Category Archives: writing

Gnome-Magic! Meet Fróði!

Britain is the home of Gnome-lovers, and there is something quintessentially British about them. There was a time where the gardens of Blighty would have had at least one gnome or two to keep the veggie patch safe.  Gnomes have been known to come in all shapes, sizes and have something of an urban mythology and folk-lore attached to them.

So much so, I figured that Petal could do with a new friend. A new friend to keep the veggie patch safe and channel the universe. Perhaps even protect the ink pens from dark magics and unwanted universal forces.

Meet the dark and mysterious Fróði!

‘The learned one’

 

Made by the lovely Gnomebase, Fróði is the guardian of the ink pens and herald of the muses.  With a velvet cap, mystical garments and silver embellishment, he’s something of a learned chap and fits in well with all things Orticultural Obbit.

 

You can get in touch with Gnomebase via their FB page or click on the etsy link above.

 

 

 

Behind the blue pastel #Fragments

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For now, my pen, all three of them actually-are at rest.

All of the writing projects are in a lull. One writing project is being reviewed at a draft level for release slated as March next year. The others being very much being paused due to a lack of mojo. I am taking a rest, as the daydreams have disappeared for a bit and  have left me to my own devices.

With that, I have been thinking about Fragments and the process of writing it. What I have been reflecting upon, is why I wrote it and the stories that are within the pages. For days, I have been thinking about what I might share about a book that I feel I had to write, wanted to write and hope that people might something out of. Three things, that are no different to how I felt when writing about my allotment and on this blog. Three very important drives when picking up a pen and committing thoughts and feelings to paper.

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‘Fragments’ is not a book full of sunshine, rainbows or butterflies. The theme of the book and that which covers all of the six stories is grief. Grief, bereavement and loss is something, that like taxes is part of our lives.

It happens to us all, but for each of us the journey that occurs is unique.

Grief, bereavement and loss are also veiled in social acceptance; talking about grief, showing how it affects us and then processing it, is all very much on the down low. It is shied away from, thought of as dark, gloomy and best dealt by alone. Grief, bereavement and loss feel spikey; we hold these things at arms length and wrinkle up our noses when faced with them.

‘Fragments’ started it’s life nine months after I experienced the loss of my  maternal grandfather. He was the last grandparent. To this day, I remember the message that my sister sent me, I remember telling my mum-the hardest thing, that I have ever had to do-and I remember leaving work, climbing into George, turning off the music, and heading off towards the A444. I remember Nana still being there and at home, whilst I went looking for saucepans and tea bags in the kitchen. I remember cursing March, as it was such a pain in the backside. There was relief when March ended, I can assure you.

Starting to write in November and much later in the year, I didn’t think about purpose, tone or audience. I wasn’t even thinking about writing a book. All I wanted to do, was write down the day dream that I was experiencing and as quick as I could on lined paper with a green biro. I had written two thirds of the first chapter, when I realised that what I was writing was important. I couldn’t give it up, and I had to go with it. There was no plan, I  had not plotted out arcs or characters. This was seat of the pants writing, and then some.

I found a notebook, a robust one; I wanted to do this properly. This daydream was far too important to ignore and at this point, I thought about planning what shape it would take.

All in all, six interwoven stories appeared on the page. I know, there are only five on the blurb. But hey, find it, open it,  and find the sixth.

There are the Anands, Christopher, Daniel, Michael, Aldo and Matthew within the pages.

The Anands are an Anglo-Indian family who lose a wife and mother. Christopher loses his dog. Daniel loses his husband, Michael and Aldo are parents bereaved. Like me, Matthew experiences the loss of a grandparent.

I have another character in the book. Marcy, a counsellor.

All of these characters, these people somehow reflect the world around me. There were times, that during the writing process they all felt real and very much three-dimensional. Figments of my imagination these characters may have been, but within the pages of Fragments their worlds are some form of reality.

Over the course of nearly two years, the six stories were developed. I must have dragged them on every adventure I went on, used bottles of ink and spent hours poring over the two notebooks that the stories would fill. There were tears, when I felt the stories so strongly and had to sit back with a cuppa to be at arms length. There were smiles when the words flowed. In writing the book, I had put my soul onto the page to go through both pleasure and pain.

When it ended, I felt a loss and not to dissimilar to that experienced by the characters.

Fragments had become a part of me, it contained so much that I thought I had dealt with. It became an act of self care-though, at times when I pushed myself to get it written, this didn’t feel the case. Writing helped me to process what my own feelings and thoughts were and I cannot find the words to convey this more clearly.

When eighty per cent of Fragments was written and Christmas 2016 drawing close, there was another family bereavement.

