Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Germination

April 3, 2019

Eggplant Seedlings

Hi!  I don’t suppose you’d like to hear about the relative germination percentages between tomatoes and eggplant, would you?

The seed starter was getting crowded, so last weekend we finally got around to taking out the plants and moving them into their next generation containers.  These are repurposed yogurt containers: not fancy, but they do the job.

The seed starter has seven rows with room for seven plants per row.  We gave one row to cherry tomatoes (Sweet Million), three rows to Roma tomatoes, and three to ichiban eggplant (Millionaire Hybrid variety).  Well…  That was the plan, at least.  It’s possible that we planted two rows of cherry tomatoes and two of Roma, and if so we’re going to have too many cherry tomato plants.  We’ll know later on…

Why so many eggplant?  Because we expected what happened: while 100% of the tomato seed germinated, only about two out of seven eggplant seeds germinated.  We’ve resealed the seed starter and are giving the slowpokes a chance to germination.  Meanwhile, Jim is eating more yogurt because we’ve run out of containers.

So, we do have at least fifteen eggplant seedlings, but we can’t count on all the plants surviving.  This is the thing about gardening.  Not every plant survives.  It’s completely possible that by the time we move the seedlings into the ground in May, we might have half of what we started with.  The same could be true of the tomato plants.

Why did we start our own seeds?  For the eggplant in particular, we were looking for a particular variety.  For the tomatoes, variety is one issue, but another is that we’ve had some problems with finding what we want from greenhouses, especially now that a few franchises seem to have taken over supplying just about everywhere.  These franchises aren’t sensitive to what will do well in our particular climate.  Then there’s the problem that we’re seeing more evidence of disease in these plants than when we were able to shop for locally grown plants.

Aside: We grow a lot of other plants from seed, but those seeds (radishes, carrots, beans, squash, various herbs, numerous flowers) will go directly into the ground, rather than being started in advance.

Also, growing plants from seed is fun.  It’s fascinating.  It’s rather – if you’ve stayed with me this long – like writing.  Not every idea germinates.  Some seem promising, but wilt after the first few lines.  Others are crippled by complications along the way.  But those that work out are very satisfying, indeed.

Last week’s writing was definitely a difficult one for idea germination, but once I gave up on a couple of approaches and found my way, I was very satisfied.  Now, I’m off to see if I can pick up where I left off.

Remind me and, in May, I’ll tell you how many plants survived to being moved outside – and then, later still, I’ll let you know how many took and bore fruit when faced with the myriad challenges of a New Mexico summer.

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FF: Deceptive

March 22, 2019

Ogapoge Wonders What the Moon Would Taste Like

This week’s Friday Fragments are quite deceptive because they’re not going to reflect all the reading I’m doing to prepare myself to responsibly vote for this year’s Nebula Awards.   So, while it looks as if I’m reading very little, I’m actually reading quite a lot!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Thud by Terry Pratchett.  Re-read.  I had forgotten just how brilliant this one is.

In Progress:

Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Continuing in China.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.  Recommended by a Friday Fragments reader!  Just started.

Also:

Before bed, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite manga because Jim is finally reading it, and this refreshes my memory so I can discuss it with him.

Why I Wrote a Firekeeper Short Story

March 20, 2019

Rosemary Thriving And In Bloom

I really wanted to call this Wandering” When A Weed Can Be A Flower,” but I figured most of you wouldn’t read beyond the title, because you’d think I was talking about gardening esoterica.  Oddly enough, I am, but I’m also talking about writing.

As many of you know,  I’m currently immersed in writing a new Firekeeper novel.  If you don’t, you can get more details here.  Without spoilers, I can’t really go into details, so suffice to say that I reached a place where I realized that a certain plot point actually contained its own story.  However, inserting that story in the novel would make the novel drag.

This didn’t mean that this was a bad story.  It just didn’t belong in the novel.  Since I needed to work out the details anyhow, I decided to do so by writing a short story.

So, what the heck does this have to do with weeds and flowers?  Well, as the gardeners among us already know, sometimes the only difference between a weed and a flower is where it is growing.   In Jim’s and my yard, we let certain wild plants, such as globe mallow, grow to fill in the less rigorously cultivated parts of our yard.  There are lots of benefits to this.  The mallow thrives without needing any watering.  Even better, the pretty little salmon-colored flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

Nonetheless, there are parts of the yard where the mallow is unwelcome.   Just the other day, I rooted out some mallow that was choking a couple of the rosemary plants we have growing along our east wall.  In this case, the mallow was definitely classified as a weed.

