annathepiper: (Book Geek)

A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why on earth have I not read this series before now? Because anyone who’s checked out my Goodreads shelves or followed my blog knows that I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series–and when I dived into Book 1 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, I found a lot of similarity with the Amelias. Basically, A Natural History of Dragons felt to me like what you’d get if you took the Amelias, made them a secondary world fantasy instead of a mystery/adventure series set in our world, and had the heroine passionate about scientific study of dragons instead of Egyptology.

I was already drawn to reading this book for the “heroine wants to do SCIENCE!” angle alone, but once I actually started reading it, the overall Amelia-like flavor appealed to me greatly.

But of course since this is its own series, there will be differences as well. Our heroine, Isabella, starts her story as a young girl instead of the well-established lady of means that Amelia Peabody is at the start of her adventures. Isabella’s attempts to gain her father’s approval in her interest in sparklings leads into her need to find a husband who will do the same, and soon enough she meets and weds Jacob Camherst. All of this will probably feel very familiar to anyone who’s read historical romances with heroines interested in science; the society Isabella grows up in is very akin to what you’ll see in countless Regencies, where a woman must conceal her bluestocking inclinations if she wants to land a husband. Or, as Isabella puts it, her tendency to be an ink-nose.

Fortunately, that part of the story is fairly short. Matters really take wing once Isabella convinces her husband to not only join an expedition to study Vystrani rock-wyrms, but to take her with him as well. And this is where my love of the Amelias really came into play, because here’s a couple interested in science, and going off to have adventures as they do so. Huge fun.

Moreover, with my author hat on, I was rather impressed by the worldbuilding in general. The story is presented as an elderly and now world-famous Isabella telling her memoirs, and so the narrative throws around multiple names of nations, laying down a worldwide scope and the clear expectation that Isabella expects her readers to understand what all these nations are. With those tidbits come all sorts of tasty little details to start sketching in what the reader “should” already know, and which whetted my appetite to visit these other places even as we follow Isabella, Jacob, and the rest of their party off on the adventure in this book. I particularly liked the intriguing hints we receive about the Draconeans, and the ancient history–or is it mythology? Or both?–involved with them.

With my reader hat on, I appreciated not only the Amelia-like flavor of the story, but also the juxtaposition of fantastic creatures and scientific inquiry, in a world on the brink of coming into its modern age. I likewise appreciated that the Isabella telling us her story is cognizant of her younger self’s shortcomings, which encourages me to want to see how the younger Isabella grows and matures.

What else? I liked the explorations of culture clashes between Isabella’s party and the people of the village where they have the bulk of the action, particularly when Isabella deals with Dagmira, the young woman who winds up acting as her maid. And artistically, I very much appreciated the illustrations scattered through the story as well. This made reading the book in digital form a bit tricky, as the paragraphs sometimes wrapped strangely around an illustration. But the pictures were captivating enough that I promptly went out and bought a print copy of both this book and book 2.

Because yeah, I’ll want print copies of these as well as digital. And I’ll be having a lot of fun plowing through the rest of this series. For this opening installment, four stars.

View all my reviews

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey Orly?)

It’s almost time for Dara and me to go up to VCON in Canada, and as I do like to do every time I go to a convention, I’m putting Faerie Blood and Bone Walker back on sale for 99 cents each!

This price point is now in effect, or shortly will be as soon as various sites finish processing, on all places where the ebooks are sold. As always here is the list of official places to buy these ebooks:

Faerie Blood: Amazon | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords | Google Play | Square

Bone Walker: Bone Walker | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords | Google Play | Square

On Smashwords, both books are set Reader Sets Price for the time being, including Free. Recommended price is 0.99 for the sale, but I will certainly not object if you want to go over that!

On my Square store, you may use the promo code VCON in order to knock two bucks off the price of the ebooks. (Or for that matter, anything else you’d like to order off the store.)

These prices, and the promo code on Square, will be in effect until 10/6. Please spread the word if you are so inclined, and thank you for your support!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Katara Healing)

It’s somewhat tiresome that I’ve had enough surgeries in my life now that I can go “oh goody I get to have another surgery!”

But yeah. I do. Joy! At least this time, though, it’s not cancer. It’s a deviated septum.

What brought all this on is that for some years now, I’ve had chronic congestion issues, sinus infections, post-nasal drip, and etc., all of which I’d thought for ages were just due to allergies. But last year I was tested for allergies, and came up negative on all the things on the standard battery of allergy tests. The doctor at the time put me on Montelukast, a.k.a. Singulair, which did help my symptoms some but didn’t get rid of them. I’ve also had this ongoing annoying issue with what seems to be pulsatile tinnitus in my right ear, which appears to be aggravated when my congestion problems are pronounced.

And I’ve had general issues just breathing through my nose. I have been paying attention this year, and have observed that I have to consciously think to breathe through my nose at any given time, particularly if I’m out on my daily commute. Even walking along level ground like the stretch of Elliott that takes me to Big Fish. But it’s more pronounced if I’m going up an incline, like the hill to our house.

I noticed this as well when I was at the dentist the other day having crown work. In my experience they generally tell you to breathe through your nose while they’re working on your mouth–only in my case, I actively have problems doing that. And I have noticed breathing issues when trying to play my flutes and whistles, which is particularly annoying and I have wondered if this has been contributing to my general inability to get through “Morrison’s Jig” without having to breathe in weird places. (And “Morrison’s” is NOT a tune you want to fuck up the flow for, that’s for sure.)

With all this going on, my primary care doc has had me on a nasal spray (Azelastin, a.k.a. Astelin). I’ve been doing a lot of saline rinses as well. And I’m on a stupid number of antihistamines, usually taking both Allegra and loratadine in the morning, and Benadryl at night. I’ve had to use Breathe Right strips to try to keep my nasal passages open well enough that I can actually sleep, and minimize the amount of snoring that’s been bothering Dara.

So a few weeks ago I had another incident of what seemed like a sinus infection. But when I went in to have that looked at, the doctor told me he didn’t see any signs of infection, though he did see inflammation in my nose and ear. Between that and also noting one of my favorite authors earlier this summer posting about having nasal surgery, I told the doctor who saw me that I had been thinking of having a conversation with my primary care physician about moving forward with longer-term solutions. That doctor went ahead and scheduled me for a scan of my sinuses.

I went in for that, and the results came back “deviated septum”.

Today, I went and saw the specialist, who showed me the actual pics from the scan. The good news is, the sinuses looked normal, with no signs of infection. The not so good news is that boy howdy is my septum crooked. 50 percent deviation, the specialist told me. And, looking at the scans, I could really tell how the left passage was significantly collapsed.

We talked about my turbinates as well, and discussed that those are the bits of my nose that are pulled wider apart when I’m using the Breathe Right strips. Her recommendation was that we take a millimeter or so off of both of those. But that gets more into exterior-type work, vs. fixing the septum. She specializes more in septum/interior work, so she’s sending me over to talk to a second surgeon who would be the guy who does the turbinates and making sure the nose is okay externally as well. Once I have that consultation, then we’ll nail down when the actual procedure happens.

Meanwhile I’m also going to have an MRI to see what’s going on with my ear, since the specialist said that in her estimation that’s probably a different issue, maybe a blood vessel that’s pressed up against my eardrum or something of that nature. A scan will get us more data to work with.

So all this is fun in that “oh goody more surgery YAY?” kind of way, but at least on the scale of Reasons I Have Had to Have Surgery in my life, this isn’t nearly as annoying as stage 0 cancer. Even if I am a little paranoid about my history of having portions of my anatomy scanned only to have it lead to “OH HEY LOOK WE FOUND A THING THIS NEEDS TO COME OUT NOW”.

