Event Horizon Available as a FREE Download

Event Horizon is an anthology of stories by authors eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer–meaning writers whose first pro sale have been published within the last two years. The volume contains over 75 authors and 350,000 words, and, hanks to the efforts of Jake Kerr, is available for free download–until July 15, 2017–at the link above. That is a whole lot of good reading.

 

Congratulations to all those within the anthology, and good luck to each of those eligible for this year’s award!

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Pi Day Publication News!

So yes, it’s Pi Day–you know, March 14? 3.14…

Okay, yes, I’m making pie to celebrate. Key lime is about right this year. Something tart and sweet and refreshing. Yum.

Oh, it’s also publication day for my story over on the Colored Lens website! If you haven’t purchased the entire issue, you can read my story “Sanachi’s Escape” on the website now. Unlike key lime pie, this story is a grim little thing. More than a bit depressing. It’s a speculative fiction story set on another world that takes a look at the children who grow up amid violence and war. So brace yourself, then click the link.

I hope you enjoy it. And happy Pi to you!

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Worms in my Kitchen? I’m So Glad!

My worm composter arrived yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon, the worms themselves arrived, neatly bagged, then boxed and delivered into my mailbox! Now, the composter is assembled, and the worms are making themselves happy after their trip from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm in PA to north central FL. I’m sure they had quite a shock going from whatever temps PA had, to the upper 80s we’ve been having of late!

Nonetheless, they’ve quit seeking an escape and have settled nicely into the wet coir-and-shredded paper base. Their first light meal is scraps from the previous night’s beets along with mixed used tea leaves and coffee grounds. I’m hoping that they consider it gourmet treats and start digesting it quickly–I can’t wait to start using worm compost on my plants!

Why worm composting? Well, we don’t really freeze here, not for long enough to kill bugs. And, while I was using the neighborhood community garden, each time I went to the compost stack, roaches scattered. I could hear them, not just see them fleeing! It just grossed me out. Our yard is pretty small, so any composter I could get would be close enough to the house to be an attraction to bugs…and you can guess where that goes all too quickly. No way. Uh-uh. I don’t want roaches in my home.

I’ve been depressed about this for some time. We go through quite a bit of compostable material every week, once we return from the farmers’ market–peels, carrot tops, mushroom stems, etc. All that stuff just going to waste, instead of feeding my gardens, made me want to cry.  Then it just dawned on me–I could do worm composting without drawing bugs inside!

I haven’t figured out where it’s going to sit yet; this is still a work-in-progress, and it will probably change with the seasons. For now, I’m keeping it close so I can keep an eye on the worms’ adaptation to their home, making sure they survive, thrive, and begin to feed as expected. With any luck, soon you’ll see me taking piles of gorgeous compost out and feeding my plants worm tea!

Worms are in my kitchen, and yes, I’m very, very excited!

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Seeing Stars

Dasher has been given the green light to get back to normal exercise, so we’ve been taking longer walks, meeting with his canine friends (and their owners) on the walks, and otherwise enjoying the lovely spring weather. He’s over the moon about having tennis balls reintroduced to his life, and carries one around with him whenever he can–he even slept with a tennis ball in his mouth that first day! While I do toss tennis balls for him, right now they’re short throws, and not very many at a time. We have to ramp him up to his previous, crazy-for-the-ball runs that left him panting in tail-wagging joy. But so far, so good. We’re all happy.

A spec-fic writer friend came to the Orlando area for a vacation, and we planned a meet-up. Coincidentally, SpaceX held their first Falcon 9 rocket launch on Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A, the one that the moon missions left from, and most of the space shuttles, as well. Naturally, our plans were rearranged so we could travel to KSC for the launch, scheduled for this past Saturday. Everything looked good until 10 seconds before launch, when the whole thing was aborted. Lots of sad faces and groans from a rapt audience in the bleachers–but we were given free tickets to KSC for the following day’s rescheduled launch. Once again, our plans changed to include the launch.

