Wild Onions Are Out of Control

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Wild Onions!

Wild Onions are like a new idea for a story – they’re green, but they pop up when you don’t need them and, like they detract from your lawn, they can pull your focus on projects you should be working on.

It’s not growing season, but the wild onions don’t care.

Generally I’m happy with our lawn. My husband and I are not garden people, and we don’t spend a lot of time working in the yard. We pay a landscaping service to cut our grass, trim the bushes, and usually lay mulch every other year. That’s the extent of our lawn time. Our flowers consist of some tiger lilies that come up each spring and early summer, and a rose bush. Other than the grass-cutting and bush trimming, we like to think the lawn runs itself.

The wild onions do not cooperate with this plan.

We’ve kept most of the broad-leaf weeds away using pre-emergent sprays each spring. The onions do not care about a pre-emergent spray. They emerge when they want and do whatever the hell they want.

Here we are in late January, and our lawn is nice and brown, which is to be expected because the grass is dormant right now. It’s also a nice, uniform height, because we cut it last in November, and nothing has grown since then. Except the onions. The onions don’t believe in a growing season. For them, every season is growing season.

Frustrated that our brown lawn is smattered with the darn onions in January, when all the other yards around us are a nice brown with no onions, last year I decided to do something about it. I went to our local home improvement store and asked them what I could use against the onions. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. “It’s not time for that. You can’t use a pre-emergent spray right now. Everything is dormant.” Sigh. Everything except the onions.

Today when I did a search for eliminating wild onions, I found this site at Clemson (where I work), which apparently means that my onions are in fact, wild garlic.

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/weeds/hgic2311.html  So reading all of this technical information about my fabulous wild onions/garlic, I learn this:  “Preemergence herbicides do not control wild onion or wild garlic [told you so] and they have to be treated with a postemergent herbicide.”

The first statement under the heading CONTROL is to pull them or dig them out with a thin trowel. But that’s gardening work!  Next option…

“Treat wild garlic and wild onion in November and again in late winter or early spring before these plants can produce the next generation of bulbs in March. However, be careful not to apply most weed killers onto centipede grass or St. Augustine grass during their spring green up period. Inspect the lawn again in the spring and the next fall, and treat if necessary. “

I knew I should be doing something now! Despite what the man at the home improvement store told me. The article lists effective weed killers: “Examples of these products are Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns, Spectracide Weed Stop for Lawns – for Southern Lawns, Lilly Miller Lawn Weed Killer, Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec®, and Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer. These products can be used safely on most turfgrasses, but reduced rates are recommended when applying to St. Augustine grass or centipede grass. Apply during November, very early spring, and again the next November for best control.” So I guess I’ll wander out and try to find one of these sprays. It’s either that or open a side business as a wild garlic farmer. Now that I’m thinking about it, that might be the best option.

Or perhaps there’s a different message here, one about creativity. Often we go about our daily life, with our agenda (our lawn plan), and we have expectations of what we will accomplish (nice lawn with minimal work). Work, preparing meals (usually me), reviewing the kids’ homework (hopefully performed by my husband), laundry, hopefully squeeze some editing in on Under His Protection … but then that wild onion pops up, that story idea that is so beautiful and green. Never mind that it doesn’t fit my lawn plan. Never mind that it’s a teaser, not developed, and won’t sustain a whole arc. It’s adorable! It’s so much more interesting than the novel I’m editing. IT’S GREEN!!!!

Respect the onion. Jot down a few words to preserve the new story idea (the onions), but try to stay focused on what you need to do with your current work in progress (the lawn). Otherwise, the people driving by your yard won’t see the nicely maintained dormant grass waiting for spring. All they will see is the blasted onions.

Peanut Butter Hands of Death or Why I Shouldn’t Bake

I really shouldn’t bake. That’s the short version. The long version involves my daughter, a box of Rice Krispies, way too much granulated sugar everywhere, and peanut butter melted to the consistency of, well, I bet you can guess.

But I digress.

To understand why I have trouble baking, you have to first get inside my head. First, I’m trying to eat healthier, so when I see the tremendous amount of butter and sugar in most baked goods I cringe. And I start trying to convince myself I can lighten it up.

Second, I’m not the most patient person when it comes to measuring.

Third, I’ve been known to randomly substitute ingredients, such as self-rising flour instead of plain flour.

