Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Astronomy continues to startle us

So, just happened across this post: Water Vapor Was Just Found on Europa, More Evidence There’s Liquid Water Beneath All that Ice

Lots of cool details to this story at the link, ending with this:

Hopefully, scientists—and the rest of us—won’t have to wait too much longer to get some more definitive answers to Europa’s many questions. The Europa Clipper was moved to its final design stage in August 2019, and is due to launch sometime in the mid 2020s. It’ll carry a whole suite of instruments to probe Europa’s mysteries. The most exciting of all might be its ground-penetrating radar. It might see right through the ice and confirm the existence of a subsurface ocean once and for all.

I’m looking forward to the xenobiology to follow, aka A Darkling Sea.

This post made me wonder what other new and interesting things astronomers might have tripped over this year. So I poked around, and found this:

A runaway star ejected from the galactic heart of darkness

Astronomers have spotted an ultrafast star, traveling at a blistering 6 million km/h, that was ejected by the supermassive black hole at the heart at the Milky Way five million years ago.

How do stars get ejected from black holes? I thought stuff that fell into black holes was gone for good?

While we’re on the subject of black holes:

Bizarre worlds orbiting a black hole

[Theoreticians have] proposed the possibility of thousands of planets around a supermassive black hole.

Great Red Spot Isn’t Disappearing, Researchers Say

Did anybody think it was?

Alien Life on Some Extrasolar Planets Could Be More Diverse than on Earth

Sure, if you tweak the software you’re using to model ecological and other factors just right, obviously that could be true! I just get a kick out of what appears to be a fun but completely made-up project like this.

I think it’s safe to say that IF complex extrasolar life exists, then on some planets its more diverse and on some planets it’s less diverse than on Earth. What else could you possibly expect?

Still, I expect the software was fun to play with.

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Merry Christmas!

Most likely you have many things to do today, and in the next few days, besides read. However, at some point you may happen to want to curl up with a fluffy robe, a roaring fire, a mug of hot chocolate, and a beautiful spaniel or two (or ten.) Substitute elements of the above with whatever comfortable Christmasy things appeal to you, and then add one Christmas-themed novel suitable for the occasion.

Christmas-themed mysteries are everywhere, and I like them very much. Teresa Romain has a whole set of Christmas-themed Regencies, for example. But Christmas-themed SFF are perhaps a touch harder to come by.

Fortunately, I don’t have to do the heavy lifting.

Here’s a list from B & N: 10 Holiday-Themed Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels. The list features Connie Willis, a Christmas ghost story by Paul Cornell that I just picked up to read because I really do like a themed story or two at this time of year, The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett — not my favorite of Pratchett’s work — and, good heavens, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, what is that doing here? Well, it is Christmas themed, in a sense. I guess.

This list also includes a Sarah Addison Allen novel, which I don’t believe actually takes place during Christmas, but whatever, it is a lovely novel.

It doesn’t include, strangely, The Dark is Rising by Susan Collins, a classic, I would have thought. I’m sure you’ve all read that one. If not, well, seize your chance this Christmas and give it a try. Just start with The Dark is Rising; the prequel novel Under Sea Over Stone can certainly be put off till later. The entire story builds up to Christmas; the season is infused through everything that happens.

Now that I’ve thought of it, I might reread The Dark Is Rising myself this Christmas season.

Another very suitable fantasy novel for Christmas, but much larger: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Big, epic, beautiful, magical realism. Also, parts of it are kind of like distilled Christmas.

With or without spaniels and Christmas-themed novels, I hope you all have a lovely holiday! If you don’t celebrate Christmas, then I hope you at least find a chance to settle down with a wintry tale and hot chocolate.

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Must-Read Time Travel Books

I’m not actually very keen on time travel, which is a trope that I approach with some reluctance. Once I get into it, though, I sometimes really like a time travel story. So sure, I’m willing to click through to Book Riot’s post:


Let’s see whether these choices overlap at all with any of the time travel stories I’ve both read and liked …

Ah, here’s Kindred by Octavia E Butler. Well, I haven’t read it. I will eventually. I’m reluctant because after I read it, I will have read absolutely everything by Butler, there won’t be anything else. I’m sure it is beautifully written and a great novel.

