No A to Z for me

I’ve quite happily participated in the A-to-Z Challenge the past two years, but this year, I’m giving it a miss. I had a topic all picked out, but I haven’t had the time or energy to write the posts up ahead of time — and I imagine I won’t have a whole lot more of either this month.

So for those of you participating, enjoy! And those of you who are not, you still might want to check it out. It’s a great way to find new blogs that interest you.

Z is for zephyr

The zephyr, as many know, is a west wind. Where I grew up, though, it had special meaning. The “gentle” Washoe zephyrs were a by-word. Here, in Mark Twain’s words, a description:

This was all we saw that day, for it was two o’clock, now, and according to custom the daily “Washoe Zephyr” set in; a soaring dust-drift about the size of the United States set up edgewise came with it, and the capital of Nevada Territory disappeared from view.

Still, there were sights to be seen which were not wholly uninteresting to new comers; for the vast dust cloud was thickly freckled with things strange to the upper air—things living and dead, that flitted hither and thither, going and coming, appearing and disappearing among the rolling billows of dust—hats, chickens and parasols sailing in the remote heavens; blankets, tin signs, sage-brush and shingles a shade lower; door-mats and buffalo robes lower still; shovels and coal scuttles on the next grade; glass doors, cats and little children on the next; disrupted lumber yards, light buggies and wheelbarrows on the next; and down only thirty or forty feet above ground was a scurrying storm of emigrating roofs and vacant lots.

t was something to see that much. I could have seen more, if I could have kept the dust out of my eyes.

But seriously a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stage coach over and spills the passengers; and tradition says the reason there are so many bald people there, is, that the wind blows the hair off their heads while they are looking skyward after their hats. Carson streets seldom look inactive on Summer afternoons, because there are so many citizens skipping around their escaping hats, like chambermaids trying to head off a spider.

The “Washoe Zephyr” (Washoe is a pet nickname for Nevada) is a peculiar Scriptural wind, in that no man knoweth “whence it cometh.” That is to say, where it originates. It comes right over the mountains from the West, but when one crosses the ridge he does not find any of it on the other side! It probably is manufactured on the mountain-top for the occasion, and starts from there. It is a pretty regular wind, in the summer time. Its office hours are from two in the afternoon till two the next morning; and anybody venturing abroad during those twelve hours needs to allow for the wind or he will bring up a mile or two to leeward of the point he is aiming at. And yet the first complaint a Washoe visitor to San Francisco makes, is that the sea winds blow so, there! There is a good deal of human nature in that.

(Roughing It, part 3, published 1872)

Because of the Washoe zephyrs, I’ve always been fascinated by named winds, from siroccos to Santa Anas. In fact, once I discovered that Wikipedia has a list of winds, I started creating a story that named individuals after winds. Hmm. I’m going to have to take that off the back burner sometime.

What about you? Do you have a favorite meteorological phenomenon? How about a favorite Mark Twain quote?

Y is for yardwork

White daffodils and red dicentra

Narcissi and bleeding hearts

It’s April, which means everything is in bloom. Magnolias scatter their petals in the streets. Dogwoods are opening, their buds still looking dry and brittle. Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils flourish in beds and around mailboxes. My new hellebores have their first blooms, and the bleeding hearts are stretching out their limbs.

First hellebore

It also means I have to clean up the dead peony stalks I didn’t deal with last fall, deadhead the daffodils as they finish blooming, remove the grass from the flower beds, and put new mulch on top of the old to nourish the soil.

New growth on peony

I also regularly support the Arbor Foundation, and I just got a shipment of ten random saplings (maple, oak, spruce, dogwood, redbud) that needed to be planted around the yard. Thus, new holes dug, edgers placed around the saplings to protect them from the lawnmower, that sort of thing. (Meant to have a pic of the edgers and the saplings to put here, but I decided to take my daughter to the park yesterday instead.)

The lovely thing about April? Even with a warm spell, it’s pleasant enough to do the work, and there’s plenty of rain to keep everything greening nicely.

What about you? Any new or old projects in your yard this month?

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading!

X is for xenophilia

Love of the other. That’s why I read and write science fiction and fantasy — whether the other is an alternate version of our own world, a might-have-been, a might-yet-be, or someplace so fantastic a human could never survive. Other cultures on our own world. Other races we could meet. Other.

That said, what makes a story resonate with us is the recognition of people we know, of feelings we have, of things we have seen. It’s love and hate and jealousy and the adventure of the unknown. It’s feeling left out and the triumph of winning. It’s running into a new situation and being confused, then using our own skills to solve the problem. It’s life.

But one of the lacunae in my reading has been works from other cultures on our world. I’m trying to correct that: I just purchased The Apex Book of World SF, and I try to keep up with The World SF Blog. I’ve also recently discovered InterNova. I’d also like to read some of the books pointed out by Jeff VanderMeer in An Overview of International Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2010, but I don’t know when I’ll get to them in my immense TBR pile.

Have you read anything from outside your own culture recently? Any recommendations?

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading!

V is for violets and volunteers

Violets in the grass

Violets in the grass

Volunteers, in this case, referring to plants that grow somewhere without being planted there. As, for example, the dogwood sapling in our front flower bed that I need to decide whether to transplant or leave where it is. It can — and probably should — stay where it is until fall, as the best time to transplant is when there are no leaves on the tree. However, we’ve been talking about redoing that bed since we moved in, and it won’t survive that.
Dogwood volunteer in the flower bed

Volunteer dogwood

Mary Engelbreit may say to “Bloom where you’re planted,” but there are times when to really thrive, something needs to be moved. I think this is one such case. Meanwhile, however, it grows and becomes stronger. That’s all that I can ask.

