We return!

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a dreadful tourist trap, of a peculiarly religious stripe, but it was a fun jaunt anyway. The cabin was gorgeous, if decorated much like Pigeon Forge itself.

Being used to camping, I was not bothered by the mice inhabiting the place. I fear no mouse. One of our friends was a little alarmed by mouseness, but most of us were cool with it. S’just a little mouse.

And we were able to handle the giant bald-faced hornet that showed up in the kitchen. Hey, these things happen. You’re in the woods. Great Smokey Mountain National Park is just down the road. Sure, there was bobbing and ducking and whooping of terror, but eventually, the beast was slain.

Wolf spiders? Eh, we’ve got those at home. Not a problem.

The scorpion in the sink rather threw me, though. Who knew Tennessee even had scorpions? That one had to go, too–most bugs, I’m fine with catching and putting outside, but a little too much potential danger there.

“What’s next?” we asked each other, amused. “Snakes in the cupboards? Badgers under the bed?”

And then James was in the bathroom, attending to neccessary bodily functions and his wandering eye fell on the light fixture/fan vent over the toilet.

A tail slithered down between the slats and coiled there.

Pinned in place by the call of nature, James watched as a snake, perhaps eight inches long, curled and wiggled inside the fixture.

It was impossible to ID from that angle–my guess is small corn snake, but we can’t rule out copperhead, so we didn’t mess with it. The next morning, it had slithered out by whatever hole it slithered in from, and other than another scorpion, that was the end of our exciting menagerie inside the house.

Gorgeous scenery, great national park. Saw five black bears and scads of deer. Good birding, too, particularly for warblers–added Blackburnian, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Green and Magnolia warblers, along with the pileated woodpecker and wild turkey. The Blackburnian was a score, although it was getting out of the gorgeous mating plumage and looked pretty motheaten–they live mostly in tree-tops, so they’re hard to spot unless you’re in a cabin like this one on an overlook. The Orange-crowned was also cool–despite the name, they’re a very drab, boring bird, and I had to work it out by process of elimination on the fieldmarks.

Also ran into the problem of the Epidomax flycatchers. This is a set of virtually identical birds that can only be told apart through gruellingly careful observation, and it helps to have a line-up. I think what I saw was the willow flycatcher, based on size and nearly non-existant eye-ring, but I’m not sure enough to count it.

Overall, a good trip. Even with snakes in the bathroom.

And we’re off!

I’ll be out for a few days, so if I don’t get back to you on your e-mail right away, it’s not that I don’t love you/agree/want your money/need that kidney, I promise!

Wish me luck in the wilds of Tennessee. If I’m not back in a week, assume I perished Deliverance style, and have a moment of silence in my memory.

I was in the shower, and noticed a mosquito had come in with me.

My first thought was “Aw, hell, I’m gonna get bit in all kinda scary places.”

My second was “Gee, I wonder what it’s like to be a mosquito in the shower?”

You gotta figure the water droplets are as big or bigger than the mosquito, and they’re in a deadly stream that’s more or less stable, but with erratic gouts and sprays. And among these liquid missiles, a tiny fighter navigating a soggy meteor storm, the M-wing zigzags, banking, looping, rolling wildly to avoid eruptions ricocheting off the rather pasty planetoid ahead.

Port! Hard to starboard! Up! Up! OH MY GOD, THE LOOFAH! Abort! Our tiny, intrepid pilot circles, calculating her best angle of attack, diving to avoid a careless swing of the shampoo bottle. Her wings are getting sodden. The planetoid’s lurching doesn’t help, nor does the planetoid’s tendency to sing “Did Your Mother Come From Ireland” in a voice that makes the M-wing’s chitin rattle.

A droplet wings her! Calamity! She drops sideways, stalls, and plummets towards the ground, a deathtrap of wet tile and swirling water, sucked at high speed towards the wormhole of The Drain. At the last possible instant, she pulls up, skimming the rushing water with her landing gear, nearly dragged down, down, into oblivion. “Turbo!” she screams, pounding on the controls with a tiny claw. “I NEED TURBO!”

