Lately I’ve been considering if I want my life to have a new chapter, and if so what it will be. For a long time my goals have been prescribed. In school I fell into a rhythm and got through classes one day at a time with the intention of graduating. I was a student longer than necessary and went to graduate school which included an internship. The internship had a time restriction so again I found a pattern and counted down the days until termination of the contract. My current job does not have a time limit, and it’s felt strange not having an end date on the horizon. Part of the reason I went to grad school again was to have something else to put on the calendar. Most students in my current university complete the Master’s program in 2-3 years and I’ll probably stick around as long as possible just so I can keep marking off days of as many semesters as I can.
This could be the pattern for the majority, or even the rest, of my life. I could take a year or two off to focus on my day job, then register for grad school and struggle with balancing the two just to celebrate when I complete the degree requirements. After all, as much as I enjoy chemistry I’m far from the brightest student in the university. With my academic history it’s doubtful that I’ll find a position in a high-end laboratory and do the kind of research I read about in magazines like Science or Nature. The more likely outcome is finding a position as a lab technician just like I had one summer after completing my undergraduate degree. I wouldn’t complain if that were to happen. Completing basic operating procedures in a lab isn’t a bad way to pass the time, even if it is repetitive and gets boring. I also wouldn’t have any reason to complain if I kept my current job and re-enrolled in school occasionally. I know some people older than myself who stayed in school their entire lives and seem happy.
There is another option, and it’s one that I never would have considered if my books weren’t published. I could find a way to make a living using the creative part of my brain, rather than the analytical one. There are independent bookstores in town which cater to local authors. I have come to rely on them for distribution of my book and one time, on a whim, I asked the owner about the process of purchasing and operating the space. I’ve never thought of myself as a business owner, but if I had my own place where I could prioritize helping other writers make their work public, it would be one more future that I wouldn’t complain about.
I’ve looked up independent bookstore owners online and talked to other people around my neighborhood. The common piece of advice I’ve heard is that just selling books isn’t ideal. Most places hold events like live readings from authors and charge admission. The common secondary source of income is to designate a section of the store to selling arts and crafts or setting up a café. Most places don’t seem to have anything fancy; just a display of charms, or maybe an espresso machine coupled with a rack of scones.
I have plenty of things that aren’t anything fancy. I’ve maintained my hobby of weaving superhero logos to serve as wall hangings or coasters. I’ve brought them to comic conventions to sell along with my books and last year I almost sold out, so there is at least a small audience for them. I’ve also been an amateur baker for years. I make sourdough bread every week and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Lately I’ve expanded into practicing small pastries like muffins, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, and scones. The recipes are simple: a few cups of flour, some sugar, an occasional egg. This week I focused on muffins and doughnuts and despite the simplicity, they took a long time to prepare. That should improve with practice. Kneading bread used to be tiring and take a long time, but now I can do it even when I’m half asleep.
In all honesty, opening a bookstore is not probable. Even if the weavings and pastries sell, I’ve heard it’s difficult for young businesses to stay afloat. It’s especially troubling now since I have a deeper appreciation for how quickly a global crisis can derail any hope of turning a profit. But I’m going to keep practicing and preparing. I’ve started looking at storefronts for lease both in and out of Albuquerque and have found a few locations where I can imagine myself setting up a shop. The main library in town has monthly sales which I’ve been taking advantage of to increase my used book collection. I’ve been weaving every night to find out how many wall hangings or coasters I can complete in a month. I’m also going to keep practicing baking and my goal is to have a sample menu prepared by the end of the year. While I don’t know if I ever will pull the trigger on this dream, it will take a few years before I’m even prepared to attempt it, and it feels good to have another countdown. There was a time when I’d wake up every morning and think to myself: “in X more years I’ll be done with school,” or “my internship will be completed.” Now I’ve set an arbitrary date to quit my current job and open my own store. I don’t know what I’ll do after that. Perhaps by that time I’ll be ready to stop counting down and start settling down. Only time will tell.
