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!

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.

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)

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.

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.

Personal Life, the dog, Travel

A Breath of Fresh Air

Last year, friends of ours in Hamburg got married. They’d planned a large fête, and we’d planned on attending. Then COVID arrived, and didn’t leave.

They got married, but postponed the celebration. Earlier this year, in the wake of vaccinations, they rescheduled their celebration, but on a smaller scale. We dreamed of packing our bags. And then the Delta variant arrived.

Nonetheless, they kept their plans intact. They monitored the situation like hawks eyeing rabbits, and it seemed okay on their end–Germany’s numbers declined greatly after vaccinations rolled out, and didn’t spike as hard with Delta as we did in Florida (well, duh!–hardly anyplace did that!). We decided that being double-vaccinated and wearing N95s on the journey would keep our risk low enough, so we packed our bags and went!

Us with the “newly” married couple

Reader, it was glorious! Fall was just dipping the temps to bliss (for me at least, previously being stuck in the sweltering heat and continuing humidity of central Florida’s September), so Spousal-Unit and I got to wear long pants, long sleeves, and yes, even socks! Nighttime temps dipped to the low 40’s F, and days mostly hit around 68 F, with partly sunny skies making it neither too hot nor too cold for all the walking and walking and walking we did. Have I mentioned the walking? I love being outdoors, and Florida summers are really tough on me. Even going outside at night is difficult as most parks close at dusk (due to alligators, snakes, and biting bugs), and even my yard is a no-go zone then (FL bugs think I’m delicious, unfortunately; I just itch.).

Low clouds scudding over the Rhine River
The Kettensteg in Nürnberg, at night

The restaurants and markets were full-on autumn, with chanterelle mushrooms, a variety of pumpkins (mmm that soup), the last of the vivid tomatoes, leeks, and so much more. It’s a good thing we walked as much as we did, honestly.

It was hard to come home, but my dog was waiting for me, so we undertook the 23-hour journey home and crashed into bed, only to rise the next morning and drive 4.5 hours roundtrip to pick up said Dasher. (Yes, he was worth it–especially him cuddling us both all that night, trying to make sure we didn’t leave him again.)

I’m glad we went. I’m super glad we all stayed healthy. But it’s also good to be home, and get back to writing.

Until next time!

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

Hello again, hello!

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

I’ll just leave it at that. We all know what we’ve been through, and I don’t feel like re-hashing every nasty blow and tanking all our fragile moods by doing so. So, let’s move on the next thing, shall we?

It’s a gray and rainy day here, and a bit cool (for us) with off-and-on showers coming throughout the day, and tomorrow, too. Rather a relief, honestly, as we’d been heading into drought-like conditions. But now my veggies and fruits are breathing a sigh of relief (as is my water bill-avoidant self!), and the grass is growing lush and green. The dog is a bit miffed that his sunbeams aren’t available on the lanai for his snoozing enjoyment, but I think he’ll survive, the poor dear, with an extra treat and an extra snuggle on the sofa.

Right now, I’m taking advantage of the cool to make a big batch of chicken stock, which I’ll can later. I can’t believe we were out, but the pantry was bare of chicken stock. Not for long! Afterwards, I’m hoping to make a bunch of Jasmine madeleines, a recipe I’ve been longing to make for a couple years, since I found the recipe in a Thai cookbook, in the “Thai Influences” section. I had to order jasmine extract from online, and it just got here a few days ago, so I’m eager to try them out. (I’ve been making that recipe using coconut extract instead, and it was very, very good.)

I’ve been making baby quilts, and finished one, which has arrived to it’s new tiny owner. The next one is nearly done–only the binding needs to be appliquéd onto the backing, and a label attached. The third, fortunately, isn’t due until July. And it hasn’t been started yet. I’ve gathered images for the pattern, at least!

Oh, writing? Well, yes. Of course. I’ve been struggling, along with so very many others, when it comes to motivation in isolation. But I’m nearing the very end of this draft of the novel–HURRAY! Then I can set the whole thing aside for a few weeks and work on something else while I let the draft sit and think about what it’s done! Or, more seriously, while I consider how much further editing it needs and if I need to continue with it or trunk it. Right now, I’m in no proper headspace to decide that.

I’ve started the process of working out my next project, and I’m pretty happy with the work on it, so far. Working on this is my treat for finishing my daily output on the first novel, so I don’t get carried away and forget the “work” for the “shiny.” (Always a fear, for me).

And to end this catch-up post on a high note, I’ve sold a short story! The next issue of Speculative North will include a story of mine that I love so very much. I can’t tell you how glad I am that it’ll be out in the world at last! I’ll give you more news nearer to the release date, of course. Good news is meant to be shared!

To close, I’ll leave you with a picture of Dasher napping inside, for a change:

Making do with a carpet inside, without a sunbeam. Die arme Hündlein!