Category Archives: Blogging

Mundane Monday: Chairs

Back in 2016 I went to a writing retreat in Hermosa SD. The retreat was located on a ranch and run by Linda Hasselstrom, a rancher and writer. The house, called Windbreak House, was the place Linda had grown up and lived in virtually all her life. The property was comfortably and thoughtfully but sparsely furnished, except for books. There were a lot of books. And there were chairs, ordinary chairs painted a cheery yellow, which I thought of for this week’s Mundane Monday challenge.

This retreat was my first and only trip to South Dakota (so far), and I blogged about it in detail here, in 7 parts:

Yellow chair on a stump at WIndbreak House
Yellow chair on a stump at Windbreak House

It was a gift from my parents, and I went to it alone. I worked for 2.5 days on my novel, and my only human contact for those days was the consultations with Linda. This was fine. It took me some time to process what Linda said. Plus, I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company.

But I have been lately thinking about how and whether my writing, and creativity generally, would benefit from more sociability. These chairs, also on the ranch property, look inviting, but I never actually sat on them to write. Linda and I had our consultations indoors.

YellowChairsRetreat

Yes, I’m in a writers’ group, but we only discuss work when it’s in some semblance of finished-ness. How would my writing be different, if there had been someone else in the other chair while I was creating it?

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #143.  Mundane Monday Challenge encourages you to take more pictures by being aware of your surroundings. The philosophy of MMC is simple. You can create a beautiful picture even by focusing on a very common looking, dull or so called Mundane subject!

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Mundane Monday: Our new kitchen faucet

The Mundane Monday photo challenge has weekly themes this year, and this week’s theme is a “washbasin.” I put the term in quotes because we in the USA don’t usually call it that. The picture in the blog looks like a sink to me. Clearly this challenge is right for me, though, because I already have some sink pictures.

These were taken before and after we got our new faucet. The old faucet came with the house when we moved in. It was burnished stainless steel and matched the sink and appliances. It was also a pain in the neck. The button that allowed you to switch from a steady stream to a shower-like rinse had fallen off and gone down the garbage disposal. Then the whole faucet got loose and wobbly. I tried to fix it myself but wasn’t able to. Neither was our regular handyman, because something inside was irreparably broken. “Cheap plastic parts inside,” he said. “They don’t last.” So we bought the one on the right. It’s shinier and it feels more substantial than the old one. We’re hoping it will last a little longer.

I also think it is interesting that you can see the persimmons from our backyard tree that I had put on the counter to ripen. There are fewer in the “after” photo because I had used many of them to make persimmon cookies by that time. Now they are all gone: I pulped the remaining few and froze the pulp.

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #142.  Mundane Monday Challenge encourages you to take more pictures by being aware of your surroundings. The philosophy of MMC is simple. You can create a beautiful picture even by focusing on a very common looking, dull or so called Mundane subject!

Mundane Monday: A Toast to the New Year

The Mundane Monday photo challenge has added themes for the new year, and this week’s theme is bottles.

WineBottles

As 2018 opens, I have 3 unopened bottles of wine in my kitchen: 1. Veuve Clicquot, the champagne our realtor bought us when our offer on this house was accepted; 2. Woodbridge, some wine that a guest brought to our housewarming and we never got a chance to open; and 3. Petiole, some wine that I recently bought at Trader Joe’s that was grown in the Willamette Valley, where my daughter goes to college. I didn’t drink that either. Yet.

These bottles are all sitting in a corner of our kitchen counter. I’m struck by how dark the materials are that the counter is made of. This is trendy, but our old kitchen was lighter and I preferred that. There’s also a knife block next to the bottles. These knives are old and no longer particularly sharp. I have a gift card; maybe I will use it to buy some new knives.

I’ve also been thinking that I’d like to learn how to make a few new dishes in the new year. Cooking is not usually my favorite activity, but I do like making dinner with nice tools in a modern kitchen while sipping some good wine. Maybe I can make that happen more often in the New Year!

