Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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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. πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜€ ) 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.

pickled-peppers.jpg

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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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!


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Summer’s half over. Where did it go?

We’re on the second half of July already.

Wasn’t it just Memorial Day?

Why does it seem the summer is never long enough? Then again, I live in MN, so our summer weather runs from about the middle of May through the middle of September, although where I live (and with global warming) we have comfortably-warm weather from mid-April (usually, except this year when we had a blizzard in Week 2) through mid-October.

We’ve had a combination of hella hot and it-can-stop-raining-now since the end of May. For the record, this Memorial Day (last Monday in May) hit a record 91 F (about 33 C). It’s cooled off some this month (all the way down to the mid-80s, which is about average), but the combination kicks vegetation into fast-grow mode. I swear we can hear the grass growing!

Due to the deadline with my manuscript, I didn’t get my garden in until the first week of June (we like to get it in on Memorial Day weekend at the latest because our growing season is relatively short).

This week, once it stopped raining and cooled to a temperature that didn’t cause instant sweat, I ventured out to the garden. Granted, with all the rain, my plants have been struggling a bit, not to mention all that water tends to leach nutrients away.

Anyhow, here are my before pics:

The weeds weren’t as bad as I’d feared, considering I hadn’t been out to the garden in over a week (I think). One thing to note is that we use a tractor–not a lawn tractor, but a utility tractor like this one (but with a cab on it)–to till. This year, since one of the rear tires on the usual tractor developed a huge tear in the sidewall, we had to use our big tractor.

If you aren’t familiar with tractors and fieldwork, the thing to remember is the weight of the tractor will compact the soil, and thus make it tougher for plants to extend their roots. That’s why you see farmers using tractors with 4 or 6 HUGE wheels or tracs: not only does it help with traction when pulling larger implements, it spreads the weight of the tractor out so it doesn’t compact the soil as much. It’s also why farmers usually till the middle of the field first, then go around the outside perimeter last; that’s where the soil is compacted the most because the tractor turns there on every pass.

Anyway, by using the bigger tractor, the soil is compacted more (and after years of tilling with a tractor, we have some problems anyway with compaction). So, I strategically planted between the tire tracks from the tractor, which I think helps to keep the weeds down between the rows. Still, weeds.

Three hours and a couple gallons of sweat later, it looked pretty good:

Last night I actually picked our first zucchini of the season, and the handful of green beans left that some small varment (a mouse or vole, I think) didn’t munch. So, I sliced and sauted the zuke last night. There’s nothing like that first garden veggie (even if it is a zucchini πŸ˜€ )!

I tied up the tomatoes–which now have a few greenies on them–and wove the cucumber vines into the cattle gates I’m using for their climbing support. I’ve got tiny cucumbers on the vines, and more zucchini on the way. The peppers are doing their thing, and the beans, well, something smaller than a chipmunk is munching on them judging by the teethmarks in one of the surviving beans. Sigh.

On the writing front, I got my manuscript back from the line editor, and have relatively few corrections to make (yippee!). I also got another mockup of the cover. (No, I’m not going to show it until it’s done–mwahahahaha!) I’ll think about that over the weekend, along with the suggestions from my writing sisters, and give the cover person my feedback on Monday. My editor also gave me homework to do and return by the end of the month, including coming up with a teaser/hook (30 words max), a 1- to 2-sentence pitch for the book (max 50 words), and ‘highlights or aspects of the story that will appeal to readers (less than 150 words). Oh, and don’t forget the author quote used for press release.

And I thought the query and synopsis were tough!

Another step closer. I’ve got a lot going on over the next week, though, including an unexpected day at my dad’s today, an afternoon coffee meetup with one of my blogging friends tomorrow (can’t wait!), and Dad’s auction next weekend. Add working full time, weeding, and walking (because I know I’ll need the mind-space to do my homework for my editor), and my WIP (book 2) is getting very little attention. So much for a NaNo in July. Maybe August will be better; my Writing Sisters reunion is in (less than) two weeks! Nothing like a group of writers to get those creative energies charged up πŸ˜€

Here’s a quick (and yes, terrible) pic of my very own mini-panther:

zoeyprowl

Have a great weekend!


