Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

Skinny Has Friends!

May 15, 2019

Skinny Shares Lunch With A Friend

Our co-resident Skinny the thrasher has been expanding his social circle!  As I told you in a Wandering about a month ago, we first met Skinny when he was using our bird block as a source of food during his struggle to survive after being orphaned.  He has since claimed our yard as his territory.  Until this spring, Skinny didn’t seem to have many friends, but now things are changing.

Last week, we saw Skinny not only sharing “his” bird block with another thrasher, but actively feeding it.  We think, but aren’t certain, that Skinny’s friend is a juvenile.  However, some courting behaviors mimic parent/child behaviors.  Our guess is based on how, in the photos Jim took, the bird being fed seems to have a shorter, less curved beak, which is one of the few ways young thrashers differ from fully mature.  If so, then Skinny may have a family.  Adult thrashers take turns minding the nest and the young, which might explain why we haven’t seen two adults foraging together the way we did the two thrashers we assume were Skinny’s parents.

Skinny has also come to something of an agreement with P.F., the cottontail who likes to hop up on the bird block and stuff himself.  Possibly because an earlier incarnation saved his life, Skinny considers the bird block “his.”  Although he has never seemed to mind sharing it with the sparrows, finches, quail, and doves, he was not happy to have this large, furry creature plop himself on top and munch away.

However, last week, Jim got pictures of P.F. and Skinny sharing the bird block.  This doesn’t mean they don’t still compete from time to time.  We’ve seen Skinny sneak up on P.F. and poke him right on his fuzzy rump.  And we’ve seen P.F. launch himself for the top of the block, never mind who else is there.  All in all, Skinny seems the more territorial, while P.F. is simply opportunist.

Skinny and P.F. Have A Lunch Date

Our toads are also back, and our teeny-tiny pond is once again hosting both nightly singalongs and copious quantities of tadpoles.  We saw one of last year’s tadpoles perched on the edge of the pond, contemplating whether he could manage to leap down into the water.  Hey, four inches is a long way when you’re only about half an inch tall!

Wolf’s Search is now off to the copy editor, and I’m reviewing Wolf’s Soul before moving along to writing the conclusion.  Time to curl up with a stack of paper and a red pencil or three.  Catch you later!

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Forthcoming Firekeeper! Catnip Socks!

May 1, 2019

Persephone Demos Catnip Socks

This week I finalized a deal for the very first short story ever featuring Firekeeper and Blind Seer to appear in DreamForge Magazine! “A Question of Truth” will be in issue three, which is scheduled for late August 2019.

“A Question of Truth” is set after Wolf’s Blood, but before the forthcoming novels Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul.  It was inspired by my awareness that a certain event in Wolf’s Soul had a complete story that preceded it.  However, if I were to tell that story in the novel, it wouldn’t fit into the flow.  Since I needed to work those details out, I decided to do it in the form of a short story.

The opening sentence reads as follows: “Prompting from an insane jaguar is probably not the best reason to investigate a dark, dank hole in a hillside, but Firekeeper and Blind Seer had long ago learned not to ignore Truth.”  For the rest, you’ll need to read the story in DreamForge.  It will not be featured elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

You can subscribe to DreamForge here.  Both print and digital versions of the magazine are available.  We’re negotiating with Hugo award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett to do the illustration.  (In case you didn’t know, DreamForge is lushly illustrated.)

To anticipate a likely question: “When is Wolf’s Search coming out?”  At this point, we’re still on schedule for August 2019.  I’d love to have the novel available for Bubonicon.  I’ll keep you posted as we get closer.  If you don’t want to miss updates, sign up for my mailing list, which you can do on the homepage of my website.  If I can manage to do something other than writing and pre-publication production, I might even have some sort of contest or giveaway to celebrate.

If you’d like to know more about how I’m handling this project, you might want to look at my Wandering from a couple month’s back, “Wolf’s Search (And Other Projects) Update,” here.

Now Persephone, one of my cats, says I’m being too serious this week.  She suggests that if I’m going to tell you about things I’m doing, I should tell you something really, really important like How To Make Catnip Socks.

Many years ago, my cats informed me that catnip mice were simply too small.  Although cats like toys they can bat around, cats really appreciate toys they can wrestle, kick, lie on, and use as pillows.

Here’s how to make a Catnip Sock.  Cut a large quantity of fresh catnip.  Stuff into a spare sock, stems and all.  (Tube socks work really well.)  Tie a knot on at the open end.  Present to cat.

