Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Cabin fever yet?

Today I finished my second week of working from home.

Needless to say, the home office idea is climbing on the to-do list. However, it’s still below spring cleaning, mostly because every time I see a cobweb or dust bunny or muddy dog prints on the kitchen floor I am reminded how much better I am at procrastinating than I was yesterday. Or last week.

On the bright side, we had SUNSHINE today! Yippee! And warm weather, around 50 F. I enjoyed a couple nice walks. It’s amazing how good a sunny spring day makes you feel.

So, in the spirit of a long-awaited awakening of trees and weeds, and a drier yard (short-lived low mud levels since we’re supposed to get rain this weekend), I have a couple pics of my baby plants.

This year hubs and I decided to try using genuine grow lights for the seedlings. For years we have been using shop lights with fluorescent lightbulbs. They worked great in the beginning, and hubs rigged them up so I could adjust the height as the plants grew.

Thing is, those bulbs weaken over time, so the last time I started seeds, the plants ended up leggy (tall and spindly) even though I had the lights almost touching the plants. Plants get leggy when they are stretching to get more light. That’s why being able to adjust the distance between the lights and the plants is important. Keep the light close enough so the plants don’t need to reach for it.

Anyway, grow lights tend to be pink in color because apparently seedlings like red and blue wavelengths in particular. These days, grow lights are often a combination of red and blue LEDs.

Ready?

You sure?

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.

Peppers, onions, and more peppers. Can’t see the tomatoes very well.
Peppers, onions, and kale in the blue container

Do the plants like the grow lights better than regular lights? It’s hard to say so far. Once the plants get big enough to transplant, it’ll be easier to tell if the oh-my-god-PINK light makes a difference.

Now, to help your retinas recover …

I’ve worked from home before, and Zoey has a routine in the morning: come downstairs (she sleeps in my son’s room), stretch and roll around on the floor, snack, then beg to be petted. Since I sit toward the front of my chair, there’s room behind me for her to jump up and hang out behind me.

Has she ever sat on my lap while I’m working? Nope. That is, until this week.

I’m not sure if she was just curious about what I was doing, or just felt needy since my son had returned to his apartment the night before.

Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

Hope everyone is staying safe, washing hands, practicing social distancing. Remember, you can still enjoy the outdoors, just not within 6 feet of anyone else. Sunshine does a brain good!


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Happy Spring! #amreading #amwriting

Minnesota welcomed the vernal equinox with rain. And more rain. And the next day? Below freezing temps in the morning. On the bright side, it was sunny all day, albeit with a nice brisk, crisp, north wind.

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

Nothing like March to assure us Mother Nature is dealing with indecision. Spring? Nah, maybe more winter. Well, on the other hand, spring is kinda the thing now.

Sheesh.

To make things worse more interesting, everyone, for the most part, is in quarantine. I’ve been working from home pretty much all week, and for the foreseeable future. On the plus side, no hour commute each way. On the negative side, since I do not have a dedicated office, and this whole “don’t go out if you don’t absolutely have to” thing, it’s getting to be an interesting exercise in co-habitation.

If hubs and I were thirty years younger, we could really enjoy it 😉

In any case, I am taking the opportunity to continue procrastinating on spring cleaning in order to work on Book 2. Of course, with those two extra hours, I should really catch up on that.

“Yes, you should, love.”

I look up from my writing desk. My Muse, with the sleeves of his burgundy henley shoved halfway up his forearms, shows me a finger coated with dust. He wipes his finger on his worn-well jeans before he saunters to my desk and rests a hip on a corner near me.

I lean back in my chair. “I thought you needed a break. Besides, it isn’t like you are susceptible to this COVID-19 thing.”

“I’m not, but they have cancelled writerly gatherings everywhere.”

“And? It’s not like you need an excuse, is it?” Not that I want him to go anywhere, but he’s started reminiscing about his adventures, like, all the time. If I hear another story from the bubonic plague in Australia

He leans over me. I catch a scent of the woods in spring, with that fresh, loamy musk promising new growth. “You realize, love, this is a great opportunity–with few excuses, mind you–to work on Book 2.”

“Yes, I know. And I am. I have pages of notes.” And it isn’t as bad as I thought. I think once I finally nailed down the plot (after writing more than three-quarters of the story), things fell into place. Now it’s a matter of verifying the timeline and fleshing things out.

“I’m aware. And without that commute, you have two more hours each day to spend on it.” He straightens and crosses his toned arms over his broad chest. “With me.”

