Father’s Day Sunday

Today is Father’s Day, and I thought it would be cool to use some photos of my forebears. But as always, I had technical problems. Without going into the boring details, I had to wait for my son to come and solve my Adobe to JPG problems. He also cleaned up these very old photos.

So here is Grandpa Harry Kreps at his wedding to Ida. My father’s parents, which seems appropriate for Father’s Day.

And here is my father, Saul, graduating from high school. Maybe. That would’ve been in 1935. Or thereabouts.

Happy Father’s Day, Harry and Saul. You’re missed.

Submission Calls

I started writing short stories in 2017 after reading about the Ray Bradbury challenge. Bradbury recommends writing a short story a week, and that it isn’t possible to write fifty-two bad short stories. I aimed to prove him wrong.

At the end of the year, I had thirty-six completed short stories, fourteen of which were deemed good enough—after much revising—to submit for publication. Since I began, I’ve sent these fourteen stories out seventy-seven times total. Six are currently pending. Five were accepted for publication, three of which have been published.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve had sixty-six rejections, not counting the rejections from agents I’ve queried. Novels don’t count.

So I wondered. Would I have better luck if I wrote short stories specifically for submission calls? I’m about to find out.

I stumbled across a submission call for a dark romance. Lucky for me, I had exactly that in my “story starts” folder. After some frantic revision, I sent it off. While waiting for a response to the submission, I reread the story–a mistake because now I’m perseverating. I think I made three errors—not typos and not grammar. Fixed, I could have improved my story arc. Serves me right for rushing.

Next, I found a submission call for a horror story similar to a premise I’d been trying to get on paper since 2017. I managed to complete the piece, but here come the doubts. Is it an overdone trope? Is the twist predictable? Are the characters likeable—especially the main character? Do I have too little exposition? Too much? Is the dialogue stilted? Is it overwritten? Underwritten? Enough descriptive detail or too much?

Time will tell. I have to keep reminding myself to embrace rejection, be patient, trust the process, and learn to be lucky.

Gardening Ugly: Weeds

I planted a bed of asparagus in 2012. It takes three years for asparagus to establish—like most things in the garden, the rule of thumb is year one sleep, year two creep, and year three leap. And that’s exactly what happened. In 2015, we had amazing asparagus for three weeks, fresh out of the garden delicious.

According to everything I’ve read, an established asparagus garden lasts about ten years, although I’ve also heard of thirty-year beds still producing. Last year, a very dry year, we had a somewhat sparse crop. This year, a very wet year, was amazing. We ate asparagus for two full months, about every day. In fact, we’re sort of sick of asparagus.

But. The photo shows yellowish grass in the bed. That is nut grass, also known as nut sedge, formal name Cyperus esculentus and one of the most difficult weeds to control. How’d it get there? I’ve never had it in this or any other bed before now.

I suspect that nut grass seeds were a toxic bonus from the bags of compost/manure I bought at one of the Big Box Stores. What I should have done was opened the bags onto a tarp and let them sit for a year, covered in plastic to bake in the sun. Instead, I simply spread the bag contents onto my asparagus bed.

I tried hand weeding and ended up with hand cramps. Nut grass roots are tangled and deep. I tried weeding with a variety of tools, including my favorite Cape Cod Weeder. No dice. The bare spot in the photo is what I was able to weed by hand.

Researching a herbicide compatible with asparagus, I ended up on the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resource site, and actually found an herbicide that might work, called halosulfuron. Very expensive. Too expensive for an eight-year-old asparagus bed when it will cost less than fifty dollars–and three years–to replace it.

Sedge grass spreads like wildfire and I never want to see it anywhere else in my yard. So I’m—probably—sacrificing my asparagus to keep this highly invasive weed from spreading.

We spayed this morning when the wind was practically nil. I’ve checked, some six hours later, and things in the asparagus bed look yellow. Not the ferns, though. The ferns are still green and I still have hope.

Time will tell.  

Cold Front Sunday

The weather prediction is for cold–in the 50’s Fahrenheit overnight–and staying on the cool side all week. But no rain.

The lilies are starting to bloom and most of the daylilies are sporting scapes. I’m waiting for the garlic plants to die back. Ditto the few potatoes that survived the cold, wet spring.