 As the catnip dries, the sock won’t be as tightly stuffed, but you can untie and add more.  Even if you don’t, the cat will continue to enjoy.  I’ve seen my cats happily napping on nearly flat catnip socks in the dead of winter when the catnip has lost its first pungency.

Side note: Catnip is a plant in the mint family and is very easy to grow.  In most climates, the difficulty is keeping it from spreading.  Cut it frequently to keep it from going to seed.  Both the plant and your cats will appreciate this.  Catmint may be substituted or used to augment catnip, but it is less pungent.

On that cheerful note, I’m off to write.  I’m into the final section of Wolf’s Soul, and am pretty jazzed about how events are shaping up!

Catnip, Italian Parsley, Zinnias

April 24, 2019

Alyssum, Hollyhocks, Marigolds

Catnip, catmint, Italian parsley, garlic chives, tomatoes, alyssum, blanket flowers, cardinal vine, chocolate flowers, Cyprus vine, hollyhocks, marigolds, portulacas, zinnias.  Other than all being plants, what do these have in common?

If you guessed that these are all domestic plants that already have or can be expected to volunteer in my yard this year, you’d be right.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, my yard does not provide the most gentle of climates.  Over the years, I’ve come to treasure those plants that seem to have domesticated us as much as we have domesticated them.   The results are often surprising and even quite lovely.

Often by late summer the vegetable bed on the east side of our shed looks as if portions have been quilted because of the amount of alyssum that volunteers from seeds scattered by past generations.  Yes, the alyssum takes some of the water that could go to my peppers and eggplant, but the plants also provide a natural organic mulch that keeps our sandy soil from becoming burning hot during the day.  And, well, they’re pretty, too.

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy these volunteer plants quite a bit.  Sure, some get weeded out, but a lot more get transplanted or just enjoyed where they’ve sprouted.  Does this make for a rather chaotic and disorganized yard?  Only superficially.  I tend to think of it as working with nature, rather than forcing nature to work with me.  And since I’m the one who introduced the majority of these plants to the environment, well, this strikes me as making a compromise.  Maybe the parsley isn’t growing quite where I intended but, hey, I have parsley.

Not surprisingly, my stories come to life in a very similar fashion.  I come up with ideas, but how they germinate and the way they fit together often surprises me.

That happened this past weekend.  I’d been sliding elements for the final section of Wolf’s Soul around in my head, waiting to see how they would fit together.  Then, last Friday, as Jim and I were putting dinner together, I had one of those “aha” moments.  Leaving Jim to handle the final touches, I went and scribbled all over a piece of scrap paper and tucked it under my monitor.  I pulled it out on Saturday morning, crossed out one line, added a couple more.  Now I’m merrily writing away.

Is the story what I thought it would be when I started writing it?  Absolutely not, but like my alyssum quilted vegetable bed, the results are turning out surprising and even quite lovely.

What You And I Want

March 27, 2019

This Will Make Sense

Monday I woke up with no idea what to wander on about for this week.  I did know what I wanted to be doing.  Last Friday I left Firekeeper and her associates in the middle of a very complicated situation.  As much as I wanted to keep writing into Friday evening, I’d wrenched my shoulder (either throwing atlatl darts or carrying buckets of water), and I had to get away from the keyboard.

So Monday (which is when I often draft the Wednesday Wanderings) came around, and I didn’t have any idea what to natter on about.  I really didn’t think you’d want to know that Jim and I drew plans for where to plant what in our garden, which is very complicated because this year we’re not only trying some new things, we’re rotating crops.

Or that I had a lot of fun coloring with special gel pencils a picture that had been printed on black paper.

Or that my RPG went well this past week, despite the fact that my players seem to be rolling a record number of fumbles.  (Jim is in the lead.  He’s being a very good sport about this.)

And I didn’t really want to spend a lot of energy trying to justify why these things should interest you, just because they really interest me.

Then it occurred to me that what most of you and I have in common is my writing, and that you’d probably like it if I didn’t put off getting back to that very complicated scene because I was trying to write a clever (or at least not hugely boring) essay.

So, I will leave you here and go and do what I want to do…  And I hope that it’s what you want me to do as well.

As always, I welcome suggestions as to topics for the Wednesday Wanderings.  Please feel free to make a suggestion in the Comments wherever you’re reading this or, if you’re shy, you can e-mail me at jane2@janelindskold.com.

Now, off to continue dealing with complications and consequences!  Woo-hoo!

