Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Creature Feature

As we get ready for an extended holiday weekend, I thought it’d be kinda fun to show a few pics of things you might see if you happened to stop by. Note one thing: I’m a lousy photographer (unlike my daughter, who has an artist’s eye), so I apologize ahead of time for crappy pictures.

First, I braved the mosquitos last night (no wind, humid, perfect for those little flying vamps) to take a pic of the garden. It isn’t the best picture, but damn, as soon as I stopped moving, it was like the dinner bell rang.

garden

Everything seems to be doing well, especially after the rain we got the other day. It’s supposed to rain today, and I’ve got a funeral to attend, so the weeds will have time to reclaim their footing.

And though I didn’t get a picture of the vandals eyeing my garden, I found one. I figured since this is a creature post, I should include them. Oh, and the flying hypodermics, just because.

cottontailmosquito
Man, those buggers are relentless (It doesn’t matter which; they’re both curse-inducing annoyances.).

Those who’ve been following since the spring know we got some chicks. We’ve moved them into the big pen now, but they haven’t started laying eggs yet, and probably won’t until this fall. I gave them some watermelon scraps last night, and they seemed to enjoy the treat. (also, they don’t stop moving long enough to take a good picture ๐Ÿ™‚ )

chicks

Last week I promised the story about our nightly visitor. Since it’s summer, and we have no central air conditioning, we have a window unit in one of the windows in the living room. This leaves a gap between the lower sash and the upper sash where bugs can congregate, lured by the light in the room. Well, we have a visitor that’s figured out the best place to get an easy meal.

frog2_cr

Yep, a little tree frog. Actually, we saw two of them hanging out one night, but usually there’s only the one. You can get an idea of how big it is by the size of the the window lock. I’m sure it’d fit on a half-dollar coin, no problem, with room to spare. It usually sticks on the window like a gecko, so we just see its white belly, and creeps around to wherever the biggest bugs are, typically moths. One night, there was a moth almost as big as the frog, and I watched the frog catch and eat it. So cool!

Of course, as I was heading in last night to escape the mosquitos, one of our dogs had to getย  in on the action. Here’s Dakota, sitting still barely long enough to get her picture taken:

dakota She’s a mutt, part border collie and part Australian shepherd, I think. Or something like that. She’s pretty in a homely kind of way, and is quite content to ignore the rabbits. If the chickens get loose, however, all bets are off. They’re fair game to her, and she’s learned somehow to stash her treasure out in the weeds in the back acreage for later, when no one’s looking.

We found a chicken carcass out there a couple years ago while searching for missing birds. Those chickens flew just far enough to clear the fence around the pen. Dumb chickens.

And I can’t have a creature feature without Zoey. Here she is, chillin’ in one of her favorite spots outside (probably because the concrete stays cool).

zoey3

Independence Day is on Tuesday this year, so a lot of people have Monday off (I do). Four-day weekend! Woo hoo! I need to get butt in chair and write this weekend, betweenย  pulling weeds, of course.

For those in the US, enjoy the holiday weekend, and stay safe. Take advantage of the extra time off to draft a short story or new chapter. For everyone else, same goes.

Happy Fourth of July!


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A summer of distractions

Welcome to the first week of summer–though you’d never know it here in MN. Our temps are in the 70s, when usually we’ve got 80s by now (that’s Fahrenheit for those from Down Under or across the pond). And I’m not complaining. I like cooler rather than the gawd-awful heat they’re getting out west. I mean, over 110 degrees in AZ? OMG.

I’d rather complain about the mosquitos. I was out in the garden the other night (pulling weeds because, well, they seem to think they own the place), and it was like a cloud of tiny vampires. I had mosquito repellent on, plus a long-sleeved shirt, plus a net I wear over my head so I don’t have to put repellent on my face. The air around me buzzed. Ugh. And no dragonflies in sight. With such a feast, maybe the dragonflies were full ๐Ÿ™‚

*looks around the writing office* Anyone see my Muse? No? Whew. He’s been threatening to tie me to my chair so I’ll have no choice but to write. I know he’s doing his job, but I’m really having trouble getting back into my WIP. I took a mini-retreat last weekend to my dad’s, since he went to visit my sister. I got through the scene I was stuck on, now I’m stuck again. I’m thinking I need some writing sister help.

