Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Waning Garden — whew!

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, the first day of fall. The trees have started changing–my favorite part of fall. Well, along with the cooler weather, fewer bugs, and … wait, it was 93 and tropical humidity yesterday, and I’ve been fighting squadrons of airborne vampires. Ugh.

Oh, and the other thing I love about fall–the garden is almost done. So much time, and weeds, and mosquitos, and chipmunks, and OMG tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans and zucchini. I’ve been taking the surplus to work because there’s no way we can consume it all before it goes bad.

And they appreciate it, since a good number of them live in subdivisions or apartments where they can’t have a garden.

So, here’s some pics of my sad, sad garden. And I haven’t pulled weeds for-ev-er. So, fair warning πŸ˜€

potato row Here’s my forlorn garden. The bare row was the previous home of the potatoes. I’ve pulled the onions, and I decided to pick my final green beans. I’ve pulled half of those plants, and one of the remaining zucchini plants. The cucumber died a few weeks ago (secretly, woo-hoo!). One plant, and I had more cucumbers than I imagined from a single plant.

Brussels sprouts

The poor Brussels sprouts. Sigh. Since I don’t use chemicals, the cabbage worms have been eating well. I hand-pick the caterpillars every other day, but those little green buggers are easy to miss. We’ve been eating beets, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, etc, so I haven’t picked any sprouts yet. I was hoping to wait until after the first light frost to pick them because they’ll be sweeter, but I can’t wait much longer. πŸ™‚

tomatoesAnd the tomatoes. Uff-da. I planted a lot because we wanted to can tomatoes this year, but hoo-boy. Fourteen plants. Note to self: Do not plant anywhere near that many next year.

canned tomatoesWe’ve canned 37 quarts of tomatoes so far. My hubby made a batch of chili, and a batch of spaghetti sauce, and we still have enough tomatoes to do another 7 or 8 quarts.

And I had to include more monster zucchini squash. They are the sneakiest, hiding until they’re huge so I can find them. πŸ˜€

monster zukes

Once the first frost hits, it’ll be the end of the garden except for the Brussels sprouts and the kale. Now if I can remember not to overdo the garden next year…

Yeah, right. I say that every year. Next year my goal is a garden half the size of this year’s garden. Uh-huh. We’ll see. I always seem to forget just how many veggies I get from a few plants.

So, there you have it. The raspberries are starting to ripen again, second run. As long as it stays fairly warm, the raspberries will keep going. Last year I had sooo many raspberries I made a couple dozen half-pints of jelly.

Oh, almost forgot. Now with the weather getting colder–well, except for this past week–Zoey has the tendency to take advantage of a warm chair. As soon as I or my husband get up from our chairs, Zoey jumps in and makes her claim. And of course, she looks all innocent when we come back.

zoey steals chair

Enjoy the first weekend of autumn, but don’t forget to write πŸ˜€

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Okay, I surrender

It’s been raining this week. Wednesday we enjoyed time in a tornado warning area, and probably got close to 3+ inches of rain. And Friday morning until noon it rained. So, there hasn’t been much opportunity to get into the garden.

This time of year is when the weeds race to flower and set seed, along with all the other plants. And I haven’t kept up with the weeding since I came back from my wonderful retreat, both because of the rain, and because, well, by this time of the season I’m tired of trying to pull weeds that come back faster than the heads of the Hydra. It’s almost like Whack-a-Mole with weeds, and there’s waaay more than one mole popping up.

I give up.

Back by popular demand (okay, one person asked to see the garden again. And the chickens. And the cat. πŸ™‚ ), my lousy pictures of my weedy garden. Here ya go.

garden1

The tiny yellow flowers are dill. Smell like pickles!

In a lot of ways, I’m not too worried about the weeds. The potatoes are dying back and ready to dig up. The onions are about ready to pull.

garden2

The tiny white flowers are cilanto, aka coriander. Love how these smell too.