Growing Research

October 17, 2018

Blue Speckled Tepary Beans

Last year, I was doing research into desert ecosystems for a story project.  Among the books I read was a short one produced by the Arizona Desert Museum about how various plants and animals adapt to an environment that not only gets very little water, but which also experiences extremes of heat and cold.  The plants mentioned included those that had been domesticated by the indigenous populations.  One of these was a type of bean I’d never heard of before: the tepary bean.

Tepary beans were said to grow in high temperatures, need very little water, and produce beans that are flavorful and very high in protein.  What wasn’t there to like?

Love at first sight is an irrational reaction, so I’m not going to attempt to explain why, but I fell madly in love with the idea of adding tepary beans to our garden.   Oh, I can give logical arguments, such as in recent years we’ve been dealing with temperatures peaking in the low 100 degree range for weeks at a time during the summer, but such logic would diminish my irrational obsession with the idea.

Plants of the Southwest here in Albuquerque carried seeds for a couple different tepary varieties. I chose the one that had a shortest growing time.  That the “blue speckled tepary bean” also sounded rather pretty was an added incentive.

For the next few months, I mulled over where to plant the seeds.  Although we are enthusiastic gardeners, we’re also practitioners of what has sometimes been called the “oasis watering” strategy.  In this, only limited areas (the “oasis”) receive regular watering.  The rest are watered more irregularly.  In our case, we often water by hand using “grey water.”

My research showed that even though tepary beans were listed as needing very little water, they did benefit from being planted in flood plains or other areas that experienced at least limited deep soaking.  I recalled that, in the long bed on the southwest side of our house, there was one row where anything we planted died.  We’d come to the conclusion that its orientation combined with the closeness to the side of the house (which soaks up heat) made this area too hot.

(For those of you who garden, yes, we did make sure the area was getting water.  Yes, we did rotate crops.  Yes, we did amend the soil, including regular trench composting to add slow-releasing nutrients.  Yes, we dug over the soil to assure salts hadn’t built up in that area.)

Since this row had become more or less waste space, we decided to put the tepary seeds in there.  After all, part of the appeal was that they were supposed to thrive on heat and low water.

The seeds germinated rapidly – far more quickly than the bush beans and lianas that we put in around the same time.  The plants leafed out quickly as well.  We observed that during the heat of the day, the leaves would re-orient, almost folding so as to receive less direct sunlight.  Fascinating!

Although the tepary bean plants leafed out quickly, they didn’t flower.  I did some research and decided that maybe – even in that hot, brutal zone – they were getting too much water.  Since we use soaker hoses, it was easy to move these to one side so that the bean plants received less water.  Soon we began to see flowers, tiny pale pink blossoms that shared the tendency of the leaves to hide during the heat of the day.

Later, these produced small pods holding (on average) three to five seeds.  For quite a while, we thought we might only get back what we had planted.  The minute seeds took forever to fill a baby food jar.  Then, late summer, when the bush beans had long ceased to produce, we began to discover more and more tepary pods.  Soon we filled the baby food jar and moved to a larger jar that held about a cup.  We filled that, and moved to a two cup jar.

We quickly learned we needed to pick the pods as soon as they were dry because – unlike most beans (where you can just pick the entire plants and the beans will stay in the pods for later harvest), when a tepary bean pod dried, it twisted in on itself, releasing the beans, sometimes at a distance from the original plant.  We learned that a pop and rattle from the cupboard where we stored the unshelled beans meant that the beans were shelling themselves.

As of this writing, that jar is full and we’ll probably get at least a quarter cup more.  That may not sound like much, but that’s many, many times more than we initially planted.

We plan to save some seeds for next year’s planting, and intend to try some even less hospitable parts of the garden, just to see how much the tepary beans can take.  We might even try a second variety.  There’s one called Santa Rosa that isn’t as pretty, but produces a larger seed.

So, from research for a story came a very interesting gardening project.  We have yet to cook any of the beans, but I’ve heard that tepary bean humus is very tasty.  I’ll let you know!

Toads, Gardens, and Stuff

May 23, 2018

Look Carefully. He’s There!

Today’s picture shows one of the residents of our yard.  This little toad (here shown in his hole) has chosen to make his residence under one of the hollyhocks in the bed against our east wall.

I’m very impressed…

Why?  Because this bed is about twelve inches off the ground.  This toad stands maybe two inches tall – if he’s not lounging flat, which happens to be his preferred posture.  So, if he were a human who stood six feet tall, that would mean he would be capable of jumping thirty-six feet in a single jump.  Talk about superhero moves!

