Random (but not really)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Flower Pr0n: Day Lilies!

I love day lilies. Over the years I have picked up several different cultivars, so when they bloom, the front of my house is gorgeous. (The nicest thing about day lilies is that unlike regular lilies, they don’t have a scent. (I cannot stand the scent of regular lilies.))





Bonus: Balloon flower


Written by Michelle at 4:31 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Flowers,Photos  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another Data Point on Female Authors

Because I never met a list I didn’t want to put into Excel…

From the last post, on must buy authors, I counted the male vs female authors that I auto buy.

Male authors: 7
Female authors: 19
Joint: 1

70% of my auto buy authors are female.

So there is some more anecdotal data for you.

Written by Michelle at 8:26 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Must-Buy Books

On SF Signal, they asked “What Authors Are on Your Must-Buy List?”.

This actually made me stop and think, because there are some authors who were auto-buys for years and years, and then they kinda dropped off. And there are other authors whose books I’d buy in an instant–if they were still writing.

So who is on my must-buy list?

First, off the top of my head:

Charles de Lint – I love his Newford stories so very very much

C.S. Harris – Both Grandmom and I adore the Sebastian St Cyr series. I love the time in which he lives, and I love Sebastian

Guy Gavriel Kay – He doesn’t just build worlds, he weaves these miraculous places that I fall into and don’t want to leave; and each book is so very different from those that came before

Ellen KushnerSwordspoint is my go-to comfort read, and I read it again and again

Ben Aaronovitch – Do I even need to tell you how much I love this series? And how much I ADORE Kobna Holdbrook Smith?

Faith Hunter‘s Jane Yellowrock series – She also is very good at writing short stories, which is something I appreciate, but I really love Jane

Andrea Camilleri – The more recent books in the Inspector Montalbano series have been weaker, but I don’t care

Ilona Andrews Oh Kate, why haven’t I read your most recent book? Probably because I don’t want to be left hanging

Mary Roach – Have you read Mary Roach? You’ve probably heard an interview with her. She’s marvelous and loves delving into strange and marvelous topics (like what happens to our bodies after we die or what goes on in our alimentary canal)

Nina Kiriki Hoffman – I love her short stories and regularly re-read “Fistful of Sky” and keep hoping the next book she writes will recapture what I loved there.

Carrie Vaughn (especially any short story collection) despite the fact I didn’t love the last two novels, I still want things to work well for Kitty.

Donna Leon – Venice is as much a main character as Commisario Brunetti and his family and co-workers

Patricia Briggs (especially the Mercy Thompson series) – I love Mercy and how in a genre full of super-dooper kick-butt heroines, Mercy is both tough and fragile


Now, peeking at my book lists…

Rob Thurman – oh yes, very much Rob Thurman; I adore Cal and Niko so very much, and it almost hurts how much those two brothers love each other

Tracy Grant – Her historical mysteries/romances are complex works full of the past

Liz Williams – but she hasn’t put of a Detective Inspector Chen story since the whole debacle with her publisher

Sergei Lukyanenko – this is problematic, because I love the Night Watch series, but haven’t read the last book, mostly because I don’t want it to break the spell the earlier books have on me, if it isn’t as good

Jeaniene Frost – I also have the final book in the Kat & Bones series sitting unread, waiting for me; Why is there no publication date for the next Vlad book? Why?

John Burdett – oh, hey, look, there’s a new Sonchai book coming out!

Lisa Shearin – her SPI files series is so fun

Maggie Stiefvater – Oh how I am waiting the next Raven Boys book; Waiting, waiting, and yet afraid

C.C. Hunter – I find myself fascinated by this world

Seanan McGurie‘s Toby Day series

M.L. Brennan‘s Generation V series


Authors I deeply wish were still around:

Kate Ross
Agatha Christie (her Miss Marple series and any short stories)
Terry Pratchett


And finally, authors whose series I have fallen behind on or stopped reading entirely:

Steven Brust – it’s not that I gave up on this series, I just got really tired of Vlad not being able to solve the predicament he got himself into, but I AM going to get back into the series, any day now

Nicole Peeler – I read all the Jane True stories as soon as they came out, but her latest book I’ve read a couple chapters of, but can’t get into it; I haven’t given up, but I miss Jane True

Simon R. Green – yet another authors whose closing book to a series I have not yet read. It’s as if I refuse to acknowledge these series are over by refusing to read the final books. Weirdly, I only loved the Nightside series. None of the rest held my interest.

