Six on Saturday – A Retrospective – February 23, 2019

Much of my garden is still under water. We have lived in this house for twelve years now and there is standing water where I have never seen it before. I don’t like to think about summer mosquitoes if this continues. I suggested to my husband that we might build more decking over the worst of it…a suggestion that was not greeted with enthusiasm.

So I am began looking through past photos around this date. That resulted in some surprises.

  1. 2018. Last year I had blooming crocuses on February 20. This year no buds yet.

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2. No garden photos this time in 2017 but I did find these spectacular sunset clouds. I actually remember where I was when I took this. I had arrived at Easton Airport for my Working Writers Forum meeting. It would have been about 5:30 in the evening.

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3. In 2016 around this date Bartlett Tree came to trim all the maples in our yard. The River Birch with the exfoliating bark in the foreground was removed last year. The grass is green and no standing water.

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4. In 2015 we had significant snow around this time in February.

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5. In 2014 the agapanthas I had brought inside were blooming. I have since put them in the ground outside in an effort to reduce the number of pots I carry in for the winter. They survived in the ground last year but no blooms last summer.

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6. In 2013 I had early doffodils blooming. I don’t see buds yet this year.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This retrospective shows me that crocus and daffodil are late this year. I wonder why. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Six on Saturday – A Walk Around Three Gardens – February 16, 2019

No particular theme this week. Just a walk around three gardens. The St. Michaels Community Garden where I have several beds, the Wilson Reading Garden at the St. Michaels Library which I helped establish and maintain, and my own still soggy garden at home.

Yesterday it was sixty degrees. It wasn’t raining for a change. I harvested some Red Russian kale for dinner from my community garden bed and did a little weeding. IMG_8298

2. Across the alley from the community garden is the reading garden we created outside the St. Michaels library. We did a major clean-up in the fall and the garden is ready for spring. The original path was made of oyster shells. They are hard to get now and we will have to make a decision on what material to use as there are beginning to be some bare patches. Volunteers planted hundreds of daffodil bulbs in this garden last fall. It will be spectacular in a few months.

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When I got home I wasn’t ready to go in yet so I started raking leaves. I found all sorts of things.

3. The white hellebores are beginning to open and nearby I found a pink hiding under the leaves.

4. I pulled leaves out of the old wheelbarrow where I plant mint and found pineapple mint rosettes waiting to be discovered.

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5. Nearby day lilies are sprouting and the green thready leaves of crocus could be seen, but no flowers yet.

6. Buds on my Roseum Elegans rhododendron are waiting for May. I didn’t realize how beautiful the buds are until I looked at the photo.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. It’s mid February and as spring approaches there will be new things to share every week. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Recent Center Stage Baltimore Productions – February 13, 2019

I’ve seen two terrific plays at Center Stage Baltimore recently.

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A Wonder in My Soul

In late December I saw A Wonder in My Soul. I came out of the theater thinking this was one of the best plays I had ever seen at Center Stage. Written by Marcus Gardley and directed by Daniel Bryant, the play is about two black women who open a beauty shop in their neighborhood. Many years later the neighborhood has changed, and Pen Lucy and Swann Park are behind in their rent; the building where their salon is will be sold.

The playbook talks about the importance of beauty parlors in black communities. I remember when I was in school getting my Master of Social Work degree, we often talked about the fact that beauticians provide therapy for many of their clients.

This production was in the Pearlstone Theater at Center Stage. This is a proscenium theater although it doesn’t have a curtain. I’m always looking at staging. In this play the salon had two styling chairs, a loveseat in the reception area of the stage, a door which led to outside and a slightly lower apron area on which some “flashback” scenes were performed. The door was clearly the entrance to the salon and when people left the stage, they opened the door and walked through. It defined an action more clearly than just going off stage.

All the actors were wonderful, but Kalilah Black and Harriett D. Foy were exceptional.

Our tickets always seem to be the last performance in the runs. I need to try to change that. I would have gone to see this show twice – or more.

Fun Home

Then last Sunday I saw Fun Home, a musical memoir based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The book and lyrics were by Lisa Kron and the music was by Jeanine Tesori.

Billed as a play about a dysfunctional family, I wondered if I even wanted to see it. I get enough dysfunction these days watching the news.

It was another stellar show. A closeted gay father raising three children with his increasingly angry wife. One of the daughters is gay but only understands that when she goes to college. Oh, and the father teaches literature at a local college, but runs a funeral home on the side. Hence the title of the play, Fun Home.

