May 23

The Joys Of Home Ownership: Water Heater Edition

Frankly, I thought it would be the clothes dryer, the refrigerator or, most likely, the dishwasher that would go to Valhalla next. But it was our 12-year-warrantied, 11-year-old water heater that turned up its toes sometime in the night. It started leaking, bigtime, as evidenced by the amount of water Himself cleaned up with the wet-dry vacuum first thing this morning. Fortunately, aside from some leakage into the laundry room, most of the escaping H20 went into the garage and out under the garage door.

We've spent the majority of the day looking at possible replacements and dealing with the manufacturer's warranty division, the vendor, and the vendor's installation department. It would have taken considerably less time if the three parties communicated with each other, at least to the extent what one told us about what the others did bore passing acquaintance to what the others told us they did. It took many phone calls to each, but we finally have all three agreeing on the process, a ballpark figure on what the monetary outlay will be, and a game plan and time window for the installation tomorrow morning.

Himself was able to shut off the gas to the thing, but the cut-off valve for the water intake wasn't as cooperative. So, for now and until the installation is complete, we've turned off the water at the street. Toilet tanks are being filled with buckets of water from the rain barrels out back, and we're washing our hands with bottled water.

I'm really hoping things go as planned. We have an out-of-town guest due on Thursday evening.

May 18

HarpHaven Merchanter Open For Business

One the list of things to be done once I got back from the 2Fer Tour was putting the finishing touches on the online store I've been working on for the last couple of months. I'm pleased to report that the box has been checked...I think.

From everything I can see from here and in numerous test modes, HarpHaven Merchanter is up and running. You can visit by using the handy link on the sidebar, or by going direct to

It's still on its maiden voyage, so if you run into any problems, please let me know.

May 16

Cancel The Search Party - The Bard Is Home

Short version: Happy to report that I arrived safely home last night, full of happy memories and travel tales.

Long version: Will, unfortunately, have to wait until I dig out. Patience, gentle readers. I've shoveling as fast as I can while one cat won't let me out of her sight and the other is, very pointedly, ignoring me.

Apr 26

And Speaking of WHOlanta!

I’m excited and pleased to, once again, be a author guest at this fun convention that celebrates Doctor Who, British media and culture, and Atlanta fandom. My programming assignments are in, and it looks like I’m going to have a bloomin’ ball.

Friday, May 5

I’m sorry that I’ll miss the Opening Ceremonies and VIP Reception, which are always fun at this convention. But panels go on opposite those two fine hours, and this year I got tapped for those on the Literary Track. And good assignments they are.

6:00pm - 7:00pm: Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing. ''Is one better than the other? Why or why not?” (Jana Oliver, James Palmer, Kaitlin Bevis, Lee Martindale)

7:00pm - 8:00pm: Women Writers: Does it Matter? “Does it really matter whether a writer is female or male if it’s a good story?” (Lee Martindale, Jana Oliver, Kathryn Sullivan, Nan Monroe)

Saturday, May 6

11:00am - noon: Beyond the War Doctor - The Life and Career of John Hurt. “Before John Hurt portrayed the War Doctor, he had already had a very successful acting career. We honor John Hurt, who sadly passed away earlier this year as we take a look back at his career and his many acting roles in film and television.” (Lee Martindale, Mark Maddox, Matt Sweatman, Tony Bowers)

1:00pm - 2:00pm: Research: You Gotta Do It. “Research has to happen no matter whether you’re trying to find out what was eaten at state dinners in the middle ages or what a particular myth is all about. We’ll discuss the best ways of doing things.” (Lee Martindale, Jana Oliver, Kathryn Sullivan, James Palmer)

Sunday, May 7

2:00pm - 3:00pm: Series Here, Series There: Where Are The Single Novels? “Everywhere you turn there are series. Is it really the stories that demand them or just a desire to make money?” (James Palmer, Lee Martindale, Kaitlin Bevis, Nan Monroe)

3:00pm - 4:00pm: British Legends and Myths: From Arthur to Robin Hood. “We take a look at the mythical heroes and history of Britain, in particular King Arthur and Robin Hood, and their many portrayals over the years in cinema and on television.” (Louis Robinson, Lee Martindale, Bernadette Ackley, Allison Lane, Rhetta Akamatsu)

4:00pm - 5:00pm: Sherlock Series Four - the Review. “We review the latest series of the BBC series Sherlock. Was it worth the wait?” (Louis Robinson, Lee Martindale, Allison Lane, Tony Bowers)

5:00pm - 6:00pm: TV Sci Fi. “We end the convention with a bang as we look at modern Sci Fi TV: What it holds and where it’s going.” (Jennifer Hartshorn, Lee Martindale, Darin Bush)

6:00pm Closing Ceremonies.

When not on panels, I’m hoping to catch some from the audience. There are many that have already caught my eye. You can see the complete schedule and other convention information at

And yes, I did notice that I’m doing four in a row on Sunday (five if you count Closing Ceremonies), but that’s okay. I’m lightly scheduled on Friday and Saturday, and I should be fine unless I end up getting kidnapped into a Cards Against Humanity until the wee small hours of Sunday morning. And, honestly, I wouldn’t know which of those four panels to give up. They’re all panels I really want to do. But I’m glad I don’t have to do my usual late-night packing Sunday night and being up before dawn to fly home on Monday. I plan on sleeping in.

