Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it!  I hope you have a wonderful holiday and that you're able to spend some time with family and friends sharing the season.

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy the day, wherever you are!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Back at the Computer!


Who doesn't love writing the opening to a new story?  It's like the first, heady rush of falling in love.  I'm writing a short contemporary that's been in my head for a while, and it will serve as alternative gear switch when I'm not working on my New Adult work.  No details to share yet, as I'm still learning the characters, but I will have a few snippets for you once I've laid the groundwork.

Until then, have a happy holiday season!

2016 Calendar is Open!


My 2016 calendar is now open for scheduling guest blogs, interviews, workshops, or appearances!  If you're interested in hosting an event with me, just email me with your details.

Guest Blogs

I host guests right here on my blog, and you don't even need to be an author!  If you are an author, fantastic!  Just contact me for my short and sweet questionnaire, and be ready to provide a book cover, author photo, and links where readers can purchase your work.  If you are an environmental activist, I'd love to hear from you, too.

Workshops/Appearances

I have workshops for the beginning and intermediate writer!  Let me know which you're interested in - or if you're looking for a talk on a specific aspect of writing or publishing, I can tailor an appearance to your needs.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Taking a Break

I've had a long break since finishing FIRE, and it's been extremely helpful in resetting my creative energy.  I'll be on vacation from my day job during the holiday season, and I think that will be an ideal time to soak up some real R&R before going back to my newest project in earnest.  Let's hope 2016 is bursting with ideas!

It's been a whirlwind month for me, with doctor and dentist appointments for the whole family, as well as a couple of illnesses for me which were pretty heinous for a while, there!  I am glad to be able to take a rest.  You may have noticed my posts have been fewer since June.  I'm not ignoring you, honest!  It's just been good to recharge.

It's also a good time to look back on the year and realize how far I've come in my writing.  I can't believe I've finished off the Elemental Series.  (Look for FIRE in 2016.  When I have a release date, I'll announce it here!)  I had some great guest blogs, here and at other sites, and amazing book signings where I met some really cool people.  It gets me excited about writing all over again!

What about you?  Sit down for a few minutes and think about your year, and I'll bet you've done a lot more than you thought!  Have a great holiday season, everyone.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, USA!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US!  I hope you have a great time with friends and family today, or if you can't be near your loved ones, that you're able to spend a little quiet time reflecting on the things you're thankful for in your life.

Enjoy the day and the beginning of our "official" holiday season!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On Bullies

I don't really use my blog to soapbox, but this is an issue that's pretty close to home, and I'm sure you'll all agree that it needs to stop.

In response to a parent's recent blog post about bullying, I wrote a little about my own experiences. Here's what I said in my Facebook response:

This one touched a nerve.

As one of the "out crowd" in grade school, I can say that being excluded from things DID hurt, but it taught me to face adversity (of which there is no shortage even after graduation). It stung when I was picked on for how I dressed (not glamorous) and because I was already very shy. Imagine being painfully shy, and getting teased or bullied. That doesn't exactly foster an outgoing attitude. Even my friends would tease me for being so shy. That was even worse.

To the picked-on and bullied kids (not just girls), I say this: You can get past these people. It's hard. It's damn hard. I ignored it for YEARS, or stuffed it down in a box. I waited it out, and it sucked. I developed a thick skin, and it sucked. In fact, it's one of the reasons I write. Art is a good vent for all that suck. Just keep getting up and being you, in spite of everyone else, because one day, all that suck won't matter so much, and what's left is what you made of yourself.

To the bullies, I say this: Stop talking and use your ears. Use your head. Use your courage. I know you're scared to stand out. I know you're scared to be the one person who doesn't go along with everyone else who piles on the unpopular kid. Use your popularity to change minds instead of destroying someone. It matters. It matters even more to KEEP TRYING to be that person.

To the parents, I say this: Your first and foremost obligation to this child you brought into the world is to teach him or her to be a good human being. Anything less than that most crucial of lessons is a disservice to your child, because it's the only way to be sure they will truly be, not popular, but LOVED.