I realized I never posted how the homegrown beer turned out. I’ve been enjoying it for a few weeks, although “enjoying” is a bit of a strong word. It took some getting used to. I mentioned before that there were signs of problems during fermentation. The airlock was not showing any activity at all and during transfer it smelled like vinegar. Since the yeast seemed to be progressing slowly, I figured it would need to be in the bottles longer for carbonation to build up. After the bottles were capped, I moved them to the room where they would be least likely to get in the way throughout the day, which just happened to be the same room I’m using to overwinter my pepper plants. That was a mistake. I don’t want the plants to get too cold, so that’s the only room that’s being heated. The warmth seemed to have provided a suitable environment for the yeast, and the bottles probably only needed to sit for one week. Instead, let them sit for more than two weeks. This was partly because of the low fermenter activity and partly because it was finals week, and I was too busy worrying about exams to check on them or move them to the refrigerator.
I realized the mistake immediately when I opened the first bottle. It was a flip cap and opening it over the sink did nothing to prevent the mess. As soon as I pressed the wires the cap was knocked out of the way and a stream of suds hit the ceiling. I tried to force the cap back into position, but the pressure was too strong. Trying to wrestle the cap onto the lip only caused the beer to be emitted in a ring instead of a geyser. It was exciting, but by the time it was done there was only about three fingers of beer left in the bottle. On account of the time I put into making it, you better believe I savored every remaining drop.
Thankfully, only one bottle was a flip cap. The rest were aluminum crown caps so opening the rest was more controlled. I still lost some volume on each one. I had to continue opening them in the sink, and I did it by prying the cap off gently and letting the gas and foam be directed downward. It took a few minutes for each bottle to equilibrate and when it was finally ready to be opened fully there wasn’t much head to the product since most of the pressure was released during the opening. Despite this issue, for a first attempt at using homegrown ingredients for brewing, I’m satisfied with the results. I thought I smelled vinegar before, but it doesn’t taste sour at all. It’s a light beer and corn is the dominant flavor. I’ve heard beer described as liquid bread. Well, this tastes like liquid corn bread. In quality it doesn’t come close to anything that can be purchased in a store, but the most common style in my neighborhood is IPAs and this is refreshing after all the bitter brands. In conclusion, this was worth the effort, and I intend to try it again this year.
As a side note, I also tried making wine for the first time and found greater success. This was also brewed using homegrown grapes, but they from my neighbor’s plants instead of mine. I didn’t exactly have their permission to use them. We have a brick wall between us instead of a fence, the grape vines cascaded over the bricks so technically they were in my yard, and if I didn’t eat them the birds would have so I like to think I scored one for the humans. Anyway, I don’t have any experience making wine, so I decided to use a process similar to the Bug method that I use when making ginger beer. I put a portion of the grapes in water, crushed them, added sugar, and let that concoction sit for a few days. When it started bubbling, I put the rest of the grapes in a pot of water, crushed them, heated them into a sort of hot grape juice, and strained it. When the juice reached room temperature I added the bubbly starter and transferred it all into a 64 fluid ounce growler fitted with an airlock. Unlike the beer, that airlock showed activity within 24 hours. Once the bubbling stopped I replaced the airlock with a screw cap and let the growler sit for approximately 3 months. Some of that time was spent in the closet and some in the refrigerator. I don’t think the grapes had a high sugar content, so the final product didn’t have a high alcohol percentage and lacked the sting of the wines I usually buy. But the color is rich, and it tastes dry but pleasant. It’s a great dinner wine and it’s also something I want to try again. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep swiping grapes from my neighbors so this might motivate me to grow my own grapevine.
I’ve always wanted to grow my own beer ingredients. I tried hops and various grains and corn since I moved out of my apartment and started renting a house with a yard. It’s taken a few years of soil remediation, but there have finally been some results. Unfortunately, the hop seeds never germinated. After some researching I found out they need to be cold-stratified. I tried it last year by wetting the seeds and putting them in the refrigerator, but they still didn’t sprout. This year I plan on stratifying them naturally by putting them outside all winter. This attempt will be the last of my seeds so if it doesn’t work, I’ll either have to buy more hop seeds or try another plant. I’ve found out an herb called mugwort was used before hops were popularized so I might try growing those instead. I’ve bought some dried mugwort at the beer supply store before and it yielded good results.