Still, we were there, at Kennedy Space Center, with all the exhibits and movies and models and real things and information. Even without the launch, we had an amazing time. SpaceX has a great presence, and lots of information is included on the challenges of getting humans to Mars. There’s tons of historic stuff about the shuttle program, building the International Space Station, on the Hubble Telescope and on Kepler, even the Moon Missions! Also current information about the goings-on on the ISS, and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, and more. OK, there was just a whole lot of information, period. Most of it interesting, if not downright fascinating. Lots of stuff to involve kids, get them to participate in science and get jazzed about the sciences. I can’t recommend this enough as a tourist destination!

Sunday brought clouds, and rain, and it looked iffy for quite a while. But in the end, everything cleared up and the launch took place–and wow. Seeing that rocket launch, not on TV but right before my eyes, was so amazing! The sound caught up to us later, a wave of grumbling and roaring that grew, and grew, so that you felt it inside your chest, until it slowly dissipated. After some 10 minutes, the twin sonic booms exploded the air, as the returning Stage 1 rocket returned to the atmosphere and landed–perfectly on target, but out of our viewing range at another pad–some 9 miles away, for re-use later. Here are some official videos, if you’d like a tiny glimpse of what we experienced:

Launch

Stage 1 Landing video

Now it’s back to “normal life,” laundry and weeding and cooking and walking the (happier, tennis-ball-carrying) dog, but space lingers in my mind. Space, the need to explore, to discover. The urge to move humanity into the stars. As the bumper stickers in KSC’s gift store read, “I need my space.” 

Let’s do this thing.

 

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Spring is a Complicated Season

It’s spring: redbud trees are flushed purple-red, while the plum tree is hazed with tiny white blossoms. Weeds are growing faster than I can pull them, and the sun is warming to a nice dozing temperature every morning (or so the dog reports from his spot on the chair).

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The windows are open, and the house requires neither heat nor air conditioning to remain comfortable. The sun is warm and luscious, the shade is cooling, almost chilly. It’s absolutely the best time of year, here–perfect for walking, kayaking, hiking, gardening.

Then why am I sad? Sitting outside, I hear the echoing plaints of Sandhill cranes winging northward, see the shifting v’s form, merge, and re-form as they begin their long migrations. Despite the beauty, an ache of loss hollows me.

These are my cranes, you see. I like knowing they are near, even if I don’t see them each day. But now, their visit is ending. Their calls, so bittersweet and aching for home, announces it clearly. Before they even are gone, I miss them.

sigh

But you cannot cage the wild soul without altering it, so I would not keep them here. I try to remind myself that without their departure, I would not feel the same joy at their return next December, when the familiar cries of the first flock I hear rocket through me, drawing me up and out to search the sky for a glimpse of something precious, something mysterious and divine–an immense seasonal migration.

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What I’ve Been Up To Lately (a post full of pics)

It’s Visitor Season here in North Central FL–the worse the weather up north, the more folks want to come visiting in the south (not that I blame them on little bit!). So, we’ve had guests. When my sister stayed, we went to Payne’s Prairie to see the Sandhill crane migration. Nearly 8,000 Sandhill cranes are overwintering here in Alachua County, and they’re guesstimating some 3,000-4,000 are in this park. Along with the Sandhills, a few highly endangered Whooping cranes usually sneak in, staying close to their cousins since they lack numbers to form their own flocks.

img_4426First, let’s get a picture of the alligator I nearly stepped on. Yes, that’s right. Stepped on! With the water at Payne’s Prairie at record lows, this bank is really steep. We’d seen no alligators on this side before now, and it was quite steep at this point, so I didn’t mind straying close to the dried grasses at the edge of the walking dike. Luckily for me, my sister was further to the side and saw this guy’s (lady’s?) head around the grasses it was resting behind. Remember, I’m using my iPhone camera, and they don’t do close-ups so well, all right? THAT’s how close this alligator was, even after I stumbled back and away! You can also see the closed eyes, which I found heartily reassuring. (It had been a very chilly night, so the gators were relieved to bask and warm up.)

img_4363Next, we found the bison. Until this day, I’d only seen the bison once, very, very far off–little dots in the distance that resolved into bison only with spy-glasses (take that, husband dear! he thinks “spy-glasses” is a ridiculous term. 😛 )  Today, no magnification necessary!

