Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

Note: I wrote this years ago, before I was lucky enough to land an agent and become a published author. In a few days, my third novel will be released and yesterday I handed in the revisions for my fourth. I'm all out of words for now and my garden needs me, so you'll have to forgive this somewhat dated story. I hope it makes you laugh.

My youngest daughter is leaving for college in the fall. At least I hope so. Despite dire warnings issued by my friends about Empty Nest Syndrome, I figure that’s the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve done my job: she has all of her digits and no outstanding warrants. How can I be mourning her childhood when I haven’t figured out how to turn her room into a small-batch brewery? Besides, from what I understand I’ll be lucky if she and her sister don’t graduate from college and then try to crawl back into my womb.

I’ve got a bigger problem. After I had my teeth cleaned yesterday I chatted with the nice ladies at the desk. One asked if she could buy my novel yet. I told her I was still trying to land an agent, and that in the current publishing market that was like trying to become a supermodel. (I could have said that my book might suck, but she wants to believe in me, so I didn’t.)

“Don’t you have an agent from your last book?” I published a book about animal intelligence ten years ago. You can buy it on Amazon today for four cents. That’s right. You give them a nickel and they’ll give you my book, plus change. Still star struck? Anyway, like I said, these ladies are nice. I’m not just teeth to them.

So I explain that I sold the book directly to the publisher and that my editor now only sells health books (how annoying) and my junior editor founded some multimedia enterprise and…The dental ladies’ eyes are glazing over. Then I remember something about the junior editor.

“He married, um, that actress, you know, the one from, um…” They are looking more hopeful. Their good manners might earn them a tidbit. If only I could remember the name of the actress, or even the movie.

“The Breakfast Club!”

“Oh, her!”

“I know her!”

Of course we all know her. Everyone knows her. And it goes without saying that you know her, that you’re shouting her name in your head, or even out loud. And you’re wondering how someone as stupid as me even manages to find the letters on the keyboard to get this down. You are thinking that because you don’t have what I have, at least not yet. You don’t have Empty Brain Syndrome.

But the dental ladies do.

“I can see her face.”

“Me, too. She’s got red hair.”

“I’m going to google it.”

“No!” They stare at me. “I mean, let’s try to remember.”

I do this a lot. I’m not going down easily or quietly. I’ve discovered that most of the time I can retrieve the information I’m looking for. Eventually. As long as I can hear it breathing in the foggy swamp that is my memory, I will not rest. Yesterday I was on my game and hunted that sucker down.

“Molly Ringwald. That’s the one, right?”

“That’s her!” the dental ladies cheered.

Other days I feel like I’m on Jeopardy, playing against that guy that set the all-time record. You know the one. Ken What’s-his-face. I keep pushing my buzzer, standing there like an idiot with my mouth open until Alex Trebek (didn’t even have to pause for that one—hah!) gives me that supercilious little smirk and I step over to the podium and smack him.

The one person who admires my retrieval efforts is my husband. Days after we both fail to recall a name, or a place, I will tell him what it is and he will be amazed. Or pretend to be amazed, which is just as good.

“Well done!” Delivered in his BBC English, as if I had made an improbable whatever-you-call-it in cricket.

I left the dental ladies and stopped at the nursery to get a tomatillo plant. A thirty-something showed me where they were and pointed out a purple variety. Last year I made purple pesto from purple basil but this seemed wrong.

“It wouldn’t be salsa verde anymore, would it?” I mused.

“No,” she said. “What’s Spanish for ‘purple’?”

Hmmm. My poor brain. Barely had time to dust off from the last mission.

 “Is it marrón?” she offered.

“I don’t think so. But that’s close.” I liked that we were puzzling it out together, me and someone with a functioning hippocampus.

“I’m going to google it later,” she said.

“I’m going to think about it,” I said.

A guy walked by carrying a large plant.

“Hector, what’s ‘purple’ in Spanish?”

No! Don’t tell me! My hands flew to my ears and I hit myself in the head with the tomatillo plant.

