Friday Flowers–Fennel Failure

Forgive the alliteration, coffee hasn’t kicked in.

You know what I’ve always wanted? An herb garden. Unfortunately, I am admittedly a  failure at it. I had a slight success with some rosemary a couple years back. Kept it alive for about five years. The basil did okay, but I don’t recall it lasting for more than maybe two seasons. But it went to pot and I’ve never tried it again.  I had lemon balm, it died, tried dill, ditto. (again with the alliteration!)

Recently, I went to this place my mom likes and was tickled pink to find they had herbs. So I found some fennel and thought what the hell.

Fennel, so says Grieves’ Modern Herbal, is: a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves, grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe, but is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, whence it spreads eastwards to India. It has followed civilization, especially where Italians have colonized, and may be found growing wild in many parts of the world upon dry soils near the sea-coast and upon river-banks. It flourishes particularly on limestone soils and is now naturalized in some parts of this country, being found from North Wales southward and eastward to Kent, being most frequent in Devon and Cornwall and on chalk cliffs near the sea. It is often found in chalky districts inland in a semi-wild state.

For the medicinal use of its fruits, commonly called seeds, Fennel is largely cultivated in the south of France, Saxony, Galicia, and Russia, as well as in India and Persia.

Okay, good. If it’s been around in temperate areas for centuries how hard can this be?

I brought it home and repotted it, rocks in the bottom for drainage and such, just like dad taught me. At first, it did well. By the end of the first week, it looked like this:


This is from week one, back in May, with watering it whenever it felt dry. Its previous owner is an organic genius so I figure it’s me and my yellow thumb (yeah, not so good for the druid thing, eh?)

Herm…. A good friend of mine says the stuff grows wild around her but she’s in the Northwest. I asked her advice and followed it…and the conventional wisdom around the web says likewise:

Moreover, it demands little attention from its host or hostess after having been made to feel at home; once sprouted in only moderately fertile, chalky soil, it requires little watering or feeding.

Okay so I snipped the dead piece off (it’s in my herb cabinet right now) and I tried the “dribble when I got worried” method, leaving the soil mostly dry. Yet still. It’s doing it again:


Does this look, like Modern Herbal says:

4 to 5 feet or more in height, erect and cylindrical, bright green and so smooth as to seem polished, much branched bearing leaves cut into the very finest of segments. The bright golden flowers, produced in large, flat terminal umbels, with from thirteen to twenty rays, are in bloom in July and August.

To you??

I wish I had my heroine Caitlin’s touch. Brother, if that don’t make her books fantasies I don’t know what does. 😉 Because she’s better than me, and what I wish I could garden like!

So, I gotta ask, if watering normally (’til the soil’s wet to the touch) is causing it to do this, and if dribbling it with water though letting the soil remain 90% dry  is causing it to do this….how do I save this plant? When you read the conventional wisdom it says “this plant’s easy to care for” and “watch out because it’ll take over!” but …uh, herm. I’m not seeing that in my little plant.  For the gardeners out there: any suggestions? I’m thinking this poor thing ain’t going to make it to the end of August let alone July, at this rate–or the second year that Florida Gardening says it should get to. And surviving to get me some of the seeds? Yeah, good luck with that. I know I’m in zone Hot as Huh…mmm… (that would  be zone 9) but you’d think a plant that’s suppose to take over would be harder to kill. What do I do besides call this another failure?

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Guest post: Nicolette Andrews: The Prophetic Meaning Of Dreams

Today we have a treat for you, a fellow member of the Magic Appreciation Tour, Romantic fantasy author Nicolette Andrews has stopped by to talk about that favorite subject of most fantasy writers: Dreams. Welcome, Nicolette!

The Prophetic Meaning of Dreams

You awaken in a cold sweat you heart is beating against your rib cage and you fumble around in the dark for your significant other to reassure yourself that you are back in reality. Upon hearing the steady cadence of your loved one’s breathing, you settle in and drift back to sleep. This is the terrifying and urgent nature of our dreams. At times we all are woken from a nightmare of a loved one dying or even being chased by a masked murderer.

But what about our more mundane dreams, the ones where you are smoking cigarettes even though you’ve never touched them in your life or a dream where one color seems more vivid than any other that it leaves an impression on your waking self. Could our dreams hold a significant meaning to our everyday lives? Is our subconscious aware of something your conscious mind is not?