The crops that did perform this season were the grains and corn. Specifically, I planted spelt grain and two kinds of heirloom corn: Jimmy red and blue clarage. I figured planting heirloom seeds would push me to take extra special care of them. It worked, and by the end of summer the 24 plants returned over a pound of new seeds.
The spelt didn’t provide as high of a harvest. There was less than a pound of grains once they were removed from their husks. Usually, malt is sold in 1 or 3 pound bags so I cheated a little and bought some more spelt grains to make the total of weight of corn and grains 3 pounds.
I’ve read about the principles of malting, but this is my first time trying it. It seems the process is a lot like making veal: you’re supposed to provide the conditions for growth and then kill the subjects at a young age. In this case, the seeds need to germinate, and then be heated to halt that process. The purpose of germination is so the seeds develop sugars which can later be converted by yeast. I saved as many seeds as I felt comfortable sparing to plant next summer. The rest were soaked overnight. For the following few days, I stirred them and ran more water over them when it felt like they were drying out. I wasn’t sure how long to let them grow but in a week the shoots were pretty long, so I went on to the next step.
The research I’ve done indicates cooking at low temperature, somewhere around 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the duration depends on the altitude and type of seeds being malted so there is room for experimentation. I started at 180 degrees, and every 30 minutes I took them out of the oven to turn them with a spatula. It was taking a while for them to dry so after an hour I increased the temperature to 200 degrees. In about 2.5 hours they were dry and brittle, so I let them cool and stored them in mason jars until I had time to process them more.
I spent two days contemplating if crushing was necessary. The malt I buy comes in liquid or powder form, so I decided to give it a shot. I put the grains into a food processor, in small batches since I didn’t know if my machine was strong enough to turn them into fine powder. In the end I was pleased with how the spelt turned out. It smelled like malt I buy and had the same texture. The corn was a bit coarser but I didn’t want to risk damaging the blade in the processor, so I left well enough alone.
Finally, the weekend arrived, and I was ready to cook. I brought 1 gallon of water to boil and added the powdered spelt first. The results were exactly what I expected. They foamed up nicely and smelled exactly like the store-bought powdered malt.
Adding the corn damaged my confidence. It didn’t bring the same foam or smell as the spelt. In fact, it absorbed the moisture more than I expected and I ended up with more of a thick stew than classic wort. I tried adding more water, but it didn’t help, and I didn’t want to risk overflow. I decided to let it boil and wait to see what happens.
It was difficult adding the store-bought hops to the thick wort and I’m not sure how well they were incorporated. I stirred as best I could and let it simmer for 90 minutes. I collected 5 gallons of filtered water and transferred the wort into it once it cooled to room temperature. Due to the thickness, it was difficult to disperse it evenly through the water, but eventually all the chunks broke up. I added the yeast, stirred it some more, sealed the bucket, and took the initial gravity reading, finding it to be almost exactly at 1. A week passed and the airlock didn’t bubble. It’s been cold lately, which I thought might be slowing down the yeast activity.
Today I opened the fermenter and the results weren’t too good. The color of the beer is fine, but it has a slightly sour smell. Since the airlock didn’t bubble, the oxygen wasn’t pushed out and some of the yeast formed vinegar instead of alcohol. The fact that the conversion to vinegar occurred at least means the yeast is active, so there might be some alcohol forming as well. It can’t be that much, because when I measured the gravity again there wasn’t much change. However, the most important thing is the taste test. I pulled a sample and it was passable. It is slightly sour due to the vinegar but it also has an earthy taste, like an IPA. It’s in the second fermenter now and I’m going to let it sit another week.
