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.

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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

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.

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A Little Beauty…


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.

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Nature, the dog | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Today’s Hilarious Item



So, I’m not sure if this poor frog thinks he’ll turn into a hummingbird if he hangs out in a hummingbird feeder long enough and really believes it, or if he’s exceptionally over-estimating the size of a hummingbird vs the size of his hunger (not to mention the ability of his tongue to trap said hummer).

Either way, there’s a story in this. Feel free to write it!

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Nature, plain silliness, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writer’s Desk, 5/17/16

Caution: creaky writer hobbling through. Make way, make way for the woman with the ice pack!

Out the window: A high overcast, with occasional glaring sunshine and less-occasional droplets of falling rain. High humidity making everything feel like wilted lettuce–underwater wilted lettuce. Still and all, a good day for staying inside, ensconced at a comfy desk, and writing.

On the desktop: A blueberry-cardamom scone (we went blueberry picking over the weekend) and a cup of my very special tea–Mariage Freres “French Breakfast.” You can’t put that scone with just any old tea, of course, so I broke into the “good” stuff.

Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’ve taken up Book One in the Jessamin Stow trilogy and have started hacki– um, I mean editing it thoroughly. Not just a “clean up the rough bits” edit, but a hey, this whole bit here is wrong, and the structure is leaning and ready to collapse over here, while this bit is so overwrought it could support three books by itself kind of edit. Structure, pacing, revelations–all of it’s going under the knife. It’s amazing what a couple months’ distance will show you.

And while some of it is cringe-inducing (yes, really. But who doesn’t cringe at their writing errors–in hindsight, they’re so obvious), I’m still really, really enamored with the characters, the story, and the way I see it all evolving into something lovely. One day I’ll get to share it with you. Right now, I get to keep on editing. I get to savor the characters, hugging them to myself before I offer them more hardship and misery to work their way through. And I can’t wait until I see how they end up, after it’s all over.

And Another Thing: Why the fancy tea and indulgent scone, you ask? Because I’m treating myself for putting up with aches and ouches, scrapes and bruises. Yesterday I “bounced” off our paver-surround fire pit, and while today I’m no longer bloody, I am incredibly sore. To coddle myself into putting on my brave face, I’m pulling out the “good stuff,” tea- and treat-wise. It’s working, too. I don’t feel nearly as sorry for myself as I would without them. (And yes, the story of why I bounced off the fire pit is one of idiocy and farce all the way around, so no, I’m absolutely not going to share it. Suffice it to say it involves our version of “Hey y’all, watch this!” And I should know better by now.)

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Kayaking the Santa Fe River



After a few mornings of quite unseasonably cool weather, Sunday got warm. Husband and I decided to “celebrate” by renting a kayak and paddling (sometimes, at least) downstream on the Santa Fe River. This is a fairly long, broad river meandering through northwest Florida, in the Suwanee River watershed.


The amazing thing about this river, though, isn’t the beauty of the river’s banks and the wildlife (although it is picturesque). The truly breathtaking part is the number of freshwater springs that rise up and feed millions and millions of gallons of water into the river. Water bubbles up from underground caverns, in a stream strong enough to make riverview2paddling against it a wee bit of an effort. But you can be rewarded, even without snorkel or dive gear, by peeking into the crystal-clear, aquamarine waters and seeing deep into underwater canyons, mysterious and beautiful (all the more spectacular since the rest of IMG_1872the river is tea-brown from the tannins leaching from leaves and needles). Since I didn’t get good pics of this, check out these here, and here, and more info here. We stopped in at Poe, Lilly, Rum, and Blue Springs on our trip.


Unlike the last time (which, granted, was morning and thus far less human-populated on the river), we saw no baby alligators (boohoo!). But…we did see all the turtles you could hope for, lots of very large mullet leaping high out of the water time and again, a stunning bullfrog, and even a bald eagle. Another glorious day on the river. If only my knees hadn’t gotten sunburned😦

How will all this make it into my writing? I have no idea–not yet. But I’m sure it will, somehow, in ways as mysterious and strange as the springs themselves.

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