Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


25 Comments

Time for cuteness

I was going to write a post about writing this week, but I’m not feeling it, so I’ll give y’all a break from gardens and writing to bring you some smiles.

I know some of you like cats. You know who you are. And anyone who likes cats loves kittens, right?

My son, who graduated from college this spring, now has a full-time job and just moved into a one-bedroom apartment, because after having roommates for the past four years, he decided no more roommates.

Of my two kids, he’s the cat person. My daughter is the dog person. From the time he left for college, he has always said he wanted a cat of his own. The kids grew up with cats (and dogs), so he knows everything that goes into taking care of a cat.

Mr. “I have a really good first job out of college despite the pandemic” adopted two kittens from the animal shelter this month. He graciously brought them home for us to adore 😀

(And yes, B, I was thinking about you when I decided what to put in this post 😀 )

Ready?

My son got one female kitten, Nixie, who is a-dor-a-ble and still tiny even though she is 8 or 9 weeks old. All black, and loves to climb on your shoulders.

Nixie

His other kitten is male, about two weeks older than Nixie, and looks like he has some Maine Coon in him judging by the size of his paws and the fuzzy tail. His name is Tibbers.

Tibbers. Check out that tail!

Tibbers is a little bigger, but still seems small for his age. He’s cuddly. The two of them seem to get along well.

Zoey, however, was NOT impressed. She hissed at them and made herself scarce while they were here. Hence the reason we never got another cat after Socks disappeared.

Socks. We miss you!

Anyway, thought I’d give you a dose of cuteness for the day.

Happy Writing!


24 Comments

Harvest winding down #gardening #minnesota

L to R: zucchini, Mariachi peppers, brussels sprouts, kale. In back, cucumbers and tomatoes

I can’t believe it’s September already. Didn’t we just have the Fourth of July? The autumnal equinox is due in a couple weeks. Ugh. That means there will be even fewer hours of daylight. And it’s the official start of fall. Not that anyone told the mosquitoes they should shut down operations. I think we have a new batch; bloodthirsty little buggers!

We’ve been enjoying some great stuff from the garden. The green beans are done, the zucchini is testing my tolerance, and the tomatoes … Oh, the poor tomatoes! They have almost completely succumbed to the blight. The cucumber is hanging on, but production is waning. And as you can see in the pictures, I haven’t weeded for a long time.

Another angle. The kale looks great!

I picked the onions, since they were ready and for some reason a number of them had started to rot (gee, could it be due to all the rain we’ve been having?). I started digging out the potatoes last night, and have half a wheelbarrow full with about a quarter of them left to dig. Many are misshapen, with bumps and nodules and weirdly alien protuberances. That tells me there is some mineral lacking in the soil, and I suspect calcium is the culprit.

Potatoes front L, weeds front R, bare aisle where onions were

And here is a closer-up view of my poor tomato plants, along with my cilantro happily blooming with tiny white flowers.

Cilantro and tomatoes, with kale in the background. Oh, and weeds!

The other night as I was heading to the garden my husband showed me a surprise: the first eggs from this batch of chickens!

One of the chickens was camera-shy; we have seven chickens total. We have no idea which chickens started laying. Once all seven start laying, we won’t have to worry about egg shortages. In the winter, though, our chickens have always slowed down the egg production, so we’ll see how many keep laying through the cold months.

Another sign of fall:

Monarch butterflies!

Can you see them? It was hard to get a good picture from the house, but I didn’t want to go outside and scare them away. Monarch butterflies gathered on one of our trees. I don’t know when they left, but it was so cool to see! In case you aren’t aware, monarch butterflies migrate south. It’s one reason people are encouraged to have areas set aside for wildflowers, so the butterflies have something to keep them going on their trip.

I have an empty nest this weekend–yippee! I am going to focus on writing, damn it. Revisions, then moving on. Oh, and more homework, but maybe not until later next week. Our Sisters in Crime chapter has also put out a call for short story submissions for our next anthology, so part of my brain is working on that as well. Something twisty for that one.

Enjoy your weekend, and may the trees not start changing colors quite yet!

And your point is what, exactly?


34 Comments

Endearing characters

zoey awake Rich characters are an author’s goal. If we can create characters that stick with readers after they have closed our book, we’ve done our job.

But we don’t always consider adding an extra little treat to our stories, especially if we write in the suspense or thriller genres.

Pets are something we can add to our stories to enrich them, and round out the human characters. I mean, many readers can relate to a character who has a dog that needs to be walked or a cat that insists on being let outdoors at the most inconvenient times.

In cozy mysteries especially, pets seem to be everything from sidekicks to co-protagonists. In the Fudge Shop Mysteries by Christine DeSmet, Lucky Harbor, a fudge-loving mutt, is both a sleuth and a troublemaker. In the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich, Rex the hamster is Stephanie’s only roommate. More entertaining is Bob the golden retriever, a galoot who eats anything (including socks and underwear) and later “horks” it up.