I am not a dream expert or a scientist, what I am is a fantasy writer with an active imagination.  What would you do if your dreams came true? Imagine falling asleep at night and in your dream world you see in perfect clarity, your much hated boss getting canned for some shady dealings. You would wake the next morning refreshed and maybe a bit pleased. How surprised would you be if when coming into work the next day and you see your boss carrying a box of his things towards the elevator? How would you react?

In my novel, Diviner’s Prophecy, Maea is a woman born with the ability to see into both the past and future. That is until a spell is put upon her that stripped her of an identity and a past. Her powers are crippled and she was fight to regain her past and save her kingdom from an unknown destruction.

Unlike you and I, when Maea dreams she is looking into the future, seeing what may come to pass. What would you do with that kind of power? What if we already have that power lying dormant within us?

Take deja vu for example: where does that come from? What if our waking mind forgets what our sleeping minds have foretold?

Have you ever ran into someone at the market or the gas station and thought: I was just thinking about you but I cannot remember when. Perhaps the secrets to these questions, these feelings of premonition, lie in our subconscious, our dreaming minds. As I mentioned, I am not a scholar or a specialist; what I am a fantasy writer with a lot of time on her hands.


Thank you to Juli for letting me take over her blog for today and if you would like to read more about prophetic dreams, check out my Romantic Fantasy Novel: Diviner’s Prophecy now on sale at Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. You can connect with me on my blog, on facebook and on twitter. And happy dreaming.

Diviners-Prophecy-ebookAbout Diviner’s Prophecy:

Maea is a diviner, the last of a once influential family of women who could see into the past and future through visions. Though she holds immense power, once sought after by kings, she is helpless. A spell has wiped away her past and crippled her abilities, leaving her dependent upon her foster mother and her companion. Maea wants to trust them but their evasive behavior in regards to her missing memories makes her wary. They claim an accident caused her memory loss. Maea, however, remembers the night the man took her life away. She suspects they are accomplices to the act and further believes they plan to use her in her their own political plottings.

At the royal court, the first diviner speaks to Maea through a vision and charges her with an immense task: to stop a catastrophe that threatens to destroy her, her kingdom and all life in the realm. She must navigate the dangerous waters of court intrigue where foes appear as friends and no one can be trusted. Is she plays the game right, she will regain her past and save her kingdom. If she fails, it means the destruction of every living thing.

About Nicolette:

Nicolette Andrews, a romantic fantasy author, lives in San Diego California with her husband and two daughters. Apart from a good book, with healthy doses of romance, fantasy, intrigue and mystery. She enjoys spending time with her two daughters and her husband. She can often be found enjoying the California sunshine but she is usually behind a computer screen working on her next novel.


Thank you for being with us, Nicolette and best of luck with Diviner’s Prophecy, and all you do! Folks, I hope you enjoyed Nicolette’s chat. If you’d like to check her out you may do so at the links above.

Visiting a Gothick castle

TombDoorSort of. I’m watching Dark Shadows and visiting over at Gothicked today. Want to know what inspired me to write House of Cards? Then come on over. The post is up here.

Oh and if you’re curious, I read here and  here that yesterday was  the day of Ceadda, the (very obscure) Celtic god/goddess of healing springs and holy wells. Interesting huh? I can’t find much about him/her so I always tend to take those readings with a grain of salt though. *shrugs* I wonder if maybe she’s being confused with Sequana, a Gallo-Roman river goddess (incidentally I mention her in House of Cards) but don’t quote me on that.

Anyway, Gothicked post here. If you’d like to see the inspiration behind one my favorite stories.

Flowers in winter

Being Friday I promised y’all something pretty. Yes, I know we are now into December, but where I’m at, the flowers are still out. I procured some lovely ones this week, so I thought I’d share them with you.snapdragons

Okay, maybe just one. The red is the prettiest, anyway, don’t you think? Yes, this is my latest attempt at flowers. Snapdragons. So far they survived the potting. They’re supposed to do well in cooler temps so I hope they won’t die on me. Of course, we’ve been in the 80s here, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I do hope I can get them to stick around. I tried them once from seeds but they didn’t really survive too long. We shall see. Meanwhile, I’ve finished up my Christmas cards–ya!!