Even if the beer has its problems, homebrewing is never a waste. Once the liquid is filtered into the secondary fermenter, the solids at the bottom can be collected and used for other purposes. I usually add it to my sourdough starter. The beer slag has been keeping that starter alive and highly active for years. This time, since the corn grounds were so much larger than the malt I’m used to, I had a much larger volume left over than usual and it wasn’t the consistency I like to use in breadmaking. Instead of putting it in the starter, I just saved it in Tupperware and decided to use it as a waffle mix. At least, I would have if I had a waffle iron. With the materials I have available, the best I can do is make square pancakes with deep indentations. It’s still worth doing. Fermented hot cakes from heirloom corn have a unique taste that can’t be reproduced in any restaurant.
I’m going to bottle soon and hope for the best once it’s time to open them. I’m also going to try again next year. There are plenty of things I’ll do differently, like increase the amount of spelt and decrease the amount of corn. I’m already planning my garden space for next summer and will be dedicating a lot more space to growing the grains. I also might increase the germination time when malting because the seeds might not have had enough time to develop enough sugars to feed the yeast. Perhaps I’ll need to find an additional source of sugar to kickstart the process and get the airlock bubbling sooner. Ultimately, this is still a work in progress, and I feel it was a good first attempt.
I’ve devoted more time to weaving lately. It started with making black-and-white coasters featuring the symbols from the opening of Arrow, the TV series. I constructed a larger loom and moved on to wall hangings. They still have the televised superhero theme, although I’ve done a few sports teams. None of them are perfect, but I’m still proud of them.
I’m also scheduled to be at two comic con’s in October. One is in Santa Fe and the other is right here in Albuquerque. Last time I was at the Albuquerque comic con it was a great sales day for the first book (the second one hadn’t been published yet), but I also like selling something else at my booth just to attract people who aren’t into fantasy novels. Last time, another author, Marie Parks, shared the space to promote her book: Unrelenting. I also looked through my comic collection and gave away all the issues I didn’t want to keep. I doubt Marie will want to drive all the way to Santa Fe this October and I don’t have as many comics to give away as I used to, so I need to find something else. It might as well be the wall hangings.
Again, they’re not perfect. Some of the symbols and letters are a little lopsided and there’s a good chance nobody at the event ever watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but I’m still going to have them at my booth and hope for the best. What’s the worst that can happen? My work gets criticized? As an author, I’m used to that. Granted, there haven’t been any scathing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads about the Mystic Rampage series, but there have been plenty of people who have said the content just isn’t for them for one reason or another. Besides, there’s bound to be a few people who believe that it’s the blemishes that make something beautiful. Maybe some attendees will be attracted to them because of the flaws.
Even if the weavings don’t turn into a main attraction, I’m also going to be selling Lothar Speer’s illustrations (examples below). He did a great job and I believe a lot of people who are into superheroes and/or fantasy will want to have them.
It’s been a while since my last garden post but summer is in full swing and I wanted to share an update. Temperatures can be brutal for plants, especially in June when there were weeks of 90-degree highs. It’s times like this I’m glad my company transitioned into work-from-home since it gave me the opportunity to move the containers into shade during the toughest parts of the day. The ones in the raised beds weren’t in as advantageous of a situation but they’ve persevered with help from rigorous watering.
First: the tomatoes and peppers. I would have been surprised if the peppers didn’t survive. I applied an insane amount of compost to that part of the yard early in the year, so I knew the soil was rich. I also believe the types of peppers I planted prefer warm climates. The Thai chili isn’t bearing any fruit yet, but the number of flowers is promising. As for the tomatoes, only the cherries are ripening. A few have reddened enough to pick. I’ve collected four so far and have been sun drying them. I know some people garden because they to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, but I prefer preservation. I plan to sun dry all the tomatoes and once the peppers mature I’ll either dehydrate and crush them or ferment them into hot sauce. (Then again, it’s New Mexico, so I’ll have to broil, peel, and freeze a few of the peppers, as is tradition.)
In the last garden post the apple trees just looked like sticks poking out of the dirt. They’ve started to fill in, although only one is gaining significant height. I’m thinking the soil is lacking in nutrients the trees need so I’ll have to look up the soil conditions these plants thrive in. There is still plenty of time to experiment with their containers. All these trees are only 1 year old and when grown from seed it takes at least 7 years to bear fruit. Right now, they’re still alive, which is good enough for me.
