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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.

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.

It’s raining today, but it was beautiful Tuesday, when I went to the library. I had to park in the Book Box parking lot, about two blocks from the library, and I still didn’t have as far a trek as I did from the parking garage to the hotel at Marcon. Oh, will the nightmares never end?

Anyway, here are some pictures I took behind the library. Just look at these lilies. The color just pops, doesn’t it? Any day is a good day, when you get to see something like this just growing right out of the dirt.

The children’s garden behind the Carnegie local history and genealogy library gets better every year. When they cut down the tree on this corner, I was very sad, but they planted a new one and did this planting arrangement, and it’s prettier than ever. My late friend Mildred would be so happy to see what they’ve done.

Busy today, busy tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’m driving into Louisville to tape an internet radio show. Don’t know yet when it will air, but I’ll let you know.


writing prompt: Send a character to the library for something other than research of a plot point.

I don’t smoke–(special for Kathie–I dahn’t smahk)–but this struck me as a brilliant idea. This friend of Charlie’s smokes a corncob pipe, though I’m pretty sure he’s neither Douglas MacArthur nor Mammy Yokum. I asked his wife, “What’s that sticking out of his pipe? It looks like some kind of nut.” She said, “He doesn’t like to fool with tamping down pipe tobacco, so he just cuts off a length of cigar and sticks it in.” It doesn’t smell as nice as pipe tobacco, but I approve of the time and energy savings.

More stuff is in bloom. Here is a Wilma Iris. I don’t know what kind of iris it really is, but Wilma gave us some starts. She said it was a Japanese Roof Iris. The University of Arkansas web site says:

In China, apparently the original home of the roof iris where it has been grown since at least seventh century, the plant grows on the ground like any sensible iris. But in Japan, it was found growing on the ridges of their thatched roofs.Apparently this tradition started in Japan because of a decree by a Japanese emperor during a period of wartime when it became illegal to waste land growing flowers. All available land had to be used for rice or vegetables.

The main reason for growing the plant was not for its flowers, but for a white powder that was made by grinding the roots. The makeup used to create the white faces of the Geisha girls was made from the rhizomes. So, the plants moved from the garden to the roofs where it remained until being “discovered” by science.

I call it a Wilma Iris because Wilma gave it to me. She’s gone now, but I think of her every time I see the iris in bloom.

The sage is trying to flower. They tell me I need to pinch the flowers off before they open because the sage will have a better flavor, but the flowers are so pretty I just can’t pinch them all. The bees and hummingbirds like them, too.

The tulip poplars are in flower. On a warm day, the scent is delicious. The trees are so tall here, I couldn’t get a very good picture, but the blossoms are shaped something like tulips, and they’re orange and yellow. Lovely, until they die and fall off and get all brown and squidgy all over everything. Oh, well, I’ll be brown and squidgy myself, some day.

Our beautiful rose, that we’ve had since we moved over here, is full of buds. Sadly, some of the buds are EATED DOWN 2 TEH STEMZ! The leaves are all laced up with bites taken out of them. NOT charming. NOT lovely.

I caught the culprit–or, at least, the culprit whose “friends” ran off and left him holding the bag. Charlie was like, “Kill him!” but I was like, “He’s beautiful! And he’ll be a beautiful butterfly, if he lives.” Charlie was all like, “Do you want butterflies or do you want roses?” And I was like, “Now THAT’S drama! The stronger dramatic tension isn’t between good and evil, but between two goods or two evils.” I picked that up from the late Karl Largent. I don’t know who he picked it up from. Writers are like chimpanzees–we’re always snatching good stuff from one another. Anyway, I took the caterpillar to the edge of the woods, gave him a good talking to, and let him go with a warning. Tomato hornworms…. Ah, that’ll be a different story.

I’m totally not going to describe the “ghastly” part of this post, nor did I take a picture, you’ll be astonished to know. In fact, I’m not even going to post about it, although it’s clean. The place is clean, I mean. I’ll just say the words “my mother’s marmalade cat” and the word “abscess” and “belly” and tell you that I have to hold him while Mom squirts a dropper full of Amoxillin down his gullet and let it go at that.


writing prompt: What would your main character do if he/she caught a caterpillar on his/her roses?

After the rains, we saw, again, why they call this “spring”. One day, the trees have little leaves on them and the grass is greening up. Next day, foomph! We’re up to our eyeballs in foliage.

