Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Blank

Yep. The barren white page stares at me, daring me to deface it with words. Hell, with anything resembling a scene in my story.

Stuck. I’m not sure if it’s the transition scene or if I’m trying too hard to cover bases my editor pointed out in my manuscript, but something is blocking me.

Coincidentally (or maybe fortuitously), I’ve read a few articles about overcoming “stuck”, including an older one about breaking through writer’s block, and another about what to do when you stall out. BTW, if you aren’t familiar with Janice Hardy’s blog, you are missing out!

I’m trying to figure out just what I’m getting hung up on. I know my characters. I know the backstory. I know the plot. And I know I’m getting distracted by real life stuff. For instance, my daughter had orientation this week at college. She’s been terribly anxious about it because she doesn’t know what she wants to do (undecided). The college has a wonderful program to help undecided students explore their options. And the people are soooo nice (which my daughter commented on more than once).

We spent all day at the school. And by the end of the day, my daughter was feeling much better about going off to school (yay!). My plan was to get home and finally give my garden some attention since, well, it hadn’t rained for a few days (but it was hella hot and humid). That is, until it started raining as we got home.

So, I should spend the time writing, right? I pulled out my computer, and stared at the screen, and the dozen words I managed the day before. Added about a hundred words.

Sigh.

I’ve got the brainstorming wall out, and my bucket of ideas, but the spatters and splotches aren’t making any sense yet. And my Muse happened to “leave” his fedora on the corner of my desk. A hint, I suppose.

And of course, he’s somewhere but not here, probably on a pub crawl. Maybe I need a pub crawl. I wonder if I could find him–I could crash his crawl.

Damn, that sounds like fun 😀

This weekend I have got to get into the garden, or I’m going to need a machete to find my way. I’ll try to take pics and post them next week–if I’m brave. And writing, damn it. Maybe I’ll get things moving by scribbling for a bit with pencil and paper. That seems to help, even if it’s just “thinking out loud but on paper”.

I’m counting down to our annual Writing Sister reunion–yippee! I’m also counting down to my first meeting with a blogging buddy. I always wonder what it would be like to meet the cool blogging writers I know in person. I get to find out next week!

Anywho. Hope your creativity is moving along better than mine 🙂 Have a great weekend (and may the weeds fail to choke out your veggies 😀 )

 

P.S.: Hey, S, my Muse left a note to ask you if your “package” arrived. If you want to return it, let him know. He might have another that might work out. 😉

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Slow start

If you’re looking for Julie, I sent her on a walkabout. A long one, on the forest trail. With any luck she’ll snag some inspiration. A Muse can only do so much. Lead a horse to water and all that.

I tried to send her on a week-long walkabout, but she won’t listen to me. She’s got this damn fixation on doing a NaNoWriMo this month. There’s even an “official” Camp NaNoWriMo going on. Another first draft, she said. This is her third “first” draft.

Bloody hell.

I know what her problem is. Focus. Per usual. She’s got too many fecking things bouncing around in that head of hers, not the least of which is …

*slam*

“Are you kidding me? You sent me on a walk so you could do my blog post for me? What the hell?” My writer storms across the office and stops in front of the desk, hands on hips.

“You needed the walk, love. Tell me you didn’t work on the plot during your walk.” I venture one of my charming crooked smiles. “I dare you.”

Heh. I can see it in her eyes. She did, but she doesn’t want to admit it. “I can’t add words to my draft if I’m out walking. I’m behind, which you well know, and I won’t be able to catch up this weekend because I’m going to my dad’s.”

“You know, love, there is such a thing as voice-to-text.”

She rolls her eyes and groans. “Do you know what I do on my walks? Dude, I talk things through. That’s not writing, and if I used speech-to-text, it would be a mess. Seriously. Now get out of my chair and let me finish my post.”

If I could get her to direct that fire into her writing, she’d have no problem making her word quota. Easier said than done, of course. “No.”

Her jaw drops just a little. I love surprising her. She cocks a hip and crosses her arms on her chest. “I thought writing blog posts was outside your job description.”

It is. Sort of. “And here I thought you would appreciate the help since you will be away at your dad’s this weekend. That way you can focus on your first draft. Again.”

She offers a wry smile. “Very funny. You’re the Muse. You’re supposed to help me with this.”

“I’ve been trying, love. You’ve finally gotten the story rolling, haven’t you?”

“Sure. After three false starts. Half my word count is stuff I’m not going to use.”

