Finished is a science fiction adventure short story (~4800 words) published as ebook at Smashwords
A life of larceny in a half-wrong body isn't what Aldin hoped for, but right now it's all he's got and he's making the best of it. When an unwelcome surprise sends him running, his prospects hinge entirely on his wits and an unlikely ally.
Aldin (our viewpoint character) is an art thief one job away from retiring and getting his sex reassignment surgery finished. When needing to evade authorities, borrowing transportation including driver at gunpoint seemed like a good idea...
Suspense, action, and a little commentary on gender change.
Content "warning": Starts off with a short section of pillow talk shading into foreplay, before that's interrupted.
There were no spelling, grammar or similar issues that jumped out at me.
From the "good things need to be shared" section, a recipe that's been floating around my mother's side of the family, for some really delicious chocolate cake. While rich in sugar and fat, it doesn't involve flour, so it should be suitable for people looking for gluten-free recipes.
200g are 7.05 ounces.
If I'm reading a cups-to-grammes conversion list correctly, we're talking
8/9 cup butter
1 1/3 cups ground almonds
8/9 cup sugar
I presume 1 packet vanilla sugar would be 4 teaspoons; the brand we have says 1 packet is "for 500g of flour", 500g being 1.1 pounds. You could probably replace it with a little vanilla aroma, or leave it out entirely.
200g dark chocolate (60% cocoa content)
200g ground almonds
1 packet vanilla sugar (meant for 500g flour)
1/2 packet (2 teaspoons) baking soda
Melt the butter and chocolate.
Add almonds, sugar, vanilla sugar and baking soda, and mix.
Whisk in eggs one by one.
Put into a round pan and bake for 40 minutes at 160° C (320 F) upper and lower heat.
The original recipe I got called for sifting powdered sugar on top after letting it cool, but I don't think that's neccessary. It's plenty rich as it is.
I had heard the name Elizabeth Moon in author recommendations, so when I saw one of her novels available for free at BAEN, I gave it a shot. It's the first volume in a fantasy series.
The prologue tells us of a written account of Paksenarrion's (here not specified) deeds being delivered to her humble family. It amazes them. Since chapter one jumps back to when she ran away from home, that prologue smells to me like a cheap ploy to build interest.
In the following, we get rather a lot of detail about basic training in a mercenary army. While we hear how to handle a spear, what the food's like, and what the unit marches past on the way to their first campaign, we don't see much character interaction beyond orders and some bullying from a fellow recruit. Paks making friends is covered with "Despite having little time to talk, she knew that Saben, Arñe, Vik, Jorti, and Coben were going to be her friends". The occasional conversation seems to be designed primarily to lay out worldbuilding details (gods, elves and dwarves, geography).
The only point which is not that boring is a sort of investigation after an offstage fight involving Paks and two fellow mercenaries, in which she is initially accused. The thing is, this has her locked up, and the interesting part is someone else showing initiative.
About a quarter of the way into the book, Paks is still a cipher to me, rather than someone I care about, and she's supposed to be the protagonist. I read too character-centered to be interested in this, and couldn't be bothered to finish.
Might might be interesting for military aficionados (Elizabeth Moon was in the US Marine Corps, so presumably it's not too far-fetched), but the more military-centered stories I read, the more I think I just should stay away from the topic/genre.
Thought I'd drop a line... I'm revamping the website to a system that better integrates art and other content, and that takes up so much brainspace not much is left for drawing. I'll pick it up again soon.
I had no idea how long that'd take, and didn't know how long to wait before I could peek, but it got taken out of my hands.
Yesterday we had rain and wind, and apparently that made the top of the shoot too heavy, and it broke. Now, it broke where I'd cut into the wood and would have cut the top part off - after there'd been enough roots to plant it somewhere.
So, well, time to check how it's doing.
That's some callus there, and one little white root poking to the right. Though there were the beginnings of a few more just visible. (That's my thumbnail at the bottom, for scale.)
So I cut it back a good deal so there aren't so many leaves from which water evaporates, stuck it into a pot with more of the seed and cutting soil (the end is a way under the surface, so the poor little stick won't fall over), and wait.
I put a freezer bag over the whole thing to keep the air around it humid, and put it in a place without direct sun so in its mini greenhouse it won't burn up. I figure the chances are better than with a plain cutting, since there are already roots starting to grow, whose tips presumably can absorb water and nutrients as they should, but we'll see.
Anyway, the principle works, so one of those days I'll start on one of the dissectum varieties. (wikipedia photo, for the curious.)
A while ago I posted short reviews of stories M.C.A. Hogarth collected under the headline "The Pelted SF". Today's the turn for another setting and culture she invented.
The Jokka are an alien species with three sexes, going through two puberties during each of which an individual's sex may change, at random. The stories take place in a pre-industrial age and do not feature humans or other aliens, so I guess if you file these as "fantasy" or "science fiction" is a matter of your personal definition of the genres.
Freedom, Spiced and Drunk, a story about a female who turns neuter at first puberty, is a good introduction to the biology that shapes the Jokkas' culture, and a poignant tale. (available for free at Smashwords and B&N)
New Stories involves an attempt to change traditions to changing traditions and getting over preconceptions.
It feels mostly like a puzzle piece to me; I think it works way better if you get the stories before and after than on its own.