She gets it. The M-wing’s engine coughs, splutters, and engages. The pilot stares directly into the gaping maw of the Drain, and then the ship bucks and she shoots between the wrinkly pillars of the planetoid’s ankles.

And then she sees it. Damp, but not currently underwater, shielded from the deadly wetstorm by the bulk of the planetoid, the right knee provides a landing space. But whoa! The planetoid is holding the soap! It’s a race against time to deploy the proboscis and fuel up before deadly suds come careening down the leg and wash the M-wing into oblivion.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry…” she pleads with the craft, watching the fuel tank fill with terrible slowness. “Come on, baby, hurry…” The planetoid has moved on to “The Old Apple Tree,” a sort of greatest off-key family hits. She can see the suds now, a blinding wall of white, like a glacier, sweeping down on the M-wing in slow motion. The tank is three-quarters full. “Stupid machine!” she screams, pounding on the dashboard again, and then immediately, “Sorry, baby, I didn’t mean it, just hurry, or we’re all gonna die…”

The suds loom overhead. She can see the M-wing’s reflection in a thousand tiny bubbles. She commends her soul to the Sucker-of-Stars, goddess of mosquito pilots everywhere.

The fuel tank chimes full.

She wrenches the probascis loose, ignoring the screams of safety klaxons and a stern mechanical voice informing her that she, as owner of a brand new M-wing 749 fighter, has just voided her warranty. The landing gear pulls up and the M-wing hurls itself from the planetoid’s surface, and upward, over the shower door, to safety.

Behind her, the wall of suds crashes down.

And they wonder where I get my ideas…

James is about to tackle the wasp nest.

Updates as they happen.

Update: Like a dwarven ninja, he sprayed the nest with gouts of foam and ran like hell. This would have been a much better plan if the nest hadn’t had a back exit on the other side of the pillar, from which wasps came boiling out.

Fortunately, like the ninja, James was long gone. The wasps, badly poisoned, began dropping to the porch, which we had naturally forgotten to cover with a newspaper or anything else.

After a few minutes when it became obvious none of them were getting airborne, Sir Waspbane went back in and doused both exits with more poisoned foam. There were apparently no survivors, and he retired, unscathed and victorious, to wash his hands really really really well.

Pumping poison like that into the environment fills me with guilt, but what else can you do?

My Florida anise has been happy in its new spot.

At least, I think it’s been happy, because today it flowered. Except that Florida anise, according to the tag, flowers in spring.

Huh.

While rampaging new growth is sometimes a sign of a plant about to die horribly and trying to stave off the grim reaper, it doesn’t seem unhappy or unhealthy, and it’s billed as a hardy southeast native. So I can’t figure it out. Possibly it’s one of those plants that, given a very long growing season, will flower twice, or it was living in the crush of a nursery so long, its schedule is badly off kilter and its just doin’ whatever comes to mind.

Regardless, the flowers are a gorgeous deep maroon, with a spicy, citrusey kinda smell (James claims there’s an undertone of fish, but I think he’s nuts.)

Another day, another…something or other.

Next week, we’re going to Tennessee for a coupla days, so I’ll be incommunicado, which means that I’m scrambling to get Diggers done over the weekend. In accordance with the ancient laws of the universe, one always suffers the huge bill immediately before one goes on a trip (although that probably has more to do with taking the car in before a long road trip than anything else.) But also in accordance with ancient law, the trip has been planned for months and cannot be put off. Oh, well, what can you do? At least Tennessee is dirt cheap. It’s…well…Tennessee.

The place we’re staying is supposed to have a hot tub. It occurred to James and I that we do not own bathing suits, or if we do, they have been packed in a box since we left Arizona some years ago. Since we’ll be with friends, there is much hanging out in hot tub anticipated.

I went off to find a bathing suit. This is an experience guaranteed to stomp one’s ego into teeny, tiny, tragic pieces.

Ah. End of season. Unlike Arizona, swimming is not a year-round sport here. Every bathing suit they had was on the clearance rack, and there weren’t many of ’em.

