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22 August 2013

Daw Paperback November 2012.

I’ve always enjoyed Tanya Huff’s work ever since I purchased her first book in 1989. Her work is always well written and although now and again I don’t like one of her series, it’s never because the work is of poor quality. The Wild Ways is the second in a possible new series, sequel (although it reads perfectly well as a standalone) to The Enchantment Emporium. Charlie Gale, (cousin to Allie from the previous book) is the main character and the book focuses on her external travels as a musician with a couple of bands, and her internal search for just what to do and who to be with the ‘wild power’ that is Charlie. As a nice change of pace to many urban fantasy books these days, Huff’s work in that sub-genre is set in Canada, and while she often incorporates well-known mythological species, they rarely appear as expected. I loved Jack, the Dragon Prince and his family, and the corporate activist selkies (very logical considering what they are.)

Huff writes some great stuff and is one of the authors whom I buy without question. In all 25 of her books I’ve purchased to date, there’s only been three that I didn’t love, the characters just didn’t resonate for me, but that wasn’t her fault and I have friends who did love them. My favourites have to be the ‘Summoning‘ trio, hotly pursued by the ‘Valor‘ series, and the single, Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light. And the ‘Gale‘ books may be right up there. I’ll know for sure once I’ve read them several more times. Because that’s the other thing I find about her work, it gets better each time you re-read it. I have the next of her books already on order, and I’m eagerly waiting for that to arrive – can you say a.n.t.i.c.i.p.a.t.i.o.n?

20 August 2013

Weatherwise that is, and it has been. For several months at the start of the year it was very dry. Not a real drought, not where I am, but much drier than usual. (Tararua is a good place to farm, the weather evens out better, fewer dry spells, fewer floods – although there’s no wind shortage.) Then came June and it rained, not heavily, but a steady drizzle that went on and on and… to the tune of some 175mls. Followed by July which gave us just under four inches, briskly followed by August. So far this month we’ve had 151mls as of this morning. Another 25mls or so this month and we will have seen an average of six inches a month for the past three. And that’s precipitation by most standards. It’s good, it hasn’t been downpours, just steady drizzle and showers, so that the ground has soaked it up as it hit, but with the mild winter, grass is already growing well – a month early – my sheep are all looking smug about that. Not so smug are any visitors. Encouraged by the early spring the gaggle are already courting and seeking suitable nest sites. They are also into full paranoid mode in case anyone approching up the lawn is a would-be eggnapper. It’s wise if you’re calling and unknown to the ganders, to stop at the gate and wait for my arrival – that or be very fast on your feet and wearing tin trousers.

19 August 2013

yesterday afternoon at 1pm I sat down to write a story that had been flapping about the back of my head for weeks. I finished the work shortly before 5pm, filed to flash drive and wandered off to have dinner. Then this morning I submitted the story – at 9.52am. At 10.11 I had the acceptance back. 19 minutes! And all over, from the time I started writing the story to the time it was taken for a specific magazine issue, it took just under 21 and a half hours. I wasn’t trying for a record, but this has to be at least one of the fastest results ever, particularly as the story was in no way solicited, or even expected. But this result makes up for any recent rejections – and all the rain this weekend that’s left my damaged leg complaining. Whooppee!

12 August 2013

For once this isn’t about a particular book, it’s about the author of a whole lot of them – of which I have most and am currently in the process of re-reading them all.  Barbara Elizabeth Linington was an American writer of Police Procedurals, described as the Queen of Police Procedurals as she was just about the first woman to write these when she started doing so at the start of the 1960s. Wikipedia describes her as ‘prolific’ and they aren’t kidding. She began writing when she was in her early 30s, and continued with a massive writing schedule from then on. She died at age 67, in April of 1988, having published at least eighty-five books. In other words,  two and a half books per year for more than thirty years, five of the books being posthumous.

Linington was interesting, she had widely diverse interests beside her writing, was a cat-lover, a member of the John Birch Society (and very right wing) and held decided views, many of which came out in her writing. I’d been buying her series written as by ‘Dell Shannon” for years when in 1987 I met Rinehart Potts. He lived with his wife Grace in New Jersey, and I began a correspondence and friendship with them that lasted until his death in 2006, and hers in June this year. In the odd way that things happen, he was also a long-time friend of Linington’s and was delighted to find another reader of her works. For some years Rinehart had been publishing a magazine – Linington Lineup – that dealt with her writing, life, and letters, and I promptly subscribed and contributed. His garage was filled with shelving containing spare copies of Elizabeth’s books (almost all the yellow Gollanzcz hardcovers.) I filled out her series’ by buying from Rinehart those I didn’t have and a number are stamped ‘bequeathed by the author to Rinehart S. Potts.’

