My Garden and Writing Process Evolves

Last Sunday was a beautiful day. Saturday’s rains had blown through and my gardens are lush and blooming. I took my iPhone with its wonderful camera out to take some photos. The back yard looks like a park. Although we live in a neighborhood and have houses on three sides of us, the garden I have created over the last ten years now gives us a sense of restful privacy.

None of this was here eleven years ago this August when we moved in. I found a photo I took of the back of the house when we bought it. We had a double lot (almost 2/3 of an acre0, seven wonderful old maple trees and a little landscaping in the front that had been planted through landscaping cloth. I spent many hours removing that.

And this was the shed.

To my gardener’s eye the property was a blank canvas, but it needed some definition and I knew that we needed some place to put compost heaps, unused pots, garden stuff that you don’t need right now, but might in the future. Things you don’t want to see. I installed sheets of wood lattice attached to 4×4 pressure treated posts across the back of the property about 10 feet from the property line. Eight of them. I staggered them to create the beginnings of paths. Along the property line between us and the neighbors I installed three more. One property line has a privacy fence as the next door house was fairly close to our property line and it looked like their backyard was a big chunk of our back yard.

By the shed I installed white plastic lattice to make the shed took more important. We put window boxes on the shed and painted them yellow. This is what it looked like four years later. Unfortunately that gorgeous Golden Shower pillar rose never looked this good again. I’m now trying some alternatives.

A year after we bought the house we did renovations and added a deck out the back of where we had installed french doors flanking the fireplace. Now I could think about some landscaping.

The next year we added benches around the deck, and two years ago some railings by the steps. This is what the back of the house looks like now.

I’m thinking that my gardening process is not unlike my writing process. I spend time in the garden looking at it and thinking, visualizing. Then I plant and sometimes it’s successful and sometimes not. I move things around. A small decorative maple now happily located near the deck was moved three times. It will stay where it is.

I continue to work on book three in the Caribbean series. I spend a lot of time thinking about the characters and the story which is FINALLY revealing itself to me. I had to make a time line because I knew scenes were out of sequence. The story takes place in the summer of 2004 and thanks to the internet I could print out a calendar of those months and even find out when the moon was full. That full moon is important in making one of the bush medicine potions that is part of the plot. What the heck did writers do before Google?

At any rate, my garden evolves as does the story I am writing. The garden will never be finished. I am hopeful the novel will.

 

 

The Messenger – a Spirit Guide

Helen Delaney, a member of our Tuesday night Working Writers’ Forum, has had a spirit guide for years. Last Tuesday she came in carrying a box. Her face was alight with excitement as she handed us each an inscribed copy of her new book.

Messenger cover

Helen has been working on this book for a long time, and our Forum has seen it evolve over several years. We even critiqued versions of her back cover text below. It just makes you want to read this book.

“Helen Delaney is in a railway book store, inconsolable and suicidal after the death of her son. A book at eye level catches her attention. She touches it, and it falls off the shelf, into her hand. It is a set of instructions on how to connect with a spirit guide. Thus begins The Messenger, the true, intimate story of a grieving mother, a gifted medium, and the spirit guide, Lukhamen, who keeps her alive by recounting the story of his life.

It is 214 AD, and the Egyptian city of Luxor is ruled by Rome. The last vestiges of Egypt’s glorious past are discernible in the deteriorating temple dedicated to the god Amon, and its high priest, Lukhamen’s father. A Roman centurion, hopelessly in love with the wife of the high priest, becomes governor. A sadistic Roman underling seeks to unseat him, while lepers and beleaguered Christians struggle to survive in this unprecedented account of the end of an era. Above it all, and against the tide of history, Lukhamen, nine years old when the story begins, is expected to be the next high priest, and a light unto his people.

The author duly records Lukhamen’s memories, barely noticing that a healing has begun. By chance, she is sent to Cairo on business. From there, it is a short trip to Luxor, where an internal, unerring compass leads her to the places Lukhamen has imprinted upon her consciousness: the river road, the temple of Amon, a garden two thousand years old, and a Christian church, hidden by time. There, in the ancient city of Luxor, flooded with memories and emotion, one thing becomes clear: she has been there before.”

One of my favorite books over the years is Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian. So any story of ancient Egypt hooks me. But Helen’s book has two stories: that of the grieving mother and the Egyptian story  channeled to her by a spirit guide. Both are compelling in different ways.

