Tuesday, January 5, 2021

2021 is finally here!


Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

It's a new year. 

Finally. 

Last year was, well, let's not talk about it. Okay?

I've got plans for 2021. This is going to be the year. The year of the Book. The year of the Short Story. The year of my Author's Platform.

First, the good stuff for you, dear reader. If you look over at this blog's menu on the right, you'll find several additions: 

  • I'm adding a page to share My Reading List, and if I read something I absolutely love, I'll put that in the recommended list on the bottom. I already listed my favorite books from 2020—check them out! 
  • There is also a page of Recommended Resources. It's still in development, but the idea is to share all the great resources I've learned about in my journey to becoming a published author. I'm open to additions if any of you have encountered a helpful website, group, or anything else you can think of.
Now, on to my writing goals for 2021. These are not resolutions. I stopped doing resolutions 30 pounds ago. This is very simply what I plan to focus my writing on as I approach 2021 with eager optimism.
  • Revise Guardians of Grace. That's right. I'm taking it apart and putting it back together with more conflict and tension and stronger character arcs. I want to finish that this quarter and get back in the querying trenches to find a literary agent, or a publisher.
  • Finish Earth's Grace, the second book in the Earthen World series and get some beta readers on it.
  • Start my next book. I've got several projects rattling around in my head. I'll tease you with the titles: The Scent of Death, The Stacks, The Family Tree (series)
  • Submit one short story per month to a Literary Magazine. (Gotta build up those writing creds...) I'll let you know if anything gets published. 
Goodness, I'd better get cracking!

May your 2021 make up for 2020!


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Torn Gift Wrap





Here's a little short story as my gift to you this Christmas...

Kiersten held her breath and listened carefully to the purr of the garage door lowering. She peeked out of her bedroom window to make sure Mom and Dad were on their way to Mom’s office party. To be safe, Kiersten tapped on her brother Kyle’s bedroom door and stuck her head inside. Yep, he left, too—probably hanging out with friends. She had the house to herself. 

She raced into the master bedroom and threw the closet door open. Where did Mom hide them this year? Her ponytail bounced as she hopped up and down, trying to see if Mom tucked any shopping bags up on the shelf. Nothing. She chewed her lip. Where would they be? She bent over to peer into the shadows underneath Mom’s dresses. Hmm. Was that box there before?

Kiersten kicked aside some shoes and dragged the large cardboard box out into the open. She lifted one flap. And there they were. Christmas presents! Last year she found the presents still unwrapped. Mom was ahead of schedule this year. Darn. Kiersten glanced at the clock on the nightstand. They shouldn’t be home for at least an hour. Did she dare?

Yes, of course she dared. Kiersten ran downstairs to the kitchen to fetch a letter opener and scotch tape. Before she could get back to the bedroom, she heard a clicking noise and froze. What was that? When she realized the noise was the whoosh of the furnace fan, Kiersten relaxed. 

Her slipper fell off on the way back up the steps, but she simply kicked off the other one rather than fetch one lousy slipper. Back in the closet, Kiersten carefully slit the tape on the first gift and released it from the paper. Oh! A Younker’s Department Store box. It must be that cashmere sweater she asked for. Pleased, the nosy tween lifted the lid. Oh yuck. It’s a hideous flannel granny gown. 

She opened another present, the size of a glove box. But instead of the concert tickets she hoped for, the box contained the ugliest Christmas socks in the history of Christmas socks. What was Mom thinking? 

One present left. A jewelry box? She opened one end, thinking she could just slide the box from the wrapping. Oh no! One edge of the box ripped a long tear in the paper. She can fix that. She opened the box and felt like crying when she saw the tacky Christmas jewelry inside. How could Mom get it so wrong this year?

Then she heard the back door open. Yikes! She could hear footsteps on the stairs and held her breath until Kyle’s bedroom door closed and strains of music seeped out. As quickly as she could, she re-wrapped the presents, patched the one with tape, dropped them into the cardboard box, and shoved it back into place. She carefully put Mom’s shoes back in a neat row in front of the box and slipped out of the closet. The door closed with a soft click.
 
“Oof!” She crashed into Kyle in the hallway.

“What were you doing in there?” Kyle asked.

“I was, uh, looking for…” Kiersten’s mind spun. “... for, uh, my slippers. I thought I might have left them in there when I was talking to Mom earlier.” 

