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.

 

 

Juggling Writing and the Garden

Being outside is where I want and need to be, but my characters are tugging at me. I still don’t know how this third book in the Caribbean series ends, but I am writing small chapters about things I think need to happen. The flow isn’t there yet, but it seems to be helping me move forward.

Yesterday I printed out all the scenes separately. That will allow me to rearrange them and insert new scenes where I think they should go. I have a board with post-it notes of the scenes on it, but that doesn’t seem to do it for me. I’ll try this and see what happens. It reminds me of my wonderful daughter-in-law who is, among other things, a talented quilter. She puts the pieces of a quilt on her wall and is able to look at it to see if the pieces need to be moved around.

I am 200 pages into this book and it may be 300 or 350 before I get it all down. It won’t be that long when it’s finished because this is a first draft. Then the revision work begins.

Revision in the garden is ongoing. A small maple has grown to the point that things I had planted around it needed to come out. There were two Limelight hydrangeas near the deck that always got taller than a wanted and blocked the view to other parts of the garden. One of them was destroyed when we dug it, but the other one was moved to another spot where it is leafing out nicely. My spring and fall blooming iris have made their spring appearance.

I am also potting up volunteers and divisions for the plant sale at a Green Thumb meeting at the St. Michaels Woman’s Club the second week in May. I noticed a small Shademaster locust near the mother tree in the back. It is about the size as the one I brought home from that same plant sale eight years ago. It is now 20 feet tall. A fast grower.

Women Who Do Too Much

My friend, Diane Marquette, emailed me after I told her I’d forgotten to do something important. This is what she said…

” ‘Women Who Still Do Too Much,’ like ourselves, cannot keep all the plates spinning all the time. Sometimes stuff’s gonna wobble and break. That’s why there’s glue in the junk drawer.

I appreciated the “still” in what she said. I am trying hard to pare down my commitments so I have more time to write. There are a few more things to do for the Eastern Shore Writers Association and the Bay to Ocean Conference, but then more of my time will be my own. Of course, now that spring is here, the garden is calling…but I am writing every day and the plot for the third book in the Caribbean series is pulling together. I’m thinking about starting to post some excepts from the first book in the series.

Saturday we drove to Philadelphia to take our granddaughter to dinner. She was in town for an Occupational Therapy conference. She lives on the west coast and doesn’t get east very often, so we really enjoyed catching up. I love that we have the same chin! She’s a lovely young woman and we couldn’t be prouder grandparents.

Sunday afternoon I attended a meeting for volunteers at the St. Michaels Farmer’s Market. It’s an important institution in our community for those of us who care about where  are food comes from and how it’s grown or raised. I am excited to see how there can be more linkage between the St. Michaels Community Garden (one of my volunteer activities) and the Farmers Market. Many of us who grow most of our own produce supplement at the Farmers Market. I am stumped by summer squash. My zucchinis and yellow squash never survive squash borers.

Veggie signs went up on Talbot Street this weekend. This is a fun fundraiser for the Farmers Market.Other organizations do similar fund raisers. Before Valentine’s Day we have Hearts on Talbot, we have Jack Russel dog signs before the Jack Russel races at Perry Cabin, and silver stars before Christmas in St. Michaels.

 

There’s always something going on in this wonderful small town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Revisions: Writing, BTO & Gardening

Writing

I’m almost finished with my several passes through the first Caribbean book – A Dream Across Time. It will be republished with a new title. The series will be called An Island Tale  and the titles will be An Island Tale – Dream,  An Island Tale – Circle and An Island Tale – Magic. They will be published under my name rather than a pen name – which seemed like a good idea at the time but in retrospect wasn’t. It seems like a lot of decisions in life are like that, but I’m getting a chance for a do-over with this. Not always the case with some life decisions.

I especially wanted to take a look at the dialogue which sometimes seemed to go on longer than it should. There aren’t any real plot changes so I haven’t had to get out my revision towel…yet. In the next couple of weeks the manuscript will go to a copy editor and then move on to CreateSpace for print and Kindle versions. Laura has proposed a cover series which I really like.

