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Writing prompt at Marian Allen’s Fiction Site.

I’m at the library today, reveling in high-speed internet access, but it was a

Not Him

near thing. I went out to the car and the air smelled SO SWEET, I just wanted to stay home and breathe deeply through my nose all day. Don’t know what it is–I don’t see anything in bloom, and it sure ain’t Joe.

That’s one of the wonderful things about living in the country: the sweet smells of growing things. 🙂 I’ll be singing a different tune, when the manure goes on the fields, but meanwhile….

One of the wonderful things about living in a small town is meeting new people. I went to the grocery before I came here, and talked to the lady in front of me in the line, telling her about the Friends of the Library‘s Book Box (used book sale building), open the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Mom is working there this morning, and I’m going to relieve her in a bit. I came back to the Book Box to check in with Mom before I came over here, and the lady from the grocery pulled into the parking lot right behind me. 🙂

Then I came to the library, and there’s a woman at the computer next to me with her grandbaby, and we got to talk about kids, teens, grown kids, grandkids and Girl Stuff, all the while the baby and I made funny faces at each other. 🙂


Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t be posting here any more, but I was wrong. I can’t stop!

I really am going to start updating my professional blog, though. I hope you’ll visit and subscribe and stuff. I’ll be moving the writing prompts over there, as well as Actual Content Tuesday, which will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday over there!

In other “news”, I went to visit Mom and found a guy who looked just like this guy on her doormat. Apparently, he came across the carport, up the back ramp, through the bird seed on the side porch, and around to the front. No way he was going to get down the steps, so I carried him down. He might be a her, now that I think of it: Mom and I each had to discourage a turtle very like this one from digging egg holes in the driveway.


I made the mistake of taking a picture of this guy, and now he hangs around the front porch all the time, posing for more. He is a cute little guy, but there are only so many ones and zeroes in a digital camera, and I can’t use them all up on a guy who–let’s face it–has only one basic look. He don’t even sparkle. I’m happy to have him around, though, because we have bugs like Bill Gates has dollars, and Mr. Prince helps regulate the superfluity.

Here is a pretty flower (or, as our #4 daughter would say when she was bitsy, a purdy fowler) in a friend’s yard. I don’t know what this guy is, but the color is so weirdly rich, I think it must be another color in a different dimension. It’s like the visual equivalent of umami, which isn’t a flavor but is a “mouth-feel”.

Tomorrow is Actual Content Tuesday, and I’m happy to welcome mystery author Donna Fletcher Crow. She writes historical mysteries, which I love love love.

Our #4 daughter and I used to watch Brother Caedfile (or, as I called him, because it made her go, “Mo-o-om…!”, Brother Cardfile). Loved the books by Ellis Peters, and REALLY loved Derek Jacobi. I had to leave the Catholic church because I didn’t want to do the Purgatory I had coming from fantasizing like that about a monk.

But anyway, Donna Fletcher Crow will be our guest tomorrow. What do you think would be a fascinating time/place to set a mystery?


writing prompt: Come up with an idea for a mystery story that has some element that could only happen in a particular time.

The previous week’s interview was aired by mistake, so the one with Joanna Foreman and me will be on today (Sunday, June 20,2010) instead. It WILL be archived at for future reference.

Ah, well. 🙂

So anyway, I went to visit a friend and took a picsh of HER hydrangea, which is even cooler than ourses. I said ourses! There are two of us and there are two hydrangea bushes, so that’s a double plural, so it’s ourses! That’s the way some of us country people talk, okay? It’s a legitimate language variant, officially known as Rubonics. Anyway, her hydrangea bush has white and blue and pinky-purple blooms on the same bush!

We’re having a combination Father’s Day and two birthdays party today, and I need to hunt up something vegan to take. I’ll let you know if I come up with something delish.


writing prompt: Write a paragraph about a character named Hydrangea.

I’m finally getting around to posting pics I took the last time I went to Louisville, and some, as the cool kids say, “awsomesauce” pics of the potting shed out back.

