October 6, 2008
We’re still in summer here, though we had a couple of days of delicious fall weather, and even a few drops of rain. But tomorrow is expected to hit the mid 90s again, and I’m tired of summer. Anyone need some warm air? Can I ship it to you by overnight express?
Oh well. Provided we don’t have wildfires like last October, I’ll be happy and relieved to just need to wear shorts a little longer.
I’m not sure what’s going on with my not blogging more. I hope you keep checking back in case I have a burst of inspiration. There just hasn’t been anything to post that seemed as if it would interest anyone else. Heck, some of it didn’t interest me.
I have been reading a lot that interests me, mostly nonfiction, and most of it of little general interest. I’m a bit eccentric in my tastes, I think. A few weeks ago I enjoyed an excellent book of slightly more general interest titled, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson, on dream work and active imagination.
I’m sure I’ll get gabby again one of these days… Until then, take care.
May 30, 2008
Mystery author Eric Mayer* mentioned in a recent blog post that his blog journaling hasn’t been very habitual of late. He went on to write about habits, and that got me to thinking about my habits, and how they’ve changed in the past year or so. Obviously, for me, blogging has taken a back seat to other things. So has my fiction writing, other than attempting to sell my latest finished manuscript, a mystery about a tarot reader whose awakening ability as a medium gets her involved in a murder investigation. (Interested agents or publishers are welcome to inquire here.)
Habits can be good or bad, and I’m sure everyone has some bad ones they’d like to unload. But one new habit I’m happy to have taken on this year is gardening.
Gardening is indeed a habit, one that gets into your blood in a way I didn’t anticipate when I started out this year. I’d done a tiny bit of gardening as a kid, when I remember planting one rose bush of my own but mostly helping my grandmother with her strawberries and vegetables on the embankment behind my parents’ house. Later, in my first apartment, I nurtured a few houseplants, and throughout my work life I’ve usually kept a potted plant on my desk. I kept African Violets in a north facing window in the last house we rented, until a cat took over that window sill. Still, my husband did most of the outdoor gardening, with a little weeding here and there on my part, until March of this year.
It started this spring with tending a few vegetable and flower seeds until they sprouted, and then the seedlings until they went into the ground. From there I progressed to caring for plants in the ground and preparing the soil for more of them. It’s rapidly expanding to a succession of all of these things, in the hopes of keeping some fresh produce in our salad and veggie bowls through this summer, as well as brightening a corner of the front yard, where my ultimate goal is to keep flowers blooming in a little cottage style bed year round. I’m a ways from that goal yet.
I’m still new at this, and I got a late start this year, but I get help and advice from various sources, and gardening is now a firm habit that I won’t easily give up. It’s one of the first things I think about in the morning and one of the last I think about before the sun goes down.
The plants seem happy about my gardening habit, when they can figure out what season it is. Our weather this spring switched back and forth for a couple of months from one extreme to the other, first dry Santa Anas with temperatures in the 90s, and then thick cloud cover and a shifting Jet Stream chilled the air to the 50s. This went back and forth for weeks, with little pleasant weather in between, and it kept our plants confused. In the past two weeks the weather has leveled off, and the plants are loving it.
They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and I’ve recently realized there’s little more beautiful to me than a tiny plant bursting out of its seed container. Call me crazy, but I think baby plants can be almost as cute as a kitten, and they, like the kitten, draw out my mothering tendencies.
(I’ll bet you expected a photo of a seedling, but I couldn’t help the obligatory kitten shot.)
To some this pleasure might seem like taking joy in watching paint dry, but to me it’s more like watching a sunset at the end of a heat wave.
We celebrated our first avocado blooms a few months ago.
Now some fruit has set, which we hope will grow to maturity.
Avocados, according to my resident expert Ken who’s read something like 200 online agricultural reports about them, tend to drop a good portion of their fruit early, which can be disappointing to home gardeners. It will be disappointing to me, if it happens, because Reeds are my absolute favorite avocado variety.
Two days ago I celebrated my first squash blossom.
Zucchini may seem an ordinary thing to seasoned gardeners. It’s one of the easiest things to grow and the butt of gardening jokes, usually in reference to an overabundance of it. But I like zucchini, I love my resplendent squash plants with their huge green leaves, and those yellow-orange blossoms are gold to me.
I’m learning more about the various weeds that grow in the garden, some of which are edible. For instance, purslane and dandelion make delicious salad greens. Note, if you decide to try eating weeds from your garden, be careful that you know what you’re eating. Ensure that the plants haven’t been subjected to herbicides or pesticides and that they aren’t in fact toxic weeds.
Even some semi-edible weeds, like the sour grass we all discovered as kids, can be a problem if eaten in quantity, I’m told, and purslane looks very similar to a toxic type of spurge that often grows right alongside it. Have an expert show you how to identify edible weeds, and examine carefully whatever you pick to eat. This point was driven home to me when I found spurge, with its milky sap, growing in my own little purslane patch.
