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Sic Parvis Magna

From Hepzibah’s Garden

Three years ago, I planted a bare root apple tree. When it came in the mail, it looked like a stick with some squiggly roots sticking out of the bottom, but planting it felt momentous. Someday–I didn’t know when–that stick, if I was lucky, would grow branches, take over my yard, and even produce delicious apples. It’s not there yet, but this spring it has produced its first blossoms.

But the apple tree isn’t the only thing bursting into flower in my garden! All the spring ephemerals are doing their thing. Many of the daffodils have already wrapped up their show for the year, but the muscari and bluebells are still going crazy, and the strawberries are beginning to get in on the action.

Here’s a picture of my new strawberry bed:

The strawberries in the foreground are easy to pick out, because I transplanted them this spring to an area that was freshly weeded. The other strawberries are hiding in the lush clover growth. Every few weeks, I’ll give the clover a smart haircut, which causes it to prune down its roots. Since clover is a nitrogen-fixer, every time it sheds bits of roots, it sends a flush of nitrogen into the soil that feeds my berry plants. I just leave the chopped clover on the ground, where it adds organic matter to the soil.

At the beginning of last year, this bed had suffered from terrible erosion, and the soil refused to hold water. I topped it up with compost and planted a mix of clover and flowering plants. After about three weeks of chop-and-drop mulching (cutting the leaves off the clover and leaving them on the soil surface), water stopped sluicing off the bed when I watered the plants. After three months, the soil was visibly deeper–the bed had gained about half an inch of height, and the top two inches of soil were now fluffy and dark, perfect for strawberries.

Since I’m a writer, I tend to think of gardening as “worldbuilding.” When I start a new story or novel, I have to sort out the relationships between the different plants, creatures, and people in the worlds I’m imagining, because nothing lives on its own. In my garden, the other plants have a real effect on each other, and I have to keep that in mind. My strawberries love living with clover, and last summer I accidentally brought a cucumber plant back to life when I planted a bed with wheat and vetch cover crops that apparently sheltered and nourished my withered cucumber. If I keep these things in mind, I can make my garden a far more vibrant place than if I just grow my plants in isolated, sad strips of dirt.

Here are some other pictures from the garden today:

This fern and this heuchera are native plants who have just found their way into my garden. When we first moved into this house, none of the plants you can see were here at the base of the birdbath (except the very stringy lavender plant that’s currently hidden under the fern). A massive (and massively needy!) rosebush covered most of this. I finally gave up on nursing it along this year and dug it up.

I just love our birdbath and so do the local birds! Squirrels really like to hang out in it, as well. I think the way the water is reflecting the cherry blossoms is just exquisite.

Norwescon!

Every year on Easter weekend, science fiction and fantasy fans gather in the Seattle area to celebrate everything fun about SFF. This will be my first trip to Norwescon, and I’m really looking forward to it. It looks to be a busy con, as I’ve got lots of panels and a reading on Saturday (where you can hear a little snippet of An Oath of Dogs).

Here’s my schedule:

Friday

Worldbuilding: Coin of the Realm
1:00pm – 2:00pm @ Poolside1
Laura Anne Gilman (M), Nancy Kress, Renee Stern, Wendy N. Wagner
Art and Craft Open Time (Kids programming)
2:30pm – 3:30pm @ Olympic 1
Wendy N. Wagner, Adia, Raven J. Demers
Koffee Klatsch: Wendy N. Wagner
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Pro Suite
Wendy N. Wagner (M)
Dress-up RPG/Intro to RPG (Kids Programming)
6pm -7 pm @ Olympic 1
(I’ll be helping talented author and storytime expert Dale Ivan Smith, so this should be really fun for your little ones!)
Grounded Sci-Fi
9:00pm – 10:00pm @ Poolside0
Liz Argall (M), Crystal Connor, Wendy N. Wagner, Marc Gascoigne

