Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Happenings

Can you believe it’s almost August? I mean, wasn’t it just Memorial Day? I know time seems to go faster as you get older, but this is kinda ridiculous.

I get to see my writing sisters next week. Woo-hoo! Can’t wait! This year we’re having a plotting party. There’s nothing quite like getting six writers together and brainstorming. All that creative energy unleashed is like the Tasmanian Devil, Wile E Coyote, and Bugs Bunny planning a coup, but in a good way 🙂

So many milestones this year. I now have a 16-year-old with an official driver’s license. Yep, she passed her test the first time. Not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, we don’t have to shuttle her around anymore. On the other hand, there’s an unease that comes with having a 16-year-old daughter who doesn’t need a parent when driving someplace. She had some rough patches a few years ago; maybe that’s why I’m apprehensive. Or maybe it just comes with the whole 16 and a girl thing. I didn’t feel like this when my son got his license.

Speaking of, my son got his wisdom teeth out (all four at once). And his departure for college is coming up fast–three weeks. Wait. Crap. It is only three weeks until move-in day. Gulp. It’s not the letting go part, it’s the look-at-all-the-stuff-we-have-to-cross-off-our-list part. He’s 18, so he’s (supposed to be) doing a lot of it himself. But you know he’ll wait until the very last minute …

“You finished, love?”

I jump. “Shit!”

“Sorry I scared you.” He grins.

Somehow, I’m not convinced he’s sincere. “Sure, you are.” He drops into a canvas chair on the other side of my writing desk and adjusts his LA Dodgers baseball cap. A faded t-shirt and cargo shorts complete the ensemble. “Going to a game?”

“No. Maybe. It’s almost the end of the month, love. You said you’d send out your manuscript by the end of the month. Last month.”

I roll my eyes. Trust me, I know. “I’ve got to cut another 2500 words. I’m working through it.”

“And your query?”

“Dammit, I know.” I’ve been spending as much time as I can on it, at the expense of my garden, my household chores, my family.

“Whatever possessed you to get that part-time gig at the library, anyway?”

I lean back in my chair and rub my eyes. “I’ve always wanted to work at the library. Books. Shelves of them. But I can’t commit to 10 hours a week. I’m only a sub. I wanted to help the librarian out when my daughter starts tennis season.”

“That’s three hours today and four hours every Monday you could be working on your manuscript, love.”

“I know. And if I didn’t keep revising, I’d have sent it out already. The revisions are good, they need to be done. At least I sent it to a beta reader last night. She reads fast.”

“You won’t hear from her soon enough to matter.”

“Not for this round, but I still need her feedback. And Pitch Wars is next week, before my reunion.”

He shakes his head. “How’d you get so far behind? I’ve been here.”

“I had sinus surgery and was out for over two weeks, remember? And I lost last weekend to a family ‘reunion’, and the weekends before to other family gatherings.”

He stands, buries his hands in the deep pockets of his shorts. “You’re losing today, too. Are you going to be able to do this by the first? I can’t do it for you.”

I’ve got a another family gathering this afternoon. “Gee, if I didn’t have to work full-time, maybe I could just hammer on it all day long.” Some days I really envy my retired writing sisters.

“Ah, the travesties of being a writer,” he says. I know he’s patronizing me. “No one said you had to do this whole writing thing. You could do other stuff, like paint or draw.”

“Do you have any idea how many stories are rattling around in my head? I’ve gotta get them out so more can fill in.” Man, I sound like I’m crazy, hearing voices and stuff.

His slow smile reminds me of Han Solo’s lopsided grin. Or Indiana Jones. Oh, hell, make it Harrison Ford and call it good. “Yes, love. I’m your Muse. I know how many stories are in your head.”

“Then you know I have to write.”

“I know you love writing.” He leans on my desk. “You can’t stop. So get your ass moving so the next story gets attention.”

I can’t wait until next week. Writing Sisters or bust! I’m sure our Muses are planning their own party, especially with a new writer in the group. Wonder what they’ll do?

Enjoy your weekend and keep writing!

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Cruel Summer (Heatwave)

Love that song by the Bangles!