Add all of those together, and usually when I bake I end up with a disaster. But my daughter loves to cook, and I don’t want her to think her mother is completely incapable of baking fun stuff, so I told her we would make peanut butter balls. I had already scoured the internet and found a recipe that added Rice Krispies, which I thought would add some texture and would be healthier than just peanut butter. I had all the stuff. So we commenced.

As directed, I melted together peanut butter and butter. I had planned to halve the recipe, so I took half of the desired quantities. The directions said to melt, not to soften.

I told my daughter to measure out the Rice Krispies and then to add the powdered sugar. She thought I said regular sugar, and we had a giant bowl of Rice Krispies with a LOT of granulated sugar. Fail. So we started over with more Rice Krispies and powdered sugar. Which spilled when I opened it. So not I hae a few spatters of Rice Krispies (which spilled when she opened the bag) and powdered sugar in blotches on the counter. But it was all good, right?

The recipe said to add everything together and form balls. Sound simple enough. Except maybe my peanut butter was too liquidy. For whatever reason, balls would not form. My sweet girl tried al2014-01-04 16.13.27l she could. This is what we had to work with. (These are her hands)  They would not adhere at all.

All was not lost. I posted the picture to my personal Facebook page, and there was much laughter, including a statement from my husband, to quote “Dear God. And this is why you shouldn’t bake when I’m out of town.”

We added more Rice Krispies, and they still wouldn’t form balls, so we ended up taking hunks of peanut butter and sticking the mess to them. It worked, in a fashion. After they set in the refrigerator they became fairly solid and we decided to try to add the chocolate.

Well, since we had irregular masses and not balls, dipping wasn’t really feasible. Plus, they were really weren’t solid enough to stay together if you dipped. So we used a spoon and spooned chocolate over them.  We ended up with something that looked like this:

2014-01-04 21.53.35 Not bad. Sort of like oddly misshapen turtles. They actually tasted better than they looked. The chocolate cooled fast than I expected, and made a bit of a mess, but at that point we were ready to just be done.

As long as you keep them pretty cool, they will stay together, but if they sit out for even a bit, they get melty.

Fail.

I used to be able to bake. I used to make a fabulous cheesecake. When my husband and I were dating I baked him a heart shaped cheesecake (cue… Awwwwww). But alas. That was then. This is now.  Baking cornbread is about the edge of my baking these days. My daughter and I had fun, so it was so worth it.

 

Collards and Black-Eyed Peas – A Southern Tradition

It’s New Year’s Day, and since our Clemson football team isn’t playing football today, my husband is home, and that means one thing: collards and black-eyed peas simmering on the stove. We make homemade collard greens using my husband’s secret process that I’m about to reveal.

First, buy whole collards. Wash them and pinch away the thick stem that no one can eat. Your collards should have none of this in them:

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Nasty Collard Stem

Once you have only the leaves, leave them fairly large, as they will cook down very small. Put them in a very large pot and bring to a rolling boil for 4-5 minutes. Then take them off the heat, drain, and rinse them. Draining the first boil helps eliminate some of the bitterness that collards are known for.

Fill the pot with water and add a splash of olive oil, a smidgen of salt, and a smidgen of sugar. Bring it to a boil again and add the collards back. Let them boil for a few minutes, then cut them down to simmer and let them cook for 45 minutes or an hour.

Serve them with white vinegar and a splash of hot sauce. Chopped up onion is also good.

Now, why collards, you may ask? Popeye loved spinach, and the in vogue green is kale. But collard greens have a steeped tradition in the South, where they are traditionally eaten on New Years’ Day.

My family never ate collards. They ate the nasty cousin, the turnip green. But those greens are stringy, and I could never stomach them. My husband first cooked collards for me back in the early 90’s, before we were even dating, when he cooked the greens for a New Year’s Day lunch at a friend’s house. They were actually tasty.

Now, assuming we’re not traveling for a bowl game, we cook collards and black-eyed peas at home. We’ll round out the meal with rice, homemade cornbread, and ham. Traditionally, dining on such fare will bring you luck and prosperity in the new year. The peas bring you additional coin money, and the greens give you additional greenbacks. It’s true. Grandma said so.