Jim Butcher – I loved the Dresden files until I suddenly and violently didn’t; I liked Harry when he was a working stiff; not so much when he suddenly became a Hero

Alan Bradley – the last book really bothered me, and I feel unsure as to whether I’ll like the direction the series is going

Diana Gabaldon – I really really love Lord John, but have zero interest in reading her Outlander series; I have no idea what this says about me

Written by Michelle at 9:07 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Birthday West Virginia!












Route 50



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Written by Michelle at 10:09 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: West Virginia  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Where Have All the Female Authors Gone (Answer: Nowhere)

I read Fantasy, Female Writers & The Politics of Influence by Tansy Rayner Roberts and found myself repeatedly thinking, “Yes!” while reading her piece.

I have always read female authors. For a long time it was in some ways an unconscious choice. I wasn’t seeking out books because they were written by women; I picked out stories that looked interesting, and I’m interested in stories about women, and stories about women are written predominantly by women.

So I have been somewhat confused by complaints about the lack of female authors. After all, I’ve been reading and recommending books by women for years!

The first mystery author I fell in love with was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I still have those books, well-worn and beloved, and on the first pages you can find the words “Happy Birthday, Love Mom & Dad.” The second mystery author I fell in love with was Agatha Christie, and I found her all on my own and devoured every single Miss Marple story I could get my hands on (The Poirot mysteries? Not so much. He never really appealed to me.)

The first fantasy book I read was JRR Tolkein‘s The Hobbit, and I literally read the book to pieces.

The Hobbit

This book was also a gift from my parents. (My father also tried to get me to read SF, which he loves, but I could never get into it. (In my life I’ve probably read a double handful of SF books I liked, and more than half of those are by an author I can no longer read, because I can’t tolerate his hateful politics.1))

Although I loved The Hobbit, I didn’t really read fantasy again until I was in college when I received used copies of Davis Eddings2 Belgariad in a Christmas gift exchange. I devoured it, and then a friend recommend Guy Gabriel Kay‘s Fionovar Tapestry. After that I started searching out fantasy books.

What I found first was Mercedes Lackey‘s By the Sword and MZB’s Sword & Sorceress (Volume who knows at this point). From there I found The Mists of Avalon3 and anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and Thieves World. When I’d read an anthology, I’d find new authors to seek out: Mickey Zucker Reichert, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Tanith Lee, Diana Paxson, Jennifer Roberson. And I’d browse the shelves of my favorite used bookstore for more books: Holly Lisle, Robin Hobb, JV Jones, Jane Lindskold, Katherine Kerr, Jane Yolen, Sara Douglass, Morgan Llewelyn.

As I said, I wasn’t seeking out female authors specifically. And I read plenty of books by male authors, some of whom became favorites: Charles de Lint, Steven Brust, Terry Pratchett, Dennis McKiernan.

But there’s a funny thing about those men–they all write female characters with agency. Women who don’t need to be saved.

Because that’s what I was truly looking for in my stories. People who saved the world. People who saved their country or their family. I didn’t want books about people who needed saved, I wanted books about people who saved themselves.

And that’s what I found in those authors.

As is obvious to anyone who has known me for more than about 15 minutes, I’m a tremendous geek, so I have a book blog for keeping track of what I read, and that has allowed me to go back and compare the number of male vs female authors I’ve read.

Also because I’m a tremendous geek, I just went and looked at the authors who appear in my review site. (I just pulled the author lists from the menus and counted the number of men and women, discarding joint efforts.)

