Monthly Archives: August 2014

A productive day in writer life

So today was a trip to Clatskanie to help friend clear out his spring household water system (best done in the driest portion of the year, before the fall rains start). While DH and Friend tackled the spring, I opted out of the outdoor work. Didn’t want to dance with the potential for bees/wasps/hornets/other things that sting and I had writing and editing work to do. Besides, bushwhacking uphill through recently (as in four years past) logged brushland isn’t in my skill set. Former Logger Boyz waving chain saws are better suited for that game.

While the Boyz waved chain saws and other adventures (including relocating salamanders and patching the cistern) I stayed back and cooked dinner for starving Elder Boyz. A cruise through Safeway yielded a decent package of pork stew chunks from the rotten meat section (pull date NOW), frozen veggies, Ragu sauce, potatoes and tiny sweet peppers for snacks. After whipping up an impromptu stew to simmer in the oven, I finished off the first pass through a fun MS for edits, then jotted down notes for Netwalk’s Children. Hugely productive progress on that work today…to be continued tomorrow.

Additionally, I did a little hauling/stacking of firewood (the goal of tomorrow’s Clatskanie trip), nibbled on blackberries and raspberries, slipped out to the barn to observe the adult barn owl roosting in the rafters, and got some cool pix of a Pileated Woodpecker. Plus wrote.

Dang, I could definitely live like this.

So hey. Editor available. Reasonable rates. Want to figure out complex plot twists? Let’s chat.

Writer grrrl needs to support her chosen lifestyle without resorting to substitute teaching.

(And hey. I’m drooling at the possibility of sharing the Seeking Shelter cover. OMG, the last time I saw a cover this nice and right on was for Alma Alexander’s River anthology. It’s just that cool. Sweet!)

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And the title decision is….Shadow Harvest

Shadow Harvest. I’ve been agonizing over what to call Andrews Ranch for real, because otherwise it sounds too much like a Western instead of science fiction. While there are Western elements (a showdown at the OK Corral-type scene with a war machine in a barnyard), and a quasi-Westernish-theme (saving a ranch from corporate interests), at best it could be titled a Science Fiction Western. Yeah.

I kept thinking about its predecessor and twin story that I’m going to include to make up the omnibus I plan to publish in December, Winter Shadows. My original plans for that omnibus were to include Dahlia, Winter Shadows, and Andrews Ranch. But while Dahlia is part of the whole Will and Diana sequence, it really doesn’t fit except as a precursor to the other two stories. What happens in Winter Shadows comes to fruition seven years later in Shadow Harvest. So I’ve decided that the omnibus will be those two stories instead. That’ll be plenty, and there’s a title and thematic connection (the omnibus will also come out in a CreateSpace version).

And I do have a cover pic. Just haven’t made the cover yet.


Now it’s time to go back and discreetly insert some connections to Winter Shadows. Then off to the barn, meet up with a friend, then come home and work on an editorial project.

The days are just packed around here.

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As summer winds down….

I’m grateful to be able to experience the end of this long, hot summer on my own terms rather than having to drive 40 miles to roast in a sweltering classroom. This summer has been consistently warmer and persistent, in comparison to other years, and I can just imagine what the misery would be in my old classroom now that the shade trees are gone.

But I’m not there. Nonetheless, water scarcity, smoky skies and short tempers characterize the end of summer. The summer party crowd drives frenetically to reach their preferred cooling off sites. When I’m driving around town, I’m seeing more aggressive punching of accelerators, more frequent weaving in-and-out of traffic, more edgy, frayed moods.

Even the creatures feel it. Little finches, chickadees, and bushtits swarm the feeders. The fledgling crow gang stalks the backyard in the early mornings, swaggering with their new-found flight and foraging skills. Their scrub jay counterparts screech obscenities at them, and both groups have developed a new fascination with the wandering neighbor hen. Flies plague the horses even inside the arena, and Mocha is irritable and jumpy, pushing against her boundaries.

Soon the rains will come. Soon. Until then, everything paces and waits, irritable with too much heat and dust and summer light. Eventually rains and gray clouds will once again enfold the city, the bugs will die off, and the brown will turn to faint green, as leaves change to bright reds and yellows.

It’s just a matter of time.

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A productive weekend

As summer of 2014 winds down, we’re engaged in activities both seasonal and for the future. I finished preserving the bulk of the Gravenstein crop with five and a half more quarts of apple juice, leaving us with plenty of juice, applesauce, and a small amount of apple butter. Plus numerous crisps and a couple of apple pies.

The Blue Lakes have been poking along but they aren’t heavy producers this year. We’re getting good tomatoes, enough to justify making a taco salad tomorrow.

We’ve got our own firewood stacked and stored, but yesterday we helped a friend haul and stack three cords of his winter wood, with three more to go. It was delivered to one area easy for the delivery guys to reach, then needed to be transported by pickup to the storage shed. We’ve been nibbling at it all summer, and yesterday was the last transport day. Then it became stacking.

