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Yes, by the laws of this country Donald Trump is legitimately our president.

By any measure other than the letter of the law, I do not accept him.

He did not receive a majority of the votes, and is not supported by a majority of the American people. He benefited from some unknown quantity of illegal foreign interference. He is supposed to defend the Constitution of the United States; he has shown repeatedly that he has no understanding of that document, much less concern for what it says. He has demonstrated a degree of cronyism and corruption unprecedented in my lifetime, before he even took office. He makes the United States less safe. He represents everything that is worst about this country, from bigotry to crass materialism, and none of what is best.

I do not accept him as my leader in any sense other than that forced upon me by law. And I will work by any legal means available to oppose the damage he is going to inflict on my nation.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I have a tradition of keeping one copy of every version of my books: paperback, hardcover, audio, translation, etc. And that includes ARCs . . . but I never got one of Cold-Forged Flame (an oversight on my part). If you happen to have one of those lying around that you’d be willing to sell me, please let me know! My collection is incomplete. 🙂

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

My fourth notebook dates to my senior year of high school (because there are calculus notes and Latin translations in it) and my freshman year of college (because there are personal notes in it, which I have no compunctions about tearing out before I send this off to be archived).

It is probably fair to say that my writing process has never been so well-documented as it was in this period, simply because of the circumstances of my life. In high school and early college I didn’t really take notes in class, because I mostly didn’t have to. (When the “lecture” consisted of the teacher going over the information that was already in the book, I didn’t see much point.) I just listened . . . sort of . . . and remembered stuff. But I needed to look like an industrious student, so I wrote stuff in my notebook, and sometimes it had to do with the topic at hand but most of the time it didn’t. The result is things like this:

scan of a notebook page featuring a triquetra knot

Right there, documented for posterity, is the moment I had the idea of using the triquetra knot as the symbol of Starfall’s witches. There are countless little tidbits like that scattered through here: Poltergeist activity in Talman? says one page, a four-word query that led to a major scene in Lies and Prophecy. Another page has Five sections of witches. Name? followed by Ray in a different pen, as I worked out the structure of witch society in Doppelganger. There are worldbuilding tidbits that got abandoned, like the modes of address for the Primes; there are worldbuilding tidbits that got kept, like the top margin that has a few scribbled details on the psi-virus. There are two entire pages of me brainstorming setting details for the Nine Lands, evidence of me pursuing my goal of a world whose countries really were culturally distinct from one another — and given its placement in the notebook, after I had arrived at college, also evidence of how anthropology was feeding my brain.

I don’t know exactly when this habit ended, but I know it didn’t last beyond my days of taking classes, because it only happened when I was sitting around with a notebook in front of me for hours each week. These days my ideas sometimes get scribbled down on scraps of paper, but they’re more likely to stay in my head until they go into a story. There’s no record of the moment when I figured out the end of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, because it happened in conversation with Alyc Helms instead of when I was pretending to listen to a teacher. For years I had a tendency to jot down random names, phrases, cultural snippets, plot twists, and anything else that came into my head; eventually I developed a mark to put in the margin so I’d know which parts of any given page were about writing instead of class. It means I can watch myself think through things from back then in a way that just isn’t true of later work.

It reminds me of where certain ideas came from, too. For example, this notebook contains a lot of game notes: for my Vampire character, for my very short-lived Mage character, for Vampire sequel game I thought up and never ran, for the Highlander game I was running online. That latter had a female PC named Miryoko, and I remember that I knew “three syllables ending in -ko” was a common form of Japanese name (didn’t learn until later that it wasn’t that way in the time period the PC lived in), but I looked up “miryo” to see whether it was a legitimate Japanese word, and found it meant “charm or glamour.” Looking at it now, I’m pretty sure it means in the social sense, but it stuck in my head as the magical one, and yep, that’s how one of the protagonists of Doppelganger got named. The Head/Hand/Heart division of the witches comes from the comic book Elfquest, the three trials Cutter and Rayek go through when their rivalry over Leetah annoys her enough to make them fight it out with each other. Old forms of the stories get preserved: the scenes from Lies and Prophecy in here still feature a professor named Shields, because that was a perfectly innocuous name for Grayson until the plot headed off in directions that had a lot to do with shielding and it became a distraction. (And yet for all of that, startling amounts of text in here went almost verbatim into those first two novels.)