“It’s a first draft. There’s going to be a whole lot of stuff you won’t use. That’s why it’s a draft.” I get to my feet and round the desk to face her. “I’m here, and I’ll be sticking around.” I lower my face to hers. “Don’t make me dig out my fedora and bullwhip.”

*stare-down silence*

“Fine.” Damn it. I shove around my Muse and drop into my chair, still nice and warm from him.

Anyway. Excuse me just one minute…

“Stop that.”

“What?”

God, he’s just so … er, aggravating sometimes. Yeah, let’s go with that. “Stop staring at me.”

He gives me that crooked grin of his. Is it warmer in here? “Then get to work, love.”

Arrgh. Okay. Bottom line, I’m behind on my first week word count. Like, way behind. I’m going to bring my computer or my iPad to my dad’s; between helping him sort stuff for the auction and digging through a couple boxes left with my name on them, maybe I’ll get a little time to do some writing.

Enjoy your weekend!


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It doesn’t seem real #mystery #amreading

It does, but it doesn’t. It’s the “is this really happening” feeling that makes you want to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming.

I sent my edits in, looked through the new paperwork my editor sent me, and stared, in dumbfounded silence, at a list of all the things I need to do before the book comes out. Yikes.

And I finally got a release, er, not really date, more like timeframe.

My debut novel, Murder in Plane Sight, is due to be released in March, 2019.

*silence*

*looks at list of stuff to do before release*

*more silence*

Ho-ly shit. How am I going to do this and work on Book 2?

*reviews mental list of writing friends that do it and shakes head in amazement*

A few days after I sent in the latest revision of my manuscript, I got the first mockup of the cover. Wow. Granted, I had mocked up a dummy cover with my own idea, so what they sent resembled the one I cobbled together, but to actually see it, with my name and the title and everything, makes this whole thing even more real.

A pair of hands weigh my shoulders down. Strong fingers squeeze reassurance. “This is where you wanted to go, love.” My Muse, standing behind me at my writing desk, leans over me and peers at my computer screen. “Remember your ‘100 things to do before I die’ list? Publish a novel is on there. Pretty high up on the list, too, if I recall.”

Going to Hawaii is on there, too, along with Germany. Checked those off a long time ago. “I know. It just … doesn’t feel quite real yet.” I turn in my chair to look up at him. “Where have you been? It’s, like, oh-my-god hot outside. No surfing?”

He leans back on my desk beside me, hands braced on the smooth wooden top. “I thought you said you were starting a NaNo project in July. The what, third or fourth ‘first draft’ of Book 2, right? I figure I’ll get you going on that. Besides, it’s hotter than the Amazon jungle out there.”

He’s right. The humidity index where I’m at in MN right now is higher than in the Amazon. Our local news has delighted in sharing that little tidbit. “I’m still working through the outline. And did you see this list?” I shove the list of tasks at him. “How am I going to do all that?”

A crooked grin eases across his face as he sets the list aside. “You know you already have some of it done.”

“The parts I have done aren’t what worry me. It’s all the other stuff I know I have to do, like a newsletter. And a press release.” It’s a good thing I bookmarked Staci Troilo’s posts about author media kits. “I’ve been paying attention to what the other authors I know are doing. It’s kind of overwhelming to think about it all. I don’t know how they do it.”

“One step at a time, love.”

“All while I’m working on Book 2? Time is the part I’m worried about.” And getting Book 2 written, revised, and polished for publication; I know that will happen sooner than I expect, because stuff like that always does.

“You’ll do fine. I’ll be sticking around; Mr. E is helping Mae with her new series, so he’ll be busy for quite a while yet.”

Not that it ever stopped him before from going on a pub crawl with my Muse. “It just doesn’t seem real. Not yet, anyway.”

“It will soon enough, love.”

Everything is moving forward. The line edit of the manuscript is next on the list, along with finalizing the cover. I’ve got a few suggestions before that happens. Once I have a cover, I’ll feel much more comfortable starting promotional stuff. All while working on Book 2–sheesh. So, I’m thinking a six-month sabbatical in a mountain cabin or on a tropical beach–wait, mountain cabin is probably better. No way to laze about in the sun there 😀

I also have to work on my website/blog, so at some point things will start to change here. Or get monkeyed up as I try to figure out how to do it. I’ve been paying attention to various posts by my writer friends about websites, and newsletters, and media kits, so I’ll be gleaning information. Thank you ahead of time to all those authors for discovering what works and what doesn’t, and sharing that knowledge with the rest of us.