We went to the Java Brewing Company and I got some kind of highly caffeinated and insucrated drink and it looked like this. I mean, how can you resist ordering something that’s going to look like this? It was verrry tasty, too.

Then we went to the Shalimar, the best Indian restaurant EVAR!!!! and I took this snappie of my story. Yes, my brag is true: I do have a story “published” on the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, and this is it. We got chicken korma and chicken tikka masala (I am not a vegetarian at the Shalimar!) and had enough to take home for two more meals each! Anyway, here is “Rose of Kashmir” on the wall in the waiting area. How cool is that?

So we got up one morning and the sun was hitting the top of the potting shed, and I had to take a snappie. This is one of the many reasons I love living in the country. It isn’t that mist doesn’t rise in the city, it’s just that I never looked at it in the city.

Please don’t forget to listen to Sheri Wright interview Joanna Foreman and me on “From the Inkwell” at 1-2pm EDT on 1650 AM in Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood, or live-streamed at (soon to be archived).


writing prompt: Have a character notice something that happens all the time and have the character be wowed by it.

When I was growing up in Louisville’s West End, everybody had these plants. We called them Snowball Bushes, but they’re really–‘scuse me, while I go look up the spelling, since today is one of the days when I can at least remember the name–either viburnum or hydrangea or, indeed, any bush with large roundish clusters of flowers. The fun part about hydrangeas is that they bloom in white or blue or purple or pink, depending on the soil and sun.

Here is our big hydrangea, in one part of the garden, up against the woods. Ours is a hydrangea, by the way. #2 daughter has a viburnum, but ours is a hydrangea.

Another fun part about hydrangea is saying the name. It sounds like a mental disease from a 1940’s monster movie or a creature from Greek mythology or something. Of course, viburnum sounds like something out of Shakespeare–no, that was Birnhim: “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill shall come against him.” Anyway….

Here is a cutting from the big plant, in another part of the yard, in full sun. Not just the same kind of plant–the same actual plant.

Don’t you think that’s cool? I think that’s cool.


writing prompt: Are there any plants you remember from your childhood? Give a character a plant or two he/she remembers from childhood. Write a scene about it.

I recently introduced you to Tony Roma, my Roma tomato plant. I’m sorry to say, he was potted when I took that picture of him.

Tony has moved into an apartment and straightened up. It’s been a growing experience for him and he’s made some close friends. Here he is with Basil and Rose, his next-door neighbors.

It’s besing hot around here, children. In case you don’t know, “besing” is the current-action love child of “is” and “be”. Johnny is bad, Johnny bes bad, Johnny is besing bad. Well, it’s besing like a freaking sauna around here. It’s like New Orleans without the flamboyance. Midnight in the Garden of Nice and Tacky.

The plants love all the moisture. So do the mosquitoes. Hey, I just thought of something: If you could cross a mosquito with a lightning bug, you’d get a blood-sucker that sparkles! I bet nobody ever thought of doing that before!

Okay, that’s enough of that.


writing prompt: Listen for non-standard grammatical (or, if you prefer to think of that way, non-grammatical) word construction/usage and use it for a character.

Jade green, stripes of white,
Spiked without yet soft within.
Tomato hornworm.

Ick. It’s almost time for the tomato hornworms to start showing up. I loathe the rotten baskets more than Farmer Allen loathes sweet little white butterflies. These pests start out teeny and grow to be the size of teacup Chihuahuas. You could put leashes on them and take them for walkies, if you didn’t mind spending a fortune to keep them in fresh produce.

For, as their name implies, they eat tomatoes. They eat tomato leaves, they eat tomato stems, they eat tomatoes. They can defoliate a plant, and that’s not one of my exaggerations. Then they start chomping on the tomatoes. Like many other pests *cough*turtles*cough*, they don’t eat a whole one, they just take enough bites to ruin it for anybody else and then move on to another one.

This is one reason I love wasps. For wasps lay eggs on tomato hornworms.  Actually, this is NOT a fate I would wish on anything, but Mother Nature is not as sweet and gentle as I am. The larvae suck the ever-living life out of the hornworms, which is absolutely ghastly. I mean, the larvae don’t even sparkle, for goodness sake!