This notebook also features extensive evidence of a writing habit I had to kick before I could really make progress. It used to be that I would get an idea for a scene or even just a brief interaction, and I’d write it — out of context. Both Lies and Prophecy and Doppelganger got started that way, me hopscotching around to do the fun bits and then having to stitch them together into a coherent narrative fabric afterward. I didn’t manage to finish a novel, and I’m not sure I could have managed to finish a novel, until I made myself write more linearly, because that was the only way to make sure the stuff in between the fun bits was also good story rather than the bare minimum of connective tissue, and to make sure the key moments were properly grounded in the preceding text. These days I’ll sometimes let myself skip ahead if I’m really stuck and need to remember why I’m excited about the project — but even then, I usually write it in a separate file, to remind myself that any and all of it is subject to change once I get there properly. Non-linear writing works great for other authors, but not me.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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(Jim Hines posted this to his blog earlier today; I’m reposting it because it is timely and well-chosen.)

*

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…

-From Letter From a Birmingham Jail
Written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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The internet tells me that today is Appreciate a Dragon Day. I can think of no finer way to celebrate this than to give away an advance copy of Within the Sanctuary of Wings. To enter into the contest, all you need to do is post a comment or email me describing the type of dragon you would most want to have. Is your dream dragon big enough to ride on, or small enough to keep in the house as a pet? European-style or Asian-style (or some other style)? Scaly or leathery? A fire-breather or otherwise? Do you want a teleporting Pern dragon, a magical D&D dragon, a feral beast of a dragon, Puff the Magic Dragon? Share your dragon dreams for a chance to win the book!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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As promised, here is part two of my dissection of Rogue One and how, if I were given a magic wand to reshape the story, I would have done it. Spoilers ahoy, mateys! If you missed part one (all three thousand words or so of it), you can find that here.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I wanted to make this post weeks ago, but I was in a cast and not typing much. So instead you get it now — which might be better, since at this point I imagine that most people who intended to see Rogue One in theatres have already done so. This post and its sequel will be spoileriffic, so don’t click through unless you’ve either watched the movie or don’t care if I talk about what happens.

Outside the cut, I will say that I enjoyed Rogue One . . . but it also frustrated me immensely, because I felt like it had so much excellent narrative potential that it just left on the table. In the comments on several friends’ posts, I said that it could have really punched me in the gut, but instead it just kind of socked me in the shoulder. I wound up seeing it twice, because we went again with my parents, and on the second pass Writer Brain kept niggling at things and going aw man, if only you’d . . . I know there were extensive reshoots, and I’m pretty sure I can see the fingerprints all over the film, though I can’t be sure which underdeveloped bits were shoehorned in by the revisions, and which ones are the leftover fragments of material that got cut. (The trailers offer only tantalizing clues: apparently none of the footage from the first two wound up in the actual film. You can definitely see different characterization for Jyn, but the rest is mere guesswork.) I just know there are all these loose ends sticking out throughout the film, and since story is not only my job but my favorite pastime, I can’t help but think about what I would have done to clean it up.

There will be two posts because my thoughts are extensive enough that I think they’ll go better if split up. First I’m going to talk about the good guys — what worked for me, what didn’t, and how the latter could have become the former — and then I’ll talk about the villains.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

If you’ve ever wished you could have a matched set of all four Onyx Court novels, now you can!

UK cover for WITH FATE CONSPIRE

Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire are all out now in the UK, in a lovely set of matching trade paperbacks. They’ve also had a few errors cleaned up, the dates reformatted to British style, and the spelling Anglicized, so on the whole, I feel comfortable in calling this the author’s preferred edition. 🙂 Get ’em now, while the getting is good!

UK covers of all four Onyx Court novels

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I have a packet of really excellent-smelling pork seasoning.

I think I would like to make pulled pork sandwiches with it, because a slow-cooker recipe would be ideal for the logistics at hand.

