Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Getting back into it #amwriting

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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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Happy Equinox Day!

Okay, so the equinox won’t be until 8:54 pm (CDT). Then we get to welcome autumn. I love autumn. The colors, the smells, the lack of bugs, the impending arrival of winter–wait. Nope, not one of the things I love about autumn. Then again, if we could have winter through, say, January, so we have a white Christmas and all that, then we can do spring. Who’s with me?

This past week we’ve had rain. Not just any rain. We’re talking record rain for September in MN. We’re talking wheelbarrow rain here.

water wheelbarrow No, that is not a kid-sized wheelbarrow. Nor is it parked under a waterspout. We figure we got somewhere around 5-6 inches over the past week. Or more. We don’t have a rain gauge, just the calibrated dog dishes on the deck.

Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going out to the garden, with all the rain and the mud and the mutant zucchini. I tugged on my trusty garden treads and headed out anyway, because I had a blog post to write. 😀

And this is what I found:

Yep, it was a jungle. Things are winding down in the garden about now. The green beans are done, the zucchini are still going, but I might pull them out soon. The cukes are still going, and the tomatoes are in the thick of ripening season.

Speaking of, tomatoes and tons of rain don’t get along all that well. It’s the main reason I went out to the garden sooner rather than later. Take a look:

If I can get the tomatoes right away, we can eat them before they go bad. But if I can’t pick them soon enough, the mold sets in, and the flies start gathering like rats to a piper. Hubs made a batch of spaghetti sauce this week, and I think we need more bacon (BLTs with homegrown tomatoes are the bomb!)

The kale is looking super, but I’m going to try to wait to pick it until after the first frost (if I can wait that long). Some people don’t like it, but I love brussels sprouts, and kale is in the same family. It’ll sweeten a bit after a frost, and it’ll last until it snows.

kale row

Black (aka Dinosaur) Kale (with curly kale in the back)

I promised someone I’d post pics of the peppers I did last weekend. Hubs and I go through phases where we’ll eat pickled peppers as snacks. Think of the pickled peppers you find in the salad at Olive Garden. You can buy them in the grocery store. They are pepperoncini peppers, and a bit on the spicy side, but not too bad.

This year my hubs asked if I would plant some of those peppers so we could try pickling our own (regular pickles from the store are cheaper than the peppers, but the peppers are so tasty!). Well, I found pepperoncini seeds, and voila!

pepperoncini

Pepperoncini peppers

They are prolific! I have done two batches of peppers already, a smaller test batch (which is half gone 😀 ) and a larger batch, and there are enough peppers still out in the garden to do more. A good thing, because I don’t know how long the ones I’ve already done will last.

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Homemade pickled peppers

I planted some small snacking peppers as well, but I couldn’t get a good picture of those. I also see another batch of pico de gallo salsa in my future, even if my cilantro is mostly flowering now. I’m sure I’ll find some volunteer cilantro plants since they reseed like crazy.

On the writing front, I’m plugging along. Only about 700-1200 words a night, but more than zero. Slowly but surely, like the tortoise. Or Dory.

dory

 

So, enjoy the first day of Autumn, and Just Keep Writing!


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A Brief but unspectacular post

Hey there! Contrary to my intention this week, I have no ideas for this post. Usually something will pop into my head as I’m writing (or I just con my Muse into writing the post).

Well, this week is pretty much a bust. If I’d been thinking last night, I would have taken some garden pics to post. I am getting ripe tomatoes, even if a critter is eating some of them. Nothing like getting out to the garden, grabbing a nice, ripe tomato, and finding out the back side is gone and the remains are a party floor for bugs. Yeesh.

Everything else is winding down. I planted pepperoncini peppers this year with the intent to pickle them. I did a small batch a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t wait any longer. Success! So this weekend will be more pickling, along with pico de gallo salsa (at my daughter’s request) and cleaning.

Ugh. BTW, make sure you let me know well in advance if you plan to stop by. Just sayin’.

I follow a lot of blogs, and I’m waaaay behind, so don’t be disappointed if I missed yours over the past week or so. I’m trying to catch up 🙂 .

Also, I’ve talked about the Writers’ Institute that happens every spring at UW–Madison. Last spring I was there with my Writing Sisters, and a blizzard. Next spring it’s scheduled for the first weekend in April, and this week I found out both my workshop proposals were accepted. So I will be there, and with my new book! Murder in Plane Sight is scheduled to be released in March 2019. If you’ve wanted to go to a writers’ conference, this one is stellar! The full schedule isn’t finished yet, but hey, I’ll be there. Come on out to Madison and say “Hi”!

That’s about all for now. Have a wonderful, writing-filled weekend!


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It’s a jungle out there

I know you all like to see pictures of my garden, and it’s about that time. Thing is, ever since I got back from my reunion retreat, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about weeding. As in, not-weeding-unless-I-can’t-find-the-vegetables enthusiastic.

Part of it is the weather–it’s been hot and humid here. Part of it is the time of year, I think. All the weeds are seeding now. When I got back from Wisconsin, I checked out the garden.

Ugh.

On the bright side, most of the weeds are purslane, which is more ground-hugging, so it isn’t shading any of the veggies. In fact, it might even be acting like a sort of mulch.

purslane

A carpet of purslane

So, really, it isn’t all that bad if you look at it that way. It just looks messy.

Another deterrent to getting out into the garden? The ragweed is blooming now. And if you remember, we have giant ragweed. Yes, that’s really what it’s called, and with good reason–the plant can be up to 15′ high (I think that’s around 5 meters for those on the metric system).

And though common ragweed is generally no more than a foot high, it has nothing on the large “flowers” the giant stuff has.

You see all that yellow stuff? That’s ALL pollen. And that’s the stuff that people are allergic to. Including me. We try to cut down as much ragweed as we can before it flowers, but of course we never get it all. And in some areas, we just can’t get to it.

Lucky for me, ever since I had surgery to correct my deviated septum, allergy season hasn’t been as bad as it used to be. I can still breathe. And yes, I know I’m allergic to it, because the one time I got tested, they wanted to stop the test because my back broke out from the moment they applied the ragweed allergen. (If you’ve never been tested for allergies, back almost 20 yrs ago when I was tested, they applied allergens to your back using tiny needles to barely prick the skin. I have no idea what they do now.)

BTW, many people blame these allergies on goldenrod, which blooms at the exact same time, and happens to have tiny yellow flowers the same color as ragweed pollen. Goldenrod also tends to grow next to ragweed, so it gets a bad rap.

Anyway, they aren’t pretty, but here are pics I took last night. The cilantro/coriander is blooming now, the dill is blooming, and the cucumbers are spreading everywhere!

garden1

Row of green beans and cilantro, with a carpet of purslane back by the tomatoes.

garden2

Zucchini and cucumbers. Notice the “wall” of giant ragweed way in the background over by the chicken pen.

I’ve been picking zucchini, green beans, and of course, cucumbers. I just picked the first tomato. Okay, I should have waited another day or two, but hey, it’s the first ripe tomato!

The kale has been heartily attacked by cabbage worms, and though I’ve been meaning to spray, I haven’t done so. I try to avoid using chemicals, and though I have an organic pesticide to use, I haven’t mixed it up yet.

The peppers are doing well. This year I planted pepperoncini peppers, which are the ones they use for pickled peppers, like what you get in the salad at Olive Garden. We’ve been eating pickled peppers lately, so my husband suggested I plant some so we can pickle our own.

And there you have it. My writing–now that I’m finally getting going with Book 2–is another reason I’m reluctant to spend a lot of time in the garden. And it’s hot. And frankly, I’m tired. I might not plant a garden next year, but then again, tomatoes. And peppers. And we don’t have a good farmer’s market around. Or maybe we’ll get a membership in the CSA for the school garden. We’ll see.

Have a wonderful and writing-filled weekend!