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!

 

 

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Travel

Home Again, Home Again

I’m back from my trip to London, where I stayed with friend and Taos Toolbox roommate, Mel Melcer. We had a great time, and ended up nearly walking our feet off. And hey, I discovered some things about the UK.

For starters, all that “rain and dreary gray” nonsense was just that–nonsense–during my trip. It was hot. I mean, I packed the wrong clothes! I ended up buying a sleeveless top, and wished I’d brought a pair of shorts, or a skirt. Whew! We sought out the shade, and changed plans one day to avoid London due to the heat (well, that and our tired feet…).

Also, Big Ben isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Photo proof here:

Big Ben covered in scaffolding.

OK, in reality, the trip was awesome. I saw so many amazing things, ate and drank great things, and on top of all that, 3 of my Taos Toolbox classmates and I got together one evening, and had a great time.

Instead of blathering on, let me share a few photos with you. But first, other amazing things not pictured: visiting Forbidden Planet; attending a reading/meeting of the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club; touring Westminster Abbey, walking St. James Park; my first British tea house tea, including my choice of really superb gluten-free cakes; riding the Tube; meeting Mel’s cats, and tonnes more!

Tower Bridge. Got to see the drawbridge raise to let a paddlewheel river boat through. Riverboat’s name? Considering where I’d come from it was, ironically enough, the Dixie Queen.
Panoramic view of the Thames riverside walkway, with a strange aberration from the “pano” process that tickles my fantasy-laden fancy!
Beefeater Tour Guide at the London Tower. He’s also the Raven Master!
One of the seven ravens held at the Tower. Meet Merlin.
Shakespeare statue in the park where the Taos group met; I particularly like the quote on the scroll old Will is holding.
“Alien life forms” in a greenhouse at RHS Wisley Gardens. (These gardens were a-mazing!)
Sparkling wine with Mel (left) and me (right) in her garden.
Feeding the swan and cygnets at Hever Castle and Gardens–another great place to explore!
Inside Hever Castle, looking out into the central courtyard.
Mel and I ride the London Eye, getting a great view of practically everything!
Husband loves scotch. But he did NOT get this one, which I saw at the World of Whiskey, inside Gatwick Airport. (click to embiggen, and check out that Duty Free price! Yikes.)

 

food, Personal Life, Travel

Traveling, and the End of the Plums.

Let’s start with that second item first. The plums. They are finished. The tree is bare of fruit, and even the counter holds only what we’ll eat today on its surface. The rest has been frozen, eaten, given away, or otherwise preserved. We are well-set with plums for the year!

The reason spousal unit and I wanted the tree’s “Closed for the Season” sign raised is that later today I’ll be leaving on a week-long trip. I’ll stay with a writing friend and visiting two others. (Sorry, Adam, I can’t find you online!) We all met at Taos Toolbox, so that just shows that lasting friendships can be made at workshops, even for introverts like me.

My bag is packed, and right now the dog is asleep on my lap, blissfully unaware (well, mostly; he did see the suitcase and had a bit of a freak, which is why he’s on my lap even though he’s nearly 30 lbs!) of my imminent departure. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m hoping the trip is uneventful, I’m sure I’ve forgotten a thing or three. I’ll be out of touch until after I return–let’s just call it July–when I’ll post an update here, probably with pics!

Until then, carry on, and happy Wednesday.

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 5/29/18

Out the window: Low, dense clouds that sometimes spit sprinkles of rain. The forecast calls for storms later this afternoon, and as it’s getting darker, it looks like the forecast may be right. Oops. There it is–heavy rain, hitting the metal roof hard enough to echo and reverberate in a mysterious, lovely way that makes me crave a good book, and a nap.

On the desktop: Not much, really. The usual odds and ends of notebooks waiting for words, my glasses case, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a pack of gum.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  Structural edit notes to my novel, Unspoken. I’ve gotten a printout of the novel and am marking it up by hand, so I can see at a glance the length of each scene, how many pages each one is, and how many slow or fast scenes are bunching up. I can flip pages to see how long the pace has been fast, or if it’s gone from “a breather” into “catatonic,” and make notes to fix this, as necessary.

Sometimes this is a faster process than writing, and other times, it’s far, far slower. Regardless, it’s a process that definitely needs to happen, and I’m learning much from it–about myself as “a writer” (vs as “an editor”),  about my craft and skill levels, about my protagonist, and about what the novel is really, really about.

And, while yes, I wrote these words, I’m reading them from enough distance now that they’re almost new to me. And this is a good thing. I’m not just slipping over them, but I’m reading them the way I’d read another’s novel, and seeing all those flaws (OMG, the flaws! There are so many!). I’m also seeing the things I did really quite well. Which is always a pleasant surprise.

