Last month I spent a week in Barbados with some friends. It was a wonderful trip with good people. We did a lot of swimming and reading and some tourist things. I brought my colored pencils and watercolors expecting to not use them as much as I planned, but I did a fair amount of sketching.

I also took a few hundred photos, mostly of water and clouds, but I haven’t sorted through them all yet.

These two are going to turn into real paintings someday:



Both are views from the villa we stayed in. Every day, we woke up early to sunlight and birdsong and walked out the back door to go snorkeling. I could use another month or three of that.

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Gen Con Writing Panels

Two weeks ago I was in Indianapolis for Gen Con, my fifth time there. I found three games to buy, none of which are out yet. So that saved me some money.

The writer’s symposium was well attended and everything I was at went very well. For once I not only took notes at the panels but actually posted them. They’re on my writing group’s blog:

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Caterpillar Poker

Monarch caterpillar

The dill is winning right now, with a straight flush of all the black swallowtail instars on a single plant.

The milkweed is catching up, though. Yesterday I found its ace: a huge monarch caterpillar. And then today, a much smaller one. The milkweed is infested by a giant colony of aphids that I’ve been dabbing with rubbing alcohol, but seems to be thriving anyway.

In not-my-garden news, my neighbor cut down his giant honeysuckle bushes, which makes me happy since I’ve been going to the park work days once a month and cutting down honeysuckle. This variety is invasive, and the less of it in my neighborhood, the better.

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More stories inflicted on the world

Way back in January I sold two short stories! The first of them is out now: “Sticking Together” in Abyss & Apex. The story got a brief good review at SFRevu. I think that’s the first time one of my stories has been reviewed, so I’m glad they liked it.

The other story, “All That Matters,” will be in Schoolbooks & Sorcery, an anthology of YA urban fantasy stories involving magic. (School and magic: I’m looking forward to reading the other stories!) There’ll be a kickstarter for that coming soon.

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Note to self re: the contents of my garden

My plants are big enough to remind me what I planted where! Why no, I didn’t use markers or make notes. That takes the surprise out of it.

From west to east:
* Peas, plus a not-insignificant amount of volunteer lettuce, plus the one lettuce plant that inexplicably survived the winter and should be honored by never being eaten
* Chard (probably)
* A big hole courtesy of a squirrel, or possibly a Vroon
* The remnants of the radishes
* Spinach (probably)
* Lettuce (the actual lettuce patch, not the volunteers)
* Plus more peas and probably chard on the north side of the bed

Also including innumerable violets and tiny coneflowers.


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Read my story “Alpaca Tricks” in Fictionvale

My short story “Alpaca Tricks” is out in Fictionvale‘s December issue.

Kylie is determined to win an alpaca obstacle course competition when a strange, suspiciously well-trained alpaca arrives at the barn, with an owner hiding a secret that makes him just as determined as Kylie.

I’ve been intrigued by alpacas since I interviewed a family who owned some for an article back in journalism school, so I’m delighted to see this story out in the world.

You can buy the Fantasy/Mystery mashup issue directly from Fictionvale (you get a zip with Kindle, ePub, and PDF files), or from Amazon.

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BLTTs and Fall Fun

On the way home from work the other night, I was grumbling about having to make tofu for dinner. I keep looking for good tofu recipes, but we always end up falling back on stir fry. I didn’t want to do all that chopping only to end up with a meal that’s only ok.

Luckily, when I walked into the house the bowl of tomatoes caught my eye. I’d been meaning to have BLTs ever since the tomatoes started getting ripe. I ended up slicing the tofu into thin slabs and frying it in the bacon skillet once the bacon was done (best tofu ever). The bacon, lettuce, tomato, and tofu sandwiches turned out quite tasty.


I still plan my life in semesters. Here’s what I’ll be doing this fall:

• Writing, of course. I’m working on a short story to be finished this month, I plan to write a novella in November, and I have various things in various stages of revision to finish up and send out.

I also have a new story coming out in November: Fictionvale is publishing “Alpaca Tricks” in their mystery issue. This was a fun story to write. I watched a bunch of alpaca obstacle course competitions on YouTube.

• Tennis. I rejoined the singles league I was in a couple years ago. I’ve been playing doubles all summer, and the Thursday workout we go to is mostly doubles, so playing singles is tough. Tennis courts get really big when you have to run back and forth across them for over an hour.

• Painting. I signed up for an introductory acrylic painting class. Then it was canceled because no one but me registered. They moved me to the second session. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll either try to switch to a drawing class or find some tutorials online.

• A Coursera class called Designing Cities that covers the history of cities, current urban issues, and possible future cities. In addition to being interesting, it might be a good source of story ideas.

Some recent posts from my writing group’s blog:

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Places I Slept on My Vacation

1. The plane from Newark to Heathrow, for maybe two and a half hours. I tried to watch Divergent but gave up because the sound from my headphones wasn’t loud enough, and I’d already read the book. Since we’d already been traveling for 12 hours by the time our plane took off from Newark, it was time to sleep anyway.

2. The Peugeot my dad rented to drive from the airport to Somerset. We stopped at a random pub along the way for an excellent fish-and-chips lunch.

3. North Cadbury Court, our home for the weekend and the site of my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday bash.


Specifically, the Kinnordy bedroom


and the library.


I didn’t take many photos of the interior because they have a gallery on their website:

The owner gave us a tour one evening and told us the history of the house. His brother showed us how they make cheese and gave us some samples. The Dean & DeLuca store in DC and Zingerman’s online sell their Montgomery cheddar.

