dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Work day, busy busy. But first:

At the Ebooks Direct store we now have Microsoft Reader versions (the .lit format) of The Door into Fire, The Door into Shadow, The Door into Sunset, and the Tale of the Five Omnibus. (I was holding off on the conversion to .lit because I didn't have the reader and wasn't sure how they'd convert. Seems they look OK, so here they are.) Just use the pulldown menu on each page and the .lit version will reveal itself. ...We'll start rolling out .lit versions of the Young Wizards international editions and the various other books shortly. Also: in couple of weeks we'll be putting up the revised edition of Stealing the Elf-King's Roses, with a cover that more accurately supports its identity as an urban-fantasy police procedural (yes, with a love interest, but what do you call Gil Grissom and Sara Sidle, then? Chopped liver?).

BTW, Microsoft: what is this dumb stunt of emailing me a video about "how the Declaration of Independence would have looked if the Founding Fathers had had Word"? They had something way better than Word, people. They had the words. Here are a few of them for you: Consanguinity. Usurpations. Conjured. Despotism. Inestimable. Perfidy. And possibly the best one in that document: Unalienable. ...Seriously, someone over there must have sent that email out before their blood caffeine level got high enough for them to realize how witless it would look in retrospect.

And by the way: WIL WHEATON IS NOT A DICK. Pass it on. (frowning at some people's behavior) Seriously: there's no excuse for it. And it doesn't have to be like that. I remember how when George Takei came out for a Trek/media convention in Dublin some years back, he was briefly astounded at not being dogpiled at breakfast even though he was surrounded by a breakfast room full of eager fans. It was explained to him that nobody was going to bother him as long as he was obviously eating and reading his newspaper. When he stopped one or both of those behaviors, then people would approach him. And that's just how it happened, though he wasn't mobbed then, either: folks came up and visited him by ones and twos and threes at decent intervals. ...A pity this kind of behavior can't spread westward to the next continent over. In any case, Wil did exactly right. And good on Felicia for having been proactive.

Meanwhile: the main Young Wizards website has had a makeover. There may be a few pages that haven't been optimized for the new layout yet (mostly in terms of images having their background colors changed, etc.) but Lee the Web Lady will hunt them down and sort them out over the next couple of days. Final issue: how to get the slider to fade rather than slide, if possible. (Probably some fiddly little jQuery thing. To be handled sooner or later...)

And finally: the Door into Starlight issue -- bumping this a bit so that I can be sure everybody interested has had a chance to respond. If you've seen it already, apologies: please ignore it. (And thanks again to all those who have responded.) If you haven't, leave a note in the comments, or Tweet with a link to the original message, or share it on G+ or Facebook. Thanks!
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

First thing this morning, as usual, I fumbled around on the bedside table and grabbed for the smartphone to see what interesting things had happened while I was asleep. And there in the shiny new Google+ app (thank you Colm!) what do I see, in reaction to the notification about the upload of the new edition of the Middle Kingdoms omnibus yesterday, but:

"Were there any more books in the series planned? I remember reading these three several years ago and thinking the last one felt a little incomplete."

"Now that someone else started it (cough)A Door into Starlight please?(cough)"

And on Twitter:

"Speaking of which, is The Door into Starlight still under construction or did it get abandoned?"

"The Door Into Starlight is the book I've been anticipating most for the longest. Every time you mention Middle Kingdoms I get giddy!"

…And I lay there in bed for a while (assisted by the excellent Cat Goodman, who came to help with my cogitations by lying on my chest and digging his claws in just above my collarbones… I swear, I think sometimes that cat distrusts gravity…) and started composing possible responses, each one of which I immediately virtually tore up on the grounds that I hadn’t yet had any caffeine.

I’ve had the caffeine now (and am also considering some Malt-O-Meal, as it’s a July morning afternoon in Ireland and the local temperature’s about what it would be in the Alps in April).  So I’m in a better place to deal with the question. It is, after all, one I get occasionally at US conventions (and in the past, at some of the UK ones). Somebody will corner me in the bar, or after a panel, and say: “What about The Door into Starlight? It’s been more than twenty years since the series started.”

“Yes indeed, it has. In fact, it’s been more than thirty, but who’s counting?”

“So where is it already?” 

“It’s in progress, and I work on it now and then.  I have a lot of scattered bits and pieces of it, with a lot of huge empty gaps between them that need to be filled in so that the whole thing works. As I’ve said before: I know how it starts, and I know how it ends – I have done since I finished The Door into Fire. But oy, the middle! …In the meantime, since my family would not appreciate starving for my art, I do other work as well. Other books, the occasional movie. Starlight I’ll get around to again when I have the inclination and the leisure.” And there has been an additional reason for the non-completion lurking in the background, but mostly I don’t introduce that into these conversations.

