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Liavek, in France

Liavek BD

Many years ago, in 1985, when Steven Brust and I were but junior writers, we were invited to submit stories to a shared world anthology entitled LIAVEK. The world was loosely based on a game scenario that Will Shetterley and Emma Bull had invented. The idea was that they would present the world and the magic system to a group of authors and invite us to each create a story within that framework.

I did not know Steve at the time, but I had read at least one of his books. Jhereg was the heartwarming tale of a boy and his small dragon . . . not. More like a witch and his familiar working as temporary assassins. Well, not as a temp job, but as in temporarily making people dead. Um. I really think you need to read this book to get what I’m talking about. Anyway, I read, I liked, and when I was invited to submit a story for the first Liavek anthology, and I asked Will and Emma to steer me toward a nasty and dangerous character in the city, they immediately recommended Steven Brust’s Count Dashif. And I was in!

Over the course of writing for the anthologies, our characters crossed paths and discovered connections. Strange to say, so did Steve and I! It was a wonderful experience to write in parallel with him and years later it would lead to us collaborating on a novel, The Gypsy.

And now, close to thirty years since we first wrote together, the Liavek stories have been translated into French and will appear soon from ActuSF. For those of you who speak French, here is a lovely interview on Liavek and writing that I did with ActuSF.

If you had told me back then that this would happen . . . I never would have believed it.

Dangerous Women, or Travels with Kat, the Evil Assistant

Well, it started out as a lovely idea! And ultimately, all the problems endured were well worth the journey.

Dangerous Women, a new anthology edited by Gardner Dozois and George RR Martin, debuted at #18 on the Best Seller list! I’m extremely happy about this, as one of my stories, “Neighbors” is included in the book.

But before it debuted, I was invited to help launch the book from The Jean Cocteau Cinema, a small theater in Santa Fe that had recently been saved from going dark when it was purchased by George R R Martin. I leaped at the opportunity. I’d never been to Santa Fe, and many of the writers who were attending are among my favorite authors.

So I set out with Robin Hobb’s trusty evil assistant Kat.

Our first hurdle was presented by American Eagle airlines.
When we got to the airport, we attempted to get our boarding passes from American Airlines. Kat’s passport would not scan but eventually she found a number on the e-ticket that American Airlines recognized. It listed our names, Kat selected both of us, and then it printed out a slip that said we were at the wrong airlines. That was all. No hint as to why a ticket purchased by American Airlines was not a ticket on an American Airlines flight. A wait at the counter, and the nice lady sent us to Alaska Airlines. A wait at that counter, and then boarding passes obtained, we started through security.

There at SeaTac, something happened to Kat that previously had happened to Robin Hobb, but to few others of our acquaintance. She was taken aside, her hands swabbed for explosive residue. Okay. On we went. At security, she was taken aside, wanded, and then patted down. Okay. Two ‘random’ checks for Kat. Note that she had used her employee Robin Hobb credit card to book the flight.

At Alaska, our boarding passes would not scan, but the attendant typed them in and we boarded the plane. We enjoyed an uneventful flight to Los Angeles. We had over an hour to our next flight, so our plan was to find our gate, get a bite to eat, and travel on to Santa Fe.

We landed, and deplaned, and looked around for our next flight. Our tickets said American Eagle. The American Eagle flight to Santa Fe did not show up on any of the departure/arrival boards we could find. We had to ask at a counter to be directed to an obscure door where, the Bejeweled-playing attendant assured us, a shuttle would soon come. We were hungry but resolved to find our gate and then eat before boarding. We had 45 minutes left. Surely that would be enough?

The shuttle took its sweet time to arrive. We got on, and then got off. We started to go inside, but were halted. This was not our destination. We boarded a second shuttle. It took us to an obscure gate that appeared to still be under construction. Food was available from one vendor, and about of the quality one might get from a corner convenience store. As the Kat cannot eat gluten, her choices were even more limited than mine. But eventually, yes, we did get on the American Eagle airplane.

We sat and waited. Then we were told the airplane had a problem, so we de-planed. And eventually got on another American Eagle plane. We sat and waited. Then we were told the cargo hatch would not shut. Another wait, and the hatch was finally closed and off to Santa Fe we flew.

We claimed out suitcases upon landing, and rented a car from Avis. Avis apologized that the outside of the Ford Explorer was dirty. The weather was too cold for car washing. No problem! The inside was fine and we liked its road handling ability. Off we went.

