Friday, September 28, 2012

Adventures with Swiss Chard, Harvesting and Stuff

The Swiss Chard was overgrowing the greenhouse, so I took a scissors to it. And ended up with this:

After I rinsed and cut the stems away, I chopped the Swiss Chard into wee strips:

Time passed. I sauteed some onions and garlic. I made a cheese sauce, and then I whisked it all together:

I layered brown rice in the base of the dish, covered it in the Swiss Chard Au Gratin (the original recipe) and covered it in artichoke hearts and Panko bread crumbs. Baked the whole thing at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

I thought it was very tasty. And it's a Weight Watchers recipe, so that's a bonus. This makes this the second dish I've prepared with ingredients from my garden. Pesto was the first.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Submission Statistics 2012

It helps me figure out where I'm going when I remember where I've been. So let's take a post and see how I'm doing with this whole writing thing.

Give or take a few numbers, here are my current submission statistics for 2012:

Submissions: 34

Rejections: 26

Acceptances: 6

Publications: 7

Most of my 2012 publications are linked from my Fiction page, with the exception of three classified ads I contributed to the Spring 2012 Mad Scientist Journal.

By the way, if you haven't heard of the Mad Scientist Journal and are a fan of mad science, the journal is worth checking out. The regular site is and they publish new work every Monday.

Also I don't think I've announced it here yet, but my horror story "Last of the Soul Eaters" was accepted into a new horror anthology edited by Kasey Lansdale called FRESH BLOOD & OLD BONES. (See this Facebook post for the full list of contributors.) I'm excited and honored to have a story included with such excellent writers.

Miscellaneous 2012 Stuff:

Published podcasts: 20 (since April 2012, most are linked on the Podcasts page)

Conventions attended: 6 (listed on the Schedule page)

Interviews: 1 (At Dale Ivan Smith's blog)

I guess that's a good start.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Breaking Developments on the Zucchini Front

While I was away, the zucchini plant took over the deck:

If you look closely, on the right there is a flower. Or an alien mouth.

And here is the mess that is the greenhouse. The Swiss Chard is winning:

KillerCon 4 at the Stratosphere, Las Vegas

I'm home from my first KillerCon, a horror convention in Las Vegas, and now I'm having a hard time figuring out where to start in my recap. I had a fantastic time. I met lots of cool people and reconnected with many familiar faces. And I found loads of new authors to read.

A personal highlight was participating in my first contest at a con. I won third place in the Creative Fiction contest on Saturday night. Participants had 20 minutes to write 200 words or less using five words: mongoose, forgiveness, plagiarism, zither, and butterknife. And we had to include the sentence, "I want to suck your cock." Then we read our work aloud. Just an overall great experience, even if I blushed a lot. All of the entries were creative and cool and I'd especially like to thank the judges: Mignon Fogarty, Jack Ketchum, Don D'Auria, and Roy Robbins.

Another highlight was when William F. Nolan signed my copy of "How to Write Horror Fiction," that I bought new in 1990. You could say I've been interested in horror for a long time--even if I've only recently started writing it seriously.

Maybe I should just shut up and share some camera phone pictures:

Looking up at the Stratosphere tower

Level 108 of the Stratosphere

A man in silhouette on one of Stratosphere's crazy rides

Happy Hour at the level 107 bar. Buy one martini, get one free.

Eliza Hirsch, my kick ass roommate


Mignon Fogarty teaches a Grammar Girl Workshop

Gene O'Neill holds up a copy of "The Burden of Indigo"

Guest of Honor Jack Ketchum reads from "The Woman"

R.J. Cavender teaches a Self-Editing Workshop

Mike McCarty and colleague (didn't catch his name) from KNB Efx Group Inc. apply zombie makeup

Four participants during the clich├ęs in fiction panel: Monica O'Rourke, Hal Bodner, Don D'Auria, and Erik Williams

Guests of Honor at Closing Ceremonies: F. Paul Wilson, William F. Nolan, Kelley Armstrong, Jack Ketchum

Organizer Wrath James White thanks KillerCon volunteers at Closing Ceremonies

Unfortunately, this recap only scratches the surface.

KillerCon was an incredibly positive experience and I hope to be able to attend next year. I'm grateful to the horror community for being so open and welcoming to newcomers like myself. And now I'm freshly inspired to get writing again.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Writing Retreat Wrap-Up

Sunrise at the lake

I don't remember how the topic came up last February. A bunch of us writers were sitting around the Wayward Coffeehouse, talking about finding time to do our thing. One of the group had just come back from--or was just leaving for--a weekend retreat, and I remember being sad I'd never attended the Rainforest Writers Retreat.

As an aside, this particular group meets weekly for dinner and typing. Our focus isn't critiquing, so our conversations usually ramble and trail off into hilarious obscurity. This time the subject stuck.

After some discussion and a quick search by one writer's husband, we picked our location, began the initial headcount, and a couple of other writers set up a group schedule so we could narrow down a free weekend. The first one wasn't until September.

Basically what I want to convey is that we were all involved in the planning. Later I made the reservation, and here we are today.

Even with a couple of tiny hiccups, the weekend couldn't have gone much more smoothly. We drove up Friday evening and ate dinner on the road. Friday evening was filled with setting goals and hanging out.

For Saturday, I'd put together a tentative schedule since it was our main work day. Blocks of writing time were broken up by meals--everyone volunteered to prepare a meal for the group--and we had some scheduled down-time. In the evening, we hung out some more. Half the group eventually went to bed, and the rest stayed up to write a while longer.

Sunday morning was mostly spent on breakfast, cleaning up, and a little bit of writing.

I spent most of my weekend in the lowest level of the house, staring at a wall decorated with many corks. I revised a new horror story, but I also managed to start a superficial outline of a novel, and to begin a new story.