Who the hell else would I spend them with if I’m writing? I stand to face him eye-to-eye, since he’s still leaning on my desk. Wow. I’m always amazed at how blue his eyes are. “You’re not thinking about moving on, are you? To another less-aggravating writer?” He can’t. After all these years, I don’t think I could work with another muse. Or Muse.

A crooked grin deepens the divot in his chin. His low chuckle raises the temperature in my office. Or maybe it’s just me. “No, love. I don’t want to break in another writer. I’m talking about your distractions.”

“You mean like the veneer of dust you so helpfully pointed out?”

“That, and the rest. I know how you get when there’s too much other activity in the house.”

“Which is why I have this.” I sweep my hand to indicate my writing office.

“Hmph. This isn’t a physical space, love. You need a physical space.”

“I’ve been doing fine for years.”

An eyebrow arches. “Really, love? Let’s work on that during your breaks from Book 2, when you let the story sit after each round of revision.”

Whatever. After I manage some spring cleaning. We postponed our family Easter gathering, so there is no hard deadline. Still, I’ve been letting things languish way too long. I’ll have to collect cobwebs and chase out the dust bunnies before it’s time to plant the garden. 😀

Stay safe, everyone! Stay calm, wash your hands, maintain social distance, and WRITE ON!


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Plans? Just toss them into the bin #amediting

Due to circumstances being what they are these days, the Left Coast Crime conference, after one day of fun, was cancelled.

On the bright side, I did get to participate in my panel with three other awesome authors and a great moderator. I also met some fun people, including a pair of friends who met at an LCC conference and have been going every year since (Hi Rose and Merrill!) I also met a woman who used to work for the company that publishes aircraft maintenance manuals and another who used to track paperwork in aviation.

After the first day, however, due to this whole virus business (and the local officials putting out an official “recommendation” that events of over 250 people be cancelled), LCC 2020 in San Diego was shut down, resulting in some scrambling to get back home.

Bummer. Even more of a bummer was the bookstore that was supposed to sell my book (according to my information) didn’t send anyone to actually sell books. They had tables set up (under sheets) with books, but nobody to actually take money.

Seriously? So I had a number of people ask about buying my book, and since I anticipated they (the bookstore) would be there and sell it, I didn’t send books or bring books to sell on consignment. All I could do was give people my bookmark, which has a QR code that takes them directly to Amazon and one that takes them to my website, and suggest they buy it there.

I got to meet other authors, like Kellye Garrett, Matt Goldman, and William Kent Kreuger, but I didn’t get to meet with my blogging buddy, Betsy. That was probably the most disappointing part of the trip.

The way things are going, it feels like Mother Nature is trying to do her part in reducing the abuse to our environment. Kinda like, “Hey, you’re not taking this climate change stuff you set into motion seriously, so here you go. Chew on this for awhile.”

Anyway, the lastest news is that the writers’ festival for next weekend (I was scheduled to do a workshop) has been postponed until the fall, and the Writers’ Institute has also been postponed. Sheesh. I get it, but part of me still thinks there is some overreaction going on. I mean, we don’t do this when we have a measles outbreak, or a bad flu season, or when the seasonal “crud” goes around.

Anyway, at least people are more conscious of their personal hygiene. It’s like Mom always said: WASH YOUR HANDS.

Stay safe, everyone. Stay healthy. Stay calm and wash your hands.


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Spring ahead into the fray #amwriting #amreading #mnweather

Maybe you’ve noticed I like to mention the weather on a regular basis. Part of that is the Minnesotan in me. Weather plays a pretty big role in our day-to-day business, especially in the winter. Now that Spring, my favorite season, is on its way, I’m starting to feel the pull of the outdoors in a big way.

Image by Dana White from Pixabay

This weekend is predicted to be close to 60 degrees F. Woo-hoo! Happy dance (but carefully in a dry spot, because EVERYTHING is pretty mucky).

My seeds haven’t started to sprout yet, but that might be because it’s a bit cool in the house. I don’t use warming pads, but I’m reconsidering that this year since we aren’t running the pellet stove/corn burner, which happens to be located near the seed starting station.

Walks are on the agenda for this weekend, among the other tasks of preparing for my trip to Left Coast Crime in San Diego and book marketing stuff like emailing libraries and bookstores and asking if they would consider an author event. And writing. That’s always on my list, but sometimes …

This next week will be filled with subbing at the library (last time for a while, I think, or at least until summer), our Sisters in Crime monthly meeting, and a flight from MSP to SAN. Then I get to enjoy a mystery conference with lots of other writers and readers. The weekend after I get back I have a book fair where I’m giving an hour-long workshop on writing mysteries. It’s at the end of the day, though, so we’ll see how many stick around for that.

