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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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.


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Spring Distractions

I love spring. I mean, if I had a choice of an extended season, I’d pick spring. Most of the bugs aren’t out in force quite yet, the trees are that bright fresh green color, the grass is bold emerald (and needs to be cut already?!), and this:

lilac_cr

lilac flowers

I wish I could include the smell. I go out to the lilac bush and just inhale the scent. We only have one bush, the common lilac, but my dad has more varieties, including one that’s called a French lilac (I think). They all pretty much smell the same, they’re just different colors, for the most part. I hope they’re still blooming next weekend. My dad’s leaving on his annual Alaskan cruise, so I’m taking the opportunity for a couple weekends of writing bliss at his place. This year my aunt (a misnomer because she’s actually my uncle’s ex-wife, but still part of the family) and her sister are going with my dad and my uncle.

Oh, and this is another favorite part of the season:

asparagus_cr There’s nothing like fresh asparagus from the garden. Sooo yummy!

It’s getting to be about that time again, when the weather stays warm enough for the garden to be planted. Not that a person needs to wait until mid-May to plant (holy sh*t, it’s the middle of May already?! Damn, where did the time go? Wasn’t it just St. Patty’s Day?), but I really don’t want to think about covering anything that might die if we get any frost.

My hubby tilled the garden last night, so I’m planning to plant this weekend. Needless to say, I’m ready to get stuff in the ground; one less thing to think about. Then again, that means I’ll need to start weeding. Ugh. It’s almost depressing to see just how well weeds are growing already:

creeping charlie_cr

creeping Charlie

The infamous creeping Charlie. Luckily, not in my garden area … yet. It’s a member of the mint family, so it spreads, but it should also be edible. I’ll have to dig up (or make up) some recipes. Hey, might as well eat it to beat it, right?

My son is done with his freshman year of college and is now home and enjoying life with no homework. His girlfriend came over yesterday and helped him clean out the chick box and put in new bedding. She loves animals, and enjoyed helping (I think), even if the chicks aren’t all that cute anymore:

chicks 1_crchicks2_cr

It’s almost time to move them outside into a nursery coop, a smaller area than our regular coop to let them acclimate to being outside. Our one remaining hen has been by herself since late last year when a skunk managed to get into the coop area (hence the new chicks). We think she’ll be happy to have some company.

I’ve been procrastinating on writing (in case you couldn’t tell ๐Ÿ™‚ ). My agent asked me to make one more small revision, so I’ll do that this weekend and get the manuscript to her next week for the second round of submissions. I’m looking forward to a couple weekends away from distractions at home to work on my WIP.

So there’s the rundown. Light on the writing stuff, heavy on everything else helping me procrastinate. I need to buckle down; I’m getting into that itchy, irritable, agitated state of mind that develops when I don’t write enough. I keep thinking about my writing sisters reunion coming up in August. Ahh, to have a few days to think only about writing. I can’t wait!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Happy Mother’s Day to those who have kids, and to those who don’t, because you probably fill that place in someone’s life, even if they aren’t your own child.

Happy Writing!


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Roughing It – 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of creating, writing, bringing characters in your mind to life on the page. When the energy propels you to get the words out, that story in your head takes shape. You can see the unfolding of the plot, the characters, the setting, every bit that is part of the whole. You can’t refine your work until it’s in front of you. Enter the first draft, better known as the rough draft.

I’m working on the first draft of my next novel, and hitting a stretch of frustration that my mental picture of the story wasn’t complete enough to make the draft a smoother ride. It’s not the characters; the book my agent is shopping introduces the characters. It’s not the setting, though I think I’ll have to do a road trip (twenty+ years since I’ve been there). It’s the plot. The timeline. The guideposts along the way.

I tried to outline, but I don’t think I had a clear vision of the story. With most of my other projects, by the time I got to the point of writing the first draft, I had a pretty good handle on them in my head. This one, not so much.

