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I was planning to post a bit on the triumph of hope over cynicism, the shared sense of powerlessness at the root of frustrations across the political spectrum, and how to address that sense through constructive action in response to the constant barrage of no-good news, but I can’t find it.

So instead you get this:)

Neko says hello. (Ok, really she says, “Seriously, human? I’m sleeping here!” Because she’s a cat, and that’s how cats roll.)

Oh Hey, Spring!

(This is me, willfully ignoring the many, many feet of snow still camped out on my front lawn.)

Happy Spring!

View this post on Instagram

It’s #TravelTuesday! Today the team at @montreal is joining us to answer your questions about Canada’s second largest city. What foods must you try? What are the festival events not to miss this year? Where are the best places to stay? Ask away and the locals will answer! #ExploreCanada 📷: @ericbranover 📍: @montreal, @tourismequebec . C’est #MardiVoyage! Aujourd’hui, l’équipe de @montreal se joint à nous afin de répondre à vos questions sur la deuxième plus grande ville du Canada. Quels sont les mets à essayer? Les festivals à voir absolument cette année? Les meilleures adresses où loger? Demandez aux gens du coin; ils se feront un plaisir de vous répondre! #ExploreCanada 📷 @ericbranover 📍 @montreal, @tourismequebec . #MTLmoments #Montreal #QuebecOriginal #Spring #Travel #CherryBlossoms #Voyage

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Looking for new reading material? Good news! The Nebula Award finalists have been announced, so it’s time to pad those To Read lists, people. Here is the complete list, some with links to reviews, previews, and full text where available (and I felt like it:).

What looks interesting to you?

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2018 Nebula Award Finalists
Novel
The Calculating Stars, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor) [review]
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
Blackfish City, Sam J. Miller (Ecco; Orbit UK)
Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Witchmark, C.L. Polk (Tor.com Publishing)
Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga) [review]

Novella
Fire Ant, Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi) [preview]
The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing) [review]
The Tea Master and the Detective, Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean) [preview and review]
Alice Payne Arrives, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing) [excerpt]
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing) [review and review]
Artificial Condition, Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) [excerpt]

Novelette
“The Only Harmless Great Thing”, Brooke Bolander (Tor.com Publishing)
The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections”, Tina Connolly (Tor.com 7/11/18)
“An Agent of Utopia”, Andy Duncan (An Agent of Utopia)
The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births”, José Pablo Iriarte (Lightspeed 1/18)
The Rule of Three”, Lawrence M. Schoen (Future Science Fiction Digest 12/18)
“Messenger”, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and R.R. Virdi (Expanding Universe, Volume 4)

Short Story
“Interview for the End of the World”, Rhett C. Bruno (Bridge Across the Stars)
The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (Fireside 2/18)
“Going Dark”, Richard Fox (Backblast Area Clear)
“And Yet”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny 3-4/18)
A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies”, Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/6/18)
The Court Magician”, Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed 1/18)

Game Writing
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Charlie Brooker (House of Tomorrow & Netflix)
The Road to Canterbury, Kate Heartfield (Choice of Games)
God of War, Matt Sophos, Richard Zangrande Gaubert, Cory Barlog, Orion Walker, and Adam Dolin (Santa Monica Studio/Sony/Interactive Entertainment)
Rent-A-Vice, Natalia Theodoridou (Choice of Games)
The Martian Job, M. Darusha Wehm (Choice of Games)

The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
The Good Place: “Jeremy Bearimy”, Written by: Megan Amram
Black Panther, Written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
A Quiet Place, Screenplay by: John Krasinski and Bryan Woods & Scott Beck
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Screenplay by: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Dirty Computer, Written by: Janelle Monáe and Chuck Lightning
Sorry to Bother You, Written by: Boots Riley

The Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book
Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt; Macmillan)
Aru Shah and the End of Time, Roshani Chokshi (Rick Riordan Presents)
A Light in the Dark, A.K. DuBoff (BDL)
Tess of the Road, Rachel Hartman (Random House)
Dread Nation, Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, Henry Lien (Henry Holt)

***

Let’s see if embedding my Goodreads list works here… Why yes, I believe it does. If the list isn’t showing for you, find it here.