“Morado.”

“It’s morado,” she said to me, rubbing it in.

Empty Brain Syndrome be damned. I would have had that before I got to the car.

 

 

The View from Here

I'm not sold on astrology but I'll cop to one thing: I'm a Capricorn and I'm truly a goat. 

I'm stubborn and will eat almost anything and, most of all, I like to be on top of things. Yes, "on top of things" as in organized and up-to-date, but also literally.

Beachy Head, East Sussex, England

Beachy Head, East Sussex, England

I know exactly where I got this proclivity: My father. He was a mountaineer with first ascents in the Alps. I haven't taken up technical climbing (although my daughter has), but I do like summits.

My father defying gravity.

My father defying gravity.

His idea of courtship was dragging my mother up a mountain. It worked.

His idea of courtship was dragging my mother up a mountain. It worked.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a peak-bagger--someone who collects summits. I don't keep track of the mountains I climb; I just love being on them. 

Luckily, my best friend feels the  same way.

He doesn't like venturing as close to the edge as I do, though, which means I'm the one in charge of cleaning out the gutters. 

It's funny, isn't it? We inherit so much from our parents, through nature and through nurture, but it can be a funny little quirk that ends up meaning so much. Mountains speak to me, as they did to my father, and living in Virginia, where I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains every day, is paradise.

Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the view. And don't worry about the edge. That's where you can see the best.

DSC01188.JPG

How Not to Crash-land an Ending

Endings are my nemesis. The first indication came during The Call. After my agent-to-be went on at length about how much she loved my debut—hey, I wasn’t going to stop her—she asked if I might reconsider the ending.

“Of course.” At that moment I would’ve changed my gender, if she’d asked.

“It needs to be a little less tidy.”

“Rookie mistake. I’m embarrassed.”

“Don’t be.”

I rewrote the ending and she was happy. A year later, we spoke on the phone after she’d read my second novel.

“It’s wonderful,” she said, “but I’m wondering if you’ll reconsider the ending.”

“Too neat?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Sigh. Why did I make the same mistake again? In both instances, I’d created an ending reminiscent of the closing scene in a Hollywood film where the ensemble cast gathers around a table. Everyone is smiling, but there is a hint of sadness, because unfortunate things did happen. Perhaps someone died. The person known for joking tells a joke, the couple you wanted to be together is together. It’s a Heartwarming Moment. That’s the ending I wrote. Twice. With an actual table.

 

Here’s another thing: overly tidy endings are a pet peeve of mine.

I know why I fell into the trap. I’d spent 300 pages putting my characters through all the trouble I could dream up, one cartload of unmitigated misery and misfortune after another. My poor characters. I love them so. By the end of the book I had to make it up to them. I’d been cruel for so long and now it was time to say goodbye. I got soft.

When it’s time to wrap things up, you strive to let the air out of the balloon slowly and it comes out all at once. Pfffttt. The characters go flat. You want to get the reader out of the story, push them out of the airplane, and the ending is the parachute. It’s easy to make a mistake. Let them drift down too slowly and they’ll hang slack in their straps, napping. Or if the parachute fails, or you neglected to supply one, and the reader is in freefall to stony ground. I recently read a book that ended like this:

Endings, by their nature, are let-downs. A few chapters left, 85% on an e-reader, and if the writer has done a good job so far, the reader is wishing it weren’t so. But it has to end. It’s time to leave the playground and go home, where there are chores, where life is waiting. A successful ending eases this transition, but if it eases too successfully, the end of the book is as ordinary as life itself, and that’s not right either. The beginning of a book should feel like leaping onto a moving train; the ending is the opposite. Off is harder than on and it’s going to hurt. Some choices are better than others, but no one is going to approve of everything you have to do to get out of your story.

When I’m stuck for how to finish the damn thing, I look to the first chapters. I’m not suggesting you loop the story back to the beginning, rather that you might find a moment, a symbol, a snippet of dialogue that picks up a central theme, and that you can use as the final note.