Even domestic plants can become weeds if they grow in the wrong place.  We’re very fond of a perennial called chocolate flower.  It uses little water, has lots of yellow flowers, and smells of bittersweet chocolate.  The finches and sparrows like to eat the seeds, which means they spread them around our yard.  This year, we’ll be uprooting some volunteer chocolate flower plants to transplant them elsewhere in the yard.

That’s what I did with the material that became the Firekeeper short story.  Rather than slowing a fast-moving novel with an eight thousand word flashback, I transplanted it into its own story.  “A Question of Truth” has its own plot, conflict, and characters, all of which are shown off to much better effect by not being buried within the novel.

I’ll let you know when the story is available.  It will provide you with a chance to see some of what Firekeeper and Blind Seer have been up to since they ran off into the sunset at the end of Wolf’s Blood.

Escaping the Girl Box

February 13, 2019

Climbing Out Into a Bigger World

Reading autobiography – especially of a contemporary figure – is an invitation to introspection.  As I’ve been listening to the audiobook of John Cleese reading his own So Anyway… I found myself wondering if I could remember my early teachers as clearly as he seemed to do.  After musing more, I realized that grades one through four all contained – if I had only known it at the time – major events that would shape who I am today.

Before I get into that, though, I want to thank all of you who backed DreamForge Magazine during its Kickstarter or who have signed up for a subscription.  DreamForge not only hit its goal, it hit all of its stretch goals, promising a lot of exciting reading.  Issue One makes its formal debut tomorrow – Valentine’s Day.

First grade took me to Holy Trinity Elementary school in Washington, D.C.  I was vaguely familiar with the place because my family attended church next door.  My teacher was Sister Stephanie, a sweet, gentle, but firm older woman who belonged to the Sisters of Saint Joseph.

Sister Stephanie did a lot for me.  She was the person who taught me to read, for one.  She provided a safe, organized environment for my first big venture away from home.  However, her biggest impact on my life had to do with not shoving me into a “Girl Box.”

This was about 1968.  Despite some long-haired students at nearby Georgetown University and other signs of the burgeoning counter culture, my environment was culturally conservative, although intellectually liberal.  Dresses and playsuits for little girls.  Gloves for formal occasions.  At age six, I was already what was then called a “tomboy.”  (Does that term get used anymore?)  I loved running around with the boys, chasing balls, playing tag.  I was terrible at girl games like jump rope.  (A year later, I would get my first pair of glasses, so there was probably a reason I was so inept.)

One day, for some mysterious reason, Sister Stephanie gave each child a little gift.  The boys received small cars or trucks.  The girls little baby dolls.  As she walked up and down the rows, handing out these surprises, my heart sank.  Baby dolls bored me to tears.  They didn’t do anything.  Toy cars, however, these rolled.  They seemed somehow alive, to invite adventure and excitement.

Hesitantly, I asked if I might have a car rather than a doll.  Sister Stephanie was clearly surprised but to my eternal – and I mean this – gratitude, she switched the baby doll she was about to hand me for a little truck.  It was brick red, about the size of a matchbox car, although far less elaborate.  Indeed, it was hardly more than a cast metal shape with wheels.  My vehicle was some sort of truck – but the details weren’t good enough to tell what type.

That didn’t matter.  I loved it.  I had it for years until it merged into my younger brother’s big box of such vehicles and was lost to me.  But that didn’t matter.  I’d been permitted a window outside of a world of babies and dress up as the only options for pretend.

Had Sister Stephanie been a different sort of person, I would have been gently ridiculed, told girls didn’t play with that sort of thing.  But instead of shutting the door, she opened it.  I ran through, out into a world that would never ever be able to convince me that there were “girl games” and “boy games,” no matter how hard it tried to do so in the years to come.

Thank you, Sister Stephanie…

FF: Not Before Bedtime

January 25, 2019

Persephone Thinks She Looks Like a Pink Lynx

I’ve found that whatever I read before bed really colors my dreams, so I need to choose carefully, especially when I’m feeling stressed.  Like now.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.  Reread.  A historical novel with a tween character who learns about evolution and the value of knitting.

