Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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No Muse isn’t good Muse

I look up as the door to my writing office opens. My Muse enters, closes the door behind him. He’s wearing a black hoodie with a kangaroo pocket and the MN Vikings logo in bold purple, yellow, and white. His well-worn jeans (in every sense of the word) have a stain on one leg at knee-level. He smells like stale beer, fried food, and that scent of “crowd” you get whenever you walk into an indoor stadium. 2704_minnesota_vikings-primary-2013

“When did you go to a Vikings game?” I ask. “They play tomorrow.”

He looks down at his sweatshirt. “Why do you ask?”

“You smell like a football game. I thought Aussie football was more your speed.”

He drops into the recliner next to mine in a corner of the office. “Of course it is, love, but I can’t very well head home every time I want to watch a game. American football is the next best thing. And maybe I’m caught up a little too much with it; you know the Vikes will probably blow the next game.”

Uh huh. “So, no washing your lucky shirt?” Superstitious much? They’re 10 and 2, but history tells us they choke when they get too close to the playoffs. Whatever. I’ve been feeling like my creative energy is in a holding pattern, there but mostly inaccessible. My stomach bunches up as I ask him the question that’s been bothering me for the past week. “Are you avoiding me?”

He reaches behind the chair to grab a beer out of the mini-fridge. “Why do you ask?”

I slide my mechanical pencil into the spiral binding of my notebook. He didn’t answer my question. “You know I’ve been trying to work on Book 2 since before Nano. I’ve been trying to cobble together act three of the plot thread. I think that’s why I’m stuck.”

The bottletop tings as it hits the desk across the room and bounces off the rim of the trash bin. “You haven’t exactly been begging for my help, love.”

“What do you mean?” I retract the footrest of my recliner, slide to the edge of the seat, and turn toward him, waving my notebook like a baton. “I can’t focus. It’s not like I haven’t been trying. So why have you been AWOL?”

“You’ve been distracted.”

“Like that’s ever stopped you before.” Wait. “Distracted by what?”

He leans forward, elbows on his knees, beer bottle dangling from his fingers. “Real life. Winter. Waiting on your editor’s feedback. Your kids’ non-existent Christmas lists. Procrastination. Pick one.” He tips the beer to his lips.

The room gets warmer all of a sudden. I miss him. Really miss him. And not just because he’s a fine specimen of masculine energy. “Again, that’s never bothered you before. You’re usually on my ass about something. I’ve been trying to work through the plot of Book 2. Where are you? Not on my ass.”

He leans toward me. “Better question, where are you?” He touches my forehead with a finger. “In here. It’s like you’re waiting for something, and everything else has to wait. I can’t shove creative energy into that.” He leans back, hits me with those incredible blue eyes. “You have to let me. It’s my job. You have to keep moving, love, or you’ll stagnate. You know that. That’s why you need to power through. What do you call it? The muddle in the middle.”

“Yeah. It’d help if I had a friggin’ clue what the climax is supposed to be.”

Another sip. “You know how it ends. The good guys win. The bad guys complain about meddling kids.”

“Har, har. There’s more to it. The sorta bad guy needs to redeem himself after giving my protagonist a hard time six years ago. There’s got to be more danger to my protag. My two MCs have to have more conflict.” Sigh. “Maybe I’m writing the wrong story. Maybe I should work on my rural mystery for a while.”

My Muse shakes his head. “Finish this draft. If you don’t do it now, you might not ever do it. Once it’s written, you can go back and fix it.”

That’s the problem. Writing it. “You need to stick around.”

He chuckles, but not like he’s amused, more like he’s patronizing me. “Will you listen to me? Because if you won’t, there’s a rugby match in Adelaide calling my name.”

“What happened to the Indiana Jones fedora and bullwhip? The whole drill sergeant thing?”

“It’s not working for you right now, love. So,” he straightens, “I’m going to try something different.”

Uh-oh. “Like what?”

His slow smile tightens my shoulders with unease. “Oh, I have some ideas. Just have to try a few to see which ones work.”

Oh, boy.

My son’s home from college for the next month. He just turned the big two-oh, so I’ll probably take him on a mom-and-me birthday outing tomorrow. That leaves today to grind through the middle of my WIP. Maybe I’ll toss a bomb into the mix, just to get something moving.

Go forth and write!

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Hello December, or Help! I’m stuck

You sure it’s December? Because it was in the upper 40’s (Fahrenheit) this week. In Minnesota. After Thanksgiving. To give you an idea, the average temps this time of year are around freezing. Usually snow doesn’t stick around until after Thanksgiving, but so far in my part of the Great White North, there’s been no white. You’ll have to head north, like Duluth or International Falls north, to find snow. If it hasn’t melted by now.

