“With the Taste of Oblivion…” Now Available!

In all the rush and fury of late (and my current state of ill health–yuck!), I missed informing you that my story, “With the Taste of Oblivion in Her Mouth” has gone live at the online magazine Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores. Please note: the stories are behind a paywall. An annual subscription is $12, but I’ve read some great stories there (besides my own, of course!), so I hope you’ll consider joining.

A tidbit about this story? Of course!

This was written in response to two prompts. One was someone having a job that does not exist here-and-now, whether it’s futuristic or fantastical. The other prompt was an event that appears to be calamitous proves not to be so. And I’d been thinking rather a lot about cooking, and all the things flavors can say–how it’s a language in itself, sometimes, and how food can transport people, the same as scent, or sound. All these things wrapped around in my brain, twisting together, until this little story was born.

I hope you enjoy it. Bon appetit!

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Return of an Old Superstition?

So, way back when, in those halcyon early days of this blog, I had this superstition going that when I experienced a wonderful natural or wildlife encounter, I’d soon receive a writing rejection. If the wildlife experience was truly wonderful, I might get two rejections back-to-back. It was reasoned that Mother Nature was trying to make up for the sting of rejection, and was getting there ahead of time. And while I know it was silly, it was also kind of fun.

And it hasn’t happened for years. I’ve not had “amazing” natural experiences. Oh, sure, I’ve seen wildlife, and appreciated the natural world, but nothing truly remarkable or memorable has happened for a little while. Until last night.

The dog pestered me into an evening w-a-l-k (gotta spell that word around here, you know. He knows what it means!), so we went by the turtle pond. The turtle food vending machine has recently been refilled for spring, and he loves hoovering up food spilled at its base, so we paused, and paused, and paused some more (those kids spill a lot of turtle food pellets), and while he sniffed and ate, I looked around at the falling evening. Only a few turtles still swam in the small pond, having instead gone wherever it is they go at night, and oh, look there on the bank of the pond. There’s a turtle now, with its butt dipping in and out a hole–HOLY COW! SHE’S LAYING EGGS RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!

turtle1

Yes, I know. Not the best pic, but I only had my camera phone. And actually, I forgot I had the phone in my pocket and had to circle back to snap the photo.

 

 

Sure enough, the turtles back end would dip lower into a hole, and when it raised she’d sweep her back foot to settle the egg and cover it gently. I have no idea how many eggs she laid, or how many might survive (lots of kids run and play in that area, and use it for turtle watching), but seeing that felt magical indeed.

So, once I returned home [and had a rush of texting and online research to find out what kind of turtles we’re talking about and how long until the eggs might hatch (I think they’re River Cooters, and 45-56 days ’til hatching)], I started remembering the old superstition ’round this blog…and now I’m expecting some really earth-shattering rejection, very, very soon.

(ETA: no, after a thorough viewing of said turtles in daylight, it turns out they are Red Belly Cooters, a.k.a., Red Belly Turtles)

Fortunately, enough time writing has taught me two things: 1) rejection is just another part of the process, and 2) enjoy the process. So I’m enjoying the turtle-gram, and not holding my breath. After all, it’s just another rejection. Meh. But turtles laying eggs? That’s something to remember.

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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.

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First Quarter Update

It’s been a busy 3 months so far in 2016, and I thought I’d share some of my writing life and goals here, both to keep me motivated and to keep me honest. (And maybe to motivate some of you, as well? I can hope.)

Currently I have 9 submissions out, two of which are reprints (weeee–a “writer’s dream” of mine; reprints!), while another two are originals that have made it to their respective second rounds. I gotta say, I’m pretty amazed at this, since I’m “transitioning” to long-form writing. But flash fiction contests are  good for my soul, and those stories often are edited up to short story length, post-contest. And thus I have lots of submissions. Which is also good for my soul, and my sense of “being productive.”

I gave myself 7 big writing goals for the month of March, being a pretty hard task-master on myself. I completed 5 of the tasks, and am midway-through a sixth. The seventh I let slip. But I’m not too upset; after all, these weren’t simple little things, and life was very “inconvenient” this past month, meaning I was squeezed for time and mental bandwidth. Not an excuse–just not letting my brain weasels start racing through my head shouting that I’m “not being dedicated enough.” (Stupid brain weasels!) I’m actually quite pleased with how I did, all considered.

One of my life inconveniences this past month was indeed a 2-day stint of brain weasel super activity, combined with 2 back-to-back rejections, which pretty much made me wonder why I ever thought I could string 2 words together with any elegance or clarity. (Yeah, it happens, but it’s over now. I’m fine.) I was buoyed by the support of my peers, both my VP cohort and some writers from various other groups. If you were kind while I (or any other writer) was down and blue, thank you.

Speaking of transitioning, I did finish a draft of Jessamin Stow. The YA novel is now at a beta-reader. Book 2 of the trilogy is ready to begin, all outlined and pretty and just begging me to dive in. I’m eager to start, and yet hesitant. My synopsis is lovely, my outline so nice. Now I have to risk “ruining the perfection” with my first drafting process, which is never as beautiful as I’d like. I simply can’t go from “idea” to “final draft” without making a bit of a mess in the middle, and those Brain Weasels just love shredding me when I do. Still, this is the week I’ll begin (but that’s a subject for the second quarter roundup).

