can use. I'll continue to read the series and see what the future holds for Holly, Daze, Chase and the others.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday interview

From now on, I'll post interviews on Friday. My knitting columns have moved to Sundays. Today I interview J C Steel.

Questions for interview - J C Steel

What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? Graphic novels, anime or comics? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

At some point I’ve experimented with most types of writing, including that old author favourite, lying on a patch of carpet somewhere and waiting for writing to happen.

My open relationships with poetry, short stories, and essay writing petered out in my mid-teens, probably to everyone’s relief, and gave way to full time science-fiction and urban fantasy novel-writing.

It’s a funny thing, but until this past week, ‘why science-fiction?’ wasn’t a question I’d ever asked myself. It may come of having been born wanting to explore on a planet that’s been pretty thoroughly explored, but by the time I got around to asking myself ‘why sci-fi?’ I’d already got four novels published.

What writers do you admire? What are you currently reading?

Writers I admire? There’s shelves of them. In fact, there are so many shelves of them than visitors to my home tend to back away from the evidence of my fetish slowly. If I had to name a few, I’d have to go with Robert Heinlein, for managing to weave the most thought-provoking, intelligent sci-fi stories out there, Dorothy Dunnett, for being able to create characters more real than most people I meet on the street, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the one pantser who rules them all.

Right now I’m reading a Canadian sci-fi and fantasy author, Tanya Huff. She’s got a military sci-fi series out that I love, with excellent characterisation, and a couple of urban fantasy series that are also very good. In fact, one of them was turned into a TV series a few years back, called ‘Blood Ties’.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on the final print proofs for my very first urban fantasy, Death is for the Living. It’s currently out for advanced readers, and it’s a tale of vampire hunters working from a yacht in the Caribbean. I originally wrote it in my teens; I was in boarding school, and feeling homesick (for clarity, I was homesick for the Caribbean and the yacht, not the vampires...um). The tag-line I’m currently running with is ‘People think vampires are a curse of the Old World. But before modern borders divided the lands around it, the Caribbean Sea was better known as the Spanish Main...’ (Insert creepy crescendo here...)

Because I have commitment issues, I’m also in edits on the fifth in my Cortii Universe sci-fi series. It’s running under the working title of The Instructor, but that sounds vaguely BDSM and may change during edits - so much tends to.

If you had it to do over again, would you have started writing sooner?

That would actually have been difficult :) I started writing seriously when I was about fourteen, which coincided conveniently with leaving the yacht I’d grown up on and having computers available to actually write on. That said, they were over-worked and abused school computers, and a number of very fruitful edit rounds in those early days were triggered by corrupted floppy disks. My tendency to keep hardcopies and print proof copies very probably dates back to those days. I keep hoping that one day they’ll be memorabilia auctioning for millions, but then, what author doesn’t dream?

Which do you find hardest: coming up with a story idea, writing, revising, or marketing?

Marketing, hands-down. Story ideas happen to the extent where lobotomy is probably the only solution, and writing usually happens quite irresistibly and of its own accord (often at times when I’m actually supposed to be doing other things). While editing can and sometimes does feel like pounding sand, I do enjoy it most of the time. As I’m an unashamed pantser, editing is also when a lot of the ‘Ah! That’s why that happened!’ moments come in, as I tweak, and re-arrange, and add in the cameo scenes that explain why something happened the way it did.

Marketing, however...I have the greatest respect for those who can, but as I loathe receiving marketing, and there’s about two companies out there whose ads don’t go straight in my junk mail, I have trouble imagining what kind of ad copy wouldn’t be badly received. I also share with a lot of authors the problem that I’m perfectly happy in the 50,000 - 500,000 word range, but I can sit there petrified when faced with 50 words designed to entice punters.

Are you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid of the two?

I’m a pantser all the way. My books start with a scene, or a bit of dialogue, playing in my head that refuses to go away; it shows up in the shower, when I’m supposed to be listening to VIPs in meetings, and at 0300. After a few weeks, by which point my attention span has degraded to that of a blue-arsed fly on crack, I cave and write it down, and once I’ve dropped my characters into the scene, the rest of the book is really just a case of me typing fast enough to keep up.

