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!

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 01/12/21

Out the window: The sky is a haze of white-gray, with a soft breeze rustling through the palms and oaks, causing more oak leaves to fall onto our newly-raked lawn (:sad:), and promising rain (which may or may not come to us, honestly), which would make my orchids (and me) very, very happy.

On the desktop: TableTop Audio running a playlist: currently up is a new, jaunty Pirates! theme, which is working to get me energized. Notes, notes, notes. And a new fountain pen from Spousal Unit, a Christmas gift that of course I love to pieces!

Fountain pen, Conklin Endura Abalone
Conklin Endura Abalone fountain pen–so lovely!

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  It’s January, which means one thing: Weekend Warrior! This is an amazing contest over at the Codex Writers’ Group. 100+ SFF writers join up for 5 weeks to each write a flash story in 72 hours and upload it anonymously. Then we each download our division’s (with this many participants, we need divisions) stories and give feedback. I’m currently halfway through my division’s reading. 

In addition, I’m still working on the Unfinished Novel from the Depths of Hades, Which Will Not Be Finished in My Lifetime. ™  Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. It’s just a very complicated love about now, you know?

I’ve also just finished a new submission on a short story that just came back (i.e., was rejected) from its very first market–a rite of passage for stories. I’m well-acquainted with the drill: pat them on the back consolingly and shove them right back out the door to the next market. Languishing on the hard drive sofa gets them nowhere! Tough love, baby.

And Another Thing: I’m in the midst of making baby quilts for “upcoming” great-nieces/great-newphews. It’s a great distraction from the hellscape the world’s news has become, and it centers me in the here-and-now. These children are all being welcomed into good and loving families, and I hope each will encounter a world filled with bright potential and hope and joy. (Why yes, I do write fantasy and SF, why-do-you-ask!)

I try to imbue each stitch I make with acceptance and love and comfort in the hopes that the child will somehow feel those things when they see their quilt. It’s a small thing, but it’s a thing I can do. And it makes me feel good, too.

I hope you can find a similar thing: something you can do that makes the world better, and makes you feel better, too. We all need some “feeling better about the world” right now.

 

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life

Starting 2021, A New Year

You haven’t heard from me much last year–last month, especially. I really don’t want to recount that time and those troubles. Let’s just say that 2020 went out kicking and screaming and causing as much havoc in my life as it possibly could, as long as it could. But now that is over and done.

New Year’s Eve fire

I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to “start anew” and have another chance at success this year. Coronavirus isn’t gone, and we’re not racing around “like normal” (whatever that even means anymore); it isn’t magically “over” just because the calendar year cycled through to another page. (Unfortunately.) But it is a time to look ahead to coming possibilities.

The COVID-19 vaccine is out in the world, and that will surely change things. The US will have (new) leadership soon, and the world is beginning to emerge from horrible year that was 2020 and shake off the dust and excrement clinging so tenaciously to us. Maybe I can see family in person, and friends. Maybe we’ll be able to travel, not for necessity to the store, but for joy to see new things. What magic that will be!

My writing was put completely on hold for the last 6 weeks of 2020. I’d intended on finishing the novel draft in that time, which clearly didn’t happen. But now that I’ve clawed my way back to equanimity, I’m prepared to finish this draft at long, long last. I’m prepared to write more short fiction, and send it out into the world. I’m looking at editing up a series of short novels I’d back-burnered for lack of clarity on their ending; I think I’ve figured it out, and hope to test my theory by writing it.

I’ve also got a number of baby quilts to make; COVID did one good thing: provide my family with plenty of time to procreate! The family expands, and those babies need quilts. I’m on it already, and with great joy.

In short, it’s going to be a busy year. I’ve got lots of goals made, and am excited to get going. Get creating. Breathing new, fresh life into myself, my world, my creativity.

Welcome to a new year. I hope you’re prepared–I think it’s going to be amazing.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Beach Day

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.

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 10/21/20

Out the window: Thick gray clouds that sometimes open to spatter rain. Warm and humid, but not disgusting, so I’ll take it!

On the desktop: a thick stack of revision notes, going through the entire novel scene by scene. I’m over a quarter of the way through them, though, so that’s worth something. Also, an empty cup which once held Adagio’s Apricot Green tea. mmmmmm it was good.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  Another scene of the novel, then another. And a third. Do you see the pattern here? Yup, it’s gonna be a long one.

Dasher says “Play!”

And Another Thing: Please vote. And, having voted, please take care of yourself. This is a terribly stressful year, in so many awful and horrific ways. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon your physical, mental, or emotional health to doomscroll endlessly. Take a tip from Dasher, who wants to play every day, whether or not it’s hot, or raining, or people are mad on Twitter. Do something you enjoy. Sit quietly. Sip tea. Read. Play with your dog. The world will still be here, and still be a honking huge mess, when you return. But you’ll feel better.

 

Personal Life, Writing

World Postcard Day is October 1

 

Postcrossing postcard image front designI know it’s nearly a “lost art,” but the humble postcard is 150 years old this year, and the world is celebrating that with the first-ever World Postcard Day. Postcard fans like me will be celebrating by, what else, sending postcards!

Over at Postcrossing.com’s blog, there’s a design you can print yourself, if you’d like; both sides, or just one–your choice. And they also have a teacher’s packet for incorporating into schooling. Naturally, you can sign up with Postcrossing (it’s free!) to exchange postcards around the world all year long. There’s more fun going on at 150 Years of Postcards.  And over at Christopher Arndt Postcards, they have their own postcard design already printed and for sale.

Of course, you don’t need any special postcard to celebrate World Postcard Day. Any card will do. Just write one, and send it–and voila! You’re part of the celebration.

What’s the big deal with postcards? Well, for me, with COVID-19 keeping me home and preventing the travel I love and crave, postcards a great way to armchair travel, and treat others to similar “travel,” without leaving home. It’s a sheer delight to go to my mailbox and find a postcard from some wonderful part of the world awaiting me–or three! And on Postcrossing, I’ve gotten delighted thanks for the cards I’ve picked out specially for each individual, or the stamps, or both. (yes, getting cool stamps from the post office is another thing you’ll start to do–and why not? they cost the same as the boring ones!) Getting and bringing joy in one small step. Honestly, it’s an amazing boost for such a small investment. These days, I need all the joy I can find.