Buh-Bye May, Hallo June!

So, May sort of came, beat up everybody, and left. It feels like it should still be April 17th.

But it’s not. It’s the first of June.

In 2019.

How’d that happen?

I didn’t get as much done this year as I’d hoped by now, certainly not bookwise – I know, I know, the books still aren’t up. Good gravy, that’s been a learning process. The two biggest things I learned are: stress interferes with our creative processes, and social media steals time.

So rather than wax eloquent about writing, I figured I’d write an update post to you, Dear Reader, and see where we go from here.

Our dog, Coyote, died on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Man, that’s been hard. We had to take her to the vet to be put to sleep, because she was sick all weekend. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I figured it’s important news so I should share.

My coauthor and partner Rachel came in for a visit earlier in May, but Murphy’s Law prevailed and pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. That was the Vacation That Wasn’t, and again, I don’t really want to talk about it.

But as it turns out, stress has an effect on creativity. In preparing some pictures for today, I noticed that I never finished the A to Z Challenge in April, and I still have pictures that I took for it. I’m not sure if I have any wisdom to share about not posting them, other than to say, sometimes, life gets in the way of our creative plans and we need to honor that. The only way I’ve found to get back on the page is to, well, get back on the page. Hence today’s post.

Another thing I’ve observed and talked about in the past is using other creative outlets when one is blocked in a particular one. For me, that’s typically been knitting. Over the last few months of job upheaval, and particularly at the end of last year when I was in the thick of it, I wasn’t able to even knit. I just didn’t have the heart for it. In January and February, I was able to play with my pin loom and learn some pin loom weaving, but it wasn’t “real” creative work. It was solely creative play. I finally got back to the semi-circular shawl I’d started designing in January, and am now about half done.

I think that’s a critical distinction, this difference between creative work and creative play. I don’t know that I have any answers yet, but I’m learning there is definitely a difference for me. Creative work is goal oriented: “get Burning Bright up on Draft2Digital and upload it to retailers and my website,” which requires me to learn Draft2Digital, Amazon ebook and Amazon paper book uploads, Draft2Digital interface for the other retailers (non-Amazon), and learn MyBookTable, which is a WordPress widget that lets me build a bookstore on the website (I use WordPress to run this and my other sites). Creative play is also critical, to me being happy and contented as an artist. And in order to feel like working on any kind of play, I’ve found I need to feel grounded, which is why the work-related bullshit was so disruptive to my life.

On the other hand, my husband and I have had some true breakthroughs this last two or three months. We finally opened a local bank account (which is something on our task list since we moved here last year) at a local credit union, got our taxes sorted out (which is huge since we owe an arm and a leg to Uncle Sam from financing the move with premature retirement distributions). We’ve been culling our stuff, still, which is honestly a little surprising because I thought we’d done all that when we moved. Nope. We culled about 15 or 20 paper grocery bags of books, a portable heater, two bookcases, and a copper fire pit last weekend. We completely reconfigured our home office, which really opened up the space. It’s startling how much of a difference that makes.

My new employer allows me the privilege of working from home two days a week, and that’s been a real adjustment. It took a while for me to settle into that new routine, but I’m finding I really like it. I’m an extrovert, and I thought I’d hate it to pieces because it’s just me and the animals at home. But in fact, I’m really liking the peace and quiet, and it really lets me hear myself think in relation to my work and that’s allowed me to be more strategic and intentional. And that’s surprisingly fun.

So like I said, May was a pretty intense month. I’m looking forward to June. The weather is brightening up and we have some hiking planned and a weekend vacation to the Oregon coast later in the month. And yes, I promise, I’m working on uploading the books. And finishing the knitting. And doing the weaving.

In short, I’m practicing being in the moment and following my bliss. And that is surprisingly easy and hard, all at the same time.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, Dear Reader. And if you’d like, I’d love to hear about your Spring in the comments, and what excites you about Summer – or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, your Autumn and Winter.

