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Musings of A Writer

World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award

A tree bare of leaves before a full moon.
World Fantasy Award, designed byVincent Villa Franca.  Image from wikipedia.  

This November, at the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal, Canada, I am to be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

That's a sentence I never expected to type.

 

Honored alongside me witll be Howard Waldrop, a celebrated short story author in our genre.  While it doesn't surprise me at all that Waldrop is being honored, I'm still shocked that I am.  

 

This award has been given out yearly since 1975, and in recent years,  is given to two people, often one an author and the other someone who has made signficiant  contribultions to the fantasy genre.  The award is voted on by members of the previous World Fantasy Conventions.  While the winners of the other World Fantasy awards for that year are not announced in advance, those honored with a Lifetime Achievement award are announced with the nominees for the other awards.

 

So it was that I received a phone call from Gordon Van Gelder, to let me know that the honor was being annoiunced.  I was virtually speechless.  

 

The list of previous honorees includes so many of my writing heroes that it feels very odd to announce that I am stepping up into that company.  

 

Covid and other factors allowing, I hope to attend the World Fantasy Convention in Montreal in November.  

 

And I am still a bit lost for words to talk about this.  So I will stop here.

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Facebook Live with Tommy Arnold, Megan Lindholm, Magali Villeneuve and Robin Hobb!

On Saturday, February 27, at 1 PM US west coast time and with many thanks to Shawn Speakman of Grim Oak Press, I will be joining Magali Villeneuve, Robin Hobb and Tommy Arnold to chat about books and the wonderful people who illustrate them.

 

You can join us at the Robin Hobb Facebook Page.

 

This will be my first time attempting anything like this, so expect some mistakes on my part!  Thanks for your patience!

 

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Wizard of the Pigeons; revisiting an old friend

Two covers for the novel Wizard of the Pigeons.  On the left, the UK cover with a pigeon taking flight over Seattle. On the right, the US cover with an image of Wizard by Tommy Arnold.
Wizard of the Pigeons.  US cover art by Tommy Arnold on the right, from Grim Oak.  The UK edition from Voyager is on the left.
  • I wrote Wizard of the Pigeons in 1985. That is 36 years ago.

 

To do the research for the urban fantasy set it Seattle, I made multiple trips to the city.  I took the Underground Tour, wandered through Pikes Place Market, visited the waterfront and made notes on bars and coffee shops around Pioneer Square.  I wrote about what I saw.  I saw sleeping bags tucked up under the scanty shelter of freeway overpasses.  I saw men sleeping on the park benches in Pioneer Square, resting while they safely could in daylight and standing in line outside the Union Gospel Mission, hoping for a meal.  My husband was engineer on a fishing vessel at that time.  When he was in port, he could visit certain underpasses or locations where homeless men were eager to be hired or a few hours or a few days to help prepare a vessel to depart for the fishing grounds.  Some were chronic drunks.  Some used drugs.  Others were simply 'down on their luck.'  Many of them were veterans.

 

All were human beings.  

 

My protagonist, Wizard, was a Viet Nam veteran trying to cope with a reality that no longer included him.  Homeless, he lived in the abandoned upper story of a building, among the pigeons that sheltered there at night.  When the reader first encounters him, he is scavenging a meal, and then barely suriving a cold and rainy Seattle night. As the story unfolds, he discovers others like himself; others who have been changed by hardship and trauma, hardened like iron in the fire, to emerge as something more than what they were.  Wizards.  Protectors of the city where they live as outcasts.   

 

 

Some of the city of Seattle of that story is still there.  The King Dome is gone, replaced by a new arena.  The Alaska Way Viaduct has been taken down after substantial earthquake damage and flaws were discovered in it.  But much of the setting of my story remains.  The Old Curiosity Shoppe, the Pike Place Market, Union Station, and Pioneer Square are stil much as they were 36 years ago.  As are the homeless people who call those public places in Seattle 'home.'

 

In 2020, Grim Oak Press brought out a new edition of Wizard of the Pigeons.  It is lovingly and lavishly illustrated by Tommy Arnold. I am very pleased to see it once more in print and availabe in the US.  Copies of the hardback can be ordered directly from Grim Oak Press or from Amazon .  The UK edition of Wizard of the Pigeons is easily available through bookstores there or from Amazon.co.uk.

