Aug 31, 2010

Stepping Stones

It's not always easy to see how one step relates to another when in the thick of picking your way across the stream. When I look back, the connections often amaze me.

Moving to Central Oregon led me to Pine Mountain Observatory. Its stepping stones out into the galaxy and beyond spark my imagination and wonder. I use that fuel the rest of the year in my writing.

During a meeting with other volunteers / friends one winter, one mentioned to me the existence of Central Oregon Writers Guild. I went home and looked it up online. There I found the fellowship of other writers. An important support group. From them I learn a whole lot about the publishing world, took my writing from novice to more professional, learned about platforms and marketing and get the encouragement to go after what I want. I got more involved and became the group's blog director.

From this group I learned about conferences, workshops and Second Sundays. At Second Sundays I found the courage to stand up and work on reading aloud to an audience. This won me fans, advice and another great group of writers who support and encourage me.  The first time I got up to read, the woman who organizes my town's writers conference, Nature of Words, was in the audience. Kindly, she told me to never take no as an answer [wish I had that choice] and said I 'must' go to Willamette Writers this year.

I went home and looked up Willamette Writers online. I found out when the next conference was [beginning of August] and joined Willamette Writers. When registration opened for the conference, I signed up and committed to four face-to-face pitches with agents and a publisher who deal with science fiction.

Having a deadline helped me get the spit and polish on my first novel done in a timely fashion - even with two complete redirects of the plot. I felt confident at the conference. I learned what it takes and what agents and publishers are looking for in my genre. I have a lot of pluses in my column. I'm proud of what I wrote. I check off the pluses in my favor everyday and armor myself for what's next at the same time. I don't know where this step will lead, but I know it is not the end. It marks a beginning. We'll see what type eventually.

Every rejection leads somewhere, too. Maybe we don't see it. For me it usually leads to learning and growing and trying again. It is merely a bump not an insurmountable obstacle. Turn to your support systems, take a deep breath and go at it again. And again. And again.

You know when something feels right. It beats in your core. Sings. You don't mind the work and the effort. It's more like fun and play than work. That's how you know it's right.

Anyway, I just want to encourage you to be bold. It's amazing where one tiny step can lead.

Aug 30, 2010

Yo! PMO!

Friday night was cold. The day was not warm, so I was bundled up in winter gear - thermals, two sweaters, heavier winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf, boots.

The way out to the observatory was accentuated with wispy clouds.

A tree bows, "Welcome."

Even at sunset, the clouds were sparse.


(what happens if I don't hold the camera steady)

However, it did not stay that way. We got a little viewing in - Venus, M13, the ring nebula, a very hazy Jupiter and the moon for about 5 minutes. I had the Lagoon Nebula, but just as the crowd came up, a cloud covered it up. Then the clouds rolled in with a vengeance. The crowd went home. We packed up and followed.

The Moon and Jupiter coyly peaked out as we walked outside the 24 after closing up shop.

A reporter from the Bend Bulletin was up at the observatory, so we're all going to be in the local newspaper next Saturday, the 4th. Cool.

The little dot is the ISS flying over head. I'm shocked this came out at all.

Clouds do make for terrible astronomizing, but I wish I could have captured the moonrise over the ridge. The clouds flamed and glowed. It was spectacular. It did not come out in photos, however. As the ISS flew through that marvel of dark and light.

I was in the car on my way home, with the heater cranking, by 10:30. A very early night for getting the telescopes out at all.

Aug 27, 2010


Wednesday night I took this pic of the moon. It was tough as it was too dark to get a decent shot once the moon got high enough to see. It was really this color - well, actually it was redder. I was using my 4" Meade, which broke so that it won't stay still once it's aimed. So I had to hold the telescope and the camera as still as possible. Finally got one decent shot once I put the moon filter on. Took about 50 takes. Thank the Universe for the invention of digital cameras.

