RIP Anne McCaffrey

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I read one of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, but I was definitely no older than fourteen. I do remember that I’d confused DragonSong, which I loved, with Lizard Music, which I hated, for the longest time, and that probably kept me from reading them at first.

I have fond memories of a chilly night in a rented vacation home in Inverness, California, sleeping on a bunk overlooking the forest and the ocean beyond, reading long past the time I should have been asleep, because the house was strange, and too quiet, and the bookshelves held first editions of ALL of the Pern books.

Later, of course, much later, I stumbled into the world of MUSHes and MOOs and found myself playing a dragonrider on a Pern-themed role-playing game. I met Fuzzy that way, and many of my other friends.

Even later than that, I learned about McCaffrey’s incredibly odd views on homosexuality (which I will not go into here), and finally, I realized I’d grown out of Pern, though never out of science fiction.

When I heard, a few hours ago, that she’d passed away yesterday at her adopted home in Ireland (a self-designed house named Dragonhold – Underhill), it affected me enough that I had to pause a moment, and take a breath, and send her love and light as her spirit is consigned to whatever eternity may be.

Dragonriders of Pern

I never knew the woman.

But I knew her stories, and I knew her books, and they gave me hours of pleasure and led me to the man I love, and some amazing friends who are among the most talented people I know.

And I know that she was the first woman to win a HUGO award, that she was one of the few women who was active and successful in Science Fiction/Fantasy when it was still very much a male-dominated genre, and that she served as a writing mentor to a collection of authors who went on to write amazing stories of their own.

So, rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey. Maybe this weekend I’ll read one of your books as a form of remembrance.

Ms. McCaffrey’s publisher has posted a statement about her death. You can see it here.

Star Trek Fiction Roundup

During October, when I wasn’t reading mysteries, I was reading Star Trek novels, because they’re quick and fun, and after writing all day I don’t always have enough brain power to read in unfamiliar worlds. Besides, just because something is a tv-tie-in doesn’t make it bad writing. The Pocket Books Star Trek fiction has let beloved characters expand beyond the limits of episodic television in wonderful and surprising ways.

So which ones did I read in October, 2011?

Some Assembly Required

I finished Some Assembly Required, the 3rd Starfleet Corps of Engineers Omnibus, which was, as always, really interesting. The SCE books were all ebooks originally, and reading them in clumps of a few seems to work incredibly well. I was a little concerned, when I first began to explore the series, that I wouldn’t like a tie-in that only had one (really) canon character, but these new additions to the Trekiverse are as three-dimensional as any that have ever graced our screens.

Maximum Warp: Book One

I also read Maximum Warp books one and two, which take place between First Contact and Nemesis, and involve dead zones in space, an uneasy trade agreement with the Romulans, and the return of Ambassador Spock. The dead zones are a great invention, as they create jeopardy without having to leave the ship, and have no real target. What was eerie was watching them affect Data, and seeing him described as “weak” and “tired” – words not usually associated with an android character.

Maximum Warp: Book Two

Book one, by necessity had a lot of the exposition, and setup, while book two had more of the political intrigue and action, but the pair of them kept me interested for two or three days (I read them during the work week, so it took me longer), and I was happy with my latest escape to the future.

These all go well with tomato soup and grilled cheese, or a toasted bagel and clam chowder.

The Sunday Salon: A Tale of Three Lauras

Over the last week or so, I’ve been living on the prairie. Not the North Texas prairie that is still crusty with drought, despite recent and forthcoming rain, though of course, technically our city IS on the prairie, but the prairie as brought to life by Laura Ingalls Wilder and two of her modern fans.

The Long Winter

I grew up reading the Little House… books, and re-read them when I moved to South Dakota to marry Fuzzy in 1995. They have new dimension when your husband is from a town just half an hour from the real Little Town on the Prairie, and your new niece and nephews attend Laura Wilder Elementary School!

I read The Long Winter last winter (and early Spring) after we returned home from a trip to Iowa in early February (for a family funeral) and after I found the amazing blog/website Beyond Little House. The members of that site were in the middle of a read-along of that book, and I wanted to participate, but was so busy…and then life exploded in other ways.

During the intervening years, I’ve visited a few of the home sites (De Smet, many times, Plum Creek, Walnut Grove, keep meaning to visit Independence, but never have), read a good portion of the published literature about Mrs. A. J. Wilder, and considered a Laura project of my own.

That consideration has been sparked, recently, by two new(ish) Laura-related books by fans who are roughly my age.

