Magic of the Everyday, orchids, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 2/9/22

Out the window: Sunshine and blue skies, with blissful cool temps of about 60° F. After our recent bout of below freezing nights, the garden plants are soaking up yesterday’s slow rain and today’s warm sunshine like the balms they are. Cardinals song punctuates the air, and the muted notes floating into my office are a soundtrack to spring burgeoning all around.

On the desktop: Right now, just water. But yesterday I brewed up a batch of chai base–the tea, honey, and spices without the milk–that I’ll mix with milk and either reheat or serve over ice later today, once I’ve accomplished some things. Small rewards really work for me.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I have discovered the misery of query letters.

I’ve been working on this for over a week, tweaking, twisting, ripping out and replacing wholesale, or carefully excising with a scalpel–so many variations! And I still don’t think it’s “there” yet.

Yesterday I spent hours over on the Query Shark archive, and today I’ve been scouring the new site. Seriously, if you’re prepping to query agents to represent you and your novel, check these out. The information is there, clearly showing what to do and how to do it–and how not to!

Querying is its own thing, a very unique skillset of writing. Just like writing a good short story doesn’t mean you can write a good novel (or vice versa), having written a good novel does not mean you can easily write a good query. But queries are essential to getting agent representation, so…it’s time to roll up my sleeves and learn this skill.

And Another Thing: I’ve been running my orchids in and out of the house as the temps dip below 50°F then turn sunny and humid again for a day. As I moved one outside today, I felt something jump onto my hand and cling–and found an anole had been hiding in the orchid pot for 1.5 days inside my house! Fortunately, I was able to convince the poor thing that the grapefruit tree was a better perch than my hand (eventually).

And One More Thing: We just had a visit by Flat Stanley! He is a character from a children’s book that many teachers seem to love (it’s our second visit by a Stanley), and escorting Stanley around is a fun way to connect with where you live, and others around you. I had Stanley in my purse, and when the grocery store cashier saw him, she demanded I get a photo of Stanley with her in the store! That was so great. Even funnier was the look the bagger gave us, because she had no clue what was going on. I’m sure after I left the cashier filled her in–see, even more connections being made.

Thanks, Flat Stanley.

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.

Writing

Tidbits of Life

Writing a novel is hard. Editing a novel is harder still (for me, at any rate). It’s a slow game, and a long game, especially if, like me, you’re hoping to pursue a traditional-publishing writing deal. There isn’t much to show for long stretches of time. I get it, but it’s the field I’ve chosen to pursue.

In the interest of keeping my blog alive, therefore: real life!

Over the weekend, we went to the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, and we spotted baby alligators! And got to hear their quiet peeping to momma, who hovered protectively nearby (don’t worry, there was a sheer drop keeping momma in the water and us safe). Then we drove further and spotted a huge gator sunning just over the bridge and past the fence line. I’ve seen one there before, usually in the water, though, so it was cool to see it up on dry land. It had to be 10 ft long! (go ahead and click to enlarge the photos–especially those cute baby alligators with their yellow stripes!)

That’s it for now. Cute alligators and writing. One does not lead to the other, but both are keeping me afloat. Just, ya know, I’m not generally “floating” in the vicinity of the gators…

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!

Writing

Happy Equinox!

Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s officially the first day of fall. Mother Nature is feeling the love, as our temperatures “plunged” into the low 70’s overnight, and even now are barely above 80°F. I simply cannot tell you how blissful this feels after months and months and endless months (in a pandemic no less) of temps in the mid to upper 90’s with 100% humidity! The windows are open and I’m finally enjoying fresh air while I sit before the computer, preparing to get in my words for the day.

I also just harvested 2 Seminole pumpkins from my garden, and a handful of sweet potatoes that I managed to tickle free from the rest of the growing vines. Yes, I’m definitely feeling the autumn vibe, even if pumpkin spiced anything isn’t on my list.

Dasher, too, is loving the cool. He raced around like a manic little thing last evening after our walk, obviously ecstatic at the cool evening that didn’t sap his energy, until he finally–unwillingly–stilled, his eyelids too heavy to stay open another sweet minute. Of course, his toy was right beside him, safe in case he woke and needed another bout of play. 🙂

With the onset of cool, I’m much more willing to start the next big garden job: ripping out the grass weeds (okay, yeah, let’s be honest, right?) along the south side and replacing it with a drought-resistant and pollinator friendly garden. Spousal unit and I will be doing the work, taking it on in three small sections. I can’t wait until it’s done and looking amazing!

My writing has been coming along. This summer saw two short flash stories published in quick succession, and right now, quite possibly the favorite thing I’ve written is in a slush queue, awaiting its chance to wow an editor. The novel edit is proceeding slower than I’d like, but I’m making progress nonetheless, and I’m very pleased with how this draft is turning out so far. It’s–dare I say it?–actually starting to read like a novel!

And with that, I hear my characters calling me, telling me they’re impatient for me to get back and finish what they’re doing already! One character, in particular–a secondary one close to the protagonist–she’s got a quick temper, and I’m starting to feel that impatience of hers directed right at me. How dare I write stuff here, when I could be writing about her?!? (Don’t anyone tell her the novel isn’t actually about her, okay?)

Happy Equinox, happy autumn (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere), and stay safe out there!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, the dog

Definitely Spring!

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:

Click to em-biggen any of these photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Looking out at Payne’s Prairie from a small rise.

Not headless, but looking below it into the water! See the orange beak near the top of the tail, to the left?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Writing

Spring Changes

This week, the sandhill cranes have been gathering into great flocks that swirl up the late morning thermals into the higher altitudes, their melancholy voices calling and overlapping into a overwhelming, bittersweet chorus as they begin their long journeys northwards. Yesterday morning, the far end of the alley, where the trees are thickest, was overrun with robins. Hundreds of them, chirping and calling and catching every bug they could find before they, too, flew off in loose groups of tens and twenties for their northern mating grounds.

My windows are open all night, and local strawberries are in at the farmers’ market. On the afternoon dog walk, we seek out the shady path instead of the sunny one. And the plum tree has burst into fluffy white bloom, promising another bumper crop come summer. Even the wee new blueberry bushes are in blossom!

Plum tree in blossom

It’s official, then. Spring is here. The groundhog was right. Despite the snow and ice still plaguing the north, the birds are flying spring up to you.

Spring is a season of change. Of renewal and rebirth. And in that light, I have some news of a wonderful change in my life: I have been accepted as an Active Member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to join this organization, and to nominate and vote on the Nebula Awards!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finally, It’s Fall

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.