How should I go about this? My pulled pork slow-cooker recipe calls for bbq sauce and a little bit of honey; should I just chuck the seasoning in with that (no, I have no idea what’s in it), or should I substitute something else for the liquid component? If so, what? Help me, o chefs more skilled than I!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve recently been reminded that the Hugo Awards are test-driving a new category, this one for “Best Series”:

…a multi-volume science fiction or fantasy story, unified by elements such as plot, characters, setting, and presentation, which has appeared in at least three volumes consisting of a total of at least 240,000 words by the close of the calendar year 2016, at least one volume of which was published in 2016.

Because I’d forgotten about this, I didn’t think to mention explicitly in my eligibility post that The Memoirs of Lady Trent qualify: the series is now four books long and roughly 370,000 words, and In the Labyrinth of Drakes came out in 2016.

Although I understand protests about the proliferation of award categories, I have to admit I’m glad to see this one added. A lot of SF/F work is done in series format, and delivering a good series is its own kind of challenge. I can read a bunch of books that aren’t individually the best books of their years, but the work in aggregate winds up being really memorable and satisfying, so I like the notion of having a way to recognize that fact. But I hope the final wording of the category, if it stays in, includes something about how a series that wins becomes ineligible for nomination thereafter; otherwise we may end up with a revolving-door situation where a small number of popular series win over and over again as their new installments come out.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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My cast is off; I’m still in a brace, but that’s as much to remind myself not to be stupid as for actual support. I’ll be easing back into things over the next week or two.

In celebration of my much-improved ability to type, let’s talk about what I wrote for Yuletide!

My assignment was for Mercedes Lackey’s Tarma and Kethry books, the Vows and Honor corner of the Valdemar setting. I wrote “Self-Reliance,” which attempts to recreate the case-of-the-week feel of the original book (which is partly or entirely a fix-up of the short stories Lackey had published). Kethry’s magic has been cursed to malfunction, but emergencies don’t wait while you sort that kind of thing out; she and Tarma have to go in anyway.

I’ve done at least one pinch-hit every year, and managed to uphold that streak with a fic I’d already written as a treat. Apparently I wasn’t the only one motivated to treat, because there were not one, not two, but three fics for the prompt “what if the Devil in the song ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ was Crowley from Good Omens?” My contribution to the field was “The Devil Sauntered Vaguely Down to Georgia” (referencing Crowley’s description in the dramatis personae as “an angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downward”).

Then there were two treats that stayed treats. The first is for the basically non-existent fandom of The LXD, a short webseries by the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers where dancing is basically a superpower. Because the third season ended on a cliffhanger and there never was a fourth season, my recip asked for fic resolving the fact that two of the good guys had been brainwashed into serving the villain. The result was “Breathe. Stay calm. You’re gonna be OK.” — which was an interesting exercise for me, because while I have thirteen years of dance in my background, the closest I got to the street styles that dominate the LXD was a small amount of hip-hop influencing my jazz teacher. But I like trying to put dance into prose, so this was fun to write.

My last fic was a treat for someone who has treated me in the past. They asked for fic of Zero Punctuation, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s series of breathless and colorful game reviews; I promptly thought of his distaste for quick time events, and thus was born “PRESS X TO NOT DIE,” which sends an amnesiac Yahtzee through the history of video gaming, starting with Colossal Cave Adventure and going on from there. I had a lot of fun researching this one, figuring out what game genres to represent, deciding which titles to use as iconic examples of same, and then watching YouTube gameplay videos so I’d know how to describe them.

As for my own gift, I got “A Day at the Cattery,” following Miss Climpson when the Cattery of Strong Poison has grown into a large and well-established enterprise.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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It is the first of the month, and the first of the year. 2017 seems likely to be difficult, so let’s talk about tikkun olam.

The comment thread is open for your news of repairing the world. Have you made a donation lately? Have you given your time and effort to help out somewhere? Have you found a way to be a better citizen of the world? If so, please tell us about it. And if you have plans to do something along those lines in the coming weeks, tell us about that, too. Even if it’s a little thing. Even if it’s tiny. This is a time to share good things; good does not stop being good because it is small.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I participated in Yuletide again this year. Despite wrist surgery nine days before Christmas, I managed to uphold my minimum of four fics — I just had to make sure I got everything written before the 14th.