If you’ve built conflict through the entire narrative, with luck there’s bit left as you near the end. Leave it there. Allow a secret to remain hidden. Let the door slam on someone’s ass. If you don’t, if you round off all the corners, the reader will turn the last page and eagerly rejoin the real world instead of lingering in her chair, wondering what has transpired and what might happen next. Even squirrels like to linger a bit.

That last line isn’t perfect but, like I said, endings are my nemesis.

 

 

 

Spring in November

Something strange has been happening in my garden and it's got me thinking.  Not surprising, really, because the garden is a beautiful place to have a ponder, and lately, when beauty and grace have seemed in short supply, I'll take it wherever I can find it, even if it means weeding. 

Like much of the East Coast, our unusually warm summer has segued into an unusually warm autumn. Our first frost is four weeks behind schedule and counting. Raised in a Vermont snowbank, I'm one of those freaks who loves the cold, but even so you won't catch me complaining about this weather. Because instead of succumbing to brittle brown dormancy, my garden thinks it's spring.

Seedlings are popping up everywhere, fooled by the warmth into putting down roots and reaching for the sun.

Cosmo seedling

Cosmo seedling

Sunflower

Sunflower

Coriander

Coriander

A veritable forest of baby dill!

A veritable forest of baby dill!

 

I belong to the Tall Poppies Writers, a collective of smart, energetic, talented women authors, and grew poppies from seed packet the members received at last fall's conference. In early summer, they bloomed magnificently and when the winds blew and the rain lashed down, the tall slender stem leaned on each other, just as they were meant to. Every time I saw the flowers, I thought of my Tall Poppy sisters, and was heartened. These seedlings won't have time to bloom but I know I will see them in a few months time. 

The weather has not only been warm, but also extremely dry. Every few days I water the fall vegetables I planted and take a few extra minutes to include the brave, misguided seedlings. I can't help it. 

And that's what got me thinking. A little extra warmth was all it took to make November feel like May. Most of it happened without my intervention, but sprinkling some water now and then has made a difference. Not everything will bloom again; most will need the patience to wait for spring. But the seedlings themselves give me hope and remind me it won't be brown and dry in the garden forever.

Just look at the bouquet from my November garden.

Like you, I've been appalled, dismayed, angered, and disheartened by acts of hatred, stories of abuse and crimes against decency over the last several months. On this Election Day, I'm taking a lesson from my garden. The days may still be getting longer, but with a little warmth and a sprinkling of generosity, we can't help but grow, lean on each other, and reach toward the sun.

It's spring in November. Go high.  #ImWithHer

Giveaways Galore!

Popping out of First Draft Prison to let you know about two giveaways. The first one ends tomorrow, so don't delay!

On Goodreads, I'm offering FIVE SIGNED ARCs (advance review copies) of ALL THE BEST PEOPLE, which will be published May 2017. Enter here for a chance to win!

And on my Facebook page, I'm giving away two books:  THE VANISHING YEAR, by New York Times bestselling author, Kate Moretti, and my second novel, MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE. Kate's is an homage to Du Maurier's Rebecca--nail-biting psychological suspense--and mine, well, you can read about it here. Giveaway ends 8 November. Both giveaways are US only. (Sorry!) 

Did you enter both? Good! We'll be having lots of giveaways for ALL THE BEST PEOPLE in the coming months, so if you add it to your To-Read shelf you will receive notification.

Back to prison for me, at least until I make my daily word count goal. Meanwhile, I will leave you with this, the view from my prison. :) 

IMG_1518.JPG

Show Me the Honey

The two hives of bees we installed in April are doing so well we decided to steal some honey from More Bees. (Want to start at the bee-ginning? Go here.) When we visit the hives for inspections, we use smoke to calm the bees. That's not appropriate for honey harvesting because the first thing the bees do when the fire alarm goes off is poke open the capped honeycombs and fill their honey stomachs. Don't you do that when you smell smoke?

Instead, we spray a felt-lined fume board with an almond oil concoction which drives the bees off that layer further into the hive. Worked like a stinky charm! Here is a single frame completely full of capped honey.