Anyway, despite the three-digit heat index and lack of any breeze whatsoever yesterday, I ventured out to the garden because I hadn’t been out there for a few days (because of our tropical heat and other more enjoyable things going on, like hanging out with a couple friends). First …

UGH.

The human body sweats to cool off–the action of sweat leaving the skin cools us. When the humidity is tropical, sweating doesn’t work so well. The air’s too wet to accept the sweat.

Imagine muggy, humid air thick around you. Toss in no breeze and lots of hungry mosquitoes. Or just imagine Florida in July. After about 30 seconds, you’re covered with a thin sheen of sweat that has nowhere to go. After a minute, that sheen is now a coating of sweat drenching every inch.

Thank goodness we only get this kind of weather once or maybe twice per summer in MN. (We just like to complain about it 🙂 )

Anyway, the garden wasn’t too bad considering I haven’t been paying much attention to it lately. The weeds are back, and they’re supercharged, but in fewer numbers than I expected.

The zucchini are now in full-production mode. I picked 6 that needed to be fed to the chickens (I’m sorry, when they’re the size of small children, they’re too big to eat), and about a half-dozen more. My grab bag of seeds surprised me this year with one plant each of 4 different varieties. Here are the light green ones. (yes, I know 4 zucchini plants is just asking for trouble. The chickens like them.)

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I picked a whole lot of green beans too, but the mosquitoes didn’t help. They just buzzed around my ears and found ways around the bug spray I’d applied. Have I mentioned how much I hate mosquitoes?

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The white panel is there for my sugar snap peas. After reseeding, I got a grand total of 3 plants. (and yes, I used fresh seeds) The white flowers everywhere are the radishes I let bolt. I do that for the bees, so they have a reason to hang out. You can see the bean plants as well, and the corn.

Speaking of, we had our first sweet corn from the garden last night. Mmmm! Much to my dismay, however, someone else is also enjoying the corn.

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The scattered cornstalks and trampled onions are evidence the dogs have been helping themselves. Yes, the dogs. They pull the stalks out and strip the cobs to eat them. What you can’t see is the evidence it’s not just the dogs. Raccoons or chipmunks or squirrels have been invading as well. Normally we put a fence around the garden to prevent this, but this year, well, I’m tired. Now, the fence has jumped up the priority list. It’s too hot yet to put it up, but next week it’ll have to go up. It’ll give the cucumbers something to climb on, anyway.

Most everything else seems to be doing well. The tomatoes continue to be unruly. I don’t know who thought tomato cages (the cone-shaped ones) were a good idea, but they are failing miserably at their job. The tomato plants have surpassed the supporting capacity without even trying. And that’s with trimming. I’ll have to stick with the hog panels like I did last year. They’re way sturdier, and if I tie the tomatoes up, they’re happy climbing on the panels.

There you have it, a quick update. My sister’s in town this weekend, so the garden is on its own for a few days.

Two weeks until the reunion! I’m still hammering on what I’m hoping is the last revision before I send my WIP to the agents waiting. Of course, there will be more revisions; Pitch Wars is coming up, and I want to enter it there. I’ll lose time this weekend, but I only see my sister a couple times a year, so I’ll bring my computer, but anticipate getting little done.

Have a great weekend. Stay cool and write on!


Thinking

I’ve got a blank page on the screen, and so many thoughts careening in my head. What the hell’s wrong with people these days? What happened to …

My Muse bursts into my writing office. “Don’t.”

“‘Don’t’ what?”

He closes my laptop. “Don’t do it, love. You write fiction.”

“So do all the politicians, and a good portion of the media.”

He nudges me away from my desk, then leans against it in front of me. “Yes, you’re right. Stay out of it.”

I rock back in my chair, filled with the frustration of seeing and hearing things I can’t do anything about. “I’m a writer. I have to write about it. Did you read the letter to the editor in the local paper last week? Oh. My. God. Are there really that many short-sighted, narrow-minded people in this country?”

He reaches to me. “Come here, love.”

I don’t take his hand. Instead, I look up at him. He’s wearing faded cutoffs, deck shoes (no socks) and a muscle shirt that leaves no question he’s in very fine condition. Sigh. His sandy blond hair is mussed just enough to add a roguish charm to his appeal. “Why?”