It occurred to me as I was trying to hit my word quota last night that I’ve learned some things over the course of thirteen novel first drafts. I figured I’d share them (don’t worry, there’s pictures at the end–but not of my cat ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

In no particular order, here are 5 things I’ve learned about first drafts:

  • I’m a novelist. Not that I can’t write short stories–my first publishing credits were short stories–but the stories in my head tend to be novel-length: 80,000 words or more. It took me over five or six years to write the first draft of my first novel (not counting the trunk novel I wrote in elementary–jr. high school). I knew I wanted to write a book–actually, rewrite that first book–after my kids were born, but I didn’t want it to drag on until they graduated.

When I learned about NaNoWriMo (50k words in 30 days), I knew that was my ticket to finishing a book in a reasonable amount of time. The key to “winning” at NaNo? Kicking the inner editor into a cage and locking it (that’s besides the 1,667 words a day). I learned I need to treat a new project like I’m doing National Novel Writing Month, no matter what time of the year. It’s only with that 30-day deadline and a restrained inner editor that I’m able to put myself into the frame of mind to just write. It also seems to be the only way I can get back into the habit of writing every day.

  • I outline, in a loose-ish sense of the word. The outline is not the only route from beginning to end for me, but it gives me an idea of the journey. With my current project, I struggled with the outline. I came up with characters, conflict, and setting, but the path through from beginning to end was fuzzy, and it shows during my writing sessions. I’ve learned my draft goes much better when I have a good idea of the story (outline), BUT
  • I’ve learned the process of writing the first draft actually helps bring the story into focus. As I’m writing, I make both inline notes and off-line notes. This particular draft looks less like an actual book and more like a scriptwriter’s attempt to put a director’s vision into some sort of storyboard-in-words. The story is more clear to me now than it was when I started. Maybe that’s because my NaNo-style first draft method is a lot like free-writing. No takebacks, no revising, no editing, just inline notes and writing forward.
  • I’ve learned first drafts are called “rough” for a reason. It’s less like a rock you can polish into something to put in a ring and more like deadwood turned into a functional piece of furniture with class. Rough drafts are UGLY. At least this one is. I mentioned it to some online friends as “sucking like a lemon soaked in turpentine”. Yep. Pretty much. I will never be like George R. R. Martin, with a first draft that’s ready to publish right off the finish line. Then again, my draft takes 30 days to finish, not five or six or more years.
  • I’ve learned to trust my method (your mileage may vary). This project taught me that skipping steps in the beginning (I didn’t lay out a timeline, or figure out the major plot points (just thought about the general direction), or fill out my storyline worksheets from Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days) results in uncertainty and missing my word quota.

When I work through my process, I can often exceed my word count because I can just write. I don’t have to think about where I’m going next. I know I’m headed in the right direction because I plotted my course (heh, see what I did there) ahead of time. It’s like planning a route when you drive to a writers’ conference or retreat. You know pretty much how to get there, even if there are detours along the way. My process has changed over the years (more free-writing, less fill-in-every-entry-in-the-worksheets), but it works for me. This is the first time I got lazy (or uninspired) about planning/outlining, and boy, do I know it.

I’m on the home stretch. One more week (and I get an extra day this month because March has 31 days–heh), and I’ll have 50k words and a complete or almost-complete first draft for my next book. Then the scramble to prep for hosting the fam for Easter in — OMG — two weeks?! I’ve gotta get moving on that.

SO, I might miss my mark in the interest of not embarrassing myself with my in-laws. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a peek into my garden this summer.

IMG_0023_cr

onion seedlings

IMG_0022_cr

tomatoes and a few peppers

Have a great weekend!


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Seasons Change

img_0702

It’s that time of year again, when the trees, once every shade of green, now look like some giant artist swiped a brush across their leaves. I’ve been taking alternate routes home from work so I can see the colors of the trees. Wish I could stop at every glorious burst of color to take pictures, but that’s not safe with no shoulders on the roads.

One route takes me along the forested river bluffs, where golds and dark reds peek through the green still hanging on. Every so often I see a treat of intense pinks and oranges.

One route allows a distant view of the trees along the river from the “flatland” side. From that distance, the foliage is more gray/green speckled with golds than a vista of individual trees.

Another route takes me through farm fields, but every farm site has trees around the main house. Those trees tend to be showy, mature maples with pinks, oranges, and golds gilding a green background. I love the colors of autumn! I wish I could “freeze-frame” them for a week or two so I could enjoy them for more than a couple days.

