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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.

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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!

Teaching a class at Write Around Portland!

Write Around Portland is a terrific nonprofit that provides free writing workshops for underserved populations, giving them a chance to acquire new skills and new self-awareness. They’ve done workshops with people in prison, folks living in low income housing communities, people in treatment centers–all kinds of people in all walks of life. They do tremendous good in my community!

In October, I’ll be teaching a class at Write Around Portland’s offices. It’s actually a fundraiser for the organization–I’m donating my time so the class fees can go to help needier folks. It’ll be two hours of writing exercises and discussion that I think will be fun and rewarding.

Here are the details:

BUILDING WORLDS AND PEOPLE: USING SCI-FI TECHNIQUES IN ANY GENRE WITH WENDY N. WAGNER

Spend Saturday, October 15 from 2-4pm writing with author and Hugo award-winning editor Wendy N. Wagner!

Science fiction is at its best when the ideas are fantastical—but the settings are gritty and the characters multi-dimensional. The same techniques science fiction writers use to make you believe in their wild worlds and adventurers are just as useful for those writing romance, historical fiction, or anything else. Prepare for lots of hands-on writing time as you learn how to deepen your characters and make their environments unforgettable.

This is a special, two-hour workshop to benefit Write Around Portland.

Location: 133 SW 2nd Ave. Suite 304, Downtown Portland

Fee: $35

Pre-registration is required.

To sign up or for more information call 503-796-9224 or register online now.

If you’re a writer, I hope you’ll sign up. And if you’re a reader, do check out Write Around Portland—you can pick up their anthologies at Powell’s and other local bookstores.

Upcoming STARSPAWN events

Holy bonjoes! Next Tuesday is Starspawn‘s release day! To say I’m excited is an understatement.

If you want to learn a little more about the book, I’ll be at Reddit Fantasy on Tuesday (8/9) for an AMA. Stop by and fire away! That’s also a good time to learn how to make my world* famous cucumber lemonade, should you be interested.

If you’re in the Portland area, I’ll be doing a reading at the Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills on Tuesday, August 16th, at 7 pm. For more details about the event, check out the Facebook event page.

* And by “world,” I mean “famous to me and a handful of friends, but dang this stuff is really tasty.”

A sip of Cthulhu!

Next month the anthology Swords v Cthulhu will be released. It looks like it’s chock full o’ fighting, tentacles, and all around fun!

My story in the anthology, “Ordo Virtutum,” is inspired by the life of Hildegard von Bingen, a 12th century Christian mystic. If you like Lovecraftian adventures packed full of adorable nuns, this is for you! And if you’re the impatient type, right now you can read a tiny teaser from the story on the publisher’s website.