I keep trying to get a good picture of the coral bells, but the flowers are so tiny, I can’t get a good picsh with a PHD camera. I think this is probably the best I’m going to be able to do. This particular plant has quite a history–as plants go. A friend gave us the start. We planted it in the flower garden. After a couple of years, Charlie got tired of messing with the flower garden and decided to mow it down. I dug up the coral bells and, in a Martha Stewart moment, made a planter for it thusly: I covered the bottom of a roasting tray with rounded pebbles, put a mound of dirt on one end, and tucked the coral bells, with as much root and dirt as I could dig up with it, on the mound. I had it on the dining room table for two or three years. After the first year, it didn’t bloom, but the foliage was always pretty. One Grandson and I staged many a superhero battle with little action figures in that terrain. Then Charlie built the planter boxes outside the back door, and I transferred the plant to one of them. It likes it there.

Here is a better picture of Charlie’s hosta garden in the front. As I said, the houndbaffles don’t add much to the look of it, and don’t baffle the hound much. Sticks and stones interspersed with the plantings don’t deter him. An internet friend suggested watering it with manure tea, but I think that would just make him stinky as well as pesty. If I can catch him in the flowers, I can say, very sternly, “Garden, Joe! Garden!” and he’ll slink out. He gets back in when my back is turned, though. Kids!

I’m almost ready to publish THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK. I’m very excited about it. So is Bud. He always wants to weasel into anything I write. Maybe this will satisfy him, to have a book all of his own.

If it does, I’ll miss him.


writing prompt: Write a flash story (500 words or fewer) centered around a plant or a garden, or outline a longer story with that element.

Yes, I haunt it, but I’m not talking about myself. –Whaddya mean, “That’ll be the day”? Anyway, more about the title anon.

The bluets are out in force. I always forget how long they last. It seems like we have more and more of them every year. They grow best in rocky soil, and we live on played-out farmland, so the soil is mostly clay and broken stone. Charlie keeps the grass mown (yeah, I know, “mowed” is the preferred usage these days, but Middle English dies hard), so that gives the small plants a good foothold. Here are a snap of one of our bluet stands and a closeup of a single bloom taken from the fabulous Wise-Acre Gardens.

I went to snap one of our lonely irises–many are planted, but few bloom–and ran across this small but intense flower. If anybody knows what it is, I’d appreciate knowing.

Then I found and snapped one of two irises that came up in the iris bed. I don’t know if they need to be thinned or moved or if the detritus drift has covered their roots too deeply or what, but we get fewer blooms every year from a very dense growth of foliage. My Aunt Rose used to call these flags. Research tells me that only the German iris, with four petals up and four petals down, is properly called a flag iris, and that the French fleur-de-lis is based on this. Maybe that’s why they’re called “flag” iris? Anyway, that’s what Aunt Rose called them.

Now for the haunting. When I went to Mom’s, this was on her table. I was like, “What’s that?” And she said, “I don’t know. I found it in the garden when I was weeding.” Naturally, I had to take a picture of it. I felt like CSI or something. Then I played like I was the ME (Medical Examiner) and inspected it more closely, at which time I discovered that it’s a hickory nut. The coroner pronounced it deceased of undetermined causes, as the result of action by person or persons unknown. When I go down to Mom’s tonight, I think I’ll sprinkle it with holy water, just to make sure its spirit is at rest. You know how to make holy water, don’t you? And, no, the answer is not “bless the beer”.


writing prompt: Write about a haunted garden.

Lilies of the Valley. Lunch at the Irish Rover. A lifetime (well, not yet) friend. Excellent coffee. A friend I gave birth to. Fellow professionals who are also friends. Breathing while sleeping.

And I get to do or see or be with them all today! How lucky is that?

Going to Louisville today and spending the night. Burglars please note–my husband will be at home with the pit bulls and alligators.

I dreamed last night I had been detailed to go to a shop and pick out a free kitten. I had been told to get a female, for some reason, though we planned to have it neutered, so I don’t know what the difference was. The only female in the litter was a smokey gray, which was nice, but one of the males was a marmalade and one was a calico. My husband is very partial to a marmalade cat, and I would LOVE a calico/tortoiseshell male–very rare. But I had to say no to our hearts’ desires and pick the one fate had dealt us. I wonder now if that was in response to a news story I was recently sent about China’s incredible imbalance of gender population because of a combination of their governmental one-child policy and an ancient prejudice against girls. Maybe in my dream I was prepared to accept and love the actual girl in the face of my own abstract preference. I do know all our girls are treasures beyond telling.


writing prompt: Put a character in my place–goes to get a pet with orders for a certain kind/one/color, sees another that’s more appealing. Does the character follow orders or not? How does he/she feel about that?

