Intricate Keyhole

At the Intersection of Fiction & Reality

Steve's Blog

Intricate Keyhole

Winter's no longer coming. It's here.

Welcome to winter. And to cheer you up a bit (and to prove that I'm still taking the occasional bird picture), here's a Morning Bird Pic, taken a few days ago: a cardinal on the feeder struts.


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Crows ain't dumb!

All the crows in Connemara already knew this.

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Mostly for locals, but...

Because I'm a lazy sod and it wasn't a priority, I never did advertise my Ovation guitar for sale on Craigslist or eBay. But I will be doing so after the first of the year, I promise. So just in case somebody here is interested and wants to snag it at the "friends and family" discount, here it is again...

The guitar's a black Ovation Balladeer 1771 LX acoustic-electric. I've had it since 2005 (I think...). This is one of the last models made entirely in the U.S. It's in good shape with the expected few scratches and dings from having been played and used for occasional gigs (though it badly needs new strings -- I might re-string it beforehand...). The action's set rather low at the moment, but I have all the various spacers for under the saddle, so you can raise the action a bit if you find it too low or if the strings are buzzing too much for you (if I re-string it, I'll probably add a spacer under the saddle at that time). I have an Ovation hard case for it, as well as the truss rod adjusting tool and a strap. There's probably a few old extra strings and a pick or two in there are well...

I put a black, clinging plastic film 'pick guard' on it to protect the finish from scratches, since this model of the Ovation didn't come with a pick guard. You can (barely) see it in the pictures -- but it means that the wood underneath is still pristine and not scratched and gouged like most of the Ovations like this I've seen.

In fact, here's a URL to the same model being sold on eBay at the moment. You can see how that one is all scratched up under the sound hole from being played with a pick -- and note the price, also: they're asking $649.00. I'm not. The "friends and family" price is $300 -- you just have to promise to give it a good home and play it! I like the guitar, but I have two Seagulls (one acoustic and one acoustic-electric) that I play regularly, so this one mostly sits in the case anymore and I'd rather it went to someone who'd use it and love it.

Here's the obligatory pics. Contact me at sleigh (AT) if you're interested, and you can come over and play it (and maybe take it home).





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Dialogue with context

A line of dialogue I wrote today that I like: "Pouring honey over thorns doesn't make them edible."

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Out of time

I often feel like I might have been more comfortable in another time in the past. Mind you, I say that while typing on my laptop, sitting in a comfortably-heated house, having just driven back from an appointment ten miles away in our Toyota Prius over (mostly) decently-paved roads, and understanding fully that in nearly all of those pasts, I’d already be dead, and probably would have died rather early given my asthma, near-sightedness, lousy teeth, and so on.

Yesterday, I was listening to Terry Gross interviewing Timothy Spall about his role as the title character in Mike Leigh’s new film “Mr. Turner” -- which takes place in Georgian England, and found myself musing about living in that place and time, with all the interesting movements in fine art, music, and literature at the time. Definitely a film I want to see.

But… While sitting there listening, I realized that part of me feels out of time in this world and this time. I think this predilection shows in my fiction. Even when I wrote science fiction -- purportedly in some future -- the worlds I created were largely informed by my reading of historical textbooks and the societies and cultures there were more backward-looking than forward. The ‘Alliance’ universe where most of my sf was placed was emerging from a “dark ages” collapse, where contact between worlds was lost, where much technology was forgotten, and where stratified, almost medieval cultures arose on various planets.

Since the turn of our current century, I’ve mostly written fantasy rather than sf, and there I’ve been mining Celtic culture (with the Cloudmages series and also with THE CROW OF CONNEMARA) the Renaissance (with the Nessantico cycle), and the historical arts past (with IMMORTAL MUSE). My current work-in-progress is set in a faux first century C.E. England. I’m fascinated by cultures and societies of the past far more than I’m interested in what might happen in the future. I often imagine myself in one of those pasts, and wonder how I might have fared there.

Mind you, as I said above, the present suits me just fine and has done well for me. I like indoor plumbing and electricity and the rest. Still...

What about you? Are you forward- or backward-looking? Have you ever felt out of place in this world of ours?

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A quote...

A quote from one of those Founding Fathers people so admire:

"Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause... for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."

-- George Washington, charge to the Northern Expeditionary Force, Sept. 14, 1775

EDITED TO ADD: Here's the actual full quote (with thanks to the Daily Kos):

