I have amazingly awesome news: the scientific journal Nature has accepted one of my flash stories for publication in their “Futures” department–this upcoming Wednesday, August 18!
As you might remember, I sold them a story last year; “What You Do For a Friend” ran in Nature’s Futures, on July 22, 2020. So, almost a year later, another sale to this wonderful market is making me very happy indeed. (You can read about that sale on my blog here.)
This time, the story is titled “Terraforming the Heart,” and yes, it deals with a future terraforming contest. I liked the story when I wrote it, and think its message only applies even more now. Of course I’ll provide a link when the story goes live, and a wee bit of backstory about the writing.
Great news: I finished the draft of the *&*%) Novel, and have sent it off to my beta readers/crit group. In five weeks, I’ll hear from them what they think. (Commence nail biting…)
In the meanwhile, I’m far from resting on my laurels. No indeed. While I’m now working on my agent submission schedule, and things like synopses and query letters (omg how awful these are!), I’m also doing something entirely more fun–starting on a new novel!
This one is going to be contemporary fantasy (instead of secondary world, like the first). And set in a really cool place, too (sorry, mum’s the word for now. I don’t like sharing too much until I’m much more firmly in place with my writing, and planning.) I’ve just now finished the full plot outline, and man is this one going to be fun to write! I love the characters so much, and even the bad guys are interesting. At one point, I texted a writer-friend and whined, “How do I let the protagonists win when I’ve so fully stacked the deck against them?!? Ahhhhhh, I don’t know!”
But now, with some helpful prodding by said friend, I’ve figured it out. As always, some bits were serendipitous, little things that just fell into place because of what I’d determined before, but seemed so well planned. (Thank you, subconscious brain!) Other bits, like the ending, were so harrrrd to wrestle into place.
It’s not entirely done. I still have plenty of brackets in the outline, like this:
“They then do [some cool things], but things don’t go entirely as planned [how? What fails?].”
So I’m not ready to start drafting just yet. But I’m getting close! And it’s just such a palate-cleanser from the last novel. Something new and juicy and not yet slogged through four times in a row. With luck, this means that when I get feedback on Novel the First, I’ll be able to look at it with refreshed eyes, and in a mood to rip right on into the work and send it out! (Heh, cross your fingers on that, okay?)
In other news, I have moved so much mulch! It has to be done before 10 am, when the temps and humidity and sunlight combine to make life utterly miserable for the rest of summer. Yesterday, for example, hit a high of 101F, and the humidity made it seem like my lungs were working double and my muscles were wilting on the afternoon (VERY short) dog walk. But the gardens are looking great!
Not so great is the front yard, where a mole has taken up residence and keeps lifting up tunnels that I, daily, sometimes 2 or 3 times daily, smash back down. We play frisbee with Dasher there, and if he steps on one and falls through, he could easily break a leg. Even if he doesn’t, jolting his limbs like that really hurts, since his arthritis is so bad. But he is not about to give up his 15 minutes of frisbee–not for heat, not for moles, not for anything. So here I go, smashing down mole tunnels.
That’s it for now. The afternoon storm has arrived in force. Lightning cracks and whitens the outside as rain sheets against the window, and the lawn outside. Time for a cup of tea, and a good book…
Spousal Unit has remembered that we won’t be traveling for the holidays this year, and therefore he won’t need to save his vacation for that travel we won’t be making. So instead, he’s taking a day off mid-week every other week, allowing us to drive out of town and visit the natural world safely, while most others are at work or school. We’ve twice gone to Canaveral National Seashore, a National Park that is a long beach just north of the rocket launch pads (while driving from the gate to the parking area, you get great views of them).
In addition to being mid-week, both days were flirting with clouds and rain, and the second time Tropical Storm Eta was nearing landfall across the peninsula, (and it’s off-season here in Florida, too), so we were very much “isolated and socially distanced” on the pay-to-enter beach. The sound of the waves (some pretty nice ones the second time) crashing into the shore, seabirds crying, the wind blowing your words away, the scent of brine, and the crush of sand underfoot–it was rejuvenating and glorious. I managed to see an osprey dive into a wave top, and emerge from the other side carrying a wriggling small fish away. And lots of ghost crabs scuttling out of sight just as I saw them.
You had to know they were coming. Here are some pics. You have to imagine the other senses while you look, though; sorry.
I’m stealing William Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction because I’ve recently been enamored with the National Park’s explore.org site, specifically the Katmai National Park’s Bear Cams. They have 5 separate live cams showing different areas, and all of them have given me great views of bear in the river, leaping trout, and the intersections of the two. A couple have audio as well as video, so I’ve been doing editing to the sound of rushing waterfalls, or a babbling broad river, and glancing up now and again to see wild bears! It’s pretty awesome.
And so, to tie in with that headline, here are some of the screenshots I’ve snapped. I didn’t get a good one of the bear cub interacting with–I think–a coyote (or was it a wolf? too grainy and half hidden for me to be sure), but I think you’ll agree these are pretty cool.
Oh my word! The stresses of trying to make your house look like a hotel where no one permanently lives, kept clean by an entire staff, while you actually live there and have no staff but yourself. While also trying to manage a dog with seizures who is undergoing yet another medical procedure. And, oh yeah–write a book!
As you might have guessed, we’re moving. Again.
Southward, once more. To the Orlando area. I’m excited about some new opportunities, but I’ll be very sad to see the end of many things I’ve loved here. Not only the yard that I’ve transformed into a veritable paradise (to me, at least), filled with fruit and scent and bloom, but the neighbors we have here, and the places we’ve come to love, our beloved solar panels, and the wildlife in this area, too.
Just last evening, we discovered that the owlet on the esplanade is actually one of a pair of owlets! We heard, then saw, them both, cree-ing piteously as dusk settled in under the laurel and live oaks, bobbing their heads and craning their necks as they flapped vigorously, strengthening those wings for the glories of future flights. And the hummingbirds are returning in force to the feeders here, and starting to battle for the feeder territory.
We’re in contract on both ends–selling this home, and buying the new one. But oh my word! (yes, I’m repeating myself. but it deserves repetition; these last few days have been stressful!) Realtors, and unrealistic clauses, and inspections, and deadlines, and so very many phone calls, texts, emails, and voice-messages! It’s like a horror novel that never really took off, but merely devolved into a more ridiculous angsty dread with every passing moment, and no real plot to speak of because things move at both a snail’s pace and with ever-increasing speed at the same time.
All this is to say: well, don’t expect to see much of me around these parts until after June begins. At that time, I’ll be coming to you–with any luck and with the appropriate sacrifices to the various gods of moving, whomever they may be–from the Orlando area. Ensconced in a new office. And with a dog fully recovered from his latest batch of medical stuff.
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:
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.
my right thumb was stung by ground hornets on monday as i tore out the spent broccoli, and now my entire hand is swollen and gross. just got meds yesterday from the doc, and while they’re helping, they also make me a bit snoozy. and typing is still haaaarrd.
so, while i recover, have a quick picture of the wee little plums forming on the plum tree:
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.