Zera and the Green Man Interview with Sandra Knauf

Now on sale (over 25% off!) at Amazon.com.

Now on sale (over 25% off!) at Amazon.com.

 

This week I decided to make a new press kit for Zera and the Green Man. GMO labeling is on the Colorado ballot this November, and, as some of you know, this book’s all about GMOs. It’s a hot topic and I’m hoping there are journalists and bloggers (and readers!) who will be interested in learning more about the book.

I’ve also put Zera and the Green Man on sale for the soon-to-be-upon-us holidays.

Let me know what you think of the interview. I’d love to hear from you!

—Sandra

 

GMOs Gone Wrong: An Interview with Sandra Knauf, Author of Zera and the Green Man

By Cheri Colburn on September 21, 2014

 

Sandra Knauf’s Zera and the Green Man is a sci-fi fantasy for the YA market, but I and many other adults have reveled in it. It is “right on time” with current events—plenty of GMO Franken-creatures—and it features the timeless themes of love for nature and family. I recently spent an afternoon interviewing the author, and this is what I learned.

In your young adult novel, Zera and the Green Man, biotechnology has gone awry, and nature is in jeopardy. Fifteen-year-old Zera Green is called to save the world from genetically-modified creations designed by her own uncle. How did you come up with that plot line?

The spark for the story came over a decade ago when I started reading about GMOs. At the same time, I became interested in the mythology surrounding the green man. To me, GMOs seemed like a bad idea from the start, and the more I read about them the more I was convinced that we were playing with something that had repercussions beyond our understanding. At the same time I was reading about how the green man was an ancient symbol of humankind’s oneness with nature. It seemed like two sides of the same coin, and those ideas merged into a story.

How does the green man mythology figure into the story?

The protagonist, Zera Green, discovers her family’s centuries’ old ties to this ancient god. He returns to modern times because the plant world’s in trouble. And when plants are in trouble, so are we.

A Zera and the Green Man Pinterest pin by Lisa Repka. Green Man drawing by Mike Beenenga.

A Zera and the Green Man Pinterest pin by Lisa Repka. Green man drawing by Mike Beenenga.

Can you tell me a little about the green man?

The idea of the green man, a man who is one with the plant world, is thousands of years old and takes many forms. His image is all over Europe, in centuries’ old churches, but he goes back further than that. For example, the Egyptian god Osiris is a green man. He has green skin; he’s known as the god of the underworld, yet he is also the granter of all life, including vegetation. The green man is also a symbol of resurrection. Robin Hood, fighting for the underdog and living in the forest, is said to be another incarnation, and so is the modern day Jolly Green Giant. In the story, Zera discovers this history and begins to see how her family is connected with it.

This story is a rollicking ride. It takes place in various places in Colorado, in L.A., in a secret laboratory in the desert, and even on Colorado’s famous Pikes Peak. How did you choose the settings?

I’ve spent most of my life in Colorado, and my children were born here. So I wrote about what I know. Both of my daughters went to elementary school in Manitou Springs, which appears in the book as Ute Springs. The chapter with Zera’s vision quest takes place on Pikes Peak, which is called by its Ute name in the book, Tava. The biotech firm that creates the genetic monstrosities is in L.A. because L.A.’s a big money/commercial center where people can afford to make their own realities, realities that are often contrary to nature.

Even though the book’s about GMOs and our connection with nature, the heart of the story is really Zera’s relationship with her scientist uncle and her grandmother.

That’s true. This family’s relationships, with all its problems and secrets, are at the heart of the story. As in life, regardless of what else is going on, it’s the connections with those we love that matter most and give us the most trouble.

Zera rings true as an angst-filled teen. She’s struggling with the issues of losing her parents and having to live with her uncle, but also typical teen problems about boys, fitting in, etc. How did you model Zera?

Some of Zera’s personal struggles were based on struggles I experienced as a teen, such as having other adults besides my mother and father involved in my upbringing. Writing about those feelings through a character was cathartic. As my own girls were teens during the writing process it was easy to create a strong and smart teenage protagonist—I had excellent real-life examples at home.

