Saturday, May 29, 2010

On the future of the publishing industry...

I found this quote in the June 7, 2010 issue of Time Magazine. It's by Garrison Keillor. It's almost too true not to repeat. It originally appeared in the Chicago Tibune (click here for the full opinion piece):

"I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea. We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (UR 2 1derful) ... The future of publishing: 18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Salvaging a flooded garden

Today my daughter and I went out to re-plant our community garden plot. My son and I planted it first several weeks ago. Unfortunately, we had several bouts of heavy rains, the effects of which were a pond where my plot had been. Things have only just dried out.

Of the seeds we originally sowed, only carrots came up. Of the 24 seedlings started indoors and then planted (which included four varieties of heirloom tomatoes, three varieties of pepper plants, and several basil plants), only a handful of tomatoes have survived, and a few peppers. I say survived, but really, they are barely clinging to life and have not thrived at all. Well, you wouldn't either if you were trying to keep your head above water for two weeks.

We decided this time to plant everything in raised rows and mounds to raise them up out of the floodplain:

The bottom right corner is where the carrots have come up. They're still small. I'm waiting until they're bigger before I do major weeding so I don't accidentally pluck them out with the weeds:

We re-planted the Lima beans. They're a variety called Christmas Limas because the beans have read swirls in them. I started one plant at home in a small pot. We transferred it to the garden and sowed its neighbors directly into the mounded rows:

This is what the previous sowing looked like after the flooding. They never had a chance:

We have water and hoses available to us at the community gardens. But you don't always know how long it will take to untangle someone else's doings:

Here's our plot, all freshly planted. Only about half of the tomato cages on the left still have tomatoes struggling to grow within them.

After working away most of the day at the 'far-away' garden, as we've dubbed it, we came home, put the tools away, and went to enjoy the peony which is currently in bloom (The following is one of only two pictures that I took in this post. The other is the money plant picture at the end. All of the other photos were taken by my daughter.):

I just love it. The flowers are gorgeous. Click on any of the pictures to really see them up close and personal:

A pure delight:

Such beautiful colors coming together:

This little bud is so precious, dusted, I think, with pine pollen:

Ah! What more can I say?:

I am so grateful that I didn't get rid of these bushes several years ago like I had planned. They were scraggly, mixed in with a dying holly and a couple of juniper bushes. I ripped everything out and replaced them with other things, but instead of tossing the peonies, I decided to relocate them. They have thrived in their new home ever since, and I just love them. My white, frilly one will bloom any day now, and I can't wait. But for now, I'll enjoy these beauties:

And for a cool, green contrast, here's a parting shot of a back-lit money plant (aka silver dollar plant). We still have cottonwood fluff floating around and coating everything, as you can see:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Looks like snow - but isn't

We woke up to snow this morning - cottonwood snow. It's really heavy this year, I haven't ever seen quite so much accumulate:

The drifts were a couple of inches deep in our yard:

The cottony fluff gathered on our new rose bushes. Here it is on one of our Princesse de Monaco roses:

It's hard to see it against the soft, bright whiteness of our Honor rose:

It's a good thing the snow isn't real, or these strawberries would be in trouble:

The cottonwood, which is actually in the park next door, still has plenty more where that came from - it's loaded with fluff:

The downy seeds spread out with every breeze:

Our floribunda Gene Boerner isn't immune:

I love the velvety pink of the Gene Boerner:

The flowers are so pretty, even surrounded by cotton fluff:

Here's a bit nestled between the petals of an Honor bloom:

And, of course, our geranium has been catching its fair share of the cottonwood's excess:

I've been out trimming hedges today and I'm covered with the stuff, too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A study in blueberries

This morning a fog hung over everything in the early hours until the sun rose high enough to burn it away. It left behind some beautiful droplets on our swelling blueberries (click on the pictures for a larger view, then use the back arrow to return to the blog):

The little berrylets sometimes held the drops as though they were little fairy cups:

I've come to learn that blueberry plants vary the color of their bark with the seasons. In all seasons they are a delight to look at. Their colors, aways in hues of greens and reds (and white with the blossoms), are constantly changing. I can't wait 'till I spy some blue!:

Someday this will be a nice little handful of berries:

A sip of morning dew, anyone?:

I hope we get to pick these when they're ripe, and the birds don't get to them first!:

Such beautiful colors:

A delight to look upon:

And the sunshine only makes them prettier:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finally! Wintergreen!

I've been searching the wilds for wintergreen plants for a couple of years now. I haven't had any luck. This year I broke down and ordered some from a nursery. I placed the order at the end of winter, but they wouldn't ship until this month.

A couple of weeks ago, I was informed by the nursery that their wintergreen wasn't doing very well. I thought that my search for wintergreen would have to continue, but today I received two wintergreen plants in the mail!! They were a smaller size than the ones I ordered, but I was credited the difference in price.

Here is one of my wintergreen plants in its new home, I'm so excited!:

While out snapping pictures of the wintergreen, I noticed that my weigelas are sporting more blossoms than the last time I looked. I have two kinds of weigela - don't ask me what their names are, I don't remember. I just think of them as the light ones and the dark ones.