U is for unfinished work

The down side of starting new ideas is that I’m not always done with old ones. It’s not just writing, either. Yes, I have what would be piles of uncompleted stories (short stories, novels, whatever) if they were printed out. I’ve also got most of a quilt top that I need to finish putting together. A sweater I was making for when the girl was 1-year-old (and now if I finish, I need to figure out what to do with!). Organizational efforts with papers that still need to be gone through (although I made a good start earlier this month) and shredded, recycled, or filed as necessary. The garden, which will always be a work in progress. And more.

The problem with all these things is that every time I see them and notice them undone, it takes a bit of an emotional toll. “I should do that.” “I don’t have time right now.” “I need to make time.” “Later.” Which means not getting the work done can be mentally exhausting.

People who work monomaniacally don’t have to deal with this as often. They pick one or two projects, pursue to completion, and then go on to the next. It’s great if that’s the way your brain works.

Me, I think my work habits go back to the whole “breadth, not depth” thing. Deep focus just isn’t the way I’m wired. I’m a bee that goes from flower to flower to flower . . . (Extra points for catching the reference!) And it mostly works for me. I do get things done and submitted and even published. I keep my attention fresh and engaged by always having something that fits my mood and attention.

Still, I’m not enchanted by the emotional toll of realizing how very much still needs to be done. I hope to get the quilt top done in May. Ditto the papers. The stories? Well, I’m working on them. I know there will always be some unfinished (at least partly because there are always new starts), but I’m trying to cut down on the backlog over the next year or two. There’s a marathon this coming weekend on Forward Motion that may help with the short stories. That should help.

When it comes right down to it, though, I know that it will never be all done. I’m okay with that. I have to be. A priest once said, “We all die with things on our to-do lists.” The alternative is to stop living before I die. I’m not willing to do that.

T is for tea and tetsubin

Tea is, as I think I’ve mentioned, my favorite drink, the default that keeps me going through the day. I drink black tea in the morning, black decaf tea in the afternoon, green tea when I feel like it, and herbal teas whenever (lemon tea with honey particularly when my throat hurts, for example).

I’m not super picky. I don’t drink Lipton (although at least one of their black teas in the pyramidal bags isn’t bad), but my general methodology is boil water, pour over tea bag in cup, steep, and drink. Removing the tea bag before drinking is optional. So is drinking before it gets cold; my mug is no stranger to the microwave.

Sometimes, I’m more traditional. I pour boiling water into my cup to preheat it. I bring the water to a boil and let it cool for a couple of minutes before pouring it over the loose tea leaves (generally green tea with jasmine), and I do remove those and their strainer after just a couple of minutes of steeping. The aroma is marvelous, and there is no bitter edge.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a tetsubin — a Japanese cast-iron teapot. I haven’t used it yet because I wanted to clear my desk (which has happened with the computer woes) so I could set the teapot there for use. One of the things that I really like about this pot is “soap should not be used to clean an iron teapot. After rinsing the tetsubin cast iron teapot thoroughly with water, it should be wiped dry with a clean cloth. This cleaning method will allow the seasoned mineral coating to remain intact” (from Teavana’s tetsubin page). Yes! I’ve been telling my mother for years that I shouldn’t have to wash my teacups out, and now I have a teapot I can let be. 🙂

I’m looking forward to getting settled back into my office and having the tetsubin (with warmer) nearby for my tea. Meanwhile, I’ve got to go boil some water for my next cup of decaf tea.

S is for submission opportunities

Speaking of opportunities, here are some currently open anthologies (paying pro rates) to look at:

Bloody Fabulous, edited by Ekaterina Sedia. Prime Books. Urban fantasy, focused on fashion. 1,000-7,500 words preferred; December 1st deadline. Pay is 5 cents per word. For more on what she doesn’t want, see this.

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, edited by Warren Lapine. Wilder Publications. No word length restrictions, but he does discourage shorter stories. No theme, no specific requests for genre, other than it be genre — “the entire science fiction, fantasy, and horror spectrum.” Closed when filled. Pay is 10 cents per word to a max of $250.

Sword & Sorceress 26, edited by Elisabeth Waters. Norilana Books. Fantasy with strong female characters. Just opened to submissions last Saturday. Up to 9,000 words; May 13 deadline. Pay is 5 cents per word as advance against royalties. Pay attention to the formatting requirements.

Not a pro-paying market, but also worth looking at:

Warrior Wisewoman 4, edited by Roby James. Norilana Books. Science fiction featuring strong women characters. Up to 10,00 words; July 31 deadline. Pay is 2 cents per word.

Good luck to anyone submitting stories, and as always, thanks for stopping by and reading!

R is for results

Results are the outcome of everything that we do.

I follow a training program for running, I get results: I can run farther, and my thighs start slimming down.

I spend hours writing instead of frittering away time on the Internet, I get results: thousands of words added to works in progress, new stories to submit.

On the other hand, not all results are good. I stay up too late watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix with my husband, and I get results, too: I’m exhausted the next day. Do it two or three times in a row, and I become an incredibly grumpy person who has trouble focusing on anything.

Again, it gets back to choice. Results are cause-and-effect. What I choose to do affects what results I achieve.

So what results are you looking for this week?