Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

We Survived Hurricane Ian Just Fine, and other updates…

So yeah, you might have heard of Hurricane Ian? It passed nearly overtop of us. Fortunately, not as a hurricane, but “only” as tropical storm.

We got incredibly lucky. We lost an old grapefruit tree laden with nearly-ripe fruit, and a banana tree with a bloom-spike covered with our first banana harvest, and had sticks, branches and such everywhere. But that was all. We didn’t flood, though for some few hours we were confined to our subdivision by deep water at the entrance–not an issue as the rain and winds were still more than I wanted to go driving through. Somehow, amazingly, we didn’t even lose power.

After prepping for the storm, then clean-up, then putting things back where they normally are (and removing hurricane shutters), we’ve gotten back to what our definition of “normal” is. Even Dasher is happy, now that we’re done being stressed. Especially since his sunshine is back for daily sunbathing, which is his second most favorite thing, right after peanut butter.

On Monday, I completed the edit of my novel draft. I honestly can’t believe it. The Mastery Books is coming in at about 92,000 words, and I think it’s one of the best works of long fiction I’ve ever written. I had a momentary “YAY” moment, and now…I get the sheer drudgery of writing the query letter, then the synopsis. It’s a necessary evil, I know that. And I’ll work at it until I craft one that works–however long that may take. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s still an evil.

The days are warming up again, but the nights and evenings are staying deliciously cool and non-humid. It’s “windows open” time, and I’m enjoying this so very much. This afternoon, the sound of leaves crunching outside my office alerted me to what became an amazing sight: two anoles repeatedly attacking one another, rolling into balls of frenzied action before one would throw the other 3 or so inches away. Then a standoff, and they’d do it again. This went on for some time, eventually moving out of my view (no, I’m not sure who won).

I’d never seen anoles do more than posture at one another, doing their “menacing push-ups” and flashing their throat sacs. I didn’t know they’d actually fight so viciously, or for so long! Thank you, open window!

Now I’m beginning to work up my ideas for my next novel, and get that rolling, though I can hardly believe it. I’ve got a few thoughts, but they need more work and expanding. This is the truly fun part, where everything and anything is possible! Wheeeeee!

sale, Viable Paradise

Sale Announcement!

I’ve just received an acceptance letter! Excited to announce that my story, “Two Letters Crossing Paths through the FairyMail” will appear in the anthology 99 Fleeting Fantasies, a collection of flash fiction fantasy stories. From the call for submissions:

Magic and mystery, gods and goblins, curses and crystals. Give us your fleeting fantasies. All of them. From traditional to epic to urban to science to whatever you can come up with as long as it is fantasy. Give me fantastical stories that delight, amaze, frighten, and mystify. Gritty and low level to universe shaking. Swords and sorcery. Djinns and elder gods in the garden. Fairy rings in space. Spells gone awry. Broken curses. Stolen artifacts. Prophecies come true. Wishing wells with personality. Any type of fantasy is on the table as long as it has a fantastical element to it.

In addition, I’m also pleased that I’ll be sharing the table of contents with one of my VP XVII cohort, Elizabeth Walker, for the first time. So awesome!

I don’t have much more information right now, but I’ll be sure to make more available to you once I have that info–as if you had any doubt, lol. Anyway, it makes a great start to a short, post-holiday week.

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life

Autumn’s Arrival

Even here, in the heat and humidity of central Florida, it’s clear that the season is shifting from summer into autumn. For the last few weeks, the oaks, in particular, have drooped a bit more as if weary from battling the heat, and their once-intensely-green leaves have shifted to a drab olive. Now they’re beginning to drop acorns onto the sidewalks, where they crunch mightily underfoot (and boy do I enjoy that crunch, the way it pops and the sense of that pop shivers up my foot and ankle with the sound!)

Add to this the mushrooms suddenly sprouting everywhere–small ones under the oak tree. A huge one in the neighbor’s lawn where just yesterday nothing marred the green of their St Augustine grass, and another like it halfway around the block, and equally isolated! Such mysteries they are, secretive yet lovely.

The squirrels are busy eating every magnolia seedpod, stripping the “fluff” to get the nutritious red “berries” nestled within, and the hawk who earlier this year was catching anole lizards has finally–finally!–progressed to eating squirrels! The ibis flocks are all the of white adults, with no more brown or speckled juveniles in their midst, and the tiny ducklings are grown.