Interestingly, I find I haven’t read a single book on this list. If you are into time travel, maybe you have, you can click through and see.

This one sounds the most interesting, and almost sort of nonfictional: How to Invent Everything: a Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveler.

Here’s a laudatory quote from Randall Monroe, whom you may know as the guy who does XKCD and wrote What If:

How to Invent Everything is such a cool book. It’s essential reading for anyone who needs to duplicate an industrial civilization quickly.”

Ha ha ha! Well, hopefully I will never be in that position, because I’m sure I wouldn’t remember nearly enough about how to re-invent everything. But doesn’t that sound like a fun book?

[T]ime-travel enthusiast Ryan North shows you how to invent all the modern conveniences we take for granted–from first principles. This illustrated manual contains all the science, engineering, art, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless time traveler to build a civilization from the ground up. 

I bet there are a lot of pictures. I’m not sure I want this one in ebook format. Paper would probably be better.

Moving back to fiction, though, what are a handful of time travel stories I have in fact both read and liked?

1)Well, first, obviously, Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. “Enjoyed is a strong term. I admired this duology very much, but I did give it away because I knew I would never read it again. But wow, the research that went into it. It’s an ambitious work that I think succeeded very well at what it was trying to do.

2) Second, and one I liked a lot, Lightning by Dean Koontz. this one tends to get overlooked, partly because it’s getting older by this time but probably mostly because Dean Koontz wrote it. Horror fans know about it, but time travel fans may tend not to notice it. Clever use of time travel all through this novel, though. Koontz’ writing is catchy and very readable.

3) The Extracted trilogy, which is to say, the first two books, which I actually suggest reading as a duology because that provides a better ending point. The link goes to my review. Great page-turner. I liked it a lot, though as I say, I do suggest stopping after the first two books because of problems with loose threads and so on in the ending of the third book.

4) I mentioned I was not that keen on time travel as a thing, but I will end by saying that “Groundhog Day” is one heck of a movie.

5) Your choice here.

Really, not that familiar with the vast literature of time travel out there. If you’ve got a time travel story you especially admire, drop it in the comments!

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Swordheart by T Kingfisher

I am getting a serious kick out of reading Swordheart almost back to back with The Twisted Ones. The books are so different, almost as different as any author has ever written. The only author I know of who has written stories more different than these is Seanan McGuire, with her Newsflesh trilogy and tben that completely farcical UF series.

So, The Twisted Ones. Horror.

Swordheart. Light, even somewhat silly fantasy romance.

Halla has inherited a minor fortune and a magic sword. Sarkis is the guy condemned to live in the sword and serve whoever wields it. You immediately understand where that’s heading.

Well put together, charming, predictable because hey, light romance, it is going to hit all the typical plot points with pretty standard timing. Good writing. Nice details. No dog. I enjoyed it despite that lack.

Who else would like this novel: if you liked Lindsay Boruker’s Emperor’s Edge series, I bet you like Swordheart.

Best detail: the bird. Surely … *surely* … we will find out more about the bird in a later book, because yes, this is the first book in a series.

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What do superheroes eat for breakfast?


Bruce: As all of us who watched, and loved, the Batman: Brave and The Bold animated series know, Batman does not eat nachos unless his id, ego, and superego get zapped into three different bodies by a nuclear blast (I don’t make the “science”).

So what does the Caped Crusader have for breakfast? I’m seeing a protein bar/shake thing he grabs on the way out the door after an hour or two of sleep. Quick, efficient, and much to Alfred’s chagrin. No real enjoyment but it will keep him going.

Frankly, I completely agree. I definitely cannot see Bruce Wayne relaxing over crepes or waffles or whatever. I can’t even picture him grimly downing an omelet. A protein shake sounds like exactly his kind of breakfast.

Click through and amuse yourself considering what every member of the extended Bat family ought to choose for breakfast.

