On Writing: Character Background

As much as any author would love to include a character’s background in the finished draft of her novel, there is simply no time or page space to go on and on about the characters we have so carefully conjured. This is why blogs are so important; even after the novel has been published, the author can keep the spirit of the characters alive.

With his superior intellect and college degree, Timothy is soon promoted. He is fearless and is recognized for his natural leadership; his loyalty to his fellow officers is unswerving (see chapter 18, page 144).

But on his days off, he wastes his time in bars picking up unsuitable women who usually take advantage of his trusting and slightly gullible nature. His gentleness is part of his appeal, and also his weakness.

It is only when he meets Elizabeth and falls in love with her that this poor behavioral pattern changes. A whole new world opens up to him.

As for Elizabeth, the reader will learn more about her background in Chapter 12, which is titled “David in South Africa.” This chapter describes the suburbs of Johannesburg and the house she grew up in, as well as the reasons why she and her husband Hugh emigrated to the U.S.

Her beauty and outgoing personality captivates everyone who meets her. Is it any wonder that Timothy quickly falls in love with her?

Blogging and fan fiction have not only generated interest in existing novels, but helped to inspire new ones. What are some books or beloved characters that you have wanted to create backgrounds for? If you could write the prologue or epilogue for any book, which would it be? Discuss in the comments below!

Gardening in Too Late for Regrets: Sparkling White Flowers

In Too Late for Regrets, Elizabeth tells Timothy that she can’t make up her mind about something–should she plant white or pink petunias?

“White shows up so well at dusk…” – Too Late for Regrets, page 14

And not only at dusk do they show up well. Here are some exquisite white flowers that are sure to please gardeners and readers alike.

Had you been in Elizabeth’s position, which flowers would you have planted? If there are none below that you fancy, comment with the names your favorite nighttime flora!

White Alyssum

White Alyssum

Tanacetum (and an adorable Havanese puppy)

Tanacetum (and an adorable Havanese puppy)

White Roses

White Roses

White Cosmos

White Cosmos

White Candytuft

White Candytuft

Great Romances – A Memorable Love Affair

Moon tiger is a green coil which is placed in a saucer; when it is lit, the smoke repels mosquitoes. Moon Tiger is also the name of the 1987 novel by Penelope Lively; winner of the Booker Prize in the U.K. For those of you looking for an epic love story to read after finishing Too Late for Regrets, here is the first part of my Moon Tiger review.

An elderly woman lies dying. The story of her long life is told through her memories. The central section of the book is her heartbreaking love affair with Captain Tom Southern, a tank Commander.

The Time: 1941-1942

The Place: The Libyan desert where tank battles are being waged. The British tanks are pitted against those of the Germans under the command of the Desert Fox, Rommel.

Claudia Hampton is a journalist; she is beautiful, independent, and willful. She wangles a ride in a truck which is traveling through the desert to headquarters where she is to interview some of the top brass.

The truck becomes bogged down in the sand. Through the murk of a sandstorm, a jeep appears. The driver is Captain Tom Southern who offers to take her to headquarters. Sitting next to him and dazed from lack of sleep, Claudia naps. Through half-closed eyes, she observes his hands on the steering wheel.

Forty years later, as she lies dying, she can recall with clarity those hands. The author’s description of the carnage Claudia sees as the jeep ravels through the desert is vivid and unforgettable.

To Be Continued Next Week…

Today’s Gardening Topic: Outdoor Ornaments

If you give good advice, it will never be remembered.

If you give bad advice, it will never be forgotten.

A small fountain among the flowers.

The ornaments in the garden should be a reflection of your own unique taste. The correct placement of urns, fountains, or statues can transform an ordinary area into a conversation piece. Unsuitable, pretentious objects look out of place in a small suburban garden; unwise and expensive mistakes might haunt you for years. Only death will relieve you of the obligation of having to view these regrettable choices every time you venture into the garden.

Stone Bench

Which is the garden ornament–the stone bench or its adorable canine companion?

If possible, small children should not accompany you on these buying trips. Children have notoriously bad taste. Instead of the divine container you originally set out to buy, you might be inveigled into purchasing a carload of grotesque gnomes, pink flamingos, or other kitschy knick-knacks.

Friends can also give wrong advice. You might find yourself gazing onto your small garden at a massive stone lion’s head, or a fountain more suitable for the Palace of Versailles. On that note, avoid friends who use the word “cute” to describe hideous objects. This is a word appropriate only for babies, puppies, or newly hatched chicks.

Garden Ornaments Trough

A stone trough with intricate designs is the perfect home to display your favorite flowers.

