Something More Than Night, by Ian Tregillis

Review copy provided by Tor.

Ian Tregillis has a positive gift for writing things I wouldn’t want to read if someone else wrote them. His previous trilogy: OMG TOO DARK SO GRIM DO NOT WANT. Except…that they were kind of awesomely done. And the twist at the end of the second book: SERIOUSLY DO NOT WANT. Except that he totally pulled it off.

So: ’40s slang noir version of murder mystery in Heaven? With all sorts of ranks of angels? Do not want.

Except Ian Tregillis. So I did not fling the book away with a cry of disgust. Instead I picked it up and read it, and I’m glad I did. Honestly, the ’40s noir slang grated on me kind of a lot, and if I hadn’t had previous experience of the author, I might well have stopped. But it turns out everything happens for a reason, or at least linguistic choices in an Ian Tregillis novel do. And for as much as Bayliss annoys me, Molly does not, so I could always know that there would be more Molly coming, if I hung in there.

And I do like the recognition that angels have not always been conceived of as humanoids with floofy wings and shiny halos. I do like the fiery faces and all the wings and the Thrones, oh, the Thrones. There is good stuff here. Even if I spent most of the book wanting to kick one of the two POV characters. That’s just the kind of dame I am.

Tim has awesome things in exchange for moneys.

This is such a great sale. Five prints for $125 is–you can all do the math–$25 a print. So it’s a quite reasonable price for random people you give gifts to, and the prints are awesome. It’s only good through December 10, so get them while they’re hot.

You can get starry skies for astronomy nerds. You can get War for the Oaks Reader prints for fantasy nerds. You can get pretty landscapes for nerds and non-nerds alike. And baby tapirs are for everyone! Go, view, ooh, aah.

Do not get them confused and ignite the tapirs

1. Tim has a photo in the 2014 World Tapir Day calendar, which is a fundraiser for tapir habitats as well as being a cool, different calendar.

2. I have two stories in the second Daily SF anthology, Rocket Dragons Ignite, which is chock full of other story goodness also. One of them is just me and one of them is me and Alec, if I understand the date ranges correctly. So go team. Hurrah anthologies.

Dangerous Women, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Review copy provided by Tor.

There’s more than one way to put together an anthology. This one seems to be run on the “something for everyone” principle, with big names from various genres and sub-genres all contributing their own sorts of story. (Notably absent: writers whose primary focus is short stories. This happens in a lot of short story anthologies. I raise an eyebrow every time. Only a few stories in this volume were of the format “outtakes from novel series characters we presume you like,” though, which is one of my large complaints about novelist-only short story anthologies.) This makes it hard to imagine that there is any reader who couldn’t find at least one or two stories to like; on the other hand, it’s also hard for me to imagine such an amiable reader that all the stories would please them. But with over 700 pages of original fiction, I don’t think anybody could feel cheated if they didn’t like everything in this volume.

Nor, in fact, did my own preferences follow the lines of “authors I have liked before,” or at least not strictly so. I tried reading Joe Abercrombie when my grandfather was in the hospital dying. Ahahaha not recommended. But his story in this anthology, while filled with as many happy bunnies and teddy bear picnics as one might imagine in the rest of his body of work, was engaging and charming, a portrait of an outlaw getting herself into and out of trouble.

I also enjoyed several of the stories outside the speculative genres. Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken” with its portrait of near-lethal strain on a relationship after a kidnapping kept me guessing about what it would reveal about its protagonists to the very end. Carrie Vaughn’s “Raisa Stepanova” was solid historical fiction from an era we don’t see much of in the US (WWII Russia–I can’t speak to whether there’s a huge body of work that’s not getting translated on this topic, but if so, somebody speak to the translators, there was a lot of interesting stuff then). Pat Cadigan’s “Caretakers” also addressed topics not seen enough in fiction, with middle-aged sibling relationships intersecting with eldercare and thriller plots/themes, and Sharon Kay Penman drew me in for a slice of her usual period in a somewhat different location for “A Queen in Exile.”

So…it’s looking like the stand-out stories skewed more female and less speculative than the anthology as a whole, for me. Interesting, given the topic.

Cool things by people I know: late November

1. Elise has a bunch of new shinies! I am particularly fond of “Young Midgard Creationism” and “Hidden Folk in Plain Sight.” Those are the ones I look at and think, oh yes, I know this story.

