Reading in the Woods

As you all know, I was able to sell a second short story entitled Kitsune Tea,” using my pseudonym, E.A. Lawrence and it was published in the anthology ROAR 7 edited by Mary E. Lowd.

Prior to going on my recent camping trip, I finally got my paperback copy in the mail. It was a delicious feeling to hold the book in my hands, drink in that new book smell, and caress the pages that held my imagination. Let me tell you, that is the best paper I have ever felt in my life. This whole selling-my-fiction-for-money thing is a dream that I’ve been actively pursuing since I was nine and getting to see my work in a BOOK is a dream come true.  I feel triumphant and energized and hopeful that my story will make people smile. Optimism about this being but one step in my literary journey with more to follow in the not-too-distant future is also revving me up.

Since I got the book in the mail before my trip, I figured that I would bring it along. Why not? Paperbacks are tough and what better place to read a story set in the woods than actually sitting in the woods? I guess that I’m a little method but who cares.

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Campsite by E.A. Schneider

We got to the state park in the upper midwest and set up camp in a nice clearing. Like most state parks there was a picnic table set on more or less level ground and a fire ring. The site was surrounded with a nice mix of hardwood deciduous trees with a full, bushy understory and a wet spot/creek bed running through the area. It was lovely.

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Butterfly feeding by E.A. Schneider

My friend and I did our hiking and came back to camp later than we planned to cook dinner but, no big deal, right? Well…we weren’t alone. Remember all those lovely big trees with a moist bushy understory surrounding our site? At dark  we quickly realized that there was a meso-predator who called the site home and he wanted something besides the numerous cricket frogs in the moist spots to eat. A raccoon wanted in on dinner and was  quite bold about saying so. It was clear that people had fed him. This raccoon approached the picnic table even though we were there and started chewing on the tied up garbage bag before my friend shooed him off.

As we sat at the picnic table eating our campfire food (delicious baked stuffed onions and cakes in oranges), the raccoon kept creeping up. I have no doubt that if we had been less antagonistic in waving our lanterns at him, that he would have felt comfortable sitting at the table and helped himself from our plates. Being us, we disapprove of such shenangins, wildlife should be wild thank-you-very-much, and were careful to clear everything edible up and away in the car for the night. I rather thought that, without anything in sight anymore, that the raccoon would put his energies toward other foraging and leave us to ourselves.

We pulled our camp chairs to the fire and settled in to relax. I had a cup of tea, my lantern, and my book. I even took a picture of the first page of my story for posterity because why not. There were stars gleaming above between the tree-tops, more stars densely packed in that one clearing of sky than you can easily see from my whole backyard, and it was a lovely quiet night.

 

Then my friend saw the raccoon, driven by curiosity to explore our picnic table. He trundled off after we snapped some pictures. The pictures were not terribly good but it had been worth a try. Again, I figured that he would move on and went back to reading my story.

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Raccoon on the table by E.A. Schneider

As I read my story, getting drawn into the suspense and keen to see that the copy was clean, I was startled by that elemental pricking at the back of the neck one reads about in books occurring on my own neck. I heard paws treading into camp. The raccoon was back again to verify the absence of goodies. This time I snapped a decent picture of the interloper, he scampered off, and that’s it, right? Nope.

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Yeah…I’ve been having fun with the Make It Stranger font generator. I love the show “Stranger Things,” and the font definitely captures the suspenseful feelings of the night with some humor.

Again, I was roused from concentrating on my own story, during a chase scene no less, by the shuffling paw steps of the raccoon coming toward our fire from the other wooded side of camp than the picnic table. I could hear the raccoon’s paws moving through the underbrush and leaf litter. I don’t know if he was that loud, it was that quiet, or my hearing is that much keener than I thought. I couldn’t see him, my eyes were dazzled from the whiteness of my page, which only added to the primal anxiety aroused by the situation. My friend and I both jumped, startled from our separate pursuits by the raccoon’s intrusion. Why would he come back? We had no food left out, we were just sitting there. This was incredible. In all my time in the woods over the years I had never before felt the scrutiny of an interested predator, albeit a small one, in my movements, environment, and objects. Feeling encircled and studied by a wild animal bent on exploring our space and stealing our food definitely added an extra dimension to reading my story.  All the suspenseful bits of “Kitsune Tea” had an extra edge to them than there would have been if I had elected to read the story in an armchair at home.

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My favorite picture of the raccoon by E.A. Schneider

I was able to finish reading my story without further interruption by the raccoon and I was happy. “Kitsune Tea”  was as I remembered with a clean copy having nary a typo in sight. I was both pleased and impressed. Going to sleep that night was tough. For one thing I was still excited by the day and having read my story in a book. For another, the night was teeming with sounds from owls, crickets, cricket frogs, cicadas, the murmur of other campers at other campsites, and other unknown rustlings in the woods.

