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My Writing Process – an author chain

Good friend (and big fan of Mandolin Whiskey) LK Hunsaker, author of several literary romance novels, asked if I’d like to participate in a blog chain. I’m not at all familiar with what a blog chain is and had never been a part of one till now. I decided that doing something that might help me tap out a few more words would be beneficial. I like to think of myself as a writer, but I know I don’t write near as much as I should! So, while I’m doing this blog chain thing, I’m also self-analyzing a few things about my writing process. Here then, are my answers to four questions.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I might actually be multi-tasking, but at this very moment I’m working on the post for this blog chain thing. Ok, not funny.

I have two things I’m working on at the moment – a novel (or short story, haven’t decided which yet), and a children’s book. The novel is an attempt to write in the female voice, which I hear is quite difficult for a male writer to pull off. It’s geared toward young adults, 18 to 25-years old. And it’s my first serious attempt at writing fiction. At a little over 5,000 words, it’s still in the early stages of development (click here for an excerpt).

My children’s book is also in the early stages, and probably won’t be much over 30 pages long, it’s an alphabet book with illustrations by Don Conner, my brother (click here for an excerpt). Writing a children’s book is another first. And then there are the “regular” gardening articles I write once a month that are featured in Life & Times: A Magazine with Senior Flair. I’ve been writing gardening articles for close to 10 years. (I’ve been in touch with the folks at Life & Times about a link to their publication, it’s not been an easy task.)

2. How does your work differ from others in the genre? 

I’m not sure about the differences between my writing and the writing of others. Simply because I don’t read a lot of other stuff. I’ve been told that my garden writing voice is much like the voice I use when giving lectures or just talking to folks about gardening. The main character in my young adult fiction novel/short story/whatever it turns out to be, can fly, and there are other fantastical goings on as well. I often think of a favorite book that I read in college, “Like Water for Chocolate,” by Laura Esquivel, and try to create a magically thrilling, and maybe a little bizarre, journey for the reader.  Ms. Laura created just such a journey with her book and you should read it.

3. Why do you write what you do?

Why do I write what I write? Gardening is such a huge part of our lives, my wife and I, that writing about it comes almost as naturally as planting zinnia and cosmos seeds. I write about it because it’s something I love doing. It also pleases me to know that others are gaining knowledge about gardening when they read my articles. I self-published a collection of some articles, Through the Seasons with The Write Gardener, perhaps you’d like to order a copy? Please. :)

I think the best part about writing fiction is the freedom. I had never given it much consideration before meeting Ms. LK. She’s full of the freedom of fiction, and it seems like she’s always writing and/or editing something new. And that’s a good thing if you’re a writer. I write about other things: a book review here and there, guitars, music, and whatever comes up in my Facebook feed that sparks a comment. Sometimes I’ll choose something controversial to post, which usually generates about 100 comments if it rubs someone the wrong way (which happens more often than not). I decided to write fiction just to see what would happen. Something did, it’s just taking its own time getting to wherever it wants to go.

4. How does your writing process work?

My gardening articles work themselves out, for the most part. I get suggestions from my wife and friends that often lead to an article. Other times I’ll just happen to see a flower, tree, or shrub, or a pot in a gardening catalog, or even something on TV that will spark a topic idea.

I can’t quite explain how I write fiction. It just happens. There is, I suppose, something that be might called a muse that knows what it wants me to write. But that directive comes and goes without warning. The writing for my “young adult fiction novel/short story/whatever it turns out to be” is most always controlled by the muse, I’m just the medium it uses to get the words out.

If reading my answers caused a writing spark within you, then please fuel the fire! We need more good writers.

Data mining


Are you familiar with the term “data mining?” Until recently I wasn’t either. Here’s a good definition:

Generally, data mining (sometimes called data or knowledge discovery) is the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information – information that can be used to increase revenue, cuts [sic] costs, or both.

Info on what we do and where we go is being collected by large companies (NSA?) in order for them to show relevant ads on websites we visit. I’ll not go into great detail about how it’s being done, you can probably guess, but all this info is being collected automatically, and it’s all digitized and stored in large databanks. Another interesting fact is this data is being sold to the highest bidder.

I’ve heard it said that we’re nothing more than a bunch of ones and zeroes. If so, I’m a 10.

Untitled

A preview

I’m tackling a couple of writing projects. One is a lengthy piece of fiction that you can read an excerpt from here, the other is a shorter work, geared for children (of all ages?). I only got one response for feedback on the excerpt but was hoping for a little more noise. So, if you’ve got a few minutes, go back and read the excerpt and leave a comment, I’d appreciate it!

Maybe this next piece will generate a louder hum from some of you. Please, PLEASE leave a comment and tell me if you think short stories and pictures like the one below will attract and hold the attention of children. I know there’re a few parents here so I encourage you to comment, if you have young-uns there, by all means let them read it. Teachers? Aunts? Uncles? Comments from anyone are welcome!

