Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

Browsing Category Blog

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Happy 4th!

I am sure you already have activities and food planned for the holiday. Here’s a link you might find handy if not:

https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/recipes/2019/06/food-network-staff-4th-of-july-recipes

I made something pretty tasty yesterday — slow cooker pork with coconut milk. Eight pounds of pork because I happened on a big pork shoulder at a great price. Not quite as traditional as hotdogs, but still, very nice.

I more or less used two different recipes. Here is one that combines what I think were the best aspects of both:

4 lbs pork shoulder in 4 thick slices

2 onions

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 inches ginger, minced

2 cans coconut milk, preferably Chaokah

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp salt

Brown the pork in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onions with garlic and ginger for a couple minutes. Place in slow cooker and deglaze skillet with some coconut milk and pour in the slow cooker. Stir the seasonings into the rest of the coconut milk and pour in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours, until meat shreds with a spoon. Thicken with 2 tbsp of cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp lime juice, if desired.

There you go. You probably won’t make this today, but try it some time.

Here are the 2 recipes on which the above is based:

And

Coconut Curry Pork

Whatever you make or do today, enjoy the holiday!

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Happy birthday —

I just realized that Beyond the Dreams We Know came out just about a year ago.

I notice it only has six reviews at Amazon. If you left one of those reviews, thanks! (Especially since they’re really positive reviews!)

I bet more of you have read Beyond the Dreams in the months since its birthday. If you have, and hadn’t gotten around to leaving a review, perhaps today might be a good time.

Incidentally, if you’ve read it, do you have a favorite story? As a reminder:

Heart’s Desire — Neill’s story, in the world of The City in the Lake

A Walk on the Beach

Fire and Earth — Bertaud’s story, in the world of The Griffin Mage trilogy

Vigilante

Audition — Nescana’s story, in the world of The Floating Islands

Lila

The Kieba — Erest’s story, in the world of The Mountain of Kept Memory

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Writing advice

From Black Gate:

Any aspiring writer can tell you of the plethora of advice out there for those who are starting their writing journey, much of it contradictory. … Let’s take a piece of oft-delivered piece of writing wisdom: Write every day.

Fairly simple and innocuous, right? Well, not so much.  What if I told you that it is actually quite ableist, and not a little classist?

Let’s tackle the ableist issue first.  For someone labouring under a chronic or even short-term issue, just getting out of bed on any given day requires a great deal of effort. The amount of effort required to put words down on the page, no matter what someone might be suffering, is not a labour that the abled people are expected to perform.  It sometimes simply takes a monumental effort. …

…With just a little thought, it is clear that a familiar piece of writing “wisdom” isn’t nearly so wise as it appeared at first glance.  A better piece of writing advice, to my ind, would be: Write when you can, if you can.

This caught my eye because I hate the advice “Write every day,” rather too often phrased a little more harshly as, “Real writers write every day,” or “If you want to succeed as a writer, you must write every day.”

It’s not just the ableist thing, though in fact I do know more than a couple authors who struggle with various conditions that make it difficult to write. Nor the classist implications, though that’s also a good point.

But besides those concerns, isn’t it obvious that all kinds of various complications can suddenly rise up and derail your life? Imagine a gung-ho author who normally does write every day, but her mother just died. Or her daughter just had a baby. Or anything big and important just happened. Obviously there is nothing remotely unusual or wrong with the author taking a break from writing while catching up with life, even if she normally actually likes to write every single day.

And besides all that, the advice is also just plain wrong.

Lots of writers do not write every day. I personally either write a lot every day or else, and this is the important part, I’m taking a break and not writing at all. It just kind of annoys me to hear the constant drumbeat of you-must-write-every-day from all sides. I once saw every panelist on a panel agree with this statement. Yep! You have to write every day!

Too bad I wasn’t on that panel, because surely someone in the audience would have been glad to hear that this is not true.

Anyway — read the whole post, of which I abstracted only a smallish part.

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Writing under the influence

A post at terrible minds by Michael Moreci: Writing under the influence.

It’s the same balance of embracing your influences while maintaining your own voice. If you want to tell an epic fantasy but feel like it’s too much like Robert Jordan, remember that it’s you telling the story in your unique way. And the more you write, and the more your story takes shape, I’m confident that it’ll sounds less and less like Wheel of Time and more like your own thing. The same thing exists in Black Star Renegades. The Star Wars DNA is all over that book, but so is my DNA. There’s a lot of love for the galaxy far, far away in those pages, but there’s also a deconstruction of the messiah complex, and that dominant aspect of the book is all me. That’s my voice coming through, and it’s what makes that story what it is, and not just a Star Wars rip-off.

Best tidbit from this post:

Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun, and in my opinion that’s true (to a degree—if you dropped Solomon into our world, I’m sure he’d say “Holy shit! Look at all these new things under the sun!”)

