November Is National Novel Writing Month.

Which means that it’s once again time for me to point discreetly at the Editorial and Critique Services link in my blog header (and right here in this post, as well) and observe that finishing your first draft is only the start of the novel-writing process, and that if you’re looking for some professional assistance of the line-edit and critique variety, I’m here to help.

Civic Duty, Accomplished

Jim Macdonald and my brother and I went out at 9:30 this morning and voted. (Pencil and paper ballots, marked in curtained booths and stuffed into a big wooden box. We’re a small, small town.) The folks at the polling place said there had been a high turnout so far.

The only hard decision on the ballot was for our district’s state senator. The incumbent, a Democrat, has been accused of domestic violence; the challenger, a Republican, is . . . well, is a Republican; and not voting at all might as well be voting for the Republican. So no matter which way a non-Republican of conscience votes, at least one set of personal principles is going to get outraged.

This is why secret ballots are a good thing.

An Unsolicited Endorsement

Breathe easy . . . it’s not political.

We live in an old house, by American standards; the core of it — the part where the basement has a dirt floor and the basement walls are granite rocks that probably came out of the ground the basement was dug in, and the support beams are essentially whole logs — was built sometime around 1850, and is, ah, somewhat more permeable to the world outside than your standard suburban no-basement house set on a concrete pad. This means that over the years we’ve played temporary hosts to a variety of local wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, and — one memorable winter — an ermine.†

And of course, we always have mice. Most of the time, our cats keep the local rodent population within acceptable limits, but this year, between the long winter and the wet summer and — for all I know — the Trump administration (because lord knows, the orange-haired vulgarian is responsible for most of the rest of this year’s horrors), the numbers have gone beyond what two hard-working cats could be expected to handle.

This isn’t just a problem, we said to ourselves; this is an infestation. Time to call in reinforcements.
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So we’ve gone high-tech. Not for us the cheapie spring traps, or the glue traps . . . we’ve laid out serious money for a Victor Multi-Kill Electronic Mouse Trap. Because damn, this thing works. We’ve had it in place for around a week now, and the score currently stands at Victor Multi-Kill 21, Mice 0.

Highly recommended.


We only saw him once, heading across the kitchen floor at speed and disappearing under the closed basement door, but our house was remarkably free of other vermin while he was in residence.

Where We’ll Be This Weekend

We’re going to be at Scintillation, a science fiction convention in Montreal. Except for being in a different country and all that, Montreal is actually more local to us than Boston, or even Manchester. (Reminder to self: Must go to Montreal more often.)

Scintillation is more or less a successor-state to Farthing Party, the convention that Jo Walton ran for eight years from 2006 to 2013. Jim Macdonald and I made all of them — even the year when we had to do the con as a Saturday day trip because we were moving our younger daughter into Simmons College in Boston on the following Sunday — and we were sad to see it go. When we saw that Jo was running a Kickstarter to bring a convention back to Montreal, we jumped onto the bandwagon right away.

(If you’re going to be at the con, don’t miss Jim’s presentation on A Century of Dead Magicians, which looks at the history of modern stage magic through the lens of a succession of magicians who had some really bad days.)

A Thing to Do With Gift Tomatoes

One of my brother’s friends cleared out her garden in advance of the frost, and as a result we ended up with a large bag full of fresh tomatoes — more tomatoes than we could possibly put into bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches, or add to salads. Letting them deliquesce in the refrigerator until they could be thrown out as inedible would be tacky, but neither did I feel like doing any of the things that would involve peeling and coring and scooping the innards out of that many tomatoes, either.

Then I found a recipe for marinara sauce in the instant pot that called for pureeing whole tomatoes skins, seeds, and all, and said to myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

And myself replied, “Well, the recipe could turn out to be a total failure even if you execute it correctly.”

“Yes,” I said, “but even if it is, these aren’t tomatoes I’ve paid out actual money for . . . so what do we have to lose?”

“You’ve got a point there.”

