Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Brainstorming with the Muse

Spring is here! Happy Dance! The snow is melted, the driveway is sloppy no more, and I saw green in the lawn–and it wasn’t weeds (quackgrass doesn’t count as a weed, does it?).

Add that to the satisfaction of knowing I succeeded in my February NaNoWriMo, and I’m feeling pretty good.

Until my Muse taps me on the shoulder.

“What?” I say, annoyed at the intrusion, since I’d given him a week off. He isn’t supposed to be back on duty yet.

“Don’t snap at me, love.” He leans against the door frame, arms crossed on his chest. “You don’t pay me enough to put up with that.”

I try to listen to him, rather than just enjoy his eye-candy shell. He’s Australian, with the body of a farm boy-turned-dancer, blue eyes, sandy blond hair, and an annoying habit of appearing out of thin air rather than using the door like everyone else.

He pokes my shoulder. “Hey, pay attention. Don’t make me start singing the theme from ‘Gilligan’s Island’.”

Which, of course, makes me think of the theme from “Gilligan’s Island”. Damn. It’s gonna take all day to squash that. “Isn’t it supposed to be ‘Henry the Eighth, I Am’?”

“I didn’t audition for ‘Ghost’; I was working on another project, which you well know.” He sighs. “I want a raise.”

“That’s not why you came back from your vacation early,” I say. Besides, I don’t pay him to begin with. “Speaking of, why are you back already?”

“I’ve got a better plot for your story.”

My turn to sigh. “You came back early to tell me that? Must’ve been a lousy vacation.”

“Ah, no, I was having a great time–I’ve got the sunburn to prove it. Anyway, the plot in your aircraft mechanic story sucks.”

“Hey, you helped me with that.”

“I know, and it seemed like a good idea at the time, but the story isn’t cohesive with that plot, which you already know. You need to rewrite it before your writing sisters’ reunion in August so they can give you feedback.”

I stare at him, and not because he looks good. I give him the proverbial I-cannot-believe-you-just-said-that stare. “Um, I just spent six solid weeks on that story. Just how much of the plot are you suggesting I change?”

“You can keep the the dead body in the hell-hole, the apartment ransacking, the roommate assault, the ferret, and the snowstorm. Oh, and you can keep the ex-boyfriend and the dead one.”

My knees gel, and I drop into my office chair. “Are you freaking kidding me? Gee, that’s only, like, half the flipping story.”

He grins. I think he’s enjoying this. “So, you get to keep half the story. Just rewrite the other half.” He stretches his arms out in front of him, fingers laced, palms out. His knuckles crack. “Ready to get started?”

“Hang on.” I stand, but he’s tall enough I barely come up to his shoulder. “I’m letting that story rest for a month. And I’m not changing a word until you tell me what the new plot is.”

He rests an arm around my shoulders. “And that’s what we’re doing, love. Brainstorming. I’ve got the main plot points, so we need to come up with the details. Grab your notebook–the thick one–and a pencil. This is going to take a while.”

Ah, okay. Sorry, guys, looks like I’m going to be busy for a while.

Enjoy Spring!

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March into Spring–or Winter?

P_20150322_MarSnowThe first day of Spring was March 20, a glorious, wonderful day, with sunshine and mild temperatures. It was a day to embrace as the end of Winter!

Yeah. Shoulda known it wouldn’t last.

Sunday night = Eight inches of snow. Count ’em. And as you can see in the picture, it was a grand ol’ snowstorm.

Sigh.

March is one of our snowiest months, but we had such a nice, mild winter, it just doesn’t seem right to get blasted a week and a half before April. We do need the moisture, but I’m good with rain. Really. We don’t have to shovel rain.

On the bright side, it won’t stick around for long. Getting 8 inches of snow in March is far different from getting it in October or November.

We’ve got some great stuff coming up in the next few weeks. April 1st (Fool’s Day), April 5th (Easter), and April 15 (Tax Day) are all on the calendar, but the best part about April (typically speaking) is the sheer number of muses the month holds. There’s Spring and all the great things that go with it: trees budding, flowers blooming, grass greening, weeds growing, birds returning. Then we get the holidays: Fool’s Day and Easter. What? Don’t think Fool’s Day is a muse? How many practical jokes can you find on the Internet on April 1?

