Good Times

Yesterday, my mom and I spent the day doing the funnest thing ever. At least, exactly tailored to what is fun for us.

My mom and Dave arrived late on Saturday. One of the perks of us being in Santa Fe is that we’re now on their migration route between Tucson and Denver. They left this morning, heading north to Denver for the summer. Maybe for the last year. After this they might commit to Tucson full time.

We’ll see.

But yesterday, my mom and I got to spend the day doing the Eldorado Studio Tour. It was a gorgeous day, so we drove the convertible with the top down. There were 117 artist displaying work in 83 studios, all around the community of Eldorado.

This provided fun for us on so many levels: we got to see the houses and the way people set up their studios. We looked at landscaping and entryways. We saw how people decorated their homes, how they dealt with their culverts (very important to me these days) and who had the best views. (I still think ours is one of the very best – we totally lucked into that.) We saw so many different kinds of art, talked to the artists and their spouses and met lots of fun and interesting people. I even met a spouse who’s a writer and might be a new friend.

The guys would have hated every minute.

So it was serendipitous my mom came through this weekend and was able to spend the day with me. We were out for six hours. I bought some notecards from a couple of artists and a giclee page proof of Moonlight Madness by Julia Cairns – the pic above. It reminds me of some of the things I’m writing now. There’s another painting by Daniel Huntsinger that really reminds me of Sterling in this very dark way. (That’s not it, but it gives you a feel for his work.) I kind of want it and I kind of think it’s too dark.

I’ll probably go get it. I’m eying the spot on my office wall where it should be.

See how I am?

That’s the best part: it’s what my mom and I share.

Best day ever.

Taking the Leap

Yesterday Isabel discovered the finch nest in the juniper out front. She managed to climb pretty high before I intervened.

For the finch’s sake, not hers.

It’s pretty cliché, the story about a cat being stuck up a tree. They can climb up, but they can’t come down again. The idea makes a good foil. The hero rescuing the cat, the fretting over the cat, the dubious moral about getting yourself into something you can’t get out of.

The truth is, usually the cat doesn’t come down because it doesn’t want to. When it’s ready, down they climb, just fine.

I’ve had enough of hanging out in my particular tree. I’ve taken what feels like a big step and I’m sending directly to a science fiction/fantasy house. One whose imprint I know like my own name, because it’s been on every book I’ve read for the last 4o years or so.

It feels good, too.

As I discovered a few months ago, printing the book out is satisfying in a way the electronic attachment can never be. Mindful of those lessons, I used my best paper. This house earned extra points from me because all they want is a cover letter and the full manuscript. No dinking around with synopses or partials. All or nothing baby.

I sent it all.

And it feels like taking action in a way that nothing else lately really has.

And I tweeted the fabulous Robin McKinley to tell her I was sending it, not that she’d care, and that my cover letter says I want to be her when I grown up, so I was tweeting her for luck. And she tweeted back a “Good Luck!” Which, okay, is probably silly to get all thrilled about, but I did. I am.

Now we wait and see. I bet the cat will come down on her own.

Money is Time

We’re in this in-between time here, with this one last tulip barely hanging on, and the iris not yet blooming.

The fierce, cold winds of the last week or two (apparently it was quite stormy while we were gone) shattered the apple blossoms and threw everything back into stasis. The butterfly bush, the lilacs, the iris – they’re ready to blossom, but they’re waiting, leaves a bit shriveled, looking for an extra boost of warmth.

Any day now.

The other day a guy came to our door offering cleaning services. He was a twenty-something and granola with it. He said he had a number of clients in our neighborhood; I nearly asked him to name names. We were both home and the guy specifically mentioned window cleaning, which we need done, so I asked him to give us a bid to do it. Since washing the windows has been on my to-do list for several months now, I thought it might be worth finding out.

$350. I kid you not.

And here I was thinking $50 or $100. Who knew I would be so far off base?

