Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Harvest in full swing #gardening #minnesota

It’s that time of year again, when the veggies are going strong (so are the weeds 😐 ), so I figured I’d give you a little update.

I’ve been picking green beans for a couple weeks, and cucumbers for almost as long. Picking cucumbers is like a scavenger hunt. Or a game of hide-and-seek. How many cukes do you see in the picture?

How many cukes? I see three.

And of course, we can’t forget the venerable–or is it fruitful?–zucchini.

Hi, Zucchini! I see you.

The tomato plants are succumbing to whatever blight hit them, but we are getting some tomatoes. There is nothing like garden-ripe tomatoes! I just hope they ripen before the plants die. I thought I planted resistant varieties, but apparently they aren’t resistant enough. The plants look so sad I won’t post pictures of them. The blight, a fungus, lives in the soil, and even though I mulch them, they still get sick.

The rest of the garden is doing well, though (except for the zucchini plant I had to pull because it was sick).

From R to L: Brussels sprouts, green beans, peppers, and kale in the corner.

Speaking of brussels sprouts, this year some of the sprouts are looking really good despite the stupid cabbage worms. I couldn’t help myself; I picked some and will be enjoying them soon.

So, I got this variety of peppers, Mariachi, that I thought were like the snacking peppers. The little plastic tag with the picture on looked like the snacking peppers. So I planted two plants. Come to find out when I read the little tag more closely (after I planted them and tasted the first pepper, of course) that they are mildly hot.

Yep. They are.

Mariachi peppers–supposed to turn orange when ripe

They are less spicy than jalapenos, for the most part, but snacking? Depends, I guess.

The kohlrabi are standing strong against the cabbage worms, and I’m not even going to check the kale, because they are in the same family. I know they have those little green worms–sorry, caterpillars–on them. Anyway, we need to eat some beets first.

I picked veggies last night, and felt some pride as my daughter ate fresh kohlrabi and cukes we just picked for supper. And a little chicken breast for protein. My son? He would eat the green beans, but not the other stuff.

As I was in the garden, I thought about growing up with a home garden, and how of my three brothers and one sister, we all have gardens. Two of my brothers have younger families, so they have bigger gardens. My other brother is an empty-nester, but he likes hot peppers. My sister just moved to a new house, but she always asks my advice on what to plant, especially when she has little direct sunlight in the back yard.

My mother instilled a love of gardening in us, or at least we were all exposed to the gardens she had while we were growing up. I find it both interesting and comforting that we all continue the tradition. Even my dad, who now lives in a townhome, has a cherry tomato plant on his tiny patio.

Peppers, kale, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes in the back

As for writing? I’ve been crazy busy this past week, with my dad having eye surgery, and me being the good daughter and providing taxi service and a watchful eye. I finally have a few days to decompress, and write. At least that’s the plan right now, so I’m intending to get back to book 2. And my homework.

Have a wonderful writing weekend!

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Of gardening and marketing #gardening #minnesota #author #mystery

Summer should be relaxing, shouldn’t it? I mean, it’s when most people go on vacation, right? Summer tourist season starts on Memorial Day weekend and ends Labor Day weekend, at least here in MN.

So why do I feel like I’m struggling to keep up? Is it really that whole getting older thing? The “time flies faster the older you get” thing? It sure feels like it.

Or is it all the extra “stuff” I get to do? You know, like mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. Or maybe it’s because this year in particular I really do have a lot of stuff going on, like author panels, book signings, and homework.

The past couple of weeks have been busy, with an author event the day before I went to my brother’s house to visit, a couple days with family, a trip out to the South Dakota border–well, 7 miles short of the border–for an author panel. I was a last-minute sub for another author, but it was a fun day. Various appointments, and this weekend is another author event at a bookstore close to where I grew up. I’m hoping some of my old friends will be able to come; it’ll be nice to see them.

And the garden! I added mulch earlier this week, so the space between the rows is starting to get smaller, or is it the amount of space covered by mulch is bigger? I am eagerly awaiting my first two ripe tomatoes!

In the meantime, I picked enough green beans for a couple servings, and picked the first kohlrabi to reach the size of a baseball. I even picked some kale. Anyway, here it is.

Oh, and our latest chickens came out for a photo. Right now we have seven: two left from the original batch where the other 4 died during a major storm/gnat invasion, and 5 from a lady who thought her kids would be more interested in taking care of them.

