Just a quick note to let you know my new novel Harvesting the Sky has a cover! Here it is above. I’m very excited. The talented Jessica Dionne, who created The Forgetting Flower, also designed this one. It’s ominous and threatening and mysterious and I love it.
Here’s the jacket copy:
Botanist Andre Damazy lands on the opportunity of a lifetime when he discovers a rare medicinal apple in Kazakhstan and brings back tree cuttings to his hidden greenhouse in Paris. Growing the cuttings into trees is personal for Andre since the apples can heal people with serious illnesses, like his sweet mother who’s suffered a stroke.
But a mysterious stranger constantly thwarts Andre’s work, sending harassing calls and menacing effigies, stalking Andre, and vandalizing his trees. Andre doesn’t understand why anyone would do this, but he wonders if it’s related to a project from his past that went all wrong and resulted in a deadly mistake. So with the help of his new friend Renia (The Forgetting Flower) and her street smarts, he works to outmaneuver his enemy while uncovering a larger, more dangerous plot that threatens the foundation of all that Andre holds dear, including the woman he secretly loves.
Harvesting the Sky is the second book in the Botanique Noire series that combines vivid literary prose and a thriller plot, while enticing readers with the wonder and magic of plants.
Hi everyone, I’m excited to tell you my new novel, Harvesting the Sky, will be published in fall, 2021! This book holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons.
The First Novel That Melded my Plant Passion With Fiction
Some of you know that I resisted focusing on plants in my fiction for years. I saw plants as soothing and beautiful, which they are, and so I struggled to find the darkness. Then I reworked the novel that was my MFA thesis with a botanist at the center of the story. Everything clicked. The story brimmed with stronger danger, atmosphere, and intrigue. Plus, it had this alluring premise related to a special plant. Instead of feeling sheepish about the book, I felt proud. I shopped it to agents in 2016 but couldn’t find a home for it. But now, post The Forgetting Flower, and thanks to my publisher, Woodhall Press, I can properly share it with the reading world.
A Very Special Apple Tree
Harvesting the Sky is about Renia’s professor friend, Andre Damazy, who appeared in The Forgetting Flower. In this book, he finds a medicinal apple tree in Kazakhstan and brings branches (also called scions) back to Paris so he can propagate the tree. It’s a personal mission for him as his mother had a stroke and he hopes to help not only her but many others who suffer from illness. But a stranger constantly harasses Andre and vandalizes his greenhouse. He can’t figure out why. Not only does he have to battle this mysterious person but other dark forces as well until the tension and anger and intrigue all culminate one warm fateful night.
Renia Plays a Key Role
One unexpected surprise I learned about The Forgetting Flower was readers really liked Renia. They rooted for her and wanted her to succeed. Well, I’m happy to let you know she’ll return in this book. At first, I struggled with how to fold her into the story but then suddenly found a logical way that felt perfect and obvious. You may remember Renia had a secret crush on Andre in TFF. Now in this story, that relationship grows through his perspective as well.
Set in a Secret Greenhouse
Though the book is a stand-alone read, it’s set in the same world as The Forgetting Flower. The story picks up about ten months after TFF ends. While outlining the plot, I realized Andre would be propagating special, coveted trees and therefore needed a hidden greenhouse in Paris. After some research, I found a real-life work yard with a greenhouse. It’s out of view from the public and available only to parks department employees. This real-life place provided the inspiration for the area called “L’Enclos” where most of the mystery and action takes place.
More Updates Coming
My publisher and I have completed some preliminary work on the novel so I’ll have more to share in terms of release date, cover, and other details soon. You can sign up for monthly updates if you’d like here. And in the meantime, you can read my three-part series of posts about Harvesting the Sky, which cover how I got the idea for the novel and created its characters and plot. It includes an excerpt from the first chapter at the third post’s end.
Apple photo by Janos Patrik
As the month comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on my October to-do list: what I accomplished and what there is left to do. While I finished a bunch of things, I still have items on my July to-do list that aren’t crossed off. But I also tackled stuff I hadn’t planned on! Overall, I felt pretty productive during October and, outside of a refrigerator full of stale food, felt healthy and well organized. Here’s the month’s journey in brief.