While I have nothing but respect for people who can plan down to the scene level and know exactly what will happen at every stage in their books, I couldn’t write 100,000 words while knowing exactly how it was going to go. I write to find out how the story ends, and if the story isn’t interesting enough to keep me typing, well, that’s a pretty good heads-up that it’s not going to keep a reader interested either. Happily, I’ve only had a couple of manuscripts that died that way.

What's your solution to writers' block?

What’s writer’s block? (Sorry.)

Seriously, as a pantser and a self-publisher with a full-time day job, if I get stuck on one thing I’m working on, I go and work on something else for a bit. I usually have at least two manuscripts vying for whatever free time I can throw at them (with a day job plus commute that eats 11 to 12 hours of my weekdays, there isn’t a lot), and if nothing there is calling my name, drawing summoning circles and offering sacrificial snippets, then I blog, or start one of the side stories that’s been bugging me. By the time those are partway done, one of the main manuscripts is fresh and waiting for me again.

How much time do you spend on research for your writing?

Eh, good question. I noticed that the editing end for Death is for the Living took a bit more time spent on the Internet checking details than my sci-fi novels usually require (as a not-random example, just exactly where other than Paramaribo can you moor a 65-foot yacht in Suriname?), but usually research is more general. I’ve researched blood spatter analysis, orbital mechanics, explosions in vacuum, and once, late at night, accidentally typed ‘coronal mass ejaculation’ into my browser instead of ‘coronal mass ejection’. (Don’t make that mistake - voice of experience.) Generally, research for my writing is a lot of fun, although given my browser history, I do fully expect to receive the ‘Men in Black’ experience at some point.

Website: jcsteelauthor.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/steel_jo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjcsteel
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/JCSteel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/j_c_steel

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tuesday Book Review

The Glass Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #2)

More exciting than the first in the series. In her efforts to help, Ceony's only gets into more trouble. I'm happy to see she can often save herself, but not always. The title could refer to her friend, to the man they're after, or even (spoiler alert), Ceony herself. I'm ready for the next in the series.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday Yarn

Instead of Friday, when I'll post interviews, I'll write about yarn and knitting on Sundays. This one again is taken from a Yarn Shop at Nob Hill newletter, more about the history of yarn in N. M.

How did New Mexico become a player in the wool industry?

by Karen Christensen

Prior to the Civil War, the small sheep farms in the East and Midwest provided most of the wool to users in the United States. Until the Civil War, cotton was king in the textile mills in the United States and the overseas. Due to the Northern Blockades during the Civil War, cotton prices became very high and cotton was too expensive to use. As a result, wool production grew dramatically for the rest of the 19th century and early 20th century. Mills all over the world and United States converted to wool and linen. Wool during that time became an important export commodity for the United States economy.

So how does New Mexico come into play - remember the Navajo Churro? Sheep are usually bred to be either mutton or wool, not both. The Navajo Churro breed was unique in that it produced both mutton and wool, so this breed became a very desirable commodity. The Navajo Churro fleece is light, low grease, can be cleaned and combed easily, and can be spun finer than wool. Navajo Churro wool was used for weaving blankets, carpets and sturdy but inexpensive clothing.

During the Civil War, the demand for wool was skyrocketing as it was needed to make uniforms and blankets for the troops, as well as other applications for inhabitants in the Northern states. This demand for wool continued into the early 20th century and wool products outproduced cotton products.

During this period, millions of pounds of wool, largely Navajo Churro, from New Mexico was being sent to the mills in the Northeast to produce goods and the sheep were being retained as wool producers and not meat producers.

During the 1880's there were over five million sheep/lambs in New Mexico, and by the early 20th century, the United States was the third largest producer of the wool in the World. By the 1890's, America's consumption of wool was the largest in the world.

