Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Almost there …

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So many things to think about, get prepped, and design. And time seems to slip away. Maybe I need to take a sabbatical. Or maybe just a weekend with nothing else going on. No kids home from college, which always throws extra energy into the routine, and usually means I don’t get a whole lot done.

I do have an excuse to hunker down for the next week: it’s going to be freaking cold. I mean, below zero cold. For the high. We’ve been so spoiled this winter, and now when the hard stuff gets here, it’s almost nostalgic. You know, the ol’ “I remember when we had -40 windchills. For days.” Yep. This is nothin’ when you think about it.

It’s Minnesota, after all.

“I thought you were going to do a cover reveal, love.” My Muse settles a hip on my desk beside me. “You have the image.” He’s doing the flannel thing, with an appropriate thermal shirt underneath his black- and red-checked flannel, sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms. Worn jeans and hiking boots complete the lumberjack flair. “So share it. Everyone’s waiting.”

I lean back in my chair. “Except when I share it, everyone is going to want to see the listing. And the listing isn’t complete.” I just sent an email to my publisher asking them to please complete the listing. A half-finished listing is not professional. I think I would be disappointed if I went to look up an author’s book and the listing didn’t even have the cover the author just revealed.

“The ebook isn’t even on the listing yet.” And we’re in the red zone in terms of book release. I mean, seriously. I’m trying to be patient. I really am. It’s just frustrating. My agent suspects it’s fallout from the merger. She’s probably right, but that doesn’t make things any easier.

My Muse sighs. “Everyone knows a cover reveal is just that. The cover. No one expects the listings to be complete.

“Yes, they do. I mean, how many times have I gone and put in a pre-order after the author has done a cover reveal?”

“How many?”

Of course he would have to ask. “Okay, I don’t know exactly, but it’s a lot. And I have to figure out my author website, and my newsletter.” Which I have been working on.

“The site will go through changes, love. Everyone’s site gets refined over time.”

“Thanks, but that doesn’t do much to reassure me. My publisher doesn’t even have my book listed on their ‘Coming Soon’ page yet.”

“It’ll work out, love.””

“Nice thought. I’m just not seeing it yet.” On the bright side, if I don’t have my author page finished this weekend, it’ll give my publisher more time to get the listing fixed before people see the not-quite-done one.

“Hey.” My Muse slips off my desk, takes hold of my arm, and lifts me from my chair. He turns me to face him, blue eyes full of reassurance. “You keep doing your thing. Do what you can do and don’t fret over what you can’t control.”

“Fret? Really?” No one says “fret” anymore.

A crooked grin stretches across his face. “Yes, really. Look it up.”

Sigh. Okay, here’s something to tide you over:

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Oh, and can’t forget Zoey:

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She sure looks regal here. Yep, just like a cat to think she’s in charge. 😀

O-kay. Stay tuned …

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Clueless, but trying

The back door of my writing office opens, letting in a blast of crisp winter air and a flurry of snowflakes. Despite my sweats over long johns–my winter casual wear in the house–I shiver. “Shut that. It’s cold.”

My Muse closes the door and stomps snowy boots on the doormat. He unwraps a red knit scarf from around his neck and pulls off a matching stocking cap before he tugs off his ski gloves. “Brisk. Actually, love, it’s refreshing.” He starts to cross the office, his boots thudding on the floor.

“Hey, stop. Don’t get snow all over my office. Take your boots off.”

An eyebrow arches high before he complies, leaving his boots on the mat as he peels off his leather bomber jacket. He shoves the gloves in his hat and his hat into a sleeve of the jacket before hanging it and the scarf on the coat tree beside the door.

“Nice of you to come back during the snowstorm.” I lean back in my chair and feast my eyes — er, take inventory of my Muse. A cream-colored fisherman’s sweater–looks toasty warm–and jeans, with thermal socks–wait. “Minions? Where did you find those?”

minion socks He follows my gaze to his feet. “What?”

“Never mind.” I return my attention to my computer.

My Muse drags a chair beside me. “I see you haven’t taken down your Christmas lights.”

The huge whiteboard on the wall is a perfect mount for my lights, which I draped around the perimeter. Another string of lights surrounds the door trim on both doors. “I like Christmas lights. If I wait long enough, I can call them Easter lights.” christmas lights

He groans. “Uh-huh. What are you working on, because I know for a fact that isn’t your WIP.”

I frown at the screen. “Author website. And newsletter. And cover reveal posts, although at this point I’ll just bypass the reveal and plan for the release.” *grumble*

My Muse rests his arm across the back of my chair, which means he’s leaning close. Really close. And that sweater is toasty warm if the heat radiating from him is any indication. “Aaand,” he indicated the screen, “this is which?”

“Website.”

“So what’s the problem? You used to be in IT.”

“But I never built websites. I can do it, it’s just a matter of deciding how to do it. I mean, what it should look like.” Then there’s the time suck of digging around the internet for a free theme that strikes me as the right sort to use.

Ever go on Pintrest? Yep, like that.

“Hey, you’re my Muse, so muse me. C’mon, I’m drawing a blank here. I can’t decide whether to tweak a ready-made template or create a new one. Or what it should look like. I have a landing page that basically says I’m not finished with the site yet, but I don’t know where to go from there.”

His chuckle rolls out from deep in his chest. I know, because at this range, I can feel it. “You’ll figure it out, love. You always do.”

“Fat lot of help you are.”

He looks at me, his blue eyes sparkling–with something like humor, I suspect. “You do realize I am here to help, right? With the whole channeling creative energy thing. Besides, you’re making it too complicated.”

“How so?”

“Focus on the books you know will be coming out first. You can always adjust from there.”

