Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Guest blogger Julie Holmes: Writing by the Seasons

I’m visiting over at Mae Clair’s site today with a bit about casting the seasons in your stories. Hop on over and take a look!

From the Pen of Mae Clair

It’s finally starting to feel like fall in central Pennsylvania after an unseasonably warm October. That change is temps is the perfect intro for my next guest who takes an in-depth look at using the seasons to influence the plot of your story.

Julie Holmes blogs at Facets of a Muse and is an uber supportive friend and blogger. She’s got a fun and quirky sense of humor that shows in posts about her muse (who is always drafting mine for pub crawls), the writing life, gardening and cats. You can’t go wrong with cats. Just saying.

Hop over to Julie’s, check out her blog, then show her some comment luv below. She’s placed her own wonderful spin on writing for the seasons. Take it away, Julie…

~ooOOoo~

Hello! *waves* A hearty “Thank You” to Mae for once again inviting me to guest on her blog. This is a nice…

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I got nuthin’

Yep. Sittin’ here, staring at my screen, tapping, tapping on my desktop–er, okay, desktop doesn’t rhyme with “chamber door.” I swear if a raven shows up …

Hey, it’s October, gotta have some Poe around.

So, I need to write a blog post, but I can’t think of anything interesting to write about. Next week will be easier; I’m going to see John Sandford at a signing for his new book, “Deep Freeze”, at an independent bookstore that is locally famous for supporting MN mystery writers. More on that next week.

But this week, I’ve got nuthin’. I could bring my Muse in–that’s always entertaining. Mostly. Except I’ve been lacking a bit on the writing front. Okay, okay, lacking a lot. I’m doing another read-through of my manuscript before I turn it in to my editor, so that should count, right? (Not the final version, because my editor will request revisions, I’m sure.)

I could talk about my poor, frost-killed garden. Everything except the kale, Brussels sprouts, and the peppers (which I made a half-hearted attempt to cover against the frost) is dead. Woo-hoo! Except for the fact I have to clean the garden up now. Oh, and the raspberries are doing okay. I’m picking enough berries every three days or so to put on my bowl of cereal in the morning. Pretty sure I won’t have enough to make any jelly this year. They seem to have a heavy crop every other year or so.

NaNo is coming up. Who’s in? Since my September self-imposed NaNo went bust, I think I’m going to utilize the NaNoWriMo energy coming up in November to redraft (read: rewrite from scratch) my WIP. Or another project I was going to work on this spring.

Then again, I’ve got some serious revisions to do on my other manuscript. It’s kind of weird, really. I spent years writing and revising my other manuscript, won a contest with it, and after not reading it for months, maybe even a year, I read it and cringed at the things that need to be fixed.

My agent found the same issues (and many more–I still haven’t gone through all her notes). Thing is, I’m not sure if I want to tackle those now or wait until I’ve got my second contracted manuscript put together. And maybe my small-town mystery.

Sigh.

“Why is it when I leave you alone you get nothing done, love?” My Muse shuts the door to my writing office, bringing a scent of fried food and beer in with him, along with a suspicious stain on the front of his Green Bay Packers jersey.

Packers? Traitor.

“Gee, I don’t know. You’re my Muse. I’m a writer. Something tells me I should be able to write more when my Muse is close by rather than cheering for the Packers. Seriously? The Packers don’t play until Sunday. And the Vikings will win.” I hope. Wait. “So, where did you get that stain and why are you wearing a Packer jersey when the game isn’t until Sunday?”

“Doesn’t matter, love. You done with that blog post yet? You’ve got some work to do for your WIP if you plan on rewriting it during NaNo.”

Boy, it sure was nice and quiet before he showed up.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Keep on writing!


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Outside a Writer’s Comfort Zone

Raise your hand if you’re a writer. *hands raise*

Now, raise your hand if you don’t like crowds, or being in new places with new people, or are uncomfortable outside your home territory, or will take any opportunity to not drive to the nearest metropolitan area so you don’t have to fight city traffic, even if your favorite author is having a signing there.

*hands raise and wave*

Thought so. Writers have a tendency to be less outgoing, more focused on a smaller portion of the world at large where they are comfortable, like the hometown they grew up in or the neighborhood where they know the people living on their block. We’re introverts. Writing is a mostly solitary pursuit. I say mostly because we all know that at some point we need the help of a critique partner or a writing group.