Today, we worked on a new skill–driving the truck with the horse trailer. This was my second time out, and I’m pleased to announce that I’m now approaching the speed limit on the back roads. No horse in the trailer yet, but DH and I cruised the backroads around the barn practicing.

DH is also preparing for the annual deck treatment. Today he trimmed vegetation around the deck.

Crickets are chirping out back. Last night I thought I heard an owl calling back there–not a hoot owl or a great horned, but perhaps a barn owl. Definitely not a screech owl. There’s a cool touch in the evening breeze, damp with the promise of forthcoming fall.

On the one hand, it feels weird not to be contemplating the beginning of the school year. On the other, I just don’t miss it. I’ve missed being able to enjoy my fall, and now I can again. Things sound sufficiently ugly with Common Core issues and the like that I am glad I’m not around for this year of turmoil. But I think good thoughts for my friends who start work tomorrow, and miss them.

Winter is coming. I’m thinking of snow. Time to get fit for skiing.

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The rest of the trip

It’s been a busy week, but there was more going on during our trip than Spocon. We drove up to Spokane the day before. It was a lovely day for a drive, offering opportunities for pictures like this:


And this:


Lots more cool views than pictures. In the Spocon post, I talked about waterfall pictures. We took a long walk from the hotel (Fairfield) along the river and walked from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls and I found these stunning shots along the way.


And many more.

Sunday, after my last panel and all the goodbyes, we hopped in the car and drove from Spokane to Enterprise. We had not driven the road between Spokane and Lewiston, so we enjoyed new views. One of the con attendees was puzzled that it would take so long to drive a short distance (4 1/2 hours for around 175 miles), at least until she pulled up the map on her iPhone and saw the various snaky grades…down the hill into Lewiston, then up the hill from Asotin. But it’s past Antone that things really get wild.

It’s called Rattlesnake Grade. DH and I have not traveled it for over thirty years, and we only did it once together. But we both had memories of a long, winding grade both up and down a steep canyon. We’d completely forgotten about all the plateau country on the Washington side before we got there. And, before we descended into the Rattlesnake, we spotted a pair of wild turkeys–tom and hen–scratching gravel at the edge of the highway. Cool.

The Rattlesnake takes thirteen miles to descend to the bottom of the canyon and the Grand Ronde River. Then it goes a short distance straight up the bottom of a creek before climbing the canyon wall. We stopped for pix before climbing.


And yes, people do travel this road regularly in winter, with ice, snow, and below zero temps. It is our shortest route to Spokane. Otherwise we have to go west through Elgin and Milton-Freewater to reach Lewiston and then head up.

On the top, near Flora, I had to slam on the brakes because a set of gangling wild turkey poults skittered across the road and, being young and fledglings and somewhat on the foolish side, they weren’t really eager to move for some big stupid stinky metal thing. That was still cool.

We stopped at Joseph Canyon Overlook. We’ve not been there for ages–I think it was after the fires of 1986. This is also the area where the upcoming Andrews Ranch (better title forthcoming!) is set.


And then we reached Enterprise and Farpoint, to discover that despite what we thought, the contractor had installed all of the windows. Even better, he had been able to get a full greenhouse window into the kitchen window (he had thought he couldn’t get one that would be big enough).


I am soooo happy about this. The window shelf is glass instead of wire like the one in the Woodstock house. I can haz planz.

And because it’s required, a mountain view.


Other stuff happened, mostly pleasant. And then we were off to home and another week in the life. But my, this was such a pleasant five day trip in many ways.

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The trip to Spocon ended up becoming one of those lovely summer events that turns out even better than expected. I hadn’t done this con before, but since Worldcon is going to be in Spokane next year, I thought it would be a good idea to scope it out.

I’m glad I did. Epic and lovely things happened on this trip, both personal and professional.

We arrived early and went on a walking tour of the area around the convention center. I will admit that my Worldcon experience is limited (four), but I do think that Spokane will provide an excellent location in many ways. It’s beautiful with good walking accesses. This picture is from the riverfront trail behind the convention center.


There is a food coop one block from the convention center, as well as a vegan/gluten-free deli and bakery next door. The Rite Aid has some grocery supplies. If you have a car, it’s not far to a Fred Meyer (supermarket) which has everything. Heck, we figured that out just from flying stops for gas en route to Miscon. Easy on, easy off of I-90 and there’s probably even non-freeway routes to get there.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly as both panelist and fan. My fellow panelists were an interesting mix of familiar and new to me, and I came away having learned new things or acquired some things to think about. That’s always fun. Plus while elders were definitely around, this con had a lot of younger fans present, not just in gaming and anime panels but in writing panels. They asked a lot of good questions, and I predict we’ll see some rising young writers from this bunch in the next few years.