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Collards Cooking

 

My husband and I aren’t as traditional as his dad was about it. If we’re traveling, we don’t lose a lot of sleep if we can’t find collards or black-eyed peas. However, once driving back the Gator Bowl, back before we had kids, we stopped at three or four places that served meat and vegetables looking for collards for my husband’s dad. Now he said they tore his stomach up, and he wouldn’t eat much, but he wanted to have at least a bite of collards on New Year’s Day. We finally found a soul food restaurant outside of Savannah that was open New Year’s night, ordered him collards, he ate one bite and was happy. We were tired and wanted to get home, but he was happy he found his collards.

Any New Year’s Traditions in your family? May the new year bring you peace and happiness.

Book Time: Lost and Found by Chris Van Hakes

I try to read a variety of genres and lengths, and recently I stumbled over to the new adult/chicklit/women’s fiction side of romance and discovered Chris Van Hakes. Her debut Novel, Lost and Found, is making waves, so I decided to check it out.

I found that Chris has a fresh voice with an alternating first-person style. I don’t normally read first person, and sometimes it can grate on me, but she did a good job of having distinct voices for each of the main viewpoint characters.

Here is the text of the 5-Star Review on Amazon:

I enjoyed this book tremendously, and normally I stay away from first-person stories. In fact, I almost didn’t get it for that reason, but I read the sample and I was hooked. This book embodies the new adult genre for me — characters who are finding themselves and love at the same time. There’s not a lot of description of intercourse, but it’s there, in the background. To me that’s more realistic than pretending everyone is waiting for marriage. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

I tracked Chris down, and here is what she had to say.

Lily – Everyone always wants to know where writers get their ideas. What sparked this book for you?

Chris - I wish I had a good answer to this question, but I honestly don’t know. I read a lot, and I think I just imagine what different characters would do in different settings and interactions. I kind of believe that all fiction is fanfiction. Lost and Found is definitely partly Pride and Prejudice, which I’m a tiny bit obsessed with.
Lily – Who would be interested in reading this book?
Chris – I got a few reviews that said fans of Rainbow Rowell would like my writing, and I will take that compliment to the compliment bank. Cha-ching! I think people who like light romance and alternating points of view would like it. If you’re looking for a steamy novel, I don’t have it, but if you’re looking for a lot of romantic tension, I’ve got that.
Lily – You’ve mentioned on your blog over at www.readingandchickens.com that you don’t like to read about people “bonking”. (I love your word choice.)  There seem to be two parts of the market now, one trending towards erotica and one trending towards characters that don’t have intercourse at all. Is there still a place for a middle ground as represented in your book? Have you had readers upset on either side, expecting something else?
Chris – Ha. I actually don’t mind reading about bonking, per say. It can be sexy and hot, but at some point it gets to be…filler. I end up skimming. If it’s integral to a plot point, I don’t mind it, and I think there are some authors who do it really well. I was a big fan of Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Player, for instance, and I think even though there’s a lot of bonking in there, it works.
And yes, I think there’s definitely a middle ground. That’s what I like to read, and I can’t be the only one out there, so that’s what I write. I haven’t had any readers mention there wasn’t enough sex, but I have had a few that didn’t like the mentions of sex in the book. This is the case of “can’t please everyone, so please yourself,” I think. I write what I’m most comfortable writing for a particular character or scene. For Lost and Found, it was light on the sex. I don’t know what it will be for future novels, though.
Lily – Are you working on any follow-up books?
I am! I’m writing a new novel, another romance/women’s fiction story, called Letters from Clementine. I haven’t worked out a whole lot about it (still in first draft mess form) but I’ll probably post a synopsis about it on my blog in a few weeks. 
Thanks for interviewing me!  Here’s the amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G1X96WI
 Lily -
Go follow Chris’ Blog, where she draws cool cartoons with chickens over at www.readingandchickens.com.
Click the follow button on this blog to find out about more books in the future.

Promise Kept: One Year Ago Today

Today is my birthday, number 45.  I’m not sure when “middle-age” officially hits, but I know my knees hurt more, I ache in places I didn’t even think were places, and if I were to put all my candles on my cake it would catch fire. Having said that, I”m having the time of my life.

Last year, I turned 44 and I was depressed. I had a novel that was lurking on my computer hard drive, and I couldn’t decide what to do with it.   I had a publisher who was somewhat interested, but the editor I had sent it to wanted revisions. It had to be “completely ready” before they would look at it.  The comments that she offered were vague, and I had no idea what kind of a revision that she wanted.  Some of her comments implied I needed to work on language, while others implied that the pacing was off. I couldn’t even tell how far she had read in the book. When I asked certain questions, her reply was it will be ready when it’s ready.