Dara, naturally, had to start quoting “Sad Muppet” at me (“VOLDEMORT! HAS NO NOSE!”). And I’ve got Rimmer from Red Dwarf in the back of my head going “Of course, she had an artificial nose. Tastefully done. Quality metal. No rivets!” (The season closer of Series 2 of Red Dwarf, “Parallel Universe”, if you’re trying to remember the episode!)

‘Cause joy oh glee, I get to have a nose job. I’m pretty sure there won’t be any rivets involved.

More details as I have ’em!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey Orly?)

As y’all know, I’m an Apple user of many years at this point. I’m on my second Macbook computer since 2007, and my third iPhone since 2009. And since fairly tech-savvy, I tend to jump on OS upgrades as they happen. This week, with the release of iOS 10, was no exception.

And, as I’ve posted both here and on my social media accounts, by and large I’m happy with it. With the one big glaring exception that the redesigned Music app is an unholy mess and I would now like to shoot it into the sun. Go see that post for details on that, as well as a few initial observations on a couple of alternative apps I am exploring.

This post is about everything else, assorted observations I made through the process of installing the update on my phone and my iPad, and while using it today on the phone on my commute.

Dara’s best reaction to my live updates:

https://twitter.com/annathepiper/status/775894787694002176

I do indeed figure that any OS update that does not result in my device exploding is probably a win.

During Setup

iOS apparently has two-factor authentication now for logging into your iCloud account. This is a good thing. I approve.

I also noticed that it offered to add the credit card I already had on file with Apple for buying music and such to Apple Pay. I have no fucks to give about Apple Pay but went ahead and let it do this anyway. I may want to test this at some point.

No More Sliding to Unlock

I may be one of the few iOS users on the planet that doesn’t really care about the widgets on the lockscreen. I’m a little sad that “slide to unlock” has become extinct now, because iOS 10 wants you to swipe left to get to widgets, and swipe right to get to the camera. Both of which seem fine to me from a usability standpoint, but I’m tellin’ ya, it’s going to take me a while to get over the muscle memory of needing to swipe left to unlock the phone.

I have an iPhone 6, not a 6s or later, so I don’t get to have the shiny new Raise to Wake functionality. But it is pretty nifty to be able to unlock the phone via Touch ID. Which, come to think of it, I was able to do in iOS 9, I think. I just never ever actually realized that before.

Still, though, this is what it looks like if I swipe left now from my lockscreen.

Widgets! Yay?

Widgets! Yay?

Overall Design

A bunch of font changes all over the place, but aside from the ones in the Music app, so far I’m not seeing anything to annoy me. All of my various apps still look pretty much the same, and none of them appear to have broken. So at least from a design perspective, iOS 10 doesn’t look particularly different from iOS 9 except in the Music app. Nothing here for me to hate, but nothing to get excited over either.

And I’m a little surprised to have found only one new system wallpaper I didn’t recognize. Apparently wallpapers are not something about which iOS 10 concerns itself. I’m a little sad about that, too, because sometimes I do use the system wallpapers. They tend to be a bit better at not making it too hard to read the labels on my apps.

Performance

There does appear to have been a noticeable boost in performance on my devices. Uploading a photo to Facebook and Twitter over the house wifi was smokin’ fast, and even pretty speedy over phone connectivity as well.

Bluetooth

My Jabra Move headphones seem like they’re connecting faster to the phone now, and during the course of today as I played music and podcasts, they held up pretty well. But they started flaking out on me partway through the afternoon, and I’m not sure yet whether that’s the fault of the new OS, or the fault of the headphones maybe running low on battery. I didn’t hear them fire off a low battery warning, so I’ll have to keep an eye on that over the next few days and see if the problem recurs.

Mail

There’s a new filter icon in the Mail app, down in the lower left hand corner, that lets you zoom in on just the unread messages in the mailbox you’re looking at. I don’t know if I’ll find this useful yet, but it seems like something that might be useful to me at some point.

App Deletion

I’m a little vexed that the touted ability to delete the stock apps you don’t find useful is deletion in name only–you can just blow away the icons off the home screen, vs. actually deleting them off the device and therefore freeing up space. But still, I’ll take it. Fewer icons to have to keep track of is nice.

All in All

This doesn’t feel like a particularly revolutionary upgrade to me, and the only thing that’s blatantly different amongst the stuff I actually use and care about, i.e., the Music app, is a significant step downward.

I do not care at all about the new emojis, or the added functionality in the messages app. I certainly don’t care about app functionality within messages. And as I mentioned up at the top of this post, I don’t particularly care about the widgets on the lockscreen either. Since I have a 6, I don’t have the 3D Touch capability that’s supposed to be what makes these widgets so awesome. Y’all will have to look to reviews written by people with newer devices than mine, I think, to get more deets on that. (Try Ars Technica’s comprehensive review, maybe?)

On the other hand, my phone’s general performance does feel faster. I’m seriously disgruntled about the Music app being a dumpster fire now, enough that I’m looking for alternative music apps. But that’s not enough to make me sad that I did the update in general. As Ars Technica says in the headline of their review, if you’ve got a reasonably new device, there’s no particular reason not to update.

(If you’ve got an older device, note also that Ars Technica has an entirely separate post about iOS 10 on the iPhone 5 and 5c, so that might be worth a read to you.)

So if you’re a technophile like me and willing to dive in headfirst to a new OS upgrade, go for it; just be aware of the issues with the Music app. If you’re more conservative though and prefer that a new OS release go through a few cycles of bugfixes, there’s nothing hugely groundbreaking here that I see to argue you out of that.

Final rough grade in general: B+
Final rough grade for the Music app in particular: D-

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Wrath of Gaz)

I installed iOS 10 on my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 last night, and I threw off a lot of tweets and posts to Facebook to document various reactions and observations as I went. By and large I’m pretty happy with the upgrade, and I’ll be doing a separate general post about that.

This post, however, is about the unholy mess that the default Music app on iOS has become.

I’ve been cranky about it for some time. I didn’t like that they threw podcasts out into a separate app, but I put up with it. I liked even less that they threw audiobooks out into iBooks, which killed my ability to organize audiobooks in playlists. Why this is relevant: because I buy a bunch of Doctor Who audios from Big Finish, and i like to organize them by season and listen to them in order of release. Dara and I listen to these a lot on road trips. Lack of ability to properly use those playlists on the iPhone is very annoying. I have to keep a separate note active in the Notes app to track the order of the audios in question, on the phone.

But I was even grudgingly willing to put up with that.

As of iOS 9, though, the Music app’s design got deeply annoying. Some of this is because of Apple’s being bound and determined to hook people into the Apple Music service, about which I have zero fucks to give. But at least I can mostly turn the service-specific features off.

What’s more annoying to me, though, is how the app is making it more difficult to just play my music that’s right there on the phone. In iOS 9, they had a toggle button that you had to turn on if you wanted to just see the music on the device.

In iOS 10, however, they’ve now made a Downloaded Music section of your Library tab, entirely separate from the Playlists, Albums, Artists, and Songs items. The Downloaded Music section itself also has Playlists, Albums, Artists, and Songs. Which means that I have to completely ignore the top-level versions of those, because they are entirely useless to me, and instead have to tap down into Downloaded Music to get to the lists that are actually reflective of what’s on my device.

This is what that looks like on the phone by default. I had to actually turn on the Downloaded Music section, which does NOT appear by default, and scoot that up to the top so that I could actually get to it.