For the Mundane Monday Challenge #141.  Mundane Monday Challenge encourages you to take more pictures by being aware of your surroundings. The philosophy of MMC is simple. You can create a beautiful picture even by focusing on a very common looking, dull or so called Mundane subject!

Near-future SF Author Spotlight: Aaron Hodges

Last year I decided I needed to read more indie science fiction and ecofiction. I didn’t want to write in isolation, and in keeping with my desire to focus on the writing journey as much as the finished product, I wanted to be part of a larger conversation. I added Book Reviews to my blog and hoped to publish a review a week. Well, that’s not happening, but I have been able to get out 1-2 per month. And along the way I have met some very interesting authors and read stories that I never would have encountered by sticking only to what gets traditionally published. Indie fiction is not usually as polished, or as formulaic, as what hits the mainstream press. It takes more risks, and fails more often. It is a wild ride that brings you right up against the uncomfortable and inconvenient truths of the writers’ condition. But that rawness–that raw courage–is a big part of why I still read and write books at all in this age of increasingly sophisticated electronic media.

Author Aaron Hodges
Author Aaron Hodges

One of these authors is Aaron Hodges, a kiwi writer of dystopian science fiction and fantasy. He hails from New Zealand, but his Praegressus Project series takes place in the mountains of central California, not too far from where I live now in Silicon Valley. It is set in the year 2052, after the fall of the USA and subsequent rise of the totalitarian Western Allied States.

I have been intrigued by stories of the USA de-uniting for years, with that interest accelerating and getting more personal after our 2016 elections and the social, political, and class divisions they laid bare. The novel American War by Omar El Akkad, about a second American Civil War, was published earlier this year to broad acclaim (read my review here). I talked with Aaron Hodges via email about his world-building, the de-United States, and his vision for the Praegressus Project series.

KLA: You are from New Zealand. What made you interested in setting your book in a future North America with a defunct United States?

AH: This was actually more of a pragmatic choice than anything. The majority of my readers are from the States, so I decided that would be the best place to set the story. Unfortunately, I have only ever visited the west coast, so I decided to base the majority of the story around that region. Which meant the west coast obviously had to end up being the victors in the civil war!

KLA: I have also been working on a novel that is set in the former USA, which has federalized into different regions. I live here, so I have been inspired by things I’ve read around the Presidential elections. Red state/blue state maps are very popular, for example. What made you divide the USA into the regions you chose?

AH: There was definitely a bit of red/blue state stuff going on! It’s never explicitly stated, but something in 2020 led to California ceding from the union – after which Washington, Oregon and a few other states out west promptly followed. However, as that sort of split was more historical than anything by the time the series begins. I wanted to highlight another division that takes place all over the world even today – the divide between rural and urban populations. I wanted to show a world where the population- and wealth- drain from the countryside into cities had reached a breaking point, and explore the sort of characters that come out of that.

KLA: How is climate change working in your future world? As the century progresses I would have expected Sacramento to get warmer and drier, not colder as depicted in your first chapters. What weather patterns could account for this?

AH: It’s actually a common misconception that climate change means warming all year round. While internationally temperatures may be increasing, on a local scale the effects are far less predictable. Climate patterns such as El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) have a much greater impact on local climate than climate change, and exactly how climate change affects these patterns is very much a black box (i.e. we have no idea how it will end up impacting them!)

Sorry that got a little technical😆! Climate was a big part of my science degree back in the day. Basically, the effects of climate change depend on location, and can have seemingly opposite results. For instance, California is likely to see an increase in droughts AND heavy rainfall events such as tropical cyclones over the next century. Likewise, summers may get hotter, but inversely winters may also get colder. Then you throw in something like a La Niña year, which means less rain and colder temperatures and…things get complicated😆!