Saturday

Why Editors Pass
11:00am – 12:00pm @ Evergreen 3&4
Wendy N. Wagner (M), Gordon Van Gelder, Marc Gascoigne, Patrick Swenson, Shannon Page
Reading:  Wendy N. Wagner
12:30pm – 1:00pm @ Cascade 2
Wendy N. Wagner (M)
Autograph Session 1
2:00pm – 3:00pm @ Grand 2
Ethan Siegel, Ian McDonald, Catska Ench, Cory Ench, Nancy Kress, Marc Gascoigne, Mike Underwood, Carol Berg, Alex Irvine, Annie Bellet, Caroline M. Yoachim, Curtis C. Chen, Dean Wells, Greg Bear, Jack Skillingstead, James C. Glass, Jeff Sturgeon, John Cramer, Kat Richardson, Lee Moyer, Nathan Crowder, Nisi Shawl, Peter Orullian, Randy Henderson, Scott James Magner, Todd Lockwood, Tori Centanni, Wendy N. Wagner, PJ Manney, Julie McGalliard, Crystal Connor, David D. Levine
First Page Idol
5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Cascade 9
Curtis C. Chen (M), Wendy N. Wagner, Patrick Swenson, Mark Teppo
If you’ll be at Norwescon, stop by and say hi!

Cover reveal for An Oath of Dogs

I’m beyond happy with the fantastic cover art Joey Hi-Fi has put together for Oath.  It’s not easy making a world of forests and lumberyards look high tech and science fictional, but he’s captured the tone of the book perfectly. For the first glimpse, check out the post on Tor.com.

Along with showing off the terrific cover, that post kicks off a special project my publisher is doing: For every pre-order of the book, Angry Robot will donate a dollar to Freedom Service Dogs of America, which helps connect veterans with service dogs. It’s a fantastic cause, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to help them raise a nice chunk of money!

An Oath of Dogs

First trip to Emerald City Comicon!

I’m pretty stoked! Emerald City Comicon is coming up next month, and I get to be on two panels!! [Two panels = two exclamation points.]

I’d never been to a comicon before Rose City Comicon last September, which was a fun/overwhelming/exhausting experience. I got worn out just walking around in the crowds. Emerald City is much bigger, so I’m glad I got to practice at RCCC.
ECCCIf you’ll be at the con on Thursday (3/2) and find yourself looking for some fun panels, be sure to stop by:

Build-a-World Workshop
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
WSCC 603

Inconceivable!: A Game of Nerdery and Nonsense
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM (in the program as 3:45, but we moved it back 15 minutes)
WSCC 617

The Rose Slaughter

I spent this morning out in the rain with my husband, cutting up five of the big rose bushes left behind by the former owner of our house. I took out four more awkwardly placed rose bushes last year, adding two new beds for annual vegetable production, and after taking a month-long class on permaculture this fall (free online from OSU—I highly recommend it!), I knew this second culling would help take my garden to the next level of production.

But it wasn’t an easy decision. The roses were all old and well-established, between twenty and forty years old, and highly productive. Only a few were strongly scented, but they churned out flowers from April to November every year. The squirrels loved clambering in their branches and eating the new buds. I loved being able to gather a bouquet any time we had company or whenever I got the urge.

The roses’ leaves were constantly black-spotted, though, and most of them would grow to ten or twelve feet tall without constant trimming. I couldn’t justify the constant maintenance and feeding regimen that they demanded to stay pretty. I only have a certain amount of time to spend in the garden, and there are only so many resources I can devote to a plant that doesn’t feed me or my soil.

Gardening is great about teaching us how to make hard decisions. We all have limited time and resources, and some endeavors that were once fulfilling stop giving back. There are traditions we ache to maintain because they connect us to the past—some are well-worth keeping, and others are vampiric, draining us of what we need to move on and grow.

I don’t know yet what I’ll plant in the old rose bed, and it will take some time under cover crops for the soil to become really inviting for edibles. But whatever I put there, it will offer beautiful flowers and something new for the squirrels to explore. They certainly have enjoyed the new garden beds I created last year, and so have I.

Winter carrots
The beautiful purple carrots I harvested from the garden this week.

