Grieving A Writing Life

Author K.M. Allan shares some heartfelt thoughts about the writing life in this post. Fellow writers, have any of you experienced a similar trajectory? I know I have!

K.M. Allan

When you start out in the writing community, you’re learning, and part of that process is seeing those before you rise.

Just as you’re entering the query trenches, there are others being lifted out of them with agent representation and publishing deals, and you wait patiently for the day that person will be you.

Before you know it, years have gone by. You’ve been part of the writing community for a long time, helping those who are now the newbie you once were.

Experienced in the query trenches, you’ve seen it all, gotten every rejection type there is: the no answer, the form letter, the good but not good enough. You might have even hit that 100 rejections goal you’d heard other writers talk about but never thought you’d reach because your MS was too good. At least you thought so.

You might have rewritten it since those lofty…

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Pond bench, hostas, with Athyrium niponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern) in foreground

May Into June

I looked through the garden photos I took in the past few weeks. These are the ones I liked best.

Blue Siberian irises
Siberian irises. I think they’re purple, but the camera sees them as blue.
Blue Siberian irises closeup
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) with wallflower Erysimum "Bowles Mauve"
Woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum) and wallflower (Erysimum) “Bowles Mauve”
Columbines, yellow and pale red, heuchera "Green Spice" in background
A frolic of columbines; Heuchera “Green Spice” in background
Single columbine, yellow and pale red, long-spurred
Swimming through the green…
Words related to writing

More Writers’ Q & A

This is the fifth WSW video chat in which we offer answers to questions posed by readers earlier this year.

This time around, Berthold, Lucinda, Mark, and I opine on the question Why Do You Read? But we begin with a question from RJ Llewellyn: what should an author do if despite their best efforts, their work isn’t being noticed? Quit? Advertise? Keep writing anyway? And what about the element of luck?

View or listen to the chat HERE.

open book against blue sky with white clouds

Indie Books for Summer Reading

I’m not working on a major writing project this summer (although I am paying attention to what’s going on in my brain, and making notes). So I expect to get a lot of reading done.

Here are 8 books queued up on my two e-readers (not in any order):

  • The Journey / Suzanne Miller
  • Hope (Operation Galton Book 1) / Terry Tyler
  • Alchemy / Mark Ryan
  • Sunwielder / D. Wallace Peach
  • Sailing to Redoubt / C. Litka
  • Best Friends and Other Lovers / J.F. Kaufmann
  • The Two-Blood Legacy / J.F. Kaufmann
  • The Daemoniac / Kat Ross

These are all indie-published books!

The list may be added to, especially if I join another Goodreads Reading Round, in which case I’ll have to rev up my reading efforts.

I almost always review the books I read. I post reviews on Goodreads, and on Amazon or Smashwords, depending on where I acquired the book. So look out for reviews!

Does anyone else have a “Books to Read This Summer” list to share?

Science or Magic image for Herbert West Series

Another Look at The Friendship of Mortals

After reading a post on Story Empire about Amazon A+ content, I decided to create some images for that purpose. At the very least, I thought, it was a good reason to mess around with Canva. They have added a lot of elements recently, including free ones, so there’s more scope for different effects than when I first started using this graphic design tool.

This is the image I put together to represent The Friendship of Mortals, my first novel and Book 1 of the Herbert West Series.

The Friendship of Mortals A plus image

Those of you who have read the book may know why I included some of these pictorial components. Those of you who haven’t read it may be sufficiently intrigued to do so!

Amazon: US UK CA or mybook.to/FofM
Smashwords Barnes & Noble Kobo Apple Books

This and my other A+ efforts may be seen on the Amazon.com pages for the books in the HW Series. Have they generated a deluge of sales? Not really, but I had a bit of fun creating them.

Has anyone else created A+ content on Amazon? What do you think of this feature?

Four big pots for tomatoes full of prepared soil

Making Dirt

I grow tomatoes in pots. That’s the only way to succeed with them in my garden. I wrote a series of posts about that last year.

This year, I bought six new, larger pots for tomato plants (which are still ridiculously small, due to our cool spring).

My usual practice is to refresh last year’s soil by dumping each pot (which has been sitting by the garden shed since last fall) into a wheelbarrow. I add bagged manure (which purports to be from cattle, steer, sheep, or mushrooms–haha, that’s a joke; I know mushrooms don’t actually produce it!) and my own compost, along with extras such as lime and fertilizer. Then I stir up the mixture with a spade, and when it’s uniformly mixed, I refill the pots.

The new pots, of course, were empty. And this year I have twelve tomato plants instead of the usual eight or nine. I needed more soil.

Digging up the garden wasn’t an option, so I had to make more dirt.

I used my established technique of enhancing the soil from last year’s tomato pots, but I also rounded up a few extra pots whose occupants had died or been dispatched, and incorporated that soil as well. But, some will ask, what about evil fungi or other toxins that may have killed those plants? Yes, that dirt might harbour such things, but I was going to dilute it with other stuff, so the risk was worth taking.

The “other stuff” was large amounts of compost and several bags of manure. Sheep manure this time. (To be honest, the stuff I dump out of those bags into the wheelbarrow has only a passing resemblance to actual poop expelled by whatever creature is named on the bag. Okay, it’s also labelled “composted” and “deodorized.” I suspect that really means the manure has been mixed with a good deal of other material, such as straw or sawdust. No matter, though, it refreshes and enhances the old soil from the pots.)