I also kept thinking about the raccoon. How many calories did he get from campers? How did he choose which campers to pursue and which to avoid? From a raccoon perspective, the site was perfect habitat with those trees, water, and frogs so the human element might just be the cherry on top rather than the main draw. It was fun to ponder. I have always been fond of urban wildlife and the ways in which they thrive. A raccoon living in a well attended state park might not be exactly urban but he certainly knew the perks of the human herd. I don’t know if there is a sequel to “Kitsune Tea” in my brain yet or not but, after my experience with that bold little raccoon, I think there very well might be another adventure set in my imagined Maintou State Forest in the not too distant future. We’ll see.

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Trees in the dark by E.A. Schneider                                                                                                                I freely admit that this is not a good picture but I like the different tones of green and I like remembering just how densely packed with stars that little spot of blackness was.

All in all, I have to recommend reading in the woods generally and particularly reading my “Kitsune Tea” in the woods if at all possible. It was fun. I hope that my encounter with a raccoon made you smile, dear pond readers. Do you have a raccoon anecdote? Do you  have a comment or question? Please, leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond today, dear readers.

 

 

P.S.: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you buy this lovely ROAR 7 anthology published by Furplanet publications through this amazon link: ROAR Volume 7, I will get a small advertising fee. I hope that these fees will help support me as I continue writing and doing creative things here at Technicolorlilypond. Thanks for your support!

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Look, Ma! I’m in a book!

My dear pond readers may remember I recently announced that I sold a second short story that will be appearing in print in a book of short stories. As promised, here is more information: my story is titled Kitsune Tea and is published under my pseudonym, E.A. Lawrence (check out my author page tab for more info!). The anthology is titled ROAR 7 , is edited by Mary E. Lowd, and is being published by Furplanet publications. The book is available for sale. I’m super excited about this career development and I hope you enjoy my story in this collection.

UPDATE! If you want to buy a copy for your home library AND support a burgeoning author, you can use this link: ROAR Volume 7 and I will get a small advertising fee as a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thanks for your support, I hope that you like the book, and thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers.

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Michigan butterfly by E.A. Schneider

Repeatable Joy

The ability to repeat an experiment and replicate results consistently is a cornerstone of science, dear readers. You don’t want something you try, especially something important, to prove to be a fluke. A good experiment can be accurately repeated time and again. This basic fact is burned into my brain. I know that art isn’t science but for me and the way my brain works, I kinda think that anything real should be repeatable.

When my first professionally published story, “Valentine,” hit the Internet a few months ago, that little voice known as Doubt did whisper in my ear. Me being me, I argued.

“You know that it was just a fluke, right?”

Well, I hope it isn’t…

“You know that they didn’t publish your story because they actually thought it was good.”

Then why?

“You know that this isn’t going to happen again, right? Because it’s not.”

That’s probably true; but maybe if I just submit one more time…

If you’re a writer or an artist, you probably have your own version of that dialogue between yourself and your inner demon of Doubt every day, too. I am confident that I’m not the only one. Heck, you probably have your own negative give and take just being a human being.

While I know that Doubt will never go away I am happy to announce that I have managed to get it to shut up for a little while thanks to a victory of epic proportions: I sold another short story. HAH! In your face, Doubt! You can suck it!

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This whole people-publishing-my-stories thing is not a fluke, it is repeatable. And I hope that I can repeat it many times over. Now, I have to get cracking on some more fiction. Thanks for joining me in my happy dancing, dear pond readers.

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My story will be appearing in an anthology that will be published in both book form and epub form later this summer, probably in July. I will post more details as I find them out. In the meantime, dear pond reader, the happy dancing will continue. Thanks for stopping by.

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UPDATE! If you want to buy a copy for your home library AND support a burgeoning author, you can use this link: ROAR Volume 7 and I will get a small advertising fee as a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thanks for your support, I hope that you like the book, and thanks for stopping by the pond, dear readers.

Editing blues

So, I’ve been busy editing things both fictional and non-fictional and it is always difficult. Writing is re-writing until you get it right or somebody you trust tells you to quit already. Revision is your friend as a writer and scientist, but dang is it tough. Yesterday I spent hours cutting a measly 784 words from a manuscript that I just got back from a beloved Beta reader. This was definitely one of those achievements that felt both exciting and excruciating. 784 words! Yay! 784 words. Yay…<insert weeping beside my pile of journals and laptop here>

Once again, blogger and author Daniel Swensen puts how I feel into words and pictures perfectly: A helpful piece of insight entitled: “The Comfortable Void.” I encourage you to check it out while I get back to battling my verbosity to make something decent. How are you doing, fellow writer pond readers? Any project(s) driving you to distraction? Leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond.