And tomatoes. So. Many. Tomatoes. I planted a bunch because we need to can tomatoes this year. I have 13 or 14 plants of paste tomatoes. None are ripe yet, and I can’t wait until that first BLT with a garden-ripe tomato, but I know once all the tomatoes start getting ripe all at the same time–yikes! The plants are also starting to die, falling victim to some fungus or something. Crossing my fingers the tomatoes ripen before the plants die.tomatoes

After so many days not checking the zucchini and cucumbers, I expected to find a monster or two. I wasn’t disappointed. And the chickens were thrilled πŸ™‚

zucchini

hens

Chickens love monster zucchini almost as much as overripe cucumbers!

One of the chickens stood still long enough for me to get a decent picture. They’re looking good, and should start laying eggs soon.

hen

Is this my good side?

The borage is blooming like crazy now, and the bees have finally appeared to take advantage. Bees love borage, but I haven’t seen many around until the past few weeks. I saw bumblebees, honeybees, and mason bees, which are mostly black and don’t live in hives like honeybees do.

bee borage

Bumblebee on borage

And the grand finale —

*crickets*

Um, well, I’m not sure where Zoey ran off to. I saw her yesterday hanging around the garden, but by the time I retrieved my iPad to take a picture, she was gone. So, here’s one from the recent archives (sorry if you’ve seen this one before):

Zoey4

This weekend, I have GOT to catch up on some household chores. I thought I saw a mouse just sitting in the corner–turns out it was a dust bunny. If I get my chores done today, I’ll have all day tomorrow to write!

Summer’s almost over, so enjoy it while you can. Today’s supposed to be warm and sunny, a far cry from the cloudy, rainy, cool, dreary yuck we’ve had for the past week or so. Don’t neglect to jot down a few words, maybe even a whole sentence about how much fun you’ve had this summer, or your big Labor Day plans. Me? Writing is always on my agenda. Depending on how many tomatoes are ripe by then, I expect canning will be on the list as well.

Have a great weekend, and Write On!


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Saturday sigh

Nope. I got nuthin’. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I don’t know what to write about this week. No new updates on the manuscript front. No ideas from the writers’ grab bag.

Weeding. Taming tomato plants, picking beans, prolific zucchini (big surprise there–not), and patrolling for cabbage worms. Boooring.

Shameless plugs for writing sisters who have books out recently or coming out soon:

Crossing the Line

St. Mary’s Private Dancer

Progress report? Finishing the last edits on my 20 pages to send to my writing sisters. In two weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin at our reunion. I can’t wait!

Hmm, anything useful for fellow writers? Updates on the publishing journey?

I have been reading some good blog posts lately about writing and how important patience and persistence are. I was thinking about my current adventure I’m taking, courtesy of my agent. She started sending the manuscript out in February. It’s now almost the end of July, and we’re still “pounding the pavement”. There are a handful of editors who haven’t said “yea” or “nay”; actually, they haven’t said much at all.

It’s a waiting game. And even once a publisher picks up the manuscript (crossing fingers here!), I know it’ll be at least a year before release, because that’s how long it takes. This is the patience part.

If this manuscript doesn’t sell, I’ve got another one ready to go. It’s just a matter of whether my agent will like it enough to represent it. If not, I’m working on my old “new” WIP, but that won’t be ready until closer to the end of the year. I’ll talk to my agent about next steps.

And I might have to start the hunt all over again (I hope not, because I really like my agent). This is the persistence part. This business is not for anyone who likes instant gratification. Short fiction would have a shorter timeline, and I’ve had short stories published (B.C.–Before Children), so that’s an option.

Bottom line: Keep writing. Keep learning, improving, practicing. Every draft, every query, every rejection is another step on the journey. Keep moving forward.

Okay, that’s about all I’ve got. Heading to my dad’s to see my sister today. I only see her a couple times a year since she lives in WI, so I’m looking forward to catching up a little with her. Gotta finish my 20 pages, so I’m going to sign off.

Have a great weekend! Wear sunscreen, keep hydrated, and WRITE!


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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 πŸ™‚ )

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 getΒ  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, betweenΒ  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 πŸ˜€


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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” πŸ˜€

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 πŸ™‚ ):

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 πŸ™‚ ). 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!