The 8" is up at the observatory, so I'll probably get some moon shots tonight. The moon will be just past full, so it's going to be bright. It's cool here - only about 70 - so I better get the thermals ready. Hope my cold doesn't try to sneek back, but I have a feeling it will. Maybe I'll take a preventative zicam before I go.

Hurt my left shoulder blade on Wednesday, so have been taking a lot of Advil, too. Apparently, my carefulness with the kickass workouts was not careful enough. Pushups are off the menu again for awhile. Siiiigh.

It's been really smoky here. Can smell fire in the air. I guess there's a wildfire on the Warm Springs Reservation and farmers have been burning their fields. Adds up to a hazy mess.

The reading of Plantgirl last night went well. Folks were talking about needing some Miracle Gro in their shoes. Mmmmmhmmmm. Me, too. I think I finally got reading slower down. Folks noticed my improvement. Practice at Second Sundays is paying off. It's also a lot of fun. Second Sundays is an enthusiastic crowd which sizzles with electricity.

I leave you for the weekend with a photo to caption. Have a great one!

Me hidey good

Aug 26, 2010

Last Saturday at PMO

Although we had washed out viewing Friday night, Saturday night we had nil viewing. It was cloudy, cold and rainy. The wind blew so hard at the summit my camera wouldn't focus. How's that for wind? It had that searing bite of frigid weather. Brrrrrr.

A peak at the moon on my way home

Our two guests were supposed to stay over night. They left about 9:00 p.m. I left around 10. As I always say: clouds make for terrible astronomizing, but spectacular photo opportunites. Ah, so there is a silver lining ... cloud lining ...

Aug 25, 2010

At the Keyboard

I love dreaming up characters and stories. Obviously. Inspiration lurks everywhere. But I wait until something speaks to me. Things come to me that demand to be written. Sometimes it's a scene, sometimes a character, sometimes a place ... then I have to figure out what to do with it. A snippet does not a story make.

Three of the seven short stories I started are now sitting waiting for critique and revisiting. It's a good idea to let a story sit for a week or so before reading it again. Makes what was missed or whatever more obvious. So, I've found. But they're well-polished and complete tales with beginnings, middles and ends.

Roughed out a fourth today based on the character who wrote the prologue for novel#1. So that makes, Exposed, Blue Moon, Under the Moon and untitled based on novel#1. I'm not thrilled with the Under the Moon title either, but it will do for now.

The three left are about Carol - a secretary in the future - unsure what it's really about, but Carol spoke to me wanting a story; The Principles of Coa Rown - science fantasy; and my synthetic biology piece set on Mars in the future - also untitled.

Titles are sometimes tough for me. Sometimes they pop out, most times they don't.

I want to do some major edits to an already existing story before it goes back out in the submission grist mill. Next week I plan on printing out novel#2 and reading it. September is coming. Time to get its spit and polish under way.

Will get to some research, too, for novel#3. I have the premise and the characters, just not sure what I'm going to do with the plot yet. Novel#4 is more concrete than #3 is. Maybe I should go with it next? Hmmm. It needs some research, too. I need to make up my mind.

Reaching for what you want takes a lot of guts. You put a lot on the line to stand on the firing line. It's heart pounding and nerve-wracking, leaving you feeling vulnerable and insecure. But, I know whatever happens, I'll still be standing and I'll still be writing. When you really want something, you do whatever it takes and you keep at it. You don't give up. Everyone pays their dues. I'm thrilled to be at the point where I'm paying them. Beginnings and endings make for easy celebrations. We ignore the middle. The middle is where everything happens though. So, celebrate the journey, especially the middle.

Reading Plantgirl tomorrow night. For more information see and click 'Calandar' under 'News'. Or, visit

Aug 24, 2010

Plantgirl Revisited

This Thursday night, I'll be reading Plantgirl. COCC Redmond Campus, 2048 SE College Loop, Building 1 Room 122, from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. Thursday August 26, 2010. The meeting is free and everyone is welcome to attend and enjoy an evening of creative and innovative story telling.