Apr 24

Adventures in Convention Travel Planning

If you’ve taken a look at my convention schedule on the HarpHaven website, you’ll have noticed that the next two on the list are on back-to-back weekends. WHOlanta! (the convention formerly known as Timegate) is on the first weekend in May, and OutlantaCon (the very fine LBGTQA-centered sf&f convention) is on the following weekend. Both, as it happens, in the same hotel.

There was a time, not all that many years ago, when such a thing was listed in the “Tough But Do-able” column. It meant packing for both conventions at the same time, screaming in from the first one, kissing the cats, scritching the hubby, pulling various modules from the just-in bags, replenishing consumables, throwing them into the headed-out bags, and screaming out again with the latter in tow. Some of you may remember the year that schedule and circumstance resulted in a three-cons-in-three-weekends run, a bedroom that looked like a bell captain’s holding room, and a waist-high pile of laundry at the end.

But those days are well and truly over. Encroaching age and advancing infirmity now serve the function good sense never quite managed, and I looked at the scheduling for those two conventions and wondering which one of them I’d have to miss. And then “what if...” took over.

Numbers were crunched, the hotel and people from both conventions got involved, and offers of the on-the-ground logistical support needed to pull this started coming in. Himself not only didn’t mind, he actively encouraged the idea. It was cost-effective, it cut in half the opportunities for airline screw-ups and/or damage to the BattleChariot, and it saved significant wear and tear on me. He and the cats would be fine.

So it is that, instead of the frantic turnaround routine described above, I’ll be staying over between WHOlanta! and OutlantaCon. A mini-retreat of sorts, with plans for catching up on sleep and holing up to write interspersed with a some leisurely meals with friends.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Apr 22


You may remember that April 2016 brought several severe storms that included large hail. One of those storms hit HarpHaven, resulting in two broken skylights and damage to roof, gutters, roof vents, and Himself’s vehicle. As it is, we got off lucky compared to most people on this end of town, and a new roof went on in June 2016.

Last night, we got hit again. Large amounts of pea-to-quarter-sized hail, with what sounded like the occasional tennis-ball-sized hailstone in the mix. Again, we were lucky. Just north of us, most of the hail was in the tennis-ball-size range. Inspection in the light of day indicates that the only thing damaged is Himself’s vehicle. No broken glass, but we’re going to be calling it Dimples again for the next little while.

Springtime in Texas.

Apr 13


Back on March 22nd, the denizens of HarpHaven found ourselves, with all of half-a-nanosecond warning, watching big honkin’ implements of destruction tearing up a portion of our front walkway and leaving a hole in which one could conveniently hide a classic VW bug. (See entry for March 25: When City Contractors Attack.) The work in the neighborhood was supposed to be concluded by March 31st. You know where this is going.

Weather plays a big part in construction timelines, so I can’t entirely blame the contractor. Storms, some of them right nasty, have been a regular occurrence in the last several weeks. Each storm refilled the moat where my walkway used to be and kept the construction workers from their city-assigned task. When it wasn’t raining, we could hear work taking place on other streets in the area. Three plus weeks in, the front of my house was still a wheelie-no-go zone. It was getting a little old.

A call was placed to the number listed for the onsite supervisor, explaining that we understood about rain delays, but that the situation was starting to be a problem for the wheelchair-user in the family and asking when he thought they might be over this way to finish. He couldn’t give us a timeframe, he said, but would send someone over to cover the hole with something that might serve as a “bridge”. He got points for his attitude and for sounding like he at least understood the situation.

He got more points when, before the end of the day, there was *something* covering the hole. Granted, it was too flimsy for the BattleChariot and substantial occupant -- let’s just say I wouldn’t have ventured across it had the Tardis landed in the middle of the street and the 10th, 12th, and War Doctors, *and* Jack Harkness had stepped out and beckoned me aboard. But the supervisor was trying to be helpful, and that counts.

Yesterday, about noon, I looked out to see framing and rebar in the hole, and by late afternoon, concrete had been poured and smoothed into a a very nice section of walkway. That supervisor is getting a thank-you call shortly, and later today, I’m going out to reacquaint myself with the front of my house.

HarpHaven has been de-moated, and I am very happy.

Apr 8

Playing By The Rules

Somewhere – on a forgotten shelf of The Library, deep in the bowels of Warehouse 13, or hidden away in a niche on the Disappearing Seventh Level of Mammoth Cave - there is an ancient book. It’s the Universal Manual, the rules by which the universe operates, and it is a fearsome thing.

One of the rules contained therein is “An absolutely necessary tool will break at the absolutely worst possible time.” I am here to attest that, when it comes to printers, that rule is followed with fanatic zeal around these parts. Last weekend, I was printing out royalty statements and envelopes for The Ladies of Trade Town when my printer started screaming like a banshee. It went to Valhalla with the sudden and unmistakable smell of hot metal and the sound of an electric motor giving its last.