So, are any of you growing flowers this winter?

Shape Shifting in Eolyn By Karin Rita Gastreich

Today I am pleased to welcome a colleague from the Magic Appreciation Tour, Ms. Karin Rita Gastreich. She’s got a post for us that, I must say is dear to my heart: Shape shifters. Read on and enjoy!

Shape Shifting in Eolyn

By Karin Rita Gastreich

One of my favorite books growing up was T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.

Years later — [ahem] okay, decades later — there are still scenes and passages from this book that remain vivid in my memory.

I especially liked Merlin’s tutorship of Wart (young Arthur); the way Merlin turned him into different animals such as a fish, an ant, and a hawk.

I mean, how cool is that? As a child, I would have given anything to have a teacher like Merlin at my grade school.

When writing my own novel, I wanted Eolyn and Akmael to have a touch of Merlin’s school of magic. The witch Ghemena and the wizard Tzeremond both include shape shifting as part of their instruction, and once Eolyn and Akmael have mastered High Magic, they learn shape shift on their own.

Shape shifting, by the way, is not without risk in Eolyn’s world. A person who is not properly prepared can get lost in the animal form, and might never become human again. This limitation is not much of a problem in my first novel Eolyn¸ but it becomes very important for the companion novel High Maga.

In theory, a maga trained in High Magic can shape shift into any animal (or plant) with which she has had extensive contact. This gives Eolyn a wide range of options, because she grows up in the South Woods and interacts with all its creatures on a daily basis.

Even so, magas (and mages) tend to favor certain forms over others. Both Akmael and Eolyn prefer Wolf and Owl. This becomes an important expression of the affinity between them, even as they confront each other as enemies on opposite sides of a violent conflict.

I have a special love for wolves, though I have never had the privilege of seeing them in the wild. There are few animals that embody as well as Wolf the image of fierce independence coupled with the deep need for meaningful companionship – Eolyn and Akmael, through and through.

Owl, of course, is a creature of the night. Day creatures like us are crippled by darkness, but Owl is at home. When I do night walks with students in the woods, I always include a moment when we turn off our headlamps. The darkness is astounding — a deep inky black that is hard to comprehend for those who live in urban environments. It makes you especially appreciative of what it means to be nocturnal.

If I could change into any animal — just for a little while, because in truth I very much like being human — I would be a mountain lion, or a puma. I’ve always been partial to the strength and ferocity of the wild cats, and the powerful sensuality that accompanies their every movement. The puma is a New World animal, so it doesn’t appear in Eolyn, but one of its cousins, Lynx, lives in the South Woods. Lynx is Eolyn’s guardian and friend.

How about you? If you could shapeshift into any animal, what would it be?


By Karin Rita Gastreich

Sole heiress to a forbidden craft, Eolyn lives in a world where women of her kind are tortured and burned. When she meets Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of adventure, friendship, betrayal and war. Bound by magic, torn apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes will satisfy fans of traditional epic fantasy with a romantic thread.” – Publishers Weekly


Excerpt from Eolyn, Chapter 2

By Karin Rita Gastreich

By the time Eolyn arrived at a large stony riverbed, she had lost track of the moon’s passage. In a few months spring would fill the river’s banks to overflowing, but now with autumn drying up into winter she crossed the water without wetting her feet, by jumping from one stone to another. She paused on the opposite bank and considered following the current downstream. Before she could decide on her next step, Eolyn saw another Guende.

The creature stood but a few feet away, reflecting the hues of day and fall. It wore colored leaves in its cap and an evergreen vest embroidered with seeds and nuts. With smiling eyes peeking out from under bushy brows, it proffered its hand. Eolyn was surprised by the feathery lightness of its touch, as if it were not a real hand at all, but an impulse of energy that took hold of her and pulled her forward.

They left the river and walked for almost an hour, until Eolyn felt a subtle shift in the resonance of the forest. The woods did not look any different, with its old trunks, crusty bark and draped moss. Yet something had changed. Caught between curiosity and apprehension, Eolyn’s heart beat so hard it pushed into her throat. The Guende tugged on her hand in reassurance. An intense drone filled her ears, as if she were passing through an invisible hive of bees. After a few steps the buzzing stopped, the Guende disappeared and Eolyn stood alone in a small clearing. The thick expanse of trees that defined her world moments before had melted away. Under a cover of soft grass, the ground sloped downward and then rose again. Beyond a low hill hovered a faint wisp of chimney smoke. Taken with a sudden enthusiasm founded on the hope of human company, Eolyn bounded forward. On the other side of the rise she saw a simple cottage surrounded by a thick garden.

