Month: June 2016

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale starts July 1st!

Every July, Smashwords authors have the opportunity to offer their ebooks at reduced prices (or free) at the Smashwords store. As Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker says, “Think of it as a massive co-marketing collaboration where thousands of authors work in parallel to introduce readers to thousands of awesome indie ebooks.”

For readers, it’s an opportunity to discover new authors or catch up with favourites. Whether you’re reading on the deck (northern hemisphere) or in front of the fire (southern), don’t miss this chance! Start browsing here.

While you’re there, you may wish to have a look at the Herbert West Series.

The Herbert West Series_final

 

Measure twice, cut once

Authors looking for an editor may wish to consider Kevin Brennan’s services. He’s a novelist as well, and his other blog, What The Hell, is always worth reading.

Indie-Scribable

You’ve heard it before, and it’s true: Every writer needs an editor. You can read your book only so many times before your eyes glaze over and you become blind to your own flaws. Heck, some of us are blind to our own flaws from the git-go, so we need an editor even more than the average Joe and Josephine.

I established Indie-Scribable earlier this year as a way of offering professional editorial services to writers on limited budgets. The problem is, so many indies publish their work without paying sufficient attention to the details, and this results in books confetti’d with errors. This, in turn, gives self-published books a bad name in the eyes of the reading public. It’s not good for readers or writers, and the solution is landing on an editor who understands the business of indie publishing.

At the risk of letting this first post of…

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Bee-Watching

Bee-watching is a wonderful distraction from the stresses of life. I can definitely recommend it for a warm, sunny afternoon as spring turns to summer.

 

Bee among Mullein flowers.

Bee among Mullein flowers. Yes, it is there! About halfway up, to the right of the plant’s stem.

 

Bumblebees seem to love California poppies. Most of them are black with yellow heads and a nifty yellow stripe across the bum. There are also some fuzzy-looking yellow-brown ones, but I didn’t get any pictures of them. (Taking decent pictures of bees is hard).

 

June 19, 2016

 

Note the bum stripe!

Note the bum stripe!

 

June 19, 2016

 

Possibly a wasp in the pink California poppy.

Possibly a wasp in the pink California poppy.

 

Honeybees favour the lavender almost exclusively. (And being smaller and a subdued orange-brown colour, they don’t show up well).

 

June 19, 2016

The bee is in the centre of the picture, to the right of the red of geranium flowers in the background. Enlarge and you will see it.

 

Note: bee-watching is not relaxing when the watcher is trying to take pictures of the bees. For best results, leave the camera/phone in the house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Tut, Hori-Hori and Fragrant Cloud

After an epic battle with tree roots — a whole network, from 1/4 to 3/4 inch diameter, with sponge-like wads of feeding roots — I prepared a spot for a plant new to the garden:  papyrus! Specifically, Cyperus papyrus “King Tut.” It now resides in a small boggy area next to the pond. Although a dwarf variety of the famous plant used in Egypt, it’s supposed to reach 4 or 5 feet. It’s not frost-hardy, of course, but I understand it’s easy to root new plantlets by inverting the flower stalk in water, which is what happens naturally as the plant dies down. The small plants may be wintered indoors and set out the following spring.

Papyrus "King Tut"

Papyrus “King Tut”

 

Added to my garden tool kit this week is a Hori-Hori Knife, a tool which originated in Japan, and combines features of a knife and a trowel. Its original purpose was plant gathering in the wild. It’s a formidable thing, with a thick blade and sharpened edges, one of which is serrated for root cutting. Suckers, look out!

Hori-hori knife and its sheath.

Hori-hori knife and its sheath.

 

While all this was going on, the hybrid tea rose “Fragrant Cloud” opened two of its six buds to perfection. It is truly well-named, exuding an intense, true rose fragrance. The plant is a scrawny, feeble-looking specimen that lives in a large pot. It had a bad case of black spot earlier this spring, which totally defoliated the old wood, but put out new growth that is free of black spot, and six buds.

