Mad March

Well, it’s arrived – March, that is. The sun finally peeking over the backyard fence (note the reference here ;) ) to flood a corner of the patio for a few hours of a morning. In a few weeks’ time it will fill the area completely. And, with relief on my part, at the end of the month in the UK the clocks move forward. Yay! It’s easy to remember: clocks spring forward in Spring, and fall back in the Fall (although I do wish they would do away with this fiasco).

100_6848Which all means it’s time to get working in the garden again (another Yay!) and start bringing it to life for the summer. Of course, there’s already plenty signs of it out there. We’ve had snowdrops in flower since the start of January, an early flush of daffodils with lots more to come out but the crowning glory is our front lawn, which is a wonderful splash of colour from crocuses.

100_6855Every year my husband puts crocus into pots and planters for spring. Once they’ve gone over, he replants the bulbs in the lawn. Over the years, the display increases, to our utter enjoyment and the delight of many passers by. Even children stop and admire them, smiling and pointing as they all walk past on the way to school.

Meanwhile, over in the back garden, the current delight is the hellebores. I’ve several different types in flower; my favourites being a very dark maroon one, which has been in flower for weeks and a lovely plum coloured one whose flowers face up, instead of down like most. I’ve also a pink tinged white one that is in full bud and about to burst open, and several pure white ones. These light up the otherwise boring borders until the hyacinths, followed by bluebells and everything else  appears.

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100_6862I never put the garden to bed for winter. I always leave it as it is once summer’s over, never removing dead plants or stems, no pruning or tidying, much preferring to let nature take its course and look after things itself. I mean, Mother Nature doesn’t prune shrubs and sweep up dead leaves, does she?

I firmly believe leaving everything alone helps plants survive the winter; the long, dead stalks and stems protect the base and roots of plants from the frosts, nipping these first rather than attacking lower down. The birds and insects appreciate things left as they are too. It might all look a bit messy and unkempt, but it is worth it if not just for the many species of birds that visit every day. They’re always hunting and foraging amongst the brittle stems and detritus which provide winter shelter for many insects. Also, starting the regime of hacking and cutting back and clipping now provides me with much needed exercise after being cooped up indoors all winter.

This year, howeve100_6860r, plans have had to alter slightly in that during a recent gale, one of the fence panels was destroyed. The whole fence was only replaced three years ago following wind damage. It belongs to our neighbours but we have taken responsibility for repairs this time because Steve is very ill and his wife, Claire, is far too petite and, let’s be fair, far too concerned over looking after Steve to worry about things such as gardens and fencing. Their garden is tidy, and with no dogs or children to worry about, so it’s not a problem. The trouble is, until the panel is replaced, I can’t really begin putting in new plants and shrubs to replace what was damaged or destroyed because they will only be trampled and crushed during any fence repair, so I’m busy racking my brains what to do with that area for the time being. Any suggestions?

Scents for a Woman

I love candles. Especially scented ones. I burn them all the time, summer and winter, and get really excited when I have a new fragrance to try. Recently, I ordered three large jar candles with an oriental theme. They are perfect for this time of year – warming and comforting – frankincense, Moroccan argan oil and oud oasis. Absolutely gorgeous. I can close my eyes and imagine wandering through an eastern bazaar, complete with colourful rugs, vivid ceramics and succulent dates and figs…with, of course, hot and sunny weather!

My favourite fragrances are lemon lavender, verbena, vanilla and sandalwood. Lemon, lavender and verbena bring back memories of lovely holidays in the south of France, especially Menton (famous for its lemon festival), while vanilla reminds me of ice cream and sunny days on the beach when I was little. Sandalwood is a masculine scent. In fact, most of the heroes in the stories I write use sandalwood soap!

It’s interesting how smell can evoke particular memories, whipping us back in time in a heartbeat. The emotional response we have is said to be governed by this association, which explains why some people love a particular scent and others absolutely hate it. Recently I was in a restaurant where they served up Spotted Dick and Custard – a traditional British steamed fruit pudding, evoking memories of my beloved grandmother who always served this pudding on Wednesdays, as a treat for finishing up our dinners of liver and onions. Yuk!

What about you? Any favourite scents and associated memories?

What’s your favorite season of the year?

So…it’s been another strange winter. While others around the country have been deluged with rain, snow and wind, our Pacific Northwest weather has been quiet and almost balmy in comparison. Even our mountains are desperate for snowfall. We’re all concerned because that snowpack feeds our rivers and tributaries, and by default, irrigates our crops.

These hills should be covered in snow.

These hills should be covered in snow.

As someone who likes seasons to look different, I wish (and I say this very quietly) we could have a bit more snow in winter. This is our second year of no real measurable lowland snow, and I love a walk in the snow. I’m the first one out the door when the flakes begin to cascade down. I like Spring to be full of rain and flowers. Summer to be warm and rejuvenating. And Fall to be alive with changing leaf colors, then fading into the hibernating chill of winter.

We are very, very lucky to live here. We have our issues, mostly flooding when we get too much rain. Sadly, that’s meant some loss of life, most recently with the Oso slide in early 2014 where we lost 41 people. So I’m not complaining. I know we are lucky.

I just wish I’d seen a bit of snow.