“They’re on the stairs, Brat. I could have broken my neck.” Kyle grinned. “As compensation, why don’t you go fetch me a plate of those Christmas cookies? And a glass of chocolate milk.”

Kiersten scowled, but skipped down to the kitchen to comply. While fixing up the treat, she heard the garage door hum; followed by the slam of car doors and the sound of Mom and Dad bellowing out Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer

“Sounds like you two had a good time,” she said. “Want some cookies?”

“Heavens, no! I’m stuffed from the party.” Mom kissed Kiersten’s cheek. “But you are so sweet to ask.” 

For the next week-and-a-half, Kiersten focused on two things. The first was being the best kid in the world–the kind of kid who would never sneak around and open gifts ahead of time. The next was practicing how to sound surprised and pleased when she opened the presents on Christmas Day. It wasn’t easy. She knew she hated the gifts. Maybe Mom would let her exchange them for something better after Christmas. But that would hurt her feelings, wouldn’t it? Why did she ever open those presents? Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

Christmas morning finally came. Kiersten planned to find the gift with the torn wrapping paper first. Mom must not have noticed when she put them under the tree, but Kiersten could still get caught.

“I’ll pass the presents out,” Kiersten volunteered. “You guys just sit there and enjoy your coffee. You too, Kyle. I’ve got this.” 

But Kiersten couldn’t find that box. The other two presents were there, but not the little jewelry box. “Is that everything?” She looked at her mother.

Mom nodded. “Why? Were you hoping for more?”

Kyle made a face. “You know things are tough this year, Brat. Don’t be so greedy.”

Kiersten felt the sting of tears, but she swallowed them away. She watched the others open presents instead of tearing into her two. Somehow, she just didn’t feel very enthusiastic. She caught her Dad looking at her with concern written all over his face. With a deep breath, she opened the bigger gift with exaggerated care. 

But it wasn’t a granny gown. This was the softest pink cashmere sweater she had ever seen. It was perfect! She reached for the other package and… concert tickets! Four of them. Enough to take her best friends!

“And one more, sweetheart.” 

Kiersten looked up and saw her mother holding out a jewelry box, in a completely different wrapping paper than before. Kiersten turned bright red. 

“Go ahead,” Mom said and tossed it into Kiersten’s lap.

Kiersten opened it to find a sterling silver charm bracelet with one charm—a tiny wrapped present with a bow on top. 

“My mother gave me one when I was your age,” Mom said. “I had such fun collecting charms for years. I hope you like it.”

“It’s beautiful, Mom,” Kiersten whispered. “But I don’t deserve any of these gifts. What happened to the others? The ones I was supposed to get?”

“Others? You mean the gifts for the Giving Tree at church?” Mom turned to Dad. “You dropped those off last week, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Dad looked confused. “Why? Did the secretary tell you she had to re-wrap one? It must have bounced around in the back of the car and the wrapping tore. I swear it wasn’t my fault.”

Kiersten hung her head in shame. “It was my fault. I tore the wrapping. I snooped.”

Kyle laughed. “You? You’re little miss perfect.”

Tears slid down Kiersten’s cheek. “I’m so ashamed. You should take these presents back. I’ve ruined Christmas.”

Mom moved to the floor next to Kiersten and gave her a big hug. “It’ll never happen again, will it?”

Kiersten shook her head.

Dad laughed—a genuine belly laugh. “Ask your mother how she knows it will never happen again.”

Kiersten looked at her mother. 

Mom grinned. “Let’s just say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Thursday, November 26, 2020

NaNoWriMo Interrupted

Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends! 

Today I am furiously trying to write a few thousand words of my next novel while my darling husband is baking pumpkin pie. Why? Because this is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The month when about a half-a-million people try to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. (1,667 words per day if the writer is disciplined, which I'm not.)

If you've wondered why I haven't updated my blog in awhile—well, this is why. In October, I diligently plotted out the entire story, a sequel to Guardians of Grace, with intersecting plot lines and character arcs for four main characters. I even drafted a 'hook': At the age of fifteen, Grace saved the world by killing a demon. Now, fifteen years later, she has to save the world again—this time from itself.

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash
I should have known better. 2020 is the year the world went to hell, after all. I don't know about you, but my bingo card isn't big enough for all the crazy. Between the election drama and Covid in the family, I'll be lucky to have my 50,000 words by the end of December, let alone November. But who knows what fresh hell 2020 has in store, huh?