"Sir: You are intrusted with a Command of the utmost Consequence sequence to the Interest and Liberties of America. Upon your Conduct and Courage and that of the Officers and Soldiers detached on this Expedition, not only the Success of the present Enterprize, and your own Honour, but the Safety and Welfare of the Whole Continent may depend. I charge you, therefore, and the Officers and Soldiers, under your Command, as you value your own Safety and Honour and the Favour and Esteem of your Country, that you consider yourselves, as marching, not through an Enemy's Country; but that of our Friends and Brethren, for such the Inhabitants of Canada, and the Indian Nations have approved themselves in this unhappy Contest between Great Britain and America. That you check by every Motive of Duty and Fear of Punishment, every Attempt to plunder or insult any of the Inhabitants of Canada. Should any American Soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any Canadian or Indian, in his Person or Property, I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary Punishment as the Enormity of the Crime may require. Should it extend to Death itself it will not be disproportional to its Guilt at such a Time and in such a Cause: But I hope and trust, that the brave Men who have voluntarily engaged in this Expedition, will be governed by far different Views. that Order, Discipline and Regularity of Behaviour will be as conspicuous, as their Courage and Valour. I also give it in Charge to you to avoid all Disrespect to or Contempt of the Religion of the Country and its Ceremonies. Prudence, Policy, and a true Christian Spirit, will lead us to look with Compassion upon their Errors without insulting them. While we are contending for our own Liberty, we should be very cautious of violating the Rights of Conscience in others, ever considering that God alone is the Judge of the Hearts of Men, and to him only in this Case, they are answerable. Upon the whole, Sir, I beg you to inculcate upon the Officers and Soldiers, the Necessity of preserving the strictest Order during their March through Canada; to represent to them the Shame, Disgrace and Ruin to themselves and Country, if they should by their Conduct, turn the Hearts of our Brethren in Canada against us. And on the other Hand, the Honours and Rewards which await them, if by their Prudence and good Behaviour, they conciliate the Affections of the Canadians and Indians, to the great Interests of America, and convert those favorable Dispositions they have shewn into a lasting Union and Affection. Thus wishing you and the Officers and Soldiers under your Command, all Honour, Safety and Success, I remain Sir, etc."

Actually, since this was sent to Benedict Arnold, who was taking American troops into enemy territory, the quote might be more apropos than the abridged one. Not only are they to treat enemy combatants with respect, but "I also give it in Charge to you to avoid all Disrespect to or Contempt of the Religion of the Country and its Ceremonies." Think of that the next time you hear someone generalizing about Islam.

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I've been resisting commenting on political stuff as much as possible, but the CIA report released this week, well...

On today’s FACE THE NATION, Senator John McCain, one of the few Republicans (if not the only one) who came out in favor of releasing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report of torture, said that the practices outlined in that report “fly in the face of everything that America values and stands for… It's about us: what we were, what we are, and what we should be, and that's a nation that does not engage in these kinds of violations of the fundamental basic human rights that we guaranteed when we declared our independence.”

I don’t agree with Senator McCain on much, but I wholeheartedly agree with him here. Absolutely, the attacks of 9/11 were terrible and cowardly. Without a doubt, some enemies of the U.S. have done (and continue to do) horrible and grotesque things to their prisoners. But the actions that we have taken as a nation in the wake of this are odious.

None of what has been done to use requires that we must to stoop to the same level of barbarity. None of that is an excuse for us to become just like them. Remember, at our behest, Japanese officers were executed for having waterboarded U.S. prisoners in the wake of WWII. We signed the Geneva Conventions and swore to uphold them. We have, as a nation, gone after those who broke those conventions and committed war crimes and brought them to justice.

And now, the evidence is there in front of us that we are no different. The evidence says to the world that we’ll condemn and jail and even execute those who torture… unless, of course, the people who are doing so are Americans.

Where is the outrage? Why haven’t those named as authorizing and condoning these tactics -- some of them at the highest levels of government -- been charged and arrested? Why is it a horror and a war crime and terrorism when someone does this to an American citizen, but ‘necessary’ when we do it?

My congratulations to Senator McCain for having the courage to speak out while others (like Senator Chambliss, who also appeared on the show) make shameless excuses and minimize these tactics: done in the name of you and me and every citizen of this country.

At one point, Senator McCain said as an aside “...these EITs -- isn't that Orwellian, calling them EITs?” Indeed, Senator McCain, indeed.

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Flags a'waving

Proofing of the galleys for CROW OF CONNEMARA is finished. Next step, copy the pages on which I've made changes, then send the changed pages back to Joshua at DAW Books.

Before their deadline, too. Hope I'm not setting a hopeless precedent for other writers...

Here's the flagged pages.


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Finnigan's Awake

++++++++++++++++++-----64'. ;n, fgszsaW

(Finnigan just jumped up on the desk. The above is what he wrote. He also purred because I rubbed his ears, and said I had to post a picture of him. Here's one.)


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Musing on CROW's galleys...

In CROW OF CONNEMARA, the father of the Colin, one of the two protagonists of the novel, dies (this isn't a particular plot spoiler, since the father has suffered a massive coronary event at the start of the novel and is brain dead.

My own father, to whom the book is dedicated, passed away while I was in the midst of writing this book, and while the circumstances were certainly different and the relationship between Colin and his father doesn't much resemble the relationship between me and my father, there were still some disturbing similarities. I had a difficult time in the revision passes going over those sections where Colin is dealing with his father's condition.

At Detcon this year, I used the initial passage at my reading and found that I had to pause a few times with some of the description, because my voice was starting to quaver and the words were beginning to swim in my sight. Reading the galleys now, those scenes still get to me, dredging up memories.

I suppose we can never entirely lose the influences of our parents, even after we've long fled the nest, even after they're gone entirely.

What do you think?