So I limbered up the food processor, and then the Instant Pot pressure cooker, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe was not, in fact, a failure. The end result definitely counted as tomato sauce under the meaning of the act, and it now sits in my freezer in zippered freezer bags, awaiting the day when they’re needed.

All that being said, I’m not such a committed foodie that I’ll be going out of my way to purchase tomatoes to do this thing again. But now I know what to do the next time I’ve got a veggie drawer filled with somebody else’s tomato crop.

(Obligatory writing reference:  Sometimes your subconscious presents you with the creative equivalent of a pound or so of gift tomatoes.  Even if you don’t have a use for them right now, it’s always a good idea to preserve those ideas in some fashion — a scrapbook file on your hard drive, or a printout stored in a physical folder and kept in the bottom drawer of your desk, whatever works for you — to keep your subconscious happy and willing to serve you up ideas when you need them.)

A Meditation on Stuff

For about the first decade and a half of my post-undergrad life, I moved house on a regular basis, progressing first through a series of progressively less crappy apartments and then through two stateside and one overseas Navy billets.  This did a great job of keeping the accumulation of Stuff down to a tolerable minimum, since every time I — later, we — moved, a certain amount of Stuff would be deemed not the worth the trouble to transport and recategorized as Trash.

There were idiosyncratic categorizations, to be sure (my class notes from two semesters of Gothic at UPenn have been permanently classified as Important Stuff, even though I don’t think I’ve looked at them since I got the degree back in never-you-mind) and some equally idiosyncratic and regrettable losses (there was a nice silver necklace from Arizona that got lost somewhere between Philadelphia and Newport News, back in 1980 or so, for example), but by and large a certain equilibrium was maintained.

Then we moved to northern New Hampshire, and raised four kids, and put them all through college, and haven’t moved anywhere since we got here.  And the Stuff keeps trying to take over.

Never mind the fact that more objects come into the house than leave it purely in the natural way of things.  There are also those four kids.  And one by one, they all went off to college with Stuff every year in the autumn, and came back every year in the spring with Stuff Plus, most of which stayed behind like sand and gravel after a receding glacier when they went back again to college with New Stuff in the fall. Four kids.  Four years each — five, for one kid, because of weird required course scheduling — of undergrad, and then four years or so combined of grad school for two of them.  That’s something on the general order of twenty-one kid-years’ worth of Stuff, almost all of it remaining in residence.†

And yet sometimes, I still wonder:  How did I get from arriving in Philadelphia with one suitcase plus two footlockers to be sent along later, to this?


Because you know that as soon as something gets thrown out, that bit of Stuff will suddenly turn out to be the one thing that’s desperately needed for some new project in their current life.

Autumn, At Last

The local trees are showing color, and I’ve changed my header image accordingly.

At least one weather site is predicting that this year will be one of the best for fall colors in the northeast (though not in other parts of the country), so if you’ve always wanted to do a leaf-peeping vacation, this might be the year to do it.

(People will probably tell you that the colors were better last year, and that they peaked last week anyway, but we always say that, so don’t let it worry you.  It’s just a thing we do, because life in the north country is all about managing one’s expectations.)

Where We’ll Be This Weekend

This weekend, Jim Macdonald and I are going to be at Albacon, in (surprise, surprise) Albany, New York.  This will be the first convention we’ve fully attended since Arisia, back in January — Readercon was a bar-and-lobby con for us this summer, for one reason and another, so we didn’t get the full experience with that one.

Albacon isn’t one of your big crowded conventions that sells out its hotel room block within 24 hours of reservations opening up, and then goes on to fill an overflow hotel or two.  It’s a pleasantly-sized regional con that won’t overwhelm a newcomer.  So if you’re in the area, why not swing on by?  Jim and I will be wearing name badges (and so will everyone else) — if you greet us, we’ll say hi.

(Well, I’ll probably squint at your name badge and try to remember exactly where I know you from, because I suck at remembering names and faces.  Just say, “I read your blog,” and that’ll be introduction enough.)