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26 February 2013

It’s deeply annoying. But there it is. If I shut down my site and go in from my url then I can look at anything posted. However I can’t be on my site as me, then go into the url on a different screen to check what I’ve just posted, if I do I’m back to the rectangle. Sigh. I plan to try it the other way around when I have spare time and see how that will work. But frankly, right now Word Press are really irritating me.

It occurred to me to wonder, as I posted another letter to Thunder’s original family, how many people stay in contact with their cat’s previous people? Where possible, I do. I know that they probably loved him and hope he went to a home where he’d be cared for, loved, and looked after. But if the cat vanishes into limbo and is never heard about, don’t they wonder if that’s so? In Thunder’s case there’s no doubt whatsoever that he is cared for, loved, and looked after because every couple of months I write his breeders to tell them about him and other events. And where Thunder appears in one of thebooks that I write, I send them a copy when that is published as well.

So far he’s featured in Rural Daze and (K)nights (2009) Field Daze (2011) and the next in the series, Rustic (And Rusted) Daze is just out and a copy goes this week. And this year they’ll also get a bonus (if they see it that way) since an American Press accepted the collection of my SF/F cat stories for publication in 2013 and, as Thunder features in several of the stories as himself or in other guises, I’ll send a copy of that as well when it is published. It’s a considerable departure from the Daze books which are non-fiction humour about my animals, my farm, me, and my friends. But I hope they’ll enjoy Thunder in fiction for a change. He certainly helped with some of it and it’s pleasant that I can pass it on. Having cats can produce quite odd outcomes for their breeder at times.

I didn’t spend my Christmas/New Year break doing nothing. I planned to begin a new book on January 14th and wanted a stack of short work submissions out before that, the more so as over late December I’d written a number of new stories and several new articles which needed to find homes. And I like to keep a good number of submissions circling. Which brings me to what started this item. A writer friend asked me over Christmas if I didn’t get bothered by rejections. I grinned. The truth is that at any one time I’ll have between 20 and 35 submissions out, not the one or two at a time that she does. That’s why she finds rejection wounding. She has so much invested in each one. Say your investment in submissions is 100. She has two stories out, so a rejection on one is 50% and devastating. For the purpose of this I did a check. Currently out on submission at the time she asked, I had: 27 short stories, 7 articles, two books, two copies of my books for review, 2 contest entries, and a query letter. That’s more than usual but it happens that way when I’m about to begin a new book and want a head start. Of that 41, I expect to receive favourable response to about 10-12. So of 100% I have around 2.5 % invested in each result. And I expect a good outcome in about 25%. Wounded by the rejections I receive? Actually, not much, I’m too busy sending out another batch of submissions or writing new stuff. I’m always sorry if a book is rejected, but not devastated. It will probably sell sooner or later and right now I can’t hang about being wrecked over a book rejection, the new book is moving along well, and that’s more important. I know where I want to offer it and –

oh, yes, I’ve sold six of those articles and two of the stories to date, the query may end up in further sales mid-year, and one of the QUEEN OF IRON YEARS copies out for review has received rave reviews in three places. Bothered by rejections? Not pygmalian likely!

Reviewed by an infuriated Glenda Johnson.

I very rarely if ever write a bad review, I’m all too aware of how devastating a bad review can be to a writer, (particularly if it’s grossly unfair as was one that Lyn received a couple of years ago, in which the reviewer seemed to have a personal grudge against her and also seemed to be reviewing the book HE had wanted to read, rather than the one she’d actually written.) This time however I was so deeply disappointed in the book that I’ve made an exception in view also of the fact that the author died some years ago and isn’t here to be wounded by my opinions.