I'm not going to sweat it today. Instead, I'm going to think about how blessed I am to have such a wonderful husband, two adorable dogs, and great friends. I'm thankful that my Dad got Covid after doctors figured out how to better deal with it. I'm thankful my brother is still laughing. I'm thankful for FaceTime and Zoom. 

I'll write a scene, play with the dogs, peel some potatoes, call a friend, eat too much (even though it's just two of us), sip some whiskey, watch Christmas Chronicles II on Netflix, and knit a few rows. And that, my friends, is a day to be thankful for.

Love you all!

Nancy




Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tangled Skeins

 I owe my newfound interest in writing fiction to the 2016 election. I was stunned, depressed, furious—and spurred to activism from that day on. After countless calls and letters to State and Federal elected officials, attendance at town halls, and participation in various protests and marches, isn’t the next step to write a book?

I drafted, but never finished, a novel called Her Yarn Is Organized, about three friends, comfortably middle-aged, and the different paths each take in response to the election. Julie breaks out of her introverted shell to embrace activist organizing; Maeve resists involvement, but ends up finding love; and Lyndsay (not in this scene) runs for state senator. The following excerpt from the book captures the evening that triggers it all.

Excerpt from Her Yarn Is Organized

Maeve was out the door before Julie even came to a complete stop. Tonight was the monthly meeting of the Knitwits and it was Julie’s turn to drive. Maeve opened the passenger door and tossed in her overflowing knitting basket and then stiffly lowered herself into the passenger seat of Julie’s orange SUV. She was still dressed in her work clothes—dark tights, a navy wool pencil skirt and a fuchsia-pink boiled-wool blazer with matching pink turtleneck sweater underneath. She sported an “I Voted” sticker on the blazer’s lapel. The only other accessories were her favorite owl-shaped Cloisonné earrings dangling from her earlobes.

“You look nice,” Julie said, wearing her usual black jeans topped by a handknit raglan sweater and a fleece jacket. She also wore the “I Voted” sticker. “But then you always do. How’s your ankle? You’re moving a bit stiff there.”

Julie put the car in reverse and backed down the long narrow plant-lined driveway, blessing whoever invented backup cameras.

“We had a special event yesterday at the university for the international students,” Maeve responded, “and I swear I was on my feet for eight straight hours. I didn’t get home until 10:00 last night. So I’m a little achy. When I get home tonight, it’s the warm castor oil and flannel poultice treatment for me. I don’t know why you won’t try that for your knees. It may be an old home remedy, but it really works.”

“I know, I know. I’m just perfectly fine with the muscle rub and ibuprofen.” Julie shrugged and changed the subject. “So how are you feeling about tonight? I’m a little nervous, to tell you the truth. I was reading Nate Silver’s Five-Thirty-Eight blog this morning and he dropped Lockhart’s chances to something like 70%. Kinda late for a wake up call, but I got the message—it’s not a sure thing.”

This month the Knitwits gathering fell on election night. The members briefly considered rescheduling it, since Elaine was an election judge and wouldn’t be able to join them, but then decided it would be fun to be able to celebrate together when the first woman President of the United States was elected.

Maeve thought for a moment before replying. “All the other predictions have her at better than 90%. I just cannot believe Temple can win. Surely, surely more voters will see through the rhetoric and reject him for decency’s sake if anything.”

“Then it comes down to voter turnout,” Julie remarked. “And what the undecided people do. If they don't vote or they vote third party because they don't like either candidate, then we could be in big trouble.”

They both lapsed into silence. Julie concentrated on the road, since this was hunting season and the deer were riled up and liable to leap out of the roadside vegetation and onto the highway.

Maeve broke the silence first, changing the subject to change the mood. “Owen did the cutest thing this morning when we were FaceTiming.”

“What was that?”

“Nicole positioned her iPhone so I could also see Oliver while I was talking to Owen. Anyway, Owen didn’t like that. So he deliberately moved the phone to where I could only see him. Just reached out with one finger and nudged it, plain as day.”

“Cute. Doesn’t want to share his grandma with the new kid, huh?”

“Nope. Guess it wasn’t part of the deal when Oliver was born. I have to say, I really struggled not to laugh. But I didn’t rat him out to Nicole, who wasn’t paying attention.”

“So the question is if he’ll share you with the baby when you go out there at Christmas.”