Bullying stops with one person, the only one whose actions you can control: you.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you all a safe and Happy Halloween today!  My son is eight now, and I realize that eventually he might be too cool to dress up for Halloween, but I'll take every year I can get to share this fun day with him (and this year, adore him in his cute little ninja costume).

Be safe out there!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Signings and the Introvert Girl


I'm going to be a busy woman next month! I have two book signings, one on November 8th at Liverpool Public Library, and one on November 28th at Lowville Free Library.

Now might be a good time to make a confession: I used to be terrified of book signings.

Like most writers, I am a natural introvert. It's ironic, really. We are hardwired to be shy of people - more comfortable in front of our computers - while writing books about people and relationships. So, what do we know about relationships?

Well, we observe.  I love to people watch. I love people, even if I am (still) a natural introvert. Their lives and stories fascinate me. Even something as simple as what they wear or what they're carrying can tell a story about them. And I love books, so I enjoy hearing what they have to say about a favorite read. And you know what? Book signings are really just an opportunity to talk to people about something writers already adore: books! So I found I already had something in common with visitors to signings, and that they might teach me something about an author I haven't discovered yet.

Think of it as a giant book party.

So, yes, I'm there in the hopes that someone might like a book they find among my stories, and maybe take it home and find something fun in it for a few hours - but really, I am there to enjoy the party.

And maybe get some ideas for new stories.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

CNYRW Presents Maggie Shayne: The Three-Act Structure


We at the CNY Romance Writers are fortunate to have NY Times Bestselling author Maggie Shayne as a member. Maggie is a font of knowledge about the writing industry, as well as publishing, having started her own imprint, Thunderfoot Publishing.

Today, Maggie offered us a look at the Three-Act Structure, which is how popular films are formatted.  How is this helpful to writers?  Well, we often look to the film industry for tips on structuring the perfect read, because let's face it: those blockbuster movie makers must be on to something.

The Three-Act Structure

The Three-Act Structure is nothing new.  Imagine a movie or book divided into four equal parts, called One, Two A, Two B, and Three.  Part One is 25% of your book and involves the stages of story setup.  Parts Two A and Two B are 50%, essentially the "middle chunk" of your book, and involve the characters' struggles and major turning points.  This middle ends in your black moment, when all is lost for your characters.  Part Three is the final 25%, involving the final push and overall climax of your book, when your characters triumph over the odds.  It also wraps it up neatly by showing your characters with their rewards in the changed world of the story.

Each "part" of the book has its own separate climactic moments, when something big changes for your characters.  Maggie recommended Alexandra Sokoloff's book "Screenwriting Tricks for Authors" as a guide to this structure, tailored to those of us who write rather than navigate showbiz.

Examples

We love to use movies as examples for how to structure a book, too, because they're such a wonderful shorthand, and many of us have watched the movies in question.  For romance writers, what better movie could be suited to the purpose than "Romancing the Stone?"  Maggie illustrated how beautifully this movie conforms to the Three-Act Structure, including the climactic twists and turns that lead the characters through their adventures.  You can actually time the acts at the correct points in the film!  If you are a romance writer and haven't seen this movie, you really should (and it's hilarious, too!).  Even if you don't write romance, watch it for a great example of this type of structure.

While I was familiar with the Three-Act Structure, it was wonderful to see it presented clearly and enthusiastically by Maggie Shayne.  Maggie loves her craft, and it shows.  I came home with fresh perspectives on my current WIP, and I hope you've learned something from my post here.  Happy writing! 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Break Time



Since finishing FIRE, I've had a remarkably quiet summer - at least where writing is concerned. Only lately have I been dabbling in my new project. As a result, I've spent most of the season "refilling the well," a writer's term for not writing in order to recharge his or her batteries. It has been exquisite! Not only am I doing other artsy things (painting, gardening, cooking/baking, etc.) but I am gathering scenes and ideas in the back of my head for my new book. I had forgotten how much good it does a writer's soul to step back from her project and just be. I've given myself until the official start of fall to take my break (even though the stores have already begun doling out pumpkin everything). After fall begins, it's back to business.