Capped honeycomb is not always pale; it depends on what the bees were feeding on. This frame has lighter honey at the top and darker at the bottom, showing how as the flowering plants change, so does the honey color.

Here's a close-up where you can see the color variation. Pollen is every color you can imagine and it does not necessarily correspond to the flower color. For instance, the borage flower is a gorgeous periwinkle blue and the pollen is grey.

We stole six frames, gave More Bees six fresh ones and high-tailed it to the garage. That medieval tool you see my husband employing below punctures the waxy caps of the honey cells. The extractor is a centrifuge; two frames go in at a time. 

It's meant to be hand-cranked but my husband got the brilliant idea of using a hand drill to speed things up. The honey gets thrown out of the cells, hits the wall of the extractor and runs to the bottom.

Bits of comb inevitably get mixed up with the honey and need to be strained out. 

Ta-da! Isn't it gorgeous? We extracted a quart of honey from each of the six frames and will keep a couple of the larger jars in reserve in case our bees need some over the winter. We hope they will have stockpiled the fifty pounds they need themselves, but we want to be sure.

Thank you, More Bees! And thanks also for pollinating our garden in the process. What a miraculous creature is the bee!

 

Gardenalia

I've clawed my way out from under an avalanche of summer squash to give a progress report on the garden. We've come a long way from the plotting and planning stage two months ago. Here's the overview.

The sunflowers (Velvet Queen) are over seven feet high.That's borage below. The bees love and so do we; it's edible.

The sunflowers (Velvet Queen) are over seven feet high.That's borage below. The bees love and so do we; it's edible.

We're growing three kinds of beans: Kentucky Blue pole beans, Romano bush beans and French dwarf purple velour beans. Intermixed are Limelight Four-o'clocks which help keep pests away from the beans. Japanese beetles are attracted to them in particular. If they nibble, they die! These flowers are not hardy so I will dig them up in the fall and store the roots.

We're growing three kinds of beans: Kentucky Blue pole beans, Romano bush beans and French dwarf purple velour beans. Intermixed are Limelight Four-o'clocks which help keep pests away from the beans. Japanese beetles are attracted to them in particular. If they nibble, they die! These flowers are not hardy so I will dig them up in the fall and store the roots.

So pretty!

So pretty!

The ten tomato plants are testing the limits of their cages and you can see the fruit near the bottom. Those two are Hillbillies, one of our favorites from the last two years. 

The ten tomato plants are testing the limits of their cages and you can see the fruit near the bottom. Those two are Hillbillies, one of our favorites from the last two years. 

The red onions are bulbing nicely.

The red onions are bulbing nicely.

Melon (French Chanterais) and summer squash (Delta crookneck) taking over the world, per usual. We're also growing Delicata squash, Early Butternut and Lambkin melon.

Melon (French Chanterais) and summer squash (Delta crookneck) taking over the world, per usual. We're also growing Delicata squash, Early Butternut and Lambkin melon.

Delta squash blossom with a bee inside. 

Delta squash blossom with a bee inside. 

My husband built this attractive ladder for the Eureka cucumbers. They are interplanted with nasturium and dill (BFFs). I made my first batch of bread-and-butter pickles yesterday.

As wonderful as the vegetables are, it's the flowers that make me smile, especially these poppies, a daily reminder of my friends at Tall Poppy Writers. 

As wonderful as the vegetables are, it's the flowers that make me smile, especially these poppies, a daily reminder of my friends at Tall Poppy Writers

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my 50,000 little friends who helped make the garden such a success. Thanks, Bees and More Bees!

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my 50,000 little friends who helped make the garden such a success. Thanks, Bees and More Bees!

One final shot so you can see why working in this garden is hardly work. 

One final shot so you can see why working in this garden is hardly work. 

How's your garden faring? If you don't garden, what are you enjoying most right now from the farmer's market? 

Have a lovely day, everyone! 

Oh, Happy Day!