I tend to think of things now in terms of what my hourly rate at the day job is. Especially if it’s something I don’t want to do. When I was a grad student, young professional, I had way more time than money. Mainly because I had no money. Anything I could do myself, I did. Then at some point the ratio changed and I had more money than time. If I could pay someone to do it, great. Especially if it would “cost” more to do it myself, in terms of my hourly rate.

Am I the only one who thinks this way?

I make a decent living, but I figure it will only take an hour or two to wash the windows. No, I don’t make anywhere close to $175. Washing the windows myself, it is.

We watched the guy walk away, hunched against the cold wind, joined by a woman his age in a flowing gypsy skirt. David wondered how they can charge those kinds of prices. I thought maybe it’s worth it to some people to pay that kind of price.

Now that I’m thinking more and more about truly being a full-time writer, my mind is starting to go back the other way. I’m doing things more myself and find myself less willing to shell out the money to hire someone else.

I’m seriously considering hiring out to wash other people’s windows, too.

Straddling Fences

This morning I moved the houseplants outside to start the hardening off process.

I noticed in my wisteria-love fest the other day that last year in Laramie I moved the plants out on May 28. (I explained hardening off there, too, if you’re wondering what it is.) So Santa Fe has only moved me up by 16 days. Of course, we’ve been gone and I didn’t want the house-sitter to have to nurse them. I might have done it sooner than this.

We’ll see what next year brings. By all accounts it’s been a cool Spring all up and down the Rocky Mountain states.

But it’s snowing in Denver and Laramie, so I have plenty of smug to fill my bowl of contentment.

I talked to Catherine Asaro yesterday on the phone, about Obsidian, which she graciously read for me. She’s really a wonderful gal and a terrific writer, so if you haven’t read her, you should seriously pick up a book or two of hers. And I’m not just saying that because she read my mss and said lovely things about it.

So, while it was great to hear her tell me what a wonderful writer I am and how good the book is, there’s no super-new news there. She thinks I’m not going to get an agent with it because it’s too outside the box. She says that’s what I get for forging a new path. Which sounds kind of cool and glamorous, except that it really means that it’s difficult to sell.

“It starts out as excellent, gritty urban fantasy,” she says, “then moves into also excellent fantasy. But from a feminine perspective, which is really different.”

One of the things I’ve learned? When all those publishing industry folks say they’re looking for something really fresh and original, they’re not, really. What they want is the same creature dressed up in a fresh, new outfit.

Not that I’m bitter.

Actually, I’m not feeling bitter at all. Catherine says pitch directly to editors because I’ll surely find one who wants this. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep working on Sterling, too, which (as I think I’ve mentioned twenty times or so) should fit quite neatly into urban fantasy, with no genre-defying cross-overs.

That always seems to be my deal – I do stuff that nobody gets, then five years later it’s the thing. It would be nice to think I’m cutting-edge, but really that seems to be someone else most of the time. Suddenly my thing that no one got is all the rage or even old hat.

I could give you a bunch of examples, but they’re boring. I swear it’s true.

When Catherine said that forging a new path is difficult, I pictured myself in a blizzard, struggling through knee-deep snow. Too dramatic? That’s how it feels. Ice pellets of rejection stinging your face, energy seeping out of your muscles until you feel like you’re simply too tired to go on.

But what’s the alternative? The literary equivalent of lying down in the snow to die. It would feel nice, I hear, the cold changing to warmth as hypothermia sets in. Yielding to the overwhelming sleepiness as the falling snowflakes bury you. Erasing you.


Forging onward!

(Anyone got some Polar-tek?)

Morning Skirmish

We were out of eggs this morning, so I popped up to our local grocery store to get some. And, since I was there anyway, I stopped into the coffee shop for a latte.

I like our local coffee shop just fine. The coffee drinks are good. It’s cozy. They do amusing things like offer an “Obama blend” of Hawaiian and Kenyan beans.

They lack somewhat in efficiency.

