The Long Lost Garden

I love flowers and all kinds of plants. Maybe because I have strong memories of my grandmother’s garden when I was a kid. The garden was not large, but it seemed huge to a 4 year old. I felt at ease in it, lost in time in it. Eventually, the garden was eliminated and concrete took its place. The magic was gone.

My favorite style of garden is the English garden. It is wild and free, and at the same time contained by itself. I always thought that an English garden had soul. I dislike manicured gardens that are too planned, symmetrical, and rigid. Where’s the life in that? When we purchased this old house, it had been abandoned for 3-4 years, neglected by previous renters, and the owners where out of state, the heirs to a woman who loved her garden. People who grew up in the neighborhood and knew her, tell me about her love for flowers and plants, and how she used to walk through her garden, admiring it. I am told she was a very tall woman, and neighbors were used to seeing her walk regal amongst her plants. Unfortunately, she fell on an icy day, and never quite recovered. Her beloved home became a rental, and no one took care of her garden the way she did. Eventually, the house fell in disrepair and ended up a dilapidated farmhouse waiting to be demolished, either by time or by people. That is, until we found it and resurrected its soul. This post is about its garden, and about uncovering and working with existing areas in an effort to use the not so obvious/the hard to see potential, and saving money in the process.

The house and premises were covered in overgrown vegetation, and the preexisting garden, if any at that point, was gone. There were a few plantings in bad shape. Unable to move right away, we took short trips to start clearing up the overgrown vegetation, and once under control, hired someone to cut the grass regularly so it wouldn’t grow too wild again. The house sat for another five years until we moved, for a total of eight years. As we cleared the morass of bushes and trees, we got an idea of what could be salvaged and what had to be removed. It was a long process that continues until today, mostly because we are doing it ourselves. Three very large trees remain, two dead trees and one very large near the house. It is diseased and requires professional handling as well as the other two. That will be next on the agenda.

Few plants remained of the original garden. An overgrown hydrangea in bad shape, a tiny rose bush buried in weeds, two dwarf boxwoods that we thought were gone for good but made it. A Rose of Sharon bush that we were able to save, a large bush of ornamental grass, and existing pine trees. We were able to free a forsythia that was growing wild under the siding and spread out high over the porch. Remnants of irises and other small plants were found thriving under bushes and all kinds of weeds. We transplanted those to other areas, hoping for the best. They took to their new area beautifully, almost as if grateful for being freed. Little by little we found bits and pieces of what once was a woman’s beloved garden.

When I think about it, it was a lot of work, hard work. Our neighbors cannot believe the transformation. One neighbor told us that he thought the house was eventually going to be torn down or fall on its foundation. Many people have come to see the house, a house they lived in at one point, played in, or visited. They all approve of the respectful changes, and they all agree that the woman who loved her garden so much would approve of it as well. I am glad they feel that way. It means that we are accomplishing what we set out to do. On this post, I will share some before and after pictures.

Entrance to the house then, and entrance today.

 

One of our latest projects was to add marble chips around the house to prevent weeds from growing. This area was covered in weeds and bushes. All the plantings were existing or transplanted from another area when found. The rose bush has grown healthy and has required a trellis.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Here you can see the forsythia that we cut to shape and trimmed. It seems happy now. All the potted plants have been added or transplanted.

These are the same areas before. On first arrival and after clearing some of the vegetation.

 

The foundation to the house is an original rock foundation, which has been supported with cinder blocks over time. We cleared out the weeds, painted, fixed the crawl space doors, and placed marble chips and potted plants around it. We also added solar lights, and rocks that we collected around the property.

This is a before picture, when we cleared out some of the weeds and grass.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the same area now. Here you can see the trimmed Hydrangea bush and existing irises. The pine tree in this picture was found as a tiny (2 inches) planting that I thought looked interesting enough, and I potted it. It turned out to be this beautiful pine (cedar) tree. Eventually, we will cover the exposed cinder blocks with cement and repaint the area. On this picture you can see the original stone foundation. One thing we made sure to do before buying the place was to hire an inspector to make sure the foundation and structure were in good shape. Those were fine.

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Photo by M.A.D.