Yep!  It’s now late spring, moving rapidly into summer, and, once again, my yard is providing me with a great deal of amusement.  If I were naming the seasons, I think I’d call this one “Potential,” because everything is fresh and green, we’re putting in new plants and seeds, as well as experimenting to see if we can make what failed last year succeed this time around

Last summer was particularly hot and dry – even for New Mexico where months go by with no rain at all.  So, why do I garden?  Isn’t that wasteful?  Shouldn’t I be more ecologically sensitive?

Well, I suppose from one perspective what I do could be seen as wasteful.  It’s easy to buy vegetables cheaply in the store.  Of course, they don’t taste as good, and they aren’t as good for you, but it’s possible.  So responsible gardening provides us with better tasting, healthier food.

Jim and I are very responsible.  When it rains, we collect water.  When it doesn’t rain, we water using soaker hoses, which saturate the ground while losing less water to evaporation.  We have designated specific high use areas – all of which are either raised beds or sculpted in one way or another to preserve water.  Borders around plants and mulch are two of our most frequently used tactics.

The majority of our yard relies on low water use plants.  We even – brace yourself, especially those of you “back East” to whom weeds are anathema and a green velvet yard is the goal of many – let weeds grow.  Of course, we don’t think of them as weeds.  We think of them as native plants.

Growing native plants has several additional advantages.  They are usually adapted to low rainfall.  They provide food and shelter for birds and small animals.  (We often leave native plants to go to seed for this reason.)  They hold down the loose soil, preventing erosion from wind and rain.

True, many of New Mexico’s native plants have stickers and thorns, but we choose what plants to pull, what to leave.  After over twenty years tending this one small ecosystem, we have a lot fewer plants with stickers, a lot more with flowers and nutritious seeds.

As a result, I can pause in my writing to watch finches busily harvesting spectacle pod seeds, or robins tugging up tufts of dry grass with which to line their nests.

We also provide water – although not a lot.  We have a tiny pond and a bird bath.  However, these are enough to attract a wide variety of birds and insects, including bees.  A little later in the summer, we’ll have dragonflies and butterflies.

The fact is, human land use has removed the sagebrush, wild grasses, and the like that formerly helped keep the ecosystem able to support itself even during dry years.  So while in one way we’re still being very human, in another, we’re being ecologically sensitive, providing food, water, shelter, nesting areas – and even damp places where toads can dig their holes.

I’m off to write now but, when I need to stop and ponder the next twist of the plot, I’ll wander outside, pull a few weeds, maybe plant a few more seeds.  Thus an additional benefit of gardening is that it makes me a more productive writer – a win-win situation all around!

FF: Not Quite Killing

November 3, 2017

Last week a killing frost was announced.  When Jim and I returned home from Denver and MileHiCon, we discovered that there had been frost, but not quite killing.  And that a rogue pomegranate evaded being picked…

Persephone In Mythic Mode

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Fairy Tail, manga, volume 12 by Hiro Mashima.

Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin. 

Myth Directions by Robert Asprin.

Fer-de-lance by Rex Stout.  Audiobook.  Interesting not only as a story, but to see how the characters of Nero, Archie, Fritz, and Theodore started out before Stout solidified their personalities.

In Progress:

Myth Directions by Robert Asprin.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire.  Audiobook.

 Also:

Much background reading as I ease myself back into the Firekeeper universe after ten years away.

Life’s Peachy!

August 23, 2017

This week as we lead up to Bubonicon, New Mexico’s annual SF convention, I’m pulled in about three different – all very enjoyable – directions.

Sweet Bounty!

Let’s start with the convention.  Bubonicon is always a great show, and this year it’s extra interesting for me.  One of the Guests of Honor is C.J. Cherryh, whose works I first encountered in college.  Now I’m actually going to be on a panel (“Felines and Feline Aliens in SF: The Cat’s Meow”) with her – and as a participating author.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my eighteen-year-old self that!

She wouldn’t believe me, though.

Still, maybe I’ll get the chance, since the Bubonicon theme this year is “time travel.”  Perhaps someone there will have a working time machine I can borrow.

I’m on a bunch of panels at Bubonicon, including one on short writing exercises that I’m wondering if I’ll screw up.  I’ve never been a “writer in the window” sort of person.  Still, this one is hosted by Josh Gentry, host of the “Snack Read/Snack Writes” website.  I couldn’t pass up the temptation.