In Progress:

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.  Just started.

Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.  Audio.  We’re up to Persia.

Also:

Continuing the short fiction reading, including some of the pieces in Sword and Sorceress 33.  However, as a SFWA member, I’m also doing “homework” from various sources.  Sometimes I’m thrilled.

Planning vs Dreading

January 2, 2019

What Creature Do YOU See?  (My Answer At The End)

As everyone knows, the big question at the heart of Science Fiction – and even most Fantasy – is “What if?”

Humans are certainly not the only creatures who plan.  Many animals store food for the winter. Many animals build nests and dens not only as residences, but also as protection from both predators and the elements.  Many types of animals live in small groups during the “fat” times of the year, then band together for mutual support during the harsher seasons.

In contrast, I’m tempted to say that humans are the only creatures that dread.  Then I remember how often I’ve seen domestic animals hide or cringe when they know they’ve broken rules and are dreading the repercussions. Let’s take this one step further.  Would so many dogs fear the sound of thunder if they couldn’t dread in the abstract?

Humans do seem to cross the line from practical planning into crazed dreading more easily than do other animals.  Where I live, the weather reports over the last week or so have provided an excellent example of this.  Meteorologists have luxuriated in predicting snowfall of record levels.  In most cases, this dreaded event has not occurred.  Anyhow, even if we did get a foot of snow, is there a need to keep harping on it?  Once you’ve laid in supplies, made alternate arrangements for social events or jobs, what difference is there in how much snow actually falls?  What will be will be.

As we begin the New Year, I find myself trying hard to balance planning and dreading.  Jim and I are going into 2019 with a host of unpredictable elements regarding ill or elderly family members.  Although the most difficult part of Jim’s recovery from his knee replacement surgery is completed, we’ve been told that he will need to work on rebuilding strength and flexibility for the next nine or ten months.  He also will be facing the challenge of how to arrange his new post-retirement life.  For someone who has been working one job or another since he was in his late teens, this is not a minor challenge.

Me?  Well, I have a host of writing projects to balance against each other, to the point that my planning is verging on dreading.  Every day I don’t move forward feels like moving backwards.  My “What If?” brain is surging full speed ahead, and not always in a very helpful fashion.

At times like this, I realize just how close are planning and dreading.  While I don’t want to do without the former, I realize the latter can be paralyzing.  Why do anything when you’re going to fail?

So, as the snow drifts down, as the cold causes the water in our pond to creep up the fountainhead, as I wonder just what unexpected complications the New Year will bring, I also try to remind myself that I’ve planned as far as I can.  Now is the time to stop asking, “What if?” and focus on “What next?”

I think that “next” just might be trying to write down some of the material I’ve been tossing around in my brain whenever there’s been time to think during this busy holiday season.

But I’ll also take the time to notice that the ice around the fountainhead has formed into the shape of a turtle.  And I’ll remember to smile.

FF: Under the Tree

December 28, 2018

Ziggy Is VERY Impressed

Santa, well, actually, my husband, Jim, gave me a phenomenal present for Christmas: audiobook versions of the first five volumes of Will (and later Will and Ariel) Durant’s ambitious historical synthesis: The Story of Civilization.  In the past, I’ve read some of the volumes, and I own the entire set in print.  This last can be very useful when the audio makes a reference to an illustration.  I’m incredibly excited!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.

In Progress:

The Grey King by Susan Cooper.

Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.  Audio.  I’ll be listening to this for a while…

Also:

The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook. I had to give up on this one.  Too pedantic.  It’s possible that some of this may have been due to the reader’s style, so I may eventually check out in print.

Post-Christmas Post

December 26, 2018

Ogapoge Claims Some Presents

So Christmas is over, except it really isn’t.  My mom’s still visiting.  We’re going to be making sausage today or maybe cannoli.  Or maybe both.  A lot depends on the weather and whether we’ll have guests dropping by.

Did you know that today is Boxing Day?  Do you know what that means?  I didn’t until my dear friend and sometime Thursday Tangent collaborator filled me in. For your amusement, I’ll include a link to our chat so you can astonish your friends and neighbors with your wealth of wisdom.

I hope that whatever your winter celebration may be, you have or have had a lovely one!