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Unfurling possibilities by E.A. Schneider

 

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Books I Love

Recently, someone close to me asked me to recommend them some good sci-fi/fantasy books, preferably ones that were skewed towards adventure. This is definitely one of those requests that falls under the category of “be careful what you wish for,” dear pond readers. When I looked over the list, I realized that given the amount of work I’d poured into it that I might as well turn it into a blog post. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Some series I love like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings, were left off because the person I was recommending books to had already read them. I didn’t put them back on because I think that they are probably the only three series a lot of people have read and I want to bring some other titles forward. The list is skewed toward adventure and a “If you like Tolkien, you might like:” approach, and it leaves out some of my favorites as a result. But, I hope that it gives you some fun reading ideas as you approach the winter and hopefully some well-earned days off. If nothing else, my one to three sentence reviews/summaries might be amusing in their understatement.

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

A cuppa floral fun by E.A. Schneider

  • Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
    • This is written in the style of Regency literature and it is about wizards contributing to the Napoleonic wars. It is a slow starter but absolutely fantastic, extremely well-written
  • The Ladies of Grace-Adieu by Susanna Clarke
    • A charming short-story collection set in the same world as Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you like the one, you will probably like the other and it is very short.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • A splendid collection of short stories with an anthropologic/ethnographer bent kind of sci-fi. This is one of my very favorite books.
  • The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin
    • I love these books. A very cool fantasy adventure with a hero’s journey and wizards.
  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
    • This series just gets better and better with every book. Think urban fantasy meets film noir and magic just happens with compelling characters.
  • The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher
    • I have devoured the first five books this winter. It is a high fantasy series with enough sophistication and political maneuvering combined with great combat to make this an addictive page-turner. When I found the final book,  book six, in the library today I let out an involuntary shriek of joy.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
    • An epic space opera with great adventure, spice, and sandworms.
  • The Charwoman’s Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    • This is a short book with a poignant fantasy arc and a fascinating female lead.
  • The Well at the World’s End by William Morris
    • An epic tale of romantic fantasy, Morris inspired Tolkien a lot and I found this story to be incredibly beautiful. Also, the character named Ursula is amazing.
  • Brave Story  by Miyuki Miyabe
    • I love this story. It is an incredible adventure, a real page-turner. It was very comforting/inspiring when I really needed it.
  • The Never-ending Story by Michael Ende
    • The book is so splendid, way better than the movie. This is a favorite and I think it really touches a nerve for anyone who just genuinely loves Story.
  • Od Magic by Patricia Mckillop
    • This is my favorite of her books, a really fun fantasy about an incredible school for magic.
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    • A wonderful interpretation of the Arthurian legend with some real poignant moments as wells as action.
  • The Worm Ouroboros by Eric Rücker Eddison
    • Eddison was a contemporary of Tolkien and this book is splendid though the ending was a tad irritating but in a mostly good way.
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
    • This is a great novel/short story collection that is filled with wonder.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
    • A sweet, beautiful story of growing up that is absolutely charming and enchanting.
  • Nova by Samuel R. Delaney
    • A rip-roaring space adventure that is just lots of fun.
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
    • A space adventure with a nifty emphasis on tactics with great characters.
  • The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde
    • I LOVE this series. It is an alternate timeline with librarians of action, a book world, dodos, neanderthals, and one of the most captivating heroines I have ever read. Also, it is an action packed page turner for the bibliophile who has a Monty Python-loving sensibility.
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
    • The start of his nursery crime series, this book is a fun combo of fantasy, comedy, and mystery. Even though nursery rhymes feature heavily, it is not a kids bookTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. SchneiderTurkey vultures in the blue by E.A. Schneider
  •  The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
    • This is the start of his series for young people, the Chronicles of Kazam. It is a world not unlike our own with magic as part of everyday life and the protagonist is an orphan named Jennifer Strange. I have read all three books and they are fabulous.
  •  Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
    • This is set in our world, in Michigan to be exact, but with magic based on books. I have read the entire trilogy and they are splendid. Hines does some bold things with his protagonist and it is action-packed without being shallow.
  • The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
    • I have only read the first book in his Princess series but it is wonderful and set in a medieval style world. He turns convention around with some no-nonsense fairy tale heroines and uses the original fairy tales to good effect. I am super excited to read the sequels.
  • Shadows by Robin McKinley
    • I am a big fan of Robin McKinley. She writes fantasy books about female characters who do things and this makes me happy. Shadows is set in a world very like our own but there is magic and just a hint of physics.
  •   Sunshine by Robin McKinley
    • This is also set in a world very like our own, but with magic. The heroine is a baker and she meets vampires. A lot of critics call this book the anti-Twilight because it is smart, funny, well-written, and has pretty emotionally healthy characters. I like this a little better than Shadows but they are both good.
  •  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
    • The first book McKinley wrote set in her magical fantasy land called Damar. I think this is a good McKinley gateway book and it is considered a classic.
  •     The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
    • While McKinley writes a lot of books in Damar in no particular chronological order, the Blue Sword is a direct sequel to the Hero and the Crown.
  •     Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
    • This is my favorite of her novels. It is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, which I generally dislike, but she makes it so interesting and thrilling. I also really like her characters and the fact that she lets them make difficult choices.
  •  Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley
    • This is set in our world, more or less, but with dragons. It is written in such a way that I kept wanting to google to see if the Makepeace Dragon Institute were real. I found the protagonist irritating in and of himself but it is a compliment to her writing that that did not put me off reading the book, indeed I couldn’t put it down.
  • The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
    • A classic of children’s literature with a lot of imagination, some adventure, and a charming ending.
  •  The Mrs. Quent trilogy by Galen Beckett.
    • This is a splendid Regency-England style fantasy trilogy that has witches and wonderful prose. It is also pretty short if you are looking for a fast to read series.
My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