Artichokes have been challenging. I tried growing a few but only one germinated, and it only has one bulb. On the plus side, once this one’s first true leaves became stablished, it was very low maintenance. It’s the plant that wilts the least in the heat and the flower is progressing nicely. To eat them you’re supposed to cut the flower before it blooms, but if there’s only one I’ll probably just let it open. I don’t see the point in harvesting a single tiny artichoke.
I had to cheat on the tomatillos. The one on the left was grown from seed. There was another that was keeping pace, but it died. Unfortunately, with tomatillos, one isn’t enough. Flowers on one plant cannot pollinate another flower on the same plant, so I needed to purchase a new plant which I found on Etsy (Lazy Ox Farm). Like the peppers, it just has a lot of flowers right now which are on the verge of blooming. If this keeps up I’m expecting lots by the end of the summer. I noticed that the leaves on the two plants differ and I wasn’t sure if they’d be able to pollinate. This is actually an old picture and since it was taken the flowers on both have closed and the husks are expanding which is a sign that pollination was successful and fruit is growing. Since the plants have different leaves this will probably be a crossbreed and be different from the type I bought in the store. I’m very curious to see how they turn out.
The picture of the cabbages was taken during an overcast day when they looked healthy. In reality they’ve been struggling. In the early morning and late at night the leaves are rigid. Around noon they flop down and look more like a green mat. I’ve kept the crabgrass around them in hopes it will provide some shade but it isn’t tall enough, and in some spots even the crabgrass is turning brittle. I’ve changed the watering schedule so they get water in the hottest part of the day which seems to help cool them down and keep the leaves somewhat firm so they can keep folding in and forming a cabbage head. That seems to be enough to keep them clinging to life for now.
The potatoes have finally started to bloom. I was worried about them for a while since they had buds which fell off before opening into flowers. This year has been difficult for them, but I have high hopes that they’ll prove to be bountiful once I upturn the containers.
The main project this season was the 3 sisters in the raised bed. This included 2 kinds of corn, 2 kinds of pumpkin, and 5 kinds of beans. From a distance it looks like it’s doing great. The bed of leaves on the big pumpkin is covering most of the ground and providing shade for the beans which are climbing high on the tall cornstalks. However, only the big pumpkins are crawling across the bed. The pie pumpkins (on the far bed) are more like bushes than pumpkin patches. Strangely, while the pie pumpkins are not providing a lot of shade, they are more fruitful than the large variety. Right now there are seven pie pumpkins in that bed but I’ve only gotten one big pumpkin. As for the beans, they’ve produced a ton of leaves but hardly any flowers. Like the others, the corn is performing well but is presenting complications. There are lots of ears with a healthy amount of silk sprouting out the ends, but when I feel them, they seem soft, almost like there’s no cob inside. I’m hoping they just need more time for the cob and kernels to fill in. Even the ones that do feel strong, I’m leaving on the stalk until late in the season to give it as much time as possible to develop.
Finally, the smallest of the raised beds. I plant yellow beans every year and they are always a high producer. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do them this year because the yellows are bush beans which don’t perform well when using the 3 sisters method because squash leaves are too high and block too much light. I found one option to get around this problem is to plant grains with beans. In my case I planted spelt, which has an advantageous growth pattern. The narrow leaves of the spelt start close to the ground, forming a ring of narrow spear-shaped leaves. Like the squash leaves, this provides shade to keep the ground cool and help the beans grow. The trick I to plant a fast-growing crop with them because once the spelt leaves grow upright they can block a lot of sunlight. I’ve grown yellow beans enough to have an idea of their rate and got them in the ground early enough for this method to work. By the time the spelt was producing grains the beans were already forming pods. I already have a little more than 4 ounces worth and it’s still early; I’m expecting a lot more before the end of the month.
There is a blog tour starting next Monday. An event like this happened when Made To Be Broken was released and I greatly appreciated the feedback of the reviewers. This time it’s a bit different in that some critics are suggesting blogs on my end. I guess they want to increase participation on all sides. Here is the schedule of reviewers and the dates their feedback will be available on their websites:
June14th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of this incredible tale. Find out more about the author, Hugh Fritz, and enter to win a copy of Public Display of Aggression for yourself.