Most of the time the questioning stops here, and people change the subject and go off to do something else, like abuse George R.R. Martin about A Dance with Dragons.  (And here I pause to wave at George, who I’ve known for a long time, and grin. How satisfying this week must be for him [setting aside the way Amazon.de did a whoopsie with the book's shipment embargo]. Yet at the same time,  the fans will be screaming at George for the next one within hours, if not minutes. Such is the writer’s life.)

Yet as regards Starlight, the questions have been getting a little more persistent lately. Could it possibly be because I’ll be turning 60 shortly?   :)   (And to the person who Tweeted me a month or so back in the wake of the European  E. coli outbreak, telling me to please write Starlight before I died, and then hastily erased the message? Whoops, I saw it first! And no, you weren’t just kidding: I know the signs. You think I didn’t have such thoughts about George McDonald Fraser and the specific Flashman books I wished to God he would get on with before he expired? But under no circumstances whatsoever would I ever had said as much to the man. Tsk, tsk! Anyway,  I forgive you.)

Let me assure everybody that it is my intention to write The Door into Starlight before I die. Mostly for the good and sufficient reason that I said I would. (An issue I’m more than usually sensitive to while still completing publication work on The Big Meow.) But I’ve been in no particular hurry about it, as there has been a dirty secret in the way, one that’s kept me from making more of an effort to find the time to finish the last book in this series.

And it’s this: These books have never sold all that well, suggesting that not that many people are interested in reading the last one.

If there’s a more painful admission for a professional writer to make, I’m not sure what it would be. Deep down I suspect most of us wish that everything we write could be a vast worldwide hit and that people would climb over one another’s bodies to get at them. But it doesn’t usually work out that way. And although the Middle Kingdoms universe was my first one, and a place I love dearly, the numbers suggest that those who share the love are relatively few.

The series has never done all that well in sales in any of its editions.  Fire earned out, but paid royalties (in its various US editions) for only a couple/few years, then went out of print when Dell SF went under.  Shadow came into print, earned out and paid maybe a couple of years’ worth of royalties, then went OOP as well. And if I remember correctly,  Sunset never earned out on either side of the Atlantic. (All the books came into print at one time in the UK as part of a deal with Transworld/Corgi in the 90’s, but they didn’t fare well there either, and all went OOP in short order.) 

…You see how this is going? If this trend was to continue, then if I did write Starlight, I’d probably have to pay people to read it.

:)  …Okay, maybe that was facetious. But the sales record cannot be ignored.  The last publisher to be interested in the series was Meisha Merlin: we did indeed have an agreement to publish Starlight, for a very small advance, and I restarted work on it. But then MM sadly went under.  And when I next  discussed the question of Starlight with my agent, a year or so after the fact, he told me gently that after inquiries, no other publisher had any interest whatsoever in the fourth book, and I should set it aside and turn my attention to other things.

So the only other way for this book to see the light of day is through self-publication. Yes, certainly the self-pub model has changed very significantly in the last couple years. (And to this I say HURRAY for the new options it offers both the beginning writer and the established one.) But it nonetheless brings with it a new set of unknowns.   And though those who contact me about The Door into Starlight without a shadow of a doubt really want to see it, I have to consider the situation with a cold eye, because it’s possible that their message, however heartfelt, nonetheless translates at this end as,  “We want you to sit down and spend hundreds of hours of your (theoretically) paying writing time on something that will make us very happy but may never pay you even minimum wage.”

Am I wrong about this? If I am, give me a sign. Here we are in the heart of the Social Media age, with Facebook all over the place and Twitter a force to be reckoned with and Google+ roaring about the landscape making everybody all excitable and nervous.

So use them to convince me. Facebook folks: Hit the “Like” link or share the message here.  Twitterers:  Retweet this message, or (if you prefer) Tweet the Bitly link to the message with the hashtag #doorintostarlight : let's see if there are enough of you interested to get it trending.  Google+ people who’re interested in this: use the Share button to share this message with your extended circles, and/or use the +1 button on the posting.  (ETA: Yesterday's link wasn't set for public availability --  the repost at the link above is set right.) Ask everyone you know who might possibly care about this issue to do the same.  Convince me how many of you are out there who give a damn. Otherwise: just leave a comment here or on the main posting at Out of Ambit.

This effort will have a couple of useful side effects:

(a)  I’ll get a serious idea of whether more than a very few sweet and persistent enthusiasts care about whether they ever see the book or not.

