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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“Sanachi’s Escape” Now Available!

ColoredLensWinter17I have good news, and I have better news!

The Good News: My short story, “Sanachi’s Escape,” is in the current issue of The Colored Lens, now available at Amazon. It’s the story of a boy growing up in a very different world, making very difficult choices, just to survive. It’s just that sometimes, plans have to change.

The Better News: Starting January 31st, The Colored Lens is going to put the electronic version on sale. The entire issue will cost just 99¢! They’ll be announcing this shortly on social media, so get ready. The price will slowly rise, regaining full price on February 3. So get your copy on January 31st for the best pricing!

Now, did you see that picture up there? Let me point out that I’m the first author listed. That’s right, my story opens the issue! (insert squee here!) This is a first for me–being the lead story–and I’m thrilled that “Sanachi’s Escape” has garnered that faith from the editors.

Ready for a little bit more about the story? Well, the idea for “Sanachi’s Escape” came from my thinking about the children born into war-torn, strife-laden countries, and how that affects their lives, and the lives of all born there for generations. Naturally, it changed as I wrote it, but you can see that start if you’re looking for it, I think. Also, an early version of this story was my first submission to Writers of the Future, garnering an Honorable Mention.

I’m so pleased it found such a wonderful home, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

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Annual Statement of Goals, 2017 Edition

Ah, here we are sliding into the new year with nary a mistake dating a check or letter so far! This must be a good omen, right? That or my brain is setting me up for a massive fail later…which I wouldn’t bet against, but also which I won’t be thinking about just now.

It looks like last year worked out pretty well for me. My short story sales and submissions went down, because early on I focused on the novel(s), letting short fiction slide. It distressed me quite a bit–still does, in fact–because I’ve become used to the “instant gratification” of short story sales instead of the “delayed gratification” of novel writing. For the longest time, it seemed to me that I just wasn’t getting anywhere. It took my husband commenting that “you know, you didn’t get as many submissions or acceptances as you’d hoped, but look, you wrote two novels last year” before my brain realized that, duh, yeah, I hadn’t been lazy or non-productive. Just “differently productive.” And this year, last year’s productivity will come to fruition.

2016: Highlights in review

  • Submitted Book 1’s opening for Taos Toolbox
  • Accepted to & attended Taos Toolbox
  • Edited Book 1 prior to workshop
  • Edited Book 1 after workshop!
  • Revisited overall trilogy plot
  • Wrote Book 2
  • Wrote at least 8 new short stories (Gah! I never tallied those figures so I can’t tell you–or myself–exactly how many!), 6 of them in Codex contests.
  • Became a Writers of the Future Quarter 2 Finalist (!!!!!)
  • One new story sale, one story “near-sale” [market went on hiatus 😦  ]
  • 6 stories still on submission at the turn of the year.

So, here are my writing goals for 2017

  • Start Book 3 of my Jess Stow trilogy
  • Finish Book 3 of Jess Stow
  • Edit ALL BOOKS of Jess Stow, and send to editor
  • Final edits of entire trilogy
  • Get covers created (OMG–so exciting!!!!)
  • Publish Jess Stow books
  • Finish planning and plot-breaking Unspoken, my next, stand-alone fantasy novel
  • Start writing Unspoken
  • Participate in Codex short story writing contests for at least 5 new stories
  • attend Paradise Lost Writers Retreat

In fact, my advanced plan is to have Book 3 finished before Paradise Lost (end of April), which I can do if I average 5000 words a week on that novel. The Weekend Warrior contest is going on now, which takes a lot of my time over the next 5 weeks–but I’m still committed to this insanity plan. So you might not see me here or on any social media much until after Paradise Lost.

In other words, it’s going to be a busy year. I hope I come out at the end of 2017 as pleasantly surprised by my writing productivity as I was last year. And to you all, I hope the same. Happy reading, and happy writing!

 

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Welcome, 2017

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a lovely, peaceful holiday season, and are ready for the challenges and hopes of the coming year. Husband and I celebrated quietly, at home together–the first time we’ve done so in our adult lives. It was a marked change, and honestly, this year was a welcome one, as well.

In addition to celebrating the holidays, I kept writing, and I am pleased to announce that I met my goal of finishing Book Two of my YA urban fantasy trilogy on December 30th! Hurray! We celebrated by eating dinner out that night (more hurray!). Since then, I’ve taken a “vacation” from writing, simply enjoying long naps and late mornings, walking the dog and conversations with friends and family. Very nice. Even the weather has cooperated, staying partly sunny and above-average in warmth, so sitting outside feels perfect.

Later today, I start on Book Three, which is outlined and ready to go. And so am I! I’m excited to get on with Jess’s adventures, seeing and living the world through her eyes. She’s a witch, and one of my favorite parts is exploring her magic–how it works, what it does, how it feels. So much fun!

Once Book Three’s first draft is done, I get edit them all (as soon as I typed the final words on book two, my mind started thinking, “hmm, you know, I should really punch that up back there, and maybe over there, too. And if I only tweaked that, then this will really shine…”). And then, lo and behold…I’ll get to send them off to my editor, after which, I’ll edit again! 🙂 Eventually, though, they will be available–my goal is by the end of the year, but I’ll be sure to update you here before that point.

In addition to all this fun, I’ve started playing around with an idea for my next novel, a stand-alone secondary-world fantasy, currently using the working title of “Unspoken.” AND, I’ve registered for the Paradise Lost Writing Workshop, where I’ll not only see lots of writers I know from Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox, but get to meet other writers while we all work on our books and stories. I get a lot of “creative energy” out of these things, and really hope that Paradise Lost will help me plot-break “Unspoken,” so it’s ready to begin once the Jessamin Stow books are finished.

I’ll make my annual year’s end summary and new-year’s goals posting soon–probably later this week. But for now, I’m easing back into a normal working life again. Which means I need to get writing.

But first, for the coming year I wish all of you comfort in your souls, strength in your wills, and health. Blessings on us all.

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