June 15th @ A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden
Deirdra Eden shares the spotlight today – and in today’s spotlight it is none other than Hugh Fritz with Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series: Public Display of Aggression! Readers won’t want to miss an opportunity to dig into the magic of this incredible story!
June 16th @ Create Write Now with Mari McCarthy
There’s a guest author at Mari McCarthy’s Create Write Now and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Using Bacteria and Fungus in Food”. Join readers at Create Write Now to learn more!
June 17th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Nicole Pyles shares her thoughts as she reviews Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers at World of My Imagination will put their imagination into overdrive with this fast-paced story involving plenty of magic. This is Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series but reads just as well as a stand-alone. Don’t miss today’s review by Nicole!
June 18th @ Bibliophile with Diti Shah
Diti Shah shares her book review with her Insta followers – find out what she thinks of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz! This is Book #2 of the Mystic Rampage Series that has delighted readers and left them wanting more!
June 21st @ A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden
There’s a guest author at A Storybook World and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Illustrations in Fantasy Novels”. This will be great for writers and readers alike.
June 22nd @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews Hugh Fritz about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2 Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this insider opportunity to hear from the author himself – the man behind all the imagination and fun!
June 23rd @ One Writer’s Journey with Sue Bradford Edwards
Fellow author Sue Bradford Edwards offers her review of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers won’t want to miss her thoughts!
June 24th @ Knotty Needle with Judy Hudgins
Judy Hudgins keeps readers on the edge of their seat at the knotty needle blog as she reviews Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series . Readers will want to grab their own copy of Hugh Fritz’s Public Display of Aggression so they won’t miss a beat of this imaginative story!
June 30th @ Bookish Trischa
The spotlight is bright at Bookish Trischa and today it shines on Hugh Fritz and his latest creation Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the book everyone is talking about!
July 1st @ Book Santa Fe with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto reads a lot and she loves a fast-paced imaginative story. Public Display of Aggression is 5 Stars and she can’t wait to tell readers more about it at Book Santa Fe today! This is the 2nd book in the Mystic Rampage series, but she says it reads great as a standalone. Read Crystal’s full review today!
July 7th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith
Readers of Varsha’s blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today in a post about “Fan Fiction” as he takes a break from promoting his latest book Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this guest post and opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and the man behind all the excitement!
July 9th @ Bring on Lemons with Carmen Otto
Carmen is an avid reader and soon to be high schooler – she loved Book #1 in the Mystic Rampage series and she joins us today to share her 5 Star Review of Book #2 – Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Don’t miss her youthful insight!
July 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog
Readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today as he pens a guest post titled “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. This post will delight authors and readers alike – so don’t miss it! This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2, Public Display of Aggression.
July 12th @ Bookish Trischa
Today is the day – Trischa reviews Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about and hear from Trischa herself as she shares her insight into the writings of Hugh Fritz.
July 7th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith
Today it’s Varsha’s opportunity to share her review of Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about the fast-paced writing of Hugh Fritz and Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage series!
July 14th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog
A few days ago, readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog heard from Hugh Fritz in a guest post: “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. Now it’s review time – hear what Anthony has to say in his review of Public Display of Aggression, Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series by Hugh Fritz!