(b)  If nothing in particular comes of this, that result will itself give me something concrete to point at. When someone comes up to me at the next convention and says “So where is it…?!”, I’ll be able to pass them the URL(s) of this message in the various places where it appears. That way they can see the size of the response for themselves, and understand by direct observation why I either got on with finishing the book, or decided to continue dealing with the project in the leisurely manner of the last couple of decades, in between other projects as opportunity dictates.

Now if the results convince me,  I’ll formally lock the book into my second-half-of-2012 work schedule (that being the earliest I could reasonably get to grips with the project, as I have contractual commitments on the table that must be fulfilled first).  Please note that even if this happens, under no circumstances will I at any point be setting any kind of completion date. The Big Meow project has taught me to be way more cautious with such commitments. This will also never be a crowdfunded project, for the same reason: crowdfunding is not a good work model for me and I won’t be doing it again. I’ll just get to work on the book, and people can then start nagging me periodically for word counts.  (omg what am I saying…)

One last thought. Maybe you’re one of the people vitally interested in seeing the last book, and you want to add some guilt to the equation?  Then go over here and buy an ebook. Doesn’t matter which one. (Though try this one if you like: it’s the first book of a new series and I’m very fond of it. Also Audible will be doing it as an audiobook in a while, which is cool.) Spend no more than what you’d spend on a Starbucks latte or a beer.  After all, if you spend that much on an ebook, you still have the ebook afterwards. If you spend it on a beer…where’s that beer ten hours later? Even if you hate the ebook, you’ll still be ahead of the game the next day.  :)  If you decide to do this, use the discount code STARLIGHTGUILT when you check out: it’ll give you a 15% discount on your total purchase and also mark you as someone to be  notified should something start happening with Starlight in 2012.

...So let’s see what happens. Meanwhile, I’m going to go off and see about that Malt-O-Meal.
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

For those of you who may have visited the Ebooks Direct store to pick up .epub or Kindle / .mobi copies of the omnibus containing all three Middle Kingdoms books (The Door into Fire, The Door into Shadow and The Door into Sunset), we've just finished reformatting the original editions to add better chapter breaks and other formatting.

The system has sent out emails with new download links to everyone who purchased the initial version of the ebook, in either format. We just thought it would be a good idea to mention it here as well, in case any of the emails accidentally wind up in people's spam filters.

If you've been thinking about picking up a copy of the Omnibus ebook, this is a great time to do it, as we're having a 20%-off-everything sale at the Ebooks Direct store at the moment. Click here for the book's product page, and then use the coupon code DDCOM during checkout to get 20% off the Omnibus and anything else you purchase from the store. (If you want to see how our checkout works when you're using a discount code, it's all explained here.)

(PS: if you bought a copy of the Omnibus from the old Zen Cart store, we'll be putting copies of the book there as well early next week, and regenerating everyone's download links.)

Thanks, everybody!
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

… and even for those of you who’re not: there’s something going on.

Just so you know…

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

I had an email from my NY agent about this late yesterday, and all the principals are agreed on the main details, so I don’t see any particular point in waiting for the paperwork before telling the world about this.

Apparently the good folks at Audible have been seeking out books to adapt to the audiobook format -- whether they're conventionally published or not. And they're signing on to make an audiobook out of Raetian Tales 1: A Wind from the South. (With an option to also do the next volume in the series when written.)

This is super! I'm so buzzed.

For those of you who want to pick up a copy so you'll be in a position to judge the results when the audiobook comes out, you can get the ebook from the DD.com Ebooks Direct store here (cheapest, no DRM, both ePub and Kindle / .mobi available); from Amazon (Kindle / .mobi only, a little more expensive but more convenient if you've already got your details stored there: btw, thanks for the nice reviews, folks...); or if you prefer, acquire a print "trade paperback" copy of the book from Lulu.com.

Whee! Thanks, Audible!

(Dreamwidth folk, don't forget that you have a standing discount at the EbooksDirect store — 20% off any purchase over USD $10.00 when you quote the discount code "dreamwidth" at checkout time.)



dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
The eyes in the peacocks tail

Once upon a time, the King of the Greek gods, Zeus, was getting ready for yet another episode of cheating on his wife. His latest target was a beautiful mortal girl named Io, whose resistance he had been wearing down by sending her a series of racy dreams of which he was the star. Having finally arrived on her doorstep to make his case in person, Zeus wrapped the two of them and that whole region of the world in a thick black cloud to hide the incipient goings-on.

