Tag Archives: Garden

The Mulch Pile

You’re not going to believe this story. Maybe that’s for the best. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I really believe it myself anymore. Maybe it’s just a story I tell myself so that I won’t have to remember the Truth. But Terrence is dead; that much you can believe.

He should have been the one to write this, Terence I mean. He was always real good with this kind of thing. But now he’s gone, and it’s just me left to tell the tale. You probably won’t believe it, but for my sake, for Terrence’s sake, remember.

The Mulch Pile lives! If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that this is a project I’ve been working on for a while.

You could say it has its roots all the way back in my childhood when my dad dug into our garden mulch pile and told me to put my hand inside.  I lowered my palm into that cavity and felt waves of heat coming off the rotting vegetables and grass clippings inside. It totally creeped me out.

Years later, in 2009 to be exact, while I was casting about for a concept for my National Novel Writing Month novel, the idea of a monster mulch pile sprang into my head, and I knew that was the story I was going to write.

I had to write it. Because no one else was going to.

But along the way it became so much more. I’m not much a fan of pantsing these days, but in the November of 2009 sitting in Walmart’s parking lot with my laptop, pounding away on this story when I should have been eating lunch, pantsing took me to a place I never dreamed of finding.

And instead of writing a simple story about a monster mulch pile, I uncovered layers of meaning about brotherhood, identity, and the dark side of love.

Consequently, this story is really two stories. One is the story you will read. The other is the story between the lines.

Confused? Think of it like this painting:

On the one hand you can see a normal bowl of vegetables. But hidden within those vegetables is a pattern of something far stranger.

Similarly The Mulch Pile has two sides. One side is about a monster mulch pile. The other side…well let’s not spoil that shall we?

The Mulch Pile is available for all your favourite electronic reading devices. Kindle, Nook, whatever. I’ve got you covered.

The going rate from all those websites is $2.99.  But if you’ve got an ereader that can process .epub files, then I’ve got an extra special offer. The ebook is available directly from me for $1.99. Just click   and save!

I’m really excited about this story, guys. It’s been a long time in the birthing, but I’m thrilled to be finally releasing it into the wild.

And, as always, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, my work will have been worth it all.

The Gardener’s Guide to Life

I have a garden. It’s not much to look at really, just a small patch of dirt (and we’re going to be honest it’s more sand than dirt) in the back corner of my yard.

At the beginning of the year I was all excited about this garden. I borrowed my dad’s tiller and dug up the ground, I went to the hardware store and looked at seeds; in my mind this garden was going to be the best.

Then came the waiting time. Let the record show that I am not good at waiting. I mean seriously three MONTHS for this stupid squash to sprout? The weeds in my yard sprout in about three DAYS. Can’t we just eat them?

But I waited. And waited. And waited.

And finally I started to see little buds of green poking up through the earth. If you’ve never had a garden you can’t know how exciting that is, the realization that the thing you planted, that dead, boring looking seed, is growing up through the earth shooting out its tiny green leaves.

And then there’s more waiting. Because those little green sprouts take time to mature and grow.

But finally they did grow and there was fruit on the vine, not very big fruit mind you, but it ripened nicely, and it was truly exciting to slice into that tomato that I had watched grow for all that time and take juicy, delicious bite.

Only then, it seemed like the garden hit a wall. The tomato plants stopped bearing fruit, the squash vines seemed to stagnate, the corn stalks gave us MAYBE two good ears. And I started to get discouraged.

“This dirt’s no good,” I told myself. “I’m gonna have to wait till next year and start over. I’m gonna do it right this time, with lots of fertilizer. But this crop?  It’s done for.”

So I stopped checking the garden every day, stopped watering in the mornings and evenings, stopped thinking about anything but the next year.

And then my wife came to me one day and said, “Have you seen the garden lately?”

And of course I hadn’t, so she dragged me outside, and lo and behold the squash vine had started to take over the whole garden. And not only that, but my tomato plants had started to perk up a little too. And on top of all that, there was another tomato plant in a section of the garden where I hadn’t planted anything, happily growing up thick and green without any help from me at all.

And it was then that I realized that I had been looking at the garden wrong the whole time. See, I thought it was me making all this stuff happen. My water, my dirt, my fertilizer. Without me those pathetic little plants didn’t have a chance.

But then I thought of the verse in the Bible that says something to the effect of, “I planted, another watered, but God gave the increase.”

And I don’t think it applies to just gardens. There are times in our lives when we do everything right, and everything seems to go wrong. And there are times when we’ve all but given up, and suddenly some new blessing appears out of nowhere.

I think writers are in just about as good a position as anyone to understand this principle. It’s easy to get frustrated when we’ve worked so hard getting things right, and someone else who seems like they haven’t put in nearly as much work, rockets to the top of the readerboards.

The truth is, it’s not because the system is unfair, or because anyone is out to get us. The truth is that we simply don’t have nearly as much control as we’d like to think we do.