When you find yourself cooped up inside the house during an April shower, take advantage of the muse and write about the smell, the sound, the way the lawn seems to turn green before your eyes. Can’t hear yourself think when you walk outside because of all the birds squawking? What omen are they announcing? Write about how the birds’ return coincides with the discovery of a time capsule sealed with a pentagram.

How about a homicide disguised as a practical joke (rather than an accidental death) on April 1st? Wow, great muse. I might have to use that one. Easter is another muse inspired by family gatherings, egg hunts, and jellybean-pooping bunny rabbits.

What inspires you this time of year? Anything in particular? Or do you wind the writing down and let the spring chores take over–cleaning, planting, mowing?

Shameless plug: My writing teacher’s new Door County book is due to be released next week: Five-Alarm Fudge Check it out!

Finally, for anyone wondering how our three-legged lab is doing with her new status, she’s moving around well. She’ll get her stitches out next week, then it’s back to “normal”.

Write on!


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NaNo in February?!

Emily’s blog is great fun to read, and she has some awesome guests. Check it out!

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Today, I’m pleased to present Julie Holmes from Facets of a Muse! Julie writes adult mystery with psychic elements, mystery with a touch of romance, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy—and she’s got a decade of NaNoWriMos to her credit! That’s amazing. Keep reading to see how NaNoWriMo reshaped her writing process, and click here to see a sample of her novel Daughter of Pele. Thanks for visiting, Julie!

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First, thank you, Emily, for writing our first guest blog post for the Meet Your Main Character blog. It was a great post! Thank you for inviting me to try to explain my own writing process. Sheesh. I just do it. Now I have to think about it? Seriously, though, understanding why what I do works for me points me in a direction for fine-tuning my process.

To all those novelists out there: has anyone ever asked you how…

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Luck o’ the Irish?

Happy Day after the Ides of March! “Et tu, Brute?” and all that. Next on our March docket: St. Patrick’s Day!

Now, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me–one hundred percent German ancestry here (yes, Gramma, I know Luxembourg isn’t Germany, but it was part of the Prussian clan back when our forebears were there)–but I can dream. I don’t know what it is about Ireland and the Irish that fascinates me, but I get one day a year when no one will question me if I claim some Irish heritage. Ireland is on my bucket list. I had an opportunity to participate in a school-sponsored tour of Ireland next year, but since I haven’t been offered that five-figure advance ;-), and my son will be starting his freshman year at college, I had to bow out. Rats.

I’ve run into a lot of people who are enamored with Ireland. Why is that? Is it because of the wonderful green landscapes? The history? The myth? The accent? U2? The music? The dance? I’ll venture to say most if not all of the above. March 17th is our opportunity to celebrate it all.

I don’t know as I’d peg the Irish as particularly lucky. No, really. Look at the history. Invasion after invasion: the Picts, the Milesians, the Celts, the Vikings, the Normans (no, not from Cheers), the Gaels, and others, I’m sure. Then there’s the whole Catholic-Protestant thing that lasted way longer than it should have, along with the Republic of Ireland vs. the United Kingdom thing. The Potato Famine wasn’t exactly a luck-inspiring affair, and neither was the treatment of the Irish when they first arrived in America. And we all remember where the Titanic was built, right?

So where is that famed Irish luck? In a pint of Guinness? Maybe in Waterford. How about on the Hill of Tara or in the mythic traditions? Maybe that’s why we want to claim some small piece of Ireland. It’s the home of the lucky four-leafed clover, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, and tiny men dressed in green that give us “magically delicious” cereal (okay, maybe not that last one). There’s something different about Irish myth compared to typical Greek and Roman myth, or even Egyptian or Norse mythology. The Irish can claim stories that include Cuchulainn, Fionn mac Cumhaill, banshee, selkies, Brigid (or St. Brigid, as the Church transformed her), and any number of wars between the Fae and, well, lots of others.