I was happy to hear the release would be in March–that’s before the Writers’ Institute next year. I’ll be there, and I’ll be able to show off a real book this time. It’s a fantastic writers’ conference; if you’ve wanted to check out a conference but still aren’t sure, you can’t go wrong with the fun in Madison (except blizzards, but on the bright side, the blizzard during this year’s conference was the first one they’d ever had, in 29 years!). Save the dates! (psst, rumor has it they’ll have a super keynote speaker next year, so get on their mailing list for updates 🙂 )

Enjoy your weekend! And if your weekend is extended due to the holiday (in the US), enjoy the extra days. Stay cool and keep Writing!


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Of Fiends, Time, and Trouble #amreading

Today I’m hosting Mae Clair, who is finishing up a blog tour for the first book of her new series. If you like past/present timelines, fiends, and sinister happenings, you’ll enjoy not only Cusp of Night, but Mae’s other books as well. Take it away, Mae!

Julie, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today. I’ve been making the rounds with my latest novel, Cusp of Night, the first book in my new Hode’s Hill series. Although the first book in a three-book series, Cusp of Night is also a complete standalone read offering two mysteries in one. It features past and present timelines that ultimately converge at the end, tying both plots together.

Lucinda Glass, my main character in the past, becomes a renowned medium in the late 1800s. She’s lauded by the elite of society for seances and producing “automatic writings” in which she communicates with the dead.

In the present, Maya Sinclair, a recent transplant to Hode’s Hill rents Lucinda’s old brownstone home. Once she moves in, odd occurrences start to take place—ghostly visitations that correspond with attacks and disappearances in Hode’s Hill. Residents fear the “Fiend”—a nightmarish creature said to have killed Lucinda and others in the late 1800s—has returned. Maya finds herself at the center of the mystery when she witnesses the creature attack Leland Hode, one of the town’s leading citizens. Soon, she and Leland’s son, Collin, are working together to get to the bottom of the attacks and how they tie-in with Lucinda’s life in the past.

I brought along a short excerpt today in which Collin takes an early morning jog and makes a grim discovery.

EXCERPT:
Collin slowed as his path led him closer to the river. The end of the bank was rife with reeds and cattails, knots of vegetation that sprouted in untamed clumps. Normally, he would turn back, but there was something lumped among the snarl of weeds that looked like a blue tarp. He could ignore it and let the current carry it down river, but the conscientious thing would be to haul it out and toss it. Every now and then his mother got on a kick about saving the planet. Recently, she’d joined a committee for environmental beautification.

picturesque summer landscape misty dawn in an oak grove on the banks of the river

Collin suspected she was secretly more interested in the attention she’d reap as a result.

Deciding he couldn’t leave the thing snagged in the water and weeds, he clambered down the bank. Up close, he realized it was a large piece of fabric, not plastic. His foot sank into the muck, and he knotted his fingers in the waterlogged material. It resisted when he pulled, far heavier than he’d thought. Another, stronger tug and it rolled like a fish, bobbing belly upright.

A bloated face framed by a hunk of blond hair popped to the surface.

Shit!” Collin tripped in his haste to get away, nearly landing on his butt. “Oh, shit. Hell, no.” He could see it clearly now, the body of a young woman, her clothing in tatters. Scrapes and abrasions marred her exposed flesh, chunks of skin gouged from her arms and legs as if every scavenger in the river had nibbled on her corpse. Wide, sightless eyes stared upward, frozen in an unanswered plea for help.

The stench hit him.

Collin dropped to his knees and vomited.

BLURB:
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.

Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.

Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .

PURCHASE CUSP OF NIGHT HERE

You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Newsletter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Other Social Links

bio box for author, Mae Clair

 

 


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Getting closer

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I turned my manuscript in to my editor a couple weeks ago. I got her feedback this week.

And breathed a huge sigh of relief!

She liked what I did, and with a few additional tweaks, she said we could move on to the next step, which involves some marketing questions for the book, like series name (haven’t come up with one yet), cover description, author quote for press release (what?? 😮 ), blurbs or past reviews (er, this is a debut, so need a blurb I guess), and a few other things.

Another step toward publication, an exercise in patience. It’s kinda scary in a way, knowing that sometime next year my book will be out, and people will be reading it (I hope!), and I’ll be doing stuff like signings and author panels and trying to fit Book 2 into the mix. That’s a whole lot of activity for someone who is an introvert and a homebody and working a full-time job.

And then the inevitable thought: what the hell was I thinking when I decided I wanted to get published? I never thought past holding my book in my hand and dreaming about seeing it on a bookshelf at the library, in Barnes and Noble, and on the book racks at Target.