Ah. Apparently the one piece bathing suit is no longer “in.” This does not make Ursula happy. There are a multitude of sins between breast and crotch that I would just as soon remained hidden, thank you.

Ah. Apparently no one with DD breasts WEARS bikinis, which makes perfect sense, but was damned inconvenient when that was all they had available. The TWO–count ’em, TWO–XL tops I could find looked like I was trying to put a speedo on a grapefruit. It was visually arresting, but not in a good way. Particularly since the only remaining colors were in 70’s day-glo florals. Oy. Try to find an XXXL top? Surely you jest. Humans don’t come in that size!

Now, I have a fair number of friends who are…shall we say…well-endowed. My buddy Carlota can get instant service in the most packed bar in the universe merely by leaning forward. I would even go so far as to say that the majority of the women I know have industrial strength boobage. Is it just assumed that these women do not swim? Ever? I was mildly horrified to learn that one cannot get even a large-ish bra at Victoria’s Secret–it has to be special ordered–but this was just pure indignity. What if I was above a DD? This is not a weird size! Most of the women I know are this size! WHY DO YOU TORMENT US!? If you’re going to make huge breasts the ideal of society, bloody well give us clothes to put on ’em!

Ahem.

Anyway. Like most people in this situation, I found a pair of men’s swim trunks and the one top in the store that hid most of the flab from view, and resigned myself. There’s a reason I don’t swim often, and every few years, I remember why that is.

Lord, it’s a day of announcements!

Pre-orders are now available for the 2007 Ursula Vernon calendar. This sold out in, like, hours last time, so I kinda suggest that you might wanna order quickly–I think Ellen ordered more, but…well…y’know.

The theme this year is “Rodents We Have Known,” and includes the original captions for all the paintings, and all major holidays, including Talk Like A Pirate Day!

http://www.ellenmilliongraphics.com/fantasyart/emggroup.php?id=13

Unnnnggghhh.

Took the car in to get the brakes serviced. The guy said we didn’t need new brakes or a new air compressor. He fixed the cruise control for free. That was nice of him.

Unfortunately, he also needs to take the engine apart to the tune of $900. Words like “crankcase” and “leak” and “transmission” were used.

Oy. Still, it’s a good little car, and that’s why we have the credit card for emergencies anyway.

This was already a rather rough month on the money front–end of summer is the dead season for sales, and while the Anthrocon art show funded the mortgage last month, this month is tanking hard. That’s the problem with freelancing, of course–some months you scatter originals like daisies in springtime, and some months you’re grateful for the smallest nickel-and-dime print sales. Art is not a lifestyle for the faint of heart!

Oh, well, keeps life interesting, I suppose…

Updateness!

The corrected version of Digger vol 2 will be on sale from Sofawolf on the 20th. Signed copies will be available at a later date, to be announced (they gotta ship me the box to sign.)

Black Dogs, vol 1 — “House of Diamond” is hopefully to be released in January. This is not a firm date, but it’s what we’ve got at the moment.

PLEASE NOTE: “Black Dogs” is being split into two volumes, due to length. I beg of you, do not immediately ask me when it’s coming out as one volume. It isn’t. Do not hold out for the omnibus volume. It will not exist unless fifty years from now, I’m a raging bestseller and somebody decides to reprint it. The odds of this are akin to my being struck by lightning while being attacked by a great white shark holding a winning lottery ticket, so if you’re interested in the edited, revised, rather more coherent, de-comma-ed, now-with-extra-subplot Black Dogs, I’d grab ’em now.

(Black Dogs, in case anybody’s wondering what the heck I’m talking about, is the Obligatory Fantasy Novel I wrote some years ago. It is a coming of age story, to a certain somewhat weird extent a love story, and it has ground sloths. It is not quite the rambling tale of rampant botflies that I might write today, but, again, ground sloth. Various parties have told me it’s a readable tale, and it’s a lot better thanks to my brave editors. I am desperately proud of it and horribly embarassed by it, which is apparently normal for a first novel regardless of quality.)