That made me chuckle.

Anyway, I agree. In fact, I’m probably more adamant about this than Michael Moreci, because he writes stuff for existing characters and I don’t. And the reason I don’t is because when I used to try (in my head) to write, for example, a Star Trek tie-in type of thing, it was hopeless. Completely hopeless.

Things I just cannot do: stay true to the voice of someone else’s characters.

So, yeah, I don’t worry about accidentally writing a Wheel of Time clone — or in my case, a Patricia McKillip clone — because I really don’t think it’s possible. No matter what I try to do, my own voice comes through. I think that’s basically true for everyone.

Or mostly. I really admire the authors who have pulled off the best Star Trek tie-ins.

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Sandman!

Via tor.com: Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is heading for a TV series:

After a failed attempt at a movie in 2013, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman has now apparently found a home–and a giant budget–at Netflix.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Neil Gaiman’s iconic comics series Sandman has been acquired by Netflix, in a deal that they are describing as “the most expensive TV series that DC Entertainment has ever done.”

Very cool!

But the casting! Do you think they’ll be able to find the right people to play Dream and Death? I don’t think any other characters are as important to get right, but those two are crucial.

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Shocking news

From this article at The Bookseller: Fifty-one percent of women over 40 feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles, according to a new survey. 

I’m sure next we’ll see startling news that a majority of women from 20 to 40 feel that fictional women in this age group are frequently presented in cliched roles.

After that, perhaps we’ll be stunned to hear that teen girls consider that many teen girls in novels tend to fall into cliched roles.

After that, the guys can join in.

Can there be anyone, anywhere, who has somehow spent their life reading but is only now realizing that many characters, of all types, fall into cliched roles in fiction? What next, the shocking revelation that fictional characters are frequently wittier conversationalists and faster with pithy retorts than people in real life? That fictional characters experience death-defying adventure more frequently than is entirely plausible?

Anyway, the article goes on to push for more novels featuring female protagonists over forty, which would be nice, sure, but I’m not holding my breath considering the preeminence of YA right now.

Still, since we seem to have arrived at this topic: quick, let’s list off some female protagonists who are fortyish or above. These are in no order whatsoever other; this is just as I thought of them.

  1. Maskelle, from Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells
  2. Laura in In Arcadia by Andrea K Host
  3. Ista from Paladin of Souls by LMB
  4. Herris Serrano from Hunting Party by Elizabeth Moon
  5. Martha from Tea with the Black Dragon by RA MacAvoy
  6. Mama Jason in Mirabile by Janet Kagan
  7. Sennith in the Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. She’s not yet in her forties, I don’t think, but she’s not some young girl either.
  8. Perhaps ditto for Torrin Kerr in the Valor series by Tanya Huff. I’m not sure she’s in her forties, but she’s certainly mature.
  9. Seraph in the Raven duology by Patricia Briggs.

Who else? Mature female protagonists; not just secondary characters. I’m sure I’m missing some. Who could go in that tenth spot?

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Hambly’s Darwath trilogy on sale — and fitting Darwath into Hambly’s oeuvre

Just letting you know that Barbara Hambly’s Darwath trilogy is on sale for $2.99 on Amazon right now.

This is not my favorite series by Hambly, but then she’s written a whole bunch of books that fall into a wider-than-usual spectrum of quality. It’s a good trilogy. I like it quite a bit. If you’ve never read it, I suggest you pick it up.

So, this makes me want to set this trilogy within Hambly’s oeuvre. Let me take a stab at that. I’m going to break series up where I think that’s appropriate. None of the books within a category are sorted out at all. The whole category is about at the same level for me.

Right at the top:

Dragonsbane (first book of the Winterlands series)

The Ladies of Mandrigin (first book of the Sunwolf/Starhawk series)

The Witches of Winshar (second book of the Sunwolf/Starhawk series)

Ishmael (Star Trek tie-in). I have no idea how often I’ve read this book. It’s probably my favorite Star Trek novel of all time.

Those Who Hunt the Night (first book of the vampire series)

Bride of the Rat God (yes, really, don’t be put off by the title, which is supposed to evoke B-grade campy movies)

A Free Man of Color (first book of the Benjamin January series)

One step down:

The Windrose trilogy (but it’s very intense and one book ends on a terrible cliffhanger. Which is fine, since the whole series is out; I’m just saying that I think it may have left a permanent scar when I had to wait a year for the next book to come out.)

Stranger at the Wedding (standalone in the Windrose universe)

Traveling with the Dead (second book of the vampire series)

Two steps down:

Most of the rest of the vampire series

Most of the rest of the Benjamin January series

The Darwath trilogy

The Dark Hand of Magic (the third book in the Sunwolf/Starhawk series)

I like all the books in this category a lot. The Benjamin January series is my favorite mystery series ever.