Speaking of, I’m starting to count down to our reunion–one month and change. We always have a great time, and so much creative energy!

“A-hem.”

Okay, um, he’s behind me, isn’t he? Damn, I knew if I mentioned him he’d show up. Maybe if I pretend I didn’t hear him, he’ll go away.

“You know I won’t, love.”

Gulp. I’ll update the board. Yep, I was meaning to do that. I rearrange the active and inactive lists. My agent touched base with all the editors who have the manuscript, so there’s eight on the active list. Two of them have been unresponsive, so the inactive list has two entries.

“Now that you’re done playing around, sit down and write.”

I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly before I turn around. “Oh, hi. I was just thinking about you.” My Muse is rougish today, in an oddly-attractive getup of faded jeans, holey red t-shirt that probably needs to retire to the rag pile, and faded flannel shirt that might have been red and black, but now is reddish and gray. If he’s shaved in the past week, the rough stubble on his face doesn’t show it.

“What happened to Indiana Jones? Did Harrison Ford call and ask for his fedora back?”

He crosses his arms on his chest and shoots me a stern look, the one that says “don’t give me any bullshit”, a distinct lack of humor in his eyes. “Har, har. Maybe I should take a page from the Hell’s Angels instead. Would you listen to me then? Biker leathers and chains?”

Puke. Not a fan. “No, no, this is fine. I’m good with rough and outdoorsy. It is outdoorsy, right? Not ‘I lost my construction job and I’m sulking in front of the TV’. By the way, don’t do the beard thing. Not a good look for you.”

He frowns. “You’re planning on writing this weekend, right?”

“I always plan on writing on the weekends. I’ve got my cousin’s graduation today. We’ll be gone all afternoon. And if it stays dry, I’ve got a jungle of weeds to pull. It’s summer. C’mon, this happens every summer.”

“And every summer I have to bust my ass to get you to sit down and write. Your reunion isย  coming up. You have to send the first 20 pages of your WIP to your sisters in a couple weeks.”

“I think I need their help with this one. I’m not feelin’ it. There’s something missing.”

“Yeah, you at your desk, writing.” He heaves a sigh, like this is a burden he has to put up with. Come to think of it, that’s probably accurate. “Please?”

Wait. What? “Did you just say ‘please’?”

He takes another step closer and puts his hands on my shoulders. “Tell you what.” He squeezes my shoulders. “You sit down and write, and I’ll get a new bucket of ideas to toss at the brainstorming wall.”

That’ll work, I think. I’ll have an hour and a half drive to my cousin’s house and another hour and a half back today to mull over ideas. I’d include a few pics here, but I haven’t taken any new ones since it’s been so wet outside. We did let the chicks into the bigger pen now, but when I tried to take their picture, they were really shy and stayed in the coop. And I tried to get a good pic of our nightly visitor, but the lousy lighting doesn’t help. I’ll try to get a better pic and tell the story next week.

Until then, have a great weekend and WRITE!

 


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Now for something different

liebster2nd

Hiya, gang! I’ve been meaning to do this post for-ev-er, since Annika Perry over at her writing blog nominated me for a Liebster Award–um, wow, last year. *bows head in shame* I think the universe is trying to tell me something, because Mae Clair over at her site also nominated me.

Okay, okay, I’m listening. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thank you both for the nominations–sorry it took me so long, Annika.

Annika is across the pond, and has a wonderful site where she shares not only writing tidbits, but pictures of her travels. She just shared her walk-through of the Beth Chatto Gardens. Beautiful!

Mae also has a great site where she shares advice, writing news, and some of the research for her books (Mothman, anyone?) She’s also one of the authors over at Story Empire, where the authors post articles all about writing; lately they’ve had some great information about promotional stuff like media kits and newsletters.

