Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


Treat and Retreat

Laptop computer? Check.

Notebooks? Check.

Notes from writing sisters? Check.

Assorted craft beer? Check.

Chocolate? Hell, yes, check.




Anyway, I’m off for my long-ish writing retreat. My mini-retreat last weekend went well, but two days is just long enough to really get going before having to leave.

I ended up spending about half a day dealing with ghosts from the past. The 11th anniversary of my mother’s death was earlier this week. Last weekend at the empty house where we grew up, along with pictures of her and all the memories, brought out emotions I haven’t indulged for a long time.

Once I worked through that, I was able to settle down and work on my WIP. I’m taking advantage of the extended holiday weekend to finish off this revision, then start in again from the beginning, working through all the great feedback I’ve been getting from my writing sisters.

Some writers can work when there’s activity around, like at home, or in Starbucks, or even the library. I can, to a point, but when I’m trying to revise, the fewer distractions I have, the less I procrastinate.

Some writers are able to head to a hotel for a writing weekend, but I find it hard to write at a hotel; the desks and chairs they have never seem comfortable enough. My dream retreat would be a cabin in the woods with indoor plumbing, a nice screened porch with comfy chairs, a walking path for when I need to take a break, and Internet access (I back my writing up to a cloud drive (and yes, I also back up to an external hard drive, but the online drive is more up to date)).

Or, there’s always a little beach getaway. Or a mountain hideaway. What’s your dream writing retreat?

“You ready to head out, love?” My Muse’s overstuffed backpack hits the floor with a thud. He’s got a folding chair (you know, like the ones that come in those bags) slung over one shoulder and a shade umbrella under an arm.

“Really? You don’t need the chair or umbrella; my dad’s got chairs and an umbrella that goes with the picnic table on the deck. Besides, it’s supposed to be rainy most of the weekend.”

He lets the chair slip to the floor. “Fine. Give me a few minutes, then let’s go.”

Sigh. Looking forward to days of writing. Am I going to miss out on any Memorial Day fun? Nope. Not even driving in all the traffic that will be heading to any of Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes. Like anyone considers that fun. I’ll also take part of a day to check on (read: go for a walk with and take out to lunch) my grandmother, and try to catch a quick visit with my BFF from high school.

For my American friends, have a safe weekend, and take some time out to write. For my outside-of-America friends, enjoy your weekend.

Write well! Write on!



Garden time again, and a treat

You know you’re getting old when you spend 3 hours in the garden laying out the soaker hoses, raking cut grass for mulch, and covering the hoses with landscape fabric weighed down with said grass, and feel twice your age the next day.

And I’m not that old. (let’s just say I was in jr. high when Michael Jackson’s Thriller came out)

Ugh. Or I’m just really out of shape 🙂 Not so sure about that, considering I have no second thoughts about running a 5k tomorrow with my daughter. I’m pretty sure I won’t be sore from that. I’ll be sore from spending another 3 hrs in the garden tonight finishing mulching and getting the planting done.

Why not wait until the weekend? Well, that’s where the treat comes in. I’ve got two–count ’em, two–mini writing retreats: this weekend and next.

Excuse me while I whoop and hollar and dance around like the crazy writer I am.
“Hey, watch it, love.” My Muse jumps aside before I happy-Snoopy-dance into the space he occupies.

“Sorry.” I stop (I was getting tired anyway). “Hey, you didn’t tell me you were meeting with my writing sister’s Muse.”

He tries to pull off a who, me? expression, but he doesn’t fool me. “Which one?” he asks once he realizes I know things.

“The one plying you with drinks while you gave her tips on how to annoy her writer.”

His cheeks redden. “Oh, that one. She, ah, asked for advice, and since her writer is one of your writing sisters, I figured I’d give her a few tips.”

Uh-huh. I’ll just bet that’s how it went down. Not. “Yes, well, stop giving her ideas. She’s supposed to be inspiring her writer, not trying to bug the hell out of her.”

Sheepish, he leads the way out of my writing office and onto a tropical beach. Turquoise water stretches to the horizon, framed by palm trees and jungle-covered fingers of land that protect the lagoon. An expanse of sugar sand is interrupted only by a pair of low-slung beach chairs under umbrellas.

The enticing part isn’t the view as much as it is the salty smell of the ocean and the soothing whoosh of waves lapping the shore. A light breeze carries the sound of rustling leaves to compliment the rhythm of the sea.

“Are you trying to bribe me?” I ask in mock-offense. I’m itching to shuck off my shoes and dig my toes into the warm sand.

“Is it working?”

Like I’m going to tell him. “We’ll see. You ready for this weekend? I’m talking balls-to-the-walls writing marathon.”

“Yeah, about that …”

“There’s no ‘about that’. We’re going to an empty house where I won’t have any interruptions. No arguments to overhear, or loud televisions to block out, or gardens to plant. I can sit on the deck and drink my coffee in the morning. I can walk around the old neighborhood when I need a break.” Short break; it’s a small neighborhood.

He drops into one of the beach chairs and reaches his toes into the water. “I’m supposed to meet someone at …”

“Really? You better not be telling me you’re going on a date with my writing sister’s Muse.”

