Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Of Cuteness and Gardening

Okay, I’m back. Mostly. I finally feel human again.

I promised updates on my garden and the story of the orphans my son found last week.

First, the garden. I did take some pics after I rescued the veggies from the weeds. It’s about half the size of my garden last year, so this year it’s about 75 feet (the length of the soaker hoses) by about 16 feet.

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Off the near edge of the pic are the two zucchini hills (two plants in each right now), then the green beans and corn.

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In the background you can see the tomatoes beyond the corn, and the potatoes.

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onions and potatoes

It’s time to do more weeding, but since we haven’t had much rain since I did the primary weeding, the veggies are holding their own. I’ll be able to go out and weed in another week (restriction against exercise, sports, etc for two weeks after surgery). Until then, the veggies are on their own.

I’ve had to replant the kale and cukes. The cucumbers are finally getting going, and I’m hoping the kale’s coming up with the radishes I planted to mark the row.

Okay, on to the promised story of the orphans. Last week, the day I had my surgery, my son called my husband to let him know he’d found a pair of kittens on his way to work at the school garden. He (my son) brought them home and got them set up in a box with a blanket and access to food and water.IMG_0604_cr They were in pretty rough shape.

We figure they were about four or five weeks old, abandoned, since at that age, kittens aren’t going to wander as far as they would’ve had to go to get to where my son found them.

They were litter-trained, or at least they figured out how to use the litter box pretty quick. We only had adult cat food at first, which they did eat, but we got kitten chow and soft food for them.

They practically inhaled the soft food we gave them, so they were pretty hungry. Now, a week later, they’re roaming and playing like kittens do. One is male, one is female. Our adult cats are not enamored in the least, and can’t wait until the invaders leave. We’re looking for a home for them.

Okay, here’s your cuteness:


Keep in mind I suck at taking pictures, and I have pics on my phone I haven’t transferred yet (gawd, I suppose I’ll have to submit to the Apple overlords and install iTunes on my PC. Ugh.) I’ll add more later in my next post.

So there you have it. Now, I just need to get back to my WIP.

Write on, gang!

 


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Tag in again

G’day, mates. Julie’s Muse here–again. This isn’t my job, but extraordinary circumstances and all that.

Oh, did she tell you? No? Okay, even if she didn’t tell you, I’m going to because, well, I’m the one writing this blog post. See, she’s been having these nasty sinus headaches for the past five years or so. Let me tell you, she complains when she has them because, and I quote, she “can’t think when she has a sinus headache”. Which also means she can’t write. And she gets a wee bit cranky.

Okay, truth here. She gets downright grumpy. And you can tell her I said so.

Then she gets this so-called brilliant idea to get her head examined. Turns out, she has a deviated septum that might be causing her sinuses to stop up. Anyway, she finally got up the balls to have the deviation corrected. Don’t think I don’t want to add a comment about deviants, but I’m trying to be nice.

Trust me, she needs nice right now.

She had the surgery earlier this week. It went fine, from what I can tell, but that’s where the happy writer got off the bus. You shoulda seen her. It was like “Night of the Living Dead.” Gawd, it was a fecking nightmare. I had to leave for a few days, until she got through the nausea and the vomiting. I don’t like vomit. And I don’t like seeing her in that condition.

She’s on the upswing now, but still can’t concentrate on writing. So here I am, picking up her slack again. If this is going to be a regular thing, I’m going to have to renegotiate my contract.

*knock*

Well, look who the cat dragged in. She has some real color now.

“Are you writing my post?”

She sounds like she has a cold, all nasally and congested. “It’s Saturday, and you didn’t write one last night, so yes, love, I’m writing a post.”

She shuffles into the office and drops into the recliner. “Oh. I was going to write a post yesterday. Couldn’t think straight.”

“Good painkillers will do that.”

She sniffles. “Tell them about my garden, but I can’t get the pics off my damn phone, so I’ll have to post those later.”

“You already told them about your garden last week, remember?”

“Oh.” She dabs at her nose with a well-used tissue. “Tell them about the orphans my son found.”

“You can’t get those pics off your camera either, love.”

“So? I’ll post pics on Monday.”

“Why don’t you just upload the pics to iCloud instead of trying to make your iPhone talk to OneDrive? That’s like trying to shove an oval peg into a round hole. You might get there, but it’ll take some doing.”

“If the charging cable I had at home was an OEM cable, I wouldn’t have to monkey around with iCloud or anything. I can pull the pics right from my phone to the computer with the cable I have at work.” She sniffles, dabs. “Tell them I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the blog reading either.”