My Library tab in iOS 10 Music

My Library tab in iOS 10 Music

This is a UI decision that makes no goddamn sense to me. I was confused as to why the iOS 9 toggle button wasn’t over in Settings where it belongs, and I’m still confused about that. Since Apple seems bound and determined to make you try to use iTunes Match and Apple Music to play stuff, why they aren’t solving this problem by just putting the “Show Downloaded Music” toggle over in Settings, and keeping from cluttering up the Music app’s UI with redundant sections, is beyond me.

I am also highly disgruntled that they’ve made it a lot more difficult to see how many songs are on any given playlist. I use that data. It’s gone now from the top of a playlist, where it was in iOS 9. Which means that now there’s a bunch of whitespace they’re not using, underneath the playlist title. It looks like this.

Not Recently Played playlist

Not Recently Played playlist

My Not Recently Played playlist is the one I use most often, and it’s often got a lot of songs in it. I like to keep track of how many there are, and now, I have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of it if I want to see the song count. My best guess here is that they kicked up the font size on that data and decided it wouldn’t fit in the whitespace in question. But I don’t even know.

All in all, I’m grumpy enough about the state of the Music app that I’ve decided to start researching what alternative music apps are available. This MacWorld article from 2015 has a few recommendations, and Ecoute and Cesium both look promising. I’ll be checking them out.

Meanwhile, though, if any of you have recommendations for alternative music-playing apps on iOS, I really want to hear from you. I don’t need much in the way of bells and whistles. I just want an app that’ll be able to see my music collection as synced down from iTunes on my computer, and let me get at my playlists properly, including the Smart Playlists like Not Recently Played. I don’t want to stream any music; I don’t care about Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, or anything else where the point is to stream music online. I just want to play the music I have.

Bonus if the app ALSO lets me play audiobooks in playlists.

Shoot me your recs if you got ’em! And stand by for the full iOS 10 review post.

Editing to add: I found another thing this afternoon that I strenuously dislike about the new Music app. To wit, they’ve removed the ability to see lyrics that you’ve manually attached to a song file. This is hugely irritating to me because a lot of what I listen to being Quebecois trad, I need the lyrics so I can learn them and practice my French.

Also, I have been poking at both Cesium and Ecoute today, the two most promising alternative music apps that I could find browsing around for suggestions.

I want to like Ecoute, in no small part because its name is in fact French. I like its simple, elegant UI. It even seems to let me actually get to the playlists for Big Finish audios like I want to.

But I don’t like that it doesn’t seem to actually honor the toggle setting for only showing me music local to the phone. That being broken means my Not Recently Played playlist is completely freggin’ useless in that app, too. And while it seems like it’ll see my podcasts as well, it’s having trouble organizing them; I see the same podcast splitting out into multiple icons.

Cesium, meanwhile, has a UI that looks like a nice retro throwback to what the iOS default Music app USED to look like. But it doesn’t seem to pick up on my audiobook playlists like Ecoute does. And my Not Recently Played playlist is less useful here, too. I can at least show music local to the phone properly, but Not Recently Played is a smart playlist. My intent with it is to have songs roll off of it when I play them, making the playlist automatically shorter. Cesium doesn’t seem to pick up on this, which makes it less useful in that regard.

And both apps have delivered the vexing surprise that apparently, third party apps can’t get at playlist folders if you’ve made those for organizational purposes, because apparently Apple doesn’t make those visible in the API. BOO.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

Since I was just over on the WordPress.com testing its crossposting functionality via Publicize, I thought that was pretty nifty and have learned that that’s available to self-hosted sites like this one, via the Jetpack plugin.

So this is me testing that! This should be going out to my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr accounts.

(I’m a little irritated that Jetpack apparently does not let you set up to crosspost to Facebook for both your personal timeline AND a page that you manage, which, y’know, is kinda what I need to do. So even if I decide to keep Jetpack around, I will still need Social. Not to mention the older functionality I’m using to throw posts over to Livejournal and Dreamwidth.)

Y’all please let me know if you notice anything weird about site functionality while Jetpack is active. When I turned it on, I suddenly got a huge wave of backlogged comment emails that Social should have sent me and didn’t. So there may be other unexpected side effects. Apologies in advance if anything breaks!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

As I announced yesterday, I have now have a minimal backup version of my author site up on angelahighland.wordpress.com. I’m disgruntled that I have had to do this, and only somewhat reassured by having seen our city council put up this statement pertaining to our ongoing chronic outage problem.

But this does at least mean that now I’ve had a bit of direct experience setting up a site on WordPress.com. Which is useful experience to have, since it tells me things I can share with fellow authors who need to set up a site for their books.

Setting up the site is really easy

All you really need is an account on WordPress.com, to start with. Once you have one of those, when you’re logged in, there’s a “My Site” button up in the upper left part of their site. Clicking on that leads you to the setup wizard you can step through to get a site going. They ask you some basic questions about what your site will be about, so that they can give you a bit of guidance as to what default themes they will suggest for you.

This process includes choosing a theme, and choosing what level of site plan you want. Your options for the latter do include ‘free’, with varying tiers above that that cost different amounts of money depending on what level of service you want from them.

Assuming you quickly choose one of the offered default themes and you choose the ‘free’ plan, setting up your site is only a matter of a couple of minutes. This is even easier than setting up your own site with the code from WordPress.org.

Your site will however be limited in available functionality

If you’ve got any experience setting up your own self-hosted WordPress site at all, you will probably find the limitations on a WordPress.com site annoying. Specifically, you will not be able to install your own plugins. I get why this is the case–they are a commercial site, and accordingly, they need to lock down what they’ll let users install and what they won’t, for security purposes. But if you’re accustomed to the fine-grained level of control hosting your own site will provide you, this will likely be a step down for you.

You do get a small range of plugins available to you, though. You can find those on the My Site sidebar, under Plugins. What’s of immediate interest to me is that they do have a “Publicize” plugin that lets you crosspost out to various social media sites. And there’s a Stats plugin that can show you some basic site stats, along with an extended Google Analytics plugin that you can purchase if you want more data than what the basic plugin will provide you.

A similar level of lockdown is in place on selecting themes. But unless you’re a techie like me, with enough HTML and CSS experience that you can fine-tune a theme to get it the way you want it, this probably won’t be an issue. There do appear to be a wide variety of themes available, both free ones and ones you can purchase. What I don’t see upon initial investigation is whether you can install your own theme–which is why I haven’t ported over the one I’m using here on angelahighland.com. I suspect they won’t let you do that unless you pony up for one of the paid tiers of service.

The My Site sidebar is actually kind of annoying

Again, this is a matter of my being a techie and also used to what I have available via the standard wp-admin sidebar in my self-hosted WordPress site. The My Site sidebar WordPress.com provides you is simplified from that–which I think would probably be a plus for less technically inclined users.

For me, though, it’s an annoying step down. And matters are not improved by how that sidebar seems to perform very badly in Safari, my browser of choice when I’m working on my Macbook at home. I can still get to the standard wp-admin sidebar, but it’s extra clicks to get to, and I don’t get to it by default if I try to edit any of the pages on the site. I have yet to find any way to make this my default sidebar via the UI that WordPress.com provides.

All in all

Despite my being vexed by the difference in available functionality between the WordPress.com UI and what I’m used to with my own self-hosted site, I did appreciate the quickness with which I was able to fire up a site there. And I do know that a lot of authors have their presences there and have found it very useful. John Scalzi, for example, has repeatedly posted on his blog at Whatever that he’s very satisfied with the service they provide him; he’s paying for the upper tier of service and he’s finding it very worth his money.