My pen froze.

December 2016 was painful as Aunty Indra passed away.  Again, I was cursing the month for being so awful.  I couldn’t write a single solitary thing. I don’t think I was supposed to, the universe didn’t want that to happen and at that point, I put books of any sort aside.

It was an interesting book-end. Fragments started with a death, it was finishing with a death.

Time had to pass and grief had to be processed before I could pick up  my pen again. When I did and at the end of January, Fragments was ready to resume its course.

It wasn’t just the writing that was therapeutic. Making the cover was also important to me. Whilst I had the title of the book, nothing felt right when it came to the cover. So much so, I fancied getting creative. In already having a stash for colouring, I knew that I had soft pastels somewhere. I used these to create three different pieces. All blue; blue felt right for this book and I went with it. Playing with sugar paper and soft pastels was rather interesting! What I couldn’t then do, was decide which one would be the cover and the options went to a public vote via social media. I gave no clue as to what the image was for or what the content of book was.  In then end, ‘Fabric of the universe’ won and became the book cover.

Recently, when learning about grief and bereavement during my counselling diploma, Fragments took on another dimension. I saw the book, the themes from a different perspective and as being even more real One hell of a light bulb moment occurred, and writing the book felt even more important.

I opened with saying that my pens are at rest. For now, they are and until the mojo returns, that will remain the case.

Until then, I shall be smelling the roses…..

 

Pages, Plotting, and Petal #I am writing

Petal and I  are currently on our summer holidays, all two weeks of it. We have already spent a few days floating around Cambridge, by way of having time and just adventuring to a different beyond the borders of Middle England. This has lent itself to sitting in different spaces and writing.

As well as tending to the allotment-as hit and miss as it has been-there has been a parallel project this year of writing another book. This book is a work of fiction, the previous two projects have been non-fiction and allotment orientated. I chose to write fiction for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to; amusing as it is daydreaming and having a smile creep across your face, to put it down onto paper is really quite nice. And it is all on paper, I choose to hand write my stories long hand in ink in my notebook and then type up, prepare them further later on. It does however mean that I have to decipher my rather awful handwriting. Handwriting, that if you ask my mum, makes your eyes go a bit a funny. Second, the current work is about a topic that people might struggle to talk about, to process. I am writing about grief and bereavement, and I guess it is all borne out of having lost the last of my Grandparents just over a year ago. The process in part, is for me a process of reflection and getting a handle on my own experiences. Third, I have written non-fiction, writing fiction is a step beyond my comfort zone. It is a step towards doing something different, it is a step further in an ongoing process of development.

Writing this third book has been very different compared to the first two  and it will take the time necessary for it to be where it should be. I am not going to rush it and force daydreams to appear. There have been periods of time where there have been no daydreams, I have written nothing. Yet the plan, over the summer, was to make a dent and to write. So I have been trying.

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See, I told you my handwriting was interesting.

The current work in progress is all planned out and there is a distinct start, middle and end. What I need to maintain is a focus and get the job done. This is somewhat difficult, with writing being shoe horned in amongst different aspects of real life.

What you see above, is book three, being written in my notebook. The tea was very useful, and facilitates the process.  There is a vague plan, for a book four-that this is probably going to be garden related, in some shape or form. However, there is another idea that has started to niggle at the bag of my brain.

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A couple of very good friends and fellow gardeners, had proposed that Petal-the avatar-might have some adventures. This thought was as I said, niggling at the back of my head. Then, I had a day dream as I found myself thinking about. What you see above, is a burst.  A rough, unready, just a splatter, segment. I am unsure, uncertain to a great extent, as to where this is going to go. What I can say, is that there will be Petal Petunia-oh, she now has a surname-adventures. I will be thinking and hopefully daydreaming, to grow this initial burst.

I was thinking, about how I might play with this Petal Petunia burst. Only for something advertised by The Big Comfy Bookshop to attract my attention. They were doing something wonderful with the use of  Rory’s Story cubes.  So with some story cubes now in my possession, I am thinking that these may be useful.

If you get a moment, please go visit the The Big Comfy Bookshop. I have had the pleasure of being sat inside, nursing a big mug of tea and eating cake whilst writing book three.  There are not many independent bookshops out there, or book shops that really support the community to encourage and facilitate greatness. Plus being a bookshop, it is a heaven for every Bookworm.

There is a week left of the summer holiday, a second adventure is only hours away. The notebook and pen are stowed away in readiness.

Here’s to writing adventures!

 

Hello, Sunshine, where have you been?