"Fragrant Cloud" bud #1

“Fragrant Cloud” bud #1

 

Bud #1 fully opened

Bud #1 fully opened

 

Bud #2, leaning against Olympic Mullein (Verbascum olympicum)

Bud #2, leaning against Olympic Mullein (Verbascum olympicum)

 

Perfection!

Perfection!

 

Death in the Garden

Death is perfectly at home in the garden. It is, after all, the other half of the circle. Gardeners, therefore, become rather intimate with it.

Plants die. Sometimes the gardener kills them deliberately. That’s the way it is.

Death by Nature, or (Lack of) Nurture?

In my garden shed, I have a tin can stuffed with plant labels. Every one of the plants they represent is dead. As each death was confirmed, I stashed the label in the can as a memento mori.

Tags of the Departed

Tags of the Departed

Looking through them today was a sad little walk through the garden’s past. Two golden hostas, two kinds of pink Gaura, a number of blue-flowering plants (anchusa, veronica and balloon flower), and Cosmos atrosanguineus. I tried that one twice — an elegant small plant with dark, velvety flowers that smell like chocolate. But there were also plants I had almost forgotten. That lovely Coreopsis, “Moonlight” — pale lemon yellow flowers and dainty foliage. Years ago, I knocked myself out trying to make it happy, but it perished. So I tried another variety — “Golden Showers” — darker yellow and not as elegant, but that died too. Goodbye, Coreopsis. It all comes back to me now — the ecstasy, followed by agony.

Why did they die? Who knows? Probably not all for the same reason. Some of the obvious ones are poor site choice, insufficient soil preparation, winter-kill, too little water (or too much), or some sort of underground root-chewing creature. Or verticillium wilt. The list of plants susceptible to this organism is quite long, and I see a species of Coreopsis (tickseed) among them. On the other hand, foxgloves are also on the list and they grow well here. My first inclination is to blame the Norway maples whose roots spread throughout the garden. This is likely in the case of plants that prosper at first, in well-prepared soil from which the roots were removed, then dwindle as the roots return. But some of the plants whose tags repose in the Memory Can may have been duds right from the start. Among them is Rosa chinensis “Mutabilis,” a rose whose description made me think it was just the thing. Sadly, the plant I purchased died right out of the pot it came in, and I actually obtained a refund from the nursery, who assured me it came from a bad batch.

Whatever the cause of death, the gardener just has to get over it and move on — try again with a new plant, or give up on that species altogether. As Henry Mitchell said, “…the whole system rests essentially on death,” and, “If tender folk go to pieces for fear a plant may be hurt (even before it is hurt, and it usually isn’t), then how do they cope with the death of a dog or a person? We are not born to a guarantee of a voluptuous bonbon-type life, you know.”

No, indeed.

Death by Gardener

Gardeners are generally thought of as mild-mannered and harmless.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, after farmers, gardeners are almost the only everyday, non-special folks who get to exercise the power over life and death routinely, every day (if they weed that often).

Every gardener has an arsenal of potentially death-dealing implements, among them the human hand.

Garden tools, or instruments of death

Garden tools, sometimes used as instruments of death

Most of the time, these things are used to plant or trim (well, not the Swede saw). Occasionally, however, they are called upon to dispatch (i.e., kill) and remove unwanted plants. Not always weeds, either.

Every spring and summer, I pull up dozens of maple, laburnum, cherry, holly, spurge laurel and cotoneaster seedlings. Infant trees and shrubs, denied further existence by a gardener who does not want a small forest on her 50 by 120 foot patch of ground. Somehow, I have no problem with snuffing out their lives, but when it comes to dispatching a well-grown, healthy-looking specimen, it’s a different matter.

I actually hate killing plants.

Take these weeds, for example. There is a clump of them right by the door of the garden shed.

Great looking weeds.

Great looking weeds.