To be honest, even knowing my reading preferences, I was surprised at the numbers.


  Male Female
Fantasy Authors 110 188
Mystery Authors 47 55
Non-Fiction Authors 39 29

(I chose Fantasy and mystery because those are my favorite genres, and then checked non-fiction because it should theoretically be relatively gender neutral. 4)

Then I looked back at what I’ve read over the past several years, which includes books outside of these three genres. However, let me clarify something about this table first. When I started tracking author gender, I was curious as to the number of women who were writing under male pseudonyms or initials, and how many women were writing under female names, (I don’t have a breakdown of this by genre, but I generally only see it in fantasy and mysteries) which is why I have two different totals for female authors.


























Female with Female Name













Female Total 5













NOTE: These totals are not going to equal 100%, because I have removed data for anthologies and jointly written books 6 to reduce the number overload looking at the table.

So why all the complaints about the dearth of female authors, when there are lots of female authors out there?

Because, IMO, female authors are marginalized.

When you have male members of SFWA constantly belittling women and a campaign to make sure that award balloting goes to white males–who wants to be associated with that kind of nastiness? When you have female attendees of SFF cons suffering harassment and sometimes even abuse–why spend your money and attention with people who have made it clear they don’t want you?

And then there’s the question of why is it that female readers will read male authors, but the reverse quite frequently is not true?

Part of the problem, perhaps, goes back to something I noted earlier: I wanted to read books about people who saved themselves, not people who had to be saved by others. This is why for decades I avoided reading romance novels. I’d been loaned a couple in high school and (aside from all the boinking) I really wasn’t interested in women who needed to find a husband (which is the sub-genre of romance I was loaned). So I avoided romance, because that’s what I assumed it was full of. (Well, plus the boinking. “Can we skip the kissing parts?”)

I didn’t want to read about a happily ever after! I wanted sword fights! I wanted escapes on horseback! I wanted magic duels!

My discovery of the Harlequin Imprint Luna changed everything.

There you go, that’s the cover that Changed Everything for me. (That cover STILL makes me swoony, it’s so beautiful.) I HAD to read that story, and I desperately hoped that the woman in the story was exactly like the model on the cover. (She was!)

Romance novels COULD have heroines who rescued themselves!

Yes, some of the stories had boinking–but not all of them! And the boinking was (for the most part) quite secondary to the adventure. Plus, I realized that I could just skip over all the boinking! (And sometimes I didn’t even BOTHER to skip the boinking! Because sometimes there was interesting dialog and discovery there! Like in real life!) Here were all these stories I really had no clue existed! My wallet panicked! (With good reason.)

And thus we get back to the heart of the matter: why are some people so adamantly opposed to female and minority writers being classified as SFF authors? Why are so many women made to feel like they aren’t allowed to be a part of the SFF community?

Why the hell does the term “Fake Geek Girl” even EXIST?

It’s like SFF fandom is full of hipsters who refuse to like anything once it’s popular. Who refuse to believe that something can be both good and popular at the same time–that once “normal” people like something, it’s no longer awesome. That once girls and relationships are let into the clubhouse, everything is RUINED. (It’s not like there isn’t kissing in SFF, it just seems that only the captain Kirk love ’em and leave ‘en kind of kissing is tolerated.)

Why has the SFF community seemingly not progressed past “Far Beyond the Stars“?

Is there anything to be done? Many women are joining SFWA, despite being made to feel unwelcome by a minority of members, and doing their part to change things from the inside. Many men (Jim C. Hines and John Scalzi come immediately to mind) are standing up and trying to make SFF more inclusive, and pointing out when things are wrong and or ridiculous with the SFF ecosystem.

You can take the title of this post, “Where Have All the Female Authors Gone (Answer: Nowhere)” in two ways. Unfortunately, I think it probably should be taken both ways. Women are still writing, but they’re also still stymied on their way to success as SFF authors.


