Monday, October 28, 2013

The Theme of Life

I've been reminded recently that I really ought to have a theme for my blog. I've resisted this because there are so many different facets to my life, and I'd really hate to stop blogging about some of those simply because they don't fit, or fit only awkwardly into my theme. What would my blog be without mention of The Barbie Lady (who has been shopping at our store a lot lately) or the goats or my long sessions of banging my head against the keyboard while trying to learn yet another skill that I have no business learning when I should be WRITING BOOKS & SHORT STORIES.

Speaking of skills, this house is once again putting me through homeowner school, as in it's schooling me. I don't think I'm actually getting an education, but I am developing a nice case of tennis elbow without actually picking up a racket.

My DH and I surfaced the porch. My sister, mother and I put together the new framework for the porch together, oh, about three years ago now. You see, the porch foundation collapsed so that it leaned to the right on the way in to the house, and then the stairs fell apart, and off to the side, part of the porch completely rotted through and our sitting window is currently supported by about 4" thick of crumbling wood. The 4" may be generous. Anyway, the idea was to rebuild the porch, jack the sitting window, put in a new support under said sitting window, and put siding to cover and protect the new support and continue that siding around the rebuilt porch for a beautiful and shiny new front face for our house. At the time I began this project, I figured it'd take the summer.

Three years after putting together the new framework and reinforced foundation for the porch, My DH and I cashed in about a million Home Depot gift cards we'd been saving up for this, pried up the temporary (ha) surfacing which will become the frame for my (someday) greenhouse (at this rate I might build it in about five years ....) and now we're walking on pressure-treated 2x6 boards instead of a mixture of juniper 2x4s (yes, you read that right, juniper! Smells so good!), pressboard and cinderblock. The dogs hardly know what to do with themselves without the dangerous gaps to fall into and with plenty of room for their food bowls. And, bonus, it's much harder for them to set up a dog block on the way to the door, forcing their owners to stop and pet them before they're allowed to pass. That's not a bonus for the dogs. Just me. And I almost always stop to pet them anyway, but usually only if I'm not balancing three arms worth of groceries in just my two.

Such times are of course when the dogs need love and affection the most. Because if I'm not carrying anything heavy or awkward, clearly I shouldn't be bothered.

I plan to put up the rails around the porch as soon as possible. I wonder if ASAP will be measured in days, weeks, months or years this time.

I guess my theme, if I have one, is how people do the best they can with the resources they have, and my premise is that even when things are tough and nothing works out the way you've planned, just the act of creating and working on problems and living is worth writing about. In the future I may change my mind. This might turn into a DIY blog, or a writing blog, or whatever. Until then, you can expect ongoing stories about pet spiders living in my kitchen window, escaped goats, crazy gardening, weird customers at the store, observations about the seasons, and all the other stuff I've written about over the years.

Coming up: Orycon 35, book releases from Wyrd Goat Press, vanishing websites, adventures with paint (I'm now the proud owner of a quart of flat interior lavender paint) and the great bulb planting of fall 2013. Unless something else more interesting comes up.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

OryCon 35 Schedule

I'll be a panelist at Orycon again this year. Yay! Here's my schedule:

Friday, Nov. 8

noon Backstory Bedlam
     I love backstories. They make good short stories later on when I'm obsessively thinking about a book I've already finished and published and can't touch and then a character's backstory just has to, must be told! Knowing that's a possibility keeps me from vomiting every last detail onto the page.

2pm Publishing Your Ebook
     Apparently I'm moderating this monster. I think my main job will be to make sure that the panelists talk slowly enough for the audience to take notes. I'm thinking about bringing a handout. Finding good info about ebook publishing from amid the vast hoards of people trying to make money on formatting books for you and people who do a terrible job but think they do a fantastic job and want to tell you exactly how to do it like they do, not to mention the folks who publish their stuff before it's really ready ... yeah, it's a mess. We'll get you on the right track, don't worry.

5pm Choose a Monster and Write Their Story
     This should be totally fun, and if you don't think so, you're a poopyhead who has cruelly smothered your inner monster. Er, child, I meant child. It'll be a great way to shake loose the last vestiges of the everyday world and get into the spirit of the con.

10pm Writing Believable Sex Scenes
     Let's just start with the basics of how to not make your reader laugh unless you intend them to laugh during your character's passionate moment of pleasure (or plunge into intimate darkness) and go from there, okay?

Midnight Handling Sexuality with Dignity
     I have no idea why they think I'm qualified to talk about dignity, but I'm game for putting on my serious face to talk about whatever, wherever and with whoever in what position ... while being respectful or at least aware of the audience.