Five of the seven.

I wish I had some writing wisdom to share, but right now I’m working on critiquing pages from my Writing Sisters and doing homework, but not at the same time 🙂

Speaking of, next weekend is our reunion, so be on the lookout for wisdom or wisecracking from my Muse (hey, he’s been enjoying himself, I think I should get my turn). I am so looking forward to our retreat! We’re staying at the same B&B we did the past two years. It’s a really nice place, and the proprietors are great people. And can’t beat the Crystal River just out the back door.

Anyway, I have to get back to pages. Enjoy your weekend! Stay cool, stay dry, and Keep Writing!

She is WAAY too comfortable in my chair!


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How does my garden grow? #gardening #minnesota

Figured it was about time to give you an update on the garden. Not that my rambling about writing is dull (it is), but I checked on the garden and I have to say it’s looking pretty good. I managed to weed earlier this week before the rain. This weekend is supposed to be hot and sticky, so no sweating in the garden for me; I’ll do my homework instead 😀

I did replant the potatoes, and they are coming up nicely now (closest to the camera). A few still haven’t surfaced, but the majority look pretty good. I had to replant the cukes, zucchini, and some beans because they weren’t coming up. That clump of leaves four rows over is volunteer borage, which I like to leave for the bees because they love it. Seems that lately, though, there have been fewer bees around. Makes me sad.

The tomatoes are big enough for me to start tying up, and the Early Girls have little tomatoes on–yay! The peppers are doing well. I put tomato cages around them because they have a tendency to split and/or topple. Besides, I can’t use the cages for the tomatoes; those get too heavy and always fall over. Hence the cattle panels. Those seem to work well, and they are very sturdy.

The kale is looking great, the onions are doing well, and the brussels sprouts are much greener and look healthier than they did before the rain. I pulled the last of the radishes, and I might put more in later. Other fun things I’m growing are beets, green beans, and kohlrabi this year. One lonely spinach plant is all that came up, and I even used fresh seed. Note to self: plant more in a month or so. I’ll be planting cilantro and maybe some dill later as well, otherwise they mature way before the tomatoes and cucumbers. I have a ton of volunteer cilantro and dill right now, but those are flowering, and the other stuff is just getting going.

For those who are wondering why flowering herbs make a difference, it has to do with the taste of the leaves and how you use it. When plants start to flower, the leaves have a tendency to get bitter, which is more an issue with leafy veggies like spinach, arugula (rocket), and dandelion (that’s why they say pick your dandelion leaves when they are really young in the spring).

You often use herbs differently when they seed. With cilantro, I use the leaves when I make pico de gallo, and they are a nice add to taco meat as well. Once they start to flower, the flavor seems less intense in the leaves, and the leaves get less “leafy” and more “wiry”. Ever hear of coriander? That is cilantro seed. I personally don’t use coriander in anything, but it’s not suited for pico de gallo.

Dill is kind of the same. Dill leaves are used to season stuff like potato salad or like you use basil or thyme or any other leafy herb. The mature seeds are used like any other seedy herb, like fennel, mustard, or celery seed. When the immature seeds are fat and still green, before they start turning brown, they have the most intense dill flavor and are best for making pickles.

Anyway, that’s the update. The biggest task now is keeping the weeds at bay (and the mosquitoes–damn things) and making sure I keep the tomatoes pruned and tied up. When the cucumber is big enough, I’ll make sure it climbs the cattle panel as well. It’s a lot easier to pick cucumbers when they climb “up” rather than “out”.

Next week is a holiday week for those in the US, so it’ll be a short work week. No post next week, just a holiday note, and the regularly-scheduled program will resume after that.

Happy Writing!

What? This is my chair.


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Getting back into it #amwriting

writing-933262_1280

I swat at the cloud of gnats swarming my head and dart through the back door of my writing office. With the door safely closed and most of the bugs left outside, I pull off my head-net. Best. Investment. Ever. Although, one can tolerate a cloud of gnats around one’s head–even one safely ensconsed in mosquito netting–only so long.

“Seriously, love?” My Muse is leaning on my writing desk, arms crossed. Until he swats at a rogue gnat. A teeny wisp of smoke fades.

“Dude, did you just fry that gnat?”

Another teeny wisp of smoke drifts toward the floor. “Would you rather I corral them and coax them back outside?”