Why this book now?

It has taken many years for GMOs to get into the spotlight of public concern in this country. Because of GMO labeling initiatives on ballots in several states, many previously oblivious consumers are finally learning what GMOs are. Once they learn the science they have questions. While my story is a sci-fi fantasy, it accurately shows the science and some of the real concerns behind GMOs. It’s kind of like how Jurassic Park dealt with cloning. I hope my book will help readers understand the science and the dangers of GMOs and the bigger picture of nature.

What are you working on now?

I have my own publishing company, so there are several projects in the works, but I am making notes for the next Zera Green novel. It’s going to be set in the British Isles, where Zera learns about her family history and, of course, runs into more trouble. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that Zera’s powers increase dramatically. She is, in fact, well on her way to becoming an American superhero.

Cheri Colburn

    Author Information: Cheri Colburn is editor of Six Years in Mozambique and Fifty Shades of Green.

Cheri’s previous projects are many and varied. You can see a business- and education-skewed sample of her work at her website, TheFinishedBook.com.

 

 

P. S. For those of you who don’t know what a GMO is, I highly recommend this video by Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology.

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Hooray for Emma Watson!

There are times when it’s necessary to go “off topic” to something far more important than gardening, or books, or any of the other dozens of things I’ve posted about.

Because “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

I hope you will watch this powerful speech, presented to the UN by Emma Watson on September 20th, and share it with the world.

With love and equality for all,

Sandra

P. S. Here’s a link to the text of the speech.

P. P. S. Tell your men about the movement and send them here to join!

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Awkward Botany and Daniel Murphy

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)  via Wikimedia Commons

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)
via Wikimedia Commons

 

Yesterday I received a note from Daniel Murphy, who has been a friend of mine for years. We first met as pen pals/zine traders. It was back when I started self-publishing my little zine Greenwoman (scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of the link to read about the zines) in around 2007. These zines were 100% handmade by me—photocopies hand-tied with jute.  Rough, but, if I do say so myself, rather charming. In his zines, Dan wrote about gardening, punk rock, skateboarding, and trying to save the world. He bought my first zine and wrote me, by LETTER (as that’s the way the zinesters roll), and we immediately became friends.

Oh, those were the simple days! Dan was on his way to grad school, working at a community garden, publishing his own zines, and connecting with the garden-lovin’-freaks of the zine world. I was raising kids, gardening obsessively, raising chickens in the backyard, and wondering what would be possible with self-publishing.

We’re still working hard on our dreams, and Dan’s now at the Idaho Botanical Garden. As much as he loves plants, he loves writing too, and tries to fit that obsession into an already chock-full life. He’s doing some writing through his blog, Awkward Botany (how I love that name) and he shared the story about our very odd passalong plant yesterday. That’s what he was writing me about—well, that, and he was very curious about the Fifty Shades of Green book! I’m going to send him and his love (her name is Flora!) a copy next week.

I hope you’ll check out his post. The carrion flower is such an amazing plant. It has one of the most beautiful and strange flowers I’ve ever seen. I bought my cuttings from eBay; it was one of those instances where I read about the plant, became absolutely obsessed with getting one, and, well, you can find most everything on eBay.

To share a little more about Dan. He’s every bit as obsessed as I am about the world of plants and how we connect with it. Here’s one of my favorite essays of his, from Greenwoman, issue #4.

—Sandra Knauf

 

The Seed, the Radicle, and the Revolution

by Daniel Murphy

Many people are familiar with the “one straw revolution” proposed by Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, but what about the simple, revolutionary powerhouse that is the seed? Seeds have often been referred to metaphorically when discussing revolutions, new movements, new beginnings, social change, spiritual awakenings. It only makes sense that the first thing to emerge from a seed during germination is the embryonic root known as the radicle (pronounced radical). It has been said that it only takes one individual to start a revolution. It only takes one seed to start a forest. The process may be slow, but the potential is there.

