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Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

Listing my life again

What have I been doing? Writing, mostly. Now that the butterfly season & convention season are over, I’m back on a regular schedule. I’m chewing through my latest project faster than I expected ( I’m still gonna miss my self-imposed deadline, tho. Oh, well.)

And I do take time off to do Other Things. Here be the most recent Doings:

BOOKS.

Long list this time around. For some reason I read faster when I’m writing more. Restricted access to social media also helps.

  • Stars Are Legion, Kameron Hurley Space Opera. Organic ships & kickass protagonist.
  • Rights Of Use, Shannon Eichorn Space Opera. Aliens. Awesomeness.
  • Freelance Familiars, Daniel Potter Fantasy. Sorta portal, urban-feeling, all fun. CATS.
  • Eden’s Outcast, Kuta Marler. Urban Fantasy. Fun world & fabulous characters.
  • Fated Sky, Mary Robinette Kowal. Science-fiction. Full of humanity. MADE ME CRY.
  • Poppy War,  R. F Kuang Fantasy. Epic world-building, phenomenal mythology.
  • Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik  Fantasy with fairy tale roots. Deep & delicious.
  • Fluency,  Jennifer Foehner Wells Space Opera. Linguistics. <swoon!>
  • Sere From the Green, Lauren Jankowski: Urban fantasy. Werewolves. Wonderful richness.

I enjoyed every last one of these books immensely,  in totally different ways, and I am working through reviewing them on Amazon & Goodreads. (Amazon gets squirrely and starts refusing to post reviews when I do more than 3 at a time. I should have the last few done later this week.)

VIEWING ETC

I’ve re-watched a buncha movies: Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War I, Lilo&Stitch, Spiderman: Homecoming, Moana… I think I’m in the mood for brain fluff.

That’s about it. I haven’t been watching much TV. Most of the series I’ve been following are between seasons, jumped a whole school of sharks, or have been cancelled. (Law & Order reruns do not count. They’re background noise to fall asleep watching.)

I’ll be asking for viewing recommendations in a month or so. Hibernation season is coming.

There’s new music in my life for the first time in forever. I have a new writing-time soundtrack: Hamilton. I didn’t expect to like it. I am not a big Broadway fan because the voices & songs all sound alike to me. This one? THIS ONE IS DIFFERENT. And excellent. And fabulous.

Kitchen & Garden

September is my favorite month in the garden. I have tomatoes in the freezer to turn into sauce soon, and lots of super-hot little peppers. As soon as we get a cool, damp day, I’ll start transplanting the super-tall mystery plants (some kind of prairie sunflower)  into the back of the garden and hack off the seed pods of my ever-enthusiastic senna plants.

Baking season is nearly upon us.  I am stocking up on essentials as they go on sale. The big excitement is that I get to indulge in guilt-free baking all through October. My department will be sharing space with two others next month while renovations happen, so I will have three times the usual audience. (The guilt comes from being I’m told over and over, “I shouldn’t be eating these,” / “Oh, no, I’m going to gain so much weight,” / “Oh. You baked again?” Yeah.)

So, anyway, new people to feed, yay!

And autumn is also apple season. Spouseman & I are car-pooling with some friends to take our first orchard trek of the year tomorrow. Cheese, fruit & goodies, here we come.

Yes, the pictures I tack onto my posts are sometimes reruns and mostly random. I love grouchy cats, I will not lie.

 

Categories
3. Other Things Book reviews Media Consumption

What I did while I wasn’t gone

I took myself on a writing retreat last weekend. It was mostly a mental trick to take advantage of physical preparations for travel to a convention I ended up not attending.

Since I had planned and prepped be away from home for a four-day weekend, I figured that meant wasn’t responsible for anything at home those fourdays. I could ignore my whole Regular Life guilt-free and wander off to my computer any time the urge hit.

I finished a short story I’ve been tinkering with for over two years and published it for my email list subscribers (I also set up that process from scratch, a post in its own right.)

I also made headway on a second short story and wrote about 5000 words in Ghost Town, my current novel in progress. I write slower than a Galapagos turtle walks, which is why I rarely post word counts (and loathe them as motivational tool)  For reference, that’s about a usual month’s worth of writing. In 4 days. Yeah. So mental writing retreat as a working trick…definitely helped. I plan to do it again. Sometime.

But writing isn’t all I did. This is a media consumption post too, so here’s what I took in.

Throne of Glass series. Sarah A Maas. Finished all the books currently published (yay!) now have to wait until at least October to read the one that’ll wrap up the current series. (BOO!)  There’s a lot I could say about her books, but I said most of it in a previous post. One thing to add: the things that bugged me in A Court of Thorns & Roses series are less overt in this one. No idea which came first, don’t care, just liking them more.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach. Kelly Robson. SWOON. So good. Go read it now. It’s a short book, (novella) but it will stick with you in the best of ways. I inhaled it over two meal breaks and a walk.