Ireland is loaded with historical and mythic traditions that inspire creativity. I know it inspires mine. What part of the world inspires you? Is there a particular place that is a muse to you? Maybe Iceland. Norway or Sweden? Oh, New Zealand? Hawaii? Japan? Do you use that place as general inspiration, or do you place your stories in that locale? I’ve done both.

Anyway, Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Éire go Brách!

For those who were wondering how my pet story turned out (see the Pet Story post), we will have to amputate the lab’s leg between the shoulder and the elbow (if they amputated between the elbow and the wrist, the dog would have a greater tendency to try to use it). The vascular and nerve damage is too extensive. Even now, we can tell gangrene has set in. At least she’s alive, and my teenage daughter is okay with the lab losing a leg. Whew!


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Wave Goodbye to Winter

Last Wednesday our daily high temp was a measly 9 degrees above zero. Yesterday, we broke forty-five degrees, and it’s only going to get warmer. Spring is knocking at the door!

Every year spring is an occasion of brown, dry, dirty, and skeletal landscapes that slowly turn green with renewal. For those who live in places that don’t get the seasonal changes, you are missing a great muse. I can’t imagine living in Hawaii—wait, yes, I can, but that’s beside the point—and not seeing the leaves change color in the fall, and the trees turning a fresh green in the spring. The  green takes over the brown leftovers from last year, and the landscape feels refreshed and new instead of tired and worn.

One of my favorite things in spring is the smell. It smells like spring. It’s an earthy, loamy scent that makes you think of freshly-turned soil and spring rains. The wind carries that scent tempered with warm sunshine you have to feel on your face to get the full effect. Some trees flower before they’re fully dressed for the year, and that sweet aroma rides the wind and just makes you smile. See, you’re smiling now at the thought, aren’t you?

And there’s nothing quite like opening the windows in the house for the first time after being hunkered down for months. Stale, indoor air out, fresh outside air in. Just be aware that the neighbors like to take this same opportunity to clean and air out the barns. Eew. Quick, close the windows until the wind changes direction!

What element of spring is a muse for you? The rains? Warm sunshine? Fresh leaves? Brilliant skies? Flowers? All of the above?

Next on the docket is starting my seeds. First will be the onions. I used to buy onion plants (not the sets, there is a difference: the plants are younger), then a couple years ago I figured I’d grow my own. Much lower cost (about $2.50 for 250 seeds vs $14 for 75-150 plants), and there’s nothing like seeing those slender leaves like green hair in the flats. A couple weeks later, I’ll start the peppers and tomatoes. In MN, we can start planting the cold-weather stuff like potatoes, spinach, radishes, beets, and peas by the end of April. We generally wait until closer to Memorial Day to plant the warmer-weather stuff like tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, and squash, in case it snows. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about that this year. We’re breaking ground in a new spot for the garden, so I’m hopeful the onions, spinach, and beans will do better than they have the past couple years.

Still grinding toward that last scene in my story. Met with my writing group one night, and had to attend the spring sports meeting at school another night, so I didn’t get as much writing in as I’d planned. Once done, I’ve got a guest post to write and queries to send out.

Write on!


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I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?

This post is poignant, and with the tenth anniversary of my own mother’s passing, this reminds me that even little things we do for those who may be grieving, ill, or struggling in other ways can make their worries just a little bit lighter.

Maybe someone should write that down...

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How many times have we said this, written it on a card, spoken these words genuinely? Or conversely, been on the receiving end of these words as they are spoken to us?    What can I do to help?

While all is well with me and within my own house, at one time it was not. And now, there seems to be a startling rash of catastrophic diagnosis all around me, involving my friends, my family and others who I care deeply for.

In a departure from my norm, I am writing today about what are heart wrenching situations that are simply a part of living. There are moments when all that can be felt is helpless desperation– for those dear to us, as well as ourselves.

The year is still young but already I have attended too many funerals, heard news of too many devastating diagnosis, freak…

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