This was a tactical error. Zeus’s wife Queen Hera noticed the peculiar change in the weather, checked Olympus to see if her husband the Cloudgatherer was on site, and – not finding him there – immediately put two and two together and headed for the area of sudden overcast. She dispersed the clouds and found herself looking at her husband and an extremely lovely (and one must assume, confused-looking) white cow, which Zeus explained had sprung from Mother Earth just that minute.  Not even slightly fooled, Hera promptly confiscated the cow, and assigned to guard her – or rather, to make sure her husband didn’t get anywhere near her – one of her security staff, a creature by the name of Argus. Argus was completely covered with eyes that stared in every direction and saw everything for miles around. The eyes even slept in shifts, so that the watcher’s pitiless regard was inescapable by night or day. Hera went off confident that her husband’s case was well handled.

Myths being what they are, of course, such a situation can’t last. Zeus quickly has words with Olympus’s resident thief, trickster and inside-job man, Hermes, who disguises himself as a handsome shepherd boy and  shows up in the flowery meadow where Argus is guarding Io. There he proceeds to bore all Argus’s eyes to sleep by telling him serial tales of mortal romance.* Then, when the last of Argus’s eyes fall asleep, Hermes pulls out his sword and kills him, signaling, if not the end of Io’s troubles, at least the beginning of the end. Later on the frustrated Hera winds up putting all of Argus’s eyes in the tail of her favorite bird, the peacock — probably as a reminder to Zeus that at least this once she caught him in near-flagrante — and over the subsequent centuries Argus’s name becomes a metaphor for unsleeping watchfulness.

The world is full of people who appoint themselves to roles like Argus’s, as would-be watchers and guardians. Sometimes they’re even useful in those roles. Their motives aren’t always suspect: sometimes they genuinely mean well. But good intentions aren’t always enough. And sometimes these can lead the would-be guardians into serious mistakes, especially when their intelligence (in the informational sense) is incomplete or poor.

It looks like we’ve just seen an example of this in a recent Wall Street Journal article, which spends a while purporting to analyze the “fitness for purpose” of some modern-day young adult fiction, the kind that deals openly with difficult topics like self-harm. The reactions to the article’s assertions have been widespread and passionate. Readers and writers alike have responded at length, and lots more opinions and links to them, short and long, are to be found on Twitter filed under the #YASaves hashtag. Having read the article, though, I found myself reacting most strongly to two specific passages that jumped out at me: and the reactions came on two different levels. The first passage really annoys me as a former psychiatric professional:

Read more... )
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Screengrab of new ebookshop front page at ebooksdirect.dianeduane.com

Okay, so it's a "soft opening."

Those of you who may have noticed that I've been working on the do-it-yourself-ebook-publishing thing may also  know that for the past six months or so, Lee the Tech Lady and I have been in a more or less constant battle of wits with the Zen Cart software we installed at DianeDuane.com the turn of the year. After a while it became obvious to both of us (and also, tangentially, to Peter, who had to watch me wandering around tearing my hair and muttering) that Zen Cart was winning. This is not good. Software should not get in the way of what you're trying to do. And software should definitely not make you feel stupid.

But things have taken a better turn. We found out about Shopify, and it took me very little time to realize that this was what we needed. It's taken a week or so to set up the new store, but it's been a relatively pain-free week -- in the same way that putting a BandAid on a scratch compares favorably to brain surgery (which dealing with Zen Cart often resembled).

So here's the new store's address:


It's not yet in its final state -- we have some design issues we're still dealing with -- but it looks OK, and all the products are in place. And we have a few opening-time specials for those of you who enjoy such things.

First of all, for those of you who'd like to help us test out our shopping cart to make sure that it works with real money (not that I have any serious doubts in this case, but you never know...), we've made available as a standalone purchase the very very short story "The Rizzoli Bag", which has been used to test our cart before. This will cost you USD $0.05, aka Five Cents or even a Nickel (call it 3p Sterling). And also available as a standalone again (as it was during St. Patrick's Day week) is the much longer short story "Herself," which we're offering for USD $0.99 or ninety-nine cents.

Finally, should anything else in the store take your fancy -- such as the Young Wizards International editions (for readers outside the US and Canada only) or the ebook versions of the Door Into... series, we're offering the Dreamwidth community a 20% discount for purchases of USD$10.00 or more. Just quote the coupon code dreamwidth at checkout. Usage will determine how long this offer lasts, so if you see something you like, don't assume the discount is going to be there indefinitely.

Young Wizards fans may also want to visit the page with details about the new revised Millennium Editions of books 1-4 -- the first cover rough/template is up. (No art yet: that'll be along in June.)

As regards the old store: we won't be closing it just yet, but we'll be freezing it so that no new orders can be placed there; and we've removed its link from the DianeDuane.com site and the YoungWizards.com site. As soon as all present order issues with the Zen Cart store are complete, we'll send out one final email to the old store's users with the new shop's address so that they can get re-download links from the new Shopify facility if they need them.)