In this show the gay daughter is depicted as a ten-year-old, a college student and a woman in her forties. It was the actress who played the ten-year-old who caught my eye. Molly Lyons is her name and she’s nine. Someday I’m going to see her on Broadway.

Fun Home was performed in the Head Theater which is a thrust theatre—a stage surrounded by audience on three sides. The fourth side serves as the background. Hydraulic lifts in the floor raised and lowered part of the sets. If only the community theaters that produce the play I wrote with Laura Ambler (The Santa Diaries) had those kinds of options. Another staging tool that could be translated to community theaters was a slightly raised platform with furniture that was rolled onto the stage when the scene took place in the living room. Faster than having stage hands carry furniture on and off stage. A similar platform on the other side of the stage was a kitchen area that rolled on and off. Of course this only works if you have off stage areas that will accomodate the platforms. Many community theaters don’t.

Watching live theater is enjoyable (I go with some girlfriends) and educational. I always come away with some ideas about improving the plays Laura Ambler and I write.

Six on Saturday – Spring Is Coming -February 9

It’s just the first week of February but we are having a warm spell and the birds are excited. This cardinal was on my front walk this morning. Nearby a robin was digging for breakfast and a bluejay was calling out. The birds seem to know something is afoot.

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2. I noticed some new growth on the Knockout roses. I think it’s too early to prune, but I’m putting March 1 on my calendar as the date to start this annual chore. The new foliage is spectacular.

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3. I checked the helebores. Not open yet, but lots of buds on this particular plant. Others may be hiding under the leaves, but it’s still very squelchy in the beds and I don’t like to walk in them more than I must as it compacts the soil.

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4. When my mother was 75 my brothers and I gave her this teak bench for her birthday. When she moved into a retirement community and couldn’t take it with her, I was gifted with it. Now it is a reminder of a place she sat to rest when she worked in her acre of azaleas in a beech woods. She is always with me in my garden. The lichens on the bench need to be scrubbed when it warms up, but for now they make a lovely patchwork. The squirrels have gnawed on the front leg. Little buggers have no respect for heirlooms!

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5.  Daffodils are Goliaths in my garden — resilient and strong. In the upper right corner of the photograph, they are pushing up a large chunk of mulch. Nothing says “Spring is Coming” more than the the daffodils.IMG_8270

6. And just because I can’t believe I didn’t kill an orchid here is another picture of my  phalaenopsis orchid which is continuing to open. To my local friends…if you have an orchid you are going to put in the trash, give me a call. I’d like to try and resurrect it.

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And I couldn’t resist adding this photo of the beautiful markings on the throat. They look like an insect from a distance and a Georgia O’Keefe painting close up.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. It’s the beginning of February and as spring approaches there will be new things to share. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Read Your Work Out Loud – February 6, 2019

I’m getting ready to send my novel manuscript out to an editor. I had been over the print copy, penned in revisions, deletions, changed the order of some scenes and then spent two weeks making all those changes on the computer file.

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But I knew there was something I still needed to do. I needed to read my manuscript out loud. All four hundred plus pages of it. I’d never done this before with a long manuscript, but I kept reading that this step was an important editing tool.

It took me a week, and lots of glasses of lemon water, but I was glad I’d done the work.

  1. I found multiple errors that I’d missed when I marked up the manuscript pages.
  2. I found I could better assess the pacing of scenes.
  3. I found places where characters said something they couldn’t have known because it hadn’t happened yet.
  4. I found spelling errors that Word had overlooked.
  5. I found inconsistencies in dialogue for characters.
  6. I found character “tells.”
  7. I found that I still liked my story.

My advice: Read your work outloud. It’s an editing tool worth the time and effort.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Where Do My Books Belong? – January 23, 21019

I have a problem. I don’t know what kind of books I am writing .

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They are romance, but not in a generic bodice ripper sense. They have a strong paranormal bent but it’s not the only theme. Spirit guides abound and a ghost is featured in the second book in the series. And in the third book (revisions continue) romance, paranormal, spirit guides and the ghost all come together. But when I look at the list of Amazon best selling romance, I don’t know where these books belong. This will be important when I reissue the first two in the series and publish the third as on Amazon Kindle you need to pick two categories for each title.

I copied the best selling romance list below from The Passive Voice. If you are a writer or a reader you should subscribe to this blog written by a lawyer. Very interesting stuff on a wide variety of topics. One of the blogs this week was about the importance of Children’s Picture books and had a link of a Scottish grandmother reading to a baby. I was laughing out loud by the end of that YouTube video.