Fine weather and longer days of springtime mean more daylight, more enthusiasm, and more time doing things outside, which also helps my energy levels, both mental and physical. I find nothing more energizing to my writing than, ironically enough, taking a weekend away from writing to work or walk outside, do gardening, lose myself in pleasant chores like heavy weeding (I’m looking at you, Boston fern attempting to eat my palm tree!) or cooking, or even (gulp!) spring cleaning inside. While I’m putting my physical environment to rights, my mind is freed from the tyranny of logical thought and instead makes intuitive leaps that later present to my writer’s brain as thought-out and logical conclusions. Pretty nice.

It’s not been all second-looks and blooming flowers, of course. Since the year began, I’ve had 13 rejections, including those 2 that really stung! Lucky #13–it means I’m due for an acceptance, right?

If so, I’ll keep you posted. How’s your year going so far?

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Writing, Year in Review | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Little Bits

Here’s a round-up of all the little things that are going on right now, none of which quite deserves its own post, but together they make up a fine chunk of life:

• My fall-planted plum tree has tiny, tiny fruit where the flowers used to be! Yeah, I know, that’s what fruit trees are supposed to do, but I was sure that I’d killed this tree. As each leaf yellowed and fell off, I resigned myself to the fact that it was over, dead. A goner. And then it came back and bloomed! Hurray! But don’t get your hopes up, I told myself. During this first year it probably won’t fruit, as it’ll be too busy settling into its new home. Shows you what I know about fruit trees!

• Both the two-year old Meyer lemon and the fall-planted Ponkan tangerine have blossoms. The lemon blossoms are large and ready to open soon, but the tangerine’s flowers are still tiny (which makes sense, as it was a bit root-bound in the pot before I planted it). But I was sure these two weren’t going to flower this year, either (for a variety of reasons). I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong before!

• Dasher is healing nicely after his surgery. Despite the fact that he sometimes thinks he’s perfectly fine has to be prevented from running around like a silly idiot, and other times lifts his leg showing that it still hurts, he is healing. He’s feeling better, which makes me feel better. And I’m letting him lay outside in the sunshine during lunchtime hours, which he simply adores. And which I’m sure goes a long way in soothing his worry and fear over “why can’t I play?”

• Produce at the farmers’ markets is full-bore awesome and inspiring right now. Carrots, lettuces, strawberries, kale, beets, early tomatoes (!!!), oranges, the last of the sweet potatoes, onions–it all looks amazing. And the chickens are laying up a storm, as well, so it’s also a great time to bake “for the freezer.” Oh darn. You can guess how I hate that!😉

• The first draft of the YA trilogy is finished, and out at the first beta reader. I’ve started on the second book, and just looking over the notes getting ready to dive in had me all excited and happy with the whole thing, all over again! Writing can be such fun—weeee!

• It’s a holiday weekend, and my husband and I have the whole weekend to ourselves. Such a rare, wonderful thing. Let’s hear it for naps, yard work, cooking together, and just being happy spending time together.

 

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Happy Equinox!

My potted orange tree welcoming spring with blossoms.

My potted orange tree welcoming spring with blossoms.

Which means, in the northern hemisphere, happy first day of Spring!!! And in the southern hemisphere, welcome to the first day of Autumn!!

The weather here is consistent with spring: gray, rainy, breezy and cooling. Sigh. Oh well, it’s good in theory, right?

Until warmth really gets here, Happy Spring. Or Fall. Just “happy.”

Posted in Magic of the Everyday, Nature | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Writers Need Readers

Every year, hundreds of thousands of wonderful stories are written and go out into the world. Along comes award season, and we readers scratch our heads, trying to remember which stories we read this year, not last year. What length were they? And which ones were by new authors who are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It’s a bit overwhelming at the best of times.

Some years, there’s a little help. Fortunately, this is one of them.

Writer SL Huang stepped into the breach and pulled together stories by 120 authors eligible for the Campbell Award this year. She’s put them into a huge ebook anthology called “Up and Coming,” and it’s available free until March 31st. That’s a whole lot of free reading, and I have to say, a lot of really good free reading.

So click that link, choose your format, and tuck your feet up–you might be awhile. Happy Reading!

Posted in Links, Reading, signal boosting, What I'm Reading | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Pie Day???

No, Pi Day. That’s Monday, March 14th–or 3.14. Even better, this year is Super Pi Day, since the value of pi=3.14159…, which rounds to 3.14(.)16!!! Hey, this is almost as fun as Talk Like a Pirate Day!

In honor of Pi Day, Penzey’s Spice is giving away free Pie Spice if you order before that date, using coupon code 10737c on the order form (with a minimum order of, I think, $5?). (And yes, I found this code easily available online, so I don’t feel bad repeating it here “for free.”) Besides using it in fruit pies, I sprinkle it over whipped cream that I’ve put on whatever dessert–pudding, tapioca, cake, etc. And hot cocoa, too. Yum. And Penzey’s spices are good quality, and gluten free (unfortunately that can’t be said about all spices and spice mixes. Flour is cheap; cheaper than many herbs and spices…sigh).

I’ll be making a pie in honor of Pi Day. I can’t decide between blueberry (from the last of last summer’s frozen berries), a buttermilk pie (which I’ve never made before, but hey, I live in the south now…), or a lemon pie (because, mmmmmmm lemon). Advice?

And how about you? Are you making a pie, or something pie-like, in honor of this most distinguished Super Pie Day?

Posted in food, Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, plain silliness | Tagged , | 4 Comments