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If you ask my Mum, the tomatoes have been looking routinely quite sad. They needed watering, and they were cheered up with doses of haitch two oh as and when required. What was more important, was sunshine. Sunshine, which has been somewhat absent and has finally turned up. And very welcome it is too, as it has kick started and renewed feelings of optimism as far as the allotment is concerned. According to the weather people, the sunshine is going to be around for a while; a week at least. With that in mind, the tomatoes have been sent outside to the path in Dad’s garden to start the process of hardening off. Unlike last year, where the tomatoes were all grown under cover; these are going to be outdoors and in raised beds or open ground. Currently they are all having a strop in pots, and I am hoping that if the plants sun bathe for the next few days that I can then take them to the allotment and bury them a bit deeper. The appearance of yellow flashes, tomato flowers, suggests that these all need to get a wiggle on and fairly soon.

This year’s cohort of chillies are the current room mates of the tomatoes, and will also need to be removed to the poly tunnel and be potted up. There are chillies here that are supposed to be small and stumpy, as it were, and those who are supposed to grow tall and abundant. I did sort them out into two groups to make the sorting out easier. The taller chillies will be potted up into large flower buckets, whereas the smaller ones are going to put into pots as they are not expected to take up a huge amount of room. In the last few weeks, the chillies have rather had something of a grow spurt and on time. In the next four weeks they will grow further before being moved to the poly tunnel. Having been sown a little late doesn’t appear to  have to knocked them too much.

With the chillies hitting a stride, there are also emerging seedlings. Recently sown cucumbers and squashes have started to come through. With the frost window remaining open until the next May bank holiday, both of these have got four weeks to grow and become more robust.  In my experience, squashes grow very quickly; you sometimes have to re-pot them to key up. I am hoping that with the four week window they are suitably sized for planting out once that they have been hardened off. With the cucumbers, I do intend for these to be planted and grown outside. I have previously grown crystal lemon outside and harvested a crop.

Seedlings are sat on the sidelines, mean making crumble. Last year I was able to harvest trugs full of apples and these were then frozen alongside some plums. Today has been spent making a plum and apple crumble. The second in four days!

With the crop of a previous year being used up, we can look to the future crop. A walk to the plot meant finding cherry and apple Blossom. The two cherry trees, Sylvia and Morello, are new additions to the plot; so it was rather heartening to see white buds n the Morello, but a lovely white bloom-just the one!-on the Sylvia tree. I wasn’t expecting to see any blossom on them this year, so I am really quite surprised to see blossom. I did check on the Concorde pear, that appears to have taken the frost on the chin, and is still looking frilly. The darling peach tree does still have a couple of deep pink blooms, there had been half a dozen; I did fleece at one point only for the wind to disagree with the shrouding.

The otherwise heavy clay of the allotment has had a chance to dry out. This has been to the relief to the heritage garlic that Marshalls were kind enough to provide for the plot. Garlic is wonderfully resilient, and is actually doing quite well given how much rain it has suffered. There are no signs yet of any bolting, and the ground is weed free so the bulbs should be making the most of the nutrients available from the clay.  The foliage is still very green and leafy, and with another eight weeks to go there is still a lot of growing to be done.

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I do like it when the post person delivers something that you’ve been hotly anticipating. Copies of ‘Sow Grow and Eat’ landed on our doormat and rather made my day. My thanks to the fabulous Howard-(the artist who once sunk spuds, remember him?) for having put the cover together. You will also spot that the Loldeantimber trug is now something of a cover star, it also appears in the book. Given how the trug is used so much on the plot, it was definitely going to end up in the book.

#Plantpottales: The Global Gardening paperback!

It would be amazing to get support other gardeners as we approach the new growing season here in the Northern Hemisphere. My own experiences have been documented both here on the blog and in the book.

‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’ charts all of my discoveries, the positives and the pitfalls of growing my own fruit and vegetables on the allotment.

You can find the book in both paper back and in ebook forms. The links to the UK amazon and kindle sites are on the right hand side of the blog.

A reminder though, of where you might find the book:

 

The link for Barnes & Noble can be accessed here

Another thing that is really important to me, is supporting independent book stores Sadly, there isn’t one here in Birmingham, England! Or at least not one I can find anyway. I am determined to find one. That said, I am working with Serendipity Books and More in the US. At the moment, they are the only store in the USA that physically stocks and sells copies of the book plus some of the Petal’s Potted Preserve Merchandise.

So if you are in the US, would like to support not one by two small independent business and are trying to develop green fingers, why not check out the store without walls as developed by Serendipity Books and More.

 

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Serendipity books and more: Plant Pot tales

#iamwriting …well, trying to…

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Having set myself a mission of writing and publishing something by the end of the year; I am trying. I am really trying!

