A Little Help Getting Over Wednesday

It’s the middle of a very long week, and I’m needing some oomph getting over this hill and sliding down the into the end–so here are some fun things to help the day along:

1)A squirrel-eye view of traveling through the trees? Got it! Check out this video of a squirrel carrying a GoPro on a leafy journey. (you might want to wait for the annoying “sign up here for updates” to pop up before you start the video and have it blocked — sigh)

2) Finally, a fun  political sign I can fully support! When’s the last time a political sign made you laugh?

3) Looking for something to read for the next year? Portable and bite-sized spec fic? Here’s just the thing, from Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Facebook Page:

F&SF Electronic Subscription Deal… 1 year, 6 issues, 450,000 words of fiction, plus columns, cartoons, and more…

for just $5. FIVE DOLLARS.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Or for UK residents, just £5

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

But this is a limited time offer, so if you’re not currently a reader of F&SF and have ever considered subscribing, now’s a good time to try us out.

 

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Life in a Garden (or, Who Wants Pumpkin?)

Behind all that writing, I have a garden–as you may have heard around these blog parts. Since coming back from Taos Toolbox, I’ve been furiously trying to play “catch up” with the weeds and plants that went haywire for 2 weeks in wet, rainy north central Florida’s July…and I’m finally feeling some modicum of success. Let me show you what (besides words) I’ve been up to:

Seminole Pumpkins

First 2 Harvests = ~30 lbs

First 2 Harvests = ~30 lbs

Yesterday's Harvest--yes, one day; ~30 lbs.

Yesterday’s Harvest–yes, one day; ~30 lbs.

 

Yes, the pumpkin vines have gone crazy! I planted 6 vines grown from seed from a heat- and drought-tolerant Seminole pumpkin bought last year for this reason. I harvested the first 3 pumpkins over a couple days, and let Dasher pose with them for scale. Yes, the pumpkins weigh more than the dog does. Yesterday, I got fed up with the pumpkin vines sprawling on the driveway (despite my pruning them back and edging them aside with my feet every 2 days or so, they kept trying to cover the entire driveway in their lovely, silver-speckled greenery). And so I decided these were “ripe enough.” In comes another 30 lbs of fruit!

Today is pumpkin processing day. I’ve split, de-seeded, and baked the first 4 pumpkins, and bagged the first 2.5 pumpkins (the last batch out of the oven is cooling until I can touch them). Already, seven 2-cup bags are resting in the freezer, each destined for pumpkin pie (2 pies per baggie), pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, cookies, muffins, bisque, ravioli, etc. And have I mentioned that at least 5 more pumpkins are growing in my garden? Oh, and at least another 4 or 5 across the fence in the neighbor’s yard…which means I can’t abandon any on their porch  give them any of this homegrown treat. However, the flesh is soooo sweet and delicious; just scooped out of the shell without anything added, it tastes like it’s been sugared for pie.

 

Passion Flower Vine

passionflowerYesterday, before the pumpkin picking began, I noticed these flowers outside my dining room window. A wild passion flower threaded itself through the holly tree and bloomed beautifully, as if posing for the photo. I shoved my nose into it (later, when I went outside; not through the window!), and it smelled like the heady, pollen-heavy scent of dandelion crossed with the lighter, sweeter floral of white clover. Not bad for a free “volunteer” in the garden. It’s also a host for the larva of the zebra longwing, Florida’s state butterfly, and there are tons of them about!

How would you even describe that shade of purple?

How would you even describe that shade of purple?

Finally, here’s a picture of something that really just makes me smile. It’s an American Beautyberry bush growing like gangbusters in my garden. It’s native to this area, and you see them growing wild in undeveloped areas, but oddly enough, rarely in people’s gardens–although up north you can pay a premium for them thanks to the recent interest in native plants. Last fall, husband and I “liberated” it from a strip of land destined for development, and which now is being steamrolled into submission to make another through street. The beautyberry limped and gimped through winter, sulking at being moved like that without even being asked, but now it’s decided it pretty much likes domestication and has put on the full show of berries turning that awesome shade of purple.

That’s about it. The remaining baked pumpkin is cool enough to handle, so off I go to process more. Guess what we’ll be having if you come to visit?

