Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Waning Garden — whew!

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall. The trees have started changing–my favorite part of fall. Well, along with the cooler weather, fewer bugs, and … wait, it was 93 and tropical humidity yesterday, and I’ve been fighting squadrons of airborne vampires. Ugh.

Oh, and the other thing I love about fall–the garden is almost done. So much time, and weeds, and mosquitos, and chipmunks, and OMG tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans and zucchini. I’ve been taking the surplus to work because there’s no way we can consume it all before it goes bad.

And they appreciate it, since a good number of them live in subdivisions or apartments where they can’t have a garden.

So, here’s some pics of my sad, sad garden. And I haven’t pulled weeds for-ev-er. So, fair warning 😀

potato row Here’s my forlorn garden. The bare row was the previous home of the potatoes. I’ve pulled the onions, and I decided to pick my final green beans. I’ve pulled half of those plants, and one of the remaining zucchini plants. The cucumber died a few weeks ago (secretly, woo-hoo!). One plant, and I had more cucumbers than I imagined from a single plant.

Brussels sprouts

The poor Brussels sprouts. Sigh. Since I don’t use chemicals, the cabbage worms have been eating well. I hand-pick the caterpillars every other day, but those little green buggers are easy to miss. We’ve been eating beets, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, etc, so I haven’t picked any sprouts yet. I was hoping to wait until after the first light frost to pick them because they’ll be sweeter, but I can’t wait much longer. 🙂

tomatoesAnd the tomatoes. Uff-da. I planted a lot because we wanted to can tomatoes this year, but hoo-boy. Fourteen plants. Note to self: Do not plant anywhere near that many next year.

canned tomatoesWe’ve canned 37 quarts of tomatoes so far. My hubby made a batch of chili, and a batch of spaghetti sauce, and we still have enough tomatoes to do another 7 or 8 quarts.

And I had to include more monster zucchini squash. They are the sneakiest, hiding until they’re huge so I can find them. 😀

monster zukes

Once the first frost hits, it’ll be the end of the garden except for the Brussels sprouts and the kale. Now if I can remember not to overdo the garden next year…

Yeah, right. I say that every year. Next year my goal is a garden half the size of this year’s garden. Uh-huh. We’ll see. I always seem to forget just how many veggies I get from a few plants.

So, there you have it. The raspberries are starting to ripen again, second run. As long as it stays fairly warm, the raspberries will keep going. Last year I had sooo many raspberries I made a couple dozen half-pints of jelly.

Oh, almost forgot. Now with the weather getting colder–well, except for this past week–Zoey has the tendency to take advantage of a warm chair. As soon as I or my husband get up from our chairs, Zoey jumps in and makes her claim. And of course, she looks all innocent when we come back.

zoey steals chair

Enjoy the first weekend of autumn, but don’t forget to write 😀

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High Five and Fireworks

I finish erasing lists on the white board in my writing office, leaving a single publisher. Nope. I erase it, then rewrite it bigger, with fancy 3D letters and everything. Maybe some colors. Oh, and fireworks arcs and explosions. Hmm, my board’s not quite big enough.

The door to my office whooshes open, but before I can turn, two strong hands grab my shoulders, spin me around, and my Muse gives me a bear hug that leaves me breathless, as in “Let go, too tight. Can’t breathe.”

He gives me one last squeeze and steps back. He’s wearing my favorite (on him 😉 ) burgundy henley shirt, sleeves pushed up his forearms, and his so-well-worn jeans. “I knew you could do it, love.”

“The work’s just beginning. I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ll have to do. Hoo boy.” I turn back to the board. “How was the pub crawl? You’ve been pretty scarce. Hangover much?”

He settles an arm around my shoulders. “No hangover, but a few of the others had a rough night. Figured I’d make sure they all found their ways back to their writers.”

“For a whole day?” Something sounds suspicious. “You sure you didn’t spend some extra time with one of the gals? Moka? Latte?”

He gives me the stink-eye. “That whole pub crawl turned into something like a roaming street party. I have no idea how many muses showed up. Enough so that it was dawn before they even headed home. It was great.”

O-kay. Not my idea of fun–too many people, er, muses in one place.

“You might want to post what happened today, love.” He hands me a bottle of Moon Man. “Then we can get to work.”