Seriously. It wasn’t that many years ago when it was in the teens on Thanksgiving Day.

Anyway.

I hit 50k words before the end of NaNo, so yay. Problem is, I’m losing momentum again. The story isn’t done. I’ve reached the spot where I’ve adjusted the storyline, but, well, …

Have you ever lost your “umph” for a story? You get to a point where you’ve lost all interest in the story, but you know you need to power through and finish the draft? Yep, welcome to my world. Part of it is the story, part of it is the time of year (how busy are you this time of year with potlucks, and parties, and ?), and part of it is the effing melonheads in DC doing their damndest to screw everyone who doesn’t make six or more figures.

So, how do you move through this mire?

Anyone?

giphy1

Bueller?

giphy

Okay, I’m going to toss out some ideas.

Idea #1: Wade through it. I’ve got a rough outline, so I have a direction. It’s different–better, I like to think, but … And first drafts are supposed to be crappy, so I shouldn’t worry what it ends up being, because there’s going to be revisions. Lots of revisions.

Idea #2: Switch projects. I’ve got another story I plan on hitting after I finish the draft for Book 2. So, maybe I press the “Pause” button on Book 2 and start a self-imposed NaNo for my other project.

Idea #3: Go back to a past project and work on revisions. I’ve got a police procedural that needs some work, and I’ve actually done a little on it this past week. I’ve got a contemporary fantasy that needs some revising, and an epic/traditional fantasy that still needs the ending written. A genre change might be good.

Idea #4: Do something completely different. As in, not work on other projects sitting around. Write a short story, or revisit poetry, or hell, stream of consciousness writing through my anxiety about stuff I can’t fix.

Idea #5: Take a break. *silence* Yeah, that’s what I was doing before NaNo. I did NaNo to bust the non-writing slump. Nope. Scratch this one.

Idea #6: Take a walk. Or two. Or three. I haven’t done this for a while, partly because of the weather–even though it’s been unseasonably warm it’s been windy as hell, and partly because the gravel road I walk on is a high-traffic area this time of year since the neighbors are bringing in semi-trailer loads of harvested corn. All. The. Time. Not good to walk on a gravel road that hasn’t seen any sort of moisture for weeks with semi-trucks racing around on it. *Cough*

I like to listen to music when I write, so I’ve got that covered.

If you’ve got any other suggestions, drop them into a comment. It’s the weekend, so I’m going to write.

I will write.

Hear that, brain. I’m going to write, dammit.

You, too. Take advantage of the time before the holidaze, while the craziness is still somewhat manageable.


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Recap and Recovery

Everyone recover from your turkey hangover? Get your fill of NFL football? How about shopping–did you brave the masses?

Me, I just sit at home and do the online thing. Amazingly enough, this year’s Black Friday weather in MN is quiet. Doesn’t mean I have any intention ever of venturing into die-hard shopper-infested malls.

My NaNo project is moving along. I’ve learned–after doing NaNo for over a decade–that my first draft is crap (duh), and I figure out through the process what’s missing and what doesn’t work in the story. It’s like while I’m writing (with a muzzled inner editor), my brain churns through the story, testing how it fits into the storybuilding process.

As I hit a later chapter, my brain pipes up and lets me know what I missed early on. For example, in my current WIP, I’ve got two characters in an early chapter that have a specific role. They’re even in a whole scene. Problem is, they don’t show up again.

So here I am, grinding toward the middle of the story, when my brain throws up a red flag. Hey, these two need to show up again, or they need to go. What are you going to do about it?

Oh. Yeah. Um. Hmm. Ideally I’d make a note and keep going, but it’ll bug me for-ev-er if I don’t at least outline another scene for them. Another character, one of the antagonists, also shows up, and doesn’t return to the stage until, wow, way later. That isn’t right. So now I’m writing up another scene that brings the antagonist into a bigger spotlight. Bonus is, beyond tension, it adds to the “whodunit” aspect of the story.

It’s interesting, though, how I don’t realize the knots and holes until I’ve written the draft, and then a light goes on that reminds me of story construction. What seemed fine when I started doesn’t work right once I’ve written through it. Classic example is my soon-to-be-published book.

The main character is a female aircraft mechanic who finds a body. In an airplane. I know, I know, finding a body in a mystery novel is weird 😛 Finding a body in an airplane is different, but in a good way. Having the antagonists work at a construction site, albeit on the airport grounds, well … Yes, in the first draft, a good portion of the story took place at a construction site.