For the Liebster Award, the rules are:

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
  6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

Since both Annika and Mae nominated me, it’s only fair I answer questions from them both. So, onward!

Questions from Annika Perry:

Why did you start your blog?
Honestly, I started my blog because that’s one of the pieces of a writer’s platform. It took me a few months to really settle into it. Now I’m thinking of ways to refine it into more of an author’s website.

How do you deal with a setback at work/rejection letter etc?
I remind myself persistence is the key. I also remind myself that writing is subjective, just like any other art form. What one (or many) agents don’t like, there will be one that will love it. The trick is sticking with it long enough to find that one.

How do you celebrate a success?
Happy dance! Whoop it up! graphics-snoopy-360370 And have some really good chocolate and wine.

Whatโ€™s the one crazy activity/thing you wish youโ€™d tried but never dared?
Hang gliding. I’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to soar like birds do. Maybe some day!

Which of your posts has got the most views? Can you post a link to it
My post on rough drafts got the most views (besides my boring About page).

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Hmm. There’s a lot of places I’d like to go: Ireland and the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Scandinavia, Vancouver, I could go on ๐Ÿ˜€ I’d love to go back to Salzburg for the chocolate and Bavaria for the Alps!

What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d tell myself to write more, and take more writing classes sooner. And invest in Microsoft and Apple. I remember all the stock splits in the 80s and 90s; I’d be sitting pretty good by now!

What is one of your most embarrassing moment?
My best friend and I were taking a turn as DJs at a high school dance, announcing the songs as we played them (this was back before CDs and MP3s), and I mispronounced INXS (in-excess, not I-N-X-S). Over a loud speaker. I was promptly corrected by everyone on the dance floor.

Whatโ€™s your favourite drink? (Alcoholic or non-alcoholic) Craft beer, especially from New Glarus Brewery in Wisconsin. Moon Man and Spotted Cow.

If you could travel into the past, which era would you go to and why?
I think it’d be interesting to go back to talk to Leonardo da Vinci. Not that those days in Europe were all that spectacular, but he’d be a cool person to talk to.

What is your most favourite (clean) joke?
You’re assuming I can remember any jokes I’ve been told! Oh, wait, here’s one: What did one cannibal say to the other cannibal after they ate a clown? Did that taste funny to you? (See what I mean? I can’t remember the good ones ๐Ÿ˜€ )

Questions from Mae Clair:

Youโ€™ve been given a working time machine. What era of history would you visit?
See my answer to Annika’s almost very same question ๐Ÿ˜‰

What is your totem animal? (Inspired by a post I recently saw on Jan Sikesโ€™ blog).
I like to think my totem animal would be a cougar: solitary, mysterious, and hangs out in the woods. Observes quietly. And it’s a cat. I’m a cat person ๐Ÿ™‚

What was the first story you wrote?
Hmm. The first one I really remember writing was for an English class. We had to write a story where you wake up one morning and look in the mirror. What do you see? I was deep into Anne McCaffery’s Pern books (and my English teacher liked her as well), so even though the assignment was for a 2-3 page story, I wrote what would now be considered a “fanfic”: I woke up as a Pernese dragon. Ten pages later, my teacher told me it was enough, I could stop.

Beach or mountains?
Oh boy. I have to choose? Tropical tourist-free, sugar-sand beach. Or log cabin in the heavily-wooded mountains near a lake. (can you tell I’ve thought about these for a while? ๐Ÿ˜€ )

What is your favorite time of year?
Fall, because of the wonderful colors. Spring because winter is over and everything is turning green again.

Name someone from history you find intriguing.
Leonardo da Vinci. Nikola Tesla. Ben Franklin.

What is your favorite fairy tale?
The Bremen Town Musicians.

When was the last time you played a game of chess?
Back when the kids were younger. I think my son was in 5th or 6th grade. He’ll be a sophomore in college this fall.