“I’ll manage. I love that boy to death and I just don’t feel the connection with Oliver yet. I probably won’t until I hold him in my arms. I remember it was love at first sight with Owen. But Nicole and Brad were in Chicago and it was so easy to go there on weekends.”

“Yeah. How dare they move to San Francisco to pursue their dreams!”

“Not funny. You’re an Air Force brat. You wouldn’t understand.”

Julie just laughed. “Here we are. Looks like somebody’s here already.”

They pulled into Claire’s driveway, where a car was already parked. They could see Katy and Shelly through the front window as they walked up the sidewalk. After letting them in the front door, Claire took their jackets and ushered them into the living room before heading back to the kitchen to get the wine and snacks.

The television in the living room was tuned to CNN with the volume barely audible. Maeve claimed the upholstered chair next to the lamp table, and Julie plopped on the sofa perpendicular to it. Both had a good view of the television. Katy and Shelly were on the loveseat on the other side of the coffee table, trying to sort out some hopelessly tangled yarn. Janet hadn’t yet arrived, but then she was always late and would most likely come bustling in later with tales of the crazy day she had. Sonya, the newest member, wasn’t feeling well and had stayed home.

Claire’s home was sophisticated and elegant, reflecting Claire herself. She took an ordinary townhome with ugly carpet and a very outdated kitchen and bath, and gradually converted it to a modern, contemporary home with the feeling of being in a big city loft. The kitchen cabinets were glass-fronted and creamy white instead of the original country oak. The backsplash was a mosaic of small tiles in shades of black, gray and cream; and the countertops were dark gray granite with speckles that gave it a lovely depth. On the counter was the wine and glasses, but not much else.

"What happened?" Maeve asked the two women on the couch.

"Oh, I was pulling the yarn from the center and it all came out in a big glump," Katy answered.

"Your yarn barfed, huh?" Julie teased.

"Well, it's pretty—once we get it untangled and she can work with it, that is," Shelly added without looking up. "It would help if we could find the other end."

Maeve busied herself with digging through her knitting basket and came up with a partially finished object that was still unrecognizeable.

"What are you working on, Maeve?" Claire asked, coming back into the room with a plate of assorted cheeses and crackers. She looked quizzically at the object in question.

"It's a stuffie for Oliver—a little hippo if I can get the head right." Maeve held up the pattern so they could see the picture.

"Cute. Who wants red and who wants white wine?" Orders taken, Claire went back to the kitchen to fetch the drinks.

"Is that the sweater you were working on last time?" asked Janet, who had just breezed in and was settling into the last vacant chair. "It's gorgeous!"

"Thank you," answered Julie, smiling brightly. She stood up and twirled around for all to see. "I just finished blocking it yesterday. I may have to knit this pattern again, it was so easy."

"Looks like I could even knit it," commented Katy, as she wound the free end of her yarn into a ball. "I'll have to get a copy of that pattern."

"So Shelly," began Maeve. "Are you going to make it to Antarctica this year?"

"I am!" Shelly answered with an ear to ear grin. "Two weeks from now. A friend and I are taking a tour that starts in Buenos Aires, goes through the Falkland Islands, then Antarctica, and finally back up the Chilean coast. I'm so excited!"

"Any chance it goes to Uraguay? That's where Malibrigo yarn comes from. I would love to visit their operation," Julie asked with longing in her voice.

“Turn up the volume,” Katy suggested. “It looks like some results are coming in.”

The time was around 7:30 and a number of states had been called already. The electoral vote was close at 68 for Lockhart and 66 for Temple.

"That's ok," Julie said. "Those states have all gone as expected. It's the swing states to watch. Like Florida and some of the big rust belt states."

"Anybody want some apple cake?" Claire asked. "Elaine made it."

The women put down their knitting as Maeve got up and helped pass the plates of dessert around. They were emptied quickly.

By 9:00, Temple had pulled ahead to 140 electoral votes compared to Lockhart’s 104. Katy inhaled sharply and looked worried.

"It's ok, she can still do it," Maeve commented. "There's still plenty of votes to go."

Virginia and Colorado were called for Lockhart just before 9:30, but as soon as the knitters started to relax, Ohio was called for Temple.

"Jeez Louise," Julie exclaimed. "This is tense. It wasn't supposed to be this close."

Claire brought the bottles of wine into the room and refilled glasses.

California and Hawaii was called for Lockhart and she made up lost ground electorally, for just a minute. Then, a little after 10:00, North Carolina went to Temple and it was 190 for Lockhart versus 187 for Temple.