With the advent of the Internet (Yes, there was a time when the Internet did not exist, and people had to call on a telephone that had an actual cord, or write letters by hand and mail them, or meet face to face if they wanted to communicate with each other.), it’s easier to connect with other people from the comfort of your own home.

It’s a good thing, because finding a writing group might be a challenge where you live. Finding a writing group online is much easier, and you don’t ever have to meet in person. You might not be able to if members are scattered around the world.

If your goal is to be published, and hope readers outside your immediate and extended family want to read your work (even better, to pay to read your work), there’s a lot of value in meeting people face to face. It’s called networking, and we all know the more people who know you and your writing exist, the higher the probability that someone you don’t know will want to read your work.

*din of mumbles about having to meet people rises*

Hey, if you want to go anywhere in this business, you’ve got to get your name out there. And to do that, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.

*gasps fill the air*

Yes, I’m serious. That means finding places where readers gather, like libraries and bookstores (hey, no thinking about how many books you can buy. You’re trying to convince other people to buy your book). It also means leveraging the work other writers and organizations have done to connect with people who want to read stuff in your genre, whether it’s kids’ books, poetry, or even non-fiction.

My first book isn’t due out until 2019, and I haven’t even talked to my editor yet, but I know now is the time to work on connecting with readers who might want to read my book. You know, before I’m working against deadlines.

This week I went to my first local Sisters in Crime meeting. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is a national organization of mystery writers, with local chapters around the country. I’ve known about the Twin Cities chapter for years, but I’ve never been to a meeting before this week because of that whole driving in the big city thing. Turns out the area where they meet is a nice little residential area close to Minnehaha Park (yes, that Minnehaha, the one Longfellow wrote about in the Song of Hiawatha).

The first thing that surprised me was the number of members. I’d guess there were at least thirty people there. Many of the members, like Julie Kramer and Ellen Hart, are award-winning mystery writers. Maybe some of that will rub off on me!

I don’t have a cover, or a release date, or even a for-sure title, but I know by taking advantage of these events and going to meetings, that is, getting out of my comfort zone, I’ll be laying the groundwork for marketing when I need it. The Twin Cities SinC has connections, and their name shows up on lists of library guests and other events. They have something going on every week for the next month and a half, including a huge reader/writer event coming up at the state fairgrounds, a number of guest panels at libraries, and a new event planned at a local Barnes & Noble that includes some big-name writers (no Patterson or King, but Chuck Logan and PJ Tracy, among others).

It’s not just groups like SinC, either. Any venue that supports and promote authors, like libaries and bookstores, is a link in the networking (and marketing) chain. In order to take advantage of their resources, I need to get out of my comfort zone.

Scary, yes. And even more scary to an introvert is being on a panel at a writing conference where people are watching you, and listening to you, and you have to pretend you know what this writing thing is all about. And here’s the crazy scary part: I’m presenting a session at a writers’ conference that I proposed by choice. 

What?!

Yes, I know that means I’ll have to speak in front of an audience. And yes, it kind of freaks me out that I sent in a proposal at all, but it’s the best writers’ conference in the upper Midwest, as far as I’m concerned.

What the hell were you thinking?

Networking.

You can’t network if you don’t get out there and meet people. Sure, you can do a lot of networking through the blog-o-sphere, Facebook groups, and other online writing groups, but what about all the people who don’t have eyes on the Internet. All. Day. Long. They exist. I’ve seen them.

It’s uncomfortable, I get it. But it’ll be beneficial to your career as a writer in the long run. Start by going to author events and signings. Maybe check around for a writers’ panel at a local venue. Get used to being out of your comfort zone. Then you can start actually talking to people. Yes, it’s okay. Ask a fellow attendee what they liked about the author’s book. Ask them what they like to read. People like to talk about stuff like that.

Then talk to the author who is speaking, signing, or on a panel. Ask how they went about getting the event set up. Talk to the people who organized the event. Tell them who you are, what you write, and ask about setting up an event of your own.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you get going. It’s that first step that’s the hardest.

Rainy weekend in my neck of the woods, so I’m going to write. Really. I mean it this time.

Have a great weekend!


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Good intentions gone where?