 

 

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That Good News…

Remember way back when–all the way back in June–when I mentioned good news I couldn’t share yet? Well, now I can: Fantasy Scroll Magazine is going to publish my SF story, “Catching and Letting Go” in their August edition!

Why yes, it is August already, so keep your eyes peeled for another update here, letting you know when it’s available. And as always, if you like Fantasy Scroll Magazine and the stories they print, please consider buying the issue. It helps keep my dog in biscuits and frisbees (sigh–he’s tough on frisbees).

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Unbelievable!

You know how sometimes, every once in a great while, life throws you such a curve that you simply don’t know what to make of it? Do you recall that feeling of expectant suspension, as you simply stand waiting for your emotional brain to catch up to your logical brain, which has just been given this unexpected news? The limbo that you wait within, while all parts of you process the knowledge, seeking flaws or inconsistencies that simply are not there, but that you must go through the process until you can believe this thing?

Are you in great enough suspense yet? (Um, I am.)

The day after I returned from Taos Toolbox, Hollywood called me. Me! Joni Labaqui of the Writers of the Future Contest informed a very stunned me that I’m a second quarter Finalist in the 33rd Writers of the Future contest.

I was very demure, I think. It’s because I couldn’t process the info. I remember saying, “I think I need to sit down.” I remember telling her that I would probably not believe it the next morning, and she laughed. I fuzzily recall going into the living room and telling my husband, who seemed puzzled not to see me shouting for joy. And later, much later, I did cry–for the shock and surprise and the joy of it all combined into these tears that burned my eyes and cleared my head.

And so now, let me shout my joy, my utter delight!: I am a Finalist! Me! Whoo-hoooooo!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain a bit here: The Writers of the Future Contest has been running 33 years, and is for “new” writers–those without significant publications to their name. The contest is divided into 4 quarters each year, and each quarter thousands of writers worldwide submit their best work. Of those thousands, only 8 are chosen as Finalists. Do you see the reason for my shock?

But this isn’t the end! In the coming weeks, the 8 will be narrowed to 3 Winners. This repeats in each quarter of the year, and at the year’s end, the 3 Winning Stories from each quarter compete head-to-head as the judges wrangle out the Golden Pen Winner for the year. Each of the Winning Stories will be published in the annual anthology, and perhaps for a lucky one or two other Finalist, there will be a “Published Finalist”–their story pubbed alongside the rest in the anthology.

So, I’ve made incredible, unhoped for progress. But I’m far from the pinnacle, and honestly, I have no expectation of making it further. And yet, just having made it here? It takes my breath away still. And I’ve got to admit, I’m going to be on edge, my breath catching, every time my phone rings until the three are announced.

Cross your fingers for me?

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Workshop Round-Up

I returned home from 2 weeks at Taos Toolbox Writers Workshop on Sunday, dragging and tired. My dog hasn’t left my side or my lap since. (It’s nice to be loved, but really? Still, he’s on my lap sleeping now, as I type this, so I guess I missed him just as much.) Fortunately for both the dog and me, husband-dearest caught me out of my freefall and helped me settle my feet firmly onto home ground again.

How was it? Amazing. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress each know more about publishing and writing than any five other folks, and their advice was wonderful and specific. The guest lecturers–James S.A. Corey and Emily Mah Tippetts–also had great insights for us, which we ate up like tasty petit fours. Daniel Abraham’s talk on success vs failure was a perfect fit; while some of my classmates found it depressing, I found it liberating and uplifting.

My classmates were wonderful and extremely talented, kind and funny, critical and yet supportive. I’m sure you’ll be seeing them in print and publication soon! Some are self-publishing already! (You can see our class photo at Walter’s website, and soon in Locus magazine.) My roommates were a joy to be around. (*waves hi!*  Miss you guys already!) Conversations about writing took place in the classroom, in the resort lobby, in our rooms, in the hot tub and pool, in cars, on the mountainside, on the roads, and are probably still echoing in the halls we’ve left behind.

