Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Now for something a little bit different #minnesota #spring #gardens

It’s time. I start getting seed catalogs around Christmas, and stash them until about now. I’ve been getting those pesky marketing emails from other seed catalogs too, but there’s something about looking through an actual catalog to feed thoughts of spring and warm and gardens.

Not that the past week has been miserably cold. It’s been downright balmy here with temps around freezing. Warm enough to make snowmen, and we have enough snow. Part of me is tempted to build a snowman for old times’ sake. Part of me says, “You know, you should be writing. Or at least cleaning.”

I know a lot of you like my garden posts, so I figured I’d share my pre-garden fun (because hey, why not?)

Every year when I plan my garden, I have the old standbys I always plant: tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, green beans, radishes, brussels sprouts. I always like to plant something new, or something I haven’t planted for a while.

Last year I got all my starts from the local greenhouse; I didn’t start any of my own seeds. That was convenient, but also restrictive: I’m limited to the varieties the greenhouse has. Which is fine, but I like particular varieties of some veggies, like peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

I don’t know what onion variety I planted, but the onions were far smaller than in previous years. I like the Candy variety, which are usually baseball-size or larger onions. I intended to plant sweet snacking peppers, but the variety I got at the greenhouse ended up being too spicy for snacking. The tomatoes were okay: the Early Girls did fine (but they are small tomatoes), but the other variety succumbed pretty quickly to the blight that plagues the garden. I thought I had gotten a resistant variety. I thought wrong, apparently.

Over the years, I’ve learned what veggies grow best, or at least which ones I have the best luck with. Every year is different. Last year was bad for tomatoes, meh for onions, but a great one for brussels sprouts and peppers.

Garden, 2019

This year I’m planning to buy some starts, like brussels sprouts and peppers, and start onions, tomatoes (some tomatoes anyway), and maybe kale.

For new stuff/stuff I haven’t planted for a while, a pie pumpkin is on the list this year. I haven’t planted pumpkins for years, because, like cucumbers or zucchini, one plant = lots of pumpkins. I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin bread, so what a great excuse 😀 I can bring the overstock to work and pawn it off on them 🙂

No zucchini, though. I think I cooked one zucchini all last summer, and brought the rest in to work. I can use that space for something else. This year on my “new” agenda is Persian cucumbers, if I can find seeds. Somewhere they were listed as the type of cucumbers you find in the store as those snacking cucumbers. We’ll see. I haven’t made pickles for years (I learned my lesson the year I pickled over 3 dozen quarts), but maybe I’ll do a dozen this year. Maybe.

I have to thin out the raspberry patch, too; they’re starting to choke out the asparagus (which also should be moved, or a new patch started). I love raspberries, but they spread! The problem is deciding where to move them: someplace close enough to monitor, exposed to sun, and not in an area we tend to mow. I know, with eight acres that might be a challenge 😀

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on that front again. In the meantime, take a break and page through some seed catalogs. The pictures of flowers and veggies always reminds me spring is coming!


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First New Year goal = success! #amwriting #firstdrafts

YES! I did it! I finally finished my eighth (yes, my eighth start-over) first draft of Book 2! Woo-hoo!

Nobody’s around to see my Snoopy dance in my writing office.

“Ahem.”

Damn it. I can’t even celebrate finally reaching that elusive finish line by myself. “Really? C’mon, let me revel a bit. You know how long I’ve been working to reach the end of a draft for Book 2?”

“I’m well aware, love.” My Muse rests a hip on my desk and crosses his arms on his broad chest. He’s wearing a fisherman’s sweater in a powder-pale gray, along with dark gray lounge pants and slippers in the shape of …

“Are you seriously wearing koala slippers? They actually make those in your size?” I mean, I can see kids wearing koala slippers, but a grown man?

He sticks a foot out. “I have to support my fellow Aussies. Besides, they’re warm.”

O-kay. I admit, they are cute. I just never pictured a six foot-two inch tall, lean, muscular, oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes Muse with fuzzy koala bears on his feet.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, basking in the pre-revision glory of a finished draft. “You, ah, could go for a pub crawl with Mr. E.” I wonder if he’ll get the hint.

A crooked smile inches across his face. “In case you didn’t hear, love, there’s a major snowstorm raging outside through tonight. I think I’d rather hang out with my wonderful writer and work on her next project while she’s letting her shiny new draft rest.”

Ugh. “Fine. I have to rewrite the first chapter again anyway.”

An eyebrow arches. “Again? How many times have you done that already?”

“Erm, four. I think.”

My Muse rolls his eyes and sighs. “This isn’t going to be another Book 2, is it?”