Here's to relaxing and recharging!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take a Walk!


Today, I did something I haven't done in quite some time: took a walk behind my mother's house, around the lake and into the woods.  It was amazing.  I had forgotten how beautiful and peaceful it can be.  Just the smell of the woods alone is worth the walk!

Before I started out, I found an enormous black dragonfly on the driveway.  He must have been sunning himself!  He didn't even seem to mind me sticking my face in at him to take a photo.  He was almost as big as my hand!


This is what "refilling the well" is all about.  How I missed those trees!  It was a long walk, but I feel refreshed, and I'm fairly certain I'm going to sleep like a rock tonight.  *deep sigh*

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cool Cars


For someone who isn't crazy about driving, I have a bit of a thing for old cars.  Summer in Central NY is awesome for classic cars, because every summer, we have the Syracuse Nationals, which is the biggest car show in the Northeastern U.S.  Every summer, we are set upon by amazing rides from all over the country.  Our hotels and motels are filled up, and even if you don't go to the Nationals, you're gonna see a car show at every parking lot, gas station, and ice cream stand in Central New York.

And every summer, I look for my favorite, which is the '63 split-window Corvette Stingray.  Now, that car is beauty on wheels.  And I know you car aficionados will gasp with horror when I say it, but if I could drop a newer, more fuel-efficient transmission into one of those babies, you bet your butt I'd do it, and drive it loud and proud.  They just don't make cars as pretty as that anymore.


This one's not a '63, but I definitely wouldn't turn up my nose at it if someone handed one to me.  Would you?


There was also a pretty awesome old fire engine there, which I thought was cool.  I love anything from the 20's up to the 60's.  After that, while I might think it's a pretty car, I lose interest.  I also have a thing for European styles:
 

This is an Austin Healey 3000 Mark III, and I totally need to make friends with someone who has a car like this so I can ride around in it, just once, and feel like an international super-spy.

Maybe one of my favorite things about old cars is that they put a story in my head.  For instance, there was this one, a 1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.  The owner had helpfully added all the accessories that made it an instant story for me.  Can you imagine a character who'd drive one of these, complete with surfboard, cooler, and picnic basket for a day at the beach?  Fell in love instantly, and started forming storylines.


I often look at the cars made today, and wonder which of them have lines iconic enough to become future classics.  Which do you like?

Friday, August 07, 2015

The New NickiGreenwood.com!



Well, it's been quite the learning curve, but I'm thrilled to say I now have an brand-new, mobile-friendly website for viewing on all devices! I've been hand-coding my own website for a while now, and I know enough to be dangerous ... but responsive web design was something new for me, and at first it was rather frustrating to try to get it right. Now that I think I have the kinks worked out, you can see my new site in all its resizable glory:


Responsive websites are just that: they respond accordingly for optimal display, no matter what device you use to view them. Test it out by viewing my website on your desktop, tablet, or phone, and you'll find that it's comfortably readable at any size. You can even change your browser window's size or go from portrait to landscape orientation on your handheld, and the site will re-flow for the best view. It's really quite impressive how far web design has come in just the past few years. Who knows where it'll go next?


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Signing Saturday 7/25/15 at Lewis County Fair!


I'm thrilled to be going to a book signing on Saturday, July 25th at the Lewis County Fair in Lowville, NY.  Love books (especially romance)?  This is your chance to meet me and my fellow romance author, Regina Edwards-Drumm, and get a book personally autographed!  I'll be there from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and I hope to meet you there!