A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radical emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown. A radical radical pushes headlong through a pile of dirt and much that has collected in a rain gutter on a rooftop. Up sprouts a renegade plant, adamant about making a human-made structure its home. Devastation can come in the form of a seed; ruins can be made of structures that were ignorantly thought of as eternal. Radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives, and readying themselves for battle. Yes, the seed is revolutionary.

Words are like seeds, and their influence can cause a social sea change as the message spreads. The Juniper zine is microscopic proof of that. As letters have trickled in to the Juniperbug mailbox, this editor has noticed a thriving (albeit grassroots) social movement as readers have recounted their stories of gardening, biking, and going back to the land. Rusty bikes have been retrieved from dusty storage areas, tuned up and taken for a ride. Derelict areas of backyard lawn have been turned over, and gardens have sprouted up. The slow life is spreading just as fast as the seeds can germinate, and off we sprint toward ecotopia.

Spring is for sowing seeds and encouraging growth. Love is in the air, and heaven knows that the revolution needs much more of that. Cynicism can be brushed away for a while. Spring cleaning allows us to pull some of our skeletons out of their hiding spots and send them packing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while we’re at it. Certainly a seed recognizes the pressure that lies on its tiny self to thrive, flourish and produce. But there is potential in all of us; potential that will not be compromised: neither blacked-out by black hearts nor whited-out by whitewash. The subversive seed and its radical roots will be our mascot. Let’s make our gardens grow. Let’s not rot in the soil, but instead sprout and rise up. Your neighborhood is your seedbed. That’s where the movement starts.

 

I have mad green love for Daniel Murphy.

Mad green love for Mr. Murphy.

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Fifty Shades of Green, the Paperback: IT’S HERE!

You may be seeing our "card" on a bulletin board near you!

You may be seeing our “calling card” on a bulletin board near you!

 

Another case of “What a week!”

We received five proofs of the paperback book on Monday. I delivered one to the editor and one to a friend who said she’d give it a final proofread. My daughter Zora said she’d pitch in, too. Of course I got one. My goal was to have it done within 24 hours. The book is only around 150 pages, and we’d been over it several times already, including a second look by each and every contributor.

Well. Of course it took three times longer. There were many errors we didn’t catch the first time—including words used the wrong way.

Future note to writers, including myself : Check every single word you do not use in everyday conversation.

There was also the matter of ridding stories of brand names (a big no-no; one can be sued over such things), and sentences that were grammatically incorrect and needed restructuring or made into two sentences, and commas that needed to be added, deleted, or moved. And the list went on and on.

An interesting note on the use of trade names: In the film Slumdog Millionaire, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola objected to their products being used in the Mumbai slum scenes. The logos had to be disguised.

I must be an optimist, because I imagined there would be maybe a half-dozen changes in the book, not over a hundred. Then I had to compile all of the changes. And change not only the print version, but the Kindle version, and the individual digital stories that I, in my enthusiasm, had rushed to publication on Amazon last week.

Such is the nature of publishing. If you have ever been there, you will know exactly what I mean. Mistakes crop up more prolifically than weeds. Out of sight, then whoa, everywhere! Perfectionism is an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT. You want to look like you truly care about your work. At least I do.

This is why self-publishers need not only one professional editor, but ideally two (with different areas of expertise), and a professional proofreader, and a few smart readers that are sure to catch things those individuals don’t catch. I had this, and very good people with years of experience helping, but we still struggled.

Ahhh. So glad that is over. There will be a few more errors found, and it’s fine. There will always be something, even in the biggest, most extravagantly-funded publishing houses, but for now . . . the book is ready.

It’s READY!

It’s on Kindle today, available to order!!!  Here’s the LINK!

Now to my next task—promotion. Astonishingly enough, these last months have been the “easy” part. There’s a quote from Jack Canfield, author of those mega-bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul books. He likens the work of publishing a book to an iceberg. The top 10%, the part that’s visible, is the book itself, including ALL the work it took to bring it into being. The 90% below the surface is the part that will determine whether or not the book will be successful. That part is the marketing.