I started reading the Cat Who series when they were originally UK published back in the ’60s. Owing to various events I missed the final book, (60 Whiskers) but had read and owned all the books until that one. I heard when Lilian died, and heard also that she had been halfway through the next book when she passed away and that the publishers weren’t going to have it finished by someone else and publish it. I wondered why not, the series is a best seller. Then the other month I finally got around to obtaining a copy a copy of The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, the last published in the series, and was horrified (and enlightened) when I read it. One of the two major characters, Polly is a doting cat-lover and owner of two adored Siamese. Polly is selling her home and would have a large sum of money available to her. So how likely is it that a devoted cat-lover with ample funds at her disposal would merely dump her two adored cats on anyone at all (apparently she couldn’t care less) who’ll give them a home when she is offered a three-year job in France? To equal that in unfortunate developments, Qwill’s wonderful apple barn, a feature and pretty much another character in many of the books, is burned down. He seems to be quite unconcerned about either Polly’s decision to go and live in France while arbitrarily discarding her beloved cats, or that his terrific home has been lost along with everything in it, and within days he is considering another woman and ignoring two abandoned cats that he’s known for years when he himself is a devout cat-lover. Oh please! These developments are completely out of character for both Qwill and Polly. They ring with all the lusterless quality of a cracked bell.

I went on line once I’d finished the book and read a number of reviews. All those I read agree with me and are equally horrified by the quality of the work. But something else that most readers/reviewers do not appear to have noticed. This volume had problems in quite another way. Yes, the author did tend to write shorter books, but not as brief as this one. I did a rough word count and the book is far shorter than her usual book length. It’s been laid out in such a way this isn’t noticeable to readers, (unless you know how long it takes you to read any book, and find you seem to be racing thorough this one at startling speed. That was when I counted.) And I’d put it around 35-37,000 words. About 60% of her usual quantity. So I was disappointed twice over and have discarded the book. It may be as well that the book she was halfway through writing when she died wasn’t finished and published, because if that one was of similar length and quality, we, her eager readers, were better off without it.

Mind you, Lilian was in her 90s when the book was written, however this is why you have editors. Her editor should have picked up on the disappointment readers would suffer and the stated decision by a number of readers not to buy more in the series since they found this one of such abysmal quality. The editor should have realized that such a massive change in characterization would produce such an outcome, and that the book has no real or effective ending, but just seems to lie down and die without resolution. I will be retaining all of the series save this one, I have always loved the books, but I have no desire to have this final book on my shelves, let alone to ever read it again. In fact I’m hoping to forget it as soon and thoroughly as possible so that it doesn’t spoil my enjoyment of and my re-reading of the other 28 volumes in future. But frankly, I can only wonder of what the publisher was thinking when they brought out this mess of mischaracterization, failure to achieve an ending let alone a climax, and this novella-thinly-disguised-as-a-book at book price. In some of the comments on this book a very few readers apparently felt that the quality of the work was excused by the writer’s age. I would point out that Andre Norton was 93 when she died and her last book, finished only a few months earlier, was of good quality. Arthur C. Clarke was 90, Ray Bradbury died at 91 still producing quality work. When this book was published, presumably under the impression that readers would buy on the name and the publisher would make their usual amount on it, they did the author a considerable disservice. Because this book is how many of her fans will remember her.

18 February 2013

Timeline. Early February 2012 – I submit an original story to what sounds like an interesting anthology. Early November I thought I’d catch up on how the Rollicking Tales anthology was going, to find that it seemed to have vanished. I discovered a possible email address and queried. To be told by email from the editor, that:

“the anthology has not folded. I’ve been having trouble with the email address and webiste and my technical no how don’t seem to be up to sorting it out, though I hope to get them running again as soon as I can…I will inform everyone involved of any decision I come to as soon as it is made.”

Noting on Jan.15th that I’d heard nothing as yet I decided to check, to discover that a decision was made a week and a half earlier to dump the anthology, something that had not been communicated to me as promised in that earlier personal email.

I then sent an email that said more or less that: This was more in sorrow than in anger, but I’d lost almost a year with the submitted work and that isn’t useful. Things go wrong that may be unavoidable, but it always pays to keep people in touch with events. Not doing so, and leaving an author hanging for this length of time isn’t good either for the author or the editor’s reputation. I wish him well in other endeavours, but note that in view of this track record, I won’t be associated with any of them,

Email sent to the editor on January15 th and also posted to his site. Further developments have been that:I’ve received no reply or any form of response, and the post did not appear in the site, despite the editor continuing to post there. Colour me very very unimpressed.

 

I’m not and never was against legalizing prostitution but at the time of the law change I commented to friends that it could make problems in areas that the law-makers hadn’t thought of. An example of this has just occurred overseas when a German teenager looking for a job was told to report for duty in a brothel by the local labour office. Not actually as a prostitute, thank heavens, but as a waitress in their restaurant. The 19 year old was horrified as was her mother when the girl got a letter saying that she was to start at the Colosseum Brothel bar. The labour department there has since admitted that it was an error, that they should have phoned the girl first to see if she wanted the job, not flatly directed her to start work there.

