Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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How does my garden grow? 2022 edition #amgrowing #mngarden

kale and onions

I figured it was about time to post a garden update. Things are looking good, and we finally got a bit of rain. Of course, the hot humid weather we’ve been having has giving everything a boost, including the weeds!

I managed to add more mulch about a week or two ago. That’s the key, kids. Lots of mulch. Unless you really like pulling weeds. I mean, I don’t mind pulling some weeds, but there are a whole lot fewer to pull when you have more mulch to suppress them.

Cukes in foreground, tomatoes in back

Everything is coming along. I’ve already gotten a handful of cukes that are bigger than I want to pickle. I planted a different variety than my usual this year, but I’m not sure that was the best idea. I need to do pickles, so I planted 3 plants of a pickling variety, bush pickling cucumber. Normally, I plant National Pickling, which is a full vining plant. I’m getting cukes, but nowhere near enough in one or even two pickings to warrant a pickling session. It is still early, though, so hopefully as the plants keep growing I’ll get more cukes at once.

I have one slicing variety similar to the Diva variety I planted last year and the year before. They’re nice because the skins aren’t bitter, which means it’s less work when it’s time to snack on them 🙂

peppers

The peppers are looking good, at least the jalapenos are. Of the four sweet pepper plants, one looks great, the others still look pretty sad. Crossing my fingers they’ll perk up soon.

My cabbage and brussels sprouts are looking fantastic! The organic bug spray seems to be working, at least for now.

One of my pumpkin plants has finally decided to cooperate. Not sure how many pumpkins I’ll get; it’s pretty late in the season, so I’m not sure if any pumpkins it might manage will be able to mature. The onions are doing well, and I’ve had some spinach and kale for lunches. The kale I’m not impressed with; it’s not my favorite black kale variety. I planted Russian White and Russian Red kales, which are supposed to be the most cold-hardy, but the texture when cooked is booooring. At least the black kale had some personality.

The tomatoes are coming along. It’s time to go out and tie them up again, which I do periodically as they grow. Hubs’s potatoes are looking good, and I did cave to doing some weeding for him because he asked nicely 🙂

In other news, we got 4 new laying hens, since we were down to one hen (some thing killed the other one) and she wasn’t laying at all. I’ll try to post pics next time. We got them from my daughter’s BFF’s parents, since they have lots of chickens. They aren’t any particular breed, more like “mutts”, but we are getting brown, blue, and green eggs, so that’s fun!

Also, ventured out into the wild for black raspberries. This year, there are more than there’s been for a few years. Hopefully I’ll get enough for a nice batch of jelly.

And last, but not least, I learned my son–actually, his girlfriend–decided 3 adult cats in a three-bedroom apartment isn’t quite enough. Meet Juniper, with super-soft fur and enough mischief to give Nyx a run for her money.

And yes, her eyes are two different colors. She’s about 10 weeks old and has big paws like Tibbers did. I haven’t seen her in person yet, but my daughter has, and she said I have to go visit. Sounds like we might be cat-sitting in October, so maybe I’ll wait, or maybe I’ll drop in on the kitties–um, my son and his girlfriend.

Anyway, enjoy your week! Keep on writing!

Juniper


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It begins … Garden season 2022 #amgardening #mngarden

Picture from last year (because I haven’t taken any pics this year yet)

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional garden-planting weekend here in MN, especially since we’ve had a cool spring (hey, at least we’ve had what we can consider spring, instead of jumping right into summer 🙂 ) This year was no different, despite my hubs’ insistentence I had to get the garden in far sooner.

It’s a procedure, at least for me. I posted pics last year, so I’ll spare you this year. Granted, I don’t spend all day putting the garden in. I go out after work (or on weekends, after an early supper) because it’s started to cool down (of course, that’s often prime mosquito time, too). It ends up being about two-three hours at a time.

One of the biggest time consumers is raking grass for mulch. Yes, we have a lawn tractor, but a) the grass tends to be closer to a foot tall instead of three inches tall (no golf course lawns here, more like four-wheeling), and b) with grass that tall the mower clogs pretty easy. Bottom line, in my mind it’s faster to rake it instead of mowing super slow and stopping every fifty feet to unclog the chute. Besides, it’s exercise. And it saves gas, which is saying something these days 🙂 .

I actually started planting last night–finally. Memorial Day was “Storm Day” here, so I intentionally didn’t plant because we were due some severe weather. There were a few tornado touchdowns in MN, one even within 30 miles of us, and sheets of rain and WIND! If I’d planted anything, the stuff would have either drowned or gotten beaten up from the wind.

Then the wind. Sheesh. Laying out fabric mulch and covering it with cut grass mulch that is a couple days old is fine when the wind is light, but once it hits 10+ mph it’s kinda futile cuz the grass is dry (wet/fresh grass is heavier).

