The Proposed USFS Photo Ban?!

Ansel Adams landscapeIt’s about to become enforced policy: it’s illegal to take photos in national parks and on federal lands without a $1500 permit. The fine for taking unauthorized pics will be $1000/photo. Even in the /cough/ Ansel Adams Wilderness area.

USFS says it’s to protect the forests. Sure, our parks have been under a lot of stress — illegal logging, water pollution, drifting air pollution, human-started fires have all taken a high toll. You know what’s not damaging parks? Digital and film recordings. Photography doesn’t ACTUALLY steal the soul, you know. Continue reading

Feminism & Writing

So the “f-word” is getting a lot of chatter this week, as Emma Watson spoke to the UN on Monday about feminism. Of course some people immediately threatened a nude photo leak (or manufacture, since apparently no one has legit nude photos of Watson) to bully her into being quiet. [see update below]

Way to prove Watson’s point exactly, people.

There are two fundamental problems here, and I can personally contribute to fixing only one of them. But I’ll explain them both. (And yes, this is still about stories!) Continue reading

Mowing and Murder

A swath of wildflowers between a pond and old barn.

I left most of the wildflowers for butterflies and other pollinators.

Mowing is pretty boring, and I generally have a lot to mow. So sometimes I think about stories while I spend hours on the mower.

I’m also a sucker for the wildlife on my property. So my mowing/plotting sessions go a lot like this:

So what if she opens the door and finds a body? Maybe he’s been dead for a long — Move, little snake! Get away from the mower! — okay, so anyway, he was probably tortured before — hang on, lemme wait for this vole to get clear — so, tortured, and so there’s this traumatic issue with everything she imagines — oh, are you butterflies using these wildflowers? I guess they don’t have to be cut, after all.

I’ve heard some people say they’re disturbed by things written by people they know, like they can’t believe someone they know could imagine such things. But writing violence or horror doesn’t really predict violent or horrible behavior. I’ll eviscerate a fictional character, but when I saw a rabbit running into the field I was mowing instead of away from it, I deduced a nest of bunnies hidden somewhere and didn’t mow there for another two weeks. Most writers I know are like that — ruthless in fiction, but in reality such softies. Continue reading

The Amazing Lily Library

I mentioned my visit to the Lilly Library in conjunction with the From Gillette to Brett Sherlock Holmes conference, and how amazing it was. Today I’ll tell you exactly why it was amazing.

First, a bit on the Lilly Library itself. Lilly Pharmaceuticals is of course a household name (you’ve heard of Prozac, right? Or Cialis?), and the Lillys have traditionally been generous. Josiah K. Lilly was a collector of stamps, coins, rare books, and more. In the late 1950s he donated more than 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts to the university, which became the foundation for what is now a major rare book and manuscript library.

Inverted Jenny

Inverted Jenny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took notes because my brain couldn’t retain all the fascinating facts being explained. J.K. Lilly’s stamp collection was so large and so significant, at 77,000 pieces, that since its breaking up and sale, there’s not a major collection in the world which does not contain Lilly stamps. To give you an idea of the caliber of the collection… You’ve probably heard of the Inverted Jenny, the 1918 stamp on which the plane was printed upside down? Only 100 of these erroneous stamps were recovered and they are among the most prized. Mr. Lilly had a corner block of four. Continue reading

Story Ideas from Life

ghostly hands translucent over keyboardSo, where do story ideas come from? For many writers, it’s stuff like this.

I live in the middle of acreage, surrounded by fields. No one could possibly reach our wi-fi, but it’s encrypted anyway. A thunderstorm darkened the sky and knocked out the power, so in the dim light I turned on my phone’s mobile hotspot to quickly save the blog post I was working on.

Alone in my house, thunder rolling, I glanced down at the phone screen and saw, “Two connected users.”

SPOILER: I’m okay, and there was no internet ghost or wi-fi burglar in my house. It turned out the tablet I’d used for notes at the weekend’s conference was still powered on and open to wi-fi. But it’s a good start for a story, you think?

Sherlock Holmes: Books, Basil, Benedict

Arthur Conan Doyle Español: Arthur Conan Doyle...

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weekend I attended a nerdy conference. (What? I like nerdy conferences. I like nerdy stuff. I even like documentaries — the old informative kind, not the useless new History Channel kind.) This was a Sherlock Holmes conference, From Gillette to Brett: Basil, Benedict, and Beyond, focusing specifically on film, television, and radio adaptations of the Holmes canon.

But it wasn’t all just sitting around and listening to lectures, though of course we had those.
Continue reading

Ask the Author and S’Mores

The water was a lot of dead algae and also a thick pancake batter-like sludgy foam. Yech.

The water was a lot of dead algae and also (not pictured) a thick pancake batter-like sludgy foam. Yech.

So, I missed the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conference last weekend, and I feel pretty bad about that. I’ve been to the Colorado Gold only once, last year, but I really enjoyed the people I met there and the conference sessions themselves.

We should maybe rethink some of our environmental stewardship choices.

Dead fish everywhere. We should maybe rethink some of our environmental stewardship choices.

But I did get to spend a weekend at another (non-writing) event with friends, being eaten by mosquitos beside the highly questionable waters of Maumee Bay and Lake Erie, so that was some consolation. The tap water was officially safe again, but the lake water, not so much. I’ll let you know if the pollution-affected mutant mosquito bites turn out to have imbued me with superpowers. We can always hope. Continue reading

The TASTE of Montgomery County, a tasty fundraiser

Every year the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum hosts this fundraiser designed especially for people who like to eat. Like me. This was only my second year to attend, but wow, I wished I’d brought a couple of extra stomachs.

The TASTE features a lineup of nearly 20 local restaurants and caterers bringing their A-game to the study grounds. For very reasonable prices, you can buy little (and not so little) samples of fabulous foods. And by “reasonable,” I mean nothing costs more than $4, lots of items are $1, and many of those big-ticket items could be meals in themselves, if you didn’t need to save room to sample everything else. Continue reading