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Missing a Friend

I saw Vonda today in a store.

 

It wasn't really Vonda, of course.  It was a sturdy woman in jeans and boots, with her greying hair cut short. 

It wasn't Vonda. 

 

But just for that moment, I got that surge of anticipation and pleasure I always felt whenever I spotted Vonda somewhere.

 

    She left that with me.  That's not a bad thing for a friend to leave behind.

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Enough To Go Around

Oh, I've been looking at Twitter far too much lately.  And despite my good intentions, I post things there.  And I know I shouldn't.  There is no positive end result from Twitter, and the negative possibilities loom large.

 

So, in future, I believe I will let my rambling thoughts wander over the internet from here. 

 

I think all writers and possibly all creative people go through a phase of being envious of the success of others.  Sometimes it gets ugly.  A friend is published before you are.  Another writer wins the award that you dreamed of receiving.  Someone on Twitter has more followers than I do!  Someone else has more five star reviews on Amazon or GoodReads.  Other writers are being favored over me! They're cheating!  And so envy becomes jealousy, and things get irrational from there.

 

I'll confess.  I once dreamed of winning a Nebula from SFWA!  Or a Hugo at a worldcon! Or a World Fantasy Award!  I was sure that if I worked really hard and wrote a really great book or short story, I would win one!  I made the final ballot for the Nebula twice, and the Hugo once.

 

But I never won. 

 

And it no longer crosses my mind to worry about it.

 

But this isn't sour grapes.  Because a long time ago, I decided what success would look like for me.  It would be a home I owned, with sufficient land around it to have gardens, and dogs, and other animals.  A place to raise what I wanted to eat, and a nice piece of forest to walk in.  Enough income that I would be able to take care of my family, and help grandkids go to college or trade school.  Enough money to buy birdseed for my bird feeders without scrimping somewhere else.

 

That was what I wanted. And that is what I have now. And so, like Fitz,  I am content. And also like Fitz, what I am content with may not appear to be Enough to others.  That thought reminds me of some graffitti I saw years ago, outside of Tacoma Mall during the Christmas shopping frenzy.  It was a simple question painted on the stop sign.  "If you had enough, would you know it?"

 

And the answer is, Yes, I do.

 

And I can also recognize when other people do not have nearly Enough.

 

Recently Kat made a trip into downtown Seattle.  Her mission was to capture some images to use to promote the new edition of Wizard of the Pigeons from Grim Oak Press. 

 

What she came back with is troubling. 

 

Years ago, when I wrote that book, I set it in downtown Seattle.  And I wrote of what I saw, a population of homeless people, Vietnam Veterans among them, living however they could. I saw the sleeping bags tucked up high in the make shift shelters of the highway overpasses.  On the benches in Pioneer Square, men slept during the relative safety of the daylight hours.  On a few random street corners, beggars held cardboard signs.  On the landings of the hillclimb to Pike Place Market, street musicians and other performers hoped for some coins tossed in a guitar case or a hat. 

 

But now, as one approaches the city, the tent settlements of blue tarp shelters and pop up tents cluster in any remotely sheltered area along the freeways.  In some areas of the city, the sidewalks are impassable, for they are now the homesites of people with no where else to go. Block after block they stretch, forcing foot traffic out into the street.  To enter a park area or green space is to stand in someone's porch area, among the litter and trash of a daily life without the most basic amenities of running water or waste disposal.  Yes, there are hypodermic needles discarded among the more prosaic burger wrappers and  disposable diapers and candy wrappers.  People like me can complain of the hazards of walking through it.  The tarp people are forced to live among it.

 

I am not writing of the CHOP zone or other areas occupied by protestors. I am not speaking of people who can choose to return home at night.  I am writing of the folks who live the grim reality of sleeping on pavement within the dubious shelter of nylon walls or a blue tarp propped up by a shopping cart and a cardboard boxes.  The easy availability of opioid drugs, the trashed economy due to Covid, and the sky rocketing rents of Seattle have all contributed to create a Seattle I never imagined existing in the year I wrote Wizard of the Pigeons.  

