Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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A little potpourri #amrevising #amgardening #amreading

Dontcha hate it when all those pesky real-life responsibilities get in the way of your writing? Cleaning, paying bills, full-time job, cleaning, paying taxes, migraines, COVID vax, updating my resume (yep, I’ve fallen victim to the acquisition company’s line: “I’m sorry, but your position will be eliminated as of the middle of summer), socializing with the fam. You know, the stuff you have to do because you’re a grown-up (at least in age). Hang on, I have to go open the chicken coop so the girls can get out and stretch their legs.

Okay, I’m back. We lost a chicken a few weeks ago to some unknown predator. Could have been a raccoon (though why a bandit would bother trying to kill a chicken is beyond me; I don’t think they’re that ambitious), or a hawk (except hawks don’t usually eat the head right away), or a skunk (again, would they go through the effort), or more likely the tomcat we’ve seen roaming around (and that treed Zoey last week). Hey, as long as the remaining four do their jobs and lay eggs …

Speaking of outdoors, hubs tilled the garden. Since last year, he’s tilled two spots: my usual garden, and what he calls “his” garden, where he plants potatoes and the sweet corn I swore I would never plant again. This year I asked him to save a spot for the pumpkins he asked me to get for him (Pepitas variety, in case you’re wondering. Hull-less seeds so he can roast them in the fall). Besides, my SIL asked me to grow some pumpkins for her. The two varieties need some space so they don’t cross-pollinate. Hubs planted some potatoes already, with more in line to plant.

Me? Nothing in the garden yet. In MN we know we can have frosts as late as the week before Memorial Day. In fact, we’ve had frost warnings the past few days. Which doesn’t bother cool weather crops like lettuce, spinach, cabbage and relatives, and a few others, but in my world I’d rather plant once instead of plant some, then later plant or re-plant the tender stuff. Besides, I have a revision to finish.

The seedlings are looking really good. I’ve started hardening them off, which is a fancy way of saying putting them outside for a while so they get used to cooler temps and wind. I figure I’ll stick with my usual timetable of Memorial Day weekend for planting.

Things are looking up for in-person events this summer–YAY!! I’m mostly excited about the probability of seeing my Writing Sisters in person at our reunion this year. Okay, I’m excited to see my fam (sibs and such) at our summer gathering, too. Last time I saw my sibs was during our Christmas Zoom. My dad made a surprise visit a couple weekends ago, because he wanted to get out.

Now, my dad has this wonderful (not) habit of calling just before he leaves home (instead of, like, the day before) to see if we’re going to be around for a visit. Luckily, he’s about an hour and a half away, so that gives us some time to quick-clean (trust me, it’s not nearly enough time, because all that cleaning gets in the way of writing πŸ™‚ ). He didn’t used to call ahead; my mom would. In fact, I got a call from my mom one day (years ago!). She asked if Dad had talked to me about the piano.

Me: Um, no.

She then gave me a heads up: Dad’s on his way with a piano (from my aunt and uncle).

Me (and hubs): What?!

We managed to find a place for it before he arrived. After that, I think my mom explained to him that the appropriate thing to do (especially when moving an upright piano) is call ahead. (A little backstory so you don’t think my dad is crazy-spontaneous: we had talked about getting the piano (which my aunt and uncle (Dad’s brother) wanted to get rid of), but moving an upright piano isn’t exactly an easy task. Calling moving companies was on the to-do list. I think my uncle complained (?) to Dad about what to do, and Dad took it upon himself to move it for us).

BTW, I’ve tried to pawn that same piano off on my brother (since we rarely use it anymore), but he got an electronic keyboard for the girls instead. Good plan. Way easier to move a keyboard than a whole piano.

Well, better get back to revising. And of course, I’m only halfway through thanks to real-life responsibilities, so yet another week before I turn it in. I promise. πŸ˜€

Write on!


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Not A-mused #amwriting #amrevising

I erase an entry on my writer’s to-do list, conveniently written on her wall-sized whiteboard. Hmm. I grab a marker of a different color when the outside door to her writing office swings open, sucking air past me.

I turn to see my writer, eyes wild, storming toward me.