I can’t resist. I stick out my tongue at him. “No. I know how this story will go. Mostly. Enough to get through the first draft, anyway. And I have to take two–wait, three more classes. Which reminds me, I have to sign up for one.”

His chest rises and falls with a deep breath. “You sure about that? Your daughter is home for the semester. Are you going to be able to focus on more than one thing?”

“She’ll work nights, just like she did over the summer and over winter break, so, yeah.”

He doesn’t look convinced. “Can you get the draft of this other project done before March? Because, as I recall, you have a lot going on that month. And,” he shakes a finger at me, “you will have to start revisions on Book 2.”

I drop into one of the corner recliners. “You sure know how to crash a party.”

“It’s not your first book, love. You know what you need to do.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

So, while the wind wages war with all those frozen water flakes outside, I’ll be working on my next project. Wait, I have some long overdue reviews to write, too. Maybe I can pull out my fresh new seed catalogs when I need a break instead of shoveling off the deck 😀

Have a great writing weekend! For all those in the path of this latest snowstorm, stay safe, stay warm!


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Automatic writing and plots? #amwriting #nanowrimo #writerscommunity

Image by yogesh more from Pixabay

As I was working on my WIP (yes, THAT one), I realized something. An odd/ad-libbed/spur-of-the-moment aspect of a minor character I created on-the-fly solved a problem I was having with the plot.

A big problem.

It was weird. It made me think of automatic writing, which made me think of one of my fellow authors/bloggers who has just released the last book of her Hode’s Hill series (Congratulations, Mae!) In the first book of the series, Cusp of Night, spiritualism plays a big role, and automatic writing was one facet of that whole movement. Anyway …

Holy crap. I solved one of the problems I’ve been trying to figure out by first creating a minor character I didn’t expect to have and then giving that character a part I didn’t know I needed.

Huh?

See where the automatic writing comes to mind? This sort of thing happens to me on a regular basis. I work through the bigger aspects of the plot, barrel ahead with the mantra, “it’s a crappy first draft, I’ll fix it later”, agonize over the stuff I can’t figure out, then somewhere down the line a piece falls into place, and POOF, the plot becomes more solid, and the story “works”.

It’s like my Muse is doing his job, but his timing is off. Sometimes waay off. *checks for Muse, then in a stage whisper: Psst, I think he’s on a beer run.*

Image by Vicki Becker from Pixabay

As fiction writers, we often have story ideas and plots in our heads. For me, the plot lines often seem pretty straightforward at first. The timelines work, the characters have appropriate motivation, and all is well in the planning stage.

Sometimes in the beginning the plot lines are more like a tangle of yarn that needs to be teased into quasi-order. It’s when things look like they’ll work that you have to keep an eye on those buggers, or they’ll start dodging around like a litter of energetic kittens.

I walk through the timeline over and over, and think I have the threads woven together in some semblance of order. Then I start the first draft.

What seemed to make sense suddenly doesn’t. And of course that realization doesn’t happen until I’m halfway or two-thirds of the way through the draft.

I think the more we read, and the more we practice storytelling and plotting and creating character arcs, the more instinctive we become as writers. I’ve been asked by people how I knew the plot wasn’t working. The only thing I can come up with is “I just knew.”

We know what works because somehow along the way we learned it, even if we haven’t taken a class or gone through workbooks or read Save the Cat or The Writer’s Journey. We can use the tools, whether beat sheets or timelines or whatever your preference, but there’s a part of us we may not be conscious of that knows what pieces and bits to add and when.

And that seems to be the way it works, at least for me. I’ll put something in a story, unplanned but it works, then way later on in the story I’ll write something and think wow, it’s a good thing I added that unplanned thing earlier because that makes this part work.

Magic. Or my Muse. Both. Bottom line, the more you practice, the more you read, the more you learn, the more those writer instincts will help you so you don’t get two-thirds of the way through the draft before you realize the story doesn’t work.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it 😀


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A-Musing Solstice Salutations #amwriting #wintersolstice

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

What the … The last thing I expected to see in my writing office was my Muse sitting in one of the corner recliners with my laptop. Of course, to see him dressed the way he was … oh boy.

The red and white striped sweatpants, like a wearable candy cane, would have been eye-searing enough without that sweater. Think bright green, with tinsel garland and strands of tiny blinking lights sown across it in tiers, complete with miniature glass ball ornaments.

Oh. My. Gawd. He looks like a Christmas tree sat on an elf. The only things missing are curly-toed slippers and a Santa hat. I’m not sure whether to laugh or … yeah, gotta laugh. I manage to choke back a guffaw. “Um, where the hell did you find that outfit?”

He looks up at me, his angular cheekbones, blue eyes, and the little divot in his chin contrasting with that get-up. “I’m getting into the spirit of the season.” He flashes his crooked grin, the one that always raises the temperature in the room.