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A TV miniseries I would almost certainly watch

The Sandman adaptation. If Neil Gaiman is involved, surely it will be pretty good.

  • Although the original comics are set in the ’80s, the show won’t be a period piece. Instead, it will be set in the present. “In Sandman [issue] number one, there is a sleeping sickness that occurs because Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, is captured … in 1916, and in 1988 he escapes,” Gaiman said in the interview. “Instead of him being a captive for about 80 years, he’s going to be a captive for about 110 years and that will change things.” (Good Omens took a similar bent and really all that happened is a few jokes got added.)
  • Otherwise, the show will “stay faithful” to the original comics.

Fans have been sorting out what they think will, or should, happen in the first eleven-episode season:

With “The Sound of Her Wings” being such perfect season finale material, we can’t really imagine them ending season one any other way. (Any cliffhangers could be saved for the end of the episode, or for after the credits.) That means that any of the non-Preludes & Nocturnes stuff that Gaiman was talking about would probably be sprinkled in beforehand, and have to draw from material that either takes place concurrently to the story, or before, in the form of flashbacks.

I agree. Surely it’s impossible to do better than make “The Sound of her Wings” the season finale.

Great project. Can’t wait.

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I greatly enjoyed the white-and-gold-or-blue-and-black dress. (It was blue and black.) If you never checked out the Amazon reviews for that dress, you really ought to take a moment and do that.

However, this post is really about a different illusion.

Can anybody see red and green dots moving downward?

I see only yellowish or greenish dots moving left to right. The red and green ones would be more seasonal, but … nope, can’t manage it.

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Pippa is home

Ice storms do not help in these situations, but I managed to get to Columbia and back today. I passed three current (minor) accidents and an ungodly number of cars that obviously got stuck yesterday. Despite all that, really the roads were pretty good … mostly.

Six weeks crate rest. The neurologist was very clear. Jumping off the couch could be, quote, catastrophic, unquote. Pippa is not normally a staid, calm, laid-back creature, but we will manage. As you see from this picture, she is very tired now that she is home.

Me too. Good night.

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Make it not boring

A post at Book View Cafe: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

Since a pantser has no plan and no outline, you have to have a clear vision. Not necessarily of where the work is going to go. But you have to feel, clearly, what the work has to be like. You need to discern when it’s slipping away from your vision. Are the characters talking too much? Shut them up. … Is it boring? … Do anything you have to, to make it not boring.

Good advice!

I’m currently reading Fire With Fire by Charles Gannon. I keep almost stopping and do-no-finishing it because I hit a section where people are talking about political maneuvering and I … yep … get bored. Then, just before I stop, something less boring starts to happen and I go on with the book after all.

This is despite Gannon’s tendency to do “skip scenes” where he jumps over a few months or some indeterminate period of time. That ought to be where the boring parts happen. But too often we get right down into the political nitty gritty, and I don’t care.

There are authors who can write political maneuvering in a compelling way. Genevieve Valentine comes to mind here, with Persona and Icon. Or, hey, CJC, obviously. Nobody can make me read political maneuvering like CJ Cherryh. But Gannon is not, so far, one of those people.

A lot of talking doesn’t have to be boring, but of course often it is. If you’ve got an example of an author who can maintain the reader’s interest through a long talky scen, or who perhaps doesn’t quite manage to pull it off, drop that in the comments. I’m betting there really aren’t too many who can do it.

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Stuck at home

I can’t go get Pippa because we are having terrible weather. Snow is one thing, but no: we are having ice and sleet and more ice.

I really, really want to go get her tomorrow. It should be sunny. I wonder how long it will take them to get the interstates in reasonable shape.

Meanwhile, I am having trouble settling down with anything, from baking cookies to writing to even reading.

Just saw this review of a new one from tbe prolific and highly eclectic T Kingfisher: Swordheart

Maybe I am in the mood for a somewhat silly romance.

In other news, I did manage to write this post on my phone and post it, so yay technology! Short posts only via this method, though.

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