“Because you need a break from all the depressing rhetoric out there.”

“I need to write something. I need to remind people to think for themselves, and not listen to all the crap everyone is slinging like so much shit in a monkey cage. Why do they have to dwell on the bad stuff? Why can’t they talk about all the good stuff that happens? All the good stuff people do?”

“You know why. Good stuff doesn’t get as many ratings as the bad stuff. And you know they sensationalize it to get even more ratings. Hell, writing’s the same way. Look at that 50 Shades book. Sex sells. So do the angry rantings of narcissistic sociopaths.” He curls his fingers in a come-along gesture. “C’mon, love.”

“I want to tell people to think for themselves. Get their heads out of their asses. Why can’t they stop listening to people who play on their fears? How do they think the ball started rolling toward World War II? Do they even remember history? Those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Why can’t people see that?”

“Because when people are angry and afraid, they stop listening to reason.”

“Stop listening? Seems like they stop thinking, too. Gawd, people need to think about what matters in the grand scheme of things outside their little patch of ground. People need to remember the core of what their prophet of choice preached. Every major religion promotes peace, harmony, and treating others as you want to be treated. Every. Single. One. Why don’t people get it?”

He plants his fists on his hips. “Stop that.” He grabs my arm and yanks me to my feet so fast I have to catch myself on his very nice chest. He smells like summer, that scent of refreshing lakes and fresh-cut clover. “This is not the venue, and you know it.”

I try to push away. He keeps me close, tips my face up with a finger under my chin. His blue eyes reflect the calm of clear skies. “Let that energy go, love. It doesn’t help your stress or your writing.”

“Let me go.” I can’t bring myself to struggle. He feels like a refuge of sorts. I slump against him. “You’ll stay close, right? I’m hammering on yet another revision of my WIP. I need to get it done. I want to send it off before the reunion.”

“I’ve been close. Even restocked the fridge.”

“Chocolate, too?”

He gives me a reassuring hug. “Of course.”

“You’re a good Muse. I think I’ll keep you around.” I don’t tell him he’s too sexy to fire. 😀

Sorry this post is off my usual schedule. Just venting, y’all. I apologize ahead of time if I offend anyone. I needed to vent, which I typically don’t do, but man, the world is going crazy. I’m turning comments off for this post, because I don’t want to bait the trolls. They’ve got bridge work to do. Just wish they’d build them instead of tearing them down.

 


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Anticipation

Can you believe we’re halfway through summer already? No, not the actual astronomical summer (you know, like the solstices and equinoxes), the school’s out summer.

We’re halfway through July. O. M. G.

I feel like I missed a big chunk of it so far. Wait, I did. Two weeks’ worth after my surgery. Not to mention all the other busy stuff.

Ack!

Finally got the weeding finished (and of course I need to start over, but I’m tired). Started picking zucchini and green beans. Mmm! Fresh green beans from the garden trump frozen every time. Canned beans don’t even come close. And it’s early enough in the season that zucchini actually sounds good. (Yep, just wait a couple weeks 😮 )

I’d post pics, but I haven’t taken any since I beat the weeds back. I’ll try to post some next week. The corn is tassling, so we should have some in a week or so. Raspberries are ripening, but it seems like they do an every-other-year thing. Last year we had a bumper crop. This year, not so much. I’m not picking wild black raspberries this season, either. I made a couple batches of jelly with what I had frozen from last year, so we should be good for a bit. Besides, I really don’t want to be lunch for mosquitoes.

Made it two-thirds of the way through revising my WIP, and I should be able to finish this weekend. Whew! I’m behind, and the two weeks I was out of commission didn’t help. Now that I’ve caught up on weeding for a minute, I’m focusing on finishing.

The best thing coming up? Nope, not my sister’s visit next week, though I am looking forward to it. Nope, not the pool party family gathering the weekend after.

*Drumroll*

My writing sisters reunion retreat! Three weeks. *happy dance* Not only do I get to spend a few days with some crazy creative writers and good friends, but I get to focus on writing. All weekend. This year we’re having a plotting weekend. So. Much. Fun. There’s nothing quite like getting a bunch of writers together and helping each other with plotting new stories. We throw so many wild ideas out there, the brainstorming wall needs cleaning a couple times a day.