The Hotel Santa Fe completely charmed both of us. Big, welcoming fireplace! A nice room. We were late for a welcoming party due to our earlier aircraft delays, but our GPS worked well and we found ourselves driving through snowy roads over the low hills until we reached the lovely home of Melinda Snodgrass. The scent of pinon welcomed us, and we spent a long and lovely evening enjoying hospitality and wonderful writerly company!
The food was very nice, the conversation amazing. I learned that George RR Martin has four minions to my paltry one, but decided I was keeping mine all the same. A light snow began to fall, and so we headed back to our hotel.

The next day we explored Santa Fe a bit. It’s a lovely place. The cold weather kept us dashing in and out of stores, and art galleries and book stores. We consumed excellent food, bought many touristy items, visited a chapel with a miraculous spiral staircase and attended late Mass at St. Francis Cathedral.
The next day we arose, did a bit more exploring, met up with Kat’s friend Rachel who helped us with an insider’s tour of Santa Fe, had a lovely dinner with Gardner and George, and then on the Cinema. The book launch was amazing fun! George Martin did a question and answer session with the attending authors as panelists, we each had the opportunity to do a brief reading, and then we signed books for attendees.
In all, a wonderful experience for me. I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Sykes, Diana Rowland, Diana Gabaldon, Melinda Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughn and S. M. Sterling, as well as conversation with George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois. As we parked the car, Kat noted that a tiny rock ding close to the windshield wiper was just beginning to climb up the glass.

The next morning, Kat and I had time for a bit of Christmas shopping and then headed out to our rental car. It was cold, very cold. And as we drove, the crack from the tiny rock ding began to travel up the windshield. I hadn’t bought rental car insurance, as my business credit card is supposed to cover that. And besides, we hadn’t put the ding in the window, so no worries.

I thought.

We arrived at the tiny Santa Fe airport to find our flight delayed by several hours. And Avis thought otherwise about the crack in the windshield. We were told we were responsible for it. No matter that a dirty windshield had obscured the ding when we accepted the car. We were liable. First bummer of the day.

We waited a long time for our flight. Bad weather back east had delayed many flights. Then our airplane came, circled the Santa Fe airport, and then flew on to Albuquerque. Apparently there was something wrong with a flap, and it was too serious to be fixed at the little airport. Another wait, and we were told that all flights from the airport were now cancelled. We held back and let others stampede to the counter. Some were quite wroth with the attendants, but really, what control did they have. Kat and I did note to ourselves that this was the 3rd American Eagle plane in a row that seemed to have something wrong with the plane itself. Not reassuring. And when our luggage was returned to us, the collapsible handle of my suitcase was stuck in the half up position. It wouldn’t go up and it wouldn’t go down. Lovely.

By the time we reached our turn at the counter, the shuttle carrying most of the others to Albuquerque had been filled and left. The woman at the counter said we could taken a second shuttle there, then board a late flight for Los Angeles. The airlines would pay for the shuttle ride, and a hotel in Los Angeles.

A driver in a clean, warm car gave us and another lady with a large load of luggage a ride to Albuquerque. The hour long night drive was actually pleasant. I wished I were able to see more of the scenery. The only unpleasant moment was when he off loaded us at the airport and drove off, leaving the poor woman with us standing and looking at her four suitcases. We helped her get them inside and got in line behind her.

Kat’s passport wouldn’t scan. My passport wouldn’t scan. We went to the counter for help. Yes, they could help us get our boarding passes. Could we get a voucher for food. No, they couldn’t help us with that.

At the counter, the attendant accidentally booked Kat’s suitcase all the way through to Seattle and sent it on its way. I was still struggling to get the handle down on mine. After a bit of a struggle, we were able to get Kat’s suitcase back and book it only to Los Angeles. I ended up completely unpacking my suitcase on a chair in the airport, struggling to get the handle down to no avail, re-packing it, and talking them into checking it to Los Angeles as it was.

Okay. A bad luck day, but there it was. We were on our way to LA. We could deal with this.

Little was open in the airport. We looked forward to some sort of a meal in Los Angeles. At security, Kat was swabbed again for explosives. And again, she was randomly chosen for a wanding and a pat down. On we went to the gate, where we waited. Flight delayed. Then the gate was changed. Another trot through the terminal, and then, finally, the flight came. Our boarding passes would not scan, but an attendant typed our information and we boarded the plane. Hurray! We took out our books and settled in.

