Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Taos Toolbox, Writing, Writing Workshops

A Two Bunny Day

Yes, I currently have two bunnies in my garden, right up against the lanai screen, contentedly devouring sweet potato leaves and leaf-stems. Yesterday was a 3-bunny day, a major milestone! Once we replaced our rotted out and falling over wooden fence, the back fence that barriers against a wooded retention pond runoff area was changed to powder-coated metal, which allows the critters to easily slide right through.

Terrible pic, but you’ll still see two rabbits if you squint. I hope. And the new fence that they love.

We’ve definitely seen an increase in backyard wildlife. Used to be we’d get maybe one rabbit sliding through the low hollow beneath the fence. Now it’s all the critters gliding right on in and out to come a-visiting! I’m not too concerned about their eating the sweet potato vines down to stumpy bits; I’ve already harvested and given away more sweet potatoes than I care to think about, and still have about half of the vines left–or, well, I did, until the rabbits decided to help ūüôā

Dash getting really spoiled!

I’m so glad for this bit of delight, and the cooler weather that allows us all here to enjoy being and working outside, because not everything’s been bunnies and harvests. Dasher had another scary episode of seizures (he’s idiopathic epileptic). Before that we had the longest span without seizures he’s ever had since his seizures began at about 1 year of age. As he’s nearing 8 years old, every seizure wracks his arthritis-pained limbs, causing more discomfort and pain for longer after he recovers. It’s truly heartbreaking, but I’m glad to report that he’s fine again now, and seems to have completely come back to his good, happy, regularly-abnormal self!

Writing-wise, things were going swimmingly up until Dasher’s seizures started. I had an “aggressive” writing plan for the month of December (aggressive for me, at least!), pushing through the last half of the novel’s edits to be finished before the end of the year. However, I’ve now lost a full 6 days, plus another 1.5 for recovery–I got somewhere between 2-4 hours of broken sleep each night of the dog’s “episode,” and multiple auto-immune issues mean I really don’t do well with that; stress literally turns my thinking capacity to mush. So… I’m still trying to push ahead and finish as much as I possibly can between now and the end of the year, but I’m gonna try to not flay myself if I fall short of that goal (I hope).

Which brings me to another point about writing: if you are a writer, maybe you feel bad when things don’t go well. Maybe you feel like a failure if you don’t get that story, or novel, published. But I’ve got news for you: rejection of your writing doesn’t mean you are a failure. Not ever. As a human being, you have more value than just what your writing brings in. Human value is not transactional. Never was, never will be. The duo of writers that comprise the byline James S. A. Corey (of The Expanse fame) were guest speakers at Taos Toolbox the year I attended, and it was one of their key points: failure happens, over and over, between the successes that all focus on. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress gave stories of their own professional ups and downs, reiterating that theme. (I say this so you know it’s not just some rando spouting nonsense at you, okay?) This wisdom has helped me, so I hope it helps you, too, if you need to hear it.

Speaking of which…

Taos Toolbox is open for submissions beginning January 1. They plan on hosting their 2022 workshop in person, June 6-19, 2022. It’s two glorious weeks of focusing on writing and its craft, and it’s set on the gorgeous slopes of Angel Fire, NM. Find out more and apply over at their website: http://www.taostoolbox.com

Writing

A Clean, New Look

Well, if you haven’t noticed, it’s here. I’ve changed this blog’s theme, and spruced things up a bit. More has been done behind the scenes, and more will continue to change back there where you won’t notice it much. Hopefully I will, though.

Meanwhile, life isn’t stopping. I’m still attempting to write this draft of the novel, and keep short fiction submissions moving. The west coast is still on fire, hurricanes and tropical storms still threaten the Gulf coasts, coronavirus still sweeps the world, and my dog still has epileptic seizures. Like the one he had yesterday.

All my careful plans went out the window as I re-prioritized everything to care for him. Fortunately, it was only the one episode, not a cluster like he’s been having so often. And I know the source: someone had left salted peanuts out for squirrels at the dog park, and Dasher licked one shell. Didn’t eat it, just licked it. (Reason #41 why not to leave food behind in a dog park!)

