There Will Be Tomatoes

Why is my deck wet and what is that stuff falling from the sky?

It’s raining. In Seattle. Perhaps the very definition of “That’s hardly news!” But this year, it is. You see, up until it started late yesterday, it had been 82 days since we last had more than the barest measurable rain. And I love the rain. I missed it. Then, in the space of a few days we went from 70-80 degree days to 50s or 60s, and dropping low into the 40s at night. And my green, green view from my porch is now looking like this:

Weren’t they all green just yesterday??

If you just arrived here today, when it’s cold, wet, and windy, you’d swear it could be a winter day. It wouldn’t be the first time we skipped an entire season;  a couple of years ago winter lasted until June and we jumped straight into summer, skipping spring altogether. It can be…disconcerting. At least, it is for me. The wind is howling, rain hitting the windows, there’s a chill in the air and I’m thinking of building a fire, and yet….

And yet this morning I picked these:

Hard to believe these were once considered unfit to eat or poisonous–and tell me all you want it’s a fruit, to me it’s a veggie and one of the few I love. Don’t pop my bubble!

And then, so inspired, I trekked up to my apple tree and cleared one branch of apples.

Yes, I said ONE branch!

So you can see why I’m having trouble with the idea of winter suddenly being here. (then again, some sunny days in October aren’t that unusual, so who knows?) I fully realize that the reason I’m drowning in tomatoes and apples likely is that lovely 82 day dry, warm, and sunny streak. It certainly isn’t because of me; the tomato plants are lucky if I remember to water them, and I feed them once, after planting. The apple tree I ignore altogether, except to prune away crossed branches sometime in January. And then, only the ones I can reach. Still, every third or fourth year, it goes insane and every branch ends up like this:

At least the deer won’t have far to reach

So, what does this have to do with anything? It struck me that this sort of confused, sudden transition instead of the usual gradual one is somewhat like finishing a book. My writing routine is so ingrained, half the time I’m up and at the computer before I remember I’m not in the middle of a story at the moment. Like the plants that got used to the sun and now are suddenly looking at rain and cold, I’m in a startled kind of in between. Yes, there’s another story on the way, the synopsis already on the way to my editor. But in between now and starting that book, there’s that unsettled period. I’ll knit, of course, that’s a given. The rest of the time I could fritter away playing computer games or catching up on movies I’ve recorded. I should use it to finish cleaning out my garage before new doors finally come (a sad story I won’t go into here). But somehow I think I’ll be taking out some of those odd little bits and pieces of stories I accumulate when I’m in the middle of a contracted book. Things that call to me enough that I know I have to write the bits down or they won’t leave me alone. Things that may become books of their own, be woven into books already planned, or become a part of a story as yet unformed.

The only thing I can be sure of is, as long as the seasons keep coming, there will be tomatoes. And apples.

And stories. Thankfully for me, that’s not news. That’s life, for a storyteller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finished the Book, Now Where’s the Bulldozer?

I finished a book this week. The second Cutter’s Code installment. What does this mean? First and foremost for me, it means post book crash. That’s why I’m writing this now, before it hits. Today, a rare warm, sunny October day in the Pacific Northwest, I shall be taking myself outside as soon as this post is finished, to enjoy it before the rain begins. I’m not complaining, mind you, I love it here, and I adore the rain, but days like this are special.

But I digress. There’s another major project that has to come between the end of one book and the start of the next. And that is….my office. I am not the tidiest of writers. In my old, much smaller office, my beloved DH used to try to navigate through the piles on the floor with a pained expression, to which I responded, “There aren’t too many piles, your feet are just too big!” I need, either in actuality or in my mind, everything close at hand. Notes, reference books, scene lists, 753 post-it notes, and in this case, since Cutter is a series, a much-marked copy of the first book, and the bible for the series. The bible, if you don’t know, is a notebook full of all the details on all the stories and characters for all the books…this is something I haven’t done on my two previous series, Redstone, Inc. and Trinity West. (boy that’s going back a ways!) I can already see how much easier my life would have been if I had.

But again I digress. Why? Because I’m putting off that task of bringing in the figurative bulldozer and cleaning up this mess! So in the interest of procrastination, and because I often get asked about how and where I work, I thought I’d give you a tour of the disaster area.

First, an overview:

You thought I was kidding about the bulldozer? And this is just the desk.

Many of the things here are common to many offices, computer, printers, phone, lamp. But then there’s my office knitting. Yes, I said office knitting. Something relatively mindless that I can work on while reading, waiting for downloads, or that most hated of chores, talking on the phone. In this case, it’s a dish towel in a stitch pattern I wanted to try, shown here lying atop a pile of contracts I need to sort through:

What do you mean, not everybody has knitting handy in their office?? And no, I haven’t accidentally knitted that video cable into it. Yet.