When I finished the story, I heard my writing teacher’s voice, clear as day: Why are they at a construction site? Why aren’t they at the airport?

Silence.

DUH! Of course it has to be in the airport. That’s the unique setting. The MC is an aircraft mechanic. DUH!

Point is, I didn’t get it until I’d finished that draft, and my brain had ker-chunked its way through the story while I did the actual writing. So, for me the draft is like the test run, and my brain spends its time comparing the story to all the stuff I’ve learned over the years about how to plot, character arcs, subplots, conflict, story structure, etc. I do a loose outline of my stories, but that must not be enough meat for the ol’ noggin to work with.

And once it hits a spot where I’ve failed to follow the story-building process–characters, conflict, story goals, obstacles, stuff like that–it throws up a red flag. I often can’t see those spots until I’ve written through them. Which, I suppose, is the point of a first draft.

I’m on the straightaway for my NaNo quota, so I’m pretty sure I’ll hit 50k, maybe even by the end of the weekend. The story won’t be finished, though. It’ll be another few weeks before I hit “The End”, and the story will cool for a month or so before I start any sort of revision.

In the meantime, I’ll work on another WIP, in a self-imposed NaNo process. This is what I like about NaNo, the momentum. I find the word quota deadline helps me get a draft finished. Sure, it’s balls-to-the-walls writing to get the words down, but the point is to keep working on something. If nothing else, it keeps my Muse off my back 😀

Enjoy your extended holiday weekend, and take advantage of the time to do a bit of writing 😀

 

 

A Perfect 10 with J.M. Holmes

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Stop over at Don Massenzio’s blog today between football games and check out my interview. Don’s got a great site, so afterward, poke around a bit. He’s got some good writing posts.

Author Don Massenzio

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of featuring author J.M. Goebel on this edition of A Perfect 10.

Please enjoy this special installment of A Perfect 10

If you want to check out past interviews, you can find them in the following links:

A.C. FlorySteve BoseleyKayla MattMae ClairJill SammutDeanna KahlerDawn Reno LangleyJohn HowellElaine CouglerJan SikesNancy BellNick DavisKathleen LopezSusan ThatcherCharles YallowitzArmand RosamiliaTracey PaganaAnna DobrittKaren OberlaenderDeby FredericksTeri PolenDarlene FosterRobert Rayner, C.C. NaughtonSherry RentshlerLinda BradleyLuna St. ClairJoan HallStaci TroiloAllan HudsonRobert EggletonPaul Scott BatesP.C. ZickJoy LennickPatrick Roland

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Good intentions gone where? Take 2

In case you were wondering (okay, you weren’t wondering, but I’ll tell you anyway), I’m keeping up with my NaNoWriMo quotas. I’m actually a little ahead, so I’ve got a bit of a cushion.

No thanks to my Muse. Boy, when I see him again …

My writing office door whooshes open, and my Muse makes his entrance complete with Ghirardelli chocolates in one hand and Schell’s Firebrick lager in the other. What? No Moon Man?

He’s wearing the burgundy Henley shirt I so love, sleeves shoved halfway up his forearms. Well-worn jeans–in every sense of the adjective–complete the ensemble. He deposits the treats on my desk and sets a hip on a corner, flashes a lopsided smile. “Before you ask, love, no, I didn’t bring Moon Man. I’m saving that for when you hit fifty thousand words. How’s it going?”

Ahem. “Fine, no thanks to you.”

“Me?” he says, all innocent-like. “You do remember the part where I hit you with a brilliant seed for an urban fantasy, right? Got your creative fires lit.”

I plant fists on my hips, remember the disaster I avoided, and try to stay indignant. “Yeah. You gave me the first five lines. That’s it. And guess what? I managed about 7500 words before I gave up and went back to Book 2.” I’m counting those 7500 words, damn it. “Don’t do that again.”

His eyes widen. “What do you mean?”

I need time to tumble a novel-length idea around in the ol’ noggin. “I told you I hadn’t thought about that story AT ALL. At the very least I need a direction. Hell, I didn’t have a story goal. I didn’t even have a name for my main character when I started. Where was I supposed to take the characters? I had no idea, and day one of NaNo is so not the time to jump into a story like that.”

I’m fired up now. “I tried. For four days I tried to come up with some sort of plot, something besides a character without a name and the first five lines.”

“Yeah, you did. And you wrote scenes for that story for those four days.”

“No. I wrote three versions of the same freaking scene.”

