Before anything else, I must say CONGRATULATIONS once again to my friend and Thursday’s Children participant Stacey Lee on the sale of her book to Putnam! She’s one of the funniest, kindest, and most generous people around (she gave me my little turtle Remy). I can’t wait to buy her book (tentatively titled Golden Boys).
And now for the most horrifically graceless segue ever,
Inspired by Muck…
To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “You know you’re a New Englander if your four seasons are almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.”
Of course, he’s not a New Englander and thus he forgot the fifth season. Mud.
In this part of the world, Old Man Winter kicks Mother Nature’s butt from November to April. When Spring finally comes to northern New England, she definitely looks “ridden hard and put away wet.” The glorious carpet of autumn leaves has turned ugly brown. Limbs have been ripped off, revealing raw wood-flesh and some poor, doomed trees lean at drunken angles, knocked over but unable to rest because their comrades caught them on the way down. No pretty green leaves hide the damage. Lawns show unsightly wounds inflicted by snow plows. Nobody in his right mind tries to sell his New England home in early to mid-Spring.
Flowers foolhardy enough to bloom are begging for a foot of late season snow to be dumped on their heads.
But, for all the destruction, and decay, there is life.
In the muck of vernal pools…
Do you see him? The little frog in the middle of the photo? There’s another frog facing him,those tiny glowing dots are his eyes.
These brackish puddles lack the aesthetic appeal of babbling brooks and crystalline streams. They’re lined with dead leaves and have a faintly ominous look – like you might lean over to look into one, and get sucked down into an alternate world, probably ruled by smelly trolls. In reality, vernal pools are thriving micro eco-systems.
Earlier in the week, a writer-friend and I had a teasing exchange over Facebook about our WIPs’ swampy middles. At the moment, I’m teetering on the edge of my WIP’s murky midsection. Its surface is dark, opaque, and undoubtedly concealing all kinds of writerly perils (aka smelly trolls). I can’t see the precise story lines, plot twists, and character arcs which will ultimately get me to the other side of my book (yes, I’m pantsing this one). They’re temporarily obscured by the fertile mud of too many ideas.
Do your stories have swampy middles? Do they scare you a little bit?
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Undoubtedly one of your creepiest, murkiest, posts, and I love it. How cool you caught frogs in a stare down. You really know how to bring the ‘atmosphere’ to life, despite your swampy middle.
P.S. Thank you for the kind shout out! I’m so happy you’re in my life Rhiann! ❤
The highest praise, indeed 😉 And I’m happy you’re in mine xx
I loved learning about vernal pools–that’s a new term for me. I like, well, anything to do with nature–even the ornery bits. There is so much personality in the ecosystem and it’s all very inspiring. Now I want to imagine what brackish netherworld lies beyond the murky surface. 😛
Your frogs reminded me of the ones who frequented our pond and liked to party in the driveway during a rain; my hubby would go out, scoop up the wanderers, and put them back so they wouldn’t get squished by a car tire.
So nature being what it is always invites conflict, there’s always a disaster lurking in the open and the interference of intelligent design that is sometimes good and other times quite evil.
I learned about them a few years ago from a sign at the start of a nature trail – asking people to keep their dogs out of them. Nature inspires me ALL the time, obviously from my many, many posts about it. And I will want to read about your brackish netherworld. Hugs to your hubby – I do that kind of thing a lot too.
Ah. The eternal eddy of a swampy middle sucking down a writer’s unfettered mind. Slurp. My swampy middle has given way to dry words thirsty for kisses much sweeter than wine.
❤ Vintage Fab Four! Also, I think you and I need to write a tongue-in-cheek writers' version of "A Pilgrim's Progress". Think what we could do with the Slough of Despond.
Oh, I love parodies, especially when they turn musical. I used to have great fun coming up with them for shows I worked on in theatre (when I was still on the tech side and not yet a director). Let’s do it. xxxs
I like ponds. Except for the mosquitos they breed. Death to that entire, infernal race! (That’s right. I’m a mosquito genocide apologist. And I refuse to apologize.)
Yeah, a lot of my nature-loving, green-living, do-gooding goes right out the damn window when it comes to insects that try to dine on me or share my living quarters.
Yes, we’re in the midst of the fifth season here, as well. Even the dog dislikes it, as she has to have her paws wiped every time she comes back in the house during Muck Season. But we’ve been hearing the frogs sing lately, too. And there are buds on some of the trees this week!
Regarding murky middles, try writing a trilogy some time. Not only are there THREE middles to wade through, but all of book two can become a dangerous mire if you aren’t mindful.
Way to get down and dirty this week, Rhiann. Love it!
I thought you might be able to share my “vernal pain” since our climates are similar. Frogs croaking and singing here too, when they’re not glaring at each other under water. As for writing a trilogy… *backs away slowly*…I’ll leave that in your capable hands 🙂
When I first came to America, within two weeks I met a stage manager who is now my oldest friend here. I had come to America (specifically, New York) to work in theatre. I took over a show from her–she was moving on to another show that was offering her the coveted Equity card that’s required by pretty much everyone not a technician in theatre, both here and in England. I had my British equity card and hoped to gain my American one in due course. .. But I digress. Anyway, the director of the show I took over from my friend was a technical idiot. I won’t go into the details here but suffice it to say he made directorial decisions that were virtually impossible to carry out; given the limited technical resources.