The asparagus is done and in fern–more on that in Monday’s post. I’ll be talking about the ugly side of gardening. Weeds.

Just in time to replace the asparagus, here comes a bucket load of sugar snap peas. And little green tomatoes are forming, along with little green blueberries.

All in all, a happy Sunday. Hope yours is happy too.

#PitMad

What is #PitMad? That’s the question I asked Anna Yeatts last March when she encouraged me to “do it.”

#PitMad is a quarterly event (March, June, September, December) during which writers pitch their completed novels on Twitter, using no more than 280 characters including–at minimum–the PitMad hashtag.

The goal is to attract agents who might want to represent your novel to publishers.

So no problem. After learning about it, I decided it would be a snap to condense my 87,000 word paranormal romance into 280 characters. And, since writers can tweet up to three times during a 12-hour, I needed three different tweets would be swell. That took some time to figure out, and quite a bit of brainstorming and revising to get it close to right.

Last March, I had fewer than 20 followers and didn’t understand the power of retweeting. Multiple RTs make a tweet to more likely come to the attention of everybody, including agents. My third tweet in March got 12 RTs.

Today, June 6, is the second #PitMad I’ve participated in. This time around, thanks to the amazingly supportive #WritingCommunity, and a large number of new followers, I had 92 RTs and 8 likes, although sadly, none of the likes came from agents.

Never mind. I met a lot of new people and RT’d a gazillion pitches for novels I definitely will want to read someday.

My tweet for The Last Summer Queen read: At 19, Macy wants her magic but first, has to get pregnant. Not easy in a female-only town. Summer Queen magic fails. Macy casts a forbidden spell and triggers an old curse. She loses her powers only to learn that love is the strongest magic.

I’m still waiting to hear from the agent who asked to read the entire manuscript and other agents I’ve queried. Based on everything I’ve learned, this is a process that can take a while. Like gardening, patience is key.

Meanwhile, I’m in Chapter 10 of my new work in progress. Let me know if I have any beta readers out there–I should be done with the first draft sometime in early September.

Asymmetrical Parterre: Part 3

The new garden is about as finished as it’s going to be. This year.

We moved the bench from a side garden and laid a path from the front of the garden to the pond, and then to the bench. Jim and I talked about creating a small shelter around the bench. It won’t be this year. We need to think about setting posts in concrete, maybe using lattice or horizontal fencing around it. And what about a roof? Maybe next year …

I’ve planted irises and one Ms. Wilmott’s Ghost (eryngium giganteum) that I saw on Big Dreams, Small Spaces. I just knew it would look terrific in this garden if I could get it to grow. The problem? Too wet with serious lack of drainage when it rains. And it’s been raining most days this spring.

Taking a tip from Monty Don, I dug an enormous hole–way wider and deeper than needed for my little plant–and added a mix of peat moss and pea pebbles. Hopefully, that will keep the plant happy and well-drained until it matures.

I already had the large pot, one of a pair that I used on my front stoop. Except this year, I decided to use only one in front. The hibiscus was a lucky find, in line with my #Learning2bLucky lifestyle. One of the local groceries discounted their spring plants 75 percent, so I snatched up a $30 plant for $6. Yay.

My one extravagance was the Buddha. I went to Classic Statuary looking for a pair of Foo Dogs. And they had a gigantic pair–too big for my little garden, and really much more than I wanted to spend. I saw the Buddha sitting way in the back, in a corner, and just knew he should be meditating in my rockery parterre.

I don’t know what else I’d add other than more, possibly bigger, rocks. Cleaning the pond is going to be an issue come fall, and I’m not sure my water lily is going to make it. Time will tell.

Updates to follow.

Sunny Sunday

Bright sun, blue skies, low humidity and not too warm. A perfect spring day and it may be one of the last. Spring is coming to an end. The tulips are tapped out, the peonies are almost finished, the roses are in bloom and the lilies are just beginning to flower. Summer is coming.

But rain is predicted for every single day next week, through Thursday. We do not need more rain.

Although, my clematis Blue Fountain–shown in the photo–loves the rain. Blooming profusely, it has taken over. I’ve had to cut back vines to uncover the hydrangea.

Today’s my day to weed the asparagus bed. The stalks have started to fern, promise of asparagus next spring. Maybe by then we’ll be ready for them.

Wishing all a wonderful and sunny Sunday.