"Now what?" Katy asked, looking at Julie who seemed to know the most about it all.

"Well, I read some articles online today that talked about the various paths to victory for Temple. There's some key states where Lockhart can't afford to lose more than three, I think. Ohio was one, and she just lost another with North Carolina, but she got Colorado and Virginia. Now she needs Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She can't afford to lose any one of them and they're awfully close—too close to call if I'm hearing it right."

They watched, the knitting and noshing ceasing altogether as Florida went to Temple twenty minutes later. The room was deadly quiet.

With a small voice, Shelly asked, "Is that it?"

“Temple just won," Julie clarified with disbelief in her voice. "Temple won."

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I think I need something stronger than wine,” Maeve said, breaking the silence. “Do you have any Jack Daniels, Claire?”

“I think I’d like to head home instead,” Julie said before Claire could respond. “While I still have some wits about me and all my brain cells haven’t gone into shock yet.”

The meeting broke up. There weren’t the usual happy goodbyes or plans being made for the next month. This wasn’t normal. There was a sense that nothing was normal anymore. Could there have been a huge mistake?

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Banana Disease


I love baking (and eating) banana bread. So does my husband, and even my two dogs. The recipe I rely on is the same one my mother used, passed down from her mother. It might go further back, but it's too late to ask. I've shared the recipe at the bottom of this post if you're interested. The secret is to use bananas that have previously been frozen so they turn really brown, and to let the batter sit in the pans for 20 minutes before baking. But that's not really what this blog post is about.

In my book, Guardians of Grace, banana bread becomes a bit of a trading commodity in the small off-grid community where the family finds refuge. It's not just that the bread tastes so good, it's because bananas are hard to come by. Unfortunately, the potential for this to happen isn't fiction. Bananas are at risk.

I've seen several names for the disease attacking banana plants: fusarium wilt, Panama disease, TR4. The cause is a fungus that isn't new, but is spreading rapidly around the globe. According to one article I read, the banana disease was first identified in Taiwan some two decades ago, then spread throughout Asia to the Middle East and Africa before its arrival in Colombia late last year. Colombia is trying to slow the outbreak before it spreads to the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations considers TR4 to be among the most destructive of all plant diseases. 

It spreads stealthily via spores in the soil on boots, plants, machines, or animals. A diseased plant might look healthy for a year while its vascular system is being ravaged. By the time the yellow, wilting leaves appear, it's too late. The soil is contaminated. Since there is no treatment, the only recourse is to abandon the land and move elsewhere. Infected farms are quarantined, and biosecurity measures are put into place to prevent spread. 

For my book, I use Panama disease as yet another subtle warning of climate change, although my research tells me the root cause is greed. As the burgeoning banana industry developed decades ago, a single cultivar was chosen for its consistency in size and taste, and the ease of mass production. The potential to make money superseded any concern that limited genetic diversity could lead to disease susceptibility. 

Of course, scientists and researchers are working hard at developing new varieties of disease-resistant bananas as well as changes to farming methods to address soil health. And so I expect to be baking banana bread for a long time to come.  


Grandma's Banana Bread
I double the recipe for two large loaves:
One to eat and One to freeze
1c Sugar
1/2 c Butter, softened
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 mashed ripe bananas
2 T sour milk (either buttermilk, or add a little lemon juice to milk)

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add eggs and blend. Stir in bananas and milk alternately with dry ingredients sifted together. Batter will be very stiff. Pour into greased bread pan. Let stand 20 minutes. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.

For additional reading:
https://www.bbc.com/future/bespoke/follow-the-food/the-pandemic-threatening-bananas.html
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-05-22/the-25-billion-banana-industry-is-being-ravaged-by-disease.html

Friday, September 4, 2020

When Characters Rebel

Recently, I was looking over my original, haphazardly scribbled notes for Guardians of Grace as I began plotting out the sequel. I was a bit surprised to see how much I veered from the original plan. Mostly this happened because a character refused to follow the outline. These are the characters who were very demanding and made me rewrite entire scenes until satisfied. Some scenes just wouldn’t be wrestled into submission until I gave up control to the character with the main Point of View for that scene.


