Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Happy Equinox Day!

Okay, so the equinox won’t be until 8:54 pm (CDT). Then we get to welcome autumn. I love autumn. The colors, the smells, the lack of bugs, the impending arrival of winter–wait. Nope, not one of the things I love about autumn. Then again, if we could have winter through, say, January, so we have a white Christmas and all that, then we can do spring. Who’s with me?

This past week we’ve had rain. Not just any rain. We’re talking record rain for September in MN. We’re talking wheelbarrow rain here.

water wheelbarrow No, that is not a kid-sized wheelbarrow. Nor is it parked under a waterspout. We figure we got somewhere around 5-6 inches over the past week. Or more. We don’t have a rain gauge, just the calibrated dog dishes on the deck.

Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going out to the garden, with all the rain and the mud and the mutant zucchini. I tugged on my trusty garden treads and headed out anyway, because I had a blog post to write. 😀

And this is what I found:

Yep, it was a jungle. Things are winding down in the garden about now. The green beans are done, the zucchini are still going, but I might pull them out soon. The cukes are still going, and the tomatoes are in the thick of ripening season.

Speaking of, tomatoes and tons of rain don’t get along all that well. It’s the main reason I went out to the garden sooner rather than later. Take a look:

If I can get the tomatoes right away, we can eat them before they go bad. But if I can’t pick them soon enough, the mold sets in, and the flies start gathering like rats to a piper. Hubs made a batch of spaghetti sauce this week, and I think we need more bacon (BLTs with homegrown tomatoes are the bomb!)

The kale is looking super, but I’m going to try to wait to pick it until after the first frost (if I can wait that long). Some people don’t like it, but I love brussels sprouts, and kale is in the same family. It’ll sweeten a bit after a frost, and it’ll last until it snows.

kale row

Black (aka Dinosaur) Kale (with curly kale in the back)

I promised someone I’d post pics of the peppers I did last weekend. Hubs and I go through phases where we’ll eat pickled peppers as snacks. Think of the pickled peppers you find in the salad at Olive Garden. You can buy them in the grocery store. They are pepperoncini peppers, and a bit on the spicy side, but not too bad.

This year my hubs asked if I would plant some of those peppers so we could try pickling our own (regular pickles from the store are cheaper than the peppers, but the peppers are so tasty!). Well, I found pepperoncini seeds, and voila!

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Pepperoncini peppers

They are prolific! I have done two batches of peppers already, a smaller test batch (which is half gone 😀 ) and a larger batch, and there are enough peppers still out in the garden to do more. A good thing, because I don’t know how long the ones I’ve already done will last.

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Homemade pickled peppers

I planted some small snacking peppers as well, but I couldn’t get a good picture of those. I also see another batch of pico de gallo salsa in my future, even if my cilantro is mostly flowering now. I’m sure I’ll find some volunteer cilantro plants since they reseed like crazy.

On the writing front, I’m plugging along. Only about 700-1200 words a night, but more than zero. Slowly but surely, like the tortoise. Or Dory.

dory

 

So, enjoy the first day of Autumn, and Just Keep Writing!

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A Brief but unspectacular post

Hey there! Contrary to my intention this week, I have no ideas for this post. Usually something will pop into my head as I’m writing (or I just con my Muse into writing the post).

Well, this week is pretty much a bust. If I’d been thinking last night, I would have taken some garden pics to post. I am getting ripe tomatoes, even if a critter is eating some of them. Nothing like getting out to the garden, grabbing a nice, ripe tomato, and finding out the back side is gone and the remains are a party floor for bugs. Yeesh.

Everything else is winding down. I planted pepperoncini peppers this year with the intent to pickle them. I did a small batch a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Success! So this weekend will be more pickling, along with pico de gallo salsa (at my daughter’s request) and cleaning.

Ugh. BTW, make sure you let me know well in advance if you plan to stop by. Just sayin’.

I follow a lot of blogs, and I’m waaaay behind, so don’t be disappointed if I missed yours over the past week or so. I’m trying to catch up 🙂 .

Also, I’ve talked about the Writers’ Institute that happens every spring at UW–Madison. Last spring I was there with my Writing Sisters, and a blizzard. Next spring it’s scheduled for the first weekend in April, and this week I found out both my workshop proposals were accepted. So I will be there, and with my new book! Murder in Plane Sight is scheduled to be released in March 2019. If you’ve wanted to go to a writers’ conference, this one is stellar! The full schedule isn’t finished yet, but hey, I’ll be there. Come on out to Madison and say “Hi”!