After four years I know this well. I’ve lived it.

And so, on with the 90%!

I do hope that you all will check out the book on Amazon. I was so very happy to see that the Kindle edition’s preview. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature lets you read the entire first story in this collection, which is “Phallus Impudicus” by Rebekah. I’m sure the “Look Inside” feature will also be available on the paperback book’s link within the next couple of days. What I love most about “Phallus Impudicus” is that it’s funny. It’s one of my favorite stories in the collection and it’s a good introduction to the magic, naughtiness, sexiness, and gardening love of Fifty Shades of Green.

So tell your friends to check out that free story and consider buying the book. It is surely a one-of-a-kind, ground-breaking (pun intended!), be-the-first-of-your-friends-to-know-about-it collection!

—Sandra Knauf

P. S. I HAD to end this post with a visual for another of our other favorite stories. Though, honestly, this anthology is like having 12 beloved children (stories); it is impossible to pick a favorite. The art is the cover for the story is “Love Lies Bleeding” by Janine Ashbless. “Love Lies Bleeding” is a completely compelling, beautifully written, and sexy supernatural tale. A true gothic romance. And I love the title. (For those who don’t know, love lies bleeding is a colloquial name for the plant amaranth.)

My daughter Zora created the Kindle cover from free images I found on Wikimedia Commons.

 

Beautiful cover for "Love Lies Bleeding" created by Zora Knauf.

Stunning cover for “Love Lies Bleeding” created by Zora Knauf.

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Fifty Shades of Green

Poppy FInal June 17 copy

 

 

Some of you know about the adults-only publishing adventure I’ve been on this spring and summer, Fifty Shades of Green.  It’s a book project that started out as a feminist answer to the famous/notorious novel Fifty Shades of Grey, but then turned into a one-of-a-kind collection of erotic and literary gardening stories. (With a feminist bent, of course.)

I wanted to announce today that while we’re still a week or so from having the paperback book available, Zora and I have managed to get five individual stories available on Kindle as of today. I am also offering a FREE sample story, “Phallus Impudicus,” for those who sign up for the Fifty Shades of Green newsletter. (Look to the top right of this blog to sign up or go to the Garden Shorts website.)

For those of you with full in-boxes, I’m offering, temporarily, this link to read the story on the Garden Shorts webpage. It’s a hidden page so it doesn’t show up on the site. You’ll only be able to access it through this special link, here.

But, I’d encourage you to sign up for the newsletter. There won’t be a lot of “mail” and through the newsletter you’ll learn more about the project, its authors, have access to discounts and special offers, etc.

We may have the entire book available on Kindle as a digital download as early as today. For those of you who don’t have a Kindle device, you don’t need one; you can download a reader-app from Amazon and read it right off of your computer. It’s easy-peasy!

If you choose to indulge in any of these stories, please let me know what you’ve sampled and what you think! (And it would be great if you told your friends about it, too.)

The second part of this post is about our story covers. While I hope to connect with gardeners and aspiring gardeners through this project we realize there’s a huge erotica market out there and those readers might be  interested in this book.

With that in mind, Zora thought we should create some “sexy lady” covers. My idea was having covers that feature some kind of provocative-looking fruit, veggie, or flower, like the poppy bud on the book’s cover. We talked it over and I sided with the fresh vision of youth; we’d try the sexy ladies. And I realized that this produce/floral idea might only catch on with gardeners.

So, among other things, we spent all week making covers and formatting individual stories and the book.

You’ll can see three of the covers—and stories—on Amazon if you type in “Fifty Shades of Green.”

For the additional two stories: “The Education of a French Gardener” is here. “First, Take Off the Hoodie” is here.

I have no idea why these two don’t come up through the author or editor’s name. Yet another glitch to fix!  There are many in self-publishing. It is anything but easy-peasy.

Now for my cover story. This week I made the cover for “The Judgment of Eric.” It’s a story about a gardener who gets the attention of two Greek Gods, Apollo and Dionysus. They appear in his garden and compel him to participate in a contest—a contest in which Eric will decide which god is the better lover! It’s sexy, wildly imaginative, and homoerotic. (We have three homoerotic stories in the twelve story collection.)