Speaking of which, their new location at Angel Fire Resort was beautiful! Three of us took the chairlift to the summit of Angel Fire and hiked down during our Sunday off, and found it gorgeous and exhilarating. But why hike down, you ask? Well…I found out that altitude sickness was a real and actual thing that can whoop your butt. And it did whoop mine. Be forewarned, and if you’ve lived your whole life near sea level, arrive early! Your body and brain will thank you for it.

For two weeks, we students got to live, breathe, eat, and sleep words. We read and critiqued, we wrote. We discussed ideas. And I got to write down snippets of funny things said, especially out of context, as I’m going to present them here:

“We didn’t have a day before yesterday.”

“There are actually things in the first chapter I like.”

On the Oxford comma:
Student: But what about editors who tell you to take it out?”
Instructor: “That’s what ‘STET’ is for.”

“I’m enjoying it, but possibly I’m enjoying what’s going on in my head and not what you’ve written down.”

“Oh, you’re the one with the writing.”

“Most manuscripts aren’t smelly enough.”

“So you’re saying ‘horror’ is undead?”

“I hate words.”

“OK. That’s hard to follow.”

“You need to build the world more before you destroy it.”

“It just seemed like there should be more paragraphs?”

“I like it when Science Fiction novels encourage the metric system.”

“Yeah, what they all said.”

“I have a high tolerance for things that don’t make sense.”

“You want a light spice here, not Sriracha.”

“It had all the excitement of trying to remember where your car was parked.”

“Ditto everything, but with some ‘buts.'”

 

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Round-Up for late-June/July

Happy Belated Canada Day to my neighbors to the (now far) north, and Happy (forthcoming) Independence Day to those of us in the U. S.

Husband, dog and I celebrated by taking Thursday & Friday off and making a break to the gulf coast town of Dunedin, FL. We stayed in the dog-friendly Best Western Hotel (great spot for dog owners, with a shady park right across the street for “walkies.”), which was, amazingly, also right on the waterfront! Part of the draw was the quaint town filled with cool little shops and awesome restaurants (not enough time for all of them on this short trip–we must return!).

Another huge draw was Honeymoon Island State Park with its much-touted dog beach. We went, and it was good. However, even on the beach and in the water, dogs had to remain on a leash, which, okay, I get it–but it made it less than fun. Since I didn’t know this, I’d only brought a 4-foot leash, which made me work hard to let him swim. Also less than fun for poor Dasher was the fact that the water was actually hot! Warmer than the air temp, which was around 86°F–and after a few blissful minutes of swimming, he just wanted out and up, into the cool breeze and my arms. I actually felt bad for the small conchs plopped there in the low-tide shallows, slowly turning into soup.😦

On the plus side, in a very short trip we managed to see much interesting and unusual wildlife: 4 sandhill cranes, 1 spoonbill, 2 perched/nesting osprey, scads of scuttling land crabs (really, it was almost unsettling; they made the undergrowth rustle with their passage on the way back from the dog beach), and a dolphin. Dasher made quick canine friendships with many other dogs, and charmed a number of folks walking in Dunedin, as is his nature. (How did I end up with such a social butterfly for a dog? Oh, yeah, that was husband’s doing…makes perfect sense. They’re the extroverts of this family, I’m the wallflower.)

You may have noticed that I’ve been rather scarce around this blog of late. I’ve been busy preparing for Taos Toolbox, coming up in just a week. Each participant submits up to 10,000 words of their novel + a synopsis of up to 3 pages, and we all read and crit one another’s work. There are 15 students this year; that’s a lot of words to be read beforehand. In addition, Nancy Kress has assigned 2 short stories, and Walter Jon Williams has assigned a short novel. There has been much reading and wearing of eyeglasses going on here, but I’m not complaining. I’m already learning things; there is no way to read that many words and not pick up a few things here and there, and my future classmates are a very talented bunch!

Which leads directly to a warning: I’m leaving next Saturday, and I don’t expect to be posting here on the blog during the workshop. Which means you won’t see activity here until the end of July, when I return. I’m hoping to have a summary of my workshop experience after I return, so there is that to look forward to. If you really, really need a fix of the wit (such as it is) and wisdom (such as it isn’t) of M. E. Garber, I suggest you take a peek at my Twitter feed during my absence. And if not, I’ll see you again once I return.