Alas, all good things must come to an end and they did for wool in the early part of the 20th century. Demand for wool decreased and cheap imported wool from overseas flooded the United States market-- wool prices decreased, world wide production decreased, and the wool trade in New Mexico declined as well.

Sorry to end on such a sad note but the next article will discuss what currently is happening in the New Mexico Wool Community - and it is good news.

Sources Used:  New Mexico History website, Navajo Churro Sheep Association website, Santa Fe New Mexican article, Chimayo Weavers website, Wikipedia, American Sheep Industry website, The Sheep Industry of Territorial New Mexico - Wallace and the Slow Food website.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tuesday Book Review on Wednesday

Our Thanksgiving holiday travels ended late last night, but I do have a review for you:

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)

I don't know why I avoided starting this series for so long. The first, about Ceony's early days as an apprentice to Paper Magician Emery Thane, was a delight. In a world where man-made materials can be magicked, she would rather be apprenticed to a metal magician, but comes to appreciate what paper can do.  As she fights to return Thane's heart to his chest, where she's replaced it with a short-lived paper heart, she loses hers to him. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews

The Mosaic by Chris Keaton

Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold 4 star review

A mosaic that had trapped all magically beings was broken apart thousands of years earlier. The remains are in the basement of a small museum in a small midwestern town. Twins Chloe and Zoe’s grandmother runs the museum with their help. When they discover missing pieces, and Chloe realizes she can put them in, their adventures begin. Filled with all sorts of magical creatures, including good and bad witches, this was a scary but fun read.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 5 star review

The first book in Robert Jordan’s series was just that, an eye into the world of the series, an introduction of many of the characters, and a great fantasy story. When the three young men, Rand, Perrin and Mat left their sleepy hamlet, they were only beginning to believe that all the tales they’d heard growing up were true. The world-building is first rate, and each character has their part to play.
I feel like I’m going on an adventure of my own as I continue to read the series. This is what epic fantasy should be.

I had trouble copying and pasting the cover images Tuesday night, but was able to this morning.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tuesday Book Review

Bandwidth by Eliot Peper

Bandwidth by Eliot Peper four-star review

This story of a lobbyist who is shown the harm he's doing, then realizes those who open his eyes are manipulating him too. But is there a way out of his life? He spends a lot of time pondering his life, how he got where he is and what his values are.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Interview with Christina Marie

Today, instead of a blog about knitting, I'm happy to post an interview I did with Christina (DZA) Marie

What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? Graphic novels, anime or comics? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

While I have written the odd sci-fi and even (bad) horror story, my true heart lies with fantasy, specifically epic fantasy. I’ve participated in short story and flash fiction competitions, enough that I gathered the best and funniest works into a collection titled Gary Geckos Guide to Getting Your Humans to Get Together (and Other Short Stories).

I’ve also published a handful of novellas, which I prefer more than short stories simply because I like having room to maneuver. This year has been my first venture into graphic novel territory with the start of my new series Sovadron. It’s an epic fantasy (grimdark?) story with a world based on post-colonial America, and features demons, gods, werewolves, giants, goblins, and all that good stuff.

What writers do you admire? What are you currently reading?

I admire many writers, from grimdark George R. R. Martin to hilarious YA surrogate-dad Rick Riordan to sarcastic steampunk scientist Robyn Bennis. My bookshelf is bursting. At the moment, I’m borrowing my roommate’s trilogy Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s basically grimdark fantasy for YA audiences. Good stuff!

Have you self-published anything? What was your experience like?

This year has been a whole exploration in self-publishing. In the summer I released my short story collection Gary the Gecko, and a month later I published my urban fantasy novella The Minnesotan Witch. On November 16th, I’ll be self-publishing the first chapter of Sovadron.

I’ve found that the success of self-publishing depends a lot on your preparation and how much you’re willing (or able) to outsource. For Gary the Gecko, I was completely unprepared and sold only one copy (to my roommate). Minnesotan Witch went better, primarily because I gave myself time to promote ahead of the fact and recruited people to leave honest Amazon reviews and blog posts.