If you could travel to any city or country in the world, where would you go?
See my answer for Annika’s almost-identical question ๐Ÿ™‚

Name your favorite cartoon when you were a kid.
Loony Tunes–Bugs Bunny and the gang. I still remember the Barber of Seville routine with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. And I loved the Road Runner. And Taz. Gotta like Taz. And Marvin the Martian. And Foghorn Leghorn. And…

What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?
Dragons. The nice ones, though, not the ones that scorch everything. Nice ones like the Pernese dragons (or firelizards!). Or Toothless. 8-26-2016 10-00-50 AM

Whew! I’m done with the questions. Now for eleven random facts about me:

  1. I love Calvin and Hobbes. Every winter I think about recreating one of his snowman projects.
  2. I’m a cat person. I like dogs, but I’d much rather have a cat curl in my lap than a dog. I secretly want a Maine Coon, because they’re big, and having a bobcat or cougar for a pet is not the right thing to do with a wild animal. But it’d be soooo cool to have a pet cougar! (too big for a lap cat, though)
  3. My favorite flowers are lilacs and irises.
  4. No one will ever call me graceful. Ever. I’m clumsy.
  5. I haven’t worn dresses or skirts since I had kids, except once. My sister made me a bridesmaid in her wedding so I’d have to wear a dress.
  6. When I go for walks, I like to be able to identify plants along the way, especially flowers and weeds. I’ll take pictures of flowers, then look them up.
  7. I have a day job, but I’m also a substitute librarian for our town library.
  8. Favorite ice cream: mint chocolate chip
  9. Favorite TV show: Supernatural. It’s the one show nobody better interrupt while I’m watching, which is why we Tivo it. And Dean.
  10. Least favorite color for rooms: yellow (including orange). Every house hubs and I have ever had came with a yellow kitchen. Ugh!
  11. Caffeine- and alcohol-free cheer-me-up (besides Calvin and Hobbes): Jeff Dunham’s Spark of Insanity. The opening bit, before he pulls out the puppets. And Walter. And Peanut.

Okay, 11 questions for nominees (and I’m taking some from Mae’s and Annika’s nominators):

  1. Do you have a pet? If so, what is it?
  2. Favorite TV show?
  3. What is one of your pet peeves?
  4. Do you have a favorite author? Who and which of their books is your favorite?
  5. Do you read books only once, or more than once?
  6. If you won the lottery, what is the very first thing you would spend money on?
  7. What was the best advice a writing mentor or teacher ever gave you?
  8. Did you play any sports in high school? If so, which ones?
  9. You’re going to a deserted island for a month. What three things will you take?
  10. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
  11. What is the most recent movie you’ve seen?

Okay, now for nominees. I’ll just toss out a few:

Betsy Kerekes at parentingisfunny

Diane at ladieswholunchreviews

Michelle Cook at puttingmyfeetinthedirt

Jacqui Murray at worddreams

Marquessa Matthews at simplymarquessa

There are so many great writer blogs out there, it’s just too hard to make a short list. Get out there. Explore!

Next week I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled program. Have a great weekend!


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Revise or redraft?

I’ve been struggling with my WIP revisions. Granted, this would technically be called the second draft, but dammit, I’m just not feeling it.

Then I read Janice Hardy’s post on shifting between drafting and editing. (BTW, if you haven’t spent any time on Janice’s blog, head on over. She’s got an awesome site for writers.)

Aha. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe I need to start over, do another self-imposed NaNoWriMo.

“Maybe you just need to sit your ass down and write, love.”

I turn. Gulp. My Muse is in full ass-kicking mode, complete with Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip, arms crossed on his chest, his blue eyes cutting into mine like lasers. “Ahh, hi there.”

“Sit.” No room for argument.

I sink into my writing chair. I’ve been staring at the screen for the past, well, I’m not sure. I made an inline note in the scene I was having trouble with (a new scene, too!) and moved on to the scene I realized I needed. I thought I had it figured out.

Turns out I thought wrong. “You know, you could break out a new bucket of ideas to throw at the brainstorming wall instead of channeling Harrison Ford. You’re my Muse, so do your muse thing.”