Saturday Nov. 9

11am Political Systems in SF
     Game on! I'm excited about this one. Greek forum in a virtual arena anyone? How about the economics behind feudalism driving the political power granted to a particular senator? What about a true democracy via text messaging your vote and the unintended, (evil, naturally) consequences.

5pm Science and Spirituality
     I'm actually dreading this one a little bit, which means it should be an exciting panel. I can't be the only pagan to study physics ... am I?

6pm The Kami and Rory Show
     Actually, this is a half-hour reading slot that my DH and I share. May be prefaced a sparring match to see who goes first. There may be chocolate but you have to show up on time or it's gonna be all gone. I haven't decided what to read yet. If I remember closer to the con, I'll clue y'all in.

9pm Keeping it Clean – or at least not so dirty
     I love this topic. It's all about the bad words that only comedians are supposed to use in public. Let's get real and use the whole language, and maybe some other languages ... and try not to embarrass ourselves too much. Have you seen the Veronica Mars episode where she's at the college and the college guy who uses Frack instead of F*ck? Her expression and reaction? Yeah. That's what you're up against, SF writers.

10pm Smut, Gore and More
     Probably my favorite panel of the con. This is where I get a little political and thrash against the confines of American culture. But also, I'd like to see some discussion about sex, violence, and the glorification thereof.

Midnight Fifty Shades of Dreck
     I keep meaning to read it. Really I do. But what I think we're mostly going to talk about is sex (again, I know!) Non-vanilla sex. Don't get me wrong, I like vanilla ....

Sunday Nov. 10

10am  Infrastructure
     In fiction. Sewers or lack thereof, agriculture, air scrubbers ... why does every protagonist in a futuristic society have to be a scientist, a cop or a teacher? Let's get some air scrubber engineers in there, or a garbage hauler.

3pm Gardening in Fantasyland
     OMG, fantasy horticulture. Heaven! Plus, if you want, bring your real-world gardening questions and I'll try to answer them. BTW, my amarylis is like four years old now and it's soooo big, and my orange tree has two proto-oranges on it. I love this growing season! It's so long, and firm, and soon at the end it'll begin to glisten with moisture ....  Oops. Sorry. This is *not* a panel about sex or violence or use of profanity. It's about plants. My obsession. My guilty pleasure. It'll be a great way to wrap up the con. And if no one shows up to listen, I'll be there on my laptop working on a book or plant geeking with a fellow panelist or two if they're obsessed like me.

I think that's everything. I've got a really busy schedule.

BTW, if you're a panelist and you *don't* have a busy schedule and you want one for next year, here's what you do:

You volunteer for every conceivable panel you would deign to attend, and if you're only vaguely interested, rate it low, which I think is high. Check the scale. It's at the top of the page. Lots of panelists pick 5 for their favorite when 5 actually means that you'll do it if they drag you to the panel and chain you to the chair. Also, send programming a note if you'd like to do a special presentation, and be sure to check the reading and/or autograph session boxes if they're there, even if it looks like it's intended for someone else. That will at least start a dialogue with programming.

Be available all day every day if at all possible.

Suggest panels right after you fill out the form.

Speaking of the form, fill it out early and often, and if you've had trouble with the form going through in the past, send an email asking if they got it.

Most panelists who have trouble getting on panels pick the five panels they want to do, and are available for maybe six hours on Saturday and four on Sunday. That will usually get them zero panels, or one. Not because programming is punishing them, but because you won't be the only person on the panel, right? And all other sorts of people will also want to be on the panel, and their schedules will have to be juggled with yours, and if all theirs match up for 6pm and you said you're only good until 6pm ... you'll get bumped off because the panel ends at 7pm. The other thing that kills their schedule is if only one or two other people volunteer for the panel, and all three of you have such divergent schedule needs and conflicts that the only person available for the panel is you. Then the panel won't happen. If you love a panel idea so much that you're willing to do it as a solo presentation, again, email programming so that they know that.

I think I volunteered for half the panels being offered this weekend, and I made myself available until 2am. As a result ... here I am.

See you at the con!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kevin the Spider

My DH is home, gammon is on, and life is good.

Like a lot of writers we know, our good life is, well, a little ... different.

I'm a long-time arachnophobe. Had to train myself out of completely freaking out, as in jumping around squealing, just so I could walk through the woods to the bus stop in the mornings. You see, orb weaver spiders, especially the ones that reach that nice, big, mature size, need a lot of room to make their webs, and besides, how else can you capture humans in order to suck their brains out through their eyeballs and lay eggs in their ears unless you build a web all the way across a people path?

