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

Well There Went Two Months…

Gah! Don’t turn around or time will come ’round and bite you in the rear end. Hard. Like it just did for me.

Since last we chatted, my husband was sick, then finally recovered, but he still needs to schedule his knee surgery. My dog is now currently having knee surgery, after a strange bout with some increased seizure activity. At home, we at long last got the okay from our HOA to get our steep and slipping back yard terraced, and with the rain now stopped, the landscaper can begin moving in supplies. All by hand, because of tiny gate area to the back yard. We got two rooms of our home painted (before this the whole house, inside and out, was pale mocha with white trim, inside and out, and I was dying of boredom), and I’m hoping we’ll see more rooms in color before too long. The pool solar has been replaced after unexpectedly dying. And all along, I’ve been working on the revision of the novel.

Revising is slow going at the moment. I’m writing a couple entirely new chapters to replace a number of chapters that are cut completely out. By changing the plot/character arc near the end of the last draft, I knew this work would come along…and sure enough, here it is. It’s gratifying to see the work coming together into a cohesive whole, but it’s also a slow and tedious process right now, since this is the first thicket of change–and area where the changes cluster and make totally new drafting necessary. I’m holding onto that memory of revitalization I felt at WorldCon, and using that to shove myself through the work each day. Until the end of the day’s effort, when I sit back and realize, Yeah, this is actually working. This is sounding like an actual novel. Astonishing!

In the natural world, autumn has crept in while I wasn’t looking. Here in the Orlando area, that means that I’ll wear long pants and t-shirts in the mornings, and again in the evenings, while the daytime temps still reach the balmy upper 80’s or low 90’s. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to actual winter, and being able to turn off the AC, and maybe even wear socks.

Once the terracing is complete, I can begin planting the back yard (just in time for the cooler, garden-pleasant weather!), making the fairly bland space it is now vibrant with plants that smell wonderful, that bring birds and bees, and some that we can eat. I’ve brought a few starts from the old yard that are really wanting spots in the ground, and can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt. And of course, once Dasher recovers from his surgery, he’ll love the flat area to chase a ball or frisbee in, instead of crashing downhill into the fence at the bottom, as he used to do. [Poor dog. No wonder his meniscus gave out! (Well, not really; we didn’t use the back yard at all, but tossed toys in the open, flat front yard instead.)] And I’m going to absolutely love not killing myself while cutting that steep slope, especially the bouncy area over the tree roots that were being washed out from underneath. Aaahhhh, it’s going to be sooo wonderful.

Until then, I’ll keep dreaming of how wonderful it will all be–the book, and the yard. And I’d be glad if you’d do the same. I hope you enjoy autumn, no matter how it exhibits where you live.

Magic of the Everyday, Moving, Personal Life, Writing

Whew!

Well, the transition is over. We are moved out of our previous home, and all our things–both those we stashed in a Pod for showing, and the stuff from the mover’s truck–are in our new house, albeit much still in boxes stacked haphazardly in various spaces. We’re updating the lighting and fans and such things even as we attempt to unpack and put things away, which means everything is going more slowly than we’d like. But it’s going, it’s getting done, and everything we’re updating is delighting us that much more.

And of course, let’s not forget that we have to find various types of doctors, a vet, a chiropractor (sooner rather than later after that Pod!), the good stores to shop at, banks, and two types of pharmacy, and also explore parks and dog parks, cook, clean, cut grass, figure out trash days–basically, live a normal life. Or, well, whatever passes for “normal” in this house, at least.

The Pod got delivered yesterday, and though my back is aching today, the whole thing is cleaned out, ready to be picked up again and carried away. Dasher the dog is in dog-heaven, because he just got a delivery of all the toys that went away before the showing. He’s been carrying around his lemon-head toy, leapt into the pool yesterday again and again for his favorite old frisbee, and fell asleep last night still holding his long squeaky snake toy, which he’d been dragging around like a true prize. All is well on the canine front!

And on the orchid front, as well. My oh my, who knew that just a wee bit south, the orchids just don’t need me to do anything–other than not thoroughly abuse them–in order to flourish. They are thriving on this new location, growing like literal weeds and looking lush and gorgeous. A few are newly in spike, and one that was spiking as we moved (and oh, didn’t that make me nervous, moving that big, spiked orchid; I was so afraid I’d break off that flower spike!) is about ready to burst open. I promise I’ll post pics soon, although they might hit Twitter first.

My new office is wonderful, and after the bedroom where we sleep, it was the first room set up. My novel is up on the wall, 3×5 cards showing the scenes left to write. And I’ve been writing here. It’s a perfect space, and I love it. Let’s hope my writing loves it, too!

