FF: Sidetracked!

August 7, 2020

DreamForge Among the Identified Mystery Plant

While looking for a completely different gardening book, this week I got sidetracked.  But, happily, most of the time my reading isn’t homework, so I can switch as I wish.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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:

Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville.  First book in the four volume Unicorn Chronicles. Audiobook.  I enjoyed enough that I’m now on to Book Two.

A Place at Mother Earth’s Table: Edible Wild Plants of the Rio Grande Region by Lisa W. Huckell. This slim book—probably technically a booklet—was so well written that I read all of it and in the process identified one of the plants in our yard as “Green Thread” aka “Indian Tea” or “Navajo Tea.”  We’d just been calling it “that pretty plant w/the yellow pom-poms.”  I now have some drying to try.  And the bibliography led me to read…

In Progress:

Wild Plants of the Pueblo Province: Exploring Ancient and Enduring Uses by William W. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney.  Centered around four parks in New Mexico, this books looks at various plants and how they were used by a wide variety of indigenous peoples.  Since one of the parks—Petroglyph National Monument—is very close to my house, I also ended up identifying several more of the plants in our yard, including scorpion weed, which is a far easier name to use than “that annoying plant that, although it has pretty purple flowers in the spring, gets all prickly and, worse, sticky, so let’s pull it.”  I started with the chapter on types of plants, but found the book so well-written, I’m reading the whole thing.

Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville.  Second book in the Unicorn Chronicles. Audiobook.  So far, I’m enjoying.

DreamForge Magazine, issue six.  My copy arrived and is part of my relaxation reading.

Also:

I’ve finished my read-through of SK4, and am now doing lots of line edits.  I hope to finish and give Jim his copy later today.

Little Sparkles

August 5, 2020

Kumihimo bracelets, lanyards, and key-chains

A lot going on here…  I’m now immersed in getting a copy of SK4 (the yet untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom series I’m writing in collaboration with David Weber) into Jim’s hands.  My website is undergoing some revision, so it’s going to look a bit weird for a few weeks.  Also, I appreciate how many of you have signed up for my mailing list.  I will be doing a drawing for a giveaway before the end of summer (I hope), and mailing list people will get their own special “thank you” at that time.

Lately, when I’m not being a writer, a small business owner, or cat wrangler, I’m definitely spending a lot of time on my garden.  Monday night, it got bombarded by hail, but most of the plants have survived.  Yay!

Another favorite hobby activity is beadwork.  A couple of years ago, courtesy of a birthday gift from my sister, Ann, I became devoted (Jim would probably say “addicted”) to doing kumihimo with beads.  I mentioned my new interest at the time, but I thought I’d share where that has taken me nearly two years later.

The photo shows a limited assortment of the pieces I’ve created: limited, because I’ve given quite a few bracelets and several keychains as gifts.  Recently, I graduated to making longer pieces.  Ironically, I’d intended to use these as badge lanyards for future conventions but, now that everything has gone virtual, I guess I’m making them so I’ll be ready when there are conventions again!

I will admit, as much as I enjoy the bracelets, there’s something very satisfying about making a thirty inch or so rope.  These involve approximately 1,800 beads per finished piece, each of which is braided in individually.

Unlike my writing, which takes many months before anyone other than me gets to see the finished project, or a gardening project, which also takes a long time to develop, kumihimo gives me something to look at and enjoy within a few hours (although the complete project takes longer, depending on length and complexity).

There’s probably something profound there about creative contrasts, but I haven’t figured it out.  What I do know is that I really enjoy my little sparkles!

Tuesday “Tah-Dah”!

August 4, 2020

Roary: Officially Ours

We have been informed that Roary the kitten, who came to us as a seven week-old medical foster from the City of Albuquerque’s shelter, is now officially ours!

He’s about 19 weeks old now.  When he came to live with us, he was recovering from a gloved left hind leg.  When the time came for him to be neutered, he turned out to have a cryptic testicle.  This meant that what should have been a very routine surgery turned out to be a bit more complex and include ten days of isolation post-surgery.  If you’ve ever tried to keep a four month old kitten from jumping, leaping, and racing…

Let’s just say, we did our best.  And our best seems to have been enough.

Welcome, Roary!

FF: What Is Old Is New Again

July 31, 2020

Mei-Ling Reads!

Mostly, actually, I’m reading , proofing, and line editing SK4 (the yet-untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom series I’m writing with David Weber).  However, for a few moments here and there, I’m taking time to read for fun.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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:

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson.  Sequel to Skyward.  Space opera that isn’t military SF, even though military action is an element.  Very character driven.  I quite enjoyed, despite one technological element I couldn’t quite buy into…  Thanks again to the FF reader who recommended this series.

In Progress:

Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville.  First book in the four volume Unicorn Chronicles. Audiobook.  I read this series years ago, and all I remember is that they were good.  Let’s see how they hold up to a second pass!