Anybody got any questions about how the WordPress.com site works, that would help you decide if you want to make a site there yourself? Got any experience of your own with WordPress.com sites that you’d like to share? Drop a comment and let me know!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: What Was That (What Was That)

So after yet ANOTHER power outage this past weekend–which makes nine since August 2015, and so far once a month since June of this year–I have reached the point where I’m really sick and tired of my website not being available whenever the power goes out.

This has bitten me twice now when I’ve tried to run ads during 99 cent sales, only, SURPRISE! POWER OUTAGE! So your ads are pointing off to a page readers can’t get to!

Our neighborhood association, of which Dara is a member, is actually going to have a meeting with Puget Sound Energy on the 28th of this month to express our collective frustration with this ongoing state of affairs. I am not expecting fast action on this. So in the meantime, I am taking the precaution of setting up a minimal backup website that will contain the most critical data about me and my books.

That site is going up at angelahighland.wordpress.com. Angelahighland.com should still be considered my canonical website and the official source of data about all of my works. However, y’all should keep angelahighland.wordpress.com bookmarked, just in case you need to look up something about any of my titles, or maybe even point someone at buying them, and find you can’t get to my main site because our power went out again. I will be updating information on this site accordingly.

Because it will. It’s mid-September now, which means the 2016 fall storm season is imminent. We’ll have at least one more power outage before the end of the year, and I won’t be surprised if we have more.

Any questions, let me know!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Dib WTF)

Last night our power came back on, just after 11pm. So then I took the time to go back through my social media history, just to find all the various times where I’ve posted alerts about our power going down. This is what I found.

August 2015

Y’all may recall that last August we had an early season windstorm. That hit on the 29th, which caused us to lose power that morning. I posted at 9:37am that we were down, and again by 10:29am the following morning that we were back.

November 2015

Another windstorm. Outage start as reported by me was 2:35pm on the 17th, and we came back around 12:59pm on the 18th.

March 2016

We went down for a short time on the 12th, from roughly 2:43pm to 3:51pm. Cause unknown. What was particularly annoying was that this was even before the windstorm hit that month, so we were up pretty much just in time to go back down again.

Because we had another windstorm roll in on the 13th. We had a lot of flickery power that afternoon and evening until we finally went down around 9:25pm. We were back around 7:12am the following morning.

June 2016

Incident on the 19th that started around 12:52pm and ended around 5:05pm. Cause unknown.

Another incident on the 30th which, for once, didn’t actually impact our house. But it did impact 1,814 customers in Kenmore, and it impacted Dara anyway because the power went out while she was at the car wash. Which made it rather difficult for her to finish washing the Raptor.

July 2016

Outage on the 5th. I was not home at the time, and Dara warned me by text at 9:24am that we were out. Dara estimates we were down about four hours. Cause unknown.

August 2016

Outage on the 31st that impacted 2,194 customers in Kenmore. Duration from 10:27am to 2:01pm. Cause unknown.

September 2016

Last but not least, the latest incident. According to this article by the Seattle Times, this outage was caused by a tree falling on a power line in Redmond. The damage this falling tree caused then impacted four, count ’em, four substations and took out power for over 18,000 people.

I also saw this tweet from KOMO News:

However, this is the only source I have that mentions a brush fire, and I couldn’t find any article on komonews.com with more details. So I don’t know what their source for the “brush fire” report was.

Final tally

That’s a total of nine, count ’em, nine separate power incidents in just over a year. Seven in 2016 alone.

The windstorm-related ones I can forgive, ’cause, y’know, severe weather and all that. The rest, I’m crankier about. Because okay, yeah, sure, I’m not a civil engineer or an electrical engineer. But it seems to me that one tree falling shouldn’t take out power for 18,000 people.

And Seattle City Light, whose area of coverage also includes a lot of trees, somehow manages to not lose power SEVEN TIMES IN ONE YEAR.

Not that I’m bitter or anything no wait yes I AM bitter. Because Dara and I are paying Puget Sound Energy to provide us power. I think it’s a reasonable expectation for them to do their damn jobs and keep the lights on.

Dara’s already sent cranky mail to our state representatives and the Kenmore city council. I will be looking into doing the same. Because this is stupid.

And the only reason we don’t have a generator yet is money. We have to budget for it, given that we’re having to pay a great deal of money for roof renovation at MurkSouth this year, so the generator has to wait a little longer. But it’s important to note here that Dara and I are actually in an income bracket that can afford a generator. PSE’s coverage area includes a lot of affluent communities where a lot of the residents can say the same. But this is not universal. And if we couldn’t afford a generator at all, now or after budgeting for it, we’d be screwed.

I have to be grateful that not only can we afford to budget for a generator, neither of us have health issues that would be impacted by repeated incidents of power loss. But there must surely be customers in PSE’s coverage area that do have such issues. And this track record out of PSE puts those customers at risk.

But yeah, we’ll be budgeting for that generator as soon as the roof’s done and dealt with. And I’m going to look into setting up a minimal mirror site for angelahighland.com up on WordPress.com. After multiple incidents of power outages happening while I’m trying to run sales on my books, I need to have reliably stable places I can actually point ads at when I’m trying to encourage sales.

If anyone reading me is also in PSE’s coverage area, I encourage you to take the time to write up how many recent outage incidents have impacted you. Communicate it to your city councilpeople and our state reps. Because this is stupid. And it needs to stop.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Buh?)

There’s a lot of buzz going around about the iPhone 7 losing the headphone jack, as we’ve finally learned will indeed be happening. And, since I’m a long-running user of Apple devices and computers and software, this is naturally of interest to me. As I’ve described on Facebook and elsewhere, I’m finding myself of two minds about the whole thing. So here are some thoughts bouncing around through my head about this.

One: I made the jump to a set of Bluetooth-based headphones some time ago. I did this partly due to recurring irritation problems in my ear (which, I have since learned, may well be influenced by my deviated septum; more on this in another post), but it’s also had the benefit of improved audio quality when I listen to things on my commutes. I’ve also become a fan of not having to worry about cords, even though the headphones I’m using aren’t entirely properly fitted to my ginormous head, even when I’ve got them extended out as far as the headband will let them go. It’s still overall a win for me, and future headphones I purchase are indeed likely to be wireless in some way or another.

That said, I’m eying the price on the new airbuds askance. They’re significantly more expensive than what I paid for the Jabra headphones I’m using now, so I would have to be convinced that the audio quality would be worth the step up in price. And I’m also not convinced that I wouldn’t lose the buds on a regular basis, or that they’d stay securely in my ears. I’ve had a history of the wired earbuds regularly falling out of my ears, and at least with the wired kind, they’re still attached to my phone. One of those wireless airbuds falls out somewhere on my commute, that’s got “likelihood of my stepping on the damn thing as I’m trying to look for where it fell” written all over it. Or, if I’ve got ’em tucked in my backpack’s side pocket along with the phone, the fact that they’re wireless means that if one or both of them fell out while I wasn’t listening to music–as is possible given that on a bus commute, I often wind up turning my backpack sideways in my lap–means the chances of me losing one or both is non-zero. I’m not willing to risk that for something that’d ding me over $150 per purchase.

And while I do have some level of appreciation for audio quality, I’m not quite enough of an audiophile to really care about it, certainly not to the extent of having “risk of losing airbuds” outweighing price.

Two: Other than my commutes, the times I’m most likely to listen to things on my phone are when Dara and I take road trips. We’re very, very fond of listening to Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventures when we go to Canada, or down to Portland for Orycon. Before we upgraded to our current car (the 2015 Honda Fit), we had to plug my phone into the car’s dashboard via an adapter that talked to the cigarette lighter.