Look what I have--a new cover! And under that cover, that is, inside the book, will be lots of words that I went to a lot of trouble of arranging in a particular order. When the time comes (May 2017, or sooner, if you win a copy in one of the many giveaways we'll be having), I hope you will like how I arranged the words.

For now, let's just stare at the cover.

What do you think? Don't go telling me my baby is ugly because I won't hear you. I love this baby.

If you'd like to win a rough galley (no pretty baby cover--sorry), I'm hosting a giveaway on my Facebook page until 9 July. Just comment and share the post to enter. Go on, I'll wait.

Want to read what other authors had to say about ALL THE BEST PEOPLE? The full quotes are here, but I'll give you a sample platter.

“Not just the best people, but real people: authentic, quirky and troubled. I cared for them all."           Chris Bohjalian, author of The Sleepwalker and The Guest Room

“All The Best People unfurls the truth of three generations caught in a grandmother’s mysterious madness. Sonja Yoerg spins the story of a family on the brink of collapse—writing with tenderness, grace, and truth.”
           Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage

“All the Best People is powerful and haunting, a novel about betrayal and shame, acceptance and unconditional love. Book clubs will devour it.”
           Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and Echoes of Family

"Deftly and with the delicate brush of a master, Yoerg draws us into this brilliant, multi-generational saga of love, madness, mysticism and the markings they leave on a family. Beautifully rendered and aching in its portrayal of a mother’s slide into mental illness, All the Best People is destined to be a book club favorite."                 
           Christopher Scotton, author of The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

"This ambitious tale will enthrall readers with its lyrical prose and unforgettable characters. All the Best People is a mesmerizing read that will challenge, delight and redefine our notions of both weakness and resilience." 
           Lynda Cohen Loigman, author of The Two-Family House

“All the Best People is gorgeously written and chock-full of captivating and colorful characters. Unforgettable, your heart will break and swell in equal measure.”
          Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Year

"Yoerg has crafted a suspenseful and poignant tale of three generations of a Vermont family whose long-held secrets threaten to devour them whole. The novel is paced so perfectly and so dense with truly unique psychological drama, readers will need to be reminded to exhale.”             Amy Impellizzeri, award-winning author of Lemongrass Hope

"All the Best People is a powerful story of a family whose legacy of mental illness and betrayals nearly destroys them. Yoerg's writing keeps us on a high wire of tension as we seek salvation and hope alongside her characters. The lessons in this novel resonate long after the book is finished."                                                                                                                                                       Holly Robinson, author of Chance Harbor and Folly Cove

"With Yoerg’s lush and moving prose, the characters are realistic and bold, yet so compassionately portrayed that I fell in love with even the most unlikable ones. This book will stay with you long after you read the last page.”
           Amy Sue Nathan, author of The Good Neighbor and The Glass Wives

I'm grateful for the generosity of all these authors. They're busy people and reading a book is not a small task. I feel very lucky indeed.

I'm a pretty excitable person but I am VERY excited to share this book with you. In the meantime, Happy Fourth of July to you and yours! 

 

 

Greener Acres

You're all too young to remember, I'm sure, but there was a hilarious show called Green Acres about a couple, played by Eva Gabor and Eddie Alpert, who move from Manhattan to Hooterville for the farming life. My love of pigs undoubtedly stems from the show, which featured on  occasion the "son" of the Ziffles: Arnold, a very intelligent pig. Here's Mr. Douglas on his John Deere.

We don't have a tractor, but homesteading is nevertheless proceeding apace. 

As you can see, the greenhouse is replete with new life. I transplanted some of these darlings into the garden yesterday, so of course today it's been pouring nonstop. Luckily, the garden is on a slope. 

It's puddly! Potatoes are on the right. Those white domes are row covers--translucent cloth that keeps the bugs off plants, in this case the crucifery. What? Didn't you pay attention two posts ago? Cruciferous vegetables are cabbagey things. Shall we take a peek under the covers?