There has been lots of progress from the plants lately. The weather has been perfect the last few weeks. A few storms his hard to soak the soil and the forecast for the next few days will be warm and dry. I have a lot of containers but the section I’m most excited about are my raised beds where I decided to try the 3 sisters method. For those who don’t know, the process is to plant corn, beans, and squash close together and the three crops are supposed to help each other grow. The broad leaves of the squash shade the ground which is good for beans which may not be able to handle intense heat. The beans help by putting nitrogen into the soil which is good for the corn. The cornstalks provide support for the beans to grow. I’ve seen various diagrams on seed placement and I’m not sure there’s a “correct” layout. I prepared my beds this way:
Bean Bean Bean Bean Corn Corn Corn Corn
Corn Corn Corn Corn
Bean Bean Bean Bean
When everything goes smoothly it can be a great way to make the most of small gardening spaces, but the tricky part is the timing. I’ve tried Scarlet Runner beans before and once they sprout they grow very fast. That’s why I started the corn back in early March and the beans only last week. It was early for the corn, but I wanted them to have as much of a head start as possible. As usual, the beans shot out of the ground quickly and are already a few inches tall. So far it looks like the stalks are big and strong enough to support the beans. I just hope it keeps up throughout the summer. I’ve never grown pumpkins before and don’t know how quickly they’re supposed to grow. I planted them along the sides hoping they would grow inward and surround the inner portion of the bed by the time temperatures are scorching. So far the leaves are growing broad but they aren’t encroaching in on the corn and beans. I might have to look up pruning techniques to see if there’s any way to motivate them into progressing a certain direction.
The takeaway is that there are a few speedbumps but so far the 3 sisters are showing good progress. Most of the seeds I planted this year were heirlooms and the beans came from Ranch Gordo. If nobody’s heard of them I highly recommend giving them a look at https://www.ranchogordo.com/ . They have lots of beans and the ones I save for planting have always been quick to sprout.
You might notice the homepage looks different. Now that the next installment in the series is available, it seemed fitting to make the new cover image in the spotlight. The next challenge is making physical copies publicly available. Most of my day was spent going to book stores around town and asking if they could find some space on their shelves for 2 or 3 copies. It can be difficult convincing big-name stores to do it. I stopped by Barnes and Noble but they don't put titles in their locations unless they are sure the books will sell, and the only way to ensure that is if people go into the store and ask about a specific book or author. The smaller, locally owned shops have been much more willing to include Mystic Rampage in their library. Organic Books (https://organicbooks.net/) and Page One Books (https://page1book.com/) in Albuquerque each took two copies. Plus, while I was out, I was able to shop around.
I'm glad I did because I may have stumbled on a secret series. I realize why Sherlock Holmes would be a popular choice for fan fictions or crossovers. I wasn't surprised when I found Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes, or Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula. I was a LITTLE surprised last year when I found The Adventure of the Deadly Dimensions by Lois H. Gresh because because Sherlock against Cthulhu seemed like such a bizarre match. I was VERY surprised to find Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove because it looks like another novel that puts these two characters against each other. Maybe this crossover isn't as strange as I thought. I'm wondering if there is a whole universe worth of material where Sherlock and Watson try to best Lovecraftian monsters.
I also finally decided to start a series that a friend has been recommending to me for a very long time. I've seen Brandon Sanderson's name lining bookshelves but I've never given any of his work a shot. I guess I've gotten used to assuming that his books will always be available so I go for something else. The same thing happens with Stephen King. I didn't start the Dark Tower series until long after it ended. I don't even know what Mistborn is about, and I didn't read the synopsis before buying it. This was sort of a "there, I did it, happy now?" moment. I'm not trying to sound skeptical. I'm sure this is going to be great, otherwise the series wouldn't be so popular. I'm just saying it was a peer pressure purchase.
My test order came in from Amazon. I can confirm that copies are available for print. Last I checked digital download is not possible but hard copies can be delivered.
Everything is ready, but for some reason nothing seems to be in motion. Lothar Speer has finished all the illustrations and I’ve decided on the locations throughout the book. The cover is finished and I’ve seen a PDF of the interior which did not have any glaring errors in the text. The next phase would be to receive Proof copies to make sure everything looks alright once it is printed. The Proofs were supposed to arrive the first week of March. When they didn’t I sent an inquiry to the publisher who just informed me there were annoying issues with the printer and gave me a new expected delivery date. Now that time has passed and I still haven’t received them.
The weird thing is that the book is available on Amazon and can be found using a web browser, but if searched for on Kindle it’s unavailable. Since the Proof copies don’t seem to be progressing I just ordered one hard copy for myself to see how it looks. If the text and pictures look OK my plan is to let the publisher know and hopefully we can finish setting it up digitally. This isn’t going nearly as smoothly as the first book’s publication but with any luck it will be available as a hard copy and for digital download soon.