How helpful was that? Not Very!!!!!!

So I made a critical decision. I decided to revise it for me.  I fixed the pacing with an almost complete rewrite. I worked on language. Then, after that was done, I still wasn’t happy with the ending so I revised the last quarter of the book. Then I was satisfied. I felt good about the whole package.

It had been over a year since the editor said she would look at it with revisions, and frankly, I had moved on. Her comments had been no help to me.  I learned that the publisher in question only offered 9% royalties and no advance. I felt like I could do better on my own. So I finally settled on a title, hired a cover designer and and editor.  On May 24, I released it to the world.No-Strings-Attached-Amazon

I have been overwhelmed with the response from people who fell in love with my characters as much as I did.  I may never make a ton of money at this game, but frankly, I’m not in it for the money. Just having people enjoy a story that I wrote is enough.

Then why don’t I give it away? I worked hard at it, and I believe in it. It’s selling for $2.99, which is less than a cup of coffee.  I may eventually offer a discount or free days when I release my second book to pique interest, but personally I feel that all of the free books on Amazon cheapen the art.

So think twice before you download a free book. If you do, and you like it, do the author a favor and buy his or her next book.  Tell your friends about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Pay it forward. Haven’t bought your copy of my book yet?  Don’t put it off any longer.  Make the purchase today. It’ll be the best birthday ever!!

 No Strings Attached

On Closing the Bedroom Door

Image Door with Scarf

Remember the scarves in college days? DO NOT DISTURB!! (Image copyright Lily Bishop)

Do you Read Romance for the Sex or Skip Those Scenes?

Romance vs. Erotica

There is a fine line between romance and erotica these days. The books that used to be hard to find (The Story of O, The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Ann Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaire) are easy to get these days. Fifty Shades of Gray and its two sequels opened up a whole new world of erotica/soft porn to many readers. Saturday Night Live even did a skit where a mom was in bed reading on her Kindle while the kids were fixing her breakfast on Mother’s Day, and it was pretty clear that she was readying something very steamy.

Where does that leave romance?

As I began this experience of publishing No Strings Attached, I opened myself up to many friends and family members who had no idea that writing was my life’s passion. I told them a little bit about my book, and warned them that it was a bit “spicy,” although I don’t consider the book erotica by any stretch. My mother and sister said it was too spicy, but they are on the conservative side, so I wasn’t that concerned. Others loved the chemistry between the characters, and wrote reviews to that effect.

When it comes to spicy, I try to think about the way that Harlequin books are organized, with Blaze being the spiciest, and Presents being the most conservative (at least from my perspective). No Strings Attached trends toward the Blaze, although it may not be quite as spicy as Blaze. Fox takes some actions at one point in the book that some might say are a little kinky, but we still wind up on the vanilla side. In real life, people give and receive, and for one person to always be on the receiving end of passion rang false for me.

I tried to build a convincing relationship between my two characters. I felt the sex was a part of building that emotional connection, and not just thrown in. The core of the book is the relationship, and the real-life drama that keeps them guessing before they can each fully commit.

I had one final category of readers: The people who told me that they don’t read romance, but they loved mine. They surprised me the most.  While I was flattered, I’m not quite sure how I can use that statement to find new readers. I don’t see how I can market myself as “the romance for non-romance lovers”.

I’m fully committed to the romance genre. It’s what I like to read, and it’s what drives me to write.  I feel like the romance genre has gotten a bad rap from so many formula-driven books, from the historical romance bodice-rippers to the modern “she married a billionaire cliché.” So what if they always have a happy ending? Aren’t mysteries always solved? The pleasure that I obtain as a reader is in meeting the characters along the way and seeing how they work through their issues. I read all types, from historical, to paranormal, to contemporary, and I love them all.

I’m considering offering an E-book version of No Strings Attached that would be the same as the original, but that fades out before the sex scenes. I don’t know if it would still read with the same intensity, or if it would fall flat. What do you think? Would you rather have the camera fade out as the couple is going into the bedroom, with the understanding that they are going to be intimate, or does leaving that open for interpretation come across as pandering? If I took the sex scenes out, would it then fall under mystery? Probably not, but it would seem to more evenly straddle the two genres, running the risk of pleasing neither. Isn’t it hypocritical to leave the sex out if the book opens with a hot weekend fling? Who knows.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments.

