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28 April 2013

H(elen) M(ary) Hoover was born on April 5th 1935. Both of her parents were teachers and she says that they instilled in her a love of books, a respect for nature, and a fear for the future of our planet. Themes that show in her writing. She held a number of jobs until deciding that what she really wanted to do was write books, and gave herself four years in which to accomplish this and sell a book. She only just made it but her first book was accepted and appeared in 1973. Unfortunately – so far as I am aware – she wrote no further books after 1995, although a short story collectionThe Whole Truth – And Other Myths: Retelling Ancient Tales, appeared in 1996.

My connection with her work began at the same time as she was published. I ran across an excellent book that appeared to be classified as YA solely on the grounds that the two main characters were children. I read it, liked it, and it was added to the ‘keeper’ section of my library. I subsequently found four more books by this author and still have the five which I re-read regularly. All feature children as at least one of the main characters but the themes are anything but childish. Children of Morrow is set in a world long after civilization was strangled by polution. Telepathy has become a growing factor, but where Tia and Rabbit live on what was originally an army base, they are ruled by The Major in a society that has become severely and unpleasantly patriarchial. Elsewhere a different group has retained a higher and more equitable level of civilization and now they are searching for Tia and Rabbit. If they find them before The Major does, the children may survive and much of the book concerns the children’s efforts to escape and reach safety with those who want to be their friends.

In The Delikon, an alien race came to earth generations ago to bring a unified civilization and have long been under the impression that they succeeded. However a number of Terrans don’t want the form of civilization that’s been imposed upon them and an alien child and two Terran children are caught up in the subsequent rebellion. Nor is this all talk, there is savagery, retaliation, the death of friends, and a loss of innocense. While in The Rains of Eridan, (my favourite) scientists at several bases which are conducting experiments and investigations on that planet, mutiny and the twelve-year-old girl who is the main character is dumped in mountains by night while her parents are murdered in front of her. She is found by a scientist working alone and together they discover what is causing most of the madness, but Karen’s parents are no less dead for all her subsequent discoveries. The Lost Star is a study of how people tend to make assumptions and how even scientists can be corrupted by the possibility of great wealth to be found on an alien world, this seen through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Lian Webster. While Return to Earth, mostly set on Earth of 3307 looks at how corporations have become the new governments, and equally how dangeous manufactured religions and those who use them for power can prove to both ordinary citizens and rulers alike. All five of the H.M.Hoover books I own are excellent work, and perfectly suitable as adult reading. I just wish that at the time I’d known this author had written 10 other books I’d never seen so I could have acquired them then.  Below is her bibliography. At least two of the titles listed are historical rather than genre.

Children of Morrow (1973)

Treasures of Morrow (1976)

The Delikon (1977)

The Rains of Eridan (1977)

The Lost Star (1979)

This Time of Darkness (1980)\

Return to Earth (1980)\

Another Heaven, Another Earth (1981)

The Bell Tree (1982)

The Shepherd Moon (1984)

Orvis (1987)

The Dawn Palace: The Story of Medea (1988)

Away Is a Strange Place to Be (1990)

Only Child (1992)

The Winds of Mars (1995)

I’ve been scrambing to clear away a long list of writing I’d said to myself I’d have off my plate by the end of April. Not sure I’ll make it, but in the past week I’ve – written 8 short reviews for a UK magazine and an article for them, revised 3 items to date from the collection of cat stories due out this year, written an article on legal aspects of standard catalogue phrases for our newspaper (appeared) sent 2 queries re anthology stories, plus 2 story submissions to other anthologies, written chapter one in a new book, made notes for 3 more articles, and completed a new short story. My chimney has been swept for the coming winter, (thanks John.) Thunder left me a dead mouse by the TV, (thanks Thunder,) and one of the hens has decided to go broody – ten feet up in the hay barn on one egg. (I’m not optimistic even if she is.) And at this rate, while I may not be clear by April 30th, I may be within a few more days of that date. All go. (And as usual it leaves me wondering what people who ask if I don’t get bored are talking about. Chance and time would be fine things…)