I check the calendar hanging on the wall beside the whiteboard in my writing office. Tomorrow is October.

October? Already? Holy speeding month, Batman!

And how much did I get done writing-wise? Not 50k words, that’s for damn sure. Did I get through my edits? Hell, no. I canned over 50 quarts of tomatoes, and I’ll probably have to do one more batch. I subbed at the library for my daughter twice a week all month. And got her tech registration and Chromebook for school (yeah, almost 3 hrs of standing in line). And procrastinated on my self-imposed NaNo.

Sigh.

A squeak from the desk chair interrupts. I turn. My Muse leans back in my chair, shakes his head. “You’re pathetic, love.”

“Hey, I’ve been busy all freaking month. I’ve got half of my edits done.”

Your edits, which are minimal. You don’t even know what your editor is going to want.” He gets to his feet, the chair squeaking again in protest. I need to find some WD-40 for that.

“I’ve been doing stuff. I’m starting to plan my marketing and promo. I even registered a web domain. Now I just have to figure out how to switch over from my WordPress domain to my registered one. And I’m going to the local Sisters in Crime monthly meeting next week. My sister-in-law said she’d go to Once Upon a Crime with me. John Sandford is going to be there in a few weeks.” I should read a few of his books before then. I mark the dates on the calendar. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

“I can’t do a whole lot yet. I don’t even have the final title. My publisher might want to change it. And I’m so far behind in reading blogs that my blogging friends probably think I ghosted them.”

He leans against my desk, arms crossed on that fine chest of his. “You need to get your shit together and you know it. Marketing stuff, sure, but what were you going to work on this month? Oh, yeah, the second book in the series.”

“It’s drafted,” I protest. “It needs major work, but at least it’s drafted.”

“Uh-huh. And what about your other book, the one your agent said has potential but needs work? You haven’t even gotten through all her comments. When are you going to work on that one? And you’ve got paperwork to fill out for your publisher.”

“That’s more marketing and promo stuff. I need to brainstorm on that. I’ve got other marketing stuff I’m working on, too. There’s been a lot of good blogs posts lately on promo stuff. And networking. I’m going to do a session on writing mysteries at the Writers’ Institute next spring.”

“That’s not until spring.” He straightens, adjusts the fedora that appears out of nowhere, then sets his hands on his hips. I try not to notice the bullwhip now hanging from his belt. “When are you going to write, love?”

It’s the same question I’ve been asking myself. I’ve had something going on after work almost every day this month. There’s been a little time, but I don’t want my family to think I’m totally disconnected. And sure, I have an awesome writing office in my imaginary writing paradise, but in real life, a recliner in the bedroom has lost its appeal. I’ve started planning a takeover of my son’s room. Even though he doesn’t come home all that often while school’s in session, he’s still got a lot of stuff in his room.

“The tomatoes are almost done, so I won’t have to pick and can those. Tennis is almost over, so my daughter will be able to work her shifts at the library again. I’ll have time.”

My Muse approaches, stops inches from me. “You will make time, love. No more muse pub crawls until you get your shit together, so don’t think I’m going to give you any breaks. You are going to write.”

“I’ve got to do promo …”

His finger poking my chest cuts me off. “You’ve got to write. And my job is to make sure you do it. Got it?”

Gulp. “Got it.”

Yeesh. He’s right, though, as usual. I think things will quiet down a bit; they always do about this time of year. So, butt in chair, hands on keyboard. I can do this. I’ve done it before. Deep breath.

You know what I’ll be doing this weekend. Mostly. I’ve got grass to mow around the garden so I don’t need a machete to get to the raspberries.

“I’m still here, love. Why is your butt not in that chair?”

Dammit. Okay, gotta go. Have a great writing weekend!


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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 😀

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. 🙂

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. 😀

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 😀


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High Five and Fireworks

I finish erasing lists on the white board in my writing office, leaving a single publisher. Nope. I erase it, then rewrite it bigger, with fancy 3D letters and everything. Maybe some colors. Oh, and fireworks arcs and explosions. Hmm, my board’s not quite big enough.

The door to my office whooshes open, but before I can turn, two strong hands grab my shoulders, spin me around, and my Muse gives me a bear hug that leaves me breathless, as in “Let go, too tight. Can’t breathe.”