I have learned lessons from last year, having written and published #plantpottales. I enjoyed it immensely and I am very proud of having written and published a book that I feel really passionately about. #Plantpottales is really special to me, I enjoyed writing it and I feel it is of value to other people. That was one driving factor in writing it, as well as wanting to share all of my experiences so that others could benefit from them.  The process at the time was exciting. I remember a number of times where writing was frenzied, I just had to write things down and get them into the book. I cannot really describe the buoyancy that came in setting my mind on the task and actually feeling inspired. Feeling inspired was pretty encouraging, and actually gave me a lot of confidence to get the job done. To stay focused and put effort into the project.

#Plantpottales was of course non-fiction, and something that reflected my own personal experiences. And now I am considering fiction. This somewhat perturbs me. Whilst I have been part of a Star Trek fan fiction sim and for a while, this is different. I would be writing something by myself and it won’t have anything to do with Star Trek! (I don’t think I ever written about gardening in the sim, actually….) I have found myself asking questions about how exactly I am supposed to do this. Searching questions as to what is it that makes a book readable, what are the technical things that I need to consider in terms of plot devices and how to write dialogue. I might, of course, be thinking about things a bit too much. When all I should be doing is sitting down and just writing what might find itself arriving into my head. These things are important, and I am by no means glossing over them. My attention will be given to them in due course.

Reflection has happened, and whilst I was thinking about what type of writer I am. I may have got a little hung up, on thinking that I have to plan, and in detail. I don’t particularly like planning to the n’th degree. I would much rather have a daydream of a sort, hold onto that and put pen to paper. Pretty much what has been described as writing ‘by the seat of your pants’. I can see the logic in that; that feels like the way I write at the moment. That is the way I am going to keep it. I enjoy it, the experience of having a daydream that feels like a story waiting to happen inspires and encourages me to keep writing. I do like to write with a pen and paper too. I can’t edit and go back to text as you might with a PC or a lap top, but I like it. It’s the experience of seeing something you have imagined in your mind, take form on a page in ink. Though trying to read my writing when I go to type does make for a challenge. The ideas are easier to execute with a pen, paper, and with post-its that I can stick in when I have an idea.

Once #plantpottales was done and dusted, there was a physical and psychological drain and it left a wound. I wasn’t inspired, and I found it very hard to imagine things. Images and ideas would form, only to go zing and poof; disappear without cogency. I couldn’t feel ideas form that I wanted to believe in and share. I wanted to, I wanted to write again. Only when your body and brain are telling you ‘no’ it is probably a good idea to just wait. And I did wait for a bit, even though it has been rather frustrating.  I had a couple of ideas that attempted to materialise, the one idea I wrote the opening salvos of and then left aside until Christmas.

The plan was to write two things simultaneously over the course of the year. It still is, actually; with one project under way and the second not yet presenting itself in an inspired way. Both are still in the infancy, so I won’t at this stage give away details. Only that one could/might still be gardening orientated, and that the second is not really that cute, fluffy, all smiles and whistles. The second has my attention for now; there are ideas and half a plan.  I know, I said that I don’t like to plan. I didn’t actually formulate the plan; the plan came together by itself. Came together from having written a list of scenes to right, and presented me the opportunity to plot them onto a timeline. I sat there, and I looked at it. Realised that I had now a plan of what I wanted to write. That I write in stages; that like Lego blocks would come together in some sort of structure. It has taken time to get this far. Time to consider things carefully. More so than last year with #plantpottales. I can’t help but feel that there is a reason for that; and part of the learning and development process. The two projects are different and the first of the two is at this stage best described as an engine that has stalled and may even have slightly dodgy spark plugs. I cannot seem to piece any ideas together that might actually work.

What I don’t like is word counts and deadlines. In terms of word counts, the prospect of writing 80, 000 words terrifies me. That is a lot of words. #Plantpottales was a fraction of that at 25, 000. So I do see that as a Psychological barrier of a sort. Then I think about how quickly I did actually amass those words, and how when writing the blog, I don’t necessarily reflect on how many words a post might be. Knowing the word count for #plantpottales is something of a yardstick for how many words I  need to write over the coming year.  Deadlines. An end point is always useful, to start a journey and then plot your course towards the end. I did give myself a deadline for #plantpottales and ended up publishing well before. This time, I want to use time more effectively. I want to make it worthwhile. I don’t expect to be writing for hours at all hours. First of all, real life gets in the way and second there are those days when you feel as inspired as a dead gnat.

I will continue to write. I want to, and I do feel that #plantpottales is something of a beginning. Writing is not easy, I don’t believe that for a moment. I will try to do it though. I really will.