Thursday, September 26, 2019

Let's not do that again, ok?

Over the years, a simple little thing like a summer cold has morphed from being a nuisance to be ignored while I stagger around taking care of the babies, to a week of sniffling and discomfort, to -- now -- two solid weeks of being more or less totally knocked out.

No fun.

I can think of only two explanations: either (a) I'm getting older, or (b) aliens are polishing their germ warfare chops on us. Since (a) is too depressing to contemplate, I'm going with (b). It's aliens. Or possibly elves. Whichever -- I just hope they don't have any more bright ideas in the near future. This has been an extremely boring two weeks and I'd just as soon never do it again.

In lieu of anything more interesting, here are a couple of teasers from Dragon Scales, now out in paperback as well as ebook format:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

That Day

I'm not going to tell you where I was or what I was doing when I heard the news. Everybody old enough to remember that day has a story, and there's nothing particularly interesting about mine. It's not important.

What matters is that none of us forget that America was attacked that day, and none of us airbrush the attack into some kind of mistake. I will never forget the people jumping to their deaths, or the firefighters running up the stairs into theirs, or the passengers of Flight 93 who thwarted yet another attack on that day. Those are the things we should be remembering today.

I'm not going to tell you what I was doing on the day JFK was assassinated, either.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Modest Proposal

Recently I came across an opinion column in the New York Times whose author, whom I’ll refer to as F.M. because I don’t want to give F.M. extra attention, complained bitterly about the oppression of traditional English-language third-person gendered pronouns. Yes. Referring to someone as “he” or “she” isn’t just a feature of the way our language developed; it would never happen if, in F.M.’s words, “we were not all so irredeemably obsessed by the particulars of the parts dangling between our fellow humans’ legs, nor the ridiculous expectations signified by those parts about how we should act and speak and dress and feel.”


Does F.M. believe that Hungarians, who use “ö” for third person singular without specifying gender, are less obsessed by certain body parts than are Americans? Listen, I’ve known a lot of Hungarians, and most of them took a healthy interest in those body parts and what they could do with them.

What about speakers of Swahili, which typically uses “yeye” for third person singular? I promise you that a culture which encases women in black bags has some seriously ridiculous expectations for gender-appropriate behavior.

Then there’s Hindi (vah), Finnish (hän), Igbo (ya)… Need I continue?

If the grammar of English and related languages is so oppressive, maybe F.M. could learn Hungarian, Swahili, Hindi, Finnish, Igbo, or one of the many other languages that doesn't have the he/she distinction. Sure, there might be a smaller audience in each of these languages for silly opinion pieces, but surely that’s a tiny price to pay for freedom from these horrible gender expectations!

But nooo, F.M. wants us to change standard English usage and make “they” the standard third person singular pronoun. F.M. isn’t going to change a damn thing; rather, the rest of us must all change our language to conform to F.M.’s sensibilities!

Fortunately, English already has a non-gender-specific third person pronoun: “it”. And yes, “it” is used to refer to living beings when we don’t know or care about the gender.

“If your dog keeps barking, would you please take it inside?”

“Watch out for that baby, it’s about to throw itself out of the cradle!”

“Darling, there’s a possum sitting in the trash can and snarling at me; would you please persuade it to go somewhere else?”

I will be happy to refer to F.M. as “it” from now on, and I hope it is properly appreciative of my decision to respect its feelings.

(Image: Whoisjohngalt [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Dragon Scales - live!

The ebook just went live; it's not even on my author page yet, but you can find it here: Dragon Scales. And here's a snippet from the opening chapter to whet your interest:

“Mzzz Brown!” Rozzy Aguire, the ShareASpace manager, who’d been unfindable ever since I forked over the deposit, was suddenly a larger-than-life presence. She filled the hall between us and the door to Sienna Language Services. “I really must insist that you remove that person immediately, before I call the police!”

Oh, hell. Was I late for the first afternoon interview? No, not yet. Had the interviewee shown up early and done something to spook Rozzy? Some of UT’s foreign students did come from extremely strange cultures. Still, calling the cops seemed a bit of an overreaction to culture shock.