This morning I was first up to the counter. This can be good and bad – no wait, but that means I drew the bossy, slow worker-gal. I ordered my nonfat, sugar-free caramel latte, set my cartons of eggs and bag of lemons on the counter next to the register, pulled out my billfold and a twenty, ready to pay. At this shop, however, you don’t pay until they’re done making your drink.

Another woman comes in, orders a soy latte. Because she gets the fast worker-gal, her latte is done first. Fast worker gal asks if I mind if I ring up the other lady first. What am I going to say? So I say sure, fine, go ahead. And the other lady gives me a look and gestures to the counter and says “Can I put my purse down?”

Now, where she’s standing, there’s counter room, but there’s also gum and other things, not the big open glass next to the register. I step out of the way, holding my billfold and twenty, and she plops her purse in the middle of the glass space, glaring at my eggs and lemons waiting to the side.

This is her territory now.

I’m always interested by checkout counter territorialism. People like to take over the entire space and give it up reluctantly. It seems like undesirably territory to me, but there it is.

So she pulls out her billfold – no, she isn’t ready – picks out some coffee cake, selects a credit card and gives it over. Meanwhile the slow worker-gal finishes my latte and sets it on the counter, too. She tries to slide it around the perimeter of this woman’s purse to get it within my reach and the woman looks offended. I say I’ll just wait for it until she’s done.

The card takes time to go through. Then the pen doesn’t work. The woman gets a bit flustered now and I wonder if she regrets taking over the big space. Finally she finishes, but takes her time packing up her things again. Clinging to the last vestiges of her moment. She leaves without looking at me and I know I’m probably oozing impatience, though I’m trying hard to look serene.

I’m out the door thirty seconds behind her.

As I head home, I wonder what story she’d tell her co-workers. Would it be the impatient woman in sweaty workout clothes who tried to hog the counter and wouldn’t let her pay? Will she change it in her mind, that we walked in at the same time, or even that she was truly first and I edged her out by piling my groceries on the counter?

Perhaps she doesn’t think of it at all. Perhaps she gets to work and lays out her things on her desk, at peace to have it to herself.

Wistful Wisteria

A moment before this, an Isabel tail was sticking straight up through the iris blades, fluffed with furry excitement.

Alas, I missed the moment. Whatever she’d pounced on moved, or bit back, and she shot out of there like a bolt of grey lightning.

Fine cocktail hour entertainment.

And a lovely end to a lovely day. I worked my way back into Sterling. (Thanks to KAK for nattering with me about it.) We went for the first bike ride of the season, checked out the local garden place.

I bought a Wisteria vine.

Does this seem like not such a big deal?

It is. It truly is. In fact, it’s enough of a deal that I’ve apparently already blogged about it before. I’m always amused to find, after almost 1.5 years of blogging, when I’ve used a label before on a topic I thought I’d never mentioned. But there it is: Wisteria. And the post is even titled Wisteria Hysteria.

It’s interesting for me to read that post from May 28 last year. (Apologies if it isn’t interesting for you…) We ended up not moving to Canada. And even though I could have dragged all of my plants to Santa Fe, in the end we flat ran out of room, at 11 o’clock at night, in the moving truck. So I neither had a plant sale, nor gave them away – I left a bunch of them there in the sun room, for the new owners.

I wonder sometimes if they’ve taken care of them or if they all got kicked to the curb.

I’m not allowed to wax sentimental about my abandoned houseplants, however. The bougainvillea made the cut, but the hibiscus and orchid stayed behind. The orchid was in pretty dire shape anyway and people would give me these “are you completely nuts?” looks when I talked about how it could come back.

I get those looks a fair amount.

But, yesterday I bought and planted a wisteria vine, which I know will grow here, because I’ve seen them on other houses. One house we looked at shot straight to the top of my list because it came pre-wisteriaed.

Now I have one to nurse along. Funny how things work out.

Home Again

We returned to the antipode of the Caribbean – back to our high-altitude desert.