Look how happy they are! This trick won't work for every vegetable because some need pollination, like tomatoes and cucumbers. But if you're eating the leaves or the roots or the pre-flowers, or the roots, it's an option. It's a little warmer and more humid under there, which can also give plants a boost. 

Who's a pretty cabbage?

As big as the vegetable garden is, it's smaller than our ambitions. This plot, between two retaining walls, is ready for figs, herbs, flowering shrubs and berries: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants and gooseberries. I am a berry fiend and cannot wait for this to get going!

It's still raining in sheets as I write this but eventually the sun will return and those little transplants will start getting a grip. In the meantime, here's a sunrise shot from the other day. As Mr. Douglas said, "Green acres is the place to be!"

To all the moms, have a wonderful Mother's Day! 

Hive Talking

Yesterday morning the post office called to say our bees had arrived, so we jumped in the car, excited as little kids. We'd decided to become beekeepers last June while hiking in the Pyrenees, where it seemed every house had a couple of hives out back. In October, we'd ordered the bees as an anniversary present to ourselves. Finally the bees were here!

IMG_20160412_093144698_HDR.jpg

My husband gave me this lovely card before we left to pick up our charges.

We put the bees in the basement where it was cool and dark and sprayed them first with water, then with sugar syrup, which had a calming effect. Don't try this on your children, however.

In the late afternoon we were ready to move the bees into their hives. Notice the electric fencing. Bears are around, and we all know about bears and honey! 

The queen for each package arrived in a cage, which included a few attendants. I thought I had a clear shot of the queen (she is marked with a tiny white sticker), but a bee photo-bombed it! We removed a tiny cork from the bottom of the queen cage to reveal the candy plug. The bees will eat the candy, releasing the queen into the hive. 

The moment of truth. Richard dumped some of the bees over the queen and the rest in the open space we created by removing a few of the honeycomb frames.

Here Richard is replacing the frames--slowly, so the bees move out of the way! The bees were very busy but not at all aggressive. That strip of metal is supporting the queen cage. When we check the hives in a week's time, we'll make sure the queen is out and remove it. 

In addition to provide our spoiled bees with ready-made honeycomb and hand-painted accommodation, we started them off with a stocked pantry--a gallon bag of sugar syrup.

A few bees showed a keen interest in reading the beekeeping manual and were shocked to learn we plan to use a smoker the next time we visit. 

Success! We'll leave them in peace for a week, then see how they are doing and give them more syrup. There may even be some eggs--more bees!

Happy spring, everyone, and have a bee-utiful day. 

Plotting a Garden

We moved into our new house! Nearly two years in the making, we are, at last, in our forever home. The furnishings are sparse, and there is some finish work to be done, but that didn't stop us from heading straight outside to work on our garden. For us, the garden--and the orchard and the fields and the woods--are as integral to our home as the kitchen or the laundry. 

On a day like this, who wouldn't choose to be outside?

That's the rototiller guy. Isn't he cute? The rototiller is called Attila, of course. You can't see how large the garden area is from this angle, so here's a shot from the deck.

Rototiller guy is still at it! And would you look at those redbuds. 

A garden of this size requires a plan.  I started with a border of flowers, then divided the rest into twelve 4-foot by 16-foot beds, with walkways in between. The flowers have been selected for their pest control properties, their attractiveness to bees (Next post! So excited!) and general loveliness. 

As I worked this out, I realized the parallels to sketching out a plot, not of dirt, but of words. Just as in writing, once I established the basic structure, I fleshed it out.

Warning! If you are not interested in plants, you might want to come back for the bee post next week. This is vegetable planning at the level of Badass. 

I divided the sixteen planting areas into four groups of three: one for nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes), one for legumes and light feeders (peas, beans, carrots, lettuces), one for crucifery (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, beets, kale) and one for curcurbits (squashes and melons). Why? Because diseases and pests tend to plague members of the same family, so each year I'll shift the groups over one column. I dare the baddies to follow! In veg-speak, this is called crop rotation. Riveting, huh?

