Conversations With Louise
Me: Louise, honey, I’m glad you love your mama, but please don’t sit/stand/lie on my throat.
Louise: Meow (translation: But I’m the Queen of Everything.)

Me: Honeycat, it’s lovely floof, but please don’t eat it. It looks much better outside you than inside.
Louise: Meow (translation: But I’m Her Royal Floofiness.)

Me: Louise, darling, you have cat food breath.
Louise: Meow (translation: Yeah, well, you have human food breath.)

Weird Greetings
I'll freely admit that my social skills are not the best. Small talk, introductions, and remembering people's names and faces have never come easy to me. I used to go to lunch with an unthreatening coworker just to practice innocuous conversation. (Well, and eat lunch, too.) I never told her that was what I was doing, but I suspected that she suspected.

So I can totally sympathize with others who have difficulties in these areas. But over the years I've learned that some people have social skills even less developed than mine.

One time outside a pharmacy, a woman came up to me and asked, "Do you have mental problems?" Honestly, I had do say, "Yes, I guess I do.," but all the while I was wondering, "Does it show? Is it written on my forehead? Do I give off tin-foil-hat vibrations?" (No, I was not wearing a tin foil hat.)
It turned out that she recognized me from the waiting room at my therapist's office. I didn't recognize her at all, thus proving my social skills still needed work. But I think I would have started with "You look familiar" or "Don't I know you from somewhere?" or "By any chance do you go to Dr. Lee? I think I've seen you in his waiting room" and gone on from there.

Another time I was at a function at my mother-in-law's church. It was my in-laws' anniversary, and I was nominally the hostess (and the caterer). I had to introduce myself to a number of people and explain what I was doing there. Most of this was fairly simple. "Hi, I'm Harriet and Ben's daughter-in-law. I'm married to their youngest son. Please help yourself to refreshments." I thought I had the routine down pat.

Then an older gentleman came up to me and I automatically put out my hand to shake. The first words out of his mouth were, "Are you the one there's something wrong with?" Again, my first thought was "Does it show?" Then I rapidly dismissed any number of possible replies: "Yes, [shaking hands vigorously] I'm the one with leprosy" or (if I could burst into tears spontaneously, which I can't) "Yes, but it's too painful to talk about." Or "Harriet wasn't supposed to tell anyone" or "You'll have to be more specific. There's lots wrong with me." Or "I married into this family, didn't I?" Or even "No. Are you?"

Fortunately, my brain caught up with the conversation and I was able to explain that no, it was the other son's wife who had a serious and largely untreatable condition.

I was proud of myself for figuring out what he meant and explaining the situation to him with a fair amount of tact. But to this day, I wish I had tried the leprosy line. Take that, social skills!

Sue Grafton's Latest
I finished reading Sue Grafton's W Is for Wasted last night. It's always good to see a new book in the series and I wait for each one slavering in anticipation.

That being said, I haven't enjoyed the last couple of volumes as much as the earlier ones. There are multiple point of view characters, when what I want is Kinsey's voice. V had three separate narratives alternating. Grafton is a good writer, so I knew they would all tie up in the end, but I was disappointed every time I reached a new chapter and it was someone else's story.

That being said, two narrative points of view are better than three. And I understand that multiple narrators enable a writer greater range in the possible plots. But if there's going to be one main narrator, I would rather follow along and discover things through her eyes.

The book presents different points of view of the homeless population of Santa Teresa. This was interesting, but I felt the eulogy at the end of the book was a bit much. It seemed too long, too preachy, and out of character for William. Through the rest of the book Grafton follows the writer's rule of "show, don't tell," then at the end there's this extended piece of telling, as if the reader hadn't gotten the point already.

Nonetheless, I will await X and slaver as usual.

Women and Science Fiction: Yet Again
The Internet is abuzz with another round of “Women can’t write REAL science fiction.” First there was an inexplicable burst of “Girls aren’t REALLY gamers/geeks.” Why would they fake it? To get close to some of those studly gamer/geek guys? So they can wear revealing leather costumes to distract the guys from the REALLY important gaming and have these hunky dice-rollers call them out for their bodily imperfections? Sounds like fun to me.