I am looking forward to meeting one of the authors I love, another whom I need to ask to do a presentation at one of our meetings, and others I have met but haven’t seen for a while. Oh, and the weather!

I will, however, miss the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI this year. Not because anything overlaps, but because I can only manage one conference a year. I didn’t expect to miss it as much as I do. I think that’s what happens when an event becomes like a family reunion, where you get to see all those people you only see that one time each year, but look forward to enjoying the time you’re there with them.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but if you have an opportunity to go to a writers’ conference, go. Go to a conference at least once, whether it’s close or a state away. Or, hey, you could always come to the Writers’ Institute. This year I’m going to miss Jess Lourey as a keynote speaker. She grew up twenty miles from where I did.

And, you could meet my awesome writing teacher there! Her latest Door County Fudge Shop mystery just came out this week! I’m proud to say I helped brainstorm for Deadly Fudge Divas. There’s nothing quite like seven writers helping one of their own figure out the crime and plot of a whodunit.

I’m off to get organized for my busy week, but intend to squeeze in a few walks and some revising on Book 2, as well as my next class assignment. Sheesh. I think I’m going to try to get away for a personal writing retreat this year, maybe at my dad’s when he goes on his cruise with his brother, but maybe someplace else less, um, urban. More expensive, but better location.

Happy Writing! For those in the US, it’s spring forward weekend. Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead!


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Happy Leap Day!

I was going to dig up some interesting factoids and myths about Leap Day, but I didn’t find anything super interesting.

Such as, even though the Egyptians figured out that the Earth takes a little more than a calendar year for its solar round trip, the Romans added the 29th to February, and Pope Gregory XIII tweaked that formula so we only get that evasive Feb 29th every four years.

And I learned that people who are actually born on February 29 can’t use that birthdate; computers really don’t like it, so they have to pick the 28th or March 1st. Oh, and women are supposed to propose to men on that day. It’s an interesting story involving St. Brigid and St. Patrick.

And then I asked, why does February get short-changed on days, hmm? That apparently is what we get when we let ancient Romans create a calendar. Or rather, when the Romans let superstition get the better of them. Who knew having even-numbered months or worse, an even-numbered year, was bad luck? So some guy named Numa came up with a calendar that made sure the year had an odd number of days. In order to do that, one lucky month had to have an even number of days.

Guess who got the short straw. Yup. Poor February. Even when Julius Caeser decided to fix Numa’s whacked calendar, February got gyped.

Then again, if February has fewer days, it means we get to March faster. And that means we get to Spring faster! The equinox is in a few weeks. Yippee!

I’ll be starting my seeds this weekend. This year hubs and I decided to try out special grow lights. We’ve been using shop lights with flourescent bulbs, but the bulbs lose some umph every year. The last time I had seedlings they didn’t grow all that well. The ones we’re getting are LED lights, so our electricity bill shouldn’t change too much. We’ll see how things go.

One more day to work on my rural MN WIP, then I’ll be diving into Book 2 revisions. Aaand, we’ll leave it at that for now. The first 100 pages or so I’m not so worried about because I worked on them with my writing teacher for a class. It’s the remaining 200 pages that worry me.

At least I have something to revise (after eight freaking tries to get a first draft completed. Sheesh!).

Have a great writing weekend!


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A taste of Spring and inspiration #amwriting #mnwinter #mnauthor

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

We’ve had a mild winter this year. Maybe a handful of days where the low was below zero, and windchills in double digits below zero. We haven’t even gotten a stretch of more than one or two days of single or teens above zero. (that’s all Fahrenheit degrees for those who use Celsius 🙂 )

This week we have had an interesting stretch. Last week the weather wonks said we were going to get a little snow on Monday. Maybe half an inch where we are. No biggie.

Erm. Yeah. So we weren’t expecting the 6 inches we actually got.

A little more than half an inch, I’m thinking

Then, of course it got cold, like single digit above zero cold for about 2 days, so icy roads. On the bright side, it was sunny 😀

Now we’re getting a nice thaw–during the day. Everything will refreeze at night, but there is something to be said about above freezing temps. They’re even claiming we’ll hit the mid-40s.