It’s chilly out as well, a good excuse to make chili for lunch and bake some banana bread. I actually wanted to make pumpkin bread, but we’ve been freezing very-ripe bananas, so I need to use up some of our “stash”.

Chilly outside means the cat who snubs us all summer now wants nice warm laps to sleep on. Makes it hard to write!

p_20161008_075338

Of course she waits until I’ve got my computer on my lap before she decides it’s time to claim her place. (And it’s kinda tough to get a good picture of a cat who’s sitting on your lap without chasing them away.)

The garden is now a weed playground. Went out yesterday to rescue any tomatoes and peppers left before the predicted frost this morning. No covering tender plants. I’m done with the garden for this year. Whew. The only things left that might survive are my one lonely kale plant and the beets I haven’t picked yet.

It’s also time for fall cleaning. *crickets*

Yeah. About that…

After I finish my revisions. Really. I promise.

Unless my son wants to bring his new girlfriend over. Then everything gets put on hold until the house is presentable.

I hope he gives us more than a few days’ notice.

Anyway, hope you all are enjoying autumn to the fullest extent, because winter (ugh!) is right around the corner. *peeks around the corner* The coast is clear so far, so hurry.

And one more pic to enjoy for the weekend. Writers, write!

p_20161008_074855

 

 


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Gardening and Transitions

Rain whispers outside the window as I sit in my writing chair. Today is the third or fourth day of rain this past week or so, meaning I haven’t gotten out to the garden in a few days. I shudder to think what my zucchini will look like!

Hubby made all the tomatoes I picked into spaghetti sauce, so I need to get into the garden to pick some more. I love saying that. “Hey, I need an onion.” Then, “I’ll just go out to the garden and pick one.” Ha! Or, “I need a tomato for my BLT. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I did, after a few weeks of neglect, get back out to the garden and weed. The onions and potatoes are pretty much finished growing, and the sweet corn is done.

IMG_0669 The cilantro is seeding, and the peppers are doing okay. I only planted two cucumber plants this year because I’m not planning to make pickles, but hoo-boy, I’ve got more than enough to share.

The green beans are winding down, but they are so good! The best part is always the fresh tomato supply. I did take a pic of my tomato plants, but as you know, my picture-taking skills match those of a five-year-old.

The bane of my gardening activities, besides the bounty of weeds, is the ragweed. Both the common and giant ragweed are blooming now. If ragweed pollen was worth money, we’d be rich. In case you got confused by the “giant” classification for ragweed, let me show you:

ragweed

Those plants stretching above the chicken fence are giant ragweed. Rough estimate on height: 12-15 feet. Yes, I’m serious. Here’s a closer-up of the flower heads:

ragweed heads

Imagine about an acre or so of this stuff scattered around, and clouds of yellow pollen if it’s windy. And this isn’t even counting the common ragweed, which is a foot tall at the most. After about a half hour out in the garden, my eyes and nose are running, and sneezing fits make doing just about anything else difficult at best.

This week my son made the transition from bum–er, I mean, high school graduate–to college freshman. We moved him into the dorm this week. Part of me is thrilled–no more teenage sniping between him and his sister. Part of me is anxious. Will he acclimate? Will he make lots of friends? Will he study? Is he looking for a job (because he needs to get a job)?

Honestly, it’s up to him. All you can do as a parent is give them the tools. And as much as they think they know everything, you hope at some point they’ll realize that you, as the parent, actually know what you’re talking about.

Okay, to finish this short post off, on special request, cat pics.

socks on deck This is Socks, who went AWOL about a month ago. She got her name from the 4 white socks she had. Her fur was sooo soft! We suspect she either fell while slinking around an old collapsed house on the property and got hurt or worse, or she was the victim of coyotes. We miss her.

Our other cat is Zoey, who seems awfully content to be the sole proprietress of the place.

So there you have it. As for writing, I haven’t gotten back into it quite yet. It’s been busy. I think another deep run through my WIP is next on the list, but I’m not sure if I should wait to hear if I get a mentor from Pitch Wars. Slim chance, I know, but I can hope.

Anyway, have a great weekend!zoey sleeping