Snowstravaganza!

Here in the Portland metro area, we’ve gotten slammed with winter weather. As people who spend most winters cheerfully sloshing around in the rain, it’s been a difficult experience. Schools have canceled more than seven days of classes. Last night our beloved light rail derailed! And worst of all, the snow has turned into chilly crisp days with no cloud cover. WHAT IS THIS BLINDING BALL OF LIGHT IN THE SKY???

I think this disapproving squirrel speaks for us all.

IMG_2283G

In memory of a paradise on wheels

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

This isn’t my usual kind of update. It’s not about me, or my work, or even about publishing. It’s about the loss of a very good friend: the Douglas County library system.

As it says in my biography, I grew up in a remote little town in SW Oregon. We didn’t didn’t have our own library (or even a grocery store, for that matter), but every two weeks a pair of librarians drove into town on the bookmobile. The bookmobile connected half a dozen tiny towns in Douglas County, sharing books from the full-sized libraries in bigger towns.

On bookmobile day, the truck parked outside the school, and almost everyone in town came to visit. It was a great place to hang out and chat with our neighbors. School always let us out to spend as much time as we liked checking out books, and I often checked out a stack over three feet high. In fact, during summer vacation, I would sometimes check out more than a hundred books at a time. My tiny school had limited resources, but the bookmobile opened the doors of the world to me.  Through it, I learned how to learn on my own, and I learned to love the written word with all my heart. I do not exaggerate when I say that the biggest influence on the course of my life–and of course on my writing–was the bookmobile and its terrific librarians.

But my relationship with the Douglas County library system didn’t end there. My first quasi-work experience was volunteering at the Reedsport Public Library, cleaning and shelving books and organizing donations. And years later, as a single mom on food stamps, that library was once again my lifeline to the world. My daughter became a book lover as I read her dozens of books a week and took her to storytime.

Today I learned that in 2017, the Douglas County board of commissioners will vote whether or not to dissolve the library system. The bookmobile is long-gone, a legacy of the county’s deep losses after the collapse of the timber industry. Hours at all branches have been slashed and slashed. This year, citizens attempted to save the library with a desperate bond measure–which failed.

I feel as if a dear friend has been put on hospice care. I mourn not just the wonder and joy that the library brought to my life, but to an institution that brought whole communities together and opened the doors for generations of Oregonians. A community with no library is untethered from the wisdom of humanity and the treasure-house of civilization.

Headed to ORYCON this weekend!

If you’re in the Portland area this weekend, don’t miss out on Orycon, the annual science fiction and fantasy convention happening down at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront.  I’ll be doing a few panels and I’ve got a reading, too.

Here’s my schedule:

FRIDAY:

4 pm, Douglas Fir room — The Fine Art of Description (panel)

SATURDAY:

1 pm, Sunstone room — Essential Elements of Horror (panel)

6 pm, Salon A room — Reprints

7 pm, Salon A room — Tabletop, Recent Favorites

SUNDAY:

11:30 am, Hawthorne room — Reading

And of course, Sunday afternoon Powell’s is hosting its tenth annual Sci-Fi Authorfest at its Cedar Hills Location. The event starts at 4 pm, and I’ll be there with my Pathfinder novels.

I hope to see a lot of people this weekend!

Off to HP Lovecraft FilmFest!

I’ll be spending the next few days at the ever-fantastic HP Lovecraft Film Festival. It’s always a fun time, and there are tons of great movies and panels I can’t wait to catch.

If you want to catch up with me, here’s my schedule:

Friday, 4-6 pm
Meet-n-Greet at Sam’s Billiards.

Saturday, 10 am
Carbload for Cthulhu Mass Signing (at the EOD)

Saturday, 10pm
Weird Tales: Beyond HP (at the EOD)

Sunday, 8pm
Teaching History Through Games (at the EOD)

Sunday, 9:30 pm
Reading with Andrew S. Fuller and Adam Scott Glancy (at the EOD)

It ought to be tentacular!