You can also enjoy Plantgirl by visiting my website It will be listed under M Pax Works as a free read.

Aug 23, 2010

Moon Was So Bright I Had to Wear Shades

A cool and bright Friday up at the observatory. The almost full moon was so bright, it was like standing in New York City. The moonlight washed out all but the brightest stars. The only objects I could sort of get, besides the Moon and Jupter, were Albireo and Andromeda.

Moon through my telrad

It was like invasion of the pod people. There were only two cars in the parking lot, three in the campground. I went inside the dome to stay out of the wind as long as possible [to keep from freezing too early]. When the crowd came up, they had somehow transformed from a small handful to a mob of more than fifty. How'd that happen? I sure was surprised.

Moon over the 32 and Earth's shadow [the darkest blue of the lower sky]

Saturday was completely different. I'll discuss it later on this week. It gets a photo essay all its own.


Aug 19, 2010

What Happened to Your Break?

That is what Video Gal asked me this week. Shrug. I guess I don't really know what the word means applied in my daily life. Writing is like breathing to me. It's something I have to do.

I started three new short stories this week. One is farther along than the others. I have two other half-written short stories I want to finish up. I tweaked a previously written story and began submitting again. There's another I want to tweak before it goes out again.

I figured out I can write a decent query letter. Sent one off the other day thinking it would take a few days before I heard back. By then I'd have the story repolished. I didn't want to change the plot at all, just wanted to tighten it up. Well, the reply came back within an hour. "Sure, we'd love to read your story. Sounds interesting."

Yup, turned into me barreling through the edits on that story might quick. I sure wasn't expecting such a quick answer. Teaches me to listen to my friend Paty's advice: "Don't submit unless the piece is done." At least it was written. I just like to do brush ups between submissions. I send out a few, brush up, send out a few more. Sometimes I get feedback, which may result in a larger edit. So, I know I keep moving closer to my goal. Short story writing is a whole different art from novel writing.

I got the 'big' submissions out this week, too. On Tuesday. I'm trying not to really think about it. You other writers understand.

Met with my critique group this week. They wanted the lowdown on Willamette Writers. I had nothing on deck. Just critiqued a fellow writer's work. I learn as much from reading their work and commenting as I do from getting their feedback on my stuff. I will definitely be throwing a short on deck next meeting.

I will be printing out the first draft of my second novel next week - maybe this weekend - and start reading it. Gearing up for the spit and polish on it. It shouldn't take as long as the first novel did - so I say now. LOL I don't think it will be as involved. My writing has progressed and I had a better idea of what I was doing when putting the second together. I don't think there's any avoiding one's first novel taking the most time and the most work. Subsequent novels are still a lot of work, but it seems to go a little easier.

I'm hoping before the spit and polish is done that the second book in the series I just submitted is on deck to get under way. If not, it will be on to novel#3.

I love what I do. I'm just going to keep doing it.

Aug 18, 2010

High Desert Photo Journal

These are not just cows, these are 'Gangsta Cows'. They're special.

I hadn't realized I missed my buds, but I have.

Mountain flora in the high desert.

Sunset at 6200 feet.

Anyone see anything interesting lately? I was watching a documentary on what would happen to Earth if there were no more people. Apparently, our cats are going to learn to fly and take over the cities. Excellent!

No theories on the seaweed beasts on Io or the methane bugs on Triton moving in. It would be interesting if the methane bugs decided to terraform Earth, ridding it of the poisonous oxygen.

What's on your mind?

Aug 16, 2010

Dark Summer Nights

It was a beautiful weekend up at Pine Mountain Observatory. A crescent Moon set early allowing for a wide range of viewing. The tail of the Perseids zipped through putting on an awesome light display.