I had an orb weaver in my kitchen window for a while. I called her Michele, a coworker terrified of spiders. Sadly, Michele, after getting really, really huge, got very weak one day and fell into the sink. Rather than let her stagger around in there, knowing she probably couldn't cling to her web anymore, I let her go outside, figuring she was done for. They only live a year, and she was long past that. I was sad. Me! An arachnophobe! But she never wandered from the window (except that one, sad, last time) to suck my brains out through my eyeball and never laid eggs in my ear, and for that reason, I was fond of her.

I had great plans to clean the window, but then Kevin moved in, named for a coworker who also doesn't like spiders. Kevin built one of those cobwebby-webs right under Michele's old, now tattered home. Kevin got big, and then I realized Kevin was probably a girl. Kevin vanished for a while, and then I found Kevin outside ... and figured out it was actually probably Kevina and she'd slipped through the window crack and couldn't get back in.

Now I have another Kevin, who appeared to have moved into Kevina's web. I knew it was a different spider, because he was smaller. Emphasis on the was. Once again, I'm fond of the fact that every day I go into the kitchen and Kevin is nicely staying put, eating flies that normally would bounce off the kitchen window and walk all over my nice food while I'm cooking. Now Kevin is even bigger than Kevina was. I mist his (better be a boy and not lay eggs!!) web every morning to make sure he doesn't get dehydrated.

Here he is:

I'll get a better picture of him later. He comes out quite often to bask in the sunshine and gloat over the corpses of his enemies.

I never thought to have a pet spider. Actually, I don't think that Kevin is so much a pet as he is a neighbor. He's a very good neighbor. Unlike that OMG creepy thing that descended from the ceiling right next to my DH while we were starting to get frisky ... talk about killing a mood!

I knew, just knew that nasty thing would have sucked my brains right out of my eyeball given half a chance. I fled. My DH bravely fought it off and killed it after an epic battle. He's my hero.

Kevin would never do that. Never.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Birds of Other Feathers

My new birds are settling in. By that, I mean I'm managing the ongoing stress as best I can while they figure out that their new home is not the most horrible place in the world.

The day I went out to take pics of them happened to be sunny, which meant all the pics of the black hen turned out really cruddy. I'll get her on a cloudy day sometime. Until then, here's the splash hen, who has yet to have a name stick to her. She's sweet, and destined to live at the bottom of the pecking order, poor thing.

And here's the new rooster, Argent. I like that argent means silver and also sounds like sergeant without the s. He's mellow but not a pushover, and when he finds his feet, or beak, or wings, or whatever, I think he'll get along with Sophie, my pain-in-the-butt silver-laced Wyandotte hen, just fine. At least as well as I can get along with her. She's always sneaking up on my and zinging me at the top of my thigh/base of my cheek. She favors the right side. Dang, I'm tender there, and she knows it! Anyway, Beatrice, my American Araucana/Buff Orpington mix, gets along with everybody. If it were just her, I could throw them in together with no worries. Except, well, you're supposed to quarantine new birds. They don't have the same immunities and bugs as my local birds, and by local I mean my farm. The neighbors probably have a completely different mix of bugaboos that their birds carry and are immune to. Despite knowing this, I keep my birds all in the same coop overnight because there's no other safe place to put them, and then they're separated during the day.

And, because these things happen, we have a rat problem right now. Still working out how to get rid of the one under the coop without endangering the chickens. Thinking ....

Other than having to get up at first light every day to check on the birds, distribute feed and separate the flocks, this has been pretty easy going so far. The birds are stressed, of course, and I worry, and every day seems to bring a new challenge, but they're totally worth it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Bouncing Good Kangaroo Times

I didn't post about this at the time. Too much other stuff. But we had a wonderful, unique visitor to our little farm recently.

Yes, she is a for-real baby red kangaroo. She spends most of her time in her carry pouch. She's getting quite heavy. I got to lug her around for a while so her human mommy could take a break.

For the record, she is as soft as she looks. And she's very sweet and quiet. And she leaps! We would have let her run around with the goats, but we weren't sure how they'd react to each other, and if she got into the blackberries, we might never catch her. I think she would have leapt back into her pouch very quickly, but better to be safe than very, very sorry.

Besides, she'd be very lonely in the woods in the Pacific NW, with no other kangaroos to play with. I hope she'll visit again soon!