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January in the Garden

January, and the flowers have finally faded from the garden. There are one or two alyssums still blooming and a broccoli plant that’s gone to flower, but that’s about it. The pair of hummingbirds that hung out all November and December have made themselves scarce. But despite the lack of color, things couldn’t be more thrilling outside. Winter solstice is such an exciting turning point in the garden. It’s still cold, and the nights are still long, but if you take a closer look at the shrubs and trees, you can see that their new buds have appeared as if overnight. Spring is coming quickly, and the plants are racing to get ready for it.

Oregon stalwart, Territorial Seed

Besides pruning and weeding (which I could do a bit more of!), I’m working to plan what I’ll be planting this spring. I have a plum tree on order at Raintree Nursery, which should come in late January or so. I’m really excited about getting some plums in the yard–I grew up with a plum tree in the family orchard, and I really miss stuffing my face with sweet, juicy plums! I’m also browsing my favorite seed catalogs to see what I want to order. I have a ton of seeds leftover from last year, but I’m out of my favorite variety of kale (Beira Tronchuda, also known as Portuguese Kale — so tender and delicious!), so I know I’ll be ordering a few things. I’m redesigning all my beds to make the yard a bit prettier, so I know I’ll have my hands full this spring.

I’m particularly happy because this year my daughter wants to manage her own plot in the garden! As a plant nerd, veggie fiend, and all-around tree-hugger, there’s just no better feeling than to know your kiddo has picked up the plant bug. I can’t wait to see what she decides to grow.

From Hepzibah’s Garden

Saying Goodbye to 2017

2017 was a mixed sort of bag. On one hand, I did a lot of exciting research, outlined a number of projects, and started some really good writing projects. On the other hand, I only managed to finish two short stories and a sprinkling of poems. However, I am extremely proud of my work at Lightspeed and Nightmare this year, where I’ve taken the helm on the nonfiction department. I am particularly proud of the work we’ve doing at Nightmare, where my nonfiction writers have been digging deeply into the tropes and themes of the horror genre.

Book tour this summer was an absolute blast! I really enjoyed chatting with the Clarion West class of 2017, and my readings throughout the region were beyond fun. I loved connecting with people who love reading just as much as I do. And I am extremely grateful for the days I got to spend with Spencer Ellsworth, the best book tour buddy a gal could ask for!

For those interested in awards nominations, my novel An Oath of Dogs definitely qualifies for the Hugo and Nebula.

I had a number of short stories come out this year: “The Burnt Sugar Stench,” from the anthology Tales from a Talking Board; “Buffalo Jump,” from the tie-in anthology Predator: If It Bleeds; “The Writing Wall,” from the Lovecraftian anthology Ride the Star Wind; “With Perfect Clarity,” from genre fiction magazine GigaNotoSaurus; and “Drift Right,” from the podcast Pseudopod.

On the food front, my garden didn’t produce particularly well this year. However, we saw a dramatic uptick in the bird and squirrel population! (Hmmn … I wonder if there might be a connection between those two events?) It’s been wonderful watching all the creatures thriving outside my back windows.

2018 promises lots of opportunities and challenges. I look forward to continuing my Poetry Form a Week Challenge, and I can’t wait for March, when I get to teach this awesome workshop in Seattle. Plus, all the outlining and research I’ve been doing should lead to some major writing excitement!

 

Orycon Weekend!

It’s time to gear up for the most fun weekend of the year! That’s right: Orycon weekend!

Orycon is Portland’s local science fiction convention, featuring lots of fantastic literary, gaming, art, and filking activities. This year it’s at the Red Lion Hotel in Jantzen Beach, and it’s sure to be a good time.

I’ll be at the convention, of course. If you’d like to run into me, make sure to make it to one of my events.

Friday, 11/17

6:00 – 6:30 pm
Wendy N. Wagner reading
Come for the chocolate, stay for the weird!

Saturday, 11/18

11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Interactive Writing Workshop
Sarina Dorie, Wendy N. Wagner, Sharon Joss
How do you prepare to write and sell a short story for a market? Come prepared to write!

2:00 – 3:00 pm
Autograph Session
Bring your books and get ’em signed!
Irene Radford, Bruce Taylor/Mr. Magic Realism, Wendy N. Wagner, Timothy Zahn

4:00 – 5:00 pm
Cannibalism!
Wendy N. Wagner, John M Lovett, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, Pat MacEwen
From Sawney Bean and Sweeney Todd to The Hills Have Eyes and Hannibal, we explore the role of cannibalism in horror literature and film and its historical/anthropological roots.

10:00 pm – midnight
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Brian Hunt, Manny Frishberg, Ethan Siegel, David D. Levine, Randy Henderson, Wendy N. Wagner
A fanish version of the popular improv gameshow.

And although it’s not actually at the con, be sure not to miss the terrific post-Orycon event on Sunday, 11/19!
SF/F Authorfest 11
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills
Meet all your favorite NW writers in one terrific location.

 

Accidental autumn

From Hepzibah’s Garden
Some late-season ground cherries–so delicious!