(Smashwords | Amazon | B&N)
A Trifold Spiral Knot involves a Jokkad who h had been considered the chosen of a god, and whose sex-changes had been interpreted as signs. This story contains the most in-depth description of the sex changes themselves, and one of the Jokka's religions, as well as a jJokkad's musings on colour.
I find this story hard to pin down, but find the descriptions transporting.
(Smashwords | Amazon | B&N)
Money for Sorrow, Made Joy shows us a trading caravan of neuters planning to go exploring uncharted areas, but circumstances make it more difficult than expected.
As usual the descriptions are charming, but this one does not speak to me as much as most of the others.
(Available for free at Smashwords | B&N)
Unspeakable follows a male getting involved with a story teller who spreads taboo works. The short summaries of the stories cast interesting little spotlights on facets of the culture. (One of those taboos is loving someone not your own sex.)
This is one of my favourite stories by the author.
(available for free at Smashwords | B&N)
His Neuter Face is told by a female turned neuter. Not as physically capable as someone born neuter, and not salable like a female, it is thrown out by its clan, and must find a new place, and new confidence. Luckily there is a newcomer in town taking a liking to it.
While the previous stories about neuter characters focussed on their physical resilience, and often their role as hunters or workers, this story casts a greater focus of how the social lives of Jokka work. I really like the narrator's character development in this story. (At a bit over 12,000 words, this might pass as a novella rather than short story, depending on your definition.)
(Smashwords | Amazon | B&N)
The narator/viewpoint-character of Fire in the Void has made posing as an oracle to sell vague or common sense answers to people a lucrative business - but with his latest customer asking for help in matters of love, things turn more serious.
Usually I have trouble with present tense fiction, but M.C.A. Hogarth's attention to detail and all senses makes up for it. A slightly eerie story.
(Smashwords | Amazon | B&N)
I really recommend anyone who's interested in fiction about alien species to give at least the free ones a try. For me, the ones with a pricetag were worth it, too.
M.C.A. Hogarth is also working on a collected volume in print, to be titled Clays Beneath the Skies. She is looking for sponsors for the project, and the goodies on offer go up to the original illustrations she created for the collection.
The Sharing Knife is a series of four books by Lois McMaster Bujold, which from what I've seen is more "love it or hate it" than the rest of her work, so, just some info to help people decide if it sounds interesting.
Let's look at the blurb of the first volume, for an impression:
Troubled young Fawn Bluefield seeks a life beyond her family's farm. But en route to the city she encounters a patrol of Lakewalkers nomadic soldier-sorcerers from the northern woodlands. Feared necromancers armed with mysterious knives made of human bone they wage a secret ongoing war against the scourge of the "malices", immortal entities that draw the life out of their victims, enslaving human and animal alike. It is Dag—a Lakewalker patroller weighed down by past sorrows and onerous present responsibilities—who must come to Fawn's aid when she is taken captive by a malice. They prevail at a devastating cost—unexpectedly binding their fates as they embark upon a remarkable journey into danger and delight, prejudice and partnership . . . and perhaps even love.
This gives a decent impression of Lakewalkers seen from Farmer eyes. I don't think the "feared" and "mysterious" bits hold hold up from reader side, since Dag is also a viewpoint character.
This is not a story about monster-hunting. It's a romance that starts with Dag saving Fawn from a monster, but that's over in the first quarter or so of the book. The rest is them falling for each other Dag introducing Fawn to the joys of sex, and cultures clashing, a lot of the latter as Dag tries to win his future in-laws over. Good if you like romance, not good if you don't, and start the book expecting mostly adventure with a little romance added.
There is also some potential squick involved... Dag and Fawn fall hard for each other, but, well, Dag... we're talking about a man falling for a girl who's a third his age, and the first appreciative mental comment on the shape of her breasts from him comes when he interrupts some bandit attempting to rape her. In addition, as a Lakewalker he has "groundsense" that Fawn as a Farmer doesn't, which includes that he always has a pretty good idea what she feels, leaving her with rather less mental privacy than he has.
All things considered, Dag comes out this side of decent, and he cares deeply about Fawn, and she falls hard for him, too, but some things I try not to dwell on too much.
The focus of the series shifts in later volumes, particularly in the third and fourth books, which include Dag and Fawn dealing with a life neither of them was prepared for, and trying to tackle the big problem of that world by talking to people.
It's slow-paced and focuses on people and their interactions, with a big side of culture clash. Violent threats are usually a surprise rather than long prepared for; there is no "big bad" that our protagonists overcome with epic heroics. I love that. I've seen reviews complain that the "the world would be better if people just talked to each other more"-approach was naive, but I loved it. Changing the world one opinion at a time, by talking, is a nice change from hack and slash.
I got the first book of this series "warned" by negative reviews and halfway expecting to hate it. It involved more sex than I'm used to, but I enjoyed the humour and other parts of the book so much I was very glad I couldd get the ebook version of the rest of the series (particularly since it really is the first half of a story that got too long for one book), without having to wait for shipping. For me, definitely something for the list of things to re-read.
I've been meaning to try air layering - a method to propagate plants that seems to me less risky than cuttings - and now that circumstances suggested to me it would be a good time, I thought I'd document my attempt, so it might serve as a sort of how-to.
First, let me introduce you properly to one of my Japanese maples.
This is the one that went feral. It was a grafted one with leaves that had white edges, but that graft died either last summer, or the summer before that, presumably because I too often neglected to water it.