An eyebrow arches high. “Date?” He laughs, a full-bodied guffaw that echoes over the lagoon. “No, it isn’t like that. Besides, love, why her when I’ve got you? Not that there aren’t times I’d like to spend a weekend with someone who doesn’t make me want to rip my hair out when she can’t get past a roadblock.

“I was going to say I’m supposed to meet someone at … eh, forget it. I’ll tell him his writer needs him more than he needs a weekend pub crawl.”

“Mr E.? He wants Mae to give him a juicier part. He’d better stick around her place. And I need you with me. I’m going to make the most of this writing weekend if it drives me nuts. I’ve got a month until my soft deadline, and that doesn’t even include my beta readers. I need to send out the almost-ready-for-beta-readers draft to my other writing sisters by the end of the month.”

He tugs on my hand. I relent, and settle into the other beach chair, aches and all. The water is warm, the sand is warm, and I think I’ll just hang out here for a bit before I dig into my WIP this weekend.

If you ever get a chance, take a mini-retreat. Take advantage of a relative going on vacation to take over an empty house and focus on writing. Write on!



Unraveling Timelines

The neat thing about my writing office is my “environment on demand”. I can change what’s outside depending on what my creative energy needs.

I need a break. Today I walk out of my office onto a dock that reaches into a forest lake. The dock is high enough that when I sit at the end of it, my feet dangle about a foot above the water. I lean over the lower rung of the railing and kick my feet, the childish movement a good outlet for my writer’s angst.

I toss a pebble into the water. Ploop. Another pebble, and the ripples skate over the surface.

My Muse sets a cooler beside me, then settles on my other side, long legs swinging in time with mine. He takes a small flat rock from my pile and slings it. It skips four times before sinking below the surface. “I thought after the dreary, cold, rainy week you’ve had you’d be sitting on a sandy tropical beach under an umbrella.”

I fold my arms on the railing. “Nope.”

He mirrors me. “Stuck?”



“Not sure. The scene’s not working right, and I’m not sure how to fix it.”

“It’s the new scene, right?”

“No, it’s a new version of an old scene.”

“Same diff.” He reaches behind me and drags the cooler to him. He opens one bottle and hands it to me. It’s not Man in the Moon, but one of Schell’s craft beers. He opens his own and takes a swig before leaning back over the rail, bottle dangling from his fingers. “What about a new order of events?”

“Maybe. That’s what one of my writing sisters suggested. I’m trying to work through that in my head. It’d make things easier as far as walking through the case.”

Footsteps crescendo behind us, then stop. I don’t bother to turn; I suspect who it is.

“She hates me.”

I roll my eyes and swallow some beer. “She doesn’t hate you.”

“I’m accusing her of being involved in the case, but I know she isn’t.”

“Quinn, you’re a cop. Can you prove she’s innocent?”

Silence. I sense him crouch behind me. He picks a couple skipping stones from my pile, then straightens. His first attempt fails. His second skips twice. “I don’t know.”

“Isn’t is supposed to be ‘innocent until proven guilty’, not the other way around?” my Muse says. “Seems to me you should be looking for ways to prove someone else is guilty. You have another suspect.”

“My other suspect is dead.”

“Liar.” My Muse takes another pull from his beer. “You tell Sierra about it, yet?”

Quinn picks another couple stones from my pile. “She’s not talking to me.” He tosses a rock far into the lake. Ripples coat the surface. “Will you go back to earlier? Breakfast would be good. She was talking to me then.”

I sigh. “It doesn’t matter when she was talking to you. You know as soon as you bring up what CSU found in her apartment she’s going to push back. It’s got to happen, and it doesn’t matter where I take the story back to.”

“It didn’t happen in the other timeline.”

“Yes, it did. It just had everything to do with you telling her what to do, and nothing to do with her possible involvement in the case. This is a mystery–she’s got to be a suspect. I had to rework the timeline.”

“The new timeline sucks.”

Tough shit. “The new timeline is cleaner.”

“Says who?”

“Says the writer who created your ass.” My Muse finishes his beer and pops the top off another. “Besides, why are you doing your job at home, anyway? I thought you learned your lesson when your ex-wife …”

“This has nothing to do with–”

“It has everything to do with her.” My Muse nudges me. “There you go. He doesn’t want to confront Sierra at home because his job drove a wedge between him and his ex-wife, etcetera, etcetera. Relocate the scene to his office.”

The more I think about it, the more that idea seems to require the least unraveling and re-weaving of the timeline. I finish my beer, and rummage around in the cooler for a pick-me-up. Ah-ha! Ghiradelli chocolate. My Muse knows what I like.

So, the moral is: when you get stuck, sit out on the dock of the bay, waste some time, talk to your muse, and unravel a timeline or two.

Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate!!





The inside scoop

I add another tweak to the sentence, hit “Save”, and stand to stretch. Gads, I’m going to have to print the whole manuscript out again. Writing longhand does have merits, but I’m not going to write a 90k-word book by hand. I find editing on paper is better for me. I can often catch things I miss otherwise, and it’s easier to check things pages or chapters back in hard copy.