“Good day!” she called out. “Is anyone home?”

The bushes rustled. A dark hood rose up and peered at her. “Well. Who is this mouse that calls upon my humble house?”

The hag’s voice crackled and hissed like a night fire. Eolyn stepped backwards, regretting her boldness at once. How could she have been so foolish? She knew the stories about hags living in the woods. They were witches, all of them. They turned children into bread and ate them for breakfast.

Rising to her full and somewhat crooked height, the hag shuffled toward Eolyn. “Don’t run away, my child.”

Eolyn had no intention of obeying, but her feet betrayed her and rooted into the ground like stubborn weeds. Locating a stump next to the girl, the old woman eased herself down. Several minutes passed in silence.

“You are not much of a talker,” she said at last. “All the better I suppose. I’ve grown accustomed to an existence without chatter in this place. How long have you been in the woods?”

“Nearly a moon, I think.” Eolyn’s voice was subdued with dread.

“A full moon?” the old one repeated with surprise and interest. “How did you survive so long on your own?”

“I know the late harvest berries and mushrooms and how to find springs and draw water from the moss. Then the Guendes found me.” And led her here.  Treacherous creatures!

“I see. And what drove you into the forest in the first place?”

Eolyn blinked and looked away.  Her eyes began to burn and her throat ached.

“Come, child.” The woman’s voice was quiet and gentle. “You can tell me.”

Eolyn was not going to tell her anything, but then words came spilling out anyway. “There were horses and soldiers and terrible fires and . . . they killed my father, and my brother never came back . . . and then I . . . heard my mother.  I saw her, I swear!  She told me to follow her, but it wasn’t her after all . . . and then I got lost.”

The hag folded her arms. “You’re a very courageous girl. How many summer solstices have you seen?”

Eolyn shifted nervously on her feet.

“Nine, perhaps?” The old woman asked.

The blood drained from Eolyn’s face. Proof of witchcraft! How else could she have guessed her age?

“Speak, child. A guest in my house must say what she thinks.”

“Are you the witch who eats children?” Eolyn covered her mouth with both hands, shocked by her reckless tongue.

The old lady’s eyes sparked in the shadow of her cloak and she reached up to remove her hood. Eolyn expected to see an ancient face twisted into a sharp warty nose, unkempt hair splayed like straw and inflamed eyes that would hex her on the spot. The truth proved oddly disappointing. The woman’s features were soft, lined with the many years that had bent her body. Her thick gray hair lay braided in a neat coil at the nape of her neck. Her nose was an unremarkable peak over narrow lips. She watched Eolyn with keen gray eyes. “Well that is not a question I get every day. Tell me . . . What did you say your name was?”


“Nice to meet you, Eolyn. I am Ghemena. Tell me, why do you think I am a witch who eats children?”

“Because you are an old woman, and you live alone in the South Woods.”

“That is rather damning evidence,” she conceded. “What else do you know about this child-eating witch?”

“She lives in a house made of sweetbread and the children come to eat it. That’s how she fattens them up before she throws them into her great oven.”

“I see. . .” The woman nodded, her face a mask of careful reflection. “Well, young Eolyn, you can see my house. It does indeed bear the shade of honey-sweetened bread, now that I think about it. Why don’t you take a bite? If the legend is true you’ll be able to eat it. Even better, I’ll be able to eat you. But I will let you run first. I’ll give you a full half-a-day’s head start just for being such an astute little girl.”


Author Karin Rita Gastreich. Photo by Julia Shapiro

Author Bio:


KARIN RITA GASTREICH was born near Kansas City, Missouri. After living and working as a tropical ecologist in Costa Rica, she recently returned to her home town and is now a Professor of Biology at Avila University. Her past times include camping, hiking, music and flamenco dance.  Karin’s first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011, and was nominated for the 2012 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.  The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is scheduled for release in 2014. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl.   She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Visit her site at

Author web links:



Thanks for being with us, Karin. Good luck to you with Eolyn and all you do!