But there's more. Asparagus gets its own bed because it's going to stay there for twenty years; eventually I'll be mashing the spears with my dentures. Also, you'll notice numbers under some plants, like carrots and arugula. Those are succession plantings. I'll seed a few rows every couple weeks so we're not buried under a pile of carrots in a single week. 

I like complicated plots, so I'm adding yet another layer to the design: companion planting.  Did you know plants have friends (and enemies)? Cucumbers like to hang out with nasturtium, and tomato adore basil in the garden, as well as on your plate. Beets, on the other hand, would like to wrap beans around their stupid poles and snap their heads off. Designing a garden at this level is like creating a seating chart for a Mafia wedding. 

If all goes well, I hope to have a harvest as glorious as this one from my California gardening days. I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I'll be plotting, and planting, and maybe, just maybe, I'll sneak a little writing in on the side. 

Happy spring! 

 

 

Hope is a Thing with Branches

New year, new leaf. I will spare you the excuses for the hiatus, but assure you I was not lolling on a beach somewhere or hiking up a mountain or indeed doing anything more thrilling than trying to get the next book on its way to you. (MAD RIVER RISING. APRIL 2017. It's a date!)

I've been itching to write this post for a while, because I'm so excited to tell you the news: we planted an orchard! Yup. In November, we drove the truck to Edible Landscaping in Acton and hauled twelve fruit trees home: three apple varieties, three pears, two cherries, two plums, a mulberry, and a persimmon. 

Here's what it looked like after we got them in the ground.

What trees, you say? Yeah, you have to zoom in. They are tiny! But that's the best way to start. You can see my husband, digging the last hole. And, YES, I dug, too. I actually dug more because he was doing the technical work of installing the electric fence. I'm the grunt.

Each tree received a circle of hardware cloth to protect the trunk from nibbly mice. The electric fence is for deer (and groundhogs) but I read that it is best to train the deer. Animal behavior--right up my alley!

The idea is to attract the deer to the fence. I know, it's counter-intuitive. But if they see the white flags, they march over to investigate and...ZAP! I'm not a mean person, I just want apples. The deer are free to forage over our remaining 40 acres. Also, I put aluminum foil on there, smeared with peanut butter, in case they missed the white flags. According to what I've read, and basic principles of conditioning, a single zap should keep them away for a good long time.

Of course I don't know for sure that the deer came over to the fence for their lesson. However, after the recent snow, I did check to see if there were any tracks nearby. Those little buds would've looked mighty tasty.

But, no, not a track in sight. Success!

We do worry about our trees. Those spindly guys look awfully vulnerable. There's a saying that the best time to plant an orchard was 25 years ago, and the second best time is now. 

It may not yet be a thing of beauty, but planting our orchard was an exercise in hope. And even on a snowy winter's day, there is warmth in that. 

 

Shortlisted: Better than Short-sheeted

So this is cool. MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE has been shortlisted for Book of the Year by The Great Outdoors, UK's biggest adventure magazine.

How did THAT happen? I have no clue. Well, I have clues, but nothing solid. My husband, who is English, swears it wasn't him, and I suspect it probably took more than a single vote to get on the list. Maybe it was this article in the Huffington Post UK, on Five Books that Make You Want to Travel, written by a lovely young woman I met on Twitter. 

I meet everyone on Twitter. Except not my Englishman. 

If you'd like to vote for my book, I won't stop you. In fact, I will post some great photos as a thank you. Okay? Here is the link: VOTE HERE

Voted? Great. 

First photo. Me as Cleopatra. See? Aren't you glad you voted?

 A deer in the Sierra saying "WTF"?

deer.JPG

And, finally, in honor of deer season, some dogs with very poor choice in headgear. 

I can't top that, at least not today. Time to get back to work on my revisions. Enjoy your day and thanks for voting! xo

Writing about Writing

I've been lucky enough to have some writing gigs at other blogs, so if these topics interest you, take a gander.

ENDINGS: So Much for My Happy Ending... On the UK site, We Heart Writing.