Sovadron is going to be difficult, mostly because it’s a much more involved project, being a series. It’s also a graphic novel, which is going to be more tedious to convert and upload onto Amazon Kindle. Not to mention I, as the publisher, have to pay for everything, including the illustrator—which is why I can only publish one chapter at a time rather than one book at a time.

However, self-publishing is also very freeing. When you’re doing traditional publishing (re: going to a publishing house), everyone gets their sticky fingers in your work: the editor, the publisher, the agent if you have one. But with self-publishing, it’s all your vision. You have complete creative freedom.

MN Witch link:

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write? Romantic? Sex? The death of a character? Fight scenes? Others?

The hardest scenes for me are the “filler scenes,” I guess you could call them. I bounce around a lot when I’m writing, always hitting the most important, most intense scenes first—which means all those “difficult” scenes you just listed as examples are technically the easiest for me to do because I love doing them.

The result is I get the intro of the book written, the ending, the climax, and several other big moments. But then I have to add the link-up scenes, the exposition, the less exciting but still very important moments that provide a break from the action or give us a clearer view of the character. Those are difficult because they’re not as fun to write.

How much time do you spend on research for your writing?

Probably more than I should, and I blame my inner history geek for that. Although, I never regret spending time to thoroughly research a culture or part of history for a story because the whole point of research is to learn things that you never knew before. And, too make things even more interesting for me, when I’m trying to decide what real country or person to base my fantasy culture or person on, I usually choose one that I don’t know about or have a gap in my learning specifically so I’m motivated to learn more about it.

For example, in Sovadron, the new country of Luria is based off of post-colonial America, which I already knew quite a bit about. But I didn’t know that much about 18th/19th century England and France—which is what Daerstyn, the country that used to rule the former Lurian colonies, is based off of. The dwarves are based on the Inuit and Alaskan natives, so I had to research their culture and the effect of colonialism (spoiler alert: it sucks). And on top of that, several major characters are in the LGBTQ+ community, which meant learning about history I already knew in a completely different light as I read about how those people had to navigate in that kind of world. It’s fascinating.

Your character decides to go a different way than you planned. What do you do?

Usually: I just go with it. Having a character do something unexpected is a very good thing, because it means I, as a writer, have done my job. Humans are unpredictable and difficult to manage, so when a character is the same, then that’s great!

However, if there is a specific way a story has to go, then I do either one of two things. I either change the character, or change the situation of the story. Sometimes changing the character is easy (re: if I need the character to not enter the dark cave until later, but they’re naturally adventurous and spontaneous, then I’ll probably give them a crushing fear of bats—which live in caves—that they have to overcome in the story, thus adding another layer to the narrative). But if it’s too difficult or I like the character as they are, then I change the situation, usually by throwing some more bad guys at them so they’re occupied/injured/can’t muck up my plot.


Christina “DZA” Marie runs the feminist geek blog Dragons, Zombies & Aliens—as well as the YouTube channel of the same name—and is a sci-fi and fantasy author. She’s published several short stories and novellas and is one of the writers of the global illustrated novella series Earth’s Final Chapter by Endless Ink Publishing. Her hobbies include smashing the patriarchy, paying for horror movies and then being too scared to actually watch them, and defending her furniture from her roommate’s evil cat. 


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tuesday Book Review

The Complete Guide to Article Writing by Naveed Saleh

The Complete Guide to Article Writing by Naveed Saleh 4-star review

The book was chock full of good advice on writing for online and print publications. Some of the information was out-of-date, which is to be expected in the fast-changing publishing world, but I still learned a lot. Writers don’t just write articles. They have to research on the topic but also research publishers. They have to pitch what they’ve written and develop a relationship with the publishers of the magazines they write for. And they have to have a presence online. Saleh even goes into contracts. As a fiction writer and occasional writer of articles, this was a helpful book.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Friday Knitting Blog

Sheep to Shawl part 1: from an article in The Yarn Shop at Nob Hill newsletter:

Sheep in New Mexico, Part 1 How and when did sheep arrive here 

by Karen Christensen

In 1598, Don Juan de Ornate, was awarded the contract to settle New Mexico for the Spanish government, he brought approximately 5,000 Iberian sheep called Churras to what is now the state of New Mexico. These animals were the earliest domesticated farm animals in North America and are the forefathers/mothers of the contemporary Navajo-Churro sheep breed.