Even now, with that ridiculous outfit, it’s getting warm in here. I shove the sleeves of my hooded sweatshirt to my elbows. “It’s hideous.”

He raises an eyebrow. Pretty sure I’m having a hot flash. Yeah, I’ll call it that.

“Really? I thought you’d like the lights.”

“Um, yeah, I do,” I admit. “What are you doing?”

“What you should be doing, love.”

I can’t believe he’s writing a blog post without me asking, begging, or bartering with him. “I came in here to write my post.”

“Way ahead of you, love.”

“Ah, o-kay. Why? You always grumble when I ask you to write posts for me.”

“What’s wrong with me writing posts when I want to? I thought you would be happy you didn’t have to beg.”

Well, sure, but it’s kinda like when kids do stuff without you badgering them to do it. “What do you want?”

His eyes widen. He puts on what I would call his innocent face. “I never said I wanted anything, love.”

I open the back door and stand in the breeze from the snow-covered yard to cool down. “Riiight. Just tell me now so I can grumble about it.”

He sets the computer aside and levers out of the recliner. “You’re letting the cold air in.”

“It’s hot in here.”

He reaches over my head and pushes the door closed. “It’s not.”

I stare into twinkling Christmas lights before taking a step back. Into the door. “So, let me get this straight. You are writing my blog post without my asking because why? You’re feeling generous?”

“That, and it seems people like when I write posts.”

Actually, I think it’s just him. He usually has some sort of writing wisdom to share. The fact that he’s incredibly easy on the eyes has nothing to do with it.

Nope, that has absolutely nothing to do with it.

“I think I’m going to stand outside for a few minutes.” I turn to open the door again.

“I’m almost finished. Then it’s your turn, love. You only have a few more chapters left for the Book 2 draft. Then you can dig into that other project you keep thinking about.”

“See, I knew you wanted something.”

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

This will be my (and my Muse’s) last post until after the New Year (except for the standard Merry Christmas/Happy New Year posts 😀 ). Enjoy your holidays with friends and family. Safe travels to all.

Keep writing!


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Time, where did you go?

Image by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay

Have you looked at the calendar lately? I thought we just finished Halloween, and now, in a week and a half, it will be Christmas.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Granted, Turkey Day was late this year, but still. I have to keep reminding myself there’s only one more week before Christmas. And guess what? I haven’t even started my shopping, much less finished it.

I’m almost finished with my draft of Book 2, but with the kids coming home for winter break, I’ll have to adjust my expectations of writing time and energy.

I know a lot of writers put their writing on “pause” during this time of year because let’s face it, there’s a hella lot of stuff going on between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Trees to trim, lights to string, cookies to bake (erm, I think I missed that on my list), cards to send (damn, another thing I forgot on my list), gifts to buy (ugh), families to gather, you get the picture.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I’ve had a lot of excuses to put my writing on pause over the past year or so (hey, legit struggles with the plot, y’all). I finally took a writing class to counter my procrastination, and it worked! I even managed to hack out 50k words (added up across multiple projects) during NaNo.

But now what? How do I keep up the momentum I built during NaNoWriMo? That’s the whole reason I do NaNo to begin with. Now with the annual holiday slump that seems to get worse every year, I struggle to make progress.

Wait! That’s it! The cure for the holiday slump, which in some circles is called “being a Grinch”, and in other circles is called “bah, Humbug!” Heh, let me try this out:

Sorry I didn’t get a gift for the exchange (the gifts-in-a-pile-then-random-selection game), I was working on the climax for Book 2.

Not bad. Here’s another one: Oh, sorry, I didn’t have time to make cookies this year. I had to write the big reveal for Book 2.

Hmm. I kinda like this. I could go places with this: Hey, I know I was supposed to bring the figgy pudding and mulled cider for the family Christmas, but my characters said if I didn’t get their big conflict scene written, they were going to stop talking to me for their New Year’s resolution. 😀

I’ve had it wrong all this time! Brilliant! Good thing the kids are in college so they won’t be so bummed when they realize I didn’t get them anything this year.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the season (wasn’t that part of a Christmas song?), give a bit of attention to your writing. Hey, what could be more theraputic than writing a little revenge short story starring Great-aunt Edith and her blood-red lipstick (that you still haven’t gotten out of last year’s cashmire sweater), or the stench of the perfume she bathes in? What about Great-uncle Horace who hasn’t cleaned his dentures for, yeesh, that long.

Next week is the solstice! Yippee! Finally, the days start getting longer. After that, I’ll be taking a break until after the new year.

As Dory would say:

And of course, can’t forget Zoey …


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It's over! Now for my next trick #amwriting #nanowrimo

Whew! I did it. Managed 50k words in 30 days. Uff-da!