I’ve made some writer friends in the blog-o-sphere, and I was thinking about what it would be like to spend a day with them talking about plots, writing, and all the fun stuff that goes with those creative processes. Man, I think it’d be a hoot! We’re scattered across the country, many countries, but wouldn’t that be cool?

My point is, if you can gather with a couple writer friends for a weekend, just a girls/guys weekend where you do nothing but talk writing, do it. If you know a writer who lives fairly close, meet at a halfway point. There’s an energy that surrounds us creative folks that just seems to multiply when we get together.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wait. Almost forgot. I suppose you wanted an update on the orphans, right? Well, we found a new home for the pair. I put an ad in the local paper, and we got one call from a gentleman who wanted them both. He just got a kitten about the same age as the orphans, and wanted a buddy for him.

We dropped the kittens off last weekend. Now, before you worry about the sort of home our little foundlings are in now, let me tell you, we have no worries. The gentleman, in his late 70s or in his 80s, has a menagerie. Seriously. We drove up and saw a well-kept yard. Behind the house, a number of fenced areas housed chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, peacocks, and at least one donkey.

This gentleman took the kittens from their box and cradled them in his arms before handing them off to a couple friends rocking on the porch, one petting the other kitten. An old collie kept an eye on everything.

Yep, I think they’ll like their new home.

Okay, you want a couple final doses of cuteness? Here you go.

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Of Frustration, Trimming, and Weeds

Let me begin by updating y’all on my post-surgery situation. Two weeks after I went under the laparoscopic knife, I’m back in action. Besides, my veggies are starting to hunt for white flags, so I’ve gotta get moving on the weed front.

We had storms Tuesday night that knocked down the potato plants and toppled a few of the tomatoes in their cages. I went out on Wednesday after work to assess the damage. Yep, me and squadrons of blood-suckers. Argh. No wind along with the tropical heat and humidity were perfect picnic conditions for those nasty little vampires. I hate mosquitoes. Really hate them. I do, however, love dragonflies, so I suppose we can’t get rid of all the mosquitoes, because then what would the dragons eat?

Managed to get the tomatoes upright and trimmed. Yes, trimmed. They get unruly if left to their own devices. Remember, they are vines, so I figure I can hack away. It’s not like they’re gonna die or anything. Got a few green tomatoes so far, but it’ll be a while before I can pick them.

Boy, neglecting the garden for a couple weeks gives the weeds a free pass. Sheesh. The pigweed is a foot tall, and the cheeseweed and crabgrass are racing to see who can set seed first. The shaggy soldier is everywhere, but it pulls the easiest, along with the velvetleaf. Even found a shoot of Virginia creeper trying to sneak in. Stinging nettle is always fun to find–not. And quackgrass and dandelions are belligerent staples. Nutsedge is trying to get a foothold, but I’m on to it.

Ugh. I reserve the right to avenge my veggies. I’ve got purslane everywhere, and after two weeks, it’s carpeting the garden. It’s low-growing, so I don’t attack it until I’ve got the taller stuff under control. Heh, I’ve got just the thing. The stuff is edible (as are most of my weeds, including the crabgrass, I discovered), and quite tasty. Kinda tastes like asparagus (thought I was going to say chicken, didn’t ya?)  Since my spinach didn’t come up this year after seeding a few times (except for two spindly plants), and my kale is still MIA after seeding at least 3 times, I figure I might as well substitute a weed. I’m waiting for the lamb’s quarters (another weed) to get big enough to bother harvesting (used like spinach until spinach became prevalent). I’m itchin’ for fresh veggies, and my zucchini is not quite ready for the first harvest.

So, purslane it is.

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Nip the stems, leaves and all. Grab a couple handfuls. Wash well, saute in butter, add a dash or two of garlic salt (i.e., prep just like spinach or kale). Voila! It’s super-nutritious, too. Less furry than nettle, and not bitter like dandelion can be. (Nettle, by the way, isn’t bad, if you can get past the fuzzy.)