Anyway, I got the tomatoes, peppers, and cukes in. Tonight I’ll put in the rest, and rake up more mulch if I have the energy. It seems like every year I have less energy to do that stuff. And hey, I’m not that old, although sometimes it feels like it 🙂 . I remember watching Romper Room after school and Captain Kangaroo, just to give you an idea …

As for writing, slowly but surely. I’m working through the reorganization of my police procedural, but I’ll have to go back to Book 2 soon and do another run through it before I send it back to my agent.

Hope everyone is having a productive early summer/late spring!

Keep on writing!

Flashback: Nyx and Tibbers as kittens


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I’m baaack! #amwriting #amediting

Blueberry Trail – Shire in the Woods

Last weekend I ventured farther north to my personal writing retreat. If you look at a map of MN, there’s a big lake sorta in the middle to the northish of the middle of the state–Lake Mille Lacs. My retreat was a bit east of that, a roughly three-hour drive for me. Our trees were almost fully dressed, but up by Lake Mille Lacs they were just starting to leaf out.

The place I stayed, Shire in the Woods, started out as a hermitage, but now offers cabin rentals for those who like the peace and quiet (except when people drive their motorcycles around and kids use their outside voices). It’s at the edge of “Lake Country”–farther north and west is the bulk of the vacation/resort area–so I suspect a lot of people stay there as a “home base” for fishing adventures. It’s also at the edge of a state park–more comfortable than camping, but not so ostentatious as “glamping”.

I didn’t take any pics of the cabin I stayed in because they have quite a few on their website. I stayed in the Loft, a tiny cabin with an upstairs (cool spiral staircase!). One amenity is free internet, but I found the internet connection flakey and barely usable. Which is fine, except that meant no research (heh, no rabbit holes) and barely sufficient to check email.

Looking out the front window of the Loft

I chose this cabin because of the two levels (separates sleeping area from working area) and the glider rockers. I like to sit in a recliner with the footrest out when I write, so these were appealing. There’s a tiny kitchenette that includes a mini-fridge and the bare basics of salt, pepper, coffee, sugar, creamer. I brought my own coffee (nice excuse to get some good coffee 🙂 ).

It was cool and gloomy–I think I saw maybe a total of a half-hour of sunshine the entire three days. The cabins are small enough (at least the Loft was) to not be too cold. There was an electric heater (one of the ones that look like a skinny radiator), which kept the place warm enough that I didn’t have to use any wood.

My intent had been to wander the trails a bit, but things were still thawing and drying out, so the one trail I did venture on had some low, very wet (standing water) spots. And wood ticks! Ugh! I brought some bug repellent with DEET on purpose because I know that a) it’s tick season, and b) they have deer ticks in the area. So as I’m trying to walk a trail and skirt around the wet spots, I’m traipsing through last year’s dead grasses and naked branches, prime wood tick hangouts.

I still managed to get wet feet (granted, they do tell you to bring waterproof footwear because of those low spots), and I have never seen so many wood ticks trying to hitch a ride at one time. I got back to the cabin, and brushed nearly a dozen ticks off my pants–that I had sprayed with DEET (40% DEET)! I showered right away, so I could warm up and make sure no ticks found a meal.

Needless to say, I didn’t venture on the trails after that. Note to self: probably a good idea to bring waterproof boots next time. And more bug spray. Lots more bug spray.

I finished my revisions for Book 2; now to let it cool off a bit before one more run though it. Also some progress on my police procedural that I have to reorganize. Not so much writing with that one yet, but shuffling scenes around. I did determine I need to write out a timeline to get the sequence of events set in my head; the index cards help, but I learned I need to walk through the scenes in a timeline format to really get a handle on where they are in the story.

Overall, a success! I’m going to go back for another retreat in October, after the tourist season but before the winter weather season (usually). Maybe it’ll be after tick season by then, and it’s usually pretty dry as well.

Next time I’m going to try the Woodlands cabin. Single level, but seems to be laid out in a way that allows some separation between the sleeping area and the working area. And it’s tucked away from the main activity. That is one thing I noticed–though the cabins have some trees between them, they’re still pretty close to each other in the grand scheme. The Woodlands is set apart; I found it during my trail adventure.

This weekend is garden planting weekend for me, so I’ll be not writing for most of it–boo–except it’s supposed to rain, so we’ll see how far I get.

For all those in the US, have a great holiday weekend!


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Hey, is that … Spring?

Look quick! Don’t blink! We’re having Spring–for a week. Well, five days. Then BOOM! Summer.

Damn. I love Spring, and it’s way too early for 80 deg F temps in MN. Besides, the earlier it gets warm, the earlier I need to get the garden in. We’re past the usual last-frost date (not that it matters much in MN; we’ve had frost halfway through May), and the stinging nettle, quackgrass, and creeping charlie are popping up like it’s a race, so of course Hubs decides we need to get the garden in.

Okay, buddy. First, kill the weeds along the fence that we didn’t pull out last year, or the year before, or the year before that (I used to take the fence down every year, but since we wrapped the chicken wire around it, it’s a PITA to take down in the fall after the weeds have grown into it). We try not to use chemicals, so he got one of those dragon torches to kill the weeds. Great, except it’s more effective when you actually use it, and when said weeds aren’t a foot tall.