Coffee’s empty, and I’m feeling the drag. I grab my cup and open the office door.

Holy crap! Have you ever pushed open the door to the ladies’ room at the exact same time someone inside is pulling it open to leave? Yeah, it was like that.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I just … Your Muse called and, um, I thought he’d be here. He said to go right in.” She loops a lock of dark brown hair with a stark white tress around an ear. “He isn’t, is he?”

Of course he isn’t. I’m sure he didn’t think twice about calling her to stop by, and then heading out to “run errands”. Setting me up is more like it. “Hi, Sierra. Nope, he isn’t here, but I’m sure that was his plan all along.” I step aside and invite her in. “Where’s Quinn?”

She blushes. Her mouth curls into a smile, like she’s remembering a private joke. “Working. Your Muse said he didn’t need to be here.”

Uh-huh. Of course he did. I offer her coffee, which she turns down because she works tonight. I fill my mug and grab a bottle of water for her before we settle down at the small table in my office. “Did he tell you why he wanted you to come?”

“Something about ramping up tension and you needing help.”

“I thought I was doing okay once I got the whole suspicion versus romantic atmosphere thing figured out. Apparently he doesn’t agree or he wouldn’t have called you. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s conveniently absent for our meeting.” That’s when I notice the far-away look on her face amid a fading flush. “Sooo, how did breakfast go this morning?”

Her face reddens like my son’s skin from golfing without sunscreen. “Good.” Her tone indicates “good” isn’t quite the word she’s thinking. I imagine “mind-blowing” is closer.

Sigh. I remember those days.

O-kay. She isn’t going to like this next part. Correction, Quinn isn’t going to like it. “Did you tell Quinn you work tonight?”

She becomes very interested in the ingredients on the bottle’s label. That’s what I thought; she’s much too cheery for things to have played out like I need them to.


“You do realize you need to tell him.”

“I’ll leave him a note.”

“Yeah, no.  You remember the part where I said suspicion, right?”

She lifts her eyes to mine. The left one really is a little paler than the right. Matches the side her white tress is on. “What does that have to do with me? He knows I’m not involved. I just found the body.”

Not so much. “You need to tell him you’re going to work tonight so he can tell you what he … ” Dammit. I can’t tell her, it’ll ruin her reaction. “Never mind. We need to replay the breakfast scene, and you need to tell him before he leaves.”

“What do you mean by ‘replay’?” She sounds excited, like she gets to go to Disneyland all over again.

Man, I miss those days before kids, back when we had energy.

“I’ll take you back to the point where you make breakfast and Quinn’s getting ready for work.”

Her enthusiasm wanes. “Can’t you go back a little further?”

I feel my evil side peek out. Mwahahahaha. “Don’t need to.”

“Please? It’s only a couple hours.”

“I’m on too tight a deadline.” I think my horns are showing.

“Sorry I’m late.” My Muse makes his entrance, sliding his aviator sunglasses up onto his head. “What’d I miss?”

The scenes I’m working on have taken longer than I expected, but I think in the end it’ll be good. I’m at an emotional turning point for my main characters; hoping I’m up to the challenge!

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there!








The eyes have it

Just a quick post for this week (yes, I know it’s a little late).

A lot of new writers (and admit it, we were all greenhorns once) may not realize that even though solitude, along with quiet, may be necessary to write, you can’t write in a vacuum. (C’mon, of course not literally. There’s no air in a vacuum, and you’d have to wear a space suit, and that’s really hard to type in.) Well, you could, but you wouldn’t be taking advantage of something that is vital for good writing–another set of eyes. (I’m sure there are exceptions, but I’m talking fiction writers.)

I’m neck-deep in my WIP, working through adjustments to the storyline (again) required by adjustments to the plot (again), so I’m trying to stay away from online distractions, and dedicating a couple hours every night to writing. I’ve got a tight deadline I’m working against, and doggone it, this (re)writing stuff is tough.

Still, even though I’m hammering away at the story, I’m working with my writing sisters to ensure what I’ve written makes sense plot-wise, and especially character-wise. That’s the importance of having fellow writers you can work with, and TRUST.

I think most published writers have critique groups that help fine-tune their writing. If not a group, then one or two people who are also writers or writing teachers they can engage to look over their work. I think new writers often don’t “get” this, at least not right away.

(Don’t worry; it’s just like anything else. You’ll learn.)

When I work with my writing sisters, they help me see bits and pieces that are out-of-character or not logical to the story. They even help me see how scenes or characters I’ve written to solve a plot problem actually enrich the story or a character. Huh. Never thought of it that way, but they were absolutely right.

Every time I sit down to write, I think of them. I have a treasured group of fellow writers who help me stay on track (I think I have someone’s boot-print on my butt from the kicking 🙂 ), and I try to help them in return.

Whether you join a writing group, meet at a writers’ conference or retreat, or connect online, having other sets of eyes on your work is critical (okay, my opinion, but almost every writer will say the same). And get that brainstorming wall prepped. Sometimes those writing buddies will open your eyes to new possibilities in your work.

*flips the Do-Not-Disturb sign*

Alrighty then, back to work. Enjoy your week, and Happy May Day!