Anyway, thanks, everybody!

Last days

Apr. 27th, 2011 10:40 am
dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Squeak in winter coat

I need to write about this now, as it’s only going to get more difficult if I put it off.

Despite our hopes that Mr. Squeak would see some relatively long-term improvement in his general condition after the time he spent in the vet hospital early in April on being diagnosed with renal failure syndrome, and despite a brief period during the middle of the month when he was genuinely doing better, the tide is unfortunately turning for the worse.

When he was released from the hospital, Squeak was put on meds for blood pressure management and to improve what remains of his renal function. At first he responded pretty well to these, and around the middle of the month he started acting more like the cat we knew from before last winter — being up and around a lot more, demanding food every time someone walked into the kitchen, getting in your face in bed in the morning (normally by sitting on your chest and purring deafeningly until you surrendered to the inevitable and got up and fed him), hanging around with whoever was up and working, and snoozing on and off when he was convinced that tthings were going well enough that he could relax his attention.

But it didn’t last. Last week his appetite started slowly dropping off again. This week he’s eaten very little: not even the roast turkey for which he would have in better days nearly knocked you down is sufficient to tempt him. When he does eat, he has trouble getting it down. He’s grown visibly weaker. He spends almost all the day curled up and sleeping in the box where his much-missed mate Beemer used to sleep before she was killed by traffic nearly two years ago.

It’s getting to be time to make the final call to the local vet.

We’re going to give him a last couple of days to see whether there’s some change in his fortunes. But frankly, I’m not betting on it. I’ve seen often enough what it looks like when someone stops responding to their medications. It was always a long shot that the meds would have any significant effect with a cat whose kidneys were probably down to 5% or 10% of their normal function.  This time I think the dice have fallen against us. And there is no kindness to Squeak — and no respect for his lifelong, considerable dignity — in trying to keep him around any longer in hopes that things will magically get better. Here as elsewhere, entropy is running.


I want to take a moment to thank everyone very much who took the time to stop by the DD.com shop to buy things that would help defray the expenses of renal diet food and so forth. Squeaky really did like it, for as long as his appetite was improving, and it won’t go to waste; Squeak’s padawan apprentice Goodman likes the k/d food too (and at thirteen-plus is of an age to be eating it anyway. An upcoming priority is to get him over to the vet too in fairly short order to have bloods drawn and see how his own kidney health stands).

And now we wait, For the moment, Squeaky is lying out in the sun, snoozing — the first time in months that we’ve seen him do that (but we’ve been kind of short on sunshine around here until very recently). I hope the next couple of days stay sunny.

One postscript here: Peter tells me he won’t be blogging about this, but he too thanks eveybody for all the kind thoughts we know will be coming our, and Squeak’s, way. And I thank you all too.


dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Hills Prescription k/d

Secondary to a batch of emails and so forth from folks who weren't able to take advantage of the below-described discount offer over the weekend, we've extended it one day. So the (revised) pertinent info appears below. (And thanks to everyone who's participated so far!)

BTW: if you've purchased an ebook or ebooks and are having any kind of download problem, please leave a comment in the thread below and our tech lady will get back to you as quickly as possible. Apparently there were some problems with the server on Saturday that resulted in shop registration emails and / or emailed passwords being delayed. These problems seem to have resolved themselves, but we want to make sure everyone's got what they paid for, or were able to get in and make their purchases in the first place.

Anyway, here's what it's all about. As of this past weekend we've nearly come to the end of the supply of special kidney-friendly cat food that the vet's office sent home with Mr. Squeak after his hospital stay (he was being treated for what we now recognize as the late stages of feline renal failure). Now it's time to start ordering the stuff in seriously, and jeezLouise is it expensive. Also, in our neck of the woods you have to order "prescription" cat foods in bulk from the distributor... which means a minimum of 48-unit cases. Still: it's in a good cause. So it's time to have a sale at the DD.com ebook shop! We're offering a 25%-off sale on all ebooks in the shop until Tuesday morning (0900 UTC), April 19th. BT The discount offer includes:

  • Middle Kingdoms books and stories, such as --
  • And the Young Wizards International Editions. (Purchasers outside the US and Canada only, please!) Including:
(For those interested: the other four books are still in production, but we expect to have them all up by mid-May.)
Not Particularly

To get your discount, all you need to do is enter the coupon code CATFOOD at the checkout page. This will deduct 25% from your final total. And for customers taking advantage of this offer: you can use the coupon TWICE over the course of the weekend if you want to. So shop early and often! And thanks in advance to all of you who elect to assist us in what we hope will be a long battle with the prescription catfood wholesaler. :) ...And now it's time for a gratuitous cat picture, showing the senior cat in healthier days. (BTW, if you want to see some more of Squeaky, click here to view a nice selection of photos of him at Flickr.)









dduane: DD's avatar (Default)

We saw this while in the excellent Martinsbräu in Freiburg in Breisgau, that jewel among German cities -- possibly the most Mediterranean of the cities of the German south.