There’s a whole lot of stuff that goes into the process beyond writing a good book and finding a publisher who wants to put your book out there (for those who choose to go the traditional route). There’s platform (huh?) and marketing (ugh). There’s creating a website, author pages, social media buzz, blog tours, and on and on.

In fact, a couple of my writing/blogging friends just released their new books this month, and I’ve been following their blog tours (you might remember a post for Jacqui Murray’s new book, Born in a Treacherous Time). In fact, one of them wrote 18 different blog posts for the tour–yes, eight-teen unique posts (plus one more for me, so nineteen)! O. M. G. And there’s the newsletter thing. And email lists. And short stories/novellas to attract followers and newsletter recipients. And through all this, Book 2 needs to get drafted, revised, revised, revised, critiqued, revised some more, and ideally out to readers about a year after Book 1 is out.

Yikes! And then I read about one of my writing/blogging friends who releases a couple books a year!  😮

So now that I’ve gotten this far, I somehow need to keep going, and do it all faster. While still working a full-time job, tending a summer garden, and being a mom to a college freshman who is seriously anxious about going off to school (my other college student is starting his junior year–not worried about him 🙂 )

Hoo-boy. I think I need to find a writing cabin somewhere and stock it with 6 months of food, water, coffee, and chocolate, with some wine (and Moon Man beer for incentive). Or, at the very least, designate an office here at home where I can hunker down and focus on writing.

Speaking of garden, I know I mentioned last week about posting some garden pics, as pathetic as they are. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, and not just gentle soaking rain, either. We had a couple of those summer downpour storms. You know, the ones where it’s like someone took a huge bucket and upended it, and the force of the rain scours any bare ground, turning it into a mobile sheet of mud.

My poor garden. And of course it didn’t dry out enough between storms for me to get in there and do anything like weed. The rain washed out nearly all of my onions, and my beets are struggling to get a foothold. The tomatoes, however, are starting to take off, so I’ll have to tie them up soon. Anyway, here ya go. It doesn’t look like much at this point except a somewhat barren, weedy, and silt-covered piece of ground.

IMG_0741

See, it is smaller

IMG_0739

Tomatoes

IMG_0737

My poor, sogged kale

IMG_0740

Another angle

The rain left all that lovely silt over everything, including the areas where I just planted dill and cilantro, so I expect I’ll have to replant those. On the bright side, both of my cucumber plants are up and growing (I thought only one would survive) and I have 3 zucchini/summer squash plants (I know, I know, I’ll have enough zucchini to feed half the town).

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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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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Look here–Born in a Treacherous Time Blog Hop Stop #amreading

Please welcome author Jacqui Murray, who is making the rounds with her new release, Born in a Treacherous Time.

BIATT

Title and author: Born in a Treacherous Time
Series: Book 1 in the Man vs. Nature series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Cover by: Damonza 
Available at: Kindle

I asked Jacqui a question to learn a bit about Lucy, her main character:

What one characteristic would you say allowed Lucy to survive in a world populated with Sabertooth Cats, violent volcanoes, and predatory species who liked to eat man?

Really, with our thin skin, dull teeth, and tiny claws (aka fingernails), Lucy had no right to survive against the thick-skinned mammoth or tearing claws of the great cats of that time. But we did. The biggest reason: Even then, Lucy was a problem solver. She faced crises and came up with solutions. Where most animals spent their time eating and sleeping, Lucy had time left over. This, she used to solve problems.

 To me, that thoughtful approach to living, one no other animal exhibits, is why we came to rule the planet.

I’ve often wondered how people survived against those big prehistoric predators. Sounds like our bigger brains gave us the advantage!

Here’s a bit about the book (sounds like my TBR list is getting longer again!):

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

 Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist).

And an early reader review:

Born in a Treacherous Time sheds light on a period of time that gave birth to the human race, and allow us to bear witness to the harshness and tenacious spirit that is uniquely human—to survive and endure. Readers with a thirst for knowledge and who enjoy historical fiction, this is a must read. I am looking forward to reading book 2 when it is published.

 “I devoured the book in 2 sittings.”

 –Luciana Cavallaro, author of Servant of the Gods series and webmaster of Eternal Atlantis

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Wild seriesShe is also the author of over a hundred books on integrating technology into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Get in touch with Jacqui:

http://twitter.com/worddreams
http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher
http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray
https://worddreams.wordpress.com
https://jacquimurray.net