We also watched a movie version of Persuasion, parts of which were filmed there.

I spent a few hours over three days drawing the front view. I got impatient with all the windows.


I didn’t do much sketching on the trip–it would have taken too long.

There were some great views from the roof. Cadbury Castle (the site of Camelot, possibly) was less than two miles away to the southwest. We walked up the hill and had a good view of the house.


Cow Arthur defended the walls of Camelot.


Glastonbury Tor was farther away to the northwest, barely identifiable by St Michael’s Tower on top.


4. The buses to and from various places (put me in a moving vehicle and I fall asleep):

A. Glastonbury, where we walked up the Tor.


On the way up, we missed that this was the correct footpath to take, despite the very clear signage.

We also visited Glastonbury Abbey, where there was an annual Catholic pilgrimage. It was neat to see the destroyed building in use, though it made for a crowded visit.


B. Cheddar Gorge, where we saw some cool caves and climbed 274 steps up to a walk around the top of the gorge with some great views.


I bought a variety pack of real cheddar cheese, including one that was actually aged in a cave.

C. Bath, where Jeremy and I managed to squeeze the Roman Baths, a walk by the Circus and the Royal Crescent, the Jane Austen Centre, Victoria Art Gallery, and a peek into Bath Abbey into just over four hours. The baths were a great feat of engineering.


D. Stonehenge, which we stopped by on the way to Heathrow.

Me at Stonehenge

5. Dulles airport and the plane to St. Louis. We had an afternoon flight out of Heathrow, and I had working headphones, so I stayed awake for that flight. I watched a couple documentaries and three movies I’d been wanting to see: The Great Gatsby, Her, and Frozen. Our flight out of Dulles was delayed by an hour, leaving shortly after 11pm, which felt much much later given our jet lag. (We had a hotel in St. Louis and drove home Saturday.)

When I wasn’t sleeping or running around with a camera, I was hanging out with a large number of people in my family.

Photos with people in them are on Facebook and photos without (easily recognizable) people are in my Somerset 2014 set on Flickr.

It was a fabulous week. I’m so glad Jeremy’s sister came up with such a wonderful idea to celebrate her birthday and that she was able to bring so many of the family together.

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Summer Garden (Spoiler: It’s Mostly Zucchini)

My garden is going well. I’ve picked a ton of veggies lately. The lettuce is almost done, the carrots are growing, the tomatoes are getting ripe–at least the yellow cherry ones are–I’ve pulled most of the beets.

The green beans have been much more productive than expected. I have bush beans, so the plants are pretty small, but heavily loaded. I tried beans once before and the plants hardly grew at all. I’m not sure what’s different this time.

The zucchini have been getting blossom end rot, so I’ve been picking them small.


However, some of them are clearly doing just fine. Someday I should set up a regular watering schedule for my garden instead of “whenever I remember because the plants look sad.”

Also in the plan for next year: planting the zucchini next to the lettuce and beets, not by the chard, beans, chives, and parsley. Those little plants are getting shaded.

The raspberries ripened and disappeared as fast as they did. Next year, the plant will be much bigger, and we should get berries on some of the very tall canes. Maybe we’ll have better luck getting some berries for ourselves.

My purple coneflower is blooming. Saturday I spent an hour or so in the yard sketching my garden.

Purple Coneflower, Zucchini, and Red Admiral

The lines on the flowers are too thick (I need more practice with my brush pens), but I like the way the zucchini leaves turned out. And yes, I planted my coneflower in my vegetable garden. It’s sunny there.

Speaking of sun, a few months ago the city took out a tree in strip of our yard between the driveway and the neighbor’s yard. The ground underneath it used to be mulch, daffodils, and a few small weeds that were easy to keep under control. Now, with the extra fun, the weeds are going nuts, to the point where we have to mow them.

I’m waiting for the city to plant a new tree before I do anything, but I’ve been thinking about my options. Other than planting grass. When it was shady I’d been thinking of more hydrangeas and Japanese painted ferns. Now I’m considering forsythia and some shrub that will turn bright red in fall. A native wildflower garden is also tempting.

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Yes, I’m Still Here

It’s been a busy couple months, but at least it’s finally spring. My garden is going strong. We’ve eaten a lot of radishes and lettuce, and a few carrot thinnings. (Did you know the leaves taste like parsley?) The chard and beets struggled to sprout but seem to be doing nicely now. The zucchini, beans, tomatoes, and pepper are flowering, and the carrots have lots of leaves. The volunteer raspberry in the backyard has little green berries that I’m sure will delight the squirrels in a few weeks. Last month I added a potted lingonberry, which has a few small flowers.

In April, I took an introduction to drawing class, which was awesome. This month I’m taking landscape drawing. The first class was (obviously) pretty basic, but I learned a lot. Even with the parts I’d read about before, having the instructor there to help makes a huge difference. We’ve only had one week of the landscape class, and it made me appreciate charcoal. We’ll also be using ink (with a brush and bamboo pen) at some point. Of course, I’m just happy for an excuse to sit around outside.

I posted this to Twitter et al when it happened, but if you don’t follow me elsewhere, my story “Pictures in Crayon” went up at Cast of Wonders. It’s really neat to hear my words read by someone else.

Some recent-ish posts from the All Rights Reserved blog:

Finally, a great post on persistence from James Clear: How to Stay Focused When You Get Bored Working Toward Your Goals

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