The whole place is downstairs one level, under the busy city food market above. There are booths and tables set near the big copper brew kettles (the Martinsbräu is a microbrewery) and off to one side, by one of the big tables, pictures of angels are hung on the far wall.

Theoretically, the various angels are supposed to be protecting their charges. But some of the angels look... a little ambivalent.

dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
Hills Prescription k/d

As of this weekend we'll be running out of the supply of special kidney-friendly cat food that the vet's office sent home with Mr. Squeak after his hospital stay. Now it's time to start ordering it seriously, and jeezLouise is that stuff expensive. Also, in our neck of the woods you have to order it in bulk from the distributor... which means a minimum of 40-unit cases. Still: it's in a good cause.

So it's time to have a sale at the DD.com ebook shop! From this morning (meaning 0900 UTC), April 16, until Monday morning (again, 0900 UTC), April 18, we're offering a 25%-off sale on all ebooks in the shop. (ETA: due to popular demand, this offer has been extended to / through Tuesday morning (0900 UTC), April 19th.)

The discount offer includes:

  • And the Young Wizards International Editions. (Purchasers outside the US and Canada only, please!) Including:
(For those interested: the other four books are still in production, but we expect to have them all up by mid-May.)
Not Particularly

To get your discount, all you need to do is enter the coupon code CATFOOD at the checkout page. This will deduct 25% from your final total. And for customers taking advantage of this offer: you can use the coupon TWICE over the course of the weekend if you want to.

So shop early and often! And thanks in advance to all of you who elect to assist us in what we hope will be a long battle with the prescription catfood wholesaler.  :)

...And now it's time for a gratuitous cat picture, showing the senior cat in healthier days. (BTW, if you want to see some more of Squeaky, click here to view a nice selection of photos of him at Flickr.)



dduane: DD's avatar (Default)
It ain’t cheap. But I wonder if this is one of those things we’re going to see come down in price as the affiliated technologies become cheaper, and as more people start using it. Assuming that they do...
Guy in exoskeleton
ReWalk™ is a man-machine device where the user is actively involved and has control of all mobility functions, through unique control processes. Walking is controlled through subtle changes in center of gravity, stability and safety are secured by use of crutches. Participation in mobility control comes naturally and intuitively, and brings tangible health and emotional benefits. ReWalk™ is not just a vertical wheelchair – ReWalk™ restores the element of control over mobility so lacking for wheelchair users. As any wheelchair user can attest, life in a wheelchair carries a hefty healthcare price tag. Serious problems with the urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems are common, as well as osteoporosis, pressure sores and other afflictions.  
By maintaining users upright on a daily basis, and exercising even paralyzed limbs in the course of movement, ReWalk™ alleviates many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use. In addition to relieving suffering, this has a real impact on healthcare costs – cutting, and enabling both insurers and individuals to redirect funds to other avenues. Adoption of ReWalk™ by wheelchair users results in significant cost saving at both institutions and private homes. ReWalk™ makes standing devices, stair lifts, bed lifts, and other mobility assistance apparatus redundant. Similarly, ReWalk™ users don't require expensive powered wheelchairs – or the oversize vehicles and devices required to handle them. With ReWalk™, users require only minimal additional mobility assistance – dramatically increasing independence together with cost saving on a yearly basis.

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"Recovering at home," I guess, is the best phrase to use. He looks a little peculiar, since they partially shaved both his forelegs -- one for the first IV he was on, and the other to use when he (somehow or other) pulled the first cannula out. He's been ambling around looking vague, or else sleeping a lot, and right now -- today being an unusually nice day for Ireland, sunny and still -- he's sitting out in the back yard soaking up the sunshine.

...But "recovering" is kind of an optomistic usage here. Chronic renal failure is 100% fatal, eventually. It's just a question now of how long "eventually" takes. Right now we have to give the medications Squeak is on enough time to kick in, and see whether they help his appetite (which right now is worryingly marginal) and his other symptoms. He's drinking well enough, though not as much as he was when he was in crisis last week -- which is a good thing. The question now becomes whether he'll start feeling like eating enough to make some kind of improvement in his condition likely.

This is, finally, a quality-of-life issue. Squeak has always been a dignified cat, and there's no point in depriving him of that dignity, especially at his advanced age, just for the sake of what might be only a few more months of life. I'm guessing that within a couple of weeks we'll know whether there's any point in continuing vet runs for blood work and so forth, or if it would be kinder for all concerned -- especially our most senior puss -- to ask our local vet to make one last house call.