Last night I slept in my own bed and dreamed that I was sleeping in the aquamarine water over a coral reef. I lay on my back, cradled by the warm water, white spires of coral rising around me and fish sailing by in bright colors. Isabel was curled up under my right arm and Teddy slept up against my left hip. I woke up to hear coyotes howling in the thin desert air, with the kitties snuggled up against me.

It’s good to be home again.

But If You Try Sometimes

I’m catching you up now from our hotel room in San Juan.

So close, and yet so far from our Caribbean beaches.


So, on Monday, we went to breakfast and awaited the Phone Call. Sure enough, Little Dix called and said we could do the 11 am glass-bottomed boat ride. We bundled up our things into the Jeep and headed over to the fancy side. However, when we presented ourselves, it turned out the captain wasn’t coming for just two people. Maybe we could go on Wednesday. I explained we were leaving Wednesday, though we didn’t know exactly when. Our original flight from Virgin Gorda had been at 4, but Air Sunshine had yet to tell us The New Plan.

Did I mention Little Dix is a class joint? They gave us free Mango Coladas at the pool bar for our trouble.

And then we went to the beaches. Long Bay is a beach-comber’s delight, with nifty critters fossilized into the rocks. Shells are everywhere. Snorkeling was great there and at Savannah Bay.

We took time out for lunch at Leverick Bay resort (where we saw the Jumbies). Did you know there are Kobe beef hot dogs? Delicious, too.

Both beaches are sunny and exposed, so we dragged ourselves home, sun and salt-bleached, to grill shrimp on our little barbeque grill.

Tuesday morning, we finally found out that Air Sunshine intended to put us on a 12:30 flight out of Tortola, which meant we’d have to leave on an 8:20 ferry.

At which I commenced whining. For good or ill, while I could call and pester Air Sunshine (Lord knows how much those calls cost me), they couldn’t seem to call me. So they called Guavaberry, who were good advocates for us. Finally the bearers of sunshine agreed to a 4pm flight, but we had no choice but to take an 11:20 ferry to get there. If we took a later one, we’d have to deal with Road Town and the transfer to the airport.

Too late for the glass-bottomed boat tour.

And here I’d had my heart set. You see, David is not a strong swimmer. (Chalk it up to childhood lessons in a city pool filled from snowmelt.) So he can’t swim in the deeper water and see the really cool fish. I so wanted him to be able to see it. I might have shed a tear or two.

Then David had the brilliant idea of calling the captain directly. It’s hard to say who it was more for at that point – for David or for me-for-David. But it worked! The guy said if we came to him, he’d take just the two of us out.

Not super-easy, but not hard. We zipped over to the jetties at Gun Creek and caught the hourly free ferry over to the Bitter End Yacht Club – an all-inclusive resort on its own little island. Most of our fellow passengers were locals who work at the resort.

Not a bad commute.

The tour was wonderful. I even saw a sea turtle, which I’d not long before told David I no longer believed in, since I’d snorkeled in all these sea turtle places without seeing one. Then we had beers and calamari while we waited for the five o’clock ferry, which was packed with housekeeping staff and other resort workers heading home in end-of-day merriment.

Last night we went for a return dinner at Copper Mine. This morning we went for a last swim at Spring Bay and drove to the ferry landing (just past the harbor where we arrived, we were told).
We left our Jeep, unlocked, keys in ashtray, as instructed.

The ferry people knew nothing about our Air Sunshine deal, so we had to pay the $40 fare.

And we ended up in Road Town. We were *supposed* to take the OTHER ferry, the Air Sunshine woman irritably told us. The other one that also left at 11:20, of which there was no evidence. Now we’d have to take a taxi.

So we ate lunch. And shopped a bit in Road Town. We arrived at the airport around 2:30. No one was at the Air Sunshine desk, so we sat in the outside cafe and had a Coke. The Air Sunshine woman spotted my suitcase – which is really funny, for those of you who know what it looks like – and came to fetch us.

We were to check in or we’d get left, she said. I said the plane was for 4pm, wasn’t it?

Or earlier, she said. The pilot had just left San Juan, so would arrive soon.

