From Magnolia Trees to Things That Go ‘Bump’ in the Night

Magnolia Grandiflora - Clearwater FL

Magnolia Grandiflora – Clearwater FL (Amazon has them, too – click!)

Research for Folded Dreams – it’s not all about things that go bump in the night!

As I was reading over my manuscript for the novel, I noticed that there might be a discrepancy between the season portrayed – autumn – and the presence of ‘massive flower buds’ on the character’s magnolia tree. Being a Florida resident where everything grows all year ’round, it had never occurred to me until now that it might be an issue.

‘Ava paused, pen still poised over the paper, to stare out of the livingroom window. There were angry black clouds on the horizon, roiling across the sky in her direction, and a cruel wind was whipping her beautiful magnolia tree all around, as if it was being beaten by a giant hand. She watched as massive flower buds went flying from the branches in every direction and jumped when one hit her plate glass window with a sharp “thwap!” ‘

For the most part, the Southern Magnolia – m. grandiflora – (typically a more tropical flowering tree) will bud in late winter in preparation for a showy array of huge, beautifully fragranced, creamy white flowers in early spring. But I had forgotten that even Florida experiences fairly cold weather and that the magnolia does go dormant at those times…gasp!


…of course, some dwarf magnolia trees can be grown in pots (Amazon has those, too – click! 🙂 )

In Folded Dreams, this particular autumn is relatively mild, with balmy breezes and only the scent of fall in the air, but plant life – like humans – can follow Nature’s clock, regardless of how she’s acting. It stands to reason that there is a possibility that my magnolia shouldn’t oughtta have buds or even “fruits”, those leftover pods after the tree has flowered.

For all that I try to make sure the majority of science, history, technologies and terminologies are believable in Folded Dreams, it would be a heck of a note that I screwed up something as simple as whether or not this tree has ever been known to set, bloom or fruit in November, even if the temperatures cooperated!

” ‘M. grandiflora’ is a large, rounded evergreen shrub or tree with glossy dark green, leathery, oblong-elliptic leaves, often rusty-brown beneath, and highly fragrant, cup-shaped, cream flowers to 25cm across in late summer and autumn. In warm summers, these can be followed by striking, knobbly seed pods, from which bright red seeds emerge in early to late autumn. “

Whew! I don’t have to change those two chapters. Folded Dreams is safe – and the magnolia tree can go on thrashing about in the angry winds and throw all the buds at Ava that it cares to!


It’s ‘frost on the pumpkin’ season! Time to prepare…

"Frost on the Pumpkin season"

“Frost on the Pumpkin season” (see link at the bottom!)

Many, many years ago, my very best friend in the world took my children and me camping at a place called ‘Jellystone Park’, in Massachusettes. She had a little, tiny travel trailer, complete with miniature propane stove and heater, which slept six, if you included the available floor space! It was only a week past the end of summer, but you could tell by the quality of the sunlight and the changes in wildlife – both the flora and the fauna – that autumn was about to burst forth.

That first night, we all gathered around a campfire, just like all the other campers, and roasted our hotdogs and marshmellows, whilst “oooh’ing” and “ahhhh’ing” about the vast array of stars showing the path of the Milky Way in the velvety night sky. We all went to bed, replete with our typical campers fare of food, and a peace that can only be had in the realization that God is in His heaven and that, for now at least, all is right with the world. The lot of us slept deeply and well.

Susan was the first to arise the next morning, before the sun even had the chance to begin to blanch the sky and extinguish the stars. I awoke to the scent of “cowboy coffee” as the vapours followed her into the camper when she, ever so quietly, tiptoed in to wake me. She was raising her nephew and, of course, I was always surrounded by children, so we took advantage of the opportunity to just be two adults, having a grown-up conversation, with nothing but the peaceful, near silence, of nature to keep us company.

When I stepped out of the trailer, I was greeted with a fairyland sight. During the night, the temperature had dropped considerably, and apparently quickly, and the last vestiges of last night’s moon shone on a sparkly landcape. The tiniest of ice crystals clung to everything, from the needles on the pine tree behind our temporary home, to the bark of the birch stand, just there to the right…and even the vapour of our exhaled breath twinkled in that soft moonglow, spreading out and disappearing somewhere beyond, like stars winking out.

I stood like a statue, taking in the beauty around me, from the softness of the grass at my feet, still apparent through the crunchy frost, to the glittering moisture released from our noses and mouths and those trees, looking like a colony of fairies had taken flight amongst the branches – and then on upward, to the breathtaking diamonds in the midnight blue sky – some of those diamonds flashing across the heavens in the brilliant display of a meteor shower.

It was breathtaking. Awe inspiring. Humbling.

And freaking cold!!

We built up the fire from the slumbering coals we had banked the night before, and soon a cheerful blaze joined the sun in lighting up our little campsite. As I inched closer to the flames to warm myself, I caught Susan grinning at me.

“What?” I asked her, already responding to her contagious glee with a smile of my own.

“Today’s language lesson,” she replied, her voice vibrating with humour (because we were both aware that I constantly speak in flowers; so what could she have to teach me about language?!).

“Ummm…okay. So what will you be teaching me on this fine, cold morning?”