O for Octopus

Overnight I seemed to have grown an extra set of arms. But then I realized I was an octopus and it was perfectly normal to have 8 arms. The next day I began thinking that since I had 8 arms I would need 8 legs too, and 8 of everything else. Including eyes, 8 of them would make seeing things a lot easier. And 8 ears, with 8 ears I would be able to hear things that I had never been able to hear before. And how much better would my sense of smell be with 7 more noses? And 8 mouths! I am sure that having 8 mouths would make each meal so much more tastier!

No other octopus would be like me. They would all want 8 of everything too. But they would not have 8 legs, or 8 eyes. No other octopus but me would have 8 ears, 8 noses, and 8 mouths. I would be famous! Every octopus in all the oceans would want to be like me. They would want to see me, they would want to know how they could get 8 legs, 8 eyes, 8 ears and 8 noses and 8 mouths. Hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands of octopuses would want me to tell them how they could be like me.

But I wouldn’t tell them how I got 8 of everything. No. They would beg me to tell them, NO! I would shout. I am not telling you! And then when all the other octopuses began to cry because I wouldn’t tell them how to have 8 of everything like me, when they started to cry like little baby octopuses cry when their daddies spank them, when they were all crying so loud that it made my 8 ears hurt, I still wouldn’t tell them. NO!  

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If only one out of all those hundreds, one out of thousands, if only one out of 9 billion crying octopuses said: “I don’t want to be like you. I don’t want 8 legs, or 8 ears, or 8 noses, no, not even 8 mouths. All I want is what I have.” If one octopus said that, I would cut off my 8 legs, I would pull out 6 of my eyes, I would cut off 6 ears, I would cut off 7 noses and 7 mouths. After I did that I would be very happy to be just me again.  

001

Writing awkward fiction

The following is an excerpt from a book I’m writing. It’s my first “real” attempt at writing fiction. Although earlier attempts made while in college may have been “real,” they were made so only by the fact that they were writing assignments and were graded by a Writing Professor. If you, kind reader, would be so generous as to leave a comment of some sort, it would be greatly appreciated. I have always felt rather awkward writing fiction and I need your input on whether or not that awkwardness is present in my writing. Be as bold with your comment as you wish, but please, if you say something like “this stinks,” explain why you think so.  Or if you think it’s a “good start, but…” go ahead and tell me what you think would make it better.

(I like to “blame” my decision to start writing fiction on author LK Hunsaker, who listens to good acoustic music by Mandolin Whiskey.)

 

Lesley found high school boring, and none of her teachers had been able to pique her interest in any one particular subject. She discovered a hidden interest in emblems of Christianity when she made her confirmation into the Catholic Church, and had attended parochial school for two years. Probably the worst two years of her life, struggling to fit in with others her age who always shrugged or turned their heads when they saw her. The uniforms; she hated wearing those white tops and blue skirts, and for some reason got away with dressing however she pleased. Perhaps that was one of the reasons she never really fit in. There were other reasons too, plenty of them. Lesley was exceptionally beautiful, her long auburn hair flowed in soft waves down around her small petite shoulders. She never wore it up because she used it as a veil, purposely hiding her soft golden-green hazel eyes. Lesley’s eyes moved out from her gaze, her eyes could see beyond the outer appearance of a face, beyond the physical. Lesley’s eyes sometimes rested and lived within the eye sockets of those she looked at.

Tall, at just under 6 feet, Lesley was never comfortable around boys because most were shorter than she was. But it never bothered her, she was a loner anyway. She had no concerns about weight either, 125 pounds the last time she stepped on the scales. How long ago? It didn’t matter, weight didn’t mean anything when you could fly without being seen. Lesley was happiest when she was flying, nothing could match the feeling it gave her. She was free from all physical constraints, both bodily and earthly. Her essential being was transformed into a spirit-like form, as if she were air, or a gust of wind. Flying was nothing more than a thought process, simple and effortless, like walking or holding a pencil. Like dragging a weightless chain, like falling from Heaven, like falling from Hell.

~~

It formed while Lesley was still in her mother’s womb. Prompted by hours and hours of loud music – screaming guitar solos, bass riffs that shook the floor, drums beating and cymbals crashing; Lesley felt it all, and heard most of it, before arriving in the back seat of a 1967 Chevelle while her mother was passed out from too much moonshine. She never really knew her mother but sometimes had an odd sensation of her presence when she was flying. Alone since birth with her father, Lesley formed and shaped her own life, destined to find that outer ring where she knew others like her existed. No one mattered here, not even her father, who laugh-growled when he saw her fly. Who laugh-cried from behind the closed door of his bedroom. Lesley never cried. She never laughed.

Lesley sat staring at the paintings of crosses, nuns, chapels, monasteries, and one very large painting of Dante’s Inferno that hung directly above an old antique desk with old books stacked on it, and papers scattered everywhere.

“Ms. Lesley,” Professor Connor said, “Is He the Lord your God?”

Lesley was startled to hear her name, avoiding his eyes, she was afraid to answer. She knew of only one god: Terra, Roman goddess of the earth.

“And where is Terra’s bible?”

Professor Connor asked, walking to the back of the room. He placed a large Bible on Lesley’s desk.

“Is her’s similar to this one?”

