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.

goals, Writing

Draft Finished!

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my calligraphy-magic novel, The Mastery Books.

Let me repeat that: I finished my novel’s first draft! OMG you have no idea I just…HURRAY!

I’d anticipated the book coming in between 90,000-95,000 words, with an goal of the finished book (however many edit drafts later that comes) to be closer to 90,000 words. And guess what? This draft ended at 91,450 words. I just…Wow. I’m in shock. It’s so close to my anticipated goal!!! I’m done and 100% on target!

I used a new outlining method for this one, and man did it work for me like nobody’s business! My outline was 2-3 columns in an Excel spreadsheet for each chapter, one column for actions, the next for emotions and immediate reactions that lead to the next chapter, and the third for “hey don’t forget this; the bad guy is thinking this,” etc–notes to myself more than story plotting.

Now I get a couple weeks to play with short fiction, read a crit partner’s book, drink daiquiri’s in the sun… well, okay, maybe not that last one (not too much, at least). But some time away, to let me forget this story so that when I come back to read and edit, it’ll seem fresh and I’ll see the stuff I need to fix.

How am I celebrating, you may ask. Well, the AC repair guy is here…so with continued air conditioning! (yeah, not my favorite way to celebrate, either) Actually, I’m giving myself an entire day to play one day next week. A complete day off, no time spent at the keyboard at all, no errands. It sounds glorious.

goals, Guest Post, Nature, sale

Three for Tuesday

(I know, I know–it’s supposed to be Two-fer Tuesday, but I’m giving a bonus, because it’s gonna be a long week, I think)

  1. Friend and fellow author Shannon Rampe has a special blog post written by yours truly (that’s me) up on his newsletter, and cross-posted on his blog. You can find it here, if you’d like some springtime-themed writing content. While you’re there, you might want to browse his site, maybe sign up for his newsletter–he’s got one collection of short stories out, and has another coming later this month. He’s also got links to some of his published works, so you can get a feel for what he writes. (Hint: It’s good.)
  2. GOOD NEWS! I’ve sold another story to Nature: Futures! I’m truly thrilled to announce this. It’s my third sale to them (!!!), and the first time I’ve sold a story to the very first market it was submitted to–thus it’s a double-Writer’s Bingo square! I don’t know yet when it will be out, but I’ll be sure to let you know. As always, I’ll post a wee bit here about its backstory, or how it came to be, or some such story-related anecdote.
  3. I’ll leave you with a photo from today’s walk. It’s the baby alligator at the local small “improved” pond, with paved trails, paddle boats, playground, nearby shops, and an arts pavilion, etc. I’ve seen this one slowly growing since winter gave way to spring (as estimated in Florida time, that’s about mid-February). Now its yellow stripes are nearly gone, and I’m starting to wonder how long before the little thing gets moved.
Just snoozing in the sun, fat and happy.

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!

publication, Writing

“Terraforming a Heart” is Published!

Yes, that’s right! My story is up now at Nature: Futures, and you can read it here. And as usual, the artwork paired with the story is perfect. ❤

I promised you a wee bit more info on the story, even though there’s the “story behind the story” bit at the end. So, what have I got?

This story, like so much of my flash fiction, is the result of a flash fiction writing contest over on Codex. And it wasn’t the first niggling story idea, or even the second one, that developed into this story, but the third one! Which just goes toward proving that one’s first idea isn’t necessarily the best. It can be hard to press on after story ideas, especially with a fast deadline for a contest, but it pays off. My first ideas are usually not right, either too expected and unoriginal, or just not interesting. But around idea 3, or 5, I start getting the hang of it, and my creativity shows up, having been woken at long last.

After the contest, the story went through a couple more rounds of editing to prune out words and fit Nature’s tight wordcount requirements, and to hone in on the point of the story and clear up confusion. And then, sucking in a great breath, I formatted it, exported it, and submitted it–it’s still a hard thing to do, hitting that “send” button. Even after all this time.

So many times, a story comes back rejected. But once in awhile, like this time, you get that wonderful acceptance, and the day turns golden and rosy-hued, and you know once again why it is you’re writing. Because somewhere out there, someone actually likes what you’re saying. Maybe they need to read it, the way I used to “need” the books and stories I read as a kid, and the ones that sometimes even today punch into a topic or trope that I’ve been grinding my teeth over. And having read those words, I feel lighter. Seen, and understood. The world begins to make sense as my outlook changes, hopefully for the better.

Thanks for reading, and looking at the world from my point of view.

Nature, publication

Sale and Quick Publication!

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.

Until then, have a good, safe weekend!

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finished! And Starting a New Novel.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

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…

publication, the dog

Announcing a New Sale!

It’s not exactly “new” news anymore, but now that the Kickstarter has funded (and Dasher’s health has taken a break from crises), I can share–without fear of jinxing–that a story of mine will appear in the debut issue of ScienceFictionry Magazine!

This is a double-whammy of a delight. I mean, any sale is a delight, of course! But a sale to a debut issue is an extra Bingo Square in the game of writing goals, you know? At least, it is for me. This is the first time it’s happening for one of my stories, and I’m thrilled.

Oddly, it’s also “weird-ening” too, in that the site makes it look like I’m somehow a “big deal.” I sure don’t feel like a big deal (actually, I know I’m just a tiny, bitty deal), and I greatly doubt that anyone would mistake me for one. But their presentation of the writers in this debut is very lovely, and makes us all look like the professionals we’re hoping to be. [Or maybe that’s just me, and the rest are all old pros at this already? (Well, looky-look, if it isn’t my old companion, Impostor Syndrome, come for another lengthy visit…)]

The magazine’s first issue should be available to the public in August, and naturally I’ll give you a head’s-up that it’s out. I can’t wait to read the issue and see what wonders my fellow TOC-mates have written! I hope you’ll give it a read, too. Magazines without readers don’t last, after all.

I’ll leave you with a picture of Dasher napping inside, safe from the rain and thundershowers passing by:

Snuggly boi