And the creeping charlie managed to breech the ramparts last year. I am this close to using an herbicide on that stuff. Hubs staunchly refuses, but damn it, he’s the one who brought home the grass clippings that started the invasion from another property we had. And I’m the one who maintains the garden.

Might need to be a little covert on this one.

Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to be a rant about weeds, or even about the “don’t blink, you’ll miss it” spring. I actually had a question for my fellow writers who have author websites.

So here’s the thing. I put together my website before Murder in Plane Sight came out. I was in IT for years, so doing it myself was a given. I looked at other authors’ websites to get ideas, and some authors posted about websites and tools on their blogs.

So, I did my research (ad nauseum) and picked a tool that worked well for me. It had more capability than WordPress, and I could use one plugin vs many. It worked great! Until it didn’t. So, this tool, at some point, stopped playing nice after it updated, and I couldn’t edit my webpage. So, I check in with the plugin’s tech support, who gave me a bunch of suggestions I couldn’t do because I don’t host my own site. I finally got it working again. For a while.

Then it happened again. I needed to update my site, and the damn tool stopped working again. So back to tech support. Basically, they said to rollback the updates. I did, and it worked! Rinse and repeat. It’s happened again, and I’ve turned off the auto-updates (which we all know is going to bite me in the ass at some point, because you should always keep software updated).

I’m done fighting with this plugin. Yes, it’s a subscription thing, but not too expensive (Elementor, if you are curious. And other people might not have any problems with it at all). Still, it should work after an update, right? Especially after I’ve followed all of their tech support suggestions to fix it.

Anyway, for those fellow writers who maintain their own author site, what themes or tools do you use? Suggestions? I’m starting the whole researching websites thing again, but I’m reluctant to spend a ton of time I could use to write (or plant the garden) looking for reviews and playing around with trial versions. Or playing around with my website when I don’t know if the tool I try will work for me, or even if I should redesign my whole author site. And that’s a whole ‘nother rabbit hole–looking for ideas on website design. Hell, designing a website when I don’t know what design resonates with me.

So, if anyone has any suggestions, toss them my way. I’ll probably have to set up a temporary new website to play around with until I get things figured out so I don’t mess up my real one.

Hope everyone is having some nice spring weather! Take a walk, enjoy the tulips and daffodils fast, because they won’t last long.

Happy Writing!

Watching chipmunks really wears a gal out


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So many projects, so little focus

My favorite season is Spring. The trees wake up, the grass greens up, the flowers, the birds–the two pairs of wood ducks who always stop by on their way to wherever they go showed up earlier this week (not sure where they went, though; haven’t seen them lately). The mosquitoes aren’t out yet (but I understand ticks probably are), and it’s usually pretty nice temp-wise.

We had a nice spring last year, weeks of gorgeous weather if I remember right. A few years back, we had a couple weeks of spring, maybe. Then Memorial Day weekend was almost 100 degrees F. Ugh. Summer started waaay too soon.

This year? Oh boy. We still had lows below freezing last weekend. Yes, a week before May we had freezing temps at night. The highs have finally begun to reach the 50s. Of course, that doesn’t mention anything about the wind. OMG! A little wind is expected, but dang, we’re talking 20-25 mph gusting to 30+. Yeesh. And gray gloom. I’ve had to use my SAD therapy light a few times because the sun didn’t show up.

Anyway (you know that talking about the weather is part of MN culture, right? 😀 ). Getting focused has been tough lately, for some reason. Maybe it was the binge-reading of an urban fantasy series (K. N. Banet’s Jacky Leon series, if anyone is wondering). I needed something light, and I swear I was only going to re-read the first one …

No excuse, though. I got feedback from my agent on Book 2. Not too much, adjustments here and there, but I still have to think a bit about them. I have my game plans for revising both Book 2 and my synopsis. And my final is next week–yippee (only because that’s my last class–not looking forward to the final, but whatever)! So, studying is on the to-do list. I don’t have any classes for the rest of the year, because the classes I need aren’t being offered, so that’s a break. However, I’m going to try to test out of one of my required classes at some point this year. On the list for a later date.

I’ve got my task list, I just need to focus. Always seems to be easier said than done, especially while real life is bumpy. Could be bumpier, though. So, what to do …

My time-tested method to deal with it (especially when the weather is less than ideal for walking)? NaNoWriMo. A reinforcement of the “write every day” mantra. Granted, I won’t be trying to write 50k words, but I dedicate a couple hours every night to writing (which has the added bonus of allowing me to ignore the incessant news Hubs likes to watch).

And yes, I should work on Book 2 and the synopsis, but I feel like I need a little bit of a break. Maybe a weekend with another project, maybe my police procedural or my rural MN project. Or, maybe a weekend with my urban fantasy; not too much time, though, because I don’t have that fleshed out yet. I get random scenes in my head that bug me until I write them down. So inconsiderate!

Hope you all are enjoying better weather than our gloomy, windy, almost-but-not-quite spring.

Keep on writing!

Nyx–plotting??