He gives me one last squeeze and steps back. He’s wearing my favorite (on him 😉 ) burgundy henley shirt, sleeves pushed up his forearms, and his so-well-worn jeans. “I knew you could do it, love.”

“The work’s just beginning. I’ve been thinking about all the things I’ll have to do. Hoo boy.” I turn back to the board. “How was the pub crawl? You’ve been pretty scarce. Hangover much?”

He settles an arm around my shoulders. “No hangover, but a few of the others had a rough night. Figured I’d make sure they all found their ways back to their writers.”

“For a whole day?” Something sounds suspicious. “You sure you didn’t spend some extra time with one of the gals? Moka? Latte?”

He gives me the stink-eye. “That whole pub crawl turned into something like a roaming street party. I have no idea how many muses showed up. Enough so that it was dawn before they even headed home. It was great.”

O-kay. Not my idea of fun–too many people, er, muses in one place.

“You might want to post what happened today, love.” He hands me a bottle of Moon Man. “Then we can get to work.”

He’s right. So, here’s my news:

I’ve signed a two-book deal:

IMG_0156_cr

Woo-hoo! High fives all around! Happy dance! graphics-snoopy-360370

There will be a lot of work in the coming months. Right now, the estimated release for my first book is 2019. I’ll be trying to do all those things authors are supposed to do over the next months. Yikes!

It’s still sinking in. Whew! The journey’s not over, but it’s getting even more interesting. 😀

Have a great weekend everyone! Hope your muses made it home 😀


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A gathering of muses

A newspaper lays across my desk in my writing office, but it isn’t any newspaper I recognize. It’s not the local Enterprise or Hub. It’s called the Inspiration. The headline reads: “First Annual Muse Gathering”.

Hmmm. Why do I have a funny feeling about this?

Before I can read the article, my Muse sweeps into the office and swipes the paper from my hands. “Hey, I was reading that.”

He folds the newpaper and tucks it under his arm. “Don’t bother. It’s boring.”

Then I notice his attire. No worn jeans here–the ones he’s wearing look like they came fresh from the indigo dye factory. And is that a silk shirt? It’s a rich maroon that adds a little color to his complexion–not that I’m complaining. Oh, no. Sooo not complaining.

“Ah hem. Earth to Julie.”

Ahhh, yeah. “Where are you going? Is that really a silk shirt?”

“I’m going out. Mr. E is picking me up.” He points to my laptop with the paper. “And while I’m out, I want you to write.”

“Out? With Mr. E? Mae’s on a deadline. How can Mr. E go on a pub crawl? And you never dress like that for a pub crawl. What kind of pubs are you planning to hit?”

He waves the paper in my direction. “Doesn’t matter, love. You need to write. You’re falling behind.”

I snatch the paper from him and zero in on the front page. “Are you kidding me? Since when do you guys all get together in the same place?”

He swipes the paper from me and points to the headline. “Since now. See. First.”

“So who else is going on this muse party bus? And do you really think a silk shirt is a good idea?”

“There’s no smoking in pubs anymore, love. Not here, anyway. There’ll be a half dozen of us or so. D’s mercenary muse, A’s Moka and her cousin, G’s muse“–he counts off on his fingers–“she’s pretty broken up, but she’s going even though her ex will be there. P’s muse, muse Brad, and C’s muse Lorelei said she might meet us. She’s looking for a new pumpkin beer for her author.”

Man, there’ve been a lot of muses showing up in the blog-o-sphere lately. “So, the fancy clothes are for what? Planning to sweet-talk some Moka?”

He wraps an arm around my shoulders. “No worries, love. I’ll be back before last call.” He plants a kiss on my forehead. “But you are cute when you’re jealous.”

I shove him away. “I’m not jealous. They’re muses.”

He chuckles and tosses the paper onto my desk before heading to the door. “I want to see words, love.” He points to my laptop. “Get to it.”

Ugh. He’s right. Real life’s been invading my writing brain. School starts for my daughter on Monday, and the new/remodeled school isn’t nearly ready. Hey, hang on. That coiled bullwhip wasn’t on my chair before.

Okay, I can take a hint. He’s out whooping things up, and I’m here. Well, at least I’ve got some craft beer and chocolate. That should last me for a while.

Happy writing!