That’s about all for now. Have a wonderful, writing-filled weekend!


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It’s a jungle out there

I know you all like to see pictures of my garden, and it’s about that time. Thing is, ever since I got back from my reunion retreat, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about weeding. As in, not-weeding-unless-I-can’t-find-the-vegetables enthusiastic.

Part of it is the weather–it’s been hot and humid here. Part of it is the time of year, I think. All the weeds are seeding now. When I got back from Wisconsin, I checked out the garden.

Ugh.

On the bright side, most of the weeds are purslane, which is more ground-hugging, so it isn’t shading any of the veggies. In fact, it might even be acting like a sort of mulch.

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A carpet of purslane

So, really, it isn’t all that bad if you look at it that way. It just looks messy.

Another deterrent to getting out into the garden? The ragweed is blooming now. And if you remember, we have giant ragweed. Yes, that’s really what it’s called, and with good reason–the plant can be up to 15′ high (I think that’s around 5 meters for those on the metric system).

And though common ragweed is generally no more than a foot high, it has nothing on the large “flowers” the giant stuff has.

You see all that yellow stuff? That’s ALL pollen. And that’s the stuff that people are allergic to. Including me. We try to cut down as much ragweed as we can before it flowers, but of course we never get it all. And in some areas, we just can’t get to it.

Lucky for me, ever since I had surgery to correct my deviated septum, allergy season hasn’t been as bad as it used to be. I can still breathe. And yes, I know I’m allergic to it, because the one time I got tested, they wanted to stop the test because my back broke out from the moment they applied the ragweed allergen. (If you’ve never been tested for allergies, back almost 20 yrs ago when I was tested, they applied allergens to your back using tiny needles to barely prick the skin. I have no idea what they do now.)

BTW, many people blame these allergies on goldenrod, which blooms at the exact same time, and happens to have tiny yellow flowers the same color as ragweed pollen. Goldenrod also tends to grow next to ragweed, so it gets a bad rap.

Anyway, they aren’t pretty, but here are pics I took last night. The cilantro/coriander is blooming now, the dill is blooming, and the cucumbers are spreading everywhere!

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Row of green beans and cilantro, with a carpet of purslane back by the tomatoes.

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Zucchini and cucumbers. Notice the “wall” of giant ragweed way in the background over by the chicken pen.

I’ve been picking zucchini, green beans, and of course, cucumbers. I just picked the first tomato. Okay, I should have waited another day or two, but hey, it’s the first ripe tomato!

The kale has been heartily attacked by cabbage worms, and though I’ve been meaning to spray, I haven’t done so. I try to avoid using chemicals, and though I have an organic pesticide to use, I haven’t mixed it up yet.

The peppers are doing well. This year I planted pepperoncini peppers, which are the ones they use for pickled peppers, like what you get in the salad at Olive Garden. We’ve been eating pickled peppers lately, so my husband suggested I plant some so we can pickle our own.

And there you have it. My writing–now that I’m finally getting going with Book 2–is another reason I’m reluctant to spend a lot of time in the garden. And it’s hot. And frankly, I’m tired. I might not plant a garden next year, but then again, tomatoes. And peppers. And we don’t have a good farmer’s market around. Or maybe we’ll get a membership in the CSA for the school garden. We’ll see.

Have a wonderful and writing-filled weekend!


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Summer’s half over. Where did it go?

We’re on the second half of July already.

Wasn’t it just Memorial Day?

Why does it seem the summer is never long enough? Then again, I live in MN, so our summer weather runs from about the middle of May through the middle of September, although where I live (and with global warming) we have comfortably-warm weather from mid-April (usually, except this year when we had a blizzard in Week 2) through mid-October.

We’ve had a combination of hella hot and it-can-stop-raining-now since the end of May. For the record, this Memorial Day (last Monday in May) hit a record 91 F (about 33 C). It’s cooled off some this month (all the way down to the mid-80s, which is about average), but the combination kicks vegetation into fast-grow mode. I swear we can hear the grass growing!

Due to the deadline with my manuscript, I didn’t get my garden in until the first week of June (we like to get it in on Memorial Day weekend at the latest because our growing season is relatively short).