The marble chips were placed all around the house. Here you can see two existing bushes that we were able to save, after trimming them, and also one of the dwarf boxwood trees behind the bird bath. This boxwood was almost dead and it has come back slowly. The lily is also an existing plant. We added all the large stones found around the property. The Hostas and Hen and chicks plants are new, and added to the area. These were brought from my garden in Jersey. All the statues are recycled from my previous home in Jersey, and so is the bird bath.

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Here you can see the other dwarf boxwood and other recycled plants.

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Here are some pictures of the same areas before. The dwarf boxwood looks brown and dying.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

A before view of the same steps where you can see the boxwood better.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This is the side entrance area. There were no plantings, only weeds. This area was challenging to work with.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. New plantings have been added to the area, as well as recycled. All pots in the garden are recycled.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

We worked with some existing areas by keeping some of the plantings, and adding stones and new or transplanted plants. Here is one of those areas before.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Same area as it is today. The only existing planting was the bush in the center, The rest was transplanted from other areas of the property. This area blooms throughout the year. In early spring the irises bloom first, followed by the lambs ear, and later in the summer other plantings bloom. A solar light and a couple of statues and rocks dogged around the property were added.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

This area is directly under the giant cedar tree. It is one of the oldest trees around the house, and possibly older than the house, as I am told. We cleared/cleaned the area and added existing plantings around the tree. Red mulch was added as well.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

The giant cedar before. Today, it looks healthier.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

Other existing areas that we were able to save. Before, after clearing the area a bit and cutting the grass.

Same area as it is today.

 

I have mentioned the faerie garden on a separate blog post, and it is one area in which we added much to it while working with existing elements. The area before and after.

 

There are a few new areas, and that includes the veggie garden which was not there, and what I call the circle of flowers. Pictures of this area before. Today, the circle of flowers is where the overgrown bushes are, and the veggie garden a few feet right behind.

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Photo by M.A.D.

 

The veggie garden

 

I created the circle of flowers because I wanted an area full of color, where I could pick some flowers to bring inside. It started with clearing out a circle where old stumps remained, and placing some stones we collected around the property. We planted some seeds, and many of them continue to grow and bloom today. Next to it, we created another circle (still needs the stones around) where we planted sunflowers. They have not bloom yet, but soon they will. As of today, they are a lot taller.

 

This concludes the outdoor changes so far,  although there are many other plans. We created areas around the home, and separate, individual new areas. Instead of tearing everything down, we worked with existing areas that had potential, by first uncovering them, salvaging some plants, and adding to these areas.

Little me in my grandmother’s garden. Hope you enjoyed this post.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Of Birthdays Passed

As time goes by, so do birthdays. A time comes when one acknowledges the day, feels grateful for another year, reminisce a little about other birthdays passed, and realizes that material gifts are not as important anymore. Meaningful moments and relationships take the place. A while ago, my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My reply was, “I don’t need anything.” It was a sincere answer. Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy things that I find beautiful or special, I just don’t see birthdays anymore as an opportunity to acquire more things. So gifts are not as important anymore. However, I gave it some thought and ended up settling on an antique book. It is something I like to collect. Old books are special. They are beautiful inside and out. The care that was put into printing and designing a book 100 + years ago, can be appreciated in every page. After scanning websites for an old book that would peek my interest, I settled on Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore. This particular edition is from 1900. I found older editions from the late 1800s with different covers; however, none of them caught my eye except for this one. The presentation seemed to have been made for a lady. The floral golden detail of the cover, the beautiful raised illustration, all of it spoke to me. The inside does not disappoint either; it is gorgeous as well. Add to it the scent of an old book, and it turns into perfection. One thing that I found odd was the placement of the preface on the left side, as you can see in the picture. I will make a confession; I am not one to read prefaces all the way. I try but most of the time I skip them, and find them boring. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It intrigued me. If the preface is so good, I am about to be blown away by this story, I thought. I have never read Lorna Doone (Shame on me. Never too late) but I read the first chapter. All I can say is that it is beautiful, and that I need a dictionary of old terminology, of old English words, next to me. This will not be a quick read, and I intend to enjoy it. Besides, the print is very small, so my eyes will have to work extra hard, and at intervals. It will be interesting to learn some new (old) words. I am excited about it; and yes, I love my birthday present. This particular edition is gorgeous.