Yesterday Ken pointed me to a Los Angeles Times article about Guerrilla Gardeners, which linked to a slide show on how to make “seed bombs” as well as two blogs, here and here, about guerrilla gardening.
Gardening has not only revolutionized my daily routine. It’s apparently a revolution that’s spreading once again, as Victory Gardens did in the last century, with people today gardening to save money on local food and working on a clandestine volunteer basis to re-green the land.
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* In case you aren’t aware, Eric Mayer and Mary Reed’s latest John the Eunuch Byzantine mystery, Seven For A Secret, was released in April by Poisoned Pen Press. If you haven’t kept up with their historical mystery series, it’s not too late to start. The earlier books in the series are still in print, and some are now available as Kindle editions.
January 7, 2008
We’ve had a few more days of rain, enough to soak the ground, and this storm came before the ground dried out from the last rain, which is good — and unfortunately unusual for us in our past few drought years. So I really shouldn’t complain about the weather, but . . . it’s awfully dark out there.
I balk at turning on lights in the middle of the day, but that’s what I’ve had to do the past two days in order to get any work done. I’m sorting through files, which is a bit scary, especially in the dark. I’ve also hibernated through these dark days to some extent because I’ve been under the weather. We both had the flu over the Solstice and Christmas, and though we’ve recovered, it tried to come back on me a few days ago, sending me once again in search of my vitamin bottles and throat lozenges, and whining about an earache.
It’s a good, wet winter, good for staying indoors and drinking hot beverages, celebrating the fact that we’re actually having winter, even if it is most people’s idea of spring or fall. The more wet winters we have, the less likely we are to have such horrible fire seasons.
Meanwhile, because I’ve decided to keep politics mostly off this blog, whenever I get the urge to wax political I post my views at my other blog, Spirit Blooms. I am putting my political blogging efforts into support of Dennis Kucinich for President.
Don’t worry, I haven’t given up this blog, and I don’t intend to. I’m still somewhat of a mystery to me, and I intend to keep writing, even if not mystery novels. I’m also still opinionated and have lots to say about writing, books, and lots of other stuff you might find interesting. Mystery of a Shrinking Violet will live on until the bitter end of my blogging adventure, whenever that is, sometime in the far future. I’ll be back in a day or two, hopefully with more to write about than the weather — or politics, which I honestly hate but can’t avoid in good conscience these days.
November 30, 2007
Bev Jackson has awarded me the Shameless Lion Award. This award originated with Seamus Kearney of (more…)
October 15, 2007
This is a political and diplomatic soup I never expected as a result of global warming, but I never was all that good at chess either.
Political dramas are playing out over the Northwest Passage, igniting fresh strife regarding who owns northern waters and the numerous islands that are revealed as ice melts.
If you’d like a look at what’s happening by way of the now-familiar backward chronology of a blog, check out BBC News’ Diary: Taking the Northwest Passage. It chronicles an actual passage by David Shukman on board ship with the Canadian Coast Guard. He includes information about the disputes that have risen in the past and may again in the near future. Shukman also answers questions from readers, with the help of Professor Jean-Eric Tremblay, the chief scientist of the expedition, in Northwest Passage: Your questions answered.
If you wonder how much global warming could change your nearest coastline in the next two decades, take a look at ABC’s What Global Warming Looks Like. It features the work of Edward Mazria, an architect who turned to spreading information about global warming and the contribution to it by the building industry. He’s produced a set of images showing what he predicts some large coastal cities in the US will look like in 2030, with projected rising water levels due to global warming.
Thanks to Georganna Hancock at A Writer’s Edge, for her post, Writing on Blog Action Day, and its heads-up that today is Blog Action Day for the Environment.
October 9, 2007
I’m in one of those quiet times when I think about things to write, and sometimes even write them, but I don’t post. So the blog is quiet. This is not an apology. I’ve decided that irregular blogging doesn’t require apology. It usually means we’re living more outside the blog or the Internet, and that is often for the best.
We’re getting our typical early fall weather, which isn’t really fall at all, but an evaporated extension of summer. A few cool, rainy days fooled us into thinking this autumn might turn out otherwise, but not so. Now we’re getting the really dry weather that saps the moisture out of every living thing, including me. My skin doesn’t like it, my hair doesn’t like it, and neither does the rest of me. Every contact with a metal object results in a little blue spark, making me cautious and twitchy. Maybe that caution extends to writing and is what keeps me from posting.