Meanwhile, through all of this, work goes on. It ain't easy. But thanks to everybody who's tweeted or emailed to send support. (And thanks also to all those who picked up a subscription to The Big Meow, or a copy of the Uptown Local and Other Interventions anthology or something else from the ebook shop, to help with the vet bills. It's seriously appreciated.)

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-- to whoever just upgraded my Dreamwidth account to paid status: that was very sweet of you!

Thanks so much. :)
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This screenplay has been gestating for a good while -- one of those stories that's been niggling and niggling at me to be told. Like all too many of my stories, it started out with a misreading that turned into a pun.

Don't ask me at what point I looked at (or heard) "bed and breakfast" and kicked it a couple of consonants along into "dead and breakfast".And then of course the conjectures began. What kind of place is a "dead and breakfast"? Who lives there? Why? And what's the nature of the "broken bone" that for me is the heart of fantasy fiction -- the painful interface where the fantastic element rubs up against reality and causes the drama? This script is my answer to those questions.

It's been kind of a hectic weekend here, so I wasn't able to start ScriptFrenzy along with everyone else: but this screenplay will be going up over at Out of Ambit, five pages or so per day, until it completes at the end of April. (Complete with fantasy casting... as you can see from the poster.)  :)  (Unfortunately it can't be posted here because I can't get the Scrippet script-page formatting to work...)
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Just a quick thank-you to those who've tweeted and emailed over the weekend to ask how Squeaky is.

For the last few months he'd become increasingly subdued and lethargic at home. Initially we put this down to the aftereffects of a bitterly cold and snowy winter, during which he actively refused to go out very much, and to Squeak's considerable age (he's somewhere in the neighborhood of eighteen years old). But when he also started losing weight over the last month and getting actively frail, we became a lot more concerned.

On Friday we got him to the best of the local veterinary practices in our area for a checkup and to have bloods drawn. When the results came in on Saturday morning, the vet called us and asked us to bring him in immediately for hospitalization, the diagnosis being chronic renal failure.

Squeaky's spent the weekend on IVs, essentially having his kidneys flushed clean, being hydrated and stuffed full of steroids and various other medications, and being evaluated to see whether his renal disease can be managed through diet and medication or not. His condition has been improving -- the vet told us today that when he was admitted "he'd let us do anything we wanted with him" but that now "his personality was coming out a lot more" -- meaning, I strongly suspect, the part of his personality usually expressed with his claws when something happens that Mr. Squeak considers inconsistent with his dignity. Since he has only two teeth left, I suspect they aren't that much of an issue. But even in his frail state he still has a skogkatt's big catcher's-mitt paws, and packs a wallop when he hits someone with them. Squeak's padawan apprentice Mr. Goodman, having been on the receiving end of smacking from these weapons from a young age, still treats Squeak with great respect even though he outweighs Squeaky by 50%.

Anyway, the hospital is looking at being ready to release him to home care tomorrow sometime. In the short term Squeak will now need the expected special renal diet, and probably diuretics as well, and monthly injections of this and that to help metabolize the built-up toxins that his kidneys and liver are no longer capable of handling unassisted. Only time will tell at this point how long the treatment will extend his life.

Naturally we're overjoyed that our old friend isn't going to have to depart the household just yet. What the future will hold remains to be revealed (but then that's the way things usually go anyway...). The only thing we can be sure about right now is the vet bills. (And for those of you who've been idly considering a subscription to The Big Meow, or picking up a copy of the Uptown Local and Other Interventions anthology ebook, or something else from the DianeDuane.com ebook shop, let me suggest that this would absolutely be the perfect moment for it.)

In any case, thanks again to all those who inquired about Squeaky's health. We can't wait to get him home.
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Here are two more wallpapers for those who might be interested in DL'ing them. Once again, these were produced in the wonderful Terragen 2.2. The location is in Syrtis Major, and that shiny object is the "superegg" that the wizards find buried in a dune by an outcropping  there. (I have removed the sand in these shots because I like seeing the whole superegg shape: I find it very cool.)

This first one is a late afternoon shot --

Small Syrtis Superegg image

The second is a reverse angle on the same position, and you can see a proper Martian "blue sunset" in the b.g. The superegg is plainly about to start misbehaving in this one.

Small sunset outcropping image

Both of these are 1920x1200 pixels. The images are hosted at Box.net, so that's where clicking on the images will take you for your download.

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Just going through the blogroll and revisiting some old favorites preparatory to cleaning the present list up.