First, I have to lay it on the line: I am not a very good gardener. This is because when it comes to anything crafty, I am terrible about following instructions. I don’t follow recipes (because I’m so sure that my variation will be more delicious), crochet from patterns (they’re just so boring–it’s much more fun to make something up as I go along), and I have yet to ever think “this worked in last year’s garden, so I should do it again this year.” Sigh. Nope, if there’s an experimental gardening technique out there, I have got to try it.

This year that meant making a hugelkultur bed for the zucchini because I’d read hugelkultur was a great way to save water (the zucchini did great, but August was our highest water bill ever … although since I doubled the size of the garden, that might not be the hugelkultur’s fault). It meant trying to grow clover and strawberries in the same bed so the strawberries had their own nitrogen-fixing living mulch. That worked great until after the clover got their flowers. Then the clover doubled in size and began sending out aggressive runners. If I clipped and pulled clover at least once a week, the strawberries thrived, but once I got sucked into book promotion activities, I kind of lost track of the clover. I got about three strawberries out of that whole strawberry bed. (Remember gardeners: when you mix plants together, make sure they don’t fulfill the same role. Two ground covers compete.  Clover under the kiwi vines, though, is awesome.)

Look, ma! I planted myself!

After all the gardening disasters I experienced this spring and summer, I then forgot to plant an autumn garden. I realized just this week that it was probably too late to plant anything, and I felt a bit sad … until I took a walk in the garden. The one perk of having all my spring plants bolt is that I had a ton of self-seeding plants, who took it upon themselves to have cool-weather loving babies. The garden is full of lovely little turnip and chard plants, and I’ve never gotten so many carrot seeds to sprout in my life!

My next big experiment in the garden will be building an in-garden compost pile. I read about it in The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be perfect for next year’s zucchini patch …

Carrots
Tiny carrots spring up in last year’s tomato bed.

August/September Author Events!

After spending most of August relaxing, I’m back to promoting An Oath of Dogs. If you live in the Pacific Northwest and want to hang out, be sure to check out one of these fun events:

8/31 (Thursday), 7pm
Wendy N. Wagner and Spencer Ellsworth: Reading & Word Nerd Gameshow!
Barnes & Noble
Eugene, Oregon

9/1 (Friday),  7 pm
Wendy N. Wagner and Spencer Ellsworth: Reading & Word Nerd Gameshow!
The Book Bin
Salem, Oregon

9/9 (Saturday), 3 pm
Build-a-World Workshop: Join a panel of SF/F writers and learn how to take your crazy ideas and turn them into fully functional fictional worlds.
Rose City Comic Con
Portland, OR

I can’t wait to hang out with Spencer and to share our  crazy books with all of you!

 

July Author Events!

With An Oath of Dogs coming out on July 4th, I’m bustling around trying to help introduce the book to the world. I’ve got a couple of events coming up in July.

For those of you outside the Pacific Northwest, I’ll be doing hanging out on the Science Fiction subReddit on Wednesday, July 5th–ask me anything!

If you live in the Pacific Northwest and want to hang out, be sure to check out these live events:

7/6 (Thursday), 7 pm

Wendy N. Wagner Lets the Dogs Out: A reading with trivia and prizes!
University Bookstore, U District Store
Seattle, WA

7/9 (Sunday), 2 pm

Wendy N. Wagner Signing & Meet-and-Greet
Ledding Library
Milwaukie, OR

7/10 (Monday), 7:30 pm

Wendy N. Wagner Unplugged: A reading with trivia and prizes!
Powell’s Books on Hawthorne
Portland, OR

I’m also hitting up Salem and Eugene the end of August, so keep your eyes peeled for more fun events.

And don’t forget: If you really want my signature for your copy of An Oath of Dogs, but you can’t make it to any live events, just contact me for a free signed bookplate!

Writing Snacks with Jennifer Willis

Jennifer Willis is one of my best friends; she’s also a terrific writer who helped beta-read An Oath of Dogs. Jennifer knows how much I love to snack while I’m writing, so she gave me a few recipes. They were so great I wanted to make sure to share them with everyone!

Like me, Jennifer’s got a new book out. Hers is the spicy, funny science fiction romance Mars Ho!, which  combines reality tv shenanigans with a lot of in-depth research on what it takes to send people to Mars. It’s my recommended beach reading!


I have a tendency to snack when I’m writing — especially if I’m not doing a timed writing session, like a pomodoro — and my snacking habits over the years haven’t always been the healthiest. I’m looking at you, Goldfish crackers. Also, not all of my favorite snack foods are appropriate for writing productivity. In case you’re wondering, salsa and keyboards do not play nicely together.

So I’ve gotten a little creative in the kitchen to satisfy my snacking urge while also keeping myself fit and focused. Note that Wendy Wagner’s roasted garbanzo beans have been an important mainstay of our writing sessions, and you should absolutely give those a try, too.

The first of the goodies I’ll share here is a blueberry kale smoothie. Don’t look at me like that! Kale and blueberries absolutely go together. My sister surprised me with a Nutri Ninja last December and the blueberry-kale concoction has been one of my more successful experiments. A regular blender would also work, so you don’t need fancy equipment.

