Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

Rats, But No Rain

August 31, 2022
Me and Sheila Finch on “Worlds Apart” Panel

Bubonicon weekend went very well but, except for a few sprinkles, we didn’t get our hoped-for rain.  This meant that we’d come home from a really busy day and needed to spot-water the suffering greenery. Then in the morning, before we set off for another really busy day, we’d be out there watering, or harvesting, or simply being amazed at what had happened while we were gone. 

It’s that time of year in New Mexico.

The mood at Bubonicon this year was one of merriment and hilarity, with an undercurrent of melancholy as we had to face that Roslee would not be there behind the table in the art show (but Kathy Kubica did a great job) or fans who’d become friends like Wanda June Alexander and Kevin Zander wouldn’t come wandering over to catch up.  And, oh my, were the panels sadder for Sally and John and Jan and others not being there to offer comments.

So, we were blessed beyond all hope by having as our featured stars four people who seemed determined to make us laugh, as they took on a ton of panels.  I had the pleasure of being on one panel with co-writer GOH Rae Carson, who managed to be thoughtful and very silly at the same time.  I didn’t get to be on a panel with our other writer GOH, Keith R.A. DeCandido, but I did get to let him know I’d discovered we just missed each other as students at Fordham.

Artist GOH, Chaz Kemp was stylish, cool, wise, and funny, whether when on a panel or hosting his table in the Dealer’s room.  And Toastmaster A. Lee Martinez, who I’d met a long while back when he published his first novel (Gil’s All Fright Diner) which both Jim and I loved, reminded me of that meeting and credited me with a lot more wisdom than I ever knew I had.  Thanks, Lee.

I was thrilled to hear from the con’s official booksellers, Who Else Books, that they’d sold out of Library of the Sapphire Wind, and were rapidly running out of Aurora Borealis Bridge.  Please, folks!  Give them and all the other booksellers an excuse to order a lot more.  The future of Over Where isn’t in the hands of Meg, Peg, and Teg—it’s in yours.

And you’ll do yourself a favor, too.  As I discovered when I did my reading and none of those who’d heard me read the same bit before at ASFS walked out, these are books that are not only worth reading, they’re fun to re-read, too.

My panels seemed to be focused this year on the nuts and bolts of writing: world building; the complexities of writing epic fantasy; the ups and downs of the writer/editor relationship.  Putting all this to the test, I joined SnackWrites once again.  I might even share some of my five-minute stories one of these days, if anyone reads far enough in the WW to make a request.

We went without meals to go to various readings, ate too many meals to hang out with friends.  Pity the scale didn’t average this out.  But seriously, I have a whole new appreciation of how readings may be the secret pleasure of a convention.

Now we’re back home, riding herd on the burgeoning tomato army, and finally able to settle in and write for a bit.  I finished a very rough draft of the next Over Where novel, House of Rough Diamonds, just a couple hours before departing for Bubonicon.  Now to go back and start polishing the words.  The diamonds will stay rough.  Wonder why?  You’ll get your chance to learn that in just a bit!

Zinnias! Book Event!

August 17, 2022
Just Add Water…

Possibly the only thing that can compete for colorfulness with the zinnias growing alongside our front sidewalk are Tom Kidd’s cover art for my new books, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge.

I’ll be doing a book event this coming Saturday, August 20, 2022, at Noon, at Half Price Books Flagship store in Dallas, Texas.  (5803 E. NW Highway Dallas, Texas, 7532).  Copies of Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge, and A New Clan (the fourth Star Kingdom book, with David Weber) will be available.

The schedule for the event includes my giving a brief talk and reading, followed by a question-and-answer session.  Then I’ll sign books.  I’m always happy to sign my older works as well, but you might want to check with the bookstore in advance, as policies regarding books not purchased at the store do vary.

I’ll also have goodies to give away, including bookmarks, post cards, and some very cool buttons featuring the cover art for A New Clan.  Even though David Weber won’t be there, I have stickers that he has signed, so that those of you purchasing A New Clan can have it signed by both authors.