They are quite attractive, with their fresh, jagged foliage and little yellow flowers. Right now, I’m reluctant to pull them up. Once the flowers give way to seed pods, but long before the seeds ripen, I’ll cut them down. I’ve been doing that for years, and this small clump is all that’s left of a flourishing patch.

Then there’s campion, Lychnis coronaria, a weedy but utterly reliable plant. It grows and blooms in sun and shade, even in dry, rooty ground. The white form — and we’re talking a really bright, assertive white — is actually quite elegant.

White Lychnis coronaria and unknown Epimedium

White Lychnis coronaria and unknown Epimedium

The magenta kind looks good against green, and clashes well with other bright colours.

Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) and other summer blooms.

Rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) and other summer blooms.

But both forms seed themselves enthusiastically, which means there are way too many of them here.

Note all the campion plants. especially the assertive white ones.

Note all the campion plants. especially the assertive white ones.

I’ve decided to remove any campion plants that are hard to reach for the purpose of deadheading (properly done flower by flower). I’ll do the deed once they’ve passed their peak of bloom and start to show their true weedy natures, but before the seeds ripen, of course. At that point I’ll have less compunction about digging them out. (Hmm. Seems to me I had the same plan last year).

It’s even harder to destroy shrubs or trees, especially if they look happy and prosperous. Take this Cornus sericea, a native plant related to dogwood. It popped up in one of the tomato pots several years ago. At the time I thought it might actually be a dogwood, so potted it up and watered it faithfully through the next few summers. Somewhere along the line, it rooted down into the ground and took off. Now it’s starting to be A Problem, slumping into the rain barrel.

Cornus sericea

Cornus sericea

This shrub can grow to 20 feet. I’d rather not have it right next to the house foundation. It’s also called Cornus stolonifera, which means it spreads by rooting where branches touch the ground. The kind thing would be to transplant it to a suitable spot, but I don’t have such a spot. So it has to go. One of these days, just before a trip to the municipal yard with a load of garden waste, I shall dispatch it. That way I won’t have to watch it wilt and shrivel, like these branches pruned last week from a ceanothus and a magnolia.

Ceanothus and magnolia prunings.

Ceanothus and magnolia prunings.

Back to tree seedlings, I’ve noticed three or four that popped up last year in different parts of the garden. I have no idea what they are, but last fall their few leaves turned interesting shades of orange. I thought at the time I had been blessed with some sort of desirable plants, and decided to observe them until I could figure out what they are. No luck there as yet, but the seedlings are growing well.

Seedling of unknown tree, possibly oak.

Seedling of unknown tree, possibly oak.

The leaves look different this year, bigger, darker green and not as deeply lobed. I’m wondering if they are some sort of oak, but not the native Garry oak. They must have originated locally, but the nearest non-Garry oaks are about half a kilometer away. Gardens are full of small mysteries.

The thing is, I will likely have to pull out some or all of these little trees someday. I’m not looking forward to it. The power over life and death is not held lightly.

 

Trads vs. Indies: Will This War Ever End?

Here are some thought-provoking opinions about traditional and indie publishing from Linda Gould.

The Let's Play Ball Blog

0601161425Traditional publishers will probably never embrace independent authors as equals. They will be loath to admit that the terms of engagement in this ongoing battle are changing, that the combatants are becoming more equal, and that some authors even find a way to go “hybrid.” It’s becoming increasingly clear that the trads are losing the high ground they once held in the area of editorial standards.

Examples of bad editing crop up more and more in the traditional world. For example, there are few authors more successful at traditional publishing than Anne Rice. She also specializes in the hottest subjects in fiction, vampires and werewolves. Yet Floyd Orr, editor of the long-running review site PODBRAM, and a rabid Rice fan, reports: “Anne Rice’s 34th book contains more errors than I have ever seen in a top-selling, traditionally published hardback! There are errors of every kind: repeated common words, misused spellings…

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