Leafhoppers, Echinacea, and Eggplant

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So far this season, I’ve planted onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers. The only plants missing for a true Mediterranean feast are eggplants. And there’s the rub. All my eggplants–no matter what variety–end up devoured by bugs.

Except Ophelia eggplants. One year, I ordered this “super seed” variety and had bushels of eggplants. So many, I ended up gifting friends.

Curious about why I can’t grow regular eggplant, I did some research. Turns out it’s  the same reason I can’t grow most hybrid echinacea–darn leafhoppers. I can grow plain, old Echinacea. Just not the bright-colored new varieties. Leafhoppers destroy them. 

To grow regular eggplants, I might have good luck controlling pests using floating row covers. A lot of work in windy Kansas.

And now for the Ophelia. It’s so amazing that when I tried to order plants–in February–all the sellers were sold out. Sheesh. Only one seller had them available and only as seeds.

Growing anything from seed takes a bit of doing. Needed are shelves, lights, seed-starter mix, trays, pots, transplant-mix, sometimes fertilizer. I add to that chamomile tea, which when added to water will prevent the nascent plants from “damping off.”

So here in the photo are my Ophelia eggplants, seeds planted in February and transplanted once. When the weather is consistently hovering around 75-80F, I’ll transplant them in the garden. And we’ll see.

Windy Sunday

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Sunrise, Sunday morning. We’re expecting four days of rain. Meanwhile the temperature’s dropped and the wind chill is in the 30’s.

I’m a little worried about my tomatoes even though they’re protected by buckets. And so glad I waited before putting out the Ophelia eggplant.

Meanwhile, it’s a good day to stay inside and write.

Embracing Rejection

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As a technical writer, I didn’t worry about rejection. I worked for mid-sized agencies and companies and, for the most part, helped them grow through grants and business proposals. Rejections came only when the company I worked for decided to compete on the national level. Those rejections were less about my efforts and more about the company’s offerings.  

My life in fiction started off differently. I began submitting short stories in early 2017 and was dismayed by the number of rejections I received. Experienced writers are probably laughing right this minute at my naivete.

My editor/coach/mentor, Anna Yeatts said to think in terms of wallpapering my office with rejections. So, okay, I was trusting her. But I didn’t really feel okay about rejection. I mean—who does?

In January 2019 I got this message on my Duotrope dashboard: “Congratulations: Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for members who have submitted to the same markets.”

And that’s when it came to me. I was doing something wrong. For a high acceptance ratio—given the number of acceptances I’d had—I wasn’t getting my writing out there often enough. I needed more rejections. I needed to embrace them.

That’s my goal for 2019. With querying agents and getting stories, both old and new, to market, I expect a boatload of rejections. It means I’m ready for my voice to be heard.

Wish me luck.

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.