Autumn Equinox

Tomorrow is the autumn equinox, that time when daylight and nighttime are given equal 12-hours portions of the day. It’s nature’s divide between summer and fall, here in the northern hemisphere (and winter and spring in the southern hemisphere).

When I lived further north, it was always a bittersweet time for me. I loved summer’s warmth, the long nights spent lounging outside on the deck watching the stars arc overhead and raccoons traveling by “aerial highways” made from electric wires strung at the back of our block’s properties. But I also loved the cooling weather, the gorgeous fall foliage, the brisk breezes and the calls of migrating geese passing overhead. Cider, pumpkins, and the first lighting of the wood-burning stove were all things to be gladly anticipated.

Here in north-central Florida, it’s still the fall equinox. But now I look forward to different things: cooler weather, yes, but now it’s simply pleasantly bearable, not crisp, that I’m looking forward to. Mid-day walks without needing a shower afterwards?  !!!  What bliss! And I’m looking forward to having the windows open at mid-day, again, too. Fresh air inside–hurray!

Persimmons will be coming into their too-short season, and afterwards, fresh citrus will arrive at the farmers’ markets. On walks, large Golden Orb Spiders and their often 3-dimensional webs are seen along the paths, which I admit kind of creep me out even as they fascinate me. It’ll be a long time ’til we’ll need to use the fireplace for warmth, but we may have a fire in the outside fire pit some evening, just for the joy of it.  Instead of geese flying overhead, I’ll start craning my ears to hear the returning Sandhill Cranes sometime in December. And now I can start planting veggies in the garden again, overwintering crops like spinach, leeks, broccoli, and beets quite easily in this milder climate.

Here’s to a blissful autumn for us all, wherever you may be.

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The End of Summer, and Alligator Anniversary

And so, we’ve passed beyond the gate of Labor Day weekend into September and thus, into fall. But what a weekend it was.

First of all, let me acknowledge that it’s also my anniversary weekend, which makes it more happy than sad. Also, it was a great Monday. With spousal unit home, in the cool of the morning we tackled the gardens that we’d let run riot during the too hot, humid summer. Six yard-waste bags and a huge stack of toothy, dead palm fronds later, we emerged, dripping with sweat, scratched, and filthy, but victorious: the gardens are (mostly? okay, okay, how about somewhat) tamed. (I also harvested my last pumpkin. The grand total of pumpkin harvest by weight: 99 lbs!) After a shower, we walked the dog to the yogurt place where we all got cool, tart frozen yogurt–mmm, nice way to lunch!

Once we returned home, it was time jump in the car and head to Payne’s Prairie, where I hadn’t been since early summer, maybe even springtime. Thick clouds and a stiff breeze tempered the rising heat and made it a perfect time to visit, and the alligators, herons, black racer snakes, and egrets made a great showing for us. We even got to see a rather large ‘gator up close and personal, thanks to her great location right under the short equipment dock, at the top of a very tall, steep bank. Isn’t she a handsome one, snoozing in the warm shallows?anniversary alligator

Later that evening, we headed out for dinner–it’s our anniversary after all!–which gave me a great reason to dress up a bit. And after a day of sweating out in the gardens, that, too, felt nice. At the restaurant, what sat beside our table but a statue of an alligator. Obviously, we were celebrating our “alligator anniversary.” Who knew?

The final loveliness came from Mother Nature herself: when we got home, the night had cooled off so beautifully that we opened all the windows. They stayed open all night long, and are still open now. This is really huge, as they haven’t stayed open this long since May–and I love open windows.

Fall in the air? I’m all for it.

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Believable…

And I’m a Finalist in Writers of the Future Q2, but not a Winner. Which is sad, but not heart-wrenching. I mean, I never expected to make it to Finalist (Woo-hoo!), but somehow my story did.

And yet, it would’ve been nice…

There is still a glimmering of hope, however. I’ve agreed to hold my story for possible inclusion as a “Published Finalist.” Which means that if they need more words to fill the anthology, my story can still be considered for it. So, actually, it’s not quite all over for me.

Good luck to the three Winners from this quarter! And to all the other Winners from the other quarters of Volume #33, as well as to the others vying for Published Finalist. It’s been an awesome ride with you all to this point.

Posted in goals, publication, Rejection, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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).

Posted in goals, publication | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

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?

Posted in awards, goals, Writing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

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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