1 Yes, of course Orson Scott Card.
2 Interestingly, later books had both David & Leigh Eddings names on the cover, once David Eddings had enough pull to put on the cover what he said reflected the authorship all along.
3 Let’s not talk about how problematic I now find MZB. Let’s just accept that Mists was a hugely influential book for me, and move on.
4 Of course it’s not gender neutral. If it weren’t for the number of cookbooks I’ve read, the male:female ratio would be skewed even further in favor of men, because I love reading about science and religion and history, and despite my love of Karen Armstrong and Mary Roach, they are less common than male authors in those areas
5 Including pseudonyms and initials
6 Because only Davis Eddings’ name was on the cover, when I re-read The Belgariad and Mallorean it counts as 10 books in the male column instead of the Joint authorship column. I’m not sure this wasn’t an error on my part.

Written by Michelle at 5:51 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hiking WV: Chief Logan State Park

Due to the issues we had at Cabwaylingo, we didn’t have as much time as we’d wanted for Chief Logan State Park.

Location: Chief Logan State Park
Trails: Cliffside, Waterfall (partial) Trails
Distance: 2.5 miles (including roads between trails)
Elevation: 248 feet

The park has an interesting history, as it was built upon old mine sites, and like several other parks/forests in the state, the remains of mining operations can be seen.

There is also a WV history museum that is free to visit, and which includes items from mine history and a Conestoga wagon. (Also, it is air conditioned, which was a nice break between trails.)

No pictures, sorry!

Written by Michelle at 11:00 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Cabwaylingo State Forest

Location: Cabwaylingo State Forest (last check, link was down)
Trails: Sleepy Hollow, Martin Ridge Trail
Distance: 2.9 / 5.8 miles
Elevation: 799 feet

Saturday we were starting in Charleston, so decided to go to some south-west parks. We went first to Cabwaylingo State Forest (the cause of the drive over many one-lane bridges).

It was… disappointing.

The trails we took were not well-maintained, were poorly blazed, and signage was missing in important places.

By not-well maintained, I don’t mean rough trail. I mean sections of the trail being completely unpassable, and alternate routes were somewhat dangerous (as in a fallen tree with branches completely blocking part of the trail on a steep slope. I managed to scramble down the rocks, but might have had serious trouble if the rocks had been wet and even slipperier.)

20150606_113112 20150606_114423

(Those pictures are terrible, because my cell phone was not clean, and I took them on my fly without stabilizing. But you get the idea. And that isn’t the hill path that was blocked. There I was just concentrating on getting to the next section of trail.)

Yes, in the wilderness everything should not be paved. Believe me, I understand that, but in other state parks trails have been marked as having trees down making them hard to pass.

The other problem was that Cabwaylingo has a lot of gas wells. I don’t care for their existence in state parks, but I recognize that the parks need money, and if the wells can be unobtrusive, fine. I can live with it. Unfortunately, gas wells mean gas company roads. So in multiple parks hiking trails have become gas roads. I don’t much like that, but again, I understand the necessity.

The problem at Cabwaylingo was that in addition to having trails that were on gas company roads, there were also new roads that were not marked on the maps, and the intersections at those roads were not blazed or signed.

Let me tell you, walking down half a mile of gas company road (gravel, no shade, rutted, muddy) and discovering you are at a dead end and must have taken a wrong turn at the unmarked intersection is VERY frustrating. Especially since according to the GPS & maps, you are relatively close to where you are supposed to be–but not close enough.

So our hike that should have been 3 miles plus a half mile (or so) walk back along the road turned into 5.8 miles total.


No, it’s not the end of the world, but it was very frustrating. Especially since the trail we were taking parallels the correct route for quite a distance (we checked multiple times after choosing our path, but it looked like our path was matching the trail we were supposed to be following, so we went on).

I’m a huge fan of the state parks, and want everyone to spend time in them, but I wouldn’t recommend Cabwaylingo to anyone for hiking, unless you were willing to accept the frustrations of missing signs and blazes and a two mile hike on gas well roads and other such issues.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  
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