Hope to see some of you there!


Green Tomato Stage

August 10, 2022
Green Turning Red

Right now, I think I’m at the green tomato stage of my current book.  Like the tomatoes in this picture, it started as a tiny seed.  Now, as I’m almost done with my rough draft, it’s shiny and bright and full of potential, but needs a lot of ripening.

Aside for the gardeners among us: The tomatoes in the photo are Punta Banda, the seeds of which I purchased from Native Seed Search, as part of my quest to find tomatoes that would handle the very high temperatures we’ve been having.  As you can see, they’ve done very well.  Our high this summer has been 107F, so slightly cooler than the last two summers, where we peaked at 112F.  We had a brutally hot May, followed by an early onset monsoon that helped a bit.  Temperatures have settled into a, for us, relatively moderate high 90’s to low 100’s, and Punta Banda seems to love this.

If you want to know more about tomatoes, ask in the Comments, and I shall happily natter on.

As to the book…  I started my rough draft about a year ago, but I had a considerable number of interruptions, including dealing with editor’s notes on A New Clan (the fourth Star Kingdom book, written in collaboration with David Weber), producing new e-book editions of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded, writing the short story “Fire-Bright Rain” (a prequel telling what happened when the Library of the Sapphire Wind was destroyed), working on a new e-book edition of Child of a Rainless Year.

I also did a lot of promotional work for my three new book releases: Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge, and A New Clan.

In January, after the holidays and final revisions to A New Clan, I immersed myself in my current novel.  I realized that I needed to shift one of the major elements of the plot, and once I did that, the characters started doing things, and I started merrily writing away.

Then, in February, I had Covid.  One of the odd ways it hit me was that I couldn’t use any back-lit devices, especially computer screens, without getting a headache.  What did I do?  I shifted to handwriting, which I actually enjoy.  I stayed in this mode for several weeks.  When I could bear the computer screen for more than a short while, I typed up what I had written.

I have great hopes I’ll get a lot closer to the end of the manuscript this week, so I’m off to find out what happens next!

Toadaly True Encounter

July 27, 2022
Signing at Poisoned Pen… (but first, toad encounter)

On my way out to pick liana beans, I went into the garage for a bag.  As I paused in the laundry room (right off the garage) to do a few things, I heard a very gentle thump from the door into the garage.  I opened it, looked down, and discovered a medium-sized toad sitting on the doorsill, waiting to be let in.

During the hottest part of the day, we often open the garage door just a few inches, so air will circulate and some of the heat will bleed off.  Obviously, the toad had come in then, and had spent the night in the garage.  Now that the garage door was closed, it wanted to leave and had politely knocked—probably because it was too short to reach the controls.

Mildly astonished (this happened once before, years ago), I gathered up the toad and carried it to our backyard, which offers much living better conditions for a toad. For the duration of the summer, we have resolved to leave the garage door open just a little during the day, so any venturesome toads don’t cook when the temperatures rise.

(We’ve been pretty routinely hitting a high of 105.  Since this is cooler than the high of 112 we hit in July the last couple of years, we’re not complaining.)

The bunny continues to reside in the yard.  It is getting bigger.  It also has a friend, a much smaller bunny who probably came through the same mysterious gap in the fence.  We will do our best to relocate them but, for now, thanks to the monsoon rains, there is more than enough natural forage for them, and they’re not dining on our veggies.

The first bunny has become, if not tame, at least less inclined to immediately run for cover when it sees us.  Hopefully we’ll be able to eventually herd it out through the gate.

As mentioned in the caption, the picture above is from my recent book event at Poisoned Pen.  Much praise to Patrick King, who put in a lot of advanced work on his interview questions, so that we had a lively and non-generic chat.  You can view the interview here.

I’m reaching the final stages of my current rough draft (set in the world of Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge), and am eager to find out exactly how the story will resolve itself.  The characters have dropped a few hints, but one of the things I really like about writing is watching exactly how the resolution ends up happening.