 

A portion of the profits from the Grim Oak Edition of Wizard of the Pigeons will be donated to the National Veterans Foundation. This organization exists to help Veterans and their families in need or in a time of crisis.

 

 

 

 

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Killing Things

When I was about 8, I was racing a friend up a steep hillside and stepped on a mole. It squawked, and I jumped and fled. Later I returned to find it dead. I don't recall I felt much guilt about it.  I hadn't meant to hurt it, and it was a peculiar looking creature, like a movie monster. And those got killed all the time.

 

We moved to Alaska when I was ten or so.  We moved into a neglected log house.  I helped my eldest brother George put tin roofing on, while my sister Mary helped my Dad install electric wiring.  We all helped with the horribly itchy business of putting pink fibreglas insulation in the attic.  Insulation was absolutely essential in Fairbanks.  I was the smallest one on the team, so I drew the part where it has to be tucked to the very edges of the eaves.  Nasty work, and we had no running water for a hot shower afterwards to wash off the itchy.  But it was done!

 

So we were all horrified when a later check on the attic showed that substantial quantities of the insulation was gone, stolen by the ever inventive red squirrels native to the area. 

 

A single shot Stevens .22 caliber rifle and instruction from my father.  All firearms are always loaded (so we treat them that way.) Never point a gun at anything unless you intend to kill it. (No threatening or idle plinking.)  I became a good shot and I kept squirrels cleared from our 3 acres.  And helped replace the insulation. 

 

I never shot a moose or caribou, but I've helped gut and skin and butcher many, both as a kid and in our Alaskan years of my marriage. We never shot anything that we didn't use completely to the best of our ability.  That was true for fishing, too.  You catch it, you either release it immediaely or you eat it.  No exceptions. Taking a life was never casual, but it was routine.

 

On our little farm, we raise chickens, ducks and geese.  Mostly they are for eggs, but when we get too many drakes, roosters or ganders, then we butcher.  A chopping block and hatchet, a big kettle of boiling water, and a 'laundry line' to hang the dead birds on to bleed them. It's nasty, noisy work.  Blood flies hwen you chop off a bird's head, and yes, they will run around spouting blood from their headless necks if you lose your grip on one.  I don't like it.  We try to do it no more than once a year, with the birds going into the freezer.  Give them a good life right up to the time I take it.  

 

So, I should be inured to it, right? 

 

Nope.  

 

Maybe it's the pandemic, with the death toll rising past half a million.  Maybe I'm just older and more aware of my own mortality.

 

Yesterday, my Ginger dog alerted me to a mouse nest in the feed shed.  I can't have mice in the feed shed.  I keep the feed in metal containers, so they are not attracted.  But the shed is warm and dry and sheltered from most predators.  So from time to time, mice move in.  And I can't allow that.  Hantavirus is a problem int he Pacific North West.  Humans can get it from breathing in the dust from sweeping up mouse dung.  Not to mention that mice chew and can spoil lots of things with their waste and their chewing.  

 

This one had chewed through a plastic garbage can where I keep metal stakes for marking garden rows.  I took the garbag can out of the shed, and tipped out the stakes and Ginger eliminated the mouse.  But there was a nest there, and as I was putting the stakes back into the can, two blind, naked baby mice fell out of it.  Ginger and Molly weren't interested.  There they were, squirming helplessly on the ground.  Little creatures.  No malice.  Just being mice. Filling the place in the world that only mice can fill. We are seeing a die off of species.  Creatures we were always sure could be around for our kids are trudging toward extinction.  

 

I knew I could walk away and they would die.  Eventually.  Or I could end it quickly.  

 

So I gave them a quick end.  Cleaned up the mess.  I knew it for a necessary and inevitable task. 

 

But still a regrettable one.

 

 

 

 

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Wizard of the Pigeons Pre-Order Link

Wizard of the Pigeons, with illustrations by Tommy Arnold.  You owe it to yourself to visit the website of this Hugo nominated artist..