“You wrote five scenes, love. And got some backstory put together.” He waves a finger at me. “You named the main character and her best friend. And you got as far as the mysterious-but-handsome stranger.”

“Not the point.” I have to pace. “I can’t believe I listened to you. I can’t believe you did that to me.”

He stands and blocks my path. “Are you blaming me for getting you fired up to write? What part of Muse with a capital ‘M’ don’t you understand? It’s my job, love.”

“I’ve got two stories to write. One is book 2, the other is my rural mystery.” I shake my head. Frustration tightens my shoulders until the back of my neck aches. “Why couldn’t you hit me with a brainstorm about those stories instead of something completely different? I could’ve spent four more days on the stuff I’ve got some sort of a road map for.”

“Because you were already spinning your wheels on those. I knocked you loose, didn’t I? That’s what you needed.” He rocks on his heels, arms crossed on his oh-so-fine chest. “You’re rolling fine now, aren’t you?”

Grrr. He’s right, but if I tell him, how much worse will he get? I mean, he already thinks pretty highly of himself. Then again, …

“Julie?”

“Yes, fine, I’m rolling.” I throw my hands up. “There. Happy?”

His grin brightens. “Yep.”

“Don’t hurt yourself patting your own back. I’m at the end of the section I’ve got laid out, so you’re going to have to stick around to help me. And no urban fantasy stuff.” Although I will keep that story around. I’ll figure out the rest of it. Eventually.

He drops an arm around my shoulders. “You take all the fun out of it, love, but I’ve got you covered.”

Uh-huh. Anyway …

It’s past halfway for NaNo, and I’m doing okay. Planning for progress this weekend, since next week is Thanksgiving already. Man, I cannot believe how time is flying this year! A long weekend next week, so hopefully I can get within spitting distance of 50k. The book won’t be done–it usually takes me six weeks to complete a draft–but 50k is a pretty solid chunk of it. Then set that aside and work on my other story.

Yep, my Muse got the fire going. Man, that creative burn sure feels good!

Have a great weekend, and keep writing!


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Jumping Genres

Please welcome my good blogging friend, D. Wallace Peach. Besides having a wonderful blog where she shares poetry, short prose from writing prompts, and peeks into visits with her grandson, she’s a prolific fantasy/sci-fi author. Since she writes for the adult market, I wondered why she chose to write a children’s book, so I invited her to stop by and shed some light on the subject. Take it away, Diana!

Available in Print: USA, UK, Canada, India

Julie asked me what possessed a writer of adult fantasy and sci-fi books to suddenly write and illustrate a children’s book.

The answer isn’t quite straight-forward, but it’s not that complicated either. I never set out with a children’s book in mind, but sometimes the ingredients come together and it’s a matter of timing more than intent.

The main reason is Tornado Boy.

Tornado Boy is 4 years old, and he’s a burgeoning author. He dictates stories to his parents—mostly science fiction adventures on the planet Gorgon where the Gloobs are shooting lasers at the bad Pooglas but not at the good Pooglas who are trying to save the Rainbow Gems from the witch. It’s a complex story with a convoluted plot, but if you’re 4, it makes perfect sense.

His mom and dad dutifully write down the EXACT words, or they’ll get in trouble. Then, they add a few supervised illustrations. The stories are rolled into scrolls and presented to Grammy (me) tied with a ribbon. A public reading and celebration ensue.

Well one day, I told Tornado Boy that I too had written a story. (I had a children’s story in verse that I’d written for the blog years ago.) The kid was astonished. I dug it up and read to him. Like a literary agent, he was thoroughly unimpressed. Unlike a literary agent, he told me why: “There aren’t any pictures, Grammy.”

Ah, well, I used to dabble with acrylics… amateur, but kid’s books come with all sorts of illustrations. As luck would have it, the last adult fantasy series had burned me out, and I’d planned to take a break for the summer and do something different.

… the ingredients start coming together… timing was right…

Three months later I have 24 little paintings spread across my window sills and a Tornado-Boy-approved book.

Blurb:

Grumpy Ana Goblyn is sour, dour, and cranky. Her lips droop in a frown. She’s bored with every place and person in her friendly town. With the help of her father, she builds a spaceship and travels to a soggy planet where she meets her perfect monster playmates. But there’s a problem! The monsters see her grouchy frown and think she’s a monster. In this children’s space adventure, Ana discovers that her attitude affects her happiness, and she can change it if she chooses.