Three steps down:

The Abigail Adams mysteries, written as Barbara Hamilton. For characterization and setting, these are top-notch. For mysteries, rather less so, as I thought the murderer was pretty obvious in all of them. I really like them though! Characters and setting are the point of mysteries, for me, rather than the mystery itself.

Some of the Benjamin January books fall in this category for me as well, but I don’t actually remember which titles. The one that takes place in Mexico isn’t a personal favorite. Nor the one that involves baseball. I like the whole series a bunch, though, so everything in this category is still something I like a lot.

A couple of the vampire series fall in this category as well. Again, not sure which titles.

The other two Star Trek tie-ins, which are Ghostwalker and Crossroads.

And then waaaay down the list, like down another dozen steps down at least. Maybe two dozen more steps down:

Mother of Winter (set in the Darwath world)

The rest of the Winterlands series

The Sun-Cross duology, which I think of as the Nazi duology

These are the ones I either couldn’t get through or wished I hadn’t. I fear I thought Mother of Winter was just pretty bad. There’s one more book set after this one and I never tried it because I could not bring myself to finish Mother of Winter. I couldn’t tell you why I had such trouble with this book — I tried it a long time ago.

As you may know, the rest of the series after Dragonsbane gets very, very, very, VERY dark. I read it, but then I gave the books away. I hope I included a warning label for the next reader.

And for whatever reason, I just found the Nazi duology unreadable. Oh, now that I think about it, I do know why. It’s because the good guy protagonists are stumbling into disaster in extreme slow motion over the course of the entire first book, and I found that situation simply unbearable. That’s why. I never read the second book, so to me, the protagonists were left in a terrible situation.

Books I haven’t read:

It turns out there are some, including a couple fantasy novels.

The Raven Sisters duology — never tried it.

Star Wars tie-ins — I was never into Star Wars and never tried those.

Hambly wrote a handful of historicals and I haven’t read those either. They seem to be Civil War stories. Not a period I’m that drawn to, so I may never try them, though I did like the Abigail Adams mysteries, so who knows.

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Hiring a libel service

This is a funny post and thought-provoking post, which on second thought almost (but perhaps not quite) sounds like a good idea.

Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you. 

This is all based on something Neal Stephenson came up with in a new novel, Fall, or Dodge in Hell. I almost sort of think it sounds like it could work.

Or maybe not. Stephenson suggests not really:

But Stephenson’s new book adds another takeaway: In the novel, Pluto’s automated-defamation scheme does actually work for some high percentage of the population, who learn to think more critically about stuff they came across on the internet and elsewhere in our media culture. …But there’s also an irreducible fraction of people who continue to cherry-pick narratives, whether true or false, solely on the criterion of whether the narratives confirm their cherished beliefs. They won’t be newly sophisticated media skeptics or discriminating news consumers—instead they’ll commit to the path of confirmation bias

Unfortunately, that seems highly plausible.

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If you’re on a panel

Here’s a good thread from Delilah Dawson about how to behave well on a panel at a convention.

I think this item is especially good:

8. As the panel mojo progresses, consider how you can use a question to take a different perspective than the other panelists. If someone’s answer is close to yours, how can you broaden the discussion? What experience do you bring to the table that’s different and new?

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of that, certainly not in those terms. This seems like a good idea to keep in mind. It can be fair, I think, to say essentially, “Yes, I’m basically a clone of [other panel member] on this one. I too [do this exact same thing/feel this exact same way].” But I like the idea of thinking not, Yes, me too, but How can I broaden that answer?

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Active geology can be scary

A post that caught my eye this morning …

There are some impressive lava fields near Reykjavik, but the lava fields of the south are simply vast, and produce hours of the most boring driving imaginable, with nothing but gray moss and distant mountains to look at.  This was all laid down in the eruption of Laki in 1783, in which a 25-kilometer gash opened up in the earth, and poured out lava for five months, and intermittently for the next 11 years.  Most of Iceland was covered by ash and cinders contaminated by fluorine, which killed most crops and maybe half the livestock.  …

The eruption was so vast that it had enormous geopolitical consequences.  A sulphur dioxide fog settled over much of Europe, so thick that ships could not leave port.  As people are not equipped to breathe sulphuric acid, thousands died.  The freezing winter of 1784 caused widespread famine, notably in France, where it probably contributed to the French Revolution.

In America, the Chesapeake froze over.  In Asia the monsoon cycle was disrupted, and the Nile failed to flood, resulting in the starvation deaths of a sixth of the population of Egypt.

Active geology can be pretty damned scary.

Human memory is so short. No one remembers this now. I wonder whether this might be because we prefer to believe that human activity is REALLY IMPORTANT, because that gives us a sense of control, when in fact at any moment we might suddenly find out that active geology is waaaaaay more important than we thought and boom, we’re facing a huge catastrophe we could not really anticipate and cannot affect.

If I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel, I would almost certainly start with active geology.

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