Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Roll Up Those Sleeves

My Muse enters my writing office as I tap the printout of my WIP into order. “Here.” He hands me a shiny blue box with German script on it and four chocolate treats inside. “It’s the good kind. From Salzburg.” He sets down a variety six-pack of beer labeled from the New Glarus Brewing Company in Wisconsin. “Don’t say I never gave you anything. You feeling better today?”

“So far.” Yesterday was an exercise in keeping a rein on my agitation. Not sure why I was so crabby, but at least I managed to not bitch too much. And I did get a walk in at lunchtime. It should’ve been a glorious day, with the wonderful weather and no kids at home.

He leans a hip on the corner of my desk. “Well?”

“‘Well’ what?”

“Sorry you didn’t get a mentor again this year, but at least you got some feedback. They made good suggestions, you know.”

“I know.”

“Your writing sisters confirmed their suggestions, so why are you reluctant to dig in?”

“I’m not reluctant. Look,” I heft the 300-page printout, “I’ve got my WIP right here. I’m ready. Are you ready?”

He stares at me. I get that itchy feeling that makes me want to squirm. “Say it, love.”

“Say what?”

He sighs. “If you say it, you can deal with it.”

Not sure about that. One of my blogging writer acquaintances has a raven named Doubt. My version isn’t a raven. It’s more like one of those shadow creatures that stalk you just outside your peripheral vision so you know it’s there, but you can never quite see it.

“Julie.”

“Fine. Writer’s doubt.” There. I said it. That doesn’t mean I feel any better about it.

“And?”

I lean back in my chair and stare at the stack of paper on my desk. “Isn’t it enough that I’m not sure I can accomplish what I need to do? Isn’t it enough that I feel so inadequate as a writer because I can’t see the things that are so obvious now since other writers pointed them out? I should be able to ‘see’ those issues.”

“Experience gives you that ability, love. Experience, practice, and learning from your peers and mentor. You’re learning. Look at all the things you notice now that you didn’t five years ago.”

“I still should be able to find that stuff myself.”

“That’s why you have critique partners and writing sisters, because you’re too close to the book. You know that.”

Yes, I know that. And I thank all the powers that be that I have such a wonderful group of fellow writers to work with. I thank all the writers who are so generous with sharing their knowledge and time to help others in this fickle journey we’re on.

“Hey.” He crouches beside me. Wow, his eyes seem particularly blue today for some reason. He waves a scolding finger at me. “Do not get distracted. Focus on this story. You were playing around with another idea yesterday. Don’t do that.”

“It was a good idea. And I could even do it as a ‘book by blog’ thing.”

“Maybe so, but you need to focus on one thing at a time, at least until you get through your deep revisions.” He straightens, sits on the edge of my desk. “You ready to do this?”

I take a deep breath. Am I ready? I catch a glimpse of a dark something flitting by.

The view outside my writing office, currently the scene of a temperate rain forest ala Washington state, shimmers with a short-lived breeze. A flat, rounded head peeks in through the window, green eyes wide.

8-26-2016 10-00-50 AM

“Your conscience is ready to slay your writer’s doubt. Are you ready?” my Muse asks.

I give my manuscript a final tap on the desk. I think the Night Fury guise of my conscience helps me over that last hurdle.

“Let’s do this.”

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Gardening and Transitions

Rain whispers outside the window as I sit in my writing chair. Today is the third or fourth day of rain this past week or so, meaning I haven’t gotten out to the garden in a few days. I shudder to think what my zucchini will look like!

Hubby made all the tomatoes I picked into spaghetti sauce, so I need to get into the garden to pick some more. I love saying that. “Hey, I need an onion.” Then, “I’ll just go out to the garden and pick one.” Ha! Or, “I need a tomato for my BLT. I’ll be back in a minute.”

I did, after a few weeks of neglect, get back out to the garden and weed. The onions and potatoes are pretty much finished growing, and the sweet corn is done.

IMG_0669 The cilantro is seeding, and the peppers are doing okay. I only planted two cucumber plants this year because I’m not planning to make pickles, but hoo-boy, I’ve got more than enough to share.