Here is a sample of the light one with its light, variegated foliage against pretty, dusty-pink flowers:

And here is the darker one, with its bolder foliage and darker blossoms:

I also have a rare cat plant sprouting from a pot on my porch:

Here's a shot of the two weigelas together:

The cat plant is very hardy and this particular variety is dog-resistant:

Happy gardening!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Uh oh, a new neighbor

A new neighbor moved in. I saw him trespassing through my backyard the other day. He may be trouble - for my garden.

My new neighbor is a groundhog. Here are his digs:

This cozy little hole is located next to my yard , dug into the low, privacy hill that acts as a buffer between the park next door and my house.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Frosty freezies

Boy am I glad I covered my tender little plants last night. We did indeed have a freeze. In my community garden plot we covered 24 little plants with large, plastic party cups. When I went to remove them this morning, I surveyed the few other plots which had already been planted by other gardeners. It's sad to report that those plants were badly frost damaged and I don't think they'll make it.

My tomatoes and peppers and basil are all fine. Those little plastic cups did the trick. I'll have to cover them again this evening - there may be another frost.

I guess I have an advantage in living so close to the community gardens. They're literally a three minute walk away, so I don't have to hop in the car and drive anywhere. It's easy to pop over there to water, or cover things against a frost.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Everything's coming up roses!

My son and my husband and I planted three rose bushes out front. It's been cloudy and rainy, but when the sun came out for a few brief minutes, I sent my son out to take a few photos:

We put them up by the mailbox, behind the lilies. We had to raise the bed a bit for the roses, so I hauled a bunch of stones from the back (left behind by the ice-age glaciers and piled up by the farmer that used to farm these environs) to ring the area and hold in the extra soil.

My son and daughter gave me these two beautiful hanging baskets for Mother's Day. They look so pretty along with my young azaleas:

There is supposed to be a hard freeze tonight, so in honor of Mother's Day, everyone will have to help me cover tender plants in my gardens this evening. Hooray for Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Planting the killer vegetable garden

And what I mean by that, is that planting my vegetables has nearly killed me. I'll feel better soon, though. I popped an Aleve 30 minutes ago.

Phew! Three garden plots planted. My medicinal herb garden went in first, over the weekend. My community gardens plot went in yesterday, with the help of my son. And the plot at the way back of my yard went in today.

Here is my medicinal herb garden. It's in a half-wheel shape with different plants in each of the nine 'spokes' (and something in the half-hub). I have string marking the spokes right now, but the bricks are there for when the plants have grown and the string is gone.:

Each spoke is labeled:

Here's the plot way back in the wild parts of the yard, half in sun, half in shade at this time of day. You can't really make them out, but there are three elderberry bushes way back there, too. My daughter gave them to me for my last birthday:

I don't have a picture of my community garden plot. I'll get one and post it later.

Here are the things I have in the two vegetable gardens. Basically, tomatoes, greens, carrots, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers:

The medicinal garden has elecampane, St. John's wort, calendula, holy basil, sage, astragalus, chamomile, evening primrose, and flax (which is just an experiment). And I have a few things in other places, like lavender, and yarrow, and lemon balm, and hyssop, and garlic (for cooking), and I've probably forgotten something or other.

I still have a few things to do, but most of the initial work is done.

Who's making dinner tonight? I'm pooped.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To self-publish, or not to self-publish... Maybe through Kindle?

I'm not riding in the self-publishing bandwagon, but recently on the Galley Cat website, there have been a couple of posts about successful self-published authors. These authors were both self-published using amazon's digital text platform self-publishing tool for kindle. Their stories are interesting and worth a look, you can find J.A. Konrath's story here. And you can find Karen McQuestion's story here.

J.A. Konrath has something like 20 books available through the kindle store and sells something like 800 per day. Crazy, huh?

And Karen McQuestion sells tens of thousands of books per year and is the first kindle self-published author to land a movie deal.

Now, all of that success involved more than just uploading their books to the kindle store and sitting back. Konrath already had a book or two in print and so already had a following, and McQuestion made sure to keep her name, and her books, out there in forums and other venues.

After reading their stories, I decided to try my hand at the kindle self-publishing. Not with my major works, with which I am still going the traditional route and sending queries to agents and keeping my fingers crossed.

But I have two other works that I thought would make good experiments for the kindle platform. One is a short Christmas story. I actually recently turned down a real publishing contract for this story. I don't have an agent (yet) and the publisher was very small and very niche, and the contract was very bad (for me). They wouldn't negotiate, so I didn't sign. But this gave me confidence that this work was good enough to be published, so it has become my first self-published work on kindle. My Twelfth Christmas became available yesterday and I've already sold four! (One to each of my sisters, one to me, and one to my niece *grin*.)

But the experiment will continue. I have another work which was completed fairly recently. It turned out to be novella length and novellas are a hard sell through the traditional route, unless you are already a popular author. So once I've finished with revisions, The Witch of Starmont will be going up for sale on kindle, too.

I'm not that great at self-promotion, but I'll try. Because if you don't tell people about your stuff, no one will ever know it's there. And you want people to know it's there.

One key to high volume sales is low price. My Twelfth Christmas is priced at $0.99, and The Witch of Sarmont will be priced at $1.99. Right now, the royalty structure is such that I get to keep 30% of that.

They also give you an author page on amazon. Mine is still being created, but when it's up, I'll post about it with a link.

Let the experiment commence!