I tried to think of a good image and finally came up with this one. It’s from an ancient Greek amphora (jar).

 

I thought it was art, Amazon thinks it's pornographic.

I thought it was art. Amazon thinks it’s pornographic.

 

Last night I was notified this cover was rejected as pornographic. I disagree, but I adapted it. (And then we all had a good laugh.) Now I don’t know if this one will be rejected, too, but to me it’s  more suggestive. Such is the nature of censorship.

 

 

I don't know, is this "better"?

I don’t know, is this “better”?

 

I hope you’ll take a peek!

—Sandra Knauf

 

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Zen Doggie

Not zen doggie, but looks pretty zen. By uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs from New York City, USA  (A dog on the Old Road)  via Wikimedia Commons

Not our zen doggie, but looks pretty zen.
By uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs from New York City, USA
“A Dog Near the Old Road Restaurant in Mescalero, NM” via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

As the Western Skies essays continue this summer, I found this lazy summer piece, reminding us to try to stay chill and appreciate the little connections.

—Sandra Knauf

 

Zen Doggie

My eleven-year-old daughter and I, out on a walk, were startled by a yell, “Hey, your dog’s in the road!”

We turned to see a man in black spandex slowing down on his bicycle. He nodded at a mutt headed our way.

“He’s not ours,” I said.

The rider shrugged and pedaled off. The dog lumbered up. A big mutt with a sweet face, floppy wheat-hued ears, and fur clipped close to his body for the August heat. I guessed from his looks maybe some St. Bernard and German Shepherd. “Hi, there, boy,” I said. I gently grabbed his collar, noticed the dry patches of skin on his back. Ewww.

“What’s his name, Mom?”

“Don’t know, Lily.” The tags jingled in the quiet Sunday afternoon. “There’s only a license and rabies tag.”

I didn’t want to end our walk when we were only two blocks into it, and I wasn’t keen on corralling a non-threatening but perhaps mange-ridden dog with our own. Surely, his owner would be cruising the street soon, calling for him. I’d been there, so had most of our neighbors—an unlatched gate or open door was an invitation for your dog to split. I released him and he padded purposefully in front of us. A slight limp and scrawny hindquarters said he was an old guy. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t do anything stupid.

He stuck with us. A block down he wandered into a yard with two women, one holding a baby. The young mother smiled until I said, “He’s not ours.” Then she clutched her baby to her chest. I’d alarmed her. Sorry, I thought.

We walked and the dog led, pausing every now and then to hike his leg, lagging behind, leading again. The blocks passed and Lily and I didn’t talk much—the dog commanded our attention. In a gravel parkway he stopped and squatted. Loose stools. “Oh, gross!” we exclaimed (now I really didn’t want to take him home). We continued. He paused to sniff a calico cat under a Jeep. A pretty blonde teenager smiled from the porch. “Oh, he’s cute,” she said.

“Not ours.”

Everyone noticed him, no one felt compelled to take him under their care.

Soon it was time to head back home. He’d been with us nine blocks, we had a mile walk back. We stopped at the corner, the dog kept going. “He’ll probably keep going,” I whispered.

“Bye,” Lily called.

“Why did you do that?” I scolded. We turned around, crossed the street, putting distance between us and tag-along. But he spotted us, ambled up again.

Lily grinned. “Looks like he is ours.”

“If he follows us home, I’ll find his owner.”

We passed the girl on the porch again.

She laughed. “He’s still following you?” We crossed the street again, in a last attempt to shake him. It didn’t work. I knew he had to be thirsty. First thing I’d do when we got home was give him a bowl of water.

Two blocks from our house, he crossed the street and disappeared.

“That’s where he joined us. He’s going home.”

I was glad to be rid of him, but happy for his company. What was the nature of Zen Doggie? A mysterious geriatric escapee, or a serene, mystical visitor? The answer was clear. Just a fellow traveler, joining us on a Sunday afternoon.