This week, once it stopped raining and cooled to a temperature that didn’t cause instant sweat, I ventured out to the garden. Granted, with all the rain, my plants have been struggling a bit, not to mention all that water tends to leach nutrients away.

Anyhow, here are my before pics:

The weeds weren’t as bad as I’d feared, considering I hadn’t been out to the garden in over a week (I think). One thing to note is that we use a tractor–not a lawn tractor, but a utility tractor like this one (but with a cab on it)–to till. This year, since one of the rear tires on the usual tractor developed a huge tear in the sidewall, we had to use our big tractor.

If you aren’t familiar with tractors and fieldwork, the thing to remember is the weight of the tractor will compact the soil, and thus make it tougher for plants to extend their roots. That’s why you see farmers using tractors with 4 or 6 HUGE wheels or tracs: not only does it help with traction when pulling larger implements, it spreads the weight of the tractor out so it doesn’t compact the soil as much. It’s also why farmers usually till the middle of the field first, then go around the outside perimeter last; that’s where the soil is compacted the most because the tractor turns there on every pass.

Anyway, by using the bigger tractor, the soil is compacted more (and after years of tilling with a tractor, we have some problems anyway with compaction). So, I strategically planted between the tire tracks from the tractor, which I think helps to keep the weeds down between the rows. Still, weeds.

Three hours and a couple gallons of sweat later, it looked pretty good:

Last night I actually picked our first zucchini of the season, and the handful of green beans left that some small varment (a mouse or vole, I think) didn’t munch. So, I sliced and sauted the zuke last night. There’s nothing like that first garden veggie (even if it is a zucchini 😀 )!

I tied up the tomatoes–which now have a few greenies on them–and wove the cucumber vines into the cattle gates I’m using for their climbing support. I’ve got tiny cucumbers on the vines, and more zucchini on the way. The peppers are doing their thing, and the beans, well, something smaller than a chipmunk is munching on them judging by the teethmarks in one of the surviving beans. Sigh.

On the writing front, I got my manuscript back from the line editor, and have relatively few corrections to make (yippee!). I also got another mockup of the cover. (No, I’m not going to show it until it’s done–mwahahahaha!) I’ll think about that over the weekend, along with the suggestions from my writing sisters, and give the cover person my feedback on Monday. My editor also gave me homework to do and return by the end of the month, including coming up with a teaser/hook (30 words max), a 1- to 2-sentence pitch for the book (max 50 words), and ‘highlights or aspects of the story that will appeal to readers (less than 150 words). Oh, and don’t forget the author quote used for press release.

And I thought the query and synopsis were tough!

Another step closer. I’ve got a lot going on over the next week, though, including an unexpected day at my dad’s today, an afternoon coffee meetup with one of my blogging friends tomorrow (can’t wait!), and Dad’s auction next weekend. Add working full time, weeding, and walking (because I know I’ll need the mind-space to do my homework for my editor), and my WIP (book 2) is getting very little attention. So much for a NaNo in July. Maybe August will be better; my Writing Sisters reunion is in (less than) two weeks! Nothing like a group of writers to get those creative energies charged up 😀

Here’s a quick (and yes, terrible) pic of my very own mini-panther:

zoeyprowl

Have a great weekend!


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Getting closer

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I turned my manuscript in to my editor a couple weeks ago. I got her feedback this week.

And breathed a huge sigh of relief!

She liked what I did, and with a few additional tweaks, she said we could move on to the next step, which involves some marketing questions for the book, like series name (haven’t come up with one yet), cover description, author quote for press release (what?? 😮 ), blurbs or past reviews (er, this is a debut, so need a blurb I guess), and a few other things.

Another step toward publication, an exercise in patience. It’s kinda scary in a way, knowing that sometime next year my book will be out, and people will be reading it (I hope!), and I’ll be doing stuff like signings and author panels and trying to fit Book 2 into the mix. That’s a whole lot of activity for someone who is an introvert and a homebody and working a full-time job.

And then the inevitable thought: what the hell was I thinking when I decided I wanted to get published? I never thought past holding my book in my hand and dreaming about seeing it on a bookshelf at the library, in Barnes and Noble, and on the book racks at Target.

There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into the process beyond writing a good book and finding a publisher who wants to put your book out there (for those who choose to go the traditional route). There’s platform (huh?) and marketing (ugh). There’s creating a website, author pages, social media buzz, blog tours, and on and on.

