This has nothing to do with the novel, but gardening is as much a hobby as writing, and somedays is even more enjoyable, so I felt like posting about it. I’m in a 7b growing zone which grants the pleasure of getting an early start on planting. Mid-April is our last frost date so the time to germinate seeds is late February or early March.
Starting seeds indoors is somewhat difficult due to the architecture of my living space. I have windows, and some face south, but none of them are very wide. The sun only shines directly through each one for an hour or two. For the seedlings to get adequate energy, they need to be moved to different windows and different rooms throughout the day. Before the shutdown I was only able to do this on weekends, so all the plants were leggy by the time they were moved outside. Now that I’m working from home I’m able to keep up with the sun throughout the week, which is giving me high hopes for the garden this year. So far only the cabbages and Brussels sprouts have emerged from the soil but the planter also contains tomatillos, artichokes, and 4 kinds of peppers (Thai, serrano, chilaca, and Hatch chilis). It’s only been a week, so hopefully they’ll make an appearance by next Sunday.
This tomato had a serious head start. My sisters bought me a hydroponic station for my birthday last year. I’ve never been very interested in hydroponics because there’s no soil involved and part what makes gardening fun is getting my hands dirty. Now that I have one I can’t complain; it’s provided a never-ending supply of basil, parsley, and mint. There was only one pod, labeled as dill, that never grew. Since that pod wasn’t active I bought some cherry tomatoes and dropped a seed in to see what would happen. That was in December, right before I left town for a holiday vacation. When I got back the tomato had outgrown the station and was so top heavy it was nearly falling over. I moved it into the container and by mid-January it started producing fruit. There were 2 tomatoes that ripened just in time and I was able to cut and bury them this weekend. If all goes well they’ll be strong and healthy by the end of March.
For me, growing potatoes is a must. I usually buy packs of seed potatoes and plant them in a raised bed. This year I plan on trying them in containers. I still planned on buying a pack of seed potatoes, but when I got back from the store earlier this month I noticed a few of the eyes were active so instead of cooking those I just put them in a box and let them sit a while. When I checked on them last Friday I was surprised at how many eyes had sprouted. It might be a little too early in the year to get potatoes started, but they seem like they’re ready so I decided I might as well get them cut up and cured. I still plan on growing them in containers, so I’ll need to pick up quite a few more sometime this week.
I don’t usually grow fruit trees, especially not from seeds. It takes too long for them to produce fruit and I’ve heard that when started from seeds there’s no way to know about its genetics and how it will impact taste. Despite those issues, I decided to give apple seeds a shot last year. I kept them outside in their containers all winter because I wouldn’t have minded if they died. I realize how cruel that sounds, but I don't feel too bad about it because they didn’t die. Sure, they look like a bunch of sticks right now, but if half the videos I’ve seen on YouTube are accurate, that isn’t out of the ordinary this early in the year. Upon closer inspection most of them have nubs that I believe will grow into more branches, but again, I don’t grow trees, so I don’t know what to expect. I just have to wait and watch how they develop.
This was the first image I paid Lothar to paint for the illustrations. The first one he did depicted Soleil utilizing his toxic poncho, but we didn’t collaborate on that one; it was just an introduction to give me an idea of his skills. That’s the reason the image of Soleil doesn’t have much going on in the background. Lothar didn’t know what kind of imagery to use to capture the character’s personality so he just used a blend of light and dark colors. Before he started Inspector R.E.D. he requested a description of the character, a brief backstory, and some ideas for a setting. I figured I’d just email him a portion of the chapter where I described what Inspector R.E.D. wears and having Lothar pain a generic background like he did with Soleil. This is the first time I’ve explored the option of illustrations so I really didn’t know what to expect. This was when I started getting a handle on the information necessary for putting pictures in books, and how complicated they can become.
We had a long discussion of where Inspector R.E.D. should be in the image. The first time the readers were introduced to him was in a cemetery in Made to Be Broken, but he was murdered in an abandoned store, and took his revenge in a factory where his killers work. We decided to go with the factory since that is a high action moment in the book, focuses on Inspector R.E.D.’s motivations, and Lothar thought it would be the most fun to paint. We also talked about what kind of factory it is, what sorts of machines and materials would be present, and the condition of the building overall. This is how it will look in the book since it can only be printed in black and white, but there is a colored version in the works. I’m looking forward to how that one comes out.