The sheep population thrived under Spanish and Territorial rule. These sheep became important to the Spa​nish economy. Many of the sheep raised in the territory were exported to Mexico trading posts for food. 

During Spanish rule, the Spanish basically abandoned their cows and became sheep and wool raisers. The Spanish preferred the taste of Churra meat over beef as it was sweeter tasting. Also, because cattle were easier to drive long distances after a raid as compared to a flock of sheep, the beef herds were less likely to be raided.

Only the Navajo were interested in the sheep the Spanish brought with them, especially for their wool. The Navajos would raid the Spanish flocks because they wanted their wool. The Navajo were highly skilled weavers at the end of the 18th century. The blankets and rugs that were created by these artisans were of superior quality and sought after by many traders in the territory.

Up until 1821 there were more sheep in the territory (now New Mexico) than cattle and humans. Once numbering in the millions, the Churra breed almost became extinct in the 1860's. The United States Government at this time considered the Navajos an enemy of the government and destroyed their livestock, crops and orchards. In 1868, the Navajos were allowed to return to their homeland with a few Churras and they rebuilt their flock, hence the name change to Navajo-Churro. 

Sources she used:  New Mexico History website, Navajo Churro Sheep Association website, Santa Fe New Mexican article, Chimayo Weavers website, Wikipedia, American Sheep Industry website, The Sheep Industry of Territorial New Mexico - Wallace and the Slow Food website.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews

Red Gold by Robert D. Kidera

Red Gold by Robert Kidera

The first in this series brings Gabe McKenna to Albuquerque from New York after his aunt’s death to learn that, as her only living relative, he inherited her house in Albuquerque and a property in Catron county. But it’s a book by his great grandfather called Red Gold, about the Lost Adams gold. His search for both the property and the gold is fraught with death and intrigue. Luckily he finds old and new friends to help in his search. I enjoyed this, partly because I know the places Gabe visits. I’ll definitely read more in the series.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday Knitting Blog

I’m working steadily on two projects, an Estonian lace shawl from a Craftsy class and a cardigan that has three patterns across each of the fronts, but a friend requested that I make two scarves for friends of hers. Luckily, she loved the picture of this narrow shawl that could pass for a scarf:

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews on Thursday

The Competition

The Competition by Cecily Wolfe

This story about a hundred high school juniors competing in a writing contest at a small college is well written. What the Penultimate means for each of the four main characters, Mary Sofia, Camara, Michael and Jaeden, is clearly explored and made them real. We follow each of them and their friends, especially Julia and Jada, through the ride to the college, their meeting there, the tour of the school, and then the three prompted writing assignments. The last one, prompted by the theme of a turning point in their lives, leads to regrets as they think about what they each wrote. I occasionally didn’t know who was speaking because of the way dialogue was presented, but that didn’t detract from the themes of the story. Titling the story The Penultimate might have differentiated this book from others with the title The Competition.

Cream Buns and Crime by Robin  Stevens

Cream Buns and Crime by Robin Stevens

As noted on the cover, this is a collection of tips, tricks and tales from the Detective Society that Daisy Wells and Hazel Wang formed at Deepdean School for Girls. It also contains a few of the cases solved by their friends, the Junior Pinkertons, i.e., Alexander Arcady and George Mukherjee at Weston School. It’s full of the same kinds of fun as the Murder Most Unladylike series, and complements it by giving us a better chance to ‘hear’ Daisy, Alex, and George’s voices. There’s also an awful lot about detective and spy novels with lists from the author, Daisy and George. Very well done. I’m looking forward to reading the next full-length murder mystery in the series.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday Book Reviews

