A happy/sad

Fledgling robin naps before leaving nest

My babies left the nest today. I’ll miss the little shriekers.

It’s been a busy summer for the songbirds in our area, building nests and raising families. A robin has chosen a cleft in the lilac bush outside our kitchen window for her nest, for the second year in a row. I’ve enjoyed watching the activity as sky-blue eggs appeared, and then tiny, cute-ugly dinos hatched out.

The first week, they’re naked and uncoordinated — little more than gangly legs and giant beaky mouths on tiny, floppy bodies, with spindly, wobbly necks barely strong enough to lift that enormous head.

But on a steady diet of bugs and fruit, the second week they become floofy and grow weird little pins (the start of feathers) on their wings and backs. By now they’re strong enough to snuggle down quiet in the nest and raise a vigorous clamor when a parent brings them a meal, begging for each morsel.

By the third week they begin to actually resemble birds. The pins grow into feathers and the floof covers them completely. They become louder and more adventurous, practicing for the next stage of their lives — fledging. (See photo of sleepy fledgling on the edge of the nest.)

Today was the day. One was bravely scouting the lilac branches. His sibling looked down and, with the bold optimism of youth, took a leap and left the nest. With parents guarding them and shouting angrily at intruders, they will scamper around on the ground until their feathers finish growing, and then they’ll fly. They’ll follow their parents around for a while, learning how to be birds — how to sing, eat, drink, and recognize danger. In fact, any time you see a bird fluttering its wings at another bird, that is a fledgling begging for food.

And next year, if they learn well, they’ll raise chicks of their own. Maybe in my lilac bush.

New stories on the horizon

I have 2 stories slated for publication in the upcoming new anthology from WPaD. One of them you can sneak-preview today — in my Flash fiction section — Jim.

The title of the next anthology is… (drum roll)

“Weirder Tales: An Omnibus of Odd Ditties” by Writers, Poets and Deviants

I’ll post a link when it is available for sale.

Tales of the Weird

Starting a new short story this month, in hopes of either getting it accepted in the next WPaD anthology (theme: Weird tales), or published somewhere else. It’s called “Collect Lucky Treasure”, and it’s about a game that takes an unusual turn. I’ll give you a hint — there’s a dragon involved. And lots of stinky, nasty goblins!

April Camp NaNoWriMo

Well, after 3 1/2 months of editing slog, Camp NaNoWriMo is finally on the horizon. I’m stepping up and putting myself in charge of the cabin next month, with the theme of Middle Grade writers (that is, people writing for an audience primarily of 8-12 year olds — think “early Harry Potter”, or Percy Jackson.) It’s not the only genre I write, but in many ways it’s my favorite. There are so many classics I enjoyed in my childhood. And other MG writers tend to be a lot of fun to camp with.

Anyway, I’m rambling. No, there’s no “actual” camping involved. Just a virtual cabin with a chat room and a bunch of dedicated writers helping each other toward our self-chosen goals.

Squirrel wars

Squirrel eating at bird feeder This little sucker figured out how to get to my bird seed. Trouble is, he eats ten times more than a bird. He leaps acrobatically over any obstacle to snarf down the yummy sunflower seeds.

So this was my entertainment of the week. I tried moving it farther away but it made no difference. I tried putting a baffle at the top. He neatly skipped around it and continued his thieving ways.

I went outside at one point with an old pie tin, intending to make a bigger obstacle to block him. As he was boldly sitting there and refusing to move, I yelled at him. Instead of fleeing, he flew at my face, a bold, ninja-attack of doom! Surprised, I held up the pie tin as a shield and the little sucker bounced off it, yelling at me as he retreated.

We’ll see how he likes the new bird feeder I ordered.

(Update – The mooch has been foiled – the new (expensive) bird feeder is the type with a spring, that closes if there’s too much weight on it. After numerous disappointments, the squirrel has gone back to scavenging what the birds see fit to toss to the ground. Problem resolved!)

NaNo ReBel

For those who are not familiar with it, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an activity where people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Discover more at www.nanowrimo.org.

That said, I’ve been involved in NaNoWriMo for nearly every year since 2009. I like the sense of sharing an adventure with millions of other people working toward the same goal. And I like the incentive to really focus and concentrate on a writing project.

My first year, I started on November 5 with no idea of the story I wanted to tell. All I had was a setting I liked. It was a crazy scramble every day, writing like a maniac, with no idea where I was going. But you know what? I hit 50K words. And it was FUN. At the end, I had a sweet little story that… well. Okay, it needed some major revision. But it was still a great start.

Each year I try to get better at it. I began to plan ahead (although it might be a stretch to call it plotting). Some years I’ve liked what I produced, and other years my efforts were abandoned. But the important thing was, I learned more about the craft of writing, I made fewer mistakes that I’d need to fix later, and I persevered.

That brings me to this year – I had a story idea all waiting to go. I had plot, a world, and characters. Not, perhaps, as well developed as they should have been; but more than I’d started from any other year. (Actually, I suspect I should have done a LOT MORE world building before attempting a science fiction story. Oh well.) But four days and five thousand words in, it just wasn’t jelling. The energy wasn’t there.

Don’t worry – I didn’t give up. I innovated. Spent the month where I needed the effort — in heavy editing. It’s not my traditional way to spend November, but you know what? Editing comes after writing. It’s progress that matters.

 

 

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe: WPaD Science Fiction

Two of my stories are published in this new anthology. Please check them out, if you haven’t seen it. You can find it in a variety of places. For succinctness, I’ll link the amazon site here.

My first story is “POD” – about efforts to terraform an ocean planet.

My second story is “Spectrum” – a futuristic ghost story with heart.

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

Not like that!

(This is me in Dalaran, posing in my Hallow’s End costume. Scary! Notice the rolling eyeballs in my shoulder armor? Okay, maybe my fashion sense isn’t the best…)

What I meant was, I’m getting ready for NaNoWriMo –figuring out a plot, building a fictional world, auditioning characters, and deciding between first person multiple viewpoint narration, or third. All the little pieces that turn a rough idea into a story.

I’m not really prepared — I haven’t even named half my characters. But then, I rarely am. Only when I spin it out on the page does the story come alive in my mind.

On a good day I’m full of ideas, and the words flow easily. But Nanowrimo isn’t really about that — it’s about writing the words that aren’t easy — writing on the days when you’d rather be doing practically anything else.

And ultimately, that’s what separates a successful writer from the rest of the pack.

Nature comes tapping

New Mexico's vibrant wildlife, the plucky roadrunner pays a visit to the author.

The Plucky Roadrunner visits

I’ve been visiting my family in the beautiful state of New Mexico, and marveling at the different wildlife that flocks around. Hummingbirds chase each other from the feeders, a kestrel dives and soars. Buzzards circle in the hot azure skies. Lizards turn suspicious eyes up at me wherever I walk, darting for cover. Butterflies flutter by the dozens, and dragonflies zip past on a mission. Tarantulas and scorpions and vinegarones wander the night. It’s an active and vital place.

But perhaps my favorite, a plucky roadrunner. Tap, tap… I open the blinds to discover who is making the noise. There he is, perched upon the bird feeder and challenging his own reflection in the wide picture-window. What a beauty he is, with his sharp-curved beak and a vibrant sweep of red, white, and blue behind his eyes. He plucks up a dying beetle and, as he speeds away, I see the iridescent green sheen of his long feathers. “Come again,” I call as he recedes into the distance.