goals, Guest Post, Nature, sale

Three for Tuesday

(I know, I know–it’s supposed to be Two-fer Tuesday, but I’m giving a bonus, because it’s gonna be a long week, I think)

  1. Friend and fellow author Shannon Rampe has a special blog post written by yours truly (that’s me) up on his newsletter, and cross-posted on his blog. You can find it here, if you’d like some springtime-themed writing content. While you’re there, you might want to browse his site, maybe sign up for his newsletter–he’s got one collection of short stories out, and has another coming later this month. He’s also got links to some of his published works, so you can get a feel for what he writes. (Hint: It’s good.)
  2. GOOD NEWS! I’ve sold another story to Nature: Futures! I’m truly thrilled to announce this. It’s my third sale to them (!!!), and the first time I’ve sold a story to the very first market it was submitted to–thus it’s a double-Writer’s Bingo square! I don’t know yet when it will be out, but I’ll be sure to let you know. As always, I’ll post a wee bit here about its backstory, or how it came to be, or some such story-related anecdote.
  3. I’ll leave you with a photo from today’s walk. It’s the baby alligator at the local small “improved” pond, with paved trails, paddle boats, playground, nearby shops, and an arts pavilion, etc. I’ve seen this one slowly growing since winter gave way to spring (as estimated in Florida time, that’s about mid-February). Now its yellow stripes are nearly gone, and I’m starting to wonder how long before the little thing gets moved.
Just snoozing in the sun, fat and happy.

Personal Life, Writing

Grouting Day: The Holiday You’ve Never Heard Of Before Now

Spousal Unit and I recently replaced our homes’ sad, unmatched, cracked, and crazy-looking patchwork of slippery tile and floating “wood” floor with a lovely, very “grabby” textured tile (rated for outdoor, around a pool use!!! hurray!). While the tear-out was happening, the poor dog went to the dogsitter (he adores being with them and their dog is one of his very good friends), and I got a week-long stay at a nearby AirBnB and wrote myself silly. (Okay, that’s a stretch. I’m already silly. I wrote myself sane(-r), perhaps, might be more the truth.)

Yes, a glorious week by myself, in a town I already knew, with most of a novel before me. At first, I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing much. I settled into what I know is a good rhythm for me, writing in 2-4 small sessions throughout the day, punctuated by other things: walking, sightseeing, shopping, cooking, etc. Each small session wasn’t massively productive, and I never bothered adding up any one day’s output, so by the end of my stay, I was feeling a bit down.

Then I checked my writing history for the week. (Scrivener, the program I use for writing, has this function, which I love so very much!) To my amazement, every day I’d written well over 1,000 words, and most days, over 2,000 words! I went from feeling like I’d “wasted” my precious writing retreat to exhilaration, then wondering how I could’ve been so wrong before!

But honestly, underestimating the amount of work I’ve accomplished is, unfortunately, something I do often. Too often. I’m…working on that.

In better news, this retreat pushed my new novel, tentatively titled “The Mastery Books,” to the one third mark! Hurray! I love the characters, the plot, the location–all of it–so very much, and am eager to continue.

However, when the dog and I returned home, the tile was laid, but not grouted. The next day, I donned working clothes, gloves, and knee pads, and began grouting tile, alongside Spousal Unit. I posted a picture of myself thus garbed, before I began, titled “Grouting Day” to one of my writing Slacks, and one person commented that it sounded like an obscure British holiday. Then the members had fun coming up with a whole new holiday, complete with its founding, history, and certain memorable moments in its long history. It was, honestly, a riot, and so much fun, especially after a day of hard work. [Much more fun than the actual grouting (which took more than one day), I can assure you. And so can my knees, and back!]

Now I gaze at the lovely new tile floors, admiring their clean lines, the way a single flooring material ties the home together instead of the disjointed feeling the previous floors gave it, and I smile (I also admire the work that went into grouting and sealing the grout, and hope I never have to do this work again) as I pass through to my office, sit at the computer, and once more sink into the novel.

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, the dog, Writing

How Many “Ends” Does a Candle Have?

“Burning the candle at both ends” is a phrase I’ve heard so often, but just now it seems unequal to my reality. I’m trying to query a novel and write another, to finish a home renovation that includes laying and grouting new tile floors while keeping up with the yard and the writing and the other chores, AND trying to take care of my health, AND my dog’s health, AND my spouse’s health…. How many candles does that mean I need to be burning?

So far, the new floors look amazing, by the way. I love Love LOVE them sooo much. But my knees didn’t really like grouting too much–the last time I grouted was 15 years ago! Time flies when you’re enjoying not grouting, I guess–and the poor dog simply did not understand why he was being kept out of ever-changing parts of the house for so long.

Now we’re on hold, waiting for the cabinet maker to nab a truck to send our finished kitchen cabinets to us before we rip out the old ones, tile the kitchen, and replace with NEW cabinets!!!! So shiny! So much work! And all on hold for some indefinite time. Check this space for updates!