I told my Working Writer’s Forum that I would submit something for the April meeting. That will force me to spend some time on the third book – Magic. Those characters are rocketing around in my cranium and need to get on the page.

Bay to Ocean Writers Conference

Last Saturday was the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. We had good weather which is pretty miraculous in that we’ve never had to cancel because of weather. Anny, in the yellow sweater, is the “face” of BTO. She stands out in the cold and greets people as they come toward the building. It’s a welcome for which introverted writers are grateful.

Mala-anny-robert-larry

After ten years, I’m stepping off the organizing committee. Next year I will attend BTO and actually go to sessions. I’m looking forward to that. The day went smoothly, a tribute to the organization of this conference where 200 writers of all stages in their writing life come to learn about the craft of writing, different genres, marketing and publishing issues. We had a few hiccups with registration which wasn’t as organized as I would have liked, but I wasn’t in charge of that. Once we got people through the line, things moved right along.

We had three presenters who had requested AV assistance and they all had sessions at the same time. What are the odds? Chesapeake College had arranged for three tech people to be on hand. So something that might have been a big hiccup, wasn’t.

It was a long day and I was tired when I got home. I’d already told the husband I wasn’t cooking so we ordered pizza which is something we hardly ever do. Two in the morning I was up hunting for antacids. But that pizza sure tasted good going down.

Gardening

The weather here is very cold and windy, but we escaped the snow the rest of the east coast had on Tuesday. We got lots of rain and frigid temps. The daffodils are down for the count.

IMG_2612

I won’t know about other things (like my camellia) until things warm up. I had raked the leaves (which provide winter insulation) out of my garden beds when we had those mild spring-like days. I knew that was risky, but because things were just starting to poke out of the ground I could actually rake the leaves. If that chore gets put off, I have to “rake” on my knees with my hands.

When I sit at my keyboard I look out over a couple of big silver maples. I asked my husband to make me another birdhouse to hang on one of the trees. We hung four birdhouses earlier this year. He had made then several years ago and I finally got around to painting them. The holes are for small birds. I like the bright spots of color both in winter and summer. The one in the lower left corner was a craft birdhouse that finally fell apart. I kept it for the colors which I tried to replicate.

IMG_2530

We gardeners are always hopeful, and the lilac that I see from the window at my desk is in bud. Time will tell if the buds survived the cold of the last few days. If they did, the lilac will be full of fragrant blooms in another two months.

Pen Names and a Republishing Decision

arlogo250pxwide

The writing project of the moment is getting rid of pen names and republishing/rebranding some already published titles.

When I published my first novel in 2003, it was with a vanity press. There weren’t a lot of publishing options at that point. I had an agent who sat on the manuscript for a year and then informed me that she only took Christian focused books. She must have changed her focus at some point and forgot to let me know, but it was a year wasted trying to get an agent. Other agents didn’t care that I was previously published by DoubleDay and Brunner/Mazel.

This was at the beginning of the internet so it wasn’t so easy to find out who did what. The vanity press decision was because that seemed the only option to publishing or having the manuscript live in a box in the back of my closet.

At that point in my life I had a private practice as a clinical social worker and since I had scoped out the plot with my psychologist husband, it made sense at the time to publish the novel using a pen name – Annie Rogers – which acknowledged us both. However, we were both clear that the writing was mine alone.

In hindsight it was a mistake. Since I wrote the book, I should have just put my name on it. I suppose it spoke to insecurities which I don’t seem to care about any longer. Then I wondered if clients would see me as a credible therapist if I wrote paranormal romance? That career is behind me, so for a number of years I have thought about republishing my two Caribbean novels under my own name.

When I started working with Laura Ambler we also used a pen name for our e-novel, Big Skye Ranch. Later we also decided we liked another title better, so we are in the process of republishing that book as Last Chance Ranch with our real names as authors. We’ll publish it with CreateSpace as a paperback and as a rebranded ebook.