Sorry I haven't posted reviews for a while, but that means you get two today

Raccoons and Rabbit Holes

Raccoons and Rabbit Holes by Loralee Evans

Four stars. Charming fantasy story for 8-12-year-olds with a history lesson thrown in. Julie and her new friends Jax and Ani explore a supposedly haunted house and a raccoon leads them through a hollow tree and a tunnel to the past, There, the black brother and sister meet Harriet Tubman as she leads a young couple and their child to the underground railroad. Miss Tubman comes to believe Jax when he claims to come from another time. There’s mild suspense. The only indication of the plight of slaves during that time are the fact the couple is fleeing a plantation, the workers in the cotton fields, and the attitudes of the people in the house where Julie is brought.

Binti (Binti, #1)

Binti by Nnedi Okarofor

Five star first book in a trilogy is a novella about the first girl of the Himba tribe in the African desert who’s invited to study at Oomza University in another part of the galaxy because of her mathematical ability. She never went far from her village before but is a master harmonizer and astrolabe designer. As Binti travels with other new students, their ship (which is a living being) is attacked by the Meduse who kill everyone but Binti and the pilot. The Otjize mud she uses on her hair and skin to make her feel closer to home proves useful in repairing the Meduse tentacles. Eventually she communicates with them through an artifact she found in the desert. I’d heard about this series for a while, but was at a convention selling my own books when I learned Okarofor was speaking and signing her books. I bought a copy and she autographed it in her own way. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

At Bay (Alex Troutt Thriller, #1; Redemption Thriller #1)

Four star review of At Bay by John W. Mefford

The first in a relatively new mystery/police procedural was a quick read. I particularly liked the protagonist, Alex. She’s an FBI agent who’s lost her memory in an auto accident. As she works a case, mainly against doctor’s orders to take it easy, she also juggles her home life and her own propensity for doing too much. The kids, in particular, were well-drawn, as was her relationship with her gay former/current partner. Although certain events in the book were hard to swallow, overall, this was a good start to a series.

Child of Chaos: The Chesan Legacy Series, Book One (Volume 1)

5 star review of Child of Chaos by D. E. Williams

This book has an intricate plot. At first we’re made to think Tridia is the only survivor of the Chesan race, but later we learn differently. The story really starts when she’s a teenaged assassin for the Hierarchy, the ruling body of one set of worlds. In an attempt to reach the highest level, she requests a Challenge Hunt. We also see her and this universe through the eyes of Ambassador Brenden Aren, and a small part of it through the eyes of Drayden and those of his lookalike Davik. Many other prominent characters have roles in the story, most prominently, Empress Dojene. Each of these characters is distinct and well-rounded.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

If it's Friday it's Knitting

Okay, so I'm a day late. This is an account of a trip I took last February, sponsored by a local knitting store. My friend and I are already signed up for next February.

Knitting in Winslow

The adventure began as we boarded the train in Albuquerque, where most of two couch cars were reserved for our knitting group of sixty-three (including a few spouses). After some exploration of the train cars, the instructors decided to postpone the classes they’d planned for the train ride. Instead, we ate dinner or gazed at the scenery from the observation car. As we crossed the Arizona border, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset.

The trip was organized by The Yarn Shop of Knob Hill in Albuquerque as a wonderful knitting weekend at La Posada in the historic Arizona town of Winslow. La Posada. La Posada embodies the visions of both Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the hotel’s renowned architect, and Allan Affeldt, its current owner. But the story really begins with Fred Harvey, who “civilized the west” by introducing linen, silverware, china, crystal, and impeccable service to railroad travel. Harvey developed and ran all the hotels and restaurants of the Santa Fe Railway, eventually controlling a hospitality empire that spanned the continent. La Posada was formerly one of the Harvey House restaurants as well as the Arizona headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway, the property had been renovated in a Southwestern style hotel, restaurant and train station. The hotel rooms contain handmade furniture, native rugs and rug hangings, and silver framed mirrors. The gardens are filled with local plants. A perfect setting for a knitting retreat.