Maddigan’s Fantasia by Margaret Mahy.  Re-read also.  After enjoying The Magician of Hoad, I had a great desire to re-read this.

Also:

Oddly enough, the most recent issue of Vogue had some of the most thoughtful essays I’ve read so far about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on lifestyles and attitudes.

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  I got through the post-Crusades, but I needed a break from accounts of nations founded on hope and idealism that crashed after about 200 years.

Don’t Be Discouraged

July 29, 2020

Roary Naps Next to Part of the Manuscript of SK4

Last week, after I wandered on about adapting my garden to the heat, I received a very humorous e-mail from a local friend who, like many people this year, decided to dive into gardening for the first time.

For weeks she had posted about buying “grow kits,” germinating seeds, sprouting plants, cutting herbs.  Then she started posting about how things were going wrong.  She’d misread the instructions as to how much room her plants would need.  The heat hit.  Everything wilted, and most of what she planted died.

She called herself a failure.  I call her a success.  Why?  Because she learned a whole bunch of things that, if she decides to try gardening again next year, will serve her well.

Learning to accept that failure is a form of success, if you choose to learn from it, applies to writing—or to any creative endeavor.  Success isn’t something that should be measured in word count or finished projects or sales or sales figures or awards.

If you measure success that way, the one thing you’re always going to be is a failure.  Why?  Because there’s always a higher bar to jump.  One day you’re going to find the bar you can’t jump—or maybe you will jump it, but only after a lot of falls.

As with gardening, success in a creative endeavor should be measured by what you learned and whether you want to try again.  Even deciding you don’t want to try again doesn’t make you a failure.  You’ve learned something about yourself, where you want to put your energies, and what excites you enough to be willing to fail again.

This week I’m immersed in proofing the rough draft of SK4, the still-untitled new Star Kingdom novel I’m writing in collaboration with David Weber.  Some people would see the many, many little red marks scattered on every single page as marks of failure, because these are all things I didn’t get right the first time.

I see them as marks of success, because they show how much I’ve learned over the years about all the aspects of telling a story, as well as that I love telling stories enough to keep learning about my chosen craft.

FF: Ebbing

July 24, 2020

Persephone Recommends

As Jim gets better, Roary the kitten recovers from a complex neuter, and elderly Kwahe’e holds his ground, I feel my stress levels ebbing.  And, as a bonus, we had rain!

One of the books on this week’s list is an indirect recommendation from an FF reader, who recommended Skyward.  I never would have tried it without her, so thank you!

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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 Estate of the Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham.  A jump to a later part of the series.  I love her quirky characters.

In Progress:

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson.  Sequel to Skyward.  Space opera that isn’t military SF, even though military action is an element.  Very character driven.

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  The Crusades.  Pure depression.

Also:

I’m also spending a lot of time doing my first pass read-through of SK4.  So far, I’m enjoying!  This is not a lack of modesty on my part.  If I can’t enjoy what I wrote, how can I expect anyone else to do so?

Adapting To the Heat

July 22, 2020

The Garden’s Bounty

This year we lucked into ping tura eggplant, originally from Taiwan, that handles heat and arid conditions far better than the usual.  The plants weren’t cheap, but their productivity is high, and the flavor is good, without the bitterness often associated with eggplant.  In fact, they’re quite sweet.  While the “Black Beauty” types we bought when we couldn’t find our usual ichiban have produced two fruit among three plants, the ping tura are so prolific that I picked three fruit off of just one plant.

 One thing we’ve been exploring as our summer temperatures have mounted over the last decade (our summer high so far is 113 F) is finding plants that will not only tolerate the heat but will thrive in it.

One of our first discoveries was the liana bean (sometimes called yard-long or asparagus bean).  They’re a climbing type, fast growing, and provide the bonus of a very pretty large lavender flower.  Two years ago, we found a variety called “red noodle” that is also very colorful.  Lianas are the only climbing bean we now plant.  We also plant some bush beans.  For the eat-fresh variety, we have come to like Contenders or, when we can find the seeds, Matador, both of which handle heat fairly well.  (Although not as well as the lianas.)

A couple of years ago, I was researching desert ecosystems for the roleplaying game I was running.  (I write the adventures just like I do stories, complete with research; this one was called “The Desert of Nightmares.”)  In a book  published by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, I came across a reference to tepary beans.  I was intrigued, because they apparently love high heat, and low water.  There was one section of our garden bed where anything planted there died, probably due to reflected heat and lack of shade.  Why not give these a try?

After some experimentation, I’ve settled on “blue speckled” as my favorites.  If you look in the second photo, the tepary beans are planted in the middle row (tomatoes to the left, lianas going up the net to the right).  Impressive, yes?  Even more impressive is that they haven’t been directly watered for a month…  All the water they’ve had is from a few tiny sprinkles.

