Monday, April 30, 2012

Squirrels, moles, voles and chipmunks

I love to watch the little wildlife in my yard. I'm a little too suburban for deer, but maybe it's all the dogs in the neighborhood. However, they really must learn to share!

The very first ripe strawberry disappeared. My lovely row of rainbow chard was mowed down. The mockingbird steals cherries and last year the squirrel stole all of the apples out of the tree. We only had about a half dozen, but still...

I wintered over some artichokes. I was really excited about the possibilities. One of the plants had split out. So that would mean more flower stalks. And then one day it was terribly wilted. The next day it was considerably shorter. When I checked, I saw that something had eaten away the roots and the plant had fallen into the hole. Voles, I'm assuming.

One year I actually saw it happen to a tulip. I was weeding and heard a crunch. When I looked up, I saw a tulip slowly sink into the ground. Very Bugs Bunny-ish.

Not sure what my defense will be against these varmints. I did fence the chard and it is recuperating. Now I need to come up with a plan for the rest of the things I don't want share.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm rolling out the artwork

I haven't painted in awhile.

Aside from putting a lot of creative energy into my writing, I think the reason I have artist's block is because there is no ready market for it. Fairs and shows are expensive and hit or miss when it comes to sales. And a LOT of work. It is a full time job in itself. On top of my pay-the-bills job and the writing.

So I am going to start posting some work here to share and sell. At the very least I have a place to show all the work in the closet! And maybe it will get my visual creative juices going again.

You can get to the ARTWORK page by clicking on the word at the top. Please feel free to comment on any of the work.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

I was reminiscing with my sister the other day about the books we all read growing up. Our house was stuffed with overflowing bookcases. It was a family joke that we didn't need to hit the library for research papers. We had at least 2 sets of encyclopedias, maybe 3.

We both named Mary Stewart as a favorite, but neither of us could name any books other than her Merlin series. I looked her up and found she was very prolific.

I just finished Thornyhold. It's a wonderful tale set in the English countryside with a bit of magic and a touch of romance and a hint of horror. The description is rich. I have a solid image of the old stone house clearly in my head. I love this sort of story. The protagonist is unassuming and gains great strength over the course of the story, mostly in protection of others.

And it has a happy ending. Lovely.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Flax, grapes and blueberries

I love flax. It is so delicate and cheerful. But it is actually very adaptable and drought resistant. I started this from seed and it has come back every year. I have it in full sun and partial shade and both do just fine.

Baby grapes!

The first grapes I tried was from Home Depot - Flame. Turns out they are not hardy for my area. I really should know better than to buy from Home Depot without a lot of research. They didn't make through the winter.

This is Canadice from a local nursery. I planted it in 2010. Last year it had 3 tiny bunches of grapes. And I mean barely pea sized. I was hoping for an increase...WOW. The vine is covered with bunches! I'll have to see how things progress. I hate to count those chickens... but I am very optimistic about the grape harvest this year.

 The blueberries are incredible!

Ever since I figured out that rabbits love fresh blueberry shoots, and fenced them, they've been doing much better. I put these plants in 4 years ago. I had read that it could take up to 5 years for a plant to start bearing. Between the bad winters and couple of droughts, I've been worried about them. In 2010 I got 16 berries and was thrilled. Last year I got 33 berries, more than double, right?

These bushes put on tremendous growth last year. This spring they were covered with flowers. I'm in awe. Sometimes Mother Nature just blows me away.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Loss of Standards

The latest flu is a killer. To stop it from spreading, the government will shut down the city for three days. Dolan can't abide the thought of being trapped in his apartment, alone, for that long. He hit the bars the night before looking for someone, or two, to keep him company. The next morning, hungover and hazy, he discovered a very unexpected house guest.

Available for $0.99 on Kindle or for other formats at Smashwords 

I had fun putting this cover together. I'd love feedback on it. Does it catch the eye? Entice? Confuse? Turn you off?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stories about storytellers

Is this an out of focus photo of the big pine tree in the background? No. It's a picture of the thin branches in the foreground. Not the best angle perhaps. The eye is drawn to the powerful shape of a mature tree, not the nebulous noodles of sticks.

That's the way I feel about stories in which a character sits down and proceeds to tell a really long story. It's like the author has lost sight of the initial goal and is side tracking me. Look over here!

For some reason I've hit a couple books in a row where that's happened. When I am happily traipsing through a story-world I don't want to stop and listen to a side story unless there is a really good reason for it.

In the book I am reading now, it is the back stories for five people who have come together for a common goal. OK, maybe that's important to move the plot along, but to me that was four chapters wasted. I'll allow the one chapter, because he is a recurring character. And all of this is with the protagonist simply listening. As a fan of the protagonist, I am a little put off.

I want the adventure to keep moving. And I want the protagonist to be the mover. So that's my lesson for today - keep the protagonist in charge.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cabbage, poppies and strawberries

First of all - the poppy bloomed.
And what a beauty it is. Of course I am more attached to the perennials that I grow from seed. It just amazes me that they come back every year and put out such gorgeous flowers! This is one of the few that survived. I planted them all over my  hill but very few got through the first year. This was a packet of mixed colors, and the only ones I have left are this color. Maybe this color is hardiest.

I had to start some more Chinese cabbage because the rabbit decided to visit the garden. He trimmed all my chard and culinary dandelions while he was at it.
It's been so warm, by the time these are ready to transplant, I will probably put them right into the garden - with some sort of fencing!

The strawberries are pinking up!
There was a lovely big one, just about ripe, and now it's gone. I know there's a chipmunk who thinks he's found heaven. He waits until they're perfectly ripe before stealing them. I picked a couple pink ones to outsmart him. I don't mind sharing a little, but the very first one of the season?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Marketing, Frost and Phase of the Moon

First - marketing.

This week I had my second free trial for White Lies on Kindle Select. It didn't go as well as the previous one. So maybe it has to do with being on a Tuesday and Wednesday. Or maybe I hit just the right post at just the right time, last time. The first free trial didn't give me any bump in sales. I'll have to see how this one affects sales.

I only have 1 review on Amazon right now (Thanks, Georgia!). So, if you have read it for free, I would really appreciate it if you would leave a review.

Also, A Loss of Standards, a short story, is now up on Smashwords for $0.99. I have set up tabs  for my writing at the top of this page. Click on Short Stories for the link to Smashwords.

Second - frost.

Ugh, we may have lost a lot of fruit to the frost on Tuesday night. The apple farmers in the area are very worried. When the fruit is this small, the damage doesn't show up right away. I can see discoloration on a lot of fruit - apricots, plums, cherries, blueberries and grapes. Just have to wait to see if it means ugly fruit or no fruit at all. And we were so excited about how well everything was coming along. Bummer

Third - the moon.

Now I'm not sure whether it's the moon or the tremendous wind for the past few days, the barometric pressure or sunspots, but I have been antsy and cranky and seriously ADD. No writing, no reading and a bare minimum on gardening. Today I feel better. Hopefully, I'll be able to concentrate for more than 10 minutes on something.

Now back to writing!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

White Lies is free again

White Lies
Will be free on April 11 and 12.
Tell all your friends. And if you download a free copy, please be kind enough to review it on Amazon. Doesn't have to be a book report. Just give it some stars and let me know if you liked it. Thanks!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bumbles in the azaleas

Everything is blooming like mad with this warm weather. And there are bees everywhere. The azaleas in the front yard are full of them and the cats called a truce so they could watch. Normally they don't like to get this close.

I noticed this weekend that the grapes are forming flowers. Last year we got a handful - maybe 6 or 8 grapes from the baby vine. This year there are flowers on every tip! If they all turn into grapes we will have enough to eat and dry and maybe even juice. Take my word for it - homemade raisins are incredible!

Every year the fruit trees, bushes, vines get larger and I am astonished by them. While I'm busy doing other things, they are growing. Despite forgetting to water, or fertilize or spray they keep trucking along on their own timeline. And when I do remember to water and fertilize and spray, they  reward me with yummy stuff.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Writer's blahs

Sometimes we trap ourselves in a boring sequence without realizing it.

You know that action A has to lead to result B but after it's done you know it isn't working. Even re-reading it is a trial. You just want to get past it to the meat of the story.

Whoa. If it's so boring that I don't want to read it, I can't imagine what my ultimate audience will think of it.

So I went back and looked at the boring bits. Was it just filler? No. Why was it boring? I think it had to do with the lack of action and dialog. Maybe with the lack of realistic interaction between the characters. Also, I had written this piece a long time ago and it no longer resonated with the newer portions of the story. I needed to rev it up.

Once I gave myself permission to scrap the whole thing and start over, the words flowed. And the story flows better, too. It's hard to let go of a big chunk of writing. But I'm so glad I did.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Child of the Phrophecy by Juliet Marillier

I just finished another very enjoyable book from Juliet Marillier. Her books flow wonderfully. The world doesn't change, but the viewpoint character does so it all feels fresh again.

This main character was much darker than the previous two. And I have to say she's got some of the most patient men in history in there. Or is persistent a better word?

This story ends leaving several characters at crucial turning points. I am eager to tuck into the next one in hopes that those loose ends will be tidily braided up.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Update on WIP

I finished the cut and paste of all the sections I am salvaging from the tome. They will act as an outline because all of it needs to be rewritten. But the bones are there - front to back! It's a good feeling to have it all there, even it if is a very rough draft.

Now the tough part. I need to string them all together with the same voice and themes with the end squarely in my sights.

There are a few upcoming scenes that I'm procrastinating on. One is a love scene. That's going to be interesting. I have to think about how comfortable I will be with my critique group reading it.

The thought of strangers, who I will never meet face to face, reading that sort of thing isn't a problem at all. But the face to face might make me a bit nervous. Not that I'm prudish, mind you, but...

The other tricky bits are when my characters are being clever. That means I need to be clever. And that might take a whole lot of thinking before it gets down on paper. Maybe even some diagrams and charts and some off-stage action worked out.

This writing stuff can get really complicated!