SYMBOLISM: Meaning What You Say, and a Little Bit More. On Writers on the Storm.

FACTS in FICTION: Sinkholes and Breadcrumbs. On Women's Writers, Women's Books.

Please let me know if any of it was useful to you! 

Have a productive, joy-filled week! xo Sonja


Show Us Your #MiddleofSomewhere Twitter giveaway winners: Week 6

NEWS FLASH: It's National Dog Day and the kindle version of my debut, HOUSE BROKEN, is only $1.99! Check it out here

And now on to other news...

Sad to say, because it's been so fun, but this is the last week of the #MiddleofSomewhere giveaway. Well, in truth I'm only a little sad, because the reason it's ending is because next week THE BOOK WILL BE OUT! 

Yeah, that's me, psyched up about something. Unlikely it was a book, though. Probably a stuffed animal or chocolate raisins--I was big on those--or maybe my brother got his head stuck between the couch cushions. Doesn't matter, the feeling's the same. Psyched!

Back to the giveaway. As usual, lots of terrific entries. Let's start with this one, to remind us that although August is drawing to a close and the kids are heading back to school, summer is still with us. I suggest you keep this image in your mind while shoveling snow this winter. 

I'm a nature girl through and through, so it's good for me to be reminded that there are other somewheres, like our amazing National Historic Landmarks, and other heritage sites. Kennecott Mines is in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. I've been to that park, but not these copper mines.

The next entry was taken in Olympic National Park in Washington state. That's Hurricane Ridge in the background. We've had a lot of entries from the Pacific Northwest, and you can see why. So beautiful!

We haven't had a selfie somewhere in a while, and this is a beauty. I love her windswept hair and of course, the Grand Tetons are looking mighty fine as well, especially with their dusting of snow.

I've already mentioned snow twice, so please excuse me for mentioning it again. I admit I love snow, having been born in a snowbank in Vermont. I know it can be a nuisance to deal with, and anyone who lived through last winter in Boston is excused from agreeing with me, but snow is magical. Look at this!

Congratulations to this week's winners and thanks to everyone for participating in the giveaways and sharing your #MiddleofSomewheres! (Winners, please email me your mailing addresses here.)

I'll be traveling around the country on my book tour starting 1 September (launch day!), so please look at my event page and see if I'll be near you, okay? 

Enjoy the last of the summer and if you're travelling to the #MiddleofSomewhere, stay safe! 

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-aug-2015

 

Show Us Your #MiddleofSomewhere Twitter giveaway: Week 5

Well, butter my butt and call it a biscuit: only two weeks until MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE is out! To celebrate, my publisher has dropped the price of the e-book of my debut, HOUSE BROKEN, to $1.99. Yup, two-buck book. It won't last, so jump on it here.

Ready for the Week 5 winning photos? Here we go! The first is of Colorado's Red Rocks, where the entrants loves to hike. Easy to see why. I'm also a huge fan of our western mountains, and this reminds me it's time to visit Colorado again.

I was out working in the garden in 90 degree heat and 300% humidity, and came inside and saw this tweet. I wanted to dive right in! Not everyone can get to the beach, so it's good to remember how much pools add to our enjoyment of summer. The entrant said her son was having a swim. *waves*

This one's two photos, but well worth bending the rules for. The tweet quoted one kitten saying to the other, "I feel we're in the #MiddleofSomewhere..."

Ha! Love the expression on the donkey's face.

I don't like to play favorites (of course, every time someone says that, they ARE playing favorites), but this next one is phenomenal. The overexposed shot give it a dreamlike quality and captures the essence of summer by the sea. And those clouds!

The last winner for this week was taken on Hornby Island, near Vancouver in British Columbia. I'm ready to go there, how about you?

Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to the winners. You can send me your mailing address via the contact page.

Let's do this again! Tweet a photo of your #MiddleofSomewhere, include the hashtag, and you may be chosen as one of next week's five winners of a finished copy of my new book!

In the meantime, enjoy the last weeks of summer. Hope it's been a great one!