One I’ve always liked is “Rubber Slippers in Italy”. Here Rowena posts about the Carnivale in Schignano and its traditions about the Bei and the Brut — “the Beautiful and the Ugly.”

Peter read this over my shoulder and said, “Isn’t it interesting how cultural stereotypes shift over time. Once if you had a big belly, or were pale from not having to work outside in the fields, it was a sign you were wealthy and successful. Now it’s all tans and abs…”



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For those of us who work with wizards, the world is a little shadowier today.

I can't say that I knew Diana well -- except in the way that any Constant Reader of a favorite Constant Writer may, when after much reading you begin to suspect that you know some of what's going on "behind" the written word. (And you may still be pretty wrong about this: an occupational hazard). As a migrant to this side of the Bitter Water who started attending British conventions in the late 80's, naturally I knew Diana to sit down and have a drink with in the convention bar. Mostly I knew her through her connection to Peter: he had known her far longer than I (and he's blogged about that here).

When we first met I was far too junior in the field to do much except Sit in Awe of her. (No one in a British convention bar does much Standing in Awe unless there are just no seats to be had in the place.) She was always funny and kind, in a very particularly dry-Diana kind of way, and a lot more interested in the business -- and joy -- of writing than in having anyone be in awe of her.

Everybody is going to be talking, for the next while, about the Chrestomanci books and Howl's Moving Castle and all the rest of it. And with good reason. Diana was, and will remain, one of the definitive voices in YA fantasy -- a craftswoman who was doing what she bloody well wanted to do long before YA fantasy became Cool. (And she remains one of the great proofs of the axiom: Don't follow the market: do what you love to do. If you do it well enough, and long enough, the market will start following you.)

But I want to head off in a slightly different direction. From the time I met her until now, the most perfect encapsulization for me of that "tone of mind" of hers was and is in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, possibly the most excellent early-cliche-warning and trope-squashing device that the young working fantasy writer could desire. It is a pitch-perfect freeform deconstruction of the Elf Opera in particular, and of all the ways that epic fantasy can go wrong (mostly through laziness or inattention to what's been done before) in general. Diana had seen it all in her time -- the pioneers, the amateurs (in the original correct sense of the word) and those who took up fantasy writing to make a fast quid or buck. As a serious and thoughtful practitioner of the art, she was in a perfect position to comment, at length and in trenchant mode, on how to screw up fantasy... while (in her comments) being hilarious at the same time.

Our copy lives up in the bathroom off Peter's office. (I think he commandeered it because she clearly nods at him in its pages.) I can see that over the days to come I am going to be spending break time up there, snickering: the kind of tribute I'm sure Diana would prefer. Over entries like this:

Turncoats are people who change to the side of the DARK LORD in mid-Tour. This can happen to anyone except CHILDREN, Gods and the TALENTED GIRL. Turncoats are particularly dangerous because they have no REEK OF WRONGNESS. You will have got to know them as a friendly COMPANION, GOOD KING, TOUR MENTOR, etc., and you will trust them with your life / QUEST OBJECT / SECRET without suspecting that they now operate on behalf of EVIL. Such people will have been taken aside during the Tour and been blackmailed, threatened, put to the TORTURE, fed POISON, hypnotized, enchanted by a MAGIC OBJECT or simply been made an offer they couldn't refuse. After this they will be working very seriously for your downfall. But take heart. The Rule is that only one person becomes a Turncoat at a time. The Management does not allow everyone in Fantasyland to turn against you at once.

Note that the term Turncoat is never used to describe a person who leaves the cause of the Dark Lord to join yours. This is reasonable. Your side is in the right. People who join you are merely becoming converted.



Godspeed, Diana. You'll be missed.

(And one word to the rest of you still breathing: LAY OFF THE SMOKING. First Dave Gemmell, and Auntie Gytha, and now Diana too? How many more writers and other valuable human beings and friends of ours is this pestilent weed going to kill? ALL OF YOU CUT IT OUT RIGHT NOW.)
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For those who're interested: the release of the AWoM paperback is scheduled for May 2, 2011, and you can preorder it now.


"In the hotly anticipated ninth installment of the Young Wizards series, Kit and Nita become part of an elite team investigating the mysterious 'message in a bottle' that holds the first clues to the secrets of the long-lost inhabitants of Mars. But not even wizardry can help them cope with the strange events that unfold when the "bottle" is uncorked and a life form from another era emerges.

"Though the Martians seem friendly, they have a plan that could change the shape of more than one world. As the shadow of interplanetary war stretches over both worlds, Kit and Nita must fight to master the strange and ancient synergy binding them to Mars and its last inhabitants. If they don't succeed, the history that left Mars lifeless will repeat itself on Earth..."


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