So, on the agenda is a walk or three to enjoy the warmth and the sun, and feed my muse a bit. The WIP is going okay. I’m past a rough patch, so now I can run a bit. Still planning to have a draft finished by the end of the month. Wait, February only has 28–no, 29 days this year. Yeesh.

So, the walks will be valuable muse-bonding time.

“At least you’re listening to me, love.”

I can’t stop the eyeroll. My Muse closes the back door of my writing office before stomping snow off his boots. He’s wearing a flannel jacket with that sherpa lining, with a dark green watchman’s cap and black leather gloves, which he stuffs into his hat before shoving them into a sleeve of his jacket.

“And you had to make sure to let me know.” Another eyeroll. “I know walks help me with inspiration and brainstorming. That’s old news. Besides, I don’t include you in back-to-back posts as a rule, so what gives?”

He toes off his boots, pulls a brewski from the fridge, and drops into the recliner beside mine. “Gotta get an early start.”

“What do you mean, an early start?”

He gestures to my laptop. “Your WIP. Which you didn’t work on yesterday.”

“I was focusing on my homework. Which reminds me, I have to finish my assignment.”

Silence swells between us, thick and heavy.

He leans toward me. “Are you going to mention it, or do I have to?”

Pressure on my chest tightens against my lungs. That stupid knot in my throat returns. “I was fine until you said something.”

“You can’t make her be reasonable, love. She has to figure it out for herself. You know that. Don’t let that strangle your creative energies.”

If it were only that easy. My nineteen-year-old daughter still can’t be bothered to listen to any advice from Mom and Dad, and has an uncanny way of pushing my hubs’ buttons. And he’s a patient man; he’s put up with me for almost thirty years.

And of course my daughter doesn’t want to talk about it.

“And here I was all fired up to write.” I get up to snag my own brew from the fridge. “You crashed my vibe.”

“No, I’m helping you work through it.”

Not so much. “Okay, since you are a Muse, why don’t you throw some sense and reason toward my teenager.”

He shakes his head. “Not my area of expertise. However, I’ll be right beside you on your walks, so maybe bring along your phone this time to record all your brainstorming revelations.”

I can do that. Everything will be sloppy with the melting over the next few days, but hey, it’ll be nice out. Looking forward to a balmy weekend.

Just keep on writing!


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New month, renewed focus? #amwriting

So, it’s finally February. Here in MN, we’ve had the longest run of cloudy days ever recorded. Seriously. They’ve talked about it on the news.

Granted, it’s been mild. Balmy, even. Our temps have been running at or just below freezing, helped a bit by the insulating cloud cover.

However, I’m starting to wonder if the sun is just a rumor. Someone said they saw it, or a facsimile of it, for about 30 seconds the other day.

So, what has this got to do with writing? Beside the whole gloomy atmosphere? Nothing. Well, maybe something. I was all ready to make up for a lack of writing this week, considering I’m doing a self-imposed NaNoWriMo to get the draft of my rural MN mystery done, and then … crash. Kids are home, and drama (son is reeling from his girlfriend of three years dumping him, and daughter’s confident plan of working at the place she did over winter break got torpedoed), so I need to shift into mom mode rather than “I’m going to shut myself away in the bedroom and write tonight” mode.

Mom mode isn’t terribly conducive to writing, at least for me. There’s the part of me that knows I need to engage. And there’s the part of me that wants to rail against the situation, take my laptop, and go play somewhere quiet. Which doesn’t help kids who are looking for parental reassurance from Mom. Mom has a different place in their world than Dad does. I think that’s the case for most everyone: Mom is a little higher on the list when it comes to family and comfort.

I hit the jackpot with hubs, who sees the kids more than I do due to that pesky full-time job thing. He’s wonderful at talking with them (better than I am, honestly). I keep telling the kids they should be thankful he’s such a great dad. Eventually, they’ll realize it.

So, despite my intentions to kick ass on this new project this weekend to make up for the lack of writing this week, it seems that will be a bit of a struggle. Oh, and rumor has it the sun is supposed to come out this weekend for a day. A whole day.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

WOO-HOO!

I will enjoy as much sun as I can (considering it’s still a wee bit chilly to wear shorts and a t-shirt), and recharge my “happy” energy. And yes, take my laptop and go play someplace quiet.

PS to Marcia: my Muse is sending an applicant. Says the guy helped inspire all those Elvis beach movies and surfing movies. Your mileage may vary, but it sounds like he’s looking forward to testing the waves out your way 😀