Those of you who have perused the 2016 collection, care to guess what I wrote? All are full-length. Two of them were crossovers. The sources spanned books, video games, web series, and songs. One is a nostalgia fandom for many people; two are the epitome of the Yuletide “fandom of one” concept. And if you know the right clues to look for, they are all trivially easy to spot, provided you happen to have actually opened the fics; there’s an extra level of effort I could go to if I wanted to really hide which ones I wrote, but I pretty much never bother with it.

Any guesses?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve been seeing concerns about the future of LiveJournal now that its servers are apparently in Russia (and therefore subject to Russian, rather than U.S., law concerning privacy etc). I don’t intend to pre-emptively abandon the LJ iteration of this blog, which is where it began and where the majority of the comments are, but in case I either change my mind or LJ itself goes poof without warning, you may want to bookmark one of these links:

WordPress (now the source for all mirrored versions, and integrated with the rest of my website; can be followed via WP or Feedly/some other RSS reader)

DreamWidth (mirrored from WP)

Goodreads (I can’t remember whether this feeds from LJ or from WP; I may need to change settings around)

If you read this blog on LJ and that stops being an option, you will still be able to find me at one of those sites — and I hope you will! I think the only risk I really face on the LJ front, aside from possible incompetence that causes too many unresolved bugs, is that mine is a paid account and therefore there’s a credit card number involved. So I’ll stick it out until the bitter end, most likely.

Edited to add this from mme_hardy on DW:

Your readers should know about another catch:

LJ no longer allows access to its https site when browsing/posting, which means that any information you send to that site is readable by every other site that cares to eavesdrop. This means that anything you post under friendslock is still being read by any site that chooses to spy on Livejournal communications; you can safely assume that at least one Russian-government entity is.

I just double-checked, and the payment page *is* protected by https, so that at least should be secure.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (gaming)

After nearly fifty installments, the Dice Tales series is finally done. To find out what the future holds, check out the concluding post.

And if you want to go on talking about games and storytelling, consider joining the Dice Tales community on Imzy!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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My third notebook opens with probably the most sustained example of that conlang I was making up. I won’t translate it, because the text I chose to put there is kind of dumb, but here’s the text itself:

Tíolaic’inn cen

eachtread t’ilith tdeabhíu
ceid tasteal’siad aseo
éis misiuil’siad é conuirtithidh
isin caith’gabhain’siadirh
fara raoneidh cen rannatheidh

Fóire rhiai cosin’siad liate
bronn’iade cenath aithedhé crínnacheidh
élaineí h’isini ómhead h’eseandai

Déarté éis sithé.

So if you were curious what the conlang looked like in action, there you go. It’s . . . well, it doesn’t look so O_O if you know Irish phonology. But if you don’t, well, it has the Irish problem of “holy god what’s with those consonant combinations why are you so in love with the letter H.” (Answer: lenition!)

The next thing in the notebook is . . . an outline? I guess? For that Highlander fanfic. I think I must have been pretending to take notes in class, because that’s the only explanation for the weird formatting. Quite a lot of this notebook is devoted to that story, where it isn’t filled with calculus notes instead, or what I think was an abortive attempt at a college application essay, or translations of the Aeneid, or me writing stuff in Spanish to keep my hand in after I stopped studying it. Judging by the story bits in here, I did not know Japanese history all that well back then — but for an eighteen-year-old in Texas, I clearly knew more than your average swan, which is nice to realize.

In semi-related Highlander content, I also ran a (short-lived) play-by-post game for a seven players, which might have survived longer had I not been ambitious and decided to start off with the origin stories for all of the PCs. This mean I was attempting to run seven simultaneous single-player games set in pre-contact Mesoamerica, medieval England, later medieval Transylvania, Heian Japan, Tudor England, Tokugawa Japan, and the Crimean War. I would consider this a ludicrous challenge now; attempting it back then was sheer hubris.

