Lake with summer berries

Summer Solstice and the Season’s Sweet Bounty

Celebrating the summer solstice today, which frequents in my Other Worldly series, especially structures that align with the angle of the sun on solstices and equinoxes. England’s Stonehenge during summer solstice is featured in Being Alien, and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico is the focus of Alien Sensation, although that scene takes place on the spring equinox. Because in that novel, Rowan actually spends the date of Earth’s summer solstice on the planet we know as Mercury but is Cinereus to those hailing from there.

My most recently drafted seventh novel, Aliens Watch, which went to my editor this week, opens with a scene in Maryland on Earth after the summer solstice on July 3, but the entirety of the story takes place during summer months. Though it isn’t a beach read, with oceanside trysts as the typical summer pastime.

Aliens Watch has protagonist Rowan Layne traveling to lakeshore summer retreats in Minnesota in August, a delightful time to be in the Gopher State if you don’t mind mosquitoes and straight-line windstorms—or tornados. Rowan doesn’t have trouble with any of those on this trip, though she experiences a weird Wizard-of-Oz,  Dorothy-dreamlike-vision on her way to Wisconsin.

Minnesota is also where the Honeycrisp was created, and because it’s approaching the season for that delectable fruit in Aliens Watch, Rowan gets to chow down on her favorite apple. Wherein her infamous Honeycrisp dream from the very first Other Worldly novel, Alienable Rights, makes a startling comeback with a surprising twist.

Aliens Watch does in fact feature the summer season’s sweet fruit bounty because, living in the desert where we tend to hibernate in the late afternoon hours of intense heat (like folks do for Minnesota winters), my favorite thing about summer is fresh fruit.

This morning I had blueberries and nectarine slices in my cereal, and on this summer solstice my fridge is also already stocked with watermelon and cherries, including Rainiers, my and Rowan Layne’s favorite. We have a thing for genetically engineered fruit.

Rainier cherries are mentioned in Aliens Watch primarily because in the waning days of summer, Rowan travels to the agricultural planet called Cultura, which we know as Saturn, plus a few of its moons.

On Cultura, Rowan learns of fascinating fruit varietals that look different from those growing on Earth, including a grape for winemaking that more resembles a Rainier cherry in surface color, fluorescent mangoes, citrus used in her favorite otherworldly botanical gin, and a berry not unlike Earth’s strawberry, but bearing a hot-pink hue that matches the shocking color of the giant creature who noisily devours it.

Rowan takes a fortuitous dip in a lake on Cultura/Saturn’s moon known as Enceladus, though it’s more like a Minnesota lake in winter, not summer, with ice caps the frigid turquoise hue of Alaskan glaciers. That trip bears fruit in the form of knowledge, but it’s unfortunately not so sweet.

Aliens Watch will likely publish in late fall or early winter, so my timing was out of whack in terms of finishing it just before summer. Kind of like Rowan throughout the summer months, during which she mysteriously loses time. I plan to not lose a minute of summertime by scarfing up as much fresh fruit as possible, like those giant alien creatures on Cultura. Happy summer solstice!


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