He’s right. So, here’s my news:

I’ve signed a two-book deal:

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Woo-hoo! High fives all around! Happy dance! graphics-snoopy-360370

There will be a lot of work in the coming months. Right now, the estimated release for my first book is 2019. I’ll be trying to do all those things authors are supposed to do over the next months. Yikes!

It’s still sinking in. Whew! The journey’s not over, but it’s getting even more interesting. 😀

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope your muses made it home 😀


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A gathering of muses

A newspaper lays across my desk in my writing office, but it isn’t any newspaper I recognize. It’s not the local Enterprise or Hub. It’s called the Inspiration. The headline reads: “First Annual Muse Gathering”.

Hmmm. Why do I have a funny feeling about this?

Before I can read the article, my Muse sweeps into the office and swipes the paper from my hands. “Hey, I was reading that.”

He folds the newpaper and tucks it under his arm. “Don’t bother. It’s boring.”

Then I notice his attire. No worn jeans here–the ones he’s wearing look like they came fresh from the indigo dye factory. And is that a silk shirt? It’s a rich maroon that adds a little color to his complexion–not that I’m complaining. Oh, no. Sooo not complaining.

“Ah hem. Earth to Julie.”

Ahhh, yeah. “Where are you going? Is that really a silk shirt?”

“I’m going out. Mr. E is picking me up.” He points to my laptop with the paper. “And while I’m out, I want you to write.”

“Out? With Mr. E? Mae’s on a deadline. How can Mr. E go on a pub crawl? And you never dress like that for a pub crawl. What kind of pubs are you planning to hit?”

He waves the paper in my direction. “Doesn’t matter, love. You need to write. You’re falling behind.”

I snatch the paper from him and zero in on the front page. “Are you kidding me? Since when do you guys all get together in the same place?”

He swipes the paper from me and points to the headline. “Since now. See. First.”

“So who else is going on this muse party bus? And do you really think a silk shirt is a good idea?”

“There’s no smoking in pubs anymore, love. Not here, anyway. There’ll be a half dozen of us or so. D’s mercenary muse, A’s Moka and her cousin, G’s muse“–he counts off on his fingers–“she’s pretty broken up, but she’s going even though her ex will be there. P’s muse, muse Brad, and C’s muse Lorelei said she might meet us. She’s looking for a new pumpkin beer for her author.”

Man, there’ve been a lot of muses showing up in the blog-o-sphere lately. “So, the fancy clothes are for what? Planning to sweet-talk some Moka?”

He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “No worries, love. I’ll be back before last call.” He plants a kiss on my forehead. “But you are cute when you’re jealous.”

I shove him away. “I’m not jealous. They’re muses.”

He chuckles and tosses the paper onto my desk before heading to the door. “I want to see words, love.” He points to my laptop. “Get to it.”

Ugh. He’s right. Real life’s been invading my writing brain. School starts for my daughter on Monday, and the new/remodeled school isn’t nearly ready. Hey, hang on. That coiled bullwhip wasn’t on my chair before.

Okay, I can take a hint. He’s out whooping things up, and I’m here. Well, at least I’ve got some craft beer and chocolate. That should last me for a while.

Happy writing!


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Get ready … get set … Re-draft!

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to challenge myself to a self-imposed NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days) this month (yes, I know the “official” NaNo month is November, but I need to get my butt in gear NOW). I’ve learned the best way for me to get a draft done (at least at this point in my writing journey) is to do a NaNo. I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet for daily word counts and everything!

I’ve been procrastinating long enough. Technically, this WIP isn’t even a new project; I wrote it the first time during another self-imposed NaNo this past March. So, even though technically this isn’t a first draft, I’ve made enough changes to the plot that I may as well start over.

That’s another thing I’ve learned: the process of drafting–writing with a muzzle on my internal editor–helps me work out the plot. Or work out the kinks in the plot. Or see what’s wrong with the plot. All of the above.

So, I’ve brainstormed changes to the plot, and of course I won’t know if those will work until I actually start drafting. Or is it re-drafting? For my past few projects, I’ve ended up writing two “first drafts”: one that helps me see what works and what doesn’t in the original plot, and one that takes those discoveries and uses them to build from scratch again.

It’d be like drawing out plans for a shed or tiny house you want to use as a writing space, like a detached writing office. You dream up the perfect size, imagine it in the perfect location, then get out the ol’ ruler and graph paper to draw it out. Maybe even use cutouts of a desk, chair, shelves, dog bed, cat pillow, whatever. You figure out how much wood you’ll need, pick out paint and siding and even a cool window or two.