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Finally, a break?

I’m going to call it a break, anyway. The past few weeks–actually, since the beginning of May, I think–I’ve had stuff going on every weekend (including my mini-writing retreats at my dad’s). Last weekend was my daughter’s grad party. It feels official now. Next on the docket will be orientation for college, but that’ll be in a month or so.

“You’ve got a month, love. Does that mean you’re going to get your butt in gear?” My Muse closes the back door of my writing office, shoves his Ray-Bans up onto his head, and plants hands on his hips. His blond hair is sun-bleached, a perfect complement to his faded muscle shirt and cut-off shorts. Even his flip-flops enhance the beach bum effect. A scent of coconut and ocean hangs around him.

“Where the hell have you been?”

A tall glass with a paper umbrella materializes on the small table between the two recliners in a corner of my office as he drops into one of the chairs. “On walkabout after those mini-retreats at your dad’s. You did good, you know. Got the manuscript off by deadline.” He leans back, sips his drink. Sweat coats the outside of the glass, the inside filled with something orangy. He smacks his lips. “You done with the outline yet? You better get that done if you want to do a self-imposed NaNo in July.”

“I’m working on it. Comfy?”

He stretches, hands behind his head, footrest extended. He slides his sunglasses back into place “Yep. Too hot outside this weekend, anyway. You might as well work on the outline.”

“That’s the plan. Are you sticking around to help? Or are you waiting for Mr. E to go on some surfer’s bar hop?”

He takes another sip of whatever tropical drink he’s got. “He got sunburned and went home. He can’t surf, anyway. Oh, which reminds me–be careful with my board. I just waxed it.”

I’m working on my outline for Book 2 and he’s surfing? “You know Book 2 is not set at any sort of beach, right?”

“Sure it is. Isn’t there a family cabin at a lake involved with this?”

“But the story isn’t set there. That’s reserved for the novella.” I lean back against my desk. “You’re sticking around to help me this weekend, right?”

“Of course, love. I might have to pop out for a few wave-catching breaks. You got a board?” He lifts his glasses and peers at me. “You’re more ‘wade in the surf’, aren’t you? You’re missing out.”

Somehow, I don’t feel I’m missing much. Hell, my swimsuit’s been packed away for, er… Anyway, this weekend the tropics are settling in Minnesota, with record-threatening heat indexes. In June. Ugh. So we’ll crank the A/C and stay in. We’ll have some summer storms to go along with the heat. I’m good with that, as long as we don’t get too much at once. Maybe I’ll post pics of the garden next week–you’ll be happy to know that yes, it is truly smaller this year (YAY!).

Stay cool this weekend! Write on!

 


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Spring–it does a creative mind good

Well, Spring, it’s about damn time. FINALLY. The trees are green, the grass is green, the weeds are green. And we’ve had enough rain that the grass needs to be mowed already. Because I know you don’t have enough fun spring flower pictures to look at, here’s more from my yard.

squill

Siberian squill

violets

Violets

I love the little blue flowers. They’re called Siberian squill, and apparently they’re quite invasive. Hmm. Not so far at our place. Besides, I’d rather see these spread than creeping Charlie. Or burdock. Or ragweed. Or quackgrass. Or stinging nettle. Or …

And surprise! The rhubarb divisions we got from my sister-in-law are growing.

rhubarb

rhubarb

Anyway. I cleaned out the asparagus patch last weekend, and to my delight, I’ve got spears coming up. Not to brag or anything (okay, maybe brag a little), check it out:

asparagus

Asparagus!

This is only a small area of the patch; I picked enough for a meal. If you like asparagus, but have only ever had the supermarket stuff, you are so missing out! Try to find some at a farmer’s market.

I’ve got raspberries in the same “raised bed”, and of course those are invading the asparagus. This is the time of year they come back with a vengeance despite having been mowed down by rabbits over the winter. They’re spreading outside the raised bed area, into the asparagus patch, into the old chicken pen (which was beside the raised bed area).

raspberries_cr

Raspberries

Ugh. I love having raspberries, but we’d move them if we had a good spot to put them. So, my weeding of the asparagus patch consisted mostly of pulling/digging out raspberry sprouts. Oh, and quackgrass and burdock, because why not?