Welcome Jan Romes, Romance Author

I am pleased to welcome Jan Romes to my blog this morning. It seems like every time I open Twitter she’s releasing a new book. I was determined to find out how she does it.

Jan RomesHow is it that you have released so many titles this year and last year? Do you work on multiple stories at a time?

Lily, while it seems like I’ve had a lot of books published all at once, they were actually written over a period of time. My first book came out in 2011. I had six in 2012 (one of those was an anthology with two other authors). And so far, one in 2013. Stories have germinated in my mind forever and I finally have the time to put them down on paper (well, on the computer). My life seems to revolve around writing these days. It’s a joy and blessing that I’ll always be grateful for.

I don’t write multiple stories at a time. I know there are authors capable of writing two stories at once; I’m not one of them. I have a folder with a ton of story ideas that I find myself wanting to get busy on. When I have those restless days, I have to remind myself to finish the story I’m working on. I think I have a tiny bit of OCD too and it won’t allow me to focus on more than one book at a time.

You’ve had three books published with The Wild Rose Press, one with Champagne Books, four independently, and even published two short stories in a magazine. Do you have any thoughts to share about the publishing process or industry?

I have a lot to share, but keep in mind, I’m no expert. First of all, once you’ve written your story, have faith in your work and go for it. Don’t be afraid to contact publishers and agents. Chances are you will receive some rejections. Don’t be disheartened; even some well-known authors received multiple rejections before they were accepted. (Google ‘best known authors who received rejections’ you will be amazed – and if you receive rejections, knowing it took others awhile will help you keep things in perspective) The wheels of publishing turn slowly.

Also, whether you are traditionally published or independently published, a lot of your exposure as an author will depend on you. Your publisher will get your name out there but it will be up to you to keep it there via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc.

You will meet some incredible people along the way. I’ve made some great friends, both authors and fans alike and I’ve discovered that they have just as much to offer you as you have to offer them.

Regarding the mechanics of publishing (if you publish independently), you will need to have your books properly formatted for each venue that you plan to upload to. (Each venue has certain requirements – check their sites for details) As far as cover art, you can use your own or there are many creative folks who are willing to help. Don’t forget editing, that’s a biggie. Comb over your work with an eagle eye and then have someone else do it too. A fresh set of eyes will pick up on things you may have missed. We are so close to our work that we inadvertently skim over things because we’ve seen that same line or paragraph a hundred times. Finally, when your work is uploaded and ready for sale, shout it from the rooftops!!

Do you have any new books forthcoming?

Happy to say, yes I do! Mr. August is currently with The Wild Rose Press. I’ve been through two rounds of edits so far. I’ve not been given a release date, but I’m sure it will be in the near distant future.

I also am seventy pages into my WIP (work-in-progress). I know everything that I will put my hero and heroine through. Their story is going slow at the moment as I enjoy all that comes with summer.

I live in South Carolina, so I loved the fact that Stay Close, Novac! was set in Myrtle Beach. Tell us a little about the story.

Book Cover Stay Close, Novac!Jessi Novac leads the quiet life of a romance author until someone leaves a series of explicit notes under her windshield wipers and heavy breathing on her answering machine.

Until NYPD can track down the culprit who’s trying to scare the bejesus out of her, Jessi hides out at her grandmother’s beach house in Myrtle Beach where she hopes to get her bearings. Instead, her life takes an even bigger tilt toward crazy when she meets her clumsy neighbor. She’s suspicious of Ian Alexander, and attracted to him at the same time. Their relationship becomes a calamity of errors until strange things start happening at the beach house. Jessi clings to Ian for protection, but she soon discovers her heart may be in more danger than her life.

I have read One Small Fib, Three Days With Molly, and Stay Close, Novak!, and you are definitely one of my authors that I look for. I also just downloaded Stella in Stilettos, and can’t wait to start it. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Thanks for having me, Lily. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about something I’m so passionate about!

Below are links that you can use to find Jan:

Contact information:

Website – www.authorjanromes.com

Blog – www.jantheromancewriter.blogspot.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jan.romes.5

Twitter – @janromes

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5240156.Jan_Romes