He rests a hip on the corner of my desk, bullwhip curled in one hand. “I have been doing my muse thing, as you call it. Hell, I’ve be trying to shove as much creative fecking energy into you as I can, and what have you been doing? Playing in the dirt.”

“Hey, I’ve got to keep on top of the weeds or I won’t be able to find my vegetables in a couple weeks. They’re way easier to get rid of when they’re two inches high instead of six. Besides, I had to rabbit-proof my garden. Did you see that rabbit waltz right in? Through the fence? I think they chewed that hole. It was like the damn thing thought it lived there.”

“So don’t use a plastic fence.”

“It worked fine last year. And the year before. What happened, did the rabbits have a confab to Ocean’s Eleven my garden? They still got to two of my pepper plants. I think I need a BB gun instead of my slingshot. The damn things don’t even spook when I hit them with a rock.”

“So you got over-confident rabbits.”

“I’ve got oversized, fuzzy, cotton-tailed rodents. And no dog or cat that bothers to chase them. I think we need to get a terrier. They were bred to hunt rabbits.”

“No, they were bred to chase prey into burrows. Rats, not rabbits.”

“How do you know?”

He gives me his crooked smile, and I fight to hold back a swoon, because that would just encourage him (not that it’s a bad thing; I could use a little eye candy about now). “I’m a Muse. Google has nothing on us.”

I almost sprain my eyes from the roll. “Humble much?”

He leans over, inches from me. “You don’t have anything going on tomorrow, and you won’t want to go outside in the tropical heat, so I expect you to get through at least two scenes. Complete scenes, love. I will be right here, so I can keep an eye on you.”

Before I can respond, he waved a finger. “Ah ah. If you behave, I might even dig up some Schell’s Firebrick lager.”

Not as good as Moon Man, but hey, it’s incentive. “You know, you sure can be annoying.”

“You should know all about annoying.”

Ugh. And of course he’s right. I’ve been having a tough time focusing, and tomorrow will give me a good excuse to stay in the house (yep, 96 degrees with a 72 degree dewpoint. Ick.). I went out to the garden tonight, and wouldn’t you know it, a rabbit was sitting near the garden. I tried to spook it, but it pretty much ignored me until I started chasing it. Then it ran right into my garden. Through the fence.

Seriously. WTF? So I spent an hour adding chicken wire to the side of the fence that had the most rabbit-sized holes. *grumble* Oh, I suppose you’d like to see how things are coming.

The potatoes and tomatoes are looking good, and the onions are starting to take off. Most of the peppers are still intact, thanks, I’m sure, to the tomato rounds I added to protect them. The Brussels sprouts are doing okay, but I found cabbage worms on one tonight. I’ll have to start patrolling. Or cover them, but the trick there is anchoring the netting. Might have to try that this year.

I also promised to show you what asparagus looks like once it grows out. Here ya go:

mature asparagus

It has feathery fronds and tiny yellow flowers. Later in the season those flowers develop into little berries that start green and eventually turn bright red.

And as I was weeding tonight, I ran across a couple fat toads. I love seeing toads in the garden.

toad patrol

The chickens are still in the “nursery” pen, but we need to move them into the bigger enclosure, hopefully this weekend, then I’ll try to get some pics.

Instead, I’ll close with Zoey chillin’ outside.

Zoey chillin’

Enjoy your weekend, and get writing–I know I will ๐Ÿ˜€


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Hello, Summer

Last weekend was Memorial Day in the U.S., the unofficial kickoff to summer and all the vacations, hot weather, outdoor recreation, garden distractions, and bugs that go with it.

You heard that right, I said bugs. As in ticks, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and every other six- or eight-legged creepazoid that likes to be a pest (yes, I know the eight-legged varieties are technically not bugs, but they bug me. You know, ticks. Spiders are okay as long as they stay outside where they belong.) They are probably my least favorite part of summer.

Good insects, like bees and butterflies, I’m okay with because they are pretty, have an important job (pollination), and they don’t bug me (except for the sulfurs and their white counterparts, because they are responsible for the cabbage loopers and cabbage worms that munch on my Brussels sprouts and kale).