Ours were the only seats on the flight where the overhead reading lights wouldn’t work. Of course.

We landed at the same miserable half-finished gate in Los Angeles. We stood in line, and were given a phone number to call for a hotel for the night, and a voucher for breakfast the next day. $14. Okay. Off to the main terminal, where we claimed our luggage, and then out to find a shuttle for the Holiday Inn. We didn’t wait long, and were glad to arrive. We were too tired to eat, and nothing was open anyway. A simple room, five hours of sleep, and then we were up and on the shuttle back to the airport. Nothing was open in the hotel for food. Off to American Airlines. We hopped off and went to check in our luggage.

Only, NO, not again! The self-check spit out a note that we were at the wrong airlines. We needed Alaska Airlines. Two terminals away.

So, after a brisk jog down the sidewalk with my recalcitrant suitcase jouncing and clipping me all the way, we managed to check our luggage in at Alaska. They understood about the balky handle, too.

Another trip through security. Another wanding and pat down for Kat. Totally random, of course!

We got to our gate, and found that our $14 breakfast voucher would not feed both of us. Well, had we really expected it would? No. We got some airport food for breakfast, knowing we would regret it later but we were both really hungry.

Then off to our gate, where again our boarding passes would not scan. We were keyed in and got onto the airplane. Where Alaska had given us extra legroom seat. Ah. An uneventful flight home. Fred picked us up and we got to the house and ate real food.

Upon unpacking, we both found slips from the TSA in our checked suitcases. They had both been opened and inspected. Randomly, of course.

So. That is the tale of my adventure, shared at length. Why? Because I do think that some information needs to be shared.

I doubt I will fly American Eagle Airlines again. Nor will I rent from Avis again. Nice people served us at the face-to-face level, but the corporate level fails my expectations. I should not get 3 defective airplanes in a row. And being held financially accountable for a rock chip crack on a dirty windshield is similar to being held accountable for a tire that goes flat, or a radiator leak.

And the other piece of information I want to share. For the past six years, I have been regularly wanded, patted down, had my fingers swabbed for explosives, and had my laptop opened and my keyboard swabbed. I am always told that I’ve been ‘randomly’ selected. My record was on a trip home from Amsterdam, where first my suitcase was ‘randomly’ searched, followed by a ‘random’ pat-down as I went through security, and finally I was stopped at the boarding area of my flight, for a ‘random’ search of my carry-on. I do not know anyone else who has been swabbed for explosives at the airport, let alone anyone to whom it has happened more than once. Only me. And now Kat.

Robin Hobb writes lots of email. It goes out to readers in response from letters all over the world. Unsurprisingly, the word ‘assassin’ crops up in many of those emails. It’s in three of my titles. And I’m sure it’s one of the button words that NSA scans for in email.

I love my country, and I’m probably more of a patriot than is currently fashionable. I want terrorism stopped. But I still deplore private emails and phone calls being screened by the NSA. Even more do I deplore sloppy workmanship. If, indeed, I am being scrutinized because I write a lot of email with ‘red flag’ words, then please, do read the entire email and realize that I am just a writer replying to readers about my books. Just because my assistant booked the flights using a Robin Hobb credit card does not mean Kat deserves to be treated with such a high level of suspicion. While I take pride in being among Dangerous Women, it does not mean we are dangerous women.

Until I watched this happening to Kat, saw her hands swabbed twice and saw her patted down at literally every security check point, I was able to speak about my security experiences wryly. At every point of our travel, our passports and ID’s had to be hand entered rather than scanned. Every single boarding pass has to be typed in rather than scanned.

Before this trip, I could wonder if I were being paranoid, if, indeed, like my bad luck with the flights and the cars, I was simply drawing the ‘search her’ card in a bizarrely regular fashion. But this was just a little too peculiar. A tad too ‘un’random.

Am I paranoid? Of course. But that doesn’t mean it’s without reason. And it’s time to share my experience with others.

Hypericon

Hypericon is a speculative fiction and gaming convention in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s coming up fast, but you can still get the pre-registration price if you sign up before June 10!

I will be there, masquerading as Robin Hobb. As always, I’ll be happy to sign any Megan Lindholm books or stories as well as the Robin Hobb ones.

Hope to see you there!