Richard Doddridge Blackmore (1825-1900) was a very famous English novelist, and Lorna Doone was one of his most known and famous novels. It is a romance, set in the countryside, and at that time a catalyst, a movement in romantic fiction. After reading his biography, and more about the book, I feel more compelled to read it in much detail, with much care and attention. Here are some pictures.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Unexpected Visitor

If you visit this blog from time to time, you know that I love to watch birds and take pictures of them. After the cicadas arrived, I noticed that many birds left, including my beloved crows. Also, missing were the Blue Jays and the Cardinals. The cicadas are gone, and many birds are back. I also noticed the absence of the Katydids. I love their loud song during the night in the summer, and I have not heard or seen any. The number of insects around here seem to be low as well, day and night.

Since I moved here, I count myself lucky to have seen my first mixed flock as well as my first Snowy Owl (during the day) perched on a tree near the back woods. I don’t think Snowy Owls are supposed to be in Virginia, but I saw one last year. Sadly, I could not get my camera fast enough. By the time I went and retrieved it the owl was gone. The other day, I got a treat from nature. I saw my first large woodpecker. I have seen many on the small size range, but never one this size. I was able to grab my camera and take a few pictures, although not as many as I wanted to take. It also kept moving, pecking the wood, so its head came out blurry at times.

This is a picture of a smaller woodpecker that I took when I lived in Jersey.

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Photo by Maria Diaz

Here are the pictures I took a few days ago. These were taken from the inside through glass because I did not want to scare the bird. It was very hard to photograph because it kept moving all over. I feel I have to apologize for the quality, but at the same time I wanted to share this beautiful sighting with you.

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I never know when I am due for a treat from nature, so now I keep the camera downstairs, and hanging from the coat rack.

 

 

The Beauty of Creation

I believe that God made everything. The beauty of nature has no limits. I have always enjoyed watching nature, even as a kid, I would spent hours observing it, whether it was ants, butterflies, birds, the ocean … Those are some of my favorite memories as a kid. These days, many years after, I still love to watch my surroundings. It recharges me, somehow. Sometimes, one can see the hand of God in the most unusual and tiny places.

One of my favorite wild flowers dressed in the perfect blue.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Four leaf clovers – I have found three around here so far, but I am sure there are more.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Mushrooms are beautiful. There are so many shapes and colors.

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Acorns abound in all sizes. A perfect pair.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Even rainy days offer surprises – water  diamonds.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Trees present their offerings. This year we will have tons of pinecones, more than in previous years.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Critters that play around, always welcomed.

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Nature will always be a special treat for me, a sanctuary, the perfect gift from God.

A very young me, one of many hats I’ve worn over the years.

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M.A.D.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

What recharges your soul?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Perspective In These Difficult Times

I found this very interesting, and wish to share it as well. From one of my favorite blogs – My Good Time Stories.

My Good Time Stories

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The Corona Virus has brought the world to a virtual standstill. The things that people once enjoyed doing and the places they loved to travel has all come to an abrupt halt. The virus has affected the lifestyle of every individual and family. It’s a mess out there now. It can sometimes be hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria.

Consider this; did any of us think, just a few short months ago, that we would all be required to wear masks, keep a six-foot distance between each other, be told not to touch, shake hands, or even hug each other for fear of spreading this dastardly virus? Did you ever fathom the thought that businesses, gyms, theaters, salons, eateries, and other establishments would be closed and millions upon millions would be out of work? And who ever heard of…

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40 Tips from Best Selling Authors

Revisiting one of my very old posts on this blog. Maybe it could be of inspiration to someone struggling in their writing career. It happens different for everybody as you can tell. There is no magic formula other than “keep at it.”

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Revisited – I wrote this sometime ago and decided to revisit it as I think these tips from best selling authors are worth reading once more.

As a writer, I love to hear what other writers have to say about writing, especially, best-selling authors.  I sat down, coffee at hand, and listened to many interviews of best-selling authors.  Many hours later, a list of their recommendations was born.  The following list is full of tips, recommendations, and inspiration, from best-selling authors to aspiring writers, although these authors have been published the traditional way, and we all know that the eBook is shaking the publishing world; however, these tips are worth considering.