Let’s assume you’re handy enough to give it a good go. So you start framing your spiffy new writer cave according to your hand-drawn plan. The floor is the easy part–it’s a rectangle. Can’t get much simpler than that.

Okay. You’ve got your base floor done, so now for the walls. Once you’ve got the framing finished, you can see the skeleton of your project. With the walls up, you can start to see how it’ll look.

Now finish the walls, put on the roof (not shingles yet), and cut holes in the walls for the windows. You’ve got plywood on the outside, sheathing on the roof, and places to put windows.

Wait. That’s one’s not quite in the right spot. Hmm. Don’t forget to measure how far over you moved the door. And make sure to check the angle of the roof–you don’t want it to leak.

Er. Yeah. Hmm. Looks kinda wonky. That wall’s not quite square. And oops, the roof angle is wrong. All wrong. You’ll have to pull that off and redo it. And that window’s in the wrong spot–you’ll have to take that wall down and redo it. Oh, but that means the desk won’t be able to go where you wanted, you’ll have to shift it over. Wait, then the built-in shelves will have to be shorter. Oh, and a skylight. That’d be awesome.

Ugh. So you go back to your plans, erase and redraw to take into account what you’ve learned the first round. Then, you disassemble everything except the floor. Wait, gotta do that too–it needs to be six inches wider.

And so you start over. Re-draft. Except now when you get to the point where all the walls are up, the roof is sheathed, and the windows are cut, it looks much better. Oh, and don’t forget the skylight. Wait, maybe not a skylight.

Once it’s “drafted”, you can refine it, paint it, add shingles, a nice door, lights, etc. Eventually, you’ll have a nice little writing cave.

Kinda like the writing process. First plan, then draft. Then maybe you can work with the draft, but maybe it makes more sense to start over. Or take it down to the floor and try again, because you figured out what doesn’t work.

It’s a process, and each time I use it, I learn a little more about what works for me. Each time I try something a little bit different to see if it makes the process more effective.

Anyway. Enjoy the last hurrah of summer vacation this weekend. I’ll be writing. Will you?


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Mired

An empty writing office. Computer is on, but no one’s home. My writer’s gone AWOL.

Again.

Sigh.

The back door is open to the lake–big surprise. I expect to see Julie sulking in one of the Andirondack chairs. Instead, I see a sofa-sized book smack dab in the middle of a metallic green bulk.

dragon1_cr

 

Bloody hell.

By the time I reach the shoreline, the scaly bulk shifts. A wedge-shaped head at the end of serpentine neck lifts and pegs me with red eyes that remind me of that robot movie starring the Austrian bodybuilder. Great action, so-so acting.

The dragon huffs at me.

“What?” Figures this thing would be a smart ass just like her conscience.

My writer peeks around the beast’s shoulder. “Go away.” She disappears behind it. A loud ploop, and ripples roll across the smooth surface of the lake.

“What the hell are you doing, love?” That damn dragon watches me like I might be a nice snack. I’d like to see it try. Wouldn’t be the first one. I think my writer’s Night Fury conscience has learned its lesson. There’s a reason I’m a Muse with a capital M. “You’re supposed to be in the office. Writing.”

Silence.

I make my way around the dragon, not bothering to stay out of reach. If it wants a fight, I’ll give it a fight. Julie is sitting on the ground, leaning between the beast’s shoulder and the book in its middle. Looks uncomfortable to me. “Why aren’t you writing?”

“Can’t.”

Uh-huh. Excuses. “Get up.”

She rolls her eyes in my direction. “Go away.”

“That’s not going to happen, love. You know, I could find a subcontractor for this gig who’s a helluva lot meaner than I am.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I talked to D’s muse. Even got the number for the agency. Maybe I should call in a Conan-the-Barbarian muse for a few weeks.” I wouldn’t. No way. But she doesn’t know that. I’ve had thirty years to figure her out. That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it more than a few times.

Another stone drops into the lake. “Why don’t you go on a pub crawl with Mr. E or something?”

“Because Mr. E is busy. You know Mae’s got a new series she’s working on against a deadline. At least his writer is doing her job. What the hell is wrong with you? Your son is off at college, your daughter is gone on that tennis trip until tonight, and it’s supposed to be rainy all day, so no garden stuff. You need to get your ass in that chair and write.”

“I know.”

“So why are you out here instead of in there?”