When Helen first brought chapters to Forum it was just the Egyptian story. It took her awhile to share that the story was about her own experience. Laura and I were hooked. We even went with Helen for readings by the psychic she’s gone to for years. That was something on my bucket list. He told me our scripts would sell soon. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but Helen tells us that time is fluid for psychics.

Our advice to Helen, once we knew this all had really happened to her, was to include her story in the book. She found it difficult to expose her raw emotions, but she was convinced her story might help others who had suffered terrible losses. Ultimately, both Helen’s and the Egyptian story are stories of grace and healing.

But here’s the best new thing. Laura and I (and the rest of the Forum) are mentioned in the author’s acknowledgements. That’s a first for me and for Laura.

I encourage you to buy Helen’s book. If it were a work of fiction, it would be a great read. The fact that it actually happened makes it remarkable.

Clean-up Time

Laura has been really busy at work so we haven’t done much collaborative writing for a couple of weeks. I’m taking advantage to do some cleaning up…in my office and outside where we’re getting the yard ready for winter.

Outside: I manage to convince myself that outside clean-up is more pressing than the inside. It will soon be too cold to work comfortably outside; however, I think the real reason is that the decisions about what office stuff to get rid is more difficult. That box of assorted computer cords and gizmos always goes back into the closet. What are those things for, anyway? And what if I need something in that box? It’s been nine years since we moved into this house and I haven’t needed anything yet, but you never know.

This is the time of year when I put the bag on the lawn mower and switch over to bagging. That always involves turning the mower over on its side and cleaning out the underside with various sizes of screw drivers. I feel quite virtuous mulching the leaves and grass and putting it on the garden beds. Free fertilizer. And I like mowing better than raking leaves.

We’ll have a hard freeze one of these nights, so it’s also time to bring inside the houseplants that have been living outdoors. There seem to be more every year and I’ll have to take a trip to the garden supply store for more saucers to put under the pots so water doesn’t damage my wood floors. My geraniums always love being inside. They grow to three feet tall and are full of blooms. This window faces northeast and gets some morning sun. The photo is from last February.

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I extended my drip irrigation in one of my beds. That can only be done on a sunny, warm day because you have to fit plastic pieces together and that requires a little give. The first time my husband and I tried to put some drip irrigation together was on a March day. We used a hair dryer to warm up the plastic and putting the pieces together was very difficult. Note to self: only install drip irrigation in warm weather.

I have to order more tubing and parts and will finish that project next spring. The drip irrigation saved me so much time this year. We put it in the window boxes at the front of the house and they’ve never looked so good. Before the drip system was installed, I was watering those window boxes twice a day by the end of August. The irrigation system is on a timer and once that’s turned on in the spring, I don’t have to think about it again.

window box

The Office: It’s hard to know what to keep and what to pitch, but I’ve long ago run out of storage so I need to try. I did make a dent in a 7′ bookcase the other day when I pitched old software. Some of it I knew I would never use. Some was so old the software downloaded from floppy disks. (I might have a floppy disk converter in that box of computer odds and ends.) I kept the PhotoShop 7 that I got when I took a class at Harford Community College years ago. It does the things I need to do and if I ever have to reload it on a new computer I’ll be ready.

It’s the boxes of writing drafts that I really agonize over. The drafts are on various files and since most of the writing I’ve done in the past five years has been with Laura, we have these files on both our computers. How many versions of our novel Big Skye Ranch do we really need? In fact, do we need to save any paper versions?

Sorting through things reminds me of projects started and abandoned. I found a copy of a romance novel that my husband and I worked on ten years ago. Could I pull that out and get it ready to publish? It was set in the 80’s, before internet, cell phones and iPads. I hardly remember that life. Would readers relate to that story now?

I thought there might be a file of that novel on my old laptop, but I booted it up and couldn’t find one. Retyping 250 pages isn’t very appealing. And last week I had an email from someone who had just read my two Caribbean paranormal/ghost novels (A Dream Across Time and A Circle of Dreams) and wanted to know when the third was coming out. I had to tell her it was not at the top of the writing project list.

I suppose clean-up time is a lot like reworking a piece of writing. What to keep and what to toss? Cold weather is expected this weekend so escaping into the garden is no longer going to be an appealing option. I’m going to have to make a decision what writing project to work on until Laura is able to free up some time.