Later today I get to take my tablet in for repairs, and cringe at so many $$ being spent to repair the shattered-crazed touch-screen glass. But for 5 days, I’ve not used my tablet. And it’s shown me how dependent on that little thing I’ve become. Keeping up with my friends on Slack is the main thing I’ve missed. It’s much harder to go sit at a computer and log in. And my phone, well, yeah, I can use that–but the screen is so small. (insert squinchy-face) Do not like.

So I’ve gotten a LOT more reading done. Like, a LOT a lot. And…okay, wow. So that’s where all my time was going–quick bursts of socializing, some gaming, checking Twitter, doom scrolling the News, one more check on email… it all adds up to become a rather significant chunk of my day. So, despite part of me hating to admit this, having my tablet out for repair for some while might actually be a good thing.

Now let me change gears and give you more reasons to remain online: two new online magazines have opened/are opening. The first is a new quarterly SF mag named Departure Mirror. What makes them stand out for me is this line, from their submission guidelines: “We‚Äôre most excited by stories that tap into the current cultural zeitgeist.” In other words, stuff that is from this moment, and extremely timely. Which is something that many other markets really don’t want, because with their long lead times, there might be a year between acceptance and publication–making the story no longer timely, but “old news.” The first issue is out, and free to download, and all the stories were quite good. I think I’ll be reading this one regularly, and hope you will, too.

Next up is a forthcoming magazine called “Constelaci√≥n.” From their website: Constelaci√≥n is a quarterly speculative fiction bilingual magazine, publishing stories in both Spanish and English. Writers can submit their stories in either language. Fifty percent of the stories we publish in every issue will be from authors from the Caribbean, Latin America, and their diaspora.

Constelaci√≥n is being created by a pair of editors, one of whom is from my Viable Paradise cohort–Coral Moore. She’s an amazing writer and an awesome person, and I think this magazine is going to fill a niche that has been too long ignored. They have a Kickstarter going on right now to fund their first year, with loads of fun backer rewards, and they’re looking to provide pro-levels of payment to their authors, their illustrators, and their translators, which is not only the right thing, it’s the awesome thing. So go grab yourself a capybara founder’s pin!

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Today's Desk

Writer’s Desk, 10/22/19

Out the window lanai:¬†High clouds quickly burning off as the sun’s glare rises above the treeline in the east, until they thicken to the west and flow back east, making the sun play hide and seek. Green, green everywhere, after the rains last night and yesterday’s sprinkles. And with the rising heat, the humidity is already beginning to feel oppressive. Birdsong and a jay’s scolding screech mostly mute the distant hum of traffic as I sit outside in the screen room this morning.

On the desktop:¬†Since I’m outside, there’s a potted jade plant taking up much tabletop real estate. Other than that, this computer, two notebooks (one for the novel, the other holding today’s To-Do list), my glasses case, a book to read, and a pen. Pretty austere, but it’s all I need for now.

Today‚Äôs Work-in-Progess:¬†¬†I’m editing this draft of Unspoken, my novel-in-progress. I’m nearing the end of a rather large section that needed 100% new words, and am looking forward to faster progress once I burst through to the next “revision edit” section (instead of a “rewrite edit”). I made a rather significant plot change near the end of the last draft knowing this would entail some dramatically rewritten sections, and I don’t regret it in the least. Now I can see how much better the book is, how the character is gaining a clear arc, how the plot is moving along much more quickly. It’s both gratifying and motivating to see this happening; to have proof, of a sort, that my writing actually doesn’t suck–because, you know, writers are always fighting those Brain Weasels that tell them they’re the worst ever. Even once they’ve made it to full “active” SFWA membership.

Of course, the dog is another “work-in-progress” who demands attention, too. We’re a week post-surgery right now, and he’s not allowed to move. I carry him outside to pee and poop; he eats meals lying down in his crate; if I’m not there watching he has to wear the Elizabethan collar; he puts no weight on the leg that was operated on, and if he bends that leg much he’s in such pain he gasp-whimper-kreels until I can straighten it again. So, yes, divided attention.