“Excuse me. Whose post is this? Are you writing it, love? No. So I’m going to write what I want.”

She groans. “I could’ve written a post today. You didn’t need to do it for me.”

“Yes, I did, love. You need to get your ass back in the saddle on your WIP. You lost how many days? Four? Five if you can’t get your shit together today. Do you know what date it is? It’s almost fecking July, and you’re only halfway through your revision.”

“I didn’t know this surgery would knock me out for so long.”

She didn’t. And if she hadn’t reacted badly to the anesthesia, she might’ve been able to do some writing sooner. Can’t do anything about it now. “Then you need to make it up. Starting today.”

More sniffles. “I know. I’ll try.”

I love this line. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

She rolls her eyes. “You are so much better looking than Yoda. And taller.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.” At least that’s what I want her to think.

I’m sure she’ll fill you in on the garden, and the orphans, and other news next week. Have a great weekend filled with writing, and thanks for sticking around.

Oh, Mae, if you’re out there, tell Mr. E I’ll meet him at our usual first pub an hour earlier than usual. I’m going to need an extra long crawl after this week.

 


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Summer’s knocking on the door

Three days until the summer solstice, the opening bell for summer. It’s felt like summer for the past week, from temps in the 90s last week, to tropical humidity, to rumbling thunderstorms. There were even tornadoes in southwest MN last week.

I love spring and fall. Moderate temps and humidity make for comfortable days outside. There’s nothing quite like the smell of spring, that new green scent of fresh leaves and early flowers. Fall has the loamy musk of fallen leaves and a kaleidoscope of colors.

Summer is next in line. I love that I don’t need a jacket, the lakes are warm enough to swim in (Not that I actually swim in them–give me concrete and chlorine any day. No chiggers or weeds or swimmer’s itch.), and so much green. What I don’t like is the hot and humid. Sure, Minnesota is famous for cold winters, but we have summers that can make you think you’re in Florida.

I’ll bet you’re wondering about my garden this year. If you followed me last year, I posted pics of my garden throughout the summer, including monster harvests of softball-sized onions and potatoes. It was awesome.

So. Much. Work.

I swore this year I’d do a smaller garden.

You’re thinking I did what I’ve done for the past x number of years: plant a garden just as effing big as the one the year before.

Ha! I didn’t. Nah nee nah nee boo boo! My hubby tilled an area just as big as the garden last year, but I resisted his prodding and the urge to fill all that bare ground. It’s still 75 feet long (the length of our soaker hoses) but this year it’s only 16 feet wide, not 35 feet like last year.

It still took me almost three hours to weed down one “aisle”. I pull on both sides of the walkway, so I guess that would count as two rows. Two “aisles” down, two more to go. I just hope I can find my vegetables among the ever-growing ranks of weeds.

I’ll post pics once I clean up the weeds. ‘Course, by the time I get done with this round of weeding, I’ll have to start over. I keep reminding myself there’s nothing like fresh vegetables from the garden, especially sweet corn and tomatoes. To get a good crop, you have to wage war on the relentless weeds.

But, time weeding equals time not writing. I’m behind on my WIP revision, so I like to make up excuses not to weed, but if I don’t, well, you know what happens. All those lovely softball-sized onions wind up as sad golf ball-sized onions, if you can find them at all.

So, summer is bittersweet. I love the longer days (until after Monday the 20th, when the longest day is over and the days start getting shorter again), the sun, the loads of green and wildflowers and fishing and fresh veggies. The mosquitoes, tropical heat/humidity, and incessant weeding/mowing, the time taken away from my writing, not so much.

Anyway, enjoy the solstice. Hey, it isn’t an excuse to stop writing. Take advantage of that lazy day on the beach or in the porch swing to write a short story about the old fishing hole or a poem about the butterfly flitting around the petunias.

Go on. Write already!

 

 


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Posting from the other side

Julie’s Muse here. Sorry about the late post; I thought she’d do this yesterday, but she had to go to college. Oh, no, not her, her son. Had orientation yesterday, I think. Fecking long day it was, and she got no writing done.

None. As in, zero words. Unless you count the notes she took during the five hours of new college student, new college student parents lectures.

How am I supposed to do my job? I mean, usually college environments are great for cultivating creative energy, but maybe there’s an age limit on that. I’m not saying my writer is old. Hell, she’s barely old enough to remember 8-tracks. Remember those? Man, I had an 8-track player in my car, and a shoebox full of–

“What are you doing?”

“I’m writing your blog post. It’s Saturday, love. You’re late with it.”