1.  Write, Write, Write.

2.  Accept rejection.

3.  Send hundreds of queries.

4.  Don’t take no for an answer; keep at it.  Eventually you will get a yes.

5.  It took Janet Evanovich 10 years of trying to get…

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Nature Treat

When I moved from the Jersey shore to southern Virginia, I knew that two of the things I would miss most (besides my friends of course) would be being close to the waterfront, and the bird sightings we had. The area I used to lived in was classified as a bird sanctuary, and I enjoyed watching these gorgeous creatures very much. Years ago, I wrote a post that included many pictures of the birds around the area. When I moved here I didn’t know that this area was considered a bird sanctuary as well, and I rejoiced when I saw the marking signs in town. As spring approaches, the little ones are flying in numbers, and I took some pictures which I will share on this post. Here is where I experienced for the first time what is called a mixed flock. It happened during late fall of last year, and I had no idea of what it was. I saw many types of birds flying together, some circling a dead tree covered in honeysuckle vine, and other birds landing on it. They flew in together and they were very loud, and before I had the chance to grab the camera they all left at once (flying together). I researched this and found out that some birds do that to guarantee food and protection from predators during the winter. I thought it was too early, but we had a few early cold days; however, later on we ended up having a mild winter. None the less, it was a magnificent experience that I will cherish forever. This is the picture of the tree minus the birds. I call this tree my monster tree. It is charmingly spooky in a good way. It serves well many critters, and when the honeysuckle blooms I can smell its sweet scent coming through the kitchen window. It is simply delightful.

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Photo by M.A.D.

I see crows all the time, one of my favorite birds. I named this place Mill Creek Little Trees because of the many tiny pine trees surrounding it, however, those pines have grown tall since we bought the place in 2010, and the place seems to have outgrown its name. I thought of a new name, and decided to rename it Black Crow Cottage in honor of the many crows that wander around and my love for these birds. I have many plans for gardens in this place, but that will take some time to put in place, many years that is. A couple weeks ago, hundreds of robins started to arrive, and along with crows and sandpipers ( I will miss them much) they are a favorite as well. This year, for some reason they seem skinnier.

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Photo by M.A.D.

There is a giant old tree near the kitchen entrance, and I was delighted by the sight of these birds because I had never seen them before. Their color detail is beautiful. It looks as if God had taken a small brush and painted a bit of red and yellow on them. They stayed for a while and drank water from a hole in the old tree.

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One more pic of these gorgeous creatures.

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These birds have been coming around more and more, and they are beautiful as well. They seem to enjoy being on the ground like the robins, and along side them as well.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Enjoying a well deserved lunch.

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A few blue birds have been arriving, but they are so fast and aloof that I have not been able to take a picture of them. In the meantime, this little fake blue bird will have to do for now. It would be just wonderful if one day a real blue bird would pose next to him and I was able to take the picture.

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Photo by M.A.D.

Well, this is all I have for now. I hope you enjoy these photos. I am not a photographer and I don’t know the names of most birds, but I enjoy watching and taking pictures of them.

 

 

 

Secondary Themes

When I wrote The Five-dollar Miracle, I recognized the main theme as being faith, and much like the story I am currently writing – The Girl Who Could Not Love – the story developed as I wrote, with no preconceived ideas or outlines. However, as I wrote, the main theme became obvious. Usually, one expects a story to follow or develop around a main theme, and a few secondary themes appear throughout, but mostly, the main theme carries the story to the end. With The Five-dollar Miracle, I was a bit surprised at how many secondary themes I could identify once I finished writing it. It was never intended this way, but all these themes had a strong link with the main one (faith), and helped carry it, propelled it, which of course worked out well for the story. Some of these topics are:

Loss – different types, especially the loss of a loved one.

Financial ruin

Addiction

Righteousness – as a judgemental trait

The spirit of cooperation/generosity/kindness

Respect thy neighbor – accepting differences

Serendipity

I enjoyed writing The Five-dollar Miracle, and it was a welcomed change of pace, as well as refreshing. I am excited about my next novel, and can’t wait to finish it. From my point of view as a writer, it is presenting its challenges, something I welcome, while at the same time, I am hoping that the story flows well, and that by the end, I make peace with it.

Sandstorm

I have never been in a sandstorm, and I would never want to be caught on one; except in this one. From time to time, I write a review on a book that I enjoyed in a special way or that I find mesmerizing, unique, or out of the ordinary. I don’t write many reviews, although I enjoy many books. I compare the reading of The Star of Bethlehem by Patrick Moore to a sandstorm.