Happy July, everyone! Hope you’re fully enjoying summer.

Posted in Nature, the dog, Travel, Writing, Writing Workshops | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Sound of Writing

There’s always a lot of conversation about what one listens to while writing: movie soundtracks, tunes that evoke the mood of your scene, classical, absolutely nothing at all…the list goes on and on. Basically it comes down to “whatever works for you,” of course. And here’s what works for me: anything without words I understand, or with a presence that will pull me out of writing-trance. In other words, nothing intrusive.

Sometimes, that means “nothing at all” is perfectly fine; I’m at home, the world outside is all birdsong and insect drone (or rain patter and wind moan), and I can write without interruption. Other times, however, I need to drown out the world–loud coffeeshop conversations (or crappy coffeeshop music), or the annoying whine and scream of leaf blowers and chainsaws, or whatever. At those times, I have a couple of options.

Option One is a playlist I’ve made that contains “background music” that I enjoy. It’s an eclectic mix of classical, new age (Enya, Marina Raye, and Anugama), and classical that has “nature sounds” mixed in. It’s soft, soothing, and lasts a long while. And it doesn’t require internet access, if I’m traveling. Perfect.

But sometimes you get tired of the same old thing, right? And I don’t want to spend all my writing time looking for something to listen to. So in the last year or so, I’ve been tuning in over at Tabletop Audio for ambient music. Originally created for RPG gaming sessions, there are looping soundtracks for your every mood: creaking winter woods, steamships, spaceships, elven glades, underwater, underground…you name it! And they’re always adding more. A couple of my favorites are Strangers on a Train (very soothing, that sound of clacking rails; kind of like clacking keys, right? Get clacking!), MiddleEarth: Dawn, Swamplandia, and The Long Rain. But there are so many I haven’t tried yet!

And while some folks have a fine time with Pandora, the ads really annoy me (so LOUD!), and I’m not coughing up the cash for an ad-free experience. So, I hop on over to Tunemark Radio, where I can listen to streaming radio from around the world. Remember that part about not understanding the language? This totally works, even when the broadcasters cut in and chat. And many of the stations are online only, with no announcers or ads to worry about. (A word of caution: it’s kind of addicting and overwhelming at first, and it’s easy to waste hours just flipping around listening in to places around the world. I know; I did this.:-/ But it is fun.)

OK, time to get listening. Tabletop Audio for me today, I think, as I’m reading and critting a whole lotta words in anticipation of Taos Toolbox (just over 2 weeks!). Happy listening!

Posted in Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing, Writing Workshops | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Pardon My Dust

It’s been far too long since I’ve wandered in here and made a post, and I’m sorry about that. It’s just that life has gone nutso; between hubby being gone on a business trip, then sick upon his return, prepping my own novel sub for Taos, and now reading all those other lovely submissions from my Taosians, and basically dealing with doggie healthcare and human healthcare, and not forgetting to eat…I’ve been so busy that I barely get through each day before the next day begins it all over again.

As if that wasn’t enough, I went and signed myself up on Twitter on Friday. Yeah, I know: I’ve hit the 21st century about 16 years too late. So far, it’s fun, though. If you’re interested, I’m @m_e_garber13 in the Twitterverse. There, like here, I tend not to make “profound comments” but to simply interact with friends and tweet small cool things. Like this pic of a tiny frog I found inside our lanai after a day-long rain shower: froglet

Because of the amount of reading for Taos Toolbox, it’ll probably be quiet around here before that event, as well as during it. There are ~10,000 word submissions + synopses for each of the approx 16 attendees to read before the workshop begins on July 10. This is a lot of reading, even without critting! But yes, critting is what we’re doing, too. Don’t think it’s all drudgery, though. These novel excerpts are actually quite good! So much so that I’m feeling like the ugly duckling in the roomful of swans (well hello, Impostor Syndrome! Imagine meeting you here. Again.:-/ ).

Anyway, that’s it for now. Gotta get back to reading. And oh yeah, the dog wants to play, too. Yay for healthy dog!

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, What I'm Reading, Writing Workshops | Tagged , | 2 Comments