This is the time of year that I envy those who live where fall turns spectacular colors. Here we get drab yellowing, and maybe a little dull orange if the leaves don’t dry up and blow away in a Santa Ana wind before they have a chance to turn. I love fall colors, so I gravitate toward pictures of true autumn, and I’m grateful to all the bloggers in other places who share their photos of fall. Fall is my favorite season, and I crave as much as I can get.
September 27, 2007
I was thrilled a few weeks ago to be asked to contribute some of my thoughts about blogging to a project called, Blog Your Book to the Top. It’s an ebook published by CyberBookBuzz to help authors use blogs to promote their work.
What little I know about that apparently went over well, so I’m one of the 15 authors whose blogs and tips are featured in the book. You might want to take a look, if only for tips from others who know far more than I do about using a blog to promote their work. Nancy Hendrickson, who asked me to take part, is a freelance writer in San Diego and creator of Blogging Authors and Book Talk Radio. She’s included dozens of great tips about author blogging, and blogging in general, in Blog Your Book to the Top.
One of my particular thrills resulting from this project is to see my name on the summary page for the book — on the same page as a blurb by Jessica Macbeth, author of The Faeries Oracle. Her excellent book accompanies Brian Froud’s Faeries Oracle cards, which I love so much that after I lost my first deck last year I immediately bought a second one.
How cool is that?
June 8, 2007
Beverly Jackson recently honored me by including my name in her Thinking Bloggers Awards. She should be listed in mine, because she’s inspired me so much in the time I’ve known her, through her writing, painting, and poetry, as well as her perspectives on other poets and life. It’s Southern California’s loss that Bev recently moved to North Carolina, where she’s exploring her new home region and sharing her experiences via her blog.
I’ve chosen my five Thinking Bloggers with great difficulty, because I read many more than five blogs that deserve mention on a regular basis. All whose blogs I read are people who make me think on a regular basis. Many also share another special quality: In one of my favorite movies, Under The Tuscan Sun (a highly-fictionalized adaptation of the Frances Mayes memoir by talented screenwriter Audrey Wells, who also brought us Shall We Dance and The Kid), free-spirited Katherine (played by Lindsay Duncan) keeps reminding her American friend Frances (Diane Lane) of the advice she got from Federico Fellini, to never lose her childish enthusiasm. Good advice, in my opinion. Childish enthusiasm is a quality I greatly admire in people, maybe because mine is sometimes in short supply, so I need regular booster shots. It’s a trait that tends to be present in most of the people whose blogs I return to. (more…)
April 13, 2007
Has it been more than a week already since I posted? I lost track of time during my panic of the past few days. The other night, after a glitch occurred when I ran my backup program, I thought I’d lost all my files for my current book in progress. Panic ensued, while I scrambled to find and undelete the files. I spent almost 24 hours straight on that, with little sleep, piecing together fragmented files, hoping I still had a complete book there. Finally I came across the directory on the backup computer where my backup program had stored a complete second archive of everything — perfectly intact and up to date, including every last minute of my work on the book.
All that panic because I was too dumb to know my backup program stored an archive of deleted files, and because I had allowed too much other garbage to backlog on my hard drive. (The glitch occurred when that particular hard drive filled up.)
I could sit here and ask why me, or rather ask why I do this to myself, but I’m too busy getting back to normal and on with work. Still, it seems that I go through this sort of panic on a regular basis. It happened two years ago when my old laptop gave out and I lost work that I hadn’t yet backed up. This time it resulted from the backup process itself.
Once I’m finished with this book and it’s off getting a look by some agents, I plan to spend a few weeks getting my life in better order, including both paper and digital files, to prevent future panic episodes.
But one thing I noticed during all of this was that I don’t tend to print out what I’ve written as often as I used to. In spite of what might’ve been lost, overall I consider that a good thing, a good sign that I’m making my personal transition from paper to a digital world.
I admit to some affection for the paper world. It’s what I grew up with, and where I found my love of books and the written word. There is still something sensual to me about the feeling of pen and paper or a book in my hands. I like the shape of the book, the weight of it, the toothy or smooth texture of paper, even the smell of ink, paper, and binding materials. I still recall with nostalgia the particular smell of the book I was handed in third or fourth grade when we studied the culture and geography of Japan. Ever since, I’ve looked for similar qualities each time I open a new book. All these things make letting go of the paper world a clingy process.
At the same time, I love trees. Because of that, I’ve always been troubled that my chosen form of expression — writing — has a history of felling so many trees. So when I went through my computer files and some paper files over the past few days, I was pleased to realize that I recently have less tendency to print as I write. I used to feel a need to print out what I’d written more frequently, to edit or proofread on paper rather than onscreen, or just to get a sense of what the printed story would look like.
Maybe it’s so many years of writing on a computer that’s changed this. Maybe it’s the laptop’s portability and reduced glare being easier on my eyes. Maybe it’s no longer having a job that requires me to stare at a screen all day and then do the same all my evenings and weekends for my fiction writing.