On the gardening front, my hubs would have tilled the garden once by now (I think) except one of the tires on the tractor went flat. Like, “huge crack in the sidewall now a hole” went flat. And the local Tires Plus doesn’t carry big tractor tires. Hmm. Go figure. So, he’s been searching for tires that will fit. Until he finds some that will work (or I convince him he could actually use the other tractor to run the tiller if we have to get the garden tilled), I don’t have to worry about spending valuable writing time digging in the dirt.

Speaking of, OMG, we’ll be halfway through May next week. And I’m not halfway through my edits yet. And this weekend will be writing-free since it’s a) my dad’s big 7-0, and b) a pre-move-in/move-out party for the town house he’s renting. It’ll be the first stage of moving out and selling the house I grew up in.

*silence*

*deep breath*

Even though he won’t completely move out until July, I think I’ve already started grieving. Me and my four siblings grew up there. It’s a big house for one person; I know. I’ve been there alone. My mom … the house holds so many memories of my mom. Dad’s moving to a different city, so once he sells the house, I’ll have to make a special trip to visit Mom’s grave.

It happens. It happened when my grandmother sold the house my dad and his siblings grew up in. She’d been alone in that house for, wow, it’s been almost 25 years since my grandfather died. It’s better for one person to not have to take care of a big house like that, especially when they get older. I get it.

Still. So many memories.

So, this weekend I’m going to Dad’s to help birthday and move some big stuff. Next week I’ll be heading back for a mini-writing retreat since Dad will be on his vacation. Need to get moving on my edits; it feels like the universe is working against me. So much unexpected stuff the past couple months stealing my writing time. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of reminding me this writing stuff is work, and don’t forget it πŸ˜€ Or it’s the universe’s way of telling me to get my shit together (or is it my Muse telling me?)

Enjoy the spring weekend! To the mothers in the US, Happy Mother’s Day!


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Is it here to stay?

Spring? Are you gonna stay this time? It’s been two weeks since the (in)famous April blizzard of 2018, and get this–no snow in the forecast. Well, okay, no snow where I’m at. They did have snow on the North Shore yesterday. That’s way up north by Duluth and Two Harbors, on the north shore of Lake Superior (get it? North Shore πŸ˜€ )

I would add a picture of some spring plants, but there aren’t any yet, at least not here. I don’t have any tulips or daffodils or crocus, but we do have dandelions. They’re not up yet either, but if it stays warm, I’m sure we’ll see them soon. Heck, the trees are juuusst starting to leaf out. Barely.

So, in place of real spring flowers, I’ll regale you with pictures of my very own jungle, er, jungle-ish. Well, okay, not jungle. But they’re green. And plants.

tomsPeppers_cr

Peppers and tomatoes (and one lonely onion)

The peppers seem to grow more slowly than the tomatoes, so I haven’t transplanted them yet, but that’s on my agenda for this weekend during my breaks from editing.

onions_cr

Onions!

The onions look like they are almost ready to go into the garden. It’ll be a few more weeks, yet, though. The soil is still cold; even though onions can probably tolerate the cool soil, they won’t grow until things warm up, so there’s no point in making them suffer. They enjoy the climate control in the house!

kale_cr

Kale! Tomatoes! Oh my!

My kale is looking super! And the tomatoes are itching to get some space, as usual by about this time of year. The biggest ones are about 6-8 inches tall. I can only raise my light so far, then I’ll have to rearrange things so the tomatoes can go on a lower shelf while still getting light.

And I’ve got to start my Brussels sprouts. I’m going to put them in the garden a little later, so hopefully the sprouts will be nice by the time we start getting light frosts in the fall.

I’m getting a slow start on my edits. I’m adjusting the story a touch, not too much, but it should make my main character stronger. I use Scrivener, but when I submitted to my editor, of course I saved my work as a Word document.

