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?

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:

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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:

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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!

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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

How My Family Survives My Writing – #MFRWauthor

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I laughed when I first read this prompt.  I mean, my family isn’t particularly negative about my writing.  My husband is a professional photographer, so he knows what is involved in creating things.  My kid is interested in his own stuff, so he’s not particularly aware of what I’m doing because he’s absorbed in his own stuff.

But then I got to thinking.  There was a weekend where I wrote for fifteen hours Saturday, and eighteen on Sunday.  My husband informed me, on the Monday following, that I would spend the next weekend with the family and go to a movie.  o.O…  So I think it’s more a matter of learning how to balance writing with other responsibilities and commitments.  I’ve also made friends and have been fortunate enough to find people that they understand me and the way I see the world.  But that took a lot of work to find those people, and to find my “tribe.”

So if I had to say what my one piece of advice would be to people trying to fit writing into already busy lives, it’s this:  hunt for your tribe and balance your writing with the other things you’ve already got in your life:  day job, kids, marriage, friends, and family.

What about you, Dear Reader?  How do you balance passion and necessity?

Sunday Box Talk – New Year, New… What?

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The year that just ended may well come to be referred to as the Year That Shall Not Be Named.  Aside from personal drama, (a close friend in the hospital since March and counting, my co-author’s sister’s lung function is 37%), there was publishing drama.  First, Samhain Publishing announced they were closing, then chose not to and tried to gaslight the writing community by asking in a hurt tone, why did you think we were closing?  Maybe because they announced they were.  Words have power, sunshine.  Then Torquere Press melted down in spectacular fashion, leaving those of us that believed the stories from the owner feeling lied to and cheated.  One of their top authors is owed $39,000 USD, editors haven’t been paid (one is owed $3,500 USD and another over $2,000 USD).  Then, if that wasn’t enough, All Romance eBooks announced it was closing and gave authors and indie publishers four days notice.  Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that the owner, an author in her own right, took salaries from book earnings and may actually have committed some serious financial fraud.  Then in November, the stunning upset in the U.S. election shocked many, myself included, ushering in a storm of disgusting white supremacy, homophobia, and misogynistic sentiment.  I’m ashamed to say I don’t recognize my country right now.

It’s enough to scare an author back into her hole, and I’ll admit, it did.

But that was 2016.  It’s 2017.  It’s time to rally.

So rally we shall.  It’s important for creative people to create, in times of great darkness and times of light.  I was planning on working on a memoir, In the Shadow of the Mountain: Growing Up with a Mentally Ill Parent.  It’s been a rough project to work on, for what are probably obvious reasons, but now it’s more important than ever to me to tell my story.  Invisibility leads to oppression; we need to be out and proud.  Our stories matter.

Which brings me to stories – Rachel and I have recommitted to ours and are hard at work/play on the next two books in the Persis Chronicles.  That’s right, the next two books.  Here’s what happened:  we drafted Book 3, Sapphire Dream, and then realized we had a problem.  We had over 80,000 words, but half of it is not going to end up in this book.  It needs to be told from another character’s point of view.  Add to that the fact that half the story is a journey that doesn’t need to happen, and we’re into major rewrites.  But I’m pleased to say that Ruby Sands, the resultant second half of Sapphire Dream and now Book 4 of the Persis Chronicles, is nearly half done and fully plotted out.  I don’t have a release date yet, because we just got our rights back for Emerald Fire and Emerald Keep and are going to release all four books together, but it will be in the first half of this year (and in the first quarter, if I can possibly make that happen).

I’ve also started workshops again.  My passion is Story, both writing it and helping others to get onto the page.  Accordingly, I’ve started the Prompt Circles with Writer Zen Garden up again and our first one is Saturday, January 21st.  There’s more information on our Meetup page, here.  We’ll be doing some other classes online in February and March on writing, and another Artist’s Way track starting on January 22nd.  Details are on the Meetup, and also the main Writer Zen Garden page, here.

Beyond that, I’m knitting up a storm and taking classes at Craftsy in knitting, weaving, and sewing (and some other subjects).  I’ve made playdates with friends to sew and knit, both in person and online through Google Hangouts.  If you are interested in playing too, please let me know in the comments.

If you, like me, are feeling small and helpless in the face of a changed tide, please know you are not alone.  Journal.  Your thoughts matter, and having a relationship with yourself is just as important as having one with your loved ones.  Communicate.  Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, reach out to your friends and family for support.  There are groups online and in person that can give you much-needed community.  And most of all, make stuff.  If you cook, make food.  If you knit, sew, draw, color in coloring books, whatever it is: do it.  Make time, right now, this week, and do it.  Get off the internet.  Mindless surfing is hazardous to your health.  Creating is therapeutic.  Make.  Write.  Create.  The world needs your creations.

Write on.

A Few of My Favorite Things – #MFRWauthor

My friends at Marketing For Romance Writers came up with a challenge this year.  As writers, we struggle to keep content engaging and fresh for you, Dear Reader, and so the Weekly Blogging Challenge was born.  Each week, we’re given a topic as a prompt.  We work with a partner, and together egg each other on to post.  The objective is to blog once a week for the entire year – so look forward to some interesting posts, as I’m enjoying writing them for you.  The posts go live on Fridays.

Our first prompt is, “A Few of My Favorite Things.”

That’s a toughie – I have so many.  Just off the cuff, I’d have to say cats, yarn, coffee, books, and chocolate.  But I also like dogs, horses, words, psyanky, candles, bubble baths, tea, fine china, jewelry, crafts, friends, travel, cars, boats, really amazing recreational vehicles…

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Want to play too?  Visit WordClouds to make your own word cloud.

What about you, Dear Reader?  What are a few of your favorite things?