Word of warning: if someone is spraying weedkiller, for heaven’s sake, don’t eat the weeds. I don’t use any weedkiller unless it’s unavoidable (Virginia creeper and creeping Charlie come to mind, though I just found out creeping Charlie is edible). I know my purslane is “organic”. Same goes if a pet might be peeing on it. (I know, I shouldn’t have to say, but common sense seems to be less and less prevalent these days.)

Kids are home, which adds that dynamic back into the mix. I did manage to spend a couple hours on my WIP, trimming and tightening. I need to cut almost 10k words, so I’m looking for scenes to whack. So where’s the frustration, you ask? Well, trying to choose scenes to cut, for one.

Ever get to the point on a project where you’re so flipping tired of it? As in, just burn the damn thing. Not me, at least not with my WIP. My contemporary fantasy novel, however, is warming a dark corner of a drawer for now. One of my writing sisters is at that point with her project. I get it. Boy, do I ever.

So what do you do? Pout? Scream? Swear off writing? No. Start something different. Like, completely different. Your YA science fiction novel getting you down? Try a cozy mystery. Historical romance? Try an urban fantasy, vampires optional. Work on a short story, or series of shorts, if your novel is making you crazy. If shorts are your pain point, try something longer. Try poetry. Try a memoir.

Don’t. Stop. Writing. If you are a writer, you can’t. Find something new to work on. Start outlining that coming-of-age-in-Edwardian-England book inspired by (fill in name of British drama here).

And add some purslane to your menu.

Oh, for those tracking the orphans, we’ve still got them, but I did put an ad in the local paper this week. And I’ll save you the torture of a picture this time. 🙂

 

 


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Back to it

I stare at the screen. Not a blank screen, but a white one with all kinds of black squiggles on it usually interpreted as letters. My head aches, and I wonder for the umpteenth time why I bothered with the stupid surgery that’s made me miserable and unproductive for the past week and a half.

If I get any more sinus headaches after all this, I’m not going to be happy.

The door to my writing office swings open, sucking a draft through the space. My Muse enters, clad in worn jeans and the burgundy thermal shirt I love. He shoves his sleeves to his elbows and closes the door. The view from the windows changes from a tropical vista to a thick forest. I hear a stream rippling through its course from somewhere out there.

“What are you doing, love?” he asks, hands on hips. “Where’s your WIP?”

“I missed my blog post this week. I’m writing it now.”

He frowns. “Blog post? You wrote about your garden and the orphans already this week. You need to dig into your WIP.”

“I will. Just let me finish this.”

“Uh huh.” He looms over my shoulder. “And you’re procrastinating on your WIP why, exactly?” He points to the screen. “Missed a comma here.”

I shove his arm aside and add the mark. “My head hurts, otherwise I would’ve worked on it last night.”

“That’s what pain-killers are for. Finish up.” He pulls a fold-up chair from a corner and plops it down beside me. “Come on, love. The kids are gone to your sister-in-law’s, you have a legitimate reason not to weed or do any other activity, and it’s quiet. You have got to get your ass moving.”

He smells like the woods after a spring rain, that fresh scent of nature. I plant my elbows on my desk and rub my forehead. “My head hurts.”

“My ass hurts because you’re the pain in it. You know damn well if you don’t get this revision done this week, you’re losing your opportunity.”

I know. “Where are the kittens?”

He turns me to face him with a finger under my chin. Those blue eyes of his trap me. “It. Doesn’t. Matter. Finish your post, then open your WIP. You read through the draft yesterday.” The scent of burning leaves surrounds him. “Don’t make me pull out the big guns.”

I pull away. “Fine. You sure have been nice lately. What happened?”

“I see my writer losing momentum, that’s what. You’ve got a fecking month before the reunion, and you still haven’t gotten your WIP revised.”

“I just had surgery.”

“And you have time and opportunity now to write. No excuses.” He waves his hand in a circle. “C’mon, love, wrap it up.”

Sigh. He’s right, I know.

“Of course, I’m right.”

“Humble much?”

He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “It’s not my job to be humble, love. It’s my job to inspire you and kick you in the ass when you need it.”

So true. I’ll leave you all with a dose of cuteness. (BTW, haven’t found a new home for the orphans yet.)

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