How about you? How did Old Man Winter treat you this year? Were you part of the January blizzard in the Northeast? Sunny and warm all winter long? Is winter your least favorite season? Which one do you like best?

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It’s The Getting There

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Does this picture look familiar? It’s pretty much looks like the seats Kris and I had on our trip to Cancun. I wish now that we had of taken pictures because it’s still almost unbelivable. Add to the close confines, … Continue reading

TV vs. Real Life by Valerie J. Patterson

Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts by authors that are just filled with anger, disbelief, and irritation over the season opening episode of Mike & Molly.  Apparently, Molly goes to a writing camp for several months and returns home with an advance check for a book she has yet to write.

Yep, you read that right.  Some publisher who attended the writer’s camp gave her an advance–and a hefty one at that–for a book she hasn’t written.  As she tells it, she wrote a chapter or two and the publisher loved it so much he gave her a check for thousands of dollars–enough to pay cash for a sports car–and a deadline to finish the manuscript.

The writers’ blogs I’ve been reading have the authors in an uproar.  All of them are peeved that Molly:

  1. Got an advance on a book not yet written
  2. Is an unknown, unproven writer who got an advance on a book not yet written
  3. That the TV show erroneously depicts being a struggling writer as anything BUT difficult, disappointing, and–at times–displeasing

They’re not entirely wrong.  In real life, Molly is more likely to have gotten some writing tips from said publisher–if she got that much at a writing camp.

But this is television.  A comedy nonetheless.

Anyway, I decided to continue to watch the show to see how her progress goes, and I have to say the episode that aired Monday, February 9th is probably going to be ripped to shreds in blog posts by writers that exist in the real world…and I’m going to be one of them.

Molly takes her completed manuscript to her publisher and then has a follow-up meeting with said publisher.  She’s given a suggestion by said publisher that her book was good but could actually be a phenomenal success if suddenly–in the throes of passion–her heroine is transported to a new era in time.  She must bed a man in each time period she lands in hopes of finally landing back in the present and in the arms of her one true love.  Molly–afraid to reject the suggestion–goes home and tries unsuccessfully to make the revisions her publisher  has asked for.

As an aside here, allow me to tell you about one of my own encounters with a publisher.  My novel, Montana Reins, is a western about a strong-willed. stubborn, intelligent horse trainer making a name for herself in a man’s arena.  One publisher I submitted the synopsis to asked for the entire manuscript, which I sent.  I got back a positive response telling me the publishing house was very interested in signing me, but only if I was willing to make a couple changes to the manuscript.  Here are their requests (mind you, I had to pick which one I was willing to adhere to):

  1. Could I change the time period to some point in the future (my choice of time) and have the entire book take place in outer space; or
  2. Could I rewrite the book to 1700s Ireland

I passed on the publisher.  I have faith in my work and had I thought the plot would work in either time period, I would have written it in one or the other to begin with.  And, another publisher took the manuscript as written.  Now, let’s check in with Molly and see what she’s up to…

Back at the publisher’s office, she admits she cannot make the changes requested.  The publisher stands up and snidely tells her he owns her and will destroy her unless she does as he demands.  Dejected and demoralized, Molly goes home and works on the book.  Then we see her at the office of her publisher once more only this time she pulls a fast trick on him and sneakily gets him to change his mind.  It’s not enough that he falls for her ploy, but he also shrinks back and gives in to her demands.

Only in a television comedy could this happen between a writer and a publisher.  What upsets me is not that this isn’t a real world depiction of the relationship between a writer and a publisher, but that it passes as comedy.

I am secure enough in my talent to not be offended by what has taken place between Molly and her publisher.  However, as a television viewer I am disappointed in the plot, the characterization, and the dialogue.  My biggest question is not: Could this happen in real life?  No, my biggest question is: What has happened to sitcom writing today?

Until next time, I hope your television viewing is something to laugh at!

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SPRING!!

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FIRST THE NEW BABY PICTURE–ADDISON!!  After a very bumpy start she is now very healthy!! Well here I am late again with my blog, can I blame it on Basketball Season?, or my computer that ended up in the shop … Continue reading

Happy President’s Day in the USA, Valentine’s Day, AND Mardi Gras

Today is President’s Day here in the USA- a day where we honor our presidents. When I was in elementary school, we had two holidays out of school in the early part of the new year – one was George Washington’s Birthday and one was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I always thought it was cool that “Honest Abe” and “Cannot Tell a Lie George” were celebrated so close together.

When Martin Luther King day came along, the powers that be combined George and Abe’s birthdays into one day- kind of like two kids having to share a birthday cake, huh? As the years went on, it seemed more and more companies didn’t take this day off any longer. I still take the day and allow my office to be closed. These men did a lot for our country- not least of which was one serving as the general in chief in the fight to establish this country and the other actually saving the young union when it was torn asunder by the Civil War. I, for one, honor them on this day and every day.

This past weekend was Valentines Day and I would be remiss as a romance writer if I didn’t wish that you all had a wonderful day. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, otherwise known as Mardi Gras. It’s the last day of feasting before Lent so if you give up something for Lent, better eat your fill today and tomorrow.

Happy various holidays this week! Enjoy!