“Do you know what today is?” she asked, then grinned a bit bigger as I scrunched up my face, trying to read the calendar that I keep in my mind’s eye.

“I got nuthin’,” I replied. “Enlighten me.”

Susan stood up, stretched and gestured expansively around us, then pointed to something on the ground. It was a pumpkin that the campground staff gives every camper to carve as a jack-o-lantern during their autumnal vacations. This, too, glinted with a thin sheen of ice crystals in the dawn light. She turned back to me, the joviality on her face replaced with that peaceful look we all wore the night before.

“Today is the first day of “Frost on the Pumpkin” season…the first sign that winter is just around the corner. It’s time to take a deep breath and prepare for the end of another year.”

This time I not only gazed about me at the fairytale landscape, I also took a moment to close my eyes, breathe deeply through nose and mouth and make a memory. “Frost on the Pumpkin season.” I opened my eyes to find Susan in the same meditative pose. She opened her eyes a moment later and we shared a smile. My best friend – the sister of my heart – and we both breathed the same thing, in an identical instant:

“I can taste winter on my tongue.”

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[† “Cowboy coffee” is made by heating coarse grounds with water in a pot, letting the grounds settle and pouring off the liquid to drink]

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With “Frost on the Pumpkin” season upon us (and as a Pier 1 Affiliate) I thought I’d share a couple of the beautiful decorations for which Pier 1 Imports has specials going on for the next few days.

[see: Affiliate Disclosure]


5% Off Regular Priced Purchases This Weekend Only with Code 15OFF or 20% Off When You Apply for the Pier 1 Rewards Credit Card with Code 20FORME, valid 9/29 – 10/2

20% off Wreaths, Wreath Hangers & Garlands at Pier 1 Imports, valid 8/28 – 10/1

Thoughts & Inspiration – God, Bob Ross & Roger Moore

"Happy little clouds"!

“Happy little clouds”!

My husband got into an accident a few days ago and wound up with five fractured ribs. While this may have been great inspiration for the writer of a medical novel, it better suited me to take a few days off from writing. So I  spent this week contemplating life, art, God, writing and Roger Moore, poet 😏

Now, the day after hubby got busted up, I took a walk to the corner store, about 3/4 mile away. I’ve not spent much time outside lately because of a nagging, sometimes debilitating health issue, so I was really soaking up the sun and fresh air on my way there. The sky was beautiful behind the various types of clouds floating around, and the sun was wonderfully brilliant, though it hurt my eyes even with my ‘blu-blocker’ sunglasses on.

Nature is beautiful; regardless of 97° heat and humidity, it never ceases to be awe inspiring. The slight whooshing sound as a breeze travels through a stand of Australian pine, cicadas singing so loudly that you can barely hear yourself think, watching the changing shapes of the clouds looming over the tree tops and the rainbow colours that appear where the clouds drift in front of the sun…well, let’s face it – God is indeed the Master Artist.

On my way back home, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the sky. With the sun at my back, it was much easier to study all those wonderful, blooming, bright white clouds that were slowly mixing with the angry looking storm clouds heading in from the west. Iridescent pastels and golds never disappear, even when they are overlaid with a myriad of values of grey.

Who hasn’t looked at clouds and seen pictures! I saw a porcupine, a pig, a woman’s head with one of those Greek  goddess style upswept hair-do’s and at the top of a particularly spectacular configuration, I even saw a replica of one of those huge statues of Christ the Redeemer, like the one in the Andes Mountains, between Argentina and Chile, just south of Mt. Aconcagua (nearly the same as the one we’ve seen on television during this year’s Olympics in Brazil). I mean, watching these clouds billow into forms just made me smile.

They seemed like such happy little clouds…hmmm.

Does anyone remember Bob Ross? He was a wonderful artist, well known even to this day because of his decade long television series, “The Joy of Painting”. He was then, and still is today (although he passed away from cancer many decades ago), famous for adding, as he put it, “happy little clouds” and “happy little trees” to his paintings (Melody Sheep/PBS did a music mix, “Bob Ross: Happy Little Clouds” here). Studying the sky that day, a random, perhaps nonsensical, thought occurred to me that God was ready for another assistant to share His status as Master Artist, so He invited Bob Ross to join his wife in heaven, just so we might all still be able to enjoy his happy little clouds!

I seem to be able to find inspiration in abundance, through my own thoughts and memories or by sheer chance…like when I’m “introduced” to people via social media or through my blog here. Sometimes it’s because of personal interaction with others, sometimes it’s because I have been touched by another’s writing.

My most recent ‘for instance’ was day before yesterday when I really spent time reading the works of contemporary poet, Roger Moore (no, not the erstwhile “007” – – – the other Roger Moore!). I was so entranced that I Googled him and wound up reading far more than he shares on his blog. In fact, I found myself so engrossed in his short stories, prose and poetry that before I knew it, I had spent 3 hours in the the company of his work…and gained much inspiration for my book(s).

Now, Roger Moore, art, ‘happy little clouds’, memories and God are not the only places I find inspiration. I don’t just follow bloggers, tweeters and posters…I read what you all write. I have found that my time on the internet would be very dull without you!