Time of plenty

Our summers here in the north country are short, but what they lack in length they make up for in fullness of experience. Here in late July, the harvest bounty of both wild foods and gardens is starting to ripen. We are having an amazing raspberry year — a wealth of lush, sweet berries free for the picking all around the yard. I’ve been gathering handfuls as I work in the garden.

Wild raspberries in the edge of the yard. The bushes are so loaded it’s hard to believe they grew all by themselves; I didn’t have to do a thing!

We’ve had a few projects going on this summer. Our bridge over the creek self-destructed in the ice last winter. This was the second bridge we’ve lost, the first having been taken out in a flood a few years ago, so Orion decided to build a better, stronger, HIGHER bridge this time, one that hopefully is far enough above the creek to avoid the ice and the flooding.

New bridge – better than the old bridge! We hope!

We have had glorious wildflowers this summer, and currently the fireweed is in full bloom all around the yard and along the highway – you can see some of it in the bridge picture above.. There’s an interesting patch of white fireweed (or rather, pale pink) along the highway near our driveway turnoff that’s been there for the last few years. I keep intending to collect some seeds and see if I can get it to grow in the yard.

It’s really striking, a little splash of paler color among the vivid magenta of the normal fireweed.

We also have a lot of multi-branched fireweed growing around the yard, like this complete over-achiever next to the deck.

multi-branched fireweed
That’s just one fireweed plant! Also, I can’t help feeling the deck itself is not really adding to the aesthetics of that photo. It could use a bit of maintenance.

I’m also putting in a new flowerbed at the edge of the woods …

Not much to see yet, but it’ll be more beautiful when the flowers are planted … I hope!

September at Icefall Studio

Fall has befallen, and we’re just past the height of peak colors. It’s a rather monochrome sort of autumn that we have here, but I love how bright the gold trees make the whole world feel.

As Lauren Esker, I have a story this month in Two Mates for the Dragon, a benefit anthology for OutRight International, a nonprofit that works to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people across the world. All profits will be donated to them in perpetuity.

I’m one of six authors who wrote a story for the anthology. All stories are M/M/F bisexual poly romance involving humans and (shapeshifting) dragons. My story, “Heart of Stone”, is blurbed thusly:

Tess’s dragonslayer husband David is dying, and her only hope is to seek help from David’s ex-boyfriend, a dragon who runs a hot springs resort.

(Note: This anthology contains sexually explicit material.)

We’re starting to get into the time of year when I’m thinking ahead to winter holiday bazaar season and starting ornament painting, but I … kinda haven’t gotten started on that yet, so no progress to share yet.

Some new stuff on Facebook, though! Namely, two new groups:

Lauren’s Fireside Book Chat, for my Lauren Esker romance books (and general booktalk, mostly romance related)

Layla Lawlor’s Books and Art, for my realname projects.

Feel free to join if either of those sounds relevant to you! But don’t feel obligated to follow me in projects that are not of interest.

And finally, a few interesting links found in various places:

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do and What to Do About It and relatedly, The Marshmallow Experiment. Two very interesting posts on procrastination and delayed gratification.

“Let’s Talk About Genre” – a really fascinating interview with Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro.

I think that there’s a huge difference between, for example, a novel with spies in it and a spy novel; or a novel with cowboys in it and a cowboy novel. I have a mad theory that I started evolving when I read a book called Hard Core by Linda Williams, a film professor in California. It was one of the first books analysing hardcore pornography as a film genre.

She said that in order to make sense of it, you need to think of musicals, because the plot in a musical exists to stop all of the songs from happening at once, and to get you from song to song. You need the song where the heroine pines for what she does not have, you need the songs where the whole chorus is doing something rousing and upbeat, and you need the song when the lovers get together and, after all the vicissitudes, triumph.

I thought, “That’s actually a way to view all literary genres,” because there are things that people who like a genre are looking for in their fiction: the things that titillate, the things that satisfy. If it was a cowboy novel, we’d need the fight in the saloon; we’d need the bad guy to come riding into town and the good guy to be waiting for him. A novel that happens to be set in the Old West doesn’t actually need to deliver any of those things – though it would leave readers of genre cowboy fiction feeling peculiarly disappointed, because they have not got the moments of specific satisfaction.

Really good stuff.

And finally, How to have a Smartphone with No Data Plan and Still Do All The Things. Not just applicable if you have no data at all, but also to maximizing your data by using available wifi where possible.

June and July at Icefall Studio

June highlights included a driving trip to Whitehorse and Dawson City for our solstice anniversary. We saw a number of bears and other wildlife along the way:

I also released a scifi romance, Metal Wolf, under my Lauren Esker pen name.

In July, I’m taking a painting class at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, have restarted weekly Kismet updates, and plan to release an urban fantasy novel on my birthday, July 26.

The tale the fox tracks told

We are just past the equinox, it’s staying light ’til 8 or 9 (a small harbinger of the all-night light we’ll start getting in about a month) and there were fox tracks all over the gravel pit today, including some that told the story of a curious little fox that wanted to see the world from higher up!

This was the first thing out of the ordinary that I happened to notice (beyond the fox tracks in general). You can see some tracks up top of this old flatbed in our gravel pit and the mark in the snow where it jumped off.

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March is the cruelest month

Especially this year. Throughout February it snew and snew, and then snew some more, and now … look at it out there. ;__; I mean, it’s beautiful, BUT. This is the time of year when it feels as if winter will never end. (This picture is from a couple of days ago, when it was sunny. Today it was snowing again. AARGH.)

It doesn’t help that I was sick for half of February, so I’m behind on everything.

But I’m digging myself out from under a to-do pile. I’ve finally got the website redesigned for a newer, cleaner, more mobile-responsive look. There’s now a proper blog again (I want to start posting some free fiction here), the Short Stories page has been restored after being eliminated in the last redesign, the Start Here page has been updated with all my current projects, and the Books page has been updated with a bunch of new stuff. I’ve added a page for 2018 shows (such as they are).

And the snow will melt, and spring will come! It’s just going to be a month or so before we see any proper progress on that …

March at Icefall Studio

A new year is upon us, the days are getting longer, and the site has a new, cleaner look. I plan to update more often this year. There’s a lot of news forthcoming from Icefall Studio (new books! new publications! new art!) so stay tuned for that in coming months, even if we’re currently stuck in the March doldrums when it feels like winter is never going to end.

September at Icefall Studio

Somehow autumn seems to have crept up on us. The air has that fresh crisp smell (and underlying chilly bite), the trees are turning colors, the farmer’s market and summer food trucks are in their final weeks if they haven’t closed down already … how does it come at the same time every year, and yet seems to come out of nowhere when it does?

At least this year I have an excuse. I spent two and a half weeks of August in England for a friend’s wedding and general touristing, which was lovely.

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August state-of-the-studio

Well, the big news for July is that I had my 40th birthday. I’ve never really marked a birthday milestone before; 18 and 21 came with new rights and responsibilities, but I didn’t really do anything. And 30 never made much of an impression on me. But for some reason, 40 felt like a big one, and I wanted to do something to commemorate the occasion.

I ended up spending it in Homer with my mom. It was a lovely vacation; we rented a nice little cabin in the hills, from Wild Rose Cottages:

Continue reading “August state-of-the-studio”