And, finally, after weeks and weeks of little rain, the rain has returned, and now the National Hurricane Center is tracking two disturbances that could become hurricanes, one red (very likely to progress) and the other orange (maybe will progress). So, yes, it’s autumn, even here in the south.

I’m looking forward to opening my windows, to sitting outdoors, to becoming more active in my gardens–all the things folks up north do in the summer, I do in fall and winter, when it’s cool enough. Even Dasher’s been perkier during the evening walks, since the rains leave the temps dropped to bearable for a few hours, at least. His pace is fast, and I’m forced to speed-walk–something I’ve almost forgotten how to do since all the long summer I’ve been the one pushing him forward!

Did I mention fall is my favorite season? Even here, in the south? LOL, I bet you guessed.

I do miss nature’s vibrant leafy displays from up north, and those first frosty nights, and the hearty meals to counteract them. But I’m looking forward to the new crop of fresh citrus, and freshly-pressed orange juice for breakfast, and eating outdoors. Raking leaves? Well, not so much joy there. St Augustine grass has runners that the rake catches and it’s just annoying. But it’ll be that time all too soon, and the exercise will be good for me.

Until then, back to writing, and reading, and other indoor pursuits. And may fall be glorious for us all.

goals, Writing

Draft Finished!

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my calligraphy-magic novel, The Mastery Books.

Let me repeat that: I finished my novel’s first draft! OMG you have no idea I just…HURRAY!

I’d anticipated the book coming in between 90,000-95,000 words, with an goal of the finished book (however many edit drafts later that comes) to be closer to 90,000 words. And guess what? This draft ended at 91,450 words. I just…Wow. I’m in shock. It’s so close to my anticipated goal!!! I’m done and 100% on target!

I used a new outlining method for this one, and man did it work for me like nobody’s business! My outline was 2-3 columns in an Excel spreadsheet for each chapter, one column for actions, the next for emotions and immediate reactions that lead to the next chapter, and the third for “hey don’t forget this; the bad guy is thinking this,” etc–notes to myself more than story plotting.

Now I get a couple weeks to play with short fiction, read a crit partner’s book, drink daiquiri’s in the sun… well, okay, maybe not that last one (not too much, at least). But some time away, to let me forget this story so that when I come back to read and edit, it’ll seem fresh and I’ll see the stuff I need to fix.

How am I celebrating, you may ask. Well, the AC repair guy is here…so with continued air conditioning! (yeah, not my favorite way to celebrate, either) Actually, I’m giving myself an entire day to play one day next week. A complete day off, no time spent at the keyboard at all, no errands. It sounds glorious.

Magic of the Everyday, Writing

On Hitting the Mysterious, Mayhem-inducing “75% Done and It All Sucks” Spot

Yes, it’s true. I’m 75% done with this novel. (cue the cheering and confetti.) It’s been slower going of late due to many “real life issues,” but I’m chugging along just as fast as I can when I can, and I’m seeing great progress, which I love so much! It’s heartening to see the end approaching, and that encourages me to write more–a good positive feedback loop, for once!

Buuuuut … (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there), on the other hand, I’m at the 75% point. Which is the time when I start to feel omg this is all trash, I don’t even know what I’m doing, or why I thought I could ever write, and yes it all suuuuuucks! Yes, the self-doubt goes into overdrive, and my brain only thinks bad stuff and is sure that the entire novel is flawed beyond repair. And this happens even while a part of me realizes what’s going on and knows that it’s just part of the process (and not just for me, but for many, if not most, writers; I’ve read about so many others who struggle with this! So if it’s you, too–you’re not alone.).

I think I’ve mentioned that this is the most-planned novel I’ve ever written, and that is helping me immensely. When I sit down to write, I always know what I’m writing toward, and where it’s going from there, on both the internal and external arcs, so I can write faster than ever–YAY!

Yet even so, I’ve deviated a bit from that intensive planning here and there, when, as I go along, I realize that no, this character wouldn’t think that, or I discover a better emotional response to a development, or whatever. Is there’s still the thrill of discovery going on in each day’s writing, too. Without that, I’d get bored. And if I’m bored with writing something, you’re sure gonna be bored reading it!

Anyway, all this is to say, “YAY GO ME! Write write write!” And also to encourage you, if you’re writing or doing whatever creative thing you’re doing, and at some point all the energy and positives seem to leak away. Just keep on going, and finish your project. It’s not the project actually being bad. It’s just your brain being overwhelmed at this stage. If you push on, you’ll see your brain was lying to you (man, I wish my brain would stop lying to me. It does it too well!). And then, when you finish, I’ll be cheering and sending virtual confetti to you, too!

food, publication, Writing

Publication Day!