* * *

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Killers in the Garden

Image from WIkimedia Commons, 1916.  (There were more modern ones, but this was the least gruesome.)

Image from Wikimedia Commons, 1916.
(There were lots of modern images, but this was the least gruesome.)

 

Another “oldie”—an essay that’s never been published. I felt it was appropriate as we have a new kitten in the ’hood. He’s growing big and he’s fast; sometimes we see him springing from tree to shrub to outdoor chair on our neighbor’s patio, when he’s allowed out.

—Sandra Knauf

Killers in the Garden

My adolescent daughters saw him first, slinking around our front garden. They squealed as if they had just spotted Chris Hemsworth or Channing Tatum.

“Oh, look!”

“He’s so cute!”

“Wonderful,” I said, eyeing the object of their affection. “Just what we don’t need. A new neighborhood cat.”

“Awww, he’s a nice kitty,” they cooed.

A few days later, I discovered Artemis (they had named him) in the wicker chair by our front door, napping comfortably, like he owned the place. He opened one eye, not at all startled to see me. Handsome (and he knew it), young, a big grey tiger with lovely green eyes.

Already we had a routine.

“Meow,” he said.

“Scoot!” said I.

He darted off across the yard, parkway, street.

I began my Saturday morning watering and a few minutes later, Artemis came from around the side of my house, whisking off in the direction of the street as frantic cheeping sounds came from his mouth. “You little bas. . .”

But already he was gone. More outdoor chores. Two birds screeched, flying around the ash tree out front. Artemis was close to their nest, about fifteen feet up.

This time my daughters came outside.

“Oh no!” they squealed. “He’ll fall and kill himself!”

“We should all be so lucky.”

My snarky remark did not come from disliking cats, but over the last decade I’d changed. I’d become a . . . gardener. Gardeners develop a deep fondness for the feathered folk. As we work outside, we commune with them. We watch them build nests, hop around flowers and puddles, pull worms from the ground, snatch moths from the air, make glorious birdy love on fence and roof line and tree branch and on the potted plants and everywhere else. We provide water, shelter, and sometimes food. We admire and feel protective of their offspring. In return, they share their appreciation (I feel this often) and their songs. They watch us too, working and playing in the garden, experiencing our little life dramas and joys. They are tender companions of a different sort. Our gardens, for them, are sanctuaries.

At the same time, I admire predators. I love their grace and daring, their beautiful sleek fur, large eyes, and intelligence. We’ve shared our lives with a few well-loved cats over the years.

But here’s the troubling part. A study of Felis catus (the domestic cat) and their hunting habits was conducted in Great Britain a few years ago. The time period of the study was between April 1 and August 31 (breeding season) and the number of cats was 696. Based on their studies, they concluded that a British population of 9 million cats brought home an estimated 92 million prey animals. Over half were mice or rats but 27 million were birds. Again 9 million cats, one breeding season, 27 million dead birds.

Another study in southeast Michigan estimated deaths were higher, about one bird per week, per cat. This would be 198 million birds in Great Britain in that same five month period, or more than 7 times their estimate.

The British study noted that when cats were kept in at night the numbers were significantly lower, as were the numbers when owners attached bells to cats’ collars. Of course, the number of dead playthings or trophies kitty brought home was negatively related to kitty’s condition and age.

I guess this makes sense (bell them, lock them up) but I am one of those people who hate to see cats shut up inside. To exclude them a thousand exquisite joys of nature, which includes the healthfulness of fresh air and sunshine and the freedom to live to their full potential of cat-ness (which, yes, includes hunting) is, at least not to me, acceptable.

So, what’s the solution? As they say in all relationships, it’s complicated. However, that shouldn’t prevent us from making good decisions or trying to come up with better solutions for harmonious living. We all know it’s possible.

 

"Betania e Jimmy" from Wikimedia Commons. Posted by

Betania e Jimmy” from Wikimedia Commons.
Posted by Mila and Max.

 

 

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