***

2018 Nebula Finalists (Many, Anyway!)

The Rule of Three
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
A Light in the Dark
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Fire Ant
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
And Yet
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Alice Payne Arrives
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Only Harmless Great Thing
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Tess of the Road
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Children of Blood and Bone
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach
tagged:
to-read and 2018-nebula-finalists
Aru Shah and the End of Time
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Tea Master and the Detective
tagged:
to-read, in-progress, on-hiatus, and 2018-nebula-finalists
Dread Nation
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
Blackfish City
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists and to-read
The Poppy War
tagged:
to-read and 2018-nebula-finalists
Artificial Condition
it was amazing
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists
Witchmark
tagged:
2018-nebula-finalists

 

goodreads.com

What I’m reading today:

Pretend It’s Aliens
A neat mental trick to understand the climate battle ahead.
By Farhad Manjoo

It’s Valentine’s Day today, and I love this essay! (Also Mr. Man and my family and unicorns, but this I can share:) It’s a genius way of identifying one of humanity’s main flaws when it comes to making change, and then (here’s the good bit) finding a way around it.

…climate change is not war. There is no enemy, other than ourselves. And we are very bad, as individuals or collectively, at fighting ourselves over anything.

This thought chilled me.

Then, one late night after taking a dose of a kind of sleep medicine that is now widely available in California, I had an epiphany:

Pretend it’s aliens.

For years I’ve been saying that if aliens invaded, we’d get over our internecine squabbles pretty damn quick. Sadly, it would also require an actual alien invasion. And while movies of same tend to end with triumphant human victories, they generally don’t show the part where we have to bury all the bodies.

Unless it’s not pretend at all?

Just, you know, saying!

Real-Life Superhero

From the Library of Congress:

Today in History – February 7
On February 7, 1867, Laura Elizabeth Ingalls, the author of the beloved semi-autobiographical Little House series, was born in Wisconsin, the second daughter of Charles and Caroline Ingalls.

Little House on the Prairie etc. were some of the first real books I read.* They were also where I learned (among many other things) to make candy from maple syrup and snow, twist straw into logs, cast bullets, make candles, that nails were once a precious commodity, and that life before modern medicine was often hard and sometimes deadly.
***
Speaking of modern medicine, I’ve been following the new measles outbreaks. Here’s a little public service announcement:

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
— Roald Dahl, on his daughter Olivia and Measles

 

Now, some people can’t be vaccinated.** That’s why the rest of us should. “You are a human shield”! (I love that, and I love being a real-life superhero and all-around good neighbor.) Thank you to the researchers who made vaccines possible, to the public policies making it a requirement, and to my parental units for helping me be part of a healthy community by keeping my vaccinations up to date!

***

* Ok, Hop on Pop and other such books are real too, but these had chapters and everything! Also Little House was only semi-autobiographical and had some race issues, but acknowledging that lets us know how far we’ve come.

** For more on the “don’t” rather than the “can’t,” check out this TED Talk: Why (Some) Parents Don’t Vaccinate.

WIP it Good

Right now I’m all about WIPs, or works in progress, in writing and other arenas. (Ironically, I started this post days weeks a while ago and then skipped over it to wrap up November with the NaNoMakeMo post. Now we’re back to this post in progress:)

I haven’t wanted to post much here because my day-to-day isn’t necessarily all that interesting, so I like to have something interesting to say. And the middle of anything can feel… well, just average. It can be tough talking about works in progress.

For example, what did you do today? Got up, hit the treadmill, worked on a story, did some research, switched from the treadmill desk to the standing desk and worked on the day job. Periodically took breaks to do things like make a bunch of sous vide egg cups, wash a million plastic bags**, or hit the workshop.

Speaking of the workshop, part of why my writing project is taking longer than I’d like is that I’m dividing my attention. You may remember I put up a post about the “exciting creative synergies inherent in cross-media productivity” or something like that;) Still true, at least for me, but spreading one’s attention does tend to slow things down, at least that’s how it’s working out for me. It’s like doing a dual major instead of just one. The prep takes forever but in the end, it will all be worth it (right? here’s hoping!).

***

In writing:

I’ve been working on a longer-form piece and don’t have much to say about it, honestly, except “Hey, still working on that novella!” and “It’s going to suuuuper great when I get it done but, well, it’s not done yet” “Yep, this is taking freaking forever!” and “I’m past the bit with the donuts but now I’m stuck at the part with the walk-in freezer. Honestly, who has a walk-in freezer in space, anyway?” (answer, me:).