And with that, I gotta run. More writing to be written, more packed things to unpack, and  yes, a vet appointment for Dasher to meet his new doctors.

Happy Summer!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, the dog

Definitely Spring!

Yes, I know the calendar told us that the first day of spring has just passed, but I’ve been seeing so much spring around here lately, and it’s awesome, so I’m gonna share!

The plum tree is covered in gumball-sized fruits of dull, celery green, and the new blueberry bushes are awash with clusters of greenish fruit, as well. The earliest loquats are now ripe, with more changing from greenish-yellow to golden orange every day. In the veggie garden, while the recent cooler weather has not been to my sulking tomatoes’ liking, the carrots and onions are thriving!

We’ve spotted our first hummingbirds, out at the purple-flowering sage in the front, and within an hour I had both hummingbird feeders out (I haven’t spotted any takers, yet, despite the chill temps early in the mornings). And Cedar Waxwings are swarming the holly tree outside my dining room window (and every berry-holding tree in the neighborhood honestly), swallowing down every ripe berry they can coax off the branches, fueling their trips further northwards.

And finally, how about the bigger wildlife?

Let’s start with Dasher. He adores sleeping in the sunbeams, as you know. I move soft bed out into the lanai and he takes a toy (or four) out with him, a security blanket to hold in his mouth as he dozes contentedly. Here’s his toy-of-choice yesterday:

Yes, he chose to wrestle that gator into submission, and looked quite comfortable holding it helpless in his so-powerful jaws! (snort, snert!)

And then, my sister (visiting from Ohio) and I went out to Payne’s Prairie to check out the scene. There was the owl, visible high in the live oak near the entrance, and even a fluffy chic, just as big as the parent but still incapable of flight, near the very top, basking in a sunbeam! (too high up; my pics turned out terrible–use your imagination???)

We proceeded to the boardwalk, where we were met with this:

Click to em-biggen any of these photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right–a momma gator and her brood. At first, it looked like only 3, then 5. Then we managed to count 7, then 12–and then we saw more underneath the boardwalk, and some on the other side… In short, I have no idea how many baby gators were there. But momma knew. A wading bird came near and she moved, threatening it until it flew off, looking for a cheaper meal. And we heard the babies give their little beeping cries now and again. While I’d been hoping to see some gators, I never expected this! And never this close!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were other treasures too–an anhinga, sunbathing so close we could almost touch it. And loads of snakes of various stripes: garter snakes, water moccasins, brown water snakes. Rails and moorhens and egrets and herons and red-winged mockingbirds and…yeah, we went back to stare some more at the baby gators. They were the stars of the day.

Looking out at Payne’s Prairie from a small rise.
Not headless, but looking below it into the water! See the orange beak near the top of the tail, to the left?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Writing

Spring Changes

This week, the sandhill cranes have been gathering into great flocks that swirl up the late morning thermals into the higher altitudes, their melancholy voices calling and overlapping into a overwhelming, bittersweet chorus as they begin their long journeys northwards. Yesterday morning, the far end of the alley, where the trees are thickest, was overrun with robins. Hundreds of them, chirping and calling and catching every bug they could find before they, too, flew off in loose groups of tens and twenties for their northern mating grounds.

My windows are open all night, and local strawberries are in at the farmers’ market. On the afternoon dog walk, we seek out the shady path instead of the sunny one. And the plum tree has burst into fluffy white bloom, promising another bumper crop come summer. Even the wee new blueberry bushes are in blossom!

Plum tree in blossom

It’s official, then. Spring is here. The groundhog was right. Despite the snow and ice still plaguing the north, the birds are flying spring up to you.

Spring is a season of change. Of renewal and rebirth. And in that light, I have some news of a wonderful change in my life: I have been accepted as an Active Member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to join this organization, and to nominate and vote on the Nebula Awards!

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Travel

December Travels

The Spousal Unit and I celebrated a Significant Anniversary this year, so we celebrated by taking a Significant Trip. We chose to return to Nürnberg, Germany (where we lived for a couple years) to visit the annual Christmas Market, or Christkindlesmarkt (which we haven’t seen for nearly 20 years!!!!!!).

The view from our window on a rare, blue-skied moment.

It was a magnificent trip! We stayed at a VRBO just inside the Altstadt walls, close to the tower gate that we entered when we lived there. It was quiet and peaceful, and close to everything, including mass transit. Perfect! Here’s a view from our window.