And Another Thing:¬†Supplies for the walls that will make our back yard terraced are supposed to start showing up today, and I can’t wait for this to begin–so it can end and I can actually have a usable back yard! The herbs and veggies I want to plant along the wall edges will make my gardening and cooking heart so happy! But, with the scattered showers we’ve had, and which are predicted for the next week, who knows if delivery will occur today or not. So, fingers are crossed but I’m not holding my breath.

Besides, it’s hard to type when your breath is held too long. lol

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, science, the dog, Travel, Writing

Mid-June Update

Things have been busy here, and I’m still in a bit of a whirl. Dasher is fully recovered, according to Monday’s liver enzyme test, which is the biggest news for me. And the best. He’s been acting fine, so it’s good to see it’s more than just a temporary reprieve.

He also got his shots yesterday, including a new one for the canine influenza that’s hit Florida. With his frequency of appearance at the UF Vet Med Hospital, which is a hotbed of diagnosis for this outbreak, I think it’s wise that he get all the protection a dog can get; after all, he’s had enough issues without adding one more. (Trupanion will probably thank me for this, too!)

Last week, spousal unit and I took a short trip north. Our first night we spent at a friend’s home in New Jersey, near where we used to live. The weather was cool and fine, and we got to harvest some of the last asparagus out of the garden! Oh, so delicious. I miss garden-fresh asparagus so much after tasting that lovely treat! The gardens were also a delight, with columbine, roses, iris, foxglove, and clematis. The long, cool spring held the blooms perfectly for our visit.

Afterwards, we traveled into New York City and absorbed city atmosphere and energy. We walked neighborhoods and parks, ate a a few favorite restaurants and tried a few new ones, took in some new sights as well as revisiting some old favorites. Can I admit that it was relaxing? Yes, NYC and relaxing don’t normally work together, but it was. Both of us just slowed down and enjoyed being on vacation. It was great.

Back home again, I’ve started to dive heavily into the research end of the literal “world building:” How long would the planet’s rotational period be? How about moons–could I have two, and what would their cycles in the night sky be? Could/should the planet have a great rift, like the one on Mars? How would that affect the story, or would it be located elsewhere? What are the different languages spoken by the various peoples, and how are they visually/aurally different? Etc…

Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun work. And it’s calling me, calling…

Bye for now. Time to research biology and form for a cool critter I’m making.

Personal Life, the dog

It’s Adoptiversary Day!

dashernotail

Which means that two years ago today, we brought Dasher home from the Haile’s Angels adoption event at Petsmart. He earned his name by dashing about at the end of his leash, so happy and eager and cute. He’s still happy and eager and cute (even if sometimes that becomes annoying!).

Today, we’ll celebrate by giving¬†him a deer antler, and some extra special treats. He’s already wagging his tail, just imagining it. Or, well, it is his normal state of being, so maybe he’s just being his normal self. Either way, he’s happy. We’re happy. And yes, Dasher is definitely one of the things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving.

I hope today brings you some of the same good fortune and lasting happiness that adopting Dasher has brought to our lives.

the dog, Writing

Brimming Over with Good News…But I Can’t Share It Yet

Which is making me sad, since I’m all bouncy wanting to tell you. /zips lips shut and sits on hands, still bouncing a leg.

But I have other good news that I can share: Dasher the dog had his 3-month post-surgery checkup, and he’s fine. His bone has healed and he’s free to go and be a dog again! Such awesome, awesome news!

So¬†now I’m off to work on more edits¬†to the first book of the Jessamin Stow trilogy. Which is just too much fun. Have I mentioned that I love this life of words? I really do.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, the dog

A Little Beauty…

hibiscusbeauty

Early this year, I splurged on this¬†expensive tropical hibiscus plant. It seemed silly, and a needless expense, but I couldn’t stop staring at the huge blossoms, couldn’t stop myself from looping around the aisles of pots for “one more look.” And wow, am I glad I did.

