Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Escape from the Deep Freeze

It’s early, so the sun’s not up yet, but lookie here:

Capture

After two days above freezing–yes, I said above freezing–we’re back to the icebox. Wind chill advisory until noonish. According to the weather guys, we won’t see double digits again until the end of the week.

Sigh.

So when one of my writing sisters tagged me on this picture from Seed Savers, I had to smile:
26239161_1693631804022263_7610006661865739579_n What a great excuse to dig out the seed catalogs I got after Christmas (because when is a better time to think about spring than when it’s effing cold outside?).

We just won’t mention the whole “writer’s stuck in deep mud and can’t seem to pull herself out” part of this, will we?

*checks for Muse*

Whew. He probably got tired of babysitting me and decided to do a pub crawl with Mr. E.

In the meantime, this is what I’ve gotten in the mail. Tell me this doesn’t look like fun!
IMG_0185_cr I usually save the seed catalogs for later, when it’s closer to seed-starting time, but it’s been so cold, and I’ve been so “stuck”, that after my WS tagged me, I thought, “Well, that’ll be a nice bit of escape from Winter.”

I like looking through the catalogs, with all the pictures of veggies and flowers, but mostly veggies. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I have a vegetable garden every year. I figured I’d share a little about how I plan it.

Wait, plan? Ha! I plan to have a smaller garden, because WEEDS, but somehow that never seems to materialize. The smaller garden, I mean. The weeds ALWAYS materialize.

So, this year I swear it’ll be a smaller garden. Seriously. Because I’ve got other things to do, like start promoting my book coming out next year. And writing/revising book 2 and another book and probably revising another book my agent has looked at that needs a whole lotta work (and here I thought it was almost ready to go–phffft!)

Everything else is subject to how I feel that year, that is, how much trouble the veggie is and how much I don’t want to bother with it. I have things I always plant no matter what: tomatoes, onions, peppers (sweet and hot), cilantro (see a theme here? Fresh salsa!), cucumbers (pickling, not slicing), dill (see another theme? Pickles!), radishes, and potatoes. This year, since I’m not canning tomatoes (did that last year), I want to plant a nice heirloom slicing tomato. They taste sooo good.

Beets I like because they aren’t much work, just need to be weeded. Green beans are okay; the bush varieties still don’t grow as upright as they sound, and I always seem to plant way more than I need.

Zucchini is another thing I plant every year, but I always forget how big the plants get. And they’re fine until the squash bugs show up. Damn things. Some years they aren’t a problem, but other years I don’t get many squash because of those little bastards. They suck juices out of the squash plant, and of course in the process infect it with whatever nasty fungus they carry. And they’re creepy–think boxelder beetle but bigger and gray and they stink when you crush them. With blue goo inside.

Definitely doing kale again, but this year I’m starting the seeds in the house–I planted three times but they never came up, so I had to buy plants last year. And I want to do not-so-curly kale, because of the cabbage worms (you know kale is in the same family with cabbage and Brussels sprouts, right?) Speaking of, as much as I like Brussels sprouts, don’t know that I’ll plant them this year. It’s a pain in the ass to pick the cabbage worms every day (since I’m too lazy to cover them with netting so the stupid butterflies can’t get to them).

Hmm. The rest is up to whim. I don’t like planting corn because you have to have at least 4 rows to get good pollination, and we never seem to pick it at the right time. I always have borage, which self-seeds like dill and cilantro, because the bees love it.

I always plant spinach, too, but I haven’t gotten a good spinach crop in years. And I like to toss in flowers, because whenever you order seeds you get free samples of flowers. This year I might do marigolds to try and keep the rabbits out. They say it works. It’ll be a second line of defense πŸ™‚ And maybe pie pumpkins this year–I love pumpkin bread.

Every year I like to plant something new, or at least something I haven’t grown for a while. A couple years ago I did sugar snap peas, and had the same lousy results I had the last time I planted peas (about 10 years ago), so probably no peas. Did eggplant–nobody ate it. Did watermelon, but never seem to pick it at the right time, though there is a variety where the rind changes color when it’s ripe. Did cantaloupe–see watermelon.

I’m thinking garbanzo beans this year. Or maybe … Hmm. That’s what the seed catalogs are really good for. Finding something new to try. So maybe artichokes. Or leeks. Or edamame. Or Napa cabbage.

While I’m off to peruse my seed catalogs, I’ll leave you with a parting shot (don’t say I wasn’t thinking about you, B πŸ˜‰ )

zoey12-17-2

Stay warm! Have a great weekend and keep writing!

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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!