KLA: I have degrees in biological science, and often I think the biology in science fiction is pretty unbelievable. But I thought your explanations of how the Chead are formed were quite good and plausible. Even though they are speculative, they make sense and didn’t throw me out of the story. Did your background in biology inspire this part of the plot? How does it inform your writing generally?

AH: Haha–well it’s good to hear my memory from genetics hasn’t completely failed me yet! I actually first started thinking about this project during my Genetics 202 class, when we were discussing homeotic genes and how a virus could be used for genetic modification. I found it all fascinating, and thought it would be interesting to write a scifi novel with genetically modified humans that were still grounded in some science.

For the rest of my work, such as my fantasy series, my studies in geography and environmental science were more important for the world building. Having a bit of knowledge about how mountains/forests/oceans affect local climate was very useful in developing a new world that might almost work in reality!

The final book in the Praegressus Project series, Retribution, is scheduled to be published next week, and this post is part of a blog tour in celebration of the series’ completion. During the blog tour, the first three novels in the series – RebirthRenegades, and Retaliation -are free. There will also be a Goodreads giveaway for three paperback copies of Rebirth, ending December 25th. Look for my blog review of Rebirth in the coming days!–KLA

Mundane Monday: Holiday Cards

I am really in the thick of it right now. I enjoy sending and getting holiday cards, but keeping the addresses up to date, getting the right postage, the address labels, finding the cards that I bought on sale last year on December 26th and stored in the garage, and printing the newsletter and getting it and the kids’ pictures, if appropriate, into the cards is always a bit much when it is going on. Continue reading Mundane Monday: Holiday Cards

Thursday Doors: Tis the Season

My birthday is exactly 3 weeks before Christmas. I like having all the decorations and festivities around, even if they are really intended to honor someone other than myself!

The night of my birthday this year we went to downtown Mountain View to see a tree lighting. In Massachusetts where we used to live, the tree that was lit was not home-grown. It was trucked in from somewhere in Canada, but it was still a standard evergreen tree. It usually wasn’t cold enough to snow at the beginning of December either, even in MA, but there was often fake snow. In particular one of the banks went all out and had fake snow falling from a machine on its roof.

California is a little different. There was a whole stage with chorus singing the usual carols, next to this tree:

DowntownSceneAuthor

Traditionally, the lights are hidden and just kind of peak out from behind the needles or the–ahem–snow. Well, this kind of tree is pretty too, in its own way.

And since it’s Thursday Doors, the Mountain View City Hall door shows that they have taken a more traditional approach.

CityHallDoor

Darkness bothers a lot of people this time of year, but I think the lights make it better.

This is also a season for concerts, and I’d like to share this piece from my son’s high school winter concert. My son is in the cello section and his face is hidden by the music stand. But it was so crowded we were actually lucky to get these seats so front and center, even if mostly all I could do was watch his arm moving back and forth.) They have a beautiful sound.

A Happy Holiday season to all!

Mundane Monday: Birthday Cake

Today is my birthday, so it’s not as mundane as the other 51 Mondays this year. We all know the downsides of social media, but I’m liking the Facebook anniversary function and the “rediscover this day” function in Google photos. One thing it led me to re-discover was cakes of birthdays past.  Continue reading Mundane Monday: Birthday Cake

Thursday Doors: Steve Jobs’ Garage

Earlier in the year I started a series of blogs about the “Geekiest Hot Spots” in Silicon Valley, with the first one being the HP Garage in Palo Alto–where two Stanford students, David Packard and Bill Hewlett, started building the audio oscillators that would be the foundation of Hewlett-Packard. That garage is informally known as “The Birthplace of Silicon Valley.” Continue reading Thursday Doors: Steve Jobs’ Garage

We are the World Blogfest: Saving the Environment through Art

Late November in the USA marks the start of the crazy holiday season. Thanksgiving. Advent. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday . . . With my daughter home for Thanksgiving and two concerts and my birthday coming up, I just wasn’t in the space for posting anything.  Continue reading We are the World Blogfest: Saving the Environment through Art