In addition to some wonderful romance reads, we'll be offering raffle prizes!  Regina is donating a "Night of Romance" gift basket, and I am donating "The Elementals Jewelry Set," a one-of-a-kind, handmade necklace and earring set, pictured above.  Proceeds from the raffle benefit the Lowville Free Library.  These terrific prizes are only available by raffle at the Lewis County Fair, so we hope you'll come and see what it's all about!

The Lewis County Fair offers a day of fun for the whole family. Sound like an awesome time?  Click here for directions!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Shh! The New Project is Sleeping


By the time I finish writing a book, I am usually pretty burnt-out.  This year, I have the extraordinary luck to not be burnt-out, and to be looking forward to my next book.  I have enjoyed every hill and valley on my learning curve, and am very proud of how far my writing has come since beginning this madness some five years ago. Six books later, and with FIRE waiting in the wings, I have now reached the point where I can say:

It's time for a new project!

I'm pretty jazzed-up about this one, and you heard it here first: the new series will be in the New Adult genre, a departure from my current focus in romance and paranormal romance.  I plan to continue writing romance, but for the foreseeable future, my focus will be on this series.  It's all very hush-hush until I have the basics ironed out, but rest assured, I will let you know all the news once I have something to share.  I hope you'll be as excited as I am about this new series, and I promise not to keep you waiting too long!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Fort Ticonderoga


If there's a place you want to be on the Fourth of July, it's Fort Ticonderoga. It was amazing to witness how people lived during the founding of the United States, from what they ate, to how they dressed, to how they slept and fought. The raising of the colors, to the music from the Fife & Drum Corps, actually gave me chills.


I can't even begin to tell you how geeky I was over the amazing engravings on the 18th century powder horns belonging to soldiers of the era. Then there were the weapons and arrowheads and pieces of pottery and ... well, you should go there, that's what.


The original fort was mainly earthworks. The stone was added much later. Still, it boasts one of the most beautiful vistas I've ever seen, of New York's Adirondacks and Vermont's Green Mountains.


If that isn't enough to impress you, take a walk through the King's Garden, modeled after 18th century military gardens. The walled garden was part of a project in the early 1900's by the wealthy Pell family, to restore and preserve the property. It must have been even more beautiful back in the day.


Find many more photos of my visit to Fort Ticonderoga in my Facebook album for the site. Hope you had a happy Fourth, America!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Draft of FIRE Complete!


I'm excited to announce that this morning, I completed the first draft of FIRE, the fourth and final book in The Elemental Series!  I'll now be buried deep in edits for a while, and hope tentatively to have this book out next fall.

Ethan has been quite a challenge.  I enjoyed "watching" him work out his troubles, and Gypsy is the perfect foil for his broodiness.  Sometimes my characters surprise me, and I was pleased to find that under Ethan's hard shell - way under it - was a soft heart.  I look forward to sharing this book with you.  Until then, check out the other books in The Elemental Series and catch up on the foster siblings of Hope Creek!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day (and Happy Summer)!


Today is Father's Day, and also the first day of summer! Celebrate the fathers and father figures who make your life special today, whether it's taking them out to dinner or spending some quality time at home (and what better way to kick off summer than to grill something for them, for a change? LOL).

Whatever you do, enjoy your day. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guest Author: Diana Rubino!



Hi all! I'm excited to introduce author Diana Rubino, whose book BOOTLEG BROADWAY went on sale today. Isn't this cover just amazing? Let's get right to the interview.

1) How did you get started writing?


I wrote short stories as a kid, and realized I loved creating characters and putting them in situations--or messes--and wondering how they'd get out them. But somehow they always did! I wrote my first novel at age 24, which, like nearly every first novel, was very autobiographical, and I'm so glad it never got published!

2) What interests or excites you most about your genre(s)?


I've always had a passion for history and the paranormal. The spirit world fascinates me, mostly because it's so mysterious and beyond our reach. I feel a strong connection to the past when I visit historical sites, and have to go around touching everything to get an even stronger connection. We're all part of history, and writing about long-ago people and places transports me to another time and world.

3) Who or what is your favorite inspiration when writing?


