Read “The Girl with Flowers for Hair” online

If you’re not an email subscriber to Daily Science Fiction (you should be), you can now read my story “The Girl with Flowers for Hair” on their website.

Also, I really like the art they’re displaying today.

In other news, it snowed last night and tonight’s low is supposed to be around 20. I have tiny lettuce seedlings that just came up a week or two ago (either from seeds I planted way back in early Sept., or from the lettuce that went to seed). I hope they like snow. Also some self-seeded dill and some chives–I kept tossing chive seeds from my potted plant in the garden for ages. I hope some of these chives will survive so I can ditch the pot.

And chard. Always chard. Hopefully until this weekend, at least, when I’ll have a chance to pick it. Though if it’s like last year’s chard it’ll stick around for a while.

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Story (almost) published and drawing flowers

My story “The Girl with Flowers for Hair” will be emailed to Daily Science Fiction subscribers tomorrow. Everyone else can read it on the web next Tuesday.

The story mentions drawing and improving at it. I’ve wanted to draw for a long time, but I didn’t get around to trying until recently. You know the joke about drawing instructions? Step 1, Draw an oval. Step 2, Add a few lines. Step 3, Paint the Mona Lisa. That’s what it always seemed like.

Last year I bought a couple drawing books and this year I started looking at them (mostly Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner). It explains things in a way my art-deficient brain can understand.

Friday I drew this sunflower, from Drawing Nature for the Absolute Beginner.

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It’s the first thing I drew with actual drawing pencils instead of a single mechanical pencil. Having a choice of pencils made shading it a million times easier.

I still have a lot to learn, but it’s starting to feel like I could eventually do this well enough to entertain myself.

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The road not taken

I love this comic: Robert Frost: The road not taken

(And the poem, but the art is what I’m getting at here.)

Whenever I think that I wish I’d known earlier that I wanted to write novels, because then I could have taken different classes in college, and not started grad school for physics, and and and — I remind myself that I like my life, and I made good decisions for what I wanted to do at the time, and while my life would have turned out differently it probably wouldn’t have turned out any *better*.

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Writing News (bug edition)

1. My story “Kalar’s Wall”–full of magic and giant beetles–is out in issue 8 of Plasma Frequency in print and various ebook formats.

I bet Kalar wouldn’t like our huge Midwestern crickets any more than I do.

2. I got an Honorable Mention from the Writers of the Future contest on a story featuring giant space-faring crustaceans. Still a rejection, but it’s nice to know someone other than me found at least some good in the story. And now I can send it out to other markets.

3. In arthropod-free news, I’m now a slush reader for Flash Fiction Online. For the non-writers among you, that means I get to read the stories people submit and help decide whether to accept them. I did this at another magazine a while ago and am excited to get back to it, especially at a market that I enjoy reading.

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Productive writer is productive

This weekend I was lucky to be able to attend a writing retreat. I love hanging out with other writers, and I’m more productive when I don’t have my house/yard/etc. around to distract me. I finished revising another chunk of my novel, revised a short story, and mostly went over all the ideas I’ve developed for the book I’m writing next and created an outline.

The writing process I’ve developed means that even though I haven’t started writing the book yet, I have 27,000 words on it. Not all of them will make it into even the first draft, much less later drafts. But it’s nice not to start from zero.

This month I’ll be finishing the rest of the novel revisions, developing a more detailed outline of the new book, and starting to put words into the actual draft.

Speaking of productivity, I’ve increased the amount of writing time I put in each week by around 50% since spring. I have the same amount of time blocked out on my schedule, but having more of it on weekends than weekday evenings means I am more likely to put the time in. This also explains the state of my yard and the half-finished pair of shorts on the sewing table.

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What I’m Writing Right Now

For the past few weeks, I’ve been revising a novel to submit to Strange Chemistry while they’re taking unagented submissions. I like having a deadline to aim for.

I usually dislike revising, but this has been going well–of course, it’s also the third time I’ve gone over this book, so most of the big problems were already taken care of. It’s still taking a big chunk of my writing time, but not all of it: I’m also working on the outline of the book I want to write this winter.

Combining those two projects is taking a lot of time. Last week I didn’t quite get everything done that I wanted to, even though I hit all of my scheduled writing slots. So this week I’ll be trying to squeeze in more writing time.

Which is a very long way of saying that I haven’t gone through more photos of my July trip yet.

In other news, I sold another story to Daily Science Fiction, so look for that in a few months. I like working on books but the short production time for short stories, especially flash, is really nice.

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In which we meet lots of sheep

Or, the second part of our trip to Europe.

On the Saturday after we arrived, we drove to Perry Green to see the Henry Moore sculpture garden, which had a special exhibit by Auguste Rodin. (Here’s a virtual tour of both men’s sculptures.) The Moore sculptures are outside, and widely spaced, and for the special exhibit the Rodin sculptures were dotted around the landscape as well. It was a really nice setting to see the art, especially the larger pieces.

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I didn’t expect to walk through a sheep pasture to see things. The closer one here is called “Sheep Piece”. The sheep seemed to appreciate its shade. The sculpture in the distance is called “Large Reclining Figure”. I was not impressed with Henry Moore’s titles.

Afterwards, since we weren’t that far from Cambridge, we drove up there and walked around, looking at the ornate buildings.