Helping Writing Thrive

July 20, 2022
Mostly Squash and Sunflowers

Last week I learned that A New Clan will be released as an audiobook from Audible.  This is the fourth Star Kingdom/Stephanie Harrington novel by me and David Weber.  Release timetable is not yet set, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s out.

We have some interest from Recorded Books in the two Over Where novels (Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge).  If you’re hoping for these to come out in audio, let them know!

Last week, our temperatures rose back into the low hundreds.  However, the monsoon rains circled around again, giving us some fresh moisture, including one storm that dropped seven tenths of an inch.  All of you dealing with floods, don’t laugh.  Here in our part of New Mexico, that’s a significant amount of rainfall.

As a result, our yard and garden are doing the best they have in the last three or four years.  We’re actually having a bit of trouble picking our way between some of the rows, which was not an issue in hot and droughty 2020 or 2021.  As anticipated, we’ve harvested our first tomatoes.  The new contribution are lianas, often called yard long beans or, sometimes, asparagus beans.

So, what’s the equivalent of a good soaking rain for a writer?  Obviously, it differs from writer to writer.  Although I’ve written in plenty of public places (classrooms, meetings, airplanes), I would no more seek out a coffee shop as an ideal place to go write than I would roast my bare feet over white-hot coals.  But there are plenty of writers (including some whose work I love) who go out of their way to write in coffee shops or in group writing sessions.

For me, my internal landscape matters more than the exterior.  If I’m too busy to read, my writing really suffers.  Re-reading definitely counts.  It’s a bit like listening to a familiar piece of music, with the bonus of being able to concentrate on what elements make me love it, rather than what happens next.

Hobby activity counts, since while my hands are busy, my subconscious feels free to wander.  Even my gaming time, which is a sort of storytelling, can stimulate my writing.  This is not because I reuse game elements, more because the freedom to be part of an evolving story with no pressure to produce a saleable piece reminds me why I love to share stories.

We’re just back from a trip, and I need to go out and crawl between the plants and see what might have ripened while we were away.  Then I think I’ll see what my subconscious came up with while the many hundreds of miles between Albuquerque and Phoenix spun out under the tires.

Beans, Sunflowers, Tomatoes

Hummers and Hoppers

July 6, 2022

Quick update on local wildlife, garden, and… Oh, yeah!  Writing stuff.

Hummingbird Over Zinnia

We have another really, really tiny cottontail rabbit that’s found its way into our backyard.   While we hope to relocate it, as we did the one who squeezed its way through some mystery crevice in our fence (probably the south one, which has some vine-covered areas), it’s not as great a threat to our garden as was its predecessor.

The plants are a lot bigger now, and so it’s unlikely that one rabbit, much less a very tiny bunny, could take out the garden.  Probably the greatest “at threat” area is the bed in which we’re growing Swiss chard, arugula, and radishes.  Stay tuned…

Cooler temperatures over the last several weeks have really helped our garden.  We’ve only gone over a hundred a couple of days, and even that was only to about 102F.  While we haven’t had rain, there have been clouds, and that has given us a break.  We are hoping for rain, since the monsoon pattern hasn’t left.

We’ve now harvested radishes, eggplant, Swiss chard, and zucchini, as well as a variety of herbs.

While we’ve lost a few plants, so far, so good.  Next hoped for crop is tomatoes.  We have some set, but none yet ripe.

As for writing…  I’m working on a third “Over Where” novel, and it now has a title: House of Rough Diamonds.  The editor who bought Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge has asked to see a proposal, and one went off to her this past week.

I also did a few more interviews, and will post links to them as they go live.

On that note…  I’m off to wander the yard and see if I can spot Little Bunny, or at least where it’s getting in.  Then to write!

Yard Outside My Office Window

Dancing in the Rain

June 22, 2022
Lilies in the Rain

This week, the big news is we finally, finally, finally got RAIN!  It started on Friday, and has continued for several days, bringing along with the moisture lower temperatures, and, even better, for wildfire beleaguered New Mexico, a reduction in fire risk.