Directly in front of me are the most crucial things. First book in the series for constant reference, hence the post-its. Index cards that are the bones of the original synopsis. Scene list. Knitting pattern in case I forget where I am after having lived in another world for a while. All the things I mentioned before, plus one very important reminder.

Good thing this book is seven months old, or I could be accused of blatant product placement!

The reminder is this:

What can I say, it appealed to my warped sense of humor.

I bought this stone originally as a gift for a friend who used the phrase often. But before I could present it circumstances changed and it was no longer applicable. But one day I realized this was something I, as a writer needed to be reminded of: the value of editing, changing, cutting and rewriting. Indeed, nothing is etched in stone except those words.

And lastly, a gift from one of the best editors in the business, full of truth and wry humor:

Why are those hallways so darned long??

Now, before I get stuck in the very long hallway of cleaning up this mess, since I don’t have that bulldozer, I’m going to go sit in the sun for a while. Maybe that’s my door opening, for now. Rain will be here soon enough.

6 Things I Learned About Writing From Gardening

But I don’t know anything about roses…

As we head into fall here in the northwest, it’s perhaps an odd time for a post about gardening. But I made a fascinating discovery recently. About a rose bush. I was never a big rose fan because, well, thorns. (and lets not get into the thorns on the blackberries that run rampant here and threaten to take over everything–I have scars from fighting them back) I also had always thought they were finicky. There was one rose bush at my house, and it was there when we bought it, a light yellow rose with a lovely fragrance. I appreciated it, took them inside to perfume the air, and our relationship pretty much ended there. Since I obviously knew nothing about roses, I otherwise pretty much ignored it. It flourished. On the perpetually windy, salt-air laden side of my house, it flourished. A light went on in my head. This brings me to…

Lesson 1Never assume you know what you don’t know. Do your homework.

Then one day I bought this tiny rose bush in a 6″ pot simply because I liked the color of the flower in the picture on the tag. There were no flowers on the plant itself, and I had no way of knowing if A)it would actually bloom and B)if the flower would look anything like the picture–it could have been tagged wrong, after all. It sat in that little pot for quite some time out on my front porch. I would walk by it and wonder “Why did you buy a rose bush?” Finally out of guilt–not, I confess, over the plight of the neglected plant, but over the money I’d spent on it–I replanted it in the biggest pot I had handy. That was two years ago. Today,it’s grown into what you see in the first picture here.

Lesson 2:  Sometimes you just have to have faith that things will turn out and plunge ahead.

The first year, this rose got so huge it started taking over the sidewalk it was next to. I had to prune it way back. Wrestled with the thorns, wishing I had a pair of gloves that could stand up to rose thorns and at least take a swipe at blackberry thorns. Bloody but unbowed, I finally got it done. And the next spring it exploded into what you see here.

Lesson 3: Edits and revisions can be bloody hell, but in the end, they’re usually worth it.

This year, while duplicating the pruning of the year before, I inadvertently cut a stem with a lovely little bud on the end, looking just about to open. On impulse, I stripped the lower leaves off and stuck it in ground in the planter, thinking it might at least last long enough for the bud to open. It looked something like this.

What can it hurt to try?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, it looks like this:

How did THAT happen??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 4: Never throw away those little buds of ideas, because they might grow into something beautiful.

Early this spring, I bought an artichoke plant. With about as much knowledge about it as the rose. (Are you noticing a pattern here?) Except this time I did know my neighbor had two that actually produced many luscious ‘chokes. Again the little pot sat neglected for a while, because I didn’t know quite where to put it to replicate my neighbors successful location. Since it was in even a tinier
pot, I knew I had to do something, even temporarily, so again I grabbed the biggest planter I had handy and plopped it in. And as is frequent with impulse buys, I then belatedly talked to my neighbor and was told artichokes don’t generally produce the first year. I was fine with that; it’s a not-unattractive plant anyway. And yet….

So much for “You can’t do that!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 5: Just because they say you can’t doesn’t mean you have to listen.

You might notice in that picture that there is a second, tiny artichoke just adjacent to the big one. The first got big enough to be harvested and actually eaten. And behind it, the second one began to grow even faster.

All I needed was some room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson 6: Never hesitate to use it all up on the story you’re working on now. There will be more behind it, ready to grow and harvest.

These obviously aren’t all the things I needed to know. That never ends. The learning never stops, or shouldn’t. And on some level, I already knew these six, but I’ve been at this a long time, and sometimes it’s good to go back and visit the basics, lest I forget.

So now, in these last days of sunshine and growing, I’m going to go outside and dig in the dirt.