Yes, I read on walks. I was tripping off curbs and veering towards lamp posts long before it was trendy with Pokemon Go. Don’t worry, I’ve never run into anything, and I always pause at roadways to watch for traffic. But I digress. As usual.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach reminds me of Connie Willis & Kate Wilhelm ( two of my SFF favorites) at their very best. Not because it had time travel, although it does, nor because of the science, which it is ALL ABOUT,  but because of the way both those elements were presented: brilliantly, elegantly, and enjoyably.

Time travel was an essential element but not a pitfall of paradox or an excuse to wander into theoretical physics for far longer than the narrative could bear (Woo!) Science was at the center of the plot without ever stampeding over the characters or dragging the story into a slough of exposition, (WOO!!!) Plot & characters were also amazing.

Basically, if you want fresh, new classic-style SFF relevant to and written for today’s world, this is it.

A Divided Peace. Tanya Huff. Happy sigh. Always a joy to read her words.  Aaaaand now I have to go back and re-read all the Confederation novels. If I could write military science fiction a tenth as well as she does, I would do a whole novel about Mercury Battalion. But I don’t have the chops for making the Corps a realistic centerpiece. Maybe if someone with experience wanted to co-author…yeah, I would totally be up for that that.

ANYWAY. Onward.

In the viewing circle, I watched a fun season of superhero television show, Black Lightning, and a serious movie about a real world hero. Marshall. (it’s a biopic-style movie  about one of Thurgood Marshall’s early cases.)  

I enjoyed the drama of the movie, but it seemed bizarre to me that the titular character, an AMAZING human being who was part of so much civil rights history–who MADE so much history, was not even the narrative center of his own movie. (A white guy was.)  I am not surprised that was the angle Hollywood took, just angry and aggravated. They could have done so much better.

But I’m loving Black Lightning, so I’m batting over .500 in viewing satisfaction.

Still haven’t seen Deadpool 2 or Ocean’s 8, but they’re on my list. And Jurassic Park Episode whatEVER is next up in Major Hollywood Kaboom Movies.

So until then, it’s back to writing-writing-writing.

 

Categories
3. Other Things Authoring

Writing & Gardening. It must be summer.

It’s that weeding time of year again. Questions about homemade remedies have come up on several of my social media outlets and in comments on my posts. Sounds like blog fodder to me. So.

Here’s my experience–with the caveat that this is not intended as The One True Way advice, just what’s worked for me. There are plenty of blogs that analyze organic/home herbicides in detail. (Spoiler alert: most gardening blogs point out that homemade remedies are NOT as effective as glyphosate or horticultural herbicides. Which is nothing but the truth.)

I use them anyway. My yard is small (roughly 50×100 ft) and I don’t like t use persistent chemicals where I can avoid them because (1) I often change my mind about what I want to plant where, and (2) I forget what I’ve sprayed.

For a mostly-effective easy *temporary* herbicide, I use straight vinegar + a tiny squeeze of dish soap to help the acid penetrate waxy leaf surfaces. No measuring, no cooking, just pour, shake & go. Last year I invested in a commercial product I call “vinegar on steroids” It is even more effective but it is mega-expensive & I wear my glasses + protective clothes (aka old jeans & shoes)  when I spray it because it is *very* acidic.

Pouring boiling water over plants is another simple quick kill. I see it recommended especially for patios and walkways.  I also see a lot of recipes with salt added. Here’s the thing: salt adds nothing to the effectiveness in small quantities, and in larger ones it’s a VERY bad idea on soil, concrete or brick. NaCl builds up to toxic levels shockingly fast, and unlike vinegar, it persists. High risk of permanent damage.  Victorious armies did not salt the earth of their enemies as a favor.

Also, long-term, bricks & concrete don’t appreciate the temperature stress of being boiled. ALSO-also, you have to carry around boiling water. I’m as likely to boil myself as anything else. Noooooo, thanks.

So I spray between my patio bricks with vinegar instead. It does bleach unsealed brick. I have old bricks. I do not care.

Want to be a home recipe multi-tasker? Adding 1-2 c. epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) to each gallon of vinegar makes the spray a mild fertilizer, and 1/4 c soap (which is a LOT) makes the spray lethal to any soft insects in the area too.

I do recommend whatever you spray, invest in a cheap 1 or 2 gal sprayer and use it for nothing but Killer Chemicals.

DISCLAIMERS: None of these will kill deep-rooted or established runner-rooted weeds with only one application. Not even the commercial acids are as effective as glyphosate etc. The sunnier the day and the warmer it is, however, the more effective the spray.

Have a look at the results.