And of course, the week fight after NaNo, my schedule was … yeesh. Needless to say, I haven’t written a word for a week. Three evenings were filled with subbing at the library or our Sisters in Crime chapter year-end potluck. It’s all fun, but not conducive to writing much.

Just when I thought I could finally get back into my treadmill routine before an hour-plus writing session, the migraine hit. Double ugh. And this time it carried over for a second day because apparently it didn’t have enough fun the first day. Sigh. Even now it’s still jabbing me. I don’t get them often, but when I do, I can’t write. (For those who suffer with chronic migraines, I am in awe that you can carry on with everyday stuff when they hit. Especially if you can also write when your head is waging war within. Seriously.)

Needless to say, I haven’t written anything this week until now. Next week is finals week, so I have my empty nest for one more weekend before the kids are home for semester break.

How far did I get on my WIP? Not quite finished, but I’m at a point where the scenes should flow from brain to keyboard pretty well. Not quite to the climax, but close. If all goes well, I should be finished with the draft of Book 2 by, hmm, the end of next week.

To all my fellow NaNo-ers, congratulations! Whether you managed 50k words or more, or less, you have that many more words now than you did when you started. High five!

I’m still way behind on reading blogs, etc, so don’t be surprised if I finally get to the post you wrote two weeks ago. Or three. I’m also way behind on a lot of other stuff. I keep looking at my list hoping it’s getting shorter.

Not so much. In fact, I think my list just gained another three items. Dammit.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and managed to travel safely despite the winter storm. Nothing like a wham! Bam! Here I am! arrival of winter on a holiday weekend. So glad I couch-shop on Black Friday, aka the weekend all the die-hard shopping people brave crappy weather to just miss the best deals on the hugely-discounted items any store has, because they only have, like, three of them in stock. Anywhere.

I’m eager for the solstice. At least then the days will start getting longer again (yes, I know, still 24 hours in a day, but more of that time will be light.)

Okay, off to keep up the writing habit I redeveloped over NaNo. Stay safe, keep writing!


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Still behind in the home stretch #nanowrimo #amwriting

Image by Steve Howard from Pixabay

My writer finally comes through the door to her writing office. I have to make a show of checking my non-existant watch. “Where the hell have you been, love?”

She grimaces at me. “I know, I know. I worked at the library two nights this week, and I’ve still been writing every night, so …” She trails off into a grumble.

“Watch your language. You’ve been distracted.”

“Duh!” Julie grabs her laptop and plants herself in one of the recliners in the corner. More grumbling. She’s wearing her NaNoWriMo hoodie, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much.

“Would you like to talk about it, love?”

“I have to write.”

She’s so grumbly I can feel the creative energy being repelled. Sigh. I settle next to her in the other recliner. “Tell me.”

“You already know. Why should I tell you?”

“Because by actually saying it you will feel better. And yes, I can feel the energy shift. When is your daughter supposed to be home?”

“Soon.” She chews on a knuckle. “I didn’t get as much writing done last weekend as I had wanted to. I worked at the library and tried to write. I did write when it was slow, just not enough. I even wrote every day this week, and I still didn’t hit my word count. And I’m not going to get that short story done to submit for the anthology.”

“You could, love. That’s the one with a hard deadline. Your draft doesn’t have a hard deadline.”

She looks over at me, her face flushed. Frustration, I think. “I don’t know how to write it. I’m stuck. You know what? I think I need to write something different. I want to work on the Spring Brook story. Or I could revise my police procedural. Or maybe work on that urban fantasy you keep pinging me with.”

The urban fantasy would be a nice change of pace, but now is not the time. “Tell me what’s distracting you, love.”

She bounces her head back against the recliner. “Everything. Do you realize Thanksgiving is next week already? And my daughter is home this weekend, then coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday two days after she goes back. The energy is,” she rubs at her eyes, “different. Harder to work with. And I have housework to do, even if it is the bare minimum. And I have to get my new computer set up. And damn it, I need to be writing.”

“Yes, you do. So what do you need to do to get there?”

“Stop talking and start writing. Go finish my blog post. Please.”

I try another test. Most of the creative energy is still not sinking in. Bloody hell. “I’ll call Wander in. Maybe she can help.” There’s something about dragons that helps my writer open up.

Not Wander, but close.

“Fine. Whatever. Let me try to hit my word count tonight, alright?” She glances at the clock on the desk and groans.

I lean over to her. “Relax, love.”

“Easy for you to say. Finish the post, then help me with this transition.”

And I expect that’s how the weekend will go. If I can get her to hit double her word goal over the next two days, she’ll be on track to hit 50k by the 30th.

Wish me luck!