Ingredients*:
(* I’ll go ahead and admit that when I’m cooking, I rarely measure anything.)
Frozen blueberries: about 2 cups
Kale: 1 leaf (minus the stem)
Water: about 1 cup
Agave/honey: to taste

Note: you can use fruit juice instead of water, and then skip the sweetener. Cocoa powder also makes for a yummy addition.

Blend this all together. Drink it. Easy.

The second snack secret I’ll share is one that became quite popular with my Call of Cthulhu RPG group. It’s homemade kettle corn. This one probably falls in the “not as bad as real junk food” category and is also my go-to during football season. I use a pretty beat-up Stir Crazy to make mine, but I’ve also had success using an old pot for popping.

Ingredients:
(Again, sorry I’m bad with measurements. Use your best judgment)
Coconut oil: about 1 tablespoon
Popcorn kernels: six handfuls (I prefer white popcorn to yellow, but either will work)
Sugar: a bit less than half a tablespoon (use however much you think you’d like)
Salt: to taste.

Heat the oil in the Stir Crazy or pot. Combine the un-popped kernels with the sugar in a separate container. I sometimes add a little curry, cayenne, and/or paprika to the mix. Once the oil has melted, add the kernels and sugar simultaneously and make sure everything gets spread out. Wait for everything to pop; if you’re using a pot, shake it occasionally to ensure even heating and prevent burning while the corn is popping. As the popping frenzy slows down, remove from heat, transfer your kettle corn to a serving bowl, and add salt to taste.

If you have leftovers, you can enjoy the kettle corn for another day or two past “popping day.” Just zap it in the microwave for about fifteen seconds first.

An admitted sci-fi nerd and urban fantasy fan, Jennifer Willis is the author of the Valhalla urban fantasy series and the MARS science fiction romance series. When she’s not hiking, knitting, baking, star-gazing, or reading like a fiend, she spends her time bringing enchantment to the world. She is also the writer behind the Northwest Love Stories feature in The Oregonian and has a byline in the BASF award-winning Women Destroy Science Fiction! from Lightspeed.

Free Bookplates!

That’s right: FREE!

I’ve had these glorious stickers designed by the very talented graphic designer (and fellow fictioneer!) Andrew S. Fuller, and they’re just perfect to use as a bookplate.  So if you live far away and would like to add my signature to your copy of An Oath of Dogs, this is the perfect opportunity.

All you need to do is email me (at wendy at winniewoohoo.com) something that shows you pre-ordered the book and to let me know what address you want your signed sticker mailed to. You can even cc the whole thing to penny.reeve @ angryrobotbooks.com to make sure your preorder gets counted toward our donation drive for Freedom Service Dogs of America!

May Flowers

From Hepzibah’s Garden

Being a gardener means taking what the world gives you. Last week our little corner of Oregon lurched out of chilly early spring weather straight into a blast of summertime. In the house, that meant melted cats and a kid who needed an emergency shoe shopping trip. In the garden, that meant I could finally stop worrying about the tomatoes and melons and watch them grow. (I think my pumpkin plant doubled in size last weekend.)

It also meant that flower season was really here and that summer fruit was close at hand.

The blueberries bloomed weeks ago, but now you can really see their fruit developing. Like many kinds of fruit trees, blueberries require a cross-pollinator to set fruit. We’ve planted four different kinds of blueberries around our house who are all supposed to bloom at the same time, but for whatever reasons, their bloomtimes don’t always overlap. You can see that this bush is fruiting up nicely:

But its buddy to the right didn’t do quite so well:

The little flat star-shaped spots are the remnants of unpollinated flowers.

In some cases, the surge of new flowers is very welcome. Bees love these sage blossoms, and if the plant actually produces seeds, maybe I’ll see some more sage plants next year.

But these turnip flowers are a bit disheartening. I pulled up half of the turnip crop when I saw it was going to seed. We enjoyed the delicious greens, but the spicy turnips themselves never got a chance to develop. (Behind the turnips, you can just see the nubbly top of a radish beginning to bud. No radishes? May salads just won’t be the same.)

On our last trip to the garden, I showed pictures of the apple tree in bloom and the great green expanse of the strawberry and clover bed. I’m not quite as in love with that bed as I was the last time I posted. The clover is incredibly vigorous, and I’m spending an awful lot of time cutting it back to give the strawberries more sunshine. The berries on the edge of the clover thicket are doing great. Here’s a beautiful berry enticing me with a hint of red:

The other strawberries are beginning to develop fruit, but are definitely lagging a little behind, and the plants are a bit smaller than the giants on the edge of the clover field. But on the plus side, the plants didn’t clamor for water even during our 90 degree heat blast. Strawberries have pretty shallow root systems that demand a lot of water, so that’s a major benefit.

I like to think of my garden as an experimental plot, so I’ll keep watching the strawberries and cutting back the clover to see how the fruit develops and tastes.

I’ll leave you with just one last shot. The garden is a place for people, plants, insects, and animals of all stripes. One of my favorite animals had to take a bit of a break from the garden after having a major asthma attack. Here he is studying the great outdoors and wishing he could spend more time out there:

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.