Big love,


J Is For Joie de Vivre, Which Is French for Birds Feeding

Okay, it’s not really French for birds feeding; please my French speaking readers, don’t converge on me. And if you don’t speak French, joie de vivre is translated to English as, keen enjoyment of life, as in, “they were filled with joie de vivre.”

Well, here: you watch.

I couldn’t get them to come back to the seed, because I was standing too close, but I didn’t want to step back or I would have been in the street. But I think they’re adorable. I have such mixed feelings about feeding wild birds; everything I’ve read from a conservation point of view advises against it because it interferes with their natural food-gathering and/or hunting habits. But I confess, I love watching them when there’s a feeder to hand.

And more on the “J” theme, even though it’s not AT the botanical gardens, here is a very lovely rhodi, “Just because:”

Isn’t she lovely? The centers are a deep, blushing pink, but the blooms are a warm, creamy white.

Here’s another one where you can see mostly the blooms; I’m astounded that such a deep reddish pink turns white when they open!

I Is For Ivy, That Covers and Hides; The Groundcover of All Things, It Moves Like the Tides…

I have a confession to make: I adore ivy. When I lived in Chicago, I moved into a brick “three-flat,” which is Chicagoan for a brownstone with four apartments. No, that doesn’t make sense; this is because the basement apartment was added in the 1960’s or so in an illegally-made addition done with, get this, plywood. But no matter; I called that little tiny place home for nearly 15 years. In front of our building lay a bedraggled mess that, I’m sure, the former owners intended to be a lawn, but due to the two enormous, stately Norway maples in front of it, ended up as a sun-choked home for weeds and the occasional beetle.

My landlady and I were friends, and I lived in that building for one year shy of two decades. In that time, one of my first projects and what ended up as my longest-lasting one was to install a garden. We called them “The Beehive Gardens,” named for the building (the Beehive) and the gardens (plural because there was more than one tiny weed patch). Besides. The Beehive Gardens sounds so much better than “that little tiny garden that you stuffed in between the concrete sidewalks.” And when you put your mind to it, you can get quite a bit of gardening done in a very small space.

So into that front yard that had been a sad attempt at a village green went three things: English ground ivy, vinca vine (variegated and plain), and Creeping Charlie. “But those are weeds!” you might exclaim and, Dear Reader, you’d be right: but what is a weed but simply a plant growing where you don’t want it to? And one thing all three of those so-called weeds do is spread.

Unlike the grass, you understand.

Now this challenge is for the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s A to Z, but as I mentioned in my “N” post, I’ve got a cold – so I’m actually writing this “I” post on the 16th of April and back-dating it, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. But this further means that these photos weren’t snapped at the Bellevue Gardens but along my walk today at lunch (“today” being Tuesday and not last Wednesday). There is plenty of ivy on my walk, and ivy gets everywhere – including under this juniper bush! – ooh, lookatthat. A “J” picture. Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow… which is to say, for last Thursday.

And now that I’ve totally lost you, and just at that point in my walk where I was wondering if I’d really need all these pictures of ivy, I came across this lovely spot:

I wonder who is living in that little shady abode, eh? Spiders and moles, voles and mice, maybe the odd raccoon or duck? Looks like a good place for a nap, but that might just be the cold medicine talking.

And just as I was thinking enough is enough, I saw this:

Now I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I watch quite a bit of British murder mystery fiction. And I’ve watched American and Swedish ones for good measure, and even the odd French and Norwegian one thrown into the mix.

Does this not, Dear Reader, look like the owner of this apartment complex might have buried an unhelpful tenant under a bed of ground ivy?

I shall run back to my nice, warm desk and hide for the rest of the day, because after all, one can never spot a serial killer because they could look like everyone else.

I don’t know that I like that ivy all that much now… ~shudder~

H Is For Horticulture, the Science of Plants

This is a long view, just down from the Tateuchi Viewing Pavilion, toward the Ravine Experience. The piece in the distance looks like a high-backed faerie throne. The water goes under the walkway; I stood on a pathway bridge to take this shot.