Kel Under the Tree

Floodtide of Ideas

December 12, 2018

The Soda Dam: Jemez River, New Mexico

Just a couple of weeks ago, limbering up my imagination so I could write even a few sentences was a time-consuming and not very rewarding task.  Last week was the first since Jim’s knee replacement surgery (which was on Halloween, for those of you who haven’t been around) that I managed to write every day.  As I’ve mentioned, the problem wasn’t so much lack of time as that my imagination was busy with other things.

One of the exercises I assist Jim with involves stretching out his quads.  A side benefit is that it helps keep scar tissue from constricting the knee.  We do this exercise at least five times a day, and the benefits – while not dramatic – have been visible.

Apparently, pushing myself to write at least some Monday through Friday of last week stretched out my healing imagination.   Where early in the week I had to push to write even a few pages – Tuesday was particularly tough – by Friday even a late start didn’t keep me from completing four pages.  Even better, while I didn’t write over the weekend, all sorts of little connections began to fall into place.

As I turned on my computer on Sunday to take just a few notes, I felt very cheerful.  I’ve always been a character-driven writer.  Now my character were expressing their opinions as to what they wanted to do next – as well as revealing certain things they had been hiding from the other characters.   (And from me!)

There’s just one problem about this new flood of creativity. It’s not restricting itself to the novel.  Instead, it’s popping out in some very unusual areas.  The last session of the RPG I’ve been running triggered some interesting thoughts that I really should write down.  Then there’s a niggling feeling that I’d really enjoy writing a short story or two.

Professional writers often have people come up to them with the following suggestion: “Hey!  I have a great idea for a story.  Here’s what I think we should do.  I’ll tell you my idea.  You write it.  Then we’ll split the money.”  Writers tend to think this suggestion is very funny since lack of ideas is very rarely the problem: the problem is lack of time.

So, what does one do when this embarrassment of creative riches occurs?

In my case, I try to prioritize.  Working on the Firekeeper novel is my current “homework assignment,” so I try to write on that every day.  This helps keep me from losing touch not only with the flow of the story, but with my enthusiasm for it.  Then I consider the other ideas that are clamoring for attention.

Game notes?  Those don’t need to be in my best prose, so I can knock those off pretty quickly.   An added benefit is that when I have enough game notes, I can pretty much ignore game prep as a writing project for a while, at least until my players do something I didn’t anticipate and I need to consider the ramifications.

Short stories?  This depends on how much the idea is obsessing me.  Sometimes I’ll start a short story so I don’t lose touch with it.  If it “catches fire,” then I try and write it side by side with my novel.  Sometimes, I even put the novel on side for a day or so to finish the short story.  This is not as detrimental to the novel as it might seem.  If part of my subconscious is occupied with a competing story, the novel will inevitably begin to slow down.  Getting the other story out of the way re-opens the floodgates.

However, if the short story doesn’t catch fire, then I keep the part I’ve written, but I put it on side until I have more time to think about it.  Maybe what I have is the seed of a story idea, not a full-blown story.  The time I spend “planting” the seed isn’t usually wasted.  At the very least, there isn’t a little voice in my head saying “Don’t forget that cool idea!  Don’t forget that cool idea!”

Sometimes I just scribble a note to myself on a scrap of paper and toss it into a box on my desk.  It’s full of similar scraps, and when time permits I pull them out and review them.

It feels good to have the ideas flooding through my head.  I have about twenty minutes before I’m needed anywhere.  I think I’ll use them writing out some of those game notes, so I can write more of my novel this afternoon.

FF: Emotional Commitment

December 7, 2018

Variety Rules!

My reading this week has been intruded upon by my spending more time writing, but audiobooks are coming to the rescue.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Set in ancient Egypt with lots of period material.  Very enjoyable, although the POV character might strike some as too vague and dreamy.

In Progress:

Always Look On the Bright Side by Eric Idle.  Audiobook.  Read by the author.  Alternately funny and thoughtful, brilliantly presented.  I’m enjoying.  This one was recommended by my friend, Alan Robson, in his book review column.

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold.  Not really a re-read.  I haven’t read this since it was in proofs, which is a very different experience indeed.

Also:

Although I’ve found short fiction tough to read unless in one sitting, I find magazine articles easy to read when exhausted before bed, so I’m plowing through the accumulated issues.

I wonder if it’s the fact that short non-fiction of this sort lacks the need for an emotional commitment on the part of the reader?