Prepping soil for tomatoes, wheelbarrow, compost and sheep manure

Amazingly enough, after filling the six new pots, I still had soil from six of last year’s tomato pots and two sacks of sheep manure, not to mention a good supply of compost. More than enough. The garden gods’ equivalent of loaves and fishes?

Of course the soil is fluffed up in the enhancement process, so I will probably have to top up the pots at planting time.

With luck, by late summer there will be tomatoes!

open book against blue sky with white clouds

Why Do You Read?

This is a topic for the next Writers Supporting Writers video chat, which will happen this coming Saturday.

It’s a pretty fundamental question for writers, who are also readers (or should be). We’re interested in your reasons for reading. What prompts you to open that book, fire up that e-reader, or listen to that audiobook? What are you looking for?

Read Mark’s post HERE and leave a comment at WSW.

Perennials in the front garden, notably Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)

Pull Up, Cut Down, Snip Off: Deadheading

Some plants absolutely must be deadheaded, or there will be way too many of them. What is deadheading? Removal of spent flowers before seeds ripen.

I’m already well into deadheading mode. It starts with hellebores and continues through the summer and into fall. I spent a couple of hours this week pulling up spent bluebell stalks by the armload.

Here is a list, in chronological order, of the plants in my garden for which this treatment is not optional:

  • Hellebores: April and May
  • Bluebells: May
  • Forget-me-nots: May and June
  • *Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy): May until fall
  • Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii: May and June
  • Lychnis coronaria (Rose campion): June until fall
  • Linaria purpurea (Toadflax): June until fall
  • Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s ears): July until fall
  • Campanula persicifolia (Peach-leaved bellflower): July until fall, intermittently
  • Echinops ritro (Globe thistle): August
  • Verbascum olympicum (Olympic mullein): August and September

It’s helpful to know the plants’ seeding habits. Euphorbias, for example, pop their seed pods on hot days, shooting seeds for several feet. That’s why my next door neighbour has a couple of euphorbias, and why I started with one plant but now have half a dozen. Now I know the importance of cutting down the flowering stalks long before the pods pop. Toadflax and rose campion produce billions of tiny seeds, so if I get behind on the deadheading, or miss a few plants, it’s impossible to cut down stalks that carry ripe seeds without peppering the immediate vicinity.

Other plants need deadheading too, not so much to prevent seeding, but to spare them from expending energy on futile seed production. These include tulips, daffodils, irises, delphiniums, lilies, and roses. Civilized plants, in other words. Unlike their tough and seedy companions, deadheading protects them, rather than the gardener’s temper.

And much as I complain about the tough, seedy plants, I rely on them to do well in this garden in which fussier plants struggle. Some of them are short-lived, so it’s just as well that volunteers pop up to replace the ones that fizzle out.

This isn’t my first post about deadheading. I wrote one early in my blogging career, so early that it has languished unread and unliked. Anyone who wants to give the poor thing some attention may find it HERE.

Bluebells

*Update, June 16, 2022: A gardener who lives in Wales pointed out that Meconopsis cambrica is actually the Welsh poppy, not the Cambridge poppy. Duly corrected!

White chairs near bird bath with dog fence and gate

Those Hoses, Those Chairs!

I don’t know if anyone has noticed this, but many of my garden photos include parts of green hoses or white chairs. Like the chairs in the featured image. They’re cheap plastic items we bought 30 years ago. Since then, one has perished, but I inherited another, fancier one from my mom.

Chairs are useful in the garden, for setting down things like tools, watering cans, and balls of string. There’s less chance of those items getting lost if they’re on a chair. And occasionally, the gardener sits on one to rest for a few minutes, until the sight of a weed or leaning plant demands action.

Back garden, spring, bird bath, ugly white chairs

The chairs, although cheap, are adequate for the purposes described. But they become a problem when I take photos of the garden. Not in close-ups of individual plants, but in shots of larger areas, there is often the suspicion of an incongruous white object, which turns out to be a chair leg. White is an uncompromising colour that jumps out from surrounding shades. It contrasts splendidly with green.

In this case, the late Zeke Cat was the star of the show.

Then there are the hoses. Two of them connect rain barrels to the pond, so overflow rainwater can help to top it up, rather than soaking into the ground near the barrels. The hoses run alongside two paths, and want to be in as many pictures as possible.

Part of back garden path showing part of green hose, foliage of Geranium sanguineum and lamb's lettuce in bloom
I took this picture because of the contrast between the dark green foliage of Geranium sanguineum and the light green and white of blooming lamb’s lettuce. But there’s the artificial green of the hose adding its rather incongruous note.

Hoses used to be uniformly this shade of green that is rare or nonexistent in nature. I guess the idea was they would blend in among the greens of the garden. They don’t. Recently, hose makers seem to have realized that and now colour their products so as to be visible. Lime green, blue, turquoise, and even purple hoses are available. Maybe too many of the green ones were blamed for causing people to trip, or were mangled by lawnmowers whose operators failed to see them.

The path behind the pond, with hose.

Some of you may be wondering why I don’t crop out the chair legs from the photos, or fiddle with filters to disguise the hoses. The truth is, I’m too lazy to bother, and even if a hose’s colour were modified, the shape is pretty uncompromising. My garden photo sessions are unplanned. I see something beautiful or interesting and run inside to grab the camera. If I see a piece of chair anatomy edging into the scene, or a hose intruding itself, I reposition myself so as to eliminate the offending item from the field of view. But that isn’t always possible. Later, when I’m reviewing photos for use in blog posts, I avoid the ones with the worst intrusions.

Pacific Coast Iris, white
This Pacific Coast Iris is blooming just like this right now (photo from 2021). And not a hose nor a chair in sight!