My inspiration for each book is the hero or heroine of that story. That person, sometimes a historical figure who actually lived, invites me into his or her world, and I bring that world alive as best as I can.

4) Tell me about your latest book or work in progress.


In my "New York Saga" I began with FROM HERE TO 14TH STREET, where my heroine, Italian immigrant Vita and Irish cop Tom McGlory fall in love despite all odds. Book 2 in the series is my latest release, BOOTLEG BROADWAY. Tom, Vita and their three children are struggling to make ends meet. It's 1932. Prohibition rages, the Depression ravages, and Billy McGlory comes of age whether he wants to or not. Musical and adventurous, Billy dreams of having his own ritzy supper club and big band. On the eve of his marriage to the pregnant Prudence, the shifty "businessman" Rosario Ingovito offers him all that and more. Fame, fortune, his own Broadway musical…it's all his for the taking, despite Pru's opposition to Rosie's ventures. Meanwhile, Pru's artistic career gains momentum and their child is born. Can anything go wrong for Billy? Only when he gets in way over his head does he stop to wonder how his business partner really makes his millions, but by then it's far too late… Billy escapes with his life, but in a surprise twist at the end, he pulls off the ultimate revenge against the gangsters responsible for his beloved wife Pru's heroin overdose.

5) Please share with us the first few paragraphs of your latest work.

New York City, May, 1935



Billy moseyed out of The Stork Club whistling “I’m In The Mood For Love” because he was. The rain-slicked pavement glistened under the streetlamps. A cold drizzle tickled his face as he plopped his hat on. Fishing his keys out of his pocket, he stepped off the curb and headed for his new Packard.

An engine’s roar came at him and ended his whistling. “Hey!” He leapt out of the way, but not in time. He got hit so hard he went flying, landing on his side. He lay crumpled in the street, choking on the exhaust. The wheels screeched away.

Bodies hovered over him, but it was all a blur. He shut his eyes against the unbearable pain and, mercifully, he slipped away into pain-free oblivion.


Thank you so much for visiting us today, Diana! BOOTLEG BROADWAY looks amazing, and it's set during one of my favorite eras in American history. I can't wait to read it!

For more information on Diana and her books, check out the following links!

E-mail Diana: diana@dianarubino.com

Visit Diana's website: http://www.dianarubino.com

Buy BOOTLEG BROADWAY: Amazon

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Book Signing July 25th!

For a writer, there's nothing so exciting as receiving a box of your books in print. Every time I get them, I'm giddy. Today's treat was the arrival of copies of AIR and HEAVY NETTING from my publisher, for next month's book signing at the Lewis County Fair. It'll be my first trip to this event, and I'm super excited to be there with my writing pal, Regina Edwards Drumm. I'm sure I'll have loads of pictures to share with you once I've been to this fair, but for now, I'll give you a peek at my latest endeavors in print.


Aren't they gorgeous? I love them. If you can make the fair, I'd love to meet you! Click here for directions. If not, keep checking my event list on my website for other book signings - or order a copy of one of my books from your favorite bookstore! Happy reading!

Monday, June 08, 2015

TV Series Review: Turn


Over the weekend, I finished watching Season One of TURN: Washington's Spies.  The series is adapted from a book by Alexander Rose and stars Jamie Bell.  I didn't want to review until I'd seen the entire season, because I was concerned that my initial impression wouldn't hold up.

I needn't have worried.  This show does take some historical - ahem - liberties, but does so in the name of great storytelling.  The heart of the show is its relationship between childhood friends Abraham Woodhull, a reluctant-to-fight cabbage farmer, and several patriots including Ben Talmadge, an officer in the rebel army.  No matter what he does, poor Abraham is caught between his friendships and his family, who are actively Loyalist.  Watching him navigate the push-and-pull was a train wreck in the best sense, and half the reason I binge watched half a season over the weekend.  While the story does have slow moments, I wouldn't call any part of it dull.