When Friday evening brought us the first of several possible storms, I headed out while it was still raining to start moving water out of the 32-gallon trash barrels under our downspouts to additional containers.  Yes.  It was dark. Yes.  It was wet.  But this was a cause for celebration.

Several subsequent storms have definitely brough rainfall at our house to up over an…  inch.  Yes.  You read that right.  Over one inch.  Not yet to even one and a quarter, although we have hope.

For all of you who are in flood zones or places that get a lot of rain, more than an inch of rain in one series of storms is a big deal for our area.  My part of New Mexico is classified as “high altitude grassland” because we “average” 7.5 inches of rain in a year.

That half of an inch is what keeps us from being classified as desert.  Lately we haven’t been getting it.  Jim and I have most of our yard mulched and landscaped with native plants, but even those have been suffering.   I’d been worried we were going to lose a couple of trees because we couldn’t give them enough water to help them deal with temperatures over a hundred, high winds, and no rain.

There are lots of songs that associate “rainy days,” and sad times, but let me tell you, that isn’t the case in New Mexico, especially in this year of record fires. 

Saturday night, we joined some very kind friends for a ballgame at our local minor league park.  The game was rain delayed, but I didn’t see a single sour face from the ticket takers getting drizzled on, to the littlest kid.  Instead, there was a definite party atmosphere.

So, with a feeling of celebration, I’m off to do my writing. 

Bunny, Treecats, and More

June 1, 2022
Mei-Ling Dives into a Good Book

Let’s start with the saga of the bunny, and move to news about treecats and then a little more fun.

Last week, I told you about how a tiny bunny had gotten into our yard and was eating our seedlings, specializing on beans, but not hesitating to eat Swiss chard and sample eggplant (plants) as well.

Jim worked hard getting to critical areas of our garden beds fenced off.  Wednesday (after I had posted the WW), Jim’s hard work paid off in a really weird way.

The baby bunny was back in the garden bed, but had trapped itself.  Our guess is that it used the higher ground outside of the fence to jump over the fence, then couldn’t get out.  Jim had the bright idea of using one of our cat carriers to trap it, and between us we managed.  The bunny was small enough to fit in my hand, and very, very soft.

Jim then carried the little bunny off to a park/empty lot near of us that has a fair amount of cover.  I waited to post until today, while we waited to see if it had siblings, but we seem to be bunny free.  The fences, however, will stay in place until the seedlings are large enough that an opportune nibble will not kill the plant.

(We didn’t get any photos of the bunny this time.  The little critter was pretty scared, and we wanted to get it moved before it panicked itself to death.)

There are no treecats in our yard (at least that we’ve seen), but June 7 is the official release date of A New Clan, formerly known to dedicated readers of these WW as “SK4.”  It is the fourth “Star Kingdom/ Stephanie Harrington” book, written by me and David Weber in collaboration.  It picks up right after Treecat Wars.

If you’re interested in a sample, here’s a link to an advertisement that, in turn, will provide a link to a sample.

As for the “and more,” I’ve been doing a lot of interviews.  When Aurora Borealis Bridge came out, I had a request from to do one about unusual portal fantasies.  I quite enjoyed myself, and found some good examples both past and more current.

In the background, as I type this, I hear Jim clicking away, trying to get some photos of the quail family (mom, dad, a dozen striped chicks) who are currently residing in in the big Russian sage in our front yard.  Keep your fingers crossed.  Maybe they’ll hold still long enough for us to share a picture or two!

Toads and Bunnies

May 25, 2022
Look on the Roof!

Interesting wildlife news from our yard…  Topping the list is this adorable toad sitting on top of the Toad House that our friends Gail and John Miller gave us many years ago after we expressed our enthusiasm that our little pond had attracted real, live toads!