So what relevance does this have to New Zealand? Quite simply that prostitution is legal in Germany, just as it’s legal here. And what do you want to bet that some day someone in a New Zealand labour department office does the same thing. (Probably because they don’t recognise the business’s name) And the fact is, that prostitution or any other job in a brothel that exists legally, is lawful employment. Legally an unemployed person can be told to begin work or be penalized by the department for refusing lawful work. No doubt our Department of Unemployment would protest that it would never do that. But then, I daresay they would have said the same in Germany – until very recently.

And yes, this was what I had in mind when I was commenting on the law change and why in my opinion subsequent possibilities should have been looked at and provided for. However it’s possible to go further. Being a prostitute is legal work. If a brothel phones Unemployment and asks for applicants, it would be lawful for the department to send women (or men.) And if they’re offered work as prostitutes, they could then be penalized for any refusal to accept the employment offered. It isn’t likely, not here, not yet. But that does exist as a possibility within the law. And if in 20 or 30 years, unemployment soars? If the Government begins to take a hard line on the unemployed refusing work, then maybe this useful loophole will be exploited as a way to either get unemployed into work, or off their books. Maybe some MP should be considering tweaking these areas surrounding legal prostitution now, before unemployment soars…

Hardcover, published Central park Publishing, (Hatchette) November 2012.

Another great murder mystery from Marcia Muller. Three years back a woman was acquitted of killing her best friend. But since then her family and friends don’t want to know her and that’s unlikely to change until or unless she can show that it really wasn’t her. It seems that most feel the verdict was actually “unproven” rather than “not guilty”, so Caro comes to Sharon McCone who is initially reluctant but ultimately decides to investigate. She’s starting to uncover some interesting things when she returns home to find her client dying on the doorstep. That only makes McCone more determined, and with all the enthusiasm of a terrier she digs harder. The ending is solid and satisfying, believable and a good tie-off. During the course of the book we meet most of Sharon’s family and friends, her nephew Mick gets involved, and Hy has an offer to make that could lead their relationship in new and interesting directions. I collect two series by female authors about female PIs. This is one, the other is the Alphabet series by Sue Grafton. They’re different but each is a terrific read, and I heartily recommend both.

 

The weather is hot, has been hot, and looks as if it may continue to be hot for weeks to come – with very little rain so a drought may be getting  closer than I like as a farmer, although we have ample grass as yet. And on the flip side of that I feel bad-tempered too. My website is refusing to play. I logged on the other day and got – a blank solid-green rectangle. NOT helpful. I tried coming at it from other angles. to get – a blank solid-green rectangle. I waited a day in case Word Press were upgrading something and tried again, to get – a blank solid-green rectangle. I googled Word Press for a help desk, got one – and was asked for $70 to fix a problem that they appear to be causing. Not Pygmalian likely! I came back to check this morning. What do I currently have – a blank solid-green rectangle. It does look as if I may be able to post items, I just can’t then look at them on my site. Irritatingly, it seems that others can look at the site. It just doesn’t like me. This may sort itself out, or be sorted, sometime. But for now it means that I can’t see what I put up, and it’s deeply annoying. I hope Word Press get their act together sometime SOON!

update is that now  I can google my url and get in to look at the site. However if logged in and I want to look at something just posted, I STILL get that so-an-so blank solid-green rectangle. Mutter…mutter…mutter…snarl!

16 February 2013

One of the things that I can say that may not be generally known about this author, was that Ardath was a friend of Andre Norton’s, and Andre admired her writing.

Ardath (Frances Hurst) Mayhar was born in February 1930 and died February 2012, three weeks short of her 82nd birthday. She started writing SF in 1979 and also for many years (with her husband Joe) owned and operated a Texas bookstore (The View From Orbit). She wrote a solid number of SF books as well as horror, young adult, historical and westerns; and with some work under pseudonyms Frank Cannon, Frances Hurst, and John Killdeer.