2. Tim has an Etsy store for baby tapir photos. Things are somewhat cheaper if you order from his website, but sometimes people find Etsy convenient, and the tapir cards are grouped in sets (which I expect you could get through the website, too, but I’m not sure where yet), so: voila! Now you know, and knowing is some fraction of the battle. Possibly a large fraction. Who knows. Wait. That’s circling back on itself. Maybe I should get some rest….

The cookie day report

(Since Tili asked so nicely!)

We did thirteen kinds of treat yesterday: chocolate comfort cookies, pepparkakor, strawberry shortbread, lime shortbread, blueberry shortbread, pretzel hugs, sea salt caramels, peanut butter/chocolate fudge, chocolate hazelnut fudge, chocolate-dipped apricots, hazelnut toffee, [redacted as it is a surprise for someone who reads this], and cashew clusters. It is the year of hazelnut; one of the things I didn’t manage to do yesterday was make the chocolate sandwich cookies which will be filled with hazelnut cream, and one of the things my mom did not manage to do yesterday was to make chocolate-dipped hazelnut fingers to go with her usual chocolate-dipped almond fingers. Also there will be hazelnuts in the apple bread when I get around to making that. Also “[redacted…]” actually contains hazelnuts.

Filllllberrrrrrt.

And why, you might ask, did we not get around to making these lovely things yesterday? Well. (Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know this.) Did you ever hear the expression that it’s not what you don’t know that hurts you, it’s what you know that ain’t so? Um. So I was very sure that I knew how to make the fruit shortbreads from years past. Ten tablespoons of jam, I was sure, ten. I remembered measuring in ten tablespoons of jam. So for the intended single batch of lime shortbreads, I measured in ten. For the intended double batch of blueberry shortbreads, I measured in twenty. The blueberry was really moist and sticky when we pulled it out of the fridge to roll first, so we put it back in the fridge and did the chocolate comfort cookies then instead. And for some reason I glanced at the recipe card when I was stirring up the triple batch of strawberry, and…oh. Five tablespoons. Um. I remembered ten so clearly because a single batch is really hardly enough to be worth it. So…five tablespoons. Um. Okay then.

So we used up literally the rest of the butter in the house making up enough of the rest of the recipe to mix in with the over-jammed recipes. And then my mother rolled and cut out fruit shortbreads. And rolled. And cut out. And rolled. And cut out. Oh mercy, so many shortbreads. Grandma and I made a great many of the stove-top candy items while Mom kept on at the mountain of shortbread dough.

It’s not like they will go to waste. I have several parties in mind who would appreciate shortbreads, and at least one of them lives in this very house. We keep the cookies out on the shelf in the garage, right outside the door for easy access, so they are frozen and will keep. (I have no idea how people in warm climates do Cookie Day. With only a fridge and freezer to chill things! Who could work in such conditions!) Also Timprov went and got us more butter, so we could get on with the toffee and like that.

One of the big successes this cookie day was that the oven was almost never empty. There has been a tendency in years past to have to scramble for what goes in the oven next while we’ve been doing other things, and I think having some of the doughs already mixed up when Mom and Grandma arrived really helped with that.

Am I done with the holiday baking? Hahaha no. Did not expect to be. I still have to do the aforementioned sandwich cookies, and I have promised Mark cashew toffee as well as hazelnut (and possibly almond as well, if we have the time and are running short of toffee), and there are the breads (Cookie Day is not for bread, and there are four breads to be done), and then there are possibly some additional experiments. But the point of Cookie Day is not to get all the everythings done, it’s to spend time together and get a lot of the everythings done, together. And it was a great success at that.

Even if my poor mother is not likely to want to look at jammy shortbread dough for, oh, let’s call it a year.

Marylyn

I was worried, because I hadn’t heard from her at Christmas in the last few years, not even just a signed card. I made out my Christmas card list today, and when I wrote, “Marylyn,” I stopped and looked at it and hoped, and hoped, and wondered.

And tonight I find that my Marylyn died on Tuesday night.

She was my seventh grade English teacher, one of the two absolutely formative English teachers I had as a writer. (Ron Gabriel is gone from us also.) After that she was my friend, genuinely and honestly my friend, and we would get together and have coffee and pie at the Garden Cafe. She was one of the first adults who was my friend when I was a kid, not because of my parents but because of me, one of the first adults who taught me how good that can be, being friends across decades. The kids I have in my life, if I am good for them at all, owe a portion of that goodness to Marylyn Bremmer.