Now that we’re driving the Raptor, though, we have several USB jacks at our disposal. So the usual Apple lightning-to-USB cord works just dandy for having the phone talking to the car’s sound system. And I don’t even really need the cord, either, since the car’s systems also talk Bluetooth.

So lack of a headphone jack won’t hurt me there, either.

Three: Since I do use my phone on a regular basis to process Square sales at conventions, the ability for my older swipe-based reader to talk to the headphone jack is kinda not optional. I do have one of the shiny newer readers that read chip-based cards and which talk to the phone via Bluetooth–but those do not actually deal with older, non-chip-based cards. And not everybody has chip-based cards yet, so it’s not like I can get rid of the magstripe reader.

That said, word has it that the magstripe readers will work with the new adapter for the iPhone 7. Which is nice, I suppose. But given that I’ve had experience having swipes not take with the reader plugged directly into the headphone jack, I’m a bit dubious about how reliable trying to do it via an adapter and the lightning port will be. I’ll be interested in further reports on this.

Four: Dara shared with me some things she saw covered in Buzzfeed’s article about this, and I have to admit I’m of two minds about this. From my tech-inclined geek perspective, “freeing up the jack space allows for improvements in battery life, camera functionality, and water resistance” makes sense.

On the other hand, I’m also a fan of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And I always have to be a little suspicious of “we’re changing this thing you’ve been using for years because PROGRESS!” In no small part because I can’t help but feel like a lot of tech “innovations” ultimately don’t improve things much for my day to day experience. Like, say, all the browsers deciding we don’t actually need a menu. Or, all the major tech companies deciding we don’t need RSS. (Why yes, I AM still cranky about the axing of Google Reader, why do you ask?)

Now, apparently, traditional headphone jacks are the latest thing that the Tech Powers That Be have decided are outdated. But so far, the arguments provided as to why the future of audio is wireless just aren’t quite cutting it yet with me. And there are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. While I’m certainly not immune to the lure of shiny new technology (as of this writing, I AM currently on my third iPhone in my history of smartphone owning), I also am not a fan of how often I’ve had to replace my headphones. I have gone through a whole hell of a lot of earbuds, because the damn things inevitably wear out. One side or the other dies, and oh hey look I gotta go buy a new pair of earbuds now! And I have no real choice but to throw away the old, now useless pair.

    That was another contributing factor to my switching to the Bluetooth headphones–at least with those, I can hopefully get a lot longer lifespan out of them. And therefore hopefully contribute less to the ongoing electronic waste we’re all building up. I’m going to use this pair of headphones for as long as they’ll last. Because…

  2. …while I am very grateful to have a well-paying day job that lets me afford buying shiny new technology when I want it, I do come out of a background where that wasn’t the case. In my family history, plunking down several hundred dollars for a phone in general would have been absolutely out of the question, without months and possibly years of saving. And when you throw in another $150+ just to buy headphones to listen to music on the phone in question, that’s just a whole extra pile of “yeah no I gotta spend this money on food and rent and gas, thanks”.

I get that Apple’s target demographic is people like me who can afford to buy shiny new toys every so often. But we aren’t everybody. And I’m not convinced that the future of audio is truly wireless, not when there are still a lot of people for whom buying a smartphone at all is a significant hit to the budget. If you’re in that income bracket, you will be way more likely to buy a pair of wired earbuds than you will a fancy wireless pair of pods that you’ll be at risk of losing. The Buzzfeed article mentions cost-benefit analysis; that’s exactly what happens when you’ve only got so much income to spare, and you have to decide what you can afford.

So Apple, if you really want to convince me that wireless is the future of audio, how about making some wireless headphones that aren’t so freggin’ expensive? Because otherwise, your wireless audio future will be shutting out a whole helluva lot of people.

Five: As Dara has pointed out over on her post today, the iPad apparently has no immediate future of losing its headphone jack. Which means we’ll have an potentially interesting split of functionality. Particularly for users like me who have both an iPhone and an iPad, for whom it’ll make little sense to have one pair of headphones to talk to one thing, and a different pair to talk to another.

In short, yeah, I’m of two minds about all of this. For me, it’s all pretty theoretical regardless; my iPhone 6 is still pretty new and perfectly functional, so I will not be justifying a phone upgrade for at least a few more years. (This being my balance between ‘how much I like shiny new tech’ and ‘general practicality and frugality thanks to my history’.) By the time I am ready to upgrade to a newer phone, we’ll probably be on the iPhone 8 or even 9.

But I’ll be keeping an eye on how all this shakes out. It will influence my decision, ultimately, as to what kind of phone I’ll want by the time I’m ready to upgrade phones again. I’ve seen reports that some Android phones are losing their headphone jacks too, so by then, I may not even be able to have that be a dealbreaker. We’ll just have to see whether Apple’s gamble will pay off.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

Back at last to the Trilingual Harry Potter Reread! When last we left Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry and Draco had spent a lot of time going “grr” at one another, setting up a long and honorable tradition of them doing that all throughout the series. Now finally I’m heading into Chapter 10, wherein we’ll finally settle the triad of three primary characters into place–courtesy of a troll!

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Path of Wisdom)

Over on James Nicoll’s LJ, this past weekend, I saw this post wherein James was asking for help on an OpenOffice feature–and folks in the comments were advising that he should consider switching over to LibreOffice instead.

The basis for this is that apparently the code base for OpenOffice is not getting actively updated. The last release was back in October of 2015, and there is a known security issue now that hasn’t been fixed in any release of the suite yet. That issue is described here, where it is noted that there is a hotfix patch available, if you’re comfortable with trying to install that.

But more tellingly, also in the comments on James’ thread, I saw a link off to this Ars Technica article that discusses an active possibility that OpenOffice just might be shut down. Apparently Apache’s OO team doesn’t have enough active developers to support the code.

So if you’re an OpenOffice user, you might want to keep an eye on this. At minimum, you should go install the patch discussed on the security bulletin I link to above. And you should think about whether you want to continue to use OpenOffice, or maybe make the switch to LibreOffice instead, since that’s still being actively developed.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

Welcome back to my reread of The Lord of the Rings! As I’ve posted in my previous post, this reread is now bilingual, since I’ve been regretting not doing that properly for a while. And since I do have French editions of this trilogy, though not German editions yet, so it’s bilingual instead of trilingual.

To refresh your all’s memories, my commentary post on the Prologue of Fellowship is here. To this, I will now add some commentary about what it says in the French edition! I’m going to do this similarly to how I’ve been doing the Harry Potter reread posts, limiting the lingual commentary a bit so that I can keep the length of the posts down to something manageable.

So here we go! This is mostly going to be a bunch of commentary about various worldbuilding terms, given that they’ll be important once we get into the story proper. Once I’m past the prologue I’ll kick into the format I want to use for these posts.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (A Star Shines)

Y’all may have noticed that I’ve been dragging my feet on doing the Lord of the Rings reread posts. This is because I’ve also got the trilogy in French, and I’ve been vexed at myself for not doing a proper bilingual reread since I’ve got the French versions available!

So I’m waking these posts up again, but I’m going to do it moving forward with covering what I can pick up out of the French editions as well. I’m going to format the posts similarly to what I’m doing in the Trilingual Harry Potter Reread–i.e., limiting the lingual discussion to “five general things noted in the French edition” and “five worldbuilding things noted”. This will be in the interests of trying to keep the post lengths down to as reasonable a length as possible, and also to help me actually try to do them in a reasonable time frame.