For those of you who don’t know, I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is officially “high altitude grassland,” because we’re supposed to get 7.5 inches of rain a year.  Lately, we’ve gotten quite a lot less, but haven’t been reclassified to desert, yet.  Therefore, toads and tadpoles (of which our tiny pond is currently supporting quite a few) are very exciting.

Less exciting is discovering after several bunny-free years, a juvenile rabbit has gotten into our back yard.  So far it has eaten the newly sprouted Swiss Chard and arugula; two eggplant plants (which retailed at something like four dollars apiece, so definitely not cheap); and portions of two rows of newly sprouted tepary beans.  We can replant the beans, thank heavens, and hopefully we’ll be able to score more Swiss chard seeds, but I am less than enchanted—especially since I can’t find out how it got in.

I mean, just because my latest releases—Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge—are portal fantasies doesn’t mean I want my yard to be a wild rabbit’s magical kingdom of Lunch.

I’ve only seen the bunny twice, and maybe it spotting me will convince it to go elsewhere.  However, as a precaution, Jim is busy with chicken wire and trying to block gaps in the fence. We can hope, but hope can always use a little help.

Off to go look for it again…

Gardener: ’Tain’t Whatcha Think

May 11, 2022
Chocolate Flowers

Monday morning, as I was out in our yard, preparing various containers for seeds while on stand-by in case Jim needed help as he set up our swamp cooler, I found myself thinking about the term “gardener,” as applied to writers.

As you may know, in this context, “gardener” is used as a synonym for what I prefer to call an “intuitive plotter,” but is often referred to by the inelegant term “pantser,” which in turn is short for “seat of the pants plotter,” (a term that in my opinion is only slightly better).

Whatever you call it, a gardener is a writer who does not outline in advance of writing, and may not seem to plan much in advance at all.

So, it was when I worked out my novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, which have been praised by award-winning reviewer Alan Robson, who noted that the story elements “have very significant roles to play in advancing the plot, and every time the plot advances the story exposes another intricate layer and we learn more and more about the way that the world of Over Where works. I’m astonished that Jane Lindskold managed to hold a structure as complicated as this one in her head while she was writing it, and I’m impressed at the skilful way in which the twists and turns reveal themselves so gradually and yet so inexorably.”  (Phoenixzine, May 2022)

By contrast, when I worked with David Weber on the forthcoming A New Clan, my natural tendency to not plan in advance had to be moderated by the need to work with another author.  In turn, Weber moderated his own desire to brainstorm in exhaustive detail to accommodate the fact that if I have it all figured out in advance, I feel the story is told, and am less enthusiastic.

Well, as I knelt there in my yard, stirring up dry soil, adding additional potting soil, soaking the planting medium in stages to make sure it was uniformly damp, and only then adding in the seeds—these spaced according to their specific needs, and those needs dictated by where that particular planter was going to be placed—I found myself thinking for the hundredth time how inappropriate the term “gardener” is for an intuitive plotter.

I wandered on at greater length about this subject here, so I’ll point you that way, and summarize.  (The first part of this other post is about our garden that particular year, but I suggest you read it, especially if you don’t garden yourself.)

Just as a gardener does not plant without acquiring a lot of advanced knowledge, so an intuitive plotter does not get ideas from some abstract ether.  A lot of work goes into preparing the “soil,” to learning about what the seeds need, to learning about the environment in which the plant or the story will grow.

A great example are the chocolate flowers featured in the photo above.  Jim and I like flowers, but we also like to work within the needs of our environment, which is hot, dry, and fairly brutal.  Chocolate flowers thrive in poor soil, without need for additional watering once they are established.  A bonus is that local birds love the seeds, so we not only get to watch the birds, they help spread the plants in our yard.

(The name “chocolate flower” comes from the scent of the flowers, which is not unlike bittersweet chocolate.)

So, for all you folks who think you can just zen your way into a story, without any foundation at all, remember, the planning goes in, whether before, after, or along the way, but one way or another, you’re going to need to do the work.

Speaking of which, I’m off to pull out scrap paper and work on one of my least favorite jobs…  Maybe I’ll talk about what that is next time.