Healthwise, a slew of doctor visits is culminating in some medication changes that will mean I’ll soon be feeling soooooo much better–and I already am, a little bit. Just knowing the change is coming makes a big difference. Hurray!

As for the new novel–I’m progressing nicely. At about 1/3 of the way through the first draft, and I’m really loving this book, and the alternating POVs. It’s the first time I’ve done this in forever, and I’m liking it. My two characters are so different, it’s easy to keep them separate in my mind. I love them both, but for different reasons, and can empathize with each of them in different ways. Now I’m just hoping that the renovation stuff doesn’t interfere with my novel’s forward progress any more, because I’m eager to rip deeper into this story!

But just now, the dog is tappy-toeing beside my desk, demanding dinner, and medications, and pool time–it’s swimming season, so good for his aching joints! And seeing him leap into the pool with such enthusiasm brings so much joy into me, too. Almost as much as when he finally wears out and lays down, and begins snoring beside me.

It’s a good life. I hope you’re enjoying yours.

Writing

The Next Thing

So, one novel is done. But the next novel has been a jewel in my mind, nipping at my attention–demanding my attention–more and more. And so, it has begun.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

The new novel’s plot is mostly done, outlined and laid bare during one of my interludes between drafts of the previous novel. Now I’m re-familiarizing myself with these characters, this place, these scenes and the story they all tell–and I’m slipping under the spell. I want to write this, need to write this.

Still, I can’t simply ignore the previous novel. I’m still chipping away at a query letter that resonates, no–sings–with the story of the book. In under 500 words. And next week is ICFA, the first conference I’ll go to in person in 2.5 years! So I’ll need to have my elevator pitch ready for BOTH novels, just in case I see an agent or editor who asks (yes, the dream! and the terror of blowing it!).

Which means I’m stuck with this odd dissonance of trying to be in two places at once (the novels’ settings are entirely different). Of trying to split my attention between two books I love–one I’ve written, one begging to reach that same place. It’s like being the human with the lap that your two cats are battling to “own:” you love them both and are thrilled they both love you, even though you wish they’d just get along.

Honestly, I also realize it’s a good place to be in. One novel is done, another is beckoning me. My muse is feeding me well, enticing me ever forward, and I have the ability to follow, and write. What more can I ask? Nothing, really.

But I’ve got to go. The muse is calling, and my attention drifts ever back to writing…

Magic of the Everyday, orchids, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 2/9/22

Out the window: Sunshine and blue skies, with blissful cool temps of about 60° F. After our recent bout of below freezing nights, the garden plants are soaking up yesterday’s slow rain and today’s warm sunshine like the balms they are. Cardinals song punctuates the air, and the muted notes floating into my office are a soundtrack to spring burgeoning all around.

On the desktop: Right now, just water. But yesterday I brewed up a batch of chai base–the tea, honey, and spices without the milk–that I’ll mix with milk and either reheat or serve over ice later today, once I’ve accomplished some things. Small rewards really work for me.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I have discovered the misery of query letters.

I’ve been working on this for over a week, tweaking, twisting, ripping out and replacing wholesale, or carefully excising with a scalpel–so many variations! And I still don’t think it’s “there” yet.

Yesterday I spent hours over on the Query Shark archive, and today I’ve been scouring the new site. Seriously, if you’re prepping to query agents to represent you and your novel, check these out. The information is there, clearly showing what to do and how to do it–and how not to!

Querying is its own thing, a very unique skillset of writing. Just like writing a good short story doesn’t mean you can write a good novel (or vice versa), having written a good novel does not mean you can easily write a good query. But queries are essential to getting agent representation, so…it’s time to roll up my sleeves and learn this skill.

And Another Thing: I’ve been running my orchids in and out of the house as the temps dip below 50°F then turn sunny and humid again for a day. As I moved one outside today, I felt something jump onto my hand and cling–and found an anole had been hiding in the orchid pot for 1.5 days inside my house! Fortunately, I was able to convince the poor thing that the grapefruit tree was a better perch than my hand (eventually).

And One More Thing: We just had a visit by Flat Stanley! He is a character from a children’s book that many teachers seem to love (it’s our second visit by a Stanley), and escorting Stanley around is a fun way to connect with where you live, and others around you. I had Stanley in my purse, and when the grocery store cashier saw him, she demanded I get a photo of Stanley with her in the store! That was so great. Even funnier was the look the bagger gave us, because she had no clue what was going on. I’m sure after I left the cashier filled her in–see, even more connections being made.

Thanks, Flat Stanley.

publication, Reading, Writing

Publication Day

I’ve mentioned it over on Twitter, but it’s time for a bigger announcement. One of my favorite stories, “Never Underestimate a Good Defensive Spell, or Your Sister,” [and the second-longest titled story I’ve ever written (but the longest titled story is yet to be published)] is now available in Issue #6 of Speculative North!

And even better news for you readers: this weekend, the issue is FREE over on Amazon!