If you would like to put in an order for Wizard of the Pigeons, here is the link to Grim Oak Press.  As noted before, in the US, this book has been out of print for many years.  Now for the first time it will be available in hardback as well as paperback.

 

A variety of editions will be offered. 

 

$9.99 Ebook (Amazon, B&N, Kobo)


$400 Lettered Edition


$125 Limited Edition (don't forget to order the slipcase too on the same receipt!)


$35 Signed Trade Hardcover (The Signed Page)


$30 Trade Hardcover (Amazon, B&N, Indiebound)

 

The limited and lettered editions will have the art in full color. The others will have the same illustrations in black and white.  The  illustrations are by Tommy Arnold. You owe it to yourself to visit the website of this Hugo nominated artist.

 

Grim Oak Press will be donating 5% of the profits to The National Veterans Foundation.  This organization offers help to veterans of any era.  

 

 

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Looking Back at Pigeons

I wrote Wizard of the Pigeons back in 1985.

 

 The genre slice that we now call Urban Fantasy was not well populated back then.  If I had to  look to its roots, I'd suggest the Batman comics.  Or maybe Doc Savage stories.  But at the time I wanted to write Wizard of the Pigeons, I didn't have a lot of touchstones for Urban Fantasy.

 

I had only recently come to Washington state. We'd moved from Alaska in a rather disastrous decision to try life in Hawaii.  I was pathetically grateful to be back in a more familiar clime, but my family was still in straitened circumstances.  With my very first advance from Ace Books, I'd made a down payment on 4 acres of choice swamp land and a run down house.  It came with free chickens and a lot of mud.  We were driving a Honda 600, which was a tiny car powered by a two cyclinder motorcycle engine.  Great on gas, but very cramped inside.  I was the proud author of three paperbacks about Ki and Vandien.  And Wizard of the Pigeons was going to be my first step into a different slide of the fantasy genre.

 

 Seattle was a new sort of city for me.  The first time I visited it, it seemed like a different sort of forest.  Lilke a rain forest, there were layers, from the tall office buildings down to the street side businesses.  And, in Seattle, down another layer, to old Underground Seattle. I really wanted to make Seattle and that atmosphere part of my story.

 

So I set out to research Seattle.  I read books.  I visited the urban parks and read their plaques and histories. I visited the Klondike Gold Rush National Park near Pioneer Square in Seattle.  While many places in the US claim to the our smallest national park, I'm willing to bet on this one.  I also went on the Underground Tour to learn more of Seattle's fascinating history and discover why Underground Seattle (which used to be regular Seattle) was built over. All of that research went into Wizard of the Pigeons

 

It's no secret that Seattle, like almost every other large city, has a serious homeless problem.  No one can visit that city now without seeing the blue tarps beside the freeway, the tents on the sidewalk, and the dismal occupation of the parks.  It's overwhelming and tragic, and complicated by the opioid addiction crisis.

 

In 1985, the problem was there, but much less apparent.  There were sleeping bags tucked up high in the shelter of the underpasses.  Back then, they weren't fenced off, and they were sheltered from wind and rain there.  And in Pioneer Square, during the day, the benches were largely occupied by mostly men, some sleeping, some intoxicated, and some just waiting out the day.  I spent a lot of time sitting on a bench there, watching and listening,  It was a differnt sort of natural environment than the animals and trees I was accustomed to, but just as complex.  I often had my younger son with me, and frequently I'd buy a bag of popcorn from a local vendor and give it to him.  Feeding the ubiquitous pigeons kept him occupied while I took notes and let the story and the characters form in my brain.

 

My husband was driving and I was in the front seat one late afternoon as we made the drive back from Seattle to McKenna.  My young son, then about 5, had been very quiet in the backseat.  We had enetered the I-5 freeway when he said in a small, excited voice.  "Hey, Mom.  Guess what?"

 

"What?"

 

"Pigeons!" he announced, and unzipped his coat.  While I had been daydreaming my book, he had been luring pigoens in close, snatching them up and stuffing them inside his coat.  And we now had four very excited pigeons fluttering about inside a very small car.

 

After several exciting miles of Fred driving at 60 miles an hour while assailed by pigeons, Giles and I were able to recapture them and stuff them back in his coat. Home, we put them in a run-down shed and gave them some chicken food.