And yes, that is ‘series’ in plural. The story goes that after publication of her first 2-3 books under her own name, Linington was at the signing of the first in a new series and was accosted by an indignant reader who’d bought the hardcover and expected it to continue with the previous characters. She’d been furious to find this wasn’t so and complained bitterly to the author. Linington, believing that what one reader felt could be so for others, and not wanting readers to feel cheated, promptly changed the ‘author’ name for the original series to “Anne Blaisdell”, to “Dell Shannon” for the second series, and to Lesley Egen for the third series.  I’d also been buying some of the books in the other two series without knowing that they were by the same author, and when Rinehart informed me I was surprised, although in retrospect I shouldn’t have been as the reason I liked them held true for all three series – the life in the round of the police officers.

This was where Linington excelled. Her officers had wives, kids, and pets, housing problems, financial worries, girlfriends if unmarried, and odd events in their private lives. Sometimes cases carried over into their private lives, as did friends, enemies, and other officers. What you got in her books was the police officer in all aspects, and it wasn’t something that had been done much before her. Of course, her officers were perhaps a little too perfect, few ran around, drank to excess, cheated, or behaved badly. But then, for the times, that was what readers wanted, and that was what they received, and Linington wrote that way because these were her beliefs too. That all officers were of this standard and that the very occasional bad apple in the Police barrel was an anomaly.

On re-reading the books I find that most remain very readable. However increasingly they are not going to appeal to younger mystery readers for several reasons. One is the massive prejudice exhibited against the gay community. Of course, when these books were written, there was that prejudice. Gay males in the books are referred to as ‘fags’ and  described as hysterical, untrustworthy, and erratic and it is also very clear that the author did not fully understand the difference between ‘homosexual’ and ‘pedophile.’ Although that problem was also common at the time she was writing. Then there is her conviction that a woman is not a ‘true woman’ unless she is married with children. Over and over this attitude crops up in the different series, that a woman may be a career woman, a police officer, but she will not be fulfilled by the work, only upon marriage and the production of children will her life be as it should be. This was particularly obvious in the ‘Lesley Egan’ series, where a female police officer who turned down a proposer because she wished to remain an officer – to please her father, a career officer himself – is described as hugely regretful, miserably living alone and unhappy at her refusal as soon as she’d had time to realize what she’d done. In the last book in that series that Linington wrote however, she gave the character another chance. She met a nice detective and it is clear that this relationship will probably lead to marriage and children. It’s oddly interesting that despite these views, so far as I know, Linington never married or had children. So why was she intent on foisting that life on others? Was she so unhappy herself?

And yet, for the times in which she wrote, Linington was oddly liberal in other areas. The series main character in her “Dell Shannon” books was Luis Mendoza, a Mexican LAPD Homicide detective and boss of the LA Homicide Squad. The first book in the series – her main one – appeared in 1960 and at least one book in this series appeared every year until after her death – forty books and a collection. When the series started I believe that a Mexican homicide detective would have been unusual, let alone one that ran that squad. She also sprinkled the series with Spanish words and phrases, and having read the books for very many years I picked up a number of those and was delighted to find on my first trip to LA in 1991, that my usage and accent was correct, and understandable by Spanish speakers. Her series’ too moved in time. Children were born and grew-up, pets died, were grieved over and replaced, officers met girls, became engaged and married. And older people related to the officers died or were killed. Linington’s books had it all, not just a procession of crimes to be solved, but real people to solve them. I re-read the books over the past couple of months and found them pleasant reading again. I can ignore the bigotry and the obsessions because when all is said and read, I liked the characters when I first started reading Linington’s books in the mid-60s, and that central fact remains. They’re well-written, with likeable characters, and interesting crimes. And if they portray now a world that is half bigotry and half wishful thinking, well, so do many of the older detective mystery/crime/thriller series. Linington wrote well, that hasn’t changed.