Maybe it’s blogging. The immediacy of blogging tends to encourage me to edit onscreen. My blog is even set up now so I can view what I write in two or three different fonts before I post it, which I think aids the onscreen editing and proofreading process.
Maybe it’s a combination of all those factors. It’s interesting to note that more publishing venues have opened up to electronic submissions just since the CRT monitor has begun to vanish. Hopefully the less glaring monitors that are replacing them will be much easier on all our eyes, and continue to save more trees.
I still write a good half of my personal journal pages by hand, and I still use handwriting to jump-start or unblock my writing process. This blog post is in fact a segue from my morning pages. But my journal pages don’t get reproduced, except by typing them into a digital format, and they’re unlikely ever to be published in book form. The paper is eventually recycled if they do become digital, so I’m not as concerned about my journal pages killing trees. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.
Now if we can get the ebook technology to the point where fewer paper books have to be printed, at least for popular fiction, then we’ll have made real progress in taking publishing from deforestation for profit to a more pure form of edification, expression, and entertainment. Of course there will always be uses for paper. I can’t think of a better way to keep certain legal documents or accounting records, right now, though that’s not a world I work or have much expertise in. There are also some types of books that just work better, for now, on paper. One that comes to mind is the coffee table variety, with color plates of artwork or photography. But the less trees cut down for paper and books, the better.
Even if what this Guardian Unlimited article says is true, that planting more trees in temperate latitudes won’t help assuage global warming, it also states that destroying more trees isn’t the answer, that the greater need, and indeed our motivation for attempting to slow global warming, is to preserve ecosystems, including but certainly not limited to our own.
Perhaps my panic over my files had some value. It got me not only to change what I file away on my computer and how I back it up, but also to take a hard look at how I use paper, to keep heading along the road I’ve started down, of conserving wherever it’s reasonable, and wherever I can.
March 14, 2007
I’ve been struggling for topics to blog about, but surely there can be no more chilling thought for a writer than people not wanting books even when they’re free. Someone posted, on a mystery mailing list I belong to, that she boxed up what I’ll presume were mystery novels, and placed them out in front of her home, labeled as free . . . and had no takers. This was in a small university town.
The story surprises me, because in our former neighborhood, where our back yard faced a community college parking lot, we had excellent luck putting things out in the driveway for free, including boxes of used books. Sometimes people took entire boxes rather than a book or two. Nearly everything we put out found a home, including an old sofa we’d acquired already well-used, which I was certain we’d wind up hauling to the dump. Ours wasn’t a busy street except during classes, when students parked there, so I have to assume it was sometimes students who took those items. Then again, my experience with that was ten years ago. Now everyone I see walking around has a cell phone stuck to one ear, and I’m lucky if they avoid colliding with me. Maybe they wouldn’t SEE the books, even with a big sign.
When I was a student, I would’ve browsed through any box of free books on offer, even though I had plenty of other reading that I should be doing instead, for school. My grandmother used to say that no one in our family could clean an attic, because we’d stop to read everything. (That was before bubble wrap, when we used newspaper to wrap fragile items.)
Which reminds me, I dreamed just last night about the car I drove as a student. I hadn’t thought about that car in years. It was a white 1964 Mercury Comet that had a lot of miles on it before I got it. The dream was a mini-nightmare, not because I found myself in that car, but because this creepy guy who’d just followed me out of a bank removed what I thought was a disguise — a wig, under which he had a shaved head — then tried to get me to give him a ride. I was suspicious of him, so first I told him that if I did that my dad would kill me. (I must’ve been a teenager in the dream, which explains the car.) He argued with me, but I got into my car and locked the doors. It isn’t the sort of dream that usually qualifies as a nightmare for me, but it woke me up, heart racing.
That first car had some real-life nightmarish qualities. One was its tendency to overheat if I drove it to a higher altitude. I love the mountains, so not being able to drive my first car to the mountains without it overheating frustrated me no end. As the car aged, it developed other idiosyncrasies. I think my dad and I were at one point the only two people on earth who knew how to start it, which involved pumping the gas pedal just the right number of times, then holding it down . . . oh well, I don’t remember the sequence now. It had other problems too, and I have to wonder now at my desire to drive the thing, but when you’re young I guess you just want to go. You don’t care what you put up with to do it.
That car’s most nightmarish problem was the front passenger door’s sticky latch. My parents paid for my gasoline on the condition that I drive my grandmother anywhere she wanted to go. One day the door didn’t catch, and it flew open when I made a turn. Grandma didn’t fall out, but that incident qualifies as more nightmarish than the dream that ratcheted up my heart rate last night.
What about you?
Do you rummage through boxes of free books whenever you see them?
What was your first car like?
Do different things scare you in dreams than in real life?