“Late? I went to orientation yesterday, and today I was working on getting ready for tomorrow’s graduation party. Thank God my sister-in-law offered to host it. And we went to my husband’s cousin’s daughter’s grad party.”

“Who?”

“Never mind.” She rubs her right temple. “And my sinus headache. Man, I hope the surgery fixes it. What are you–”

“I’m taking care of it this week.” I block her from the laptop. “It’s my turn.”

She jams her fists onto her hips. “The last time you ‘had’,” she makes air quotes, “to write a post for me, you grumbled about it. Why are you so eager to do it this time?”

She’s so cute when she’s mad. “Because I was feeling generous, love. I know you’ve got stuff going on. Grad party tomorrow, and a whole lot of other things the next few weeks. You haven’t been working on your WIP.” I tap my wrist to remind her. “Your deadline is coming up.”

“Uh huh. What’s up with you?”

“Me? Nothing.” I use my most persuasive voice, the one the ladies like. She always falls for that.

An eyebrow arches. “Why don’t I believe you?”

I shrug. “Don’t know. Point is, you need to work on your WIP.”

“After tomorrow. Once that’s over, I can refocus.”

“Until when? Monday? Tuesday? You cannot afford to miss this opportunity, love.” This is the kicker, kids. Revision takes time. Way more time than most writers realize. Granted, I know she wasn’t expecting to get requests for the full manuscript, but I would’ve told her the odds were in that direction if she’d listened.

What’s a Muse to do when his writer doesn’t listen to him? And it’s not just the pure revision. It’s the feedback from critique partners, the time it takes for them to read and write comments. And then the time for the writer to review and incorporate that feedback into the draft.

“I still need to finish reading my writing sister’s manuscript and writing up feedback.”

She can be so aggravating. “You will work on your WIP after the graduation business tomorrow.”

She’s speechless, which means she knows I’m right. Don’t tell her, but I love being right.

“Fine. Now let me read your post.” She tries to swipe the computer.

I hold her back. “Nope. Mine this time.”

“You know I can always delete it if I don’t like it.”

“Yes, but you won’t.” She’ll like it. And even if she doesn’t, I know her. She won’t delete it. “Go. Away. Let me finish, then we’ll discuss the new scene in your WIP, the one between Quinn and the victim’s boyfriend’s brother.”

She heads to the dorm fridge and grabs a beer. “Fine.”

She leaves the office, and doesn’t slam the door. I’m impressed. Anyway, back to the point. Revision. Bottom line, don’t rush through revisions. My writer is very fortunate to have some really great critique partners. Don’t skip that part. No matter how many times you’ve gone through your manuscript, you need other eyes on it.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got tonight. Write well, everyone. Next week, I’m sure Julie will make sure she writes the post.

I like to mess with her, but don’t tell her that. 😀

 

 


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10 things I learned from my writing retreat

When the ubiquitous “they” make recommendations for blogs, one common recommendation is lists, like “Top 5 ways to procrastinate on your WIP” or “Top 10 ways to sneak your family members into your novel without them knowing”.

I like lists. I like them even better when I can cross stuff off my lists (to-do and shopping). As I was driving home from my retreat, my Muse suggested I post a list this week.

Disclaimer: This isn’t an all-inclusive list, nor is it a top-anything list. These are just things that might help other writers when planning a retreat.