Four of the seven authors included are Canadian, which is the “North” in the title. I’ve read the issue and can say that all of the stories are really good. They contain interstellar shuttles; time paradoxes and kittens; love, loss & AI; screaming-good music; a story-telling singularity; and a couple amazing poems that I can’t summarize because: poetry, yannow? It’s already concise! So I encourage you to read, and if you can, leave a review over on Amazon, okay? It helps more than you know.

So, what’s the “more” about my story? Glad you asked 🙂

This started as a prompt from a contest over on Codex (yes, yes, so many of my published stories start that way, and with good reason. Those contests and their prompts are pure gold, I’m telling you!). I decided to write about unfriendly sisters, and then the Dragon Doo popped out of nowhere, and viola! My story was off and running!

Thematically, I like stories that show the moment when a person’s character is forged for the better, when they decide to stand up for what they know is right–even against family. But I also like it when that conflict isn’t about the physically biggest or strongest winning a fight, because brains count for far more than brawn.

I hope you enjoy my story, and all the others in this fine magazine. They were a pleasure to work with, even through the pandemic’s strangeness and the delayed everything in the world due to it. As always, if you enjoyed my story or others in Speculative North, tossing a coin or two toward the next issue’s fiction is a great idea. And thanks for reading.

Nature, Personal Life

A Walk on a Foggy Morning

Just as the title says, the world was blanketed in fog this morning, and I took a walk. One of the wood storks that hangs out at the retention pond decided I looked like I might offer food. I didn’t, but that stork came so close that it gave me a wonderful photo opportunity. (This is doubly fine because Santa brought me a new phone with an immensely better camera than my previous phone had.)

So, without further ado, here are some foggy stork pictures:

foggy retention pond

As this difficult year comes to a close, I hope you, dear reader, find peace and joy, and that the coming year finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Taos Toolbox, Writing, Writing Workshops

A Two Bunny Day

Yes, I currently have two bunnies in my garden, right up against the lanai screen, contentedly devouring sweet potato leaves and leaf-stems. Yesterday was a 3-bunny day, a major milestone! Once we replaced our rotted out and falling over wooden fence, the back fence that barriers against a wooded retention pond runoff area was changed to powder-coated metal, which allows the critters to easily slide right through.

Terrible pic, but you’ll still see two rabbits if you squint. I hope. And the new fence that they love.

We’ve definitely seen an increase in backyard wildlife. Used to be we’d get maybe one rabbit sliding through the low hollow beneath the fence. Now it’s all the critters gliding right on in and out to come a-visiting! I’m not too concerned about their eating the sweet potato vines down to stumpy bits; I’ve already harvested and given away more sweet potatoes than I care to think about, and still have about half of the vines left–or, well, I did, until the rabbits decided to help 🙂

Dash getting really spoiled!

I’m so glad for this bit of delight, and the cooler weather that allows us all here to enjoy being and working outside, because not everything’s been bunnies and harvests. Dasher had another scary episode of seizures (he’s idiopathic epileptic). Before that we had the longest span without seizures he’s ever had since his seizures began at about 1 year of age. As he’s nearing 8 years old, every seizure wracks his arthritis-pained limbs, causing more discomfort and pain for longer after he recovers. It’s truly heartbreaking, but I’m glad to report that he’s fine again now, and seems to have completely come back to his good, happy, regularly-abnormal self!

Writing-wise, things were going swimmingly up until Dasher’s seizures started. I had an “aggressive” writing plan for the month of December (aggressive for me, at least!), pushing through the last half of the novel’s edits to be finished before the end of the year. However, I’ve now lost a full 6 days, plus another 1.5 for recovery–I got somewhere between 2-4 hours of broken sleep each night of the dog’s “episode,” and multiple auto-immune issues mean I really don’t do well with that; stress literally turns my thinking capacity to mush. So… I’m still trying to push ahead and finish as much as I possibly can between now and the end of the year, but I’m gonna try to not flay myself if I fall short of that goal (I hope).

Which brings me to another point about writing: if you are a writer, maybe you feel bad when things don’t go well. Maybe you feel like a failure if you don’t get that story, or novel, published. But I’ve got news for you: rejection of your writing doesn’t mean you are a failure. Not ever. As a human being, you have more value than just what your writing brings in. Human value is not transactional. Never was, never will be. The duo of writers that comprise the byline James S. A. Corey (of The Expanse fame) were guest speakers at Taos Toolbox the year I attended, and it was one of their key points: failure happens, over and over, between the successes that all focus on. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress gave stories of their own professional ups and downs, reiterating that theme. (I say this so you know it’s not just some rando spouting nonsense at you, okay?) This wisdom has helped me, so I hope it helps you, too, if you need to hear it.

Speaking of which…

Taos Toolbox is open for submissions beginning January 1. They plan on hosting their 2022 workshop in person, June 6-19, 2022. It’s two glorious weeks of focusing on writing and its craft, and it’s set on the gorgeous slopes of Angel Fire, NM. Find out more and apply over at their website: http://www.taostoolbox.com