The green beans are winding down, but they are so good! The best part is always the fresh tomato supply. I did take a pic of my tomato plants, but as you know, my picture-taking skills match those of a five-year-old.

The bane of my gardening activities, besides the bounty of weeds, is the ragweed. Both the common and giant ragweed are blooming now. If ragweed pollen was worth money, we’d be rich. In case you got confused by the “giant” classification for ragweed, let me show you:

ragweed

Those plants stretching above the chicken fence are giant ragweed. Rough estimate on height: 12-15 feet. Yes, I’m serious. Here’s a closer-up of the flower heads:

ragweed heads

Imagine about an acre or so of this stuff scattered around, and clouds of yellow pollen if it’s windy. And this isn’t even counting the common ragweed, which is a foot tall at the most. After about a half hour out in the garden, my eyes and nose are running, and sneezing fits make doing just about anything else difficult at best.

This week my son made the transition from bum–er, I mean, high school graduate–to college freshman. We moved him into the dorm this week. Part of me is thrilled–no more teenage sniping between him and his sister. Part of me is anxious. Will he acclimate? Will he make lots of friends? Will he study? Is he looking for a job (because he needs to get a job)?

Honestly, it’s up to him. All you can do as a parent is give them the tools. And as much as they think they know everything, you hope at some point they’ll realize that you, as the parent, actually know what you’re talking about.

Okay, to finish this short post off, on special request, cat pics.

socks on deck This is Socks, who went AWOL about a month ago. She got her name from the 4 white socks she had. Her fur was sooo soft! We suspect she either fell while slinking around an old collapsed house on the property and got hurt or worse, or she was the victim of coyotes. We miss her.

Our other cat is Zoey, who seems awfully content to be the sole proprietress of the place.

So there you have it. As for writing, I haven’t gotten back into it quite yet. It’s been busy. I think another deep run through my WIP is next on the list, but I’m not sure if I should wait to hear if I get a mentor from Pitch Wars. Slim chance, I know, but I can hope.

Anyway, have a great weekend!zoey sleeping

 


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Leader Board

One wall of my writing office is now home to a dry-erase board where a grid is laid out. In the leftmost column is a list of projects, including WIPs and NaNo drafts that have been set aside while I’m working on my latest project, whatever that might be.

The other columns have titles like Current WIP, Shelved, Querying, Requests, Contests, Querying on Hold, Next WIP, NaNo Draft, and Sh** Can. I’ve got one project marked in the Shelved column, one in the Querying on Hold column, and a bunch in the NaNo Draft column.

I stand back and ponder my options. I’ve spent so much time lately on my current WIP, I need a break. The question is, do I pull out one of the “Next WIPs”, or do I start a column labeled “New Projects”?

My Muse reaches past me, brushing against my shoulder, to point at one project. “Why is this marked for the bin? This one has potential.”

I dot the title with my marker. “Because it’s the one where I finally figured out I needed to split it into two different projects.” I point to another title. “This is the one I haven’t worked on yet. The other part is my current WIP.”

“Speaking of, what’s the plan with that one? You done with it or what?”

I’m really close to marking that one in the Querying column. I think I need to let it rest a bit. “Not sure.”

My Muse rests an arm around my shoulders. “It’s okay to take a break, love. Take a day or two.”

“I need more than a couple days. I’ve got months of real-life stuff I’m behind on. My son is moving to college next week, and I haven’t caught up with some of that yet. Reviewing move-in schedules and that stuff. He hasn’t even looked up his books yet.”

“So why are you staring at the leader board? Go, do your RL stuff. I’ll just hang out here, maybe give Mr. E a call.”

Mae said she’s on a deadline with the third Point Pleasant book. I think Mr. E will be quite busy for a while.”

My Muse stands to face me in front of the board, crosses his arms on his broad chest. His royal blue muscle shirt leaves his biceps exposed. Mmm. Looks like he’s spent some time in the sun; no farmer’s tan for him (you know, the one that stops where the t-shirt sleeves start). “Okay, love, what’s wrong? There’s something eating at you.”

