Where are the Bees?

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The dandelions are in bloom. Where are the bees?

I worry about the bees disappearing. We have apple trees in bloom, but without our  pollinators, we won’t get apples. It’s one of the reasons we don’t spray for dandelions—the emerging bees first food. And I let some of the bees favorite foods alone–like my Nepeta Walker’s Low, which is always crowded with bees.

This time last year, our dandies were covered in bees. Had to be careful where we stepped to avoid squashing a bee—or being stung.

This year, searching for bees, all I found was the one you see in the photo. Why?

The reason must be our cold spring. Bees don’t “work” when the temperature is below 57 F, and the daytime highs in March and most of April have been below 55F. Too cold for bees.

I found this bee last Saturday, a day when the temperature reached closed to 80. Hopefully, they’re not gone. They’re just waiting till it warms up.

For interesting information about pesticides and bees, check out this article from the Kansas State Research and Extension.

With bees disappearing, the one thing we all can do is stop spraying our lawns. Please.

 

 

 

 

The Basics: Querying Literary Agents

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The adventure begins. After 18 months and five rewrites, I have a finished, polished novel manuscript. Now, to sell it.

Here are the essentials according to every book on selling a novel I’ve ever read and my mentor/editor Anna Yeatts.

  • The manuscript itself
  • A one-page synopsis
  • A query letter

I put together all three with a lot of help from Anna, an editor friend of hers, and a novelist friend.   

The rest has been research to find the right agents. How to search? Look for agents who want to represent your genre. Or check #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter or Pinterest.

And now the fun begins. I started with a list of 13 agents (yes, I also planted 13 trees in my backyard) and started researching. Not just the literary agency website, but also all social media, including podcasts. And found a wealth of helpful information.

What worked for me was to send one query three days a week. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I narrow my sights on a single agent and end by hitting SEND on the email or SUBMIT on the query submission manager. Different agents want different items. A query letter only. A query letter, a synopsis, and the first—five pages, ten pages, three chapters—of the novel.

So far, I’ve received four rejections that say my submission—a paranormal romance—does not line up with the agent’s MSWL

I’m waiting for the email that says, “Please send the entire manuscript.”

Wish me luck. Stay tuned.

Frustration in the Garden

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It’s been a frustrating day in the garden.

March was a wet month, and it looks like our potatoes have rotted instead of germinating. They’re hilled, in raised beds, so that shouldn’t have happened. So, darn.

All our soaker hoses–we use them for irrigation–have humungous holes. Time to invest in five new 50-foot long soaker hoses.

The black plastic mulch we put down for the scallions blew away in the wind, despite anchoring with earth staples and bricks. So hmm… that didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.

And the red plastic mulch I bought to save me from excess weeding of tomatoes? It’s just too windy to even try. My new tomato babies need protection from the wind more than I need a break from weeding. Today, we planted them, with old kitty litter boxes as windbreaks. Jim cuts out the bottoms (drill a hole, then cut with a saber saw).

In the photo, you’re seeing a newly planted tomato, grown from seed and nurtured in the basement under fluorescents. It’s inside one of those bottom-less kitty-litter box. Most years, I’ve left the plants in the boxes until the tomatoes grow taller than the tops. If it’s windy where you are, these plastic boxes are a great hack.

For new folks to the blog, welcome. If you are following for #amwriting, that’s Thursdays. Lately, I write about the novel querying process.

If you’re following for #amgardening, that’s today, Mondays. I write about what it’s like to garden in Kansas–today it’s been disappointing.

 

 

 

Chilly Sunday

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Another Sunday–another week gone. I was hoping to set out the tomatoes this week, but it’s been in the 30’s at night (about 0 degrees C) and way too cold for tomatoes. I have homes for ten of my forty plants, another ten ready for my garden. And what to do with the twenty remaining? Hard choices in the garden.

The photo shows the first stirrings of my white feather hosta. For several years now, I see photos in the gardening catalogs showing white hostas. Three years ago I gave in and bought one. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s only this creamy white in the early spring, and turns pale green the rest of the time.