The skies were clear. The temperatures were warm for 6200 feet. The crowd was crazy large both nights. Although Friday was busier than Saturday. Jupiter is rising earlier, which folks just love. Andromeda and its two companion galaxies is another crowd favorite. They enjoy the double open cluster under Cassiopeia. It fills the eyepiece with sparkly wonder. The owl cluster is nearby. Then I did tours of nebulae and star clusters.

Both nights were late ones. For as many people that came to visit, it was a wonderful crowd of people.

Six weekends left until the end of the season. Odd mix of looking forward to a break and sad that it's such a long break. Summers up at PMO refuel my creativity. Sometimes I'm tired and grumpy when I get up there, but then I start talking with folks and I'm instantly re-energized. We talk about the wonders of the Universe and other things. I bring my business cards as I often get new fans in the process. It's not my motivation for being a star guide, but it's nice to know there are other folks out there cheering for me. For the most part, people are good. We often forget, letting the media distort our view of each other. Then we talk and meet face-to-face and are reminded as to how connected we are. We have way more in common than and can find a way to talk to each other with civility and sincerity. It reaffirms my faith in people and the scenery and conversations lead to new story ideas.

So, thanks to all the great people who have come to visit us so far this year.

Aug 13, 2010

Odd in Oregon

My next two shorts are set in Central Oregon. Kind of strange little stories. I finished roughing out the first yesterday then felt a need to start the second yesterday afternoon. The first lines just poured into my head, demanding to be written down. So, I did. I'd say Oregon is moody. I suppose that's why it fuels so many imaginations and so much creativity.

I went out to watch the Perseids last night. Just fantastic. Crystal clear skies and a whole lot of awesome. Last year primetime was 4 a.m. The year before I was away and had cloudy skies. Husband went with me and I asked if he remembered when we tried to watch the Perseids when we were dating. We lived in Northern Virginia then. We drove waaay out, but could not find dark skies anywhere. We could barely see the brightest stars. Last night we only had to drive about a block. A country block, but only about five minutes. We could see the Milky Way and saw a great show. Can't wait to get up to the observatory tonight. The meteor shower is over, but warm temps and clear skies will make for great viewing. There are 6-10 shooting stars an hour without a meteor shower.

I cleaned my desk yesterday. I can now see a large portion of the surface of it. I still have three piles of papers, but I know what's in each one. Filed the notes from novel#1 away. Put the books used for research back on the shelf. Made a new outline of the series. Gearing up to start the read-through of novel#2 next week. First, I need to crank out these three short stories I have in mind, get a submission ready for Orycon, get my subs out from last weekend, and do more subs in general for my other short stories. I have two half-written short stories to finish up, too.

My friend Paty's new book comes out today, Spirit of the Mountain I got to read the first three chapters. I look forward to reading the rest. A romance involving Native American lore.

My friend Martin's book is also out, Fatal Secrets Sounds like a great read.

Do not muddy your accomplishments with their imperfections. Celebrate each and every one. Not everyone has the guts to reach. Not everyone has the courage to stand and face it. We must pay our dues. Live and learn, and do keep your mind open to learn. Knowledge arms us to come back to fight another day.

So characters coming up - Nomar, Mary/Mares [or some derivative so people don't think I'm writing about myself], Susan and Lynda. Last names are also in play if I know yours. :D

Peace out! Oh, and happy 13th. Here's hoping something strange happens today.

Aug 11, 2010


I chip away at the queries I want to get out shortly. I learned a lesson a year ago though. It's better to let them sit a few days and read them over several times before sending.

Wrote an article for the Guild's blog  Yup, that's me, the friendly blog director. Don't ask me how to do the scrolly thing. I just copy and pasted from last year. And figured out how to change a word or two in the code. I'm not code literate though.

Started a new short story today. That creative itch doesn't stay silent long, and it was so nice to dive into something new. I haven't been able to for awhile. It's the first in three shorts I want to get done before I start the final edits for novel#2.