I'm very happy with my productivity, and I had a great time.

The writers in attendance were wonderful to share space with and I'm so glad it all came together as it did. It was one of those experiences I'll look back on and remember fondly for a long time. No doubt about that.

Here are a few camera phone pics:

Pre-breakfast busy-ness

A wall decorated by hundreds of wine corks!

Closeup of the cork wall

Friday, September 07, 2012

Strawberry and Zucchini Update

The strawberry pot works! We have green leaves and flowers all over the place.

Some creature has been nibbling on the strawberries, so I should figure out how to net the thing or protect it better. Here's a terrible camera phone pic:

Before I leave for the weekend, let's have our daily dose of zucchini Zen. Good gracious it's out of control:

Happy weekend, everybody!

Goals for the weekend writing retreat

Late this afternoon my friend is picking me up, and we are driving south to a secret location, where we will meet other writers for a weekend writing retreat.

Hellz yeah, I'm excited!

Way back in February, we decided to do this thing and the day has finally arrived. I am listening to my laundry spin in the dryer and trying to come up with goals for the weekend.

I have three goals in mind. One is, obviously, write something new. Two is to start an outline for a novel length work and three is to finish the revision of the horror story I've been working on for the past few days.

Good goals are actionable and measurable and all that, so let's go deeper.

By Sunday at 10am, I would like to have written the first draft of a new flash fiction piece (1000 words or less). I would like to have finished my revision. And I would like to sketch out an outline for the first 10 chapters of a novel, with an idea of how it starts and how it will end.

My stretch goal will be to sketch out 20 chapters of a novel. And to write a total of 3500 *new* words between tonight and Sunday at 10am.

What are the challenges to meeting these goals?

Keeping myself focused. I need to be prepared to step away from the group and work on my own because when I become distracted I chat. That won't help anybody--in fact, it will actively hinder people. When I feel myself losing focus, I need to find a quiet place. Or put on headphones. Music helps.

I can also bring some prompt books and story dice/cards to flip through for ideas. And I could bring the scrapbook I've been putting together of interesting pictures and photos for story ideas.

What's left to do?

Pack, gather the prompt books I'll need, maybe bring a grammar book because I could use a refresher, and make sure all the electronics I need are charged.

Phew. I am a slow and solitary writer most of the time, so this is going to yank me right out of my comfort zone. But I think I could really benefit from a good jolt out of my comfort zone. I think my final goal needs to be: surrender to the schedule, forget conquering it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Transition back to dirt

Now we transition from where I was yesterday at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago:

Back to a garden update.

While I was away Jer did a fantastic job keeping everything alive and flourishing. First, let's remember what the zucchini plant looked like on August 22nd:

Here is the same plant on September 5th:

It's hard to see, but the carrots and beets are all sprouting, and the lettuce has gotten much bigger than last time:

And lastly, this oregano plant came in the tiny clay pot sitting on the table in front of it. The thing's a beast!

And this concludes today's garden update. Thank you for looking.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Day After My First Worldcon

Now that my first Worldcon is over--even though it doesn't feel like it's over because I'm still in my hotel room 1,715 miles from home--I will attempt to make sense of the experience.

I knew very few people so there was always someone new to meet. Coming alone meant I tried to keep busy by attending and seeing everything. At 9am each day, there was a chance to Stroll with the Stars, and I probably met the most new people on those walks as we shuffled through the city. Plus the "Stars" I spoke with were very kind and generous with their time. I also went to the Adler Planetarium, the Writers' Workshop, and a few room parties, but not nearly enough.

If I had to rate myself in terms of small talk with strangers, I'd probably score about average, and this is a skill I'd like to improve upon. I score off-the-charts in worrying about every stupid thing I said after the fact--things which will have been forgotten by the other party two minutes after I've said them. Anyway. If you're reading this, my conversational neuroses probably aren't news.

Moving on.

My sister shared the hotel room with me and went sightseeing while I attended the con. This arrangement worked well. I was able to eat meals with her a couple of times and benefit from her knowledge of wandering the city. She is to thank for my being able to eat deep dish pizza, not once, but twice. Twice means I've done enough research to legitimately compare different restaurants and have a favorite.

All through the con it was really amazing seeing these huge names in science-fiction literature just walking around and being real. Sometimes I attended panels just so I could hear them speak and put a name with a face. I took lots of notes and I'll be digesting all the great information for a long time.

I wish I was capable of listing all of the people I met and awesome panels I saw, but I would miss someone or something and I don't want to do that. So I'll just share a few highlights.

My favorite panel was watching John Scalzi interview NASA astronaut, Story Musgrave. When Musgrave described seeing plasma stream over the orbiter's hull on reentry I couldn't take notes fast enough.

I also enjoyed the Wild Cards panel (featuring George R.R. Martin) because I learned a useful strategy for encouraging artists to work in a shared world. Wild Cards has this neat concept of Consortium Points, in which each author selected for the book receives a point. And if a character you've created is used by another author (with permission) in a published story you receive a point. Points equate to shares of the profits. This system encourages authors to "share their toys" by providing a solid financial incentive. I thought that was brilliant.

Another panel I was so sorry to see end was "The Secret History of Science Fiction" featuring Gardner Dozois, Joe Haldeman, George R. R. Martin, Mike Resnick, and Robert Silverberg. The panelists had the audience cracking up for a full hour and a half. And seriously, look at that lineup! How could it not be a good use of time?

Obviously with five days of programming I am glossing over most of the con, but I think this will give you a taste. And I see that my alarm has just gone off. Time to go out into the world and find a breakfast burrito.

Monday, September 03, 2012

More random pictures from Chicon 7

Standing in the middle of the Bean, looking up

Watching the Hugos at the bar

More deep dish pizza at Gino's East

Just this spacesuit I saw