In fact, a couple of my writing/blogging friends just released their new books this month, and I’ve been following their blog tours (you might remember a post for Jacqui Murray’s new book, Born in a Treacherous Time). In fact, one of them wrote 18 different blog posts for the tour–yes, eight-teen unique posts (plus one more for me, so nineteen)! O. M. G. And there’s the newsletter thing. And email lists. And short stories/novellas to attract followers and newsletter recipients. And through all this, Book 2 needs to get drafted, revised, revised, revised, critiqued, revised some more, and ideally out to readers about a year after Book 1 is out.

Yikes! And then I read about one of my writing/blogging friends who releases a couple books a year!  😮

So now that I’ve gotten this far, I somehow need to keep going, and do it all faster. While still working a full-time job, tending a summer garden, and being a mom to a college freshman who is seriously anxious about going off to school (my other college student is starting his junior year–not worried about him 🙂 )

Hoo-boy. I think I need to find a writing cabin somewhere and stock it with 6 months of food, water, coffee, and chocolate, with some wine (and Moon Man beer for incentive). Or, at the very least, designate an office here at home where I can hunker down and focus on writing.

Speaking of garden, I know I mentioned last week about posting some garden pics, as pathetic as they are. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, and not just gentle soaking rain, either. We had a couple of those summer downpour storms. You know, the ones where it’s like someone took a huge bucket and upended it, and the force of the rain scours any bare ground, turning it into a mobile sheet of mud.

My poor garden. And of course it didn’t dry out enough between storms for me to get in there and do anything like weed. The rain washed out nearly all of my onions, and my beets are struggling to get a foothold. The tomatoes, however, are starting to take off, so I’ll have to tie them up soon. Anyway, here ya go. It doesn’t look like much at this point except a somewhat barren, weedy, and silt-covered piece of ground.

IMG_0741

See, it is smaller

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Tomatoes

IMG_0737

My poor, sogged kale

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Another angle

The rain left all that lovely silt over everything, including the areas where I just planted dill and cilantro, so I expect I’ll have to replant those. On the bright side, both of my cucumber plants are up and growing (I thought only one would survive) and I have 3 zucchini/summer squash plants (I know, I know, I’ll have enough zucchini to feed half the town).

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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Spring–it does a creative mind good

Well, Spring, it’s about damn time. FINALLY. The trees are green, the grass is green, the weeds are green. And we’ve had enough rain that the grass needs to be mowed already. Because I know you don’t have enough fun spring flower pictures to look at, here’s more from my yard.

squill

Siberian squill

violets

Violets

I love the little blue flowers. They’re called Siberian squill, and apparently they’re quite invasive. Hmm. Not so far at our place. Besides, I’d rather see these spread than creeping Charlie. Or burdock. Or ragweed. Or quackgrass. Or stinging nettle. Or …

And surprise! The rhubarb divisions we got from my sister-in-law are growing.

rhubarb

rhubarb

Anyway. I cleaned out the asparagus patch last weekend, and to my delight, I’ve got spears coming up. Not to brag or anything (okay, maybe brag a little), check it out:

asparagus

Asparagus!

This is only a small area of the patch; I picked enough for a meal. If you like asparagus, but have only ever had the supermarket stuff, you are so missing out! Try to find some at a farmer’s market.

I’ve got raspberries in the same “raised bed”, and of course those are invading the asparagus. This is the time of year they come back with a vengeance despite having been mowed down by rabbits over the winter. They’re spreading outside the raised bed area, into the asparagus patch, into the old chicken pen (which was beside the raised bed area).

raspberries_cr

Raspberries

Ugh. I love having raspberries, but we’d move them if we had a good spot to put them. So, my weeding of the asparagus patch consisted mostly of pulling/digging out raspberry sprouts. Oh, and quackgrass and burdock, because why not?

On the gardening front, my hubs would have tilled the garden once by now (I think) except one of the tires on the tractor went flat. Like, “huge crack in the sidewall now a hole” went flat. And the local Tires Plus doesn’t carry big tractor tires. Hmm. Go figure. So, he’s been searching for tires that will fit. Until he finds some that will work (or I convince him he could actually use the other tractor to run the tiller if we have to get the garden tilled), I don’t have to worry about spending valuable writing time digging in the dirt.