Usually, the first rebellion comes if my characters don’t like their name. I may have carefully selected a name, building in lots of symbolism and meaning, and then the character makes me change it. My main character takes on a new identity as Faith Sparrow. I totally forgot that my original intention was to name her Faith Nightingale until I looked back at my notes. Nightingales are a symbol of love and longing, after all. But no. I found myself typing Sparrow. Sparrows, you see, are a symbol of hope, fertility and resurrection. Faith was right, of course. 


Or a character refuses the nickname I give them. Obsidian is the dragon demon in the story. I named her after Obyzouth, a fallen angel who kills newborns and causes stillbirths. Really. There are entire websites devoted to the origins of angels and demons and gods from many cultures and religions. I found Obyzouth in one of these. Of course, I planned on shortening her name to Dian. I couldn’t imagine typing out that long name all the way through the book. But she had other ideas. You see, Obsidian turned out to be a rather formidable character. She let me know pretty early on that a nickname just wasn’t appropriate for a demon of her standing. And then she insisted on upstaging the main demon/antagonist in the book (her lover) every chance she got. 


 And don’t get me started on the minor characters that refuse to sit on the sidelines after their big moment (I’m looking at you Ms. Black. You made me give you a first name, Helen, and then you kept showing up in my scenes).


Sometimes I get it right, and the characters embrace their names. Layla and Aaron Daniels, for example, are the biological parents of Grace. Layla’s name is a derivation of Laylah, an angel who oversees and protects childbirth. Aaron’s name is based on Ariel, an angel of protection. Even the last name, Daniels, is based on Diniel, an angel who protects infants. They settled into their roles without any complaint whatsoever. 


One last character who rebelled is Ethan, the reincarnation of-- well, you’ll need to read the book. My notes have Ethan as a falcon, watching over Faith and Grace. Falcons, after all, are symbols of protection-- probably because they never close their eyes, even in sleep. But no. Ethan wanted to be a hawk. I had to do extra research to figure out why he was so insistent. I discovered that in Native American culture, hawks are a symbol of power, known for their strength, courage, intelligence, and intuition. A perfectly appropriate change. But I suspect that Ethan simply wanted to be called Ethan Hawk. He does have a rather dry sense of humor, after all.


I can’t wait for you to be able to read the book. I’m working hard to find an agent and get it published, but it’s pretty competitive out there. So send me positive vibes as I keep ‘querying’!







Monday, August 17, 2020

Nepeta and Bumblebees

In front of our garage is a large stone planter, about 6’X10’, stuffed full with lovely, fragrant Nepeta (Catmint). In late spring, at the height of flowering, the bumblebees are so numerous that the planter practically vibrates with the humming of little bee wings. I find myself enthralled watching the bees industriously moving from bloom to bloom and plant to plant. The urge to reach out and pet the fuzzy striped bodies is nearly irresistible. They seem completely oblivious to my presence. 

Several years ago, however, the bees weren’t there. Maybe a stray or two, but that was it. Much has been made of the decline of honeybee populations, but surely that couldn’t be the same thing as what was happening to my bumbles. Could it? I wracked my brain trying to remember if I or my husband used any of the 'bad' chemicals lately. And I glared in my neighbor's direction because I just knew he prioritized a big green lawn over a pollinator-friendly habitat.

Around that time, I began to read snippets in the news about a growing mismatch between biological events of pollinators and their favorite host plants. This was referred to as phenological mismatch. (See definition below). The general hypothesis is that climate change is contributing to this phenomenon, and related scientific research is being conducted worldwide.

The main theory is that the plant, like my Nepeta, uses mean daily temperature as its phenological cue to break dormancy and flower, while the pollinator, like my bumbles, uses day length. If these two species depend on their interaction with one another for pollination and food, the changing environment means they may end up missing each other entirely. Of course, an occasional occurrence of early spring isn’t going to decimate bumblebees. But if this is a permanent shift….

Because I love my garden and the birds, butterflies, and bees that occupy it, I worry. I worry enough that I included a reference to phenological mismatch early in my book, Guardians of Grace, as one of the subtle clues of climate chaos to come.

Of course, my characters don’t know this. They, like me, are just wondering why the Nepeta is blooming so early, and why the bumblebees are missing out on the nectar.

According to a quick internet search, Phenology is the study of the timing of the biological events in plants and animals such as flowering, leafing, hibernation, reproduction, and migration. Scientists who study phenology are interested in the timing of such biological events in relation to changes in season and climate.





2021 is finally here!

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash It's a new year.  Finally.  Last year was, well, let's not talk about it. Okay? I've got p...