My next post is going to be a catchup to get to the point where I left off in the English edition, which is to say, the hobbits are about to meet Tom Bombadil.

For the interested, my French edition of The Fellowship of the Ring is this one, or at least has this cover; the ISBN on my copy doesn’t match this one on Goodreads:

La Communauté de l'Anneau (Le Seigneur des Anneaux, #1)

Now that I’ve completed another rewatch of the movies, though, I am now totally in the mood for this. So let’s do this, shall we? Next post is about to drop!

(And the only reason this isn’t a full Trilingual Reread, by the way, is that I don’t own copies of the trilogy in German. YET.)

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey and Maturin Duet)

It’ll be a bit yet before I’m able to have fiddle lesson #3 with Lisa Ornstein, so in the meantime, here’s a bit of an update as to what’s going on with me and the instrument, for those of you who haven’t seen me geeking out about this on Facebook.

First and foremost, I switched out what instrument I was renting from Kenmore Violins–trading in the full-sized one for a 3/4th sized one, as had been recommended to me by Alexander James Adams! This turned out to be a very wise choice. The issues I have experienced getting my left hand into the proper angle go away when I handle a smaller instrument. There’s a slight twist to the left that you need to do with your left hand to get it into position, so that your fingers can land correctly on the strings. (This is what you get for trying to play an instrument you hold at an angle out from your shoulder, as opposed to perpendicular or parallel!) When I try this on a full-sized fiddle, it is actively uncomfortable. On the 3/4th sized one, it feels a lot more natural.

The proprietor at the shop told me that in his experience, more adult players should play 3/4th sized instruments than actually do! He told me about a quite small woman, just under five feet (so quite a bit smaller than me) who was giving herself bad hand pain trying to play a full sized instrument. When he encouraged her to switch to a 3/4th, that was much easier on her. So yeah. 😀 I’m a fan of not hurting my hands–I need them to type with after all! Not to mention playing my other instruments.

And now that I’ve got a smaller instrument, I can move forward with actually learning how to make coherent noises on it.

So far this has mostly involved trying to do scales. The fingering is familiar to me, since I have prior experience with the mandolin, which is tuned the same way. Which means that my main goals are a) getting used to where to put my fingers without the use of frets, and b) getting used to the motions of the bow.

The first of these has proven so far to be less difficult than I expected! The lack of frets on a violin has always been one of the things that’s intimidated me about it. And while I do know about how many beginning students put tape on their instruments to mark the proper locations–Dara’s fiddle has such tape on it–I’ve also read about how some students get by just fine without it. The reasoning here is that if you don’t have the tape, you rely less upon the visual cue of where to put your fingers, and more upon muscle memory and the aural cue of where your fingers have to go to make the notes actually sound right.

And given how one of my ongoing musical goals is to get better at training my ear, this appeals to me. So right now, at least, I’m trying to do without the tape. And as long as the fiddle is tuned correctly, I’m doing okay so far in finding the scales and figuring out exactly where my fingers need to land.

The bowing, on the other hand, is still a bit of an adventure. I can semi-reliably get a good clear tone off a bow stroke, but that’s only semi-reliably; I don’t have a good sense yet of how to always do that on purpose. Sometimes the noise I make is very squeaky. And sometimes I wind up hitting two strings at once, or hitting the one string in such a way as to generate weird harmonics.

But then, this is exactly why I wanted to engage a teacher! So now at least I have a real good idea of what I’ll be asking Lisa about at the next lesson. 😀

Because yeah, now that I have an instrument I can handle without pain, I do want to continue for a while with this and we will see where it goes! If all goes well, perhaps when I show up for next year’s Andre Brunet workshop in Qualicum, I’ll actually be able to bring a fiddle with me!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Buh?)

iOS 9.3.5 has just been released, and it’s a very important security update. Important enough that it made the news–because it’s fixing newly discovered security flaws that had the potential to give a remote attacker pretty much complete control of your phone. So jump on this ASAP and get your devices updated, mmkay?

The BBC has covered the story here:

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws

(If you own an older device that’s running an older version of iOS, better check and see if a similar update has been released for your version, too. If your device is capable of updating to iOS 9, you might want to put serious consideration into doing so. If it’s not capable of updating to iOS 9 and Apple hasn’t yet released a security patch to your version, go get on them about that.)

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

This is the second of the two memes I’ve been tagged on on Facebook recently, and this one came at me via fellow Here Be Magic author Sonya Clark. As with the previous meme post, I won’t outright tag people on this. But if you’re a fellow writer and want to jump in, feel free!

From Sonya’s post:

Amy Burgess tagged me to share a “heart” book and the story behind it.

This one’s almost too easy, really. Because even with five released books, to this day I continue to think of Faerie Blood as the Book of My Heart.

And not just because it’s my first released novel, either. Every author’s going to be partial to their first release.

I could say as well that Faerie Blood‘s notable for being the book I finished Nanowrimo with in 2003, which gives it extra heft in my affections. But that’s not really why it’s the Book of My Heart, either.

What makes Faerie Blood my Heart Book is that I’ve thrown so much of what I love into it.

Music, obviously. Elessir is an “unofficial” Elvis impersonator and Christopher is a bouzouki-playing Newfoundlander for music-fangirling reasons that will be obvious to anybody who knows me: i.e., that I’m a lifelong Elvis fangirl and that Great Big Sea remains my all-time favorite band. But not even just that. Multiple characters in Faerie Blood are musicians, and not for any reasons that are particularly relevant to the plot or the worldbuilding, but rather, just because I feel very deeply that making music is an important part of life.

This is also why there’s a scene in Faerie Blood in which Kendis and Christopher geek out a bit about bouzouki tuning, and another in which they just hang out together and play their instruments. The latter in particular has its origins leading straight back to Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, and how much I simply adored that Aubrey and Maturin took the time out in between all the action to just hang out and play music together. That won my love as a reader, and that love hung out in the back of my writer brain until I was able to write a “characters hanging out and bonding over playing music” scene of my own.

Then there’s the Sidhe. I know it’s fashionable in the SF/F genre these days to dismiss elves as a cliche. I know there’s such a thing as the Our Elves are Better trope and the Screw You, Elves trope. I know there’s even an entire filk album called Everybody Hates Elves.

As y’all might guess, I do not count myself amongst that “everybody”. C.f. all my previous commentary about how Elfquest is such a formative influence on me.

Now, also obviously, Faerie Blood is only the first step into my Warder universe. And I’ve got a lot coming that I’m very eager to share with you, stories that will hopefully do for you as readers what they’ll do for me as a writer: deepen the universe, show you more about what’s going on, and give you more to love about it.

But really, Faerie Blood is what started it all. And for that, it’s the Book of My Heart.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
Ghost Talkers

Ghost Talkers

Earlier this year, y’all may recall, a lot of ebook customers got a lot of credit from the settlement of the lawsuits pertaining to ebook pricing. I’m still annoyed that agency pricing has returned as fallout from this, because it’s put a big dent in my ebook buying.

On the other hand, it also means I got a boatload of credit from Barnes and Noble for my history of purchases with them.

Part of me is a bit wry about this, given that I have moved my ebook purchasing by and large over to Kobo. But hey, I’m still willing to go scarf books on barnesandnoble.com if I don’t have to pay for them, so hey! It took me a while to decide on the titles I want to get. I have however finally finished up spending that credit tonight, so here’s a roundup of all the things I got as a result of the credit drop.