“I’m going to do a NaNo month in September, so get off my case.” The next rock splashes. “Besides, there is such a thing as real life, you know. This week’s been a pisser, to use one of your terms.”

“That’s a British term, not Australian.” I know she’s been skirting darkness this past week, so this—whatever she’s got going on–isn’t unexpected. I’m surprised she’s not out here with her Night Fury conscience instead of this big green … book dragon? “You know, you probably feel like shit because you haven’t been writing.” I reach a hand to her. “C’mon, let’s go.”

She doesn’t even look at me. “Go away. Come back later.” The dragon snorts at me.

I meet its red gaze with my own, adding a little Muse power to it. “Go take a break, buddy.”

It bares dagger-like teeth.

I add a bit more Muse juice. “She’s not writing a fantasy. Go on before you piss me off.”

It stares at me, probably wondering just how much damage I could do. Wouldn’t be pretty, that’s for sure. It finally gets to its feet and pushes off, big gold-edged wings causing a down-draft that kicks up a sand cloud as it gains altitude and heads out over the lake.

Julie glares at me. “You work for me. I said–”

I grab her arm, hoist her to her feet, and shove her toward the writing office. “You’re right, and I’m doing my fecking job, love. I’m even writing your blog post for you so you can get your shit together.”

She turns, fire in her eyes. She opens her mouth for an outburst.

I raise a finger in warning. “Don’t.” Gawd, I don’t get paid enough for this.

I’ll let her write the post for next week. Maybe. If she gets her writing done.


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Okay, I surrender

It’s been raining this week. Wednesday we enjoyed time in a tornado warning area, and probably got close to 3+ inches of rain. And Friday morning until noon it rained. So, there hasn’t been much opportunity to get into the garden.

This time of year is when the weeds race to flower and set seed, along with all the other plants. And I haven’t kept up with the weeding since I came back from my wonderful retreat, both because of the rain, and because, well, by this time of the season I’m tired of trying to pull weeds that come back faster than the heads of the Hydra. It’s almost like Whack-a-Mole with weeds, and there’s waaay more than one mole popping up.

I give up.

Back by popular demand (okay, one person asked to see the garden again. And the chickens. And the cat. 🙂 ), my lousy pictures of my weedy garden. Here ya go.

garden1

The tiny yellow flowers are dill. Smell like pickles!

In a lot of ways, I’m not too worried about the weeds. The potatoes are dying back and ready to dig up. The onions are about ready to pull.

garden2

The tiny white flowers are cilanto, aka coriander. Love how these smell too.

And tomatoes. So. Many. Tomatoes. I planted a bunch because we need to can tomatoes this year. I have 13 or 14 plants of paste tomatoes. None are ripe yet, and I can’t wait until that first BLT with a garden-ripe tomato, but I know once all the tomatoes start getting ripe all at the same time–yikes! The plants are also starting to die, falling victim to some fungus or something. Crossing my fingers the tomatoes ripen before the plants die.tomatoes

After so many days not checking the zucchini and cucumbers, I expected to find a monster or two. I wasn’t disappointed. And the chickens were thrilled 🙂

zucchini

hens

Chickens love monster zucchini almost as much as overripe cucumbers!

One of the chickens stood still long enough for me to get a decent picture. They’re looking good, and should start laying eggs soon.

hen

Is this my good side?

The borage is blooming like crazy now, and the bees have finally appeared to take advantage. Bees love borage, but I haven’t seen many around until the past few weeks. I saw bumblebees, honeybees, and mason bees, which are mostly black and don’t live in hives like honeybees do.

bee borage

Bumblebee on borage

And the grand finale —

*crickets*

Um, well, I’m not sure where Zoey ran off to. I saw her yesterday hanging around the garden, but by the time I retrieved my iPad to take a picture, she was gone. So, here’s one from the recent archives (sorry if you’ve seen this one before):

Zoey4

This weekend, I have GOT to catch up on some household chores. I thought I saw a mouse just sitting in the corner–turns out it was a dust bunny. If I get my chores done today, I’ll have all day tomorrow to write!

Summer’s almost over, so enjoy it while you can. Today’s supposed to be warm and sunny, a far cry from the cloudy, rainy, cool, dreary yuck we’ve had for the past week or so. Don’t neglect to jot down a few words, maybe even a whole sentence about how much fun you’ve had this summer, or your big Labor Day plans. Me? Writing is always on my agenda. Depending on how many tomatoes are ripe by then, I expect canning will be on the list as well.

