Encouraging Rejections

No one likes rejection, right? But the other night, I got one of the nicest rejections ever. I’ve had a few of those along the way, and they always cheer me immeasurably.

The rejection in question was in response to a query for my novel, The Last Summer Queen. After apologizing for taking six months to get back to me, the agent wrote that they didn’t take novels like mine, but that after reading what I’d sent, she’d been tempted. And to please keep them in mind if I write another novel.

Now I had to question what reasoning allowed me to send a novel that didn’t fit, although that’s a longer discussion for another day. But yes, indeed, I have a novel in the pipeline that, judging by what she said, might work for her. If only I had time enough to write it now.

An encouraging rejection is not an acceptance, after all. But it is encouraging. And I was … encouraged.

Totally fits with my Embracing Rejection approach to submissions.

Stay

I have no news on the query front, and maybe no news really is good news. Meanwhile, I’ve improved on my #Learning2bLucky skills, using a command I give the dogs.

Stay. Persist. Persevere. Prevail. Given that I’ve honed my craft, learned what I can, paid my dues, and so forth, I’ll eventually find a home for my paranormal romance. And the second in the series, and the third.

That’s my message for this fourth of July. Happy Independence Day.

Daylilies

A few years back, I discovered Smokey’s Gardens and went a little nuts buying different daylilies. My favorite is the one in the photo–Mauna Loa–a bright orange. Sadly, it isn’t an ever-bloomer or even a rebloomer. I get to see this splash of tangerine for about three weeks, and then it’s gone till next year.

When we moved here, our front garden included five Stella De Oro lilies–and I hated them. I didn’t like the way the flowers died and dropped off the plant. The dead leaves were plain nasty. Anyway, I didn’t much care for the dandelion-yellow color, and maybe should’ve cheered when, after about three years, the plants stopped blooming. Instead, it made me mad. Just a bunch of uninspiring green spikey leaves. Yuck.

I knew nothing about the care and feeding of daylilies, and yes, they take a bit of work. After yanking those poor Stella’s out of the ground and donating them to a sister-in-law, I spent about five years planting a variety of things in that space. All did well in year one and died by year two.

“Plant daylilies,” said a master gardener friend. My response was to grumble about the Stella’s. But then, out and about, I saw some amazing red and yellow spider daylilies. Had to have them. That’s when I took the time to learn about daylily care and feeding.

They need daily deadheading while blooming. The name says it all. DAY LILY, meaning the flower blooms and dies within about 24 hours. Every morning, I walk around the yard with a bucket and pick off dead lilies. Sometimes I have to fight the bees for them.

The spikey leaves turn a nasty brown as the plant begins to die back. Keeping the plant free of dead leaves is also a daily chore.

Finally, about every three years, the plants need to be dug up and divided. If the daylily gets too big, it will stop blooming.

The good news about daylilies? They grow in just about any soil, can take quite a bit of drought without watering, they’re difficult to kill, and way low on the deer’s list of favorite munchies. They come in a variety of colors, bloom times, and sizes. Usually hardy in planting zones 4 through 9, Latin name Hemerocallis.

Try one.

Asymmetrical Parterre

I love parterre gardens. For anyone who doesn’t know, a parterre is a symmetrical garden on flat ground. The design is typically formal and ornate. Maybe French. Maybe Victorian.

My parterre started with a truck frame. I’m not sure where it came from, but it lay flat on the ground for years. Finally, Jim and I supported it upright so that it forms an archway for short people–we are short–with four openings.

And that’s why the garden is asymmetrical. With four openings, we don’t have a true middle.

For another few years, I turned this space into what I called The Garden of Rusty Things. I even had a sign made.

I planted daylilies, a climbing rose, and clematis Happy Jack under the truck frame. A rock pile supported a 500 gallon gas tank (subsequently sold), surrounded by myriad rusty items–old garden tools, a wagon, a sink, a gate, an iron bed.

This spring, I decided I had enough pavers and stepping stones to create a parterre. I wanted a pond or a fountain, a bench, some plants. Keeping it simple. We surrounded a square bit of level ground with the stepping stones, creating a walkway.

We had black plastic trash bags on hand, purchased last year to cover the raised beds in hopes of killing weed seeds. Bags went under the stepping stones, again as a weed preventer. Pea pebbles are planned between the stepping stones, with rubber edging on the outside edge and pavers along the inner to keep the pea pebbles in place.

Stay tuned. Next week–the pond.

Heroes and Villains

Whatever happened to stories that distinguished the hero from the villain by the color of their hats? White for the hero, black for the villain. Where are the villains stroking their handlebar mustaches and laughing maniacally while tying the helpless, hapless heroine to the train tracks? And where the heroes galloping up on a white horse at the last possible second to save said heroine?  

For me, reading Sir Walter Scott’s Lochinvar—I think in high school—changed forever my perspective of what a hero could be.   Lochinvar comes too late to the wedding, forcing him to steal the fair Ellen from her family. Is kidnapping heroic?

I’ve written about the character milestones I use as a way to organize character arcs. In my latest work in progress, I discovered—with amazement—that my hero and my villain had virtually identical histories.

Both lost mothers. Both had emotionally unavailable—absent—fathers. Both had conditional love and support from replacement mothers. Both were sent far from home to learn their craft under the same demanding and morally-suspect teacher.  Both were forced to accept culturally defined roles that curtailed their freedom.

The difference between them, what made one the hero and one the villain, had more to do with conscious choices than with nature or nurture. Neither was born inherently good or evil.

Leaving me to ponder—am still pondering—the difference between them. Resiliency? Stubbornness? Positivity? Sheer dumb luck?

The challenge for me is to sort through the little choices they made and will make as I tell the story. I need to sketch their emotional connections to those choices, to get at what motivates them to be hero and villain. I’m a bit daunted.

Meanwhile, the query quest continues. No news on that front, but I hope there will be soon. Please keep fingers crossed for me.

Cloudy Sunday

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It’s been raining, which makes wanting to get out in the garden more difficult than if it were sunny. But the daffodils and tulips wait for no woman, and so the weeding has begun.

The potatoes are in as are the beets, the sugar snap peas, and the romaine lettuce seeds. Green lettuce plants are on the deck, hardening off. The asparagus has been fertilized and now we wait for the first luscious shoots.

Toward the end of April, I’ll see how my basement-planted Ophelia eggplant and tomatoes are doing, and think about setting them outdoors.

It’s spring.

Cloudy Sunday

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A look at next spring’s asparagus.

The calendar shows it’s still fall, but it feels more like winter has arrived. The garden’s done for this year. All that’s left to do is wait for January seed catalogs to arrive.