The Wilder Life

The first I encountered is a humorous memoir by Wendy McClure. It’s called The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, and it’s about the author’s journeys to the various homesites, and her attempts to bring a bit of “Laura World,” as she calls it, into her own world. (It’s at this point that I must confess: My mother used to make sunbonnets for me, I dressed as Laura for Halloween, 1977, and I have boiled syrup to pour over snow, but I have never considered buying a churn and making my own butter.)

McClure’s book resonated with me for another reason – her partner’s name (at least, the one in the book) is the same as Fuzzy’s real name.

Unlike McClure, however, I loved the television show. Oh, I knew it wasn’t accurate, but just as I’ve often said of the Harry Potter movies, that show was what might have resulted had the real Laura sold her story to the media herself. Also? It was fun to watch. My friend Jill would come over on Monday nights and we’d do our homework while waiting to see if Laura and Almanzo would finally kiss.

I was, however, a fan of the books first, and there were times in Colorado when there were three feet of snow on the ground and school was closed for days because the buses couldn’t get over the pass that I had the barest glimpse of what that Long Winter might have been like. (After my first real winter in South Dakota, I realized that Colorado winters were mild by comparison. I also realized that as much as I might like to imagine living on the prairie in a claim shanty, I’m a modern woman, and I am DONE with serious winter.)

My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself

I devoured McClure’s book and wanted more. Coincidentally, I was led to my other Laura-book of this week, another memoir, by a woman just two years older than I am. Her name is Kelly Kathleen Ferguson, and her book – which I read in one day, and finished while soaking in a tub of lavender-scented bubbles – is My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself.

Ferguson is a bit wilder than McClure, in that – on a mission of self discovery – she donned a prairie dress, and wore it on a two week marathon visit to all of the midwestern homesites of the Ingalls and Wilder clans. Her book is also funny, candid, and, at times, poignant, and as I read it I almost – ALMOST – wanted to be single again, so I could just uproot myself and move to another city and write.

Her description of her time at Prairie Manor, specifically, made me want to go back to Dakota and spend the night there, even though I HATE the prairie in summer. I was even ThisClose to calling Fuzzy’s family and asking if we could drive up and crash their Thanksgiving, just so we could drive a few miles on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Highway during the trip.

But that’s the beauty of books – they allow you to live vicariously through another person, and then, put them down having learned something about yourself as well as something about the author.

I enjoyed both of the books I read this week, and have arranged to interview Ms. Ferguson for All Things Girl. I’ve also started a fresh re-reading of all the Little House books, because even if I don’t do anything with it, I have to write the Laura-related story that has been perking in my brain for the last 16 years.

And if I’m sort of wishing I could have a Christmas party where we all get a tin cup, a penny, and a stick of candy, in a room decorated by paper chains and popcorn strings, well, I know of at least two women who probably have the same kind-of wish.

Review: The Shakespeare Manuscript

The Shakespeare Manuscript

The Shakespeare Manuscript
Stewart Buettner

Product Description (from
Not one of Shakespeare’s plays exists in manuscript form until a failing bookseller discovers a long-lost, early version of HAMLET. In an attempt to trace the puzzling manuscript’s origins, its new owner finds he can’t trust the identity of play’s author and soon has doubts about his own. But by then, the race to stage the new HAMLET is on, taking a toll on everyone involved. In the end, the new play leaves audience and actors alike wondering about the unexpected and moving consequences of the play they’ve just experienced.


This was my last book for the 2011 RIP Challenge, but I’ve been so busy that I’m a week (or more) behind in getting the review loaded. I FINISHED reading it on October 27th, however, so it still counts.

This was part soft mystery part contemporary fiction. We have a dynamic playboy director, an agoraphobic actress, the actresses gay rare bookseller father who seems to be suffering from dementia, a politician and his family, and a remote country house. All of the ingredients, I thought, for “Deathtrap” with “Hamlet.”

It was no “Deathtrap.”

But it was a lovely story about relationships, finding your place in the world (again), and being true to yourself. It was also an exploration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who really wrote it, and whether or not the script found in the novel is really an early version of the script, a prequel, or a hoax.

The characters felt like they could have been real, for the most part, and I liked that the author didn’t give us a real answer to who wrote the script…there are several possible solutions to that mystery.

Goes well with a mug of strong coffee and a slice of peach pie.

The Shakespeare Manuscript
Stewart Buettner
Performance Arts Press, April 2011
278 Pages
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Readers Imbibing Peril (art by Melissa Nucera)