Which got me thinking: what is horticulture? How is it different from gardening?

My husband and I, as geeks often do, talked about it yesterday and ruminated on the Latin origins of the word, “horticulture.” It’s composed of two Latinate words, “horto,” for garden, and “culture,” for… something. Probably culture, one would assume; but we already know from other studies that sound-based etymology is bad linguistics. We also know that the motto of the city of Chicago is “Urbs in horto,” or “City in a garden.” So we know horto and garden are connected. But where does “culture” fit in? Does it refer to the culture of gardening? Probably not, since vermiculture is the cultivation and care of worms, and agriculture is the cultivation and science of agri-stuffs, or crops. Which are growing things, just like hortos.

Aside from the pleasant mental gymnastics of our conversation, we decided that alas, to Auntie Google we must go. “Google, what is horticulture?”

“The word horticulture comes from two Latin words which mean ‘garden’ and ‘culture.’ Horticulture is the art and science of growing and handling fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, flowers, foliage plants, woody ornamentals, and turf.” From Extension: Issues, Innovation, Impact; “What Is Horticulture?” accessed from the following link, here.

What’s the difference between horticulture and gardening? Ian Graham, self-identified “Craft Gardener,” has this to say on Quora: “Horticulture is the production of plants for a purpose – food, ornamental, forestry, medicines, fuel etc. Horticulture is a science, using scientific research and the scientific method to produce ‘better’ and more productive plants. Gardening is a personal or community pursuit to produce environments (personal or public) of beauty and functionality, using plants (ornamental and food), water, and ‘stone’. Gardening also includes personal food production, ie veggie patches.” Accessed from the following link, here.

I like Mr. Graham’s distinction, “production of plants for a purpose:” aside from the pleasing alliteration, which, less face it, I’m all for that, I think it defines the science a little more. But “science,” in the old days, simply meant applying the scientific method: create a hypothesis, try it, record the results, try again. In gardening, that could be “I’ll try planting tomatoes in this pot.” Then record the results. “Well, that worked, but they need more sun so I’ll try that spot over there in Spring.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

So in some ways, I think horticulture is just a fancy way of saying gardening, a way to legitimize and sciencify something we humans have been doing for generations. But I’ll note this: they’re called Botanical Gardens, not Horticultural Exhibits. Though now that I say that, I suspect there probably are horticultural exhibits. This is one of the things that makes English so difficult, is its propensity for stealing from other languages and calling it English. 🙂 I think, on balance, that shall remain, as did Galadriel, myself; a gardener.

Next up is the Letter I like Iowa. But there aren’t any plants like Iowa, are there?

You’ll have to check back, Dear Reader; you’ll have to check back. Cheers!

G Is For Gators, Gardeners’ Friends; and G Is For Glens, Full of Rhododendrons; and G Is For Goldfish, Swimming in Ponds – Yes, It’s An A to Z Challenge Post! Welcome, Good Friend!

As I wandered onto the Botanical Garden grounds today, I mulled over my choices for “G.” I mean, Garden seemed too easy. Right?

I came around a corner in the path and seriously, THIS was sitting there.

Waiting for me.

Dear Reader, it was hard.

But I didn’t get in and drive it around.

Though I was tempted, Dear Reader; sorely tempted.

Besides. Dude was around there somewhere, with a loud machine, blowing botanical materials around.

Now, I confess, I don’t really grok the meaning behind using a leaf blower in a botanical garden. I mean, what are you planning to do, blow the leaves all the way out of the gardens? And then what? Your neighbors will get tired of a dirty great pile of blown leaves in front of the gardens.

But oddly, there weren’t any piles of leaves.

Maybe he was just dusting?

Gosh, this garden, for the letter G or not, sure is gorgeous, isn’t it?

But that brings me to my favorite discovery since moving to the PNW, or to those of us who aren’t yet in on the native lingo, “The Pacific Northwest:” rhododendrons! The place is lousy with them! Locals are, get this, even tired of them! (???)