Then there was a spell of “Why do women writers/editors get upset when I say they look good in a bathing suit? It was a compliment, dammit!” Do we really still have to have the discussion about appreciating professional women for their work and not their boobs? Evidently so.

This time around, it’s “The only REAL science fiction is hard science and military themes. We don’t want to read girly stuff about relationships and details about uniform design and gossipy bitches.” They even dissed Lois McMaster-Bujold, who has numerous Hugos. These are voted on by the fans, so she must be doing something right, and attracting an audience who likes her writing. But no, she’s REALLY a romance novelist masquerading as sf and while she did some cool military space opera at first, now it’s all soap opera. When is someone going to shoot a BEM, dammit?

Plus there’s “Superheroes can’t get married because…heroism.” And “There can never be a Wonder Woman movie because…heroism.” (Besides, no one would go to it.) And “There can’t be gay relationships in comics (excuse me, graphic novels) because…heroism.”


As sf writer Steven Brust remarked, it's just another version of "Girls have cooties!"

New E-Books
Yesterday morning I was delighted to find that two of the ebooks I pre-ordered from Barnes & Noble as soon as I turned my Nook on and connected to wi-fi. Of course, I already have a backlog of ebooks that I have downloaded but have yet to read. I seem to have become addicted to various online games and game apps, which cuts into my reading time, but is handy for keeping hamsters at bay.

Still, anything I wanted enough to pre-order pops instantly to the top of by to-read list. The two that arrived today are Chimes at Midnight by Seanan Mcguire and The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde.

Chimes at Midnight is the latest in the urban fantasy series featuring October (“Toby”) Daye, as well as every mystical person or creature that was ever said to populate the British Isles, plus a few more besides. I’m not usually that fond of urban fantasy, though I have read some by Mercedes Lackey and Sarah Zettel. But I know Seanan slightly through my friend Leslie and I always try to support writers I know personally, or at least tangentially.

I have also read the first two books in Seanan’s Incryptid series, but don’t like them nearly as well. Sarah Zettel’s Vampire Chef novels were funny, but from what she’s posted, I’m not sure there will be any more.

Seanan, under her pen name Mira Grant, has another book coming out this fall called Parasite, and I have pre-ordered that as well (Oct. 29 release date). I hope it is as good as the NewsFlesh trilogy, which was wonderful. (Later I may talk about why.)

The new Jasper Fforde is the second in his YA series that began with The Last Dragonslayer. I love Jasper Fforde, especially his Thursday Next books. That being said, I have not loved his other books quite as much, and even the more recent Thursday Next novels seem a little tired. And the Nursery Crimes series I could take or leave.

Young adult (YA) fiction is another genre I have mostly avoided, especially if the POV character is a pre-adolescent or adolescent male. But evil Leslie got me started on a few – Harry Potter, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of her Own Design, and the Hunger Games trilogy (which read like grown-up fiction to me, but I suppose is YA because the main character is a teen). I’ve also dipped into Gregor the Overlander and devoured Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (which seems to be marketed as mainstream rather than YA fiction), despite the male narrator. (I also pre-ordered the next book in the Girl Who series. Oct. 1 release date.)

Getting back to Fforde, the most interesting Fforde book I’ve read lately is Shades of Grey (and boy, I bet he regrets that title, even if it is perfect for the book). I sincerely hope he gets back to it. It had subtlety, humor (of course), plot twists galore, and an ending that cries out for a sequel. At the start, the world Fforde built seemed confusing, but as I was drawn into the story, it began to make more and more sense. I want to know what happens next, and soon, dammit!

And that brings us to next week, when the (yes, pre-ordered) new Sue Grafton (W Is for Wasted) comes out. It will instantly skyrocket to the top of my must-read-immediately list. Only three more letters in the alphabet after this one! Whatever are we Kinsey Millhone fans to do?


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