Now the plant is happy here at my house, and I get to see it every day. At least once a week, and usually twice weekly, it unfurls a new, massive bloom–or two at once, as in this photo–which just makes my jaw drop and my eyes dance over their beauty.

I find I’m needing a bit of this now. Dasher, my dog, has had two seizures in two weeks. He’s fine, he hasn’t damaged his latest surgery (I’m pretty sure of that!), but it does mean that we’re going to have to either up his med dosages, or change his meds altogether. This always means running the risk of new breakthrough seizures as things are changing and then stabilizing. It means I won’t be sleeping well for weeks, as his seizures always come at nighttime–9 pm through 7 am–so any tiny noise he makes wakes me, my heart pounding with fear: seizure, or just rearranging himself; seizure, or licking himself? New meds also come with new potential side-effects (sigh), both short and¬†long term. More things to worry about, and in such a young dog.

Right now, he’s sprawled on a dog bed that’s balanced on my lap. The valium that breaks him out of seizures makes him snoozy all day, afterwards. And this way, we both draw comfort from one another’s presence. (I’m really not sure who gets more benefit from our relationship–him or me! And that’s…kind of wonderful. ^_^ )

So walking outside and finding these blossoms all fiesta-bright and full of happiness? It’s a real boost. Cheap therapy. Turns out, that “expensive” plant wasn’t so expensive after all.

Magic of the Everyday, the dog, Writing, Writing Workshops

Out the Window, and in my Browser Window

I just heard a familiar “thwunk” sound at the dining room window, and as my heart sank I stifled my¬†groan. By the time I looked, there was nothing to see, but I knew what I dreaded: that the mocking bird was back to attack my windows ceaselessly, driving me insane as it battered itself more and more senseless.

As I stood despairing, the sound came again. This time when I looked, a bird hung from the screen, staring inside. Backlit by the bright outdoors, it glowed a very non-mockingbird cinnamon brown. It made a startled¬†“twit-twit” and darted off. I moved closer and peered out, to find¬†it perched in a nearby tree branch. Yellow glowed under its tail feathers, and its crest was wide and puffy and definitely brown. This was no mockingbird!

I downloaded the Cornell University Merlin bird ID app, plopped in the relevant info, and viola! There was my bird, staring back at me. A Greater Crested Flycatcher.¬†Now, I don’t have a life list of birds. But I do know I’ve never heard of this bird before, and never seen one before, so that makes it pretty cool–for me, at least.

This is also a nice bit of news since it gives me something quiet to be happy about. Dasher is still in recovery from his surgery, but he really doesn’t want to be. He will take any opportunity to remind me that he feels just fine and is more than ready to run and play, and he pterodactyl-groans if I’m too active and busy, wanting me to let him do all those forbidden things…which, um, no. No dog, you cannot re-injure yourself before you’re fully healed, no matter how bored you are. This is hard, and only getting harder. The end¬†of May (and his activity release date)¬†seems a long way off. Quiet, non-moving joys are very, very nice.

I’m working on Book 2 of the Jessamin Stow trilogy, and really loving it! Let me tell you one big reason why: I took an online class from UBC on edX (that basically means an online class from the University of British Columbia, offered through the edX online course program) titled How to Write a Novel, Part 1: Plan &¬†Outline. This class was great. It was more than just “writing an outline.” It was different types of outline that different types of writers may use, thinking through your plot, charting the various bits so the story is¬†balanced, and learning to use more scaffolding when it isn’t balanced, then putting it all together, and more. Long form writers will definitely benefit from this class, but the techniques can also apply to short form, as well.

I’m not sure when it’s being offered again, but I really, really recommend this class. The difference between writing Book 1 (before this class) and Book 2 (which I outlined during this class) is literally night and day. And I’m not slavishly following a¬†rigid¬†outline, either. There’s plenty of room for small surprises in the “path” I’ve chosen–as I discovered today while inserting a “cool tidbit” into the story.

Looking to level-up but can’t take a “destination” workshop for whatever reason? This may be the answer you’re looking for.