My haul from my last used-bookstore crawl. Who knows? Maybe a new favorite is lurking in that tantalizing pile of books.

Happy reading, dear pond readers. Thank you for stopping by today and please, leave a comment with what you are reading.

My Spirit Animal

I frequently joke about spirit animals. The animal in question varies with the needs of the moment and I often find it helpful to visualize the persistence of a snail crawling over a rock, the stoic grace of a tortoise, the I-do-not-even-care attitude of a skunk moseying along its way, depending on my mood. When it comes to writing, I have decided to claim the Brown Capuchin monkey as my spirit animal. This remarkable monkey has the foresight and tool use acumen to keep harvesting palm nuts, prepping them, toasting them in the sun, and cracking them open over days of work. When I saw this documentary talking about this incredible monkey I thought, “Eureka! This must be my writing spirit animal!” I also thought it was rather cute. But still, cuteness notwithstanding, I am dang impressed with how this monkey literally always has another nut toasting in the sun while it is prepping the nut after that one. I wish I could say the same about my writing. Writing is an incredibly time consuming process for me. I also tend to fixate on a story and just keep polishing it and polishing it to the exclusion of all else. That is not a winning strategy if one is to make a go of being a writer any more than obsessively preparing only one nut would be a successful strategy for a monkey. I have notes and notes and outlines for my main WIP based on my flash fiction, Cinderella’s Ghost, that I have been plugging away at pretty steadily. This is is great but, that WIP is a long term project and if I want to be a good monkey…er…writer, I need to get another nut toasting pronto. So, in the spirit of the brown capuchin monkey, I set myself the challenge that I would finish a brand new piece of short fiction this fall. Not a re-polish of something else, no writing prompt involved, just me, my journal, and my fountain pen. By gum I did it. I finished a first draft at the end of August. The 22 pages of fountain pen scrawl turned into 28 pages of double-spaced 12 point manuscript at ~7100 words. I call that a pretty respectable first draft. Now, I’m chipping away at the second draft, trying to stick that ending. Pesky endings, always slippery things. But, I don’t want to lose my momentum. I believe that I will attempt one or both of the following challenges: Almost an Inkling Creative Writing Contest courtesy of the splendid Jubilare and/or The First Line Literary Journal’s Winter prompt. Anybody with me, dear pond readers? After all, it doesn’t have to be November to get some social writing spirit going. Thanks for stopping by the pond today. May your ink and your ideas flow freely!

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider

Sky is the limit! by E.A. Schneider

Endurance Activity

Toad closeup by E.A. Schneider

Toad closeup by E.A. Schneider

Let no one tell you, dear pond readers, that writing is not an endurance activity. In the past 48 hours I have emptied three fountain pens worth of ink writing 36 pages of text, filling my favorite journal in the process. I have an angry red callus and a persistent dent in my index finger, which I incidentally cannot feel, from writing as fast as I could. I have had ideas for two new projects rocketing around in my head for the last few weeks and I have finally been able to put pen to paper on them. One idea is well sketched while the other has 26 pages of bona fide hand written text to transcribe to computer. Phew!  I feel shockingly productive. I credit finding out that one of my stories is under final consideration for publication as a major motivating factor in getting some inspiration energy activated. My mom always said that an artist is only as good as their next success so I feel that if my next success is in fact potentially imminent, I had better get my rear in gear on the one after that as soon as possible. We’ll see if my life cooperates in this attempt and whether I can keep laying out ink on these projects. How are you doing on your WIPs, dear pond readers? Are you struggling to keep up? Are you digging deep to get started? Feel free to leave a comment below and thanks for stopping by the pond!

Ancient cedars clinging to older stone by E.A. Schneider

Ancient cedars clinging to older stone by E.A. Schneider