The Health of a Gardener Who Writes
I’ve been battling knee issues for years. A long time ago, I was digging out the lawn on my parking strip and my right knee ligament tore slightly. Since then, I’ve experienced pain on and off for years. In 2019, I was in severe pain. In spring, I could barely walk. After I went to the doctor, I learned a new word: bursitis. As in I had it. Probably because I’d sat cross-legged for hours at a time editing The Forgetting Flower.
Regardless, she prescribed anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. But despite that combination, it dogged me all summer and into fall. I felt desperate and depressed. Then, this month, I went back to my physical therapist who encouraged me to join a gym and gave me particular exercises to do for my knee. She also encouraged me to buy new shoes. I did both and voila! A month later, my knees (and me) are feeling 80% better.
Fun Time Interviews
This last month, I did four interviews! All were interesting endeavors. First off, I answered questions about my critique partner relationship with the sci-fi writer Natasha Oliver for the book Finders Keepers: A Practical Approach to Find and Keep Your Writing Critique Partner! It’s due out in early December. More details to come in a future post.
Next, I spoke with Michigan radio master, Tom Sumner for his show on October 3rd. We talked about The Forgetting Flower, the ideas behind it, my work with plants, life in Paris, writing thrillers, and more. To listen, click here.
I did another print interview with my fellow Goddard grad and friend, Roxana Arama for her site Rewriting History. We really clicked about The Forgetting Flower, touching on ideas of memory and forgetting, plants and scent, immigration and the working class. It was a wonderfully profound interview.
Finally, I did a television interview for New Day Northwest! This morning show is a Seattle institution. Hosted by longtime television journalist, Margaret Larson, the show covers local celebrities and events while spotlighting fun home and garden projects and charitable causes. I was terribly nervous and felt anxious for days beforehand. I’d never been on TV before!! But I managed to get my mouth to work and talked about spooky houseplants to decorate a Halloween home. Plus, we touched on The Forgetting Flower. It ended up being super fun! I’ll write more about the anxiety part in a week or so. Click here to watch.
Writing in Brief
I also wrote a couple of short pieces for other outlets. For instance, I’ve been disturbed for a while that my name, Karen, has ended up as a generic label for a nasty woman, so I ended up putting my thoughts in an essay called When Your Name Becomes a Meme, which Thrive Global published.
As Halloween approached, I published a short article on spooky houseplants for Garden Center Magazine. It was a fun piece about creepy plants.
Lastly, I wrote about my journey of putting plants into my fiction. This post is slated to appear in early November on a crime fiction website. When it does, I’ll update this post.
Face-to-Face With Writer Friends
October is my birthday month but unfortunately my husband was out of town during my birthday week. So I decided to get in touch with writer friends. In early October, I got to know the lovely Angie McCullagh, who’s written a coming-of-age novel about a young woman in Seattle in the 1990s. I visited with my fellow Goddard graduate, Roxana Arama, who’s written a fascinating alternative ancient history/fantasy novel called All But One. And I ate lunch with my sweet friend, Kimberly Christensen, a middle grade and young adult author.
In November, I’ll be talking on more podcasts and writing on this blog more regularly. I’ll be working out at the gym almost every day. I’d like to form a writers group. And read at least two books in my stack. Maybe even get to those unfinished tasks from July. My biggest goal though is to finish the edits on my new novel. Now that I list all of these to-dos, I realize it’s a lot of work. I’m not sure I can do it. But I’ve got some strong momentum going so, with my new strong knees, I’ll ride out this wave of energy for as long as it lasts.
Hi all, I wanted to share a surprising experience I recently had, but before I do, I’ll let you know that the happy result means I’m celebrating by offering a free copy of The Forgetting Flower to readers!
Taking a Risk
Several weeks ago, I sent off the book for review to Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus has a reputation for being pretty harsh in their book reviews so I debated whether or not to submit it at all. But I thought, you never know until you try, so I submitted it and held my breath. When I got notice the review was completed, I avoided looking at it. I didn’t tell my husband it was finished. I waited to read it until I was home and alone and had braced myself for disappointment.