Spring really has sprung! Look at all these beautiful flowers and trees, right around my very own house. Lilacs, Japanese maples, redbud, dogwood, creeping phlox…. I like just going out and snapping everything that shows up. I wanted to snap some bluets and spring beauties, but they were too tiny. My PHD camera just wasn’t up to the task. PHD is what my husband, an ace amateur photographer, calls it. PHD stands for “Push Here, Dummy”. One click and you’re done. He can adjust shutter speed and aperture size and all that jazz. All I can do is snap anything going and hope for the best.

The herbs are also coming up–most of them. The rosemary didn’t overwinter–it almost never does–and I have to get a new one. The basil and lemon basil would probably come back from the seed it dropped, but Charlie wants to do away with the planters those were in, so I’ll have to buy those new. The dill always comes up wild in the garden. Mint, sage and oregano are up in the porch-side planters. Yum-mum-mum-mum!

This week is going to be a bear! Busy every single day. Fellers, I’m wore out already!

Meanwhile–like I needed another project–I’m deep into the learning curve, trying to educate myself on how to put my own stuff up on Smashwords and the Amazon Kindle store. I want to put my Hot Flashes and the free stories on my web site up for free, then maybe an anthology of previously published and new stories up–for a price, Ugarte, for a price. Also attempting to teach myself some elements of design, so I can make “book” covers for them. Guess I’m not an old dog yet!


writing prompt: Does your main character ever notice nature? If not, what would make him/her do so? If he/she does, what would make him/her fail to notice it?

I spent the afternoon with #3 daughter, who sprained her back. Took her to the doctor, who straightened out the dosage and frequency of the meds they prescribed at the ER and who told us how to make a hot pack (directions below). Took daughter back to her place, made the hot pack, made a list of doses, meds and times, nuked her some supper and got her settled down to eat. Just as I picked up my purse and said, “Your dad will be wondering what happened to me,” her phone rang, and it was Charlie, wanting to know how she was and what had happened to his wife.

We waved goodbye and I drove home, wondering what I could make for supper that was quick and yum. Just as I walked in the door, Charlie was putting supper on the table: breakfast for supper–my favorite!

So am I lucky, or what?

Cheap and Easy Hot Pack

  • Man’s tube sock
  • cheap raw rice
  • microwave

Put enough rice into the sock that the rice can move around a little–don’t pack it tightly. Leave room to tie the top of the sock closed. Put it in the microwave for 1 1/2 minutes. More, if that isn’t warm enough. The beauty of this is that, unlike a heating pad, this cools down by itself, so you can go to sleep with it on and not worry about cooking yourself.


And all the daffodils and narcissus are in bloom–I wish I could post how the air smells today! The forsythia is going to pop today. It’s damp, maybe going to rain, so I’ll be back in the woods in the next day or so to hunt for mushrooms. 🙂

The Almost Famous Authors’ Faire is this Saturday, March 27, 2010, from noon to 7pm at the Greentree Mall in Clarksville, Indiana. I’ll be there with copies of Sword & Sorceress XXIII and chocolate hearts and press-on Chinese tattoos. Should be fun!

Also going grocery shopping with my Mom today. We love grocery shopping. For one thing, we always meet friends out and about. For another thing, we enjoy one another’s company. Mom says, “We think each other is funny.” It’s true. We crack us up.

I’m a lucky person. And the luckiest thing of all is, I know how lucky I am right now–I don’t have to look back in an unhappy time and think, “I didn’t know how good I had it then.” Not smug, very appreciative of my current blessings.


writing prompt: Write a character who has everything going for him/her but doesn’t appreciate it. It could be a comedy or a tragedy, couldn’t it? Or just plain damned irritating.

Mom used to say this poem to me, which I think she got from her mother:

Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz.
I wonder where
The flowers is?

Well, they is here. I already posted pictures of the snowdrops and the crocuseseses. I went around snapping snappies of buds on this and that yesterday, but most of the pics were not good. You can snap a shot of a bud, but it takes a better photog than I am to capture the juice. Nevertheless, I got a shot I’m not too unhappy with of buds on the snowball bush. I also got down on the bricks to get a picture of soldier moss, and got one behind the playhouse of some spiky green moss. I’m uploading them to Flickr, and they should show up sometime today in my Flickr stream here.

And here is one of the sad remains of a wasp nest, which I think is extremely beautiful, in its way. Sic transit gloria mundi.

It’s supposed to rain here sometime soon and be warm, so I’ll be out in the woods later this week with my mushroom bag, a couple of cats and at least two dogs. It’s probably too early, but I’d rather be too early than miss any!


writing prompt: Go out and take a picture of something that catches your attention. Come in and write about it.


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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