  1. Comfort rules. When you’re comfortable, you’re more relaxed. More relaxed, in my experience, means your muse doesn’t have to work as hard to shove those creative energies into you. This extends beyond clothes. Whether you write at a desk, a table, or in a recliner, make sure you don’t have to  constantly readjust your position to stay comfortable. Caveat: Don’t be so comfortable you fall asleep. That defeats the purpose of going away to write. Right?
  2. Silence may not be golden. There’s something to be said about lack of noise (TV, kids sniping at each other), but there’s also something about background noise, like a playlist or even a thunderstorm. I like quiet, but I need to occupy the easily-distracted part of my brain, so I feed it music. That way, it can process something and let me write in peace. Caveat: Don’t start playing with online music services for the first time. I discovered YouTube music lists (Epic Celtic Mix music and The Piano Guys (their Star Wars farce/mix is awesome))(and no, I won’t post the links; I won’t be responsible for you falling down the music rabbit hole) and Amazon Prime streaming music. Oh boy. Talk about distraction. Unless you listen to that anyway, I recommend sticking to whatever your usual inspirational/writing/relaxing playlist is.
  3. Take breaks. Absolute necessity. This gives your brain and eyes a break. Get up and get another glass of water. Make a circuit of the backyard. Stretch. Walk. Take a nap (never underestimate the power of a nap, or at the very least, a 10-20 minute meditation session). Addendum: Find a good place to walk. The town where I grew up has a grand population of around 750, so there’s nothing like the walking paths that larger communities have, and no access to the trail system in the area. (In contrast, my grandmother lives in a tiny community on the Lake Wobegon trail.) Trying to walk for 2 miles without heading to the next town over is a challenge. Even walking out to the cemetery just outside town and back was barely 2 miles.
  4. Healthy snacks. I know, chocolate is a good thing, and coffee is the elixir of writers, but trust me, if you’re going to nosh (and you will), make it something like carrot sticks or grapes or even veggie straws. And no, I’m not being a kill-joy (much). I rewarded myself with chocolate for hitting various goals, so it was a treat rather than the snack of choice. Point is, you don’t feel as blechy if you binge on a bowl of grapes as you do if it’s Cheetos. And water instead of coffee. Add those neat flavor packets if you have to, but at least you won’t have the caffeine shakes by 3 in the afternoon. Bonus: It’s easy to get your vegetable/fruit servings in without trying. (Just because you’re on a retreat doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself.)
  5. Have more than one work area. A change of scenery can help knock you out of a rut or inspire you if you’re stuck. My dad has an awesome backyard he’s worked on since my mom was sick over 12 years ago. By now, the flowers and trees have matured, giving the yard and patio a cozy-by-nature feel. Not all the flowers are blooming yet, but the Japanese lilac was in full bloom, and there’s a birch with branches that arch over the patio path. I sat out on the deck to go through some of my notes. I also used the kitchen table to spread my notes out. I sat in a recliner to do most of my writing, but it was nice to move around a bit. Addendum: Community flower gardens usually have nice spots to sit. And flowers, trees, birds, and all the nice nature stuff. Take advantage of them, if you’re one of those people who likes that sort of thing.
  6. Prepare simple homemade meals. My dad lives alone, and we know he doesn’t have much in the house anyway, so when we gather at his house, we bring food. Since he was going to be gone for a couple weeks, there was even less than usual. I made sure to bring a few things: cheese, milk, carrots, blueberries (my personal splurge, and I didn’t have to share), eggs, frozen veggies, frozen chicken breasts, and craft beer. Dad had pasta in the pantry and bread in the fridge, so I was able to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner pretty easily. Granted, the variety of food was limited, I don’t mind an egg and toast for breakfast, and I ate a lot of leftovers, but those basics are flexible enough to make a few different dishes. Add some spaghetti sauce for more options. I did reward myself for meeting one of my major goals by ordering lunch one day, and I took my grandmother out for lunch another day, so I didn’t eat boring stuff the whole time.
  7. Beware of ghosts. So, your (fill in relative or friend here) is leaving for a week or more, and you wrangled a writing retreat at their place while they’re away. Awesome! Depending on the relative or friend and the house, old memories may creep up on you. This will disrupt your writing. It’s okay (and recommended) to take time to work through those memories. Otherwise, they’ll distract you throughout your retreat. Try to keep that time down to a half-day. You are there to write, after all.
  8. Leave a to-do list for the family back home. I left a list of chores for my kids to do while I was gone and unable to “strongly remind” them to do. Addendum: Leave a to-don’t list as well. As in, Don’t Call Me To Fix Something I Need to be At Home To Fix, because that just ruins the whole creative energy flow, and I’m not going to torpedo my retreat because you didn’t think of trying whatever it is before I left. (Yes, my daughter. Yes, it screwed up my energy for a while.)
  9. Be prepared for overload. I didn’t really expect it, but in hindsight: Duh. You may get so entrenched in your WIP that you can’t tell anymore if what you’re writing is good, bad, or ugly. Then, you don’t want to look at it. Ever. Again. See #3. Needless to say, I haven’t touched my WIP since I’ve been back home. Taking a few days away from the project is a good thing in the long run, but it really puts a cramp in my race to the deadline.
  10. Accept you may not make as much progress as you plan/hope. It’s okay. Look at the bigger picture: did you get more writing done than you would have if you hadn’t done the retreat? If the answer is yes, the retreat was a success. Have some chocolate. Plan another retreat as soon as possible.

Take advantage of any opportunity to get away for a few days/weeks to write. I can’t wait until the next time my dad leaves on a trip for a few days. Getting out of your usual environment removes all those distractions like needing to clean this or do that laundry or mow the lawn. At a different location, you don’t have those responsibilities, and you can focus on the task at hand: writing.