“Hey …”

She cocks her fist and hits me.

She actually hits me. In the shoulder.

“Ow!” Damn, she’s got an arm. That’s gonna sting for a while. “What the bloody hell was that for?”

Hands in fists at her sides, she growls and stomps in a circle. “Damn it!” Another circle, another growl. “Why the fuck didn’t you suggest that earlier?” She hits me again. “Do you have any idea how much stuff I have to change now? I’m four revisions in, I’m supposed to submit the story in a week, and you pull this shit?” She draws her fist back for another go.

I catch her hand this time. “Whoa. Hey. Stop that. Why are you so wound up?”

She wrenches her hand out of mine and shoves me into the board. “You. Oh. My gawd. Arrgh!” She moves to shove me again.

I catch her. Again. This time I pin her arms to her sides. She’s close, and creative energy is pulsing around her. Very un-Muse-like thoughts begin to gather in my head, thoughts that toe an uncrossable line. Damn. I shake them away. “Stop that, love.”

She struggles. Apparently she forgot I’m a Muse; she won’t get loose until I let go.

“You …” She shoots me a glare that I suspect is intended to kill or maim me. “Damn it!” She struggles again. “Let me go.”

“Promise you won’t hit or shove me.”

Another growl. “Yes. Fine. I won’t hit or shove you.”

I release her. “Calm down, love.”

“Really?” She storms in another circle before stopping and stabbing a finger at me. “You.”

“What?”

She throws up her hands. “You know I’ve been struggling with this story for forever, and now–NOW–you suggest the plot item that brings everything together? After four revisions? I planned to turn this in next week. This piece means I’ll have to rewrite a quarter of the book.”

She shoves me into the whiteboard again before I can catch her. A marker falls off the sill. “You could have suggested this a month ago, before I started the fourth round of revision. I could have fixed everything during that go-round and had more time to tweak it before I turn it in.”

Time to redirect her into something productive. “Your writing teacher isn’t going to dock you points if you turn it in a week later.” I point to a recliner in the corner, where her laptop is waiting. “Get started.”

“Fine.” She aims herself at the recliner.

“Julie.”

“What?” she barks.

“You’re welcome.”


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Revision-it does a story good #amwriting #amrevising

As long as it takes to write the first draft of a book (I mean, normally, not the 8 first drafts I went through for my current WIP), I think it takes 10 times longer to revise it into something worthy of an agent or editor. Or writing teacher, because I want to prove I was paying attention in class πŸ™‚ .

Fourth round of revision, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s stuff to adjust in the storyline. Go figure. I mean, of course each round of revision means refining the story, fine-tuning the plot, tweaking the characters. That’s the whole point. At this point in the process, part of me just wants to toss it aside and work on something that’s much, much closer to a worthy finished product (like that manuscript I queried for two years that I went back to read and now know how to improve).

I have two weeks before I turn the manuscript in to my writing teacher. It’s my “final”, the last task in my journey toward a writing certificate, which does nothing more than give me a bit of “street cred”, but has also been good for learning the craft.

That’s what it’s all about, right? Learning the craft. Practicing what we learn. Learn some more. Keep practicing. The key, though, is having someone review our progress and guide us on improving the craft. It doesn’t do any good to practice the golf swing if you never get that one piece of advice that could knock your handicap down a stroke or two.

We need critique partners to look at a story from the outside, point out weaknesses, and suggest ways to improve the story. We need beta readers to get a wider perspective of the story and ensure we keep the reader’s interest and enjoyment of the overall story.

I would add that we need writing teachers or coaches every so often to help us learn better ways or different ways to build the story with stronger material, better technique, and guide us to become a better writer than we were last month or last year. If you don’t know shifting your grip a quarter-inch will knock a stroke off that drive, you’ll never lower your handicap.

And no, I have no idea where all the golf comparisons came from. I don’t even play golf!

Practice will help us improve. Critique partners and editors will help us improve. Craft books help us learn things we can do to improve our craft. But there’s something to be said about taking a writing class, attending a writing webinar or seminar, or working directly with a coach.