I have another novel outline on my plate for the coming week. I’m going to try and write two novels at the same time. Wonder if anyone else has tried to do that. How did it work out?.

Enjoy the day.

Perfectionism & Criticism

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A couple of years back, a self-published author asked me to read and then review their e-book. “It’s nearly perfect,” they said. “I’ve had it edited by a friend of a friend who’s an English teacher.

“How honest do you want me to be?” I asked.

There’s the rub. How honest? Just so you know, that “nearly perfect” editing resulted in a piece with gross grammatical errors and often laughable word usage. I wrote an honest review and before posting it, sent a copy to the author. Never heard from them again.

Growing up, I learned that making a mistake was the worst thing you could possibly do. I know I’m not alone because perfectionism—not the immobilizing kind but the quality of believing in one’s unquestionable faultlessness—runs rampant. Everybody may be saying “nobody’s perfect” but who admits to making errors? And above all, never apologize.

In my last paid job—one that lasted almost twenty years–I spent about fifty percent of my time writing business proposals. At least ten people, and sometimes as many as thirty, reviewed and critiqued what I wrote.

Without commenting on the lack of efficiency inherent to that process, one benefit I gained early on was how to take criticism, both constructive and ridiculous. For my own sanity, I adopted an attitude of learning when faced with the errors of my writing ways.

For example, should I have used “I” as an object instead of “me”? Really? But instead of arguing with that particular (repeat) grammar offender, my attitude of learning led me to take the time to look it up. I’d explicate, using expert citations, the grammar of subjects and objects and first-person pronouns.

I learned something and, hopefully, so did my critic.

That same approach has helped me grow as a fiction writer. It goes beyond “learn from your mistakes” to Miller’s Law: “In order to understand what another person is saying, you must assume that it is true and try to find out what it could be true of.”

So critique me. My long-held mantra still works. I’m far from perfect. I’m open to whatever you tell me because it may make me a better writer.

 

Want Fewer Weeds?

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Last autumn, after a full year of knee problems due to a fall, we had nine veg-beds chockfull of weeds.

Now before I come across sounding feeble, I didn’t fall due to lack of balance. Oh no. My black lab, Juno, managed to wrap her leash around my legs while I was trying to get the cat, Fat Boy, into his carrier. We were going to the vet. Juno went one way, the cat the other, and I crashed onto my left knee.

That was in July and for the next month, I was on crutches. No gardening possible.

By October, the raised beds were nothing but weeds. Wild brassicas, bind weed, horse nettle, spurge, some species of nastiness spread by rhizomes–ugh.

To alleviate the problem, we tilled the beds, cleared the detritus, and covered everything with black plastic bags to starve unwanted seeds.

Now it’s spring, the knee is healed, and we’re ready to garden. But since I don’t want to spend the summer on my still-somewhat-tender knees weeding, I decided to try the environmentally-friendly plastic mulch from Gardener’s Supply.

Before the weather turned nice enough to start, the Kansas State University Research and Extension horticultural newsletter let me know to set soaker hose under the plastic mulch to ease watering.

So that’s what we did. Marking the beds first and fastening our above-ground soaker hoses with earth staples, we organized a single raised bed.

And, those perforated circles were a snap to punch out using only fingers. No sharps required.

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We’ve planted bunching onions (I call them scallions) in this bed. We’ll see how it goes.

I have red plastic mulch for tomatoes, but more on that in two-three weeks.

Happy gardening.

 

Gloomy Sunday

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It rained buckets last night and it looks like more rain is coming in. Meanwhile, blackbirds and a couple of blue jays have gathered in our pin oaks.

I don’t pretend to know a lot about wildlife photography–or photography for that matter. But I do know to tiptoe out the door to catch a photo like this. Lucky for me, the storm door didn’t squeak.

Daffodils have started to bloom. One lone tulip. And Jim has mowed the grass for the first time. Welcome Spring 2019.