The Work and The Career

More and more lately, I feel that there is a widening gulf between my work and my career. I don’t know if I am getting old or if the world is changing ever faster. I suspect it is a combination of the two.
Recently I was a guest at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in (surprise!) Los Angeles. One of the talks I attended was John Scalzi being interviewed by Richard Kadrey. It was, as one might expect of those two, both entertaining and informative. In the course of the interview, Scalzi confirmed what I have long suspected. I am a dinosaur. He was classifying writers in terms of their adaptation to the digital world, and came up with three basic types. Dinosaurs, doomed to perish with the old style of publishing, mammals, a more adaptable batch, and finally cockroaches, who will ultimately inherit all.
Now, I suppose I could choose to take offense at such a classification, except that it is so apt. In fact, I’d look silly arguing with it. I’m a dinosaur and unlikely to change. Especially since the thought of evolving fills me with dismay.
“Old school” publishing has been good to me, and that is the truth. It was hard breaking in. Very hard. I beat my head on that wall for years, and I have the fat file of rejection slips to prove it, still. But by the time I did crack the wall and began to be published in the fanzines and little magazines, I had learned a lot and earned my spurs. I’d learned to have a story and to tell it, in clear English with correct spelling and grammar. It had to have a beginning and an end, and something had to happen in the middle, something interesting. It had to be appropriate to the publication I was submitting it to, and it had to be something fresh that still met their criteria.
But before I learned that, I wrote a lot of dreadful prose. I am grateful that I got to make all my mistakes in private. All my malformed half stories, my vignettes about a melancholy moment of navel gazing, my mawkish, stumbling, idiotic pages of dull prose are still somewhere in my basement boxes, unseen by any vulnerable human eyes save those of the iron-cored editors who, with stony-hearted kindness, rejected them.
I sold my first story when I was 18. When I was 30, I sold my first novel. That’s a long apprenticeship, but believe me, I needed every year, month and day of it. I was not idle. I learned. And I became, not just a writer, but a published writer. Writing the story was my job, and I devoted myself to it. To someone else fell the editorial tasks of prodding and molding. Someone else worried about the fontsize and white space, someone else thought about the cover art and the publicity needed to launch the book. All I had to do was write the story. And as long as I held up my end of the deal and wrote the very best book I could, I could count on that entire editorial team to put their best effort out there, too. All I had to think about was writing that book.
That really worked for me.
Well. Scalzi is right. That model of writing and publishing is starting to fade. More than ‘starting’ actually. Writers of today do their own publicity, create their covers and marketing campaigns, seek out their own blurbs and create amazing book trailers. Then some of them self-publish. Some do it very well indeed, with the sort of enthusiasm that indicates they truly love every minute and every aspect of those peripheral tasks.
But I don’t.
For about twenty years now, I’ve tried to keep up with it. I’ve answered scads of e-mails, done on line interviews, sent out newsletters and postcards and provided free copies of books for giveaways and contests. I’ve done everything from AOL ‘bulletin boards’ to Live Journals, Myspaces, and more recently, Facebooks, Linkdin, Reddit Ask Me Anythings, Goodreads Q and A sessions, and Twitters. I’ve had and have newsgroups and fan pages that I visit, and yes, my very own websites. I’ve had headshots professionally done, and I’ve attended all sorts of events from SFF conventions to book festivals to Romance conventions to Comic cons.
Sometimes I’ve enjoyed the interactions, mostly the face to face ones at conventions. I prefer SF cons to literary or academic gatherings. I know what I am. I’m a genre writer. No apologies for that. And yes, I go on line, several times a day, to read and sometimes to post. I do it the same way I used to make 25 cups of tea a day, and for the same reason. It’s what I do when I’ve typed all the story words that are in the front of my mind and I’m waiting for the back of my mind to send more story to the front where I can see it. That’s all.
And I won’t apologize that I’m not an editor. That’s a specific skill set. I don’t edit others and I don’t edit myself. I’m not a publicist, either. Not any more than I’m a graphic artist or a website designer. There’s a reason why I don’t do those things for myself. I’m not good at them. And I don’t enjoy doing them. And I don’t want to learn to be good at them.
There’s one thing I want to do. I want to write stories. That’s all. I don’t want to be clever about promoting them. I don’t want to twitter an update at least four times a day, nor post daily on Facebook, with or without a cute picture of my cat. I don’t want to write a clever or compelling blog, don’t want to share my politics, don’t want to persuade you or educate you. I don’t want to collect the statistics of how many new likes or friends I have on the Internet. That’s why so much of that is shoved off on my long-suffering assistant. She knows her job description. “You get to do all the parts of my career that I don’t like doing. Which means, you do everything that needs doing, except for the writing. I get to do that. Because that’s the part I love.”
I just want to write my stories. If I’m lucky, during what remains of my writing days, there will be some sort of publishing system that will continue to do all the rest of the work that is needed to get my stories out to readers. If I’m unlucky, I will reach a point where I am writing stories, carefully saving them as a printed copy and a digital file, and then shoving them into virtual cardboard boxes and writing the next story. I believe that if I write a good enough story, it will still find its way to readers, even if I don’t blog, twitter, or Pinterest it.
But then, I’m sure those other dinosaurs also believed that they could just go on being dinosaurs and that the sun would continue to shine down on them.
And we all know how that turned out.