But after reading the review, I was delighted. Not only was this assessment of The Forgetting Flower positive, but the reviewer truly understood the story as I intended it. It was incredibly gratifying for someone to read it, recognize the ways I tried to make it good, and appreciate it for the reasons I did as well.
In closing, they said: “Superb characters and alluring prose make for a truly exceptional read.” This sent my heart soaring. I was honored and humbled.
You can read the full review here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/karen-hugg/the-forgetting-flower/
To Celebrate, a Giveaway
So after I came down from my relieved, happy high, I thought I’d share the joy with readers. Why not giveaway a few copies? So I’ve set up a giveaway on Amazon for three free copies of The Forgetting Flower. It runs until this Saturday, August 3rd, 2019. I know I won’t always get positive reviews (in fact a few on other sites already aren’t so) but this one is so I want to spread the happiness.
If you’d like to enter, go to this link. It’s pretty quick and easy! https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/e3087add4391f135
Have a great week, all!
I’ve grown African violets as houseplants for years. I love them because they like indirect light and don’t mind drying out between waterings. They bloom in lovely little pops of color and aren’t fussy about soil (lighter is better). So, it’s not too much of a surprise that as growers have diversified the plants via its flowers, I’ve acquired those new introductions.
As a plant geek, you have to have all of the cultivars, you don’t know why. And you don’t question it. It just is. The good news though is through my deepening adoration for this simple genus (Saintpaulia) of plants, I created a kind of African violet that growers hadn’t created yet. One that only lives in my mind. And for me, a writer, the ability to play with that imagined plant was a thrill.
Early Common Delights
I started with the deep purple African violet most commonly grown. It has dark velvety petals and simple, cupped flowers. Its deep beauty hypnotized me. I couldn’t stop staring at its lush depth. I can’t tell you what cultivar it was because African violets are rarely marked at nurseries. But you’ve probably seen it. Most are derived from Saintpaulia ionantha. At any rate, I was able to enjoy it while it required so little to set flowers that lasted for weeks.
As the years went on, I bought African violets whose flowers were a more magenta shade, or had rose-shaped flowers, or frilly petals, and on and on. They rarely died because their care was so low-maintenance (indirect light, weekly or biweekly water) but a few times the cat did get to its stalks and I had to toss a couple. But mostly, those fuzzy petioles didn’t taste good in the cat’s mouth. For the most part, the plants grew happily.
The Oldest African Violet
Later, that initial purple plant tripled in size. Because African violets don’t like their leaves getting wet with cold water, I often lifted up the plant’s green skirt of leaves and watered the soil. At one point, I noticed it was growing in two stalks that were beginning to look like branches. They curled slightly, kind of like a yucca or wild dracaena, but being herbaceous, weren’t true “branches.” They weren’t woody.
But what if those branches hardened off to the point where the plant grew higher and its stems held lignin, the hard stuff that makes a woody branch woody. And what if it didn’t need to naturally mutate like that but was crossed with another plant that gave it that contradictory form? What if that other plant had a scent that gave the African violet its scent? As far as I knew, no one had successfully hybridized an African violet so that it emitted a fragrance. But what if someone could?
A Plant at the End of the Mind
These “what if” questions occupied my mind for a weeks. It was a fun botanical puzzle to imagine. One that couldn’t exist in the real world. It just couldn’t because of the difference between woody and herbaceous branches (one containing lignin, the other, cellulose). But my imagination didn’t have any bounds. I pictured what the plant would look like. It would be lovely and awkward at the same time: a jade plant with African violet blooms at the branches’ ends.
I loved the idea, that it didn’t exist but could in a world that I made. I could create any situation I wanted. And I did. The world I made for my unique plant was in Paris: the most beautiful city in the world to house the rarest plant in my story’s world. And as I thought up who would take care of my imagined plant, I started spinning a plot, then I threw everything else I loved into the novel. And it became The Forgetting Flower.
Do I still grow African violets now that I’ve created the penultimate plant in my mind? Absolutely! I just saw this gorgeous beauty the other day (above) and had to have it. There was no reason behind it, there was no justification. I simply became entranced by its uniqueness. I’d never seen its kind before and wanted to incorporate that into my life. And that’s the thing about plants: their loveliness doesn’t have to fade and die quickly, it can expand and enlarge and delight your soul for years to come.