Three new things appear in this volume. First, we have what I think are some of my earliest attempts at cartography: very messy sketches solely intended to help me figure out spatial relationships, rather than to serve any aesthetic purpose. Second, we’ve got several examples of something I used to do as a writing exercise, which was to take a movie or TV scene I knew really well and write it out as prose. I actually used this same exercise with my students when I taught creative writing, because I think it gives you valuable practice in thinking about which visual or emotional details you want to include and how you’re going to integrate them with the dialogue. Do you give the whole line and then the description? Description and then line? Or do you break up the dialogue with a bit of narration, as a kind of punctuation to control the pace of delivery?

And third, we’ve got the earliest bits I’ve yet uncovered of what at the time were known as “the doppelanger story” and “the outlaw story.” The former, of course, became Warrior (originally titled Doppelganger). The latter came to be known as The Kestori Hawks, a trunked novel that will only ever see the light of day if I decide it has merit as a teaching text — at which point I will put out an ebook of it with annotations about how you can learn valuable lessons on novel-writing by looking at where that book failed. I was apparently putting in a lot of effort at that point to learn how to visualize and describe characters, though, which I had quite forgotten.

So that is Volume Three! Stay tuned for Volume 4 at a later date — I still have a lot of these notebooks left.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ll be having surgery on my wrist tomorrow, which means I won’t be typing large quantities for a little while — not sure how long. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled already, but apart from that, I may be scarce around here until I’m able to use that hand again.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (gaming)

This week’s Dice Tales post sees me dusting off some of my academic work, to discuss the ways in which RPGs are like rituals.

Also, I’m trying to make use of the Dice Tales community on Imzy, with a post there about how to make combat feel more integrated with the rest of the action, instead of it coming across as a mini-game that stops the flow of everything else. If you’re on Imzy and you find that an interesting topic, stop by and add your thoughts — or put up a post of your own! The Imzy community is for anybody who wants to discuss RPGs and narrative, not just for me.

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Today I went to the “Hour of Prayer and Solidarity” at a local mosque, which they organized in the wake of receiving a piece of hate mail. I estimate that around 300 people showed up, which is bloody good turnout for a cold Sunday afternoon and a place that’s basically inaccessible without a car. They had leaders from a bunch of other faith communities (Methodist, Catholic, Sikh, Jain, Jewish — those are the ones I recall), some local legislators, and the mayor. There were some speeches and a lot of clapping.

In addition to the good it does for the people targeted by hate mail to see us all standing out there in the parking lot to support them, it did me good to go. Because in the end, Tweets don’t carry as much impact as much as the physical presence of people around me, going to effort greater than clicking “retweet” to stand against that kind of prejudice. It is, in a way, a kind of medicine, strengthening my heart against the poison that’s seeping out of the cracks right now.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about religion lately. I was raised in the Methodist church, largely for reasons of convenience rather than tradition (neither of my parents was raised Methodist); I went through confirmation, but none of it ever meant very much to me on a personal level. But lately — especially as I listen to Christmas music for the season — I find myself thinking a lot about myself as a Christian. I feel this odd desire to claim that label for myself right now, not because I’ve experienced a sudden upwelling of doctrine-specific faith, but because I want to stand in contrast to all the Christians who have let themselves forget the importance of love, tolerance, charity, and forgiveness. I want to be in solidarity with the Christians who haven’t forgotten those things, to help keep them from being drowned out by the others. I want to stand in a cold parking lot for an hour and say wa-alaikum-salaam back at the guy who just wished peace upon me as a member of not just a geographical community, but a religious one — at least in the social/cultural sense of “religious.”

I’m not sure where this impulse will go. I doubt I’m going to start attending church again — though you never know. I just know that that feeling of community is important right now, that feeling of solidarity. I need those reminders that the hateful are not the only ones out there, and the rest of us have voices, too.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Man, 2016. It’s been such a . . . thing . . . that when I sat down to write this post, I thought, “should I bother? I mean, I didn’t have much out in 2016.”

Uh. This was actually one of my busier years, in terms of publications. But the first half of this year might as well be the Neolithic, it feels so long ago. Thank god I have a website to remind me what I’ve done! Courtesy of my own bibliography page, I give you the list of the things I published that came out this calendar year:

So that’s two novels, a novella, and three short stories, not counting the three backlist ebooks I put out (Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and the omnibus In London’s Shadow). All in all, I’d call that a pretty good pile.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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