Purchased from bn.com in print:

  • Elfquest: The Final Quest Volume 2, for generally obvious “because it’s delightful to be able to buy new Elfquest graphic novels again” reasons. I’ve been buying the individual issues in digital form direct from Dark Horse, but I absolutely wanted print copies as well. So I’m racking those up in print as they come out.

And, here are the ebooks I’ve gotten over the last several weeks, most of which were acquired tonight:

  • The Bone Whistle, by Erzebet YellowBoy. Contemporary fantasy. I had my eye on this story way back in 2007 when it was originally published by Juno Books, with the author using the name Eva Swan. I never was able to get a copy, though, before Juno shut down. She later released it herself under the name Erzebet YellowBoy, so I finally was able to grab it in ebook form.
  • Le combat des dieux, by Élodie Tirel. High fantasy. Book 3 of her Luna series for young readers. This is of course the third of the series I’ve been reading in French to try to improve my reading comprehension in that language, and since I enjoyed the second one (at least what I could pick up of it), I’m moving onward to the third. I continue to be rather charmed by how the series seems entirely unrepentant about hitting all the classic fantasy tropes hard. 😀
  • Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal. Historical/WWI fantasy. Grabbing this one because I’ll pretty much grab anything Kowal chooses to release, and this is her latest novel, about a squadron of mediums whose job it is to get intelligence on the front from the ghosts of recently slain soldiers.
  • Arabella of Mars, by David D. Levine. SF. Pretty much my entire feed of followed blogs and social media pals lost their minds over this release, so yeah, the buzz, it is strong with this one. And it sounds like great fun, with a blend of SF and steampunk viewed through a lens of English colonialism. Sure why not, I’ll have some.
  • Radiance: A Novel, by Catherynne M. Valente. SF. This is another recent title in the vein of SF with a heavy side helping of classic/pulp flavor, only this one also throws in a hefty dash of classic cinema flavor as well.
  • An Accident of Stars, by Foz Meadows. Fantasy. Specifically, portal fantasy. Grabbing this because I’ve read several of Meadows’ blog posts and appreciate her way of expressing herself. And also because portal fantasy with several leading female characters? Fuck yeah, I’m on board!
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers. SF. Because again, the buzz is strong with this one, a novel that started life as a self-pub release and later got itself a formal book deal. Plus any SF novel that invokes Firefly in its buzz is pretty much bound to get my attention.
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle. Horror/Lovecraft pastiche. This one got a lot of attention because of revisiting Lovecraft–and specifically, one of his most racism-steeped stories, “The Horror at Red Hook”, bringing an African-American perspective to the events that story mentions. Since I’m one of the folks who likes Lovecraft’s worldbuilding but has a hard time dealing with his racism, I expect to particularly appreciate this one.
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson. Another Lovecraft pastiche, this time bringing in a female perspective. Given that I very much liked the She Walks in Shadows anthology that came out last year, I expect to like this too. Particularly given how I came out of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath with a very strong “WTF DID I JUST READ?!” reaction!
  • The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, by Juliana Gray. Historical romance. Picked this up because I saw it favorably reviewed on dearauthor.com (you can see me in the comments on that link). And because I’m charmed by the idea of a romance featuring older characters.
  • HEX, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Horror. This is the English translation of a best-selling Dutch horror novel, which I saw get some positive buzz on Tor.com, such as this review here. This story sounds like it blends the modern and the gothic very well, and I liked what I read of excerpts, so I’m going to dive into the full book. Plus I appreciate being able to read something that originated in a non-US market.
  • False Hearts: A Novel, by Laura Lam. SF. Picking this up again because of seeing it plugged on Tor.com (really, those folks at Tor.com are a large contributor to my book purchasing decisions!), and specifically, because I saw this nice little short story set in the universe of this novel. Between that and being intrigued by the premise of a pair of (originally) conjoined twins as the protagonists of the story, I wanted to pick this up.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, by Greg Keyes. Bought because I’ve quite liked the two movies in the current Apes franchise, and because I wanted to see what the prequel story setting up the plague we see in Dawn would be like. Also, because I’ve read stuff by Keyes in the past so I know he’s capable of laying down a good story.
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, by Alex Irvine. This is the official novelization of the movie which came out a couple years ago. Because hey, I liked the story! And I do still like a movie novelization every so often!
  • It Takes Two to Tangle, by Theresa Romain. Historical romance. This went onto my queue a couple years ago entirely because of this review on Smart Bitches Trashy Books. And, now that I’m refreshing my memory about the book and see that I had in fact dropped a comment on that review, I am pleased to be reminded about this novel’s delightful opening line.
  • Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. Steampunk/fantasy. Yet another strong-buzz book, with Tor.com contributing heavily to my hearing about this one. I particularly like that both of the lead characters are people of color.
  • The Last Witness, by K.J. Parker. Fantasy. I heard about this one through Tor.com because it is in fact one of their releases! The protagonist is someone who makes his living by ridding people of unwanted memories. Except now he’s been targeted by someone because of one of the secrets he now holds. Sounds fun!

This roundup all by itself doubles my total of acquired books for the year, taking me up to 36.

(And I should note for the record that some of my ebook settlement credit went to things that are not books: namely, two MST3K DVD boxed sets! But I think that any of my fellow fans of cheesy movies will agree that more MST3K in one’s library is always a good thing.)

ETA: OH HEY I forgot one. I also grabbed Jo Walton’s The Just City, because Tor.com has an ebook club now and that was this month’s freebie. Make that 37 for the year!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

I got tagged on a couple of writer-related memes going around Facebook. I don’t do memes per se, including tagging people on them, as I’ve said before. But I will absolutely use them as an excuse to write up something here on this blog! First, there’s the Influential Authors meme, on which I got tagged by Shawna Reppert.

From her post:

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. List 15 authors (poets included) who have influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can identify in no more than 15 minutes. Tag at least 15 friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing the authors my friends choose.

Let’s do this thing. These are not in any particular order.

  1. Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. Julie Czerneda
  4. Tanya Huff
  5. Doranna Durgin
  6. Anne McCaffrey
  7. Naomi Novik
  8. Rachel Caine
  9. Susanna Kearsley
  10. Wendy and Richard Pini
  11. A.C. Crispin
  12. Patricia Briggs
  13. Mercedes Lackey
  14. Terry Brooks
  15. Esther Friesner

And I know I am probably fudging on things to list the Pinis here, given that Elfquest is a comic book series, not a book series. But I take the liberty of including them because a) as I’ve mentioned before on this site, they are a huge influence on my perceptions of what elves ought to be like in my stories, and b) if you wanna really get technical, there are Elfquest stories in book form, so there. I do have all the Blood of Ten Chiefs anthologies, as well as the novelizations of the first three graphic novels!

Tolkien is on this list for reasons which are similarly obvious to anybody who knows anything about my personal history as a reader as well as a writer; noting him among my influences for worldbuilding as well as language geekery. Likewise Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, who is a formative influence on what I like in leading men in a story, and the level of romance and suspense I want.

Anne McCaffrey’s influence on me cannot be understated–I did, after all, spend years in Pern fandom, both offline and online. And I still have a lot of Pern fanfic on my hard drive, as well as all my surviving roleplay logs from PernMUSH. All that time I put in playing F’hlan, bronze Tzornth’s rider, and his daughter Mehlani was character practice, you guys!

Julie Czerneda and Tanya Huff are both on this list on general “I want to write like them when I grow up” grounds. I love Czerneda’s worldbuilding and rich portrayals of alien species. And Huff’s here because a) she is awesome, b) she’s a fellow Great Big Sea fan and HOW CAN I NOT LOVE THAT, and c) she was my initial introduction to how you can have queer people in a story and not have the fact that they are queer be full of OHNOEZ DRAMA!

