Sunday, May 20, 2018

#Nurturing Weeds

Image result for pink evening primrose
pink evening primrose







Image result for milkweed flowers
milkweed
Related image
Daisy Fleabane
Image result for photos black eyed susan
Black-Eyed Susan


Oxeye Daisy
Oxeye Daisy
Cornflower
Blue Cornflower


Lythrum Salicaria, Purple Loosetrife, Purple flowers, Pink flowers
Loostrife or Lythrum

Flowers or weeds? I guess it is in the eye of the beholder. I admit that I let these untamable wildflowers grow in my garden despite the fact some gardeners consider them obnoxious, invasive, and undesirable weeds. 

I've been warned to dig them out by the root before they have a chance to, horror upon horror, take 'hold' and edge out more desirable specimens like roses and hydrangeas.




 





Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with roses and hydrangeas. Indeed, if you were to ask my favorite flower, I would say it is whatever is in bloom. 
Now, stick with me here as I go through a rather convoluted theory about how gardening can relate to writing. It came to me yesterday as I was working outside.
Imagine each flower as a person in your story. That each bloom is a character both unique or stereotypical. It's undeniable that plants possess their own strengths and weaknesses much as we do. Some are aggressive and try to take over the bed. Some are delicate and temperamental. Some are bold and some dainty. 
Others, like the hybridized rose, might create a gorgeous and showy splash of color but they've lost that original, deeply haunting, and sweet scent in the process. They put me in mind of the handsome or lovely character that is all surface charm with no inner substance.
Can't you see children or childish characters in the tiny daisy fleabane? Milkweed is maternal. Attracting butterflies like a magnet and essential to the Monarch's diet, milkweed is the comfortable, older woman. Sweetly pink or butter yellow Primrose is the secondary female lead. This character is usually the heroine's best friend. On the other hand, you have to see that purple lythrum is the male best friend. 
Or do plants radiate gender to you as they do me?
That's why I see the Black-eyed Susan or Oxeyed daisies as great heroines. They're plucky, fun, cute, and bright all at the same time. While the masculine blue cornflower is perfect as the hunky, strong, and brave hero.
Now, every grower knows they must nurture each plant to their individual needs of water and fertilizer. So must the author nourish the story. But beware. Suspenseful drum roll. No matter how well tended a garden, black-spot, spider mites, or root rot might invade at any moment. 
The thought makes me shiver just as much as when suspense drives the plot. 
Even among the flora, there are few bad flowers. Queen Anne's lace tops my list as an undesirable. I didn't realize I was allergic to the intricately woven bloom until the summer of snot. That was the year it grew along the fence line and my little sweeties lovingly brought me a stem or two each day. I, in turn, dutifully placed them in vases around the house. And sneezed my head off as my nose ran and ran and ran. 
It's embarrassing to say how long it took me to figure out the cause of my 'summer cold'. It goes to show that Queen Anne's lace is the epitome of a complex character. Pleasant and interesting to look at but hiding a sinister motive.

See? Everything you need for writing inspiration can be found in your garden. There are blooms that are lovely, sweet, spicy, pungent, bold, pastel, or shyly hidden among the foliage. I bet you can find an annual or perennial that uncannily resembles someone you know.
Nature even comes with bad guy-flowers - like Queen Anne's lace and goldenrod. These nasty little buggers sprout each spring looking like every other tiny green speck. It's how they hide out and go unnoticed as they shove their roots deep into the soil.
It's the same when you write. Hidden threats provide conflict and suspense. Fear and worry keeps the main characters moving along. 
To get back to these sinus inflaming plants that burst from the soil, a shoot of innocent green in a green sea. They are the evildoer hiding in plain sight. It isn't until the leaves uncurl or sets a bud that it becomes identifiable. Only then is the gardener able to spot and weed them out. Much as a writer grooms the plot, elaborating on a character's internal and external struggles. The main characters must recognize and accept the problem before it can be defeated.
And so it goes. A story line forms like a garden reveal. Characters struggle to find and keep their place in the world much as shade and sun seeking plants. They must guard against others that try to crowd or overtake them. Defend against rivals that would kill them by hogging the soil's nutrients. 
But, sometimes, even two vastly different plants manage to harmoniously exist side-by-side. These are the lovers coming together in an explosion of colors and complementing hues.

And this is the road my mind traveled as I dug and planted in the dirt. You might say, I spent too much time in the sun. I don't know.

Either way, I'll leave my thoughts on seeds for another time.
R.E.Mullins
author of paranormal romance

My latest work is a novella bridging the gap between the original Blautsaugers of Amber Heights series and my new Vampires of Amber Heights series. 

 During the Civil War, Union soldier, John Alden took a musket ball to the gut. As he gasped his final breath, he was turned into a vampire and started life anew in Amber Heights, Missouri. For over one hundred and fifty years, he's lived a rather solitary life as a vampire Enforcer.