I was going to put up a shot of my writing file, but I don’t want you to see all the highlighting and bold text meaning “this word choice is terrible and/or completely out of place and/or if she was wearing a spacesuit in the last scene, how can she be rubbing her face in this bit?, fix it or else!”*

Here’s a shot of a lake in winter instead. From inside, because it was -29C, people!

***

In wood:

I made a handle for a friend’s fishing pole (you may remember my adventures in deepwater lake trout fishing from a ways back; it involves metal line and requires a sturdy handle, and his wasn’t). Well, I’ve actually made two so far and I’m finishing up a third. Practice is good for skill development, of course, and I want to keep going until I have a product I’m happy with. The proportions of the first version weren’t quite what I wanted (Mr. Man likes it, but I wanted to try again), the second has a potential weak spot (and again), but the third looks just right.

***

Maybe there’s value in sharing the tedium as well as the highs, the work that goes on behind the scenes so that you know it’s not just you. I’m just a regular Jolene, plugging away at something that makes me happy (most of the time, anyway:). If you think a thing is worth doing, and you’re learning and improving and it’s helping you be the person you want to become (unless that person is unpleasant and/or criminal, just saying), go ahead. Make the effort. I’ll do my best to enjoy all the days, average or not.

So let’s rewrite this experience of “in progress” or the “dreaded middle.” I’m not done yet, but I am rounding the corner. What’s my goal? What’s in the way? How can I break it down to make what’s left more manageable?

I love crossing things off a list. So satisfying! To that end, I’ve started listing each project on a piece of paper and break it down into component parts. Like so:

The big stack on the left are completed goals. Everything else is in progress, including “The Secret Life of Henchman #3” and “make a bed of nails.” Because that’s how I roll:)

***

(interjection from the future, which is now, but was later, then)

The space pirate story has a beginning (two, actually, must fix that) and an end, and it’s ready for next steps. No one died.

/ahem

Allow me to rephrase.

No one died who didn’t absolutely deserve it.

 

Here’s hoping your year is starting off well. Or at the very least, better than Henchman #3’s!

 

***

* Still, here’s a bit I find amusing: “The difference between us is that I will actually call you a ride. The fact that they’ll come bearing handcuffs is your own damn fault.”

** I hate washing plastic bags. I like the fact that it keeps waste out of landfills and encourages a reuse mindset, but the process of washing and drying bags is just ridiculous, awkward, messy and inefficient. The whole time I’m chanting to myself, “There has to be a better way.” If you know of one, feel free to share!

The Balance

Ever have one of those days where it seems like everything goes a little wonky? I think of it as The Balance.

***

Many item drops in video games are randomized but still seem to follow a pattern. It’s as if “randomness” is spread over a thousand rolls of the dice, and has to balance out in the end. So if you’ve gone days without getting a decent drop, suddenly you get three great items. Or if things have been going your way, you get a sudden run of bad luck.*

I find this happens in real life too. Some days everything goes perfectly, but other days?

Not so much.

Some days, if there’s a cord to trip over, I trip. If there’s a remote to drop, it’s dropped. And if the cat decides to get into the closet and eat dry cleaning bags, you can be sure that any effort to stop said behavior will result in a catastrophe of much greater proportions.

Like what, you might ask? Like thwacking one’s head against the treadmill desk holding your breakfast smoothie and having it all come tumbling down.

Everywhere. On everything. And then spending the next two hours cleaning it up.**

That was no fun but it’s actually kind of nice to have such things concentrated into one day. At least you know it’s coming and can prepare accordingly.

  • Will that knife balanced at the edge of the counter fall? Yep.
  • Wonder if you can carry that mug of tea and three books on your laptop and make it downstairs without incident? Nope.
  • Think you might have forgotten to close the garage door? Definitely!

The Balance. It’s not real, but it might be true;)

(As an added bonus, now I know how to disassemble my treadmill:)

***

* I know this isn’t how randomness and statistics work, I’m just saying that some days, that’s how it feels.

** Someone needs to investigate the usefulness of chia seeds’ gel coating for adhesive. So sticky!