Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Backyard Wildflowers

 Writing is my true love. But a close second is gardening. When my characters are misbehaving or I feel blocked, pulling weeds, pruning shrubs, or cutting flowers (by far my favorite garden activity) is the tonic I need.

Two years ago, I experimented with wildflowers. I started small with a mix, which promised year-round perennial wildflowers. 

I should've gotten a photo with a bathing bird, but they can be shy.

When I saw how much the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds (and I) enjoyed the flowers, I decided to plant a bank of wildflowers.

 When I cut flowers to bring inside the house, the bumblebees grumble.
In the fall, when the flower seeds ripen on the stalks, goldfinches descend in clouds of golden glory to gorge their bellies.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Death Valley, it's not what you expect

 I've lived in California three different times, and not once was I tempted to go to Death Valley. That was a mistake.

I assumed it would be sand, sand, and more sand. After all, it's in the Mojave Desert and has the highest recorded temperature in the world: 134 F. And while it had incredible sand dunes, it was so, so much more.

We hiked into Mosaic Canyon. It's a slot canyon, so sections are very narrow. 

My husband.

Our daughter-in-law climbing a narrow, steep section.

In one of the wider areas. The gray section below looks paved, but it's actually gravel from the rock walls washed down by storms. It's pretty tiring to hike on, so we stuck to the stone.

Then, there were the mudflats. (Parts of Star Wars, A New Hope were filmed in DV, so some vistas, like this one, looked very familiar.)

And, least expected, an oasis. Deep in Death Valley.
This doesn't look like the way to a promising oasis. We wondered if the drought had dried it up.

Green plants gave us hope.
Actual running water! (Our son standing above it.) 

Willows, ferns, moss, and a pool filled with fish.
In the middle of Death Valley...

And, because I can never have a post without a metaphor, it reminded me of a good book. How it takes what you expect--desert and sand--and turns it into soaring rock, narrow twists, and unexpected rest and joy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Vacation and Point of View


We're on vacation, visiting family. And I couldn't help but go to the beach (Which was allowed.) The sea calls to me. I think I'm a quarter mermaid.

The above photo is of me on a dune in very high winds. The light and thick air gave the photo a haunting, ethereal quality. It reminded me of the novel Dune. I took a few other photos (see below).  

The final photo below, taken at the same beach, reminds me how much perspective changes the look of things. When I'm writing, I spend a lot of time considering which character needs to be the point-of-view character. It can completely alter the story. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Ice Storm

An evergreen encased.

     I woke up to an ice storm this morning. It has just begun, and since we've been told we'll lose power, I thought I'd post some photos while I could.

The trees are decorated in ornaments of crystal.

The view from my office.

Has the ice ruined the dogwood blooms?

Duke power predicts 1 million people
will be without power when the storm is over.
We've prepared the best we can.

Now back to typing the completed outline of a new novel into my computer.
Hopefully, before we lose power.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Winter Comes Back

 Despite what Punxsutawney Phil said and the signs of spring in the garden, winter has not given up. Like the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, cold has settled into the Piedmont. This morning the lake behind our house iced over. And the patterns in the ice are beautiful.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Spring Showing Her Face

 My husband is recovering from covid. Today was his first day out of quarantine, so we no longer have to isolate ourselves from each other. And giving him a good morning kiss and holding his hand again--what a joy!

It reminded me winter will end soon, even though it’s in the 20s outside. So I went outside to our garden to see if spring is showing her face yet. She is!   

A crocus trying to bloom.
A hellebore soon to bloom.
A camellia hiding beneath the bush.

A tulip pushing through the soil.
 (The tent of sticks protect it from the deer.)

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review: The Emotional Craft of Fiction

This is the first time I’ve written a book review before finishing a book. In fact, I’m only a third of the way into it. But I decided to write a review already because the first third is worth the price of the book.

What is the book? Donald Maass’s The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface. (It was published in 2016—I wish I’d read it then.) The purpose of the book is to teach writers how to engage the emotions of the reader, which is very different than merely showing the emotions of a character. Because if we’re honest, we’ve all read novels whose characters experience a major crisis and our response is…a yawn.

So how can we turn a passage from a yawn into a gripping scene?

Unlike many how-to books, Maass does more than tell his readers what needs to be done. He includes examples from published novels whose authors range from Avi to Bradbury to Stephen King to Harper Lee. These examples contextualize the lessons and show writers how to use the techniques successfully. And at the end of each section, Maass provides bullet points of questions and exercises to help a novelist incorporate these techniques into their own work.

I could go on, but honestly, I want to get back to reading the book—and taking notes, which I probably haven’t done since college.

Bottom line, buy the book. Here’s a link.