Young single mother, Joann Clarkson, needs a job and fast. Hoping to be rehired, she returns to Dr. Michaela Blautsauger's lab prepared to eat a hefty helping of humble pie. She comes to regret that decision when she's taken hostage. Things look grim but she'll never stop fighting to escape. Her son needs his mama.
As an Enforcer, John must hunt down the vampire who kidnapped Joann. In his search, John winds up babysitting her toddler Cody. Changing diapers might be worse than getting staked, but nothing compares to how he feels when both mother and child fall into danger again.


 
The Blautsaugers of Amber Heights series. Each novel features a member of this vampire family as they deal with loving interference from family members, wacky members of the human community, danger, and their own personal hangups to find their soulmates.

Kindle Worlds novella, Vampire Girl: Back to Hell was a lot of fun to write. I hope you enjoy it.
Eli Grayheart, vampire demon, lesser Lord of Inferna was banished to the mortal realm. For a decade, he has been reduced to working the night shift for human employers and little pay. As he desperately seeks a way back to his homeland, he has plotted his revenge. The pink Fae, known as Keeda Weranseer is going to regret the part she played in his exile. Ever more graphic plans for revenge fuel his life, and, he swears, if it takes forever and a night he will find his way back to Hell.
Contact me, read a free Christmas short story, or see what I'm working on at:  remullins  
Or find me on: FACEBOOK
 




Saturday, April 21, 2018

A Tale of Three Tails

     A Tale of Three Tails or Three Dog Night In The Country

                    My Family Grew When I Wasn't Looking

First there was Zap. He came into my life about a year and a half ago after I discovered him on a pound puppy website. He'd been abused, starved, and dumped outside their shelter. I was interested as I didn't want a puppy but the ad claimed he was two or more years old. 
Later, my vet would say he was more likely only a year old. 
It took a while to win his trust and he's still skittish around strangers. He also retains an almost pathological aversion to pickup trucks and large men.
However, he loves women and children and is a real sweetheart.
                           


About six months after adopting Zap, I learned about a four-month-old pup. Bred as a Cowboy Corgi (Corgi/Heeler mix) this little guy didn't fit the desired standard. Although a Cowboy Corgi can be long or short haired and all colors, their legs have to be Corgi short.
 

Here, on the left, is Kif with legs twice the accepted length. The breeder  planned to take him to the pound unless he found someone to take him off his hands. And that's how this boy joined the household. 


Image result for Cowboy Corgi
I added this picture on the right so you can see how tall a Cowboy Corgi ought to be.





It didn't take Kif long to warm up to his new digs.                                  
 
Though training is slow things were going smoothly enough when three days ago this sweet fellow walked up on the deck, opened the screen door, and walked right in.
After I got over the surprise of finding a strange dog in my house, I gently ushered him back outside. Back on the deck, he stared in at me, grinned as if we'd just shared a marvelous joke, and furiously wagged a barely-there tail. Then he simply opened the door and came back inside. 

At least this time I got to see how Houdini accomplished his skillful breaking and entering. Using his nose, he bounces the wire meshing until there is enough space to get one toenail inside - after that it's a quick slide open. He had that sliding screen door open in seconds flat.

No collar and, beneath all that silky-soft hair, I could feel the outline of every bone. So, of course, I fed him. His tummy had shrunk so much that he wasn't able to eat even half of what the other two consume.



Three days later and he's also making himself at home. 
The spot on the couch without the red cover is where I sit and the space is getting smaller and smaller. 


Here they are one big family.
 


Checking out the new guy's pearly whites, I can tell he's also a youngster. So much for planning. I now own three furry juveniles where I'd originally planned on a single teenager.

While Zap and Kif are a little jelly, they've also started teaching Bender (yes, I've named him) the ropes. Their first and most vital task each morning (after lifting a leg) is to check out the pond. You never know when there might be a Canada Goose, Duck, or Heron to bark at.

As for this crazy dog lady? I'm headed back into town for more dog food.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How a Cold and Birthday led to Makeup Contouring for the Lazy and Cheap. Warning: Before and After Photos Included. Might be Unsettling for Some Viewers. #ContouringMatureFace

I ought to be writing. I'm supposed to be writing. I'm playing with makeup instead.

Why? Because it's that time of year.