A sandstorm is made of many grains of sand and travels fast, windsweeping everything on its path. On its own, a grain of sand is not much (although I find it fascinating) but many particles of sand together at once, being carried by a wind force is significant. Well, this book is like that. It is written by an astronomer, Sir Patrick Moore. The topic is the phenomenon of the star of Bethlehem viewed and presented from the point of view of the author, a well experienced astronomer. When I got this book the topic fascinated me but because it was immersed in theories and scientific information/data I assumed I would become restless at one point while reading it, not bored just restless. I could not have been more wrong. I do not know how he manages to do this (as a writer) but he took so many grains of information related to the possible astronomical phenomena that would explain the star of Bethlehem and weaved it into an interesting, well-written, reader friendly, comfortably paced book that swept me like a sandstorm. It kept me reading. At the end, he presents his theory/opinion. The information presented dates back to records/accounts from around 7 BC-1 BC mostly, or around the possible date/period of Christ’s birth. I was pleasantly surprised that I could not put this book down. This because although I love these topics, numbers and scientific data presented hardcore might not capture my interest sometimes. I think that I was delighted by this book and very impressed by how it was written. What a great read. In it, Sir Patrick Moore presents possible candidates for the phenomenon of the star of Bethlehem – a star, planet, comet, nova, supernova … and goes back to the “records” of the time.

Although I have always viewed the topic of the star of Bethlehem from a faith point of view, and still do, I found this book very informative, interesting, and fun to read. It kept me reading, and I was pleased. A sandstorm of a book.

My Favorite Character

I have been working on finishing my next book, and have taken a break, which for some reason, I need to do after finishing a story. I am waiting for the proof, and if everything seems right, The Five-dollar Miracle will see the light soon.

While I was on this break, I began to ponder about this new story, and how different it is from my previous novels. I thought about my previous works, and I wondered if my writing is evolving on to another level and even a different style. Of course, I don’t have the answer to that question. I write the book that wants to be written, the one that screams at me the loudest, and that only means that I have to set aside my plans to write the story I thought I would write next. While thinking about my previous books, I realized that my favorite character wasn’t necessary the main character.

As writers, we craft characters, and I believe that characters craft us as well. When writing a novel, we create these imaginary beings to tell a story, but many times those characters reveal themselves to us; they show up. Sometimes, they even write themselves by refusing our pen, our ideas of who they are to become. One of the main characters in Moonlit Valley refused to be written the way I first envisioned him. Jeremy Sandbeck fought my pen from the start. Eventually, I let him be. Initially, I had envisioned him as a methodical, reserved, soft spoken intellectual young man who wore glasses, but he fought me to become quite the opposite. As I wrote him on the first novel and later series, he developed much more, and grew into what he needed to be. Although character development and evolution is expected in a series, this taught me to listen to my characters. In this case, he knew what was best for the story. My original view of him would not have worked as well.

By now, you might be thinking that Jeremy Sandbeck is my favorite character; he is not. My favorite character was introduced in Moonlit Valley, and was intended as a necessary secondary, even tertiary character. Originally, he was not intended by me to make it through the entire story, maybe a couple of chapters. Instead, he stayed through Moonlit Valley, and made it into The Dinorah Chronicles series. It surprised me. His name is Cole Angelou. Although he did not fight my pen as Jeremy Sandbeck did, he grew on me and slowly evolved into a much needed and important figure in the main character’s life. He became a life line.

Cole Angelou is an Anarth. Anarths are highly evolved celestial beings who take human form to fulfill a duty on Earth. Anarths do not age. They posses strength and speed abilities, psychic powers, as well as being capable of traveling between realms in milliseconds. Their senses are heightened and human emotions overwhelm them. Their duty is to live on Earth as sentinels. They monitor and protect key humans who are important in human evolution, and ensure that blue prints are being executed according to the divine plan. They are not angels, and are a few ranks below.

Cole Angelou is the voice of reason, cool, collected, and reserved. He doesn’t interfere in your business unless asked or when necessary, that is without infringing on free will. He is cautious, does not trust easily, and respects hierarchy. One thing I enjoyed when writing this character was to see him get out of his comfort zone and even break a few rules (all for a good reason/purpose).

If I had to question how he ended up staying throughout the series, and beyond my original plan for him, I would say that he did not fight my pen, and he let me write him. However, he creeped in slowly, evolving as the story developed, to the point of becoming crucial, needed, important to it. Did Cole Angelou trick me? I don’t know but he became my favorite character.