Back when we kept chickens, I would pluck the hornworms off the plants and toss them into the arena with the chickens. The chickens almost always won, but at least the hornworms had a chance for life and glory. The chickens actually preferred the ones with little white sprinkles on, but I usually left those so the wasps could hatch out and protect the next year’s crop. That, children, is organic gardening, red in tooth and claw.

Our #2 daughter keeps chickens now, but she’s vegetarian, and I don’t know how she’d feel about my feeding her chickens tomato hornworms. I mean, she knows that chickens aren’t vegetarian, but she has to eat those eggs, and it might make her queasy to condone deliberately putting animal protein into her food chain.

Life is full of quandaries, isn’t it?


writing prompt: Write a scene in which a character, new to gardening, first sees a tomato hornworm on a tomato plant.

Once upon a time, there was a sweet little white butterfly. She flitted about, landing on the flowers and leaves, frolicking in the sunlight and playing tag with the gentle breeze.

Then one day, she landed on the kale in Farmer Allen’s garden.

When Farmer Allen saw the sweet little white butterfly, he said, “Gosh-darn all darned white butterflies to heck! Laying their gosh-darned eggs and caterpillars eating holes in everything! Gosh-darned sunny beaches! Take that, you basket!”

And he squished the sweet little white butterfly and he felt an intense, white-hot joy in the act.

The sweet little white butterfly felt her spirit hovering in the air, which wasn’t much of a change for her, really, come to think of it. Then she saw a bright light and followed it through a tunnel.

“Oh!” said the sweet little white butterfly, who had a little moth blood in her genealogy on her mother’s side. “Look at all the pretty flames! I must have died and gone to heaven!”

But she was wrong.



writing prompt: Give a character a garden and see if his/her attitude toward anything changes.

I’m home this weekend, and I’m thinking about the things I miss when I’m gone. Not the people–of course I miss my people, unless they’re with me. Well, duh, naturally I don’t miss them if they’re with me. That goes without saying. Except that it didn’t.

ANYWAY, here are some of the things I miss:

The cats. They’re pretty stand-offish during the warm weather, but I miss having them around. I do NOT miss Katya sticking the tips of her claws so delicately into my saggy baggy old lady arm skin if I don’t pay enough attention to her, and I do NOT miss Al hacking up hairballs, but I miss them otherwise.

The dog. He isn’t a particularly good dog, but he is personable and he likes us. When I’m out of my natural element, I miss having somebody around I know I’m not going to inadvertently alienate, bore, insult or wound. You just can’t put your foot in your mouth with a dog. You can put HIS foot in your mouth or YOUR foot in HIS mouth or HIS foot in his mouth, if any of that is your idea of a good time.

Fireflies. One of the happiest things I know is to watch fireflies rise up out of the grass as evening falls. Not a happy-dance happy, but an intensely quiet happy. There’s no happiness quite like it.

My own food. When I go away to overnight conventions or workshops, I take my own food; when I go away to conventions and workshops with fellow writers, we all take food to pitch in and please one another. Still, it isn’t the same as being able to cook fresh.

My own coffee. I have a writer friend who brings coffee concentrate and generously shares it, and it’s always excellent, but I’m always glad to get home to my own favorite blend. That’s just the kind of hairpin I am.

Birds: cardinals, finches, indigo buntings, chickadees, wild turkeys, red-winged blackbirds–whatever birds are hanging around Mom’s feeders. And, especially:

Hummingbirds. I never get tired of watching them, although it ticks me off when they don’t share. I have more sugar water where that came from, guys–Didn’t you ever watch Sesame Street? Don’t you know Bob wants you to share?

But I’m home for a few weekends, now, and I’m luxuriating in the familiar.


writing prompt: What does your main character miss when he/she is away from home? If you don’t have a main character yet, invent somebody and send him/her out of town for the weekend and decide what he/she misses.


Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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