About the Author:

D. Wallace Peach is a writer of grown-up fantasy and science fiction, but she’s also a grandmother who treks to the Gnome Forest hunting rainbow gems with grandson Revel. They keep an eye out for purple baby dragons skritching in the Dragonwood and gather gold buried around the magical tree of mystery.

Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters is her first children’s book. More to come!

Links:

Blog – Myths of the Mirror
Book Blog – D. Wallace Peach Books
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter – @dwallacepeach


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And then it hit me

BAM! A brand new, never-before-imagined idea blasts through my brain.

Oh. My. Gawd.

Seriously? Is this real?

My Muse straightens to his full six foot-two height. If he leans forward, I think our foreheads would collide. “You have a problem with this, love?”

The storm is still rampant in my brain. Quick, I need a notebook. Damn. “Well, yeah. I mean, I should be working on Book 2. It’s NaNo, and my opportunity to re-draft …”

He rests a hand on my shoulder. “And how’s that been working for you?”

“Ahh, not well. I’m still not feeling it, but it’s only the first week.”

“Right. So, here you go.”

I shake my head and retreat to pace my writing office instead. “It’s a whole different genre. I haven’t written urban fantasy before. My agent doesn’t rep urban fantasy; the only fiction she reps is mystery. That’s a whole month of working on something that isn’t a genre my agent could rep. If I’m not working on Book 2, I should at least be working on my rural mystery.”

My Muse leans back against my desk, arms crossed on his oh-so-fine chest. “Uh-huh. You’ve been mulling that one for years. And you wrote that Irish contemporary fantasy. Some would call that urban.”

“Only because it wasn’t epic or traditional fantasy. I’ve still got an epic fantasy book I need to finish.” I can’t believe this. “I can’t spend thirty days writing something I haven’t thought about before. I don’t even know where I’d go with it. I’m not a pantser. At the very least I have to noodle on it for a while before I start writing anything. That’s thirty days I could–should–be working on Book 2, or my other mystery.”

“Other writers who write multiple genres often have multiple agents for the different genres. You know, a romance writer who also writes mysteries or fantasy. They have one agent for the romances and one for mysteries.”

I stop. Stare at him. “Not the point. It’s THIRTY FREAKING DAYS. I need to work on—”

“Don’t raise your voice, love. I’m standing right here.”

“Have you seen the urban fantasy market? You can’t go anywhere without tripping over a book about were-whatevers, or vampires, or gargoyles, or dragon-shifters, or hell, angels and demons. It’s saturated.”

“Uh-huh. And how far can you go before you hit a wall of mysteries? It’s the second biggest genre behind romance.”

“But there’s a ton of subgenres in mystery. Crime, noir, historical, cozy, detective, police procedural, oh my gawd. Lots of people read mysteries.” I start pacing again. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“You feel it though, don’t you? That pull. That burn to write. I know you do, love.”

Damn it. I hate it when he’s right. “That’s THIRTY DAYS I won’t be spending on the stuff I should be writing.”

He raises a finger. “Aha. Did you hear yourself? You said ‘should’ be writing. You should be saying ‘need’ to write. Hear the difference? Which story do you need to write?”

I shake my head. “The big thing now is diverse characters. I don’t write diverse, unless  you count strong female protagonists in non-traditional careers.”

“It’s got potential, love.”

I stop again, hands out as if offering my last suggestion. “I don’t even know what the freaking story is. I’ve got the first few lines. That’s it. I have no idea what happens next. I don’t even know who the main character is, much less the supporting actors or even the story goal. And first person POV? What the hell are you doing to me? I’ve got a contract obligation for Book 2.”

“I’m getting you excited for your project.”

I can’t spend thirty days writing something I have never thought about until just now.” Where’s my Night Fury conscience? Wait, no, where’s my book dragon? She can help me push back. Except she’d probably agree with him. “C’mon, I work full-time, plus sub at the library, plus the whole gotta-take-care-of-the-house thing before it turns into a hovel. I can NOT believe you’re doing this to me.”

He chuckles. I suppress an urge to slap that grin off his swoon-worthy face. “It’s my job, love, and you know it. So spend thirty days writing something different. It’s reignited the writing fire in you, right? You can’t wait to get home and get started.”

He’s right. Damn it, he’s right. I want to chase this idea. I want to sit down and start writing this, not help files for software. OMG, I’m going to be distracted by this all day.

“If you’re really good, maybe you can finish the urban fantasy and still work on Book 2 during NaNo.”

“ARE. YOU. INSANE?”

He blocks my path and locks me with his piercing blue gaze. “Are you a writer?”

Sonofabitch.