Introducing to the World, Victoria Valentina Lizzi

Saturday took a more eventful turn than anticipated. After celebrating my wife Isa’s birthday on Friday I assumed I’d disposed of family birthdays for awhile. But the little one who’d been gestating in Isa for over thirty-seven weeks had other ideas.

Not that we’d been bereft of portents. The signs of impending arrival were there, but the contractions were nowhere near the frequency we’d been told indicated labor. Some disconcerting physical manifestations convinced Isa to call the doctor. The doctor suggested she come in for a precautionary exam. Everything was routine, precautionary, just-in-case. We figured we be home by the afternoon.

Nope.

Your standard labor is filled with sufficient drama as is. We weren’t asking for any theatrical upgrades. Got ‘em anyways, gratis. High blood pressure, magnesium sulphate drips, dislodged placenta. Then, many hours later…

A large room crammed with doctors and nurses. Your humble web logger as supernumary, dressed for a NASA clean room. Beeping equipment (though sadly absent the machine that goes “bing”), muttered medical jargon, flashes and glimpses of viscera – things externalized that should best remain internalized. Then…

Victoria Valentina Lizzi. A miniature human being. Quite miniature: about a jigger short of four pounds. Tiny but perfect.

The doctors scooped the innards back into Isa – all the pieces in order, one hopes – and stapled her shut. She’s had a chance to hold little V.V., but given our daughter’s current minuscule proportions the two currently occupy separate rooms. I’m sharing a post-partum room with Isa while V.V. enjoys the company of her peers in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

So, yeah, interesting Saturday. I’m a father. Wrap your head around that one.

Book Backlog

I’m hip-deep in unread and partially read books. Normally I wallow happily in such a morass. Today instead  I’m feeling more inundated and borderline panicked.

The release date for event books, books I’ve waited months or years for often clump. At least it seems so. When I reserve them at the library they always seem to come in the same day. Or a long-expected book and a book that caught my eye in a reference in some article or other. I can reserve them months apart. They still await me at the library on the same damn day.

OryCon 35

I attended my first science fiction convention as a guest this weekend. Not my first con, but my first on the other side of the panel table. OryCon is the annual Portland convention, now in its 35th year. It brings together fans of the myriad interests lumped under ‘science fiction.’ So, you’ve got your klingons, your gamers, your costume makers, anime buffs, etc. I’ve attended about a dozen of these over the years, not with any particular focus, but simply as a reader of speculative fiction in general. It allowed me a chance to meet some of the authors of books I’ve enjoyed and to hear the authors discuss various topics at panels.

Getting Real

Step by step it grows increasingly real.

My beautiful wife attended her baby shower last night and returned laden with ridiculously tiny outfits and boxes containing gadgets of arcane purpose. The boys bought me beer at my nearby watering hole and reminisced. Today I assembled a three-wheeled stroller and puzzled out the method of locking a baby seat into the stroller’s frame.

Something is changing.

There is a certain tradition in Mexico – or so MBW tells me – that the husband purchases his wife another ring to commemorate a new child. Today I picked up a piece of jewelry, sterling silver and blue and white topaz. MBW will need to resize it once the swelling in her fingers recedes.

Step by step.

I have new furnishings that I can make no use of. I have plastic contraptions that rattle and beep. This place once felt pretty roomy. Each new preparatory accretion renders the condo more and more – let’s say cozy.

MBW is laundering a pile of towels sufficient to dry off an army. Well, an army of very small soldiers. And we’ve got blankets enough to keep each miniature myrmidon warm.

I attended a class on infant CPR the other day. I filled those plastic lungs with my own breath and compressed that little chest.

So, yeah. Getting real.

The Face in the Frost

The_Face_in_the_Frost_-_John_Bellairs

This another of my erratically spaced web log posts concerning the books of Appendix N. Today I consider “The Face in the Frost” by John Bellairs, a delightfully charming short novel.

Bellairs is known for children’s books and at first glance “The Face in the Frost” seems to fit that categorization. It begins whimsically. And a certain sense of whimsy suffuses the entire narrative. But the story soon turns onto increasingly dark pathways. This is not a children’s book.  Real dread prevents the comical adventures of Prospero (“not the one you are thinking of”) and Roger Bacon from becoming too light to take seriously.

Discipline

The simple fact is I don’t wish to write today. I am tired. I woke early to pick up my wife at the airport. She is understandably tired: travel in addition to pregnancy. So I handled the shopping and the preparation of the coming week’s lunches. Now my feet ache – my dogs are not exactly barking, its more of a whine. Along the lines of what I’m doing here.

Disappointment

I’m learning the publishing game through the time-honored method of experience. It seems that disappointment is a constant threat. I’d been expecting a release date of October 15 for my novel “Reunion.” In fact I’d relied upon the date, sending out invitations to a party to celebrate the book’s impending publication.
Lesson one: The book hasn’t been published until it’s been published. Nothing is certain.
See, I received a message from the publisher a few days after sending the invitations alerting me that the publication date was pushed back. It seems the cover artist required more time. He is creating a painting for the entire cover, front and back. The approved concept was more involved than originally anticipated so he’ll need a couple more months.

Book Bloat

I’ve been considering book bloat.  Literary logorrhea.  Volume avoirdupois.  The fantasy and science fiction best-seller lists seem increasingly dominated by physically hefty books of  massive page counts, generally installments of on-going series.

Fine.  That is what sells.  Many publishers refuse to even consider a manuscript submission that weighs in at under 90,000 words.  A larger book can demand a higher price.  Series fiction ensures repeat business.  And authors enjoy a large canvas to paint in ever more detail of the their painstakingly crafted universes.

For that matter I enjoy reading some of these encyclopedia length series.  A large book, a long series, allows for greater immersion.  Of course I am reluctant to pick up a book if the cover indicates that it is ‘part one of an ongoing series.’  I’m already committed to enough of those.  And frankly, some of them smack of pay-check cashing or hint at the author’s drift, lack of focus, or growing boredom.  I fear many of these are begun without a definite end in mind.  That suggests a violation of the unspoken agreement with the reader.

Autumn Reading

So, that’s it for summer then.  The first storm of autumn is rolling in from the Pacific, hammering the trees with wind gusts and dumping the contents of a few medium-size rivers onto Portland.

Perfect reading weather.

OK, it is always perfect reading weather, but humor me.  Does reading get more pleasant than being curled on the couch before a fire, a warm mug of tea at your elbow and a book in hand?  Rain may lash at the windows and drum on the roof, but when you are absorbed in a book the inclement weather either adds to the atmospherics or passes without notice.

Romance

Romance and marriage are atypical subjects of speculative fiction, usually either consigned to the B-plot or give short-shrift if included at all.  That’s fine: not every book must contain every possible element.  Absence of a wooing, dalliance, or long-term relationship should not be grounds for legitimate criticism of a work.

Tolkien wrote a romance without a great deal of romance.  What romance did reach the page was chaste, the courtly romance of the troubadours.  This is perhaps better exemplified by Gimli’s love for Galadriel than the decades long trials and courtship of Aragorn and Arwen.  That is the story the Good Professor was writing and it worked.