I feel like I should be able to put words on the flood of memories I have, on her merry laugh and her grave tones of serious advice, on the time she terrified a room full of smartass seventh graders into maybe taking a little better care with each other from then out. On the imitation she did of a Texan doing Mark Antony’s funeral oration. On the way she looked at the description I’d written of my friend Becca and said, “She sounds so very much like my Charlotte,” and we could talk about girl friends and lasting friends and what all that meant. I’ll pull myself together and write something coherent in the condolence letter to her family. But mostly I just keep hearing her chuckling in my head, saying, “Now remember, dear, when you publish your first novel, make sure the dedication page has it m-a-r-Y-l-y-n.”

Do not approve. Am not resigned.

It’s a big, round number.

I just made my hundredth short story sale. Strange Horizons is buying “The Suitcase Aria.” The editors had asked for entirely reasonable edits last week–the sort of thing I would have done to begin with if I’d thought of them, fitting entirely well with my concept of the story–so I did those edits, and the way they were talking sounded like they had faith in my ability to execute these edits and were already telling me when they wanted to schedule the story. But I am a little paranoid about rewrite requests not counting as actual sales until they are actual sales, so…I said nothing definite to anyone. But then there was a lovely e-mail, so hurrah, sale, #100 sale, hurrah.

A big, round number. Really. Even I cannot argue that it is not.

So I know that I have said that I would have a party for #100, but now that we are there, the thought of putting together an actual party makes me feel fairly certain that I would end up sitting on the floor weeping in exhaustion, or else staring blankly at my friends thinking, “Why are you here? Why don’t you go home?” Which is not a good kind of party to have. On the other hand, a hundred stories! That is several! It wants observing! So here is what we will do.

On Thursday (this Thursday! November 21!) at 7:30 p.m., I will go to Cow Bella and eat gelato. And if you want to come to Cow Bella and eat gelato with me, hurrah! Please do! Cow Bella, as their website will tell you, is at 1700 Grand Ave. in St. Paul–it’s basically right on top of the Macalester campus. There is sorbetto for those who cannot have dairy. I believe there are also hot beverages such as coffee for people who for some reason do not want dessert, cold things, etc. This is a public place, so I could not possibly stop anyone who wanted to be there anyway, but if you’re wondering if I mean you: do you wish me well? Are you interested in being congenial to me and my household and random other persons in attendance? Then come! You are welcome to join us.

My theory is that even if zero of you are able to make it, hey, gelato; gelato is nothing to sneeze at, as far as celebrations go. And then if there are random friends with me, good deal! Hurrah! Gelato and friends!

I don’t know. I’ve always been aware that I write kind of a lot, but one hundred published short stories is a milestone I would not necessarily have predicted I’d hit at all, much less by now, if you’d asked me when I started. But now that we’re here, it feels entirely natural. Because this is what I do.

I like what I do.

The making of stuff.

Cookie Day is at my house on Friday, and I am…oh, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Ah yes: mad with power.

It’s an entire day devoted to baked goods. An entire day. And I get minions assistance from Mom and Grandma. And so it feels, today, before I am actually neck-deep in butter and sugar, like the sky’s the limit. I am marshaling my recipes, inventorying the pantry, making one last shopping list, although nobody is fooled, if we run out of things, we will just go get more. Because Cookie Day is implacable. Cookie Day cannot be stopped by a mere insufficiency of jam. What kind of filling will the chocolate sandwich cookies have this year? What shapes will we make the fruit shortbreads? Anything might happen, people. And we’ve got to be ready for it. Dough chilled. Cutters poised. This is it, this is what we practice for with random brownies and loaves of banana bread all year. This is the big time.

Okay, so yes, I’m ridiculous. And yes, I try stunt-baking other times of the year. But other times of the year, I do it alone. I don’t have two even more experienced bakers saying things like, “We can try that if you want, honey,” or just making the Grandma eyebrow of skeptical amusement.

The secret I keep telling people, the secret they keep forgetting, is that I don’t actually like eating cookies all that much. Most baked goods receive from me a hearty and heartfelt meh. But making cookies! Making candy, making bread! I love making things. Making things is the best.