Complicating matters is Anna Strong, a woman once engaged to Abraham but now married to another man.  When Anna's husband is arrested and sent to a prison ship, Anna is left high and dry.  Who's there to pick up the pieces?  You guessed it: Abraham and his still-raw feelings for her.  Abraham, himself married and with a child, can't resist coming to her aid, driven not only by his latent attachment to her but by the same sense of moral outrage that eventually leads him to support the rebel cause.

What I enjoyed about this show, as opposed to other Revolution-era pieces like The Patriot, is that there is no cut-and-dry division between right and wrong.  There are sympathetic British, and there are devious Americans.  You are left to decide who's right for yourself, based on the events of the show, rather than be told who not to like.  (Granted, you're going to hate Simcoe on sight, but who doesn't love that character you love to hate?)

Overall, I look forward to Season Two, and I urge you to give Season One a try if you enjoy historical drama.  It's available now on Netflix.  In the meantime, I'll be picking up the book.

RATING: Four of five stars

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

In Praise of Iced Coffee


Nobody loves sweating to death, least of all, me.  I love my coffee, as most of my readers well know - but when the weather warms up, I can't stand the thought of hot coffee.  So, I'd like to thank whichever enterprising soul decided it was a good idea to throw this caffeinated nectar of the gods over ice.  Yay, you.

We recently bought a new coffee maker, and I've been refrigerating the rest of what's in the pot after hubby's cuppa as my iced coffee.  Then I heard there's a better way, so I went looking on the Internet (yay, Internet) for a cold-brewed iced coffee recipe for myself.  Pretty simple.  Toss it in a container, refrigerate and wait, then strain into a new container.  You can pour yourself a cup and add whatever you like to flavor it.  Even I can do this!  If you love iced coffee, but not the way your coffee shop bill adds up over a week, give this a try.

All I can say is, yum.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day, America! Today, while you're out with family and friends, or whatever you do, please spare a moment to thank the soldiers who keep us safe.

Thank you to our soldiers and veterans for your service to our country.  If you're overseas, we pray for your safe return home, but if you can't be here, please know that we're thinking of you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Page Uploaded for FIRE!


Just a little treat for my blog readers today: the page for FIRE, Book Four in The Elemental Series, has now been uploaded to my website!  You can check it out by clicking the link, along with a first look at the excerpt for the book!

I can't wait for you to meet Ethan, the fourth of my Elementals.  He's troubled and passionate, and the sparks between him and the heroine, Gypsy, just fly! I'm in the homestretch of the first draft, so I hope you'll be able to meet them soon.  Until then, happy reading!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Speedy Seasons


















Every year, it seems that the weather warms up in a hurry.  As much as I complained about the preceding winter, I'm ready to groan over how hot it gets ... normally.  This year, I welcome the sun and warmth, because even into mid-May, I'm remembering those snowbanks that went up over my head.

I know that once it hits those hot, humid extremes, I'll change my tune, but for now, the weather appears to be trying to behave itself.  I am enjoying watching my gardens flourish, and looking forward to the first vegetable harvest.  We've got tomatoes, peas, beans, lettuce, peppers, and spinach - not to mention a host of herbs and flowers to enjoy.

What do you plant in your gardens?   How do you spend your spring?  I'd love to hear.  In the meantime, enjoy the season!  No matter what, it goes by too fast.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Restaurant Review: Bull and Bear


The family and I tried something new for dinner last night - Bull and Bear Roadhouse in Liverpool, NY.  It opened recently, and its lot has been packed with cars ever since.  We decided it was high time to see what the fuss was about.

On first impression, the outside was neat, but could have used a little weeding in its landscaping.  Inside, it was quite noisy.  The bar was packed, but we were greeted and seated in the dining room right away.  The room was noticeably loud and quite warm.  I assume their A/C needs a little attention.  The heat was unpleasant, and the noise made it difficult to hold an across-the-table conversation without raising my voice.