On Saturday, I’ll also be giving a reading, probably from an unpublished short story.   And on Sunday (after a panel and my chance to be a fan girl watching the GOH’s get interviewed by none other than the marvelous Ursula Vernon), I’ll be helping out with the Afternoon Tea.

For the Tea, I’m making a new (for me, at least) savory cheese cookie.  My test group loved the first batch, and I’m looking forward to sharing with a larger group.  Tea hosts this year will include Diana Gabaldon and Sherwood Smith.  Remember that those who wear hats and gloves (creative, elegant, just plain silly) are eligible for special prizes!   Sign up in advance, since spaces at the tea are limited, and we’re only doing two sessions this year.

Additional Bubonicon coolness includes…  Elizabeth Leggett, with whom I had a great time last year on the David Bowie panel, is going to be Artist GOH – hot on the heels of her Hugo win as Best Fan Artist.  Two other 2017 Hugo Winners will be attending as well: Ursula Vernon and Daniel Abraham (who is half of James S.A. Corey, of The Expanse).  The Bubonicon committee members clearly know how to pick their guests!

Bubonicon launches my personal public appearances cycle.  In late September, I’ll be one of the presenters at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word in Silver City, New Mexico.  It looks like a fascinating event and, as a bonus for me, will be my first trip to Silver City.

In late October, I’m one of the Guests of Honor at MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado.   More on that as we get closer.

Finally, in November, I’ll be supporting the Albuquerque Museum by participating in the “am Author Fest” on November 11th.   Come and get a head start on your Christmas shopping, while supporting the museum and hanging out with local authors.

So…  Public appearances is one direction my life is pulled in.  Another is writing.  I’m working intensely on a new novel, which topped 120,000 words last week.  No title, but I’m very much enjoying.  Also, I’m nearly done with one reprint-related project, and beginning to set up the schedule for my first self-published original novel.

Then, as if that isn’t enough, the harvest is coming in.   The monsoon rains are helping a great deal, and my garden is producing a bumper crop of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and string beans, as well as various herbs.  We’re trying an experiment with our summer squash this year, and are hoping for a solid late harvest.  We’re waiting to see if the cukes do more than flowers.

Additionally, our friend Samantha Thompson has gifted us with some of her home orchard’s bounty.  I currently have a dishpan full of peaches waiting to be processed (as well as some to be eaten immediately).  Next to that dishpan is a bag containing an utterly astonishing amount of seedless grapes, many of which will graduate into raisins.  There’s a bowl of miniature Bartlett pears on top of the fridge.

So…  There you have it: public appearances, writing, and dealing with produce.  Three directions, all quite a lot of fun.  Basically, life’s peachy!

Hope to see you at Bubonicon!

Wrist Twists Insists

July 5, 2017

Last week was rather exciting.  On the good side, we harvested our first tomatoes, some interesting carrots, and enough eggplant to make a vegetable curry.

Deep Red Carrot

A week ago – making me glad that I had already posted the WW – we also had five blackouts in one day, with the grand finale coming on Thursday morning.  Happily, because I tend to obsessively back up as I work (a relic of days when computers didn’t do so automatically), I didn’t lose any writing.  However, it did mean time when I didn’t want to work on my computer (I use a desktop), so I settled in my kitchen and drew maps.

Another interesting development is a slight twist to my wrist.  This was probably acquired when wrestling Kwahe’e the cat, who does not like getting his tri-weekly dose of subcutaneous fluids.  Not one bit…

We’re giving fluids to two cats right now, staving off the worst impact of kidney failure.  Ogapoge is fairly patient as long as I tell him a story.  He likes stories, and has had a bedtime story for quite a long time.  Jim is the usual bedtime storyteller and over the years has created a vast cast of characters, drawn from books, television shows, and from the regular inhabitants of our yard.

As soon as Ogapoge hears the familiar words, “Once upon a time, in a cold dark place, there lived a little kitten, who came from outer space,” he snuggles down and more or less resigns himself to having a needle between his shoulders for the next ten minutes or so.

A story does not work for Kwahe’e.  He needs to be sung to, and the song has to change periodically.  For a long time, a sort of “counting song” that encouraging him to “get it done in one” worked.  Then we segued into a chant, with a nice Native American-inspired refrain of “hey-yah, hey-yah, hey-yah.”  But it’s looking as if I’m going to need to come up with something else.

Anyhow, my wrist is okay once it loosens up, as long as I don’t do anything too stupid.  I can even type without any difficulty.