“Hell, no. Why don’t you nuke all the ones out in the garden so I don’t have to wear this head-net and spray down with bug repellent.”

“Not my job.” He crosses his legs at the ankles. Which is when I notice he’s wearing deck shoes, no socks, tan cargo shorts, and a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt. Except the shirt is tye-dyed rather than the usual black. “Besides, they’ll be gone in a week or so. Now that you’re done playing in the dirt …”

“Playing? Excuse me, but I was trying to weed. You know, before I couldn’t stand listening to bugs in my ears and flying around my eyes.” I peel off my long-sleeved button-down shirt. Ugh. Eighty degrees outside and I have to wear long pants and long sleeves just to weed without turning into a snack bar. A stray buzz by my ear sounds like a mini-buzzsaw. I slap at my head. Damn fricking bugs. Needless to say, I didn’t get a whole lot of weeding done. “Whatever it is, it’s going to have to wait until after I shower.”

A slow, crooked grin stretches across his face. An eyebrow arches.

“What? What’s funny?”

“Best you don’t know, love.”

Ahem. O-kay. “Hey, I don’t need any shit from you. I’m writing. I even have the first chapter done. I knew that class was a good idea.”

“Yes, you are, and yes, it was. And I’m not going to let you slack off because your writing teacher is conducting a week-long writing retreat this week. She wants to see the next chapter.”

“And I want to write it. But shower first.” The sharp pine-ish smell of bug spray just reminds me of bugs. Bloodsucking bugs.

“I’ll be waiting.” He crosses the office and settles into one of the recliners in the corner before he reaches to the mini-fridge and pulls out a craft beer. “Hurry up. I have some ideas for the next few chapters.”

“Good. So do I.”

I have to say, I am sooo glad I took this class. The units and exercises are set up to walk through the process of building a novel. So far, in the unit I’m on, my assignments included a logline and the infamous Central Question, a review of the book as a bestseller, as well as my main character’s best personality trait and her Fatal Flaw.

By writing the review, specifically looking at the character, plot, and transformational arc, I discovered a few things, one in particular that “clicked” as part of Sierra’s arc. By really thinking about her fatal flaw and why she has it, I hit another revelation that will help me with the story.

My next assignment is the first 20 pages. I have the first nine done as part of an earlier assignment, and I feel good about keeping things going. Being accountable is a big part of this, but also the coaching. My mentor is a great coach; she always manages to say something or make a suggestion that turns on the lightbulb and makes me want to dig in and move forward. I even took a day off next week to give myself some additional time to write. And work on promo stuff.

Enjoy your weekend, and to all the fathers out there, whether you have your own kids or you fill that place in someone’s life: Happy Father’s Day!

zoey chair 3


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The season for growing #gardening #minnesota

Okay, I know you’ve been waiting for this. And I had to battle devilish swarms of gnats just to get these pictures. Ever see a black cloud of teeny tiny flying annoyances?

Okay, the pic is from last year, courtesy of KARE11 news station here in MN, but still….

And once they find you, they stick to you like, well, a swarm of gnats. Ugh. Needless to say, even though I need to weed the garden, I’m not going to brave those suckers. Honestly, I’d rather battle mosquitoes. They’re slower, and there aren’t as many all around your head wherever you go. We even had a breeze, and the gnats still found me. They are bad enough the news is covering them this year, too. The worst part is we lost 4 chickens (juvenile chickens) this week, either due to the nasty storm (chickens can literally–yes, literally–be scared to death by a bad storm, courtesy of thunder and lightening) or the gnats. According to the experts, they should dissipate in the next week or two.

Just in time for the mosquitoes to show up. Yay. Not.

Any-hoo, here it is, the garden before anything is really going. Except the weeds, those are doing well.

The garden, 2019

I’m keeping an eye on the sprouts. So far, the plants are doing well, the peppers and tomatoes. The kale and brussels sprouts are hanging in there. The onion sets are coming up. I’m worried about the potatoes, though. We have had enough rain the past few weeks that I’m afraid they may have rotted. I’ll have to dig one or two up to check.

Seed-wise, the radishes are coming up, but as for anything else, I’m on the lookout. It’d be pretty easy to replant, but then we run into a season timeframe. Crossing my fingers!

The rabbits did a number on our lilac bush last year, so I missed out on flowers last year and this year. On the bright side, the dame’s rocket is blooming in the grove. They look like phlox, but the flowers are a little different. And they smell great, a delicate floral that reminds me a little of lilacs.