“What did he do? Or she,” I tacked on, because I suddenly couldn’t remember whether my next interviewee, Sayana Raj, from Sri Lanka, was male or female.

“It’s not what he did,” Rozzy said ominously, “it’s what he is.”

I blinked. “Isn’t that racist? What do you have against Sri Lankans?”

“Nothing,” she said, “as long as they keep their clothes on! What kind of position are you hiring for, Mzzzz Brown? And that girl with him is obviously the kind of slut you’d expect to find clinging to a naked man. We have a strict policy against allowing ShareASpace offices to be used for that kind of business, Mzzzz Brown, and it won’t take ten minutes to void your contract!”

I wished she wouldn’t keep preceding my name with that “Mzzzz.” The buzzing noise was beginning to vibrate unpleasantly in my head.

“Just a minute there,” Michael spoke up. “Ms. Brown is not liable for your failure to prevent maniacs from invading your offices. But she might very well have a case against ShareASpace for letting this nut case into the space she is renting from you. Does the company have no concern for the safety of its tenants?”

He loomed over Rozzy in an intimidating fashion that was all the more admirable when you considered that he was only the same height as me – three inches shorter than the solidly built, six-foot office manager.

She loomed back.

Words were exchanged.

Menacing growls were exchanged.

“Guys, could you just cool it for long enough to let me find out what happened? Both of you cool it,” I emphasized. Michael seemed to be reverting from his business manager persona to his previous life in Special Forces, and I didn’t think guns and grenades were going to solve this problem. Whatever it was.

I got my first clue after Rozzy grudgingly made room for me to pass down the hall to my own (rented) front door. I opened the door and saw two people: a pretty young girl who was familiar to me from a rather different context, and a very well-built man whose face did not ring any bells. It was, however, possible to fully appreciate how hot he was, because as Rozzy had hinted, he was stark naked.

His eyes gave me a clue: bright as gems, like glowing topazes, they were not quite human. I had seen those eyes before.

The language in which he greeted me was another clue. I’d heard that before, too. It was full of sounds like rocks breaking and tectonic plates grinding against one another. Both the people with me turned white.

In Rozzy’s case I assumed that was because she didn’t know what was making those noises.

In Michael’s case I feared it was because he did know.

I filed for future reference that the being I’d met last fall in Taklanistan could change to a human shape at will. Although why he’d done so, and why that human shape was infesting my new office eight thousand miles from his home, remained to be explained. “Chee khol doried, Adjdaak?” I asked. “How are you?”

I was speaking Taklan, naturally. There was no way I was going to take the risk of brain damage that speaking the dragon’s native language could inflict on a mere human.

Monday, September 2, 2019

No rest for the self-employed - updated

(Labor Day by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator)

Happy Labor Day to those of you who have actual jobs and are enjoying a three-day weekend! I suppose it's wrong of me to complain that being self-employed, I don't get a holiday; after all, I can take the day off any time I like. All the same, there are mornings when I really wouldn't mind having a cast-iron excuse to take off without guilt.

On the bright side, the chap I pay to format my manuscripts is in Australia and doesn't officially have today off. I can prod him today about the fact that the ebook and print versions of Dragon Scales were supposed to have been done on Friday.

He is, of course, in a very different time zone. Without drawing little pictures of a rotating Earth and the sun, I can't figure out whether the note I just sent on this Monday morning arrived at his computer on Sunday night or Monday night. Not that it makes a lot of difference; unless he's a workaholic, I won't get an answer until tonight. Oh, well. Back to the very intense scene in the new Regency fantasy, wherein the wrong person drinks the magic-laced glass of wine... or is he the wrong person? The Witchy Widow is a very twisty person, and I'm not giving the reader access to her thoughts.

Oh, all right, all right. I have no basis for whining about not getting a holiday; what could be more fun than writing?

UPDATE: He just sent the Kindle version. As close as can be to an immediate response! Clearly, another workaholic.
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