On opening night my friend sent me a cactus with needle leaves. And a note that said, “Every time you feel pain in the show, just put your hand on this. It will keep you sane.”
So I say to you, Vaughn, every time your your trilogy middles feel swampy, imagine writing seven books, and you’ll know what real pain is. xxxs
BIG congrats to Stacey!!!
And yeah, the mid-sections of my stories are all full of muck and yuck and goopy mud. I’m *just* now pulling myself out of the middle of my WiP…luckily I found a strong branch. Great post!
Lucky you! I’m strapping on waders at the moment. I should probably have one of those long poles to test the mud in front of me, and for thwacking trolls.
Oh yes, boy do I have a swampy middle to deal with right now. My current WIP is …ugh. Just ugh. Last night I was typing away and a character who’d been pretty low key suddenly turned into a stalker and I have no idea what’s happening to the plot I’d outlined. So…ugh.
Hope it won’t be too terribly long before you all are able to see the sun!
Characters hijacking your plot can be awesome – or leave your head spinning. Or both.
Neat pictures! Very “The Shining”.
I used to have super murky middles. So murky, in fact, I would drown in them. I finally realized I’m the type who needs to plot out my books beforehand, and now those murky middles are nice and clear…
Yes, well, S. King and I have common turf…
Beautiful description of the mud in the woods. I wish I were there. In the puddle, I may need a bigger pic to see the frogs, but I did see a sword and a face. Probably preparing to battle those trolls. And murky middles.
Try clicking on the pic. And you’re RIGHT, I DO see a sword. How cool is that? Excalibur in a mud puddle in Maine, lol. But I don’t see the face…
Since I’m a pretty hardcore plotter, the swampy middle is more a frame of mind than a part of my mss. It’s that place where I’ve looked at my words so long that they all seem like, well, mud. I’m there right now with one of my mss, so I’m taking a “break” and writing something new for Camp NaNoWriMo until I can drag myself out of the bog.
And congrats Stacey on your wonderful writerly news!!! Keep us posted!
Ah those swampy middles… but somehow we manage to come out the other end (most of the time!) and find a story that holds together with well-formed characters and plot lines that work. Love the idea of a murky world beneath those muddy pools ruled by smelly trolls – just brilliant!
Well, if I WERE going to write fantasy it would definitely include those trolls, lol.
congrats to Stacey!! WOOHOO!
I love winter. Yeah, yeah, just proves I’m weird. And I love mud, the signs of spring. Especially like the frogs 🙂 Amazing how life proves itself, coming through even when we think it’s too messy and bleak 🙂
Loved it 🙂
I like winter in small doses, and preferably when viewed from inside while holding a mug of something steamy. Or, when outside, during sparkly winter mornings without bone-numbing wind chill factors. I go to the beach pretty much every day, but in the winter it’s a masochistic experience.
I love muddy pools. To me they’re places of magic and mystery. Places that should be explored and played in. When I was a camp counselor we used to take the campers to a spring-fed river. There were spots where you’d walk the riverbed and sink to your waist in sandy mud. You’d wait only about 20 seconds or so, but it seemed like forever and the spring would push you up to the surface. Lots of mud, lots of fun. I think writing the middle of the story is like that. You sink and sink and then suddenly everything starts to work out: your plot comes together, the character you’ve been fretting over gives you hope and you feel your story lifting to new heights.
Speaking of new heights. Kudos to Stacey!
I don’t think I’d be brave enough to let myself sink in mud…
As a former New-Englander I can avow every time spring arrives, you feel like you’ve earned it by surviving another 6-month winter. About the way you feel once you type “the end” at the conclusion of a long and arduous creative journey.
It’s true. The year rounders have not only a certain “bond” from surviving the tough months, there’s also a sly sense of superiority when the human snow birds arrive from down South.
There’s something special about splashes of thriving green in an otherwise brown and dreary setting. They uniqueness pops out at you. 🙂 Love the ominous wooded pics.
Hey there, fellow tree-lover! So glad you joined us this week 🙂
Love this post, Rhiann… and the descriptive writing… lovely. I am in walking through the puddle of my current WIP. It’s very scary there… the kind of scary that makes you wonder about your own sanity. Great post!
Ha! @ Veronica “I’m a mosquito genocide apologist,” Too funny!
We’ll go insane together then, shall we? You can film our downward spiral…
I’m glad I’m not the only one who ends up muddling my way through mucky middles of manuscripts! Good luck getting through yours…
I love this post! You write so beautifully … even about muck.
Oh, thank you, what a lovely thing to say 🙂
Huge congrats to Stacy! That’s fabulous!
I love those photos. I honestly never really thought about how the muck pools are full of life – usually I’m just trying not to step in them. Now, I’m going to be looking for frogs. 🙂
Well, keep trying not to step in them. Because of the frogs. And the smelly trolls…