They bundled David and I onto our private plane at 3:30. They walked us out, pulled the arriving couple off and popped us on.

I watched the other couple walk in, thinking that had been us, just a week ago.

But it’s good to go home while you’re still having fun. We’ll take our chain of flights home in the morning. Soon I’ll be back to it. I’ve been turning Sterling over in my mind and I know where we’re going next.

Vacation is over. I’m ready.

When You See the Southern Cross for the First Time

I skipped posting yesterday, for no particularly good reason.

Actually it all started with breakfast at Little Dix Bay on Sunday, so I’ll start there.

As I mentioned on Sunday’s post, it rained all night Saturday night. Torrential, cooling, tropical rain. It still rained on Sunday morning, so we slept longer, listening to it fall through the broad leaves. And then we decided it was an ideal morning to have breakfast at Little Dix Bay, which is the high end resort on the island. We stuffed ourselves and watched the gentle rain fall. Then we walked on the beach, which is endless. We were the only people on it, because rain is apparently poisonous to tourists.

Little Dix is so sauve, they give you a little photocopied mini-version of the New York Times. We read the articles while we lingered – and noticed they offer a glass-bottomed boat tour. We asked if we could do the Monday one, they said yes, if enough people signed up and they’d call.

We noodled around the island for a bit after that, visited the ruined copper mine and looked at houses for sale, debating the pros and cons of each. None have asking prices on them.

Then we hiked up Gorda Peak.

Up very slimy hill. Through jungle. We saw a soldier crab, several giant hermit crabs and nearly stepped on snakes three different times. It was a bit unsettling.

We also saw these yellow and brown butterflies, that we think are zebra butterflies, though the colors are wrong. They have this lazy, languid way of flapping through the heavy moist air.

And, of course, the view from the lookout tower at the top was incredible.

We investigated some new beaches, ones we returned to yesterday, so I’ll save those pictures for now.
Sunset found us on our deck again. Then we went to the Copper Mine Shaft Cafe for an incredible meal – and really strong drinks. If you have occasion to drink a Caribbean Blue Martini, resist the urge to have more than one.

The best part was a Cambridge professor and his wife who live here now showed us the Southern Cross on the deck. We’re only 18 degrees north of the equator here. I had no idea we would be able to see the constellation so easily.

It was thrilling, actually. And I didn’t have to go to the Southern Hemisphere to see it.

When we got back to our Guavaberry Hut, a little dog greeted us as if we were his returning owners. He came right inside. His tag said his name was Humpty, with owner’s name and location on the other side of the island. His tag also said: “I wander. Love me. Feed me. Release me.”
I gave him some water and he politely asked if he could get in the chair. I patted the cushion and up he leapt to spend the night. In the morning he wandered off.

We left the house more expeditiously than usual in pursuit of the glass-bottomed boat tour.

A story for tomorrow.

Oh – and last night? We found the Southern Cross in the sky from our own deck, now that we know how to look.

Yes, just as thrilling the second time.

A Day of Too Much Perfection

Yesterday was spent much like every other, which was perfect.

We took our usual breakfast walk up to the Top of the Baths, where our breakfast buddy waited for us.

Then we hiked the trail down to The Baths and crawled through the caves to Devils Bay.

Each bay seems more perfect and lovely than the last.

The afternoon whiled away with sunbathing, beer-drinking and snorkeling. We went to a great place for dinner – The Village Cafe – where they provided us with amazing barbequed ribs, chicken and jerked pork. The best meal we’ve had so far, poolside and with a live band. Everyone was so wonderful to us – and again we were the only people there.

Perhaps it’s the end of the season here. Perhaps it’s the economy.

Seems to me like it’s the perfect time to be here.

As night came on, the rain started to fall, which pleased everyone here. They’ve been having drought. A cooling, drenching rain fell all night.

Which also seemed just perfect.

P.S. This morning I bought an underwater camera. I know, I know – you were thinking, if only there were FISH photos! Stay tuned…