“So, what you’re saying is, leave my police procedural out of the equation for now.” I’m sure he’s right. They are on the back burner right now in favor of my book coming out, Book 2, and another mystery on my list to write. Well, redraft, which seems to be my thing these days.

“What is the saying? Keep it simple? Do that.”

Geez, nothing like being vague. “That’s the plan.”

So that’s my plan over the weekend, the first whole weekend since the kids went back to school. I really should clean. And take down my Christmas lights. And work on the workshop I’m doing in March for our local Sisters in Crime chapter. And I haven’t gone through any seed catalogs yet. And I’m way behind reading blog posts. And …

Anyway. It’s cold and snowy–first real snow of 2019, although I’ve been enjoying our mild winter so far.

Happy Writing!

zoey nap


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Plotting, you say?

For some reason, when I see the word “plotting”, my mind conjures up an image of a stereotypical bad guy from black and white silent films. You know, the one with the handlebar moustache and wringing hands, along with the “mwahahahahaha”.
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But when I think about plotting, it’s different. It’s a concept, the idea of a path through a story where stuff happens. Not an outline, because that seems too rigid. Of course, when I think of “outline”, I think of those reports we used to do back in school. You remember the ones: Roman numerals, paragraph topics, supporting facts, 3 x 5 inch index cards, and sources. Always had to have at least three sources (and there was no Wikipedia or Internet at the time). Back then, we had to go to the library and do our research.

I know, ancient history!

When I started preparing for my very first NaNoWriMo, I decided to write a completely new story, and not just rehash the one I had been working on up to that point. I found a great book by Karen Wiesner: First Draft in 30 Days. She has a set of worksheets she uses to put together a story, including character sketches, setting notes, timelines, fact sheets, and plot sketches. In essence, a book bible.

I created a OneNote template that had tabs for each worksheet, and they guided me through that first NaNo draft. The parts that really helped me put the story together, though, were the summary outline and the miscellaneous scene notes. Basically, a free-form exercise to walk through this is what happens, this happens next, then this, etc. There are also timeline sheets to help work out the order of events.

I ended up with a story I didn’t expect, but I enjoyed writing it. Didn’t finish it, but that’s on my list; I know how it ends, I just have to write it.

Fast-forward to now. I still use those worksheets, but I have learned that one of the best ways for me to walk through a story and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t work is to write a stream-of-consciousness summary of the story from beginning to end. By hand.

Should I call it plotting? I suppose it is, but it feels more fluid than “plotting”, yet more planned than “pantsing”. *scans the room to make sure the Muse isn’t giving me a stink-eye* I’ve been struggling with the plot for book 2, so I have been doing this process repeatedly, trying to nail down just what wasn’t working.

One of the keys, I learned, is asking “what if” questions when I run into something that doesn’t feel right to me. Initially the story opened with two characters dead–one of natural causes, the other of an unfortunate hunting “accident”. It didn’t feel right. Then I had three characters die. Nope, so back to two characters, but one that started dead in an earlier draft was now alive and another dead instead.

Better, but it still didn’t feel right. Still, I ran with it, did NaNo with that premise, and spent December writing yet another SOC plot summary. Multiple plot summaries.

And I asked, “what if”? What if there was only one dead character? What if he had the hobby the other once-dead character had? What if that airplane he was rebuilding lived in a hangar at the airport instead of a shed in the backyard? The nefarious stuff is happening at the airport, and he would be there anyway to spy–er, casually notice the goings-on, and doesn’t need an excuse to go there.

Click.

I’ve got it now. There are still a few things to work out, but once the routine is back in place after the kids are back at college and all that extraneous energy is dissipated, I’m eager to start the heavy revisions. Or maybe yet another rough draft. In any case, I feel better about this version of the story than any of the earlier ones.

Finally.

Hope your new year is starting out well. Lots of writing and all that!

And by special request (yes, B, I remembered 😀 )

zoey

Happy Writing!


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Welcome to a fresh new year

*waves* I’m back! Didya miss me? (don’t answer that 😉 )

Another year stretches before us. So many of my fellow bloggers have done the “New Year’s Resolutions” post. They are all great posts. I especially like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s post on the Career Authors site.

Instead of resolving to do or not do things over the next year, I’m going to try intentions. Maybe by intending to do something I’ll be less likely to brush it off.

Hey, can’t hurt to try 😀

And I’ll keep my list short. Another way to trick me into keeping my intentions going. Oh, and telling you all. Cuz we all know how much we hate having to say “Er, yeah, about that. Haven’t done that for weeks.”

In 2019, I intend to:

Create a dedicated writing space. My husband has already warned our son (not that we haven’t warned him before) he should probably sort through and box up his stuff so I can start taking over. Oh, it’ll still serve as his bedroom when he comes home, but now that he’s finishing his junior year at college, I suspect he’ll be coming home much less often. Especially if he gets an internship for the summer.

Finish and polish Book 2. If you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, ’nuff said.

Write every day. I can’t accomplish the previous intention without this one. I got back into the habit during NaNo, then the holidays and all the family stuff, and doing all the stuff to prep for when my book comes out (website, teasers, newsletter, etc), I’ve strayed yet again. Another self-imposed NaNo? Perhaps.

Nurture connections with other writers. There is something energizing about connecting with others who are as passionate about writing as we are. Not only can we encourage each other, but we can work with each other as critique partners, beta readers, even network with each other regarding agents, editors, and publishers. First and foremost on my list of writerly connections is my treasured Writing Sisters. I continue to feel blessed to know such awesome women. I have many other connections to incredible writers; I don’t think I could list them all. We as a writing community encourage and support each other, and that helps all of us.

I think that’s enough for now. It is a manageable list, and I think I’m going to have plenty to work on.

What are your intentions for this shiny new year?