Writer Beware!

If you’ve read my blogs or facebook posts at all, then you’ve seen me recommend this site more than once.

Today, there is a wonderful article on Book View Cafe Blog that highlights just why this site is so important to writers both old and new.  There’s a terrible new e-book contract out there from a very reputable publishing house.  Random House. 

I won’t repeat their entire article here. Go, read, and please send a note of thanks to the hardworking people at Writer Beware who are watching our backs.

The Box Car Children

What is it about this book?

I read it probably over fifty years ago. As I recall, my older sister had recommended it to me, and it was every bit as good as she said it would be. 

For the past few days, I’ve been reliving the adventure as my grand-daughter does her required twenty minutes a night of reading aloud. Only the adventures of the four orphaned and hungry children who seem to relish the challenge of making a home out of an abandoned box car have made those sessions stretch past the twenty minute allottment. 

Perhaps it is how bravely the children approach the challenges, and how creatively the deal with getting what they need.  They deliberately search for a dump where they can salvage things. They not only put up a shelf in their boxcar but beautify it with a vase of flowers.

The story is so simply written and told. We don’t know how the children were orphaned, or how they left the home they were raised in.  We simply meet them as they go forth into the world to survive.

My grand daughter loves this story just as much as I did when I read it half a century ago.

 

Speculate!

Over at Speculate you will find a review of my story collection: The Inheritance & Other Stories.

Here is Speculate’s own description:

Welcome to Episode 69 of Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers and Fans. With this episode we begin a new triptych of shows on the work of Robin Hobb and Megan Lindholm, looking at the 2011 short story collection The Inheritance and Other Stories–the first time both pseudonyms have been brought together in one volume. In particular we talk about Lindholm’s stories “A Touch of Lavender” and “The Fifth Squashed Cat,” along with Hobb’s stories “The Inheritance” and “Cat’s Meat”; although both names belong to one author, the voices and emphases are quite different, and we look at both those differences and the assured touch of a speculative fiction master evident throughout all of the book. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to check back next week when we’ll continue the triptych with our interview of Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm herself. Until then, thanks as always for listening to the show, and please continue to spread the word.

I had a wonderful time doing the interview via Skype (but it is audio only!) despite the challenges of doing this in a lively household. The first time we attempted it, I was knocked off the internet several times, possibly by my home phone ringing.

In the second episode, I waged a mostly silent battle with Diego the desk cat over whether or not he was allowed to stroll on the keyboard, or perhaps just sit on it during the interview. And, of course, I was knocked off Skype once, and had three phone calls making my house phone ring. I’m trusting those will be barely audible.

Nonetheless, it was very enjoyable and I hope readers will likewise enjoy the interview when it comes up.

In the meantime, I commend to your attention the Speculate interview with Peter V. Brett and Myke Cole, findable (did I just invent that word) on the right hand side of the Skype site. Good stuff there.

Happy March!

See You at DragconCon and Decatur Book Festival

I’ll be tagging along with Robin Hobb for these events!

As always, I’m glad to sign Megan Lindholm items as well as Robin Hobb ones, or to have a cup of coffee with you and discuss the older book.

I’ll hope to see some readers there.  My complete schedule is up at Robinhobb.com and on the Robin Hobb Facebook.

Old Paint

I’ve a short story available now in the July 2012 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.  “Old Paint” touches on my fondness for the various cars I’ve owned in my life.

Old Paint

Very pleased to note that Megan Lindholm has a new story in the fortcoming July issue of Asimov’s.  “Old Paint” is near future sf/fantasy, and is an homage to my old blue Chevy Celebrity wagon.  Hope you’ll enjoy it.