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I like the light and shadows in that one.

We peeked through the gates into a lot of courtyards.

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I bet the students just love all the tourists.

Then we stopped for dessert. I had Eton Mess, which is broken up chunks of meringue mixed with cream and topped with cherries and walnuts. It’s like a big pile of the topping for a real dessert. Tasty, but different.

Sunday, we went on a walk along some canals.

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The Basingstoke canal didn’t have much of a current and was covered in bright green algae, at times a solid mat. There were a lot of locks, which I imagine makes traveling very slow.

Cygnets! We saw some that were almost adult-sized, and some very small ones still on a nest with one parent while the other supervised from a few feet away.

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We stopped for lunch at a pub where I got very tasty (and hot, and greasy) fish and chips. It seemed like the appropriate choice.

We took a different route back, not along the canals, and passed a field of corn. I would have thought I was back in Illinois, but then we walked out of a forest and and found this:

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On the drive home, I was too slow to get out my camera for the ruins of a stone church standing in a field–no roof, just sharply peaked stone walls with long holes for the windows.

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Europe, Part 1

We flew to London from O’Hare on a Wednesday. The terminal had angled skylights, which made it hot as a greenhouse even for our 9pm flight. We ate dinner at the terminal because we were there at dinner time, and then they fed us breaded sweet and sour chicken on the plane at 10pm–I ate my salad and my dessert. You’d think a snack and breakfast would have been a better plan than dinner and a snack, but I suppose it’s better for them to serve the hot meal first.

While we were in line for the flight, a guy behind us was complaining that people in London wouldn’t take his US money (he claimed that in New York, the street vendors will take foreign currency), and the woman with long gray dreadlocks in front of us seemed absolutely shocked. J explained to her how she could go about changing her money once we arrived.

Walking around J’s sister’s neighborhood, I noticed the front yards. Many are paved as courtyards or parking spots. Most were walled in. It struck me as odd that people would have these lovely gardens in front of their houses and then park cars in them. I suppose you have to park somewhere. A fair number of people were out walking, especially on the footpath along the Thames (this was Thursday afternoon). Couples, mothers with baby carriages. No joggers.

Friday we went to Hampton Court Palace, which was near the top of my to-do list, and the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show, which J’s sister wanted to see and which was conveniently on the grounds.

These guys lined the path to the palace entrance:

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Henry VIII’s chambers had a comfy-looking red velvet-covered toilet seat, which was apparently actually from the 1700s.

The Tudor part of the building had elaborately styled chimneys:

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In the kitchens, the boiling vats were in their own little nooks, up a few short steps and around the corner from other parts of the kitchen–no huge cauldrons hanging over fires.

Ages of soot above the roasting fire:

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There’s a sharp contrast between the meandering navigation of the older part of the palace and the more modern feel of the 1700s building.

The yew hedges of the maze (my first hedge maze) are contained in iron fences so you can’t cheat and cut through the hedges.

Mushroom trees (trimmed yews) on the grounds between the palace and the flower show:

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The king’s privy garden–this is a restoration of William III’s garden from 1702:

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Part of the exotic plant collection:

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Part of the flower show was a “concept garden” about recovery or renewal. Maybe 6-10 themed gardens. One had everything planted in freezers. Two were about recovery from forest fire, one with a smoke machine, one with saplings that got taller and taller as they curved in a line from then”burned” area planted with black plants.

I fell in love with some of Susan Entwistle‘s paintings.

The flower show had a florist exhibit with all sorts of scenes made out of flowers:

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Also, chicken coops:

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Worm Farming My Novel

I find that when I’m programming something, there’s a constant reward cycle going on. I make a change. “Ooh, that worked! What happens if I do this?” I make another change. “Oops. That was wrong. I’ll try this…” And so on, in a constant cycle of change, result, change, result that makes me lose track of time.

Almost like playing a game. Click here, get 10 points. Drag there, get 20 points. Click over there, release the demons, oops, try again.

Writing, on the other hand, doesn’t work that way. Revise a scene. My reward: another scene. My reward: another scene. Only 80 more to go! It’s more like worm farming in Angband, where you let the low-level worms breed and then keep killing them over and over again until you’re strong enough to do something fun.

Ok, the actual making-stuff-up, what-happens-next bit is kind of gamelike. “Ooh, she can hide in this cave! Uh oh, now she’s running from a bear and a werewolf. Hey, I wonder what happens if…” But every day of fun seems to be followed by three days of worm farming.

I think I’m going to call revising worm farming from now on. Maybe it’ll catch on.

With that, back to the worm pens I go. The slimy critters need to be culled.

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Eggplant and Giant Beetles

The first eggplant of 2013

The first eggplant of 2013

We’ve eaten three eggplants from the garden, and there’s a tiny fourth one on the plant. Plus more flowers. I don’t know what I did differently this year–moved it to a sunnier spot in the yard, maybe–but I’m happy.

This first fruit was unfortunately bitter; the second two I grilled the day I picked them, and they were quite tasty.

In other news, my story “Kalar’s Wall” sold to Plasma Frequency, so sometime you’ll be able to read about an attack by an army of giant beetles. Everyone needs a giant beetle story every now and then.

In other other news, yes, I still need to blog about my trip. I was sick the whole week after getting back, and this weekend I’ll be at Gen Con, so it’ll be a while.

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