Word has a nice Track Changes feature that my editor used to add inline notes to my manuscript. Which is fine. Except when I send my revisions back, she wants her original file with her notes, the file with her notes and my revisions, and a clean file. Notice the lack of Scrivener in this process.

Ugh. Hmm. So I do my edits in Word, duplicate them in Scrivener so I can compile a clean copy, and before I send them back, I need to let them sit for a bit, then go though them again.

And as with any edits, some are those head-slapping ‘duh’ things. You know, like those pesky adverbs that slip through, or the day’s ‘favorite’ word.

Then there are those things that make you think before deciding how to revise them. That’s the time-consuming part. And the part that can demand a delicate balance when negotiating edits.

Uff-da.

This month feels like I’ve had a serious lack of time to get stuff done. It must’ve been the blizzard… Yep, I’ll blame the blizzard.

And one more pic, just because:

zoey1

I think she’s offering to help me with my edits. Or she just wants her lap back…

Have a great weekend, and may Spring set up shop in your area. Write on!


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Spring, where are you?

FIRST, check this out. Here’s a great little article about some special guests at the Writers’ Institute in Madison, WI this year: Writing group shares success stories.

For the past week, our weather people have been warning us of snow this weekend.

I know, I know. Snow in MN. *sarcasm* What a concept. Six to nine inches of heavy, wet, white stuff. I’ve been dreading this weekend since spring arrived (March 20 for those who weren’t paying attention (psst, it was the vernal equinox)).

On the bright side, I woke up this morning to a noticable lack of new snow. Will we escape the entire storm? Crossing my fingers!

In any case, since we’re all (probably) suffering from spring fever about now (except for anyone Down Under or otherwise south of the equator, who is looking forward to winter about now πŸ˜€ ), I figured I’d show off my baby plants, because what better way to remind us how green things can be.

First, the easiest ones. Just plant and let them be.

onions_cr

Onions

Then the ones that I’ll need to transplant once they get a set of true leaves (the ones that look like “adult” leaves).

tomatoes peppers_cr

tomatoes and peppers

And for the first time I’m starting some kale. Three summers ago I had a bumper crop of kale, which I’d never grown before but loved. The summer before last, I planted kale seeds three different times. I got all of one kale plant that vanished halfway through the season. Last year I planted seeds two or three times because they didn’t come up. They still didn’t come up. I ended up buying kale plants.

tomatoes kale_cr

tomatoes and kale

So this year I’m going to start my own. I’m growing curly kale, which I really didn’t want because the curly part makes it easy for the cabbage loopers to hide but those were the seeds they had at the local place (they get seeds in bulk), and black (aka dinosaur) kale, which I’ve seen in catalogs but I also saw in a garden last year. Looks pretty cool, all not curly and stuff.

I’m planning to start Brussels sprouts, too, but I learned last year not to plant them too early, because when the sprouts are ready, so is everything else, therefore I didn’t pick sprouts (not when there are a ton of green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini to eat). If you leave the sprouts too long, they get brown and icky. Besides, it’s nice to wait until later in the season to harvest because the cool nights of fall, and especially a light frost, will make the sprouts sweeter.

Okay, there you have it. A little peek of spring green to tide you over until the grass starts to green up and the trees start to leaf out.

Next weekend is Easter, and another wedding, so little to no writing. Sigh. The groom’s family is Hindu (from India, groom is first-generation American) so Easter doesn’t mean the same to them. It’ll be interesting to see how they do things.

Then it’s a mad prep for the Writers’ Institute. I’m so excited to see my Writing Sisters again. It’s going to be a blast! I still have a few things to do for my presentation, but mostly practice. After that, college registration, graduation, and make sure kids apply for scholarships, summer jobs, etc.

And Book 2. I’ve figured out a few more things for the plot. Planning on doing some brainstorming with my Sisters. I’m thinking another self-imposed NaNo for April (maybe).Β Hoping it goes better than the last one, which was a bust.

May the snow finally leave you alone and Spring arrive with pretty flowers and greens. Lots of greens. Tree greens, grass greens, dandelion greens …

Happy Writing!