My Saturday morning was filled with classes on Kitchener stitch for completing the toes of socks, taught by Becky Arnold. Next up was speedy stranded swatching with Celeste Nossiter. After a wonderful pot luck snack/lunch, I learned to create the edge for Orenberg Lace from Ahza Moore. She showed us many examples of her own shawls and runners.

While several of the knitters went to the Snowdrift Art Space for a tour, I joined a group of sixteen who traipsed three blocks, against the wind the entire way, for a photo op: Knitting on the Corner in Winslow Arizona.

We returned to the hotel for dinner. The restaurant serves excellent meals using locally sourced ingredients. Every bite was delicious of my churro lamb, duck cassoulet and elk sausage with potatoes, veggies and beans. Others had coq au vin or a vegetarian plate full of vegetables.

After dinner, a couple more classes were given. I attended one on brioche knitting with one color yarn.

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we learned the train was delayed. It eventually arrived around 8 A.M. and we boarded for the trip back to Albuquerque. It had snowed during the night in some locations and we saw the remnants along the way.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Joys of Knitting

Knitting isn’t a hobby, it’s a post-apocalyptic survival skill.

Over the next several Fridays, I’ll explain the above sentence. Meanwhile, what do you think it means?

A couple of years ago, I came across an advertisement for a shirt with that motto on the front, along with images of a skull, crossed knitting needles and a couple of balls of wool. I couldn’t resist. When I wear it to sci-fi conventions or meetings of knitters, the first thing people do is give me a thumbs up, although some will add, “and crocheting.” The second is to ask where I got the shirt. Unfortunately, the company that originally made it doesn’t have it in their catalogs anymore, but there is another site that has a similar shirt without the skull. I have a long-sleeved version from the second site.

I’ve been knitting since I was five or six. In that time, I’ve made all sorts of sweaters, scarves and hats. In fact, when I left my first job after college, the people I’d worked with gave me a gift certificate to a near-by knitting store because they knew I’d enjoy that more than a plaque.

A few years later, when four women I knew were pregnant at the same time, I made four different baby blankets in less than six months.

So I’m a knitter. Next week I’ll tell you some advantages to knitting that you may not know. Another week I’ll talk about the trends in knitting today. I’ll even describe the fun a friend and I had on a train/knitting trip last February.

Getting back to that first sentence, I’m also a writer and one of the stories I’m working on takes place after a disaster of unknown origin or extent. Folks traveling on a train become stranded near a very small town in August, some with only the proverbial, but true, shirts on their backs. They take up residence at a motel. A few of the women, and men too, collect any yarn available in the town, and get to work making whatever they can for themselves and the others: hats, scarves, gloves, socks and sweaters. That’s what we’d have to do if there ever were such a wide-spread apocalyptic event.

Tuesday Book Reviews

Bear Kingdom & The Golden Sword (The Dream Chronicles, #2)

Bear Kingdom and the Golden Sword by Stacie Eirich  5 stars

Suzie, her twin brother Jack and two friends are tasked with rescuing the Tiger Queen, her cubs and the Book of Destiny in the Bear Kingdom. This is obviously the sequel to a story that takes place in the Tiger Kingdom (to be followed with another in the Dragon Kingdom). In this middle grade book, the heroes are armed with magical articles and helped by rhyming mythical animals. It's a heart-warming tale despite the cold climate of the Bear Kingdom. Even the villainous Bear King turns out to be good, but under an evil spell. No mention of who cast it. I enjoyed this easy read.

The Rose Thief

The Rose Thief by Clair Buss 5 stars

When someone steals many of the royal roses, Ned, the Thief Catcher, is asked by the Emperor to find the thief and keep them from stealing the red rose of love. Thus begins a much more complex romp than I expected at first. Little is what or whom they seem. So many wonderful characters inhabit this story, but my favorite is Jenni, the lisping sprite. Head hopping and occasional misspellings didn't deter my many chuckles or that lol moments.