My collaborator (Sharman Horwood) and I were delighted to note that our time travel/alternate history Sf novel, QUEEN OF IRON YEARS is on the official ballot. Should this book win it will, so far as I know, be the first GLBT-themed fiction to have won a Vogel, (or indeed to have won any of that award’s predessors.) I’ll be attending Au Contraire 2 in mid-July when the SJV results are ann0unced and we’re hoping Sharman will be able to make it there as well. Looking forward to seeing everyone then.


18 April 2013

And they are. Practically every hen on the place is shedding feathers wildly in all directions. Place looks as if I’ve been gutting feather mattresses, and there are very few eggs to be found. The joys of farming!

I’ve had three in our local paper in the past few weeks. I write articles that are hints, tips and cheap remedies, mostly while saving cash, and I do a few articles whenever I feel the inclination. The paper slushpiles them and they’re used as a Saturday feature when there’s a gap. March saw articles on Remedies from the Kitchen Cupboard for Coughs, Cold, and Sore Throats, and on How to banish Fleas, while in April one appeared on Easy Uses for Stale Bread. (And yes, you’d be surprised at how many there are, and into  how many areas usages of that  can spread.)

Paperback, published Berkley Prime Crime,December 2012. 4th in series.

This has been an interesting series to date. I bought the first one, A Timely Vision, when it came out several years ago and after reading it twice, added it to the permanent section of my library. The premise was simple, Dae O’Donnell is a ‘finder’, if someone on the island of Duck in the Outer Banks loses something they go to Dae, who holds their hand while they concentrate on the item, and she sees where it is. Since her family have lived here for generations, no one thinks anything of this, it’s just something Dae, and her grandmother before her, can do. Dae is Mayor, her grandfather was police chief before he retired, and her current boyfriend is a retired FBI agent. Until this book, when his old FBI partner arrives in town after she’s (mostly) recovered from a mental breakdown several years earlier but still in a time warp believing they have remained engaged.

Meanwhile Dae is having visions of a murder, a child’s abduction, and has been landed with an abandoned kitten. That’s a lot to cope with when your relationship is also crumbling, and your position as Mayor is being challenged by an arrogant unpleasant loudmouth who just might succeed in having you impeached on specious grounds. This series is deepening and maturing book by book. It began as rather fluffy and light-hearted, although a lot of fun to read. With the development of Dae’s gift and a more serious crime to investigate, this book, fourth in the series, has moved into rockier territory. It handles it well, although I wasn’t 100% happy about the hook that the authors left lying about in the final few lines. It felt a little too obvious. A sort of ‘please rush out and buy the next book because it’s going to be SO interesting,’ and I dislike the feeling of attempted manipulation. But all in all, this book has deepened and matured within the series and as I really like Dae, I probably will buy the next one, but in spite of the final lines, not because of them.


13 April 2013

Published by Whortleberry Press USA. Fifth in a series, 16 stories, 1 poem.

Guest Reviewer Steve Johnson

I was really pleased when Lyn emailed to say this was in. She’d promised I could read and review it and as my experiences with this publisher’s anthologies have always been pretty possitive I was keen to get my hands on it. I wasn’t disappointed either. Of the sixteen stories I really enjoyed eight. Of the eight I didn’t like so much this wasn’t any defect of theirs, but personal preference on my part.