And that’s that.  😀

Categories
Authoring Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

The Latest Doings & Goings-on

Reading:

Court of___________ series. Sarah J Maas. Three books & a novella with more on the way. I gobbled them all up like potato chips and have moved on to the author’s other series, the name of which I have misplaced.  Good, solid European/Celtic-based fantasy but with some quirks that may or may not rub a reader wrong.  (1) There’s a definite romance feel to the relationship developments and the physical descriptions, and although the books are published by YA Bloomsbury, um…there are full-on sex scenes too. Which I like but was not expecting. (2) The characters refer to people as males and females…that one starts to grate after a while. I know, the rationale is that there are Fae and fairies and arguments are made about man/woman only applying to humans, but…I respectfully disagree and dislike the reductiveness of it nonetheless. (3) There’s a subtext of “marriage & family is everything,” with romantic love complications being the only driving motivation for nearly every character’s development.

Me, I didn’t mind them, and the books are wildly popular, but…still. These are things I notice.

Viewing:

Avengers: Infinity War. (Sorta spoilers?) I enjoyed it right up to the end, which wasn’t an end OR a cliffhanger and has left me with…mixed feelings.  It’s worse than if I’d gotten to the last page of The Two Towers and was told I couldn’t read Return Of the King for a year, because reading even the most visual of books is not as visceral and immediate as viewing a movie. The choice of a total downer endpoint (and the painfully problematic nature of some choices leading to that point) pulled me out of the story, and that was disappointing. I wanted to be excited about anticipating the next part. Now I’m merely hoping it isn’t a huge letdown. Oh, well.

Winchester. A delicious old-fashioned haunted house story, complete with a cast of flawed protagonists, loads of  mysterious supporting characters, family failures and secrets, and tons of jump scares. The historical elements—including the magnificent sets & costumes—made for wonderful atmospherics. It’s beautifully produced, crisply modern, and yet it sets a retro 70’s horror movie ambiance in the best way.

Baking:

I have discovered that if I add an extra 1/2 c of greek yogurt and extra sugar to my cherry drop scone recipe, they taste a lot like cherry cheesecake. Next experiment: sub in some almond flour to see how it affects the texture.

And I’ve perfected the recipe I call “why buy teeny boxes of Boursin when I have goat cheese and yogurt plus herbs & spices from my kitchen & garden?”  It’s delicious on lots of things, and so easy I can make it in a bowl with a fork. Yum.

Yarding:

Spring has finally sprung. We’re still at half the average growing degree days for this point in the year, but with the summery days, we’re catching up fast.  I got the shrubs in need of shaping cut back just in time, before they leafed out practically overnight. And since Spouseman has enough energy back to join in the yard fun & games again this year (YAY!) the bindweed & dandelions in the beds are getting properly annihilated.

Most of the things I planted last year came back. I’ve added a few new perennials and moved around some that have been propagating.  On the annuals side, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are in, serendipity seeds have been scattered. Still to come: basil, more rosemary & lavender plants for pots and beds (maybe I can keep the pots alive this year…) and some geraniums for color.

And I need to buy more dirt. (Just writing those words makes me giggle—buy dirt?!—but it’s true. I harvest enough from the beds each year that I need to replace biomass. Because SCIENCE!)

And since you’ve made it this far, Writing:

My last post had the mopey details. The happy big thing is, I have met some fantastic folk at a sorta-local reading series. Gumbo Fiction Salon happens on second Thursdays at the Galway Arms in Chicago. There are a couple of featured readers every month and open mic. Genre-friendly to the max, but not restricted to science-fiction/fantasy, or even to prose. Supportive, audience of other writers 7 writing adjacent folk.  Good food, good company, good times. What’s not to love?

It’s only sorta-local because I’m near Chicago, not in Chicago. Near-ish. Like, it takes an hour to get there.) ANYway. It’s well worth the public transit adventure.

I’ll be there again tonight, reading from Rough Passages if I get a mic slot. I’ll definitely be reading in July, I’m a featured reader that month.

 

 

 

Categories
3. Other Things Whimsy

Because it’s pretty.

This year the sand plum, the flowering plum (unless it’s a cherry or some other  heirloom fruit tree, we and the arborists are still uncertain after 18 years) the forsythia, the hyacinths, and the scented daffodils, and most of the tulips decided to bloom within the same week. In a few more days we’ll have lily of the valley blooming too. If I don’t expire of hay fever from the pollen, I’ll be nose-drunk on all the perfumes.

If you squint at the garage in the pic with the orange tulips you can just see the edge of the porch where I often write during the summer.

Happy spring, all!


Not tired of my words yet? You could always buy something I’ve written. My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on my website.

Check out this page to judge all my books by their covers, click any cover for details and more links. Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works, so many choices!