I own the two Tyrnos books, (as well as Golden Dreams: A Fuzzy Oddessy.) The Tynros books while ostensibly SF were what Andre always called Science fantasy. That is, while there are very minor SF elements if those were removed the work would stand simply as a fantasy story. That sort of book often being written to gain publisher acceptance because they wanted and bought SF and so long as the author could point to some SF element, the work was acceptable – and accepted. Both Runes of the Lyre, and Soul-Singer of Tyrnos are excellent fantasy, they are, as books from the early ’80s usually were, some 60-65,000 words, but that only makes them more readable in my opinion. They have none of the padding that became more prevalent with publisher demand in the 90s for longer work. The author has a strong sense of people and place and all of her work that I have read has been of excellent quality and I recommend it, the Tyrnos duo in particular.

Ardath Mayhar Fiction Series and books – partial list only

Battletech Universe

Battletech

The Sword and the Dagger (1987)

Exiles of Damaria

1 Riddles & Dreams (2003)

The Exiles of Damaria (2009) Terro-Human

Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey (1982)

Lost Tribes

1 People of the Mesa (1992)

Tales of the Triple Moons

1 How the Gods Wove in Kyrannon (1979)

2 The Seekers of Shar-Nuhn (1980)

3 Warlock’s Gift (1982)

4 Lords of the Triple Moons (1983)

Tyrnos

1 Soul-Singer of Tyrnos (1981)

2 Runes of the Lyre (1982)

Novels

Khi to Freedom (1983)

Exile on Vlahil (1984)

The Saga of Grittel Sundotha (1985)

Towers of the Earth (1985)

Makra Choria (1987)

The Wall (1987)

Two Moons and the Black Tower (1988)

A Place of Silver Silence (1988)

Hunters of the Plains (1995)

Witchfire (2007) with Ron Fortier

The Tulpa: A Novel of Fantasy (2009)

The Door in the Hill: A Tale of the Turnipins (2009)

A Planet Called Heaven: A Science Fiction Novel (2009)

Messengers in White (2009)

A Road of Stars: A Fantasy of Life, Death, Love, and Art (2009)

The Fugitives: A Tale of Prehistoric Times (2009)

Closely Knit in Scarlatt: A Novel of Suspense (2009)

The Clarrington Heritage: A Gothic Tale of Terror (2009)

Shock Treatment: An Account of Granary’s War: A Science Fiction Novel (2009

Ardath also wrote some very fine poetry over the years between 1952 and her death.

5 February 2013

I was watching a new TV programme last week on Great Animal Escapes and was very amused at the escapades of an African honey badger, who, it seemed, had got that down pat. Time and time again when a keeper forgot a broom or shovel, the Honey Badger would carry it to his wall, stand it against that, climb up, leap joyfully from the wall top and head for the zoo’s kitchen, there to pig out and make a horrendous mess. It reminds me of my original house cow, Bette Davis, known as Bet. In my early days at the farm I’d pasture her on my large lawn in Spring, there to eat down the rampant spring grass growth, at a time when that often hadn’t yet begun in her paddock. And, time and time again, I go out to shift her back to her own field, only to find her grazing happily along the roadside instead. I couldn’t work out how she was doing that, until, finally, I devoted half a day to watching her from concealment.

She looked around cautiously about an hour after I put her onto the lawn, marched up to the gate, inserted the tip of a horn into the latch circle and shook it vigorously. The latch opened, fell away, she leaned gently on the gate and it opened. Bet strode triumphantly onto the roadside and started munching her way along. I stared. Then I went out, hauled her in, and returned her to her own paddock while I examined the latch. The one I used was just an ordinary dog-snap, that is, the type used on a dog chain, brass, and opened by pulling back with a thumb or finger on a protrusion that, when pulled back, leaves a gap in the circle through which you slip the chain or in my case, the ring on the gate that allows it to be opened. Bet couldn’t pull back the lever, but inserting a horn tip and shaking meant that somewhere during this, the ring slipped between the two areas where they made contact, which had the same effect. Heaven alone knows how she learned that, but it worked. She stayed in her own paddock for a week until I was able to get into town and find a dog-snap of the type where the sections that opened overlapped when shut. There was no gap that a ring could be shaken through. Bet was disappointed next time she was on the lawn and I was grateful that I didn’t have to keep rounding her up from the roadside. But it made me more aware that farm animals could be far from stupid an awareness that they’ve reinforced ever since.

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