Tepary beans aren’t meant to be eaten fresh, but they dry well and triple in volume after being soaked and cooked.  Since we regularly make both bean soup and humus, they will get used.  Added bonus: nitrogen fixing in the soil.  Added bonus: all that foliage shades our very sandy, heat-retaining soil, making for a cooler environment for the tomatoes.

Next on my list…  I’d like a more heat-resistant tomato, preferably one resistant to curly-top virus, which is common here, but not in enough other places for breeders to routinely breed resistant varieties.  Bonus would be a type similar to a roma that can be cooked as well as enjoyed fresh.

I’m also thinking about looking into some different squash, especially summer squash types, since even hardy green zucchini is feeling the heat.

But for this year, ping tura eggplant is my hero!  I must remember to reward it with a good dose of compost tea!

Teparies Down the Middle

FF: More Mellow?

July 17, 2020

Dandy and Coco Contemplate Eating a Good Book

Update from Wednesday.  Jim is slowly getting his stamina back, but there’s still a lot of resting going on.  I completely approve, especially since his resting meant he finished a novel that I’ll be reading after I finish my current read!

New med is helping sick elder cat, so while the start of the week was stressful, I’m beginning to feel more less stressed.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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.

I’m always interested in hearing what you’re reading, too!

Recently Completed:

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham.  Back to classic British mystery.   Enjoyed.

In Progress:

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  Looking at how secular and sacred entered into uneasy alliances in the political arena.

The Estate of the Beckoning Lady by Margery Allingham.  A jump to a later part of the series.  I love her quirky characters.

Also:

Dipping into July magazine arrivals.

Life’s Been… And a New Story, Too!

July 15, 2020

Persphone: One of Jim’s Caregivers

Since the beginning of July, my ultra-quiet, writing-focused life has had more than a few disruptions.

I’ll spare you the ups and downs of sick pets, temperatures of over 105 that started cooking the garden, and the advent of squash bugs.  Instead, I’ll focus in on the event that was the straw that nearly broke this camel’s back.

On Monday, July 6, Jim went into the hospital to be treated for a severe urinary tract infection complicated by extremely low sodium.

It’s never great to have one’s partner in the hospital but, because of restrictions due to Covid-19, I couldn’t go into the Urgent Care clinic with him.  I’d taken him the previous Sunday, when he started feeling unwell, and since he was running a fever, even he couldn’t go in.  On Monday, when he went back, he wasn’t running a fever…  Then.

(Yes, he’s been tested for Covid-19, and came up negative.  That pretty much means that, as of that testing, I was negative, too.)

We didn’t learn until Tuesday that I could visit him at the hospital.  Visitors were restricted to one per day.  Not one at a time.  One per day.  New Mexico has been very careful, and I am grateful for this.

Anyhow, Jim came home on Wednesday, mid-afternoon.  He’s not well, but he’s getting better.  However, for now, I’m without someone to run the errands at a time where there are more errands to be run.  This has a ripple effect down the line, up to and including hitting my immersing myself into polishing the manuscript of SK4, the yet-untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom series I’m writing with David Weber.  Not only do I have less time, I’m really, really wrung out.

The situation would be worse, but I had fantastic support from various friends who helped with getting Roary the kitten to the vet for his booster shots, picking up groceries, delivering packages to the post office, and suchlike.

On a more cheerful note, I have a new short story out!  “The Problem with Magic Rings” appears in DreamForge, issue 6.  It features the same characters as in  “A Familiar’s Predicament,” which was featured in the anthology Sword and Sorceress 33 back in 2018.

Although the illustration makes “The Problem With Magic Rings” look like a kid’s story, it has more in common with adventure tales and sword and sorcery, such as Fritz Leiber’s stories about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, where a sprinkling of the outrageous enlivens clashing swords and creative spells.  The narrator is a very tiny dragon…

You can learn more about subscribing to DreamForge here.  They’ve just revised the website, so you can see what else is featured in issue six, as well as in prior issues.

Enjoy!

Our Bold Band

FF: Up In The Air

July 10, 2020

Roary Curls Up With A Good Book

It’s been a heck of a week, with very little time for reading, but happily a new-to-me book arrived just in time.  For those of you who’ve expressed concern, thank you.  I’ll see what’s up next week and maybe report on the WW, but too much is up in the air.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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 Magician of Hoad by Margaret Mahy.  A thoughtful fantasy that takes the main characters over many years, from childhood into full adulthood.  Some might find parts “slow,” but I enjoyed very, very much.  I’m glad we bought this one based on liking the author’s work in the past, because I know I will re-read.

In Progress:

The Age of Faith by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  In the Dark Ages.

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham.  Back to classic British mystery.

Also:

Stopped on the short fiction read.  Maybe I just picked the wrong stories, but nothing really grabbed me.