I have a new story available over at Nature: Futures today. Titled “Grace and Flavour, Under Pressure,” it’s about food and cooking, in spaaaaaaace! I hope you’ll click the link and head over to read it. While you’re there, you might peruse some of the other Futures stories, too–they’re quite good.

As “The Story Behind the Story” block indicates, this came about because of a misread prompt on a Codex contest, wherein my brain swapped “Seasoning” for “Season.” As an avid cook, I was happy with this. And yes, before you ask, I have made this recipe–although not with those types of apples, or heritage pork breeds, etc. It is delicate and delicious and delightful, and one of my favorite fall meals.

Ironically, the first time I ate this meal, it was at a French restaurant in Nürnberg, Germany: Prison St. Michel, on Irrerstraße. I’ll admit to being flummoxed at walking in and being greeted in French, not German (I mean, I should have expected it, but I was already living in one foreign-to-me language, and I was young), but the tiny restaurant was simply amazing. In a kitchen the size of my bathroom, they made delicious, freshly-made meals for the patrons of the narrow, two-story restaurant shoe-horned onto a non-touristy street. Ahhh, the smells wafting out from that place every time the door opened. I can still smell it!

What I guess I’m saying is that, although I’m no Daumont — I don’t have a grandmere but a grandma, and I’m far from the wealthiest person on earth — there is a part of me in his character. I’d definitely miss the flavors of earth, should I ever leave.

Right now, though, for some reason I’m feeling the need to go cook. Maybe a plum coffeecake…

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Today's Desk

Writer’s Desk, 6/14/22

Out the Window: hazy, hard-edged pale gray-blue skies with huge white puffs of tall-climbing cauliflower-clouds and super-high humidity. Meaning it’s going to rain this afternoon/evening. Again. It is the rainy season, after all. Yay?

On the Desktop: a small bowl of carrot bites. I’ve discovered that I like crunching things while I’m thinking my way through hard story bits, and carrots are the perfect thing! Also my water bottle, nearly empty. And a folder of pertinent novel notes and maps and such.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m over halfway through my next novel, tentatively called “The Mastery Books.” It’s split alternating chapters of two POV characters, and I simply love them both so very much, although they’re also so different from one another.

This is the first time I’ve tried this new work process, and I have to admit that it seems to be working for me rather spectacularly (so far, fingers crossed!). I haven’t written a novel so fast and so painlessly ever before. We’ll see how it goes in edits, but I think this method I’ve stumbled on through trial and error (and error and error) may be the one I keep!

And Another Thing: We’re hip-deep in kitchen renovations! Which basically means I have no kitchen in the kitchen. It’s wallboard and cement, wiring, and right now, new tile floors being installed. Maybe tonight or tomorrow we can grout. (Grouting Day comes twice this year! My knees are complaining already.)

The fridge is in the living room, there’s a camp stove and the microwave out under cover in the lanai, and the dishwashing station is now the largest bathroom’s counter. It’s like camping, with dust and too many tools, inside your own house. (I highly recommend it to anyone who’s taking the conveniences of modern life for granted!) But when it’s functional again, and the pans, food, dishes, etc, are restored, the new kitchen will be wonderful and lovely. I just have to keep holding onto that dream until reality reaches it. (Hey, it’s kinda like writing, then, isn’t it! LOL)

Magic of the Everyday, poem, RIP

What the Ending Ought to Be

My baby came home from school today
Crying, afraid. 
There had been gunshots, and lockdown
Not a practice but for real.

My baby came home from school today
But his best friend didn’t.
He went to the hospital in an ambulance that didn’t scream,
Without the lights running at all.

My baby came home from school today
And now all I want
Is to hold him, hug him, let him cry in my lap
So he doesn’t see my tears and terror
Because too soon, I’ll have to send him back.

This isn’t what the ending ought to be,
So I’m going
to write a better one, for every other 
Teacher, parent, and child.

My baby came home from school today
Waving his test in hand.
That A meant ice cream
Cool and sticky as it melted and ran
Down a smiling face.
Not a tear in sight as I kissed the top of his head
And ruffled his best friend’s hair.

My baby came home from school today,
And so did everyone else’s.

–M. E. Garber