Not me. This, then, without further gilding the lily (another G word, lookatthat!), is the Rhododendron Glen:

These are just the early bloomers, too! They bloom from early, early Spring (one of the ones in my apartment complex bloomed mid-March!) clear through June.

I know it’s not the same thing, but you know how when a cat is showing you their foot pads and you say, “What cute toe beans!”? Well, I had that exact same instinct when I saw these flowers!

Not actually a hundred percent sure this is a rhodi, but it’s in the glen, so I snapped its picture.

Same here. I must have walked around this one four times before I satisfied myself I was actually IN the rhododendron glen. So I guess this is a rhodi too? It’s sure pretty – the leaf ends are colored, AND there are flowers. LOFF!

I call this one “Potential.”

(Does this mean I’m a ‘budding photographer’? ~hides~)

Sadly, the lighting was even worse this morning than the last time I went, and it makes photographing the fish next to impossible – which is a shame, as I adore koi. Or, as they’re known today, Goldfish.

They’re all congregating together. If they were mammals, I’d say it was to stay warm on an overcast, rainy day. But they’re fish. So I’m not sure. Maybe just gabbing together? Gathering? Garnering support? ~grin~

All right, Dear Reader, all right; enough of G. Next up is H – which will be less about the pictures and more about the philosophy and science of gardening.

If you’re participating in the challenge, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments so I can come visit you! And if you’ve already commented but I’ve been absent, please forgive me, I’m a bit behind in my visiting but I will catch up between now and the weekend. Real Life has a way of getting in the way.

But hey – we can always visit a garden to relax, yes?

B Is For… the Bellevue Botanical Garden – with a Twist!

As we really get going on the A to Z Challenge, I wanted to share what it’s like to visit the actual garden. And since it’s the Bellevue Botanical Garden, I get two “B’s” for the price of one!

The Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Garden is located outside of the city of Seattle, Washington State, USA. Bellevue used to be a sleepy bedroom community, but in the last couple decades the population has exploded and major companies have hubs here: Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, to name just a few.

The Garden has a great website, located here, with information on featured plants and their cultivation, rich photographs, and a robust calendar of events. It’s just 53 acres, but once you’re there it feels like you’re not in a city the size of Bellevue. It’s truly a refuge worth coming to.

What I like as a garden visitor is that scattered throughout the Garden are stakes with QR codes that patrons can use to access information about particular exhibits and the featured plants. If you haven’t encountered a QR code, according to Wikipedia: “QR code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.”

Most modern smartphones can interpret these, and if you don’t already have that capability, navigate to your phone’s app store and look for a free “QR Code Reader.” Then, when you find a code you’d like to read, open your phone’s reader and position the phone’s camera over the code. Wait a moment and your phone will ask you if you’d like to launch the reader – in the case of the Garden’s codes, my phone asks if I want it to open the Garden’s web page. I took a screenshot of one of the results, so you can get an idea of the wealth of information:

Tomorrow we continue our A to Z tour with the letter C. Since I found some birds that will satisfy my letter D, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do for C; so I’ll be just as surprised as you are. See you tomorrow!

If you are participating in the A to Z Challenge, please leave me a note in the comments so I can come visit you back. Happy reading!

Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenge Day One – The Letter A!

Welcome to April, and the A to Z Blogging Challenge! This month, I’ll be blogging each day, Monday through Saturday, and the day’s post will be related to the corresponding letter of the alphabet for the day – Day One is for A, Day Two is for B, and so on, all the way through the letter Z. We don’t blog for the Challenge on Sundays, which gives us 26 days in April, corresponding to the 26 letters in the English alphabet.

My theme this year is the A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I’ll take you with me as I journey throughout the garden, exploring the gardens, the Copper Kettle Coffee Bar, Trillium Store, and everything in between. There will be a suspension bridge, a Japanese walled garden, a meditation building, native species cultivars… in short, everything an urban nature lover could ask for. I might avoid all the garden bugs, because I don’t really get excited about them, but since the garden is talking about them this month, you might get a glimpse into the creepy, crawly world around us.