Our orders were taken and brought to the table promptly.  The waitress was attentive without being pushy, and very honest about her opinions when we asked about the menu offerings.  The menu was not extensive, but sturdy and varied.  I ordered the Vermonter burger and loaded salts with a glass of ice water.  The meal cost $11.  The burger was generous and piled with toppings, but in no way was it done to hide the taste of the meat.  The meat itself was course-ground Angus chuck, and very flavorful.  In one bite, this became my new favorite burger in Central NY. The loaded salts were three salt potatoes with pulled pork, sour cream, and chives, and they hit the spot.  The pork was very good, seasoned nicely with a not-too-sweet, not-too-savory balance.  When finished with the meal, I was too stuffed for dessert. :)

Hubby ordered the Vermonter with tater tots and sriracha sauce.  It's hard to mess up a tater tot, but he enjoyed his meal.  My son got a grilled cheese and fries, which was a $4 meal and also generously portioned.  Overall, the meals and two soft drinks for my boys cost just over $30.

I would definitely visit again in spite of the noise and heat.  Pleasant experience and worth going back.

Rating: Four of five stars

Happy Mother's Day!


Today, I'd like to wish a very Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there, near and far.  I'm not one to gush publicly over my son, but as a mother myself, I never thought I could love another human being so much.  It's a special bond, and one worth celebrating.

Whatever it is you do today, whether it's going out to dinner with your family or spending a quiet day at home, I hope you have a happy and peaceful day.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Winner of the 2015 Earth Day Giveaway!

Congratulations to Dee G., the winner of the 2015 Earth Day Giveaway!  Dee chose a copy of HEAVY NETTING, my book in The Wild Rose Press's Lobster Cove series:



Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's contest. Please keep checking back with me for announcements of future contests. Congratulations again to Dee G.  Happy Reading, and Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Notes From the Garden

It's nearly May, and my gardens are beginning to wake up.  After a long winter, I've grown desperate for flowers and green, growing things.  The trick is to know which ones will survive those still-chilly nights ... or if they wouldn't, how to help them do so.

In my previous blog post, I talked about a raised bed greenhouse for tender plants.  It snowed since, and I lost one of my two tomato plants even though I had a cloche over it and the greenhouse cover down.  The other survived, so I'll remember that variety for next year's planting.  (The cloches I bought were from Hobby Lobby and ran about $20 on their bi-monthly 50% off sale.)

The picture at the top is Viola "Rebecca," and it's supposed to be hardy in my zone (Zone 5).  Whether or not that actually happens, I'll find out, but it appears to love shade and moist soil, and should bloom through fall if I pinch back the blooms once they die.  So far, so good, and the flowers smell like vanilla!  Yum!


My mother bought me a cast-cement bunny for the front landscaping.  I couldn't resist him.  He looks like a storybook rabbit.  A garden just doesn't seem complete without statuary or hardscaping to offset all that greenery.  If you can't afford statuary, bring home a large stone from a trip somewhere - or a trip through your local woods - to set in your garden!  It makes a wonderful memory to add to your outdoor living space.  Just be sure you have permission to take it, and that it's thoroughly cleaned before re-homing so you don't accidentally put chemicals or soil diseases into your soil.  (You can find ways to sterilize non-native stones in many resources online.)

 

My overgrown butterfly garden has managed to surprise me.  I thought it was going to need a total overhaul, but the early bulbs have flowered, and my wildly-vining clematis is beginning to leaf out.  I may just let nature do its thing, because even the creeping charlie has cute little blue flowers.  Creeping charlie is considered an invasive weed, but the bees and butterflies like it, so I leave it alone as long as it doesn't overtake other plants.  Besides, it keeps the soil in place when it rains!  Happy Spring!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Project - Raised Bed Greenhouse


In Zone 5, where we're still wearing our parkas into April (that's New York, slathered in blue), it's hard to get a jump on the growing season.  Last year, by the time I put seeds into the ground, it was too short a season to get a meaningful booster crop for our dinner table.  This year, I decided to try my hand at making a cheapskate - er, economical - greenhouse or for our raised bed garden.