Mulling over some things for book two in the series [of the novel I'm submitting] and have the idea for novel#4 solidified. I'll have to make good notes, because I just won't be getting to that any time soon. Too bad, it's hot in my mind right now.

I have two short stories half-written to finish up. I guess my break is already over. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand it very long. What was it? One day? lol Maybe two.

I was talking to a Twitter friend and I said, "You realize we're auditioning for crazy." One book a year. If you kind folks help me get a best seller, then it's one book every nine months. Then we both said the same thing. "Bring it on. Bring on the crazy."

Anyway, I'm going to need some character names. So, if you leave a comment, I'm happy to name a character for you. If you have a nickname, I'll use it, too. Some of you I got once, but will be happy to use some variation of your name in another character.

Aug 10, 2010

Perseids and Piranha

Hmmm, man-eating fish as a meteor shower ... now that'd be something to see. :D Run! Ruuuuuuuun! They swim and lurk through the arms of the Milky Way subsisting on the currents of dark matter and neutrinos. They like our sun's neutrino's best. Now they've found us! Galactic Piranha! OK, I just made that up.

Skywatch alert! This week is the Perseids Meteor shower, the showiest of the year. Best viewing is Wednesday and Thursday nights after midnight. About 50 meteors per hour makes it a spectacular sight. For more information see:

I also saw a movie trailer on TV for Piranha 3D  Some of you may recall my absolute love of Mega Piranha on SyFy a few months back, so my interest sure perked up at this trailer. Unfortunately, the two movies are not related. So, I'm thinking there's no hope for exploding giant fish taking out towns and helicopters and Navy destroyers. Kind of a bummer. That was my favorite part. It was such a surprise to see the fish exploding. Very unexpected. It's what nudged Gamera v. Zigra out of the number one slot [it held for decades] as the best bad movie out there. I wasn't sure modern moviemakers could compete with their counterparts of old, but Mega Piranha certainly did. I was completely entertained. And, considering I have a major weakness for giant, man-eating reptiles, Husband was surprised the fish movie became my new favorite.

Oh, we still giggle over Assignment OuterSpace, too. My friends at the observatory shake their heads whenever I mention it. I made them watch it one night when there was no sky. "Was there a plot to that movie, Mary?" "Not, really. Not until the end. That's part of it's charm." They shake their heads more. The highlights are the man jumping out of the space ship and going splat on Mars and the hero suddenly saying, "It's Christmas, Lucy," and Christmas music playing for no reason whatsoever.

I have some dvds from the old Flash Gordon 1954. I look forward to watching them soon. I picked them up for a steal at the dollar store. Score! Right now, Husband and I are thoroughly enjoying season one of True Blood.

Got any juicy bad or good movies or TV to share?

Aug 9, 2010

They Might Be Giants

Saturday night these enormous thumps woke me up as they rattled down the hallway. Literally, rattling. I could not only hear the noise, I could feel it. Worse yet, they entered the room next to mine. Everything was a loud, reverberating whomp. How could anybody be that loud? What the frick were they doing? So, I said to my huband, I figured they had to be giants.

He laughed. "So, you thought, the only possible way people could be so loud," he said, "was if they might be giants."

OK, yeah, geeky 80's band humor.

My trip to Portland to attend the Willamette Writers conference was a great success. You can read more on my website - - under NEWS select 'The Scoop'. I met a lot of great people, armed myself with more knowledge and did all right.

I'm busy with putting queries and submissions together this week. So, yay!

Here's some photos I took.

Lighting in the hotel rooms was not the best. So those of you from the old blog can see I've been behaving myself.

It was cold and rainy in Portland when I left Sunday morning. If I were staying in Portland, I would have rethought the shorts and T-shirt I had on in favor of jeans & a sweatshirt. Since I was returning to the sunnyside of the Cascades, I left the shorts on.

Oh sun! It was much warmer once the sun came out. Mount Hood and some views while I was driving.