But today, I’m going to talk about A is for Alphabet, and thus, writing, which leads me to journaling. Specifically, journaling suited for a journey through an urban garden. In her class, Expressive Pages: Journaling the Everyday, Judith Cassel-Mamet shows us how to use simple manila tags and a binder ring to create something she has dubbed a “tag journal.” Pictured above is one of my tag journals, in this case with a gesture drawing of a dandelion drawn with a brush pen. Tag journals are perfect for wandering around in a garden, because you can write, draw, even staple in ephemera and it all stays in one place, courtesy of the binder ring.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow as I visit the garden and look for the letter B – B is for Bellevue Botanical Garden!

Fallow Periods and Thawing

So it’s like this: one day in April, 2017, I was abducted by aliens and then…

No. That’s not it.

Let’s see. Once upon a time, there was a summer, and that summer morphed into a tree, and the tree…

Yeah, that’s not it either.

Well, if you follow me over on Noon and Wilder, you’ll know the last year and a half have been full of upheaval, chaos, and change.

But I have good news, Dear Reader. Yesterday, while swimming, I got a new story idea. It wasn’t a big story idea, and it wasn’t related to anything we’ve already written, but it was a little snippet of a possibility.

And that, Dear Reader, hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Stress does that to a person.

And that brings me to my post today. I am in the process of learning how to do several new things, including book uploads (which isn’t entirely new to me, but I’m learning to be more efficient with it) and website design. The publishing landscape decided to skitter off under the furniture when I wasn’t looking and, frankly, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I was – change is inevitable.

I’m most grateful for learning to incorporate meditation in my daily round. I’ve meditated all my life, but I found an app that has really helped me on a regular basis, called Calm.

And I wish that I could give you some pearls of wisdom, something like “how to keep going in the face of really triggery events and massive national trauma playing out daily on the news.” But I don’t have any. All I can say is this: remember to unplug and spend time breathing real air. Move your body and get enough sleep. Eat clean and journal daily. And even with all of that, stress happens and it’s real.

Fallow times happen, Dear Reader, they happen to all of us. And me, I feel like I’m digging up out of a really deep, fertile field and all I have in my hands is rich loam and some really fat worms.

But swimming, man. I got an idea for a story. And I’m listening. With all my ears, I’m listening, Universe.

Stay tuned.

Hate Outlines? Timeline!

Keeping the plot of a novel-length manuscript can be a challenge for the most organized of writers. If you, like me, aren’t naturally left-brained sequential, then it can be more of a headache because your mind doesn’t organize information in a stepwise fashion. Have you ever looked at your story and realize that everything is happening in one day? or two different things are going on in the same night?

Reading a manuscript that is disorganized is no fun, for obvious reasons; but what do you do when you don’t like or can’t write to an outline?

One tool is a timeline that simply tracks each chapter and includes a simple sentence or two as to the action that takes place. I find that I have a bad habit of putting all my action on one or two days, and using a timeline helps me straighten all that out and figure out the flow of the action.

Here’s an example from Rachel and I, the timeline from our book, Burning Bright:

2017-02-12 ACN Pic 1timeline

I don’t start using a timeline until I’m about 10,000 or 30,000 words into a project.  Once I have enough material to have a clear picture of the story, then I’m able to write down what I have and see where I am trying to go.

Another tool is to build a literal calendar:

2017-02-12 calendar

This is from an earlier draft of the book, when we first worked on sorting out when things happened.  It’s important for the flow of the story that the action ebb and flow, rather than clot and spurt.  The calendar can help you sort out who does what to whom when.

I hope whatever you use works for you.  Every writer is different.  But if you need some ideas for how to play with and reorganize your plots, I hope this generates some solutions for you.

Write on!

This post originally appeared on the now defunct Samhain Publishing blog, 01/28/2012.

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

2017-01 Party Image

The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden