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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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!


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Stalled … or stalling?

Spring. There’s nothing quite like it. I stand outside my writing office on the patio and suck in a deep breath. I smell the green of new grass, of fresh leaves, of promise that winter is behind us.

Yeah. Right. Snow is predicted tomorrow night. Not much, mind you, and a good dose of rain to go with it, but still. It has the effect of dampening the excitement of spring.

“What the bloody hell are you doing, love?”

The edge in my Muse’s voice makes me wince. Consequently, I’m very careful not to turn around.

“Enjoying the fresh air. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. And snow. This week was icky anyway. Figured I needed to absorb the sun while it’s here.”

I sense him behind me. He’s radiating not anger, but something like agitation. “You aren’t writing.”

I know. The grass practically glows emerald in the sunlight. It never seems this green any other time of the year. The leaves on the trees have a lighter tone, like the newborn leaves are acclimating to being out in the open. Their green is light and delicate. Once the trees are fully dressed, the leaves darken just a bit, like they’re hardening for months of exposure.

“Why aren’t you writing?”

“It’s spring. It only happens once a year.” The spring weather here in MN can swing from low seventies to the low thirties, hence the snow we had just a couple days ago. Granted, snow doesn’t stick around long at this point, but after a week of gorgeous weather, it sure puts a damper on things.

“It’ll be spring for a few more weeks. Sit your ass in the chair and get to work.”

He’s standing close enough for me to feel his heat on the back of my neck. I turn. He’s inside my personal space, and doesn’t back up. His fiery blue eyes cut into mine, and a small shiver of fight-or-flight trickles down my spine. “Back. Off.”

“No. You’ve let your WIP sit for a month.” He waves a finger in my face. “You’ve worked the storyline through and made changes–improvements. Now you need to put those changes in place.”

“Look, tomorrow is supposed to be crappy again. I’m taking my daughter shopping this afternoon. I’ll work on it tomorrow.”

His eyes narrow. “Bullshit. You’re going to do what you’ve been doing for the last month. Not writing.”

I have to look away. Naturally the next thing I notice is his Indiana Jones get-up. Brown pants, tan shirt, and a fedora. A bullwhip is coiled on his belt.

And he’s been so nice lately.

“I need to work through the final scenes before I start the second draft. I’ve got good changes figured out. I just need a little more time. Besides, my readers are supposed to get back to me this week. My agent is back on Wednesday, and I told her I’d have the revisions done by next week.”

He crosses his arms on his broad chest. “I’m going to start riding your ass on this. You need to stop procrastinating. You know you need to have at least the third draft done before your writing sisters reunion. You’re not going to make it unless you dig in now.”

Sigh. “I know.”

Before I head back to the grindstone, I figured you guys might want a couple updates. And pics. Okay, they’re one in the same.

First, the asparagus. I think I’ll be picking it later today. It’s been cool, so it doesn’t grow much, but doggone it, I can’t wait.

asparagus

Then, of course, an update on the chicks. I’m telling you, they’re kinda homely.

chicks2_crchicks1_cr

They freak out whenever we open the top on the box. And they’re getting to the point where we’ll need to move them outside. Not until after this next cold snap, though. My son’s done with school this coming week, so I think we’ll task him with setting up the nursery coop.

I saw a nice bed of tulips blooming yesterday and realized how much the color does to the landscape after months of brown and gray. I can’t wait until the irises and lilacs bloom.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends!


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Looking Forward

Outside my writing office the landscape is dark, lit only by trees supporting blue, green, purple, and red Christmas lights. I love the lights. Didn’t get much chance to go out and see them this year, but there were a few houses on my going-to-work route that had some really nice lights.

I hear the quiet snick of the office door closing behind me, then a muted scratch of glass against wood as something is set on my desk.

“You didn’t put it up, love.”

I know my Muse is looking at the whiteboard covering one wall of the office. “It’s not for sure quite yet. I haven’t signed.”

“But you will. So put it up. It’s a great way to end this year and start 2017.”

“I’m waiting to hear what my writing teacher thinks. She’s taking time out of her holiday weekend for me. I’ll have to send her some jelly. Maybe some of those mint chocolate cookies, too. My son wants to make another batch for when his girlfriend comes over tomorrow.”

“You should have lights in here. And a disco ball to reflect them. Or just lots of those twinkling fairy lights. Something festive.” He takes up a position beside me, thumbs hooked into the back pockets of his jeans. “You’re almost there, love.”

Yep. Sooo close. “I’ve got a few more revisions to work on. I need you here.”

My Muse rests an arm around my shoulders. “Of course. You know things are going to get more intense after you finish these revisions, right? Are you ready for that?”

“Not sure, but this is where I want to go. I think.” The reality is starting to sink in. I know this whole writing thing is work. Lots of work. Not just writing work, either. There’s an element of anxiety and fear that goes along with the anticipation. “Yes, this is where I want to go.”

“Keep telling yourself that, love. And I’ll tell you if you forget.” He nudges me away from the window. A bottle of champagne with a big shiny bow on it stands proudly on my desk along with a couple glasses. “Ready to celebrate?”

“Later.” I want to get my writing teacher’s feedback. It’s all still sinking in, even though I kind of expected this after the past few months. “And I’m spending part of the day with my son, so no celebrating until closer to midnight.”

“New year, next step forward. Sounds good to me.”

Every year we like to remember all those things that worked and that maybe didn’t over theΒ  past 12 months. We like to lay out our goals and aspirations for the coming year. The problem we often run into is the forward motion toward those goals. Sometimes real life closes the road, or at least sets up those orange barrels. Sometimes the side road looks like the easier path. Sometimes we run out of gas.

It’s those times we need a kick in the arse, as my Muse would say. I won’t mention writing a list of your goals for the new year, because everyone says that. I will say if you don’t have a group of one or more other writers you can work with, that should be your first mission in the new year. Even though we like to work alone, other writers can help keep us motivated, help us become better at our craft, and share knowledge that goes beyond grammar and point-of-view.

Keep moving forward. Keep writing. And if you start to stall out, I’ll have my Muse send someone over to help your muse do a little arse-kicking πŸ˜€

Have a safe New Year’s Day weekend everyone! And don’t stop writing!

 

 


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Oh, the weather outside …

is frightful. It is. Really. Woke up to another few inches of snow, and it’s still going.

img_0007_cr The weather people predicted another four to eight inches by the time the whole thing is done. At least done snowing. After the snow, the wind is supposed to kick up, and by tomorrow our high daytime temp–not including the wind chill–is supposed to be -5 F. Add the windchill in for a grand low more than -20 F.

Yippee.

Not. It usually doesn’t get this (effing) cold until January.

I don’t have to go anywhere, and the furnace is working. I can write all weekend!!

Except this is the last weekend before Christmas, so I need to get going on my cookie baking and jelly making. With the sheer volume of raspberries this fall from my ragtag patch, I should be able to make a couple batches of jelly. And cookies. I can’t start making them too early or they end up getting eaten. At least this year I can use Nature’s freezer. The last couple years it’s been too warm outside (Shock, right? Minnesota in December above freezing? It’s getting more usual. Global warming and all that.) Try fitting a dozen cookie dozens in the freezer along with the usual freezer stuff. Not easy, which means I had to do all the baking in the couple days before Christmas.

So, I’ll dedicate a few hours to staring at my computer screen and trying to work through the first few scenes in my latest WIP, then I’ll peg some time for jelly-making (it makes great gifts) and cookie-baking. I got a new KitchenAid mixer during Black Friday I’m itching to try out. Should be fun!

Do you have your holiday preparations finished? Presents wrapped? My kids are old enough now that if I don’t get the gifts wrapped, they’re okay with it. Cookies baked? I’ve got four or five (depending on how ambitious I feel and if I have the ingredients) different cookie varieties I make every year, one of which is my dad’s favorite cookie of all time: chocolate chip. I love making them, but he’s diabetic, so I always worry about leaving extra cookies with him. I toss them in the freezer so they’ll maybe last an extra day or two.

Hey, if you don’t get any writing done over the next week or so, don’t sweat it (Pretty hard to sweat when it’s double-digits below zero). If you get a free half-hour, jot down a few story ideas. Work through a scene. Send out a couple queries. Put together a character sketch.

Don’t. Stop. Writing. Give yourself permission to do smaller bits. The best part about family gatherings? Lots of fodder for future stories! Remember that when your sister’s bratty son throws a tantrum when his cousin gets the present he wanted, or when Grandpa’s dentures fall into the figgy pudding.

Not sure if I’ll get a post done next weekend, so if I miss it:

Happy Holidays!


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Wake-up call

I imagine everyone in the US has heard by now the first major storm of the season is marching across the country’s midsection. I think it’s Mother Nature’s way of reminding us that yes, it really is November, even though it’s been feeling like September and October.

It’s been sooo nice all fall. I’ve been going for walks at lunchtime all week. We’ve got a nice 2-mile walking path across the street from the building where I work. I’m not saying that I can’t walk once the snow flies. It’s just that I’m less motivated to do so when it’s cold. And good walking shoes/boots for the winter is a plus, but not a plus I have right now. I can’t find any I like (not that I’ve been looking very hard πŸ™‚ )

Anyway, I’m in the area of the state that won’t see a foot of snow from this storm – Yay!! It does remind me of my WIP, where a blizzard plays a significant role in the story, and in the relationship between the two main characters. (No, I’m not going to give you more hints. That would take all the fun out of it πŸ˜‰ )

So, after this storm, our daily highs in the 50s and 60s (F) are predicted to drop to highs just above freezing, complete with wind chills below freezing. Talk about a hard stop. The impending weather inspired me to buy a new winter hat and gloves. Yippee!

Why is this a biggish deal? My hubby is frugal. In the grand scheme of things, he won’t cut open the toothpaste tube to scrape the last vestiges of its contents, but he will pull it out of the garbage after I’ve squeezed every last bit from it (or so I think) because it has another 2 or 3 toothbrush coatings left in it. To his credit, though, he can fix almost anything, and we have never had car payments.

When I told him I was buying a new winter hat because mine has a hole in it and hell, I’ve had it for 30 years, he immediately offered to find me another one from the family hat collection (You know, the one that consists of hats that every family member wears and no one can remember where they came from. Kinda like the lost and found collection.).

Yeah–no. I figure I can buy one new hat (two if you count the one for my daughter) after 30 years, four of which were before we met. And a new pair of gloves that won’t unravel at the tips and costs a buck and a half at Walmart. And maybe a pair of mittens that I don’t have to wear buck-and-a-half gloves in for them to be warm enough.

Ha! Merry Thanksgiving to me! (I’ve got my Christmas gift all planned out, I’m just waiting for Black Friday πŸ˜€ )

It’s kinda like when you buy that new notebook and fancy pen or pencil. For writing, of course. There’s a sort of promise that comes with it, the anticipation of using the first fresh page. Maybe you sprang for that Moleskine journal and a fine-tipped gel pen, perfect for use during the drive to the in-laws for the holidays. Or you finally get an iPad. Or a new laptop/tablet/computer. Or that new writing software you’re trying out for NaNo. There’s an excitement, an eagerness to dig in and try it out.

It’s like a new story, the one that’s been mulling around in your head, when you finally get the chance to put it on paper. When the characters and the setting and the story line all come together and develop a life of their own. Or like a revision to a story already written, a revision you know will add that little extra facet and bring the whole thing together.

I’m at that excited point now, with my WIP revisions almost finished. Just a run through Grammarly, maybe another read-through, then it’s off to the agent and crossing fingers she’ll like what I’ve done.

Then Turkey Day.

For those NaNo-ers, you should be around 35k-40k words by the end of the weekend.

Have a great writing weekend!