And friend or not I have to say this time that I honestly enjoyed Lyn McConchie’s story the most. It’s the tale of two kids, their coldly dominating father, and the puppy the younger boy gets for his birthday. It says a lot about what receiving or having love withheld can do to a child, and how resentments can hang on for years. And yet, in the end the Mystery of Lucky is solved and that leads to a happier outcome. My equal favourite was Marion Powell’s Fluffy Goes Out. A clever tale of a cat, an alien investigator, and how Fluffy has a part in the resolution of the problem that is Earth’s humans. I smiled and enjoyed, and will make a note of this writer. After that I liked Warren Bull’s, Luck of the Irish and Lee Hammerschmidt’s Urgent Care. An excellent duo, with the former covering the nature of luck and what can happen to those who become involved with the wrong person, and the later dealing with greed, jealousy, and a not-unexpected outcome of both. Followed by John Rust’s very good Nick of Time, in which the Bermuda Triangle comes to the rescue of a sailor who can’t seem to get to his job in time. Satisfying and intriguing.

James Hartley’s Lucy Lucky was clever, I was wondering through most of the story where it was going, but the ending was neatly tied off. No disappointment there. Ditto Bruce Markuson’s Speak Easy of Murder, which took a cold case killing and resolved it in a way that made good and gratifying sense. I tend to like short stories better than a full-length book and Whortleberry Press’s anthologies have been a very pleasant addition to my reading list. Somewhere this publisher finds an ever-lengthening list of competent contributors and editors, and I can only hope that her good fortune in this and mine as one of her readers continues.

9 April 2013

Chicken seems to be something of a theme this week… But I was counting hens as they arrived for breakfast this morning and realized that I had almost no one producing chicks this year. The geese, most unusually, laid and brooded once and without effective results. While most of the hens didn’t even seem to go broody. Goldneck the bantam did, and produced in a magnificent effort, a single goldnecked pullet – twice her size thanks to my large rooster – and that was it. This may have been due to the drought, since I have also noticed that the wild birds appear to have nested only once this year as opposed to twice most years and occasionally three times over a very long fine summer. But one pullet is still something of a disappointment.

Yes, not that it was telescoped to quite the extent it appears from the above, but I was late-ish sending it in, and the anthology seems to have broken the speed record getting here after publication too. So, I can announce both that I sold The Mystery of Lucky to Strange Lucky Mysteries 5, and that my author copy got here this morning. If all goes well, Steve will be doing a review for the anthology to appear in the reviews section over the weekend.

Trivia is what newspapers tend to print when they need a space filler. Some items are information, others are odd items, and others are plain incorrect. There’s a sub-set of these which celebrate the really peculiar laws that have been enacted at some time or another in various countries, states, provinces, or counties. And one of these caught my eye recently. It states that it’s a law that, citizens may not enter Wisconsin with a chicken on their head.

The average person reading that simply snickers and passes on. I’m a writer and we’re noted for our curiosity. We don’t just read something like that and pass it by, it starts us thinking, asking questions and wondering about things. What I wondered first is exactly what event would get legislators to enact that law? Who entered Wisconsin wearing a chilcken on their head and caused so much strife or so many problems, or such huge civil disorder, that lawmakers decided this should never happen again? After all, the average lawmaker is unlikely to wake up one morning, wash, dress, go down to breakfast and over bacon and eggs, coffee and toast, and out of the blue remark to his wife that, “This morning I think I’ll see if I can get a law passed to stop people entering Wisconsin with a chicken on their heads.” No, if you pass a law about it, this has to have been triggered by an event.

Then too, the law as given seems very stark. A Chicken? Not a duck, a goose, a pheasant, or a partridge, just a chicken. And how far will such a law go? If a man is driving into Wisconsin to attend a major Fancy Poultry show, and one of his Buff Orpingtons successfully escapes its cage in the back of his car, flutters forward and lands on his head, does a police offivcer immediately leap from the roadside, turn on his siren and hurtle in pursuit? What lattitide would there be for a claim that while the law was broken in fact, it was not deliberate in intent? Or would the driver be still deemed accountable since he should have adequately secured the cage? And according to the web, Chicken – a domestic fowl kept for eggs and meat. But a duck could be so described too, as could Guinea fowl. Are police officers in Wisconsin given training in this important area so that they can distinguish one domestic fowl from another? And does the law mean an actual common hen or rooster, or is it concerned with the wider area so that entering Wisconsin with a duck or guinea fowl on your head is also illegal? What about wearing a small stuffed chicken on a hat intended as either a costume or for a fashion line-up? Does it count if you’re in a full chicken costume advertising KFC or a similar franchise?