Ugh. Can’t do anything about bugs except encourage bats and birds to eat as much as they can. Oh, and can’t forget the predatory bugs, like dragonflies. They. Are. Awesome. Mostly because they have “dragon” in their name, but also because they eat mosquitoes from birth to death. And they’re pretty. And “dragon” ๐Ÿ˜€

red-dragonfly-1364459 Anyway, I thought, since, you know, summer, I’d post an update on my usual summer stuff. I know, boring, right? Well, iffin ya don’t like it, trust I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled writing stuff next week (and I won’t mention the Muse standing behind me, bullwhip in hand and Indiana Jones fedora on his head. Nope, I won’t.).

I managed to get my garden in a few weekends ago, before I took my writing retreats to my dad’s house. Incidentally, my retreat last weekend, when I was going to go all in on the second draft of my WIP, was cut short due to Dad’s return much sooner than he had last year. Sooo, I lost two days of writing in peace, but I got to hear about his trip, which wasn’t as enjoyable as in past years due, I think, to the timing. More people around this time, so their Alaskan adventure was more crowded than they liked.

Anyway, back to gardening. Here’s a shot of it (look now, because I’ve got the weeds under control so far ๐Ÿ™‚ ):

garden1

Living out in the country is great, until natural pests start hitting all your hard work. Notice the terra cotta-colored pots–those are my Brussels sprouts, the second planting, because some effing pest chewed the first ones off. Grrr. So far, these are doing fine.

So, the little buggers decided to take out their frustrations on my pepper plants. I replanted them, and they lasted maybe a week before something chewed them off again. So, I got new plants again, but I’m going to have to put a secondary fence around them. Thank goodness the varmints (chipmunks, I suspect) don’t appear to like potatoes or onions. We’re going to put some live traps in the garden to figure out if I’m right. I suspect chipmunks, but we also have rabbits and squirrels.

And dogs. Not that they mind; they must play poker with the rabbits. Neither dog (granted, one is three-legged and can hardly chase them) seems to have any desire to chase them. I’ve got farm cats (you know, good mousers) on my wish list!

Remember my pics of asparagus? I stopped picking it when we got a couple hot days, and now the asparagus is on its way to ferning out. Here’s where it’s at:

asparagus 1 It’s branching out, and should be fully “ferned” out soon. I say “ferning” because when it’s mature, it looks feathery, like a fern. If you look, you can see an aparagus spear on the right side to compare.

And what’s summer without flowers? The lilac is long done blooming, and although I did take pics of my dad’s irises, I don’t have any at our place (though now that I think about it, I should).

The woods around our place smell wonderful this time of year because of the dame’s rocket that grows wild everywhere. It looks like wild flox, but I looked it up; I think the number of petals on the flowers is different. But they smell sooo good, like a cross between lilacs and petunias:

dames rocket1

And a close-up:
dames rocket2 And you’ve guessed it, I’m distracted by things other than writing. I’m behind on reading blogs, so don’t worry, I’m trying to catch up. I’ve got graduations to attend now that school’s out for the summer, so that’ll be my fun this weekend.

A good thing about the garden work, though, is the mental time I get, because weeding just doesn’t require a lot of thought. I figured out a crucial scene in my WIP, one that I knew I needed to add, but I just didn’t know where to put.

I had my “aha” moment while in the garden this week. After today’s jaunt to my niece’s grad party (an all-day thing because it’s a 2 1/2 hr drive there), and replanting my peppers (along with constructing an anti-chipmunk secondary fence and rigging the live traps), I’ll get back to my draft.

Hope your summer is starting off well. Some slacking on writing always happens this time of year, it seems, because this is when we like to enjoy the weather, but make time to write. I know I will, and before my Muse decides to do more than look menacing.

Happy Summer! Happy Writing!

PS: I know, I know, no pics of the chickens. They’re in the “nursery” pen right now, which isn’t good for taking pics, so I’m hoping my hubs and my son will move them into the big pen so I can get good pictures of them.