Anyway, here is the list of the Amazon’s best selling romance categories. It was also instructive to look at the covers of these books, but that didn’t help me figure out where my books belong.

I found another romance list on Amazon.

“For a title to appear in the Romance sub-categories below, the title’s search keywords must include at least one of the keywords or phrases listed next to the sub-category. These categories and subcategories are specific to books listed for sale on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. Other marketplaces may not support these keywords. ”

Category Keywords
Romance/Inspirational/Amish* Amish
Romance/Inspirational/General* inspirational
Romance/Military military, navy, army, soldier
Romance/Multicultural & Interracial interracial
Romance/New Adult & College new adult
Romance/Paranormal/Angels angel
Romance/Paranormal/Demons & Devils devil, demon
Romance/Paranormal/Ghosts ghost, spirit
Romance/Paranormal/Psychics psychic, telepathy
Romance/Paranormal/Vampires vampire
Romance/Paranormal/Werewolves & Shifters werewolf, shapeshifter
Romance/Paranormal/Witches & Wizards witch, wizard, warlock, druid, shaman
Romance/Romantic Comedy comedy, humor
Romance/Sports* sport, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, olympics, climbing, lacrosse, nascar, surfing, boxing, martial arts, golf
Romantic Heroes/Cowboys cowboy
Romantic Heroes/Doctors doctor, physician, surgeon
Romantic Heroes/Firefighters firefighter
Romantic Heroes/Highlanders highlander
Romantic Heroes/Pirates pirate
Romantic Heroes/Politicians politician
Romantic Heroes/Rich & Wealthy billionaire, rich, millionaire, wealthy
Romantic Heroes/Royalty & Aristocrats nobility, royalty, aristocrat, prince
Romantic Heroes/Spies spies, espionage
Romantic Heroes/Vikings Viking
Romantic Themes/Amnesia amnesia
Romantic Themes/Beaches beach
Romantic Themes/Gambling & Poker gambling, poker, casino
Romantic Themes/International international
Romantic Themes/Love Triangle love triangle, menage
Romantic Themes/Medical medical, doctor, nurse, hospital
Romantic Themes/Second Chances second chance
Romantic Themes/Secret Baby baby, pregnancy
Romantic Themes/Vacation vacation
Romantic Themes/Wedding wedding
Romantic Themes/Workplace office, workplace

*Subcategory is specific to the U.S. marketplace or Amazon.com.

This information helps — sort of — romance/paranormal/ghosts comes the closest, but I still don’t know where my books belong. They are set in the Caribbean. That’s not a category. They have spirit guides. Not a category.  Two of the characters in the second and third book are twins. Not a catagory. I was surprised that there wasn’t a Christian romance category. Not that that would have helped me.

As I look at the list above I realize that maybe each of the books fit into different romance categories because they follow the same characters through a generation. Different characters take center stage.

Knowing the category of a book is important in marketing because of key words. I probably should have thought more carefully about this twelve years ago when I wrote the first in the series. But I’ve learned that my books don’t always follow the plot line I intended. Which is what created this problem in the first place. I still don’t know where my books belong.

Maybe I need to research Fiction categories.

 

 

Six on Saturday – Stuff is Happening – January 19, 2019

We had a Goldilocks snow last weekend.  Not too big, not too little, just about right at six inches. It was pretty. The big storm heading our way this weekend will bring us rain rather than snow. Just what we need! But despite the wet weather, stuff is happening in the garden.

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2. My little spruce in a pot on my deck was festive at night.

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3. I tried for a photo of the red twig dogwood in the snow, but couldn’t get one that showed the color. It is so pretty on these dreary days. Since this does well in this wet area I am going to continue the colony. I layered several stems in the fall and will have to wait to see if they took.

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4. In the same “pond” as the red twig dogwood shoots of Stella d’oro day lilies are emerging. They don’t seem to mind being under water either.

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5. This parsley hasn’t succumbed to the freezing temperatures…yet. On Sunday it’s supposed to go from 48 daytime down to 12 degrees Farenheit that night. Yikes. Makes me think of the movie The Day After Tomorrow. I need to go out and turn a pot over that parsley.

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6.  A columbine has self seeded in one of my containers where I grew eggplants last summer. I’ll transplant it in the spring. The color of the flowers of the self-seeders is always a surprise.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. It’s getting harder to find new things to share, but stuff is happening in my garden. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.