When asked what the best thing I’ve done in my writing journey has been, I will always say choosing to attend a week-long, novel-writing master class and taking online creative writing courses. I have learned so many things (not all of them have stuck, however πŸ™‚ ) over the past few years that I would do it all again just for the refresher.

Okay, so this ended up being an ode to writing teachers. Seriously, though, I feel fortunate to have found a writing teacher (and writing sisters!) who, to this day, continues to inspire and sit on my shoulder like the proverbial angel (devil?), whispering about scene goals, ticking time bombs, touchstones, and sidekicks.

If there’s a National Writing Teachers’ Day, let me know, because I need to send my writing teacher a bottle of wine and some chocolate πŸ˜€

Keep on writing!

Get back to writing, slacker. I’m stealing your chair.


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Garden Preview, 2021 Edition #amgardening #spring #mn

Image by No-longer-here from Pixabay

Happy Spring! Hope everyone is fortunate enough to be enjoying some nice weather! It’s been raining here for the past few days; there is a distinct “squish, squish” sound when walking around in the yard. It’s great to have the rain. It’d be even better to have it stretch out over a week or two so the ground has a change to take it all in.

I figured it was about time to share this year’s garden progress. Here in MN we’re about six weeks or so (depending on weather, of course) from planting. For years, the cut-off for the last frost–reliably–has been Memorial Day. Except for that one year …

Over the past few decades, as we all know, the average temps have been getting warmer, so a lot of people put their gardens in weeks before the end of May. I’m just not that ambitious, except for that one year …

I kicked off my annual garden adventure weeks ago when I started my seeds. Every year (except for that one year πŸ™‚ ) I start seeds in the house so that by the end of May, they are big enough to go into the garden. Part of that is cost; I can get a lot of seed for the price of flats at the garden center. The bigger part of that is choice of variety. The garden center carries the most popular varieties, but I often see varieties in my seed catalogs that look much more appealing.

Case in point: those cucumbers I tried last year that were like those snacking cucumbers you can get in the store, the ones you don’t have to peel. In a bigger garden center, you might (and I stress “might”) be able to find a comparable variety, but not where I live unless I want to drive to a bigger town. I happen to like supporting our local garden center. They carry seeds in bulk, which makes them cheaper than those prepackaged ones. Those bulk seeds also seem to perform a lot better than the prepackaged ones. I will never buy prepackaged sweet corn seed again.

In any case, way back when, I wanted to grow heirloom Brandywine tomatoes (If you ever get an opportunity to try them, do it. They are delicious!). You can find them in garden centers now, but back then, the only way to grow them was to start your own seeds.

I’ve progressed to the point where I seldom, if ever, buy peppers, onion sets, or tomatoes from a garden center. My seedlings are doing pretty well this year, especially the tomatoes. Because I have a problem with blight (a tomato disease), I got a few resistent varieties this year. Crossing my fingers that “resistent” means they won’t die before August πŸ™‚

onion babies

Every year I make adjustments. Last year I hedged my bets with cucumbers (I did three or four batches of pickles last year, with 7 quarts per batch (at least)) and green beans (hoo-boy, lots of those) because of the pandemic. This year, a definite cut-back. No pickling cukes (and yes, I’m sticking to that!), fewer green beans (I promise!), no zucchini (because since the chickens have tasted cucumbers, they tend to avoid zucchini), and two varieties of pumpkins (only because my SIL asked me to grow some for her).

Here are my baby peppers, just coming up:

peppers, onions, peppers

And the tomato seedlings are doing really well:

tomatoes

We repurposed my in-law’s old china cabinet, and the mirror shelves (yes, actual mirrors) are there to keep as much light on the plants as possible. Not elegant, but functional. Another six weeks, and it’ll be time to actually plant outside.

Things are greening up around here, and the trees are flowering, which stirs up my allergies. Ugh. Best parts of the week? Beautiful start to the week (before the rain moved in) so went for the first outdoor run of the year. That felt great–until the next day when my quads reminded me how long it’s been since the last time I went for a run. Also got first shot of COVID vax (moderna). Whew! Crossing fingers we’ll be able to have our Writing Sisters reunion in person this year. Miss those gals!

Have a great week, everyone! Keep on writing!