Sunday, January 06, 2008

I'm baaack!

Wow, I really have been a slacker about this blog. I'll try to do better in 2008 -- does that sound like a resolution?

Under the heading: "Excuses, excuses" I'd just like to point out that I was away more than I was home in 2007. The new year is continuing to follow this trend.

Since I last wrote, I've had so much going on I hardly know where to start. My news isn't all garden related, so somewhere along the line I may have to change the name of this blog. Oh well, if you will bear with me we'll see how it goes.

In the latter part of 2007, I was in Chicago about every other week. We have been thinking about moving back up there, maybe to a small place in the city. Now that we are empty nesters the call of the big city is strong again -- we did love living in London all those years ago and we've always liked Chicago. Then again, Chicago is the "green" city not the "cheap" city -- we saw this great condo near Belmont and when we checked the price it was close to a million dollars. There may be some wealthy authors out there -- I am not one of them!

So, we've also been considering Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Ann Arbor, maybe even a different part of Cincinnati. There's a kind of freedom when you can uproot and go anywhere you like. Since our families are scattered all over creation, we have to commute to see anyone, including our kids. And who knows where they'll end up. So, if you know of any places with lots of bookstores, eclectic shops and restaurants, mixed ethnicity, and (sorry for introducing politics) leaning toward blueness, let me know. Warm weather is a plus. Since Marty and I are both primarily working from home these days, all that we require is a hookup for our computers and an airport nearby. (Or a Megabus route if I'm feeling cheap or fed-up with airports.) has been hopping lately. I had one fun month of moderating the Romance Book Club while they were in-between regular moderators. I am also moderating the occasional featured book, such as Alice Sebold's Almost Moon and Nicholas Sparks' The Choice. In Mystery we have featured Janet Evanovich and Greg Iles in recent months (True Evil and Third Degree are still on for this month). In February we will be featuring Josephine Tey's classic Daughter of Time, which is often listed as one of the best mysteries of all time. In March we will be featuring M.C. Beaton's books, not sure which ones yet.

On the gardening board, which has kind of gone dormant for the winter, our featured books are The Garden in Winter by Suzy Bales and P. Allen Smith's Living in the Garden Home. Join us!

In October I had one of those life-changing experiences you hear about. I went to a writer's conference in Covington, KY where Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, Alesia Holliday, Anne Stuart and other authors read excerpts from their upcoming books and taught writing classes to published writers and others who are working on books. I didn't fit in either category but I love Jennifer Crusie's books and I have always thought that "one day" I would set aside my non-fiction commitments long enough to try some fiction work. My biggest problem was that I just didn't know where to start.

At Cherry Con, I took copious notes, talked to lots of people about their writing, did some networking, found a lot of new authors to read, ditto a lot of books on the writing craft to read, and learned enough about structure to get myself started. I'll let you know what happens with this. My original plan was to submit something to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, where your goal is to push through and write 50,000 words in a limited time period.) I had one false start then once I got going on a storyline that I liked, I had to set it aside for writing work I would actually get paid for. (I have a kid in college, what can I say?)

I had to set the story aside for another two weeks over the holidays but, amazingly enough, the first draft of book one is finished and I've already started a rough draft of another book with in a slightly different genre. Book One is making the rounds with my "first readers" so I figure I'll work on Book Two in the meantime. I feel like I turned on a water faucet that had been turned off for years, and the water is now exploding from the tap. I can't stop writing, and hopefully some of it won't be crap! Wish me luck, and thanks to all of you who are critiquing these freshman efforts.

In November I was in Chicago (again, did I mention it's practically my home away from home now?), this time for the GreenBuild Expo. Out of 600 people with press passes, I was lucky to be one of only 100 who were allowed in for former President Bill Clinton's keynote message. The expo was really interesting, on a personal and professional level. I've been writing a lot about sustainability issues, green roofs, etc. and this expo was definitely the place to be.

In December, my daughter Jessica graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in English/Creative Writing. You will definitely be seeing her name on some books in the future, most probably in Literature or Young Adults, maybe Poetry. She is looking into grad schools right now, if can recommend any good schools with Editing/Writing offered at this level, let me know. Location doesn't matter since she'll probably have to relocate anyway.

My son, Jonathan, and his girlfriend drove down to Florida for her graduation while Marty and I flew down. It was fun having a crowd for Christmas -- and not at our house! Our first Christmas away from home, but since our kids and their loved ones were with us, it still felt like home. Our trip included side trips to see relatives near Tampa and my best friend from high school who lives in Fort Lauderdale. We had never been that far south and we were pleasantly surprised, it was beautiful and the weather was amazing! (We had one day of 40 degrees in Orlando, but since Chicago and Cincinnati were being hit by blizzards that week, we didn't complain much.)

We got back to Cincinnati just in time to get our son packed up for a semester abroad in Barcelona. He and his girlfriend (who came down from Hayward, WI just to spend New Year's with him -- thanks, Al, for chauffeuring her!) went to a party, came home and slept a couple hours, then headed up to Chicago on Megabus (we are their biggest customers lately). The next day, his girlfriend accompanied him to the airport and he was on his way. Halfway over the Atlantic, his flight plunged 100 feet or so several times. He said there was complete and utter silence on the plane, and he was scared out of his wits. He said if there was a boat home, he'd be on it. In the meantime, he is getting settled in, trying to become fluent in Castillian Spanish overnight and drooling over the architecture. Oh, and drinking way too much -- he is not quite 21 but the legal drinking age is a lot younger in Europe. Hopefully, the novelty will wear off soon.

Next week, I'm back up to Chicago for the Mid-Am Show, a landscape trade fair. I'm supposed to be in Columbus, OH for the CENTS show a few days after that, but I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to that one.

Watch for my monthly gardening tips that appear in a variety of newspapers in Illinois. I will back at the Cincinnati Flower Show in April -- and if you are a plant/landscape/garden author or expert, contact me if you would like to be a presenter at this acclaimed show. We're always looking for new talent!

In the meantime, I'll post some plant pictures I took last fall at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Enjoy!