That yellowhammer may have adopted me as provider. On the fence bordering the front lawn I have what Andre and I used to call the “cat TV tin.”  That’s where suitable household scraps go for the benefit of the wild birds. (The the household cat/s sit and watch it through the window as small birds come and go. It keeps them amused for ages)  As I’m currently working my way through a stack of steak (from my last beef steer) there’s a steady trickle of cooked bits of fat going out there – usually however, in the late afternoon after my dinner. However this morning I took out letters to leave in the mailbox for collection, to find that the Yellowhammer had followed me up the lawn, was now sitting beside the Cat TV tin, and eyeing me very pointedly. Er – hadn’t I forgotten something? No, I hadn’t, I’m not eating steak for breakfast just so s/he can eat it too. He’ll have to settle for sharing the hens’ breakfast wheat or find a worm or something. Come to that, he HAD shared the hens’ wheat, he’s just being greedy. (I say ‘he’ for convenience,  I have no idea what sex my tiny yellow friend may be.)


Yes, I just signed contracts for Lone Star Jackson – Outlaw, with Dave Riley’s Steampunk Trails. Pleased about that since I’ve been selling to Dave for years now and I always like to sell him another ‘weird western.’  In fact I was counting the other day and find that of the specific sub-genre Weird Western I now have more than a dozen sold/published which means it may be a reasonable time to consider writing 4-5 more, and seeing if I can find a publisher interested in doing a collection.

Why another 4-5? Because I object to any collection where all the stories included have already appeared somewhere. If someone likes your work and follows it, there’s a good chance they have already read everything in a ‘everything published’ collection, so what are they paying for? Katalagein, the SF/F cat stories collection recently published by Sky Warrior Books, has five new stories in it. And I’d like to keep to that with any other clollection I sell. Just to be fair to anyone spending the money.

2 August 2013

It looks as if forecasts may have been right about this winter. They said that temperatures would be milder and thus far they have been – something that is showing signs of continuing since it’s now officially spring. On the other hand after the drought we had over the start of the year, rainfall stepped right back up with over seven inches in June that should have throughly replenished the water table, and with just under another five inches in July to make it almost a foot of rain in 2 months.

As a result I’m not going through firewood as fast as in many years: which is a good thing. Firewood costs a fortune, although not as much as heating the whole place does either electrically, or not heating it much at all as an alternative – which leads to screaming protests by my damaged leg and an inability to do much. Sigh. But swings and roundabouts. A warmer winter usually leads to a really cold one the next year. I think I’ll continue buying in firewood even now that it’s officially spring.Something my house manager may not appreciate simce she’s can be the one who shifts it from lawn to woodshed. On the other hand the geese appreciate it deeply – there’s the chance to bite the firewood merchant, and possibly anyone else occupied with carrying armloads of firewood. What would be ideal is having burglars who carry the wood into the shed. That way I’d have the work done, and the gaggle would have a field-day – pity it isn’t likely to happen.

Well, depending on your definition of book that is. Katalagein is a short story collection of most of my SF/F cat stories, which were published all over the place between 1996 and 2011. Several were award winners, one appeared in Further Adventures of Xena Warrior Princess, (and appears here by very kind permission of ACE,) and there are another five original to this collection for a total of 16 stories. The book is out as an ebook on Smashwords via the publisher, Sky Warrior Books, and it’ll cost you $4.99USD to DL and read. I hope lots of you do and that you all enjoy the pitter patter of furry paws.

Published St Martins Press, hardcover, July 2013.

I received a nice new copy of Hen of the Baskervilles last week and read it in one gulp that night. The mixture as usual and very happily so, I like the whimsy of the series, and characters. Briefly, Meg is involved in the Virgina Un-Fair in Caerphilly, (the usual state fair having been cancelled) and there’s trouble at ‘t mill er, fair. A pair of rare and exotic chickens have been stolen from their cage, a pumpkin (largest pumpkin competition) has been smashed, and a beautiful quilt has gone temporarily missing as well. None of this is improved by the fair being run across two counties and the other county’s law-enforcement personell being incompetent and/or crooked. Meg sets out to find the culprit and save the fair while also being beguiled by the possibilities of adding exotic poultry to her current menagerie. The main plot is added to by a neat sub-plot involving Meg’s friend Molly, Molly’s lazy unpleasant soon-to-be-ex-husband, the husband’s girlfriend (loud, obnoxious, bird-brained, rich) and the complications of mystery, mayhem, and murder where two jurisdictions hold sway. This is the 15th in the series, and I have enjoyed them all. Recommended.