Pets aren’t just for cozy mysteries, either. In J. D. Robb’s In Death futuristic police procedural series, Eve Dallas owes her life to the plump cat she names Galahad. Even in a few of the later Special Crimes Unit/Bishop Files books by Kay Hooper, she added dogs and a cat named Pendragon that all seem more than average.

Some of my favorite fictional pets appear in urban fantasy. One of my favorite urban fantasy series is the Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden lives alone in a basement apartment with Mister, a huge domestic cat, as his only freeloader–er, pet. Later, he acquires a foo dog, which is a mythic temple guardian in Tibet (think of those dog/lion statues you always see outside temples) that looks like a Tibetan mastiff. Mouse is one of my favorite fictional pets. He’s huge, but sweet. In Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, Oberon is an Irish wolfhound who adds some comic relief.

If I could choose any fictional pet for my own, though, it’d be a close tie between Mouse and the firelizards from Anne McCaffery’s Pern series. I mean, who wouldn’t want tiny dragons to hang out with?

Adding a pet, or a stray that winds up as a pet, is a great way to give your readers another reason to feel connected to your characters. In my debut novel, I have a pet ferret as a little extra source of endearment. As I’ve been working on Book 2, I didn’t start out with a pet, but the more I write, the more I think a pet is needed. One of the characters went through cancer treatment, including surgery. Her husband would be worried, and lonely while his wife is in the hospital. Then there’s the time he can’t be at home with her while she’s recuperating. What better than a dog–or a cat–to keep them company?

Not every story needs a pet, but sometimes it makes sense. Remember, we want our readers to think of our characters as real people. Real people have pets. Besides, you never know when that pet will be the key to resolving a conflict or reaching a goal.

Amazingly, I have a free weekend–woo-hoo! I see two days of heavy writing in my future 😀

Write Well! Write On!

zoey asleep

 


26 Comments

F-O-C-U-S

It’s blank.

The wall, I mean. Well, sometimes my head, too . . .

Not my writing office. I’m at my dad’s place while he’s off galavanting with his brother on an Alaskan cruise. I’ve got a deadline, and this is my opportunity to write without distraction.

It’s also another opportunity to be in the house I grew up in. Except now so much has changed. My sister-in-law decided to “stage” the house (which my dad is in the process of trying to sell), which, according to her, means getting rid of anything personal like family photos. And last weekend we moved a bunch of big stuff (entertainment center, bed, TV, etc) to the townhouse my dad is renting.

I was here last weekend, and it felt, well, . . . like I came too late. Like I should have thought to take pictures of the way everything was before this “staging” business. If you’ve gone through the process of watching the house you grew up in be prepared to sell, you know what I mean.

“You came here to focus, love.”

What the hell? My Muse pulls up a chair–where did he find that chair?

“Don’t look at me like that.” He leans back in a beanbag-type chair I’ve never seen before and know my dad never had. Fingers laced together, he puts his hands behind his head and crosses his long legs at the ankles. “You’re here to write. I’m your Muse. Get over it.”

“Where did that chair come from? Not that I’m complaining, but . . .” Maybe I am complaining, because it’s a distraction. Like his “Star Wars” lounge pants and Millennium Falcon t-shirt aren’t distracting at all. 😉

“I brought it with me, and you are complaining.” He cranes his neck around to check out the whole room. “Well, it’s bare. That’s a good thing. Now you can focus, which is why you’re here in the first place.”

He’s right. It’s just . . . Everything is gone. The pictures of the grandkids. The pictures of my mom. The pictures of me and my siblings with our families. I can’t stop the tears. Not yet. I’m grieving.

“Scoot over, love.” My Muse nudges me from the middle of the love seat to one side. He settles beside me, but doesn’t put his arm around my shoulders, though I kinda wish he would. “I know you want to give your attention to this loss business, but you’ve got a deadline coming up. You’ve been doing good this month. I’m proud of you.”

“I should have been doing good in April, too.” Except real life happens. “I am SO far behind.”

“Which is why you’re here.” He leans against me. “Take the time during your breaks to, what did A say? Say good-bye to every room. But only during breaks. You are here to write.”

He’s right. Deep breath. “I’m going to finish this round of edits this weekend.”

“And I’m here to make sure you do. Besides, it’s supposed to rain today. No excuses.”

So, I’ve got all day to write–except for a couple hours this morning when my BFF from high school is stopping by. I try to catch up with her whenever I’m in town. In fact, last year when I was here she had an awesome “Are you kidding? This really happened?” story. I told her I was going to use it in a book; it’ll be part of the plot of my rural mystery (on the list to do after Book 2).

So, last week I posted plants, and someone (you know who you are), complained about a glaring lack of cat pics. Well, be careful what you wish for 😀

Have a great writing weekend!

 


32 Comments

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!