Speaking of, OMG, we’ll be halfway through May next week. And I’m not halfway through my edits yet. And this weekend will be writing-free since it’s a) my dad’s big 7-0, and b) a pre-move-in/move-out party for the town house he’s renting. It’ll be the first stage of moving out and selling the house I grew up in.

*silence*

*deep breath*

Even though he won’t completely move out until July, I think I’ve already started grieving. Me and my four siblings grew up there. It’s a big house for one person; I know. I’ve been there alone. My mom … the house holds so many memories of my mom. Dad’s moving to a different city, so once he sells the house, I’ll have to make a special trip to visit Mom’s grave.

It happens. It happened when my grandmother sold the house my dad and his siblings grew up in. She’d been alone in that house for, wow, it’s been almost 25 years since my grandfather died. It’s better for one person to not have to take care of a big house like that, especially when they get older. I get it.

Still. So many memories.

So, this weekend I’m going to Dad’s to help birthday and move some big stuff. Next week I’ll be heading back for a mini-writing retreat since Dad will be on his vacation. Need to get moving on my edits; it feels like the universe is working against me. So much unexpected stuff the past couple months stealing my writing time. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of reminding me this writing stuff is work, and don’t forget it 😀 Or it’s the universe’s way of telling me to get my shit together (or is it my Muse telling me?)

Enjoy the spring weekend! To the mothers in the US, Happy Mother’s Day!


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Is it here to stay?

Spring? Are you gonna stay this time? It’s been two weeks since the (in)famous April blizzard of 2018, and get this–no snow in the forecast. Well, okay, no snow where I’m at. They did have snow on the North Shore yesterday. That’s way up north by Duluth and Two Harbors, on the north shore of Lake Superior (get it? North Shore 😀 )

I would add a picture of some spring plants, but there aren’t any yet, at least not here. I don’t have any tulips or daffodils or crocus, but we do have dandelions. They’re not up yet either, but if it stays warm, I’m sure we’ll see them soon. Heck, the trees are juuusst starting to leaf out. Barely.

So, in place of real spring flowers, I’ll regale you with pictures of my very own jungle, er, jungle-ish. Well, okay, not jungle. But they’re green. And plants.

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Peppers and tomatoes (and one lonely onion)

The peppers seem to grow more slowly than the tomatoes, so I haven’t transplanted them yet, but that’s on my agenda for this weekend during my breaks from editing.

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Onions!

The onions look like they are almost ready to go into the garden. It’ll be a few more weeks, yet, though. The soil is still cold; even though onions can probably tolerate the cool soil, they won’t grow until things warm up, so there’s no point in making them suffer. They enjoy the climate control in the house!

kale_cr

Kale! Tomatoes! Oh my!

My kale is looking super! And the tomatoes are itching to get some space, as usual by about this time of year. The biggest ones are about 6-8 inches tall. I can only raise my light so far, then I’ll have to rearrange things so the tomatoes can go on a lower shelf while still getting light.

And I’ve got to start my Brussels sprouts. I’m going to put them in the garden a little later, so hopefully the sprouts will be nice by the time we start getting light frosts in the fall.

I’m getting a slow start on my edits. I’m adjusting the story a touch, not too much, but it should make my main character stronger. I use Scrivener, but when I submitted to my editor, of course I saved my work as a Word document.

Word has a nice Track Changes feature that my editor used to add inline notes to my manuscript. Which is fine. Except when I send my revisions back, she wants her original file with her notes, the file with her notes and my revisions, and a clean file. Notice the lack of Scrivener in this process.

Ugh. Hmm. So I do my edits in Word, duplicate them in Scrivener so I can compile a clean copy, and before I send them back, I need to let them sit for a bit, then go though them again.

And as with any edits, some are those head-slapping ‘duh’ things. You know, like those pesky adverbs that slip through, or the day’s ‘favorite’ word.

Then there are those things that make you think before deciding how to revise them. That’s the time-consuming part. And the part that can demand a delicate balance when negotiating edits.

Uff-da.

This month feels like I’ve had a serious lack of time to get stuff done. It must’ve been the blizzard… Yep, I’ll blame the blizzard.

And one more pic, just because:

zoey1

I think she’s offering to help me with my edits. Or she just wants her lap back…

Have a great weekend, and may Spring set up shop in your area. Write on!