That said, Lackey is on this list because she actually beat Huff to the punch in alerting me that you can, in fact, have queer people in a story. Shoutout to all my fellow readers of my generation who were gutted by Vanyel. Second shoutout to all my MUSH-playing pals who wanted to get a Valdemar MUSH going, and could not.

Doranna Durgin is here because before she wrote paranormal romance, she wrote a lot of fantasy, and her earliest fantasies are among my favorite of her books. Her urban fantasy as well. To this day her A Feral Darkness ranks very, very high on the list of pinnacles to which I aspire when I wing out urban fantasy of my own.

Novik is here because good lord I love me some Temeraire, and in particular I love her handling of the dragons in her world as characters in their own right. I love her dragons even more than I loved the dragons in the Pern books. She is a glorious example of how to write non-humanoid characters.

Rachel Caine is on this list because I would gleefully sacrifice a few pounds of flesh to gain her ability at pacing.

Kearsley is kind of an extension of the influence of Michaels/Peters. I deeply admire Kearsley’s pacing, though hers is much different from Caine’s; while Caine pretty much sets a plotline on fire right out of the gate, Kearsley takes more time and gives you a lot more atmosphere. I love Kearsley’s way with building atmosphere, as well as her skill at setting up relationships that eventually charm my socks off. The Shadowy Horses, I am looking straight at you.

A.C. Crispin, gods rest her, is here because her glorious Han Solo backstory trilogy, even if it’s relegated to non-canon status along with the rest of the Star Wars EU, was everything I ever wanted in Han Solo backstory. The new forthcoming movie is going to have a REAL high bar to clear to top her stories, I’m just sayin’.

Patricia Briggs is here for reasons very similar to Durgin–in that I found her before she turned to urban fantasy and in many ways I actually prefer her earlier fantasy novels. What I like about her in particular is how she set up secondary world fantasies that nonetheless were very relatable to contemporary eyes. She’s arguably some of the influence on how I wrote the Rebels of Adalonia books.

Terry Brooks has to get props for being some of the earliest high fantasy I ever read, since I found him at the same era of my childhood when I found Tolkien. And some of my earliest surviving writing has a lot more to do with Brooks than Tolkien! And unlike a few other high fantasy authors of the era (e.g., Eddings), I actually still periodically hunt down Brooks novels I haven’t read yet. I’m still working my way through his setup of the backstory for the Shannara world.

Last but not least, Esther Friesner is here as another early influence on my urban fantasy and in particular on my portrayal of elves. In particular, her books New York by Knight and Elf Defense had early resonance on my budding writing brain!

***

So there ya go. As I said, I don’t usually tag people on these things, but if you’re a fellow writer and you want to play too, go for it! And drop a link in the comments to your own post, so anybody who finds mine can find yours.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey and Maturin Duet)

Today I took another jaunt down to Olympia to see Lisa Ornstein and have fiddle lesson #2. So far, most importantly, I am delighted to report that I am still enjoying the hell out of this, and that there WILL be a lesson #3. And I think the big thing that I took away from today’s lesson is that I need to give myself permission to be patient with myself–because this is not going to be a fast process. I’d like to get to a point eventually where I can play something coherent on a fiddle, but there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to happen to get me there.

So today, Lisa and I did more of that groundwork.

Bow hand

Lisa mentioned a few different ways that players can use to get their fingers into the proper configuration to hold the bow. What appears to work best for me right now is doing a “bunny” configuration, which involves sticking my thumb between my middle and ring fingers, which become the “teeth” of the bunny. My index finger and pinky become the ears.

Then I bring the bow in under the “teeth”, which land first. Then my index finger comes down. Then my pinky, curled so that it sits on the bow. And my thumb comes in to sit in that little notch between the grip and the frog.

And I will definitely have to tell the folks at Violon Trad Qualicum next year that I remembered “don’t crush the bird!” I.e., to try to keep that curl in my thumb. Although this may now become “don’t crush the bunny!” in my brain.

Once we got my bow hand settled, we practiced just moving the bow around in various ways. Pretending to stir soup, and, while holding the bow vertically, raising and lowering it. This is all intended to just get me used to how the fingers feel while holding the thing.

All of which totally reminded me of the conversations at Fiddle Tunes last year about fiddlers and their bows being very much like Harry Potter universe wizards and their wands. The urge to yell EXPELLIARMUS when I’ve got the bow up is strong. Or maybe LUMOS MAXIMA. 😀

And given that I set the Aubrey gif as the featured image of this post, I must also note that I even mentioned Aubrey and Maturin to Lisa, just because of being reminded of that lovely bit in Master and Commander when Jack and Stephen are playing together for the first time:

‘Did you notice my bowing in the pump-pump-pump piece?’ asked Jack.

‘I did indeed. Very sprightly, very agile. I noticed you neither struck the hanging shelf nor yet the lamp. I only grazed the locker once myself.’

I will count it as a victory if I manage not to hit the lamp.

Neck hand

This was harder. I have a pretty good idea at this point about how to get the instrument into place on my shoulder, but there are still challenges with getting my left hand where it needs to be.

Namely, trying to find the optimum way to hold the neck so that my fingers fall in a natural curve, and so that my pinky doesn’t wind up trembling because it’s trying to do too much.

Lisa says that this is a function of how I have pretty tiny fingers (which I knew already and which has proven a bit of a challenge on some of my bigger flutes). So we had to experiment some with how to hold the neck. We tried various thumb placements, as well as settling the instrument in my lap as if it were a guitar, which is more familiar territory to me.

We haven’t yet found the optimum way for me to do this. I’m going to experiment more.

Bringing the hands together

I did actually make a couple of noises, it must be said! There was some general plucking on the E string, just to practice landing my fingers in the general area of where they need to be to hit notes. I surprised myself a bit with not missing the frets as much as I was expecting, though having no frets did still wig me out a little. But I did manage to land the notes in the ballpark. Not perfect, but they didn’t have to be; I am, after all, a total newbie here.

But we did also get me to the point of laying bow on strings and playing a few open notes, just pulling the bow back and forth in short motions and then a couple long ones. Which began to answer some of the questions that have been bubbling around in the back of my head re: how exactly bow motion on the strings works. Getting to actually experience that was fun!

More experimenting will have to happen there, too.

Overall

I told Lisa about my medical history, which was relevant to the lesson in that it impacts how a lot of my back muscles, my shoulders, and the base of my neck tend to get cranky and carry a lot of stress. So we worked a lot on practicing being aware of my shoulders and neck, and how to stand and hold the instrument in a way that puts least stress on those parts of my body. And we talked about several exercises I can do to gently strengthen my abs, all in the name of laying more groundwork.

Because, important to note: what I’ve already learned because of my medical history about my pain thresholds and being on top of that has to apply here. If I start hurting my wrists and hands, or any other part of me, that means stop what I’m doing. Playing through the pain is not necessary, and not useful, and is in fact actively harmful.

And the other lesson here is this: it’s okay to go slow. I need to give myself permission to be patient, and not expect to get immediately to making coherent noises. If I want to play a tune right now, that’s what I’ve got the flutes and whistles for.

The violin is a totally different experience, though, and I need to give it the respect it deserves and proceed slowly and carefully. After all, I didn’t learn to play the flute immediately, either. Or the guitar.

This lesson even turned out longer than expected–but we covered a lot of ground, and made it worth it that I drove all the way down to Olympia for the afternoon. 😀 Very much looking forward to lesson #3!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

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Anna the Piper

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