On the technical side of things, I was happy with my schedule, and Spocon did some very nice things with the table tents. The tents had an event map as well as a panel listing. The primary focus of the writing track was on characters, and by the time I was done talking about characters, I’d absorbed wisdom from other panelists and thought through my own process a little bit more. I had a story that I was working on throughout the con, and I think that spending con time talking about characters, then getting up the next morning to apply some of those techniques after sleeping on it, helped develop that story more effectively. I know I walked away from this con feeling energized and ready to go write more, and that’s not something that happens after every con.

Then there was the networking, and this now-infamous incident:


I didn’t think Phyl was going to do it, until she suddenly put her purse down and started taking off her shoes. But once she did, I realized I wanted to take the pictures. That did happen at the end of a night where we’d gone to an Irish pub, investigated the garbage-eating goat, and looked at the falls.

Mmm. Falls.


The Upper and Lower Falls of the Spokane River are an easy walk from the main convention hotel. I took many pictures.

I also roughed out the end of a story and have developed some project ideas to be breathing into life here soon. Western-SF crossovers are beginning to tease my brain. Could be interesting. Other good stuff is in progress after this con, and I feel like it was a much-needed transition from past teacher life to present writer life.

At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

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A weird summer moment

This summer has seen some of the worst air I’ve experienced since my childhood in the South Willamette Valley. While it’s never approached the intensity of the worst  field burning days, both DH and I have been enduring with sinus and ear blockages. Supposedly the pollen and dust count isn’t that high, but that’s not what our bodies are telling us–and it’s allergic exposure, not illness. Faugh.

Then yesterday turned brooding along with baking. As the temps approached 100F, clouds drifted overhead. Everything went quiet. I expected a thunderstorm but it never happened. Things were just–quiet. Silent. Waiting. No birds. Nothing moving, except the bees in the sunflowers.

The mood held at dawn today. Then we started getting occasional drifts of cooler air. The mood changed. The finches, chickadees, and bushtits showed up at the feeders. Two small woodpeckers (hairy or downy, whichever is the smaller) drum away at the tallest mullein stalk. The ominous mood that’s been hanging over everything has passed, hopefully banishing the heat for a time.

With any good fortune, the run to Spocon combined with the predicted possibility of rain and cooler temps will clear things out enough to settle the allergies. At least one can hope.

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Amazon vs Hachette

Want to know my real reaction?


So the latest volley in the Amazon vs Hachette wars is the same letter sent to Amazon book customers and Kindle Direct Publishing authors. Not going to link to it, it’s around. But my reaction? I think this response I wrote elsewhere (modified slightly) sums it up:

I have spent fifteen years as a sporadic political activist. One thing I did for a couple of campaigns was writing templates for  letters to the editor. Once you’ve done a bit of that work, it’s easy to recognize the product of a writing template.

So. Onward to the letters from Amazon. They’re superficial. They’re the same damn thing I see coming from a bunch of issue campaigns trying to sway public opinion. The only difference between these letters and a SuperPAC letter writing campaign solicitation letter is the issue.

And I’m not playing “swing the court of public opinion” game. Both sides need to sit down and negotiate. This is ridiculous, and if it spreads to other types of business organization, well, then….(ah. Hmm. Damn. Okay, it’s MY story idea, ‘kay?). No matter how you phrase it, though, politicizing what should be a negotiation between two corporations is really not a good thing. Businesses should not be run like the U.S. Congress of the Twenty-teens (and Congress shouldn’t be run like that, either, but that’s a diversion).

In any case, I have no interest in playing the game in the court of public opinion, because ultimately, neither Amazon nor Hachette are my customer. They are distributors, both of them. Readers are my customers, and these public opinion games as part of a business negotiation interfere with reader access.

It’s time to get back to the business of writing, publishing, and distribution. Amazon and Hachette, I’m looking at BOTH of you. Knock it off.

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Horses. Summer. You’ll get no sense out of me.


So this is happening now. Trainer/barn owner got access to a neighboring field. He had the grass cut on it, and it’s now open for hand grazing and riding. What a perfect summer setting. It’s been ages since I’ve done any field riding, and it’s excellent preparation for her move next year. Her reaction was pretty much as you see here–curious, but relaxed. I’m not comfortable loping in this field as it is, because that grass is dry enough to be dangerously slick, even if the cut stuff gets raked up.

Mocha impresses me, though. Past horses in my life, both owned and schoolies, would have been slipping. Part of this field includes a slope that, while not big, was enough to give me a feel for how she would handle downhill movement.


After last year’s escapades on the driveway, I can confidently say it was the blacktop and not the downhill that caused the problems. She walked and jogged up and downhill without slipping. The first time jogging downhill, she wanted to thump around on her forehand but a little half-halt, raise the hand and soft squeeze, and she figured it out.

There’s enough of a slope that I can work on backing her up and down the hills, and do some light schooling on an angled surface. All good stuff for muscle development, and a nice mental break from the arena for both of us in this hot weather.

Mmm. Yes. August on horseback. Just the way I like it.

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