 

The four just happened to be two females and two males.  They became the nucleus of a pigeons flock. My father in law interpreted four pigeons as pigeon enthusiasm.  He bought us more: eagle pigeons, owl pigeons, tumbler pigeons, king pigeons. All sorts of pigeons! We adapted a shed, built a fly pen, and learned more about pigeons.  A pair can lay two eggs every sixteen days.  Once those eggs hatch, they lay two more eggs, and the hatchlings help keep the new eggs warm.  Before we knew it, we had over a hundred pigeons flying in and out of that shed!

 

And when I finally began to get the story onto paper, there they were.  The unexpected, unplanned characters that shaped the plot and flavored the story.

 

 

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New US edition of Wizard of the Pigeons

Cover Image for Wizard of the Pigeons from Grim Oak Press.  Art by Tommy Arnold

 


GRIM OAK PRESS PUBLISHING NEW EDITIONS OF WIZARD OF THE PIGEONS


The 35th Anniversary Editions Will Publish December 1, 2020, To Aid Veterans 

 

SEATTLE, WA, May 22 — To celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of Wizard of the Pigeons by Megan Lindholm, Grim Oak Press is producing new editions of this seminal urban fantasy for a very good cause, with Hugo Award finalist Tommy Arnold supplying original illustrations.

 

Wizard of the Pigeons was first published in 1985. It tells the story of Wizard, a homeless veteran who possesses the Knowing, an enchantment he uses to help others. But magic has a price: Wizard must never have more than a dollar in his pocket, he must remain celibate, and he must feed and protect the pigeons. Breaking these rules strips him of his magic—and makes him vulnerable to a mysterious entity that hunts him for its own reasons.

 

"Megan Lindholm is one of my favorite writers," said Grim Oak Press publisher, Shawn Speakman. "When I learned rights for Wizard of the Pigeons were available, I recognized a way to reimagine it for a good cause. It is rightly lauded as a cornerstone of urban fantasy, but it is also a timeless book about our veterans who sacrifice so much, the homeless we try to avoid, and the PTSD that not only damages our vulnerable but harms society's collective good. In support of veterans, Grim Oak Press will donate 5 percent of the book's profits to the National Veterans Foundation as a way to acknowledge their sacrifices and give back."

 

The limited and lettered editions of Wizard of the Pigeons will be available for pre-order on June 1st at 10:00am PT, to publish December 1st.


The wide-release hardcover and ebook of Wizard of the Pigeons are available for pre-order now from your favorite bookstore. Signed copies of the wide-release hardcover will be available on The Signed Page on June 1st.  

 

Grim Oak Press is the award-winning science fiction and fantasy publisher devoted to producing beautiful limited and signed editions. It most recently published Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan; Unfettered III, featuring stories from Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, Seanan McGuire, and many more; as well as the sci-fi novel Street Freaks by bestselling Shannara author, Terry Brooks.

 

Megan Lindholm lives on fourteen acres in the outskirts of McKenna, Washington, surrounded by wildlife of all types. She is a grandmother to seven youngsters of various ages. She has been a published author since she was eighteen years old, and in 2020, that was fifty years ago. While she shares a keyboard with Robin Hobb, they are definitely not the same writer!

 

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If you'd like more information about Grim Oak Press or Megan Lindholm, please email Shawn Speakman at shawn@grimoakpress.com or visit GrimOakPress.com.

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Unfettered III A bit of good news for the readers

Cover Image, Unfettered III

https://grimoakpress.com/blogs/news/super-tuesday-grim-oak-super-sale

 

Time to announce something nice.  Shawn Speakman, of Grim Oak Press, is putting Unfettered III on sale for the rest of March!

 

Details on Sale here

 

As you can see, those are all the ebooks of the anthologies.  That's a lot of reading from a wide variety of authors.  If you've ever wanted to sample works by, say, Brandon Sanderson or Naomi Novik or Jim Butcher or Janny Wurtz, or even Megan Lindholm, this might be your best opportunity!

 

The sale is on until the end of March!

 

 

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