The market was everything we recalled: nice and fun and filled with delights during the week, and a crazed mass of wall-to-wall people on Saturday night. Honestly, even wearing a winter coat, some of those folks I skooched by now know me really well. But the food was good, the glühwein warming and yummy, and the sound of the bells ringing out from each church a sheer delight. We brought home gifts both for ourselves and our friends, but the best thing we brought home was memories–both reawakened old ones, and new ones from this trip.

Here are a few pics from our adventures.  

 

 

 

It was amazing how many things had changed. But it was also reassuring how much had remained the same. And as with every good trip, I’m glad we went, I’m gladder to be home again, and yet I can’t wait to return.

Nürnberg holds a tiny piece of my heart, forever.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finally, It’s Fall

This morning I woke to a thick blanket of fog rolling up from the low spaces. It hung heavy over the earth, dampening sound as well as grasses and shrubs. As the sun rose, it shrouded the sky higher up, making distant trees indistinct and grainy, and obscured the yellow ball of the sun until just recently. Even the crows respected the fog, remaining quieter, longer.

A sure sign of transitional weather, this is the first fog I’ve seen this season. It means cooler weather to come, and a quick check of the weather proves this to be true. I’m ready for fall–real fall, that sticks around instead of fleeing at the first sign of Summer’s pushback, letting temps climb back into the upper 80s and above. I’m ready for long sleeves, and long pants, and maybe a roast or stew for dinner. Change: it’s good, and it’s time.

I’ve been writing on the novel, but my written words aren’t as prolific as they were at my residency. This makes me feel like I’m slacking, or shirking, while in reality, it’s just life slowly gobbling away my time and attention. I’m trying not to let it get me down, but (like with so much in this world, and this life), it’s hard.

To counter the sense of getting nowhere fast, I’ve re-started a daily word count spreadsheet that some of the people I went to Taos Toolbox with use. We keep it on a Google Docs spreadsheet, available to all of us, so there is a small public accountability built in. And I’ve got to admit, seeing the “smaller” daily word count building up is helping me see that I am making real progress after all.

I’m also taking one day a week to work on editing short stories that I’ve written which have been languishing, unsubmitted, unedited–sometimes only half-written–in favor of the novel. This, too, feels good. The “instant gratification” of a short story, or a short story submission, is a shot of endorphins straight to the brain. “Look, see–I am a writer! I do have submissions out!” Brains, they’re such silly, manipulatable things, amiright?

Things to look forward to:

  • I’m approaching the mid-point of the novel! Things really pick up pace after that.
  • Thanksgiving! (and Thanksgiving leftovers!) Yum.
  • Hearing the return of the sandhill cranes as they wing overhead.
  • Watching Dasher get frisky, and run and play longer in the newly cool weather.
  • Anniversary travel in early December. Even though our wedding was in September, our big trip is planned for December. You’ll see why, once I post some photos. 🙂

Well, the crows have ceased their calling, so it’s time for me to start the writing day. Enjoy fall, in whatever form it takes for you (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!). Linger in the moment, make it a good memory. Something you can see and feel and smell again, over and over, when you need it. Yes, there’s definitely magic in that.

Magic of the Everyday, Writing

A Very Successful Residency, with Sunset Pics

My two-week residency is, alas, over. I am home again, and fully immersed once more in my “real life.” Which isn’t bad–I missed my husband, and my dog, and I’m glad to see my neighbors and friends again, and to be back in my house. But I have to admit that the time I spent at the Key West Literary Seminar apartment was magical. It was so quiet there at the end of the lane! I greeted every dawn from my tiny balcony, watching the sky turn from white to pink to blue while roosters crowed their dominance to the world, and temperatures rose from moist-and-blissful to daytime sweaty-hot. Which meant it was time to retreat inside and write.

My workspace at the residency: spacious and inviting.

And write I did! In just 2 weeks, I managed over 27,000 words on the novel alone! I also edited four separate short stories, and sent one out on submission for the first time. On one particular day, I wrote 2800 words on the novel, then came back later to edit a short story–and I didn’t feel burned out or destroyed! With no other responsibilities on my plate, all my energy went into my writing. I felt (and still feel!) like during this time I was transformed into Super-Writer.

I broke my writing into three, sometimes four, separate sessions, and them divided with time spent walking or biking across the island, taking in sights, or doing activities. I snorkeled at the beach, watched many sunsets, visited the KW Garden Club’s awesome location, rode through various neighborhoods taking in the sights, ate ice cream, cruised Duval Street, toured both Hemingway House and the Oldest House, played pinball, walked the waterfront often, and took a sunset cruise. I caught up on my sleep, read a lot, and felt like I was living in a slightly-fuzzy dream.