“Once I’m satisfied my WIP is ready for subbing, I don’t know what to work on next. I was going to work on ‘Spring Brook’ since I’ve got an outline started–needs a new title–but I keep coming back to my WIP characters. My writing sisters love the WIP and the characters, and so do I. I don’t know if I should start laying out another book with them instead. I feel like I should wait to see how much interest there is for my WIP first, but I need to work on something.”

“Well, you have your epic fantasy,” he turns and points to it on the board. “You’ve got your contemporary fantasy.”

“Ugh. That needs an overhaul.”

“You’ve got the next three books in the Donovan and Drake series.”

I shake my head. “I don’t want to spend time on those until the first one is picked up.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Really? So, you’re dismissing the option of self-publishing that series? I’m crushed.”

He’s only bummed because Donovan has a lot in common with him. They’re both handsome Australians. “I’m not dismissing it. I need the other books to be as polished as the first one so I can release them relatively quickly.” Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea, since the drafts of the other books are finished.

“And the problem with that?”

“I’m not as connected to Donovan and Drake right now. I’m in tune with my WIP characters, since I’ve been working with them for the past, er, long time.”

“And maybe you need to let them rest.” He lays a hand on my shoulder and squeezes. “Take a break for a couple days. Catch up on stuff. You’ll figure it out.” He lets go and heads toward the door. “I still think you should work with Donovan and Drake.”

“I’m sure you do.”

What do you do when you finish one project? Do you know what your next project will be? Do you pull a draft out of the queue or do you start outlining something fresh? I usually start something new for NaNo, but I’m hoping there will be interest in my WIP, and if I’m really lucky, I’ll be working with a mentor on it. If not, maybe I will try another Quinn and Sierra story for NaNoWriMo.

Decisions, decisions!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Keep on writing!

 

 

 

 


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A Weekend with Writers

I hear the door to my room open. “What the–”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you.” My Muse slumps into a chair in a corner of the room. He’s disheveled, and has a grass stain on a shoulder of his rugby shirt. His cargo shorts are wet on one side, and his tennis shoes look like he’s been slogging through puddles.

“I was already up. Where have you been?”

He pulls a flashlight from a pocket and sets it on the small table beside him. “Scavenger hunt.”

Okay, let me think about that for a minute. “Weren’t you out with the other Muses?”

He leans his head back. “Yep.”

“Sooo, how does scavenger hunt fit in? New drinking game?”

“Sort of. A couple Muses aren’t exactly beings, human or otherwise. Couldn’t include them unless we got creative.” He groans. “I’m getting too old for this.”

“You don’t get old. How did you come up with the scavenger hunt?”

“Well, one Muse is a library card catalog, and one is Nature. What else do you do?”

Good point. “Like beer pong? Every time you find a clue you get a drink?”

He nods. “Some of those gals are fast. It was like playing rugby.”

“Hence the grass stain and wet. And I’m sure it was torture to play ‘chase the treasure’ with those women. You’re the only male Muse in the group, aren’t you?”

He stretches, rubs his eyes. “C’mon, love, it’s too damn early for this. Let me rest.”

And so ends a glorious weekend with my Writing Sisters. This year we stayed at a bed and breakfast in a mansion. What a gorgeous house! And a lot of places we could gather in a group. We brainstormed, critiqued, caught up on news, and yes, enjoyed cheese, fine chocolate, and wine.

The local town Square (yes, an actual Towne Square) was about a mile walking distance from the B&B. Good food, reasonable prices, and they didn’t mind a group of 6 writers showing up without reservations.

Will we stay here again next year? Maybe. Or maybe we’ll try a different venue. In any case, we will get together again. We just have too much fun creating and conversing to stop our annual tradition. We’ve got a new writer in the group who fits in just fine, and by next year one of our other Sisters should be back in the Midwest.

If you’ve never experienced a weekend with other writers, try it. If you have a few writing friends you met online or at a conference, and you keep in touch, try gathering for a day or a weekend someplace–a B&B, a hotel with suites that have nice “living rooms”, or a convent or other retreat facility where you can gather together and work. I use the term “work”, because as writers, even brainstorming on tangents is considered working.

This weekend consisted of critiques, suggestions, and brainstorming plots for our writing mentor’s next Fudge Shop Mystery.

Today is our farewell until next time. Next time never seems to come soon enough!