Notice the steep bank falling away from the dike. It’s far shallower on the other side, and you can see a bison clambering down near the center, in the distance. The lady in black is snapping photos of a bison almost directly beneath her! And that’s how we come to…

img_4443She wasn’t paying attention when one clambered up beyond her, blocking us all at the end of the one-way path. It moved a few steps away, so we all just waited. Then another one came up between us, blocking her between them. It was a dangerous position, and she knew it, but stepping off the dike into alligator-filled waters seemed a really bad idea, too (turns out, the first bison came up where it did because a huge alligator basked on the bank at the easier way up a few yards further down). Making matters worse, the second bison was pretty determined to join it’s herd-mate, but didn’t want that woman anywhere near it! The one facing me is doing that because I’d just called to it when it started moving towards the woman, head down!

The story has a happy resolution–she managed to sidle over to the other side of the diked path, and then by the bison between us, not raising her head to look it in the eye, as we offered calming words and marked her progress. But we were all still blocked for about another half an hour, until these two decided to rejoin their group in the waters below!

img_4436While waiting for our release, we wandered back a bit, and lo-and-behold, Mother Nature had more awesome experience awaiting us–a bison walking along the opposite shore came up against a basking ‘gator in its path. It stopped, stomped a foot and grunted loudly, threateningly (hey, I felt threatened, and I was across the water from it!). In reply, the gator lifted its head and tail, filled its throat, and hissed its warning back. A tense stand-off ensued, until the bison, never taking its eyes from the gator, circled around the gator and back to the water’s edge trail.

Oh, yes, we came for Sandhill cranes! And Payne’s Prairie provided them:

img_4261We also managed to see a Whooping crane, but only by using aforementioned spy-glasses (!)(thppppt!), so my phone stood no chance of capturing a photo. Maybe someday I’ll get an actual camera again…  Anyway, the noise they make is slightly overwhelming, somewhere between a goose’s honk and a heron’s prehistoric grackle. Multiplied by thousands of birds. Yeah. Overwhelming, and gorgeous.

At the end of the trail is a lookout tower. From there, I got this shot of a lone bison, clouds reflected in the water-hyacinth choked water, and tiny Sandhill-dots in the distance.

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Finally, on the way out, this hyacinth-crowned alligator, which, yeah–again, really close. But this time it was at the bottom of a deeply undercut bank, so it made me smile.img_4445

 

 

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You May Want to Sit Down for This One…

OK, then sitting, right? Comfy? Need some tea? Water? A mint?

No, I’m not nervous. Oh, yeah. My knee bounces on its own, sometimes. It just…it just does.

Errrmmmgh. So, I made a sale. I’ve got a signed contract, and everything. And…and…(gulps a mouthful of your water)…I’m so very pleased to announce that my story, “After the Story Ends,” has been purchased by Mike Resnick for Galaxy’s Edge Magazine!

(faints to the floor. wakes up and crawls into chair, smiling like a loon. starts to wonder how loons ‘smile’ with a beak… shakes head and gets back on track.)

I don’t know the publication date yet, but you can be sure I’ll be leaping up and down telling you all about it once I know! (If I ever stop leaping between now and then, that is.) I’m still kind of in shock, still kind of in disbelief, and still pretty much happier than a singing sparrow on a sunny spring branch!

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Sale at The Colored Lens

Just a quick reminder, if you were waiting for one: today is January 31st. I just checked and yes, this issue of The Colored Lens is currently on sale for 99¢ over on Amazon. That’s a lot of words for less than a buck, including my story, “Sanachi’s Escape.”

Announcement ends here. Please carry on with your regularly scheduled day!

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