Do you have any neighbors, friends, or family who refuse to take down hideous garden ornaments? Or have you ever made an impulsive purchase of a less-than-ideal garden arrangement? What is the worse ornament you’ve ever seen? I want to hear your garden horror stories in the comments below!

Get a Free Copy of “Magical Gardens: Denver Region”

TLFR Magical Gardens Sale

 

While supplies last, get a free copy of my gardening book, Magical Gardens: Denver Region, when you purchase Too Late for Regrets! This book contains hundreds of beautiful photographs and makes the perfect addition to any gardener’s collection. To get your free copy, simply e-mail your purchase receipt to me at maureenjabour@gmail.com and we will take care of the rest!

Please note, this also includes e-book purchases.

Enjoy!

x Maureen

On Writing: Choosing Your Cover Photo

One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is choosing a cover photo. Like clothes to a person, a cover represents the book and affects how readers will perceive the story. With my gardening books, Celebrating a Small English Garden, A Medley of Gardens: Denver Style, and Magical Gardens: Denver Region, the task was much easier because flowers are always undeniably beautiful.

Elizabeth as I had always imagined her.

Elizabeth as I had always imagined her.

As for Too Late for Regrets, the cover photo would forever influence how the reader imagined our main characters. I could describe their every inch in the text, but the cover photo would be the image emblazoned in the reader’s mind.

From the four photos sent to me, I chose this one for Elizabeth. The other three faces were beautiful, but they seemed to be too sophisticated. This photo looked like the Elizabeth I’d imagined and written about. Lovely, natural, and with an intangible sense of innocence; a joy in living that seems to shine through her ethereal expression.

Timothy’s photo on the back cover was–I thought–perfect. He is handsome, with strong features, and the characteristic slightly brooding aspect. Yet there is a certain wistfulness in his expression

The brooding image of Timothy that I always envisioned.

The brooding image of Timothy that I always envisioned.

which I thought embodied all of his characteristics.

What do readers think of my choices? If you had read the novel prior to seeing the photos, would the faces you imagined for Timothy and Elizabeth be similar or different? Which celebrities could play Timothy and Elizabeth in a movie based on the novel? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Gardening Topic of the Week: Tulips

The days are shorter, the nights are longer. It’s official–it’s fall.

In October, I make the much-anticipated visit to the nursery to choose tulip bulbs from the abundant

Tulips "Georgette,"  red or orange. This is a fabulous bunch flowering tulip. Several flowers on a sturdy stem. If you have enough space, plant ten or twelve for a spectacular show.

Tulips “Georgette,”
red or orange. This is a fabulous bunch flowering tulip. Several flowers on a sturdy stem. If you have enough space, plant ten or twelve for a spectacular show.

selection. The many varieties can be bewildering! Therefore, my advice is to look at the tags. They will tell you how tall the tulips will grow to be, and when they will bloom; early, mid, or late spring. Be sure to include those tags in your packet!

A mixture of Darwin tulips. Yellow, pink, and red are easy to grow.

A mixture of Darwin tulips. Yellow, pink, and red are easy to grow.

It’s also important to have a definite plan. A mixture of yellow or red? Perhaps pink and white? Or a section devoted to orange?

The bulbs should be firm and unblemished–bulbs that show any sign of sponginess should be avoided.

The bulbs have to be planted before the ground freezes. I plant them in any vacant areas in the beds. Late spring (when the foliage emerges) is when yellow basket-of-gold and brilliant pink creeping phlox start to bloom. Together with the tulips, you will have a charming show which will last a month.

I treat most of my tulips as annuals even though this seems like a waste. They’re removed once they’ve finished blooming because the spaces are needed to plant summer annuals such as impatiens or lobelia erinus and alyssum. One particular gentleman with whom I walked down the aisle all those years ago strongly objects to this waste. “Why are you doing this?” he bleats pathetically. “I would leave them in.” But as Ingrid Bergman said to Walter Matthau in the movie Cactus Flower, 

“You go to your church, I’ll go to mine.”

"Maureen," a sparkling white tulip that is sure to please.

“Maureen,” a sparkling white tulip that is sure to please.

Plant tulips in clumps of 6 or 8–they’ll look more effective. These beauties, the harbinger of spring, will give the gardener much joy and sense of accomplishment.

Darwin tulips, "Golden Parade,"  glorious yellow which will light up your bed in late spring.

Darwin tulips, “Golden Parade,” glorious yellow which will light up your bed in late spring.

Do you have a favorite October/Autumn ritual? Pumpkin spice latte at the corner Starbucks? Visiting the pumpkin patch with the children or their children? Watching a scary movie by the fireside? Share in the comments below!