Dame’s rocket (along with giant ragweed before it reaches the “giant” stage)

This week has been hot, and after the severe storms this past week (hail too, but the tomatoes and peppers survived). Once I gather up enough courage (and some DEET-powered bug repellent), I’ll have to do another round of weeding.

Short post today–gotta get back to my homework 😀 Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and keep writing!


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It’s that time of year

Yes, it’s that time of the year once again.

Quick! Look now! No weeds!

Time to prepare to plant the garden. My husband, son, and I took advantage of the glorious spring evening to lay out the garden, since my husband had tilled it the night before. You can barely see them in the upper left corner–that’s my son in the light shirt and jeans. It’s so nice to have a 21 year-old to do the muscle work!

This year hubs got enough chicken wire to go all the way around the garden. That’ll teach those damn rabbits! Unfortunately, chicken wire won’t stymie the chipmunks for long. I’ll have to set live traps again; I know we have chipmunks. I saw one taunting me from the metal pile.

We’ve been getting asparagus now for a week. It’s one of the best spring treats–fresh asparagus from the garden. My patch is looking a little sad, though, so I’ll have to plant more. Maybe next year.

The raspberries are, of course, out of control. And of more concern to me is this:

Creeping Charlie, the green plague

When we bought the place, there was no creeping charlie anywhere. Stinging nettle, giant ragweed, burdock, even cheeseweed, but no creeping charlie. Then we bought a project property in a teeny town about an hour away. At some point, hubs brought home some garbage bags of lawn clippings from that property, not sure why. And that’s when the plague started. Until this year, it’s been a safe distance from the garden. This patch in the picture is on the south side, and probably 20+ feet from the original patch. Not sure how that happened. It’s only a matter of time. Sigh.

No planting quite yet since the weather geeks are forecasting some nasty storms this weekend, and I really don’t want to go through all that and have to redo it all because the rain drowned it. So, maybe next week. Or next weekend.

And of course, the post wouldn’t be complete without the blog mascot:

Now, hold still so I can catch you!

Have a great writing weekend!


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Winter, you need to go. Seriously.

hoarfrost 1 Since I didn’t get a fresh picture of the snow we’ve gotten over the past 2 weeks, I’ll recycle this one, which doesn’t show the foot of snow we now have. So, imagine another 10 inches of snow in the picture.

The weather people say our average temperature for this time of year should be around 30 F.

High temp today: all of 10 F.

We are now within 6 inches of the all-time snowiest February on record. As it is, we are in 4th place.

Talk about wonky weather. Yep, I’m done with it. Soo ready for spring.

As I’m shooting in the dark putting my website and email list and newsletter and everything else that comes with it together, part of me is thinking about seed catalogs. I usually take an evening and look through seed catalogs during the New Year’s holiday time off.

I have a stack of seed catalogs, and haven’t looked at a single one yet.

And the inevitable question: garden or no garden?

Then the inevitable ‘hold on there’: tomatoes fresh from the garden. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, and all the other things that taste so much better fresh from the garden, like asparagus, cucumbers, beets, peppers, kale, zucchini, green beans, cilantro, onions, etc.

And the next inevitable thoughts: Weeds. Mosquitoes. Rabbits. zoeyprowl

Effing rabbits.

And there’s Book 2, along with the 6 or 7 rough drafts in its wake. Not sure what I’m going to say to my editor when she asks when she’ll be able to see it. Or a synopsis.

So maybe I’ll take a night and look through seed catalogs. Pick out one new thing to grow. Maybe I’ll do pumpkins this year; haven’t done those for a while. Or maybe brussels sprouts–I didn’t do those last year, but I love them, especially roasted with sweet potatoes. Maybe I’ll plant marigolds around the perimeter, just to make me feel better about trying to keep the rabbits out. And maybe spinach again, since I now know that spinach seeds are only viable for a year; no wonder those leftover seeds from two years ago never came up.

I guess this means I’ll do a garden. There is something about growing plants and being in touch with the dirt that renews the soul. It will probably be neglected, because writing. And promoting. Which also reminds me I have some blog tour posts to finish and send out. If you are on my list, I’m hoping to get them to you by the beginning of the week. I’ll be in touch. (If you aren’t on my list and want to be, let me know 😀 )

Have a great weekend!

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