And Another Thing: Oh my gosh, the plums! The little tree is just ripening those fruit so fast now that it’s a challenge to keep up with them all, and the rains keep knocking them off the tree to the ground… We’ve had plum jam, plum cake, and plum ice cream. Next up is a plum crumble, I think. And of course, more plum jam. I think I’m going plum crazy!

food, Nature, Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing

When Life Gives You Cracked Plums…

…make Jam!

The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.

That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”

In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.

Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.

Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)

food, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

Mid-May Already?

Time is flying, like it always seems to do. But I have some lovely fruit coming into harvest right now, and just have to show you today’s harvest:

The plums are just hanging in thick clusters on the tree, dragging the branches to sweep the ground. I have to duck low and creep under the higher ones to get inside their barrier in order to harvest–and to clean up the ones the previous two days of rain have knocked off! Fortunately, if I leave them on the counter for a day or so, even these have ripened nicely. This certainly makes up a bit for last year’s harvest of 6 plums (due to a late frost!).

The blueberries are in their first year. We just planted them in early April, so I can’t take credit for their bounty this year. But we are definitely eating said bounty with gusto!

And the strawberries. Well, if I can keep the pill bugs and the squirrels away from them, they are delicious, as always. They just keep popping out scrumptious fruits now and again, throughout the season. It’s all yum.

After having gone through some rather scary health issues and followup physical therapy, I’m now getting my head back into writing, as well. It’s a relief to get back to the novel, but not so pleasing to still be writing the first draft I thought would be finished by April!

It is what it is, though, and all my angst won’t make the draft done if I don’t write it. So, I’m off to do just that, right now.

Happy May, everyone.

 

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Travel

2018 Brings Me the Flu

Ugh. Yes, I caught this terrible flu. I’ve been battling it for nearly 2 weeks, and am feeling better, but still not 100%. This is why I’ve been so quiet for so long here–I’ve been busy sleeping, and drinking water and Emergen-C and echinacea tea, and sleeping. I’ve done a lot of sleeping.

Captive manatee snoot.

Just before the flu, however, my sister came to visit (fortunately, she did not catch the flu; only I was so lucky!). Since the weather was cool, the manatees had congregated thickly in the rivers around the springs, where the water spouts up from underground at a lovely 72°F (22°C) year-round. Sister-dear wanted to see manatees, so we went in search of manatees. Ironically, Manatee Springs Park did not have manatees; by the time we arrived, they’d already headed back to the ocean, as the unseasonably cold temperatures had begun warming up. We did find some at Fanning Springs, though, and later, we got really great views of some injured/rehab manatees at Homosassa Springs. 

 

We also visited our old favorite, Payne’s Prairie State Park. It’s been flooded since Hurricane Irma dumped so much water here last fall, so only the boardwalk and a narrow band of land before the boardwalk is open. Fortunately, that still left us with plenty to see.

Mama and her young foal wading for breakfast. Baby really didn’t like the cold water on his legs.

 

 

 

 

Joining the stallion

 

 

 

Why the trail is closed at this point…gators basking at the end of the boardwalk.
My sister is fascinated by armadillos. They were out in force at Payne’s Prairie, and completely unbothered by our presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we went to the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, where, despite cold weather, many animals were more than willing to greet us.

 

Caracal in her pen.
Lemur, blessedly quiet, basking in the sun.
Peacocks wandered the grounds, looking otherworldly with their shocking colors.
Riches of gold, emerald, and lapis.
Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Solstice 2017

Today is the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and the longest night/shortest day of the year. I’d been hoping to have a bonfire tonight, to light a very real blaze of bright against the encroaching darkness, but heavy rain in the wee hours have put an end to that idea; the wood, waiting patiently in the fire pit, is now soaked.

Instead, I’ll be lighting candles throughout the house. If not one big blaze, then two dozen smaller ones. Maybe more. I’ll still make my attempt to shove back the dark and the dreary depression that often comes with it. The light in my heart burns, sometimes bright, sometimes dim, but always there. And when I light my candles, my heart will rejoice.

The build-up to the holidays and the end-rush into the new year always sneak up on me with more force than expected, and this year is no exception. I’ve been “slaving away” on the novel (well, I am enjoying it, but it’s taking far longer than expected–as usual!), and trying to sneak in short stories (mostly unsuccessfully) around the corners and in free moments. In addition, it’s cool enough to do gardening, so the garden has been plumped and preened a bit, and the holidays demand cooking and baking, and the dog is full of ball-playing enthusiasm with the cooler temps, and…

…and back to that darkness. Sometimes you want to shove back the dark; other times you embrace it and simply take a nap. Yesterday, and tomorrow, I did and shall nap. It does the soul a world of good, too, being a gift to yourself.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a happy one. And a good winter’s nap, afterwards. Today, I wish you a flame–even if it’s a candle in your heart–against the dark.