Then I look at my novel, at the word count tracker and the number of plot points I’ve already written and realize it was no mere dream. It was real.

A series of sunrise photos:

Thank you again to the KWLS and the people that make this happen. The dream is real; you can apply.

Sunset from Ft Zachary Taylor State Park
Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

Hey, What the Heck’s Been Going On? A Round-Up

I’ve had an incredibly busy summer–and now that it’s fall (by human reckoning, if not by Mother Nature’s calendar), I’d like to tell you about it. Get comfy–grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair–as this may take awhile.

First off, I’ve been battling some not-fun health issues. I won’t get into them here, but suffice it to say, I’ve not been getting as much writing done as I’d like, and that has made me a bit grumpy. And, it loosed the ever-patient brain weasels–you know, those mad little beasts that like to nibble away at your self-confidence, erode your cheer into fear, etc., at any chance. If you’re a creative of any time, I’m sure you’ve experienced them. Basically, not writing made me cringe, but whatever writing I did wasn’t “good enough,” or even just “enough.” I should have been doing more. Which made me want to not want to write, because it made me feel bad. Which unleashed yet more brain weasels…

You see how this is a nasty cycle. Fortunately, (I think?) I’m familiar enough with this that I just keep plugging away at it. I let the weasels run riot and do my darnedest to ignore them. They don’t go away, but at least I don’t let them monopolize my brain.

So despite the weasels, I managed to finish the first draft of Unspoken, and I’m closing in on my plan for the rewrite, which is what Draft 2 will be: a complete rewrite.

You might think I’d be upset about that, and well, let’s face it–I wish I could just do a quick polish and know it’s “perfect.” Of course I do. But it’s not, and I’m okay with that. I know what I need to do, and I want this novel to be good, really good. I feel it can get there, and this is the way to do it. (Thanks go to my husband, and my VP, Taos, and Codex friends and acquaintances who’ve been cheerleaders along the way, keeping me up when I got down, and shouting down the weasels when they got to me.)

How can you not love this guy?

The dog has been mostly good, fortunately. He had a pretty hard seizure yesterday, but it’s the first for a while. Since he’d been kenneled, I’m not sure what the trigger was for this one–maybe just stress? He is a homebody and a cling-on boy, so it may well be the case. Other than this, he’s been good. No surgeries, no real illnesses (other than a startling case of allergy to some pollen or another), just chillin’ away the summer heat and humidity. So YAY!

How would you even describe that shade of purple?

At the beginning of summer, the plum tree went berserk, and I managed to make all the plum jam. Now the beautyberry bush is in full lavender berry, and I’m making beautyberry jelly. It’s really very good, and made a terrific ice cream! Fiddly as all get out to pick the berries off the stems, and pull out the leaves and other various debris, but worth it in the end. The recipe I used is here.

Spousal Unit and I celebrated our anniversary recently–a big one, too. One that’s valued as a precious metal, even–Silver! (But it’s odd, I don’t feel that old.) To celebrate, we went to Disney World (hence the dog being kenneled), and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I got to wake up and look out our balcony window to see giraffes, zebra, antelope, springbok, and more. I was in heaven! Interns from various African countries worked at the lodge, and were very happy to discuss their countries’ various cultures, animals, foods, economies, etc. It was really amazing, and I loved every bit of it. Here are some pics, just because I need to share the joy:

Giraffes from our lodge
Reaching for that palm
Mama and baby Nyala antelope at the lodge
Another stretch!
Sunrise antelope
Evening at the lodge’s main viewing station: pink pelicans, giraffe, wildebeest…
A great group of interns finishing up their year at Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That last pic is of a fantastic group of interns we met while in line at the Pandora ikrom ride (which is awesome!). They were finishing up their yearlong internships at Disney, and would soon be heading back to Singapore. We had a great 50 minutes line-wait chatting together, and they had nothing but good to say about their experience.

Which brings me back to home. And the upcoming trip…

This next weekend, weather and hurricanes permitting, I’m heading off to a 2-week residency in Key West, where I’ll be feverishly working on the novel’s rewrite. I’m so excited I’m bouncing at the prospect of 2 full weeks with nothing to do but write and, well, basically keep myself alive by eating and sleeping. I’ll report back once I’m home, but don’t expect to see a lot from me (yeah, I know–what else is new?!?) during the end of September. Maybe on Twitter now and again, but probably not too much.

I’ll leave you with a bit of good news: my story Cold Currents has gotten a publication date! You’ll be able to read it in January 2019 at Abyss & Apex Magazine. Hurray! And yes, I’ll be sure to update with a reminder at publication time.

Until then, enjoy September!