I’ve been writing vigorously over the past couple of weeks, averaging about thirty pages a week, more or less.  What started out in my mind as a relatively simply story is getting more complex.  Not last week, but sometime the week before, two characters decided to react completely differently than I had imagined.  This threw the entire plot into loops and whirls.

The thing is, they were good loops and whirls, so I went with them.  People always talk about writing as if it’s a calm, measured activity.  Honestly, for me it’s more like one of those giant waterslides, the type that are shaped like huge hamster tubes, where you rush along, going upside down and around, before eventually splashing down.

So, I’m off to do more of that…  The characters who were being so difficult have been left behind, but now it turns out that someone who I thought was going to be left behind is insisting on coming along, at least part of the way.

I wonder what’s going to happen next?

Opening a Vein?

April 19, 2017

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”  So said Ernest Hemmingway.

Where I Write

Actually, there’s some doubt that Hemingway actually said this.  Variations on this statement have been attributed to a wide variety of people for a far longer time than you might imagine.  These include sports writer Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, poet Reverend Sydney Smith, philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and writer Paul Gallico (to provide a not at all conclusive list).

If you’re interested in variations on the quotation and where it might have originated, you might like to look here.

What I want to talk about is not the source or who said it first.  I’m more interested in the concept.  Do you need to be seated in front of a typewriter – or at least have some writing implement (computer, tablet, pen and paper) at hand?  Do you need to bleed to write?  If you do need to bleed, how much blood do you need to shed?

As with most statements like this, I both agree and disagree – but more importantly, I think that many people misunderstand what Hemmingway and the others who have made variations on this statement mean.

Let’s start with the simple part.  Do you need to be parked in front of your writing device of choice to write?  Yes and no.  I’ve done a tremendous amount of writing far away from any writing device.  Maybe “writing” is stretching the point.  “Composing” might be more appropriate – and that gets to the heart of what’s meant by “bleeding.”

The Hemmingway quote above apparently appeared first in a book published in 1973.  (Hemmingway died in 1961.)  It – and many unattributed variations of the same – link the physical act of writing (on typewriter, computer, or whatever) and the “bleeding” of composition so tightly that I believe the meaning of “bleeding” has become distorted.

An earlier version of the same quotation – quite possibly material Hemingway may have unwittingly paraphrased – came from then-famous writer Paul Gallico.  In his 1946 book Confessions of a Story Writer, Gallico wrote:

“It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader. If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells, because there are other ways in which a writer can bring in the rent money besides writing bad or phony stories.”

Note that although Gallico mentions “the page” and “good white paper,” his emphasis is not on the physical act of writing but on the emotional investment.  The really important statement is the first part of the second sentence.  This is so important that I’m going to repeat it:

If you do not believe in the characters or the story you are doing at that moment with all your mind, strength, and will, if you don’t feel joy and excitement while writing it, then you’re wasting good white paper, even if it sells…”

Here it’s made clear that by “bleeding” these writers didn’t mean putting oneself through some sort of endurance trial.  They’re not talking about staying locked in place until you write your quota or do your homework or whatever metaphor you prefer.  Yet lately, on panels, on social media, I keep encountering the idea that what defines “real” writers is that they produce quantities of words on a page (or a computer file or whatever).  The question as to whether these words mean anything, whether they have any heart, gets lost in an emphasis on production.

I have several works in progress right now.  One of these is beginning to look as if it may be a new novel.  I’m in the exploratory stages now and so I’m not putting as many words down on the page as might be expected.  Instead, I’m busy bleeding…

This weekend I landscaped a portion of my yard.  (Go look at the photo.  Doesn’t it look pretty?)  While I was weeding, raking, prying up the roots of bunch grass with the tip of a shovel, I was also composing.  I was thinking about the six characters around whom the story appears to be taking shape.  Each of them have different goals.  Many of them have secrets.

But I’ve been thinking about little things, too.  The things that make me believe in the characters.  What will the chain smoker do when her cigarettes run out?  What will the knitter bring with her?  How do the three characters who didn’t plan on this turn in their lives feel about it?  How do those who did plan deal with disappointment?

When I think about these things, I’m not chalking up any word count or page count, but I am bleeding.  I’m also getting excited, looking forward to the time when I’ll get back to the keyboard and see how the words fit around the idea.

Meantime, I can enjoy the landscaping, rather than having frustrated myself by trying to come up with words for no other reason than I’m “supposed” to do so to be a “real” writer.