What standard of proof is necessary? If I plead ‘not guilty’ to such a charge, must the police officer bringing it produce a photograph? Are speed camera photographs in Wisconsin also monitored not only for the speed at which the driver is travelling, but also to check whether the driver may be crowned with a domestic fowl at the time of his or her passage past the camera. Then there is the question of why anybody in their right mind would be entering Wisconsin (or any other State) wearing a chicken on their head. Of course, they may not be in their right mind since they may be a) non compos mentis. In which case if the charge is proved they could be remanded for a psychiatric report – the psychiatrist possibly to report in medical terms of a ‘chicken fixation’. Or they could be b) drunk. In which case the charge would have to be expanded to – “entering Wisconsin with a chicken on their head while intoxicated.” Or further, “entering Wisconsin with a chicken on their head and driving while intoxicated.” Or perhaps if on foot and rowdy – “entering Wisconsin with a chicken on their head while intoxicated and causing public disorder.”

The real question is, is this law still on the books and if so, is it enforced? Don’t laugh, because the following US laws were still on the books, and – as I understand it – could be enforced as of 2005 – if the local police chief/sheriff wanted to make a complete prat of himself/herself. So – in LA you may not lick toads. In Boulder, Colorado you may not have a couch on your porch. You may not enter the State of Tenneessee with a skunk. (Leaving aside why anyone would want to, a friend of mine would like to raise the issue of her ex-boyfriend…) In Washington you are required to phone the police and report your intention to commit a crime ahead of time. (And do they add it to the charges if you don’t? Your Honour, my client is charged with assault, robbery, kidnapping, murder, and failing to tell the police in advance that he planned to commit these offences….) In Fairbanks, Alaska, it is illegal to serve alcohol to a moose. And to go full circle, in St. Croix, Wisconsin, women are not allowed to wear anything red in public. (Er, does that count underwear and how would they know?)

And before anyone mutters that the United States has some silly laws, take thought for the UK, which has had a few of those in its time. Such as – It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament, (and I’d like to see how they prosecuted that one) It is an act of treason to place a postage stamp bearing the British king or queen’s image upside-down. It is illegal for a woman to be topless in Liverpool except as a clerk in a tropical fish store, (Why, I wonder is it legal there?) If someone knocks on your door in Scotland and requires the use of your toilet, you are required to let them enter. (Without exception? What if he’s carrying a gun and the police are in hot pursuit, would you still be charged if you refused to let him in?) The head of any dead whale found on the British coast automatically becomes the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen. (Still in force, I think.) It is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you do not want him to know, but legal not to tell him information you do not mind him knowing. (Work that one out!) And – It is legal to murder a Scotsman within the ancient city walls of York, but only if he is carrying a bow and arrow. (Toxophilists beware, if you must carry a bow and arrow in York, it might also be safer to wear a T-shirt stating in very large clear letters that you are not a Scotsman.

And the rest of the world where – In Switzerland, a man may not relieve himself standing up after 10pm,( is that an assumption that if he’s drunk after 10pm he’ll probably be prone anyhow?) in Milan, it is a legal requirement to smile at all times, except during funerals or hospital visits. (Boom city for doctors dealing with aching faces, no doubt.) And in France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon. (And before anyone in New Zealand laughs too heartily at that one,. I seem to recall a case in our own not so distant past in which an MP took a monkey owner to the court for apparently naming her monkey after him.) So, you may not enter Wisconsin wearing a chicken on your head, and if you do, and are charged with that offence, will you please let me know. I’d love to hear about it.