He slammed his hand down on the Bible. Lesley didn’t flinch, she kept her eyes lowered and focused them on the back of his left hand. Small blisters began to form along the top of each knuckle. Professor Connor jerked his hand away, quickly tucking it inside his shirt before anyone noticed.

How did he know she was thinking about Terra? Lesley was more curious than concerned that he seemed to have the ability to read her mind. It made for a very interesting confrontation between her eyes and his knuckles. And she knew nothing could defeat her gaze. Professor Connor turned and started walking back to the front of the classroom but stopped halfway there. He was standing in the aisle, between two desks, a girl was at one, with her head resting on it, sleeping. At the other desk was Spider spinning a green web. Spider stopped spinning, and offered a strand of the web to Professor Connor, who took it and wrapped it around his blistered knuckles.

Lesley had her own ideas about God, or the Higher Power, or The Maker. She had heard so many different opinions about it that it became almost pointless to consider whether any such being even existed. She had hoped that taking a class on religion might help her decide if there really was a Maker, God, Higher Power, or Supreme Being. To her, it was much easier to believe in Terra, much easier to believe mythology, because Lesley knew of a myth that wasn’t a myth; human flight was possible, but only for one. Why was she chosen? And who chose her? Terra? God? Satan? Lesley didn’t care, she couldn’t care.

Professor Connor looked back at the desk to see if he had really gotten green web from a large spider. It was just another hallucination. He had gotten used to them and had even accepted them as part of his real world existence. An existence he had been a part of for thousands of years.

 

The Wait

It’d not be a stretch to say that waiting for spring’s arrival is agonizing. Especially if you’re an avid gardener! It’s made even more agonizing by the frigid weather we’ve had here in the northeast. Temperatures well below zero with wind chills dipping to -30! I wonder how I’d survive if such weather lasted longer than a couple of days? Folks further north up into Alaska and Canada have long stretches of frigid weather and survive, maybe I could tough it out here if I had to.

I live an hour north of Pittsburgh and a garden writer friend of mine there says his hellebores (lenten rose) are starting to bud out. I can’t even get to the leaves on mine yet, they’re still covered with snow. I could probably brush the snow away and do some clipping. But I’ll wait, it’s still too cold and I’m a weenie when it comes to being outside when temperatures aren’t above 35 degrees or more!

 

A pre-diabetic’s confession

I suppose all the years of Ski, Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Barq’s root beer, double and triple cheeseburgers, adding salt unnecessarily, sitting around on my arse hours on end, has finally paid off! Of course it’s not really a beneficial pay off unless you do what I’ve done.

Juicy, sloppy, messy, UNHEALTHY burger!

Last fall I was experiencing a little trouble bending the index finger on my left hand. It got to the point where chording (I’m a working musician) my Martin became painful. I knew it was time to have it looked at, so I made an appointment to see a doctor at the local VA outpatient clinic. Y’all know the routine – before you see the doc, a nurse or an aide takes your blood pressure and asks a bunch of questions about your health history. It was the blood pressure that caught the attention of the nurse who took mine; it was up, around 170 over 90 or thereabouts. After seeing the doctor, I was told that I was pre-diabetic.

Since then I’ve made some major lifestyle changes. I don’t drink any soda, except for an occasional diet drink (which I’ve heard are no more good for you than regular, sweetened soda!), I’ve stopped adding salt to

Baby carrots and hummus

Baby carrots and hummus

everything, I’m eating healthier snacks in-between meals (celery, baby carrots, hummus, nuts, yogurt, apples and other fruits), and thank the good Lord my wife has always been a health-conscious cook so we’re both eating a very healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I’ve been hitting the “dreadmill”  for a vigorous 30 minute walk.

I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made – WITHOUT MEDICATIONS! Since the end of October, 2013, I’ve lost 17 pounds – from a hefty and unhealthy 186 lbs, to 169 lbs! My blood pressure is down and I feel better than I have in years! I go back to the doctor at the end of March for a check-up. I’m hoping the numbers are pretty close to where they should be for a 57-years young, red-blooded, Kentucky bornt and raised, American male!

Top 10 reasons husbands piss off their wives

No, I didn’t see such a list on Letterman’s talk show. But maybe they should come up with one too. Anyway, here’s my top 10 list of reasons husbands piss off their wives.

10. “Yes, your butt looks big in that dress.”

9. When asked to help with laundry you stuff all the clothes in the washer without separating colors.

8. You leave the commode lid up.

7. You “word belch” after eating a particularly satisfying meal.

6. You tell your wife that you saw one of her best friends and when your wife asks you what she was wearing, who was she with, what time was it, where did you see her, did she have any make-up on, was her hair up or down, etc., etc., you don’t remember.

5. You won’t let your wife use your special garden shovel that is so sharp it will slice through rock hard clay dirt like it’s butter.

4. Your wife notices you looking at a very attractive younger woman and you pretend it was an odd sign or poster or window display or some other random object in that same general direction.

2. When told to “just stop and ask someone” you say you know exactly where you’re going and proceed to drive around in circles for an hour before stopping to ask someone.

And the Number 1 reason husbands piss off their wives….

1. We can’t get pregnant!

 

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