Now there are some that wax poetically about getting older. It could be said the passage of time overwrites our faces and hides behind the dulling eye. Some claim under eye bags and dark circles are badges of honor giving a glimpse of struggles endured. That each laugh or worry line has been carefully etched into our faces to form a topical road map of a life well-lived...
To that, I say

  

 
 

 

I don't really mind getting older. I've spent 60 (mostly wonderful) years on this earth. I've three (loving and thankfully) grown children, fantastic friends and relatives - all of which keep me laughing. I've had the great fortune to travel, although there are always more places to see. And, I've attained my life's dream of publishing a few novels. 
So, for the most part, age isn't something I worry about. Except, of course, when it's that time of year. 
But when you've got a birthday looming and are in the snotty grip of a nasty cold, heed my advice and stay away from the mirror.
If you are careless enough to stop and take a long look, don't blame me. Though, I suggest you try to remember that none of those grooves and discolorations happened overnight. They were created slowly. In the same way the earth's tectonic plates ebbs and flows over time, the landscape of the face changes. 
It's all a plot to catch you unaware and unprepared. However, do as I do and try to only openly acknowledge them once a year. It makes you wonder. Why these things, that normally go unnoticed, should claim the attention right before a birthday. 
How can the celebration of another year lived feel like a slap to the face?
But it can and it does and because it did I took it on the chin. I'll explain by explaining the realization happened on a day filled with more Claritin than clarity. 
In retrospect, it was my own fault for buying a magnifying mirror. If you've not succumbed to the urge then never never buy one. Let me say that harsh 5x magnification with bright LED lighting only amplifies flaws of timeworn skin. My already double chin seemed to quadruple in such high relief. I swear I could drown an entire pod of whales in the dark bags beneath my eyes. Or lose an entire platoon in the grooves around my mouth. Mixed metaphors but you get the drift.
And, what the hell? When did my nostrils go all wonky? I can't remember any recent blows to the head, but it appears as if one side of my nose is collapsing in. Now, one nostril is misshapened and they are woefully mismatched. But, for the life of me, I can't remember which one has changed.
Feeling too cruddy to do anything, I spent the day reclining on the couch with tissue box and laptop. I'm telling you all of this so you can understand why I made the logical progression to YouTube tutorials about makeup. 
Contouring is nothing new but, per usual, I'm late to the party. It might be because I'm too lazy to put much effort into face paint. It might be because I'm too cheap to buy tons of expensive products like fancy sponges and brushes. What I want to think is that, with the wisdom of years, I no longer care all that much about what people think.

I will admit, though, that contouring fascinates me. I enjoy seeing it - on other people. Before now, I never considered it for myself. It looked to be more effort than I'm inclined to give and I believed it took an artistic talent that I lack. 

Yet, when I say I no longer worry about how I look it doesn't mean I want to end up looking like a clown from a horror movie either. 
Taking encouragement, and a few hints from the dozens and dozens of videos out there, I experimented. Except for the contour stick, I haven't use anything I didn't previously own.
The tools.
Face. For better or worse - there it is. Check.
Cheap white makeup sponges from WalMart. The kind you buy in mega batches.
A dab of moisturizer first, one poster insisted, to help blending later. 
Heavy lifting equipment already in my arsenal: Hard Candy Highlight & Contour duo stick, Cover Girl/Olay Simply Ageless Foundation, a blush stick, and a pencil eyeliner. I use the same pencil in the eyelid crease and to line my eyes. 
That's it. All cheap. All easily found at your local discount store.
Most tutorials are given by the young and still firmly skinned. While I watched them all, I stuck with techniques targeting more mature faces. A few of these suggested placing your highlight and contour lines on the face before anything else. 
After trying it both ways, I decided using the contour stick beneath the foundation is best for me. Mainly, because it's more forgiving of mistakes. 
Older faces, they say, need more highlighting to disguise dark circles, bags, lines, and uneven skin tones. 

Here I am with my high and low lines done. Ready for the next part, I start blending with the sponge.



Done blending. As you can see, the dark contour lines are softened but still visible. Dab on regular foundation like normal, blend lightly, and add a touch of blush.
I had to change from the pink shirt as I spilled a glob of foundation on it.

Ready for the end results?

First, the before. This photo was taken a few months ago. It shows me pretty much au naturel. 




















This last shot was taken today after using my new tricks. What do you think? Though I'm sure I'll improve with practice, I do think the skin looks a little smoother. A little younger. The bags less obvious. I noted that I no longer felt the need to put my hand under my face to hide all the chins.

















Perhaps, the next step ought to be learning how to contour the nose to disguise the fact my nostrils have warped. Or, maybe, I'll leave them be so people have something to wonder about.  

I'm happy to say, I thoroughly enjoyed my 61st birthday which was filled with tons of cake and laughter. I'll also admit that I'm relieved it's over so I can forget my appearance for another year.

Because, as I mentioned before, I'm supposed to be writing...
R E Mullins
author of vampire/romance
The Blautsauger of Amber Heights Series










and the new Vampires of Amber Heights Series




Stand alone novella though Kindle Worlds:
Keep up with what I'm working on at
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