If you're like me, you don't have a lot of scratch for a glazed greenhouse.  While it might be a dream come true to afford one, the reality is, the more you spend on the greenhouse, the less money you have to put something in it.  And isn't that the point of gardening?

My trip to the hardware store yielded the following items for under $30.00:

  • One bag of assorted plastic clamps
  • One package of 9' x 12', 2 mil clear plastic drop cloth
  • Two ten-foot pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe (conduit is cheaper, but I needed something smaller-gauge so it was easier to bend)
  • One 1" PVC cross

That's it - five items!  This is all you need to make a hoop house or cold frame for your raised bed garden.


To assemble the frame, insert each section of PVC pipe into the cross, making a large "X."  The cross is loose enough to admit both pieces of PVC, which will lie one top of the other inside the cross where they intersect.  The cross has no sharp edges to tear your plastic sheeting, and there's no tool-assisted assembly.  Tension holds it all together once you put it into your raised bed.



Next, carry the structure to your bed and sink the ends of the pipes down about 10" into the corners of your raised bed.  The farther down you sink it, the more secure your cold frame will be.  If your bed isn't as deep as mine, or you're concerned about wind, you can secure the ends by sliding them into metal, U-shaped pipe hangers or "hanger tape" (also available from your hardware store) screwed to the corners of your box.  I opted for a more low-tech solution, as my raised bed is deep enough not to make wind a concern.  There's no one right answer, as long as it works for you!  When you've set up the frame, it will look like this:


Next, open the package of poly sheeting and lay it over the frame.  It's better to err on the generous side, so you have enough around the perimeter to clamp some of the sheeting edges to your box, preventing air from getting into your raised bed and chilling your plants. Trim the sheeting to size.  My raised bed is about 4' x 4' and I was left with a section of about 4' x 12' - good for covering containered herbs on chilly days or putting over that compost pile to help heat and decompose the organic matter!

Once you've trimmed the sheeting, clamp the edges down to the box, being sure that you have enough hanging over the edge to prevent drafts.  Use as many of those clamps as you like, depending on your wind conditions.  I still have some left, which I'm sure the hubby can use!

After that, you're done!  The entire project took me under a half an hour, with no technical know-how or special tools.  The temperature inside the greenhouse is noticeably warmer than outside.  You can open some or all of the cover on warmer, sunnier days so you don't "cook" your plants.  You can also use this setup to grow a four-season harvest!  Leafy vegetables like spinach are great at surviving the winter and will satisfy that need for fresh greens when snow's on the ground.  There are many more vegetables that can be grown year-round.  Their vigor depends on length of daylight and protection from the moisture-stealing winter winds.  Check your library or the Internet for possibilities available for your agricultural zone.

When you're finished using the greenhouse (i.e. your zone has finally reached a warm enough daily temperature not to need it), simply break it down and store it.  It's that easy!  Happy gardening, and Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wakey, Wakey (Spring in the Garden)!


There's nothing more wonderful than seeing the first flowers of spring pop up in your garden - even if it's overgrown like mine! I've let it get a little wild, but my butterfly garden still manages to impress me.  Among the weeds and grasses that have encroached in it are the first hardy little flowers popping up from bulbs, like the windflower above (Anemone blanda). These little bursts of color are like Nature's gift for our patience over a long, harsh winter.


The flowers above are Chionodoxa, aptly named glory-of-the-snow because this flower is one of the earliest to arrive after the cold season has finished. It's hard to imagine a flower so delicate braving those still-frosty nights.


Finally, framing my stone birdbath are groups of daffodils just starting to bud.  I have scads of daffodils in the yard, and tulips, too, that are begging to be transplanted to a more natural bed.  That's just one of the projects on tap this spring.  I can't wait to get to my favorite garden store to begin choosing the new plants for my vegetable and butterfly gardens!