Now there are multiple options for publishing that didn’t exist twelve years ago. Republishing a book requires a new ISBN number and a new cover. No problem. Talented Laura is designing covers for my Caribbean novels and Last Chance Ranch. And it gives me the chance to tighten up the dialog in my first two novels. I’m a better writer than I was then.

This decision will move forward to finish the third novel in my Caribbean Series. When they’re all published, I’ll start on marketing.

 

 

Bay to Ocean Registration Officially Open

Registration for the 20th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference officially opened today. At 6 a.m. I sent out a MailChimp email to our list of over 1000 who may be interested.

Here’s the link for the BTO sessions. I spent months pulling faculty together with the help of my committee, Ann Wilson and Loriann Oberlin. Then I began asking, nudging, bullying presenters for the information we needed and put it on the website.It had to be ready to go by today.

This year a new speaker on the topic of memoir is Glen Finland.

glen-finland

Her book, Next Stop: An Autistic Son Grows Up, about helping her young adult autistic son cope with being out in the world has won multiple awards. Memoir is just one of the craft topics available at the conference. If you are a writer or have been thinking about writing, this conference has something for writers of every level. There’s always something new to learn.

Registration is through EventBrite (handled by ESWA Treasurer Charlene Marcum) and yesterday I registered my husband just to make sure that worked. It did! Phew! That’s always a relief.

This conference wouldn’t happen without the hard work of people who’ve done specific jobs for a number of years. At this point it’s a pretty well oiled machine, but it’s very exciting to be involved in the 20th year of this conference.

 

Checked Off the List

One of the things on my “to do” list this summer was putting a coat of deck paint on the deck. When we had the deck installed, we opted for a Lowe’s brand of composite decking. It was cheaper than Trex. I chose a light gray and love the way it looked. It was fine for a year and a half. Then I began to see blackish speckles. I thought they were ash from the fireplace smoke but it got worse. I had to use deck cleaner every six weeks to keep the deck looking good. So much for maintenance free decking from Lowe’s, and when I went online I found lots of other people with the same complaint.

I was whining to a friend who told me they had had the same problem and painted their deck with a product from Home Depot. She said it had lasted six years.

deck-paint

There is a Home Depot in Salisbury, MD and one in Annapolis. Both are an hour away. I chose to go to Annapolis because I can also stop in at Trader Joe’s. That was five years ago.

This summer I noticed some staining that wouldn’t clean off and some chipping on the benches so it was time to paint again. Every five years I can live with. Cleaning the deck every six weeks. Nope!

I had to wait for a spell of dry weather and spent one morning washing the deck with deck cleaner. The next morning I made sure there weren’t any twigs or leaves stuck in between the planks. The following morning I put on my painting jeans and shirt and painting socks (because I didn’t want to risk getting any dirt on the deck from my shoes – this is not my first painting rodeo) and went to work. There was some cutting in and some bending to get under the benches, but the rest was done with a roller on a long handle. I was finished in two hours. One more thing ticked off the list that never quits.

img_1789

This picture was taken this morning so the sun isn’t on the deck yet. You can already see some leaves – a portent of what’s coming from all the wonderful old silver maples on our property. We put log carriers on the deck in the lower right hand corner of this photo and stack wood for our daily winter fires. Usually the first fire is in mid-October so we’ll start hauling wood soon.

img_1770

The hyacinth bean seeds given to me by my friend who died last spring have gone wild. This lush greenery is from two plants! I think about Marylou every time I walk through the arches.

I continue to harvest tomatoes but have been putting them in plastic bags in the freezer. When cooler fall weather arrives, I’ll make sauce and can them. Next year I will not plant so many. The garden beds will soon be cleaned out and winter kale planted. I might even put in some lettuce seeds and see if the season stretches enough to get some salads before hard frosts. I’m looking forward to fall.