This was the printer that replaced the one that died in the middle of running galleys for Prejudice By The Pound in the fall of 2007, and it served well and faithfully through the publication of The Ladies of Trade Town and Bard’s Road, in addition to vigorous, everyday use. I certainly can’t complain that it didn’t earn its keep. I’m not thrilled that I’d just replaced the toner cartridge before starting the statement run, especially given that nothing running in residence take the same kind, but there’s probably a rule in the Universal Manual to cover that, too.

The printer normally used to print CDs finished the statements, which are winging their way, along with royalty checks, to their recipients. A new printer, with which I’m quite pleased, has been acquired and installed. Things are back to what we laughingly call “normal” around here.

And we’ve confirmed, once again, that the Rules of the Universe are still in operation.

Apr 4

Change Happens - Again

Last week, a nearly twenty-year association with SFFNet ended when that much-loved online home for writers, editors, and fans of SF&F closed it doors for the final time. Just now, a ten-plus year association ended when I deleted my account at LiveJournal.

LiveJournal was my first blog account and served me pretty well. I enjoyed reading posts from my friends and fans, and used it to keep them in the loop about developments in my professional and personal life. But little by little, it was dying. And then the rumors and reports that it had been sold to a Russian company began a few months ago.

This morning, I signed on as usual, and was presented with a “Thou Shalt Not Pass Unless You Sign The New User Agreement” pop-up. Said agreement was a translation, the agreement was governed by the laws of the Russian Federation, and the provisions, to my eye, were unacceptable. I responded the only way that felt right. Goodbye, LiveJournal.

Bard’s Fire becomes my only blog, running on my own domain. Let’s built a new community and welcome those who find their way here from there.

Mar 25

When City Contractors Attack

Last week, Himself found a notice hanging on the front door when he went for the mail around 6pm. It was from a contractor hired by the city to “rehabilitate” the city’s sewer lines. We’d seen them working on streets all around our neighborhood during the last few weeks, and this was telling us they’d finally gotten to our street. We were instructed not to wash dishes or clothes, flush toilets, take showers or baths, or otherwise send anything down our drains between the hours of 8:00am & 5:00pm the next day.

At least they gave us a few hours warning. Unfortunately, it was too late to reschedule visits from the A/C maintenance tech and the fellow doing our annual termite inspection, which meant we couldn’t do the prudent thing of spending the day in an elsewhere with useable plumbing. So we toughed it out and gave the contractor points when they did, as promised, finished around 4:00pm that day.

I should have known it couldn’t be that easy. Fast forward to this past Wednesday, a bit before 8:00am, when an otherwise quiet and productive morning was broken by what sounded like an invasion of my neighborhood by a tank division from Ft. Hood. Himself went outside to find out was going on, and came back with another doorhanger, this one hand-delivered by the contractor’s onsite contact person, who apologized that it hadn’t been delivered the day before. Work was already starting and would continue, between 7:00am and 6:00pm, until the end of the month, as they “rehabilitated” the connections between each house’s sewer line and the city’s main pipe.

The words were hardly out of his mouth when we heard a concrete saw fire up and what sounded like something Really Big about to crash through the front wall of the house. Himself headed back outside, I headed for the front window. The section of our walkway nearest the city’s sidewalk was missing and a tank-treaded backhoe, size enormous, was attacking the dirt under where the walkway section used to be. Piles of dirt were everywhere and there was a hole big enough to bury a VW bug in, nose-first.

That backhoe driver was *good*. He was working scant inches from the mailbox, with many opportunities to cause damage. As near as we can tell, he didn’t even touch it.

The racket diminished a bit as the backhoe and crew moved to the next house, and stopped around noon when the crew took off for lunch. Himself went out to take a look. The hole was still there, without barrier tape or cones. At the bottom, there appeared to be some type of fabric wrapped around the junction of our pipe and their pipe, secured with what he described as “really big cable ties”. Around 3:00pm, the backhoe and a couple of the crew came back to fill in the hole, compacting the fill dirt every so often. What was left when they finished was a hole roughly a foot deep. Himself went down the street and liberated one of their cones and positioned it in the hole “just in case”. At least no one removed it when they broke for the day.

Thursday, they worked further down the street. Friday morning, we had thunderstorms and no one showed up. But – hey! – I’ve got a moat! And now it’s the weekend.

Mar 21

Behind The Scenes

The sawdust is still flying, I'm still (figuratively) pulling my hair out, and the cats are learning a whole new and not exactly polite vocabulary, but there's been progress.

  • The HarpHaven website is up and running. Expect additions, but the basics are there.
  • This blog seems to be functional, and is being added to the website menu. Let me know if you find a problem.
  • HarpHaven Merchanter, my online store, is slowly coming together. As of right now, what with deadlines, upcoming convention travel, and other calls on available hours in the day, I'm shooting for a roll-out sometime after the middle of May.

Until then, ignore any screaming you might hear.

Mar 19

Welcome To The Bard's Fire

The kindling is just now catching, and it may be a while before we've got a blaze going, but it's a beginning.

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