It’s not an excuse to give up. It’s just a simple fact of life. We can work and struggle as much as we want to get to the top of the pile, but in the end, it’s God who gives the increase.

On Waiting


When I was a kid I swore I’d never have a garden. My dad had a garden and I hated it. There were weeds and bugs, and the sun was hot, and I got dirt under my fingernails and just…ugg. I hated it.

As it turns out, I was a moron. Or maybe I was a genius, and I’m a moron now. Whichever one it is, I’ve got a garden. It’s not very big, but I’ve got a little of everything in there. A few tomatoes, some onions, some corn, all the wonderful things I love to eat magically sprouting up out of the ground from nothing more than a tiny seed. It’s kind of exciting.







Seriously. I’m looking out at my front lawn and weeds sprout up literally overnight, but it takes ninety days to get a decent ear of corn? Let’s maybe speed up the program yes?

Only I can’t. I can go out there and water that little patch of dirt till my yard floods. I can fertilize and mulch and pull up weeds all day long, but you know what? That corn is still going to take three months before it’s ready to eat.

Social media is a lot the same way. A while back I took Kristen Lamb’s advice and jumped into this blogging thing with both feet. I got on Twitter, I got on Facebook, I was ready. Now to wait for the tidal wave of followers to come and be amazed by my awesome.

Only it wasn’t a tidal wave. It was a trickle. One or two here, three or four there, nothing really to write home about. But after a few weeks that trickle grew into a dribble, and after a few months that dribble was a small but respectable stream. And what of the Freshly Pressed Fiasco of 2011? Well it was nice while it lasted, and it did boost my numbers, but not by an unbelievable amount.

Why am I telling you this? Because some of you are in the same boat with me. We look up at the big shots and we just know they’ve got all this clout and we think, “What am I doing wrong?”

And it’s a fine question to ask. We should never be through looking for ways we can improve ourselves. But we should be willing to accept the answer, “Mostly nothing.”

Yes, maybe we can improve our writing and delivery a little, but real honest growth still takes time. Those weeds in my front yard sure sprung up fast, but they’re not good for anything. And the thousands of views I got on my Lima Beans post don’t mean anything in the long run, because most of those people have moved on to the next distraction.

That doesn’t mean that social media is fruitless. It just means we have to wait for the stuff that matters.

We aren’t going to get a million Twitter followers in twenty-four hours like Charlie Sheen did and that’s okay. But a little at a time, if we work at it, our following will grow. And it will be worth it.

Just like it will be worth it three months from now when I sit down at the dinner table and eat the corn and tomatoes out of my very own garden. My mouth is watering already.

Word Colored Glasses or: We’re All Crazy And That’s Okay

I am turning into a crazy person.

The reason I know this is because of what happened recently when my friend from work was telling me about the story about how he raked the leaves in his yard, bagged them up, and took them to the dump.

A sane person would have nodded politely and waited for the mundane narrative to be over. I on the other hand reacted like this:

“How could you send those precious leaves to the dump?” I asked horror. “How could you let nature’s bounty go to waste like that!?”

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I have a garden. Having a garden means that I’m constantly on the lookout for vegetable materials to use for mulch. I save kitchen scraps. I rake up my mown grass and keep it in a pile. And of course, I keep my eyes peeled for bags of leaves sitting on the side of the road.

Owning a garden has given me something of a different perspective on things than non-gardeners have. Where they see trash, I see mulch. Sweet, beautiful mulch.

Writing is a bit like that too. It puts you on a different level from non-writers. It’s not necessarily a better level. Just different.

When I try to talk to non-writers about writing I often feel like I’m not really getting through to them. They’re often interested in what I’m saying, but they have no way to connect with it on a comparable level.

Often they’ll bring up their cousin who self-published a book and sold like a hundred copies. Everyone I talk to about writing has a cousin who self published a book. I’m beginning to suspect it’s actually always the same guy, and that somehow he’s manipulating some weird loophole in the space-time cousintinuum. [Error. Error. Error. Pun Failure. Complete Prose Breakdown. Error. Error. Error.]

When normal people get sick, they think, “I sure I hope I can stop puking soon.”

When writers get sick they’re sitting there with their head over the toilet bowl thinking, “It would be totally radical to write a story about a guy who gets sick and pukes up a human finger, and he doesn’t remember how it got there.”

We see the world through a different lens: the lens of story. It gives life some pretty radical hues. Sometimes it can even fool us into seeing narratives where none exist.  But we love it anyway.

So here’s to you, fellow writers. I’m honored and extremely thankful to have this small connection with all of you. Chances are I’d still do my writing even if I completely alone in this endeavor, but having all of you here to cheer and encourage me makes every day just a little better.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m thankful for all of you non-writers out there too. Yep, I can see you lurking in the shadows back there. You may not always be on the same wavelength as us writin’ weirdos but that doesn’t mean you’re not every bit as awesome. Oh, and the next time you see your cousin, tell him to keep on  truckin’ with his writing; he’ll make it to the big-time someday.