Have a great weekend, and Write On!


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Retreat Recap

It’s been almost a week since I said goodbye to my Writing Sisters. Man, that was a great weekend! Great atmosphere, great scenery, great food, and best of all, great company!

Last week’s post hit the Internet before we settled in for our all-day session. We spent all day Saturday going over our exchanged pages. I thought I’d give you an idea of the types of things we help each other with, like plot, characters, and pacing.

We do a round table (sometimes literally; the coffee table at the B&B was a wagonwheel with a glass top–yes, a real wheel, with the hub sticking up though the glass), and randomly choose one victim–er, I mean, one project to start with. My project was the first 4 chapters (approx. 20 pages or so) of my small-town mystery WIP.

The feedback I got was priceless: The main character is a little flat. Love the setting. Love the old farmer neighbor, but the MC has to be more familiar with him. Felt like I was right there in the house. Why doesn’t she want the house if her father worked on it–it’s all she has left of him, so why is she resisting? I thought the great-aunt was alive. I miss the energy of your other character [in the project my agent is shopping].

Then the suggestions, again, invaluable: What if the great-aunt is still alive? The MC needs to have a closer connection to the great-aunt. You could have the great-aunt work on the mystery with the MC. What about the story you told last night [at the restaurant while we were waiting for our meal]? What if you used that?

Click. That’s it.

The story I told at dinner the night before was one I heard from my BFF from high school (I won’t go into it here, but suffice it to say it involved a nursing home, a volunteer, and a suspicious death). Our mentor always reminds us of a few important things to keep in mind: a) need to draw the reader into the story right away, b) the reader has to care about the MC right away, and c) (for mysteries) there has to be a dead body in the first 20 pages (or at least the first 10-15%) of the book.

I have a dead body in the first sentence–the story is about solving a 70-yr old murder–but if I could get a more recent dead body (recent as in less than 70 yrs ago), it would ratchet things up. To draw the reader in, I can play up the mystery, make it more important to the MC, and give the antagonist a stronger motive to keep secrets buried. To do that, I need to make the relationship between the MC and her great-aunt tighter. And by using elements from the story I told at dinner, I can crank up the threat to the MC.

Mwahahahaha. Have you ever felt like a mad scientist?

I’ve got a plan to revise the story, and I know the story will be much stronger after incorporating suggestions from my writing sisters. We look at each person’s story in the same way: Do/Can we care about the MC? What does s/he want? Does the plot make sense? Does the MC behave the way we think s/he should? Are there enough questions to lure the reader on? What’s the story goal (one of our mentor’s favorites 🙂 )? Why does the MC do/not do this?

It’s like a writing class: we point out story elements that work or don’t work, and suggest changes to make the story better. Another big aspect of our group: we trust each other. If you’ve ever been in a writing group or critique group, trust is huge. If you can’t trust someone’s suggestions, then it’s a waste of time (which is why I don’t let my husband read any of my stuff–he’s not a writer and doesn’t read unless it’s a maintenance guide (BTW, I envy everyone who has a significant other who can read a draft or WIP and give you valid observations that help you improve your writing. Just sayin’.)).

We review everyone’s projects, even our mentor’s project. We care about each story, each MC, each strong supporting character. The process takes all morning, then a break for lunch, then we finish up in the afternoon before breaking for dinner. We are fueled by mutual encouragement, creative ideas, and chocolate.

We didn’t get much opportunity to work on our own stuff this time, so we decided to add an extra day to our reunion next year. That should give us some time to revise with the suggestions in mind, and still get a little feedback to make sure we’re on the right path.

Of course, after five days away, I returned to a garden filled with prolific weeds, lots of green beans, and monster zucchini despite assigning garden duty to my daughter. The chickens appreciated the huge zucchini and overinflated cucumbers, I picked a few very nice beets, and found these cherry tomatoes, the first of the season:

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And yes, they were yummy! We’ve trapped about 8 chipmunks so far, at least one of which stole my first ripe regular tomato (I went to pick the tomato, and half was eaten. Damn chipmunks!). Happened with the second tomato, too. So, we relocate the critters a few miles away on the other side of a creek. Now I’m waiting impatiently for the next ripe tomato. I’ve got bacon stocked for BLTs 😀

Enjoy one of the last weekends before school starts (which means summer is almost over–eek!). Happy writing!